Photographs, words and sounds

What we taught a 14-year-old today


I was going to rant, but honestly what follows just made me kind of sad.

Miss F., who is 14, wants to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program. The idea is that those kids who participate in the program will have an opportunity to learn about themselves and the world outside of the school environment, serve their communities, and hopefully become better citizens down the road. Part of the program requires them to spend one hour a week (ONE!) volunteering in their community. Miss F. loves books and spends a lot of time in the public library and she felt that it’s only right that she should volunteer with her library. She approached them on her own, which alone is a huge step for somebody who has always been cautious. She was told point blank that the library does not need or want volunteers. To say that she was disappointed, would be an understatement.

We heard several reasons why such response might have happen: the moral within the public library system is at an all time low (that I get, but still); taking volunteers is akin to admitting that volunteers can do the job of a unionized employee (I don’t get that one – why wouldn’t you want to work with a young person who is clearly your potential future member???); it’s difficult to find something for a 14-year-old to actually do… The point is that a 14-year-old was told by her favourite place in this city that she doesn’t have anything to offer that they would be interested in and that there is no place for her in the library other than as a patron. In the end, we helped her find a meaningful and a very exciting volunteer opportunity that she can start in January.

And then we tried to get her a swimming pass. Miss F. is an excellent swimmer. She has passed every swimming course available to her with flying colours. She has level one S.C.U.B.A. diving certificate. She has completed lifesaver program and now that she is 14 she is looking forward to her Bronze Cross certification training in January. She was approached several times by the local swimming club, but she has no interest in competitive swimming. She just wants to swim. Apparently, she is not allowed to do that for another year. At 14, she can only go to the pool during family swims when she cannot swim lanes, which is what she wants to do. She has no interest in splashing in the pool. So today, we had to tell her that there is no way for her to swim unless she joins a swimming club that does not offer anything but competitive program.

As I said, I don’t even have it in me to rant. It just makes me sad that a public library does not have a place for an eager 14-year-old bookworm and that she cannot swim for the joy of it – it’s either compete or don’t do it at all. I have no idea what is that she learned today, but I can’t imagine that it is a terribly useful lesson.

The seawall in the photo is in Bonavista.

Graffiti NL style and some photo links


“Since no genuine enemy exists, he has to be invented. And as universal experience demonstrates, the most terrible enemy is an invented one. I assure you, it will be an incredibly gruesome monster. The army will have to be doubled in size.”
The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

The photograph above was made along a path following the Rennie’s River. That graffito with its careful punctuation marks and precise legibility is my new favourite thing.

And a few photography links just because:

Genesis review


There are not many books of photographs that are truly important in a larger, social context, but I think that Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis is one such book. Aesthetically, philosophically, and even technically, this is not a perfect book, but, so far, it is this century’s most important collection of photographs.

Genesis is a monumental book in more ways than one. Even the mass-market edition is a large, heavy tome of 520 pages of the highest possible quality. Just touching and turning those 9.6 x 14 inch pages is a pleasure and, incidentally, the reason why  e-books have a long way to go before they come close to matching the experience. The weight, richness and texture of the paper and stunning reproduction of tones are unparalleled. The art editions Taschen has produced are massive two tomes of over 700 18.4 x 27.6 inch pages with a stand, a box, a captions booklet and a silver print all together priced at exclusive $10,000. The only thing that is more impressive than the price is the weight of the entire package – 59 kilograms or 130lb.

