I have a running countdown of the remaining days until Spring Break

It’s official, folks: I’ve successfully completed the year’s first round of no-pants-week. That, of course, means the end of winter and the onset of the Spring Break season.

There’s no use denying it; the infamous collegiate Spring Break culture scene is a reflection of our current values of popular culture. MTV-esque displays of young adults getting themselves into all kinds of shenanigans are the norm for film, TV shows, celebrity idols and music alike. While we can consider whether this is life imitating art or art imitating life, we can also go ahead and throw in how technology is fits in the mix.

A recent New York Times article reports on the observations of business owners in Key West, Fla., of the new toned-down behavior of their customers. The primary culprit: social media. When Facebook profiles and video recordings are at the public’s (and potential future employer’s) display, people seemed to have adopted a heightened social awareness of their appearance to those with access to the web.

As we move along with learning about mobile reporting in class, it’s interesting to consider the gravity of social media expanses, for journalistic purposes and otherwise. Perhaps people’s recognition that all of their actions are being captured via photographic lens will ultimately change elements of human behavior. It seems that today, it’s so much easier to dispel written evidence of an event or story, whereas the added dimension of visuals will have us smiling for every hidden camera.

In the meantime, I’d suggest becoming familiar with the photo untagging selection. I mean, let’s be honest, everyone’s mother has a Facebook now.

Advertisements

Magazine: the place to be

People come from all over the country – the world, even – to attend the Missouri School of Journalism. For a lot of them, it’s a only thing that would have brought them to Missouri. It’s a fly0ver state. It’s the Midwest. The summer’s are humid. But then again, we also have a pretty good J-School. Go figure.

I grew up with the J-School. I remember taking walks through campus with my mother, learning about the archway statues and hearing about the impressive funding for the newly renovated Reynolds Journalism Institute. I had considered leaving Columbia for college and studying fashion design or journalism elsewhere, but none of it really made sense when what I needed was right in front of me.

I’ve always loved storytelling and think it’s the best reason to write – to be a record of the ordinary and the extraordinary and really understanding why we are the way we are. As much as I hate talking about myself, I’m always itching to hear someone else explain exactly why they do something or how they ended up where they are, or even where they want to go. It’s so interesting to let their stories unfold, and to be able to convey that passion or experience through whatever medium is an enormous responsibility but can yield great outcome. Journalists, writers, photographers, documentary filmmakers; we’re all storytellers.

This week in lecture, we heard about what to look forward to in the upcoming years as we move into our interest areas and dive into the field. Nearly two years in and I’m still excited to get to learn the about the resources and tools of the magazine world. Years ago, the goal started off as a dream to work for a glossy fashion magazine (think The Devil Wears Prada, or I’d probably even take Ugly Betty if it meant being a part of a major NYC fashion publication industry). And while my aspirations have changed and I can’t decide between journalism electives or describe where I see myself in 10 years and I’m simultaneously anticipating and dreading writing for the Missourian next fall,  I know going into my interest area that, at least for right now, I’m in the right place.

Why I love the True/False Film Festival

If you’ve been anywhere within earshot of me for the past month, you’ve probably heard me mention True/False at least a handful of times. No, I wasn’t talking about an exam, even though I think we can all agree that those are the best kinds.

The True/False Film Festival is a documentary film festival that roots itself in downtown Columbia every winter. For the past eight years, filmmakers and musicians have come from around the world to show off their work to thousands of documentary enthusiasts, converging in the Midwestern college town for one weekend of cinematic splendor. In its ninth year with no signs of slowing, the festival weekend now includes events such as the March March kickoff parade, the True Life Run and to benefit the chosen True Life Fund film of the year, panels with filmmakers, and plenty of visual and auditory pleasures for the now four-day celebration.

I saw my first T/F film during my sophomore year of high school. Thanks to a social studies teacher who brought filmmakers to the school to give presentations and special screenings, discounted passes for students, and a newfound eagerness to explore downtown with a freshly-acquired driver’s license in tow, I found myself at the Blue Note queued up for the Friday night showing of American Teen. The film itself wasn’t altogether inspiring, but as a festival-going experience, I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve volunteered in some capacity for the past two years. Senior year I had the opportunity to help out with the Filmmaker’s Fête where I dressed up in fancy clothes and served fancy hors d’oeuvres to filmmakers and higher-up pass holders. Last year I worked theater operations at The Chapel and this year I’ll be camped out at Ragtag Cinema.

