On to the Vitual Age! – Part I

Ever since the introduction of affordable digital camera to the consumer world the practice which photography has been evolved in the last one hundred and sixty some years took a dramatic path. With the ease of having digitally captured images able to store in computer or similar electronic devices instantly and share with people at the distant miles in just a bottom click the evolution quickly popularized the mass who can afford them. Understandably, with the arrival of cheap digital cameras ‘image information’, like text information counterpart, exploded through the internet world.

Along the wide embracement of the mass over the digital capture came with criticism and resistance among scholars and practitioners alike. They pointed out that with the new technology available a new problem emerged which involved with the habit of instant editing and image storage, in itself still evolving. Skeptics predict that this may be known as a blank period as far as image preservation concern.

Preservability aside, the argument seems to be raging on and on from image quality to aesthetics even to just being prestige……….the debate, far from diminishing, is looking more like fueling up over the last couple years, even as many major film developers and manufacturers are either switching its attention to digital or file bankruptcy.

As a film shooter who has also been using digital camera occasionally for number of years. Because my involvement and my experiences I do understand the argument which is fueling the debate either over on periodical pieces or on the blog world. However, rather than having a discussion of supremacy over which format I would more like use this opportunity to talk about the issue in a historical, social and cultural context.

Over the next few weeks I will began series of thoughts which will appear here.

Feedburner issue

Been a bit quiet lately, but the relative calm does not mean I’m disappearing from earth. Some of you may noticed some cosmetic change on this site while others may noticed the reset of reader stats via feed burner. This is all thanks to origins who pointed out this afternoon the syndication problem with feedburner. After numeral unsuccessful tries I decided to reset the feed address again and it worked like a charm

In the meantime, I would like to apologize for the trouble I bring and please stay tuned for more things to come on this blog

That Creeping Metadata

A report on Times of London surfaced today about the upcoming Harry Potter book been photographed by unknown person and published online. But the person who infringed author’s right by capturing the content and published it in advance without creator’s consensus will soon be revealed – Expert at Canon UK was able to extract the metadata embedded in the photographs and figured out the serial no. of the camera.

Similar story involving metadata being used as investigative tool occurred in the death of Reuters’ stringer in Iraq. Namir Noor-Eldeen, photojournalist worked for Reuters in Iraq, was killed in a firefight while US military was conducting a raid last week. According to the US military officials Namir was killed by cross fire during the operation. However, after examining cameras’ info retreat from dead photographer and interviewing witness Reuters raised a serious doubt about military’s statement and demanding for more investigation.

The two stories, though completely unrelated, have an interesting common thread – That investigators were able to use data stored in cameras to uncover the truth. The invention of digital camera not only changed the way images are captured but datas that are embedded in these images enable us to organized photographs on the computer with great ease. It also give manufacturers a break identifying their customers’ needs when it comes to problem solving. e.g. repair and maintainence. The paranoids, on the other hand, might freak out about the whole idea of using the data creeping in the photographs for investigation because of possible infringement of privacy and potential mis-practice by the government or business alike. In other word – ‘big brother’ fear

But whether for ease of organizing photos or shorten the investigation time the fact that we the mass do have take some responsibility for embracing digital evolution in the first place. The convenience which many consumer products like digital camera brought often blind us the potential damage it may bring about. So at this point instead of being paranoid about privacy infringement we should start to draw a clear border on the issue.

In a unrelated news – At Mostly Photography there’s comment about new ‘dress code’ for NFL shooters.

End of Martial Law In Taiwan, 20 Years On

20 Years ago today the Nationalist government in Taiwan lifted the world’s longest martial law ever imposed in the history of man kind(39 years). Though the implementation of the law was only emphasize on political dissidents between 1949 to 1987 and not extended to economy or daily lives of the people but that was enough to made thousands of people imprisoned, executed and missing.

But what followed the lift is series of demand for reform on almost every level of the society. From the late 1980s until early 1990s Taiwan endured hundreds of demonstrations demanding change from labor protection to environmental law to wider political reform. Demonstrations which in some case turned violent in scale unseen since 1947 when Nationalist government sent troops from mainland to crack down dissidents in Taiwan. Interesting enough I was actually taken by my mom to participate one of the demonstration opposing new nuclear plant during this time….and I was only 11.

Today while people of Taiwan are celebrating the historical moment which democracy finally blossomed on the island many people are also frustrated with the fact that the slow progress of structural reform on the government, lack of social benefit, and deeper ideological divide on the future of the island. However, One thing is certain – We can not and will not go back to the time of martial law.

So, on this day, I pay tribute to those who fought for freedom and democracy 20 years ago – even though I may not agree their political view today.

From Mr. Rodgers to "Strawberry Kids"

Stumbled upon a news article this week about the effect which TV icon Fred Rodgers’ words on generations of children in America who grew up watching Mr. Rodgers’ show on PBS. It emphasized that the kind, gentle words of Mr. Rodgers to children and telling them how ‘special’ they are left a grave impression in which children grew up felt they’re entitled to what they pursued. It article went on to explain how the phenomenon extended to parenting which some parents are often times missing their opportunities to guide children to acceptable behavior because they felt that children are special and they should be let loose to explore the world on their own.

