I can see the stone wall of the Missouri Botanical Garden from my front porch. It often beckons to me. Though my walks are often brisk, I bring a camera to slow me down to catch a brilliant color, an engaging pattern or a playful reflection. Sometimes, I sit for 5 or 10 minutes and try to meditate.
At the MBG, there’s people watching, of course, and this often causes me to think of the people I care most about–how could this not be the case in such a beautiful place?
But the two things come to my mind almost every time I visit the garden:
1. David Attenborough’s “Private Life of Plants.” (It’s about the only thing I keep my VCR for – it’s not available in Zone 1 on DVD). It’s a beautiful video series that blurs the line between flora and fauna, when plant growth is run in fast-motion.
How are portrait photographers influenced by their preconceptions about the subject. Quite a bit, it turns out, based on this clever experiment.
“Portraits can be shaped by the photographer’s point of view rather than just by the subject being documented. Created by The Lab in conjunction with Canon Australia, the clip features six photographers, one portrait subject and an unexpected twist. The twist consisted of the (mis)information each photographer was given regarding the person being photographed.”
I’m enjoying photography, especially portraits. The final products are fun to create, but what is it that I’m looking for in a portrait? I’m convinced that photographers can benefit from some of the findings on what it means to be attractive by those who study biology, and specifically, evolution.
The above-linked Wikipedia article has lots of information on this topic of physical attractiveness as explored scientifically. Here’s an excerpt pertaining to women:
Research has attempted to determine which facial features communicate attractiveness. Facial symmetry has been shown to be considered attractive in women, and men have been found to prefer full lips, high forehead, broad face, small chin, small nose, short and narrow jaw, high cheekbones, clear and smooth skin, and wide-set eyes. The shape of the face in terms of “how everything hangs together” is an important determinant of beauty. A University of Toronto study found correlations between facial measurements and attractiveness; researchers varied the distance between eyes, and between eyes and mouth, in different drawings of the same female face, and had the drawings evaluated; they found there were ideal proportions perceived as attractive. These proportions (46% and 36%) were close to the average of all female profiles. Women with thick, dark limbal rings in their eyes have also been found to be more attractive. The explanation given is that because the ring tends to fade with age and medical problems, a prominent limbal ring gives an honest indicator of youth.
In a cross-cultural study, more neotenized (i.e., youthful looking) female faces were found to be most attractive to men while less neotenized female faces were found to be less attractive to men, regardless of the females’ actual age. One of these desired traits was a small jaw. In a study of Italian women who have won beauty competitions, it was found that their faces had more “babyish” (pedomorphic) traits than those of the “normal” women used as a reference.
I stumbled across this inspiring talk by musician Amanda Palmer. She gives considerable insight into the economics of the music industry. But she gives even more insight into human connections and the importance of asking as the prelude to those connections.
I’m including both her TED lecture and beneath it, a video of her performance of the “Bed Song.” There is a direct connection between these two performances.
The City of St. Louis, where I live, will hold its primary elections tomorrow. As usual, reporting on many of the races is scant to nonexistent. Here’s a typical example of “reporting” on the elections, this from St. Louis Public Radio, and it provides almost no information about the positions of the candidates. You won’t find any meaningful information in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch either. Local TV won’t cover the candidates positions either. It’s amazing that citizens are being asked to vote in elections where it is so incredibly difficult to learn about the candidates. This is the way things are, year after year. This year I decided to do something about the problem.
Based on hundreds of signs appearing on front yards in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis (where I live), two of the Democrat candidates are especially active in the race for Alderman. The incumbent is Stephen Conway. Kevin McKinney is also vying for that office. Rather than rely on the sound-bite information on the yard signs and flyers, I decided to invite both candidates to my house to separately videotape 30-minute discussions of the issues with me. I posted both videos on my neighborhood website, and I have received considerable appreciation from my neighbors for providing this information. My role in offering to produce these videos was that of a citizen journalist. I wanted to do my part to make important information available to voters in an upcoming election.
This was a no-brainer, really. Simply post decent quality videos on YouTube where people can hear from the candidates in the privacy and comfort of their own homes.