Abidjan baca

It is rush hour in Youpougon, a quartier populaire [peripheral neighborhood] in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Bacas, or shared minivans, decelerate at roundabouts and the driver’s assistant screams out the fare and destination in Nouchi, slang composed of French, local dialects and the occasional English word. Tired passengers elbow for a spot, barely making eye contact with the driver’s assistant who grips dirtied bills between his knuckles and keeps tabs on who got on where and who still needs change. He wears plastic jelly sandals, second-hand tracksuit pants, and a t-shirt. His mobile phone is sleek and plays music videos, but has no credit. Most likely he is a teenager, a relative of the driver, perhaps recently arrived from Burkina Faso or Mali. Most likely he is proud, because the chauffeur’s trajectory is relatively demanding: he apprentices several years while navigating the city, learning to operate and maintain the baca, mastering the written and unwritten rules of Abidjan’s transportation economy, and eventually saving enough to pay the official and unofficial fees for a license and the baca itself.

Beyond regular maintenance, many drivers go to great lengths for a choco vehicle, a Nouchi term indicating coolness that is derived from chocolate (Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s top cacao producer). In a trend pervasive throughout Abidjan, bacas have become ephemeral artworks demonstrating the democratic flair of the urban periphery. They assert an identity that is cool, global, and proudly Abidjanais.

I took this photograph while conducting dissertation research on the informal economy and globalization in Abidjan. Beyond highlighting the crucial role of small-scale, informal modes of public transport in cities in the global South and the comparatively privileged status of drivers within this economy, this baca was striking because it picked up on a vernacular that is at once Abidjanais and global. On bacas in Abidjan, images of local and global celebrities – black and male – are ubiquitous. These are images of financially potent and socially affirmed masculinities. The successful and hyper-consumerist media personality offers a distant hope for peripheral men who find themselves excluded from the producer/provider narrative of capitalist masculinity. The assert belonging.

The man to which this baca pays homage is Douk Saga, an Abidjanais DJ and progenitor of coupé decalé, a music wildly popular throughout West Africa and in France. Though he is surrounded by flames of orange and green, the colors of the Ivoirian flag, he wears red, white, and blue, a backwards baseball cap and jean jacket in the style of a stereotypical black American. The words Abidjan complet [wholly Abidjan] state that he is a proud member of a city that for decades held the moniker “Paris of West Africa” because of its status as a regional hub for migration, trade and commerce. The acronym D&G, short for Italian designer Dolce and Gabanna, adorns the side of the bus. Douk Saga purports to wear only D&G and for this reason it is Abidjan’s counterfeit labor of choice, likely to appear on a bus, storefront, or as a motif on traditional fabric. To wear D&G is not about knowledge of European fashion, but participation in Abidjanais sociality and more broadly, the culture of the African diaspora.

This baca captures the predicament of contemporary Abidjan: a determination to assert global membership while circumscribing its local boundaries. Showcasing the Ivoirian colors and claiming to be wholly Abidjan are contentious issues in a city with a twenty-nine percent foreigner population (1) and a decade-long civil war rooted in autochthony. And depicting Douk Saga and D&G indicates an ideal for peripheral men and an image of Abidjan as cultural node within the African diaspora despite three decades of economic crises and the loss of an affirmed masculinity.

 

1.   Bouquet, Christian. 2005. Géopolitique de la Côte d’Ivoire. Paris: Armand Colin, p. 180.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Pottery

Sociological inquiry exists in a double bind. On one hand we strive to investigate social phenomena in a dispassionate manner, mimicking the natural sciences in our ambition for objectivity and neutrality. On the other, we wish to portray social relations as they actually appear—natural, human, and full of the passion that social actors express in their day-to-day existence. Perhaps the best we can do to resolve this tension is catch society in the act of displaying its own objective conditions: by trick of perspective, we can find the Archimedean point that reveals an entire lifeworld in situ. Rachel Tanur’s “Guatemalan Pottery” is such an image. Here we catch a glimpse into the life of an oblivious Guatemalan woman engrossed in her work. The nature of this work is not revealed to us—with her elongated staff, she could be painting a wall, or lifting a pottery vase, or just raising the staff out of her way—but from her material surroundings we can discern much about her daily rhythm and position as a member of her community. Surrounded by crafted objects, the woman appears as a seller of handmade domestic goods. The framing of the picture and its title suggest her affiliation with assorted pottery vases behind her, visually arranged in a kind of halo above her head to express both the quality and dignity of her labor. We can assume it is the early morning period of a street market, about to open to the public. Her state of dress—a simple skirt and sweater, but with vibrant base colors in her shawl and hair tie—indicates someone primarily concerned with practical dress but who also appreciates the importance of being seen: the habitus of a seasoned street merchant. The objects for sale, earthenware vases and children’s furniture, are arranged on the cobblestones in a haphazardly deliberate manner—we can imagine strolling down this street, fingering the local currency in our pockets, wondering at the haggling etiquette and how to balance the locals’ dignity against our own parsimony. While we know nothing of the actual clientele, the female figure’s family is barely discernible: likely a son and daughter, their faces cut off outside the frame, watching their mother from a distance as she prepares for another day of buyers and lookers. One of them may be responsible for pushing the furniture on curious passersby, the other the pottery, while their mother handles maintenance and exchange of money. Movingly, one of the little chairs has been placed against the far wall—a piece of merchandise the children appropriated for purpose of relaxing or napping during those slow parts of the day, when no one is looking or buying. Thus the picture communicates a familiar narrative of the familial division of labor through the lens of a timeworn street market. It is ironic that an image whose object is so anonymous and unstudied gives off this strong air of domesticity and intimacy. But this is what sociology is meant to do: Rachel Tanur’s choice of frame and camera angle reveals how inner existence is reflected in public life and refracted in the impersonal nature of buying and selling. Photographed from above and at considerable distance, the woman is rendered for us as an object of inquiry, but in relation to those objects in which she has invested her social being—her pottery, her woodwork, her children, and her ten-foot slice of the street market. The staff she holds forms a right angle with another support beam to make an X, barring entry from the side and making us feel like we are spying on her home life. We sense her desire to control the terms of what is on display—her goods, her children, and herself. As sociologists, we cannot help but deconstruct this control in order to study it, but only so that we can more fully appreciate the meanings she attaches to her surroundings. We thus find in her composure not an empty farce or the tragic desperation of life on the street, but the social construction and maintenance of self-worth.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Florence Window

