Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Self Portrait

Balboa Park- Museum of Photographic Arts

Date Viewed: October 24
Location: Balboa Park, San Diego
Artist: Fazal Sheikh
Title: “Beloved Daughters”

This was a series of black and white portraits by Fazal Sheikh. I didn’t do any research into this series beforehand, and so I was caught completely off guard when I arrived. The title “Beloved Daughters” turned out to be an ironic statement about the mistreatment of women in India, and it wasn’t a subject I was expecting to find. The portraits of the women and girls were shot with the subjects facing the camera, forcing viewers to stare back into the eyes of these unfortunate people. It’s as if they’re challenging us to do something about the horrible conditions these women are subjected to every day. There are no smiles. Some of the girls look strong and fearless, while others look passive and accepting. And the photos are only half the story- each image was accompanied by the subject’s story, including gruesome details about their lives. There were tales of rape, abduction, abandonment, physical and mental abuse. I gazed at the scarred face of “Priti,” sixteen years old, whose family was relocated to the slums, and who cares for her family after having to abandon her education. There was also a collection of photographs taken where the women had their backs to the camera. These look particularly vulnerable, and also symbolize how their society has turned its back on women. Of all the exhibits I have visited this semester, “Beloved Daughters” was by far the most educational, the most evocative, because I left feeling saddened and disturbed at what human beings are willing to do to eachother.

Balboa Park- Ordover Gallery

Date Viewed: October 24
Location: Balboa Park, San Diego
Artist: Ralph Lee Hopkins
Title: Baja California

This gallery was a collection of different artists’ photographs, located on the fourth floor of the Natural History Museum. My favorite artist in this collection was Ralph Lee Hopkins. He did several incredible shots of the wildlife of the Baja region, including birds, fish, and whales. What really impressed me was the clarity of these images- this was a skilled photographer with really nice equipment, and some of these must have been taken off the side of a moving boat. In some of the photos, like “California Sea Lion,” you can really see the personality of the wildlife. Of course, the sea lion looks very humorous and “in your face,” it looks like a very unique shot. Another favorite was “Nesting Terns,” which shows a bunch of white birds gathering to nest. There are so many birds in so small a space, it reminds me of one of those “Magic Eye” puzzles I used to see as a kid, the one where you relax your eyes to see a hidden image. Finally, there was “Old Soul,” a close-up shot of a whale’s eye. If you look hard enough, you can see the photographer’s reflection in the eye. This shot was very beautiful, and yet a bit saddening at the same time. It looked like the whale was dying, and yet there was a sense of calm and wisdom. I discussed it with my dad for a while, and we agreed that while it was a beautiful photograph, it wasn’t something we would want to display in our home.

A Thousand Words
Title: A Thousand Words
Artist: Ted Chung

Summary: “A Thousand Words” is a five minute short shot in black and white. It tells the story of a young man who sees a young woman on a bus. She gets off the bus and forgets her digital camera. The man sees the camera and takes it home. While looking through the camera’s pictures, he finds several pictures she took of him on the bus. He is then inspired to find her using the pictures in her camera as clues.

Response: I really enjoyed this short. I think it’s a perfect example of the rare videos on YouTube which are really good, both in quality and content. Despite its modern, urban setting, it had a classic, nostalgic feel thanks to the sepia toning. There was background music that helped move the story along, but not too much that it became a distraction. There was no talking in the short, which I think let the music and protagonist express the emotion of the piece that much more. There was also the clever title- A Thousand Words, obviously referring to the pictures taken, but also representing all the words which weren’t spoken between the characters. I think it was a beautiful take on something that happens every day- not losing the camera, but two people who meet and are too shy to express their feelings. The ending was also interesting- how the man packs up the camera with the attempt to forward it in the mail, and that’s the last scene. You don’t see the two reuniting, whether or not the girl received the camera and if so, decided to call him. It leaves it up to our imagination, and leaves us in suspense, just like the protagonist.

Date Viewed 12/08/2009
Artist: Unknown

Summary: When you land on this site, it displays a dialog box asking for a link to a YouTube video. There are also other display options you can customize. Once you select a video and click “DO THIS”, the site displays several frames of the video you selected, all being constantly updated as the video plays. You can also zoom out, pan around, or simply pause the video to look at all the nifty thumbnail frames.

Response: I’m sure my first response was the same as everyone else’s- “What in the heck is this?” So I paused the video, and realized the “boxes” had stopped playing, and stopped generating, at the point where I paused the video. I’m not quite sure what the purpose of the site is, other than amusement, and I’m not really sure how it was made. I guess the best of these types of “whoa, this is cool” websites are the ones where you can figure out how it’s done, like a magic trick. Make sure to try it on spiral mode- the videos don’t play, but they spread out in a spiral fashion, returning to the center where they started. Is this website cool and amusing? Yes. Would I spend lots of time here? No. Would I share the link with others for their amusement? Possibly.

Edith Butler- Daughter of the Wind and Acadie

Date Viewed: 12/07/2009
Source: National Film Board of Canada
Title: Edith Butler- Daughter of the Wind and Acadie
Artist: Directed by Monique LeBlanc

Summary: This six minute video was a tribute to Edith Butler, French singer and performer. It includes footage of her live performances and interviews from her friends and colleagues. It covers forty years of musical performance, from the black and white films of her early career to the large, sold-out concerts she plays now.

Response: Analyzing the way the film was made, I really like the equal arrangements of interviews and performance footage. I also noticed that with the live footage, Edith was normally in the center of the frame, but the interviews had her friends either on the left or right side of the frame. This created an interesting effect, as if they were stepping to the side to further spotlight Edith. I have never heard of Edith Butler before, but watching this short video gives me the feeling that she is a much-loved performer with lots of energy and enthusiasm. I like her “Acadie” style, blending folk and native music together with use of simple instruments like drums and the steel triangle. I agree with Bill Langstroth that her energy transcends language and becomes something we can all understand and appreciate, even if we don’t know what she’s saying.

Word Art