A Little Help from My Friends

So I am in the midst of what feels like this monolithic website update and I am editing some new images for Consumed and I am incredibly visually fatigued with my work. I’d appreciate any input on which variation of the image you prefer from a pre-dinner snack of microwaved cheese fries during a pitstop in Cumberland, MD en route from other adventures. They are not still in a raw scan mode, but do you like image #1, #2 or neither? My mind has turned to jelly.

© Susana Raab 2008

© Susana Raab 2008

And if you hate them both, please say so, no worries about hurting my feelings – I am so far beyond feelings right now.

On a Related Note . . .

to my previous posting, PhotoEspana pal Jens Sundheim just sent me an update to his project, Der Reisende (The Traveller), which he has been working on with collaborator Bernhard Reus since 2003. In it they photograph each others’ images off of publicly accessed web-cams around the world (mostly Europe). You can check out there project here.

© Jens Sundheim & Berhnhard Reus

(The little guy facing the camera next to the horse and carriage is either Jens or Bernhard).

So the next time someone hassles you in public for taking their pictures you can fix them a good, hard look, before saying,” Why are you bothering me? I’m just the photographer you know about. There are others out there, others you can’t even see.” Before walking away with a maniacal laugh. That’ll fix ’em.

But what does this mean for Flicker???

My vigilant amore alerted me to this item in the UK’s Telegraph regarding the increasing suspicion of amateur photographers snapping in public places. Whilst the UK has stricter privacy laws than the U.S., I think parallels in people’s attitudes are valid on both sides of the Atlantic. The comments are interesting and some offer good points. One reader astutely declares that we are being photographed all the time by hidden cameras. True that.

I recall being stopped once by a US Park police person while photographing the Korean War memorial on the National Mall for an assignment. When she stopped me and said, “I’m not sure you can do that.” I gave an involuntary chuckle, and said something smarmy (I was in my twenties, and a bit obnoxious, as opposed to today, when I am not in my twenties and a bit obnoxious) like, “Well, I guess you better brush up on your Consititutional ammendments.”

At the beginning of the last century, when Kodak helped create the amateur camera hobbyist with affordable brownie cameras, the “camera clubbing hobbyist” was dubbed a menace to society, depicted in caricatures as popping out of shrubs to capture their candid moments (presupposing the modern paparazzi, no doubt). But what has changed is the increased use of muscle and “law” to curb the usage of a camera, often in innocuous situations, but innocuous or not, it is a right. Whether our pictures depict people “nicely” or violate someone’s privacy in public, this is a moral and ethical question, at least here in the U.S., and not a legal one. While I encourage everyone to photograph with your conscience, I would just as stridently advocate the fighting of coercive tactics meant to diminish our ability to photograph in situations completely within our rights.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

The New York Times travel section published my photographs from an adventure travel story in Bolivia this Sunday. You can see the slideshow here.

Writer Ethan Todras-Whitehill and I spent three days in a jeep in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s giant salt desert, one day bicycling down “the world’s most dangerous road” (with the t-shirt to prove it), and one day hiking outside La Paz, hooking up with talented and super-sweet Bolivian-based American photographer Bear Guerra and his delightful wife, the journalist Ruxandra Guidi.

Here are some images that didn’t make the NYT’s cut.

On the Isla del Pescado © Susana Raab 2008

Cactus is not a Four-Letter Word © Susana Raab 2008

Our Second Flat Tire © Susana Raab 2008

Rux Navigating the Foliage © Susana Raab 2008

Planet of the Giant Cacti © Susana Raab 2008

The Salar and bike ride are definitely not to be missed, however word to the wise, I would definitely hire a private jeep because the group tours’ schedule involves too much driving and a redundancy of stops that one could easily eliminate for the opportunity to spend more time at the amazing places, and less time in the jeep. Also bouncing around in the jeep for 8 hours/day does not facilitate the fecal hoarding that the Bolivian authorities seem to expect from their guests in the Salar as mandated by delicate signs such as this:

