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“The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed...Yes, it crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care. But since federal law mandates that hospitals accept all emergency-room cases requiring treatment anyway, we already obey that socialist principle—but in the most inefficient way possible. Making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative...What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen.”—Andrew Sullivan absolutely kills this. He defends Obama’s first term as remarkably prolific, moderate and true to principle. Hear, hear.
Drama, Manipulation and Truth: Keeping Photojournalism Useful
Paul Hansen’s photograph that recently won the World Press Photo award as the picture of the year was apparently modified to increase its drama, a technique to make colors more vivid and saturated that seems to be becoming more widespread in photojournalistic circles. As such, it remains within a long tradition of allowing photographers to increase the contrast of their imagery to highlight a mood—in this case a tragic funeral procession for two children in Gaza.
The problem here is not so much the ethics of the dramatization, but more the anxiety that photographs, even of pivotal moments, will no longer be noticed if they are not rendered in a more spectacular fashion. And it is a well-justified fear—with billions of images competing for attention online, and with an emphasis on sensationalism in the press, it can be difficult to believe that editors will select one’s photograph without such visual dramatization, or that readers will eventually engage with it. As a result such pictures begin to resemble outtakes from a film like Apocalypse Now, choosing the explicitly vivid over the more modestly empathetic.
It is a quandary for which editors and photographers bear some responsibility. The enormous numbers of photo opportunities that are staged by politicians and celebrites yet are photographed as if they were spontaneous events (with captions that do not indicate otherwise), or the photo illustrations for which photographers stage situations for their own reasons, degrade the authenticity of the journalistic enterprise. The widespread manipulation of the photographic image itself, accelerated by the ease and efficiency of digital software over nearly the last twenty-five years (Photoshop was introduced in 1989), has not been sufficiently constrained by the international photojournalistic industry, which has consistently refused to draw clear boundaries as to what are appropriate modifications.
As a result we have various ongoing controversies as to fakery, and neither many photographers nor the public know what are the agreed-upon limits for modification of the image—both when a situation is being photographed, as well as when the image is being readied for publication. It becomes more prudent from the public’s point of view to automatically discount a large number of photographs, particularly the painful ones, as a disguised form of manipulation.
A journalistic photograph can be thought of as a quotation from appearances—a framing of the visible, similar to how quotation marks are used to frame someone’s words. The reader or viewer’s expectation is that what is seen in a photograph represents what was there, just as quotations marks indicate to a reader that the words quoted were actually said by the person to whom they are attributed. Certainly paraphrasing someone’s words can be quite truthful as to the essence of what the person was articulating, but one is not allowed to pretend that a paraphrase is a quotation.
Thinking along these lines, in 1994 I led a committee at New York University that suggested a “not-a-lens” icon which could be used like a copyright symbol next to a press photograph when it has been modified beyond acceptable standards. The reader then could use the computer’s cursor to roll over the symbol to find out how the photograph had been changed, or a print publication could provide the information along with the caption. The implication was not that one kind of image was more “true” than another, but that the strategies were different, and the reader deserves to know which ones were being employed.
More recently I suggested, first in a 2008 book called After Photography and now in a book coming out next month called Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen, that a broader standard be developed whereby each of the four corners of a photograph might contain information placed there by the photographer which again would be made apparent to an interested reader who rolls over each corner. The bottom right corner would contain the credit, copyright and/or Creative Commons information, a caption, and information as to whether the image had been manipulated. The bottom left corner would provide a larger context for the making of the image, its back story, recounted by the photographer, the subject, an eyewitness, or whoever else might be appropriate. The upper left corner would provide more still or video imagery to give a larger sense of what was going before or after the primary photograph was made. And the upper right corner would link to other websites (perhaps including the photographer’s own) that would help to provide further pertinent details and information.
