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Monday, 08 February 2016


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The method of obtaining the photograph has changed in the last, shall we say twenty years.

Both from a mechanical (the actual method of recording the image be it on film, a glass palte negative or in some digital form) and too the convenience by which said action may be performed.

It is the convenience that kills.

The world "we" were raised in Mike, does not exist, now.

The world is all about "me, the person, I"; by any variety of names, the civilized non-war-torn world is all about the individual.

And then you make comment of Alexander (Zander); and recall your note to me some time ago of his coming into the world; you a single ather and the trials and tribulations
of same. I read that note, time and again and marvel at what your son has become, and you Dad, in exchange for raising your son.

It has always been my choice to shoot with permission, especially in South Asia and in foreign venues in general.
That said-the hysteria about being offended is part and parcel of a newly minted group that looks for ANYTHING that could be offensive so they can obtain power over someone else. It has little to do with common sense, and hopefully will die out when the current crop of newly offended grows up.

49 Selfie fatalities in a year, is that a lot? Seems a fair number to me. Comparing the number to the casualties by shark attacks for example is silly. A Jaws syndrome .
At this moment of writing there are 7.400.496.535* humans in this world. Some of us die when we are they are doing things. That's all in the game. Smoking, driving a motorcycle or a car (especially convertibles) or living in the USA** is much more dangerous than taking selfies. Probably the Andrey R. would have died young even without his smartphone, because he liked doing dangerous things.
How many photographers die each year on the job anyway even without taking risks. Must be a lot more than 49.

Wow, it’s already 7.400.500.055 now! More dangerous selfies please. Quick!
** Over 11.000 dead by guns and rifles each year

As a new, amateur photographer I can't speak to the trend but these stories are definitely discouraging and have kept me from taking some photographs I may have done otherwise. Thankfully, the US National Park site is helpful when it comes to photography: http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/photo-tips.htm

Two deaths caused by vending machines?

I had to know, so I Googled it. Apparently people tilt vending machines attempting to get them to deliver soda or candy. Tilt too far, and you can be crushed.

I wonder who they'd be voting for if they were still with us?

[Not Bloomberg, that's all we know. --Mike]

I have to say that the proportion of selfie deaths vs the number taken is so small I am not sure one can extrapolate anything truly meaningful from them: roughly 25 per year. Completely trivial (although sad) and much less than the number of people who die while taking a photo (from cardiac event, being hit by a car, murdered etc etc). Most people who die before their time are young men, because they take more risks, are more violent, and generally less inhibited than when they get older and more sensible. So this story is not really telling us much. The sample size is so small as to be insignificant. All we can really say is that young people do very silly things - we now just have to add selfie taking to the list.

[Where did you get your stats for "the number of people who die while taking a photo"? --Mike]

Seems a bit far-fetched to imagine that Bill Gates felt compelled to sell off the Western visual heritage to a Chinese holding company because he was short on cash.
Strikes me as more likely that he just didn't see it as important enough to be worth his time. As opposed to former partner Paul Allen who spent part of his billions acquiring a Gilded-Age-style collection of old master paintings.

Tragic, however please excuse my churlishness but this is but one reason why we have the Darwin Awards.

After reading the article ("Not a Good Luck") about how restrictive Australia is about photography in public places, I'm now thinking twice about visiting, especially with a camera. By comparison, I've taken photos in Communist China of all sorts of people and not had anything close to types of hassles ascribed to Australia. One can argue the ethics of photographing people without their permission, but I think we can all agree that being charged a fee to photograph a sunset is beyond the pale.

Between daring selfies, GoPro videos of daring do and making portraits on RR tracks it appears that narcissism is not a healthy thing. But then I am of a generation that turned to photography as a way of relating to the rest of the world.

Ten trillion per year? Wow. On the infamous DPreview, whenever someone mentions film, the hate talk emerges. But yet, it looks to me like the film photographers often do more insightful and meaningful work. Could it be that it really does require work and dedication?

It's not photography per se that's turning public opinion against photographers, its the public sharing of images that people find annoying and even a little threatening.

The old 'expectation of privacy' argument wears a bit thin if some poor lass has a wardrobe malfunction of front of some idiot with an iPhone and a YouTube account.

Digital photography has created a voyeurs paradise, which makes life a lot harder for the rest of us.

Minor thing - the article in the Australian was from 2010. But there has been similar activity of late! http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/what-a-ridiculous-day-landscape-photographer-ken-duncan-prevented-from-taking-photos-at-barangaroo-20151128-gladmz.html

Now's a pretty good moment to remind that correlation and causation aren't the same?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/taj-mahal-selfie-death_us_55ff99f1e4b00310edf7998e>E.g. it makes much more dramatic headlines to put "selfie there" and "heart attack" well hidden somewhere lower in the article...