There is a reason for this lavish presentation. Salgado, in the introduction to the book, says Genesis body of work is “a visual ode to the majesty and fragility of Earth… [his] homage to the grandeur of nature.” He also, right from the start, declares that this is not a piece of journalism or anthropological research, but rather a romantic endeavour. Philosophically, therein lies a problem. It IS a very romantic view of our planet, but maybe romance is exactly what we need. The larger problem is an occasionally, well, for a lack of better word, colonial representation of some of the Salgado’s human subjects. This is especially evident in some of the photographs from the Patel and in the Sanctuaries chapter. There are a few photographs in those chapters that I find questionable. And while I am dealing with the objections to this book let me say a word about the aesthetics. The photographs are masterful and beautiful, but there are instances where the contrast is cranked up just too much – to the point of turning a photograph into kitsch. This, in some cases at least, maybe be the result of the switch between film and digital technology Salgado made sometime during the project. It is usually quite difficult to tell film and well processed black and white digital photographs apart, but at this size and presented side by side, there are obvious differences. The tonal range of the film is by far wider and more subtle. The opening photograph of the Planet South chapter of an iceberg moving on the Weddell Sea is butter smooth – it’s everything film can be. However, all of these aesthetic, representational and philosophical objections are really nitpicking. This is, after all, Salgado’s book so he gets to set the rules, and he is clearly in top form.


Before I gush over the photographs, there is one more thing I want to address. Salgado has very publicly and openly acknowledged the support Genesis project has received from the Brazilian mining giant Vale. He has also been very publicly criticized for accepting the corporate sponsorship from a company with a horrendous impact on the environments throughout the world. All I can say about that is that Salgado did not go to Vale first. He went to those magazines and publishers who in the past supported long form documentary work and now, with some notable exceptions such as Rolling Stone magazine, spend majority of their funds buying agent-supplied celebrity photos. That is not Salgado’s fault. The media, public and private, have completely abdicated any responsibility they ever felt for informing the public about the issues of actual real importance and that is the real problem here.


So – the photographs. They are epic. Truly biblical and if I would compare them to anything, it’s not to another photograph, but to Gustave Doré engravings. There is the same sense of awe and the magical light. These photographs are also unmistakably Salgado. The sheer multitude of individual animals is almost overwhelming. The mass of penguins in the Antarctica is in its magnitude, feel and even composition similar to some of the photographs from Salgado’s previous work. When Salgado focuses his lens on individual animals, the results are stunning, personalities emerge and there is a sense that what you’re looking at is actually portraiture and not wildlife photography. Oddly enough, with some notable exception such as the old San man leaning on his walking stick in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert on page 239 and a fascinating photograph of a mudman performer from Papua New Guinea on page 205, Salgado seemed to struggle with capturing his human subjects with the same clarity. In fact, it is when he photographs humans that the whole notion of ‘the romantic’ approach is pushed too far.


What works, and works amazingly, are the sweeping vistas of some of the most remarkable landscapes on the planet. The photographs Salgado made in the Arctic and Antarctica are probably the most poetic and the most impressive. These are the landscapes and lifestyles disappearing rapidly under the pressures of climate change.


If visual ode to the planet, a love letter of sorts, is what Salgado wanted to create, he has succeeded. That is why his book is beautiful, but it is not why it’s important. Its importance is that Salgado has presented us with a visual record of Earth that we don’t often see – a majestic place that is a home to all of us. And now that this book is in front of us, we have to ask ourselves: “Is all this worth rethinking the path we are on?” Now, because Salgado has made this book, we have to make a choice.



Books to read out loud with girls – 3rd edition…


Waiting on a face painter at a birthday party…

Once in a while you come across a really great book. And I am especially glad that Moon over Manifest is not just a really great book, but a really great book for youth as well. It has a compelling story, a great set of characters, male and female, who grow, change and deal with real, difficult and meaningful issues. If there is a downside to the book, it is more a downside of our education system than anything else. This is a historical novel that deals with two difficult periods in Western and North American history: The First World War and the Great Depression. If your kids are not self-taught history buffs, than, as a parent, you may want to create a bit of a context around the narrative. So, with that, here is the updated list of “books to read out loud with girls….” And, as always, the only criteria for the list (and, for example,  J.R.R. Tolkien obviously does not meet it, but that does not mean you should not read it to girls) is that the books should feature well-rounded female characters. Feel free to add to the list in the comments 🙂

 I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
Airborne by Kenneth Opal
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Ronia the Robbers Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel
Firewing by Kenneth Oppel
Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel
Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street  by Jeanne Birdsale
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsale
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Matilda by Roald Dahl
BFG by Roald Dahl
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith and Laura Rankin
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
After Hamelin by Bill Richardson
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Garage sale and photo links

Today’s post is just like the photo up there – a little bit of everything.