The intention here is to encourage the photographer to more fully author the image, much like a filmmaker does by providing a larger narrative context for each frame. The four-corners idea, with its increased contextualization, would also serve to help distinguish the professional’s work from the many photographs by non-professionals (a simultaneous challenge is to figure out more effective ways to filter and present these billions of images by amateurs as well). And as photographs travel on the Internet and are appropriated and published by others, a four-corners strategy, if respected, would aid the photographer in retaining some authorial control no matter where his or her image is shown.
The many controversies that have erupted over photographic manipulations, including this latest one, require a comprehensive response. The problem is not simply whether a photograph is awarded a prize or not, but whether the public continues to be informed by the work of photojournalists. While there has been enormous dedication and courage shown by those in the field over many decades, now it’s time for some serious thinking and decision-making which will help to determine photojournalism’s future usefulness.
Fred Ritchin, professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University, was picture editor of The New York Times Magazine from 1978-82. His most recent book, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen, will be published next month by Aperture.
“The Internet is neither a magical kingdom nor a pirate nation of free speech and perfect artistic self-expression circling the earth beyond the reach of national laws. Nor is it an alien intrusion flooding a fragile human reality with orcs, kinky sex, and email scams from Nigerian bankers. The Internet is us. Once we accept this, it follows that we have a lot of work to do.”—
Harkaway @ The Daily Beast
[on issues discussed in - of course - The Blind Giant]
“The conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.”—Ashley Judd, newly-minted feminist hero[ine].
Murphy’s announcement about the actors took everyone by surprise—including his bosses at Fox and Twentieth-Century Fox TV, his fellow writers, and the actors, who were on hiatus. Although internally there had been conversations about which characters might graduate and the possibility of a spinoff for some of them, no one expected Murphy to make announcement in the press about a fourth season that has not yet been ordered by the network. Additionally, Murphy said in the interview that he had spoken to Michele and Colfer about his plans, but the 21-year-old Golden Globe winner disputed that claim the next day while doing interviews after his second Emmy nomination.
“I didn’t necessarily know that it was going to be our last season next year,” Colfer said. “I knew something like that was coming up eventually. I mean, we can’t be there forever.” A source close to Colfer told The Daily Beastthis week that the actor was initially “shocked” to learn the news on Twitter, but he received a phone call from Fox that morning that reassured him.
“I know that Ryan’s used scare tactics in the past to keep the actors in line and when this came out, I wondered if this might be a scare tactic to scare them into thinking if we’re going to let them go, we might get them to renegotiate for less,” the source said. “When you have a show that goes from being ‘let’s see what happens’ to being a national phenomenon, you know that if you’re going to keep those actors, you’re going to have to pay them what they’re worth. They may have been nobodies when they started that show, but they’re certainly not nobodies now. And they work harder than any cast out there and are the least paid at what they do. They’ve become cash cows for Fox.”
This is the article referred to in the last write-up I reblogged.
“It turns out that the Ryan budget, which he says repeatedly will change Medicare only for people 55 and under, does have potential implications for current seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare, whose payments for prescriptions and preventive care would likely increase according to some studies. And if Romney spends that $716 billion, it would lead to faster insolvency for the Medicare Trust Fund. It’s all fairly complicated stuff, but somehow it—or something—got through, because the Romney-Ryan numbers on Medicare tanked. And everything culminated in Ryan being booed—not once or a few times, but steadily and loudly—at a speech before the AARP (again with Mom in tow). Women haven’t exactly been wowed either. Ryan’s social and cultural views, particularly on abortion, are if anything more extreme than his economic ones. He opposes the right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest and co-sponsored legislation to that effect with Missouri representative (and Senate candidate) Todd Akin, now notorious for a welter of reactionary statements about women.”—
Paul Ryan is certainly a dynamic character. I disagree with nearly all his policies and even I feel drawn in when he speaks. And yet, things just don’t add up. Read this article, and cross-reference it with my early-posted Breakdown of Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity. And while you’re at it, take a look at the fact check of Ryan’s VP acceptance speech. I’ll be looking forward to the debate on Thursday.