An Inquisition of the Italian Life, the photo comprises of a spontaneously ordered set of directions, clock, window and Italian that would otherwise be unknown to the common traveller. Probably shot in at intersection, the still objects talk about what is prized within the local community there, and what they can offer as the notion of public goods. I think we can all agree that tourism is that of a voyeuristic and exploitative nature- and this picture happily frames the inquisition of a tourist. Nearly a retrograde motion to the information age of the current era, the photo represents an era of public information that can be what consider obsolete. Yet, one would constantly still see directions, signs, and clocks still placed clearly in public spaces- as if no one had a smartphone that already combined both functions into the single hand of a consumer. The collective values of the society seem to be unperturbed by the information age, a form of stickiness to the culture of the past, of reliance on public time and directions. In the face of the information age, and huge transnational migratory patterns, and heavy interconnectedness between countries- what is a good functional language? Languages are not necessarily functional, and in this case- it serves to prove a point. Tourism is strong bastion of the Italian economy, in 2015 it comprised 10% of the country’s GDP(4). Language remains as a strong bastion for culture, and arguably- Praxis (3)- Italian language and culture is treated as knowledge, a marketable commodity as we can see from the numerous Italian cuisine choices that penetrate all manners of socio-economic classes around the world. Interestingly, even signs for tourists- are left in Italian: with words “Museo” or even the heavily understood “Biennale” that one would understand with a decent command of English. The power of the language through the vehicle of culture is clearly emphasised here. The imaginary world of the tourist is just the combination of identity, space and narrative (2) and is essentially a “chronotope” (1)- a physical arrangement of time and space into physicality. As a result, there is constant physicality to the antiquity and culture of the place- the themed space further emphasises the space to be presenting meaning. Like a theme park, this picture of the Florentine Window essentially allows fully for a tourist to experience something out of what one can do in modern urban life. Culture is reemphasised by the clock, even though one could argue in its functionality; it is clearly an adequately designed clock with roman numerals- instead of Arabic numerals. A consistent appeal to tradition, be it on purpose or not; clearly defines the tourist view of the Italian culture, and further emphasises the power of it. A combination of many stories, and alternate forms to that; this photo essentially shows a very calculated, invested motion towards the propagation of culture through an appeal to tradition. Thus, what we are viewing, is a deliberate stop in time, and perhaps- more appropriately: A Tourist’s Inquisition of a Foregone Italy. (1) Clifford, James. 1997. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (2) Graburn, Nelson H. H., and Noel B. Salazar. 2014. Tourism Imaginaries : Anthropological Approaches. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014. (3) Riley, Philip, Language, Culture and Identity (Continuum, 2007), (4) "Travel Tourism Economic Impact 2015." Accessed January 28, 2016. https://www.wttc.org/- /media/files/reports/economic impact research/countries 2015/italy2015.pdf

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: French Houseboats

Rachel Tanur’s photograph of houseboats on a river in France is a beautiful image of people living on the water. The quay in the photo, along which the boats are moored, forms a line of demarcation through which life afloat is separated from life on dry land: even when lived inside the cities that are the very centers of the global economy. The people I have met who live aboard houseboats or sailboats on the waterways of cities such as Paris, San Francisco, London and New York often choose this as an alternative lifestyle that allows them to detach themselves (quite literally) from landed society and its demands. Many work in start-ups or in the creative professions, and are attracted by the independence of life afloat combined with affordable central living. This autonomous lifestyle, however, also means lack of access to services often taken for granted ashore, such as garbage and sewage disposal, as well as fresh water supply. The combination of autonomy and freedom on the one hand, and the marginalization and exclusion on the other hand, is characteristic for many communities who live afloat. For example, the Sama Dilaut, or “sea nomads”, have traditionally lived on houseboats along the shores of Mindanao in southern Philippines, though today many live in stilt houses instead. They are the poorest and most marginalized of the region’s ethnic groups (Jumala 2011), and often lack access to the benefits of landed society. However, in the conflict ridden region of Mindanao, their boat dwelling lifestyle has also allowed them to leave from areas in times of conflict among landed groups, to move to more peaceful locations (Jumala 2011). The sea and ships have offered a space of freedom and autonomy for other marginalized groups too. Rediker’s (2004) account of pirate crews in the early 18th century showed how these crews absorbed society’s outcasts and deviants, such as criminals, cross-dressing women and runaway slaves, offering alternative and more democratic communities in which crewmembers were able to transcend the restrictive bounds that society imposed on them based on their race, class, gender or personal history. This has been true for merchant crews as well, many of which consisted of people who went to sea to escape obligations or punishments ashore. However, if ships have been spaces of freedom and escape from the bounds of society, they have also been spaces of coercion and imprisonment. Galley slaves, the transatlantic slave-trade, indentured labor, impressment and shanghaiing are examples of forced labor practices in maritime history that continue into modern times as seafarers may often be coerced to work without pay, or tricked into debt-servitude. Historically, ships have also been used as floating prisons to rid society of its undesired persons. According to Foucault, “ships of fools” roamed Europe’s rivers in medieval times, allowing cities to dispose of their “madmen”. He writes, “Locked in the ship from which he could not escape, the madman was handed over to the thousand-armed river, to the sea where all paths cross […] A prisoner in the midst of the ultimate freedom, on the most open road of all, chained solidly to the infinite crossroads. He is the Passenger par excellence, the prisoner of the passage” (2006:11). This dynamic contrast between the ideal of freedom, mobility, and desire to “see the world for free” on the one hand, and ships as prisons and marginalised spaces on the other hand, is constantly present also in the narratives of the seafarers with whom I do my dissertation research. And it is, I believe, at the very foundation of life lived on the water. References Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of Madness. London: Routledge. Jumala, Francis, 2011. “From Moorage to Village: A Glimpse of the Changing Lives of the Sama Dilaut”, Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, 39(2): 87-131. Rediker, Marcus, 2004 Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Boston: Beacon Press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: China Old and New

Rachel’s photos portray the spectacular diversity of human experience. There is a distinctly human touch in her work, a careful emphasis on the beauty of the everyday. Her images document ordinary people and the usual spaces where they live their lives: dwellings, streets, plazas, schools, and markets, to name a few. By carefully shooting through archways, between columns, and around corners, Rachel regularly reminds us that people are fully embedded in their constructed environments; they are a part of their cities, and their cities are part of them. Occasionally, she shows us images that are cleverly devoid of human beings, but the message remains clear and consistent. A photograph of a home, Rachel seems to suggest, is still a photograph of social interaction—even if no people are in sight. With these messages in mind, I am particularly moved by the image of “China Old and New.” It brilliantly pulls together many of Rachel’s recurrent social commentaries and thematic elements into a stunningly bisected image. Below, we see the representation of tradition, environmental harmony, and a distinctively localized lifestyle. Like an M.C. Escher drawing, the lush trees and organic architecture morph into a band of sparse vegetation and low-slung buildings, and then into a band of geometric high-rises. Here is the stark view of a industrialized, globalized, concrete, rationalized future. It is no longer China; it could be anywhere. What are the costs of modernity and ‘progress’? And what are we leaving behind in the process?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Miracles

