Canon’s mythical cripple hammer needs a theme tune… an anthem. With this Berlin industrial dance band AND ONE I think I’ve found one. TURN THE VOLUME UP! Take this deadly tool and feel the daily routine You go to work for money and for me A cripple hammer here, a cripple hammer there Cripple hammer lovely tool you’ll take it everywhere Cripple hammer lovely tool tell me what I am Treating you is the only thing I can Thank you for the money, help me to survive Cripple hammer, cripple hammer help me to stay alive Canon officially say the …
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Social media is always an uproar, there’s no way around it. Photography social media is much the same, and mostly it’s mostly harmless fun. I want to draw attention to two recent episodes that were not harmless fun, and which I worry point toward a larger trend.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
A graphic designer from Italy named Gian Butterini published a photobook in 1969, called London. Some decades later Martin Parr discovered the book, found it interesting, and arranged for it to be re-issued in a kind of facsimile edition. The opening essays were translated to English, Parr added an essay, and some very small cosmetic changes were made. In 2019 a British academic stumbled across a spread in the book: a photo depicting a black woman, a ticket inspector for the London Underground, was placed across from a photo of the gorilla in the Regent’s Park Zoo.
This is the spread in Gian Butturini’s book “London” which juxtaposes a black woman with a caged gorilla, that caused the stepping down of Martin Parr as director of Bristol Photo Festival https://t.co/7xDKLA4h3d
— Zisis Kardianos (@Zisskar) July 21, 2020
The academic immediately noted that in the present era, in the western world, this reads as a racist trope. It compares a black person to an ape. The academic and his daughter took to social media as well as to the street, raising a furor. In the fullness of time, the publisher pulled the book from distribution and Martin Parr stepped down from one or two roles.
Martin Parr no platformed. Gian Butturini cancelled. What do this week’s events say about how we handle historical photos, and how we regard elites? My report: https://t.co/eL2W41QkqQ My thanks to @johnedwinmason @jennieric Brad of @americansuburbx and Damion Berger for quotes.
— Tom Seymour (@TomSeymour) July 23, 2020
More recently, under the auspices of the BredaPhoto Festival, Erik Kessels exhibited on the surface of a skate park a display of digitally generated images of facial plastic surgeries gone awry, the faces female in appearance. The exhibit, entitled “Destroy My Face” was intended to last until the photographs had been fully eroded by the action of skaters skating.
Erik Kessels’ unsettling Destroy My Face installation at @bredaphoto protests plastic surgery with a skatepark papered in pouts, inviting skateboarders to ride over photographs of women that have undergone cosmetic surgery https://t.co/pDcodqXu8z pic.twitter.com/GKkJrx2w0x
— Creative Review (@CreativeReview) September 14, 2020
A small cadre of social media residents, overlapping with the critics of London, read this as violent and misogynistic. They took up a campaign to do, well, something about it. The result was that the skate park has committed to removing the photos, while the BredaPhoto Festival has so far stood firmly by their curatorial decisions.
Well, so what?
The issue at hand is that in both cases a small cadre of social media residents read the work in a particular, singular, way, and successfully parleyed their opinion into a dominant one — with real-world consequences. Artwork was removed from view on the grounds that it “said something” the cadre found unacceptable.
When some ordinary person walks up to a piece of art, they’re likely to come up with a single way to understand the work. Opening London to the spread, they might well recoil from the evident racism. Or, they might see it as a commentary on, an indictment of, racism. Or something else. This is the point of contemporary art after all, If a piece of art only said one thing you could just write that one thing on an index card and skip all the painting, photographing, sculpting.
And this is where the trouble lies. The loudest voices against Butturini’s book and against Kessels’ installation were academics, educators, experts. They should know, if they know anything, that art allows multiple readings, and that these multiple readings are a large part of the point.
Art which critiques, let’s say, racism must of course reference racism. In its richness and ambiguity, it can then be read as racist by anyone who sees only the racism being referenced. That’s ok — it’s unfortunate that the critique doesn’t come across for some people, but that is virtually inevitable. If you don’t want ambiguity, just write it on an index card and be done with it.
The academics arguing against London never showed a single other page from the book, only repeatedly hammering the single spread with the single idea of it being inescapably racist. They omitted mention of Buttutini’s opening essay that specifically addresses the two photographs in question. They omitted other spreads that showed Butturini’s methods. They insisted that their single reading was the only conceivable one and that context was unnecessary. They loudly labeled anyone who disagreed as a racist, or a racist enabler.
Again, these are academics who should know as a basic part of their job that context matters and that multiple readings are a thing.
The voices arguing against “Destroy My Face” similarly included experts who ought to know better, and similarly hammered a single point of view. Again, any attempt to suggest that alternate readings might be available was met with name-calling and boastful blocking.
