Monday, January, 6, 14

I Do Not Miss New York

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 6:53 pm
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I don’t miss New York. Took me about three days to realize that. I was looking around Denver and suddenly thought “it used to be that at this point I was missing home.” I don’t know that New York qualifies as home though. Yes, it’s where I have lived for the past 6 years and 5 months, but is it home? Truthfully, I don’t know that any one place qualifies as home. My two closest friends and my parents are in Virginia, the state I grew up in. But I don’t consider Virginia home. My partner is in North Carolina, and while I am considering it as an option to settle into at some point – possibly, maybe – I don’t call it home either. New York is full of friends and a sister. California is occupied by three siblings. Arizona has a cousin I consider a sibling. I guess all these places are some strange variation of home. People I love live in these places. I am on a trip that will take me to at least seven states, possibly four countries, and I am not certain where I will end up. I have belongings in New York, Virginia, and some soon to be in Maryland. Maybe I don’t need all those belongings. Why does any one person need that much stuff? But I digress. Maybe the point is that anywhere I go becomes home. 

My mother’s family came to the United States from Ireland, escaping the Potato Famine. As far as I know, after settling in New Jersey, they never really left. My mother seems to be one of the very “strange” to have left. Not only did she get out of New Jersey, she’s lived in a few states, traveled to almost all fifty states, and other countries, and she’s lived in Iran. My father came to the United States about fifty years ago from Iran. He’s also lived in a few states – having started in New York – traveled this country, and even more of the world than my mom. He’s been to five continents. That is impressive. Apparently the Iranian side of the family has some Bedouin blood from way back when – nomadic blood. Then of course there’s the fact that the Iranian/Aryan people migrated some thousands of years ago west (from present day Russia) to present day Germany and Iran.

Point is, movement is in my blood. That’s nothing special, I know. Doesn’t particularly set me apart from anyone really. What does though, is the feeling within me to move. I feel connected to all the past experiences and identities – as if they’ve been leading up to this point of travel. But I don’t want this to be my only big trip – it can’t. I want to go to Iran in a few years. I want to visit Vietnam and South Korea. I want to see Serbia and Peru. I want to go to Ghana and Australia. Everywhere. I want to go everywhere. 

I want to live in a world without borders and where travel is easy for everyone. 

And I don’t miss New York. I miss certain things – like the strange comfort in a never quiet street. That fact that everywhere is crowded. I miss that.


Art outside the Denver Public Library



Thursday, December, 12, 13

Check it out!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 1:48 pm
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My friend Lisa wrote this, and I illustrated it.

Curse of the Imaginative Class

Tuesday, October, 8, 13

Being Iranian Often Means Being Invisible

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 1:50 pm

Racialicious posted an entry calling out SNL and Iranian cast member Nasim Pedrad for casting her in brown face to play Indian-American Aziz Ansari. 

The thing is, what Racialicious did is exactly what I have encountered repeatedly in my life – being Iranian often means you don’t exist. Not as an Iranian anyway. Instead, I’ve been called and categorized as Arab, as Middle Eastern, and then of course there is the legal categorization of Iranians as White/Caucasian. 

Here is my response to the post – awaiting moderator approval:

On the one hand I completely get this and am annoyed that this happened – and continues to happen in media. On the other hand, I cannot help but be triggered because I feel like there is a subtle and not subtle way in which Nassim Pedrad’s identity as a not White person is being ignored. I, like Pedrad, am Iranian (I happen to be half) and I find that so often we Iranians and many other of us Others from that general part of the West Asian/East African world who are classified in the we-didn’t-choose-this-name title of Middle Eastern are ignored as being not White people. What annoys me about SNL is the use of a brown person to portray another brown person from that same general-ish area. And then I am annoyed that Pedrad’s brownness is also ignored. Here’s the deal, I know that as Iranians we are legally considered White. I have filled out enough paperwork that leaves me out to know this. And because of White supremacy and colonization and ll those lovely things, many Iranians love the idea of being classified as white. At the same time, ask me when a white person treated me like I am white…ZERO times. We are Others. Like so many other Others we sometimes can hide it, but the clues are always there. Pedrad’s name and physical features are give aways. 


