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daniel-stier-600x479

Photo: Daniel Stier, from Ways of Knowing, 2015.

A couple of my fav photo-peeps are hosting a live online chat today about photography and science in the modern era. You can be involved. Michael Shaw of Reading the Pictures and independent curator Marvin Heiferman are putting on a salon conversation to analyze a group of ten news photos of “science” of one guise or another.

Panelists include Rebecca Adelman UMBC Professor of Media & Communication Studies; Ben de la Cruz, Multimedia Editor, Science Desk, NPR; Corey Keller, Curator, SFMOMA; Kurt Mutchler, Senior Editor, Science, Photography Department, National Geographic; and Max Mutchler, Space Telescope Science Institute, Hubble Heritage Project manager. Nate Stormer, University of Maine professor will moderate.

The ten photos were selected from thousands of media images.

“If photography was invented,” writes Shaw, “so that the sciences could communicate with each other, now it’s as much about making that investigation relevant to consumers, investors and alternately curious, fearful or enthralled citizens. This discussion is interested in science as a social agenda and a media phenomenon. It’s about the popularization of science, the attitude and approach on the part of science toward its own activities and what the general public sees of it.”

It will be fascinating. The salon is free but registration is required. Register here. Kicks of today December 1st, at 7 pm EST and will go for 2 hours on Google HangOut with live audio, video and with involvement from the public via live chat.

The discussion, jointly produced with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is a featured component of SEEING SCIENCE, a year-long project that explores the role photography plays in shaping, representing, and furthering the sciences.

Sign up here.

HERE’S LOOKIN’ AT YOU

On March 1st, I was a panelist for the BagNewsNotes Salon The Lens in the Mirror: How Surveillance is Pictured in the Media and Public Culture.

In coordination with the Open Society Watching You, Watching Me exhibition, this online panel wanted to reflect not only upon surveillance in our society but how it is pictured and if those depictions meet the realities of networked viewing that are at constant play behind our walls,, systems, nodes and screens.

I felt like an amateur in the room with other esteemed panelists lining up thus – Simone Browne, Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin; Cara Finnegan (moderator) writer, photography historian, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Illinois; Rachel Hall, Associate Professor, Communication Studies at Louisiana State University; Marvin Heiferman, writer and curator; Hamid Khan, co-ordinator, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition; and Simon Menner, artist, and member of OSF surveillance exhibition.

Over two hours discussion, we discuss 10 images in turn. They flash up as we deconstruct their meanings, but it might be helpful to consult the gallery first, too.

Over the coming weeks, BagNews will be adding highlight clips for easier to digest morsels that get to the meat of our conversation.

“Surveillance technology permeates the social landscape,” says BagNews. “Tiny cameras monitor traffic, parking lots, cash registers and every corner of federal buildings. Through personal devices and social media, citizens also monitor one other.” In the highlight clip (above), moderator Cara Finnegan and panelists Simon Menner, Simone Browne, Hamid Khan, Rachel Hall and Pete Brook discuss generic imagery and the use of stock photography to represent this reality of daily life

SALON

The BagNewsSalon is an on-line, real-time discussion between photojournalists, visual academics and other visual or subject experts. Each salon examines a set of images relevant to the visual stories of the day often focusing on how the media and social media has framed the event. The photo edit is the key element and driver of each Salon discussion and great care is taken to create a group of photos that captures the depth and breadth of media representation.

Cage

Screengrab: FeelingCagey.com . Via WIRED.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Selfies recently. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about what useful things I might have to say.

I wrote an extended comment to Marvin Heiferman’s blog post about Selfies. It’s as certain as I can be right now about a form of portraiture that is changing faster than my thinking.

“I cannot accept that Selfies should be dismissed out of hand as a lazy mode of photographic production, as to do so would be a refusal to engage with the way hundreds of millions (of predominantly young) people choose to image the world and their place in it. The Selfie form doesn’t make sense to an adult world as the dominant imperatives of social responsibility and/or artistic merit tied to past discourse about photographic production seem absent. But why should kids step sideways to meet old priorities of the medium when adults could as easily step sideways to meet them where they are?”

I cover a lot more in the (long) comment including: the Selfie as empowerment; the gender disparities in how we judgement and consume Selfies; the best written analysis on Selfies; and why artistic responses to the Selfie might be the most valuable departure points for discussion on the form.