Ms. Tanur’s photo of a sandwich board outside a store is at first deceptively unassuming. Unlike many of her more immediately eye-catching pictures, this one seems to be simply of an everyday sidewalk sign. Even the color palette of red, black, white and grey appears understated in its simplicity. However, the viewer is rewarded by following Ms. Tanur’s perceptive lens, as the text on the board reveals itself to be a strikingly unexpected juxtaposition of coffee and counseling with prayers and miracles. Clearly, as in many of Ms. Tanur’s images, there is more going on here than it first seems—though less clear is exactly what that is. Shot from the side instead of head on, and with some of the inside of the store visible behind the glass, we get the sense that Ms. Tanur was also trying to peer deeper into understanding this tableau. Is this a marketing ploy to come in and buy the “Tapes” and “Novelties” written on the store window behind the sign? Or is it the opening gambit for some kind of quasi-religious encounter? What is certain is that the progression of the bullet points on this board from coffee to miracles is captivating in its incongruity. With the eye of a social scientist, Ms. Tanur has captured in this photo what could be could be described through the lens of sociology as deriving its power from the jarring combination of the sacred and the profane. As Durkheim (1912) states in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, “When we think of holy things, the idea of a profane object cannot enter the mind without encountering grave resistance; something within us opposes itself to its installation.” (p. 317) The fact that this humble, otherwise unremarkable shop sign has the audacity to closely follow coffee with miracles is thus intrinsically disconcerting. As Durkheim elaborates, this is because the dueling concepts of the sacred and the profane “repel and contradict each other with so much force that the mind refuses to think of them at the same time.” (p. 239) While it is true that few contemporary advertisements are as bold in their claims as this sign, in its unabashed yoking of the profane and the sacred, it does parallel modern marketing in what scholars have termed “ethical consumption” movement. This is the idea that consumers can, in a sense, vote with their purchases and—through “positive buying” or “buycotts” of everyday goods—influence global markets to moral ends, such as fairer labor conditions, gendered empowerment, or protecting the environment, among other ambitions. As Ms. Tanur’s photo remarkably prefigures, coffee is one of the original, key products of this fast-expanding market trend of linking ordinary purchases to extraordinary aims. In most supermarkets today, in addition to Fair Trade—one of the prototypes of this movement, and whose market-based mechanism was heralded as a “neo-liberal solution” to development—it is possible to choose from an ever-growing list of ethical coffee labels and certifications. (Nicholls 2005:9-10) These include Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Bird-Friendly, Shade-Grown, and a diverse number of direct trade brands, among many others—each promising varying kinds of social justice and environmental sustainability with your purchase. While these kinds of marketing assertions—particularly in regard to coffee—have become routine, in a sense they should arouse the same kind of wonder that Ms. Tanur’s photo provokes, for their claims are arguably no less audacious. Social science, like Ms. Tanur’s lens, can refocus interest and bring light to such underexamined areas, in this case the mechanisms through which these ethical labels work. By examining ethical consumption sociologically, it is possible, as Burawoy (2009) discusses, to link microprocesses to macroforces through localized understandings of globalization—and how it may truly be that Northern ethical consumption practices of coffee might actually lead to miracles in producer communities in the Global South. (p. xv)

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Waterfront

This image is obviously set on a waterfront area in a Guatemalan village. There are various sizes of boats in view. Clearly pictured is a lonely individual who obviously sets to embark on a journey on a medium sized engine boat. The environment, the road, and the make-shift step, shows the poverty around which these modern and imported cultures and the boat interact. The sharp color of the signpost contrast vehemently to the bluely color of the calm water and the hilly mountain. The blueness gives the water an aura of serenity, calmness and peace which contrast sharply with the harsh realities of these people’s life which is echoed by the brown rough scraggy sandy embarkment that leads to the sea. The orderly arrangement of the signpost together with the clean arrangement of the boat and mini boats in the distance contrast sharply with the ruggedness of the environment. The figures captured from the distance are supposed to be in motion, but in the picture, it makes them calm which rhymes with the quietude of the sea and sky. The rugged sand and the dumped wood wedging the sand near the boat echoes the suffering and strife of the occupants, while the quiet blue sky mirrors the still and steadfastness with which the Guatemalans struggle on for existence and survival amidst daunting obstacles brought up by nature herself and man. The human beings depicted in this picture are hazy such that even sex (gender identity) is neutralized. Thus, giving the impression that whatever is at stake here concerns general humanity and not individuals.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cone Heads

The picture of « cone heads » captured by Rachel Tanur’s lens represents undoubtedly a special carnival deeply involved in European culture; particularly in Euro- Mediterranean countries. It is very likely to be one of the most well-known carnivalesque scenes of public disclosure and festivity celebrated annually in Venice, Italy. It is universally acknowledged that the carnival regarded as a part of the Christian calendar, especially in Catholic regions ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, but the Italian Carnival is sometimes thought to be derived from the ancient Roman festivals of “Saturnalia” ( inspired from the Greek Dionysia) and “Bacchanalia”1 . That’s why it is considered in Anthropology as a fertility celebration, a rite of passage from darkness to light, from winter to summer and moreover as a masquerade reversal ritual, in which social roles are reversed and norms about desired behavior are suspended 2 . This can be understood through analyzing Tanur’s photo in many aspects: First, The socio-spacial analysis of the carnival points out that the carnival shows itself in the important squares and main streets: it seems that the parade sets off from a landmark maybe a theater or a church to walk and move through the square center. It is thus an urban action in a public space (as democratic space in Habermas conception 3), an urban event accompanied with folk music and noisy crowds. It is indeed a social form of protest and contestation even if it is expressed in derision. Furthermore, the fact that carnival is happening in cities is a meaningful indication because the city expresses the place of the order: We can therefore oppose the city or the town as an organized social microcosm to the chaotic world located outside the walls. Carnival is thus the expression of the disorder, but it occurs in the space of the order; the city. The order and disorder can then be seen as inseparable, but the disorder is always the best way to limit and control the order. Besides, the significant importance of prestigious public space of festivity means that the feast day(s) is not just a celebration of ephemeral event of expressing folk humor, comic joking and freedom right permitted during the period of carnival, but a cultural form of daily life negation aiming at circumventing the rules and everyday stresses and “bypassing” the moral and social rules. It is really a social manner to demystify ethically and aesthetically what politicians don’t recognize and realize in their potential society. With a great emphasis on carnivalesque laughter as a distinctive trait and a loud, collective, communal phenomenon, Bakhtin attributes to carnival a progressive and/or rebellious political significance. “Only dogmatic and authoritarian cultures are one-sidedly serious. Violence does not know laughter... Seriousness burdens us with hopeless situations, but laughter lifts us above them and delivers us from them. Laughter does not encumber man, it liberates him”4 affirmed Bakhtin . “The influence of the carnival spirit was irresistible: it made a man renounce his official state as monk, cleric, scholar, and perceive the world in its laughing aspect. Not only schoolmen and minor clerics but hierarchs and learned theologians indulged in gay recreation as relaxation from pious seriousness.”5 Added he. Second, according to the socio-anthropological view to the structure of carnival clothes and colors shown on the picture, the carnival is composed of mixed and undistinguished persons. Their various clothes are purely unified and meaningful: The head covers, which are of the same interval scale and graduated colors, form a typical cone-shaped structure. If they suit the actors perfectly and make them physically full-length, they symbolically attempts to overestimate and glorify the Carnival persons’ status as well as stimulate the audience’s deep feelings of exoticism and sarcasm. The colored, old-fashioned, scattered neckties are no longer used; they belong to the era of Renaissance and Enlightenment when this costume distinguished high culture and cultivated category including artists, writers and Encyclopedists from the working-class and “normal” people. The use of this kind of necktie indeed reflects the social identity and belonging to such intelligentsia. Furthermore, the white gloves worn by Carnival actors and actresses express the sense of strangeness, ambiguity and mystique; not only are they worn (for natural raisons) so as to protect and comfort hands against cold or heat but originally as the heroic history affirmed, they are also used by magicians, maestros and the ones made of liturgical ornaments are used primarily by the pope, the cardinals, and bishops at the celebration of mass. Regarding the face masks, they appear light- colored and make persons unidentifiable. They are in harmony with a big shapely multicolored garb. As a result, the clothing is indeed a cultural creativity sophisticated in social laboratories, which differentiates carnivals from others; it is neither of stereotyped costumes nor the commercialized mode but it is designed a priori, performed in the different style and woven marvelously, providing us with deep impressions of gaiety and exhilaration. Finally, it is worth mentioning that unlike other carnivals which fully use widespread Animal masks and natural feathers, the carnival as shown on the Tanur’s Photo is certainly distinguished by kindly masks and decoration that appeals to the fairy worlds (world of fairies and goblins), world of pureness, godliness and righteousness. This merely is to mean that the actors and actresses share an experience of transcendence and of sublimation beyond the natural and social levels; those levels characterized as Nausea of existence (in J.P. Sartre’s existentialist meanings) and described as heavily constrained social norms ( in Sociology). This leads us to wonder if the carnival would fulfill the functions of “Waiting for Godot”; an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett?!!! 1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival 2-Ibid See also : Mircea Eliade, Le Sacré et le profane, Paris, Gallimard, 1965, PP. 71 – 72 3-Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989) 4-Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. V. W. McGhee, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986, P.: 134. Quoted in: Ben Taylor Bama, Bakhtin: Carnival and comic theory, Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, October, 1995.P. 59 5-Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. H. Iswolsky, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, P.13 Quoted in: Ben Taylor Bama, op. cit., P.44

