My Image and I

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

DAY 3 (But written the day after)
I was frankly too cooked to write yesterday. Came home and then went to Crepes and Waffles for a big ensalada Marroquí, jugo Alegría and Tiramisú for dessert. Thus refueled, I ambled homeward.

DAY 3 of the Conference tidied things up. Very specific outlines for emergency response to include (locally) Defensa Civil and the police. Also highly recommended going to Wilhelm Research for preservation issues with digital media. Ms. Norris said she frankly did not have the expertise to answer questions, but the Wilhelm site is updated weekly (or daily?).

At the beginning of the session, she played a Beatles song related to the conservation work, although I honestly do NOT remember the title!!! (Says something very bad about this member of the Beatles generation!) It did serve to wake us up and actually generate a sense of being together.

At the end, she played “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” along with a slide show of portraits, antique to the ’40s. I swear the last one, a Hollywood carbro print, was of Hedy Lamarr, but I forgot to ask. However, I did sing along to the song! (No doubt irritated the girl to my right.)

I kept nodding off–not dozing, not sleeping, just a trancelike state in which images in my head combine with the reality of the place where I’m sitting and create a certain amount of confusion. Consequently, I missed parts of the presentation.

I gave Ms. Norris a thank-you note at the end which included my e-mail, Flickr and WordPress address, as well as a polite “Y’all cum back, y’ah hehr?” Then I left before I could embarrass myself in some way.

Now, for something really specific: The Man Ray Exhibit was two stories above us and I’d already gone to see it. Then I wrote about it on WordPress, and it’s had five or six hits so far. A point I made in that review has to be reiterated and even expanded upon here–people taking digitall pictures. CONSTANTLY!!!

In the WordPress post, I remarked that Man Ray would appreciate the irony of people photographing his photos and other objects, and the same is true with the conference.

But with the conference, I have more questions and even serious doubts about the future intellectual capacities of people in their twenties and thirties. They’ve swallowed everything digital hook, line and sinker, no questions asked, which is a horrendous mistake. They also seem to believe that all things “old” are bad, somehow. On the other hand, my generation did that, and those who still cling to that philosophy seem to end up wondering what happened to their lives. Eventually, the digi-totin’ young-‘uns will learn that “old” is a necessary part of life.

But I was truly amazed at the number of attendees who photographed the slide screen every time Debra Norris displayed something with diagrams and websites. A Museo Nacional spokesperson announced at the beginning that it would be okay to photograph (and also videorecord, with some cameras) the material on the screen, “AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT UPLOAD IT LATER TO THE INTERNET!” The announcement with the warning was video-recorded by the Museo staff (and also by the co-sponsors/hosts, Universidad Externado and the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República), so their collective asses are covered. Everyone knows that this stuff will be posted and “traded” all over the web before sundown tonight (or even last night).

I sincerely want to know what possesses these people to photograph virtually everything all the time. Are they so brain-damaged that the memory part of their brains no longer retains material for more than 5 seconds?

The non-Man Ray irony here is this–Neuroscience is just now beginning to see with scans and understand with research the memory functions in the brain. But the more they research and scan, the less people use their brains for consciouis individual intellectual activity. The amount of research demonstrating correlations between writing by hand and working in three-dimensional space (games, dance, hobbies, sports, arts) and brain development and function is already large. Why is all that being tossed away in favor of slickly and mindlessly amassing tons of visual cues which too often are unrelated in any way whatsoever.

Do the conference attendees who zealously photographed Debra Norris’s slides seriouisly expect to print out these images in glossy 8 x 10 and carefully preserve them according to Wilhelm’s rigorous standards? Are these people even going to remember in which digital file or folder in their computers they stored the information?

For the sake of honesty, I swear to the following: I wrote my notes in longhand. I put everything together in the folder the Museo Nacional handed out. I have stored the folder in my darkroom with my darkroom notes, which I write by hand before, during and after a printing session. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, A) If the Roof Collapses–1) call lawyer; sue landlord for failure to maintain property. 2) Pick through wreakage and rescue all negatives, prints and equipment. 3) Clean and restore everything following guidelines.
B) Other Damages–see #2 and #3.

I’m also concerned that the public has been led to believe that “traditional” photography is time-consuming and “smelly” and even boring. REALLY?

How long does it take even an experienced professional photographer to locate one (1) image taken two or more years ago and uploaded to a computer in haste? How does he/she feel upon realizing that said “right” image has been deleted? How does he/she feel when new equipment or programs are not compatible with pre-existing ones?

Digitizing old photos (scanning or re-photographing them with digital cameras) is an excellent safety precaution. Using Photoshop to make corrections saves time, tempers, money and maybe even further damage. These are recommended practices for amateurs, professionals and any organization working with photographs and films. Therefore, all the information presented at the conference will be available for the general public, researchers and restoration personnel because the Museo Nacional recorded it digitally. Surfing the Internet will produce even more relevant information which can usually be downloaded and printed out. There may even be more information than one person wants or needs.

But to “capture” the information with one’s very own personal digital camera seems like a Gary Winogrand type of experience, and not a Man Ray one. Winogrand was the supreme street photographer, in his lifetime wandering miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) in cities and towns in the US taking pictures.

But he got to the point where he’d shoot rolls and rolls of film (35 mm) which was stored in drawers and never developed. Of ten rolls actually developed, maybe five images met his criteria for enlargement, display and eventual sale. When he died in March 1984, Winogrand left behind nearly 300,000 unedited images and more than 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film. This has become a curator’s nightmare. He did this ar a time when photography was generally available to the public, but categories were pretty firm–amateurs (anyone not paid for his work), and professional (paid to take pictures). A family or even a pro usually processed and printed a few photos in a month. Winogrand ended up with hundreds of images in a week.

Winogrand was one man taking pictures. His heirs and conservators face the task of what to do with all those rolls and negatives and contact sheets, plus the few resulting images. This is a daunting task.

But now imagine 25 people armed with cameras able to hold 100 images per memory card. These 25 individuals keep every shot and average 30 images/day. How long does it take them to reach 1000 images, each one approximately 750 x 750 dpi? Where do you store these images? How many will be printed and when?

Add this factor–each person is 25 years old with a life expectancy of 84 yeaers. Therefore, A) How long will it take each person to end up with more images than Gary Winogrand? B) Where will these images be stored? C) How will these images be used? D) Why does everyone want to turn into Gary Winogrand (and a Winogrand masquerading as Andy Warhol)?

The three days I spent at the conference were valuable to me as a fine art photographer who prints, stores and sells her own work, but also as a thinking adult who understands photography as much more than an image to be preserved for the future. My most sincere thank you to the Museo Nacional and its staff and the Universidad Externado as sponsors, and to the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República for acting as host. Thank you especially to Debra Norris for coming to Bogotá and sharing her knowledge and experience with all of us. I hope she returns.

The conference was called “This is My Image,” and for me, in many personal ways, it was. I got to see myself.


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