Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Assorted pics taken with new 10-20mm lens

I've been trying out a new wide-angle lens. It's such a popular lens that it has its own Flickr group, Sigma 10-20mm, with more than 8,000 members.
It's not as expensive as some of the Canon wide-angle lens and seems to be a pretty decent lens for the money - less than $500.

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Thompson Hall at Flagler College

My office is on the first floor, tucked away in the back. It's a privilege to work in the historic building, touted as one of the few surviving winter cottages from Henry Flagler's days.

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Cozy quarters for communication students

This is the Communication Building at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. Faculty members say they've outgrown the one-story building, located at 31 Cordova St.

Four-legged friend visits Flagler College

Flagler College students create some wild photo illustrations

Flagler College students this week made photo illustrations using photo-editing software.
The chihuahua photo isn't really a photo illustration, but the pooch, named P'noodle, just had to get in on the action.
Photo credits:
Kathleen Bass, J.D. Bray, Sara Brown, Rachel Bruce, Alaina Cordes, Nick Fronczak, Nate Hill, Ivey Jones, Meridith Pack, Desi Pappas, Nick Reiter, Megan Rohlfing, Cy Solsona, Danae Stringfellow, Maggie Studwell, Halie Trammell and James Webb.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Agreeing to disagree over hammer-and-sickle photos

Hammer-and-sickle in a fashion photo, above.
Photo credit: Nick Reiter

I posted more comments in the back-and-forth debate over the fashion photo posted on a bulletin board at the Communication Building at Flagler College. Those comments are here.
This debate has underscored the power of photography and I think people can learn from it.
People don't have to agree, of course. It would be a pretty boring world if everyone thought alike and had the same ideas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trying to capture words in photos

Photojournalism students at Flagler College this week drew words out of a hat and then had to shoot photos to try to reflect those words.
Among the words words drawn were:
* Defiance
* Friendship
* Loneliness
* Happiness
* Patriotism
* Nostalgia.
Can you match the photos here to those words?

Should hammer and sickle be used fashion photography?

Is this photo offensive? Feel free to comment. Let me know what you think.
Photo credit: Nick Reiter, a photojournalism student at Flagler College
Photographs can be more powerful than words sometimes. They can trigger strong reactions and emotional debates from people of all political and ideological stripes. Nick Reiter’s recent fashion photos of a woman wearing a hat showing the hammer and sickle symbol provoked just such a response at Flagler College in St. Augustine.

In the interest of academic debate, I thought I’d share that reaction with you along the Nick’s response.
Dan McCook, WFCF station manager in St. Augustine, wrote to me after Nick’s photos went up on a bulletin board at the Communication Building at Flagler College and said he found the hammer and sickle images offensive. I respect his views, of course, and thought that perhaps it would be enlightening and educational for other people to learn about the debate over Nick’s photos. Dan agreed and gave me permission to post his letter, which continues below:
It is always a pleasure to view the photographic works of your students displayed on the wall in the hallway of the COM building. I am always impressed by the imagination and quality of the pictorials and look forward to new postings. However, (here it comes) I was taken aback by the newest display. Actually, a better word is offended. On the lower left hand corner of the case is a photographic montage of a young lady wearing a hat that prominently displays the communist hammer and sickle.

Regardless of what might be “In vogue,” I am befuddled by this addition to what is usually a delightful and enlightening display. You know much better than I that literally tens of millions of people have been brutally murdered and tortured by ruthless dictators utilizing this symbol as a standard. The barbarities of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Castro, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, to name a few, are unconscionable. The list of the human rights abuses conducted under this banner is endless. Artistic or not, I am fairly certain that photos of students wearing garb labeled with swastikas would not be acceptable for display. Knowing that, I cannot understand why this is acceptable.

Please do not misunderstand my meaning. If this involved academic freedom in the classroom I would firmly hold my tongue. However, this is a display representing the Communication Department. As a part of said department I feel I must express my feelings.

