The Digital Journalist

by Beverly Spicer

All month long I thought about moments captured by photography and what they might say about reality once we are fully aware of the content. One would think snapshots produced mechanically surely reveal something objective — but, do they really? I began thinking about a friend who is most enchanted with Zen Buddhism, and who talks a lot about the nature of the "observer." He asks, what is the entity called "I," anyway, and "who" is allegedly perceiving what we call "reality"? Well, at some point it all gets to be too much, especially since we know from science that there is a great interplay between the observer and the observed. The mere act of observing something changes it, although it could be argued that nothing can change a photograph once it's printed or a video once it is recorded. But how many times have you looked at an image, whereupon another inspection hours, weeks, or even years later, you perceived something entirely different? Isn't it all quite subjective?

Our perceptions change all the time. To complicate matters, this change is a known phenomenon, so that over the last few decades, scholars of communication have forged a precise science from what used to be just the "art" of manipulation. Aha! So now, are we more confused? One might guess that we are, or in some cases, there are those who even hope so. The following video clip is an amusing spoof about the fictitious, manipulating brains behind some of the most eloquent yet folksy speech we hear these days. From Comedy Central's Last Laugh 2004, we present HARLAN McCRANEY, PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHALIST, starring the undisputed humorists Andy Dick and Arianna Huffington, and directed by Russell Bates.

It could be argued that some speech coaches are so talented they could make a dog talk. Though we don't know the videographer, we have proof of expert coaching from in this brief video clip of a few verbally astute canines.

R.D.Laing is quoted as saying, "We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing." It seems true that a glimpse of the present, whether captured on video or still photography, is quickly displaced by the next byte in the window of time. What's more, who can linger long enough to even know if there was manipulation involved or a sleight of hand at play? Speaking of sleights of hand, take a look at this gallery of nine photographs of amazing art painted onto human hands, fingers and arms. If anyone knows the artist, please let us know, as he or she deserves kudos and acknowledgement.

Last but not least, we have one parting clip of President Bush waving as he passes a MSNBC videographer on his way to meet with House members just prior to the CAFTA vote. As he rounded the corner, he gave one more surprising flick of the hand to those behind. We don't know specifically to whom he was waving, nor do we know what he was trying to say, but it was a notable gesture you may have missed. There is some debate as to whether it was a high sign as in "thumbs-up!" or something a bit more flippant. As in all things photographic or video, you the viewer must decide for yourself.

Stay cool this August, wherever you are. Of course, if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, we hope you'll stay warm while you keep your cool.

© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.

The links that appear in this column are from the World Wide Web. Credit is given where the creator is known. The Digital Journalist and the author claim no copyright ownership of any video or photographic materials that appear herein.