January 2009 Archives

A la mode

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Some guy named Bruce Weber talked about a ubiquitous face in the New York Times and provoked some thoughts on the faint line between anonymity and personality, between publicity and celebrity. One interesting point is that Weber the writer might be Bruce Weber the absurdly famous photographer, but that is not a fact established or offered in the article by the Times, "the paper of record".

Probably there is not a big barrier to discovering who Weber the writer is; but on the other hand, I don't care yet. Meanwhile, the Times ran a couple of photos of the face in question and it isn't Weber's face nor any face that the celeb photographer Weber has made well known.Instead, the article twice shows the face of Jim Horne while noting that this is a face of "perhaps the most widely seen male model in the country", appearing in magazines and n television before computers, videotape, and LCDs.

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(Photo from the New York Times)

The job of this face was pretty straightforward: answer one question that lots of people would ask lots of times -- "what does a guy look like when a guy looks good?"

Wikipedia posts that a writer named Judith Cass used the term "supermodel"  in October 1942 for her Chicago Tribune article headlined "Super Models are Signed for Fashion Show". Even so, the Times' Weber doesn't say that there was any point during the '50's that Jim Horne was called a supermodel, and Weber didn't call him one now.

Somewhere, even in America, there is someone who doesn't know who this next face (below) belongs to, in the picture credited to Shepard Fairey even though it's a derivative of another image produced by Reuters photographer Jim Young and originally published widely in Time Magazine February 2007:

 

 

obey-obama.jpgThe great thing about this picture is that it is done in a style that actually wants to bleach the image of any reliance on name recognition of the man shown, originally during exactly the period when the name was the single most important public aspect of the man. Now that the period has passed (Vote for _______ ) and the man is in the White House, the face can just go on and on without him.

Two different modes apply. In one, the face is always used to answer the same question -- "How should we feel?"

So far, there is a kind of faux irony stuck to the picture via historically recycled labels, due to "homage", or to wimpiness about letting people figure it out on their own... OR, due to the commercial appeal of certain words having become fashionable again against the odds. In this mode it's important to be able to "see" that these words are currently still borrowing the branding lent by the face, not vice versa. What I hope for next, to play out the storyline, is that the words should just get posters of their own, no face; and the face should not have to carry any bags. It's not there yet, but people will tire of the word gimmick and then the face will be free to roam.

In the other mode, the face is overtly a brand through and through and has to go to work.

Weber wrote that Jim Horne "was employed to help sell an extraordinarily eclectic range of products: automobiles,and underpants; ... hair tonic and gasoline..." But no one knew who he was. Fifty years later, the new face in town is not even getting paid for doing just as well. See for yourself, on Google of course:

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National Public Radio, which shows no images, reports: There is no shortage of things bearing Barack Obama's name or likeness these days. Margaret Esquenet, an intellectual-property lawyer with Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, says everybody has some control over whether their image can be used for commercial purposes, but politicians have the least right to control this of anybody.

The way the brand works, though, is to not have too much variation in the image from one time to the next. You need to keep things emblematic and instantly recallable.

That isn't the way it works for the greatest supermodel of our times, Kate Moss. The power of Kate Moss is to appear in endless variation, perfectly and anonymously, to be our Jim Horne. Her public notoriety is a fact of her celebrity; but her celebrity has nothing to do with her effectiveness as a model. It is pointless to add Kate's name to the images she works in. Instead, the point is for her portrayals in the pictures to offer no barrier to the notion that looking the way she makes things look should be one's aspiration. The point is not to look like Kate Moss.

To make pictures that let Kate be super, the photographer must be good enough to avoid making pictures about what Kate looks like and instead make pictures about how Kate makes things look good.  This is not your typical fashion photographer's forte. Actually, it is more the chops of a sports photographer, one who understands the game.

 

 

 

 

More pix about buildings and food

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In the "Bay Area", Gingerbread Land smiled optimistically for 35 years but like the area's fog, the 2008/2009 recession quietly settled down around it and snuffed it out.

