Studs Terkel (1912-2008)
Update 1 November: Here are more recollections and tributes, most with various links - The Nation (again), In These Times, and The New York Times, . . .
“What we need is a critique of visual culture that is alert to the power of images for good and evil and that is capable of discriminating the variety and historical specificity of their uses.” - W.J.T. Mitchell. Picture Theory (1994).
So thanks to Joel, Simon, and Alec for helping me discover Leon. And I suspect that Milton Rogovin would rather have Leon in the limelight than be there himself. He is remarkable too.
"When I adjudicated the BJP International Photography Award recently I was told the rules didn't allow for a Judge's Choice. However, the great thing about being editor - King For A Day - is that I can put whatever I like in the magazine. So here it is: my Judge's Choice.
I couldn't swing the rest of the panel to back this fine portrait by Joel Redman, probably because my reasons for loving it are too personal. I knew without any caption that it is a portrait of Leon Greenman, who died earlier this year and who was also an Auschwitz survivor and a life-long anti-fascist fighter. I first met him on demonstrations in the early 1990s. In amongst the youthful racket was a silent, elderly man in a raincoat and beret with a large lapel badge saying 'I was there' - he had survived the Nazi death camps.
Auschwitz isn't an aberration, a myth or a 'detail of history', and the evil that made it had to be confronted wherever it reappears. I found his political tenacity astounding and the fury that he carried with him, uncooled after 50 years, totally inspiring. Joel Redman has done well to capture his wide-eyed curiosity and his inner toughness.
His death is a loss for all of us - the world needs many more people like Leon Greenman, not one less."
This annual award of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution to the medium of photography in Europe between 1 October 2007 and 30 September 2008.
The four shortlisted artists for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2009 are:
Paul Graham (b. 1956, UK) is nominated for his publication, A Shimmer of Possibility (steidlMACK, October 2007).
Emily Jacir (b.1970, Palestine) is nominated for her installation, Material for a Film, presented at the 2007 Venice Biennale (7 June – 21 November 2007).
Tod Papageorge (b.1940, USA) is nominated for the exhibition Passing Through Eden - Photographs of Central Park at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London (7 March - 12 April 2008).
Taryn Simon (b.1975, USA) is nominated for her exhibition An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar at The Photographers' Gallery, London (13 September -11 November 2007).
The Jury this year is: David Campany (writer/lecturer, University of Westminster, UK); David Goldblatt (photographer, South Africa); Chus Martínez (Chief Curator, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain); and Anne-Marie Beckmann (Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Germany). The Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, Brett Rogers is the non-voting Chair.
"The right-wing case against the CRA is entirely bogus--a diversionary tactic to take the heat off the financial services industry and its allies, like McCain. The CRA applies only to depository institutions, like commercial and savings banks, but thanks to Congress's deregulation mania, there are now many other lenders, including private mortgage companies like CitiMortgage, Household Finance and Countrywide Financial (which was recently bought out by Bank of America). These outfits, which exist in a shadow world without government oversight, account for most of the predatory loans in trouble today.
When Congress enacted the CRA in 1977, the vast majority of all mortgage loans were made by lenders regulated by the law. In 2006 only about 43 percent of home loans were made by companies subject to the CRA. Indeed, the main culprits in the subprime scandal--the nonbank mortgage companies, which successfully grabbed the bulk of the mortgage market away from the CRA-regulated banking industry--were not covered by the CRA.[. . .]
And unlike the institutions that offer unregulated predatory subprime loans, banks that make CRA loans are required by federal regulation to verify borrowers' incomes to make sure they can afford the mortgages. In 2006 the Federal Reserve reported that just 11.5 percent of mortgages made by CRA-regulated institutions were high-cost loans, compared with 33.5 percent for lenders not covered by the CRA. Janet Yellen, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, has criticized those who blame CRA lending for the subprime crisis: "Most of the loans made by depository institutions examined under the CRA have not been higher-priced loans, and studies have shown that the CRA has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households."
