Monday, June 30, 2014

"Who's Hitler?"

One of the joys and curiosities of child rearing is that moment when you remember that the things you think everyone knows aren't pre-installed.  It starts with infants and toddlers, like when it was first explained to me that the reason they throw things from their high chairs over and over is because they don't know for sure that objects fall every time.

And so it was when a TV show made a joke about killing Hitler one day, and my daughter asked, "Who's Hitler?"

I didn't know what to think.  I mean, I answered the question and added the requisite moral at the end (Holocaust and totalitarianism are bad, and it cost a lot to get rid of them), but then I was left to wonder what exactly that question meant.

Should I be happy that I'm able to raise children in an environment where someone like Hitler is an alien concept?  Should I be alarmed that she hadn't somehow encountered that period in a history class yet?  (Frankly, not really; she wasn't that old when she asked.)  Should I hurry to warn her that evil exists, or let her enjoy childhood as it slips comfortably by?

I guess mainly I enjoyed the idea of a life without the need of knowing about Hitler and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, Savonarola and the Spanish Inquisition.  There's an appeal to thinking about a spring-like future of happy children, all of whom greet the question with puzzled blankness.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tumbling Along

So I got on Tumblr some time ago because a friend pointed out that all the "experts" were saying it was The Next Big Thing, and if you wanted to stay current, you had to be on it.  Problem was, I wasn't quite sure what it was.

Was it a blog?  Was it like Facebook (which was The Last Big Thing then)?  Pinterest was yet to come, but that answered another thing that it wasn't.

Anyway, I built my site nonetheless (and posted a few lamentations that I didn't know what to do with it) and let it lay for a while.

Now, it seems to have matured into its own, and I have a sense of what it is, even if I don't think I do that well.  Others do, like Modern Hepburn or The Fuller View, both more photography based and so obviously more interesting to me.

And while some are interesting because of everything from odd subject matter to layout, I wanted to write about the two above in particular, because I think they show what to me is an interesting style (perhaps a new trend?) in photography. 

The pictures are of pleasant things, clean and somewhat nostalgic of good times gone by, but clearly current, indicating that the life they show is still attainable.  They are somewhat reductionist, showing only essential fragments of the whole, either saying that this perfect detail is what makes the moment, or perhaps that they don't need to tell the whole story.  Like a Zen poem, it's delivering just enough for the viewer to build all the rest.

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly 
                                              - Basho

The sun shines in the pictures, no laundry waits to be done, no garbage needs to be taken out.  The people are not idle, but they are not preparing to rush out to dreary jobs.  They are very satisfying images, little moments of peace and wish fulfillment, successors perhaps to Slim Aarons' pictures of the debutantes and aristocrats of the 1950s.  They seem both new and old at the same time; I struggle to articulate what attracts me to these images.

It's just that I sense something attractive and interesting ...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Again with the Leica ...

So this is cute ...

But if you ask me, it completely misses the point.

You use the Leica M for two reasons:
1. To be able to use the lenses made for it by Leitz and Zeiss and a few others, or
2. To be quick and quiet and inconspicuous.

Of course, I've noted a third reason in the past: because its setup and design makes the photographic experience different than with, for example, a DSLR.

Now, why would you use the Petzval lens?  Well, primarily for the old-style effect.  It's very cool, and I wish I had one, but frankly, if it's all about the lens, it doesn't matter what the box it's attached to is. It's actually a design based on lenses made in the 19th Century for big view cameras. 

And thus, attaching a Petzval to a Leica M3 is pointless.  The Leica shutter and film plane are not any more special (except that the shutter is noted for its quiet) than any other camera.  As a matter of fact, with something as spooky in terms as focus as the Petzval, I think I'd much rather be able to back check my image through an SLR viewfinder.

So, really, what's the point?