 

Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Workaround ..

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(Tiles)

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Frames are edges, and the edge of a picture is a tool for letting a viewer mentally hold on to an image.

Frameless makes the edge more important. But rectangles in photography are arbitrary to begin with, and many pictures are first of all about making that shape less arbitrary.

Everyone is used to seeing that effort, so it seems like things are just supposed to be that way. But why force the issue as an attitude when it could be a real issue instead?

We like the problem of putting something on that shape instead of putting something in it. Whatever doesn't make it onto the shape then obviously doesn't count.The square is an interesting rectangle because is comes closest to being neutral, not suggestive, to what might fit on it.  

On a tile, especially a freely moving one, the picture on the tile first of all brands the tile. The difference between one tile and another is the second thing accomplished. Third, a family of different tiles starts to build up an imagery. The tiles bring the imagery. Finally, each tile wants to bring as much of the imagery as does any other.

 

  

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Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Powerlines

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(Drawing detail)

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The art of detail is to show "done" work explaining itself. Design is the first work, followed by the build and the use.

Age works on all other prior work. Eventually, the earlier work is all done and age keeps working. Age peels back the build and the design.

  

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Photos Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Blueprint from British Columbia Institute of Technology

Workaround

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(Postcards)

Some ranches still run on things that send a horse's work around the ranch.

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Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zonagraph ...

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(New Tiles)

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I met a person at this place who said to me, "I don't take pictures here anymore. I've been here so many times, they all start to look the same." Overexposure had dimmed her sympathy to nearly none, while mine was still just getting itself together. I didn't see any of her pictures, the ones she no longer looks at herself.

 

 

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The line tying recognition to memory is for drawing an answer when it pulls on our own memory, but initially, it likely draws a question when it pulls on someone else's. Much of the work assignment of a picture can be to keep casting the line into the viewer's memory, until it gets a catch. It pitches and dangles its bait unconcerned with the clock, seeking empathy for its own sympathy to its idea. What we don't know is whether the empathy will be a question or an answer.

 

 

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Practically, the picture is a conceptual abstraction offered in concrete form, a set of criteria looking for a "qualifying match" in the viewer's ideas. On the other hand, strictly speaking, that concrete offering might be only a benign utterance... yet something that to one encountered viewer is the question  "do you have one of these?" while to a different viewer is perhaps a kind of "haiku".

Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zonagraph ..

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Our visual experience loops around endlessly, from looking to seeing to remembering to imagining ... and back to looking again, for what we are imagining. As time cycles in this looping, the noise of profuse visual detail is filtered out in our minds, leaving more precision from less information. Iconography relies on the spirit of "the sketch", giving something rather like simple powerful formulas to solve, in which it is not the number of variables used that generates the meaning but instead the numbers (or values) that can go into the few variables offered. It is not coincidental that "sketch" and "skeleton" are similar words, and we can quickly hang our memory and desire of a place on the sketch, and from there flesh it out at our leisure if we want. Sometimes a place makes us find and take its sketch, and sometimes the place just gives it to us.

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 Tucson

  

 

 

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White Stallion Ranch

 

 

 

   

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The Cowboy Way

 

 

Pictures Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Images now on the loose.

Zona ......

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Stoplight

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Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zona .....

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Tuscon.

There was going to be cactus.

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It didn't seem that there was anything left to say to anyone anywhere about cactus.

 

 

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What chance that the stuff would look any different than it does every single time you look for it?

 

 

So. Don't make pictures of the cactus.

 

 

Make the cactus make the pictures.

  

  

Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zona ....

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Pulp fiction

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 Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zona ...

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(Postcard)

Fireball

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Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zona ..

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(Postcard)

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Heavy light falls and then fades but leaves gates lying about like warnings, separating the vital from the fatal.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Zona .

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(Drawing)

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Crown of Thorns.

Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Zonagraph .

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(Postcards)

Live strands quietly fling and collect starry desert dust around passersby at night.

 

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We more or less get to return the favor.

 

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 Copyright 2009 Malcolm Ryder

Images now on the loose

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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