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Thursday, 15 November 2018


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Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From https://theintercept.com/2018/11/15/amazon-echo-voice-recognition-accents-alexa/

"At the beginning of October, Amazon was quietly issued a patent that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice. Characteristics, or “voice features,” like language accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age, and background noise would be immediately extracted and tagged to the user’s data file to help deliver more targeted advertising."

Add this revelation to yesterdays post on photo/video fakes—more scary-tech.

I like the shot from Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits. Less is definitely more. Nothing is less real than surrealism.

While Vivian Maier was a very good street photographer, I prefer to see her as an artist who chose photography as her medium. Her self-portraits are remarkable art in themselves, and considering she was probably autodidactic, are amazingly inventive and creative.

By the way, before the film “Finding Vivian Maier,” by John Maloof, there was a BBC production by Jill Nicholls, called “Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?” which is better than the John Maloof effort. I saw it not long after it was made but unfortunately there may be a licensing issue as Ms. Nicholls film doesn’t seem to be available.


As a side note, it’s great to see that Joel Meyerowitz contributed the foreword to this new book. There are some fatuous blabber mouths–one who’s a blogger(not you, Mike–) who don’t think much of Vivian Maier, but their efforts are so transparently self-serving that not many take them seriously.

If anything, this book proves Maier's outright expanse of photographic genius- she was not only a superbly accomplished B&W photographer, she also had the refined chops and natural instinct to understand and successfully navigate the world of color whenever she so chose! These are not the results of occasional, haphazard experiments, they are proof positive of a firm grasp and mastery of the medium(s): square, monochromatic, or... otherwise. Those who'd continue to pooh-pooh this woman as some kind of idiot savant, second rate artist, only reveal the limits and inadequacies of their own prejudice.

“I talked to John on the phone in 2009, to urge him to stop selling off the negatives in small lots on eBay, which was his original plan.”

Well done. That would have been bad for everyone.

The movie is good.
Near the end it’s revealed that she was what is these days called a “complex person”. Meaning “talented, but could be very nasty”.

I bought a copy of "Finding Vivian Maier". I use it to verify that I have the appropriate software loaded to view DVD movies.

If any readers are close to Hamilton, Ontario, there is a Vivian Maier exhibition on right now. It's at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, but you better hurry up here to see it. The show ends January 6, 2019. The AGH is the only Canadian gallery to present this selection of her work. I've seen it twice and her pictures are, of course, wonderful and seeing them printed and hung on the walls (as opposed to a computer screen) makes them really special. Our dollar is trading at a pretty enticing rate right now if you are coming from the US. Great photography, dollar going about 30% further, what's not to love? Oh yeah, it's snowing.

Tell me, why does VM's book require the gratuitous crutch of another photographer's name on the cover? Isn't she draw enough?

Outwith photographic circles, it could well be that she is the better known of the two, and I'd be surprised if it's other snappers are going to be the main buyers.

Could it be just the manifestation of another aspect of the thought that Andrew Molitor expressed?


I love Amazon. The US site shows $64.89 for the kindle version (viewed from Japan). The Amazon Japan site at ¥7,373.

I wonder how that happens. Oh, actually I don't wonder. I know.

From what I've seen on vivienmaier.com, I would definitely buy this book, if I had any room left on my bookshelf (I don't).

Some folks whose initials are A.M. ... appear to be offended that the book exists ... to be sold, and that it has been given a form that supports this debased objective.

Yeah, welcome to publishing. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

Fascinating and always legitimate questions are being asked: What distinguishes this person's photography from famous photographers x, y and z? And for that matter, from the occasionally serendipitous products of random snapshooters?

This goes to the nature of photography, and the tropes and conventions of how it is promoted and consumed. They are important questions that need to be wrestled with. Unfortunately though, they may be unanswerable. I certainly don't know the answer(s), but I'll go on pondering the questions.

I do know that Vivien Maier enlarges my vocabulary of photography, and I'm real glad her work was 'discovered'. An aside: thanks to A.M for bringing this to my attention by his blog post :-)

I confess I haven't read the books, seen the movie or browsed any galleries of VM's pictures online. So this comment isn't about the work so much as the situation and what it says about us and the world of "Art"

To recap, in the VM situation, a load of previously unseen negatives from an unknown photographer were discovered. These have been assembled by some savvy people into various "products" (books, movies, etc.) A mythology has developed. People have come out of the wood work to declare the previously unknown photographer a genius. This process of piling on lends credibility to the original claim and builds the myth. At the same time, as the reputation of the unknown genius builds up, the people who piled on to declare her such are also elevated (it must take one to know one, right?) This happens all the time in many areas. Think of any recent tech bubble that builds around an exciting new software product or platform.

