Justin's Column
Because a photo is worth a thousand words
By: Justin Lincoln

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Sunday, 16-Nov-2003 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
School Project

 
I have been out of University for a little over a year now. I miss the camaraderie, debate, critique, and constant exchange of informed opinions. I was nostalgic for it even before I left. Since I want to keep learning I started looking for tailor-made instruction online and intensified that search while I have been in Japan. You can see some of those resources in Desiring Machine's sidelog ( http://bug.fotopages.com )

One of my favorite teachers in this virtual faculty is Mr. Steven Shaviro. His Mainpage is http://www.shaviro.com. He happens to be an English Professor at the University of Washington (Seattle) and has written books on film, popular and Postmodern and recently "Cyber" culture. His book Doom Patrols is available in its entirety online and is linked to his Homepage. He recently published a report /criticism on Moblogging at Artforum that I found quite thought provoking. http://www.artforum.com/inprint/id=5497
Steven also has a Photoblog at http://www.fotolog.net/shaviro/

Steven was kind enough to agree to a brief online questionnaire/interview which follows:

1. " Why and/or how did you first get involved in internet culture, and more specifically....in Photoblogging?"

I've been involved in Net culture for a long time; I first used email in 1986, and I was heavily involved in LambdaMOO and other online communities in the early-to-mid-90s. I've also had a homepage on the web for years; I've used it mostly to 'publish' my own writing, and give people access to it for free (my book DOOM PATROLS, published in 1997, has been online since before print publication). I started to read various blogs a few years ago, and I started my own something like a year and a half ago. I only started photoblogging more recently, when I bought a new digital camera (a Casio Exilim) that was so lightweight and small that I could easily take it with me everywhere. Probably the next phone I get will have a camera in it, and then I will be able to moblog directly, instead of having to transfer the photos from the camera to my laptop, and from the laptop to the Web. In general, I am fascinated by the new forms of communication and connection that the Net and its associated technologies provide. I'm also fascinated by the way that our culture is suffused with images: media images, of course, but also, increasingly, personal images, snapshots, records of everyday
activities -- images that are at once relatively permanent, and yet essentially evanescent.

2. " What recent/historical precedents do you consider important in consideration of Photoblogging? (One of the more interesting historical analogies I've heard is "A Cabinet of Curiosities" which I think I first saw in a Julian Dribbel article.) I can't imagine that the medium is an entirely new breed of animal. How does Photoblogging differ from those other models?"

One can look at the whole history of photography. When photography was invented, people didn't quite know how to deal with it. Was it art, or just a mechanical process? Indeed, there is art photography, but there are also snapshots, which are immediate and personal, rather than claiming aesthetic qualities. There is also a debate about: do photographs reproduce reality, since the camera just registers light that enters the lens? Or are photographs really subjective constructions of/by the photographer? With digital photography, there are additional questions having to do with how easy it is to manipulate and edit the image. Photoblogging and moblogging reopen these old questions, but put them in a new light.

3. "What interests you in a Photoblog?...in a written Blog....a photo?....a cultural artifact?"

Something that makes me think or feel. Something that makes me look at the world, or a part of it, in a new light. Something that I have never thought of before, or that I have never felt before. Invention and innovation occur in strange ways, and usually unexpectedly.

4. "Have you noticed any trends or new developments in the Photoblogging phenomena? Any theories about what the near future holds?"

Presumably, trends will continue: cameras and cameraphones will get better in quality, and also get smaller, more compact, more portable. But in general, I think it is foolish to try to predict the future, even the near future. Something always happens that you hadn't thought of, hadn't even conceived.


Thank you very much for your thoughts and time,

Sincerely,

Justin Lincoln.
http://bug.fotopages.com


Saturday, 4-Oct-2003 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Breaking a Habit

 
I am a creature of habit. I live, breathe, eat, work, and sleep on a schedule (albeit an erratic schedule at times.) Sometimes the pattern is too big and complex to see, and sometimes it is all too clear. It is especially clear when I have to break a habit or routine. Starting tomorrow I will break one of my latest and strongest habits: checking and updating my entries at Fotopages.

It's a strange feeling...I actually filled in my days ahead of time (using the nifty "archive " function, and creating a conceptual "timewarp". "Time" is just a marker anyway according to many theorists....as well as my own experience...consider how slowly time passes at a miserable job or how fast it passes when you are with someone you love). My record (date wise) is a complete record but perhaps in a way that is "cheating" and I feel like I will be forgetting something important. Ah well, as an artist I am flexible. In a way this essay is my brief going away present.

I am about to take a short vacation trip @ Tokyo. For three days I will take a whirlwind tour of Disneyland (Chiba), Yokohama, and various locations in Tokyo (perhaps Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi, etc., not sure yet). I have not been outside of the Kansai region in Japan...except for the coincidence that I was born on a military base in Okinawa. (My parents returned to America while I was a baby so I can't really say I remember it).

