Hostage In The Kabuland

Been following the hostage crisis in Afghanistan since it started while preparing documents for visa to France. Although kidnapping is almost becoming a norm in Iraq and Afghanistan where American and Western nation’s presence is strong and visible, Far East Asians are rarely a target partially because there’s very little connection and understanding on either side. But things started to change in around 2004 when a South Korean worker was beheaded by his kidnappers in Iraq.

South Korea has about 2,500 plus troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan for both constructional works and training troops for both countries. Their non-combat oriented activies and low visibility gain some acceptance in both countries as oppose to their American counterparts. In addition to their low profile presence many of South Korean troops stations were converted to Islam as the result, according to an article posted on the web.

But military presence in countries who see any foreign troops in their soil as enemies will always find a chance to kidnap a foreign nationals and use troop withdraw as a bargain. The death of South Korean worker in 2004 in the exact product of that. In the case of the kidnapping of 23 Korean aid workers, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated than troop withdraw. Prior to this kidnapping an Italian journalist was kidnapped by Taliban. But instead of demanding troop withdraw Taliban was asking for prisoners swap. The government of Afghanistan did gave in in the end in exchange for the journalist’s freedom. Similarly, the kidnap of South Koreans are aiming for same goal.

Exchanging hostages for prisoners aside, there’s serious question as far as my concern needs to be answered. As I understand the kidnapped Koreans were on the humanitarian mission to Southern part of Afghanistan. The mission, as pure as it looks is a religion oriented mission because all 23 victims are part of Christian aid group. They were traveled to Afghanistan under the defiance of travel restriction to Afghanistan issued from Korean government to its citizens. In the country where majority of the people are Muslins, having a presence of Christian missionary is always a sensitive issue and often times draws attention to trouble. With that in mind, the question I have is: Were these Korean aid workers truly understand the scope of the mission including the risk they’re facing and still volunteered to go or were they persuaded by the church, whichever it is, in Korea without given proper risk assessment? If the answer is later then there should be an inquiry by proper authority to curb the issue because sending aid workers without given them proper information about their potential risk is same as blindly sending soldiers to take over machine gun bunker on the hill without any fire support.

Restrictions After Restrictions

Seemed like these days there are restrictions everywhere when it comes to photograph in the public places in many parts of the world. First we’ve seen France(and later similar one in Quebec) introducing laws which make people easier to sue publications for their faces being recognizable in the photograph. This means even for a photojournalist he/she will have to take a big pile of model releases or contracts or to have selected photographs pixelated so the subject won’t be recognized. Ironic for such law taken place in a nation that produced many legendary photographer like Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Elsewhere came a ban on Silver Spring, Virginia which a section of street in the city’s downtown is off limit for people who wants raise their camera and snap away. The reason: that section of the street which photography is banned is built by private company therefore should be consider as ‘private property’.

But the biggest buzz came from the Big Apple which quietly introduce a measure require shooters in the group of two or more who are shooting on the one point public places for more than 30 minutes and the group of five or more people shooting with tripod for more than 10 minutes to acquire a permit and a one million dollar liability insurance. The measure will not target tourists according to the city, but how do you distinct them?

I don’t usually advocate for the issue, but on this particular matter I think I really need to address. While I do believe that paparazzi and post 911 environment hurt photographers’ images and their ability to work on the street, but having a restriction will not taking the issue to a manageable level. Rather it will seriously damage enthusiasts and professionals for their freedom of expression and their artistic creativity.

There is a petition here for people who can sign up to urge the city to reconsider the law. I strongly encourage people who either live in the US or oversea American to sign the petition.

for more info please visit:

Alec Soth – Blog

Magnum Blog

Mostly Photography

New York Times

PDF of proposed measures

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.