Archive for March, 2011


A Forgotten Casualty

The media, especially the independent media, is flooded with Iraq war coverage – some things true, a lot of things not. There is no denying that this war, as is the case with all wars, is taking a drastic toll on human lives. There is something we have all seem to forgotten, however – the toll this war has taken on culture, specifically art.

I had not much considered this unfortunate casualty myself until I stumbled upon this NPR article, entitled “Many Iraqi Artists Struggle, Suffer in Silence.” While Iraq was once a beacon of art in the Arab world, three decades of crippling invasions and sectarian fighting has pushed much of the art and artists into exile. While some remain, few artists feel comfortable reflecting the violence and suffering that surrounds them.

One point that struck me in particular read:

Under Saddam, artists knew that as long as they stayed on message — building monuments to the regime or making paintings that showed the dictator as a benevolent folk hero — they wouldn’t be punished.

Us media people always talk about the suppression of the first amendment. It is interesting to see how all forms of art are severely suppressed all over the world.

Another point addressed what the art depicts now – images like abstract water buffalo and benign portraits of citizens. The images are warless. This is done on purpose by many, one artist says, as a way to forget what is around them every day. Also, depicting such violence would be seen as an attempt to be critical of the government, which is severely frowned upon. As Mahir Mohammad, ceramicist and art professor says, “They want us to say the government is good, and the Americans [are] good, the policy now is good.”

I’m not sure what else this war can take from the world, but it would be a tragedy to watch such artistry diminish any further than it already has.

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As I was skimming around NPR, I came across this really fantastic story. Little background: During a snow storm in Brooklyn, Todd Bieber decided to throw on some skis and trek through Prospect Park. While skiing, he discovered an old canister of film buried in the snow. Out of curiosity, Bieber developed the film and discovered gorgeous black and white photos of Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Prospect Park. Mixed in were photos of two men. He desperately wanted to find the photographer, so he posted a video on YouTube, which went viral in a matter of a few days and Bieber received over 800 emails from people who wanted to help.

Two months later, he received an email from Camille Roche with a subject line reading, “Author of Film.” It turns out, she was studying abroad in New York City from Europe and was the sister of the two men featured in the photos. Bieber and his girlfriend immediately booked a trip to Paris to find Roche and return her photos. Inspired by his adventure, Bieber took his own photos throughout his trip, even some with Roche herself, and left them outside of a Parisian cafe with a message saying,”It happened once, it can happen again. If you find me, I can buy you coffee and we’ll become friends. It’s the beginning of an adventure.”

Check out the video and read the story! It’s truly an inspiring concept all based around the art of photography. It’s amazing the things that bring people together and the relationships we form.

I came across this website today. It’s called FLYP and it is essentially an online magazine – but with a twist. Their goal is to provide an engaging and enriching multimedia experience. As they say on their website, “We approach the Internet as a new medium—not just a new distribution channel—and we strive for a form of journalism that fulfills its possibilities on topics that range from politics and science to art and music.”

They combine high-quality text, video, photos, audio, animation and cutting edge design. It is completely interactive. They use technology to really engage and involve the audience. When you look at a story, you look at it from every angle and perspective – and they somehow find a way to incorporate all your senses in the process.

Their latest lead story, “A Matter of Life and Death” explores the idea of hospice care and who gets to decide when a human’s life is over. I absolutely recommend checking it out. When you do, read all the text, watch all the video, glance at all the photos, and listen to the voices of those really affected by the issue.

Recently, I read Gene Hyde’s article “Breaking Through the Information Blockade,” which uses the Seattle media revolution as a catalyst to describe the powerful impact of independent media and how it has grown since those days in the late 90s, early 2000s.

What media revolution am I referring to? In 1999, protestors took over the city of Seattle to express their complaints with the decisions of the World Trade Center Organization. Journalists were there too – both mainstream and indy media representatives. Many journalists were concerned with the coverage of the mainstream press, who by and large were not accurately representing the diversity of the protestors. Therefore, they formed the Independent Media Center and registered a website and set up a newsroom with computers, Internet lines, digital editing systems and streaming audio and video. With the help of volunteers, they took to the streets in an effort to give a voice to the heart of the issue – the people.

Indymedia gave the globe a fresh look at news. The best part? They didn’t have to go through a corporate filter. They presented the truth and they did so quickly. You got video, audio, photographs, text reports – all the info was right there and it came from the people who actually know a thing or two about the issue. It came from the citizens.

By 2001, there were 60 independent media outlets in 20 different countries spanning six continents. As you can imagine, there are tons more today just trying to combat the voice of the mainstream press. The article raises the issue of, how can you really trust indy media any more than anyone else? All reporters have their biases and it has always been the job of the consumer to absorb as much information as they can and make educated judgments based on well rounded research. Indy media provides that other voice, that other side. Sure, some are blatantly biased – but they still give the consumer another voice to consider.

The article put the issue so beautifully, so I’ll restate it here: “While Indymedia won’t replace the mainstream press any time soon, they are growing at an impressive rate. They will continue to research their stories, cover issues aggressively, and take time to report on issues shunned by the mainstream press. Indymedias and the communities they represent are a force to contend with, because as the Columbia Journalism Review observed, they’re ‘organized, they’re global, and they’re not going away.'”

Indy media is not going away. They’re only gaining traction. With more and more people getting their news from alternative sources, the more this progressive voice will be heard. They won’t be able to change everyone’s minds, but they can can certainly try.