Month: April 2014

She’s Going Down: Mash-Up

 This was not the first time I’ve worked with digital video, but it is the first time I’ve ever made something even remotely similar to a mash-up. Recording how-to videos, vlogs, or video game-related videos and editing those is one thing, but looking at hours of media and trying to process and synthesize them into a video is a very different animal.

To be frank, I dislike the idea of mash-ups, both in video and otherwise—I had to write a “multi-genre” piece in another class that was a similar idea of combining various styles into one thing, and I disliked that, as well. I like telling stories and I like making statements, but I’ve always been very particular with how I do things: Why buy a computer when I can make one myself, why buy a Halloween costume when I can sew, why put together a video that is a stitched together version of other videos when I can make something myself?

With that in mind, I had to really rethink how I approached this assignment. At first, I had the ideas sketched out, much like the storyboard rough draft we were assigned to do. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to find things that fit right so, but when you’re not working with your own creations, things simply do not work like that, so instead of trying to find videos that fit my story, I ended up scrapping everything and finding videos that had images I thought I could work with, editing those videos down to the related sections, and then seeing how those could fit into a greater story. I needed to tell a story, but I could not do it by looking at the story in a linear fashion and hoping what I had would fit. Instead, I started to look at it as a puzzle where I had all these pieces, and if I put them together just right, there would be something there: It would no longer be a mass of colors and lines, but a fully-formed image (or in this case, idea).

Another challenge while creating the mash-up is that I do not think—or make any sort of art—with semiotic theories in mind. I think, “Putting that clip next to that will be powerful,” or “Speeding up this clip will create a sense of urgency” without telling myself that I’ve used this-or-that theory. These theories are things I assign to what I’ve done afterward, when I look into my motivations and reasoning, and this is also why I know I have trouble discussing my work in relation to these ideas. I can tell you why did something in this process, but to say it was a conscious choice to relate one clip to another in an active attempt to represent the idea of truth of falsity is not how I think, and in that way I approached this assignment like I approach any story I write, thinking about what I want to say and how to get there without getting bogged down by concepts. I worked on giving it meaning before searching out ways to add to develop the little nuances that would make or break my point.

And while, through all of this, I still dislike the mash-ups as a whole, I have come away with more respect for the medium: To tell a story without using your own words and/or images, with content you had no hand in the creation of, is a strange and arduous task. It required thinking in ways that I rarely do, and to some extend helped me make realization about my own story-telling. Although not related to mash-ups, often I would look at non-linear stories, or mysteries, and think of how I would never know how to put together a plot myself, creating something that was not more tradition in form, but through my many mash-up trials and errors, I have figured out this: That sometimes it is best not to see a story as a linear thing, but as a puzzle waiting to be solved (or taken apart). Puzzles make an image, and images tell stories, but they are not given to you with the pieces numbered 1 to 1,000, and the ability to think of stories in this way has opened many doors for me, writing was (although I do still expect many errors along the way—after all, it only took me scrapping one whole draft to finally get this project on track).

Semiotic Analysis

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Proposal: The Distance Between Us

I choose option one for my photo essay, in recording my own series of photos.  I want to look at the physical distance between people as they communicate, from complete strangers to close friends.  I want to capture the body language that we use every day subconsciously, to show how our feelings change our body language.

To do this, I will attend at least one open, public event, like a comedy show or band event.  The people at this location will not feel an obligation to look in a specific direction, like at a performer, as that will effect the way that they stand with each other.  I will photograph all types of people as they go about their regular social activities (hopefully without looking like a creep).  I only want to attend one event because the people there will have a specific interest, say, as one larger social group, and I will not need to worry about standing distances across cultures.

I want to do this project partly out of curiosity and also because I am interested if I do the same things as everyone else.  Or, if there is a significant pattern in the way that a majority of people with the same types of feelings stand with each other.  In particular, how people in love act around each other and their relationship status.

I will use a regular digital camera so that I do not draw attention to myself, perhaps muddling with the clarity of the photo to emphasize the status of the relationship in the photo.  That is, the people in focus will also be in focus, and the rest of the photo will be slightly blurred. I can also try taking the pictures with a disposable camera, if I want a more personal feel.

Proposal: Trash

For my Photo Essay, I’d like to take on option one and take 12-15 original photographs of what people throw away.

Trash day can say a lot about the residents of a house, the community they live in, and the society we all comprise. To throw something away is a statement. You’re saying one or many things: “I don’t need this,” or “I don’t want this,” or perhaps even “I can’t have this.” Trash is history. It tells stories.

