I am fascinated with the Waterlogue app, which converts any image into a watercolour. Most apps and PhotoShop filters that purport to recreate a particular artistic style seem to do a poor job of it – mangling the image but without reproducing the essence of the art form. Such ‘artistic’ filters are usually used to convey a sense of beauty. The examples from the Waterlogue community all have an extremely traditional subject matter: landscapes, portraits and still life, framed rather conventionally. I put six of recent history’s most famous yet shocking images through the tool. The results are below. They are instantly recognisable, and although the paint removes detail from the images, I find them just as sad as the photographic versions. Continue reading “Shocking photographs reproduced in watercolour”
A little while back, the Independent ran a feature on ‘the selfie’, that genre of modern self-portrait taken with a smart phone. Hilary and Chelsea Clinton had published a selfie, which signalled the form’s crossover from youth culture to the mainstream. When we discuss social media, the usual insight is that it allows people (whether they are public figures like Hilary Clinton or Rhianna, or just ordinary members of the public) to communicate without having to go through the established media corporations. But I think the great significance of social media is that the traditional media outlets have completely co-opted it into their coverage. The mainstream media’s tracking of Edward Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong to Russia was powered by Twitter. Sports reporters quote Tweets from players and managers to gain insights into their state of mind or the state of their transfer deal. And selfies are now routinely used by the newspapers to illustrate tragic young deaths. Whether it is a car accident, a drug overdose, a gang murder, or a bullying related suicide, the photo editors turn to the victim’s Facebook page or Twitter stream to harvest images. The latest example of this is Hannah Smith, who committed suicide last week. I noted a couple of years ago how they were used to report the overdose of Issy Jones-Rielly. And the reporting on the joint-suicide of Charleigh Disbrey and Mert Karaoglan in June was heavy with ‘selfies’. Continue reading “The Darker Side of 'Selfies'”
I have just uploaded some digitised super 8mm cinefilm footage I took in 2003, of the anti-war demonstrations in London.
I sent the original reels to the producers of the We Are Many documentary. They have crowd-sourced footage of the biggest mobilisation of people in history. Sadly, my footage did not make it into the final cut (too much panning, maybe!?) but they provided me with the digitised footage anyway. I am making it available online under a Creative Commons Licence. Watching the footage a decade after I took it, I am amused by how the vintage cinefilm adds an extra sheen of history to the images. Its also serendipitous that I received this footage back just as Instagram launched its video service. The quick cuts and grainy film in my clips are mirrored in the new content being produced today by social media enthusiasts. I was using Instagram Video before it was cool! I am also reminded of these wonderful lines from Karo Kilfeather in her essay ‘The Art of Narcissism‘:
The impulse to create art is as powerful as any other thing that drives us because art connects us to experiences and to one another. Good is besides the point when the need behind it is to create something honest and true to the way we see the world. It’s not about realism. The vintage-tinted Instagram filters are derided for adding a nostalgic cast to the mundane, but what they do is allow users to share their world in the same emotional shades they see. The photo becomes not just a document of a moment, but a story told from a point of view.
This speaks to why I chose to document the protest with Super 8mm cine-film in the first place. The political mobilisation of early 2003 felt historic, and I wanted to convey that in my personal record of the day.
Here is a photo of imprisoned Azerbaijani editor Avaz Zeynalli at his verdict hearing yesterday morning in Baku, Azerbaijan.The photo was taken by his wife, Melahet Qisuri Zeynallı (via Rebecca Vincent).
Photo of imprisoned Azerbaijani editor Avaz Zeynalli at his verdict hearing this morning in Baku (Photo: Melahet Qisuri Zeynalli)
Zeynalli’s trial has been littered with controversies, including his defence attorney exiting the courtroom mid-trial over a row regarding the order of witnesses; a courtroom altercation with the prosecution’s chief witness, MP Gular Ahmadova; claims from Zeynalli that the evidence collected against him has been illegally obtained; and serious questions about his health while in prison.
I think this image is fasincating for two reasons. First, a relative (not a journalist) was able to take the image of Zeynalli and broadcast it around the world. This is a commonplace occurrence, of course, but we should never take it for granted. In years gone by, Governments would have relied on the slow pace of cimmunication, and the distance between cities and countries, as cover for illiberal manoeverings. Second, its noteworthy that the image has been ‘Instagrammed’ before upload! The faded sheen to the image conveys an iconic status. In the future, I wonder if people will use some kind of filter to make court-room photographs look like court-room sketches.
Two is a trend.Vine, the new social media app that allows you to post 6 sec video clips, has a square format. The videos are in a 1:1 aspect ratio. This follows Instagram, the popular photo sharing app that gives the user focus and colour filters to improve their images. This trend arrives just at the time when wide-screen has become the standard, default aspect-ratio of choice for both video and TV. The footage generated by Apple iPhones, other cutting edge phone technologies, and the latest video cameras, all seem to be on the 2:1 ratio. Before the move to High Definition, TV and camcorder footage was all 4:3. Why the change to 1:1 for Instagram and Vine? Perhaps because the ratio evokes Large Format photography. This conveys a seriousness, a permenance, and a respect for the art of photography… a useful quality to communicate in the ephermeral, digital world of online image sharing.