How I Really Feel about Instagram

I am known in my circle of friends as the guy who hates Instagram. This isn’t really true, I don’t hate Instagram, I philosophically loathe it. That is to say, I don’t enjoy the way many people on Instagram treat the art of photography.

When I talk about Instagram I am often met with a rebuttal as strong as those over religion or politics. In the end we are all entitled to our beliefs. I have a feeling that a similar post as this was written by many film photographers when the first digital SLRs started hitting the market.

justex07-on-InstagramI’ll keep this brief but here is my gripe. People take ordinary photos, what we would call snapshots, what we would drop in a shoebox and forget about as quickly as we took them. These photos do not stand out like the ones we would put in a physical album, that we would pay to have printed or that we would submit to a gallery for showing. They are the epitome of disposable photography and there is nothing wrong with that.

What I have qualms with are people that elevate these toss-away photos to a level of importance not by context or content but by obscuring the banality and ordinary mundanity of the photo with a filter, sometimes to such a degree that the original content of the image is totally obfuscated. That is not art, that is glorified censorship. Continue reading

Ghosting Retina MacBook Pro is a Known Unknown

Just yesterday I noticed while editing some Illustrator and Photoshop documents that there was significant ghosting on my August 2012 Retina MacBook Pro screen. You know, the screen known for its brilliant resolution and eye-popping color. And also for this particular flaw.

Ghosting MacBook Pro with Retina Screen

I absolutely love my Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Screen (rMBP). It is the most powerful computer I have ever owned, the thinnest computer I have ever owned and has the longest battery life of any computer I have ever owned. It is so amazing that I plan on putting my iMac out to pasture, replacing it with this computer and a 27″ screen.

But there is this issue with the ghosting. When I went to my Apple Genius appointment today the tech told me something I couldn’t believe and reminded me of this famous Rumsfeldism…

Secretary of Defense Donald RumsfeldThere are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

Oh those were the days… Here is an approximation of how it went down.

Continue reading

When There’s No Way Out

There is no excuse for transphobia. Yet another victim of suicide reminds us that your actions aren’t harmless. When will this end? How many young people have to die before people start to understand the gravity of their actions.

I have met so many “not homophobic/transphobic” people who in the same sentence will remark, “just don’t be gay/trans around me.” Can you imagine what that does the a person? Do you realize the compounding effect these types of statements have when spoken over and over again? Do you ever reach outside of what you know and try to grasp at realities beyond your immediate existence?

Growing up gay was hard. I didn’t know who I could tell, what my friends or family members would say. I worried I’d be kicked out of my house or worse. I grew up in the time of Matthew Shepard, a time when the only LGBT kids you heard about dying did so at the hands of criminals. Wasn’t that bad enough?

Now we have LGBT persons killing themselves at the rate of 1,500 per year. Re-read that number. One thousand, five hundred, every single year. And for what? Because to them, “there’s no way out,” but death. And why? Because people who fill their heads with hatred, judgment and fear can’t help but pester and prod and provoke.

LBGT youth are 400% more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. 30% of LGBT you have attempted suicide by age 15. If you focus on transgendered population it get even more dire. That 30% number becomes 41%. Nearly half of all transgendered people have attempted or succeeded in committing suicide. That is nearly 900% higher than what we call average.

I’m gay and I survived when many times I thought I wouldn’t. I struggled through elementary school, junior high and high school in the closet. It resulted in dozens of hospital visits from stress-related illnesses and there were times visions of the future faded from my view. Just like Leelah, I didn’t see  any other way out. I cannot tell you how I survived my life in the closet. I felt I was cast away on an island left to fend for myself. I had no one. I feared everyone.

Today I’m so grateful for the friends with whom I surrounded myself and am blessed with a family that celebrates my existence.

We have got to stop this. I am tired of starting my mornings in tears reading news of yet another LGBT suicide.

Hey Instagram Users, Get Over It

Ok. So first of all I am known in my circle of friends as the guy who hates Instagram. This isn’t really true, I don’t have Instagram, I philosophically loathe it. That is to say, I don’t enjoy the way many people on Instagram treat the art of photography.

I philosophically loathe Instagram

justex07-on-InstagramI’ll keep this brief but here is my gripe. People take ordinary photos, what we would call snapshots, what we would drop in a shoebox and forget about as quickly as we took them. These photos do not stand out like the ones we would put in a physical album, that we would pay to have printed or that we would submit to a gallery for showing. They are the epitome of disposable photography. Nothing wrong with that. What I have qualms with are people that elevate these toss-away photos to a level of importance not by context or content but by obscuring the banality and ordinary mundanity with a filter, sometimes to such a degree that the original content of the image is totally obfuscated.

My issue is not with getting more people interested in photography or with the community people build around these photos. My issue is when photographers like myself who take great pride in each frame we shoot, who edit, curate, proof and print our images with great care. I might be unique in the detail I put into each photo I put into a critique, gallery and even on my photo site but I am not alone, not even close.

Philly-at-Night-Instgram

What makes the filtered photo on the left better than the original image on the right with only RAW file color correction and some perspective control? A good image should stand on its own.

We invest tons of time, money and love in a photo (and this is where it might sound a bit petty) and here comes someone with an Instagram photo of their half-eaten brunch or their duck-face and all of a sudden they’re magicians with a camera. It’s not that we’re vain. It’s that when we get a vignette on a photo we probably made a mistake. When our film comes out of the wash faded and grainy, we grit our teeth. When we shoot a square photo on film it costs big bucks, takes a ton of time to shoot and process and requires incredible know-how on the physics behind light and the large format camera.