As you wrote articles about photographers doing photoshoot on railways... Are those deaths due to inatention & a train coming or to taking photos with a camera / posing for a photoshoot?

Gordon Lewis makes a good point. If there's enough of an economic hit to tourism from these "regulations", you'll see them lifted rather quickly.

We live in times when it's tough to be male with a camera, but I'm still going out to shoot on the street. I keep the camera in plain sight, and shoot like I belong there, working on a story--which I am--and people assume I do.

I also worked for years as a photojournalist for a daily newspaper, so I have that confidence from frequently shooting in public spaces.

Fearfulness and hiding our camera is the thing that we must avoid. I sometimes walk with my camera to my eye for a whole city block. That tells people you're shooting and they come to accept it. Other times, I just walk with it around my neck and shoot without picking it up to my eye.

Both work great. Own the street. We have a right to be there. I've had a cop sent to talk to me. He said someone complained when I walked past the kids playing in a fountain. I told him I hadn't even photographed them that day, but had on previous occasions. I showed him my Web site, and the photo of kids playing, and he liked it. He agreed that I have a right to shoot in public, and he said he'd tell them.

Check my link below to see my Colorado Faces Street View gallery of work from Boulder, Denver and around the U.S.

We have to take back the street.

A certain percentage of young males have always found ways to get killed while proving their “manhood” to others—racing home-built hot rods on public roads, killing male lions armed only with a spear, jumping off of tall, rickety towers with only a slightly less-tall vine attached to an ankle, and so on. Now that same subset of risk-prone males can easily document it with their cell-phone cameras, enabling them to demonstrate to even more people how “manly” they are. It’s testosterone poisoning.

Having said that, I have to note that I long ago developed the habit, when photographing, of asking myself why I was taking a particular photo, and what it was about the subject that drew me to shoot it. The answer, of course, made me seriously consider how to incorporate that special quality of the scene before me into a photograph. Sometimes that process led me to consider how to convey the sense of danger I felt, or the sense of awe, or the immensity of some component of the scene. As a result, many a venomous spider found itself posing on my fingertip, and many a time I inserted myself into the scene to provide both a sense of scale and a human presence, by dangling my legs over some cliff, or standing atop some natural sandstone spire, or scaling precipice and standing atop it to show how really tall that waterfall was.

This might make it seem like not much has changed, but after some thought, I’ve concluded that’s not the case. First of all, while strictly speaking these might have been “selfies,” I was seldom identifiable in the resulting photos, unless you could identify me from my fingerprints (the spider photos) or from my tiny silhouette atop the precipice (the waterfall photos). So yes, I took risks, and yes, I was young and male, but I did it in service of the photographs, rather than as a plea for affirmation or validation. In addition, I always knew my subjects very well (the spider example), and I knew my physical capabilities and limitations (those cliffs and spires). And I was always very, very careful in these situations, because I was usually alone (hence the need to be my own subject), and I understood very well the consequences of getting injured or envenomated alone in the “back country.”

There’s one additional factor that differentiates these two behaviors, I think. The process of photography was much more deliberate in those days. Mount the camera on a tripod, and carefully frame the scene. Visualize where you would be in the frame, what posture would serve the composition, which direction to face to make best use of the light. Set the exposure manually. Devise some means of releasing the shutter once you’ve got yourself into the desired location and position (not the self-timer, as those tended to make you rush!). Once all the photographic details were set, you could concentrate completely on getting into position safely (and getting back out again afterwards). You were thinking all the time. I suspect that the convenience of the cell-phone camera’s automation, with no apparent requirement to think about the photographic details, lulls a lot of people into not thinking about the rest of the process—especially if they’re worried about who they might impress, and how extreme they need to appear to make that impression. That mindset, coupled with the need to hold the damned device out at arm’s length to make sure you look good in the frame, can serve as lethal distractions in these precarious situations.

photo caption reads "A 17-year-old Russian teenager identified only as Andrey R., weeks before he fell nine stories to his death while attempting another in a series of daredevil selfies" Hummm... "weeks before he fell nine stories to his death" how could that be? :-)

[I'm pretty alert to ambiguity, but I don't see how this could be confusing. Several weeks after this picture was taken, the guy in the picture fell nine stories from a building and died, in the process of attempting to take a daredevil self-portrait. (A rope broke.) What's not clear here? I changed the caption anyway, but I'm not seeing the problem. --Mike]

Gordon Lewis - Americans in particular often find it difficult to understand that there is no entrenched legal right to free speech in Australia. But do come visit Australia and bring your gear. If while you are here, you give Australians the same respect due to any other foreign culture you choose to visit, I doubt you will notice any restriction at all on your image making choices. As elsewhere in the Western world, there is something of a present tension between rights to privacy / ownership and rights to free speech / artistic endeavour. There are two particularly hot topics here at the moment, one mainly involving the cities and one mainly involving the outback. In the cities, there is sensitivity about unsolicited images of children and, in particular, at beaches / swimming pools. In the outback, there is sensitivity around indigenous beliefs relating to images of sacred sites, or on profit-making from images of indigenous lands. But there are societal and cultural sensitivities everywhere you may go in the world. Indeed, if you want everywhere to be the same as where you live, why travel at all?

