Surgically precise.

Earlier yesterday Ehud ­Olmert, Israel's prime minister, called the air campaign just "the first of several" phases of military operations. A proposal to call up 6,500 reservists has been approved and tanks have been ­massing near the Gaza border in case a land ­invasion is authorised.

Mark Regev, Olmert's spokesman, said there was no "quick fix" to end the crisis. Israel, he said, had enough international "understanding" to carry on as long as its attacks to stop Hamas rocket fire were "surgically precise" and it co-operated with attempts to deliver humanitarian relief. The absence of pressure from Washington is clearly an important factor, while Israel appears to rule out the EU playing a significant role.

"No senior envoy is on the way to Israel to stop the fighting," said Aluf Benn, the Haaretz diplomatic correspondent. "The Bush White House is very pleased with the blow struck against Hamas."

The above is lifted from an article in The Guardian newspaper.

A key phrase for me is "surgically precise". Consider that when you look at photographs such as this:

30 December: Palestinians bury the body of four-year-old Lama Hamdan at the Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip

Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters


So my congratulations to the military precision of the Israeli attacks on Gaza. It seems that with all that technology their firepower is about as precise as the rockets the Palestinians are firing into Israel.

The time for ending this conflict is long overdue.

For some excellent commentary on recent events check out the essays and articles over at znet (take a break and brew some coffee before perusing this site..) and also the writing by my favourite middle east correspondent Robert Fisk, whose conclusion to a recent article went like this:

If Israel indefinitely continues its billion dollar blitz on Gaza – and we all know who is paying for that – there will, at some stage, be an individual massacre; a school will be hit, a hospital or a pre-natal clinic or just an apartment packed with civilians. In other words, another Qana. At which point, a familiar story will be told; that Hamas destroyed the school/hospital/pre-natal clinic, that the journalists who report on the slaughter are anti-Semitic, that Israel is under threat, etc. We may even get the same disingenuous parallel with a disastrous RAF raid in the Second World War which both Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanayahu have used over the past quarter century to justify the killing of civilians.

And Hamas – which never had the courage to admit it killed two Palestinian girls with one of its own rockets last week – will cynically make profit from the grief with announcements of war crimes and "genocide".

At which point, the deeply despised and lame old UN donkey will be clip-clopped onto the scene to rescue the Israeli army and Hamas from this disgusting little war. Of course, saner minds may call all this off before the inevitable disaster. But I doubt it.



The Israeli military kills 200 Palestinians in one day


Palestinians gather at a bombed security compound of Hamas in Rafah, southern Gaza.
Photograph: Hatem Omar/AP

The photo above certainly has a post-apocalyptic feel.
Today, Israeli military responded in typically heavy handed fashion to rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants, who are in turn responding to the occupation of their territory and continued oppression. With reports of around 200 Palestinians dead and another 700 wounded, this is surely an act of utter contempt by the Israeli military for the civilian population; a blatent disregard for life with not even a pretence to make any distinction between militants and civilians. It makes me sick. Now we will see more rockets fired into Israel by Palestinians, suicide attacks and a rise in the level of hatred. In fact, a Palestinian response to this attack resulted in the death of one Israeli woman. One more pointless murder to add to the death toll. If we are to see peace in the middle east, Israel must surely play it's part and set a good example to the rest of the region. This is not it.

DxOMark

Find out how well your digital camera sensor performs in a number of tests including colour depth and dynamic range over at DxO labs website. They also compare their tests to the manufacturer's published data.

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/eng/DxOMark-Sensor


Very useful stuff.

Silent Night


Night sky viewed from Craignell, Galloway Forest Park



I live 14 miles from Manhattan, yet the glow of New York still turns the skys a hazy orange after the sun goes down. I always get a little starstruck (excuse the bad pun) when I find myself in a place where the light pollution is so low or non-existent that I can clearly see into the night sky.

Thankfully there are people working to preserve some parts of the planet specifically for this purpose. Read more here.



