Friday, December 31, 2010

On Time

Above: A row of fossilized skulls at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Friday, December 31, 2010.


Above: a snapshot from earlier today at the California Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Is it a story if there's no ending? No visual change? Most news picture stories are essentially that: a story without change. Here is someone ... who does something.

Clearly, any story where we can follow along while something happens is a step above that, but for me, it's one of the distinctions between general news and documentary: a documentary approach is one where follow until something actually can be seen to change. That's not an easy thing to do.

It's the direction I think news shooting needs to move now, though.

When photo scarcity existed, it made sense: the Mayor announces a new policy on water conservation, so get a snap of the Mayor (at least) or the Mayor in some relationship to water (better) or the Mayor with someone the policy will impact (even better). But the model was that "we'll followup later" rather than looking at this as the beginning of the story.

In our current condition of photo surplus, these photos may very well be emailed out by a public relations officer or might be snapped easily by a reporter. A photographer's role can now shift to the more serious, longitudinal approach: go deeper, look at the ways photography can do more than illustrate the story, find where the visual possibilities go further than the written word.

That said: what does it mean for the "feature"? Often, the "feature" photo comes out of waiting for something visually interesting to happen. Often, this type of standalone photo doesn't really need to rise to the level of news. So ... how can that go further?

An example: while waiting at a museum, I saw two characters dressed in period dress and reacted with a few snaps. Later, I ran into them again and took more shots. Fine: an arrival shot for context, the "event" that happened, a detail.

Where could one go from there?

Hold that thought, as there will be a followup....

Above: A historical costume designer and her friend (dressed as Martha Washington) visit the "Fashioning Fashion" exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 27, 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Color

In the last few years, I've taught color theory a number of times.

I think it's important to note that our ideas on color change all the time. I don't just mean as a culture, over decades, but that even as individuals we react differently to color from day to day.

If you're approaching the concept of color in just one way, you're making a mistake.

Is a black and white photo perceived as a more significant document than a color snapshot? Is a hyperstylized color motion picture perceived as more "real" by some audiences than a documentary shot on 16mm black and white film? Is the reverse true for other audiences? Will our current mode of hypersaturated color look silly when an appreciation for "natural" color cycles back into fashion? Will it once again look right, ten years after that? Is a monochromatic palette for sophisticates, a bright green house a place for the poor in postcolonial countries?

The answer to these type of questions is ... whatever. All theories on color are true for a little while, then something else is true.

The important thing -- and this is really only my opinion, not something I can prove -- is that color and our perception of it and how it functions in any kind of serious visual work is a very, very fluid thing.

You're ideas on composition will probably still hold up in ten years, but I guarantee that in the future, you'll look at the color work you do today with very different eyes.

Above: I saw the Eggleston show in Manhattan a while back, but I went to the version installed at LACMA on Monday -- and enjoyed it more.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Actually, I don't know why she's carrying something on her head. I also am not sure why everything worked out in a red, white and blue palette. It was just a snap.

On Borders

Ever file out a negative carrier?

Here's the thing: at one time, film negatives were placed in a metal holder and then the holder was placed in an enlarger. The image was projected down onto photo paper, held in place by straight-edged blades that could be moved to crop the image. (In other words, the blades covered the paper and could therefore stop part of the projected image from reaching the paper. You could slide these blades to decide where to crop.)

Many documentary photographers, however, felt cropping went against their approach, and so they would slide these blades outward to let the "full frame" of the negative's image hit the paper. No cropping. They often went one step further, filing out the negative holder to be a little larger, thus avoiding accidental cropping caused by the holder.

The rough black line this produced as a border to the image became a bit ... fetishized. It was code for a certain type of "true" or "raw" photography.

Of course, looks get stolen and in the 1980s you saw many fashion photographers adopt the filed-out carrier -- so an incredibly planned, stylized, controlled image used the language of documentary in ads for perfume. It looked good.

Today, many people adopt the edge look a filed out carrier produces even in digital photos, and even in cropped photos. It means little now.

But consider the image above. I've presented it full frame -- my camera was set on 16:9 aspect ratio. I was riding on the Metrolink into Los Angeles when I saw the scene outside the window, and I quickly snapped a few shots with a 20mm lens on a Panasonic GH1. (The 35mm equivalent would be a 40mm lens.)