I guess what I love so much about the festival is how Columbia truly comes alive during the event. After living here for 17 years, the college town routine gets old. But throw in the artistic drive of international filmmakers all wanting to show somebody’s experience or allow the audience to live their own through film and we’re on to something. People come here wanting to hear a good story, and that’s what the festival is all about. From the aesthetically pleasing Life In a Day to the politically-charged Burma VJ, there’s so much to gain in participating in the fest. Through film, music, stimulating discussion and new introductions, it’s a way to find a bigger world in the small community here. And even though it’s gotten so big in the last several years, the volunteer-run weekend still maintains an air of friendly support and camaraderie. Every year, I learn so much not only about the films that come through and the issues they raise, but also about the community that has helped sustain this event and keeps it thriving. I look forward to it every February and can’t see myself growing tired of it anytime soon.

Good storytelling has me here to stay.

Picture perfect

I have met very few people who truly live by the motto “I don’t care what I look like, and I don’t care what other people think of my appearance.” It was easy proclaiming this as a “rebellious” teenager in junior high trying to break the stereotype of ascribing to certain characteristics to fit in with a certain group of a certain look. But the thing is, NO ONE REALLY FEELS THAT WAY. I mean, the mere act of dressing in a certain way to rebel against a stereotype is in and of itself a means of dressing to cause a specific reaction. What I’m trying to get at here is that image is important. And all the more so with today’s modern conveniences where phones have cameras and images can be transmitted to public viewers around the world in a matter of seconds.

If it weren’t enough to be under constant watch of a photographic lens in every possible situation, there’s the added degree of digital Photoshopping and photo alterations that can send mixed messages about the subject of the photo. When it comes down to it, the results of excessive Photoshopping reveal our value of image as a society. What makes a photo editor cut away at someone’s jawline or add shadows to a portion of the thigh in order to “enhance” a photo? We are a body-conscious culture so much so that how we portray beauty does more to promote body-negative attitudes than anything else.

Take, for example, the most recent cover of Vogue Magazine. Adele, who is beautiful and talented in her own right, appears on the cover and is almost unrecognizable due to the angles, lighting and clear over-use of photo-alteration programs. As an artist who has been asked about how she views her self-image as a celebrity on multiple occasions, it’s disheartening to see a news outlet portray her in a way that is untrue to her as an artist and subject of the magazine’s cover story. This kind of portrayal has not come without criticism from other news organizations.

On the other hand, there are others who see this problem with modern photography and advertising. In 2009, Brad Pitt appeared on the cover of W Magazine with untouched photographs taken by Chuck Close. As a rejection of how most photo shoots airbrush out the flaws of the subject matter, Pitt requested that the photos run without any kind of enhancement.

Photo editors may not realize it, but the decisions they make in portraying the icons and artists of our day transmit messages to those who look up to said celebrities and affect how they view themselves. In its most basic form, individuals take into account how they are perceived physically to the world around them in photographic form. Writer Brianne Garcia wrote about how social media has affected how she presents herself to the online world, no doubt in some way or another framed by how she views photos of highly publicized figures of today and how those altered photos demonstrate our perception of appearance.

It’s easy to laugh off really bad Photoshop jobs as misguided marketing ploys and even worse judgment of photo program usage. But if we’re going to use advertising tools that also prevent the public from viewing reality for what it really is in appearance, then that’s when things go eschew and problems with body image arise. I mean, if public figures who have passed can’t even escape the airbrush wand for a cover story, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Vaginas and other nice things

The word “feminist” used to send me into eye-rolls. I didn’t quite grasp the concept. To me, feminism was the equivalent of male-bashing and calling out injustices by pointing fingers and shouting. It was so easy to disregard the radical voices and make the whole movement seem extreme and without cause.

After several history classes and all-too-personal experiences and multiple attempts to stop being so naive about things, I started to get it. But it wasn’t until I joined the cast of the Vagina Monologues that it really started to click.

I first saw the 10th Annual Mizzou production of the Vagina Monologues during freshman year. At first, it was something that I wanted to attend for the shock factor. I mean, what was I supposed to expect out of a two-hour show about vaginas? It was during that performance, that show that made me laugh, tear up and all-around want to do something about the outrageous continuation of domestic violence and abuse against women, when the pieces started coming together. I wanted to be a part of the VDay Movement to end violence against women and young girls, and this was a way I could start.

