Archive for the ‘instagram’ Tag

Square Root of Instagram

In 2006 at Channel 4 (London) I commissioned a mobile-centred website called Big Art Mob. It enabled users to publish photos of Public Art (from sculptures to graffiti) from their mobile phones. In other words, it was basically Instagram 4 years before Instagram was invented. It was created with digital all-rounder Alfie Dennen (father of We Are Not Afraid) using a photo-publishing platform he had developed with partners named Moblog. I had been experimenting with Moblog for 18 months when a TV project about Public Art (The Big Art Project) came over the horizon and it struck me as an ideal place to apply Moblog technology.

The main difference from Instagram is that Big Art Mob’s photos were not in square format.

Today I went to see the Klimt / Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I have been a big admirer of Schiele since I heard about him from David Bowie on a radio programme around the time Lodger was released (1979). At the time the Austrian painter was little known outside cognoscenti circles (eg the Marlborough Gallery in London). I was taught a little by Frank Whitford at Cambridge who wrote the Phaidon monograph on Schiele. And I won a travel scholarship at Girton to go study his work in Vienna around 1984. Last year while working at ORF in Vienna I got to do a bit of a self-shaped Schiele tour to mark the centenary of his death which I wrote about in On The Trail of Egon Schiele. I even had a stab at a Schiele in a painting class I recently attended locally:

adam gee copy of egon schiele painting

The exhibition was excellent, bringing out the contrast between how and why Schiele and his mentor Klimt drew. Along the way it reminded me of Klimt’s distinctive adoption of the square format in his portrait painting. Which got me thinking about which other artists went square.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1903-1907)

Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is 1.38m by 1.38m. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer, husband of Adele. The painting was notoriously stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna, until being returned by the Austrian courts to Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in 2006 at which point it found a new home in New York. It is considered the zenith of Klimt’s golden period. It uses Klimt’s trademark technique of cropping the figure top and bottom to create a pillar through the canvas, here set slightly right to allow the bulk of the patterned dress or aura to balance the composition.

Square and portraits reminded me of the excellent Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year. The square format works particularly well in the double portraits which were the beating heart of that show.

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

My Parents by David Hockney (1977)

The emotionally resonant My Parents is 1.83m by 1.83m, even more epic than the Klimt, yet with the most down-to-earth subjects. Each parent occupies their own half in a very different way – attentive mum, square on, in her own space; pre-occupied dad, at an angle, overlapping the furniture – subtly capturing the difference in parent-child relationship.

Hockney was born on 9th July 1937, eight days before my dad. Nine days later another German Jew, Gerda Taro, died in Spain. She has the tragic distinction of being the first female photojournalist to have been killed while covering war at the frontline. This evening I started watching My Private War for this year’s BAFTA judging, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, a latter day Taro. Recently, also for voting purposes (BAFTA Documentary Film chapter), I watched the feature documentary Under The Wire, likewise about the life and death of Colvin (killed in Homs, Syria by an Assad regime air-strike). Taro was killed during the Spanish Civil War in a tragic accident involving a reversing Republican tank.

republican woman 1936 gerda taro

Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona by Gerda Taro (1936)

Taro was another stand-out squarist. She was partner of Magnum photojournalist Robert Capa. (Capa was introduced to the world by Picture Post in 1938, where my maternal grandfather worked. The Hungarian Jew, who famously lived out of a suitcase for most of his adult life, co-founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.) I saw Tara’s first ever US solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2007. Capa picked up the habit from Taro and there are a number of square photographs attributed to Capa which are widely thought to actually be the work of Taro.

These days I find myself photographing square by default. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram for years as a platform for photography only (none of the Stories bollocks or video). Initially it was an excellent way to syndicate your photos across your social accounts (when it was linked to Flickr – the monopolists must have disconnected on account of Yahoo’s ownership of Flickr I guess). Square poses its own compositional challenges which by and large I enjoy rising to – there are not that many shots I take which can’t be accommodated in the stable, equal-sided space. It encourages the use of diagonals which can be dynamic. Here’s one of my favourite of my square compositions:

statue of george orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London)

Statue of George Orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London) March 2018

