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Thursday, 01 November 2007


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Maybe I'm just blissfully out of touch, but as I read this I found myself wondering "Who's Stephen Fry?"

Thanks for that!

Maybe the solution is for authors to take fuzzy camera phone photos of their signatures, print them out on suitably fuzzy dye-ink printers, and hand those prints to people who insist on taking a picture.

I met Stephen at a book signing some years ago and I can assure you that, now that Douglas Adams is gone, he is, in fact, the single funniest English-speaking person on the planet.

Dave: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Fry

Very well said. Digital cameras, along with MS Powerpoint and emailing, are the stuff that give you love-hate feelings. The modern man and woman have probably made the largest number of crappy photos, complicated presentations and empty correspondences in the whole human history, which they waste time on and we will not likely to review or be enlightened by thereafter. I have heard that the "latest" pointless invention (in Canon's point-and-shoots?) is that the camera will focus (and take a picture?) when the subject smiles!!! Beware, authors, if that function too becomes ubiquitous and is left on, your face will be pretty tired when you autograph books next time. Digital cameras, Powerpoint and emailing are good stuff but maybe they should never be invented.

To divert a bit further--pardon me, your Eggcellency (don't chop me off; this is different. Last prank :])-- it is so very often nowadays that I see photographers, even with much experience, keep checking the photos right away and take more shots than enough as if they had lost the craft in taking good pictures. It seems to me that the focus is now more on the camera and a "good" photo than on the art and joy of recording the scene per se. Photographers are to fail when they interact too much with the "light-box" and not equally with the subjects, don't they?


"Maybe I'm just blissfully out of touch, but as I read this I found myself wondering "Who's Stephen Fry?""

Welcome to the club. He must be one of Mike's friends, the one whose website is adorned with a Giuseppe Arcimboldo inspired vegetal composition. But I must say that for a piece on "ahhh, the good old days... in my time... pfff, today's so-called photographers... etc..." it is well written.

Interesting to hear this from you, Stephen. But its just the price for fame! I am myself an author (in little Denmark), but we don't have this kind of craze in my country. To have your picture taken with some celebrity is a lot to ask, often too much. Instead of having a chat, the fans want a part of you to keep, a trophy ... It is quite scary when you think of it.

Oh, I checked WikiPedia right away, but from the small photos on Mr. Fry's website, my first thought was that he was the guy http://imdb.com/name/nm0002253/
who played Drew Carey's cross-dressing brother on the TV show.

I meant no slight by it, I just hadn't heard of him. Thanks to Mike for posting this essay, even if for me the reprinted portion of the essay missed the mark. I'm much more likely to talk to someone and forget I even have a camera with me, and then step outside and marvel at the weird architecture of the building across the street and take a picture of that.

Ahh, well. Back to my cave.

Hm, don't know where to start: this is weird.

First of all, i enjoyed reading Mr. Fry's post, and i think his experience is very typical for America. On the one hand, and on the other hand it is symptomatic for the way our "culture" goes. The problem here is not digicams but human nature or what media aided capitalism makes of it. People (are driven to) want to consume everything, really everything.

Still it is a bit different where i live (Vienna, Austria), but things are changing - and hey we have Starbucks meanwhile at every corner (just an example of ongoing uniformity). People are made to fear missing something. The whole ads are pushing things towards this direction. There is even a discussion if the future of photography lies within taking high-res-frame-grabs from videos. Imho this is exactly the counterpart of photography, but only my 2 cents.

Why are things differnt here? Because i went to Mallorca last fall and met a famous German actor (Heinz Hoenig) at the airport. Nobody bothered him, and i just asked him if he is himself, because i wasn't sure in the first place. He told me a funny story and that was the whole thing. I didn't take a picture of him, because it felt simply wrong to me in this moment. And i didn't miss anything because if i don't take (or make or whatsoever) a picture, than there is none. This is simple, but most people worry about missing a "capture" - sounds ridiculous to me.

Sorry for digressing a bit, but it made me just think, and close repeating that i liked the post.

hasta pronto

@ Stephen:

"...each customer would plonk a book down in front of me, we’d shoot the breeze for a while, author and reader in merry harmony, then they’d biff off to be replaced by the next in line."
Here in the U.S. there are 46 states that still consider public "biffing" to be a felony offense.

"So ... a conversation is a rarity these days. Today it’s the crushing embarrassment of standing in the street like a gibbon while a total stranger accosts other total strangers and asks them to take a photograph. "
Now be honest. Those weren't -really- conversations that you had with readers in days of yore, were they? I'd never heard of you before this piece but my impression is that you're a person that KNOWS when you're having a conversation versus just...well...having a biff.

Just a note from an English reader -- Stephen Fry is the long-time comedy partner of Hugh Laurie, the star of HOUSE. A big name on this side of the pond.

I am giving you a solution, Stephen. Ask the bookshop manager to take a photo of each and everyone of the customers, right away after you sign his or her book. Let the manager tell the customers that their printed photo will be available for free the next day for them to pick it up. This will increase the cue of customers, happy owners of your book, looking forward for a free photo of them posing with you. This procedure will be faster (all photos done by the same guy with the same camera, the manager) and more profitable for you all (increased sales).

Really? I've never heard of the word "biff" as slang for anything felonious, and my American is pretty good. Maybe it's just you teenagers....

Mike J.

(P.S. I know you're not a teenager.)

That's actually really brilliant. You forgot to mention that it brings the customer back to the bookstore for another visit, increasing his or her chances of buying something more, which would please the bookstore owner. But why let the manager take the pictures? The bookstore should hire a photographer! That way EVERYONE is happy--including people who makes their livings with a camera.

Mike J.

I hadn't heard of Stephen Fry either, but it reminded me of another camera-related Event. While hiking in the California Sierra, I came upon a guy who plonked his phone down on a rock, twiddled it a bit, and returned to his group of friends for a group biff. As he got back in queue, the camera fell over and took a picture of the ground. Bollocks! Without missing a step, I picked up the camera. They all smiled soupily and I took their picture...full auto mode. I handed the camera back and twitched on down the trail. Took about 5 seconds!
Now I will return to my Melville.

To those who have not experienced one of Stephen's performances on tv or film or theatre can I assure you he is one of the most accomplished performers of both comedy and straight acting the world has ever seen,also probably one of the most well read and cleverest people on the planet

Note to Dave Polaschek:

Dear Dave, it's not blissful to be so out of touch. Do the words Jeeves and Wooster mean anything? What about P.G. Wodehouse? What about Fry and Laurie?

Steven Fry is one of the great polymaths of our time. A great comedian, author, gadget freak, actor etc.
I have never had the privilege of meeting him, but would love to spend an afternoon (or day) over coffee discussing anything and everything.
The solution to his problem presented earlier (manager takes photos) is IMHO the perfect solution.

Articles like this are the sole reason I occasionally visit this blog.

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