The article, however, used a somewhat arguable example to compare the behavioral problem of young generations of America. It quote from one university professor praising Asian born students accepting whatever grades they receive and take low grade as motivation to work harder, as oppose to American students would fight their way up to revoke the low grade because they felt that they deserve it.

While I don’t argue the unexpected end result Fred Rodgers produced for decades, I don’t feel that the article using Asian born students as a right example to support the argument. It is generally true that many of Asian born student do accept their grades as is but they’re not necessarily accept in heart. Nor do they necessarily feel that they will work harder to achieve their goal. In fact I believe Asian born students who came to this world in the time which their native countries saw a great economic growth represented a behavioral problem on the other spectrum.

To understand the behavioral problem which Asian born students are facing, one has to understand the social background which they’re growing up to. From the late 1970s and onward Asia-Pacific region saw a tremendous economic growth in which improved many people’s lives. parents who gave birth at this prosperous period felt that their children should deserve anything that they did not enjoy as kids. While growing up these children were given excessive protection, care, and material needs. The end result of the overprotection is Asian born students who grew up in that time period have low tolerance to the stress which evolve into low motivation when facing obstacle. Other behaviors include very self-centered and excessive spending without considering the financial risk they’re getting into since parents will always rescue them. In Taiwan, people refer the generation growing up from that time period ‘Strawberry Kids’ – Meaning they look good but when you squeeze it everything just crumble apart.

So while Mr. Rodgers may produced generations of Americans who felt they’re entitled to everything because they’re special, Asians who grew up in parents’ overprotection are self-centered yet vulnerable to obstacle. As for me, I didn’t grew up with either Mr Rodgers or from overprotecting parents so I’m glad to say that these problem doesn’t reflect on me…..

John Szarkowski dies at 81

John Szarkowski, one of most influential figure in the history of photography, dies at age 81 on Saturday July 7th, 2007.

Through his writings and curating he changed the perception of our thinking in photography over the last four decades and elevated the medium to that of fine art. He is perhaps the most important figure in photography in the post modern era.

Group M35

Over at Mostly Photography a former colleague Joe Szymanski gave his account on a small agency known as Group M35 came to existence but quickly fell apart with in three years. Although the drama has been over for sometime now but I feel that, as a former member, I should give my account on how i got involve with it until everything fell apart, or should I say there’s wasn’t anything to begin with?

In about late 2004 toward the end of my college I was in the process of switching my student visa in the US to temporary working visa and was hunting for the photography related jobs(part of regulation) in order to secure the work visa which allow you to stay in the US for longer time. I came across my former instructor Charles Clark, who at the time was in San Francisco area. I approached him several times and showed the series I was working on. Few month later while I was having conversation at his place I mentioned about the visa issue I was having and he pitched his idea about establishing a agency where like-minded photographer could feel like home. He then asked me to be part of it and that way my visa issue would be solved. Having no clear direction on where my visa issue would take me I joined the agency. Little does I know less than a year later my family’s immigration case to Canada got approved.

I guess my suspection on the agency was around winter of 2006 while I was in Korea. I received a surprising email from Charles about ceasing the operations in San Francisco Studio and moved it entirely to New York. Although it seems legitimate that operating in New York will generate our exposure. After all, this is a place where it is considered industry heavy weight. However I felt that there should be some kind of notice in advance or at least a consensus among members through email rather than rush to New York, as the content of the surprising email feel like. Regardless the suspection quickly went away during the meeting at summer of 2006 when members gathered for the first since the establishment. As any other organization, there’s heated debate, but everyone seemed to have an hope that this project can work. There’s even a promise of gallery space in San Francisco where there would be a first group show.

Well, the group show as promised never materialized. In fact little does I know the building where it supposed to be agency’s future gallery space has been sold by the landlord. Adding to the already twisted story even more bizzard is that in May 2007 when I stopped by New York other than few people working in the office none of the NY based member were aware my visit beforehand. Then Charles came along talking about having a exhibition in South Korea which would be a great help to me. Now, although I’m no Korean but since my wife is and she knows a little bit of art scene over there I knew right away that either something of a miracle happened or it’s just another ambitious BS(I’m more toward later). What’s next came out his mouth is even more shocking – he was planning on ceasing the operation in studio and having it move to his apartment. You don’t have to be a detective to smell something’s up. But I was not experienced enough to notice the agency is gearing toward oblivion. Two days later, the news I was fearing was finally delivered – Group M35 is over.

As much as I blame Charles for his act there is a partial responsibility on me for not communicating enough with both agency and other members. During those three years I was constantly moving around first San Francisco to Oakland then to Los Angeles then Canada. Even in Canada my family was renting a house and wasn’t until March 2007 I was finally have a somewhat stable place to stay. So much moving that it took a toll on me for not keeping touch with what’s going on in NYC. I guess not having a stable place can really be vulnerable.

Finally, if you want to know Joe’s account on the agency please click here.