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: US Sign

The phrase captured by Rachel Tanur in this photo appears to be a truism, a common statement that is perceived as obviously true. When I was an undergraduate student several teachers used to tell us about the importance of watching TV whether it was in our “own country” or abroad. Ads on TV do in a certain way provide information that can help to get a better understanding or a better picture of a given culture. Ads for products like soft drinks will most probably look different from one country to another. In India Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan were used to promote Maggi noodles. In France Maggi noodles were advertised as an exotic product from Asia . In order to produce advertising that sells manufacturers need to establish a connection with what the target population or target audience relates to. In some ads a local coloration can be perceived. In an ad for a cheese called Le Vieux Pané that was on French TV in the early 1990s several cultural markers that might be considered as typically French can be seen like a beret and bread . Amul, the Indian dairy cooperative, provides information about political trends and dynamics. Amul’s ads humorously depict political figures (Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, Barack Obama, etc.). Viewers can experience culture shock in some cases. I remember seeing ads with acid attack victims in Bangladesh during some of my visits. A significant number of people in the country have been mutilated because of this painful form of violence. People can easily get an idea of burning issues that trouble a society or a nation with the presence or the frequency of some awareness campaigns.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Houses on the Shore 01

Any researcher, journalist, traveller or person interested in learning about and understanding a culture far removed from their own lives the exciting, nerve-wracking and humbling experience of arriving at their place of interest. Rachel Tanurs Alaskan houses could equally be on the riverbeds of the immense Brazilian rivers, the shores of the Samoan Islands or on a giant Italian lake. Her photo to me represents the anticipation both on the part of the researcher and the host community of the unusual shared cultural, intellectual and emotional awakening inspired by embedded social fieldwork. We look at Tanurs photograph and we can envisage the eagerness of 'the father of modern anthropology’ Malinowski as he arrived to the indigenous Trobriand Islands, Melanesia. Margaret Mead would also have felt this anticipation when her research brought her to the shores of Samoa in the South Pacific. Mead suggested that culture, not just biology, impacted adolescent behaviour drawing her to the conclusion that teenage angst had more to do with external factors than innate internal biological processes. Most likely her ability to draw these conclusions lay in her aptitude to be both part of the community enough to gain delicate insights, and separate enough to draw comparisons. Her openness about her methodologies and awareness of the sensitivity of her research topics made her a sort of pioneer in social research and one of the most read authors in the academic realm. It is this openness that I hope to reflect with Sarai’s photograph, always remembering the first time I waded up to her village in a small wooden peque peque boat, full of wonder, nerves and excitement. The importance of fieldwork and in particular the concept of participant observation marked a shift from the era of so called 'armchair anthropologists’ of the previous generation. However, this was then confronted by the question of ‘reflexivity’, the place of the researcher in their research and the need to acknowledge the relevance of that dynamic. The self-consciousness an outsider feels on arriving to a new, unknown place is felt in Rachel’s ‘Alaska houses on the shore’. The fresh clean natural setting is adorned by the dwellings of this human life. What might be going on in those houses? Who might be inside? How will they perceive me? By the time an outsider approaches the quiet, private and intimate scenario of a small village on the shore of a foreign land their approach has usually been noted by the locals. Whether someone comes out to welcome this strange newcomer, or the researcher’s entry to the village is denied, only fate can know.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Gondola Newlyweds 01

Scouts worldwide works to create a better world. The picture depicts collaboration among scouts for lifting up one another to achieve different goals.If youth can join their efforts and work together, they can create a more happier society and young generation will be filled with love and mutual respect which are necessary for the study and success of social sciences. The Scouts in Rwanda works together to volunteer for the community and assisting vulnerable people to access water,house and food. Upon completion of those activities, they organize leisure activities which gives a message to other youth on enhancing mutual respect and love among them.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Arch

Rachel's photo reflect the socio problem among teenagers. In the Rwandan Culture, having unwanted pregnancy while at the parents’ home is considered as taboo and a shame to the family having a girl with unwanted pregnancy and girls were punished to be killed in the rivers for not bringing curse at home. Despite different efforts on educating youth about reproductive health and gender equality, girls are still marginalized and stigmatized when having unwanted pregnancy. As consequence, illegal abortion is seen among the youth as solution and due to the fear of stigmatization, there is a preference of using traditional medicine being easily found in hidden places. Incidence of unintended pregnancy and unsafe induced abortion point to the need for concerted efforts to help youth for better prevent unintended pregnancy, the root cause of most abortions. Several steps could help reduce unintended pregnancy and lighten the burden that unsafe abortion creates for children and women’s lives and for the nation’s medical system. There is urgency for awareness raising among the youth on the consistent use of contraceptive methods and better information about the correct method to use, improve post abortion care services and implementation of current provisions defining legal abortion. Unplanned pregnancies not cause the collapse of girls future, but also it affects the kids who lives in extreme poverty as none can take care of him.There is a need of improving awareness and education on reproductive health in social sciences for alleviating the consequences of unplanned pregnancies among teens.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: New Orleans Balcony

“Never let anyone make you afraid about having a good time. Life is hard and it is short,” he said to a silent room. We were, frankly, perhaps too naive to grasp the significance of his message. The speaker was a member of the Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the longest running parading clubs in the city where this tradition emerged as a voluntary social support community among African American and Creole communities of the city (Regis, 1999). One weekend of the year, a date established well in advance, the club throws a fantastic walking parade with a brass band that leads the club members and celebrants along a route of special significance to the club members. On the off weekends, the members often attend the parades of other similar organizations in other parts of the city. These clubs celebrate life collectively and publically in a demonstration of the right to be joyous as a community and as individuals (Sakakeeny, 2008). I see that passion for life and will to self-expression in this portrait of a balcony in the French Quarter. The proudly expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community is not the only message in the composition. The LGBTQ+ flag rides the breeze framed by potted plants and counter balanced by the wind chimes. Behind these we can just make seating and a table. The clear political expression is paired with an embrace of joy in living, joy of rooms out of doors and of watching the parade of tourists and neighbors passing by below. Regis, Helen A. 1999. "Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro‐Creole Festivals." Cultural Anthropology 14(4):472-504. Sakakeeny, Matt. 2008. "Instruments of Power: New Orleans Brass Bands and the Politics of Performance." edited by A. Fox: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Fish with Hands 1

