Thursday, January 14, 2010

Anonymity and cabbages

click photo to enlarge
A few months after I'd begun this blog I had an email from someone. In the course of comments about photography and the images I was posting he remarked that he found it odd that I was using my real name rather than a nom de plume or "handle". My answer was that I didn't write anything that I wouldn't say publicly, or couldn't defend, nor was I gratuitously abusive, and I wouldn't direct any offensive criticism at an individual. Consequently, I said, I see no need to hide behind a pen name.

In recent years I've come to see anonymity on the internet as a greater problem than I initially thought. There are times when it is clearly useful: whistleblowers and the like would be much less likely to surface without the protection it offers. However, the other side of the coin is the enormous amount of abuse and incitement to hatred that arises because of the ability to make anonymous postings. People will say to strangers on websites things that they would never say face-to-face. In fact, the whole tone of some discussions is at best hectoring, and at worse, venomous; a dialogue of the deaf, that is casually spiteful, sneering and strident. Some websites have little else. Other sites, that feature normally civil discourses often find themselves polluted by crude mischief-makers (trolls) or deranged louts. Would we lose more than we gain by removing the opportunity to be anonymous - if that were possible, which it probably isn't? There are times when I think that maybe we wouldn't.

Today's photograph results from the principle of making the most of what you have. When I cut open my red cabbage I felt there was a close up and a whole head shot in the vegetable, and here's my attempt at the latter. I placed the cabbage on black vinyl for the photograph, then converted to black and white to emphasise the patterns of the unfurled, convoluted leaves. Which brings to mind a variation on the old childhood joke:

Q. What's black and white and red all over?
A. A newspaper?
A. A sun-burned zebra?
A. No, a monochrome photograph of a red cabbage.

Bomm! Boom! Aaagh, that's terrible! After making a joke that bad I wish I was anonymous.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1.3 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0EV
Image Stabilisation: Off