Recently, an anonymous individual posted a news photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the bulletin board in the hallway at the radio station. A hand drawn Hitler mustache had been scribbled in over her upper lip. Knowing some people would be offended by the depiction, and that it was not an officially sanctioned display but simply graffiti, the photo was removed.

…I do not ask that the displayed photos in question be removed. That would be censorship. However, I would request that some semblance of introspection as to the history of this abhorrent icon be incorporated by students should they choose to unitize it in artistic works.
Here is Nick's response:
Though I will not apologize for the photo I took, I can understand why someone would see that symbol as offensive. Making a political statement was not my intention for this photography project.
Although some may perceive this emblem to be a symbol of oppression I do believe that everyone conjures different meanings for particular symbols. I believe that it is the same as finding the sight of a crescent moon, cross or even an American flag offensive; everyone has different opinions about each of these symbols. In fact, millions of people have been killed in the name of all of those symbols. Beyond that point, the hammer and sickle historically represents the union between workers and peasants.
Associating this symbol with leaders like Stalin is one’s own personal perception, that was not the original intention for the symbol. What offends you about the photo comes not from its photographer, but from within yourself. I judged nothing when I took the photo.
Your choice to judge its meaning as offensive is as important of a freedom as mine is to shoot the photo. Please don't consider my taking a photo of that badge advocacy of what that symbol may or may not represent to certain person.
If a photojournalist takes a photo of something that offends someone, is that wrong? If that is the case, there would be no photos of any of the tragedies of human existence, and there would be no photographic historical record of very important events.

Here is Dan's reply to Nick's response:
I have read Mr. Reiter’s response to my correspondence with Mr. Eaton and I am left wondering if Nick actually read the email. Mr. Reiter immediately jumps to the conclusion that I am judging his photographs. I am not. Nowhere in the communiqué did I mention anything about the photographer. I could care less about the pictures. The thesis of my complaint is not that he snapped photos of a model sporting a highly offensive political emblem, but rather “Why is this offensive symbol acceptable for display in the COM building while others are not?” That is what my email said! Instead, we receive sophomoric personal accusations regarding my “Personal perception” and “What is within me” or “My choice to judge.” Oh, Please! Save it for a Hallmark Card.

What the class should be asking the Gate Keeper is – Why was this photo montage deemed acceptable for display? what are the criteria for posting a photo? Where is the line? What photos, because of content, would not be acceptable subject matter for display? Can we put up nudes? Perform an experiment: go out and shoot the same model only this time use a swastika and see if is acceptable. I only seek a simple answer to a direct question: Why is this offensive symbol acceptable for display but others are not (or, are they)? All I have heard back is “Because Nick doesn’t think the hammer and sickle is offensive.”

Now, Back to Mr. Reiter’s response: Yesterday I showed a black friend of mine the photos. She didn’t like the hammer and sickle. I asked if she would consider the pictures offensive if the young lady, pre-posed in all of her artistic, wistful, deep-thought, artistic glory, would find them offensive if the emblem was a confederate flag. She responded “Hell yes I would!” And she would be right. Today I pointed out the photos to one of our community volunteers who actually survived the Soviet invasion of Germany (that war machine brandishing the hammer and sickle as a standard). She lived the atrocities first hand. See saw the mutilated bodies; she hid from the Soviet Army. Upon seeing the photos she stepped back and audibly gasped! She could not believe the image of a hammer and sickle was posted in a venue of education (she would like to speak with Mr. Reiter at some point to set him straight). The German populous prayed that the British and Americans would arrive first.

Here is where I can use some of my favorite quotes: Mr. Reiter needs to learn that “Facts are stubborn things” (John Adams). “He is young, that’s not his fault” (Cat Stevens). It is well established that, regardless of what a Flagler student in little old St. Augustine, Florida might think, the hammer and sickle does stand for brutality and mass murder. The consensus is in and debate is over.

