Category:scott sforza, wh producer

May 16, 2011

Police Action Painting

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Police spraying protesters in Kampala, Uganda, May 10, 2011 [image james akena/reuters via cfr.org]

I haven't been able to get these images out of my head since Brian Sholis pointed to them; they're stunning and disturbing at once.

As Time Lightbox's Ishaan Tharoor put it,

We're used to protest movements that come in colors--the yellow of people power in the Philippines, Ukraine's orange, the green of Iran's brutalized democrats. We're less accustomed to seeing protests quashed with color. But in Uganda, security forces sprayed opposition leaders and activists with a vivid pink dye--a mark intended both to humiliate dissidents and make it easier for police to nab them.
The first publicized use of dye cannons was in Cape Town, South Africa in 1989, in a fiasco that became known as the Purple Rain Protest [image below via wikipedia] An anti-apartheid demonstrator seized the cannon and turned it on the white-painted buildings in the square, including the National Party headquarters. "The purple shall govern" became a rallying cry for the democracy movement.

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In 2008, after Indian police painted protestors purple in Srinagar, Slate's Explainer put together a concise history of the dye cannon. Which is, well, ironic, considering how aesthetically similar the police painting images are to the Indian Holi Festival, where crowds bombard each other with powdered pigment as part of an equalizing, anarchic celebration of religious joy.

Clearly this is not art; but it is painting. And the sobering political implications and power dynamics depicted in these incredible--even, I hate to say it, beautiful--images makes me question the glib, benign assumptions I hold for that word, that action.

For a long time, I've been fascinated by the military definition of 'painting," the use of laser sighting and guidance systems to target weapons ranging from guns to missiles. It made me wonder what other seemingly paradoxical contexts "painting" has found its cultured, refined way into. I guess I can add one more to the list.


Color in the midst of protest [time lightbox]

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Holy smokes, this has to be the greatest photo of David Brooks and Newt Gingrich anyone has taken or ever will take. Will the uncredited Getty Images photographer who was in the Russell Building stairwell last week please step forward to claim your prize? [via andrewsullivan]

UPDATE: Congratulations, Chris Somodevilla!

"One idea could be using mirrors so photographers could do their jobs out of the president's sight line, the White House's Earnest said."

My mind is blown and I am still picking up the pieces after contemplating the possibility that White House photographers might be instructed to shoot using mirrors so as not to disrupt the president's line of sight.

I mean, the compositional challenges pale in comparison to the artistic compositional goldmine that such an environment would provide. I mean, just imagine. Here's one AP shot I didn't post the other day about Sforzian backdrops at Fort Campbell. Check out how the floating reflection of the camo netting draped over the crowd barrier, which is picked up in the teleprompter:

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With mirrors, photos of the president would be like rainbows, visible only from the single specific angle that aligns the lens, the mirror, and the face.

Street photographers would suddenly have an edge. Lee Friedlander, traveling with the President:

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I've slowly been making my way through Kierran Horner's analysis of Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror in relation to Gilles Deleuze's concept of the 'time-image.' I had just gotten to this part when I found the AP White House photo policy story:

Left alone, Alexei locates and sits in front of a large mirror hung on the wall. The next shot begins stationary behind Alexei, facing his reflection in the mirror, and the camera slowly pans in over his shoulder, focusing ever more tightly on his reflection, until, gradually, the reflection becomes the sole image of the frame, staring back toward the actual Alexei.


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There is then a sharp cut to reveal a medium close-up of Alexei sat contemplating his reflection from the opposite angle. This shot/reverse shot dynamic and the 'eye-line match' are common to most conventional cinema, establishing an object, or person, as perceived by a character from their point of view.

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As David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson describe it 'shot A presents someone looking at something off-screen shot B shows us what is being looked at' (2004: 303). However, as in this case, the 'eye-line match' refers conversely to an interaction between two characters, here, the actual Alexei and his virtual counterpart. It is as if he is reacting to/with his reflection. This dialectic can be read as representing the Deleuzian 'crystal-image':

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'In Bergsonian terms, the real object is reflected in a mirror-image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or reflects the real: there is a 'coalescence' between the two. There is a formation of an image with two sides, actual and virtual. It is as if an image in a mirror, a photo or a postcard came to life, assumed independence and passed into the actual, even if this meant that the actual image returned into the mirror and resumed its place in the postcard or photo, following a double movement of liberation and capture.' (Deleuze 2005b: 66-67)

I see Barack Obama as Alexei. And a virtual presidency. Can you begin to imagine what kinds of images this would produce? Forget the stunning conceptual aspects for a minute; has anyone at the White House thought through the political implications--should we call them the optics?--of not permitting the cameras' eyes to gaze upon the President directly?

Maybe not mirrors, then, but what about one-way mirrors? Is that what they're thinking? Put the photgraphers on the darkened side of a one-way mirror. Fortunately, there's only 225 hours of Law & Order-related programming on basic cable each week to communicate the absolute trustworthiness of anyone speaking on the mirrored side of the glass.