And, I am annoyed at Pedrad. I don’t know the circumstances of this situation. Maybe she thought it was funny. Maybe she thought it was terrible. I don’t know. I do know I wish she had said no.”


Tuesday, September, 10, 13

Verizon Reality Check is an Advertising Reality Check

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 2:58 pm
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Have you seen the new Verizon “Reality Check” campaign? One ad in particular caught my attention. At first I wasn’t quite sure what felt so different about the ad. After a few views of it on my hulu watching binge I realized what it is: the ad features two queer coded people.

Disclaimer – I realize below that I am making some assumptions. It is how I am reading things. And at the same time, this is something new in advertising – seeing queer people as just part of the group, as opposed to a very clear focus with a specific purpose to target the community.

It’s sort of brilliant in its subtlety. Much like the Cheerios inter-racial couple with mixed kid ad was brilliant. No big deal is made about it, because why should it be? The reality (check) is that our culture is filled with mixed people and queer people. If you don’t like that, then perhaps you should find yourself an island where you can go be angry and alone with other hateful people.

There are at least two cuts of this particular ad – I’ve only seen the two anyway. In the one copied here the first queer coded person feels almost like a secret message put out there for those in the know. Like, you only see him/her/hir because you are in the community or closely tied to it. I don’t assign a pronoun because I can’t. The person is not performing in any sort of binary way. Neither clearly male nor female. But also, not clearly female masculine or male feminine or male masculine or female feminine or any other lovely mix. There is an effeminacy to the person, which could perhaps cause one to infer that they are looking at and hearing an effeminate man, but that is too binary a way of thinking, and too easy, and without taking into account the vast ways in which we as humans can show ourselves and be seen and how we simply are.

The second person shows up immediately after. This person reads more masculine/male with a slight effeminacy to him. So let’s assume he’s gay. Perhaps a little stereotypical with his hand gestures and voice, but still, he’s there. He’s right there.

These two people are in this ad as just part of the group. It is not an ad targeting queer couples or individuals. It is an ad targeting anyone with a cell phone. So, as much as I hate to congratulate a corporation – congratulations Verizon. You’re normalizing queerness.

Tuesday, September, 3, 13

you see…the thing is….

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 11:35 am

I can read your Facebook posts and articles and watch the clips you tag me in and know how aware you are and how sad you are and know where you stand and what you think, but when I start to speak up about how I feel you want to shut it down. Your opinion is more valuable than my emotions. And my intuition and anxiety and fear are signals of paranoia to you – that I am wrong. Not the situation. But me. Like he said, ‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.’

Friday, August, 30, 13

Popcorn “Barb Kellner” Legitimately Loves Pizza

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Wednesday, June, 19, 13


Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 11:16 am

I would like to hold your hand

A simple request that can’t be met

Days and days between our time

People and places between our lives


I write you letters, you sing me songs.

Maybe this time next year our distance won’t be so long.


I can wait with you on my mind.

Rather feel your skin against mine.


I whisper I love you,

your secret to keep.

You hold me closer like I am you.


Your skin is soft,

your face is sweet, your hands are gentle,

your voice deep.

I listen close to every word.

I wrap your words around my waist.

I’m not sure, how much longer can I wait…

Friday, June, 14, 13

Written 14 Dec 2012

Filed under: a moment in my head,letters to emily — theradishpress @ 3:49 pm

I broke myself apart into pieces of each self I knew

I offered definitions descriptions explanations



all the words I could find to say look at me and everything that I am

I am this and I am that and sometimes there and sometimes here

I spread my words across sheets of endless paper,

     this time they will know me.


When they told me I was not who I said I was I told them they were who I knew them to be.

They were thieves and liars and colonizers and rapists and murderers and deniers of every truth that ever met them.


I set myself a space to breathe.

I gathered all those parts of me and held each one close to speak.

