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Chuck O’Rear Discusses his Ubiquitous, 1996 Image: “Bliss”

With support for Windows XP finally coming to an end (after 12 years, no less), Microsoft tracked down Chuck O’Rear, the most widely circulated photographer you’ve never heard of, to discuss his world-famous image.

Video directed by Marcel Buunk and Bart Leferink.

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2014.04.12 (Sat) 17:32 · 17:32

A Different Kind of Glass Negative

Purely by accident, I stumbled upon this Wikipedia article on Photosensitive Glass. Although the medium is only sensitive in the ultraviolet spectrum (specifically 300-350 nm wavelength), it could be used to produce transparencies and dia-positives with potentially better archival qualities than palladotype or platinotype prints.

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A Crisis of Conscience and Courage, part 2

Sometimes, I am my own harshest critic.

While researching migrant and refugee groups in new Zealand,  I came (quite spontaneously and unexpectedly) to the uncomfortable realisation that, while I was still confident in my ability to document the lives of refugees, and to produce interesting and poignant images in the process, I was in no position to relate to these people.

Quite apart from the obvious cultural gulfs, the problem was that I lacked any frame of reference to even begin to grasp what these people had survived and suffered, and no amount of research could serve as a substitute. Simple empathy, or even outrage, could not in itself suffice to lend real meaning to such an essay, and to do justice to the shattered lives of displaced people.

Who was I to pretend to speak for people I could not honestly claim to comprehend? What have I to say? How could I do anything but trivialize the issue? I felt that I would be at grave risk of doing these people a great injustice in making them a subject of some school project.

That moment was a test of integrity, courage and will. I don’t mean to dramatise this, but it represented a important turning-point in how I thought of myself as a photographer. Before I had even pressed the shutter release, it was necessary to debate and define what it meant to be an ethical, professional, documentary photographer.

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A Crisis of Conscience and Courage, part 1

I am currently in the process of planning a photographic documentary project, as part of my university photography course. My choice of topic was audacious: I wanted to document a cross-section of the lives of refugees living in New Zealand.

To understand why I would choose such an emotionally difficult and fraught topic, it is necessary for me to share an equally difficult (for me) event that is still painfully recent. During the last break I went back home to see the folks, including my step-father’s terminally-ill father. It was impressed upon me that he was nearing the end of his battle with cancer, and that this was most likely that last time I would see him. Naturally, I wanted the chance to say goodbye and, of course, brought my camera.

On the last occasion that I had seen him, he was struggling through the ordeal of chemotherapy. It was the greatest display of strength and courage I had ever witnessed. Perhaps I hoped to capture something of that spirit in this brave man’s final days. Perhaps I ought to have known better.

The brave man was gone, his spirit finally broken by the disease that had destroyed his body. The man who looked back at me from that bed was already dead. “If I had a switch,” he rasped, “I would…”

I couldn’t bring myself to even lift my camera.

The end that came a few days later punctuated my complete failure of nerve.

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