It includes a reflection on the window, and I feel it's important to explain it was taken from the train. But crop in a bit -- just inside the reflection, making a nearly-square image -- and do a bit of adjustment to the look of the image and one could easily believe it was taken standing near the action.

But then ... is it still a "document"? Does it change what it serves as "evidence" for? Is it a news photo at that point (keep in mind I don't know the situation at all, or anyone's names or the final outcome of the situation) or an art photo?

And what if, just off to the left, it turned out there was a movie camera recording everything, and that this was really a scene for a TV show?

Monday, December 27, 2010


Went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art today. Another snap is here on my other blog.

The thing about the endless "decisive moment" talk is that we really should be asking "why not a different walker? That's a fine moment for that one, but ... does it matter? Would it be any different with someone else?"

Actual Size Never Is

I think it's important to remember that photographic meaning relies on context. There's no "large" in actuality, only a relationship of one depicted object to another.

Above: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 27, 2010.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pretty, Pretty Princess

Returned to the Los Angeles-ish area for some holiday festivities. I'm the one without a tiara.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Ornament, Though We Don't Have A Tree

Oh, don't get me wrong. I've been working all day. The day before, as well. And there's a lot of change ahead.

Still, this feels the closest to a vacation as any time ... in a long time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spot News versus Documentary

Above: A man unexpectedly evacuated from a high-rise apartment building by a fire alarm awaits an all-clear notice from the San Francisco Fire Department, San Francisco, December 10, 2010.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Definition of "Documentary" (Preliminary Questions)

Is "Documentary" work defined by an interest in the specifics of the real world, combined with the conviction that real documents can be interrogated?

While we think of documents as evidence, is it not more sophisticated and pragmatic to understand "documents" as playing the role of companion to an artist?

Is the practice of "Documentary" simply art practice informed by real material?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On California Street

Apparently, the stockings are hung. At least on one floor.


I went to SFMoMa to see a curator's talk on Henri Cartier-Bresson today. I was particularly interested in HCB's transition from artist to magazine photographer, as I think that gets to the heart of our discussion of documentary photography. I'll have more on this soon.

Above: A person on a catwalk at SFMoMa, December 7, 2010.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Various Futures

I recently attended a panel on The Future of Investigative Reporting.

Held at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in connection to the exhibition Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, the panel strayed from photojournalism into a discussion of new models for journalism, and, as I blogged here didn't address the question I thought was implied in the context of the Cartier-Bresson show.

Don't get me wrong -- it was a very good panel, with:
David Cohn (
Robert Rosenthal (
A.C. Thompson (
Lola Vollen (

and documentary photographer

Susan Meiselas (
But I wanted to know: what would Cartier-Bresson do today?

It's easy to forget, as we celebrate individual works from HCB and discuss "the decisive moment," that he was a magazine photographer, and that his approach was generally that of a documentary photographer.

Today, the long trips (with an investment of time and money), the multi-page spreads, the public interest in world events beyond live coverage -- well, some would say that's all gone. Others might say it still exists, but for very, very few photographers.

So, would HCB be blogging? Posting clips on YouTube? Working toward a book, a documentary film, a museum exhibition?

More importantly: where would he take things next?

Meet the New Blog, Same as the Old Blog

Well, not really the same. The new blog I've started is focused on documentary photography -- but is really meant to cover the merging of the tradition with new approaches to documentary filmmaking and new media. The first two posts:

What Would Walker Evans Do?

Statement of Purpose

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

After a Long Day at the Heya

Sometimes you just want to get home, sit down, and stare at your sumo wrestler statue.

Statement of Purpose

I have other blogs. You can see them in the right column. The reason I'm starting a new blog is to open a discussion on the emergence of a new, hybrid form of documentary photography that merges traditional approaches with techniques from documentary filmmaking, strategies from new media and concepts from fine art practice.

I still love traditional documentary photography, but that's not where we are anymore. New technologies like hybrid DSLRs (technically, DSLs, I suppose, since the best of these are now mirrorless), tiny audio recorders, inexpensive large-capacity memory cards, laptop-based video editing, and high-speed Internet access now make the old model only a jumping-off point.

These new capabilities -- arising at a time when traditional publishing is in crisis and a billion amateurs with cell phone cameras have spot news covered -- force us to ask: where should we take the idea of documentary photography? There's no moving backward. So where are we going?

