Sunday, January 28, 2007

the political presence of non-photographs

It is not superfluous to remember that in one of the many gyrations of censorship (I do not remember the date; one head cannot hold that many bad memories) opposition magazines were forbidden to print photographs. Their writers, in a surrealistic move of the sort that has made Kafka more or less our foremost teller of tales and Alfred Jarry the most apt singer of our reality, left white spaces with captions underneath, maintaining headlines and describing in the empty space what the photo represented. This was not happenstance, or Zen-like foolishness, but the perfect metaphor for what we saw around us. Blind by decree we heard of things that our cruel and terrorized imaginations distorted to exhaustion. We came to fear our own shadows, as if all the mirrors had been placed under arrest.

Excerpt from the essay Fragments of a Self-Portrait by Marco Antonio de la Parra

Translated by Marcelo Montealegre

From the book Chile From Within, by Susan Meiselas

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Christopher Williams's work


Williams's photographic and filmic works draw heavily from German Neue Sachlichkeit photography but move beyond its indexical nature to a politics of "re-seeing," in which titles and objects (or objects and their referents) play out dialectical relationships, producing often startling new ways of seeing what has been seen before. His series "Angola to Vietnam" places together photographs of the flowers of glass from the Harvard Botanical Museum with titles drawn from State Departments lists of countries known for substantial human rights abuses. Or, as in this show, the images of the Grande Dixence dam, a dam featured in Godard's 1954 and first film, "Operation Beton." His "Department of Water, 1953-63 Dakar, Senegal May 16, 1996 (Nr. 1, 2 and 3)" place a German photographic tradition in a postcolonial environment, inviting us to refigure ideas of the western urban landscape to a concept of a globally-inflected cosmopolitan one.

Generally, Williams's work is a public thinking through of shared concerns of how we select to represent a global culturally-charged environment and certainly invites us into a continuing discussion of these issues.

Monday, January 08, 2007

amazing namesake quote

"A photographer for a moving picture machine had hard luck at Orange NJ, recently in his attempt to depict an engagement on San Juan Hill. He engaged eighteen negroes to represent Spaniards [...] and costumed them appropriately. He paid the negroes 75 cents each in advance, gave them some beer, in order that they might be in fighting trim, and then adjusted his photographic apparatus. When ready the Vitascope man found that the "Spaniards" had disappeared, taking with them 200 rounds of blank cartridges. The police found a number of the pseudo Spaniards later engaged in a game of craps, but as they fled no arrests were made.

-- "'Spaniards' Would Not Fight: Vitascope Man Badly Treated by Men He Hired to Mimic the Battle of San Juan," Phonoscope Apr. 1899: 15

facial recognition and physiognomic research

U-M social psychologist Daniel J. Kruger conducted a series of on-line experiments showing 854 male and female undergraduate students versions of composite male faces that had been altered to look more or less masculine by adjusting, for example, the shape of the jaw, the strength of brow ridges and the thickness of lips.

Participants were asked which of the men they preferred as mates, dates, parents of their children, or companions for their girlfriends. They were also asked which men were most likely to behave in certain ways – starting a fight or hitting on someone else’s girlfriend, for example.

“It’s remarkable that minor physiological differences lead people to pre-judge a man’s personality and behavior,” said Kruger, a research scientist at the U-M School of Public Health and the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). “But even though physiognomy (the attribution of personality to faces) is thought to be a pseudoscience, a lot of people believe there’s a link between looks and personality.”

In terms of evolutionary psychology, there may be a kernel of truth in that belief, Kruger said. Facial masculinity is related to levels of testosterone during development, and testosterone levels are related to rates of infidelity, violence and divorce. “Facial masculinity may serve as a visual cue in female mate choice, much as the tail of the male peacock signals females about male fitness to reproduce.”

In one study, participants linked more masculinized faces with riskier and more competitive behaviors, higher mating effort and lower parenting effort in comparison with less masculine faces.

Men with highly masculine faces were judged more likely to get into physical fights, challenge their bosses, sleep with many women, cheat on their partners and knowingly hit on someone else’s girlfriend. Those with more feminine faces were judged to be more likely to be good husbands, be great with children, work hard at their jobs even though they didn’t like them, and be emotionally supportive in long-term relationships.

“Men picked the less masculine-looking men to accompany their girlfriends on a weekend trip to another city,” Kruger said, “and both men and women would prefer the less masculine versions as dating partners for their daughters.”

Together, the studies show that highly masculine faces are associated with riskier and more competitive behavior, higher mating effort and lower parenting effort in comparison with less masculine faces.

“Both men and women generally respond to men with high and low facial masculinity in ways that could be expected to benefit their own reproductive success,” Kruger said. “While the more masculine-looking men may be good bets for mating, the more feminine-looking men may be better bets as parenting partners. More feminine features suggest compassion and kindness, indicating that men are able and willing to invest in a long-term relationship and in any potential children.”