While the CRA helped boost the nation's homeownership rate, particularly among black and Latino borrowers, subprime and other exotic mortgages had very little impact on homeownership. Most subprime loans were refinances of existing mortgages. From 1998 through 2005, more than half of all subprime mortgages were for refinancing, while less than 10 percent of subprime loans went to first-time home buyers. Moreover, a significant number of borrowers who took out subprime loans could have qualified for conventional, prime-rate mortgages with much better terms. Even the Wall Street Journal acknowledges that "plenty of people with seemingly good credit are also caught in the subprime trap." Brokers and lenders misled many of these homeowners, replacing safe thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages with deceptive, risky loans."
They proceed to describe how ACORN and other organizations sought to use the CRA to press banks to end discriminatory lending policies while also maintaining responsible lending practices. Once again the right wing nuts are just that.
Terry Fincher (1931-2008) ~ notice in The Guardian here and here.
William Claxton (1927-2008) ~ notices in The Guardian here and here.
Alex Rivera (1913-2008) ~ notice in The New York Times here.
“I’m working on a story that the world needs to know about. I wish for you to help me break it, in a way that provides spectacular proof of the power of news photography in the digital age.”You can find the web site for the Nachtwey's campaign here. Like Jörg, I resisted the multiple pleas I received (directly and indirectly) to post on the project and thereby publicize the campaign. Like Jörg too, I have various reservations. And like Jörg not just the campaign but my own reservations make me uneasy.
“Virtually every picture in Inferno was made at close range. I like to work in the same intimate space that the subjects inhabit. I want to give viewers the sense that they’re sharing the same space with a photo’s subject.”In this respect, Nachtwey's work epitomizes the conventions of American (at least) photojournalism - think of such iconic images as Walker Evans's portrait of Allie Mae Burroughs or Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother.' The problem is that by presenting individuals as the exemplars of collective or group circumstance, we too easily lose sight of the aggregate nature of the phenomena and become absorbed in the pathos of individual hardship and suffering. The image I've lifted above - the pietà transported to contemporary southeast Asia- is a perfect example.
“What allows me to overcome the emotional obstacles inherent in my work is the belief that when people are confronted by images that evoke compassion, they will continue to respond, no matter how exhausted, angry or frustrated they may be.”Unfortunately, as I've noted here before solid psychological research (by, say, Paul Slovic) suggests that this move is virtually impossible. This research establishes that compassion is highly individualistic - it founders more or less immediately if we move from concern for one individual to concern for as few as two. Yet, any plausible remedy to a major (or even not-so-major) public problem requires not just individual "awareness," but concerted, coordinated action. And that action must aim to remedy general patterns. Even if one were to insist that public awareness is a first step, it would be important to establish how - by what mechanisms - that public awareness could be coordinated into action or even support for action. All this is a political problem - one of constituting a 'we' out of the vast distribution of individual awareness. As political theorists as diverse as John Dewey and Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt remind us, we should not be naive about the obstacles and difficulties that stand in the way here. My own view is that campaigns animated by celebrity are unlikely to be effective.
"XDRTB.org is a project of the Sapling Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. © 2008 XDRTB.org. All Rights Reserved. Design donated by Radical Media. Website design and development by Mammelfish. Site hosting donated by PEER1. Video on demand donated by Akamai."All neatly tax compliant or, at least, set up to be able to claim tax credit. But note - the tax code precludes non-profits form acting politically. The funding mechanisms here insure that this plague will be defined as a problem of charity or philanthropy. And the providers in the field - all good NGOs - rely on the same sorts of funding. Again, I am not criticizing - I make monthly contributions to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, but I also understand that that is necessary as a remedial gesture and in no way constitutes political action.
