The Death of Friendship

We live in a world of irony. Our information society with its plethora of social networks has enabled us to say anything to anyone. Open-ness should foster more friendship, yet technology dilutes the word ‘friend,’ as someone merely linked to on a social network. There are less demands placed on friendship, yet technology raises the bar on friendship, a friend is someone that will communicate with you on any social medium.

Friendship, the pre-Internet sort, is dead. What sort of friendship is this? Friendship has always been a piece of perplexity and complexity when considered philosophically, but let me create a context.

Paul Miller describes pre-Internet friendships when he gave up the Internet for a year.

1. You meet your friends off-line often through serendipity.

‘Outside the stadium, I was spotted by a man brandishing one of my own articles about leaving the internet. He was ecstatic to meet me. I had chosen to avoid the internet for many of the same reasons his religion expressed caution about the modern world.

“It’s reprogramming our relationships, our emotions, and our sensitivity,” said one of the rabbis at the rally. It destroys our patience. It turns kids into “click vegetables.”

My new friend outside the stadium encouraged me to make the most of my year, to “stop and smell the flowers.”‘

2. Conversation requires complete and full attention, whose reward and complete and full connection.

My sister, who has dealt with the frustration of trying to talk to me while I’m half listening, half computing for her entire life, loves the way I talk to her now. She says I’m less detached emotionally, more concerned with her well-being — less of a jerk, basically.

3. There is an art of simply “hanging out.”

I used to hang out at a coffee shop called the Reverie after 9/11 and before this current tech boom. Unemployment made friendship important and also gave people plenty of time. There was an art to hanging out. People would just sit for hours talking about art, music, and life. We would enjoy a pause, a smile. Life felt like a Terrence Malick film in its pacing and its profound revelations that could not be summed up in a photo, a tweet or a blog post. I am hard pressed to find a coffee shop like that.

Paul Miller backtracks a bit. He didn’t experience an “apocalypse of self.” He didn’t find his real self. In the end he denies that there is an Internet self and a self without it because of a conference he went to.

But then I spoke with Nathan Jurgenson, a ‘net theorist who helped organize the conference. He pointed out that there’s a lot of “reality” in the virtual, and a lot of “virtual” in our reality. When we use a phone or a computer we’re still flesh-and-blood humans, occupying time and space. When we’re frolicking through a field somewhere, our gadgets stowed far away, the internet still impacts our thinking: “Will I tweet about this when I get back?”

My plan was to leave the internet and therefore find the “real” Paul and get in touch with the “real” world, but the real Paul and the real world are already inextricably linked to the internet. Not to say that my life wasn’t different without the internet, just that it wasn’t real life.

I would easily de-bunk this reality by citing the numerous studies on how our brains react chemically to the virtual and the real. In a General Theory of Love, there’s a study referenced where physical presence is a necessary party of the healing power of therapy. Babies cannot be raised virtually because they rely on physical contact to mirror the mother’s breathe and heart rate. Sudden Infant Death syndrome can be an outcome. If babies can die from a lack of physical touch, then how can it not have an effect on adults? We need other people in meat space.

Still, Paul Miller is right in that many have the Internet in the back of their minds when they disconnect. Unplugging and its attendant behaviors are a kind of play acting, an anachronism.

In the pre-Internet world, they said that you were lucky if you had one friend. In this Internet age, you are lucky if you do not make the mistake of treating a virtual connection as a real friend.

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Instagram is Cheap and Creepy

I was the community manager for IGersSF for a year, which is part of a larger network of Instagramers started by Phil Gonzalez. The Instagramers Network, which is a name that Instagram doesn’t want them to have, is one of the few ways that mobile photographers traveling around the world can connect to users.

Full disclosure: I own Facebook stock and really want to see them do well, but as an owner of said stock, I’m surprised at how stingy Facebook is to both shareholders and its community.

While running IGersSF I had a great time organizing photo walks so that mobile photographers visiting San Francisco could see how friendly and welcoming the city was. During my tenure I organized and hosted 25 photo walks and 1 fund raiser. I even hosted an open bar. Since my resignation there’s been about 1 photo walk per month.

Given that there are at least 50 people in the employ of Instagram in Mountain View, I’m a bit shocked at the low level of community involvement. As a former developer of a mobile photo upload app, Via.Me, I know Instagram can run on auto-pilot with 3 people. What do these 50 people do all day besides make selections for the Weekend Hashtag Project?

If I had the resources of Instagram, I would be doing the following:

1. Host a photo walk every week in as many cities as I could
2. Provide a decent amount of food and drink after
3. Start an artist sponsorship program of around $1000 where users can apply for sponsorships to get their art projects funded.

I’ve tried to engage Instagram’s community managers on providing these things for the community, but they would never get back to me. I turned to brands to provide this sort of modicum of fun and libations for the community, but soon found out that Instagram wanted these brands for themselves.

Instagram simply isn’t into doing what’s best for the community because they really (and as a stockholder I know this) are focused on getting a return from partnerships with brands.

This would be okay, if Instagram wasn’t active in dissuading folks from creating communities. Brands are okay, but creating something like Instagramers SF is something in their eyes that must be destroyed. I always tried to get some sort of guidance from Instagram HQ, and they only gave me guidance and suggested using their new DM technology for a photo walk once. Also, have you noticed how all the companies with Instagram in them had to change their names? This is so creepy if you ask me.

I am left wondering why I’ve done so much for the community and those at Instagram HQ have done so little. Instagram, why are you so cheap?

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Puddles in the Rain

Great puddle shots in the rain are tough to find.

