Thursday, December 11, 2014

Graduation



So I see it has been about a year and a half (or more) since I have written anything here. Not that I have many readers (and I appreciate the readers I do have) and not that my opinion counts any more than anyone else's when it comes to photography, but I do have an announcement. As you can see from the banner above, I'm graduating. This is my first Bachelor's degree ever and I am pretty excited. If you're local to Minnesota and can make it at all, I would love to see you at my opening. The gallery show runs from December 13 - January 22, 2015. So even if you can't make the opening on December 18, from 6 - 8:30, please feel free to come and see the gallery any time between those dates. I have a talented class graduating with me. There are five of us in the photography degree program, and one diploma graduate. We will have our portfolios out at the opening along with our business systems: business cards, postcards, leave behinds, resumes. If you're a business professional, please come and see how we've grown into relevant business professionals ourselves, who now also happen to be looking for a job. I, myself, would like to assist. And I know my way around a lighting studio.

So please come if you can, and if you can't, I love you anyway and please keep me in your prayers. Homework may be over, but now the real pressure starts.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Photography Inspirations: Eikoh Hosoe

EIKOH HOSOE, MASTER PHOTOGRAPHER

Eikoh Hosoe was born in Japan, Toshihio Hosoe. His experimental photography is known for surreal and dreamlike images. Contrast and nudity, as well the surreal images of fairytale, come together as art rather than pornography, even with his use of erotic imagery.

He moved all over Japan because of the war, but by the time he reached high school, he was back in Tokyo. He joined the English language club at school and was an active member of the photography club. His first subjects were the American children on the military base. At his cousin’s suggestion, he took the name Eikoh as one better suited to a new era. In 1952, while still in high school, he won a Fuji photo contest for a portrait series about a boy. His first show was An American Girl in Tokyo, but by the late 1950’s he started to focus more on what it meant to be Japanese.

“Inexplicable suffering. Wounds inflicted by beings whose motives are beyond comprehension. The human and the supernatural encountering each other, unpredictably but inevitably. These notions, it seems, would come to inform and shape much of Hosoe’s photography.” His main subjects are nudes as well as fairytale images about the kamaitachi. After college, he turned back to photographing Japanese subjects and his next photo series was titled Man and Woman. He worked with a Japanese dance troupe, and the black and white images were considered more distinctly Japanese.

They were so widely popular, the controversial writer, Yukio Mishima requested Hosoe to take his portrait for his book of essays. The photo shoot became a series of ten sessions over six months and grew into a gallery exhibition, “Barakei or Killed by Roses”. Hosoe loved the theatrical appearance of Mishima’s home and created a cinematic-like set of portraits symbolizing the author.

After Mishima’s suicide, Hosoe went back to his childhood memory of the kamaitachi and did a series of surreal, fairytale images. Hosoe says in an artist’s talk in 2010, "Kamaitachi is a document of my memories when I was a child evacuated from Tokyo to the countryside." A kamaitachi is a weasel-like demon that attacks with a sickle. It is said they attack in threes. One buffeting the victim, the second clawing him and the third healing the external wounds, leaving the victim to suffer without evidence of injury. It was stories about these creatures that inspired the images in the Kamaitachi series.

In this paper, I use images from these three series, but he made more and in 1971, he created Embrace. This series was a return to the study of the human body. By focusing on parts of the male and female bodies in abstract positions, it was not only about eroticism and intimacy, but it was a celebration of the human body and its beauty as a form. He also did several architecture images and other portraits.



The first image I want to talk about is Man and Woman #33. The image, done in black and white photography, printed in high contrast, features a nude, dark skinned man holding two light colored birds. The birds are kissing. The model is Tatsumi Hijikata, creator of the Butoh dance movement. I chose this image for the stark contrast between black and white, and the gentleness and intimacy conveyed by the way the man is holding the birds. The composition is set in the rule of threes and the solid black background sets the subject apart. The birds are framed by the man’s hands and even though they are small, they hold my eye as being in a safe place. The grain of the film is visible in this print, setting the man apart from the birds even more since the grain is smoother over the birds.