Rachel Turner Prize In the summers, my Father was a grain-farmer, and in the winters, he worked as a butcher. He found local employment at the town’s meat processing factory. He preferred the outdoors to the alienating and near-zero temperature of the factory and hence preferred to be identified as a farmer. He was a product of his environment. He was a high school graduate and rather proud of it. He had no interest in higher education; he was more attuned to community engagement and providing for his family in the same way his parents had done for him. He’s never heard of visual sociology, Howard Becker, or Sarah Pink. He never knew what I meant when I said I used ‘visual research methods’ or ‘auto-ethnography’ to express my ideas. This is not to say that he was unintelligent, rather that his path was a different one. Rachel Tanur’s image ‘Fish With Hands’ reminds me of my Father. It reminds me of the power of photography. The visual has become the end goal, as Susan Sontag once posited, “today everything exists to end in a photograph.” My Father used similar gloves when he cut meat. He handled a different flesh, beef and pork mainly, but he used similar gloves. He use to tell me that they never insulated him from the cold of the flesh but that they allowed for the proper mobility of the fingers to “do their job.” In the Roland Barthes’ sense of the word, I am pricked by Tanur’s image ‘Fish With Hands’ not because I am particularly invested in the image, but because it encourages me. Photographs, such as these, taken without context are inert; they are only a representation, a stand-in for an event thought to have taken place. At best they can offer a trigger, a punctum, a way of feeling invested in the image. Photography operates as a connector. Tanur’s image is not of grain or meat, but it is about food. It operates as a connector, much in the same way food does. My Father might see an image of gloves and fish but those in the social sciences are trained to see much more. We see the entanglement of local and global food systems; we see olfactory studies, and heritage and cultural rights. My Father does not associate this image with these concepts, he does not understand the sociological content embedded within the frame. I know this photograph can operate as a connector. And it is through this image that I can explain to my Father and others the importance of what it implies. To explain how it is more than an image of fish and gloves. Visual methods have the ability to allow us to generate and interpret data as researchers and educators. However, more importantly, visual methods afford us the ability to share complex ideas with those outside of academia—fishermen, farmers, families, fathers.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Bayou House

Rachel Tanner’s picture, Bayou House, this pulled me in because of the casual beauty and harmony in which the picture portrays. Through the use of semiology I attempted to pin point what exactly pulls me. In this modern day and age there is a lack of harmony. Humankind tends to live on top of one another and give very little thought to their surroundings and the animals within it. Wild animals have less space and have become more desperate; the animals have become more hostile. With the environment and humankind fighting for space; it is easy to imagine the tide. As the tide goes in and out, push and pull. In this picture you do not get a sense of any push or pull; simply a crane and a house. The crane, a symbol for elegance, seems at peace with the house next to it. A house that seems at peace with the environment around it instead of competing with it. Rachel Tanner perfectly captures the push and pull in such a way that, like the distorted reflection in the water, reflects the actions and thoughts of humankind. For every good intention there is a push or a pull to go with it, and the same goes for every other action that we as humankind do.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Railway

One cannot help but wonder, where does this railway go? This very same question is what first came to my mind as I pondered Rachel’s photo. Much like the photo I had taken in Yellowstone National Park, Montana, there is this message of mystery and beauty; a road to the unknown. It brings out a notion of inspiration and awakening to its viewer. There is an essence of curiosity and uncertainty that is portrayed to the viewer when looking at Tanur’s photo. The positioning and organization of the objects in the image leads to endless possibilities of interpretations and perspectives. The inspiring placement of the railway within the natural beauty of the Alaskan wilderness gives an element of meaning to an observer. Every viewer will have a different semiological perspective when looking upon such an image that is an open ended image of possibilities. A modern piece of technology placed in a setting of pure nature, bringing out the influences and innovations mankind has created to be a part of this world full of natural beauties. Yet we ask ourselves, what does this railway mean? According to Gillian Rose, the importance and meaning of an image can and is brought out by specific objects, placed in certain ways and even what those objects mean to a specific audience given that the image was intended for a specific audience (1). The importance here is what these certain objects offer to the viewer in the sense of meaning and portrayal of a message. Gillian Rose identifies this as semiology; there is much more meaning that goes into the picture than simply viewing it on a superficial level (1). In a semiological aspect, the positioning and placement of this railway opens up the possibility of it being a geometric formula of perspective (2). With this geometric formula of perspective, the key is the position of the observer as its central organizing principle (2). The way the railway is centered in the image, surrounded by green valleys and snowy mountains, an atmosphere with a calming sensation. This perspective quickly draws the viewer’s eyes to the railway; following the railway leads to the wide open setting of a mountainous view of Alaska. By having the viewer's attention drawn to the railway and mountains, it creates a balance of looking at a powerful modern piece of technology combined with a powerful view of the Alaskan mountains, causing the viewer to examine and contemplate the meaning behind this image. This brings us to the question: what is the meaning? Each viewer will have their own perspective. Some may view the image filled with mystery and awe, others may see it as an image of hope with the railway being placed in a fresh outdoors setting. I see Tanur’s photo as an image of inspiration and motivation. I see a pathway with no directions to be followed, no right or wrong way to go. A road that is open for those who aspire to follow the path, taking a chance to see where the road will take them. It is a symbolic image; intended for all types of audiences to find their own meaning behind this image. The way it is presented in a springtime setting with snow covered mountains, it is symbolic to the viewer as it portrays a different aspect of such a region as Alaska, which is more commonly thought to be rather cold with snow everywhere. On the contrary, it displays an essence of beauty and wonder that can be found in any place we look. (1) Rose, G. (2014). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials. London: Sage. (2) Sturken, M., & Cartwright, L. (2009). Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Clown on Bench

The most intriguing part of the photo by Rachel Tanur is that it breaks visual association. As humans, we are social creatures in a very ocularcentric society where we judge others based on what we see of them. We use gender portrayals and other cues to identify others and convey our identities. A majority of what we know comes solely from what we see. Analyzing this picture using a semiotic method, there is a lot that can be interpreted from this image and a lot where the "usual" symbolicism is wrong. It is interesting to see how one's actions do not reflect how one presents oneself. When it comes to clowns, one would most likely think of the dramatic entertainers at circuses or other festivals. Clowns are often presented as energetic, crazy, goofy and personable. They may also be depicted as being overdramatic or icons of haunted houses and horror scenarios due to their wild makeup and crazed persona. When one sees a clown, they do not tend to think of educated men in suits. In the photo, the actions of the clown contradict how he is portrayed. In this image, the subject is reclined on a park bench in a relaxed state. He is not high-energy which is associated with clowns. He is also seen reading a book, an activity that would go against how most perceive clowns. A book also may represent education and class. One must be educated enough in order to be literate and read a book. It would also be different if it were a picture book that he was reading, but this appears not to be that type of text. This may also suggest that the man portraying the clown is of a high enough class to afford a decent education. In historical context, the jesters and jokers were the entertainment to royalty and were of lower class, but education represented in Tanur's image suggests that he is of a higher class. Looking at the clowns face, he seems to be serene and focused, traits that clowns do not tend to embody. The actions of the clown do not reflect the visual presentations seen on his body.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boys