New Documentary Photography Blog

I've started a new blog on Documentary Photography, and the first post asks the inevitable question:
What Would Walker Evans Do?

What Would Walker Evans Do?

"When you say 'documentary,' you have to have a sophisticated ear to receive that word. It should be documentary style, because documentary is police photography of a scene and a murder ... that’s a real document. You see, art is really useless, and a document has use. And therefore, art is never a document, but it can adopt that style. I do it. I’m called a documentary photographer. But that presupposes a quite subtle knowledge of this distinction."

-- Walker Evans

Monday, November 29, 2010


It's interesting to me to observe this endless cycle: folks get excited about a new technology for making images, obsess about it, talk endlessly about all the new capabilities it will provide, then make the same old thing they did before.

It looks better, but it's the same thing, really.

Then they quickly decide the formerly new technology is now old, and move on to the rumored new thing that will allow them to finally do their work.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Numbers Game

One of the first things we did when planning to move to San Francisco was research crime in the city. In our search for a place to stay, we avoided neighborhoods showing higher crime stats -- though we eventually realized that it's a 7-by-7-mile grid, and you can't really get that far from anywhere.

Unfortunately, as pleased as we've been with our neighborhood, this is a big city, and crime happens. While we were out of town for Thanksgiving, we saw this story and realized it occurred awfully close to home.

23-year-old identified as Japantown fatal shooting victim.

Above: A playing card found on the street Thursday morning on McAllister Street, as we were leaving town.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Strictly Rhetorical

There's just no way it's Thanksgiving already. Is there? Thanksgiving ... 2010?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shoot The Moon

Previously, I wrote about the new Panasonic GH2 using its new "tele conversion" feature for video: Panasonic GH2 Tele Conversion: Bagful of Primes?

Well, above is a video that purports to show the feature in action. Essentially, using the new Panasonic 100-300mm and a Canon 400mm the videographer gets amazing shots. The feature seems to allow a 3.6 multiplying effect if one shoots at 1080p or a 3.9 multiplier if shooting at 720p -- essentially turning the 300mm focal length to near 1200m and the 400mm length to almost 1600mm. When you translate that to 35mm equivalent, it is essentially double -- meaning you can essentially shoot as if you had a 2000mm or 3000mm lens.

Kinda amazing.


In case you didn't notice, it's Friday after 5.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I Would ... But I Need The Eggs

People behave in somewhat disheartening ways, sometimes. Okay: most of the time.

That's kind of a problem when your main interest is human nature. On the plus side: there's no shortage of subjects to make a film about.

I've been posting over on San Francisco Portraits a bit. It's amazing, if a cliche, how fast the weather changes in this city. Above: after one outbreak of sunshine and before the next.

Durr ... Igible

Among the things I don't understand: why celebrities don't have blimps. People do all sorts of ridiculous things to get into the news. Why not just have a blimp and fly around? Put your picture on the side. Grant interviews ... but only on your blimp.

Above: a non-celebrity blimp flying over San Francisco today.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Somewhere near SFMoMA.

Went to an event at SFMoMA. Above is an iPhone snapshot of the sunset from just after.

Future of Photojournalism

On Friday afternoon, Mrs. Actualities and I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to hear a panel on The Future of Investigative Reporting. On the panel were:

David Cohn, who founded -- essentially a "citizen journalism" site with a model based on bringing together freelancers, publishing venues and the public. In short: the public can support stories they feel are important, freelance journalists can get a little extra financial support to develop and research stories, and editors can get stories they can't support with their own publication / site resources.

Robert Rosenthal, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and journalism professor who is interested in the transition from traditional journalism to new models. He's connected to but obviously well-versed in the existing models.

A.C. Thompson, who has worked with various San Francisco publications but is now associated with and has received a Polk Award.

Lola Vollen, a physician who has shifted her work toward social justice and human rights, working with

And, central to the panel: famed documentary photographer Susan Meiselas. If you don't know her work, look it up, and spend some time with it. The important thing, for my discussion here, is to consider how Meiselas' model of going to a place, getting deeply invested in a story, and allowing a point of view to develop is purely documentary photography rather than photojournalism. Now, read that clearly: it isn't a critique, but praise. As well, it's an important distinction between the two fields.