Hopefully when I come back I will have loads of new pictures to add to Desiring Machine, http://bug.fotopages.com. Until then I have made a commitment not to check my e-mail for a little over two and a half days. It is strange that this creates a slight anxiety for me......Fotopages withdrawal? I feel like I have become a full-fledged "Netizen" and I guess
Fotopages is my neighborhood in that huge territory. Years ago I never would have imagined myself in this situation....actually I would laugh at anyone explaining this predicament.

Maybe that is a sign that I need to cut back on my "habit" before it becomes a full fledged "addiction". I want to spend more time with Mayumi, I need to spend time finding a new job, and I hope to find some time for making some new videos. Also, based on what I am seeing in Photoshopland, http://www.fotolog.net/pixelman/ I want to get better acquainted with some computer programs. Finally, I need to do more writing....hopefully some of this will find its way to Fototalk, but I also want to organize a script.

More to come Fototalk-wise over time I guess...I wanted to leave you with a simple, but obvious and profound observation about habit. It was overheard at work a few days ago: "If you type one page a day (every day) for a year you will have a 360 some page manuscript at the end of the year." Of course this doesn't account for any merit of the manuscript but it is a staggering figure to me nonetheless. (And perhaps an example how a habit....an accumulation of little things....makes something more substantial. If someone feels prompted to do so based on this, please let me know....and keep me posted.

Yours,

Justin

Discuss at: http://discuss.fotopages.com/viewtopic.php?p=371


Saturday, 30-Aug-2003 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Critique

 
A friend of mine, James Davis, is now teaching a "Foundations" art course at Virginia Commonwealth University, where the two of us studied sculpture. "Foundations" is for all art students at the beginning of their university art instruction. I was very excited when he wrote me, to ask if he could present my Fotopage to his class. He asked me to send a short statement to present to the class before his presentation. It is as follows:

"Short Statement:

I use "Desiring Machine" (at http://bug.fotopages.com) as an informal sketchbook for my photos, words, ideas and internet links. When I went to VCU in the mid/late 90s I was still quite computer illiterate (I didn't have an e-mail account till 1999 or so). My involvement with computers sprang from an interest in video, and before that, performance and collage work. If there is any advice I can give an artist who is just starting out it would be along these lines:

1.Find out WHAT YOU WANT TO DO and DO IT. AND KEEP DOING IT. Learn to teach yourself, motivate yourself, and research the things and people you are interested in. If you start connecting to what you want to do I think a great work ethic will follow (no problem). If the desire is there you can make work with anything around you.

2.Work ethic is important. (One of your current teachers greatest virtues is exactly his work ethic.)

3. Make connections with the people around you... in your personal life, school, jobs, and on the internet. I think the "lone wolf" idea of art is very over-rated. No matter how far-out your work may be, a good support network and constructive criticism will help it.

I update my photoblog every day because it has become a habit... I wish you all the best in developing "art habits," whatever those habits may be. If you have any comments or questions for me feel free to post them in my comments section at "Desiring Machine" or e-mail me personally at redonut@hotmail.com.

Sincerely Justin Lincoln"

My friend's class gave me plenty to think about in their informal online critique. Actually, even at the early stage in the "Art Game" many of them came up with many of the same criticisms as faculty that I had while in school, particularly on the issue of editing, and how it might perhaps dilute my work to put too much in front of an audience. To be honest, I have struggled with this issue since the earliest days of my art development. But struggle is good for work. Maybe one person sees "overload" and another sees "generosity."

Critique is a wonderful practice and opportunity in art-school. I have been exposed to dozens of kinds: Formalist, Feminist, Materialist, Freudian, Marxist, Semiotic, Modernisms and Post-Modernisms of many stripes, critiques using game-theory, secret ballot, Socratic methods, satire, lovefests and the silencing of artists to let "the work speak for itself." Each method has its merits, time, and place. While in Foundations class my fellow students and I were certainly asked, time and again, "... is it art? If so, why... or why not?" James asked this fundamental question to his students.You can view their questions and answers at the comments section for my Thursday the 28th entry. Critiques helped cement great friendships for me while I was in school. I'm sure it will continue to do that for many new artists.

Personally, I like the blurring of art and life. I can probably do that more in fotopages than my upcoming slides project. I'd like to close with a few of my recently discovered (or recently revisited) favorite, fotoblogs.

My fotoblog idol:
http://www.fotolog.net/yuki/

Daily pics of a son by a father. Beautiful gesture:
http://www.fotolog.net/abcdeduardo/

Some fine, fine art from Prague
http://www.fotolog.net/metropa/

Georgy takes pictures of his lunch consistently. What style and elegance.
http://georgyk.fotopages.com/

Dragan keeps getting better all the time. I like watching his learning
curve:
http://dragan.fotopages.com/

Certainly enough to get you inspired/started/or pondering. I hope you will continue to visit me at bug.fotopages.com.

