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.

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.

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).

Human Testing Proposal

At first glance, I immediately saw Animal Testing as a black and white topic. Being a large advocate for Beagles I neglected to look at it another way. I’ll begin thinking about animal testing in a new light, on humans. We are creating our world, but this world is now home to technology that we have created and many times we are unsure how it is affecting us. Cell phones omit radiation, but not much research has been conducted on the side effects it could possess. Our food is manipulated, mass produced, and full of toxic and unnatural chemicals War alone has killed millions. Whether and unwanted draft or a new advanced weapon, the battlefield has also become a large laboratory for human rats. Our bodies are becoming the test subjects. Are humans testing humans? Are we merely just another animal to be tested on? I want to incorporate animal testing and war imagines. I think that having a contrast of clean food imagines and over worked, processed food as well might aid my vision.

Proposal: Different Dimensions in the War on Drugs

I did a lot of thinking after reading Dr. Wolff’s comments on my original proposal. After he pointed out that my topic—the politicizing of science—seemed like it could easily turn into a one-sided argument, I saw what he was talking about. There isn’t much ambiguity in stating such obvious facts as I did in my proposal. It seemed like all of the better videos showed problems that didn’t have easy solutions. Perhaps the value of these mash-ups isn’t in trying to fix a problem, but making viewers see the problem in a new light.

So, for my new topic, I think I’d like to go with the war on drugs. Now I realize that Dr. Wolff identified legalizing marijuana as an over-used topic on his website. I agree. My topic won’t focus on the harmlessness or harmfulness of any drug (at least not as the central focus).

I want to explore the complicated dimensions of the drug war and throw them into a stew—well, maybe a little more tactically than that, but you get the point. There are so many questions to ask: Has this war worked? Who is it affecting? Who wants to keep it and who doesn’t? Who benefits from it and who suffers from it? Would making drugs legal lead to more drug use? Is drug use inevitable? What are the historical variables surrounding the war on drugs that led us to this point?

I think it’s important that I stick to questions and not assertions. Or, at the very least, make observations instead of statements. That’s how I think it would be best to take on this assignment.

I’ll have to do a little more sifting through usable images, video, and audio clips before I figure out exactly which elements I’ll use. I suspect some relevant things to start sifting through would be clips of drug use, people in jail, impoverished neighborhoods, videos of arrest, images of cartel violence, etc. It’s all so open ended at this point, though, that I don’t want to commit to anything just yet. I’m more the type to surf through things and wait for light bulbs to go off in my head.

Mashup Proposal: Immigrants as Human Beings

Though most Americans may not realize it, immigration is still a problem in the United States.  People from Mexico, China and the Philippines are settling as often as they were years ago, and the policies that the government tries to uphold are simply failing under the influx.  Immigrants that come illegally can face charges like jail time or deportation, but immigrating legally is difficult and held under strict rules.  The worst part, in my opinion, is that immigrants are not viewed as people but as mindless foreigners trying to steal the opportunities of others.

My mashup will look at the “othering” that happens with immigrants in the United States – the way they are treated by native people, their struggles with jobs and domestic life, etc.  This also includes political issues like being deported or detained, but will focus on the personal rather than the political standpoint.  Although it is impossible to avoid politics, my mashup will not look so much at the political propositions toward fixing immigration as the humanity side of the argument: individual stories, emotions, families, and the ways that immigrants can benefit from coming to America.  Old clips from when immigrants were encouraged to come to the US – particularly in viewing the Statue of Liberty as the immigrant’s statue, and when the US was considered open to everyone for opportunity.

To emphasize the othering, I will contrast these images with clips from science fiction movies where the main race of the show/series/etc. treats another species harshly without understanding their intentions.  This could add a shock factor if I utilize brutal or inhumane clips filled with anger.  It also highlights how the first reaction of people is treat others, different from themselves, with violence and unreasonable judgments.

I also want to contrast the othering with images of bugs.  I want to emphasize the American belief of infestation by using clips that have bugs that work in groups (like ants, for example), like an immigration takeover.  This will tell the other side of the story, the common American take on immigration no matter the benefits.  I think the bugs will add an unexpected element that will make the viewer feel uncomfortable, but also lead the viewer toward the idea that they are uncomfortable because they do not know all of the information about the situation.