This strongly resembles the campaign against “Piss Christ”, a 1987 photograph by Andres Serrano of a crucifix submerged in urine. This photo also admits multiple readings. A vocal cadre saw only blasphemy and hammered that story to the exclusion of all else, raising a national hue and cry in the USA. Copies of the photo were physically damaged, and so forth. It was an exciting time.
A1: I saw this photograph by artist Andres Serrano called “Piss Christ”–a crucifix in a container full of the artist’s urine. It highlighted for me what Christians had done to Christianity. Some people are offended by it but I see a lot of truth in it #slatespeak pic.twitter.com/cuJ38Nk0Cx
— Karen (not like THOSE Karens) (@_karenjgonzalez) August 2, 2019
The difference is that the professional artist class (whatever that might be) of that era stood with “Piss Christ,” rather than calling for its removal. They understood that art is complex.
To be fair, “London” can be seen as racist, “Destroy My Face” as misogynistic, and “Piss Christ” as blasphemy.
They can also be seen as a critique of racism, a critique of social beauty ideals, and a critique of the commercialization of religion. That’s not all, of course, but let’s stop there, as these are the documented intentions of each artist. We know what the artist intended, in all cases, and those readings are clearly visible in the works.
It’s not that the voices decrying these works are wrong, or should be silenced. Far from it, let them be heard loud and strong!
But let other voices also be heard. Shouting “troll!” and boasting about blocking other voices in no way resembles discourse — it is unhealthy, it is damaging. It is not a conversation. It is not how serious educators, serious thinkers-about-art, should be reacting to art.
One of the professional educators decrying “Destroy My Face” (referring to remarks Kessels made) went so far as to ask “Now how about that ‘conversation’ he promised?” to which I have to reply “many of us were having it, but it was a little difficult because your lot kept yelling TROLL! and BLOCKED!!!!” over and over.
The voices that refuse to accept dissent and that refuse to grasp the basics of how art functions should be heard, make no mistake — I listen to them. They’ve usually got some kind of a point to make. In a narrow way, they’re even right.
They’re right, but they’re not completely right. I submit that they are not right enough to be dictating what hangs on the walls of galleries, museums, and our public spaces.
About the author: Andrew Molitor writes software by day and takes pictures by night. Molitor is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and does his best to obsess over gear, specs, or sharpness. You can find more of his writing on his blog. This article was also published here.
When the Sony A7 III was released it allegedly damaged the appeal of more expensive $3000 mirrorless cameras, not least of all Sony’s own. In my opinion the electronics giant is now doing the same to affordable APS-C rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras, effectively ending their own APS-C line as well – an even more destructive move than last time. I am minded of the Nikkei Asian Review in July. “Smartphones are not the only reason [for the camera industry’s decline]… Japanese industry, which has a penchant for competing against its own products, can also blame itself.” The article goes on to …
The post Opinion: Why the Sony A7C harms the camera industry appeared first on EOSHD.com – Filmmaking Gear and Camera Reviews.
Camera manufacturers have faced a tough time in recent years as sales dwindled, whilst photographers have demanded ever better products and the development of mirrorless systems. COVID-19 added insult to injury by essentially halting production. How have manufacturers fared? Everyone is a loser, but who has lost less than anyone else?
Over the last few years, several companies have been actively producing accessories for smartphones. The majority of these accessories have been for iPhones and for the most part the accessories haven’t been overly significant devices. What I mean is that the accessories most manufacturers produced have been small LED flashes or add-on lenses. This seems to be changing with what Profoto has done and I wonder if this is the right direction for the market.
Not so long ago, Profoto released the C1 and C1 Plus flashes for the iPhone. For many photographers, this was a strange move from the company. Since then, the company has leaned further towards the smartphone industry. They have since made their B10 strobe fully compatible with the iPhone. You now have the ability to use pro-level lighting equipment with a smartphone and it’s actually pretty good.
Smartphone cameras have improved so much now that they can produce meaningful results. Most smartphones now give you the ability to shoot raw and also control many of the settings you’d see in dedicated cameras. Their portable design means that most people always have their smartphones with them.
In many cases, it is far easier and quicker to take a picture with a smartphone, than it is to shoot with a more dedicated camera. Smartphones are also far more connected than most, if not all, current dedicated cameras. It takes little effort in comparison to snap a photo with a smartphone and then share it with friends or on social media. These are some of the reasons why the vast majority of images are being taken on smartphones.
When you look at the market itself, there are far more smartphones in circulation than there are dedicated cameras. The difference in numbers is incredible. For example, in 2019, more than 1.52 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. The number of cameras sold in the same period is tiny in comparison.
For this reason, it may make sense for companies to want a piece of that market. Producing accessories or devices that are compatible with smartphones, makes complete sense when you look at it from that perspective. Having said that, there some other points to consider too.
