Ecstatically manipulating the new signals and sensors that chronicle everything about our lives, data art pioneers are developing a visual lingo that makes data more expressive and relevant than ever.
In 2001, a pair of Italian programmers wrote a program called Ettercap, a "comprehensive suite for man-in-the-middle attacks" — in other words, a set of tools for eavesdropping, sniffing passwords, and remotely manipulating someone’s computer. Ettercap was free, open source, and quickly became the weapon of choice for analysts testing the security of their networks as well as hackers who wanted to spy on people. One user called it "sort of the Swiss army knife" of this type of hacking.
Our latest edition of This Week in Photography starts with sad news, but we promise it gets better as you read on. For example, we end with news that photographers sometimes win big; like $625,000 big. Enjoy.
Jacob A. Riis arrived in New York in 1870. As the economy slowed, the Danish American photographer found himself among the many other immigrants in the area whose daily life consisted of joblessness, hunger, homelessness, and thoughts of suicide. So when he finally found work as a police reporter in 1877, he made it his mission to reveal the crime and poverty of New York City’s East Side slum district to the world.
The resulting book, How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, was published in 1890, and is still considered “a landmark in the annals of social reform.” Filled with pictures, sketches and graphic descriptions of the un-imaginable living conditions he found, the book forced the topic of tenement reform to the forefront of every New Yorker’s attention.
Almost 1500 photographers applied for the Individual Photographer’s Fellowship grants this year presented by the Aaron Siskind Foundation, honoring the legacy of the legendary photographer best known for pioneering lens-based modernist abstraction.
“He was a wonderful teacher, he was always interested in new ideas and in things that challenged us,” says Charles Traub, president of the Aaron Siskind Foundation and Chair of the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Arts. “We’re interested in all aspects of the creative photographic medium and all genres of photograph investigation — as long as the work is new and fresh.”
The eligibility requirements for the $5-10,000 grants are exceptionally democratic. They’re open to any professional, a citizen or resident of the United States, “who’s working on a serious body of work, who is trying to do something imaginative, important, moving the dialogue of our medium forward,” Traub says, and adds: “the term ‘professional’ is of course a loosely defined word.”
“There are no strings attached. It’s not like you have to have five million references, and a complete bio and all this stuff. It’s really just what you present.”
The Foundation selects three new judges each year — one from the editorial field, one artist and one curator — with an effort to avoid being East Coast-centric. This year’s judges were Natalie Matutschovsky, senior photo editor at TIME, photographer Andrew Moore, who recently published a new book on Cuba, and Tim Wride, curator at the Norton Museum of Art, formerly at LACMA.
“[The jury] tends to lean towards younger photographers,” since they are the ones who usually bring forth the newest, yet-to-be-recognized work, but occasionally, Traub says, “there is a better known older photographer who does submit new work that surprises the jury.”
This year, six photographers were each awarded $8,000 grants. “We gave six instead of our usual five this year because we just couldn’t pare it down any further,” Traub says. They are:
Michelle Frankfurter presented her series Destino which portrays the “perilous journey of undocumented Central American migrants along the network of freight trains lurching inexorably across Mexico, towards the hope of finding work in the United States.”
Wayne Lawrence documented the diverse experiences of African-American Orthodox Jews living in New York City.
Joshua Lutz presented a conceptual portrait of his mother’s descent into mental illness as “she slowly slipped away from the aggressive paranoia of my youth to an almost calming sense of delusion,” he writes. The series was published as a book titled Hesitating Beauty by Schilt in 2012.
Justin Maxon documented life in Chester, Pa, where industry has collapsed and the murder rate is among the highest in the nation, “a place where a domino effect of socio-economic issues and a long history of government corruption have revealed the community to be a microcosm of the wounds of racism that stain this country today.”
Jenny Riffle presented a complex portrait of Riley, a scavenger who as a child read “Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and decided he wanted to be like those mythical boys. He wanted a life full of treasure and adventure.”
Sasha Rudensky presented her series Brightness which focuses on “an orphan generation of Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians that came of age in a social vacuum, having disowned their past but lacking any means of orientation within the present.”
“I thought these were all wonderful photographers from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, from different parts of the country,” Traub says. “Largely, the work had a kind of narrative in it, a sort of structure of a story not told in a linear way and not told necessarily in a traditional documentary way. There was a great deal of technical competence and a kind of idiosyncratic look at life.”
Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.
Tumblr Creative Director Peter Vidani
New York City noise blares right outside Tumblr’s office in the Flat Iron District in Manhattan. Once inside, the headquarters hum with a quiet intensity. I am surrounded by four dogs that employees have brought to the workspace today. Apparently, there are even more dogs lurking somewhere behind the perpendicular rows of desks. What makes the whole thing even spookier is that these dogs don’t bark or growl. It’s like someone’s told them that there are developers and designers at work, and somehow they’ve taken the cue.
I’m here to see Tumblr’s Creative Director Peter Vidani who is going to pull the curtain back on the design process and user experience at Tumblr. And when I say design process, I don’t just mean color schemes or typefaces. I am here to see the process of interaction design: how the team at Tumblr comes up with ideas for the user interface on its website and its mobile apps. I want to find out how those ideas are shaped into a final product by their engineering team.
Back in May, Yahoo announced it was acquiring Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Yahoo indicated that Tumblr would continue to operate independently, though we will probably see a lot of content crossover between the millions of blog posts hosted by Tumblr and Yahoo’s search engine technology. It’s a little known fact that Yahoo has provided some useful tools for UX professionals and developers over the years through their Design Pattern Library, which shares some of Yahoo’s most successful and time-tested UI touches and interactions with Web developers. It’s probably too early to tell if Tumblr’s UI elements will filter back into these libraries. In the meantime, I talked to Vidani about how Tumblr UI features come to life.
In this week’s photos from around New York, cyclists race through Harlem, a car injures four people after jumping a curb in the East Village and new art works arrive in Riverside Park South.
In this week’s photos from around New York, rain drenches the region, cicadas come to Staten Island and culinary students get scientific.
When viewed from the Franklin Mountains in southern Texas, El Paso and Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez meld into one expansive metropolis. Call it a Texan trompe l’oeil. Look closely, though, and the illusion is disrupted by the Rio Grande, the natural border that snakes through the two cities, carving out very distinct realities.
That proximity is what first drew photographer Reed Young to El Paso, in particular to the city’s Chamizal neighborhood, which he refers to as a sort of “ground zero” for the national debate on immigration. Here, where North officially meets South, the terrain gives rise to something all its own: frontera culture, with its distinct food, music and identity.
“We thought it was important to hear from people who are affected by the United States’ immigration policy today,” says Young. “National debate doesn’t always take into account the complexities of the people’s situations.”
If Washington D.C. is the political epicenter of the immigration debate, then Chamizal is arguably its human face, a place where the nuances of a thoroughly complex issue crystallize into the tangible. Take Araceli, for example. She has not seen her extended family in Juárez since 2009, although they live a few miles away. Claudia, who is transgendered, is another case in point. She is Claudia on the U.S. side of the border but always crossed the border as Ricardo, the name on her ID, until the violence in Juárez convinced her to end the treks.
Ciudad Juárez is the second most murderous city in the world. In 2010 alone, it witnessed over 3,000 deaths. The historic violence has instilled migrants with a special urgency when attempting to cross into El Paso, the safest big city in the United States. On their journey, they will encounter the most tightly enforced border in modern history. The number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border — 20,000 — has doubled since 2004. And the $18 billion the federal government spent on enforcing the border last year was more than it spent on all other law enforcement agencies combined.
But that didn’t matter much to Araceli. She waded through the Rio Grande with her four children in search of a better life for them. Now she cleans houses and scraps metal after work to supplement her income. And it didn’t dissuade “Goldie,” who crossed into El Paso when she was 16 and now owns Goldie’s Bar, a cantina in El Paso’s industrial section that pays homage to her hero, Marilyn Monroe.
Goldie’s story — and those of virtually everyone profiled in Young’s photo essay—attest to the strength of family ties. In Chamizal, at least, the commitment to one’s family, to the improvement of children’s lives, has proved stronger than billion-dollar physical barriers.
Reed Young is a photographer based in New York City.
Alfonso Serrano is a senior editor at TIME.com.
Cast and crew rehearsed for the 67th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York, N.Y., airing live this Sunday. Bryan Derballa, on assignment for WSJ, captured these behind the scenes images of Thursday's rehearsal.