Friday, April 11, 2008

Video Killed The Photography Star

Video Killed The Photography Star
Originally uploaded by Lorenzo! (lorenzodom)

April 11, 2008, New York City:

Video Killed The Photography Star (and for that, I am grateful)

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

One of the most invaluable lessons I’ve learned in life is that sometimes, sometimes, you’ve just got to just go with it, baby—go with the flow, change with the times, adapt.

For sometimes, resistance can be a sheer waste of energy. Sometimes, you’ve simply got to realize that you ain’t David or the Dalai Lama, and so there ain’t no use in fighting a behemoth like Goliath, China or Yahoo! Especially, when it decides to allow its users to add video to one of the world’s greatest photography sites.

Hence, I attempted to upload my first video to flickr: Lunacy: The Final Cut, which I created some time ago and first uploaded to YouTube. The story about how and why I created this video can be found here: And Now, For Something A Little Crazy… (My First Gusano)

(Alas, alas, alas, I soon discovered that this did not load completely and later found out, thanks to Rodger Holtom (Riverman72), that apparently there is a limit to the kind of videos you can post on flickr. Too bad, guess I'll be sticking with YouTube than. Nonetheless and allthemore, here is the complete video, on YouTube: Lunacy: The Beauty of Youth)

Besides, this change comes at a good time for me because I have been taking a break from photography for a while, a mere hiccup of a hiatus, in order to focus on other creative endeavors, mainly publishing books. These include:

25 Lessons: The Art of Living, which was a monumental journey, a labor of love and nothing less than an extraordinary experience for me. I spent the last three years creating the book: taking all the 500+ photos that are in the book, writing the story and the incredible lessons I’ve learned from the experience of becoming a New York City street photographer.

Check out the website!

Be Yourself,
A celebration of the spirit of the individual as captured on the streets of New York City
Using many of the photographs that were first published as part of galleries in 25 Lessons: The Art of Living, as well as many others taken in New York City from 2005-2007, Be Yourself has 100 photographs of unique individuals, each on a separate page and complemented by quotes about individuality, self-determination and the stuff genius is made of from everyone from Camus to Carnegie, Einstein to Emerson, Schopenhauer to Shakespeare, Thoureau and Twain, and many, many more!

Check out the Be Yourself Press Release!


Apart from publishing, I’ve been trying to enjoy life “differently” than I have otherwise done for the last couple of years via my passion for photography.

Alas, I always get anxious when I spend an inordinate amount of time simply sitting watching others create, play or perform, because if the play or movie or performance are good, I’m usually simply inspired to get back to work, to get back to doing what I enjoy most in life—creating.

Nonetheless, I forced myself to watch Akira Kuroswa’s 1953 masterpiece Ikuru, which I would summarize as being about the tyranny of bureaucracy and how one man is inspired to overcome that and ultimately “make a difference,” after he discovers that he has terminal cancer and six months to live.

Coincidentally, the very same night Domenica passed onto me a link to “The Last Lecture,” which is a presentation of the final lecture given by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007. Professor Pausch is dying from pancreatic cancer and acknowledges at the beginning of his talk that doctors have told him that he only has a few months to live.

In his inspiring talk entitled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Pausch talks about the lessons he’s learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals. Originally, he wrote his advice for his children who are aged 6, 3, and 22 months.

Having gone through my own life-altering transition while living alone in a church for three months, I understand Randy’s compulsion to pass on the lessons he’s learned to his children. That compulsion is one of the main reasons why the original work I wrote, 25 lessons I've learned (about photography), became a book, 25 Lessons: The Art of Living, which I wrote while keeping in mind the lessons I wanted to pass onto my own children, Nicky, 6 and Enzo, 9.

It so happens that reporter Craig Wilson of USA Today published a piece today about the book that evolved from this video phenomenon on YouTube, which has now been seen over 1 million times. Read it yourself: Dying dad does book for his kids.