The panel shifted a bit early on from what I expected -- after all, the context was an art museum, a show of Henri Cartier Bresson's work and the title "Future of Investigative Reporting" -- to more of a discussion of new models for supporting journalism. (Now, I'm quite aware of why this is on everyone's minds -- I've done a lot of freelance work in this realm and understand that it's clear the old models will change. Yet everyone seems unclear on how that change will stabilize or what models can be sustainable.)

So there was discussion noting that old support structures like "full time work" and "expense accounts" and "go to Central America for eight weeks, here's your ticket" were clearly gone, and that the new replacements are still developing -- and quite different in nature. Think of a blend between crowdfunding and NPR and you'll have part of the picture. Add YouTube, Digg and Twitter and you'll get a hint of the rest. But just a hint.

To my mind, this missed an important point.

Beyond the financial issues, the development of the Internet is important not just as a killer of the printed daily newspaper, but as a killer of one aspect of photojournalism.

That is, imagine an event happens. It's quite likely that a half-dozen civilians with cellphone cameras are there long before your contract photojournalist gets an alert email, and it's no surprise if there's a shaky video clip from a passerby on CNN immediately. Spot news? It's covered by a cell phone cam.

I'm not negating the value of a PJ here -- I just think the game has changed and that the role of the photojournalist has shifted toward documentary work. By this I mean that if there's a glut of "just okay shots" out there, and we can hand a DSLR to the reporter and have them come back with acceptable stills and video, then the role of photojournalist becomes about quality.

The role of the photojournalist becomes more like the role of the documentary photographer. Speed becomes less critical -- you've already been beat to the punch. But that leaves a ton of room for quality, depth, beauty, humor, accuracy -- all the elements the practice of documentary allows.

I want to see that first glance picture, yes, and I don't care that it's a sloppy picture without context. But I'm going to get much more out of a smart, deep, significant presentation later -- something only the best photojournalists can do.

So, for me, the question I see is not "how does investigative reporting survive?" but "how does an unknown Susan Meiselas find a way to do the work today?"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Aye Aye IMDb

Watch more free documentaries

Here's an interesting update on our film Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing. More precisely, on how IMDb works and why independent filmmakers might want to consider the importance of the least important thing: the credits.

Back in 2007, I worked with five of my pals in the brand-new Documentary Certificate program at The New School to create a 7-minute documentary on blind photographers.

As part of the International Documentary Challenge, we compressed the process of making a documentary down to five days.

There's the thing, though: we did everything the way you should.

There was (very fast) Production work, including handling a (tiny) budget, getting all the permissions and releases, arranging interviews, finding the right folks, etc. etc. There was some nice cinematography work (I shot the stop-motion sequences on the NYC street, for example). There was some (incredibly quick) post-production. We shared the tasks, and decided to credit the film as a collaboration. Everyone would get credit.

We arranged for a good score, as well. In fact, we won "Best Soundtrack" at the Doc Challenge finals, held at Hot Docs Film Fest in Toronto that year. I was proud that they recognized both our music and how it integrated with our edit and content.

So far, so good. Once the film started going places (Hot Docs, Big Sky Film Fest, Picture This Film Festival, etc.) I added it to That went fine. The credits went up.

But IMDb has a policy in place that they are a database of credits as they appear on the screen. It doesn't matter if you are actually the Producer or Cinematographer: unless there's a credit onscreen that says that, IMDb can revise the listing.

I don't disagree with that. That's what they have always said, and that seems good to me.

But there's the funny thing: Blind Faith went online at SnagFilms (see the video above). So, unlike many shorts that screen at a fest or two and then aren't seen, IMDb has a direct link from the listing to the online video. Cool.

But someone at IMDb had the time to watch the film, and our credits on the film are limited. If you watch it to the end, you'll see "A FILM BY" and then our six names. To us, that meant "everybody did everything" and that we were Directors and Producers and Editors and Cinematographers.

Not so fast, IMDb says. First, our Producer credits disappeared. And our Cinematographer credits. (There's no credit that says "camera" or "cinematography by" or "photography" visible. We did it, but it isn't on the titles page.) Then, the Editor credits.

More disappointingly, Joel Mumma is no longer credited as Composer, even though he was. He's now listed as appearing in the film (as "himself").

