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Participate: blog for us

We are on a quest to find photobloggers, photographers, podcasters, bloggers, artists and members of social network websites who would be interested in blogging a reply to this question:

Time magazine has voted you “The Person of the Year” for “seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game”. So, did you?”

If you feel inspired and want to tell us about your experience of the digital world, send us your blog entry (less than 500 words please!) at jessica.reed at opendemocracy dot net.

9 comments

  1. Digital democracy? or is it digital-mass-market-ego-driven-frenzy… Working for nothing makes me think of exploitation… and beating the pros? at what game? The pros don’t play, they use their expertise and experience to produce professional quality work. Come on, let’s think about it. Let’s think and see if this really is more than wishful thinking… are we there yet? I think not.


  2. I started using the web some 12 years ago when I realised it presented an alternative way of reaching an audience, particularly with the kind of material that the mass media had no interest in. Over the years this evolved into ‘My London Diary’ which comments in words and pictures on London and events in London. Sometimes serious, sometimes rather less so.

    My London Diary starts around 1999, but really got into its stride in 2002 – when I started working seriously with digital photograph, though it is still developing and changing. Its intended as a site with a very personal point of view, and I wanted it not to be a nice neat web site. Its also a site which is very much for the people that I photograph – and who come and visit it.

    Its only a part of my work on the web, which includes posting articles and images on Indymedia, running several other web sites and writing for a major internet site. The latter generates income which means I can continue to do my own thing on My London Diary and elsewhere.

    However I’d think I’d got it very wrong if “Time” ever took a positive view of me and it.

    Peter


  3. What do you take pictures for? You? Me? Everyone? What’s your purpose, to be published or just to capture the moment?
    Pictures are pictures, what you do with them isn’t important to anyone but you. Art or journalism, snapshots or records, it’s all the same. I read with some humour the remark in the first post that professional photographers produce professional quality work. Says who? And just what makes a photograph professional? Just because it makes money doesn’t mean a thing. A good picture can be taken by anyone with the right eye in the right place. Digital pictures are no different to paper pictures, it’s just that they are easier to transmit around the world and put them on websites for millions to look at. Yes, there are more to see but that doesn’t meanthat there is a dilution of quality, just that it’s easier to get access to them. And so it should be.


  4. I disagree with just about everything Malcolm says. The purpose of photography is communication, not vanity. Quality does exist – it is the carrier-wave for communication – but is invisible to the ignorant and cynical. Good photos are extremely difficult and rare, even after years of dedicated practice : they proceed from thought, understanding, philosophy and passion. The alleged democratisation of imagery is a very largely a deluge of dreck, perpetrated by the ego-driven clueless. It is a gift to globalised corporates, not a threat : limitless free resources for industrial exploitation. Hail the new nutritious media, Soylent Green with GoogleAds.


  5. The symposium suggested that new, cheap and accessible technologies was a good thing. We also saw scenes of mexicans unable to access water.

    However, maybe it is worth remembering that any decrease in the cost of our photographic technologies has been mainly carried by the poorest in the world. Our desire for cheap cameras and computers means that cheap labour is essential and, for example, in Mexico cheap computers are put together for export to the rich west. This in turn means that Mexican PC factory workers are unable to buy the goods they require for a decent standard of living – apart from the fact that basic labour rights are ignored.

    I am left with a question: where is the democracy when the technologies we use can be detrimental to those in the factories of Mexico?


  6. White Noise Photography and Visual Power.

    Some notes from the weekend…. Democracy a new call to arms . The history of the world is based on conflict..The desire to negate difference has been a rotting Western sediment that periodically surfaces to to reveal its ugly underside of Democracy.
    Whilst negating difference, the West has taken charge and constructed, through controlling the means of production, a worldview that is founded on Western mythologies that translate as cultural imperialism. A key defining aspect of European ideology is that it is dependent on the propagation of canonical figures to sustain hegemonic control across the cultural and commercial industries. This allows for the interpretation of global historical events to be constructed through Eurocentric modes of representation and authority, which underpins the grand narrative of an essentialist European universalism.
    Photography has played a key role in the process of maintaining a Eurocentric visual hierarchy. This has been achieved through the control of representation in relation to the “other”. Photography and the control of the distribution of images is a vital component in the execution of Western, colonial policies, especially in relation to extreme, exploitative and aggressive imperial desires that endorsed systems such as slavery, suppression of tribal peoples and national independence movements.

    Three months after the invention of the camera daguerrotypists were operating out of Cario. Photography had effectively entered Africa. It was fast becoming the preferred mechanism that would be employed to support the hierarchical European ideologies. Just as British slaves were reaching a historical turning point in their quest for emancipation, the invention of photography and its aggressive Eurocentric focus on the black subject, meant that photographing as an act of power, was about to play a major role in the framing of the black subject in relation to the West. The invention of the camera within this global political climate, and the European desire for colonial conquest were to have dire consequences for the black subject.

