A.H.Scott: The Grab Back

EUSTACE PILGRAM TRUMP NUCLEAR_grab_back_Tony_Ward_Studio

Illustration by Eustace M, Pilgram, Copyright 2018

 

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2018

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Illustration by Eustace M. Pilgram, Copyright 2018

Author’s Note: 

North Korea is just another layer in the cake of chaos that 45 has made over these past 12 months. I couldn’t resist tossing in Joseph Welch into this hideous mix. Geez, one year seems like a century under this con known as Don. But, in the midterms and 2020, “The Grab Back” is coming for him and his complicit party. Everything he touches turns to dust…..

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THE GRAB  BACK

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Flip the coin

Flip it well

Cuz’ as the days grind on, we’re all being dragged to Hell

Both sides are made of people who are fine, as the Monarch of Mendacity always tells

Seems like a century has been compressed into 365 days since his inauguration

Fit as a fiddle is what his doc says

Yet, our eyes can’t deceive us as the con known as Don smirks along these demeaning days

The cult of Trump is oblivious to anyone who doesn’t bow to the tantrum titan

Heather Heyer was her name

Do you give a damn?

La David Johnson was his name

Do you give a damn?

Coin flips again

Of course he never retreats, as onto the next debasing is his delight

Flipping coins of hate is the only way his pleasure is elevated and hardened

Stable is fable

Genius is not his

Decency be damned

America be damned

Planet be damned

Well, I’ll be damned

But, the flippin’ goes on

And, that’s part of Don’s con

Welch once asked a question of sense

But, that would only matter to one who had any

Comeuppance of The Grab Back is coming to thee

Tyrannical!

Reprehensible!

Undignified!

Myopic!

Piddler!

In chief

In grief

Stain upon our world will not be brief

In over his thumbs and head

Flim-Flim is what we dread

The predicament we got here ain’t a failure to communicate

It’s a failure to close the mouth and open the ears, proves he is a man who history cannot educate

But, he gets off on seeing us all in tears and with a frown

Put the shovel down and stop using that blowhole of yours as some kind of Stalinistic crown

Boasting of a button so large, seems the only way his fragile ego can get a constant recharge

Your button is minute, as is your capacity for humility

Two men of madness across bodies of water pout and rant

Yet, the elder of the two is more immature than the younger pissant

Down this road of sorrow, man of rage flexes 240 characters towards a dark future

Nuclear winter could be near, for arrogance’s finger on the button of apocalypse is ever so clear

Crazy he is not, for there are more than enough fellow travelers in his lot

All of us who are sane are hoping Nuclear winter won’t be a result of a pissing contest insult

Insults be damned, for his soul is a stone of narcissism

Monarch of Mendacity inflates his chest with pride

He doesn’t give a thought on who is on the other side

Squawking about who’s coming in and who you want in this country proves your racism can no longer hide

Callously speaking of human beings as if they were soot

Now, let’s get down to the root

Root of his core isn’t larger than life for something so truly itsy-bitsy makes the world tsk-tsk in strife

Your button is minute

Your bullying sure as hell ain’t cute

And, Vladimir owns your chute of poot

Pussy Hat!

Pussy Hat!

Damn straight, that’s where it’s at

The Grab Back is here

Now, get this loud and clear: Voters are Gonna’ Vote & Kick All the Grabbers in the Rear!

The only hole that manure belches from is located between his vicious lips

So, to that man who is void of conscience, the Kitties dig in their claws deep, “Hole Off & Flip!!”

Mid-terms and 2020 are gonna’ be the ultimate payback and Grab-Back trip!

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/h-scott-vortex-vile/

 

 

Posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Friends of TWS, History, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Women

Victoria Meng: Book Review – Susan Sontag’s, On Photography

Victoria_Meng_photography_review_Susan_Sontag_On_Photography_art_classic_books

Venus and the Rags. Photo: Victoria Meng, Copyright 2018

 

Photography and Text by Victoria Meng, Copyright 2018

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Book Review – Susan Sontag’s, On Photography

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Raw emotions frozen in time, the essence of an era preserved forever, ecstatic motion immortalized in texture. Empirically, photographs are magical. From light and film, life is created within two dimensions, from detail and abstraction comes an irresistible invitation to stop and stare.

Yet the incredible experience of viewing a masterful photograph is inherently linked to the process behind the camera. Susan Sontag’s On Photography, ultimately invoked within me the idea that photography is far more than just capturing reality. Rather it is creating a new reality reframing the world to illustrate both metaphorical and literal light and darkness.

