Photoshop Disasters

Some of you may have seen this story on the Huffington Post about an apology issued by Ralph Lauren for the peculiarly skinny model pictured here:

Super Skinny Ralph Lauren Model

The image was first noted by Photoshop Disasters, one of my favorite blogs about visual culture (other than Viz., of course).  The images collected there are often hilarious and sometimes unintentionally tragic (as this super skinny model indicates).  The blog itself is a terrific read, and a hilarious way to pass a few spare minutes.  What's great about it, however--in addition to its delightfully relentless snark--is how it invites a deeper engagement with images.  In many cases, the tragedy of the poor photoshopping is obvious, in an impossibly thin waist or a terrifyingly elongated neck.  In other cases, you have to look harder and closer to locate the details.  One of the unintended consequences of living in the age of photoshop may be an increase in visual literacy: spotting the falsifications sometimes requires a keen eye for close-reading.

Documenting a Dog Fight

screen shot of peta protestors

Screen shot of narrated slide show, Shelter for the Scarred

 featured on Washington Post website

Photographer: Carol Guzy

This past week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments considering the constitutionality of U.S. v. Stevens, a case that makes it a federal crime to make and sell visual images of animal cruelty.  Although originally created by Congress to curb the market for "crush videos"--images of people in high heel shoes stomping on small animals for the purposes of titillating the viewer--the statute contains language so vague that it led the justices to propose a slew of bizarre hypotheticals ranging from the artistic value of images of force-feeding fowl for foie gras to the possibility of a pay-per-view human sacrifice channel.  Now I have to admit that I am slightly shaky on all of the legal issues at stake here, but this transcript of the oral arguments certainly made for some interesting reading.  Moreover, and not surprisingly, many of the questions raised within the oral arguments align with issues we often consider with respect to documentary studies and visual culture.

Science Art, Part Two: Biology of the Strange


Image Credit: Ernst Haeckel

H/T: Slate

In the viz. archive, Dale quotes a 1979 interview with German filmmaker Werner Herzog, in which he insists that "if we do not find adequate images and an adequate language for our civilization with which to express them, we will die out like the dinosaurs." Re-watching Herzog’s 2007 documentary Encounters at the End of the World, which offers a strangely beautiful vision of Antarctica, I was reminded of the late-19th-century scientific drawings by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel. Both give us “new images” of the natural world through a complex mode of artistic, mystical, and scientific vision, generating what I’ll call a visual biology of the strange.

Bodies of Evidence

Museum of Fat Love

Image Credit: The Museum of Fat Love

H/T: Layne Craig

Amidst massive media coverage of the “obesity epidemic,” visual arguments have emerged online that challenge the terms of the current debate.  One example is the website, The Museum of Fat Love, which presents a collection of photographs of smiling couples.  Similarly, Newsweek ran a series of photographs on their website titled “Happy, Heavy and Healthy” in which readers submitted pictures of themselves performing athletic feats.  Both websites called for volunteers to submit evidence that individuals classified as overweight or obese can live healthy, happy lives.  The use of visuals in both instances is striking—both websites are predicated on the understanding that overweight individuals have been misunderstood (perhaps even vilified) in the course of public debates on obesity and public health.

Love For The Ruins?

Ruined schools in Detroit

Image Credit:  Vice Magazine

I couldn’t resist covering this piece that Tim brought to my attention.  NPR did a segment covering the evolving phenomenon of “ruin porn” by interviewing a writer, Thomas Morton, who wrote an attack on this phenomenon for Vice Magazine.  Morton argues against these images because he says they mislead audiences about the actual economic state of Detroit.

3-D Games and Visualing Outer Space

In 21st century rhetoric and writing departments, we don't teach geometry.  But like the sciences, we are developing computer games.  Here in the DWRL, graduate student developers have created Rhetorical Peaks, an interactive game, where students practice rhetorical terms and strategies. It's interesting, then, to compare how different fields use different kinds of computer-assisted gaming.  On Thursday, I saw these geometry games, which are visualizations for outer space created by Jeffrey R. Weeks.

Seifert Weber

Image credit: Screenshot from Geometry Games H/T to Jeffrey Weeks

Images of an American Soldier


Soldiers waiting to enlist

Image Credit: Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

H/T: The New York Times

Noel’s comments this past week about the circulation of iconic images of violence and the role of affect in our reception of these images left me wondering about contemporary photojournalism and its treatment of war.  In their text and blog, No Caption Needed, John Louis Lucaites and Robert Hariman have written extensively about the way iconic images, such as the photograph of General Loan executing a suspected member of the Viet Cong, circulate in public culture but what should we make of images that are less well known or that focus on the more mundane aspects of war?


Science Art, Part One

Hyperbolic crochet

Image credit: The IFF by Alyssa Gorelick. H/T to io9

Noel’s last post, in which she calls for “incisive, creative visualizations of ecological crisis," got me thinking about two recent, ongoing art projects that engage with the challenge of visualizing Eco-Perils: namely, the loss of biodiversity and the dying coral reefs. Ultimately, they suggest that our failure of vision, our inability to see ecological danger, is intimately linked with a failure of scientific understanding.

Iranian Nuclear Facility Photo & Interpretation

This morning I received an automatic update message from Imaging Notes, a remote sensing (satellite imaging) trade magazine.  The lead-off story was about one of the alleged nuclear material refining facilities in Iran. 

The image, and the annotations provided by a private company, are eerily similar to those Colin Powell used in his February, 2003 speech to the UN when he argued on behalf of the doctrine of pre-emptive war in Iraq.  I point all of this out not to question the interpretation of the Iranian image, but simply to point out that as lay-people and citizens, we do not have the means to engage with the arguments presented in such images, but must take or refuse their content based with only our trust or mistrust in the party providing the image to guide us. 


Iranian Facility



Visual Tweets

Image credit: From YouTube
H/T to A Mutual Respect

Full confession: I just joined Twitter about 30 minutes ago. However, for considerably longer, I've been curious about the significance of Twitter's text-based 140-character format. Although Twitter contains some visuals such as profile pictures and links, it is primarily a print-based medium. The viewer experiences Twitter posts, or tweets, as a wall of sentences. While tweets are themselves primarily textual in nature, two recent videos offer visual interpretations that play with the relationship between image and text.

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