Tag Archives: photography

Looking at the People of Walmart

Yes, I know. We’ve all seen the pictures. Fat people. Poor people. Poorly dressed people. Disabled people. Photos taken secretly at unflattering angles and then posted on the Internet for others to share and mock.

Doesn’t sound so funny when you say it like that, does it? Don’t try to tell me it’s all in fun. It’s not fun for people who see their own pictures being posted. If you wouldn’t point and comment and laugh at a person IRL – and I’d like to think no one over the mental age of 13 would – why is it okay to do it online?

It’s not that I’m a fan of Walmart. I’m not. I won’t shop there myself, and not just because I’m afraid of seeing a picture of my ass when I bend over to get something off the bottom shelf displayed on my Facebook feed.

But some people have no other realistic choices. People who live in rural areas, for example. Walmart may be the only grocery store/department store within miles of where they live. It’s the same for people in small towns (once Walmart has run all the Mom-n-Pop shops away). I live in a nice suburban area with lots of shopping choices, but I know people who don’t. For them, making a monthly or weekly trip to “Wally World” is a necessity.

Other people shop at Walmart simply because they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. Walmart may not be known for high-quality products or an appealing selection, but they are known for low prices.

Do these people really need to add potential humiliation to the struggles of their everyday lives? Or do they deserve respect like other human beings?

It’s also worth giving a thought to the people who work at Walmart, which is not known as a kind and sensitive, or high-paying, employer. Many a Walmart worker gets so little income from their labor that they are receiving SNAP benefits (as food stamps are now called). It’s been pointed out that when employees have to rely on food stamps and the employers don’t pay a living wage – and get government tax breaks – it is actually corporate welfare.

Finding reasons to hate Walmart is easy enough. Marketwatch once published a story, “Four Reasons Walmart Is the Most Hated Retailer in America.” AlterNet reported that Walmart and its managers treat workers “like dirt, including low wages, no benefits, irregular schedules, and unreliable hours,” as well as disrespect such as forcing workers to do heavy-duty work despite medical conditions and pregnancies. Recently Walmart took a hit when it reclassified a disabled greeter’s job so it required him to be able to lift 40 pounds. (Public outcry caused them to walk back the decision.) Walmart also has a bad record with regard to settling employee grievances and labor organizing.

So as far as I’m concerned, say what you will about Walmart the company. Bitch all you want to about their merchandise, their checkout lines, and their corporate management. But leave their greeters and other employees out of it. They have it rough enough. They deserve respect, too.

And before you post a picture titled “People of Walmart,” think twice. The fact that the photos are taken and shared without the subjects’ permission may mean they are technically legal since they are taken in a public place. But honestly, don’t we have better things to do than appearance-shaming people who shop there – or any people, for that matter? Show some class, people. Don’t share the photos.

Why Do Models Look So Mean?

“Fierce!”

You hear it on Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model.

Apparently, that’s the “look” that designers and fashion models and photographers want to portray. Do they really think it will sell clothes?

Someone must think so. But why? Why would I take fashion advice from someone who looks surly and disagreeable and fierce? Whatever happened to models that smiled, like they were enjoying their clothes and knew they looked good in them?

Actually, I think the models in ads that appear in “women’s” magazines and online sites and TV ads may smile from time to time. It’s a question of who buys the product. If women are buying a product – say a pair of jeans – they’d like to think that they will be delighted by them. They will smile.

(Maybe the women in SI‘s swimsuit issue smile too, but I’m not going to do the research on that. It’s doubtful that many of the men who read it are thinking, “I think I’ll buy that for my significant other. That’ll make her happy.” What they’re selling isn’t bathing suits.)

But when it comes to high fashion – and Valentine’s day perfume ads – the women pout at the least, and more likely snarl and glare, directly at the camera.

I don’t get high fashion (or haute couture, if you want to be classy). I don’t mean just that I don’t buy or wear it (which, you may have guessed, I don’t). I don’t get the psychology of it.

Are the fashion shows and ads trying to appeal to the “male gaze”? Obviously, they are, with the boobs and butts prominently displayed. But what about the faces? I understand that men are supposed to fantasize about having sex with these women. But don’t most men prefer a partner who looks happy about the encounter? Apparently, ad execs and fashion show coordinators believe that men prefer what they think is a sultry gaze, but more often looks like a man-eater who’s been dieting for a month.

Again, man-on-the-street men aren’t the target audience for high fashion. Seemingly, neither are non-independently-wealthy women. Who does that leave? Androgynous buyers for high-end department stores? Art directors of expensive, glossy magazines that cater to the glamour set? Other fashion designers?

In other words, people to whom the clothes may be important, but the women wearing them aren’t. The models are walking clothes hangers, so who cares whether they’re happy? And the fashion purveyors have convinced themselves that fierce is fashionable, as long as you’re not really trying to sell a product.

Of course, the smiling, laughing, dancing model isn’t all that accurate either. “Women laughing alone with salad” is the stereotype. But it appears in other forms – women dancing over how good their probiotics make them feel, frolicking playfully at the thought of new lipsticks and blow dryers, or singing about their favorite brand of cottage cheese. I roll my eyes at them until I’m afraid I’ll get stuck staring at the inside of my skull. Other times, I just assume they’re all on amphetamines.

Male models, now. No smiles there either, but the word for them is “aloof.” Half the time they don’t even look at the camera. If this is supposed to be attractive to the female gaze, again I don’t get it or must not have it.

The stereotype here is that women want cool, unapproachable men whom they can arouse and then domesticate. Think Mr. Spock, for example. Only with better abs.

Again, I’d prefer a partner who seems to enjoy being with me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Art Is Love. Art Is Work. Art Is Football.

Art is love.