You've got something in your eye

Photo: Sebastian Willnow/AFP/Getty Images

If you have ever missed a photo you will have thought about how it would be possible to record what your eye sees without having to process the thought and raise your camera. Above is one solution.

I personally wonder how long it would be before you can get an implant that takes the electrical impulses from your eye and records them onto a hard drive so you can open them in photoshop as an image file.

It may not be too long. Film maker Rob Spence who lost his eye in an accident is currently working on having his prosthetic orb fitted with a wireless video camera. Even better is the team of scientists working on a flexible photo detector array.

Seeing as I don't fancy giving up one of my eyes (shortsighted and bespectacled though they are) to have a camera implanted I am still waiting for an optic nerve or visual cortex implant to be developed. I would work on it myself but I don't have a) the time b) the skills c) the cash. If anyone is willing to fund a switch of career to bio-engineering I may consider it.

Imagine being able to download print, share and distribute an image of anything you saw during the day. Never miss a moment - just point your head in the right direction and don't blink...

Actually sounds a little scary. Imagine the editing headache...

The auto industry



I took this photograph of cars sitting in a dealership covered by a blanket of snow. That day I was thinking about the multi billion dollar package given to the U.S. auto industry and the ruinous conditions attached that will ultimately harm the unions and the line workers much more than the executives. Later I pulled a book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from my shelf and opened it at random. This is what I read:




One fine day

a proud owner of a brand-new car

started up his infernal combustion engine

and with the first gasp of gas

the whole car gasped

and out the exhaust pipe emerged

a very small scream

as of a very small animal trapped

in the bowels of the motor

The owner heard it and

thought perhaps a cat or rat

was trapped under the car

He put it in gear

and slowly turned out

into the roadway

But the little scream

didn't stop

He looked back through his mirror

and saw nothing at all

He pulled over and got out and

looked under the machine

There was nothing caught or hanging down

The scream had stopped

when he stopped the car

but when he started up again

the scream arose again and it grew louder as he

stepped on the gas

He thought he might outrun it

He thought perhaps if he raced the motor

he could clear it

like a frog in the throat

So he took off down the boulevard

but the faster he went

the louder the scream became

Then he heard all the other cars screaming

and people were hanging out the windows

of all the houses on each side

and holding their ears

looking at all the cars screaming

And as the traffic increased at rush hour

a great roar of animal agony

as if all the animals in the world

were caught in all the machines

of the world

And the roaring grew and grew

And the drivers kept on driving

and driving and driving and...

The Genius Of Photography

I am just re-watching this excellent BBC series on the history of photography. Though more of a selective overview than a comprehensive survey it is well produced, with some great comments from photographers and historians and of course a ton of excellent photography. One of my favourite sections is this one with Tony Vaccaro, especially his story on processing negatives without a darkroom, and his assertion that Robert Capa was 'dead wrong' about the romance of war.



I would recommend you purchase the DVD of this six part series but there doesn't seem to be one. There is a book though and you can find all the episodes for download with a quick internet search...


Stephen Dupont

The other week a couple of friends were in town and wanted to check out the New York Public Library. Among the many delights of this place there was an exhibition of photographs by Australian photographer Stephen Dupont. There were two strands to the exhibit - portraits taken on a Kabul street one afternoon with a Polaroid Land camera and journalistic work from fifteen years of work in Afghanistan. I was impressed by both, but I was also impressed with the choice of images on display, some of which were very graphic. I commend curator Robert B. Menschel for not flinching away from showing these images in what is after all a public space and not a specialist publication, private gallery or artist's book. (CORRECTION: The curator is actually Stephen Pinson, who is the Robert B. Menschel Curator of the Photography Collection at the NYPL. - Thanks to the anonymous commentator for pointing that out!)

Take this one for example:



A young girl wounded in a rocket attack being operated on at Kabul's Jamuriat hospital, 1993 photograph by Stephen Dupont.

After looking at this particular series of images from over a decade in a war torn country I turned around to see this serene scene.




Quite a contrast.

See some more on Stephen Dupont here. The exhibit runs until January 25th 2009.