Mark Curran spent 9 months negotiating access to the Hewlett-Packard Technology Campus. The project began in April 2003 and was produced over a 20 month period. Each site visit was pre-scheduled and cleared by security and he was accompanied on site at all times. All material collated was vetted and Curran has made this 'policing process' visible in the work, as a comment on the way that global capital investment is a highly managed and protected process. The Breathing Factory has been developed as a cross-disciplinary project involving the application of ethnographic practices and techniques. Curran conducted interviews with a range of staff including the Director of Government and Public Affairs, a Logistics Coordinator, the Vice-President and General Manager, a Production Supervisor, a Clean Room Supervisor and a Health and Safety Inspector, among others. Transcribed excerpts from these interviews have been incorporated into the final installation and publication. Curran has also produced a series of photographs and digital video work surveying this new and transient landscape.The fluidity of ownership, the high levels of secrecy, and highly asymmetrical control render the high tech production plants quite creepy - despite their sanitized appearance. In many ways Curran's work puts me in mind of Richard Ross's Architecture of Authority - about which I've commented here before. I have not seen the Curran exhibition but am intrigued to find out how he incorporates his interviews and other text into it and the book.*
Five Fallacies of Grief: Debunking Psychological Stages
By Michael Shermer
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
So annealed into pop culture are the five stages of grief—introduced in the 1960s by Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross based on her studies of the emotional state of dying patients—that they are regularly referenced without explication.
There appears to be no evidence, however, that most people most of the time go through most of the stages in this or any other order. According to Russell P. Friedman, executive director of the Grief Recovery Institute in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and co-author, with John W. James, of The Grief Recovery Handbook (HarperCollins, 1998), “no study has ever established that stages of grief actually exist, and what are defined as such can’t be called stages. Grief is the normal and natural emotional response to loss.... No matter how much people want to create simple, bullet-point guidelines for the human emotions of grief, there are no stages of grief that fit any two people or relationships.”
Friedman’s assessment comes from daily encounters with people experiencing grief in his practice. University of Memphis psychologist Robert A. Neimeyer confirms this analysis. He concluded in his scholarly book Meaning Reconstruction and the Experience of Loss (American Psychological Association, 2001): “At the most obvious level, scientific studies have failed to support any discernible sequence of emotional phases of adaptation to loss or to identify any clear end point to grieving that would designate a state of ‘recovery.’”
Nevertheless, the urge to compress the complexities of life into neat and tidy stages is irresistible. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud insisted that we moved through five stages of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. Developmental psychologist Erik H. Erikson countered with eight stages: trust vs. mistrust (infant); autonomy vs. doubt (toddler); initiative vs. guilt (preschooler); industry vs. inferiority (school-age period); identity vs. role confusion (adolescent); intimacy vs. isolation (young adult); generativity vs. stagnation (middle age); and integrity vs. despair (older adult). Harvard University psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg postulated that our moral development progresses through six stages: parental punishment, selfish hedonism, peer pressure, law and order, social contract and principled conscience.
Why stages? We are pattern-seeking, storytelling primates trying to make sense of an often chaotic and unpredictable world. A stage theory works in a manner similar to a species-classification heuristic or an evolutionary-sequence schema. Stages also fit well into a chronological sequence where stories have set narrative patterns. Stage theories “impose order on chaos, offer predictability over uncertainty, and optimism over despair,” explained social psychologist Carol Tavris, author of The Mismeasure of Woman (Touchstone, 1993) and co-author, with Elliot Aronson, of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) (Harcourt, 2007), in an interview with me. “One appeal of stage theories is that they tell a story—they give us a narrative to live by (‘you feel this now, but soon ...’). In cognitive psychology and also in ‘narrative psychotherapy,’ there has been a lot of work on the importance of storytelling. Some therapists now make this idea explicit, helping clients change a negative, self-defeating narrative (‘look at all I suffered’) into a positive one (‘I not only survived but triumphed’).”What’s wrong with stages? First, Tavris noted, “in developmental psychology, the notion of predictable life stages is toast. Those stage theories reflected a time when most people marched through life predictably: marrying at an early age; then having children when young; then work, work, work; then maybe a midlife crisis; then retirement; then death. Those ‘passages’ theories evaporated with changing social and economic conditions that blew the predictability of our lives to hell.
Second, Tavris continued, “is the guilt and pressure the theories impose on people who are not feeling what they think they should. This is why consumers of any kind of psychotherapy or posttraumatic intervention that promulgates the notion of ‘inevitable’ stages should be skeptical and cautious.”
Stages are stories that may be true for the storyteller, but that does not make them valid for the narrative known as science.
It goes without saying (almost) that the U.S. emerges as especially bad in the report.
Key Findings of Growing Unequal?
Why is the gap between rich and poor growing?