I plan to use music that will create a feeling of anxiety.  The music will be fast-paced so that I can use quick cuts to make the situation seem overwhelming and difficult to sort out for the viewer.

Proposal: Intellectual Property: Who Owns What? Understanding and Examining Ownership and Creativity

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.

Mash-up Proposal: Net Neutrality

It’s hard for me to remember what life was like before the World Wide Web. I predate it by just a year, and, like many people in the ‘90s, I didn’t yet realize how integral the Internet would eventually become to my lifestyle. I’m writing this very post on Wi-Fi service provided by Rowan University. Web access is cool. But, in a recent ruling, a U.S. appeals court struck down the FCC’s regulations for preserving the net neutrality we’ve enjoyed since the web’s inception. I propose a mashup video on net neutrality — what it is, how it’s discussed in tech and politics and what it means for the public.

This is a weighty topic, given how ubiquitous and vital web connectivity is for everyone around the world, but I’d also like throw some humor in (I can guarantee you I’ll find a spot for this Simpsons clip in there somewhere). The web is often portrayed as binary codes, glowing green screens and radiating Wi-Fi signals. so, off the top of my head, I could see a cloudy sky clearing into a beautiful blue representing the Internet access spreading to everyone, removed from the shackles of restrictive pricing.

Web connectivity affects everything from conference call technology like Skype and Google Hangouts to leisure software like Netflix and Xbox Live. And it wasn’t too long ago when we didn’t have any of these technologies that we rely on daily. For my narrative arch, I’d like to start at the beginning with the promises of bringing power and information to and from the common man, capturing the mystery of the early ‘90s “information superhighway.” Then, with the proliferation of personal computers and smartphones, I want to demonstrate how ISPs have come to seize more power than we’re comfortable with, and then complicate the issue with the politics of the FCC and the ineffectiveness of broadband not keeping up to snuff with the output we’re increasingly demanding from it.

I anticipate using images of money, perhaps even images that represent the oligopolistic nature of ISPs in America today. Many U.S. cities are rolling out “muni-WiFi” to its residents, As we’re developing larger and more intense apps and software, our hardware is falling behind, so ISPs want to charge us a premium, as described in this Verge editorial. Not even that, without net neutrality, ISPs could just increase or decrease a site’s or service’s connectivity speeds just because they felt like it. So, essentially, I want to show how, like this many voices are arguing today, we’re at a crossroads with ISPs and our access to the Internet, showing where each path might take us.

Proposal: The War on Science

When searching for topics to take on for my mash-up, I asked myself, “When is the last time I wanted to throw my shoe at the television?” A fitting question for the project at hand. I kept the question in the corner of my mind as I did a good hour of news-surfing until I found my topic in this picture:

Neil Degrass Tyson

Love it.

This picture raises two main issues: climate change, and a broader-spanning one, the politicization of science. For this project, I’m particularly interested in the latter. I hate to use political buzz phrases, but I have trouble seeing how there isn’t a war on science in America. Political and cultural forces have been very aggressive behind the scenes to push religious ideologies into classrooms while defunding and undermine legitimate science to push political agendas. From the push for creationism to enter science classrooms to the piles of money invested in boosting up climate change skeptics, it’s clear that science is under attack.

I’d like to arrange clips of speeches and audio clips over images that illustrate the issue while corresponding to what is being said. A couple of clips come to mind initially: Rep. Michelle Bachman on the house floor explaining that carbon dioxide is just “a part of life” and Rep. Paul Braun calling evolution and the big bang theory “lies from the pit of hell.”

I think I could use these quotes (among other things) to make some very powerful juxtapositions. For instance, these quotes would attain new meaning when placed next to quotes of great scientists, images of children in classrooms, pictures of space and melting ice caps, etc. I think images of the dark ages would pack a strong rhetorical punch as well.

Eventually, I imagine a hazy narrative could emerge, just as it did in some of the other mash-ups we’ve watched so far: science fighting off irrationality and special interest. The conflict would be very clear. I’m also open to having music playing over my mash-up, but I’m not sure what song it would be yet. That would take some careful picking.

I know the idea seems vague now, but I think it has to be. I anticipate that my ideas will become a lot more solid as I shuffle around pictures and ideas while I work on my story board—enabling me to visualize my way through the pieces I’ve assembled by that point. I think I have enough of an idea at this point, though, to starting moving forward to that shuffling stage of the process.