Saturday, July 09, 2016

Photos, Photos and More Photos

Photos, Photos and More Photos

In 2000, perhaps the zenith of film photography, Kodak proudly announced that 80 billion photographs had been taken that year, many of them on Kodak film. Since then, photographic imagery has grown exponentially. Last year, it's been estimated that 1 trillion photographs were taken, most of them on camera phones -- an idea that would have seemed absurd in 2000. How can a phone take a picture?

A world awash in trillions of images raises interesting questions about creativity, originality, and what photography means to our culture. For example, out of billions and billions and billions of photographs out there of sunsets alone, many are bound to be virtually identical. That's what Penelope Umbrico's show, Future Perfect, that runs through August 7th at the Milwaukee Art Museum is all about. What to make of the collective, worldwide networked matrix of images we're all embedded in?

"Embracing the flood of images available in the Internet age, contemporary artist Penelope Umbrico sifts through millions of images shared on Craigslist, Flickr, and other social media sites and appropriates them as source material for her work. She seizes upon popular subjects such as sunsets and televisions and creates large-scale installations that reveal contemporary society’s collective photographic habits and the underlying desires that shape them."

If you haven't seen the show yet, check it out. You may never look at photography quite the same way again.

Wimbledon. Williams Sisters. Wow.


The two oldest women in Wimbledon had a great day. Serena won the women's singles title, tying Steffi Graf's record of 22 grand slam singles titles. She and sister Venus won the doubles title, despite having played very little doubles in the last two years. Venus made it all the way to the semis, before losing to Angelique Kerber, but she's playing the best she has since being diagnosed with a debilitating auto-immune disease, Sjogren's Syndrome, in 2011. It seems to have stabilized (Venus credits a vegan diet and exercise). Although she seemed tight and anxious in the semi, she looked happy and relaxed playing doubles with her sister, her reflexes seemingly undiminished by time. They were a joy to watch.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Casual Tennis Fan's Nostalgia for an Earlier, Curated and Timeshifted Wimbledon

What Does One 5x Wimbledon Winner Do When She Knocks Another 5x Winner Out of the Tournament?

Once upon a time, Wimbledon was broadcast in the US by over-the-air networks on a tape-delay basis. The time difference between the US and Wimbledon gave them plenty of time to select the best matches in the early rounds, so you could be assured of good tennis most days of the tournament. It was just the right amount of tennis -- enough to make you wish for more, but not enough to burn you out. News media cooperated with the networks and did not broadcast results in the US until the matches had been aired. The internet changed all that, but even well into the internet era, news anchors would give spoiler alerts -- "now's the time to turn down the sound if you don't want to know the results" -- to those who wanted to preserve their tape delay suspense. That's long gone; we live in a real-time world.

Back then I used to fantasize how great it would be if I could select for myself among all the matches, and get replays of the ones I missed because of schedule conflicts. Be careful what you wish for. Streaming ESPN3 brought me exactly what I wished for, with the result that now I'm "all tennissed out," suffering from extreme tennis fatigue, and we're just to the women's semifinals. Whether focusing intently on the matches I'm watching, or trying to multitask at the same time, the result is the same, a numb, exhausted brainfog, combined with the wish this would all be over soon. The idea of someone curating the best matches and broadcasting them later at a reasonable hour now seems positively civilized.

The only thing keeping me going this year is the remarkable saga of the Williams sister. Both Serena and Venus have made it to the semifinals. It's the first time Venus has gotten past the early rounds since she was diagnosed  five years ago with Sjogren's Syndrome, a debilitating, incurable autoimmune disorder that limits her playing and practice time. Nevertheless, aided by a vegan diet, she has battled her way back, the oldest woman in this year's women's field.

Serena has the less challenging semifinal opponent; Venus has to make it past #4 seed Angelieque Kerber to get to the final. But the way she's been playing, I wouldn't bet against an all-Williams final. The two oldest women in the tournament battling it out for the championship. That would be a match for the record books.