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Miley Twerk

I never expected to make comment on the career of Miley Cyrus here on the blog, but then again, I never expected to come across the greatest sketch of Miley Cyrus ever made.

The drawing, titled Miley Twerking, was made by my friend Christian Nagler. It originally appeared in the Fall 2013 Issue of Actually People Quarterly (APQ), an indie print publication based in San Francisco. APQ and Nagler kindly provided permission to share the picture.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see a thumbnail image of Miley Cyrus in the sidebar of some website. Collections of Cyrus-resembling pixels are ubiquitous. In terms of describing Miley-Cyrus-the-person, a photograph is almost meaningless. In terms of describing Miley Cyrus-the-product, a photograph is the perfect hype-spinning money-making tool.

The reason I like Nagler’s sketch so much is that skewers the ridiculous theatre of her MTV Awards twerking AND undermines the grotesque image-driven publicity machine that surrounds her. It lays bare what she is and discards the useless debate of who she is.

Cyrus is, as with all celebrities, almost unknowable. She is not a person, but a product. She is no longer a who, but a what. Photography when it encounters celebrity elevates and promotes the what. Photography may purport to depict the who, but it does not.

This is my reading and not necessarily Nagler’s intent. I think he is genuinely interested in Cyrus; perplexed by the who, the what, and the gap between.

“The reason I think Christian’s picture is amazing is because it leaves space left open,” says APQ founder and editor, Sarah Fontaine. “It doesn’t totally proscribe an opinion on her. There’s a level of investment. A drawing takes time but a photo takes an instant.”

If I could even know Cyrus, I don’t think I’d dislike her. Everyone wants to have an opinion about Cyrus’ conduct. Some think her various states of undress hinder the movement of our culture toward one of gender equality. Often Cyrus is the focus of vitriol and frustration, but perhaps we should be looking at society as a whole? I’ll defer to Gloria Steinem and suggest we hate the game, not the player.

“I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists,” said Steinem.

Photography upholds, forwards and fortifies the game. Nagler’s sketch respectfully questions the game. My thoughts on photographing Miley Cyrus? Don’t.

In 1972, Joshua Freiwald was commissioned by San Francisco architecture firm Kaplan & McLaughlin to photograph the spaces within Clinton Correctional Facility in the town of Dannemora, NY.

In the wake of the Attica uprising in September of 1971, the New York Department of Corrections commissioned Kaplan & McLaughlin to asses the prison’s design as it related to the safety of the prison, staff and inmates. The NYDoC wanted to avoid another rebellion.

The most astounding sight within Dannemora was the terrace of “courts” sandwiched between the exterior wall and the prison yard. It is thought the courts began as garden plots in the late twenties or early thirties, although there is no official mention of their existence until the 1950s.

Simply, the most remarkable example of a prisoner-made environment I have ever come across.

The courts were the focus of Ron Roizen’s 55 page report to the NYDoC on the situation at Clinton Correctional Facility. Sociologist Roizen, also hired by Kaplan & McLaughlin, conducted interviews with inmates over a period of five days:

“Inmates waited months, sometimes even years, to gain this privilege. The groups would gather during yard time to shoot the breeze, cook, eat, smoke, and generally ‘get away from’ the rigors and boredom of prison life.”

In the same five days, Freiwald took hundreds of photographs at Dannemora. Eight of those negatives were scanned earlier this month and are published online here for the first time.

“Since I’d taken these photographs, I’ve come to realize that these are something quite extraordinary in my own medium, and represent for me a moment in time when I did something important. I can’t say for sure why they’re important, or how they’re important, but I know they’re important,” says Freiwald.

Freiwald and I discuss the social self-organisation of the inmates around the courts, his experiences photographing, the air “thick” with tension and surveillance, the spectre of evil, and how structures like the courts simply do not exist in modern prisons.

LISTEN TO OUR DISCUSSION ON THE PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY PODBEAN PAGE

All images © Joshua Freiwald

All images © Joshua Freiwald

Editor’s note: I’ve broken with the PPOTR chronology to bring you Dispatch #12. The decision was made because of the time sensitivity of the issue at hand – California’s Prisoner Hunger Strike. Dispatches 6 to 11 will follow shortly.