    The results of these encounters (templates of the other) would rapidly form a dominant global index of images housed in collections across Europe. These photographs would be used to construct the foundations of a Eurocentric visual exchange system that produced a critical, negative image bank that established a common code of invisibility of indigenous people by a process of mass photographic objectification. The greater Africa’s exposure through the lens of European anthropologists, the greater was Africa’s cultural erasure.

    The historical conditions of seeing had been fundamentally disrupted by the presence of the photographic image and the possibilities of its uses. Those that had access to the new forms of mechanical reproduction were to use it most effectively as a tool to enhance a dominant western world perspective. The intensity and ease of visual reproduction accelerated a Eurocentric ideology that over decades systematically debased, demonised and attempted to control the “other”. This extended to include sections of European societies that were seen as inferior or sub human. Europe’s inward visual turn was on the weak, vulnerable, and infirm, the mentally ill, the disabled, the poor, criminal and the working classes were all subjected to Europe’s increasing violent gaze. People would literally be forced into the frame.
    “I am over determined from without. I am the slave not of the ‘idea’ that others have of me but by my own appearance. I move slowly in the world, accustomed now to seek no longer upheaval. I progress by crawling. And already I am dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes. I am fixed.”
    Fanon Fantz. From ‘The Fact of Blackness’ Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

    Mark Sealy
    Director of Autograph ABP.


  7. “Time magazine has voted you “The Person of the Year” for “seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game”. So, did you?”

    well my digital friends, unless time sent me an email and a copy of the offending article, I would be blissfully unaware of my achievement! By the way I dont believe anyone should work for nothing unless they choose to do so. I wish you all good luck in this so called digital democracy. There is a long way to go yet.


  8. The story behind the Abu Ghraib series
    Art and myself vs. the British anti-terrorist branch and the FBI

    The first time I saw the Abu Ghraib photographs I was unsure what I was looking at. Of course I very soon realised the seriousness of these images and their global impact upon political, social and cultural life. In the same way that many of us were, I was deeply disturbed and shocked by these images as they contrasted with the US military and political objectives under George W Bush presidency. These objectives were to bring democracy to the people of Iraq and to free them from the tyranny of its former president, Saddam Hussein.

    Although the Abu Ghraib images provoked profound anger and disgust, I must admit they didn’t really come as a surprise. Sadly, these atrocities happen in every single war and are nothing new. I believe the Abu Ghraib photographs expose and remind us of the power relation in a war zone. An imbalanced power: the powerful against the powerless.

    As an artist working with photography, I felt I had a moral obligation to respond to the Iraqi conflict and particularly to these tragic events. At the time (May 2004) I had concerns on the way public images were being circulated, treated and consumed by society; particularly gruesome and violent images. So it is from this perspective that I produced the Abu Ghraib series that consist into a collection of postage stamps that I put into public and global circulation. (Make it a better place – Group exhibition conceived and curated by Dinu Lee – The Holden Gallery – MMU)

    The reasons I chose the postage stamp format as a vehicle for my ideas was because of its consumable, desirable and collectable characteristics. It is also a very democratic way to diffuse images and information. Traditionally, the postage stamp function is to pay tribute or commemorate the traditions and culture of a country. It is also a powerful form of communication as it travels around the globe advertising the proudest aspects of a nation, in contrast to the Abu Ghraib photographs. I was interested in how the mechanical act of licking and stamping a postage stamp could be linked to a notion of humiliation and abuse/torture as revealed in the photographs. I was conscious that this process could turn the viewer into an active consumer and make the user aware of the consumption and treatment of public images in circulation. This could also lead the user to become an active accomplice – in some sense – to the abuse and violence. The repetitions of images on the stamp sheets are also a reflection of the depersonalisation that happens to victims of such abuse. The intimate and personal details of each account, and the consequences for the abused/tortured is hidden and forgotten as the images are multiplied, repeated and ‘consumed’ by society.

    The way I chose to present the work was also a very important factor, as I wanted the viewer to look at the stamps as objects of consumption. In addition, four series of franked stamps – therefore used/consumed – are presented framed and as such, as trophies. Ultimately, that is what some photograph seems to be about. Through this presentation, I wanted to highlight the contemporary society’s appetite to consume such gruesome and violent imagery.

    As there is two version of the Abu Ghraib stamp (US/UK) I had to delegate the distribution of the US version of the stamp to a friend who lives in New York: Art. (Stands for Arthur) My friend Art, whom I have not met (not yet!), agreed to actively participate in this project. I sent Art, via an international courier company (I won’t name it here for legal reasons) more than 100 envelopes and postcards – all pre-addressed and with the Abu Ghraib faux stamp affixed on it. The instructions given to Art were clear: to buy US stamps and affix them onto the envelopes and postcards beside the faux stamp and to post them from New York.

