Madeline McCann’s Case

Days before I returned back from France I was flipping channels in the hotel room in Paris. While most French channels were almost all focus on Rugby World Cup held in France this year the English Channels were almost focus on the news of a missing girl of the UK nationals disappeared in Portugal months back. The day when I was doing the channel flipping both CNN and BBC was doing live breaking news of the missing girl’s parents flying back to UK from Portugal after being named as ‘suspects’ by the Portuguese police(though because they’re not formally charged they can still travel freely).

Later on at night BBC ran a talk show program which several editors were invited to talk about issues happened in the news. The missing girl’s case, Madeline McCann, was one of the topic on the agenda. One of the editor thought the case has been sensationalized because of her background – a middle class white girl. She went on to say that there’s stack of missing black girls’ cases in or around London but rarely anyone talked about it.

On that note I am in full agreement with that editor’s comment. Major Medias(Primarily English speaking ones) is obsessing on Madeline’s case while ignoring the fact that there are many more cases out there which are far worse than this but always buried in the news because they didn’t grasp enough attention. In addition having devote so much air time just reporting on one missing girl’s case major medias in the way pushed aside other more important reports which should be aired.

By the way, Madeline’s case only mentioned briefly in the French news.


“Hey, you’re back, how was France?”

“Drink too much, smoke too much, and looking at way too many pictures of death and poverty.”

This is how I told friends and colleagues here in Vancouver when I got back from France attending Visa pour L’image in Perpignan. Though when I arrived the city I wasn’t in the mood of having a good time, specially having my luggage(with portfolio inside) lost at airport in Paris. Not to mention it was Sunday when I arrived Perpignan and didn’t realized most shops and buses don’t work in France. So after 2 hours of wandering with inadequate map I gave up and called the taxi to the hotel.

For the first few days when the festival kicked off I was mostly agonizing on how I get my work tobe seen without a portfolio and dying laptop which only contains low-res files. In the end I did showed someone and received a very constructive criticism out of it…..and by far the most constructive I ever received. The only regret is that my computer died before the Magnum photographers held a separate portfolio review during the festival.

As happened every year the organizers present a slide show at Campo Santo every night for a week and after the show most professionals gathered at a bar called La Poste for a drink. This is where I met most of my Italian friends and man…..aren’t they crazy…..but I really admire and respect their warm personality and their strong visual works. Of course La Poste is also the place to spot some of the established photogs and able to have few drink with them if 1. they ever show up in Perpignan and 2. if you don’t live near where they live.

To summed up…..a week in Perpignan for the Visa pour L’image is an very intense and overwhelming experience. But at the same time it’s an experience that’ll help you grow as a photojournalist because of the amount of information you obtain and amount of good photographs exhibited. On top of that, here is also a great place to extend your network of photo friends which you might need an assistance from or the other way around someday. Oh, and don’t forget editors and agencies from around the world where you talked to too.

By the way, I already decide I’m coming back next year(and making sure my portfolio is with me) and because next year is the 20th anniversary I expect things going to be quite interesting.

Airport Fiasco: YVR -> DUS -> CDG

“Honey, have a safe trip, and be sure to call back home when you get there, ok?”

“Sure thing”

This is the last verbal contact when I left Vancouver on August 31st with my wife. What happened in the next 10 days was an epic journey that are so dramatic it almost felt like I’m a new person when I returned home.

I left Vancouver to Europe on August 31st to attend Visa pour L’image, photojournalism festival held in southern French town of Perpignan. This is not only the first time I attend the festival but first time to set a foot on Europe ever. But the journey has a rough start. Once I said farewell to my wife I noticed my flight schedule has been changed because of the delay. Of course it doesn’t affect me since I have to wait for about 8 hours in Dusseldorf, Germany for the transfer flights to Paris. So on to the check-in counter for baggage check in…..and little does I know this would be the last time I seen my luggage….

The agonizing 7 hours wandering and waiting at Dusseldorf airport is a both pleasant and overwhelming experience. Pleasant because this particular airport offers a variety of shops and special interest facilities for people to enjoy – from luxury goods to electronics to open air observation deck if you want to view the entire airport. I even happen to stumble upon a model shop specialize in model planes. In addition if you’re a smoker and happen to transfer flights in Dusseldorf then you’re in heaven because you can smoke almost anywhere you want inside the building. But as much as this is a pleasant place to wait for the flight 7 hours is just too much. Not to mention Europeans are not as well mannered on the public places as many people would imagine.