“I think the tragedy of this situation is not the prisoners willingness to give up their lives, I think the tragedy is that the CDCR does not see them as human beings,” says Isaac Ontiveros, Communications Director for Critical Resistance and part of the press team for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition.

The PHSS is made up of grassroots organizations & community members committed to amplifying the voices of hunger strikers.

The strike originally ran from July 1st – July 22nd. It was suspended briefly to investigate the viability of concessions made by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. These were unsatisfactory and the strike resumed September 26th.

LISTEN TO OUR CONVERSATION AT THE PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY ON THE ROAD PODBEAN PAGE

Ontiveros and I spoke on October 11th, day 15 of the resumed hunger strike.

TIMELINE OF THE CALIFORNIA PRISONERS’ HUNGER STRIKE

For three weeks in the month of July, 6,600 California prisoners* took on a hunger strike against the conditions of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay & other prisons. The strikers made five demands: access to programs, nutritious food, an end to collective punishment, compliance with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse (2006), and an end to the “debriefing” practice that affiliates prisoners to gangs; a process vulnerable to manipulation and false evidence.

Late in July, the strike was suspended but due to the slow and “inadequate” response of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s response it was clear there was a need for the protest to resume. On September 26th the strikers refused meals once more.

On October 15th, after nearly three weeks, the prisoners at Pelican Bay ended the resumed strike.

The prisoners cited a memo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) detailing a comprehensive review of every Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation. The review will evaluate the prisoners’ gang validation under new criteria and could start as early as the beginning of next year. “This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.” (Source)

Ontiveros and I discuss the history of hunger strikes, the unprecedented scope of the strike in the U.S., the necessity of the demands, late summer negotiations and retaliations by the CDCR and the need for continued awareness of this still developing struggle.

In the context of the sit-in within the Georgia prison system in December of last year, the California hunger strike indicates a growing political awareness of U.S. prisoners to their conditions and invisibility. “Our bodies are all we have left,” says Ontiveros assuming the position of an incarcerated striker.

Generally, prison strikes can be played down by authorities and overlooked by national mainstream media. As our discussion proves, awareness of the details in cases such as this are critical. We cannot wait for deaths to be knowledgable of the issue. Please watch developments in California to see if meaningful results for the CDCR and prisoners can be agreed upon and shared.

*6,600 is an official estimate, and the lowest possible figure. Some reports put the figure at nearly double that at 12,000.

PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE SOLIDARITY

Coalition partners include: Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of Us or None, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, California Prison Focus, Prison Activist Resource Center, Critical Resistance, Kersplebedeb, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, American Friends Service Committee, BarNone Arcata and a number of individuals throughout the United States and Canada. For more info on these organizations, visit PHSS’ resources page.

CRITICAL RESISTANCE

Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope.

“Women actively participated in every significant photographic movement and school of the twentieth century. […] As a young historian I discovered that a little digging in any period yielded important women who had been exhibited and published locally, nationally, and internationally. Women’s representation and the acknowledgment of their contributions declined or disappeared only when later historians evaluated a movement. The more general the compendium, the less likely women were to be well represented.”

Anne Tucker’s foreword for Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies

Kate Wilhelm of Peripheral Vision has put together a thoughtful post about the exposure, visibility and success of female photographers in the industry. Wilhelm’s main contention is the standards that exist in photography are male standards, a set-up particular to photography and not seen, as such, in other visual arts. I think she might be on to something.

I think photography (particularly fine art) is aggressively contested and often antiseptic, emotionally detached photos win over. I am not saying women have the market on emotion, but I do think female photographers might be attracted to subjects other than the cold observations that tend to dominate.

We seem to welcome softness, expression and emotive content in painting, but we either balk or yawn at the “sentimental” use of bokeh, lens flare, and golden hour dreamscapery in photography. I guess I worry that photography can be a cynical practice (?)

Photography has become synonymous with detachment and I think men are more comfortable celebrating detachment … Je suis désolé … I argue that solitary aesthetics, pursued by men in photography, have influenced the judging standards across the entire discipline.

Wilhelm provides these stats, which are her own observations, counts but a good start for discussion.