I find I am drawn to this image because of the contrast. I have written about the contrast of black and white in a few of my own works. The reflection of the light off the man to single out the birds makes them the main subject. I thought it was just the sense of intimacy and gentleness that drew me to this image, but Eikoh says that the birds represent us. “We are in the hands of Buddha. We can’t see Buddha’s face.” While I’m not Buddhist, I can see the sense of God in this image. I feel like the birds are in a safe place in the man’s hands, even though all he would have to do is squeeze and they would be crushed.



The second image I want to talk about is Barakei #32. This image is done in black and white photography, printed in high contrast, and features a man holding a rose in his mouth. The model is Yukio Mishima, a controversial writer. Eikoh felt the rose, beautiful outside, but inside full of thorns, represented Mishima.

This image is very symmetrical, yet asymmetrical as well, the asymmetry set by the lighting. I love the symbolism of the rose representing the man. I see the truth of it on a larger scale. People are beautiful on the outside, but inside they are full of thorns. This set was done to commemorate Mishima’s life.

I like that the rose is fully lit while the man is half-shadowed. The metaphor then becomes the image. The reality of the rose promises beauty with a bit of pain. On the same scale, the metaphor can be expanded to represent humanity. While there is beauty in the world, it is tempered by pain and tragedy. The author Mishima committed ritual suicide after this book was finished. Hosoe held off publishing it for a year after Mishima’s death. The image makes me a little sad knowing what happened.

Like image one, this is done in black and white. The black and white allows for the stark contrast Hosoe is using to hit the viewer with the message. Both images are close cropped, telling the story of the second subject: the intimacy of the birds, the beauty of the rose. Both images use Japanese men, but both tell a deeper story than just the story of the men. Hosoe uses the hands of the man to frame the birds and the face of the man to frame the rose. But these images are also very different. The first image is a metaphor for religion, people in the hands of God. The second is a part of the story of one man’s life and death.. Both contain a metaphor, but the first uses birds where the second uses a rose. In the first image, we don’t see the man’s face because no one can know the face of God. The birds then represent man. In the second image, we see the man’s face. The rose becomes the man by placing it in his mouth.



The third image I have to show is Kamaitachi #34. This is also a black and white photograph, with less contrast. It is based on a fairytale Hosoe heard while growing up. This one shows a man in a field portraying the weasel-like demon. He teamed up again with Tatsumi Hijikata for this series.

I chose this image for a few reasons. I like that you can’t tell if the subject is a man or a woman. I thought it was a woman when I first saw it. I really love the hazy, surreal quality of the image. His depth of field is quite shallow, so that while the man is in focus, the grasses around and in front of him are blurred, giving the image a sense of swaying in the wind. This is my favorite of the three images I’ve chosen. I like how the subject is dancing in the field. He looks mischievous, as though he is planning an attack, but the overall feeling I get from the image is that it is playful, though I still wouldn’t want to run into a kamaitachi in a lonely field. Like the first two images, this is done in black and white. Hosoe continues his use of human models to portray a story. But that is really where the similarities end. This image is not done in a studio and the subject is clothed. This image is framed vertically and printed with softer contrast and the more generalized lighting of outside.

This image leaves you with the impression of motion. The subject is dancing. The grasses are waving. The images are static in the first two. The man’s face in the third image is obscured by the grass, but still gives the impression of impish plots. The second image, where we see the man’s face, is clear, and while his eyes implore the viewer to see him, he doesn’t look ready to bite you. In this image of a kamaitachi, I almost expect to see his cohorts coming up out of the field behind him. It is told that the kamaitachi attack in threes.