Interestingly, Sontag strays away from fixating on a photographer’s inherent talent, expressing that “time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.” So it seems a true differentiator of great photographs lies in the ability to preserve fragile “ethical content” and to convey the emotional charge of a moment. I now understand that by hiding more of reality than it exposes, photography is infinitely flexible. The most mundane scenario can be made exotic and dangerous, while the strangest of subjects can be humanized.

Another fascinating facet of photography was revealed in Sontag’s discussion of Surrealism. Defying conventional associations between Surrealism and imaginative, albeit alien, interpretations of life, Sontag’s emphasizes a discussion of politics and class. In her view, “what renders a photography surreal is its… intimations about social class”, that Surrealism itself is a bourgeois disaffection. This resonated with my own concerns about the ethics of documentary photography and the concept of voyeuristically capturing the plight of other human beings. Here the documentation of strife becomes “the gentlest of predations”, especially when one has not experienced that strife first hand. The danger of social tourism through photography is especially pertinent now in the social media age, and as I continue my own journey as a photographer empathy will be an added dimension I will strive to capture.

However, the potential for exploitation in photography is also coupled with the potential for exploration and celebration. Later essays in “On Photography” explored the idea of democratizing beauty through photographic interpretations. A camera can introduce paradoxical elicitations of aesthetics, either being extremely forgiving of flaws in a subject or exaggerating those flaws to the point of creating a newly invented interpretation of beauty. I find this unconventional view of the world inspiring as it creates within the minutiae of everyday life the potential for ingenuity. 

The idea that potentially any subject can serve as a blank canvas for crafting a message, or what Sontag so eloquently describes as “sensorially stimulating” confusion, inspired my choice of image for this report. For greater context, my grandfather, who first introduced me to photography, accompanied me to the National Mall this summer. As we weaved between museums trying to avoid Washington’s scorching August heat, we eventually wandered into the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Upon entering the building, I can’t say that I was instantly impressed. Paintings came in the form of a few abstract dots on the wall, while a sculpture consisted of dilapidated car crash wreckage. Perhaps it was the heat exhaustion or simply my own preferences for non-contemporary art, but I felt in that moment that the entire art world had evolved into the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Looking around the Hirshhorn, I certainly experienced the confusion Sontag described, but no residual effects of emotion or humanity. However, upon wandering upstairs, “Venus of the Rags” provided me with a suspiciously timely answer. A cheekily ironic sculpture, which I have photographed above, “Venus of the Rags” relies on jarring juxtaposition to relate a simple message: art, like life, is what you make of it. Conventions about aesthetics are often overly institutionalized, even arbitrary. Perhaps the value we assign to the perfect figure of Venus could just as well be applied to the chaotic abstraction of the rags.

Ultimately, reading On Photography helped me consolidate an insight I’ve been struggling to grasp since my experience at the Hirshhorn this summer. I’ve now come to realize that rather than fixating on the inherent artistic worth of different subjects, I should apply my own creativity to explore the context of a presented reality. While it is ultimately impossible to gain 100% of the truth in any circumstance, when I am behind the viewfinder of a camera, I will try to capture with honesty and dignity my own understanding of the world around me.

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in Washington D.C., I was truly seeing.

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About The Author: Victoria Meng is a Sophomore enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Victoria Meng, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/victoria-meng-artist-statement/

 

Posted in Art, Blog, Book Reviews, Documentary, History, Photography, Popular Culture, UPenn, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

Matt Garber: I Say We Care

Roosevelt - Truman Campaign Event 1944

Roosevelt – Truman Campaign Event 1944

 

Photography and Text by Matt Garber, Copyright 2018

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I SAY WE CARE

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After reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography, the one question that I could not drive from my mind was this: why take a photograph? Specifically, why take one of this subject at this moment? This issue is treated extensively by Sontag, and it represents the biggest shift in my attitude towards photography for having read the book.

The question of why to take a photograph seems like it should have a quite simple answer. We capture what is for some reason beautiful or relevant. However, Sontag describes the role of photographers in molding the very ideas of beauty and relevance. What makes a beautiful photograph is not necessarily capturing a subject previously understood to be aesthetic, and a photo’s relevance can be determined as much by its artistic motivation as by the context.

This translates into a considerable amount of power naturally afforded to the photographer. The individuals who master the camera, in a way, get to determine how we remember history. The photographer has nearly as much influence over what is considered worthy of photographing as any natural beauty or relevance inherent in the scene.