When I do post on Instagram, which I’ve only done a handful of times, I try to remember to add the #nofilter tag to my images signifying that I did not use any Instagram filters to make the image. The only filter I might ever use is in Camera+ from Tap Tap Tap called Clarity which does a phenomenal job of picking up details and expanding dynamic range in a photo. Sometimes even this gets a little beyond, if only they’d add the intensity slider to their iPhone app…

Trust me, that was the short version of my argument against Instagram as a function of creating high-art and misinforming the masses on what it takes to make a powerful image, especially without a faculty of ridiculous filters. Phew. Now to the part where I talk about the Instagram privacy policy and terms of use changes.

Everyone else is already doing it

The big hubbub this week about Instagram and why so many users are threatening to leave the photo filtering and sharing service stems from a change in their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Previously there was none of the following language:

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you

Instagram is basically telling you anything you upload to them can be used however they like, including profile information and more importantly the metadata within your photos. If you are only upset that a company will make money without paying you and are ignoring that with each snap of your camera you’re telling them around a dozen things about you which they can use/sell, you’re mad about the wrong thing.

Bottom line, Instagram was purchased by Facebook and with that comes the simplification of legal policies. How does a photo change when it is uploaded to Instagram but then also shared to Facebook? Two conflicting policies would spell legal issues for all parties involved. What Facebook, and Instagram, have done is what they should do and it is totally legal and unless you leave Instagram, your continued use is an endorsement of those terms, if not at least acceptance.

Many other sites have the same issues with their Privacy Policy, EULA and TOS/TOU. I recommend you check out Terms of Service; Didn’t Read aka ToS;DR. They breakdown all the legal-ease and provide grades and simple explanations of complicated legal documents for popular web services.

Flickr came under similar scrutiny back in 2010 when it partnered with Getty Images to allow users to sell their photos. Flickr had the smarts to require users to opt-in to this opportunity which Instagram didn’t do. However, Flickr also had an all-or-nothing approach to the service. Your stock photos shot specifically for this purpose are treated the same as your daughter’s dance recital photos. So caveats remain.

My Rant to Inside Columbia Magazine

This is in response to an email I got this morning from Inside Columbia Magazine:

I simply cannot believe you guys are obfuscating the unsubscribe options from your emails. This is a violation of MailChimp‘s terms of service, which I am sure you already know.

White text on a white background is a deceptive way of hiding the unsubscribe option as well as your physical address. This is a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. I recommend whoever is running your email marketing read up on the FTC‘s rules. I’ll be as kind as to provide a quick link.

Here also is an excerpt:

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.

I’ll even provide a screenshot of what I was sent so you can see the issue at hand.

I would not have unsubscribed, or blogged this situation, had you guys followed the rules. I’ve also informed MailChimp following instructions on their abuse page.

-justin
http://itsjustjustin.com

J Vineyards and Winery, a Bitter Taste

J Vineyards and WineryI tweeted earlier in the week that Kayla, Marris and I had a dreadful wine tasting at J Vineyards in Healdsburg. J Vineyards responded on Twitter requesting I direct message them my story so they could make it right. I told them I’d put it together here and so I have. A direct message, while definitely tidier for J, would never allow me to fully explain my disappointment. Here goes:

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know about the never-ending renovation I’ve been doing on my house in wine country. I find myself going up north to meet with a contractor or furniture delivery person at least once a month. While this might be annoying to some, and it is to me, the best part of these trips is getting to see Kayla.

It’s a rare event that Kayla and I are in the same zip code and don’t do some sort of wine tasting. So on this trip to Sonoma County, she and I decided to hit up J Vineyards for a quick tasting and pick up my wine club shipment. Marris was in town and joined in on the adventure. But before we go there, let’s learn a bit about the winery and my history visiting them. Continue reading

The Gay Rights Movement

I just stumbled upon this video through a friend’s Facebook update and immediately felt compelled to share here. It’s a trailer for a documentary titled “Second Class Citizens” which you can sponsor via Kickstarter.

This documentary is something that is very near and dear to me; someone who is considered by my state and country a second class citizen. By extension, I am a second class citizen to all my friends and family members who continue to vote for people who fight against equality, donate money to organizations and churches who cast aspersions on who I am and look the other way all the while.

Explaining what it is like to be gay isn’t easy. I kept it a secret until I was 18 years old because I feared that I might be made a victim of harassment beyond what I was already experiencing in junior high and high school. I was so stressed out about being gay that I became physically ill; acid reflux, debilitating migraines, panic attacks & major depression.

If it wasn’t for the friends I made in college, I don’t know that I would have survived to be where I am today. Far too many people like me don’t make it through the bullying. They are commit suicide or are murdered because they or someone else was unable to accept the person they were born to be.

I can’t tell you the number of times I was verbally or physically harassed, my property vandalized and my life threatened. My first semester in college a neighbor in the dorms threaten to hang me in the stairwell because I was gay. Try explaining to your parents why you have to switch dorms when that is your reason. I never did because I never had the courage to do so.

Ryan James Yezak is hoping to produce a documentary titled “Second Class Citizens” and has created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it. I implore you to check it out and if you find it worthy, to invest in his film. I am going to do that right now.