Halal


Rawalpindi, Pakistan: A butcher holds a knife after slaughtering a cow
Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP


After reading the caption to this image I couldn't help but think about the recent violence in Mumbai. The first I heard of the attacks was when I read a message from a friend letting me know he and his wife were at home and safe. Safe from what I wondered, and checked out the news to find out what was going on...

It seems as if the perpetrators were all of Pakistani nationality. This is not to say that this Pakistani butcher had anything to do with or condones these horrific events. On the contrary, I imagine he is more concerned with day to day living than senseless murder carried out in the name of some grand ideological struggle.

However, this is how my mind read this image:

This butcher probably killed a cow in line with the religious edicts of Islam (where the blood is drained from the body in a ritual slaughter involving the swift severing of the jugular) while in India cows are sacred animals not to be harmed. Considering the tensions between India and Pakistan are due in the main to the ethnic division along religious lines that was the basis for the creation of the two states - thanks to some post world war II political interferance by the British government - this image seems to allude to more than the everyday act of killing an animal for food. The focus on the butchers knife, the casual pose alluding to an act just performed, the cropping that excludes the face and transforms this butcher into an archetype and indeed the lack of anything in the image that identify this person as a butcher specifically all add to the ambiguity of this image. It is only the caption that grounds this photograph in the everyday. Without these words, it is a photograph that invites questions and gave me pause.




Voices Of Harlem - NYC Bridge Project

If you were a photographer in New York on election day, chances are you were in Harlem. Not me though, I was fast asleep in front of the TV. Anyway, among the photographers who actually worked on that day were Danny Peralta and Bashira Webb, who I had the pleasure of working with on a project earlier this year through the ICP community programs.

They recently sent me this video piece entitled 'Voices of Harlem' in which they worked with student photographers to record the thoughts of Harlem residents on election day.











This video is part of a broader enterprise called the NYC Bridge Project which is a 'collaborative of photographers working to instill the spirit of storytelling to a new generation of photographers who normally would never have access to photography. As these young storytellers grow as conscious journalists they become mentors to a newer generation of storytellers.'


Check out the video on youtube here.

And Kudos to Danny and Bashira for passing on the knowledge.

Remembering Cheney...

I don't think we've seen the last of this man, but here is a moment from his past. I would caption this photo "These are the boots I will stomp all over you with. Lick 'em."





Photograph: Matt Campbell/EPA



Please add any humourous/disturbing captions as you see fit.



Smoke 'em if you got 'em.




Both these images were taken by Hector Acebes in Benin in 1953. If you're in London you can see some of his prints among others in Tribal Portraits: Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent at Bernard J Shapero Rare Books, 32 St George Street, London W1S 2EA.

This exhibition contains around 200 rare images dating from 1865 to the present day, some of which are for sale. The exhibition runs from 2 to 23 December.

To be honest - leaving the problems of the colonial exoticism of tribal photography aside - I wonder if the collection shows the relaxed, leisurely side of life in this vast continent. It would perhaps remind us that it was not and is not always a war torn poverty stricken place, but contains some of the most amazing and beautiful people and places in our world. Unfortunately I won't get a chance to check it out myself. I will be in London in January, just a week too late to catch this exhibit. Nevermind...

Unexploded Ordinance


Boats fashioned from US fighter-bomber drop tanks

Photograph: Sean Sutton/MAG



See more of Sean Sutton's work here and also on the MAG (Mines Advisory Group) website here which, obviously, also contains lots of information on the important and excellent work done by the organisation.



Immigration and Healthcare

In August I saved a copy of the New York Times with the intention of writing about an article that appeared in it's pages. I never got round to it. Just a couple of weeks ago there was a companion article on the same subject; connecting the two political issues of healthcare and immigration.

I think both these pieces are fascinating and excellent. I was glad to see the New York Times devoting the column inches and also reproducing the photographs large. Some good work by writer Deborah Sontag and photographer Josh Haner.

Read the articles - with links to the slideshows - one from August here and one from November here.


Here's a couple of Josh Haner's images.