Check out Marvin’s post and have your say about Selfies.

erik kessels

Installation shot of Erik Kessels’ 24 Hours Of Photo, at FOAM Gallery, Amsterdam, December 2011.

For the next few weeks, I am co-blogging Marvin Heiferman‘s posts at the Fotomuseum Winterthur’s Still Searching blog. I anticipate many of the ideas will overlap from previous conversations at Wired and Photoville between Marvin and I.

Marvin’s method is to pose more questions than answers — to stimulate conversation:

‘What is new now is that, as a result of advances in digital technology, options for the making, mining, and sharing images are increasing exponentially.  As a result, what photography is, what photographs are, and what “the photographic” means have to be continually and, at times, dramatically rethought.’

So far, I’ve responded to posts on the technologies that allow the manufacture of 1.3 billion images per day, with concern not about production or consumption but concern over storage.

I responded to a curious video of students posing for the camera, with the suggestion that people are taking calculated decisions in their poses in the full knowledge that images move far and wide across our digital landscapes.

In both cases, my link-replete comments have run on a bit. I’d like to say that I’ll be a bit more concise in future responses but then Marvin only went and decided to take on the Selfie in his most recent post.

Please check out Marvin’s posts between now and mid-December and hold our feet to the fire over these ideas of which we are trying to make sense.

STILL SEARCHING

Still Searching, which was launched in January 2012, is a smart, designed and long-term blogging project for the photo community. It is structured through the contributions of six “bloggers in residence” per year, each writing for six weeks. During which the blogger writes five to six statements on a specific theory or aspect of photography — or on anything else he or she is working on or thinking about — in photographic production, photography as art, as a communication and information tool in the context of social media or photojournalism, and as a form of scientific or legal evidence, techniques, applications, distribution strategies, contexts, theoretical foundations, ontology and perspectives on the medium.

Marvin Heiferman pointed me in the direction Tim Padgett’s Time article about news outlets’ adoption of Mug-shot galleries. Padgett remarks, “Mugshot galleries are increasingly popular features on newspaper websites, which are on a crusade for more page views and the advertising revenue that accompanies additional eyeballs.”

Tampa

The example offered is that of Mugshots at TampaBay.com of the St. Petersburg Times. The site even breaks down the prior sixty days of bookings into the age, height, weight and eye colour statistics of those arrested.

This exercise is as artless as one would think. The laziness of the filtering of information via an automated platform is matched by the disclaimer regarding mugshots’ accompanying text.

The news group has recognised this and produced these ridiculous FAQ‘s in advance of those booked being disappointed … or worse, misrepresented.

I was arrested but cannot find my mug shot. What gives? Our goal is to provide a complete profile for individuals booked into jail in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Pasco counties. A complete profile on Mug Shots constitutes: name, photograph, booking ID, height, weight, age, gender, eye color, birth date, booking date and booking charge.

The majority of arrest records from the county sheriff’s sites have no problems, and we store them and make them available. However, on rare occasions, the photo we receive from the sheriff’s office is flawed, or sometimes the site does not make a photo available. We skip the records that do not have photos attached. You can always search for an individual on the sheriff’s site, but just because you were booked doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily show up on Mug Shots.

I was released and my record was cleared. Will you take down my mug shot? A sheriff’s office Web site maintains publicly accessible arrest records regardless of the disposition of any particular case.One principle behind Mug Shots is to mirror the sheriff’s office Web site policies closely. We provide links from every individual’s profile page to the detail page at the corresponding sheriff’s office site, which contains instructions about how to follow up on any particular case. Much like a county sheriff’s office, there are very few instances in which we would remove a mug shot from the Web site.

Will you fix incorrect biographical information? What if the sheriff does? One guiding principle is to mirror the collective sheriff’s office sites closely. However, sometimes the sheriff’s office site contains a typo or another form of incorrect data. We don’t alter the information that we gather. We do provide links from individual’s profile page directly to their detail page at the corresponding sheriff’s office site.

Continually-updated mugshot galleries continue a long tradition of crime-obsessed media and publics. They are the latest step toward the eradication-of-reason when interfacing with social transgression.

Internet “news” mugshot galleries now dominate a new, middle-ground of visual consumption; that wasteland lies somewhere between the dark pathology (and allure) of Weegee‘s world and the instant digital delivery of crime related stats (think Comp-Stat and the Sex Offenders Registry). They are bland.

These galleries are continuous, and unnecessary, visual feeds of societies’ constructed “bogey-man”.

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