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Before getting too fixated on the complications of presidential imagemaking, though, it's worth remembering that the White House is already a supremely weird place for photographers to work. Go back to 2009, just days after President Obama's inauguration, when the NY Times' Stephen Crowley pulled back the curtain on the surreal and utterly staged 12-second tradition known as the "pool spray." These are the images whose authenticity is suddenly, apparently, of such great concern.

Previously: WH beat photogs upset at staged photographs they don't take

So long, Sforzian Replays. After Reuters photographer Jason Reed went all meta about it on his blog last week, the White House has decided to do away with the longstanding practice of re-enacting speeches for reporters from different media.

"We have concluded that this arrangement is a bad idea," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said late Wednesday. He said the administration is open to working out some new arrangement with photographers.

...

There are conflicting accounts on whether technology exists to take photographs without distracting the president. One idea could be using mirrors so photographers could do their jobs out of the president's sight line, the White House's Earnest said.

Yes, by all means, mirrors. Pick mirrors, ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.

White House Announces End To Re-Enactments For News Photographers [ap/huffpo]

The death of the Sforzian Backdrop has been greatly exaggerated.

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They may not show it off every day, but it turns out that the Obama White House's advance team speaks fluent Sforza. As these AP photos from the President's congratulatory address to the soldiers at Fort Campbell, KY clearly demonstrate.

For starters, there's that Patton-esque flag up top, plus the small bleacherful of racially diverse soldiers for the wallpaper effect,

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a motif that was so popular in the Bush era [and so hilariously screwed up in the brief McCain phase.] Check out all the cell phone cameras in the photo above. Don't recall that ever happening in the wallpaper before.

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Looks like they used camo netting instead of regular bunting or blue curtain to cover the barricade there.

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And check out that fresh new banner, hung on the side, so that:

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Here's a nice wide angle shot to see how the staging comes together:

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But if there's a difference, besides the frequency, I guess, between staged military events in the Bush and Obama eras, it's this: you just never know, so save yourself a peck of trouble down the line

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and don't stand under the banner.

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[all Ft. Campbell images via ap]

May 3, 2011

Sforzian Replay

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Photographers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama after he announced the death of Osama bin Laden live on television from the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011.

So I was looking at Reuters White House photographer Jason Reed's side view of a scrum of other photographers getting all up in the President's grille while he was giving his Osama Bin Laden speech, and thinking, "But I saw him walk away. How the hell did that happen?"

And holy smokes, now we know. The Sforzian Backdrop has been retired in favor of the Obamian Re-enactment:

As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent. Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the President then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.
On the one hand, that's no more staged a photo than any photo these guys take in the White House; think of those handshake photosprays with visiting leaders. They're definitely not the kind of photo staging that WH photojournalists complain about, just the opposite, in fact, it's standard operating procedure.

But if Reed hadn't pulled back the curtain, I don't think many people would have understood that from Reuter's technically-accurate-but-now-somewhat-dodgy caption.

Ready To Record History [blogs.reuters.com via @markdubya, no relation, I assume]

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These people are not wearing their videoconference faces.

According to the EXIF data, White House photographer Pete Souza took this photo at 4:05 PM, or 1:05 AM Abbottabad Time, five minutes in. They're watching it as it happened. Which people already know, since it has garnered 455,000 views been blogged and retweeted and facebooked 455,000 times in a matter of hours.

Souza also asks us to "Please note: a classified document seen in this photo has been obscured." Indeed, there it is. Funny how unobscured it looks at this size.

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Let's take a closer look:

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Didn't I just post something about collecting all the seals and emblems of government agencies?

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Because that's the seal for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency sticking out from underneath there. As you'd expect.

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And that corner of landscape does look like the image of left sideyard of OBL's compound. [image via ogleearth]

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And now that you mention it, the pixelated image does look like the front gate area of the compound, just at an as-yet-unacknowledged high resolution. Of course, from here, it also kind of looks like a painting. I'll get right on that.

Previously: Google Maps & the everchanging Dutch Camo Landscape

May 2, 2011

Partly In Jest

NPR interviewed former National Intelligence Director John Negroponte this morning. Steve Inskeep asked a too-long question about the multi-year intelligence work that resulted in yesterday's attack on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan:

Did some of this happen while you were National Intelligence Director? Would this be the kind of level of detail that would get to the desk of some of the highest people in the intelligence hierarchy, of someone in the White House, if you just had a bit of information like, we think we might have a courier, would that be the kind of thing that--

Well, let's put it this way: the President, President Obama said, and certainly President Bush before him, said that this was the, uh, highest, uh, priority. Very often when representatives or leaders of the intelligence or law enforcement community would come in to brief President Bush, one of the first questions he'd always ask, partly in jest, but also deadly serious, "Have you found him yet?"

I mean, this has been a major preoccupation of our leadership ever since 9/11 occurred.

Reminds me of GWB pretending to look for WMDs under the table at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Also reminds me just how little we actually know of the hunt for OBL between Tora Bora and Abbottabad. The media likes to call itself the first version of history, so we should expect that large chunks of it will be fact-checked, corrected, or thrown out entirely.

May 2, 2011

Tuymanmatic

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Apparently the first footage released from inside Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound was shot on an iPhone with Hipstamatic's new Luc Tuymans filter.

May 1, 2011

Mission Accomplished

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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