“The camera is generally assumed to be unable to depict that which is not visible to the eye,” Hosoe has written. “And yet the photographer who wields it well can depict what lies unseen in his memory.” There is nothing obsene about the naked human body, and Eikoh Hosoe does a beautiful job of portraying that. He uses both sexes in evocative positions to show the beauty of lines and forms. What I found while researching his images is that it’s not fully about the body and whether or not it is clothes. The power of an image comes from perspective, depth of field and lighting and is so much more than the subject. Whether Hosoe is taking pictures of men and women or of buildings or of villages, he portrays the story he wants to, and we as a view get to see his vision. He truly is a master photographer.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Holborn, Mark. Eikoh Hosoe (Aperture Masters of Photography). New York: Aperture, 1999
Mishima, Yukio (Preface) , Hosoe, Eikoh (Photography), and Holborn, Mark (Afterword). Barakei Ordeal by Roses. Aperture Foundation, Inc. 1985
Hosoe, Eikoh. “On Man and Woman.” Video. Vimeo.com. May 5, 2010 <http://vimeo.com/15772338>
Fallis, Greg, “Eikoh Hosoe.” Utata Tribal Photography Sunday Salon. May 31, 2009 <http://www.utata.org/salon/37884.php>
Ma, A. “Eikoh Hosoe.” Sundays Are For Modern. Blog. July 14, 2007 < http://svegliarsi.blogspot.com/2007/07/eikoh-hosoe.html>
401 Projects – Eikoh Hosoe. Non-profit. 2006 (founded). <http://www.401projects.com/index.php?mode=gallery§ion_id=153>
Rusvar. “Icons: Eikoh Hosoe.” May 10, 2010 <http://www.husvar.com/icons/icons-eikoh-hosoe> Man and Woman #33 BaraKei #32 Kamaitach #34 All photos copywrite © Eikoh Hosoe

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Busy Day

Good morning, all.

Ever have one of those days when you wake up knowing it's full? And then before you have the sleep completely wiped away, you have more heaped on to the already nearly overwhelming stack? I get them more than I would like, and today is just such a day.

Thursdays are always full. I work for Right at Home, a client-based, in-home care company. I have two clients on Thursday, from 9 to 12, and then from 1 to 4, then I have class from 5 to 8. I make myself a lunch and a supper, so I can get home, eat, gather my things and leave. I have my bag that I take to work, but in the afternoon, I also have my backpack for class and my "lunch" box with my supper in it. That's just my part of the day. In the morning, between my husband and I, we have to spur the kids to get ready for school, and then get them there on time, and up until yesterday, I also double checked that my husband had his lunch packed. (That's a long story, and a lot more involved than this blog wants to get.)

Well, I was prepared for that level of busy. Only, this morning sort of got away from us. It was almost 7:15 before my husband jumped up to get the kids off to school. I had started getting ready, just in case he was planning to browse job sites this morning, when he jumped up. I was already planning the rest of the morning when he asked me to dig through the files for some paperwork we need. *sigh* Well, hubby heads out with kids in tow, and I get to making my sandwiches (boloney and cheese for lunch, chicken and cheese for supper, unless I grab them differently) and the phone rings. Nothing like becoming Grand Central Station to make a busy morning even busier. But, what's this? It's my daughter. What did she forget? "Mom, what happened last night with the car?" I love the evasiveness... no really, I frequently do things to the car, just to get my husband's goat so he'll ask me leading and vague questions about what "happened" to it... O.o So since I went to the dentist, then parked in a ramp at school, and the wipers were there last night, something happened in the wee hours of the morning in our driveway that didn't set off the alarm. Oh and how much did I drive it yesterday because the gas seems a lot lower than it should be for forty-seven miles. All this before I have to leave for work. (And, yeah, I'm trying to write this blog [for school])

I don't look forward to a day without wiperblades on roads that are relatively soggy. But what can I do? I have my kindle with me, so I can write in my downtime. That's the current work in progress, not this blog. But, but, but... I need a nap and it's only eight o'clock.

As for my new website, it's been up for a couple of days now. I have yet to figure out stats or comments, so feel free to comment here. I've gotten good feedback on facebook. I have a thirty day trial on the webhost site, and then I have to decide if I want to pay for it or let it die. If it's really a great site, and I get some good comments, here or on facebook, I just might keep it. I'll need a website eventually anyway.

*Breathe* That's Thursday. Tuesday will be joining the ranks starting next week, but that may another blog. (Who steals wiperblades?!?)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Website: Jen Steffen Photography

Hello everyone. As you may or may not know, I am currently in school for Photography. I started this blog for my writing, came back to it for my Web Design class, and am now appropriating it for my Photo Design class. I started a new website for class as an assignment. You can find a link for it in the side bar, but here is the address http://jensteffenphotography.viewbook.com/ I tried to get a page set up for a blog, but it wouldn't work, so I'm using this blog. I have a few albums set up with pictures I've taken for various classes. Take a look. I can't figure out a comment page on that site yet, so feel free to either shoot me an email or comment here or on facebook to let me know what you though. I'm interested to hear what you think.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Looking at Online Grocery Delivery Services



For class we are putting together a hypothetical website offering a product or service.  My group decided a grocery delivery service would be a good service to offer.  For this study, I have looked at five different grocery delivery companies to compare our idea with what’s already out there.  First I looked at Store to Door, a non-profit grocery delivery service for the elderly and home-bound.  Schwann’s home delivery has been around for a long time.  They started out delivering milk and dairy products, and now they deliver everything.  Although unlike grocery delivery, Schwann’s delivers food, as in entrées and such.  Walmart has delivery service, but not in all areas.  When I checked my address, I was encouraged to sign up so they could let me know when they were in my area.  Coborns Delivers used to be Simon Delivers.  They are a full functioning grocery store.  Lastly, Peapod Delivery, like Coborns Delivers, is a full functioning Grocery store, delivering to either a home or business.

First, Store to Door does their deliveries every two weeks.  You don’t go to their website and put in an order, instead after signing up, they call you and you place your order with them that way.  I work a few people who get their service and they have told me that you have to give them very specific descriptions of what you want or you will get the wrong thing.  Considering the company is run by volunteers, I can see how this might be a problem.  They also work exclusively with Cub Foods and will also pick up prescriptions their clients have ordered from that Cub. They do have a delivery fee, but because of their non-profit status, most of their clients qualify for help with that.

Schwann’s has a full site.  They have a very colorful homepage, showing a slideshow of what they offer.  You can order a full meal or sides or even just dessert.  I do not find any information on a delivery charge, though that may depend on the truck.

Walmart, while they don’t deliver to me right now, has a special where the first groceries you order are free of a delivery charge as long as you spend at least $49.  On the home page they list their deals of the day, and at least for today, they offer a delivery package.  For $49.98 you can purchase a delivery package that gives you unlimited delivery for six months.  Also, while they don’t offer this service in my area, they tout the convenience.  If you can’t make it to a store, you can still shop at Walmart.com and have your groceries delivered.

Coborns bought Simon Delivers, and now the yellow trucks all over the city announce Coborns Delivers.  They have two choices when you want to peruse their inventory, business delivery and home delivery.  They offer next day delivery and if you aren’t home, they have an insulated container that they leave your groceries in so they don’t spoil.  They have a $5 delivery fee with specials for new customers and they accept manufacturers’ coupons.

Peapod services most of the east coast and part of the Midwest.  They are not in Minnesota yet.  They do not let you simply look over their stock without signing up.

There are aspects of each of these that are interesting enough that I would want to include them, such as a low delivery fee, and perhaps a bit more with actual meals, perhaps ordered from a grocery store deli.  Unlike these services, I would like to open up our service to include the option to pick the store you want to shop from, perhaps with the weekly circular featured on each store’s page.  I like this idea and would probably use it if I were actually doing it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Web Analytics *yawn*


Hello again, it seems I am truly utilizing this blog after all.  School certainly has me working.  This blog is about Web Analytics.  As you can see from my title, analytics bore me.  My mind deals with the realm of fantasy, and while numbers can certainly occupy that realm, any real numbers are a sure way to put me to sleep.  Just like the difference between data entry and writing, creating a formula that may never work, or even really make sense it another thing entirely from analytics.

Secondly, as a Socialist, I have a real hard time grasping much that is born out of Capitalism.  Like the theory behind driving a stick-shift (that’s a manual transmission, y’all) I technically know how to drive one, but if you want your car to head to the shop in a quick hurry, just put me behind the wheel.  Same thing here, I know I need to be successful in the world and to do that I need to sell my services.  With the competition out there, I need to be aggressive with my selling techniques and I need to tell the world why I’m unique and better than the other guy while not sounding so arrogant that I turn them all away.  Know this and doing this are two totally different things, and analytics are what I need to see how my self-praise is working.  Am I drawing the crowd I want and need to make my business successful?  In short, I look at the Clicky stats on my Webs.com page and say “Oooh, I was visited by someone in China. Cool!”  It doesn’t take root and certainly does not find fertile ground in which to sprout.  This is my shortcoming and I own it. I know I need a business partner who is so turned on by business that he or she will grow the business like mad or I will fail.  I believe that is my current reason for not being the successful writer that I want to be. I write; I don’t sell.

Okay, that said, for my class (Hi, Mac!) I have looked at three different web analytics sites and promptly fell asleep.  (Just kidding, but yeah, I took about an hour’s nap here)  I looked at Google Analytics, Clicky Analytics, and Piwik Analytics.  All offer to look at your stats and filter them to your settings.  They will look at your presence on social media as well on the mobile apps you’ve made.  That said, they all vary in different aspects, all claiming to be better than anyone else.  Rather, Clicky and Piwik claim to be better than Google.

So let’s start with Google.  Google offers to analyze the users that come to your site. They measure your sales and conversions and will tell you how visitors came your site and what they did when they got there. They have a dashboard that allows you to customize how you view this data and tell you which of your pages are most popular so you can make them better and sell more.  It will tell you how you’re selling and what so you can tailor your ads.  Also, because it’s Google, they will track the users on your social media presence like on Google +1, but also on other social media platforms.  You can also link your ads to your website and Google will keep track of how effective they are so you can tweak them and make them more effective. (Google Analytics)

Clicky claims to be like Google, but better.  They offer you Real Time stats, and claim that Google gives you your stats a day too late to do anything about them. About 514,721 websites use Clicky, including Webs.com.  With Clicky, you can compare users from one region to the users from another region.  You can add filters to single out users with specific criteria that you want to keep track of.  They say that all you have to do is click on the main trait and a drop down menu will give you the options you want to add.  Also, you don’t have to go back to go forward in the navigation. They claim Twitter for their social network platform and allow you to respond to tweets as well as retweet right from Clicky.  You can also keep track of key words used in tweets and Clicky will report them to you. You can also filter what tweets you see. Clicky also has a free option that lets you explore certain features, a sort of try before you buy option. (Clicky Analylitics)

Piwik is an Opensource software that you download for your own use. It is available in 40 languages and currently more than 320,000 websites use it. They also compare themselves to Google, but they’re free, so that’s lots better. J On their website they say they are “a PHP/MySQL software program that you download and install on your own web server.” They then have you watch a five minute installation video and give you a JavaScript tracking code that you then use to track the websites you want to track.  They also use Real Time statistics, allowing you to see who is visiting, when how and why. They then list the reasons they are unique (though to be honest, free is a good reason.) However, real time statistics, you own the analytics data software, it boasts a modern and intuitive user interface, offers plugins, and supports an international open community. They also have advanced web analytic capabilities.  Also, if you don’t have a web server to upload the software to, they do have a list of recommended sites. (Piwik Analytics)

In conclusion, if I were to use one of these services for my website, I’d first choose Piwik. I’m all for Opensource and free.  However, as I don’t have a webserver, I’d choose Clicky second.  Because of my website at thula7.webs.com I am somewhat familiar with them.  My only barrier is cost! Right now anything onver a few dollars a month is crippling.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fashion Retailers - a case study


Fundamentals of IMD Fashion Case Study:                                                            

                This will look at six fashion websites and how they reach their consumers. The assignment only called for five, but since my fashion sense tends toward two distinct trends, I went with three of each.  DraculaClothing.com, GoodGoth.com, and Rivithead.com are three Goth clothing websites.  They all have facebook pages and rss feeds. You can follow them on twitter and flicker.  They do not have print ads or mailers, but you can sign up for email alerts. Like them, LastWear.com, ClockworkCoture.com, and SteampunkEmporium.com are exclusively web based clothing retailers.  They sell steampunk wear and accessories.  They also have facebook accounts and twitter pages, as well as email newsletters.
                
 I have looked for stores that carry this type of clothing, and while shops like Hot Topic have commercialized the alternative, you just can’t find some things in the stores.  There are also seasonal shops, such as Renaissance Fairs, that sell some of these things, but to have access to this style of clothing whenever you can afford it, you really need to have online access.  The six “stores” I looked at online are exclusively web-based retailers.  I have never gotten an ad insert in my Sunday paper for any of them. Neither have I seen any ads for them online, save for on facebook.  They are set up to be found. Consumers interested in this type of clothing already have certain keywords that they can put into the search bar.  These websites are among those that come up on the first page of the search.  They all have facebook accounts, and come up in the search.  Of all of them Rivithead.com and ClockworkCouture.com are the only two that list an actual address and both are in California.
                
 The second point asks how consumers are being reached, and while I touched on that in the above paragraph, I reiterate here.  They all have facebook accounts, which I follow, twitters, flickers, and rss feeds.  They each of them have connected their sites to certain keywords, such as goth clothing and steampunk clothing.  I don’t use my twitter much, so I can’t speak for that site, but on facebook, after I followed GoodGoth.com, DraculaClothing.com was suggested as a page I might like.  When I followed Steampunk, a page devoted to the genre, ClockworkCouture.com was suggested as a page I might like. So while these stores are not sending out print mail or ads, they are slowly getting their name out there.
                
 Again, this topic asks if they are using unique integrated approaches to the use of tools at hand.  Like the paragraph above says, they have definitely taken advantage of the search engines by attaching the keywords to their sites.  They also have themselves advertised on facebook with links in the ads to their websites rather than their facebook page.  Although, each of their home pages has a link to their facebook page as well as their twitter, flicker and rss feeds.
                
 I’ve always like the style of clothing that fits in with the Goth and Steampunk scene.  Yes, I even attend the Renaissance Festival in costume.  I was disheartened when Hot Topic opened up in the malls, though as ashamed as I am to admit it, I did shop there on occasion.  I felt like the store was taking an alternative lifestyle and making it mainstream, taking the power out of the style to allow the individual to feel unique.  The Goth kid wearing the Cure t-shirt is no longer set apart because the cheerleader saw it in Hot Topic and loved it.  Now along with her cheers, she's singing Lovecats, the only Cure song she knows.  Instead of the Goth kid feeling more a part of the in-crowd, the Goth kid wants to burn the shirt and mourn the introduction of Robert Smith to the greater public.  So, are these websites missing opportunities? Probably.  But unlike Hot Topic, they mean what they sell and they cater to those who truly love and want the style of clothing they offer.  So in conclusion, I think they’re willing to lose some business just to gain the loyal following they get from those who seek them out. I just wish I could afford the clothing myself.  It took me a few years to get my Renaissance outfit complete, and now that I’m back in school, I think it will take just that much longer to get the rest of the clothes I really want. *cough* corset *cough* *cough* boots *cough* *cough* goggles *cough* (oh the list is pretty long.)

Information in this blog was gleaned from the websites:

Patronize them! They rock!