In most countries the gap is growing because rich households have done significantly better than middle-class and poor households. Changes in the structure of the population and in the labour market over the past 20 years have contributed greatly to this rise in inequality.
- Wages have been improving for those people who were already well paid.
- Employment rates have been dropping among less-educated people.
- And, there are more single-adult and single-family households.
Who is most affected?
Statisticians and economists assess poverty in relation to average incomes. Typically, they take the poverty line to be equivalent to one-half of the median income in a given country.
- Since 1980, poverty among the elderly has fallen in OECD countries.
- By contrast, poverty among young adults and families with children has increased.
- On average, one child out of every eight living in an OECD country in 2005 was living in poverty.
What does this mean for future generations?
Social mobility is generally higher in countries where income inequalities are relatively low. In countries with high income inequalities, by contrast, mobility tends to be lower.
- Children living in countries where there is large gap between rich and poor are less likely to improve on the education and income attainments of their parents than children living in countries with low income inequality.
- Countries like Denmark and Australia have higher social mobility, while the United States, United Kingdom and Italy have lower mobility.
What can be done?
In some cases, government policies of taxation and redistribution of income have helped to counteract widening inequalities, but this cannot be their only response. Governments must also improve their policies in other areas.
- Education policies should aim to equip people with the skills they need in today’s labour market.
- Active employment policies are needed to help unemployed people find work.
- Access to paid employment is key to reducing the risk of poverty, but getting a job does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. Growing Unequal? found that over half of all households in poverty have at least some income from work.
- Welfare-in-work policies can help hard-pressed working families to have a decent standard of living by supplementing their incomes.
"I think we have become anaesthetised to traditional photographs of conflict victims. By applying my celebrity portraiture style of photography to the survivors ... I have tried to get beyond the statistics and show the human side of the conflict." ~ RankinThis is another of the posts I write periodically that likely will draw the ire of good-hearted readers. The Guardian today ran this announcement of a London exhibition of a project underwritten by Oxfam and undertaken by fashion /celebrity photographer Rankin. I have criticized Rankin (and others like him) on several occasions - for instance, here and here. Oxfam apparently brought Rankin to the refugee camp at Mugunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he took celebrity-style portraits of some of the nearly 20,000 people who inhabit the camp. You can see some of the results in the panel at right; there are other examples here at the Oxfam web page (just above the advert for the Oxfam credit card issued by The Cooperative Bank)..
"A portrait that declines to name its subject becomes complicit, if inadvertently, in the cult of celebrity that has fueled an insatiable appetite for the opposite type of photograph: to grant only the famous their names demotes the rest to representative instances of their occupations, their ethnicities, their plights. Taken in thirty-nine countries, Salado’s migration pictures group together, under this single heading, a host of different causes and kinds of distress. Making suffering loom larger, by globalizing it, may spur people to think that they ought to “care” more. It also invites them to feel that the sufferings and misfortunes are too vast, too irrevocable, too epic to be changed by any local political intervention. With a subject conceived on this scale, compassion can only flounder - and make abstract."Now, I think Sontag is remarkably wrong about Salgado and about much else as well. Put aside the hypocrisy of Susan Sontag (celebrity) who had a long term relationship with Annie Leibovitz (celebrity photographer) denouncing our contemporary "cult of celebrity." Notice, though, that the Oxfam/Rankin undertaking falls prey to her basic complaint. It simply assumes that everyone can be a celebrity - or at least everyone can be treated as one. That in no way addresses the source of the ongoing war and dislocation in the DRC. The task - and it is a political task, not a philanthropic or humanitarian one - is to identify and implement effective ways of settling the conflict and provide the population with the basic security necessary to begin pursuing normal lives. What we need to do, in other words, is not treat displaced people as celebrities, as though that is a proper aspiration, but as ordinary people who are bearing the burden of carnage and mayhem. How such depictions might inform a movement for social and political change is a perennial problem. I have no quick answer to the difficult questions involved. But I am fairly certain that the Oxfam/Rankin undertaking will do nothing in that regard.