Black Cuban males face some of the adversities experienced by their black American counterparts. Many black Cubans express having greater difficulties securing good jobs than whites, and are more likely to be hassled by the police. “When black Cubans gather, the topic of racism readily emerges” (Robinson 2000). Given some of the similarities, it would be important to note some of the differences in the way the two groups construct black masculinity? Tanur’s photograph captures the vibrant essence of a relationship between boys possibly, relatives or friends. The image invokes a feeling of familiarity of youth. The photograph is reminiscent of summer days spent as a child in the sun playing games with neighborhood friends until the daylight faded into night. The times when getting dirty, scuffing a knee, or getting a hole in our jeans were indications of a day well spent. The only thing that mattered was who can run the fastest, kick the ball the furthest, hide the longest, or climb the tallest tree. When I look at this photograph, I see 9two boys in the shade of a doorway perhaps taking a break from play. These two children who appear to be older than the age of thirteen look cheerful and free of judgment, innocent, not yet experienced with the reality of what it means to be a black man. The hug shared between the two boys is a display of more than a hug for the sake of a photograph. It is an illustration of vulnerability, trust, camaraderie, and love. Their youthfulness of the boys in the photo is present not yet tainted by adversity. A burden is faced by the black male youth. The inevitable burden of ensuing manhood makes him a threat. This is the burden of the black man in America. This to me is an image of boys being boys, and not boys being men. Constant characterization as young men leaves boys little space to grow and no room to appreciate childhood. Arnett Ferguson (2000) describes this phenomenon as “adultification.” Adultification ensues as the transgressions of boys as young as eleven or twelve are sanctioned in the similar man an adult would. “Boys will be boys” is no longer a benefit to them Ferguson’s research exposes the assumption that innocence is obtainable to white youth but is withheld from black boys not only in schools or communities but also under the law. Black boys under the age of eighteen in the United States are disproportionately tried, charged—as adults, and convicted with felonies in criminal court (Alexander, 2010). Is the adultification a phenomenon in Cuba as it is in the United States? Does Cuban culture allow these boys to live in their childhood and adolescence much longer than black American boys? Their embrace may suggest that there may not be such a strong disconnect between masculinity and intimacy that is present in the United States. Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York, NY: The New Press. Ferguson, Ann Arnett. 2000. bad boys: Public School in the Making of Black Masculinity. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press. Robinson, Eugene. “Cuba Begins to Answer Its Race Question.” The Washinton Post. N.p., 12 Nov. 2000.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Cows

What I see are farm animals in the early morning or late afternoon. They all seem to be looking off into the distance, enjoying their free reins. I do not see any fence or walls around that would be keeping them in. The animals are content and happy on the farm, in the field. Perhaps the cows are taking a break from plowing, as I see rope and an old fashion plow. They are not your typical cows that you would see in the United States. The chickens pecking away at the freshly new grounded up dirt, trying to see what bugs that they can scrounge up. As the rooster watches over his hens, making sure that there are no predators around. Who leaves the cows unattended though? Where did the owner go? I know that I cannot be the only one to be asking this same question. Another question is what could they be plowing the fields for if that is what they are doing? There are always many questions to every picture. If you do not have any questions, you are not possibly looking at the picture hard enough. It is amazing what you can see if you take more than two minutes to look at a picture. You can see its beauty, elegance, and its ultimate power. It is so neat to see that animals of difference species get so close to each other and be able to be around one another without them scaring off. Why can humans not do the same? We live in a very diverse world with too much politics, wars, corruption and race disputes. For example, we as human beings cannot go a day without hearing about killing on the news, politics on the new, or even what is going on overseas. Everything we listen to or read about in the world is about the bad and not the good. I think the picture is trying to resemble peace. Everything in the picture is soft and calm. The grass is green, the dirt is fluffed up, and the colors are soothing. Everything looks still, in the real world, nothing looks still. Things are constantly moving. I think that is part of the reason our world is so messed up. Humans just get so caught up trying to play catch up, that they forget what life is all about. Take time to realize the greater things in life. Do not get sucked in to the “black hole.” Take moments like these to look at pictures, to look at the scenery outside, the sunset, your kids playing in the backyard, and cherish them. Remember to slow down, memories and pictures last a lifetime, time does not.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

In the foreground of the image (African Pottery 01), we see brown clay pots stacked, the same pattern repeated on each. In the background, a pot with different design, stacked against the side of a shed. No people appear in the image, no machines that assist in the production process. The pots sit outside, and it appears as though they will shortly be distributed and sold. Here, without seeing the artists or people, we can consider the social production of works of art. The artist, in the romantic view, was read through the prism of isolated, atomistic individualism. Many theorists and sociologists, however, have been interested in questioning the nature of the causality between the individual and the social expressed in the production of art. Walter Benjamin noted, referring to the mechanical reproduction of works of art, that, “In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is still lacking: the here and now of the work of art – its unique existence in a particular place.” Benjamin uses the term ‘aura’ to refer to the ‘here and now’ of the work of art that is linked to the ‘authenticity’ of the individual artist. Looking at Tanur’s image, we can question the ‘authenticity’ associated with the mechanical reproduction of this type of ‘traditional African art’. Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, specifically referring to African artworks, noted that “The nameless artist has been explained as a necessary precondition to authenticity, a footnote to the concept of a ‘tribal style’ that he has the power neither to resist nor change.” Here, we see a contradiction in the role of artist in the creation of authenticity between Benjamin’s view of aura and Kasfir’s view of African art. In a ‘Western’ view, we see aura as linked to the artist as individual unique to time and place, but in relation to African art, the artist is eliminated, the aura seen as linked to the group and social. Many questions are left unanswered in Tanur’s image: where was this taken? Who produced the work? How was it produced? To whom was it sold? Tanur documents artistic labor in the industrial world: the mass, assembly line production of an identical art object. The artist as individual has been excluded: both figuratively (in the art-making process) and literally, from the image. And, as a result, the image provokes questions about the role of mass production and the work of art as well as the relationship between the individual and the social, in the ‘Western’ world and in the African context. References Benjamin, Walter. 2008. The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproduction, Harvard University Press: London and Cambridge. Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield. 1992. “African Art and Authenticity: A Text with a Shadow,” African Arts, Vol 25, No 2, pp. 40-53, 96-97.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Fan Ladies

