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Archive for November, 2011

Sally Mann: Deep South (Book Review)

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Deep South

One of my favourite photographers is Sally Mann, the American best known for the controversial body of work produced around her children. The people who criticise that work probably should be aware that a good part of what somebody takes from a photograph is the baggage they bring to the viewing. But that aside, her life’s work has been far broader than many people realise.

In Deep South she explores the unique Southern American light and produced a body of work that I find impressive. The wet plate collodian process, the large format camera and the great consideration required to shoot and process these beautiful photographs should be respected. This is no simple adventure with a handheld – or dare I say digital – machine gun. Deep South is a primary work of an eminent contemporary American photographer.

Sally Mann’s images from Deep South can be seen on Youtube but the book provides high quality 8 x 10 inch prints that are really required to do the photography justice. It’s only when you can hold and touch this quality of image that you can fully appreciate its intrinsic qualities and values.

This is a book I wish lived on my bookshelf because a number of particular favourites jump off the pages. The first of the Georgia series, on page 9, is of a misty dark scene where some form of ivy covers a massive tree. The first in the Virginia series, on page 27, of a dimly lit landscape is even more compelling with its predominant blackness surrounding the diffused sun. Also, page 31, a river with a leafy branch in the top right quadrant and the misty Georgian shoreline on page 41.

However, my three favourite photographs are all from the Deep South series. On page 61 the tree and rock landscape, on page 71 a stick in a sliver of sunlight on a perfectly calm river and my ultimate favourite from the series is on page 83 of a standing tree trunk with a slash mark. For those reasons I have a feeling this book might eventually find a cousin living on my bookshelf.

If you’re really interested in understanding the photographer, you can watch the documentary What Remains: the life and work of Sally Mann.

Dealing with Project Contribution Bias

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Project contribution bias is an ongoing issue in work environments, magnified by factors including skill-distance, social distance and physical distance from the other person or team. The further somebody is away from the other across those criteria the greater the effect of that bias.

Project contribution bias manifests through comments like – “User Experience isn’t a real job”… “What do marketers do anyway?”… “All the manager does is sit in their office”… “We don’t talk to the multimedia department because we’ve got a feud running.”

This bias is a real problem emanating from an internal organisational pressure to form silos and the corresponding pressure from within those silos to exclude people and information outside the boundary. This fundamental xenophobic attitude is therefore reinforced from outside and inside the silo and makes it particularly difficult to overcome.

Taking a closer look at the three factors – skill-distance, social distance and physical distance – it becomes easier to see the issue. We see it all the time in another manifestation within the organisation. Racism. To some extent, both trace back to an our tribe versus their tribe mentality and both are underpinned by failing to take the time to understand the other tribe.

Skill-distance means the gap between two separate roles. For example, the designer has a wad of core knowledge and experience about a wide range of science underpinning their skillset. A marketer has experience with strategic issues ranging from product creation, supply and distribution through to after-sales satisfaction and that’s also underpinned by theoretical knowledge and experience.

Neither is aware of what they don’t know… their assumptions and biases are free to fill in the gaps.

We therefore employ a biased assumption that all of our knowledge and work is our contribution to the project. While, the little we know or understand about the other is their contribution to the work.

Social distance means the gap between each person or group’s cultural norms and relationship circles. A group of designers will have an entirely separate set of stories, language, rituals, ceremonies, heroes, values, structures and symbols than the accounting department. It’s unlikely they will socially interact either at work or out of hours.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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