500 Photographers has only covered 17 women out of the 94 photographers it’s so far covered. That’s 18 percent.

Image Makers Image Takers has interviews with 20 photographers. Five of them are women. (Incidentally, it was edited by a woman.) That’s 25 percent.

The photograph as contemporary art, by Charlotte Cotton, discusses 219 photographers, give or take a few. 91 of them are women. That’s 42 percent.

Image courtesy Edgar Martins/HotShoe Gallery

I’d agree with Joerg that We Need Better Critical Writing About Photography. This is pretty simple task – just cut out the jargon. Having posted On Statements last month, Joerg is only demanding the same of critics as he is of photographers.

Which brings me to Exhibit A: Photographer, Edgar Martins is talking bollocks again.

“One could argue that this work seeks to communicate ideas about how difficult it is to communicate. My images depend on photography’s inherit tendency to make each space believable, but there is a disturbing suggestion that all is not what it seems. The moment of recognition that there is something else going on, the all too crucial moment of suspended disbelief, is the highest point that one can achieve. This process of slow revelation and sense of temporal manipulation is crucial to the work. Above and beyond this, in having to shift between the various codes, the viewer becomes acutely aware of the process of looking, of the reconciliation required between sensory and cognitive understanding. As you rightly say, it is difficult to know for sure if what you are looking at is a photograph. However, they are photographs.”

Déjà vu

You might remember Edgar Martins. He’s the photographer who photoshopped images of foreclosed America for the New York Times. It was one of the more substantive photoshop kerfuffles of recent years.

I remember at the time thinking that the way Martins wiggled his way out of the controversy was skilled; he put all his energies into How can I see what I see, until I know what I know? a meditation on truth in photography, diluting his deception in M.F.A. critical theory references.

Martins confused 90% of his detractors with his busy response and sapped the energy of the remaining 10% who were looking for the next headline anyway.

He really intrigues me!

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Thanks to Alan Rapp for the tip-off.

© 1989 A.G. Reinhold, 14 Fresh Pond Place, Cambridge, MA 02138. K2PNK "May be freely distributed with attribution."

Recently, I’ve been floored by the quality of writing and fresh analysis springing forth from the biospheroblog:

PRISONS

Sara Mayeux, a relative newbie over at the Prison Law Blog has been busy her first two months. Lots of serious stuff but it was Sara’s reminder that Lil Wayne goes to Rikers in two weeks that held my attention.

“Lil Wayne was supposed to head to Rikers earlier this month, but got his sentencing postponed to accommodate an oral surgery appointment; his new court date is March 2. I’m always curious about what, if any, effect celebrity prison stints such as this will have upon the national dialogue about mass incarceration.”

I think the circus surrounding Lil Wayne’s stint will further obscure the facts of a broken system. If it gets millions of Americans talking, I suspect it’ll be the wrong talk.

Everybody should have Grits For Breakfast in their RSS reader.

Radley Balko on the significance of a milestone exoneration for the Innocence Project:

“These 250 DNA exonerations aren’t proof that the system is working. They’re a wake-up call that it isn’t. Instead of falling back on groups like the Innocence Project to serve as unofficial checks against wrongful convictions, lawmakers, judges, and law enforcement officials should be looking at why there’s so much work for these organizations in the first place.”

PHOTOGRAPHY

The Spinning Head, pulls no punches, especially when talking about photography in Haiti. Rafiqui’s long-form posts are worth their weight in word-count.

I don’t know where Peter Marshall gets the energy to photograph seemingly every protest in the Greater London area, post the images and then offer an editorial for each event! Over at >Re:PHOTO

I found Simon Sticker‘s writing first via A Developing Story swiftly followed by his photography and Ugandan workshops WITH OUR OWN EYES via his site Flow Media

The Visual Student, courtesy of the NPPA, doesn’t waste anyone’s time. The site has filled a much-needed niche offering students advice and most importantly encouragement from other students/recent grads. None of it is patronising and the interviews and showcases are quality. For proof see: Scott Brauer, Dominic Nahr, Kathryn Cook and Alex Welsh. They also announce important stuff like the recent NPPF $16,500 worth of scholarships.

Of course, we are all intrigued by the Hulin’s new aggregation-toy The Photography Post.

JOURNALISM

Charlie Beckett has been coaxing us back to the hard questions about the nature of photojournalism and media coverage. Necessarily, he’s looking at Haiti (Part one & part two).