The photo shows three women sitting in the shade. They are dressed in traditional Cuban colorful and vivid dresses. Each clutching in her hand a fan. Two of them have obscured their faces, one is looking to the side. Beneath her lies a basket of freshly cut flowers. The work is titled “Cuban Fan Ladies”. Photo captivates us with bright colors and repeatability of gestures. Mike Bal claimed that as the data type photographs cannot speak for themselves, the information shall have to extract, interpret, de-code needs to unzip the contents of the visual presentation of phenomena. A realistic approach to photography is not sufficient, it is necessary to perform a critical analyze. Reading complex and multi-layered meanings encoded in the image. Without an additional description, the viewer may wonder what women do. Do they protect themselves from the sun, or maybe they gossip? They seem to be dressed for a special occasion. Maybe to perform a dance, to attend a special service or they waiting for someone? The key to solving the mystery is a basket of flowers. Why they hid their faces? Probably they do not want to be photographed for free. Probably photograph was taken in the cathedral square in Havana. The city is famous for its incredible colonial architecture. In the 50s, Havana was the quite popular entertainment center for Americans, who would leave desired by Cubans dollars at the Havana casinos or nightclubs. But for Cubans island is a prison. Paradoxically, the dollar tourists give Cubans a substitute for a decent life. Tourism as the main branch of industry is driving state economically. People which are not having direct contact with tourism, unfortunately, are condemned to live in poverty. People in Cuba do various odd jobs to earn some money. These three women are waiting for tourists. Local women dressed in brightly colored traditional dresses for tips and selling flowers. These ladies also sell kisses. It is interesting that older ladies wearing traditional Cuban dresses have decided that they must be too old to sell kisses, so they pose for tourists with massive cigars hanging out of their mouths. The ladies works as a team, splitting a vulnerable male tourist away from the herd. Once isolated, they try and sell him a kiss. If he shows any sign of weakness, the colorful pair pose either side, pucker up and plant bright red lipstick marks on his cheek. The price for this photo opportunity is one CUC ($1) per kiss. The convertible peso has been in limited use since 1994 when it was treated as equivalent to the U.S. dollar. Interestingly, locals are not allowed to use it. Accepting payment in the dollars or Cuban convertible peso is illegal. However, the temptation is high. From 2005, the rate is 1:25 when exchanging CUC for CUP and 24:1 when going from CUP to CUC. Daily wage for the pictures from the cathedral square is often higher than monthly earnings. Referring to Goffman's theory of drama, they play in the front of tourist a kind of performance, strategically modeling their behavior in order to make the best impression and earn money. The essence of these measures is the presentation of self, as well as beliefs about what a partner or audience can expect. As an actor in the theater of everyday life, taking the manipulation of emotions, which wants to exert on the other, they takes into account the specific scenario written by society (here it will be a tourist's need) for the role played by it. References: Bal, Mike. Double Exposures: The Subject of Cultural Analysis (1996) Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) I would like to thanks to Jacob for stories about Cuba.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Band 01

Three men are on a stage. They all wear a white button up shirt and black pants. The piano wide, and dark, occupies most of the stage and hides the body of the player; the man holding the saxophone also hides only leaving his face barely noticeable as it. The saxophone player’s face engaged; his cheeks filled with airs and his lips pursed on the saxophone. He is leaning forward, seemingly engaged in the creation of harmonious sounds. The instruments, each located in front of the artists, are at the forefront. They are visible before the artist is, and, in the case of the pianist, at the expense of the artist. There is an interaction between the artists that is necessary in order to create harmonious music. They must be in sync, they must communicate and come together to create music and culture. On the border of the stage, are red flowers, a glimpse of nature in the midst of human creations and creativity. The whole scene comes together in shows men, nature, and men’s creations all included in the process of not only making art, but of performing it as well. Art has its origins in practical needs. “Humans initially draw, paint, sculpt and organize sound and rhythm to fulfill practical purposes” (de la Fuente 2008:346). Music thus serves the purpose of connecting individuals to each other; it contributes to a socialization that allows the creation of a bond that favors collective action. The character of art is that it also has a symbolic power. The contrast between the man sitting alone in his studio, with that of a group of musicians creating music is telling of the different symbolism that the creation of art can take. The use of instruments to create music requires a physically involvement that goes beyond the click of a mouse. The production of music as a collective is a message packaged in the symbolism of performance. De La Fuente points that this is what helps the participants of society understand the importance of bonding and of collective behavior. According to Simmel, successful art is connected to the deepest layers of reality. Art, both provides a relief from life, and distances itself from life to reveal its true reality. “The aesthetic experience brings us back, through its distance to the rest of the life, to the dynamics and patterns of life itself.” (de la Fuente 2008:352). The realities of the man on the chair, and that of the musicians stand in contrast to each other; yet are incredibly similar. The apparent individualism of the man on the chair disappears once we understand that the technology that surrounds him, connects him to other artists; thus creating a collective, organic, and interactive production of music. Thus, both images embody the creation of culture through art, as defined by Simmel. De la Fuente, Eduardo. 2008. “The Art of Social Forms and the Social Forms of Art: The Sociology-Aesthetics Nexus in Georg Simmel’s Thought” Sociological Theory 26 (4): 324-36.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Cooker

The first striking factor about this image is the categorization of this chinese street women cooker is the label 'work'. This contextualization itself reflects of how a co-relation is being established here in terms of women's labour and acknowledging it as 'work'. Its a very interesting framing as the mainstream lens of looking at the field of production and economic activity does not value female labour. More than half of the world's population is women and consequently the world's human resources is embodied by women. However, most of women's work is not recognized and waged. The stereotyped understanding of women's role pushes their role primarily as that of within the household, child bearing and rearing roles based, reinforced by the patriarchal binaries of public/private spheres. Despite performing vital roles in both the spheres, yet female work is private, marginal and most crucially of no economic value. The structures of sexual division of labour are also responsible therefore in the kind of work and skill that eventually trickles down to women in economic production. In all societies one can observe a consistency in the trend that as capitalism and production becomes more technologically advanced and mechanized, the left over forms of labour that needs more physical rigor gets to be pushed down to women, as the ones with machines are taken up by men. Therefore whether its the unorganized labour in the form of traditional ways of weaving, pottery or the above would be the nature of work 'made available' for the female workforce. Thus many of the skills and efficiency that they do bring to production are not even accounted for, as they are not part of the established job descriptions. Thereby pushing to the margins the long hours of precision, concentration and creativity that has gone into the final product whether it is a weaving a shawl, making a pot or cooking rice. Thus this image and the other similar images of women weaving, doing pottery frames female labour and their embodied contribution to economic production and mainstreams this into the visual field.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Supermarket