Since my girlfriend suggested this idea to me, we’ve been going back and forth, elaborating on what trash can say about us and what the variables might be. Do people with Porches in freshly-paved driveways throw away different things than people with beat-up Buicks outside of apartment buildings? I can imagine that they would. But maybe they don’t.

Years ago, I moved my mother and myself into a new house. We knew the previous tenants were evicted, but too many more details outside of reports of domestic violence from other neighbors and the mother’s supposed drinking problem. She had two children. They left a lot behind in the garage—mostly junk—and I moved it all to the curb for trash collection with a friend. Two of the boxes were filled with toys. We put them on the curb with the other things and looked at them in silence for a moment. The scene said more about the house’s history than any inquiry I’d made at that point. It would have made a powerful picture.

Maybe we’re driving past more history lying on curb-sides every week than we think.

Photo essay proposal: PATCO Speedline

For my photo essay assignment, I’d like to take on option one, taking a set of photographs on a particular subject, in my case the PATCO speedline. I live across the street from the Woodcrest station, the third stop on the PATCO leaving New Jersey, and I ride it to get into Philadelphia on the weekends. There are 13 stops in total, the first six from NJ (Lindenwold, Ashland, Woodcrest, Haddonfield, Westmont and Collingswood) quiet, wooded suburbia that take you through the Camden stops (Ferry Ave, Broadway and City Hall). The contrast between the first half and the second half of the ride is so stark, it makes you wonder how such thriving towns could exist just a few miles away from one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country. One minute you’re looking at Haddon Ave, with its quaint antique shops and Zagat-approved restaurants, and the next you’re looking at the rubble of abandoned homes covered in graffiti. Once you reach the stations in Philly (8th & Market St., 9-10th & Locust St., 12-13th & Locust St. and 15-16th & Locust Street), you walk up from the underground out onto the bustling streets, and it feels like you’ve stepped into an entirely new world in just 20 minutes.

I would like to use a disposable camera for this photo essay to get a motion blur effect, capturing the feeling of movement of riding on the train (I’m considering juxtaposing moving shots through each town with its respective station, as they are undergoing some much-needed renovations at the moment), but I’ll have to take a test run to make sure the technology in the camera is just enough up to snuff that the photos don’t come out too blurry.


Fallow: A Photo Essay


For my photo essay, I will be using option one of the assignment for class and gathering 12-15 individual photographs on a theme. My essay is dubbed Fallow, and will be a look at my hometown. This essay will be sort of in the style of The Ruins of Detroit.

My hometown of Riverside is a slightly (though nowhere near the same scale) situation. In Riverside, much has been torn down to make may for new business ventures–yet most of it left undeveloped for years (or forever) as money or interest dry up.  I’m interested in the topic because, obviously, it is my home.

My goal for each photograph is to either match it with the structure that stood there, or else write what stood, and what was/is planned to go there (possibly, how long it has stood undeveloped). This is a big part of why I chose the topic, as many of the demolished structures were large parts of the town’s history.

I will be using a digital camera, and hopefully using some sort of software to layer in what stood over the current situation of the land to create a juxtaposition and to kind of capture a sense of loss in my final essay. If, for any reason–professor vetoes the topic, can’t find software or can’t figure out the manipulation–I plan on using a disposable camera to take the same pictures of the spaces as they exist, and then mess with the developed pictures to degrade them in an attempt to question why something in perfectly fine shape/not hurting anyone would be degraded, as a sort of metaphor for the actual spaces.


I am familiar with video editing and many different programs to do so. The technical aspect of this medium was not a hurtle for me but conveying a message without being concrete was difficult with this medium. In writing classes, we often hear “show don’t tell,” in video we automatically show and use the sound and images in order to tell. Because I was not allowed to use text, the mashup only allowed me to show and not tell. Showing and not telling added to the noise. Noise, according to Sean Hall, is the “distortion or alteration in the meaning or method of transmission of a message” (41). The mashup is made of noise entirely. There were times when I was composing this video that even I was not sure what I was conveying. I think the largest obstacle I face (and I’m not sure I even overcame it) was creating meaning through the use of familiar material. If I use a word in my writing its context only exists within my story, but if I use a clip in my mashup it’s context exists both in its original context, the context I intend to create in my mashup, and the context which the viewer perceives the clip in.