First of all, the exhibit and my presentation at the North Atlantic Forum went reasonably well. My sincere thanks to all of you who donated, offered help or provided much needed workspace. You all rock and without you I wouldn’t have been able to make it  happen. I still owe some prints and few other things. Will get to it ASAP.

Between reading the stuff I have to read and work, which these days is busy and in some ways made needlessly stressful because, as nimble as my office is, we are still a part of a large bureaucracy, I am managing to read, in fits and starts, Street Photography Now. It’s a really fabulous collection of contemporary photography and it makes me itch to get out and shoot despite miserable weather. One of the photographers in there whose work I find very interesting is Georgie Georgiou – especially his work in rapidly urbanizing Turkey.

Also, speaking of street photography, check out a local St. John’s site A City Like Ours.

And two more links. The first one will take you to the work of Ed Smith, a Scottish photographer exploring his countries islands, among other things. The second one is a whimsical collection of Jim Dow’s diners… which reminds me, I have some corner stores to shot and a roll to develop.

Got to go now, there is a trip to Labrador to plan.

Island wisdom…

“…ni bogât oni ku ima puno, nego oni komu je potriba mālo!”

Anela Borčić
Garbîn, zao vjetar

 in my clumsy translation:

“…rich is not the one who has a lot, but the one who needs little!”

 Anela Borčić
Garbîn, evil wind


Komiža, Vis Island, Croatia.

Croatian word of the day: bogat rich

Support Island Landscapes exhibit



Photo links…

The Guardian has recently ran an interesting set of short reflections from well-known documentary photographers and photojournalists about their colleagues whose images inspire them (h/t photojournalism links).

I always liked photography and I do remember reading a book about photography that my dad had. I knew absolutely nothing about documentary photography until I took my first photojournalism class in college. Even that encounter with the documentary photography and in-depth photojournalism was almost accidental. As an assignment in that class, we had to pick a photographer and write an essay about him or her. No names came to mind so I went to Calgary public library which had a rather decent photography section and started browsing through the books. I stopped when I picked up a book of photographs by Werner Bischof. I still love his work. When I think back to that essay, it really was an eyeopening experience. Today, I have dozens of photographers whose work I admire and photographs I really love. Here are some of them:

Larry Towel’s photograph of a baby sleeping among the cucumbers from The Mennonites still makes me smile every time I see it. I carried the Canadian Geographic with that photo on the cover for years with me and through many moves, but I am afraid that now it is truly lost.

Bruno Barbey’s The Italians is one of my favourite books that I still find inspiration in.

Jean Gaumy’s Man at Sea is another amazing book I keep coming back to over and over again.

And lately, remarkable work by Reza Deghati has been something I have been coming back to as well.

A typical street on Vis island in Croatia.

Croatian word of the day: učitelji teachers [u chi te lyi]



The Jazz Loft Project

Just finished reading Sam Stephenson’s The Jazz Loft Project. That was an amazing read on so many levels. The book (and the web site) are the result of some 13 years of painstaking combing through tens of thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of recordings that W. Eugene Smith made in the late 1950s and 1960s while living in a loft in New York that also happened to be a meeting and practicing place for some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

The book reveals much about Smith’s brilliant, but unbalanced mind. It also provides an invaluable snapshot of particular aspect of American culture recorded in unprecedented detail both photographically and in terms of audio recordings. On top of that, Stephenson has also conducted a series of contemporary interviews further expanding on Smith’s material.