Now let's say VM was out and about on the streets today. Could any of this have happened? Given what little I know about her nature, she probably wouldn't have had an Instagram feed. Instead, we'd have someone buying a used laptop at a garage sale discovering a huge collection of previously unseen pictures in a Lightroom catalogue on the hard drive. What are the odds that this person could pull off a VM-type situation? Given that something like 1.8 billion photos are being uploaded to the Internet every day (at a minimum), there must be millions of hard drives in landfills and garage sales around the world full of "previously unseen" photographs by potential unknown geniuses....

Realistically, I think the odds of any of the photographers who created the pictures on any of these millions of lost hard drives being elevated to "previously unknown genius" status are low. It certainly couldn't be through a VM-type process. VM's found photos didn't have to compete with millions of other potential collections of found photos. So today's unknown genius couldn't be elevated based on the backstory. The pictures would actually have to be so amazingly good that they'd stand out from the billions and billions of other pictures being made every day.

So where am I going with this? Simply, how much of the supposed brilliance of VM's work is because of the backstory versus the actual merits of the work? Would you buy the books and see the movie if these pictures were contemporary and found on a hard drive today? If not, what does that say about how we decide what is and isn't outstanding in art?

FYI, as of yesterday, at least, the Jill Nichols documentary could be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gQ5aUUhvlQ

You did it to me again. I'm off to Amazon to get a Vivian Maier book but not the new 'Color Work' book.

But that's not why I'm writing this comment. In a web post at PetaPixel they mention that she used a 35mm camera for her color photography. There is one selfie that shows her holding a small camera. What it is exactly I can't tell.

This is probably the first time that I would like to ask her a question: Why 35mm for color?

@Rob de Loe- Your hypothetical as to how Ms. Maier would fare today on Instagram or in today's computer driven photography market is an interesting one, but not particularly fair or relevant, or even comparable to the reality.

Yeah, "the mythology" around Maier is indeed fascinating, and the reason it does so fascinate is because of her genius- a word not to be tossed about lightly (and no, you don't have to think yourself one to appreciate one). Crucial to her story is both the time she lived in, and the way she worked.

Not only did she work in near isolation, she also had very little feedback from her own work- the overwhelming vast majority of which went... unprinted! Again, that's where the term genius comes in- in some respects she was shooting "blind," without constructive criticism or encouragement of any kind... And yet, somehow, someway she continued to develop and refine her work to a level which rivaled the best of her contemporaries!

Sorry, if hogging up the space here- but the life and legacy of VM is one that reduces me (and I suspect a great many others) to child like fascination...

@John K- Guess we'll never know- but it could be that she just found handling that small Leica screw mount a lot easier with the slower speed color films available at the time (or not)... She'll forever remain "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma..."

@rob de lor- I sort agree with you in general about most of us doing photography. To be honest nothing mounment will come out perhaps. Is it ansel said that it would be nice to a good picture per year. To take picture is our attempt and be great or monumental cannot be predicted.

Lots of people can write in real pen or draw pictures. Million did and will do. Not many will produce great arts. In chinese calligraphies I can count how many great works. And millions have done in thousand of years.

She is great.

I do not have great work to show. But I can see in my last decade’s attempt 120 is really an unusual media. Just feel better. And unlike 8x10 you can do it quite a lot. And unlike 35mm that feel common (even her colour I would not see those sample as great and would not countinue if it is not her 120 work). A master of 120 BW. Like a good pianist of black and white key. Yes we all can type, play or attempt. Not all video of playing piano are great music.

Btw the price is 57 us$

@John Krill: "This is probably the first time that I would like to ask her a question: Why 35mm for color?"

Maybe she just wanted a different camera than her Rolleiflex, so she could retrain her muscle memory to help trigger a "color seeing/color doing" mode.

The author/curator Colin Westerbeck, and Joel Meyerowitz, who contributed the forward, co-wrote "Bystander: a history of street photography" in 1994 ("a book that has come to be known as the ‘bible’ of street photography") --

The new Maier book has a pretty good pedigree.

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