Last night, while making that extra-effort to “take a break” from my compulsion-to-create, I accompanied my dear Super-Über Friend, Marie Huber, to see Bobby McFerrin perform at Carnegie Hall. McFerrin was accompanied by an orchestra and his friend, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. They performed a program of Bach, Fauré and Vivaldi for the first half the concert. However, the best half began with the encore performances and Bobby’s improvisations, which were amazingly impressive, rife with glorious sentiment and most of all, inspiring.

Thus, half way through the evening I began to feel that itch again, that undeniable, irrepressible urge to create.

Nonetheless, I continued to repress it and allowed myself to enjoy the company of the magnificent Ms. Huber after the performance. While we walked to Queen Sheba for a delightful platter vegetarian Ethiopian delights, we both acknowledged that even though we have only been friends for six years, we both felt as though it has been decades. I truly love Marie and feel quite fortunate to have her as a friend.


When I arrived home half past midnight I wanted to begin working on a new book of verse which I am planning to put together and publish very soon, but my mortal coil had other plans. And thus, exhausted, I gave in and unwound for the evening within the comfort of my bed.

However, the willingness to let go and relax for a few hours of sleep only lasted until I awoke at 6 AM and decided to load this, my first video on flickr.

Interestingly enough, this seems to be the week for coincidences, because a few days ago I was researching my legal right to publish Be Yourself which presents 100 photos of individuals on the streets of New York City, and I found out that Photography is Dead on the Streets of Paris.

According to a March 22 London Times article individuals now own their image in France, immediately making street photography a dead art there, because the costs of producing such photos—the time it takes to get waivers, the inevitable bargaining, claim insurance, etc.—now make authentic, off-the-cuff, street photography too costly to procure. Irony abounds, being that via Bresson’s decisive moments street photography was essentially born there.

Woefully, photographers in London are also experiencing pressure to stop taking pictures on the streets. Once again, according to The Times, “Any person who appears to be taking photos in a covert manner should expect to be stopped and spoken to by police ... And now, a new poster campaign by the Metropolitan Police is inviting Londoners to call a hotline if they don't like the look of a photographer.”

Alas, even here in New York, ever since 9.11, photography has been repressed for fear that it will lead to terrorism. I’ve experienced this many times over, not only because I’ve been harassed by law enforcement a number of times (The “Stupid” Pictures, Under Suspicion ) but also because the city of New York attempted to impose the requirement of permits for taken pictures in the city last summer (Picture New York Without Pictures).

But, as I confirmed once again with my recent research, New Yorkers still have the legal right to take and sell photos of people in the streets and subways of New York City because they are within the “public domain.”

This right was reinforced recently two years ago with a decision by the New York State Supreme Court in Nussenzweig v. diCorcia, where a photographer was being sued for photos he took surreptitiously in Times Square and then sold for tens of thousands of dollars each in a gallery.

According to The New York Times, “State Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische rejected Mr. Nussenzweig's claim that his privacy had been violated, ruling on First Amendment grounds that the possibility of such a photograph is simply the price every person must be prepared to pay for a society in which information and opinion freely flow. And she wrote in her decision that the photograph was indeed a work of art. "Defendant diCorcia has demonstrated his general reputation as a photographic artist in the international artistic community," she wrote.” (The Theater of the Street, the Subject of the Photograph, by Philip Gefter, March 19, 2006)

Hence, with confidence and some pride I proceeded with publishing Be Yourself, A celebration of the spirit of the individual as captured on the streets of New York City, because, much like Professor Pausch relays in his inspirational lecture, with the publication of this book and my best-seller 25 Lessons, with the honor of being chosen to be the featured artist for HP’s Be Brilliant campaign amongst other creative achievements, I too have finally achieved one of my childhood dreams—to be an artist.

And for that, I am grateful (along with so many other wonderful things and experiences and people in my life).

For those who actually read this entire posting, you great a special treat...
An oldie but goodie, the legendary first video ever seen on MTV: Video Killed The Radio Star by the Buggles (uh, sorry but you can only see the full length version it on YouTube)...

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