"She was monetarily helpful to a lot who were struggling. But more than that, she was with us. By being with the baroness, we could go places and feel like human beings. It certainly made us feel good. I don’t know how you could measure it. But it was a palpable thing. I think she was a heroic woman.” ~ Sonny Rollins. . . referring to Baroness Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter a patron and protector of jazz and many musicians who made and sustained it. There was an interesting story in The New York Times yesterday on a new book and exhibition of her photographs and writings.
"Moreover, whenever the man-made world does not become the scene of action and speech - as in despotically ruled communities which banish their subjects into the narrowness of the home and thus prevent the rise of a public realm - freedom has no worldly reality. Without a politically guaranteed public realm, freedom lacks the worldly space to make its appearance. To be sure, it may still dwell in men's hearts as desire or will or hope or yearning; but the human heart, as we all know, is a very dark place, and whatever goes on in its obscurity can hardly be called demonstrable fact. Freedom as demonstrable fact and politics coincide and are related to each other like two sides of the same matter."On Arendt's view, freedom is not a characteristic of thought or conscience or choice, but of action, where the latter, when free, involves the capacity "to call something into being which did not exist before, which was not given, not even as an object of cognition or imagination, and which therefore, strictly speaking, could not be known." It is, in other words, essential to our ability to make (although that is a word Arendt herself would not allow in this context) and sustain the world. This sounds as though Arendt would see politics as akin to art and she does in a somewhat unsatisfying way. She insists that politics resembles the performing arts, but not the creative arts. That is because, on her view, the former require continues performance if they are exist, while the latter reify thought and action in some object. This, it seems to me, is a mistaken - overly narrow - view of the creative arts and that, if we were to turn to Dewey and see that it is a mistake to conflate art and its objects. (This is a lesson, as I noted here, that we need to keep in mind if we want to think of photography and its uses instead of about photographs.) That, of course, would require an argument that I am not prepared to make here.
"Every act, seen from the perspective not of the agent but of the process in whose framework it occurs and whose automatism it interrupts, is a 'miracle' - that is, something which could not be expected. If it is true that action and beginning are essentially the same, it follows that a capacity for performing miracles must likewise be within the range of human faculties. This sounds stranger than it actually is. It is in the very nature of every new beginning that it breaks into the world as an 'infinite improbability,' and yet it is precisely this infinitely improbable which actually constitutes the very texture of everything we call real."Having spent extended parts of my childhood in Catholic schools, I am almost viscerally averse to talk of miracles. Add to that the recent vogue for such talk among new age types and I'm usually ready, when someone mentions miracles, to back my way toward the door so that I might escape without taking my eyes off the crazy folks. That said, I think it is important to be able to think seriously about the truly unexpected both in art and in politics. What else, after all, do we have in mind when we think about surprise and creativity and innovation and reform?
"In each of these pictures, though, the artist has erased the body of the victim, leaving everything else intact. The tree or telegraph post used for the hanging is there; so is the crowd of witnesses and executioners, posing for the camera or staring up at what is now empty space.Cotter here drew my attention to Marshall, with whose work I am unfamiliar. The relevant work seems to be this triptych:
As the artist Kerry James Marshall demonstrated in paintings using lynching photographs and a comparable mode of selective erasure, the effect is very different from looking at the horrific unaltered pictures, where the victims continue to be exposed and shamed as objects of casual spectatorship, exactly as their killers intended. Mr. Gonzales-Day's work throws the emphasis on the spectators themselves and makes hard lines between then and now, them and us, difficult to draw."
"Get this close to the epicentre of history and your pictures are bound to look pretty bad, as if they're being blown apart. The irrefutable truth of the image - I was there - overrides all aesthetic and technical concerns." ~ Geoff DyerDyer tips his hand in a longish review of a couple exhibitions of war photo-journalism currently showing in London. The review appears in The Guardian.
"Powell is the only person to come out of the Bush Administration with high favorability ratings. Only some remnants of the anti war movement still stuck in 2003 care about that much about his UN speech. Iraq was a Bush Cheney Rumsfeld policy. I and most people consider him an honorable man. This is a definite plus for Obama."
"Powell is not tarnished in anyone's eyes except extreme partisans. If he was running for president, he'd win in a landslide."