Deep in our hearts, most of us long to be artists. Most artists, deep in their hearts, long to be some other kind of artist.

I can write, but I would really like to be able to sing.

Dan can sing, but he would really like to be able to draw.

Jason can draw, but he would really like to be able to paint.

Peggy can paint, but she would really like to be able to write.

And all of us wish we could be better at the creative things we can do.

Art Creative Imagination Inspiration ConceptWhen I say “creative things,” I’m not just talking about the fine arts, either. Quilting, cooking, crocheting, and woodworking can all be creative acts. It all depends on the imagination, the love, and the attention you put into it.

Art is a process as much as it is a product. The process itself is valuable, even if the art never reaches professional levels. It expands the mind without drugs. It stretches your creative muscles without workout clothes. It brings frustration, and satisfaction, and courage, and effort, and pleasure, and giving all together. Just like love.

Art is work.

Remember the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice!” It’s not enough to want to create art. Even singers born with perfect pitch have to practice breath control, projection, and reading music.

Dan will not learn to draw unless he tries, fails, tries again, takes classes, studies other people’s drawings, starts with something simple, practices, and practices, and practices. He may never become an artist in the sense of selling his works, but he will improve. And if he doesn’t improve enough to satisfy his inner longing, he can try photography or songwriting.

Art is work for your brains. And for your hands. And for making them work in sync. No one was ever born at the height of their creative powers. (Well, maybe Mozart, but I bet his compositions improved from when he was a child prodigy to his later works.) You may be born with creativity – we all are – but you will never make anything of it unless you use it.

The workers who made up the Bread and Roses movement had it right. Originally a call for both fair wages and dignified conditions for workers, the slogan has been used in poems and songs: “Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread but give us roses.” Roses are what feed the heart. So does art. Art is necessary to our lives, a fact that has apparently been forgotten by everyone from politicians to businesspeople to educators.

Giving up on art is a sad thing. Never trying is worse. You may not be depriving the world of brilliance, but you are depriving yourself of potential and joy.

Art is football.

Young people playing sports imagine that it will propel them to the Good Life – fame, glory, sex, and millions and millions of dollars. Art can do that too. It allows a person to aspire to gallery shows, museums, art auctions, becoming a household name, and millions and millions of dollars.

Of course, that happens to only a select few persons – football players and artists alike.

But that’s not the point. If you truly love your art – or your sport – you do it anyway.

That’s not to say there are no ways to get recognition. You can teach art to others, just as you can coach pee-wee football. You can enter your artwork in local competitions and even state fairs. You can sell it at a booth at an outdoor art fair. You can give it to friends as birthday and holiday presents. Or you can keep it to yourself, for your own enjoyment, as Emily Dickinson did. You can even combine two of your passions and do art about athletics, like Leroy Neiman.

Nurture your art as you would a relationship. Throw yourself into it as you would work. Improve at it as you would at sports. Grow and your art grows with you. And as your art grows, so do you.

 

 

Better Than a Flying Toaster

 

tultr copyWhat a long way we’ve come from the days of flying toasters! Now instead of using a prefab screensaver or lock screen, it’s easy to create one of your own – one that has a special meaning for you.

My husband is a talented amateur photographer, specializing in nature photos. He didn’t have confidence in himself, however, dbl orng copyand I wanted to do something that would let him know how much I appreciate his talent and how much I love the results.

When he started taking photos I had assisted by cropping and color-correcting them. But after he stopped using his camera phone and got a small, peppers copyinexpensive, but fairly good quality digital camera, the most his photos needed was a tiny tweak or crop. There was nothing else I could do to the photos that would improve them.

Without telling him, I arranged a dozen or so of his photos into a photo by Dan Reilyslideshow with Ken Burns dissolves and used that as my screensaver. Then I invited him into my study and made conversation until the screensaver
kicked in. “Hey!” he said, “Those are my photos!” He was really touched that I had liked them enough to use them. Crocus copy

Later that year I selected a number of the photos and had them made into a calendar as a surprise for him and Christmas gifts for our friends and family. It was my way of showing how much I thought of his photography and how much I love him. I don’t think I will ever find a better screensaver, though I may add slides to it as he continues to snap his way through nature.

Photos by Dan Reily

It’s All Been Done

The other day my husband came to me, despondent about his photography. “I don’t know what I can shoot that hasn’t already been done by someone else.”

Over the past couple of years, Dan has become a pretty decent nature photographer. He’s developed his eye, learned about S-curves and the two-thirds rule, and considers background and foreground more. When he first started, I would tinker with the contrast and saturation and shadows, but now all I have to do is maybe crop them a little. Sometimes not even that.

Here are a few of his photos. ImageImageImage

I liked them so much that I made them into a slide show for my screen saver. He was surprised and touched.

Then I decided to share them with friends and family. I had 15 calendars manufactured featuring the photos and sent them out as holiday gifts. They were a hit. A stranger saw one at the packing/shipping store and asked if he could buy one.

Then Dan started angsting about having no worlds left to conquer and I had to give him a pep talk. It’s the same with writers, I told him. There are only six plots in the world (around that number, anyway) and literature continues to happen. I told him that yes, every flower has been photographed by someone, but not by him, with his own unique sensibility.

And I suggested that if he was tired of doing flowers, he could start capturing other things that interest him, like textures and patterns. I showed him a few examples of similar photos that a friend had taken and reminded him that an artist friend liked to experiment with patterns of light and shadow.

(I did all this instead of snapping at him that if he really wanted something to worry about, he should look at our bank balance.)

So here’s what he came up with.Image

and

Image

and even this.

Image

 

I think there are many more worlds for him to explore and conquer. If he can get past the Photo Performance Anxiety.