Saturday, December 30, 2006

Creative commons/Copy left help the big co-orps

Sion Touhig takes a well placed swing at the copy left movement saying that they not only don't achieve their avowed goals but also deprive photographers of their living.

He discusses it further at his blog here.

Need I remind you that everything on this blog is copyright?
Look/link back but do not touch!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How do I look?

My concerns and grapplings with this issue began with Naomi Wolf's book, 'The Beauty Myth', where I imagine many women have begun. I come to this issue primarily as a woman, not so much as a photographer, since I don't really shoot people almost at all. But it does reach into many peoples and my concerns with the issue of veracity in images.

So what would the issue be after that long preamble? Well, essentially this, how models are portrayed in ads and popular culture and how that affects our own perception of ourselves.
While this does affect men, what with the coming of the metro-sexual, this is still I think largely about women.

Recently I came across this entry in the blog BAGnewsNotes. It shows an ad that Dove made as part of their 'Campaign for Real Beauty'. The ad largely shows you how much and how images are made and manipulated before they reach the consumption stage. It suggests, off course, that our perceptions of beauty are quite skewed by our perception only of the end product, a highly synthesized and manipulated, unreal end-product. A far more telling look for me was at Glen Ferron's portfolio, basically celebrity and model pictures before and after retouching. It's profoundly frightening to see these changes. All skin is uniformly firm, toned and clear, bodies toned, waists thinner, etc, etc. The signs of being human are regularly removed. Industry pundits tell you that no image is unmanipulated, its merely a difference in degree.

This is really nothing new at all, we all know this. The extent to which this knowledge permeates our consciousness of course, varies. There is probably the whole spectrum from falling hook-line-sinker to utter cynicism. And in my mind, there is very little doubt that a lot of people, particularly young girls are buying into these images as real and aspiring to reach them, much to their detriment. One need only take a look around to observe this, or maybe look at your daughter or niece, we've all encountered it. (Lauren Greenfield's photo-documentary takes on the particulars of this sub-culture are definitely worth a LONG look.)

What might be interesting about all of this is that we are somehow hardwired, psychologically, to inherently view others are better looking than ourselves. Its interesting because that might mean that it is much harder to combat our poor conceptions of ourselves in relation to these astronomically, albeit assistedly, better looking models than we think.

Here are two things that prompted this thought. First, theres been some research done by Sarah Hill that does suggest this. That we think that the opposite sex finds people far more attractive than they really do. In short, we overestimate our competition in terms of attractiveness.

I was thinking that heres how it might work. Its been said by fashion photographers that the rationale behind some of the manipulation is that this is indeed how we see other people. A little thought suggests that it might be true if we're talking about relatively quick looks at people we see incidentally. We usually tend to sort of visually 'average' out things, rarely do we notice flaws in appearance, unless they are rather large. Try it for yourself, look at someone 'normally', cursorily, and then closely for long, with the intention of finding flaws you'll see what I mean. Whereas, when it comes to ourselves, we're usually gazing in a mirror in close-up and for long, noticing flaws. Our own perception of ourselves is a sense 'honester'. You can see how this would lead to a overestimation of the competition.

What do you make of a photograph, however? Because there are close-ups and you can look as long as you want at them. Are we now conning ourselves doubly? By 'seeing' a lack of flaws even at this close-range in models, are we convincing ourselves that our own flaws are that much worse? And reinforcing an idea we already had from daily lives?

What do you think?

Maybe I should be clearer?

PS. Look in the comments, some of which I had pulled into the main body and now have pulled out.

The abstract to the original article is here.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Two very different and very good photographers do a take on life. In the biological sense. Who's take do you prefer?

Lanting's or Salgado's?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Motion camouflage

These very cool flies, who can hover in a single spot and seem to defend aerial territories can do many other cool things. They remember their aerial spots using landmark cues and can return to almost exactly the same spot with accuracies in the mm range.