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Proposals: Ghost Towns and Ocean City

The photo essay I really want to do involves visiting and photographing one or more local “ghost towns”–abandoned areas in Atlantic County (and some in Burlington County) that were once areas of thriving business (namely, mills), that have been abandoned when the mills shut down. There are a number of these that are especially interesting because they have been abandoned for a relatively short amount of time for the amount of decay the mills and houses experienced, thanks to the help of the Pine Barrens being generally ruthless to man-made structures. These photo would be taken with my Nikon using a Holga lens to add an additional look of rustic decay. Alternatively, I would play off the idea of “ghost town” to purposely make the area look more haunted and mysterious through either (or both) freelensing or using a prism.

If for whatever reason the above proposal doesn’t work (due to weather, generally–all of the locales involve mile+ hikes), an a somewhat less time-restrictive and hiking-less proposal involves picking out twelve locations in Ocean City, NJ, and photographing them at two different times. Since it’s still early in the season, during the week I can grab photos of a nearly-abandoned boardwalk (possibly also taken with the Holga lens for effect), then returning during the weekend I can recreate these photos when the Boardwalk is full of life. Unfortunately this is also a bit weather-sensitive, although to a much less devastating degree since there are no hikes involved and if it’s raining Saturday, it’s easy to hop back over on a Sunday.

Celebrity 4 Selfie

UK Girl Group The Saturdays posing selfie-style for Fabulous magazine (Source: The

UK girl group The Saturdays posing selfie-style for Fabulous magazine (Source: The

Last weekend, international pop star Katy Perry sent out a cautionary tweet to her 52 million followers:

What she is referring to is the selfie, defined as self-portrait photograph, taken with a digital camera or cell phone. These photos are often posted on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. To find a selfie, perhaps we need to place it in one of the categories Victor Burgin discusses in “Looking at Photographs” as the four types of look in a photograph, the one being “the look the actor directs to the camera.”

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Photo Essay Proposal: Childhood Memories

For the upcoming photo essay assignment, I have decided to choose option #2, the vintage family style photograph of myself. I believe this is the more challenging of the two options and I also believe this assignment will allow me to demonstrate my awareness of semiotics, something that I have been struggling with all semester long.

I felt a deep connection with Annette Kuhn’s 1991 article “Remembrance: The Child I Never Was” as she wrote about how photographs can create conflicting memories. There were many times over the years where I would go through boxes in my household closet or attic and flip through family photo albums that contained pictures of my mother’s and father’s baby photos and pictures of their respective families and then find a slew of my baby and childhood photos, and much like Kuhn’s mother, my own mother would write either a date, a year or a location that was connected to the photo (and sometimes get the date or location mixed up with another photo/memory). There is something to be said about the time away from a photograph and how we place previous memories or expectations on a piece of paper and I would really like to dive into my own history, dig up some young photographs of myself and through my understanding of photographic history and theory, look at these vintage photographs with a critical eye and in-depth understanding.

I believe choosing this option will not only require some self-awareness of my past and honesty about what my childhood represents (today), but what those moments meant to the person taking the picture (the photographer).

Photo Essay Proposal: Present Moments or Roadkill

I was contemplating the idea of capturing life in the moment through panoramic view. When things are not part of our main focus we tend to forget about them. If we utilize our peripherals and examine life in a panoramic view we become aware of the moment we are in. I can only recollect on small opportunities when my teachers asked me to pay attention to how much I could see while looking straight ahead.  Even then I didn’t think about perspectives, I only thought about my health. When we only look straight ahead, without using our peripheral we don’t notice everything that surrounds us unless we are prompted to look for it. By taking time to look around we are given a moment to recognize the present and forget about the future, or where we have to be. If spotlight is placed on the future, the present is neglected. For this proposal I was conflicted on how my content would be captured. On one hand cellular devices represent moments in the now, because they are always with us our lives are tracked with the cell phones, unlike a large and heavy DSLR, which is not used for regular life. That being said, using and DSLR is also an attractive choice as it can represent clarity. These movements are often overlooked are important and should be given the same credit as momentous occasions that demand a higher quality photo.


 My other proposal was to look at texting and driving in a different light. Texting a driving kills more than just humans by alluding to the idea of the undervaluing of animals in a human dominated culture. There’s an unspoken rule while driving that you shouldn’t swerve for something smaller than cat, but if the thing was a human being, you slam on the brakes as hard as you can. I was thinking about taking photos of ‘roadkill’ or dead animals that had been hit by cars. These bodies are rarely taken off the road and will remain until they decompose, which is incredibly morbid if you think about it. Additionally, I would include my car in all of the photos. In order to capture the idea of texting and driving all images would be taken on my cellular device.


Not sure which idea I like more, so I need some assistance in choosing one, if either of them are accepted.