One of the main reasons smartphones have become so popular is because they’re easy to use and portable. Adding accessories to them tends to counter these features. A Profoto B10 is not portable in the same way. It’s pretty impractical to have to set up a light if you’re planning on shooting with a smartphone. If you’re carrying and setting up lights, you may as well just use a “proper” camera. I imagine very few people would buy a B10 primarily because it’s compatible with their iPhone.
Most smartphone accessories tend to overcomplicate the process. In my personal experience, I’ve bought a bunch of accessories and addons for my smartphones, only to find them collecting dust after a few occasions of use. This seems pretty common across the board. Most people that shoot with smartphones, prefer not to be over-encumbered with large accessories.
Effectively, you end up spending a similar amount of time and effort to produce worse results, than what you could have produced with a dedicated camera.
The number of smartphones being sold is extremely attractive, however, the market and mentality are quite different. Even something as small as the C1 is a bit of a hassle to have to charge and carry around; especially if you only plan on shooting with a smartphone.
Plenty of hardware manufacturers have produced accessories to help you produce better images. Additional lenses, addon flashes, hand grips, and so on. It’s very uncommon to see them being used out in the public and even less common among photographers. The accessories that tend to work well within the market seem to be phone cases, screen protectors, and skins. Accessories for the camera or for photographers, rarely do extremely well.
Currently, there are very few companies that are doing well by producing smartphone camera accessories. In fact, the only company that I can think of is Moment, and they seem to be diversifying pretty quickly away from just smartphone accessories.
The main issue is that most people don’t particularly care about taking good quality images; photography is a niche. Even among the photography crowd, most people tend to prefer to shoot with more dedicated cameras as opposed to using accessories to improve images from their smartphones. For this reason, the huge number of units being sold does not really mean a great deal if you’re planning on producing smartphone camera accessories.
This is even more of an issue if you’re only supporting iOS devices because the number of iPhones being sold is significantly lower than the total market.
The point is that when you start breaking down the market, it’s not as attractive as it may have initially seemed. Not so long ago, disposable cameras were the most popular cameras in the world. It was probably a bad idea to produce pro-level equipment for those types of cameras too.
Profoto and the iPhone
In a discussion I had with Profoto CEO Anders Hedebark, he made a point that really stuck with me.
“We don’t make lights for cameras; we make lights for creatives,” he said.
In essence, Profoto does not care what device a creative person wants to shoot with, Profoto just wants to be compatible with that device. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canon, Sony, Phase One, or the iPhone; all that matters is that its lights need to be compatible. On that basis, having the B10 compatible with iPhone is simply a matter of widening its compatibility. Effectively, if you already own a Profoto B10 light, it is now compatible with more cameras than it was previously, therefore offering greater value.
I’m completely for this expansion towards the iPhone because when you consider it from that perspective, it makes complete sense. The only slight chink in the armor is the fact that Profoto literally does produce lights for cameras. The perfect example of this is the C1 and C1 plus lights. These are explicitly described as smartphone studio lights and they’re currently only compatible with the iPhone. Based on that, it does feel like Profoto is leaning quite heavily into the smartphone industry and I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good move.
The Budget Market
One of the trends that we’ve been seeing over the last few years is how camera equipment has dropped in price. Good quality lighting equipment is much less expensive now than it was around a decade ago. Cameras are also becoming less and less expensive and this due to manufacturers like Canon with its EOS RP, Sony with its a7 III, and even Fujifilm with its medium format cameras. The majority of income seems to be made from the budget photographers.
This makes sense because the industry has had a huge influx of new photographers, but most of these photographers probably don’t have the budget to buy super expensive equipment. Maybe catering to this market is a smarter thing to do.
Companies like Godox seem to be doing really well in this market and the products they produce are of a high standard. Budget doesn’t necessarily mean cheap; it generally means less expensive.
Maybe it’s a better idea for Profoto to consider this section of the market instead of the smartphone industry. This way, they can attract photographers that may be starting out and then bring them into the ecosystem.
I’m not convinced yet that the smartphone photographer is the one to be targeting with high-end lighting equipment.
It’s important to mention that Hedebark is an extremely capable CEO with a proven track record. Through his leadership, Profoto has seen a great deal of success. It’s likely that Hedebark is seeing something that I’m missing, and this may be the reason Profoto is leaning so heavily into the smartphone industry.
What are your thoughts, do you think Profoto is making the right move towards smartphones, or should they focus on the budget market instead?
About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Dawood’s work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.
Recently, I got into a discussion with a guy on social media about one of my photos. He claimed it was fake. I had manipulated the image by adding birds, he said. The incident got me thinking about how easy it is nowadays to change an image completely. How do you prove your image shows the reality?