Thursday, May, 2, 13

Musings in the Digital World – To Photograph or to Digital Image? That is the Question*

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 5:07 pm

According to the Oxford English Dictionary a photograph is “A picture or image obtained by photography; (originally) a picture made using a camera in which an image is focused on to sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment; (later also) a picture made by focusing an image and then storing it digitally.” Merriam-Webster defines photography as a “method of recording permanent images by the action of light projected by a lens in a camera onto a film or other light-sensitive material” and “…at the turn of the 21st century, photographers took advantage of digital capabilities by experimenting with enormous formats and new manipulative techniques. As technological advances improve photographic equipment, materials, and techniques, the scope of photography continues to expand enormously.”

Oxford and Webster define photography as encompassing both analog and digital, the act of capturing an image on a negative and producing it, as well as the act of capturing an image on a computerized card and storing it digitally,  – potentially never tangible. In Webster’s case, the definition expands to include whatever future digital may hold – like creating images entirely on a computer, without a camera. But are photographs and digital images really the same? A photograph is the physical result of a sometimes labor intensive process that involves proper lighting, setting, and processing. A digital image involves – okay, yes lighting and setting matter – essentially a click with no physical result.

This is not to say that one is better than the other. Each requires a different set of skills and often times a photographer is also a creator if digital images, and vice versa.

But, are digital images discrete and unique? Do digital images exist with no clear owner, or one who is not easy to identify? Can digital images be protected by copyright law? Ultimately, should digital images be treated as the equivalent of photographs?

Andy Grundberg is quoted in Mara Kurtz’s Postphotography as saying,


“It has become impossible to tell whether an image was produced by a traditional camera or a digital camera. It is also impossible to distinguish between images that are manipulated electronically and those manipulated by more traditional means. It has even become impossible to detect what has been manipulated and what is (or might claim to be) genuine. The ultimate point of pictures like these may be that it doesn’t matter. Within our image-drenched society, the old standards of reality no longer apply, which raises the question what can we believe?”


Digital imaging is here to stay, let’s get that straight. And it has evolved over time into an art form all its own. So then, perhaps it is unique. Then again, digital imaging is arguably a new form of collage, an art form that has been around for centuries. “…The earliest examples of paper collage are the work of twelfth-century Japanese calligraphers, who prepared surfaces for their poems by gluing bits of paper and fabric to create a background for brushstrokes.”

What does make digital imaging unique is that it requires technology that was not around for all those centuries. New technology has allowed for new techniques – images can be created entirely on a computer. There does not ever need to be a hard copy, rather this image can exist solely in the digital world. Bert Monroy is an artist who creates images “entirely in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop without the use of scans.” In Monroy’s case, proper lighting and setting aren’t so much an issue for taking a digital image, because he is creating his own images entirely online!

Then there’s the fact that groups like Reuters and The New York Times use digital images, including ones that have been altered. Referencing Fred Ritchin, Kurtz notes that “ the Associated Press distributed images to its 1,000 newspaper and magazine photo clients in digital form,” essentially changing the way images were circulated – allowing for more images to be shared at a quicker speed, and motivating other sources to do the same. That same method of sharing does not have to be isolated to news sources.

There is something exciting about this, like a community of people working together and building off of each other’s work. Digital images are like the internet’s graffiti – one image can get rebranded so many different ways by so many different people – each time becoming something new. Eventually it feels like you’re Alice falling through a rabbit hole of one image imagined in infinite ways. Once something is online in that public world of the internet, it can’t really be free from digital hands.

There is a sense of camaraderie, of “what’s mine is yours.” Seems like some obvious inspiration for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRecord social network, a community built with the agreement of sharing and no ownership, collaboration and shared inspiration. It all sounds so lovely. Maybe people fighting for proof of ownership should ease up.

Then again small artists are sometimes forced into combatting large corporations. Johnny Cupcakes, for example, accused Urban Outfitters of ripping off some of his t-shirt designs. Given Cupcakes’ experience, maybe some ownership protection in place is a good thing. And no, I will not ever argue in favor of corporations.