Joining cast this year has given me so much more insight about what it means to be a feminist. Sure, there will be the radicals who are loud and upfront and brash about their cause. That’s cool, and I can respect them for caring about an issue to that extent. To me, being a feminist means standing up for the other women and girls who might not be able to face their own challenges against their sex. It’s knowing the difference between a “joke” and something insensitive and hurtful. It’s being aware that these issues are out there and ever-growing unless we do something to stop it. As Eve Ensler wrote in her piece for the Huffington Post, it’s time to understand that rape and abuse against women, emotionally and physically, is never okay. And not only do we know that it’s not okay, but that we can take the steps to stop it completely. Because it’s time to be over it.

Writer’s block

Keeping a blog isn’t a new idea to me. Keeping a sustaining blog with good content…that is definitely a challenge.

I started my first Xanga blog in seventh grade under the insistence of my circle of middle school friends. Yes, I was one of those kids. My posts were “angsty” updates about school and friends and how I was always bored. This was also the time of the MySpace era, which I think we can all agree, belongs in the dusty refines of the inter-web. During junior year, I deleted my Xanga (not before reading through my posts with a slew of scoffs and eye-rolling) and upgraded to Blogger, which I intended to craft into a DIY and creative inspirations blog. That lasted for about two months. Again, that got deleted in acknowledgement of defeat. I began my first round of WordPress blogging last March in an attempt to “get back into the swing of things,” mainly, writing and journaling about college life. Yet again, that attempt was fruitless, and I’ve taken up one more domain name that can never be used again. My bad.

My latest blogging platform, other than this class-mandated page, is a Tumblr page. Though, to be honest, it’s more of a collection of re-blogged images of fashion runways and DIY crafting than an actual chronicle of my writing. I’ve been at it since July and, after a three-month long hiatus (school unfortunately does that to a person sometimes), I’m still revisiting it every now and then.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, blogging is hard. I still haven’t exactly found my purpose, my motivation. My muse, if you will. But what I do know is that I’m really glad this multimedia class is having me revisit the idea. And even if I don’t personally blog alldayeveryday, I can appreciate the power of sharing ideas and concepts through personal journaling in public forums.

If I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that A) I like listing things, and B) if I could be one of those homebodies that crafts all day and has a closet that rivals Hobby Lobby, I would. In a heartbeat. The following are some blogs and sites that I currently frequent, or simply find enjoyable.

  1. Vanity Fair. On a more professional note. Not exactly a blog, but writing for them would be the dream.
  2. Thought Catalog. It’s cynical and hipster-esque, but I enjoy the distinguished voice of each contributor. Plus, as a nearly-20 something, some articles are just so spot on.
  3. Burdastyle. For the seamstress in me. I really like the spotlight they do on individual members and can’t help but feel motivated to finally finish whatever piece I’ve left by the wayside at the moment.
  4.  Sweet Home Style. Lovely visuals and creative ideas.
  5. Cupcakes and Cashmere. Again, more crafting and pretty pictures to stir the senses. Personal details from the creator, Emily, is a plus.
  6. Barney’s Blog. My favorite “How I Met Your Mother” character has a blog, and it’s just as absurd as you would expect it to be.
  7. Threadbanger’s video channel. DIY for people like me who need to see the project in action to make it their own. Can’t say I haven’t wrecked my closet on multiple occasions trying out some of their project ideas.

1.3

What are the elements of good photography? How much does the quality of the photograph depend on the equipment that is used to capture it?

Several years ago, I heard about Joel Grey. The award-winning actor turned photographer had just released a publication called  “1.3: Images From My Phone,” in which he uses a 1.3 megapixal camera built into his phone to photograph the urban life surrounding him.

So, are cell phone images just as good as those caught on the most expensive and advanced of DSLR cameras? My initial thought when I saw his work for the first time several years ago was that the fact that he uses such an accessible means of capturing film cheapened the end result. But since coming into this multimedia class, I’ve revisited his work. I asked several of my friends, some photo novices like me, and some more learned in photography since junior high school, what they thought of the matter. While I heard mixed results of how much quality mattered in the outcome of the photograph, like good focusing and lighting techniques to capture the most intimate of details, others conversely said that the photo is about the subject matter and telling a story through the lens, no matter how big or small. I think looking back at his collection, Grey’s images offer a “slice of life” of his surroundings that are effective in offering visual imagery of the stories of others.

Like we talked about in class, photography is so much more than using really good equipment to capture an image. I mean, Grey has made it a point to emphasize that good photography has nothing to do with the type of camera used, but rather, is centered on an inherent artistic skill in seeing the intricacies of the world and capturing that one moment in the most compelling way possible.