Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Do We Value?

Watching the CBC National broadcast from 5/14/08, the feature segment was on the world food shortage. The entire segment is highly informative, but the most provocative thing to me was Francis Moore Lappé's (author of Diet for a Small Planet) analysis of the current situation. Her incisive statement is about 7:20 into the segment. Basically, she cites a deficit of democracy, as symbolized by ADM, largest or 2nd largest grain trader, increasing their profit by 65% last year, while rising food prices will push approximately 100 million more people into poverty and hunger or starvation.

I know that statistics can be slippery things; ADM may have increased their profit dramatically through cost-cutting, maybe the gain is measured against miserable results the previous year, etc. Somehow I don't think so.

But this is not about singling out ADM as a corporate villain, though they aren't on my list for a Nobel prize.

What is really at stake is a system that uses even the most basic of human needs -- food -- to concentrate wealth and power in corporate structures that answer only to the mantra of unending and unbridled growth. As Brian Stewart says in the CBC piece, all the signs of the impending shortage were there, but very few were paying attention.

There is some small sliver of hope that enough people will wake up to what real democracy is all about, and that we can avoid food and resource wars and the catastrophe that would be. Real democracy protects its citizens not only from crime and military attack, but also from trauma by institutionalized greed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why I Love Film

Some people expend a lot of effort in Photoshop to get digital captures to look like this. GIVE IT UP FOLKS ... JUST USE FILM!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

South Wedge Morning

In early April I started a self-assigned project called South Wedge Morning. South Wedge is a historic Rochester neighbourhood that is undergoing renewal. As such, it is interesting to observe the evolution.

I have no attachment to the district; I don't live there, I simply pass through on my daily work commute. So it was some of the more charming architecture, witnessing some of the renovations as the progressed (or stalled) each day, and the occasional press buzz that stimulated my initial interest.

The idea to make an "unstructured" documentation project really took on a life when I saw it as a way of also meeting a couple of other needs.

First, such a project would get me out of the house (off my fat butt) on weekends. I tend to be inert. Once I am moving, I'm fine, and once I start a project that holds my imagination, I tend to keep rolling. (My wife would dispute this, but "honeydew" lists don't count.) I don't awaken quickly, easily or gently, so lingering over a homemade cappuccino while watching CBC Newsworld on a weekend morning is luxury to me.

But as a habit, that doesn't support physical well-being; I need to be physically moving to improve heart health, promote flexibility and muscle tone, not to mention fighting mental stagnation.

It also doesn't exercise photographic vision; it doesn't add to any body of work. No photographer ever started out fully formed. Even the rare genius needs to work. I have several other photo projects and "goals". Getting myself in gear was increasingly important as I felt I was in danger of becoming permanently stagnant.

South Wedge Morning formed as a very manageable way of moving forward. There is no road map, no list of themes or shots to be checked off a list. I simply want to be an observer and allow the project to define itself ... mostly.

What requirements I do have are:

1. Be there. It is important that I keep working until the work is done. "Done" will be one year or less. If a year passes, that will be it, even if I feel that more could be done. In that eventuality, it would be necessary to do some examination a better define what I am really trying to do.

On the other hand, if I get to a point where I just know it is finished, I'll just stop. The one year horizon is not a schedule, but is a limit.

2. Work only in the morning. The only reason for this is to impose a bit of theme, and some challenge. Morning light is generally pleasant and "photogenic", but if only morning light is available, then some subjects or situations may require some creativity or at least forethought. It also forces that bit about getting my butt moving.

3. Include people and connection to the local community. I would consider a finished body of work without that element to be incomplete and far less of a "success" for me. This will take me into a journalistic role that I have not taken in many years. Even when I did photograph people, it was very limited and not very significant. The simple truth is that to tell a story, I have to have a story. If that story is external, then I have to receive and learn the story. As someone who has practiced telling nearly to the exclusion of hearing, this will be the tough part.

For now the photos will be published on flickr, (you can see the photos tagged with South Wedge here) with selections embedded here when I am motivated to add some text. Once I start organizing the work, I may move everything onto the blog or a separate website.