Ah well. Whatever.

But a lesson learned: as old school, mainstream and simplistic as it seems, add your full credits to the film. If you want to see your credit on IMDb, put it on the screen.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Best ... Bargain ... Ever: Panasonic GH1 at $500

The Panasonic GH2 will be released soon. It will probably be a little tough to get at first, but it will be on camera store shelves soon enough.

So stores that still have the Panasonic DMC-GH1 available have dropped the price to an unbelievable bargain level. It's a heck of a camera for the price, especially if your interest is working with DSLR video. (I've shot several projects with the GH1, and find it a very capable camera and the most flexible for documentary-style work.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Panasonic GH2 Tele Conversion: Bagful of Primes?

Panasonic GH1 1080p Camera Test from Ted Fisher on Vimeo.

I have a hacked Panasonic GH1. It works great, and it's great to be able to work with a camera that's so small and light. The Panasonic GH2 is shipping soon, and it has a few key improvements -- it should be better for low light video, for example.

There's one advanced feature that's really intrigued me, though, that might end up a fantastic bonus for documentary shooters: the Tele Conversion feature.

The idea is that video on a DSLR is recorded at either 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels (1080p) or 1280 pixels by 720 pixels (720p) -- but the camera's sensor is really closer to 5000 pixels wide. So these type of cameras are reading the 5000 pixels and doing some number-crunching to downsize and output a frame 1920 wide or 1280 wide.

The Tele Conversion, however, seems to mean essentially cropping to a 1:1 ratio -- grabbing the center 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels rectangle -- and using that for the recorded frame. This results in a lens acting as if it were had a focal length 2.6 times longer (if you are recording 1080p) or 3.9 times longer (if you are recording 720p).

Well, this has been mentioned in the previews of the camera, and generally the reaction is "Great. That will provide amazing telephoto reach." That's true: the long end of the HD zoom is 140mm, and that would now act (in 1080p) as if it were a 364mm focal length. (The equivalent, on a fullframe 35mm camera would be a 728mm lens.) Or the Tele Conversion results in your 14-140mm now acting like a 546mm lens if you shoot at 720p/60 (typical for sports shooting), which is equivalent to a 35mm fullframe camera with a 1092mm lens. Hmm.

That's all well and good. But here's what I think is exciting:

You get your Panasonic GH2. Tiny, light, ready to travel. Now, buy the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens and the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 G Aspherical Lens for Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Cameras.

The 20mm goes for about $333 these days, the 14mm is about $400.

They are both tiny tiny tiny, light light light. The camera and these two lenses will fit in a very very small bag and will hardly weigh anything at all.

Here's what happens if you use the Tele Conversion feature, assuming it works well.

Put on the 14mm f/2.5 lens. This is great for wide shots -- equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera. But if you turn on the Tele Conversion while you are shooting 1080p / 24, suddenly the lens acts like a 36.4 mm lens (72.8mm in 35mm equivalent).

Put on the 20mm f/1.7 lens. This is great for "standard" shots -- equivalent to a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera. But if you turn on the Tele Conversion while you are shooting 1080p / 24, suddenly the lens acts like a 52 mm lens (104mm 35mm equivalent).

So that means you could travel with a tiny camera and two pancake lenses, and have the equivalent of these prime lenses (considered in 35mm equivalent focal length).
  • 28mm f/2.5
  • 40mm f/1.7
  • 72.8mm f/2.5
  • 104 mm f/1.7
So: a bright wide, a very bright standard, a bright medium portrait, a very bright long portrait.

Check out Elliott Erwitt's Camera Case, Circa 1974 and you'll find out what he carried:
"Inside the case: two Canon F1s, a complete set of prime lenses (17mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 35mm tilt/shift, 50mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm), a cable release, a Minolta light meter and an Eastman Kodak "Pocket Guide to Photography."
Hmm. Getting there, with just two tiny pancake lenses. (Erwitt's case must have weighed a ton, no?)

So add a Olympus 17mm f/2.8 Lens. These are going for about $260 right now, and again: tiny and light.