Sincerely, Justin

P.S. I wish someone would use the fotopages format to do a daily photo comic book. Use word balloons or captions. Tell a sequential story. I am far too all over the place to do it....but done right, I imagine it could really develop a following.I hope this idea appeals to someone enough to try it.


Monday, 14-Jul-2003 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
"Baby" Pictures.

My baby pic
There is a theory that says, "At its root photoblogging is about sharing baby pictures." Where does this theory come from? I don't know. How do we know about this theory? Because I am articulating it as you read this text. I didn't invent this....but I do want to make (some perhaps obvious) connections for you.

Let's imagine you are in a far away land, and you fall in love...with a place....with a person....and you want to show all your best friends back at home. Let's also imagine you are a very social person and you want to make even more friends. You want to say "Look! Look!" Or in Japanese, maybe "Mite! Mite! (Me-tay! Me-tay! " ) "Isn't this wonderful! Isn't she, or he, or it amazing?" " Or maybe, at least noteworthy?" And you are so overjoyed by (or possibly even peeved and critical of) your loved one that you share it with a bunch of strangers. Believe me, it can happen.

If you are reading this, it may already have happened to you. Face it, we may be strangers, but at this point, if you have already read this far....well we have been intimate. Maybe this is just because you fell in love with your camera...or with the internet, or Fotopages in particular. What you love, what you desire, what you want to share and remember is your "baby" as far as I am concerned.Why do we even take photos? I can't be sure but I think basically we want to keep memories alive...to pass them on...and maybe bring about some change or understanding into the world by doing so.

I used to be peeved by the overwhelming presence of the word "baby" in English/American (and actually also non-English speaking) popular music (especially R&B.)I didn't feel represented. I never called my girlfriend "baby". Actually, to be honest, I still don't call my girlfriend "baby". But maybe it's time to cut that music some slack. Now as I am in a very different environment I have been re-evaluating my language. And hey, I am in love.....I can give those singers some breaks.....and the term is helping me make a point.Pop songs, and the term "baby" are part of our consciousness. They are engineered to be that way. Somehow, we are supposed to identify with the singer. They are taking something that is supposedly intimate and making it public domain. "That's our song!" "Oh, baby!" SMOOCH. Intimate things shared publicly....that's popular culture....and at this point the phenomenon of photoblogging is both a content and a form or medium of that popular culture.

Now of course my definition of "baby pictures" does not exclude pictures of infant children. Actually, I think that is a big part of the engine driving the photoblogging phenomenon.But I also subscribe to the "primitive" belief system known as Animism.Animism is the belief that everything, and I will include "ideas" in that everything, in the Universe has a life/soul/ or energy. Our "baby" could be anything or anyone. one of my friends in America had a piece of junk car that kept breaking down. She kept fixing it, and would never think about replacing it. She said "It's my baby...."

I think all art, and most of our important communication, is a love song, or loveletter, or intimate game....maybe an inside joke that expands into social areas. I like to imagine that early Twentieth Century American Folk singers provided both that kind of intimacy, as well as a kind of unofficial, and all the more so important, alternative news source. And this goes back to the Dawn of time. This is what is going on in the neighboring, town, city, cave, country, or military zone. Feminists of the 1970s had a great catch phrase/slogan "The personal is political."

"Let me tell you about my baby."
I want you to consider that what you choose to show us at Fotopages, or what you choose to view,or comment on, has far reaching effects and implications. This isn't to make every little thing seem "deep" or "heavy"...I just want you to see how things connect.

In a recent newspaper interview Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami sidestepped easy, cliched questions about world politics. Imaginatively, instead of breaking things into Conservative/Liberal, Capitalist/Anti-Capitalist etc, he contends that "Open" (as in open minded, open to communication, and connection. Some people may say scattered or
unfocused) and "Closed" (as in focused and directed . Some people may view this as narrow minded tunnel vision style.) systems are the two main oppositions in the world today. Of course, he goes on to state, neither camp or style is ever practiced in pure form. We just have tendencies. Now, I tend towards Open systems as far as I can tell. I hope that my upcoming series of editorials/observations will push that forward. This, by the way is my first article for an ongoing series for Fotopages. The series will be
called "Open System" and I am eager for you to share ideas and feedback.


Sincerely,

Justin Lincoln

http://bug.fotopages.com


Two short Post Scripts.

1. Sorry if my style veers off to a completely different subject as I am writing. That might be the weak point of "Open System" style. You get distracted. You make connections that no one else seems to see. Sci Fi writer William Gibson refers to this as Apophenia, or maybe it is Apophrenia (I should go back and check) in his latest novel Pattern Recognition. It is referred to as a psychological disorder....(to see connections where they are not "really" connected.) I like to think that it is a good imaginative skill or tool instead. and I think surfing the web can cultivate that skill.

2. Send me your "baby" pictures....or better yet, post them at Fotopages.


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