The photographs Smith took of the loft residents as well as of the street below his window are remarkable for their candor and energy. Stephenson’s writing is engaging, occasionally funny and the structure of the book works well given how minuscule a portion that text and the photographs present in terms of the total material available in the archives. Really awesome read. I would also encourage you to visit the website and listen to some of the radio programs and recordings available there.

The photograph above was made at an event in Bauline East (organized by my current employer) last spring and examining the value of culture and heritage in economic and social development.

Croatian word of the day: zvučni zapis audio recording [zvu ch ni  za pis]


On geography

GEOG 6000
Reflection II: When your last chapter should have been first

There is much to be offended by in the history of geography as a discipline and a few things that, as a geographer, I find slightly embarrassing. As infuriating as I found the first few chapters of Livingstone’s dispassionate expose of what he frames as the history of geography in anglo-saxon tradition, the book as a whole provided a fascinating view of the political and historic complexities as well as petty grievances that shaped and influenced the discipline.

The chapters dealing with evolution, race and the Empire were truly reveling of enormous hubris within the British ruling class. From the characterization of essentially everybody else as lesser people to the arrogance of assuming that every human endeavour should be in the service of the Empire, the struggle to define what geography in particular and academic research in general are is fascinating. Livingston, as an academic, offered a fairly balanced account of the period, but there is a more entertaining way to learn about the struggles, foibles and sheer stupidity of imperial science. English Passengers is an amazing historical novel written by Matthew Kneale featuring an intriguing set of characters and a plot that is sure to warm a geographer’s heart. It’s a sea yarn at its best. And, unlike Livingston whose last chapter would have served as an excellent first chapter, Matthew Kneale is a supreme storyteller.

Livingston on the other hand, takes a few chapters to hit his stride.

From regional approaches to environmental determinism to the debates around the validity of various quantitative models aimed first and foremost at establishing geography as a ‘proper’ science, the book is full of actually insightful anecdotes. There are two things that I find fascinating about this more recent history. First, it is quite interesting that the divisions established a century or more ago are still very much playing themselves out. Jeffrey Sachs article on poverty and economic development in Scientific American a few years ago is a prime example of environmental determinism that is still alive and well (at least if Sachs’ CV is any indication). Geography’s determination to employ complex mathematical models and indices still occasionally leaves an impression that inferiority complex of not being a ‘real’ science dominates approaches adopted by some of the practitioners of the discipline.

Maybe what we need to accept as geographers is that the beauty and the value geography brings to the table lays precisely in its dual nature of being a physical as well as a human discipline. Livingston offers two quotes that to me seem to speak of the importance of keeping both of those aspects within the discipline. He quotes Darryl Forde as saying that “human geography demands as much knowledge of humanity as of geography,” and then later on paraphrases Charles Taylor warning that “[t]o succeed in substituting calculation for evaluation would therefore be […] a thoroughly dehumanizing achievement.” In a world that is full of complexities maybe we just need to accept that we need a discipline such as geography that is not afraid of inherent fluidity that comes from knowing that the world is more complex than anything that could fit inside a neat academic definition.

The photo is from Change Islands.

Croatian word of the day: akademija academy [aka de mi ya]


Igor, Battery, and GEOG-6000 post

Hurricane Igor left us unscathed, but the city and the province have suffered extensive damage. There are portions of the province still effectively cut off from the rest of the island and there are parts of the city (including our daughter’s school) still without power. We are all okay. Big thank you to all of you who asked and were kind enough to think of us. CBC’s Storm Centre has a collection of photos and videos for those of you inclined to take a look.

The photograph is from the Battery earlier this year.

As promised, here is the first in a series of posts originally written as assignments for my Geography 6000 course on the development of geographic thought and practice.

GEOG6000: What is geographic research?

Two years ago I would have never called myself a geographer. I thought of myself as a documentary photographer and a journalist and, at the time, was trying to figure out how to pursue a project I felt very passionate about. A small portion of that project became an MA in geography which suited me fine – as long as I could keep making photographs.

