War is Beautiful unboxing

Jörg Colberg does a better job of reviewing it than I will, so go read that (scroll down, it’s the last of 3) and save me making a fool of myself here.Except for the tripod leg, I’ve got the framing a bit better… maybe a quarter turn to the right and I’ll have it, I think, if I can only keep the setup set up, or make it easy to set up.

And I used the 24mm f/2.8 ai on this one… I think I like the color and overall look a bit more than with the 24-105 that I’ve used in the past, but I’ll have to do some comparisons.

One comment about the book and the premise… something I don’t think anyone considered: the photographers that took the pictures have had some training in Art History (I expect) and even if they haven’t, they’ve had years and years of looking at famous photographs (which were very likely taken by photographers that were highly trained in Art History and technique), and so it’s no surprise that these pictures look the way they do.

Dave Hickey makes an interesting comment about the war photographs from World War II informing Abstract Impressionist painting, and that might be true—I don’t know enough about all that to really comment—but I bet it’s equally true that the photographers that made those pictures (and the editors that included them in the newspapers) had the same (or similar) training in art as the painters that wound up confirming “the blur, the swipe, and the flying paint” seen in war photographs of the period.*

I have no doubt that the pictures employed in The Times served to prop up and even propel the United States in its aggression, but I don’t think the photographers had this in mind when they were shooting: they were more interested in getting good pictures—read: artistically valid pictures, pictures that exhibit skill, training, and expertise. And I don’t think the editors are really to blame either: they know what a good picture looks like and they pick good pictures that will look good on the front of the paper. The same goes for all the other little cogs that whirl about to make a newspaper every day.

It’s the same thing I see in my corporate job: I’m do my job, care something about the well being of my coworkers qua fellow members of the human race, etc.; my coworkers are similar; ditto our managers, who have universally been decent, reasonably humane people; and the same goes for everyone else I’ve met at my office, the corporate office, or the office in Costa Rica. But despite all the decent people around, I’ve seen coworkers jobs get offshored, seen our wages fail to keep up with inflation by a large margin while we put up more and more work with increasing levels of quality and produce products that are sought after in the marketplace. I don’t make any decisions around hiring or where to employ people; I don’t decide wages. My coworkers don’t either, nor do our managers. All that is decided by some group somewhere, but if you went and talked to the members of that group, they would have no excuses and would very likely agree that real wages are too low and that offshoring hasn’t really reaped the returns they expected, but, anyway, the Investors expect certain returns and we’ve all got to work together to satisfy their demands.

And there’s the problem right there: not the investors, but the working together. It’s not a cabal in a smoky room: it’s us, all of us, doing all the little things we do minute by minute, day by day, from filling the car up with fuel (and thereby perpetuating massive international corporations that refine the fuel and the oppressive regimes that own the wells) and buying groceries (and all the abuse of labor and waste embedded in that), to simpler acts, like surfing the internets or writing a blog that maybe 100 people a day glance at for 15 seconds or less, or flipping through a newspaper even. All of this, as long as it’s done without conscious thought, without attending to the consequences of our actions and the cost of our cost-consciousness, works together to create this country and this world.

How do we change all that? Awareness helps. Paying attention helps. But it all persists, and I despair of a solution. May Allah guide us (and U.S. and “us all, everyone”) to something better than this, something closer to His path and deserving of His mercy. Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

Anyway, the book is a good manual for looking at images and understanding the work that they do. Pick it up if you’re interested.

If you read this far, apologies for the rant.


 

Hickey, Dave. “War is Beautiful, They Said,” afterword to War is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict, by David Shields, back cover. Brooklyn, powerHouse books, 2015.

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