    When I contacted the courier company to inquire the lateness of the parcel I was told that the police, then subsequently the British anti-terrorist branch were investigating the content of the parcel for alleged ‘anti-American documentation’. I was also informed that the content of the parcel had been scanned and passed onto the American authorities for further investigation. I requested the courier company many times during that week to be contacted by the British authorities in order to explain my work, but my requests were systematically refused.

    A week later, I required the courier company either inform the British authorities to release the parcel or to charge me with an offence I evidently had not committed, (The fact that I use a real postage stamp onto the envelopes and postcards, invalidated the potential problem any faux stamp could present to the postal authorities) The courier company agent put me on hold and eventually informed me that the British authorities found the work ‘offensive’ to which I replied that the images are indeed unpleasant; but they are a verification of the sexual abuse and of the torture to the victims, their families and their communities. They are an insult to humanity and human dignity. So, I cannot but agree with the British and other authorities that the images are indeed offensive. Later, I was also told that the British authorities could keep the work indefinitely, to which I answered that it was illegal even for the British authorities to hold something indefinitely, particularly when no offence had been committed. I demanded the immediate release of the parcel otherwise I would be seeking legal action to retrieve it. Eventually, the following day the parcel left for its final destination in New York. My friend Art started to post the mail and I was beginning to receive back the envelopes and postcards so important for my installation.

    A few weeks after the British authorities incident, I received a phone call from my friend Art informing me that two FBI agent were about to pay him a visit regarding the Abu Ghraib work and myself. As he was obviously concerned about it, I suggested he simply answers their questions and not to worry too much, as it was clear they were inquiring about my artwork and me. The FBI wanted to know where he knew me from, if I had spoken to him about my political views and finally if I had a bigger agenda. (Making new stamps maybe?) The funniest thing about this laughable story is that the two FBI agents were dressed with back suites and black glasses.

    After that, I did not hear neither from the British authorities or the FBI. Although I freak out about the British anti-terrorist branch, the FBI seemed to be less formidable because of the comical link inferred by their attire. Sometimes I wonder how much trouble I would have got into if I were a Muslim artist, or worse if was living in America?

    The saddest thing during and about this story is that I was beginning behaving as if I were doing something wrong, something illegal. I felt my emails and my phone calls were being monitored. Some how I felt watched. Whether this was pure paranoia or not, I don’t know. The idea of being investigated by the anti-terrorist branch was somehow concerning, and although I am an Italian citizen, I could be easily mistaken for a person of Middle Eastern origin, therefore a potential threat to the authorities – or am I wrong? The reality remained that I had to bring the framed work abroad without having it seized by the authorities. I wasn’t prepared to take any more risks, because of the exhibition deadline, and little by little and with the crucial help of my friends, the installation material crossed the British border unnoticed and the work was successfully exhibited in Brussels. (Portraits de l’autre – Group exhibition curated by Virginie Devillers – Musee d’Ixelles, Brussels – Belgium)

    The story of the Abu Ghraib series inevitably points to the events of the 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings and their aftermath. Anti-terror laws have been implemented all over the world. We must wonder whether these new laws pose a threat to our freedom of speech and artistic expression and if they infringe our civil liberties. We need to ensure that the current war on terror does not completely annihilate our freedom; it should not justify everything and anything. More power is being taken from us when actually more trust should be given to people. The experience I have encountered with the authorities poses a fundamental question: Are we really living in a democratic society?

    Giuseppe Di Bella, artist/photographer based in London


  9. What is Sealy’s problem? His polemic is like a football fan shouting at the opposition, lacking balance, proportion, and perspective. We should be friends and talk as friends, not enemies talking as enemies citing history as the reason to do that.

    “Negating difference” is not so much imperialist evil, as the way forward for friendliness without this dysfunctional obession with painful history over which the majority of the Western world agrees, in which hugely diverse people live. If we are not “different”, we are friends; maintaining and romanticising “difference” is the problem.

    The “other”, as a critical point, equally applies to non Western identity relating to the West.

    Get past the fancy rhetoric of Sealy’s post, and its essentially just pointless complaining like the black protestor in the Houses of Parliament, embarrasing Blair and the Queen. Yes, slavery was wrong. Yes, we all know that. No, it does not directly concern the Queen, Blair, Brown, or anyone alive today. And the fact is, a resentful ghetto attitude should be identified for the problem it is. UK society is actually remarkably tolerant and welcoming, and Sealy’s evident professional success testifies to that. Perhaps he should be helping people to others to do the same, instead of inflamming their resentments and implcitly maintaining their own disadvantage by this insistence on and affirmation of “difference”.

    Its about time polemic like this is examined more closely for what, actually, it rests on, and what useful value it has. 200 years ago was a long time ago, and the way forward is affirming commonality not difference, integration not race or any other kind of tribalism.

    2007 is a new world where this tired and intellectually weak insistence on “cultural roots” has to be consigned to the past as we relate as friends in the present. Almost everything Sealy says is contrary to that – and he appears, while I don’t want to start being personal – to have a successful personal career in what is, arguably, the professional sector of race/culture relations.



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