Several years ago, my grandmother came across something remarkable in cleaning up my late grandfather’s things: she found his photographs. Among them is the photograph below, picturing Orson Wells, Hellen Keller, and Anne Sullivan at a Roosevelt-Truman campaign event in New York.

The rally, held September 21, 1944 at Madison Square Garden, helped kick off the transition between Roosevelt’s Vice President Henry Wallace and his new Vice-Presidential nominee, Harry Truman.

Prior to reading On Photography, the photograph gave me a sense of pride because it told me that my grandfather, a freelance photojournalist at the time, was there to capture something history considers important. Now, the photograph gives me a sense of pride because it tells me that my grandfather helped decide what history considers important.

This particular rally is remembered not so much for the 20,000 people who came but rather for the handful of celebrities who were present. Among the speakers were Orson Welles and Helen Keller (photographed), as well as Sinclair Lewis, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and David Dubinsky. Frank Sinatra was just one of the entertainers. Truman and Wallace’s speeches were likely not the most memorable for many of the 20,000 in attendance.

What makes this special is that that election marked the beginning of celebrity politics in America, and that rally was the most star-studded of them all. And the trend continues to this day. Last year, we watched Lady Gaga on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton. Beyoncé dances with Michelle Obama.

Through his camera, my grandfather played at least a small role in shaping how these rallies were perceived. His decision to use his film to show Keller and Welles as opposed to Truman, Wallace, or any of the 20,000 regular folk in attendance, provided some degree of importance to their being present. In a small way, my grandfather’s decision to photograph the subject he did changed how we think about history, and how history unfolded.

The active role of the photographer in shaping what we believe was not entirely lost by me before reading Sontag, but its extent and importance was never something I considered. Now, just like I consider my grandfather’s photography a small but nevertheless important shaper of our history, I start to think about my own photography as a chance to impact what people care about.

I am excited by this. As I move forward with my photography, it will be impossible to remove it from my conscious decision making. The determinative power of my choices will be as important a consideration as framing and exposure.

Each piece of photographic art I create will be my small contribution to what we care about. After all, if my grandfather could create and decide what is an important part of our story, then so can I.

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About The Author: Matt Garber is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020.  To access additional articles by Matt Garber, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/matt-garber-dis-comfort/

 

Posted in Blog, Documentary, History, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, UPenn, UPenn: Photography Students

Yash Killa: Book Review – Susan Sontag’s, On Photography

Yash Killa: High School Group Portrait

Yash Killa: High School Group Portrait

 

Photography and Text by Yash Killa, Copyright 2018

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Book Review: Susan Sontag’s, On Photography

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‘On Photography’, authored by Susan Sontag, is a 1977 compilation of a series of essays written by her on the subject throughout the 20th Century. The essays range from talking about the nature of photography along with the comparison between an image and reality in “In Plato’s Cave” to contrasting idealism with realism in through photographers like Walt Whitman, Rosenfeld Steiglitz, and Diane Arbus in the second and third chapters of the book. However the central theme, according to me, that strings these essays together is the role of photography and the subjective nature of how it is perceived as throughout the different periods in history.

Sontag made me wonder whether a photograph is a mirrored replica of reality, or is it an interpretation of it seen through the eyes of the photographer. When I set out to read the book, I had prepared myself to ask questions, challenge her thoughts, but also try to discern her perspective and in the process gain a deeper understanding of Photography.

As mentioned above, “In Plato’s Cave” deals with Sontag allegorises that the present day humanity is still in Plato’s Cave, and having not left it, everything seen by us is isn’t complete and absolutely realistic. For example, on a daily basis the Human Brain deals with 34GB1 of information – most of it in the form of images, and often these images are seen without their context or even without experiencing them. Humans are so dependent on such images that even though photography helps record passing moments in time, the images can often be misleading and doctored, thus having a ‘cost’ attached to it.

Now, cameras have found their way everywhere, and thus many times, I believe, experiences are automatically-lived through a photograph, reducing the pleasure of experiencing it first-hand in reality. Sontag quotes, “Essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” This leads into her second and third essay which talk about realism and idealism, showing the difference in how the role of photography can be perceived by different photographers. One one end, she talks about Whitman’s vision for idealism, and on the other she contrasts it with the ‘freaks’ she photographs in order to show that humanity is no longer integrated. This made me think about the conception of ‘high art’, and photography’s place within it – is photography another form of art that shows ‘realistic surrealism’, or is it beyond avoiding what’s considered ‘low’ in our society (something like what Diane Arbus did). An interesting observation was that even though Sontag didn’t even use a single photograph to back-up her claims, or provide a visual aid, I, as a reader immediately understood what she meant because the topics she wrote about are still pertinent in today’s society.

