The prevalence of any technology forever alters the way we previously understood the world before it. Photography changed painting, audio recording changed our relationship to music, and the internet changed print media such as books and magazines. What is most often lost is the human touch, a closer connection from the source to the viewer or listener. Such is the story of courtroom sketch artist Gary Myrick, the focus of a documentary produced by Ramtid Nikzad of the New York Times as part of the Op-Doc series. A compelling figure who narrates the history of the tradition, Myrick Myrick explains the difference and importance of his craft, “Illustration is story-telling. The difference between the camera in the courtroom and an artist might be the difference between just a cold, dry, factual transcript as opposed to a novel.”
Beginning with Myrick explaining his work, the documentary covers the history of the medium, the advent and fall of courtroom photography, and the eventual decline of the courtroom sketch artist. “The artist at one time was the media,” says Myrick, relaying the history of artist documentarians, from war reporting through history to multi-tasking newspaper reporters who considered their drawings as important as their words. “When you funnel the story through a human being, its got a different quality than simply doing a mechanical recording of it,” says Myrick. “A lot of things going on about me are channeled through my heart, and my soul and my brain and my fingers…I like to convey just how it feels in that moment.”
Despite his immense talent, Myrick and so many other sketch artists are no longer able to work exclusively in the dying industry. Myrick poignantly notes, speaking more indicatively of so many industries that are being lost to the ease of technology, “I’m trying to draw to communicate to those that aren’t there, what it was like to be there. And maybe some of that has been getting lost.” (via juxtapoz and newyorktimes)
As we wave goodbye to Halloween, let’s take a minute to mediate on the innately striking work of Diane Arbus and her unbiased approach to documenting not just the spookier side of humanity, but even more so, the masks or costumes we present to the world as a species, as human beings, as ourselves . . . year-round.
Now, when I use the word “unbiased” here I am not suggesting Arbus’s eye is roaming and invisible. Quite the contrary. Her eye is always distinctly there: focused, from one frame to the next. This “unbiased” quality has more to do with her indiscriminate examination of each subject in the same oddly intimate and unflinching way– regardless of class, age, gender, sexual preference, or race. In other words, a child with a toy hand grenade in the park looks equally as strange as the a woman lounging next to a toy poodle or a handful of residents dressed up on Halloween at a home for the mentally retarded. No one person, group, or act is more privileged. No one is all the more beautiful. We are all playing dress-up as far as identity and image is concerned.
By seeking out each individual’s innate desire to present him or herself and critically or creatively twisting that into her own perception of costume in each person’s presentation, Arbus became not just a photographer, but an alchemist, shifting our ideas of self, reality, and personal intention. Whether you are a part of celebrity culture or a more marginalized society spread out along the fringe, Arbus’s certain way of looking did not glorify one way of living over the other.
Recycling is a way of life in Cateura, Paraguay. Many people there earn money by scouring the huge landfill for items that can be recycled. A certain garbage picker, though, began recycling for much more than money: for the young people in his community. Nicolás Gómez began creating instruments – violins, cellos, drums, guitars – from the trash he sifted through and gave them to local children. The idea picked up steam and children’s orchestra known as “The Recycled Orchestra” came to life. Landfill Harmonic, a documentary on Gómez and the orchestra, is slated to capture the inspirational story. [via]
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of dropping by my neighborhood museum, the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA), to check out new work by Guillermo Bert. The digital age has managed to find its way into places the mechanical age was never quite able to get to. In the exhibition’s accompanying essay, Peter Frank claims that this phenomenon has resulted in the poor becoming “confident operators” of this advanced technology. Of course accessibility is a good thing, but one can also argue that the arrival of this kind of technology can also put indigenous culture and tradition at risk. By combining QR Code technology with the very traditional art of textile weaving, Bert is bringing this infiltration of culture to the surface. The codes, when scanned with your mobile device, play one of a series of documentary films that contain several engaging protagonists who help unfold the story of the Mapuche people. Throughout history, textiles have been used by indigenous cultures to pass on the story of a culture from generation to generation. Perhaps Bert’s “encoded textiles” are a strange evolution of that tradition.
James Loveday’s project about the people who use Craigslist documents who they are, why they respond to the ads and what eventually happens when they get in front of the camera.
Over a period of several months James placed adverts on Craigslist offering a free portrait to anyone who wanted to come by my studio in Brooklyn and have it taken. Each time a person would come, he’d have everything set up and take their portraits. Some people would show up ready, knowing what to wear and what they wanted, others had a vague idea of getting famous and wanted to have pictures of themselves for their future careers as actors and models and some people were just intrigued, or bored.
Everyone filled out a questionnaire about themselves and why they wanted to be a part of the project. Their answers are included with their photo.
Undercity is a great short documentary that takes you on a ride through NYC subways, Amtrak tunnels, sewers and even to the top of the Williamsburg bridge. I’ve spent my fair share of time exploring abandoned warehouses, factories, and subway tunnels so this video was like a walk down memory lane. I’m not sure if it’s a guy thing but there is something amazing about going to places that you’re not supposed to go and exploring decaying structures that most people have forgot. Put aside the next 27:54 minutes of your day and explore NYC like you’ve never done before.
Brittany App is a photographer, avid travellist and life catalyst. Although she hails from in and around the central coast of California, Brittany is always on the move whether it be by plane, boat or bicycle. This image maker is full of life and the vibrancy she exudes is reflected directly back into her images via the welcoming faces of the people she photographs, such as the faces shown here from her London series. You can follow Brittany’s latest photo-documentary project as she prepares for her coast-to-coast bicycle tour – scheduled for the fall – in effort to raise money for her favorite charity, Water Aid.