The swastika started out as a benevolent symbol of Hitler’s National Socialist Party created to help “The People” recover after WWI. We all know how that worked out. The confederate flag was a simply a battle flag but has been turned into an icon of white supremacy by a bunch of yahoos. The Christian cross stands for peace and love yet we had the crusades. In over sixteen years I’ve never seen one of those images on display in the COM building.

“History does not repeat itself…but it sure does rhyme” (Mark Twain). Those who do not remember history are most definitely going to make the same mistakes over and over and over. I hope this correspondence will provoke thoughtful discussions among faculty and students on the meaning and power of symbols.

Nick, I’d love to meet you. Email me and we’ll set up a time.

Now here is Nick's response to that:

Mr. McCook,

Name calling aside, I can’t help but notice the fact that you are trying to bait me for an argument. If you are looking to “pick a fight” it is not with me sir. I had no knowledge that my photography would be placed on that bulletin board. I will not discuss this any further, I am a senior and I have a lot of work to do, I hardly have time to have an apparently “sophomoric” debate with you.

But you should know, as a political science major and a member of a number of human rights organizations, I am very sensitive to human rights issues and I would never condone such acts as those performed by some of the leaders of the USSR. I am also well aware of the politics behind symbols such as the hammer and sickle and the power that they can wield, but I am also cognizant of the fact that opinions of symbols are subjective. I believe that not being able to perceive multiple meanings for a symbol is sophomoric in itself.

Now I’d like to present you a quote by Cat Stevens…”In the early days I had a very black-and-white view of everything.”

In answer to your question, I do not believe that Professor Eaton should balk at placing a photo on the bulletin board because some may find it offensive. As a matter-of-fact Professor Eaton placed other potentially offensive photos on the bulletin board but I haven’t heard one word about them. The photos of the girl in lingerie could offend some but not others. Just like the hammer and sickle.

Everyone perceives things differently. Anyways, like I stated earlier, should a photo be discredited because it ruffles feathers? I think not.

Though I think this argument has departed from being respectful, I am thankful for the opportunity to have the exchange of opinions with you. I am now more sensitive to the fact that some may perceive different symbols offensively or not. I hope that all who have read this exchange can learn from this.

Flagler College takes stand against cancer

STAND 2009
Flagler College students and teachers competed Nov. 18 in fun and goofy events aimed at raising money for the Flagler Hospital Cancer Resource Center. These events included musical chairs, trivia and eating contests and a relay race that ended with contestants digging a piece of candy out of a cream pie without using their hands.
The college's student chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, or PRSSA, organized the Nov. 18 event, called STAND 2009.
A photo album is here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Caution: Fashionistas at work

Photo credit: J.D. Bray
Flagler College photojournalism students shot fashion photos for their latest assignment. They produced a great variety of pictures, demonstrating flair and creativity.
A range of volunteers, including the family pets, were the photographers' models.
Photo credit: Nick Reiter
Photo credit: James Webb, Halie Trammell, Maggie Studwell, Steve Strait, Meridith Pack, Jacquelyn Campell, Sara Brown
Photo credit: Lauren Cribb, Cy Solsona, Virginia Taylor
Photo credit: Danae Stringfellow
Photo credit: Alaina Cordes

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Which photos are the most creative and effective?

Congratulations to Team Two, which won the Nov. 5 photo contest in photojournalism class at Flagler College.
This week, the class divided into eight teams for a second contest. The goal: To take a photo that expresses a thought, idea or emotion.
Students had to use props that the teacher supplied, and they had to complete the assignment on deadline while in class.
Please vote for the team that took the best photos.

Team One, above
Theme: Becoming one with the "balloon hole"

Team Two, above
Theme: Christmas gift-wrapping-induced stress

Team Three, above
Themes: A student's Christmas, above. Statically electrified, top

Team Four, above
Theme: All great art starts with a box of crayons

Team Five, above
Theme: Holiday season hassles, above.

Team Six, above
Theme: A man and his puppet

Team Seven, above
Theme: Flagler College Winter Wonderland

Team Eight, above
Theme: Group photo with Christmas props