The square is stable enough to carry the two dark figures on the right side. Orwell’s statue is characteristically smoking, hence the appeal of the BBC smoker – both are fag in hand. Of course Orwell like Taro was a graduate of the Spanish Civil War but he made it home to the BBC and to die in the relatively civilised surroundings of UCH (University College Hospital, established by two of my distant ancestors on the Picture Post grandfather’s side, and where both my boys were born). Orwell’s house (at 1 South End Road) is along the same road in Hampstead/Parliament Hill where my dad grew up. He was a child of refugees from Nazi Germany.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

To round off these square stories, Taro was given a funeral, attended by thousands, by the Communist Party of France. She was buried at Père Lachaise on 1st August 1937 (what would have been her 27th birthday) in a grave designed by Alberto Giacometti. On the tomb is written, in French and Catalan

So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 – an open-air display of Taro’s Spanish Civil War photos was included in the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. Leipzig is where my dad was born in July 1937 in the shadow of the Nazi fascist regime, a swastika and eagle on his birth certificate. When f/stop ended, it was decided that the display would become permanent. This was partly financed through crowdfunding. On the night of 3rd/4th August 2016 (two days after Taro’s 106th birthday), the display was destroyed by being daubed with black tar-like paint. This dark act of destruction was widely suspected to be motivated by anti-semitism or anti-refugee politics. A further crowdfunding campaign more than raised the €4,000 required to restore the vandalised photos. The equal and opposite forces of creativity and destruction, light and dark, squared up to one another.

Be there and be square.

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Quote of the Day: Social Media

Comparison is the thief of joy.

 

 

Attributed to Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the USA – but seems to be disputed.

facebook instagram snapchat logos on phones

 

Learning How to See

I went to the Dorothea Lange photography exhibition (Politics of Seeing) at the Barbican Art Gallery for the second time today on the way home from Little Dot Studios. There was a quotation by her I noticed the first time which struck me as strongly the second as it captures my view of Photography:

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera

Hence all my Instagramming over the years (and Moblogging before that).

Photographer Dorothea Lange with Graflex camera (1937)

Dorothea Lange with Graflex camera (1937)

Photograph Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother

‘Migrant Mother’ (1936)

Social Media Addicts Anonymous

social media addicts anonymous documentary film Poster real stories

The fourth of my documentaries commissioned for Real Stories (Little Dot Studios) went live last night. The full film is here for free [26 minute watch]. I collaborated with director/producer Simon Goodman of Showem Entertainment on this light, entertaining doc – we’ve been working on it since late 2016 so it emerges at an interesting moment in the evolution of Facebook and social media (Cambridge Analytica, betrayal of trust, abuse of personal data, #deletefacebook, etc.) It is our third collaboration after ‘Naked & Invisible’ and ‘Young Swingers’. All have a light surface but carry substance. This one plays out thus:

Six social media junkies put themselves in the hands of a psychologist specialising in digital addiction to try to break free of the clutches of social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. As a first step, they agree to have their accounts frozen and go cold turkey for a week. How long can they survive without their fix? What difference does this forced abstinence make to their lives?

These self-confessed addicts agree to ditch their virtual lives for some real-world truths by participating in a course of ‘shock treatment’ under the guidance of Harley Street counselling psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapist Dr. Becky Spelman.

The addicts range from 39-year-old Jill who says her social media usage is a marriage wrecker (“I use Facebook to avoid having sex with my husband”) through 20-year-old Freddie whose addiction to Snapchat has landed him three written warnings from work and who admits his smartphone usage makes him “become a bit of a psycho” to 30-year-old fitness model Tracy Kiss (2.6M Facebook followers) who says that her online activities are affecting her relationship with her kids to the point where if she doesn’t change soon “things will probably implode”.

The initial week-long programme raises all sorts of questions: What will they discover about themselves by going offline? How will they fill the online void in their lives and will the process create rewarding experiences for them? Can they find ways to stay connected to their friends and the world at large?

Through this group’s stories the film explores the wider issues for the generation now living in a world where they gauge their self-worth by the number of likes, favorites, or retweets they receive.

