Soul thieves

What I’d call ‘the American traveler photographer mystic’ is a strain of photography particularly infectious and seems to have become a process, originating in Walker Evans, where the face of America is redefined each time someone photographs it in a new way.

‘Ordinary’ America, in this tradition, appears largely to be the subject matter whether by direct portrait, suburban street scene (with telephone wire and car) or contrasts found between haves and have nots. Ironically the audience, generally speaking, could not be further from this apparent ‘common’ world, yet it is amongst this audience and through its media where the identity of America is defined and reflected visually.

If they (our folk outside the photographic sphere) get to see these works at all, would they not be looking at themselves and their pictured environment with perplexity rather than recognition? I suspect, too, that they would be too busy living their ordinariness to waste time on a photograph. Perhaps they won’t even be aware, 20 years from the shutter’s moment of truth, that via a gradual cultural osmosis, photography will have given them a new face and called it America.

Because cultures don’t really model themselves on the photographic image; they develop instead along their own lines of traditions and norms, we may find the public visual map of America, widely differing from its actuality and that the pictorial definition is far more about the photographer (and his following) than the subject and their identity, however noble or ideal the pursuit. Was America ever like Stephen Shore’s vision?

For those of us that aren’t in that world we may really think it is that way, if we don’t carefully notice that the dates say 1973-1979, or when at some point we are shown a differing image by a new generation of photographers. We’ve tired long ago of the often repeated fear claiming that the cameras steal our souls. Perhaps though, it’s really true, in so far as it substitutes reality with a select fake?


African Elephant Range Countries Human Population.

1900 71.1 million
1950 166.3 million
1970 275.1 million
1985 419.5 million
2000 626.6 million
2025 1,172.6 million


Are the effects and importance of human encroachment on habitats, given back seat to campaigns to save animals within ever decreasing national parks?

“In terms of elephant ecology, a single elephant popoulation in a national park is as incomplete a phenomenon as a single elephant in a zoo enclosure.” Ian Parker – ‘What I tell you three times is true

“Tourists may be as malign as a multitude of poachers in their multifarious influences upon animals and habitats” – Ian Parker

Just some thoughts to keep you on your toes.

A Culture of Magic Boxes

It’s ugly, it sits in your kitchen taking up about 3 feet cubed of space and it is fed by tubes that gurgle and regurgitate a soup of water, soap and filth for about an hour, before finally coming to a steamy halt.

But this box of tricks has an abundantly important task; a universally despised task: the task of cleaning up filthy dishes, bacon fat pans, and our multitude of soiled eating and cutting tool.

Let us think for a second why this contraption is so in demand, why is it we have scores of factory workers, suppliers, businessmen, transporters and middlemen all toiling away madly to output enough metal boxes to fill all the kitchens in the world. And don’t we need the damn thing. Apparently, we so hate washing dishes that we will ceaselessly argue over who is going to be the unlucky one to do it, or we will bicker over the fact that it has not been done at all. Moreover, we should not discredit the suggestion that more than one marriage has fallen victim from one man’s tendency to shirk his chores.

Universally, in the West, we begrudgingly accomplish what is now – with the fantastic, the incredible, the extraordinary dishwasher – magically done away with as painlessly as flushing the loo. The dishwasher is in essence a kitchen toilet, through which we flush our crap. This act of clearing up, which fills us with revulsion, fear of contamination – symbolic expulsion of disease – now can be accomplished with peace of mind. Our scientists have worked hard to build us this box, into which we throw our greasy pans and our sauce-soiled plates and out of which will issue shiny, sparkling as good-as-new dining stuff.

But is the dishwasher everything it claims to be?

Consider the various requirements necessary to possess and run your very own magic dish box:

First, of course, we need money to purchase it, deliver it, and to pay for the running expense, then the labor and energy consumption expense used to fix it when it malfunctions.

The irritating piece of junk will clap out! We now have to pay to add it to the collective garbage heap – note: it has now become a public responsibility – that’s ok, the tax payer will foot the bill – and also, fuck the earth, the environment, the universe… the everything.

Firstly, let’s ask ourselves, how many dishes are needed to fill up one load? Either you have too few dishes or you have too many! A couple of dishes, inside the box or outside it, will doubtless be sitting around like orphans.

Secondly, in this world of convenience it is important not forget that having a dishwasher necessitates putting dishes in. Perhaps I’m not too bright, but am the only one struggling to find a place that fits the frying pan? What a bother… Here, furthermore, we must spend a portion of our time first rinsing the dishes…why? Because our dishwasher is so exceptionally ‘good’ at its’ job.

Though putting dishes in is a necessary hassle, laced, it’s true, with confusion on where to put weird shaped things, essentially we still must rinse the dishes beforehand. Wait, doesn’t that means we are doing half the job by our own very hands despite the promise of the machine’s super intelligent? What the fuck!

It’s not over yet. After putting in the soap and the salt, and, hopefully, pushing the right buttons (read the manual stupid), we must at last take the dishes out and put them away.

Quite understandably water has collected in various hollows and puddles, never mind…do as I do and stick the dripping cups in the shelves regardless. Ok, I am being unreasonable; we would have to take dishes out and put dishes away anyway, would we not? Yes of course we would, but why, I ask you, does the machine not do it for us? Are we living in the technological age or what?

So, most eloquently, I have shown why we should all have a magic box, how we are a culture of magic box lovers, that we love to throw things in a box and then tadaaa there we have it all new again. No-more do we live in a dirty, contaminated, disease ridden, sausage-grease world of dish washing, we are an advanced society and all thanks be to China or wherever who made these wonderful, indispensable, masterpieces of modern culture.