Since becoming involved in geographic research, I have learned to appreciate the complexity of geographic sites, people and their relationships to each other and the environment they live in and the external forces that constantly shape and reshape the nature of those relationships. The actual research process is rewarding and I sincerely hope it will result in new and useful knowledge.

But there is a catch.

In the first couple of chapters of his book The Geographical Tradition, David Livingston cautions about a fairytale that is so often told to young undergraduate. It’s a gripping story of a few brilliant and enlightened scientists standing up to the centuries of accumulated power and dogma in the hands of close minded religious priests and monks. In reality, the lines between religion, magic, occult and what we would today recognize as science were very much blurred. The first, fictional, story is rather compelling, but if it were true, I wonder what those brave enlightened superheroes of science would make of Memorial. Would they recognize the little row of cells along the SN200x corridor as a place of science and insatiable curiosity or would it remind them of monks’ cells? And I suppose you could look at the MUN’s clock tower as a stand in for a church spire and a cross – we worship a mechanical contraption instead of the divine authority.

I am being somewhat facetious, but as I work through the bureaucracy of this academic institution in order to be able to do the research I want to, it is impossible not to compare the hierarchical world of academia, its ceremonial regalia and the bestowing of degrees on young graduates as they kneel in front of their superiors to the world of organized religion.

The thing is, though, that the early scientists would probably feel quite comfortable with the whole scene of modern academia. Imagine Newton in chancellor’s robs and you’ll see what I mean.

Croatian word of the day: tradicija tradition [tra dee tz i ya]


Photo links and a corner store

I have this long post I have been trying to write, but am too exhausted to finish. Little Miss F is killing us by means of sleep deprivation. The only thing I don’t understand is why the hell is she so full of energy.

Photo links:

Alex Webb has photographed a fascinating story for National Geographic on a railway connecting Caspian and Black seas. The story is just as fascinating as the photographs. NPR has a preview of the story and National Geographic has an extended on-line gallery.

Alain Keler from the French agency Myop has a sad and haunting set of photographs of Roma people currently persecuted quite mercilessly in France. Even some of the members of the right wing UMP are appalled by the deportations. BBC story is here.

Check out NYT’s Lens blog and the work of George Georgiou on modern Turkey.

The photograph is of Long’s Hill Convenience in my new neighbourhood.

Croatian word of the day: san sleep


Lisa Moore longlisted for The Man Booker Prize

Great, great news for Newfoundland writer Lisa Moore. She is one of the 12 writers on the longlist for The Man Booker Prize for her novel February. It’s a really excellent book  following a spouse of one of the men who lost their lives in the 1982 during the Ocean Ranger oil rig disaster. The book is about grief first and foremost. Lisa has written a very emotional and yet restrained book that never slips into being pathetic – a feat that a lesser writer would not be able to pull off.

This is a photo of Lisa from a shoot earlier this year for The Guardian.

Croatian word of the day: nagrada award


Salt, pepper and photography links

Auntie Crea’s – our favourite Saturday spot and a few photo links:

I am currently reading Don McCullin’s autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour and, understandably, his time in Vietnam features prominently. Here is a collection of photographs from Vietnam published on-line in Denver Post on the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.

Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb have an interesting set of images from Cuba in Visura Magazine.

Kottke provided a fascinating link to the work of photographers employed by Albert Kahn in early 1900s. You can see a selection of the work at the book’s official website.

Croatian word of the day: sol salt [sol]


Banks, Bulgakov, Burtynsky

It’s fairly busy these days, but the reason for lack of blogging is mostly that I have also been doing real world stuff like reading. I finished Iain M. Banks’ The Algebraist which was good – even very good. Banks’ science fiction is quite a different kettle of fish in many ways than your usual run-of-the-mill stuff. It tends to be provocative, imaginative and fun to read. If you like SF, I would give Banks a try. I haven’t read much of him, just two books, The Algebraist and The Player of Games and both were good. I also caught up on my magazine reading and managed to make my way through about a half of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which I cannot recommend enough. In fact, I am going to finish this as quickly as I can so I can keep reading.

