Monday, July 28, 2008

The new role of the image...?

Someone talked to me recently, told me that it'd take very long to take a great shot. You wake up before dawn, he said, you go on top of a tall building, talk your way in, if you have to. Or you schlepp yourself from street to street, the body of your camera dangling off your neck, the strap grinding its way to your bladebone. A quasimodo-to-be, ten years from now. Or you swarm around troublemakers, a parasite digging invisible, needle-like arms into the open pores of their subject/object. 

You get the right angle, turn a little wheel on your camera, correct your lighting, click, you got your shot. 

It sounds like an idealist's ode to the photojournalist. And yes, there seem to be a few great photographers out there, who seem to be able to live for a month on one photo's earnings. 

But the viewer clicks on. To photo slideshows, photo series, photos tagged in albums, to interactive maps and graphics. And so a photographer either goes on a scavenger hunt for the next interactive map, running from one building/person/event to the next; or has to take mug shots of 50 people who give representative opinions, Man-On-The-Street polls on the elections, Britney Spears, Detergent; or is s/he is one of 40 random photographers who work for Getty Images, the AP, Reuters, Corbis, who contribute namelessly to a larger project. 

It slaps the photog ego in the face, which is sort of satisfactory to me. It takes away from Walter Benjamin's prediction that photography politicizes/is inherently politicized due to its fake objectivity, its need for a verbal framing. Now the multimedia framing negates its singularity. Takes away from its wordlessness. Contextualizes the photograph for the consumer, while s/he is just as capable of re-contextualizing the image through posting it on facebook/blogger.  The image has become a free-floating currency. The iconic image mutates into a malleable (both in size and meaning) broche, worn, traded, bought, lost, sold. And it loses its charisma, or to use Benjamin's vocabulary, its aura, once more. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mao and me


So here are some observations I've made about life in China:
Some cleaning personnel like to mop carpeted floors here. 
Some little boys piss on the railings of the Forbidden Palace. 
Many people don't give a flying rats ass whether you've been waiting in line and will try to take the spot in front of you. 
For a two-month-period before and during the Olympics, Beijing residents will only be allowed to drive their cars on either even or odd-numbered days. 
Oh, and they are shooting missiles into clouds to make them disperse.  




Friday, July 4, 2008

From Olympics craze to multimedia craziness

Cheerleaders presenting their skillz at a press conference organized by the Olympic Committee

I'm experiencing the (physical) pain of being a multimedia reporter. I've been lugging about all sorts of equipment, amounting to about half my weight. I photographed, videotaped, interviewed, even tried to do a stand-up today and will also write a story on these lovely, pompom-swinging girls (while working on six other videos).

So this is the life of a multimedia reporter? I sometimes wonder whether this is just a temporary stage, a transitional phase that will pass and after which a time will come when reporters will once again be able to choose between being photographers, videographers and writers. I wonder which part I'd take and whether being a jack of all trades will have become a habit, a way of life that will both exhaust me, cripple me but also exhilarate me to the extent that I would prefer it to a one-tracked profession.

National Opera
The inside of the National Theatre in Beijing, taken while on a shoot for a video about architecture

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir. Almost everyone in the business has been lamenting this change. Job cuts here. More unpaid web filing there. Journalists are bearing the burden while media business models are STILL adjusting to the age of mouse-click readers.

But this sudden web-panic has given us 'youngens' a leg-up in this profession. I'm 23, got a well-paid job at one of the big ones and don't feel completely inadequate amidst these Pulitzer-prize-winning reporters because I have a technical fluency they don't (don't get me wrong, I still know that I'm an unworthy minion in comparison to them, but at least I can be of use to them). All the while, I'm getting great journalistic training while on the job with the crop of the creme. And I know that many of my fellow new media majors have gotten great jobs with big companies because they have these skills on top of being good journos. I guess, a little bit of back pain, is a small price to pay for these perks.

Beijing Architecture
Beijing traffic from the Arup office, a company that helped constructing the CCTV tower, taking as I was setting up a camera for an interview

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beijing - Olympics craze and everything surrounding it

Beijing Athletes

It's bizarre what a sports event can do to a city. You'd never have thought that the arrival of hundreds of athletes would cause the government to shut down entire factories, ban people from using their cars on every other day and cause a construction boom to plonk donut-shaped mammoth buildings onto the cityscape.

Beijing Athletes

Athletes are worried about pollution, causing the government to sprinkle clouds with weird-ass chemicals. A rectagular building layered with gigantic bubble wrap is only one of many avant-garde architectural monuments that have been built to impress the incoming sportsmen, -women and spectators. People sell live goldfish in plastic key chains.

It's weird what one event - one where thousands will see seemingly senseless and purely entertaining physical activities - can do to a city.