But by far the coolest thing (if they can do it, it has been proved yet) is motion camouflage. Male hoverflies apparently seem to sneak up on females during mating flights using this trick. The trick is to appear like a stationary object on the retina of the pursued while actually moving closer to it. The eyes of many insects are not quite resolved well enough and an object has to get very close to them before the size is perceivably larger and by the this time the pursuing insect is close enough to 'attack'. Now if the pursued animal was stationary this is straightforward. You just keep moving in a straight line towards it, not making any lateral movements with respect to it.

However if it is moving, you need to calculate where you ought to be in its field of vision and be there. The diagram above shows what this task would be like. (taken from Andersen and McOwan, (2003), they have a neat computational model of this behaviour) So you need to be able some kind of prediction about what its doing, apart from having the motor skills needed to compensate by moving as well. Hoverflies like this one appear to have all the requirements and apparently so do the coolest insect predators, the dragonflies.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Umm, I think I've given the impression that the only print up for grabs is the roach. Actually you can pretty much ask for any of the pictures from my website.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Parental care

The phrase parental care often brings up images of some mammal cuddling its furry large eyed child to its bosom. It seems the epitome of bonding between parent and child and visual images abound, like Raghu Rai's the small hand within the large hand.

Yet some of the most amazing stories of parental care actually occur within the so called 'lower' organisms. I'll tell you about the most amazing one. The now extinct gastric brooding frog female swallows her externally fertilized eggs and they remain in her stomach for weeks before they are old enough to brave the world on their own. The frog does not eat the whole time!

Still, invertebrates? Really? Can somethings that 'low' actually show such 'evolved' behaviour. I think people underestimate insects. Even those that don't would perhaps find it hard to like cockroaches. Yet here is a description of cockroach brood care from an abstract of a technical paper.
" Cockroaches show the entire range of reproductive modes: oviparous, ovoviviparous, viviparous, and intermediate stages. Postparturition parental care is likewise diverse, ranging from species in which females remain with neonates for a few hours, to biparental care that lasts several years and includes feeding the offspring on bodily fluids in a nest. "
In fact these insects are called sub-social and these behaviours are believed to be precursors to the more admired eusociality observed in some other insects. Termites the well known superorganisms, of the social insect world are phylogenetically quite close to roaches. So look closer before turning away in disgust the next time!

(For people who wanted to know more tech stuff about the image, it was shot in the daytime in IISc, in Sept 2005. f32, 1/60 with a cheapie manual ring flash the vivitar 5000, Nikon D70 and MicroNikkor 105mm.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

And its out!

My dad called up to say that the pictures were in the papers in Bombay. And I also received a 'formal' letter today. Since the news is out, I can announce it here as well!

This image of cockroach mum carrying her young nymphs on her back won the joint third position in the Sanctuary ABN AMRO Wildlife photographer of the year, 2006! (That's a mouthful!) The second picture of a sunbird hovering over flowers won a commendation in the same contest.
This is pretty cool, there are many very good wildlife photographers in India and well the competition is pretty stiff. So it's cool to win!

Also one of the nicest things about receiving this award was the very thoughtful letter I received announcing it. This isn't merely a you won note, theres a thoughtful analysis of why I won, which is unusual. None of the award letters/emails I've recieved before quite matched up. Off course, I didn't manage to go for the Living light awards in (which was a national competition organised by GNAPE and Ecotone, where I won first place in the seniors category) where apparently very nice things were said about the picture. (PS yes I AM bragging :) )

For those that don't already know, both these images and many other pictures are on my website (which I promise to spruce up at some point, bear with the poor graduate student). And if you want to use any image for any purposes, please talk to my stock agency, Visage images.

If you're from IISc and just want some prints drop me a line and we'll work something out.

Theres another post for those who want to know a bit more about this image and the biology.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Winter is here

And so are the winter migrants, my list so far: verditer flycatcher, bay backed shrike, booted eagle, forest wagtail, blue headed rock thrush.

A longer post sometime soon....or maybe just a rant, let see....