I also had a chance to attend a talk at The Rooms yesterday. Edward Burtynsky was discussing his approach to photography with emphasis on his latest exhibition, Oil, which opened its Canadian tour in St. John’s. Listening to Burtynsky was very interesting because he seems to have found his political legs, which made for a much more engaging and passionate discussion than any of the interviews you might have seen before. The exhibit itself is quite spectacular. The Rooms were able to hang the entire show, over 60 very large prints, and it is disturbing and breathtaking. I highly recommend it. From a photographer’s perspective, Burtynsky’s talk was also interesting because he talked about a very consciences decision of trying to walk the thin line between not being a photojournalist, but not being an art photographer either. It works for him. If you have a chance, go see the show. It’s in the Rooms until August 15, so plenty of time.

This is a supply vessel for offshore installations moored in St. John’s harbour.

[UPDATE] CBC Newfoundland and Labrador has an online feature on Burtynsky exhibit that, among other things, includes work of a Newfoundland photographer Greg Locke. Definitely worth seeing.

Croatian word of the day: nafta oil [naphta]


The curse

Family blogging today.

Harry Potter is all the rage in our house. In the photo, Miss F. and Little Miss F. are dressed up as witches trying to fit into the muggle world.

This morning, they were playing Harry Potter – dueling. Curses were flying all over the place: Stupefy! Jelly legs! Eat slugs! Stupefy! Stupefy!

And then, in a clear, ringing voice, Little Miss F. yells: PEE HOT SOUP!

Croatian word of the day: vještica witch [vie shti tza]


Data visualization,

A bit of a warning to regular readers: this is going to be a post for geography geeks, but I think there is more than enough to keep everybody’s interest.

Yesterday, during research presentations grad students give to the faculty before they start their research in ernest, one of the students gave a really interesting presentation on data visualization. Data visualization is a fascinating field because it requires much more than just the ability to perform statistical analysis. It also requires understanding of human psychology and quite thorough understanding of design. So, here are some links that have been collecting digital dust in my “TO BLOG” folder.

First of all here is a presentation Dr. Hans Rosling gave at one of the TED conferences. I am not exactly a fan of TED, but this is really good even if I would argue with some of the interpretations.

You can also visit Dr. Rosling’s website Gapminder to play with the software yourself.

Cartographies of Time sounds like an amazing book. The book looks at the ways people tried to visualize passage of time. Beautiful illustrations.

The next link will take you to a collection of visual stories published throughout the history of Fortune Magazine. I know that the website looks awful, but do follow the links because you will find things like this map of Standard Oil tanker fleet, a diagram of U.S. Public Health Service, and this Margaret Bourke-White’s portfolio on copper production cycle.

Watch (h/t Antonia) a full length documentary (on NFB’s fabulous site) on Marilyn Waring whose work in New Zealand as a politician and social scientist is remarkable. Among other things, she has used a visual method to map the work of women that is often unpaid and unrecognized. If you are in the mood to watch an excellent documentary, make it this one.

And last, but not least, visit Visual Complexity, a site that holds many examples of data visualization.

The photo is of my Change Island hostess who makes the best fish cakes on the planet.

Croatian word of the day: vrijeme time


Lisa Moore in the Guardian

About a month ago, I photographed Newfoundland author Lisa Moore for the Guardian. Today, the Guardian ran the photos and the piece Lisa wrote on grief. Her latest novel, February, is shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. If I ever manage to get through my grad school readings, that is going to be the first thing on my reading list.