I guess ownership can be a really nice thing. Maybe ownership of digital images needs to be protected. But it needs a new twist. These aren’t images with a negative that can (help) prove ownership. Let’s rethink some copyright then, shall we? Maybe each original alteration truly means a new image, and therefore, new owner, new originality. After all, originality really only goes so far – a person can’t truly claim to be the owner or creator of images floating around in the digital world. Chris Combs states that “Realism is subjective. How, then, can it be judged by an objective ruler? How can one photographer’s capture of “reality” be more true, or more original, than another’s?” 

If artist A* creates an image completely on their own, then it is theirs. Legally protected. If artist B* then takes the image, and uses it for a different piece – it becomes something new, and is legally protected as belonging to artists B. One could argue that discovering the original creator might not be easy, and maybe that is the case for things like internet memes, but there is always a source. Either the source steps forward with definitive proof that the image is theirs, or images like memes of business cat and the world’s most interesting man are considered public – open for any and all to use with the understanding that someone could create something new with these public images and have that legally protected.

And maybe we all just take a step back and enjoy all the fun that digital imaging allows – maybe we all own it. We all collaborate.

But are digital images the same as photographs? Are they equivalents? I think that really depends on the viewer. After all, you could be looking at a photograph and praising it for its beauty and creativity, only to learn it’s actually a digital image created entirely online. But then maybe your opinion changes because you’ve been duped and the artistry required in taking a photograph and developing a photograph is lost on that digital image. But maybe you also just really appreciate the artistry and it ultimately does not matter how it was made, just that it was made.


ImageArtist A* – Poncho Cat

ImageArtist B* – Poncho Cat Needs Hug

*This is my final for Mara Kurtz’s Post Photography class.

Thursday, March, 21, 13

Musings in the Digital World – A Picture is Worth How Many Names?*

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 11:03 pm

Imagine if this essay were written using quotes from movies, famous authors, philosophers, song lyrics, and so on. Imagine that all these things were used, but not given credit. What if I wrote this entire essay quoting Adam Sandler as Billy Madison meets Radiohead’s “House of Cards” meets Judith Butler, but never once named them? Surely these words would not get past an editor. Surely readers would notice. Maybe one person would pick up on Radiohead but not Butler, and another would pick up on Butler and Billy Madison but not Radiohead. No matter the combination, it would not go unnoticed.


We are taught at a young age to site sources, that failing to do so is plagiarizing, lying, claiming ownership over the thoughts and ideas and words and creation of another. We are taught to give credit where credit is due. And not doing so can lead to serious consequences, whether it be failing a class or expulsion or even loss of a job (think of Shattered Glass, the story of The New Republic’s star journalist, Stephen Glass, who was found to have made up the stories he wrote).


So, what if instead of a collage of words, you were presented with a collage of images? What if you were given one single image to publish in a newspaper or magazine or online and were told by the photographer that the image is made up of several found pieces? How would you react? Would it make a difference if the images were from advertisements as opposed to say, an Ansel Adams? As the world becomes increasingly digital, lines blur between reality and fantasy. Maybe fantasy isn’t the right word, maybe let’s just say Photoshop.


 So here’s what happened, a story ran in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about exercising at home and home gyms. Along with that article was a picture of a home gym in a laundry room. Standard. Nothing special, just depicting a busy space being utilized for multiple purposes. What is the issue, then, you ask? The issue is that the photographer, referred to here as M, who submitted the image did not pull it from stock photos or take it himself. The image was pieced together using objects and pieces from existing images created by other people. He took what was already out there and made something totally new, without crediting a single person.


And what of it? You ask. Yes, what of it? Maybe those images M accessed were themselves collages. Maybe each of those ten artists he did not name created new things out of old things. Imagine, crediting himself, plus ten! That would be hilarious. Ridiculous.


