Delving A’dam, espying Eve

After a series of workshops at the University of Amsterdam, we retired to Café Van Zuylen for beer and soup, waiting out the Friday evening traffic before heading south on a three-hour drive done in 2 hrs 10″, thanks to my driver’s belief that speed radars don’t work at night.

Café Van Zuylen
Mobile photo, edited in-camera with Pixlr-o-matic

In the lower bar, I saw a familiar head — grey flattop, hangdog features — red party tie and sobre overcoat. I only put the name to the face a few hours later (Ronald Plasterk, former education minister), and later still, realized that he must have just come from the election for the Labour Party leadership, which he lost.


End of the Non-aligned Movement

First HDR photo using a tripod, which means no more caffeine-induced wobbly hands and blurred photo merging.

What do you think?


Spanjardstraat (HDR image)

One man’s fish is another man’s poisson

I posted the following image on Flickr recently and all the comments suggested cropping and eliminating distracting elements.

Gone fishin'

I tried to do what was suggested — I’m quite proud of the cloning, especially under the bridge — but it left me wondering about the differences in opinions regarding the two images.

Gone fishin' 2

I made the following comment in Flickr:

Nevertheless, I still feel that the original version is interesting — in the style of 19th century painting, the “extra” elements that distract the 21st century eye can be read individually, and separately from a single, whole image. Now we look for the overall composition in terms of fairly minimal lines, and expect a one-word “feeling”, such as “bliss”, “peace” or “still”.

Pre-Modern art often sought to tell a narrative through multiple symbols, and the whole might be broken into sub-sections with their own composition of lines, texture, shading, etc. Certainly visual art in the past served to tell a story, often moralistic, for a largely illiterate public. In contrast, contemporary art prefers a single message, usually emotional, and sees multiple elements as extraneous and distracting.

Sign of the times?


Ria Bacon, Photographer

Another string to my fiddle, to add to those of editor, translator and trainer — marked by the first time I have been paid for one of my photos!

Here it is, a double half-page spread in the New York Magazine.

Ria Bacon, Photographer

Regular readers of this blog may have already seen the picture gracing the header on this web page.

I said above that this was the first time I had been paid for a published photo, but it is not the first time I have had a photo published.

The first time was in the Jamaica Observer, and was part of an unpaid photostory feature by readers. The second time was in the Chicago Sun-Trib, when a photo was used without permission and without payment.

When I queried this action, I was offered an apology and payment, but never received a cent. The person responsible was later promoted to the board of the newspaper, before being sacked and taking up a position at the Huffington Post. That’s what you get when you mess with da Ria ;-)

The third publication was actually a non-event. A UK publisher of educational reference books asked permission to use one of my photos. I agreed and quoted a price based on what I considered reasonable ($150).

The publisher replied that he hadn’t anticipated such a high figure (!). I then asked what he considered reasonable, and was told that he normally paid $70 … but that he no longer needed my photo.

I am sure he thought he could use it for free, not having offered anything in the first place. He twice mentioned that his was a small publishing house, yet the reference book in question had a print run to supply all the UK school libraries and cost around $50 per copy!

Bloody cheek.

One of these days I’m going to sort out my photo files and promote them more effectively. Any recommendations for making more money?

(One of these days … One of these days …)

Clean your teeth, purify your soul

Sothiou salesmanThroughout the year in Senegal, but especially during Ramadan, the traditional toothpick, the sothiou, can be seen in almost every mouth. In addition to cleaning your teeth and freshening your breath, it is also seen as a sign of piety, distracting you from the evils of smoking, keeping your mouth pure for prayer time, and fooling your stomach by chewing something during the fast period.

Just as with the baffling range of toothbrush technologies in the north, so in West Africa there are different twigs for different folks. There’s the Saudi “siwak”, highly prized for its pain-killing effect; the myrobalan, tamarinier, cola, or my favourite, the “mate xewel” (meaning “bite your luck” in Wolof), which will supposedly attract money to its masticator. During Ramadan, however, the “nep nep” is king. One young salesman explained,

It’s the dryest one. It doesn’t make you salivate too much. It prevents bad breath, treats toothache, calms irritated gums and heals infections with its antibiotic power.”

With these claims and a price tag of only a few cents, the big toothbrush manufacturers should take note.

But take note: they don’t come in day-glo green, orange or pink.

You can see a sothiou in action in a picture I took previously.