This is not the photo the Guardian ran, but it is one that made my heart skip a beat. The morning I took the photos was very cold. Lisa suggested Signal Hill as a location, which was fine. Except, up there it wasn’t just cold, but very windy as well. As she stood on top of that concrete curb, a gust of wind made her stagger. The last thing I wanted was a photo of Lisa Moore falling into the North Atlantic in January.

Croatian word of the day: roman novel


Change Islands, Looking Into the Past, Boogie, Adolfo Farsari, photographer Tito

I think a post with a bunch of photo links is in order.

Via swissmiss, there is an interesting flickr collection of photographs called Looking Into the Past.

Boogie, a Serbian photographer currently living in the U.S., has a blog. He is the author of Belgrade Belongs to Me among other things…

Take a look at amazing work of Adolfo Farsari, an Italian photographer with unique access to Japan in the 1880s. His hand-coloured photographs of Japan at the time are quite remarkable (h/t Gizmodo).

There have been several heads of state who also dabbled in photography. Queen Elizabeth II, for example, is a Leica aficionado. Recently, a Croatian weekly (I am not going to called it a newsweekly because the amount of hearsay and gossip published in that thing is quite astounding.) has recently run a story about a collection of photographs taken by former Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito. Apparently, he was quite a passionate amateur photographer. I would love to see what else he produced  besides what’s published in the magazine. There are several photos I find interesting including a couple of casual portraits of Croatian author Miroslav Krleža. Click on the first image in the gallery for larger versions.

Above are Change Islands in winter.

Croatian word of the day: amater amateur


Prorogation protests, geography of power,

Another photo from the January 23 prorogation protest in front of the Colonial Building in St. John’s. It fits somehow with the readings in my Geography 6001 class.

The class looks at theoretical and methodological developments in the field of geography. A lot of it so far has to do with construction of models, complex systems, narrative approaches to research and the endless debates over whether or not geography is a science (don’t even go there). However, a couple of approaches are more interesting than others because they acknowledge inherent complexity of the world we are part of. Robert Kates, in an article he seemingly co-authored with half of the people at Cambridge and Harvard, uses term sustainability science, which is almost pointless, and talks about nature-society systems, which is actually a useful concept because it very explicitly links the two and emphasizes the interdependence and linkages between them.

The approach that is a lot more useful is political ecology and Roderick Neumann is one of the people associated with it. Political ecology is a useful tool to start thinking in terms of multiple players and actors while at the same time recognizing natural and political relationships that define what is possible to achieve. Neumann points out that the property rights and the way they shape human-environment relations are of paramount importance. That makes political ecology “radical”, in Neumann’s words, because it forces us to deal with the obvious elephant in the room – economic model demanding that every other area of human activity is subservient to dictates of the market. Market itself is virtually magical and all-powerful.

Neumann is far from being the only one pointing out the obvious. Richard Peet, a Marxist geographer, in his book Geography of Power charts the financial, economic and political lines of influence that are forcing a singular development strategy on virtually every country in the world. Geography of Power is a great primer on global political geography and political economy. It calls for serious re-imagining of what development is and what kind of world do we want to live in. Unfortunately, the examples of Hugo Chavez and Castro as the counter-hegemonic heros are disappointing. Neither of those men deserve the praise Peet offers. The fact that he can’t offer anything better is probably the most telling example of just how powerful the international financial institutions have become. Political leaders who go against the grain usually don’t last long although, sitting on massive amounts of oil and gas helps.

What are the solutions? While revolutions are exciting and make for great photography, they tend to be bloody and ineffective in the long run. Whether or not it is possible to work within the existing power structures to truly move the global society forward remains to be seen, but the time might be running out. Peet offers examples of successful organizing and calls for “the counter-hegemonic policy formation” that redefines who we are and the society we want to build. It’s a fine idea. We might need a catastrophe of truly global proportions to actually do something about it.