The final film was influenced by a comment made publicly by Sean Parker, the first President of Facebook, late last year: [about Facebook]

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

As the film entered the edit in February 2018, James Steyer, CEO & Founder of Common Sense, launched the Truth About Tech campaign, driven by the employees of social media platforms and other big players in Silicon Valley:

“We are into the appropriate and balanced use of technology. We are calling out the industry for their excesses and their intentional effects to manipulate and addict.”

120M Views 2017-05-24 Naked and Invisible video facebook

‘Naked & Invisible’ – 120M views in 10 days on Facebook

 

Little Dot gears up for SVoD

The latest news about the commissioning of original documentaries I’ve been doing at Little Dot Studios over the last few months – from today’s Broadcast 

by Alex Farber | 26 October 2017

Absent from our Own Wedding video still Little Dot Studios

Absent from our Own Wedding

All3Media-backed firm steps up commissioning and acquisitions in run-up to launch of service

Little Dot Studios has kicked off a commissioning and acquisitions drive as it prepares to launch an SVoD service later this year.

The All3Media-backed business has appointed former Channel 4 multiplatform commissioner Adam Gee and Beyond Distribution head of acquisitions Caitlin Meek-O’Connor to spearhead the push.

Commissioning editor Gee has ordered his first slate of originals, including Underworld TV’s Sorry I Shot You, Big Buddha Films and Medialab UK’s Absent From Our Own Wedding and Showem Entertainment’s In Your Face as part of a £200,000 investment.

The factual films, all of which run to around 15-20 minutes, will feature as part of the Shoreditch-based firm’s Real Stories online channel, which is distributed via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

The shows, due to launch in mid-November, will also be used as the bedrock for a forthcoming direct-to-consumer app alongside a host of third-party programming.

Shared profits

Meek-O’Connor has begun striking deals with distributors, with around 2,000 hours of programming licensed to date. Many of these shows are picked up from suppliers for free, with the profits generated shared equally – Little Dot is set to return around £1.5m to distributors this year.

Co-founder Andy Taylor said he is looking to exponentially grow the firm he established in 2013. The business, founded by Taylor and Selma Turajlic, has doubled in size year-on-year. In 2016, it posted a turnover of £9.8m, up from £5.2m the previous year. Operating profits jumped from £300,000 to £1.2m in this period.

“Someone needs to put a stake in the ground and build a premium mid-form destination because the quality of content currently is poor,” said Taylor. “There has been a massive explosion in mobile video but none of the resource or investment from TV has leaked over. In the next three to five years, I need to build channels with massive scale, which house only premium content.”

Taylor added that he is eyeing a direct-to- consumer launch by the end of the year, with platforms under consideration including Amazon Channels, Apple TV and Roku.

“We need to be on those platforms because the monetisation opportunities are so much better. It’s harder to get reach, but they offer much higher advertising rates and we can experiment with SVoD too,” he explained.

Real Stories is being touted as a subscription forerunner, with launches for science and history themed sister channels Spark and Timeline also being weighed up.

In September, Barcroft Media’s YouTube channel Barcroft TV launched an ad-funded TV app. However, Taylor is not turning his back on the digital giants and is putting particular focus on Facebook. Changes to the Mark Zuckerburg-run platform have meant that Little Dot video viewing has soared, from virtually zero to 150 million monthly views in just three months.

“The new Facebook”

From his 120- strong staff, Taylor has appointed eight Facebook-dedicated editors who are tasked with closely tracking the changes to its algorithm and reactively clipping and posting videos for maximum exposure.

“We are trying to grow the digital brands of the future,” said Taylor. “Our bet is that over time, the platforms have to favour premium content – because that is what advertisers demand.”

While people visit YouTube less frequently than they do Facebook, they tend to stay for longer and are happy to watch 15 to 20-minute videos. Facebook visitors prefer shorter clips. Taylor said that Instagram, which has three Little Dot editors assigned, is fast becoming “the new Facebook”.

Sport is another area of focus, with Sky Sports commercial manager Rory Rigney hired as senior partnerships manager to forge ties with rights holders to manage their channels. With talks under way with major football and cricketing governing bodies, the sports-themed channels will join Little Dot’s network of broadcaster and producer- owned channels, including ITV, Warner Bros, Discovery and Turner, as well as All3Media.

{text courtesy of Broadcast}

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