Tuesday, December 29th
Perturbing portrait puzzles
Eric Myer is a photographer based in Malibu, near Los Angeles, California, and specializes in portrait and location work for advertising, editorial and corporate clients. Stereotypes is a kind of interactive photographic game that has been a feature of Myers website for some time.
Stereotypes: Edition I is the original version, featuring twenty head and shoulder thumbnail portraits displayed in a grid. Site visitors can choose any top and bottom half, with the combination being displayed in a larger frame. Playing around with the combinations leads to some perturbing results, but is strangely compelling. 'Edition II' features nine larger colour portraits, and works in the same way.
Apparently the original idea for the project came from a time when Myer was reading a childrens book with his daughter which allowed you to create funny (both '-peculiar' and 'ha ha') animals by combining the head of one with the body of another. Myer thought of applying the concept to photographic portraits, initially planning to produce a book in a similar format. Eventually he realized that it would work even better on a website. The concept was thoughtfully and carefully developed, since Myer discovered that while some combinations could just be amusing, others played on our stereotypical prejudices about race, age, gender and social type. The amount of work that must have gone into casting, resizing, retouching and Java scripting is evident, and its paid off.
As well as often being funny, some combinations are at least as believable as the real originals, while others are quite disturbing. The process of asking yourself why theyve produced these different reactions leads to you questioning your own prejudices and the nature of physical stereotypes in general. Give Stereotypes a visit; you might find it harder to leave than youd have thought, and if youre like me youll also be encouraged to check out the impressive portfolio on the site.
Thursday, December 17th
Keeping tabs on trends
Trendwatching.com, based here in Amsterdam, describes itself as a trend firm. They started up over seven years ago, and their focus is on spotting and tracking consumer trends, insights and new business ideas from around the world. The free Trend Briefing e-newsletter they publish each month is aimed at marketers, CEOs, researchers and others who are keen to keep track of consumer trends and what their present and potential competitors are up to. Ultimately it should help them bring innovative and successful products, services or experiences to market.
The first editions I received when I started subscribing in 2004 were unusually substantial as e-newsletters go often weighing in at around 15 A4s and 7,000 words. It has always contained much of interest to manufacturers of consumer products of all kinds, retailers, market researchers and others however. Nowadays the newsletters contain headlines and introductory texts with links to the full content on the website.
Theres usually a theme to each issue, although these can sometimes appear to be somewhat contrived. Last months edition was called Nowism for example, and focused on how consumers ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences. Each December the newsletter features key trends they forecast for the coming year. I always find these a particularly interesting read, and this months is no exception. Partly because its subject matter is less US-biased than many similar offerings, Trendwatching has become my favourite newsletter of its type. I also admire them for clearly stating that any of their material may be freely quoted as long as its properly credited.
I do subscribe to two other trend newsletters however. Following his now-defunct Trendscape organization and his Iconocast and Trendsetters.com newsletters. Michael Tchong resurfaced in 2007 with Ubercool, which, like Trendscape before it, also revolves around its founder as a personality and hiring him for speaking engagements as a core offering. He now publishes his free Ubertrends newsletter about six times a year. The latest edition features what Ubercool calls the rising clout of the female gender, which is being propelled by an Ubertrend weve dubbed the Womans Acceptances Factor.
The other is a free weekly, called Iconowatch, to which you can subscribe on the Iconoculture website. Iconowatch has recently been featuring trends that apply in particular to four consumer groups: Millenials, Gen-Xers, Boomers/Matures and Latinos. Each newsletter also has a Market Facts section, with handy links to trend reports from various global sources on the web. A week ago Iconoculture also unveiled the top nine Big Ideas that will inform consumer behavior in 2010. You can currently find an overview of these on their website, and I found it interesting to compare them with the trends that Trendwatchings December newsletter predicted for 2010.
Friday, December 11th
Get ready to tap those chicken feet
My old pal Sean Bergin is bringing the latest version of his Song Mob to the Bimhuis next Monday evening for a free one-set concert. The set will also serve as a presentation of his new CD Chicken Feet, which features recordings made at the same venue two years ago. The title track has become a Song Mob favourite since he added vocals to his Mob (my own band) in 2005 and it being featured on the first Song Mob CD, Fat Fish in 2007.
Sean arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa a few years before me in 1975, and I got to know him in the early 80s when I was introduced by an even older and sadly missed mutual pal to the Sunday afternoon jam sessions at the Engelbewaarder. His music, and the several formations he performs with, reflects a wide range of influences, but nearly always features improvisation together with his South African roots, warm personality and sense of humour.
The latest incarnation of his Mob playing at the Bimhuis on the 14th will feature daughter Unas vocals, Anna Koene on harps, Felicity Provan on cornet and vocals, Ernst Glerum on bass and Alan Purves on percussion. Australian Felicity Provan has been mainly based in Amsterdam since 1990, and has regularly played with Sean and other local improvisers since then. Shes often been featured in one or other Mob, including their performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival, and can also be heard on Fat Fish. Ernst Glerum is this years winner of the prestigious VPRO Boy Edgar prize, which Sean himself won back in 2000. Hes played with Sean on and off for years, and is featured on previous Mob CDs Copy Cat (1999), Mob Mobiel (2003) and Fat Fish. Scottish percussionist Alan Purves has also often played with Sean in and out of Mob iterations, including Mob Mobiel, and shares his affinity for ethnic rhythms. A guaranteed blast..