Croatian word of the day: razvoj development


[Old Blog] How to Read a Photograph, Colonial Building

I just finished reading Ian Jeffrey’s How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers. Huh… Lots of issues with this book. First of all, don’t get this book for the second part of the title. The book is really not about the lessons you can learn from great photographers – most photographs are printed way too small for that, although the overall quality of reproduction is excellent. The photographers are very rarely allowed to speak for themselves and the reader is subjected to often quite far fetched and quite subjective musings on individual photographer’s work. The book reminded me of my high school philosophy textbook where each chapter ended with “The Marxist view of….” section. In this case, you are subjected to “The Jeffrey’s view of…” As amusing as that is, it wasn’t always very enlightening or even factually correct. For example, Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa were quite misrepresented, in my opinion.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that this is a very useful overview of the history of photography. It is heavily slanted towards anglo-saxon photographers and there are, I think, significant omissions. Nonetheless, it is as good a survey of photography up to the mid 20th century as any out there and its worth a read. Get it from the library, though.

This is one of those test photos for a project I am contemplating that’s going to work in colour much better than in B&W. Colonial building in St. John’s.

Croatian word of the day: zgrada building


[Old Blog] Old house, Burtynsky, Kratochvil, Hoepker

Another photograph from Čigoč, a village in central Croatia along Sava river. The houses used to be build strictly out of wood. They were modular and could be easily taken apart and rebuilt. The villagers used to do just that as the water levels fluctuated through the year. With the construction of dykes and canals, that was not necessary anymore so brick foundations became common.

A couple of photo links:

Edward Burtynsky has a new series of photographs exploring the impact of oil.

Outside magazine has an excellent profile of Antonin Kratochvil whose book Broken Dream I have been looking through a lot lately.

Since this past week was the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, here is a link to an interesting piece by Thomas Hoepker called Pictures From A Vanished Country.

Croatian word of the day: cigla brick [tz eeg la]


[Old Blog] Change Islands, Susan Sontag

Started reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography. Probably should have read it long time ago, but didn’t. From reading the first few pages I think I’ll have a lot to say…

Change Islands, Newfoundland.

Croatian word of the day: esej essay [esey]


[Old Blog] Books to read out loud with girls

Just recently, a friend asked what we’re reading these days to our kids. Miss F and I have just finished reading The Hobbit and the entireLord of the Rings trilogy. Originally we just planned to read the Hobbit, but she insisted on reading the trilogy as well. We had a deal- if it is too boring or too scary we will stop reading. However, she got right into it. In fact, during particularly gruesome scenes (like orcs catapulting the heads of the defenders of Osgiliath into Gondor) she had this maniacal grin on her face obviously enjoying the gore.

Some time ago, I run a list of books to read out loud with girls and this seems to be good time to update the list with the suggestions from the comments to that original post as well as with the books that we either read out loud or that Miss F. is reading by herself. The only criteria for the list (and J.R.R. Tolkien obviously does not meet it, but that does not mean you should not read it to girls) is that the books should feature well-rounded female characters. And please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
Airborne by Kenneth Oppel
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Ronia the Robbers Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel
Firewing by Kenneth Oppel
Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Matilda by Roald Dahl
BFG by Roald Dahl
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith and Laura Rankin
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
After Hamelin by Bill Richardson

In the photo is the Little Miss F. with her friend and a neigbourhood cat.

Croatian word of the day: knjige books [knie gae]


[Old Blog] Excuses, Frank McCourt

Dear photo editor,

I know this sounds lame, but the violin maker photos are late because I had to reshoot the whole thing. My computer, a top-of-the-line laptop from a VERY reputable manufacturer, had a complete meltdown – somewhat literally. A local technician fixed the hard drive only to figure out it was the logicboard that was actually toast. The manufacturer sent a new one in, but the technician said it was dead on arrival and, as you know, I live on a island, which means we had to wait another four days before the new one arrived. I was planning on concocting a better excuse, but I am not very good at it – nothing like the kids in the late Frank McCourt class [h/t Hacker News].

Rodney de Vries working in his violin workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Croatian word of the day: isprika excuse