There’s the famous one by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Puddle Jumper

But I really feel that the constant practice of photography engendered by the Internet’s social media has turned photography into a daily practice and that the 21st century has already done better than this classic on thousands of photos.

I’ve chosen two.

There’s this photo produced commercially as an ad for clothing rentals:

21st century puddle jumper

Also there’s this photo by Ted Chin:

puddle jumping

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The Challenge of Sydney Summer Rain by Trent Parke

summer_rain

This photo taken by Trent Parke in 1998 screams of many contrasts: light and dark, wet and dry, soft and harsh, under-exposed and over-exposed. The last contrast seems quite intentional given Parke’s oeuvre. He was a sports photographer (Street Photography Now, p. 129) and this has given him the speed, reflexes and confidence needed to take some chances by not using traditional apertures and shutter speeds, and yet yield great results. For example, in the above photo, given the same composition a street photographer would go for 1/250th of a second and as much depth of field as possible. While still keeping the same depth of field, Parke intentionally goes for a longer exposure, despite having adequate light, and ends up creating the play of light with the rain.

The challenge behind this photo is that you should take photos even if the weather is far from ideal. The reward is taking a photo way better than photographs of breakfast or comfy interiors.

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The Friendships of Convenience in Frances Ha

I heard about Frances Ha from a friend in Sweden.

I read about mumblecore and its manifesto seemed very authentic to me.

The first scene in Frances Ha feels like something from a very pleasant dream or a reverie. We see two women who are having fun in a park, and then soon cut to running in the streets. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’s first 20 minutes comes to mind, yet the two women are not romantically involved. They are flatmates who share the deepest intimacy.

Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig in Franes Ha

Unfortunately, this intimacy doesn’t last for long. Sophie, Frances’ flatmate, has other plans and just isn’t that into Frances in a platonic way. (You could call “Frances Ha” a bromance with chics.)

A very good job is done of making the audience feel just how close to Sophie Frances is. All the more heartbreaking when Sophie tosses Frances aside for an apartment in Tribeca, Manhattan.

The film accepts that we live in an age of friendships of convenience. We form deep intimacies yet are barely conscious of them being there and we so easily toss them aside. Does it have anything to do with mobile phones? Frances laments that Sophie’s phone with email seems to be more important to her than her.

I wish more films like this were made; they are after all low budget, but no budget can buy the insight into how we are living. Some might call the film NYC navel gazing; I’d like to call it great art.

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Day 18: Instagram Sucks

So if you are newbie, and it is your 18th day, you probably have no followers and Instagram sucks.

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Day 2: Nothing but spammy looking followers on Instagram

So, it’s not looking good with my new Instagram account.

The followers I have are not engaged and seem to be bots fishing for likes and follows.

It feels like I’m being followed by spammers. At least there’s an app for fixing this. It’s called InstaFollow and it’s available in iPhone and Android versions.

followers

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Day 1: Following Instagram’s Suggested Users

I cessed out and followed the entire suggested users list.

I posted 2 photos that I haven’t published and was very conversational in how I interacted with folks on the suggested users’ list.

Only 2 people liked, commented and followed me back:

I went through this exercise because of a well thought out piece written by Jason H. Reinhart. He likened the Instagram to being a place of inequity:

I see people out here with 20k who respond to literally every comment and interact with others daily. While I see some with 100+k and up not make any effort to thank anyone in their comments unless it’s to respond to a fellow instagramer who has 100+K themselves. Yet it’s those who are always on the Suggested list. Instagram has turned into what America has turned into, the rich getting richer and the poor struggle to stay afloat. I’m sad to see this…

What do you think?

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Aperture in a 50mm Lens

I volunteered to do a modeling shoot, and I got to learn a bit about how what apertures to use on a 50mm f/1.4 lens. In this case, I was using a Canon 50mm USM f/1.4 lens.

I don’t think you ever want to use it wide open since it gets really soft. At f/2.0 it is still soft but it has a nice blur. If you take a head shot at f/2.0, you get some really sharp eyes (if you focus there) and all the wrinkles blur away.

Do not use f/2.0 for a bust or full body shot. Bad idea. Everything is blurry.

When you get to f/5.0, that’s a great f-stop for a couple. You still aren’t tack sharp yet.

At f/5.6, you get tack sharp photos.

Beyond f/5.6 sharpness begins to fade, but just slightly.

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5 Instagram Tips for Newbies: A very biased film photographer perspective

These are my tips for newbies on Instagram.

1. When you first sign up follow a few select friends that will follow you back.

The Instagram community has suffered from the onslaught of spammers that actually sell fake follows and likes online. Don’t make the mistake of following every one of your facebook contacts and appear like one.

A spammy looking account has more followings than followers.

spammy_looking

A non-spammy newbie account looks like this:

cyndies_profile

Sure she’s following more people than are following her, but with continued engagement via likes and photos, this user will eventually have better than less than a 1:1 ratio.

2. Straighten out landscapes unless you are going for dynamic tension.

Photographers trained in film were taught to straighten out landscapes. Ya, I know, it sounds lame from a “there are no rules in art” perspective, but there it is. Lucky there are so few of us.

3. Don’t cut people off at the feet.

This is another prejudice of those trained in photography. It has to do with the notion that photography is about capturing a “subject,” but we post-moderns don’t believe in that, right? If photography is about capturing the subject it must do so completely.

4. Don’t follow people, get a follow back and then unfollow.

This is pretty douchey behavior reminiscent of MySpace days. While we are at it. Don’t ask for a shout out.

5. Don’t steal someone’s photo.

Got any other tips? Add them in the comments.

Cheers,
Barce.

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