So, after 7 long painful hours I finally got on a flights to Paris. First impression after arriving at the airport was that it feels like a dungeon. Then the lost luggage drama. Then dealing with the lady at service counter for the lost luggage, which is by far the most ‘straight forward’ attitude I ever encounter…..well, I guess I could say very ‘French’.

I still haven’t found my luggage yet which contains my portfolio, clothes, shoes and other accessories. But thank god I carried my cameras, computer and cash with me at the time which kept me moved on with my journey. Otherwise I would probably still stuck in Paris freaking out……

The Grey Summer

Vancouver along with northwest region is known for its beautiful sceneries and depressing rains(that is if you live here). But between June and early September sun usually shines high above with relatively few or no clouds most of the time. This summer, however, things are a bit different.

When the summer officially kicked in I was sort of expecting warm summer with high UV rating like any other summer. What I encountered for last three months are frequent overcasts and few drops of rains occasionally. In some cases thunder storm took place. Of course above normal wet weathers wasn’t all that bad – Forest fire dropped down significantly this year compare to the data shown 2 years back.

Else where in the world seems to be experiencing the same wet weather phenomenon this summer – extensive rain caused severe flooding in many parts of US as well as Asia. New York’s subway was even disrupted due to the thunder storm.

Sign of global warming? Certainly looks like it. But as far as this region goes I won’t jump into the conclusion about this year’s abnormal summer until scientific result come out.

That Fallen Green

Woke up early than usual after having trouble sleeping last night – Something happen once in a while when the weather changes. So, drag my exhausted but restless body to the coffee maker and then turned on the TV. What came to me next is bunch of red and green numbers. As I read through all my sleepiness turned into amusement – TSX down over 600 points (Of course by the closing time was went back up so it ended down 200 points).

The current stock frenzy has relate to the collapsing of sublime loan in the US, which directly caused the confidence of many people globally. It was something my family foresaw while we were still live in the US. The cause is simple – financial institutions lent out too many loans to home buyers, including ones whose financial background is not so healthy and when borrowers couldn’t pay the interest they defaulted. Institutions then sensed the alarm and tighten the restriction and next thing we know domino effect started to occur.

Well, thank god my family sold the house in the US and thank god my investment in the US liquidated right before all these happened. But what I really feel lucky is the fact that I don’t have any investment in stock just yet, or else I would really get heart attack….he.

Jean-Francois Leroy On Visa pour L’Image

Jean-Francois Leroy, the man behind the Visa pour L’image in Perpignan, France gave an interview for Digital Journalist. Below is the link:

One of the interesting aspect of this clip is that during the interview Jean was concerned about how digital photography disconnected photographers from telling a good visual story. During the interview he quote “Digital its good and bad……it’s impossible to make bad picture……but it doesn’t make you photographer”. Ironic that the interview was done by a on-line digest which is always a big pusher for digital visual-journalism.

Oh, Did I mention I’m in preparation for Visa pour L’image?

Flickrites’ Sweet Rants

In the last two days or so there’s a passionate reaction to comments posted by Magnum photographer Alec Soth on photo sharing site Flickr. So much so as of today there are over 200 comments reacted to that single post. It started when Soth posted a quote from Stephen Shore‘s comment on Flickr during a talk at Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. Followed by the quote Soth then asking for good photographs posted from Flickr. This is when hundreds of Flickrites jumped on the board and reacts to the post.

Interesting enough while many of the respondents were focusing on Stephen Shore’s comments and/or feeding links of particular Flickr page which they thought are good photographic works(and to some ‘shameless self promotion’ – lol) not many people were responding to the Bill Jay’s article which occupied significant portion of Soth’s post. It just so happened that because I have a visa appointment with French Consulate that morning when the post was up(technically, the post was up for hours when I read it) so I grabbed the pdf file, print it out and read it on the bus. What I discovered is a most hysterical essay about photography and the whole time I was trying to keep my emotion under control during the morning rush hour on the bus to avoid strange stare.

Of course the reason why Soth brought quotes from Jay’s writing has something to do with his earlier humorous post on his fan base at Flickr were unmatched to that o Martin Parr, another Magnum photographer. But as the comments started to build I started to see a strange irony between whopping numbers of responds and Bill Jay’s essay. Could it be that by coming out and bashing Stephen Shore and/or suggesting a good Flickr site on Alec Soth’s blog commentators are subconsciously trying to achieve something that they’re unaware of – which is fame?

By the way, I don’t use Flickr, or I should say not yet. But I’m doing so for logistic reason – Because after signed up at Friendster, MSN Live Space, Myspace, Hi5 and abandoned all I just tired of managing another site which I have little control of on the layout.

