In Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), author Errol Morris recalls the summer of 1936 in Great Plains, North Dakota and the heat weave that ravaged the area. Through government spending on photography, three accusations of fake photos printed by both local and national newspapers came to light, only one, as Morris wrote “appeared to be an out-and-out fraud”: The photograph of a herd cattle invading the state capitol during the drought, yet turns out after another round of accusations, was not a fake, but where the cattle was always located. I was mesmerized by the questionable photos, especially the taken-out-of-context cow skull in the middle of nowhere. Knowing that a prominent news organization like the Associated Press (AP) picked up on this image (and earlier in Morris’ book he mentions how the New York Times identified the wrong man as The Hooded Man and expressed their embarrassed in the interview) and altered their meaning(s) made me think falsity that oftentimes ends up being reported as truth. Think of celebrity death hoaxes, as countless users light up the Twitter scoreboard with the trending #RIPInsertNameHere (the latest faux-victim: Jennifer Lopez). The same applies to what a manipulated, ultimately altered photo does to the reputation of a celebrity.
I’m no fake (Source: DNT)
Over the last few weeks I have been studying the medium of photography, a topic I have never really explored or studied before. I read not only about the historical signifance of photography from Alan Trachtenberg’s Classic Essays on Photography as well articles from the likes of Annette Kuhn, Victor Burgin and Susan Sontag, but I have questioned my own authority when it comes to taking photographs. To perhaps show off what I have learned in a very short time, I have completed a full-length photo essay by tapping into my own childhood and analyzing one photo based off of photography and semiotic theories. This is part memoir, part academic, but an interesting read none the less that relies on just one photograph. Click the link (that will direct you to ISSU) below:
I recently spent time reading and analyzing the graphic novel of Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by P. Craig Russell through the understanding of both semiotics and comic theory. The graphic novel is an adaption of Gaiman’s national bestseller that introduces us to a curious young girl named Coraline who discovers a secret, hidden door that takes her into an alternate world that is unlike anything she has ever experienced. In this world, she has a mother and father who are eager to spend time with her (unlike her distracted, “real world” parents), but with considerable strings attached. While I enjoyed the story, I was interested in how I was going to understand this graphic novel, which I will admit is a genre I do not usually read.
UK girl group The Saturdays posing selfie-style for Fabulous magazine (Source: The Saturdays.co.uk)
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.”
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).
Reflection & Analysis detailed below..
As a homage to my recently-completed mashup on creativity through remixing, I wanted to briefly look at the art of musical remixing, editing or recreating a sound different from an original version. What I’d like to do here is to note the differences between an original music video and the remix, and perhaps decipher why artists remix their own work and find out how fans have taken the lead in the art of video remixing.
If you’re looking for a movie that captures the essence of celebrity-obsession, Sofia Coppola’s (daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola) led The Bling Ring certainty tops that list. The movie, released last summer, is based on the real life crimes of a group of Los Angeles teenagers who broke into the homes of a slew of A-list celebrities including Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and Megan Fox. While the real buglers are spending time behind bars and still in the midst of a lengthy probation, the movie became not only fodder for the actual crime, but allowed for a satirical look—while not violent in nature, still an invasion of privacy, but planned (by these teenagers) for the purposes of obtaining expensive clothing and jewelry. As movie critic Richard Roeper called Emma Watson’s portrayal of Alexis Neiers “comedic gold”, while on the surface, Watson isn’t playing the role of a cartoon character leaping over fences, skinning knees, cracking jokes and misleading officers about her identity when confronted at the home she shares with her mother and father and her two sisters, her character is simply oblivious to reality, as she truly thinks she means what she says.
Emma Watson in The Bling Ring (Source: NextMovie)
I thought the dichotomy of this movie allowed for a bit more interpretation on my end.
In December of 2013, Beyoncé changed the game by not only releasing her entire album on iTunes without a debut single release or promotion, but turning her eponymous fifth studio album into a visual album, meaning each song was accompanied by a music video. We aren’t talking a standard green-screen music video where Beyoncé stands in front of a camera and belts out a soon-to-be hit such as “Pretty Hurts”, “XO” or “Drunk in Love”, but she went on location for each music video (17 in total), from Coney Island, New York to Rio de Janerio. Even the dancers featured in these videos had no idea what they were getting involved in and told TMZ that Beyoncé’s handlers confiscated their cell phones and other communication devices, even requiring them sign strict confidentiality agreements. This is what Beyoncé had to say about the album:
“I see music. It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion — a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”
Whenever the topic of copyright is discussed, the conversation seems to take off in multiple directions, seemingly without any concrete answers. Sure, the definition of copyright is self-explanatory: the rights given to the author of a production/creation (copy privileges). But as Kirby Ferguson states in Everything is a Remix, “creation requires influence, everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others.”
The contradiction of the expression/idea muddies the water, as copyright law does not protect ideas, yet an expression is an original thought (even a summarized thought from a previous text) that should be credited. Siva Vaidhyanathan offers an insightful cautionary look into the copyright laws, which clashes with Brett Gaylor’s liberal beliefs that encourages viewers of RIP! A Remix Manifesto to “take [RIP! A Remix Manifesto], rip it, remix it, help remake it.” We can also throw in Lawrence Lessig’s Creative Commons, a somewhat hopeful solution that allow for others to legally use and share others’ creations.
Yet when we hear stories in the past of the RIAA suing the average person (regardless of age or income) who downloads a song from the Internet or working with Internet providers to cut off their service if they search and download music, YouTube pulling down users remixed versions of music videos and mash ups and news coverage of record labels, publishing companies, musicians and writers being dragged into copyright lawsuits or accusations: such as singer Robin Thicke suing the family of Marvin Gaye for making ‘false’ copyright infringement claims (basing off the aforementioned idea/expression role), later Gaye’s family went after Thicke’s record label for not protecting the estate, Lessig’s recent fair use battle from using music during a class lecture that was eventually posted online, even chefs questioning the popularity of individuals taking “food selfies” and posting them on Instagram, claiming it takes away from their intellectual property, the average person who looks at these issues at a whole is left confused as to what the goal of copyright is and who is (or who should) be protected.
For this video mash up, I would like to re-examine the issues discussed within copyright (piracy, copyright infringement, and fair use laws) through visuals created by others, all remixed and filtered through my understanding. I am a little uncomfortable with making this the sole focus of a major project because there is so much gray area within the copyright and ownership rhetoric and being a student who appreciates direct answers and has always erred on the side of caution when discussing copyright, I am not sure I will find one or expect to find one as I go along. But I want to join in on these ongoing and complex conversations that take place not only in the courts but in classrooms, message boards and communities all over the world. I believe a video mash up is the perfect medium to explore these issues and the visuals will add a new layer to the intensity of this ongoing battle.