Maybe Edgar Martins has a point when he says, “In the pulsating world of binary number systems that we live in, history is made, negated and reinvented, all in the space of one minute.” Maybe Martins is onto something: “Modern media no longer just report events and communicate ideas.” The media is open to interpretation and varied communication. What does it matter that this image was pieced together using existing images from multiple places? The media, as Martins argues, does not operate linearly, rather on a frequency outside the normal realm of storytelling. It has shifted to a sort of art. But maybe Martins has allowed his arrogance to get the better of him and is only being so bold after the fact of questioning. 


There is the argument that M was simply doing what so many people do. The digital world has changed the way images are produced. As Mara Kurtz notes, “the very word photograph has been excised from contemporary vocabulary and replaced by the term image.” So what was submitted was already known to be an image created by the artist. There was then, no actual expectation of a photograph taken on site somewhere. Perhaps my argument above, that there is issue with the fact that the artist did not take the photograph themselves, is moot. Then again, he could have done so with a digital camera. Film that is developed in a dark room was not necessarily the expectation. There was, however, an expectation for originality. M could have easily taken a digital image. So there it is, not a photograph, but an image. But as Kurtz points out, what separates digital images even further is that without a negative “there is no proof…to demonstrate ownership of an image… therefore, digital images are no longer originals in any sense.”.


Kurtz goes on to say that photographs have never been original to begin with, that “photographic images have always represented the personal vision of a photographer who selects a single moment.” Kurtz points out that alterations to photographs could happen in the dark room even. And the very nature of taking a photograph is to capture a specific moment or image that the photographer wants. So, if this artist has submitted an image he had taken himself he could have easily moved things around in the physical space to get exactly what he wanted, where he wanted, in the frame. How is that really any different from making a visual collage? M simply created a frame and filled it with existing images.


Of course, some news agencies do not want anything but original work. Reuters, for example, “ ‘has a strict policy against modifying, removing, adding to or altering any of its photographs without first obtaining the permission of Reuters and, where necessary, the third parties referred to,’.” You begin to read that sentence and think yes, there is something ethically wrong with alterations, it’s like altering the story, but then the sentence takes a turn. Does that mean that Reuters is the final decider in what is real? Surely an established organization like Reuters, with a reputation to uphold, wouldn’t let just any change happen. Reuters would not allow for something to be falsely printed, but would maybe allow for some alterations that better convey whatever the story is. And so, again, what harm is there in M’s actions? It’s not as if M photoshopped an image that defames someone. M simply provided the magazine with an image that supported its story. And if it’s good enough for an organization like Reuters, it should be good enough for the viewers, right?


But then there is still that question, rather idea, that images and photographs represent truth and reality. Hans Durrer states that: “Documentary photography and press photography are based on the implicit promise that whatever the photo shows is real and is true and has not been (essentially) tampered with.” Along those same lines, A.O. Scott, in the article On (Digital) Photography – Sontag, 34 Years Later, says, “The camera may record astounding events or reveal shocking truths, but always within the context of the ordinary, the literal, the real.” There is an understanding, unspoken or otherwise, that seeing is believing. Given these statements, Reuters and the New York Times and all other news organizations should be promising viewers what they expect: the truth. An altered image that is considered okay to print can easily lead to an altered story being okay to print. But Durrer, immediately before this statement, notes that, “What we want from photographs is one thing, what they can deliver however quite another.”


And Scott goes on to discuss Sontag’s reaction to the ever changing world of photography:

“Sontag…warned that our consciousnesses, individual and collective, were in danger of being overwhelmed, our aesthetic and ethical senses dulled and muddled, by an ever-intensifying blizzard of mechanically produced pictures. How would we be able to sort through them all, to decode their messages and judge their merits? How would we know what was real? ‘We consume images at an ever faster rate,’ Sontag observed, and the more we do, the more ‘images consume reality’.”

Perhaps the ultimate answer is that there needs to be some level of understanding from viewers and consumers. There needs to be the knowledge that seeing is not believing. Or that what you are seeing is a sometimes altered, sometimes stitched together believing.

*This is a midterm essay for Mara Kurtz’s Post Photography course

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