Death by selfie is only a subset of morbidity associated with smartphone use or abuse (e.g., texting while driving). As such it is a very low number. The probability of a photojournalist being killed in combat is much higher. But then, "lifestyle hazards" are less significant than "occupational hazards." That's because the "lifestyle" base or denominator is greater than the occupation denominator.

Just saying.

Back when Gates was acquiring the Betteman Archive, and subsequent archives, it was presented in the press as an act of corporate or oligarchic stewardship. I remember reading an article that went into some detail about the climate controlled vault he'd had built for the purpose deep inside a mountain. Made it sound like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Saving Our Photographic Heritage For the Good of All Humanity. (I heard that when Gates made the recent deal he offered to include for a small surcharge his own mother's heart, but the Chinese didn't want to pay the freight.) Oh, well. Probably in safer hands at this point with the Chinese. Although it will probably be some decades before those Tiananmen Square photos see the light of day again.

I notice in the Pricenomics article that while 28 people are listed as dying due to self-induced selfie, 625 people died from erotic asphyxiation. You know at least one of them had to be taking a selfie; so I wonder which category they fall into?

You think Bill Gates takes selfies?

If. "suicide selfies" are the domain of young males, suicide texting (sexting? a no I think that's taken!) is the equivalent for women. Last night I watched a young lady walk across a dark street while texting - right in front of a truck. Fortunately the driver stopped in time but she continued across the street never missing a beat. I've seen another trip over a brownstone's steps in NYC, but she needed help.

When I first realized that we are in the midst of a selfie deluge I thought that we photographers never seemed to have realized that so many of the "normal" h. sapiens wanted to have their portraits done and hence it represents a huge lost opportunity especially for those who chased celebrities. However now I am convinced that this is a latest example of the Zahavi's Handicap Principle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handicap_principle

Incidentally collecting too much camera equipment may signal the same principle at work as well.

Coming to India, after drowning trains must be #2 cause of selfie deaths due to easy access to tracks in dense localities and a strange fascination with the speeding bulk of steel.



Interesting albeit morbid stats, Mike.

mi dos pesos

O, well. If Chief Seatlle would return today, he'd rephrase his words to: 'Who in his/her right mind could charge you for noticing and carefully recording the skies, the mountains, the Australian outback, the sun's light reflected on a human body swimming in the sea?'
In the near future, when everyone will be wearing google-glasses, just looking at whatever you please will probably be regulated by law.

Does the picture of Andrey R qualify as a selfie? He is not holding the camara, I suppose someone took a picture of him being dangerous to himself... His unfortunate but predictable death, being self-inflicted, comes closer to a selfie!

[I don't know. If he set up the camera himself then it's a selfie, if someone else took it then it's not. The illustration seems to have caused a bit of confusion. It's just a picture of a guy who, several weeks AFTER that picture was taken, was attempting to create a dramatic self-portrait, and a rope broke, and he fell nine stories on to a bush, which partially broke his fall, but he died the next day. It's not intended to be an example of a selfie and that's not why I put it up. It's a guy who later died while making a daredevil self-portrait is all. --Mike]

The article about Max Dupain and Ken Duncan referred to in the last section is old news - I know because firstly I was one of the organisers of the Sydney rally that it refers to and secondly I looked at the date on the post which is a bit hard to see being light gray on white!

The funny thing is, I have seen this article referred to quite recently on FB and others, making it appear to be current - it's as though it's had a second life.

Sadly, nothing has changed. I have given up shooting reportage in Australia - the hostility is astonishing. The default reaction is "what the xxxxx do you think you are doing..." It's all very disappointing.

According to the link you put up two people died from grenade related selfies. I find this amazing. I probably shouldn't but I do none the less.

Quick note: The piece opens with text including: "... are more than statistically likely to be..."

I'm not sure what that means. "Statistically more likely to be" , perhaps?

I imagine Bill couldn't resist a handsome return on investment.

I predict that the Tiananmen square images will be made unavailable, and that anyone who copies for fair use, eg, for a college course with online materials, will be SLAPPED with a lawsuit.

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