Sontag’s later essays explore the historical development of photography and reviews the nature of photography in its context – to quote Sontag, “Mallarme said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” The essays make one wonder whether one ‘takes’ photographs or ‘makes’ them – whether photography is

1 “The Human Brain Is Loaded Daily with 34 GB of Information.” Tech 21 Century, 1 Mar. 2015, www.tech21century.com/the-human-brain-is-loaded-daily-with-34-gb-of-information/.

just a mechanical process of pointing a camera and clicking, or is an artistic process of interpreting what is seen differently.

To end, Sontag has published a list of questions, terms and quotes related to the field of photography that, even though are interesting to read, they are difficult to relate to and engage with due to the lack of context.

The read was an insightful and thought-provoking one. I would certainly recommend it to those who are interested in reading about different opinions and perspectives on a particular matter because what Sontag writes about is completely unique and slightly cynical, forcing one to leave their biases aside and compels readers to further understand the world around them.

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About The Author: 

“I come from a Boarding school. This image was taken on a formal dinner at the end of our final semester, and consists of my batchmates who lived in the same house with me over the course of 5 years. To any other observer of the image, it will be seen as a normal image of a group of friends, but it is quite different for someone who was a part of this picture. The number of memories, adventures, fights, food-parties we’ve had as a close-knit group; the number of jokes we’ve laughed up; the number of treks we’ve gone for together; how each one of us has had an impact on the development and growth on the other – it is all encompassed in this one photo taken at the end of our high-school journey that we embarked on, and completed together. This is what Sontag talks about in “In Plato’s Cave”. As I am writing this short write-up for the photo, it is already that I’ve become over-whelmed with nostalgia and joy, and this is why this photo will always be close to me.”

Yash Killa is a Freshman enrolled in the School of Arts & Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Yash Killa, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/yash-killa-night-magic/

 

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Documentary, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Science, Student Life, Travel, UPenn

Matt Garber: (Dis-) Comfort

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Photography and Text by Matt Garber, Copyright 2018

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(Dis-) Comfort

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Where are do you belong? Where do you not? In a sense, answers to the two questions can help define individuals in an extremely powerful way. I set out to answer these two questions photographically in order to tell the stories of people around me. In creating two portraits per subject, I strove to capture the places, activities, ideas, and values in and outside of each person’s comfort zone. These photographs constitute my attempt to offer a glimpse into the stories of those around us.

Along this journey, I learned several lessons I simply did not expect to discover. First, the willingness of my friends and family to participate as subjects for my study was heartening. However, their willingness to go outside their comfort zones to do so was shocking. Through their occasional screams, shrieks, and heebie-jeebies, subjects were willing to face fears of creepy crawlers, climb into uncomfortable, constricting places, approach locations of bad childhood memories, be photographed at their most vulnerable, and even brave proximity to vegetables.

In fact, for many subjects, it was these scenes of discomfort that most excited them. Perhaps, in a way, pushing themselves into their discomfort zones offered a way to open up in ways they normally don’t. Or perhaps being a model for a photoshoot was simply exciting.s

Either way, I am extremely grateful for their willingness to participate and let me shine a small light on their stories. And I am especially grateful for their willingness to be exposed in the very light that they least want.

Second, I found that people often, although not exclusively, struggled more explicitly identifying their areas of comfort than their areas of discomfort. For many, but again not all, of the subjects, this project forced them to consider what makes them content. In that way, it demonstrates photography’s power to encourage self-reflection.

Finally, I found it quite interesting the role that hands played for many of the subjects’ portraits. The position, strength, motion, and action of hands became a minor focus once I noticed its pattern through many of the portraits.

Stylistically, I challenged myself, as much as possible, to be minimalist. How much can I show with how little? In doing so, there is a forced sense of intimacy, or, in several cases, a noteworthy lack thereof.

Everyone has a story to tell. I think that story can be told in two frames. My subjects and I chose the most and least belonging places for those two frames. In this way, the photographs declare that we can be defined in part by where or whom we ought to be and where and whom we ought not.

This forces the questions: Where are we comfortable? Where are we not? Where should we be? Where should we not?

Where do you belong? Where do you not?

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About The Author: Matt Garber is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020.  To access additional articles by Matt Garber, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/matt-garber-picture-worth-140-characters/

 

Posted in Blog, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography