Sunday, 22 May 2022

Photography is dead.

I’d go so far to say that photography is dead both as a career as well as an artistic pursuit.

As a career it’s obvious why. Those that actually succeed and manage to make an annual living at something beyond minimum wage levels (I actually aspire to minimum wage levels…) do so because they know people, or because they have worked out how to game the system. There is very little correlation between ability and success. Those of us simply with a bit of artistic and technical ability and the desire to do an honest job for an honest fee are very unfashionable now. I make less now from photography than I did when I was a pretend professional photographer ten years ago. And the number of people wanting photographs for nothing has steadily climbed. How many industries is it considered acceptable (normal even) to ask people to work for free?

Photography has become entirely devalued. "Everybody is a photographer", now that everybody has a camera in their pocket at all times.

I’m embarrassed now by the things that I have produced. Perhaps chief among them the “Dalesfolk” book. I don’t even own a copy (not least because it’s so expensive to print). What I had hoped would be a celebration of modern rural life was utterly ignored by publishers and the media. Though what did I expect? Even the Yorkshire Dales National Park, who gave some meager funding towards the project, didn’t want to buy a copy for their archive. Now I look back and see nearly a year of my time wasted, meeting people who mostly turned out to be as banal, rude, deceitful and stupid as everybody else. I’d rather it was all forgotten about. Though, it has to be said, I was quite pleased when Dalesman magazine had it as their book of the month, ahead of narcissist supremo Amanda Owen's latest brainvomit. Though, it also has to be said that Dalesman pronounced it their book of the month without ever even seeing a copy...

It's over for me, anyhow. My customers were mostly through word of mouth. The insanity since 2020 severed that chain. Now I don't have the will to start again. And even if I did, we're heading into a severe and prolonged economic downturn that will have repercussions for individuals and businesses. Fripperies can wait.

I used to think that photography in general, and hopefully in particular my photography, would be some sort of record for the future, of particular places and people in particular times. I’ve always known however that the digital era is the most ephemeral and fragile era in all of human history, when it comes to the records we leave behind. A hard drive full of thousands of inaccessible JPGs is worth less to historians of the future than one printed photograph. Historians of the future will know less of the digital era of humans than we know of the Vikings. We will leave nothing behind.

One day, Google will switch off their blogspot  servers. It might be ten years from now. It might be fifty. This will all vanish. I will leave nothing behind.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Dr Zelensky: Or, how I learned to stop thinking and love the moral outrage.

I don’t use social media any longer. It’s fantastic. I do recommend it. No longer being witness to the staggering ignorance, gullibility and moral hypocrisy of most people makes my days just that little bit more bearable.

My girlfriend still uses it, sort of. The other day she showed me a meme shared by an acquaintance of hers. Paraphrasing, it went as follows: “Thank god all my friends who were experts in virology are now also experts in eastern European politics.”

To me, the unspoken message behind such a thing is that most people are content to be told what to think. I am not an expert in virology or eastern European politics, but I have a functioning brain and the ability to read disparate sources of information and come to my own reasoned conclusions.

I have always been a bit of a sceptic and cynic, but the last two years have crystallised those traits, and it is fair to say that I am unlikely to trust anything said by a politician or the media ever again. Everybody has an agenda, and burrowing down through the layers of lies to find something like the truth is difficult to the point of impossible, even in (or perhaps because of) our brave new world of information coursing around the world.

The situation in Ukraine is complicated. It is far more complicated than any politicians or media are painting it as. It certainly isn’t black and white with clear cut “heroes” and “villains”, despite most people now seemingly infantilised to the degree that this is their worldview (thanks Hollywood).

Ukraine is also not some bastion of liberal democracy that should be defended at ruinous cost (potentially to the entire world). Ukraine is and has been for decades one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Probably everybody has seen an image in the press in recent days of the plucky and defiant mayor of Odessa doing his best Jason Statham impression, staring moodily into the lens while holding a pistol. Well, mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov is literally a gangster, involved for decades with smuggling people and drugs. Liberal democratic freedom fighter he is not.

President Zelensky, for all the talk of him being an inspirational war leader like Churchill, was named in the Panama Papers leak, and has probably embezzled a personal fortune of nearly $2 billion, with tens of millions of dollars in property in the US. He has been a useful pro-US puppet to prod the Russian bear and bring the new cold war that has been brewing for over a decade to a boil.

Prior to the “Euromaidan” of 2014, Ukraine had a democratically elected (though no doubt equally corrupt) government that favoured cooperation with Russia. The Euromaidan revolution in 2014 was in all likelihood a US backed covert regime change to steer Ukraine away from Russia. This was when the civil war in eastern Ukraine erupted, which has smouldered on since then - with some abatement during Trump’s term, as he was avowedly against NATO and further NATO expansion.

I have read lots of editorials all saying the same basic thing: Russia has to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and if Ukraine wishes to join NATO (and the EU) and align itself closer to the West, that’s Ukraine’s business and Ukraine’s business alone. This view is hopelessly naïve - not to mention deeply hypocritical if any person holding this view has supported almost any US-led interventionism since the end of WWII (Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan…). It is naivety to believe that Russia would tolerate a large country on their border forming a military alliance with a bloc that was explicitly set up to contain Russia. It would be entirely the same as China forming a military alliance with Canada, Mexico, or Cuba. And I believe there might be some historical evidence showing how little tolerance the US would have for that - and the cooler and more rational heads in the US government in October 1962 fortunately helped the world navigate away from potentially apocalyptic territory.

I am not an expert on eastern European politics. But actually I do have a degree in international politics and economics, and one of the first concepts described to me was the distinction between idealism and realism in geopolitics. I have since come to the conclusion that it is good to think idealistically, but to act realistically. In an ideal world Ukraine would be a sovereign state like any other and should be allowed to follow their desired path. Ukraine’s reality however is that they are bordering a very large nuclear armed autocracy with whom they have a long and complicated relationship.

None of this has been the fault of the Ukrainian people suffering death and destruction - while their “heroic” president calls for yet more of other people's sacrifices, in a situation that at best (and this is a long shot) may result in temporary tactical victory for the Ukrainians, by forcing Russia’s demoralised conscript army to retreat. Even that would be a Pyrrhic victory however, as one way or the other, Russia will get what it wants: a neutral Ukraine, not a member of NATO or the EU, with guaranteed rights for its very large ethnic/linguistic Russian population. This will include the official recognising of Crimea as Russian territory, and likely the declaration of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent territories.

Arriving at this foregone conclusion without the Russian military flattening the rest of the country would really be in every normal person’s best interests, in Ukraine and beyond.

This is not appeasement. This is geopolitical reality. For anybody unsure on this concept, please go and read about the Cuban missile crisis. Fortunately for the world, what the Cuban missile crisis lacked was Tiktok and Instagram, where corrupt politicians could directly tug on the ignorant heartstrings of the world while calling for actions that could lead to the deaths of billions. Unfortunately, the pandora’s box of social media cannot be closed, so now we have millions of people calling for aid and assistance for the yellow and blue country they probably couldn’t even locate on a map just two months ago.

Learn some history. Learn about the people involved, and their personal and political motives. Let go of the outrage and moral hysteria of social media’s distorted realities and come back blinking into the light of the real world.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

"If you can keep your head..."

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

The narrative is collapsing. You know it’s collapsing when the White House Press Secretary is now distancing the current president from any association with “lockdown” policies, and heaping blame solely on the previous president. Who can blame her, when studies are saying that only 0.2% of deaths were likely saved by the hugely damaging “lockdowns”? (And that is no doubt before you strip out the majority of deaths that were “with” COVID, rather than “from”, which in the UK at least means you end up with only about 10% of the number that the mainstream media always bandies around. For those still unaware that this was happening, yes, there were "COVID deaths" literally from getting hit by a bus...)

What actually needs to happen now?

There need to be criminal trials. First and foremost these need to target Fauci, Collins, Farrar and Daszak. Let’s be honest at this point: the SARS-COV-2 virus clearly emerged from a lab in Wuhan, and many highly respected scientists believe it was probably engineered. Nobody - at this point - is accusing anybody of malicious intent in that engineering, or that it was released maliciously. Merely rank stupidity and carelessness. But let’s be really clear: those aforementioned people knew all this and covered it up, and are continuing to deny any knowledge. They need punishment.

On the UK only side of things I also suggest putting our public health officials on criminal trial. Whitty, Vallance, Van Tam and Harries. They may have been in on the conspiracy to conceal its origins. I don’t really care. Even if they didn’t their decisions were criminally negligent.

And of course, we can’t leave good old Neil Ferguson out of the fun. Reserve a place in solitary confinement for him, for the entirety of his whole life sentence. Nobody else in the world would be more deserving than that charlatan. Though of course shame on any fool who believed the fool, when the fool had been well and truly debunked even prior to 2020.

The narrative is collapsing. But I can see that huge numbers of COVID cultists are still clinging on. Lockdowns, masks, vaccines, vaccine mandates. None of it has worked, and yet so many people are still clinging on to it all.

I have always found psychology both a fascinating and terrifying subject. It explains so much of the less desirable attributes of our brains. Human intellect has achieved things that have elevated homo sapiens above any other animal (though I’m now willing to argue whether that is necessarily a good thing) - and yet we clearly have a brain that is, at its core, no different to any reptile acting purely out of primal instincts. In particular: fear.

So I’m going to leave you with three things to read. The first two, here and here, are a superb summary of where we are, psychologically speaking, and how we got here, and how we might be able to get out of this ridiculous situation.

The last is a good summary of the censorship that made this so possible. Dissenting voices were needed in the last two years more than ever, but in a hugely ironic twist, the modern internet, supposedly a bastion of freedom of expression, did not want to tolerate free expression. We are all impoverished because of that, and the newfound enthusiasm among many people for censorship and the crushing of dissent has dark portent for our future. A newfound enthusiasm for the Faustian (Faucian?) deal to trade liberty for perceived safety will take us to dark places.

I am proud to have kept my head. Right from the start. Those who didn’t were no better than these people, rushing madly in to panic buy toilet paper. I will not forget or forgive those who lost their minds - and told me I had lost mine.


Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Graveyard Spiral

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is my MP. I recently wrote to my MP. I’ve never done that before, because I’ve never been under the delusion that writing to your MP is an effective means of activism. (Especially when your MP is Rishi Sunak, who is highly unlikely to read such correspondence himself.)

However, I decided to write a very quick email to him after Christmas as it was quite clear that he (and a few other cabinet colleagues) were managing to restrain the mad dog Johnson from plunging the country into yet another destructive and pointless lockdown. All I said was thank you for doing his best to keep a little rational thought going in government and that I didn’t want a reply, particularly not a template press release reply.

Unfortunately, his office sent a reply.

Kind of.

I mean, they got my name (entirely) wrong. And my address wrong. (I was given the letter because the people at the address it was sent to didn’t know who it might be for, so showed it to me, and I suspected that it actually had been intended for me.)

But anyway. Basic office staff incompetency aside, it was indeed one whole A4 side of meaningless template press release

Sorry. But just fuck off.

I didn’t vote for Sunak. I will never vote for Sunak. But given his background, I have realised since the start of 2020 that he would be one of the few people in Parliament willing and capable of analysing the situation for himself and coming to rational conclusions. No doubt he did - and privately I imagine he has been trying to counter the insane doom mongers throughout - while trying intensely to not put his own political career in jeopardy. (A shame then about the hugely misjudged furlough scheme, without which COVID19 would have been over and done with after three weeks after people realised that they couldn’t sit at home getting paid while pretending mortal fear of a common cold.)

During 2020 and 2021 I made sure to visit the high streets of anywhere I happened to be. In many places they are increasingly beginning to look like 1980s Beirut. Back when I still had social media I would irritatingly tag in Sunak so his social media flunky could sigh again at the crazy person randomly tagging in the Chancellor of the Exchequer to photos of streets full of empty buildings in Barrow in Furness, or Great Yarmouth, or Halifax, or central London, or wherever I happened to be at the time.

I’m also not under the delusion that the last two years are solely responsible for the economic meltdown we’re facing - but they have been the shotgun blast to the face that finished off the victim. And to those who say that “things are looking up again!”, I think you’re stupid and naïve and incredibly shortsighted. Personally I have always felt that the economy has been artificially buoyed since 2008, with money printing and a smoke and mirrors property market delaying the inevitable collapse of a structurally unsound and unsustainable system. 2020 and 2021 saw those two delaying measures cranked up to 11. I believe it is now impossible to maintain the fiction for much longer, though no doubt those with rose tinted welding goggles still clamped to their faces will dispute.

Anyway. This country is fucked. Enjoy.

(All photos taken in 2021.)

From Wikipedia: "In aviation, a graveyard spiral is a type of dangerous spiral dive entered into accidentally by a pilot who is not trained or not proficient in flying in instrument meteorological conditions. Other names for this phenomenon include suicide spiral, deadly spiral, death spiral and vicious spiral."