To find out more detail about the post visit here

Hiroshima 1945, Flash to Hell

Over the weekend CBC Newsworld was broadcasting a docu-drama about the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima which along with the other one dropped in Nagasaki help to end the Second World War in 1945. I was a bit puzzled about the airing and couldn’t help to ask why all the sudden Hiroshima became a hot topic again on this part of the world. It wasn’t until after the show when I checked the calendar(Have to admit I missed the date that appeared during the program) all the mystery became clear – Today, or rather yesterday in Japan is the 62 years anniversary of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima.

The atomic bomb that dropped in Japan is the event which only recently been questioned in the West of its morality and depending on which part of the world you’re from you’ll receive a wide range of opinion on this(from White racism to Japan deserves it). It is an event that gets tricky for me to comment on as my grand parents’ generation witnessed the brutality carried out by Japanese military(topic which often avoided by the Japanese when the issue brought up) in East Asia. But on the other hand I do think dropping atom bombs on Japan was a hasty decision only to be realized on the aftermath.

So what’s my stand on this? Doesn’t matter, because at end of the day wherever there is a conflict it’s always innocent people who suffer.

On to the Vitual Age! – Part II

Anyone who is aware of the history of photography(Or just aware of history) would know that the evolution on image capturing method has always link to technology. One could say that without technological advancement there would not be the invention of camera, which changed the way we capture reality from brushes to little black box. Similarly, without technology the little black box which enabled us to freeze a movement in time would not evolve from mechanical device to electronic ones.

When discuss technological advancement one could not talk about Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was born out of severe labour shortage which Europeans were facing after the content went through Black Death that killed thousands. In order to replace shortages in manual labour machines were invented. What they did not realize at the time is that the scope in which machines were transformed our social behaviour. In stead of producing goods with tools, which functioned as a handler would like it to be, machines became the central objects to produce goods and humans became operators that ensure machines are operating. The changing relationship between men and apparatus also found its parallel with the invention of camera. Prior to camera came into existence humans recorded their reality through tools e.g. brushes. With the invention of camera we the humans became operators of these mechanical boxes to ensure reality is captured. But while machines and cameras have a same linear pattern of operation camera operator need to decide what portion of ‘reality’ he/she need to be captured when operating the device.

If the Industrial revolution transformed the society into a mechanical world, the introduction of computer changed the world into that of virtual ones. Goods we produced in the digitized world no longer have to be physical objects. It can be stored, processed and delivered through a virtual reality through computer e.g. books which need machines to mass produce them can be able to read through internet. The disappearances of physical goods because of their new refuge on the virtual world are found its way to photography when digital camera became popularized. Like mechanical camera which was by product of industrial revolution, digital camera is the by product of virtual age. Operators of digital camera no longer need a medium to store information but rather the information stored directly into the camera’s memory device. Print is not necessary in order to examine the information. In stead information can be viewed directly from any available or compatible viewing screen. But the biggest shift in practice is that information stored from digital camera enables operator to share it in the virtual word.

The transition from mechanical to digital is, of course, not without concern. One of the issue with the transition period which we are in currently is how to leave an evidence behind(which is a common human practice) in the virtual reality for future generation to discover. Unlike information stored in pre-industrial age and industrial age, information stored in the virtual age has a vulnerability to be disappeared by replacement of formats. Unless in the later generation humans found a solution to this evidences in the virtual world will always be visible for a limit time.

D’oh! That Damn Exclamation Point!

When misuse of words and punctuation marks appear on the blog it always spread like cancer. This one is no exception. A California based photo agency Zuma Press disclosed licensing deal within hours after bridge collapsed in Minneapolis yesterday through local shooters. Email press announcement were sent out in order to reach potential buyers. The message which is photos of fallen bridge with text like this(notice frequent appearance of exclamation points) :

Breaking News!

EXCLUSIVE IMAGE! Freeway bridge collapses into Mississippi River during rush hour in Minneapolis, with at least six people are dead, dozens more are injured, some critically. The Interstate 35 bridge, under repair between St. Paul and Minneapolis, breaks into several huge sections and falls into the water with vehicles. An estimated 50 vehicles plunged into the water and onto the land below.

RESTRICTIONS: USA Tabloid RIGHTS OUT! Mags and TV Call 949.481.3747 For Price !!

Need I say more?

If you wanna get more perspective on this please visit PDNPulse, alec soth – blog and Waiting on a Moment by Tim Gruber.