Just a quickie. All of these names can be found on my list The Talent, but I figured they can get lost in there and I’d push them up to the surface for you all.

Scan the names and see if you’re missing out on the important/irrelevant bleatings of these notable camera-lords and camera-ladies.

StephenVoss
Steven Voss, Washington, DC
andrewcutraro
Andrew Cutraro, Washington, DC
edkashi
Ed Kashi
heislerphoto
Todd Heisler
rspencerreed
Ryan Spencer Reed
JasonEskenazi
Jason Eskenazi
AlanSChin
Alan Chin, Brooklyn, NY
davidb383
David Burnett, Washington DC
stevebloomphoto
Steve Bloom, England
dpeveto
Daryl Peveto
evanvucci
Evan Vucci
jmott78
Justin Mott, Hanoi, Vietnam
StrazzPOY
Scott Strazzante, Yorkville, IL
jonkgoering
Jon Goering, Lawrence, KS
sinclair_photo
Mike Sinclair, Kansas City
PhotoPhilan
PhotoPhilanthropy, California
radical_images
Radical Images, East Midlands UK
Kastenskov
Henrik Kastenskov, Vejle
maisiecrow
Maisie Crow, New York
jturnley
James Turnley
juansierraphoto
Juan Sierra, Germany
OLOLtoo
Kendrick Brinson, Atlanta, GA
AaronJoelSantos
Aaron Joel Santos, Hanoi, Vietnam
jeffcurto
Jeff Curto, Chicago, IL
martincregg
Martin Cregg, Dublin
consumptive
James Luckett, Ohio
jesshurdphoto
Jess Hurd, London
VizJournalist
John Waskey, Portland, OR
tomtveitan
Tom Tveitan, Norway
fotofugitive
Tim Humble, Noosa, Sunshine Coast
photomorel
Daniel Morel, Haiti
davidalanharvey
David Alan Harvey, NYC, Outer Banks
FredoDupoux
Frederic Dupoux
wemarijnissen
Wendy Marijnissen, Islamabad, Pakistan
dascruggs
Daniella Scruggs, D.C. Metro Area
themexican
Raul Gutierrez
sheimages
Sheila Pree Bright
Moishevitz
Juliana Beasley, Jersey City, NJ
tajforer
Taj Forer, Connecticut
jeffantebi
Jeff Antebi
mattshonfeld
Matt Shonfeld, Bath, UK
jonsnyder
Jon Snyder, San Francisco
americanyouth
American youth book, NYC
douglaslowell
Douglas Lowell, Portland, OR
imaclellan
Ian MacLellan, Lincoln, MA
EmilyShur
Emily Shur
JaneFultonAlt
Jane Fulton Alt, Chicago
brazil_photos
Ricardo Funari, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
toddhido
Todd Hido, San Francisco Bay Area
billvaccaro
Bill Vaccaro
adamvlau
Adam Lau, San Francisco
PipAndrews
Philip Scott Andrews
DannyGhitis
Danny Ghitis, Brooklyn, NY
pangeaphoto
Pangea Photo
prospektphoto
Prospekt, Milan, Italy
terakopian
Edmond Terakopian, UK
NoBarriersPhoto
No Barriers Photogrphy, Vancouver, BC
CollegePhotog
CPOY, Columbia, MO
dsheaphoto
Daniel Shea, Chicago
dominicnahr
Dominic Nahr, Kenya
mrubee
Michael Rubenstein
greglutze
Greg Lutze, Pacific Northwest
reduxpictures
Redux Pictures
johnkeatley
John Keatley, Seattle, WA
hillerphoto
Geoffrey Hiller, Dhaka, Bangladesh
ChrisHondros
Chris Hondros, New York, NY
tammydavid
Tammy David, Manila, Philippines
vigbalasingam
Vignes Balasingam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
timmatsuiphoto
Tim Matsui, Seattle, WA
coreyfishes
Corey Arnold, Portland, OR
jimbourg
Jim Bourg, Washington, DC
stupilkington
Stuart Pilkington, High Wycombe, UK
Donaldverger
Donald Verger, Portland, Maine
NickTurpin