I really enjoy photographing travel. It can be a challenge, as I have seldom gotten an assignment that gave me more than one day at a location – many is the shoot that has gone badly because of weather and no time to wait it out. Most of the time I am photographing a list of stuff that was compiled during the writers’ visit during the high season, and I’m left in January to wonder where all the tourists are. This is not a complaint, it’s what it is. But it’s a nice mental respite in one way from some of my personal work, where I am really trying to put a layered visual statement into my work, (you may argue otherwise, but this is my intent). I think Degas (?) or Matisse (?) , well one of the impressionists, said something like (I paraphrase) “The world is filled with enough ugliness, this is why I paint beautiful pictures.” It’s nice to just try and make pretty pictures sometimes.

I really love the mix: travel, portraits, reportage, personal projects. They are all welcome distractions from the other.

August & Everything After

I met many new friends last week at the A Photo A Day annual gathering, and it became much more than an opportunity to augment my fledgling facebook friends list (a friend just created an account for me, as I kick and scream – deadly afraid of overexposure I guess! (ha!)). While I am an adventurous person, I really enjoy being at home, and it’s hard to fight the ennui sometimes to move one’s butt out of the door for the self-assignments and such, but 9 times out of 10 I am glad I did. I have come back inspired and full of these ideas for photo and film! projects. One subtext of the conference is the reorganization of newspaper and news outlets, the emphasis on multimedia, a modality that still does not compensate for all the time and effort needed to create new work. It’s kind of like the Wild West, and everyone is scrambling to learn to use this new media, but a lot of us really don’t know why or to what purpose. “Who are all these people clicking on slideshows all day?” We are all scratching our heads.

Speaking of multimedia, Melissa fortuitously just completed a 6 month project on a girl who was found sequestered in a closet for most of her life, living in a feral state. She collected audio for the piece and it was given fantastic display by the St. Pete Times. You can check it out here.

I am out of commission all this week and weekend with a glut of unexpected but welcome assignments, the website redesign and new zine launch will wait. Desperately needed is a stay-cation – to unplug, unhook, relax take a time-out from photography. Like sun-blindness all this unmitigated looking and processing can dull one’s vision. I hope you all can find the time to recharge in the coming weeks as well.

The Victors and the Vanquished, US Capitol, Washington, DC © Susana Raab

St. Petersburg, Fla

It’s actually quite mild for summer in steamy florida today and I am surrounded by enthusiastic A Photo A Day-ers gathered this weekend for the third annual “Geekfest” or  A Photo A Day convention.  I was reading this article by Wendell Berry a few days ago, and he mentioned about how these internet communities are not communities, but networks – and while, yes, it’s true, that most of these people dialogue more through the great Gore invention of the interweb, I do feel that this is a strong community, per se.  And these people seem to know each other better than I know my mailperson, who I see on a more regular basis than these people see each other.  I think perhaps, that people a bit younger than both Berry and meself, are more comfortable interacting through a keyboard, and if it seems a little Big Brother (I mean the book 1984, not the reality tv show!) to you or I so be it.

Personally, I prefer the face to face conversation one gets, and hate having a conversation reduced to “LOL! C U at 7” – though the first (and only) time my mate “LOL” ed me, it did produce quite the hysterics of laughter on my part (something about anachronism – [how does one shorten this word for webspeak?] – though this is also backgrounded by his overriding tendency to provide all nouns with the definite article – “I do not want to be the meat of the street – referring to a colloquial term used by CNNers to refer to the cameraman on general assignment – known by CNN as street-meat (no def. article), and to transform all exotic locations into ethnic fare: Machu Picchu becomes matzah pea soup and so on)

Anyway, as always I digress.  One APADer has just summoned me to the beach so away I go.  But just wanted to express my admiration for this group of supportive, nurturing folks frolicking here in St. Pete.  They is so nice! The web could do worse, and I think they just put the community back into network. We should all be inspired!