So the Olympus is 17mm, which acts on a Micro Four Thirds sensor about the same as a 34mm lens on a fullframe 35mm format camera. Hit the Tele Conversion button, and it acts 2.6 times longer, or as if it were a 88.4mm lens. This brings your range of primes to:
  • 28mm f/2.5
  • 34mm f/2.8
  • 40mm f/1.7
  • 72.8mm f/2.5
  • 88.4mm f/2.8
  • 104 mm f/1.7
So: with two Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2's and three tiny pancake lenses -- all extremely small and lightweight -- you can get a broad range of focal lengths in bright, high-quality prime lenses.

Now, Erwitt's got some longer lenses there as well, but so consider adding Panny's new Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 G Vario Aspherical MEGA OIS Lens for Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Cameras. That provides a range, including a 100mm / f/4 end (the 35mm equivalent is 200mm) that Tele Converts to 260mm / f/4 (in 35mm equivalent, that's 520mm).

Now, remember: this Tele Conversion feature is brand new. No one has reported on the quality yet, though in theory there's no reason it might not actually be better than "regular" video recording. And that's the key factor: it works on video, not stills.

Still, it's fairly amazing to think of what a documentarian today could pack into a small case or backpack. And when the new Voigtlander 25mm / f0.95 ships....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

When Life Gives You Kink, Make Kinkade

Yes, my Thomas Kinkade book is signed. Isn't yours?

Now, sure, it's not normally the type of "art" I go in for. Or, even recognize as art. But, c'mon, art museums are sticking Tim Burton drawings on the walls hoping to get people in the doors. People tell me Kanye West is an "artist." Sarah Palin is getting ready to run for the Presidency. (Have they told her it's four years?)

It's not that big a stretch to Kinkade as the presidential portraitist, is it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zoom H1 Lavalier Test with Audio Technica ATR-3350

I had to record a voiceover, so I dragged out three lavalier microphones for a quick test, plugging each into a Zoom H1 and recording a snippet of normal speaking. The results? While the audio quality won't match a high-end microphone, the recording is fine for use in documentary interviews on location.

(By the way, for those times when your wireless mic is likely to run into interference, this could be interesting: clip the lav on your subject, stick the Zoom H1 in their pocket. Hit record, then lock the buttons on the H1.)

Comparing the three microphones, I believe the Audio Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone has a more pleasant, natural sound than the Audio Technica ATR-35s and is significantly higher in quality than a cheap Radio Shack 33-3013. (I'd post a sample, but Blogger is not exactly cooperative with my attempt to do that....)

That's not a surprise -- the 3350 is basically the updated replacement for the 35s. It's also essentially the same as the mic included in Audio Technica PRO88W-R35 Wireless Lavalier System with ATR3350mW Omnidirectional Mic, 170 MHz

So, the ATR-3350 works fine. And it's ultracheap now:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eleventh Hour

I've made a blog post every day since moving to San Francisco.

Most have been simple iPhone snaps. A few were made with a more serious camera, but weren't necessarily serious photos.

But I haven't yet gone photographing, actually. Maybe soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Word on the Street, Missing Backstory Edition

I don't actually know what this means. Was there a place called "Randy's Tooth"? Or ... was there a tooth?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wordless on the Street

This was near Masonic and Geary. When future archeologists unearth this pictograph, they'll puzzle over its possible meanings, and they'll reflect on our mysterious, disappeared society.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And You Shall Know Us By Our Fancy Signs

You can always tell the character of a protest by the quality of its graphic design.

First, great font choice. Some might say those fancy "O"s in "BOYCOTT" are a bit too fussy, but not me. Come on, this is a march held in between four-star hotels -- it's gonna need a little style to be taken seriously.

Second: good color choice. Goldenrod? Attention-grabbing, but not harsh. It's got the power of black-on-yellow without the harshness.

Third, putting together the words "Unite" and "Here" is a bold choice. But think it through: conceptually, it's about ... uniting. So push the two words together. Fine.

Good work, Anonymous Protest Sign designer!

But I think, to be perfectly honest, that the whole thing risks becoming a bit too postmodern when you include the graphic of people carrying signs and protesting. I mean, I see people carrying signs and protesting, I get closer to read their signs, and I wonder what the graphic is ... and it turns out to be an image of people carrying signs and protesting. It's like conceptual clip art, and that's not working for me.

Overall, though, it's a clean, protest-ready look that beats out hand painted signs by a mile. Unless, of course, you want the protest to seem authentic and grassroots and not like it was organized by a professional protest group with a budget for graphic design.