Nick Turpin, France
noahkalina
Noah Kalina, Brooklyn, NY
terukuwayama
Teru Kuwayama
benrobertsphoto
Ben Roberts, Bournemouth, UK
alvarezphoto
Stephen Alvarez, Charlotte, NC
davidsolomons
David Solomons, London
erikborst
Erik Borst, Amsterdam, Holland
squarerootof9
Trey Hill, Dallas, TX
quesofrito
Emiliano Granado, NYC
50statesproject
50 States Project, USA
RachelPapo
Rachel Papo, Brooklyn, New York
alphabetproject
Alphabet Project
danielemattioli
Daniele Mattioli, Shanghai
shawnrocco
Shawn Rocco, Raleigh, North Carolina
jaredsoares
Jared Soares, Roanoke, Virginia
yingang
Ying Ang, Melbourne, Australia
jennyjimenez
Jenny Jimenez, Seattle, WA
hinius
Hin Chua, London
photogjack
Jack Kurtz, Phoenix, AZ
renaudphilippe
Renaud Philippe, Québec
thetravelphotog
Tewfic El- Sawy, NYC/London
A_Jax
Andrew Jackson, Birmingham, UK
alvarezmontero
Carlos Alvarez Montero
Peter_Marshall
London
mellyvanilla
Melanie McWhorter
ptrbkr
Peter Baker
dellicson
Davin Ellicson, Bucharest, Romania
OlivierLaude
Olivier Laude, San Francisco
matgrandjean
Mathieu Grandjean, Los Angeles
noahbeil
Noah Beil, Oakland, California
demotix
Global
claytoncubitt
Clayton Cubitt, New York
benblood
Ben Blood, Seattle, WA
ianvancoller
Ian van Coller, Bozeman, MT
natelarson
Nate Larson, Baltimore, MD
mrthibs18
Brandon Thibodeaux
gracegelder
Grace Gelder
andrewquerner
Andrew Querner, Alberta
jonfeinstein
Jon Feinstein, NYC
hellenvanmeene
Hellen van Meene, Heiloo, Holland
bendrum
Benjamin Drummond, Seattle, WA
tonystamolis
Tony Stamolis
liankevich
Andrei Liankevich
davewyatt
Dave Wyatt, Somerset, UK
coombskj
Kevin Coombs
miketsangphoto
Mike Tsang, London
lgreen66
Lauren Greenfield
KatharinaHesse
Katharina Hesse, Beijing
aphotostudent
James Pomerantz, New York
NadavKander
Nadav Kander, London
visualjourn
Brent Foster, Delhi, India
balazsgardi
Balazs Gardi
rogercremers
Roger Cremers, Amsterdam
shahidul
Shahidul Alam, Dhaka. Bangladesh
chrisdebode
Chris Debode, Amsterdam
abbiets
Abbie Trayler-Smith
foreilly
Finbar O’Reilly, Dakar, Senegal
rasermus
Espen Rasmussen
stevesimon
Steve Simon, NYC
borutpeterlin
Borut Peterlin, Slovenia
moooose
Mustafah Abdulaziz, Philadelphia
oeilpublic
Oeil Public, Paris, France (Now out of business)
gallagher_photo
Sean Gallagher, Beijing, China
jennackerman
Jenn Ackerman, New York
Amivee
Ami Vitale, Miami
ninaberman
Nina Berman
luceo
Luceo Images, US, Southeast Asia, Mexico
mattlutton
Matt Lutton, Belgrade, Serbia
Nathan_Armes
Nathan Armes, Denver, CO
timgruber
Tim Gruber, New York
timhussin
Tim Hussin, Washington D.C.
alan_w_george
Alan W George, San Francisco
MrToledano
Phillip Toledano, New York
mattslaby
Matt Slaby, Denver
wearemjr
MJR, Brooklyn, New York
caryconover
Cary Conover, Lower East Side, NYC
robot_operator
Dalton Rooney, Brooklyn, NY
loujones2008
Lou Jones, Boston, MA
gerik
Gerik Parmele, Columbia, MO
benlowy
Benjamin Lowy, Brooklyn, NY
tom_leininger
Tom Leininger, Texas
tomasvh
Tomas van Houtryve
timobarber
Tim Barber
newmediatim
Tim Lytvinenko

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