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw Rachel Tanner’s photograph – African Supermarket – was a text by feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe. Enloe (2001) in her seminal text, Bananas Beaches and Bases, argues that women’s roles in global politics have been largely ignored and under-examined. Using the examples of the banana industry in the Caribbean, the tourism industry, and foreign military bases she examines how women’s seemingly personal strategies – in their homes, private lives, domestic experiences – are also deeply political. She theorises that larger sociological processes of globalisation, capitalism, neoliberalism, and labor entwine the personal and the political – and argues that a simple visual such as a gendered advertisement that sells Caribbean bananas and tropical fruit to the US can contain multiple narratives of global importance. To me, her depiction of Carmen Miranda marketing bananas (on the front cover), smiling and fruit-covered, resonates strongly with Rachel’s image in spite of the difference in geographies, histories, lived realities, spatialities, temporalities, and meanings. While I do not know the exact context of Rachel’s image, it symbolises the role of the two women/girls in the image, not only as the stereotypical and very gendered providers of meals and groceries in the domestic sphere but also as consumers in the local, regional, and global market, as possible sellers and suppliers of the depicted fruit, as marketers, and as agents and actors in the global processes of labor and consumption. Rachel’s depiction of their presence in the supermarket (rather than the kitchen) pushes this idea further - breaking the binary of what is domestic and what is public, what is personal and what is political, what is in the home and what is in the labor market. It unpacks how sociological processes linked to the economy and politics work and the complexities they entail. What also strikes me about this visual is how it turns stereotypes about ‘Africa’ and ‘Africans’ on its head. As many scholars after Said (1978) have elaborated, colonial and postcolonial Africa has been a dark, dreadful, and barbaric place in the orientalist imagination of the ‘West’. Media as well as other depictions of lives and narratives from the continent are submerged in orientalist tropes depicting poverty, failure, ravaged lands, starving children and crying citizens, uncivilised ‘natives’, savagery, and ‘backwardness.’ Rachel’s image of two young girls, dressed impeccably and even fashionably, smiling broadly and taking pleasure in the moment, looking into the camera with shy grins, engaging, interacting, surrounded not by poverty and starvation but by tropical fruit – full and wholesome food, subverts our imagination of the continent and the narratives of those who live there. It thus, not only serves a scholarly purpose, but also an activist one that challenges our very perception of those who differ from us. It, in effect, becomes a visual of resistance that brings forward a story (or many stories) that presents narratives left out of the ‘Western’ imagination but also dislodges the political sociologies that might depict “one version of history as more true than another”, asserting that “history is more complicated than the stories we tell about it.” (Hemmings, 2011: 15-16) Linked to the point above are also the photographer’s reflexivity, ethics, positionality, and agency that ask – How do we choose to represent the subjects of our work? How do we narrate other lives and realities? How do we incorporate the ethics of visual research into our larger disciplines in the social sciences? What is the relationship between “content, social context, and materiality of images?” (Pink, 2003: 183) How do we collaborate visually across disciplines? How do we use visual research in sociology as not only an academic intervention but also an activist one that decolonizes knowledge production and is mindful of the relationship between power and knowledge. Rachel’s photograph- African Supermarket- and her larger legacy serves as a solid starting point to consider these difficult questions and ground these conversations. Bibliography Enloe, C. (2001) Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. California: UC Press Hemmings, C. (2011) Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory. Durham and London: Duke University Press Pink, S. (2003) “Interdisciplinary agendas in visual research: re-situating visual anthropology,” Visual Studies, Vol. 18 (2): 179-192 Said, E. (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Couple on Bench 01

Rachel Tanur’s deceptively simple image, “Chinese Couple on Bench,” expertly examines the complex relationship between people and space. It is a relationship through which people inhabit, possess, and transform space, and are simultaneously inhabited, possessed, and transformed. The image is stark, composed solely of a couple, a bench, and the planes of cement brick, which enfold them. And yet, this image forces us as spectators to confront our understandings of public space, intimacy, and belonging in the contemporary world. At a cursory glance, this austere scene may strike the spectator as a representation of the cold isolation associated with modernity. Yet on further examination, it becomes clear that the photograph’s lack of visual context lays the foundation for the couple’s intimacy. With a wider frame or landscape orientation, the couple on the bench would be forced to encounter street signs, vehicles, buildings, and other passersby. A larger frame could capture the swirling traffic of rush hour, horns and engines filling the sky with sound. Or pedestrians clambering down the brick pavement amidst bicycles and street vendors. A world of distractions could exist just beyond the frame, threatening to disrupt the couples’ private moment, but Tanur holds it all at bay with her lens. Tanur’s framing of the couple does not signify their alienation from the surrounding world but rather their sense of belonging within it. Scholars of place and space are dedicated to understanding the myriad ways individuals and communities define boundaries of inclusion and exclusion and “the identity of places” (Massey 1994). Neighborhoods may be renamed, flags and monuments erected, and walls drenched in murals and graffiti, all to say “This is my home” or “I belong.” Conversely, it is through this photograph’s lack of place-making semiotics that the couple finds space for belonging. Without street signs, fences, or deeds, the couple expresses their belonging in this space through their body language. Both are immersed in the newspaper, unaffected by their surroundings. The gentleman leans forward as an article reels him in. The lady rests and reads comfortably over his shoulder. They focus on different pages, different stories, different parts of the world, but remain wholly together. Their body language conveys they belong in this space, but also that they belong together. This image seems to suggest that together they could belong anywhere. Despite the couple’s concentration, Tanur’s vertical framing allows her the necessary distance to avoid interrupting their intimacy with her voyeurism. The couple remains engaged in a private moment in public space. In doing so, they have transformed the space, opened and stretched it. Together with Tanur, they have redefined what the space can mean as well as reshaped our notions of the public-private binary. In this modern age, when space and time have been compressed, folded upon each other like planes of cement brick, there is still time to find space and space to find time to be together.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancer Rehearsing

The viewer will immediately recognize the dance in the picture as a ballet dancer. The iconic rectangular empty space, its bars and smooth wooden floor and of course the dancer himself, his customary shoes, the leg warmer and the characteristic turning posture, arrested mid-way. As in my picture of the balancing act, the concentration in physical exertion demands attention. Unlike my picture, this does not look like a performance. The intense gaze of the dancer is likely directed not an audience but at a mirror as he observes his movements. The displays of physical skills have very different values in each situation. Let’s start though by examining the setting. The room is a far cry from the operatic stages on which most likely encounter ballet. The rooms is in a somewhat dilapidated state, with plaster coming off the wall (again). Also, the dancer appears to be alone. In the opera, ballet – its choreographed production – is a collaborative accomplishment, where choreographer and dancers join in mutual adjustment and decision-making based in part on the dancers’ specific physical abilities and training (Morris 2001: 57). However, before such collaboration can take place, the dancer has to put in the long work on self that this photograph depicts. Training is grueling, selection highly competitive and only few make it onto that stage. The humble setting of this training session and the opulence of the opera ballet are connected. Essential to this long and necessary work is the reflexive gaze into the mirror that we appear to witness in the picture. That gaze is reflective of the kind of bodily work involved. When we think about the fine-grained and fine-tuned bodily knowledge necessary for ballet performances, Bourdieu’s habitus immediately comes to mind. Famously he used the intuitive plays of the tennis player to illustrate the ‘feel for the game’ that we all have in our cultural, social or professional homes. However it’s not so straightforward. Earlier ballet training is merely a basis for further training and is itself constantly reconstructed in taking on new dancing roles or studying new choreographies (Wainwright et al 2006: 537). In other words, one needs to step out of the flow of intuited knowing and subject one’s body to reflection. This is where ballet’s essentially visual nature (Thomas 2003: 95ff.) becomes apparent. Of course, it is a visual performative art par excellence. But the requirements of felicitous choreography mean that for the ballet dancer, there is “no room for experimentation and doubt” (Kirstein 1971: 5); one’s movements and postures need to correct. Sight is therefore as pivotal in the training process as it is in spectatorship. In Deborah Bull’s words, the ballet class takes “sight as the primary process of artistic conception, perception and kinesthetic awareness” (in: Thomas 2003: 98.). This is the intense gaze we see. Work is a recurrent theme to have captured Tanur’s photographic attention and sociological imagination. Comparing how the ballet and Beirut pictures each relate to it reveals their crucial differences. Firstly, while Tanur’s photo reveals labor itself, and a man immersed in it, my picture from Beirut shows distraction from a job done, men relaxing after work. Secondly, whereas the first invokes tradition and discipline, the second displays individual prowess and solo improvisation. Finally, each performance help cultivate a different subjectivity: the first develops the performing (balletic) body, the second contributes to a kind of political subjectivity. Lincoln Kirstein (1971) Movement & metaphor : four centuries of ballet . Pitman. Gay Morris (2001) ‘Bourdieu, the Body, and Graham's Post-War Dance.’ Dance Research, 19(2): 52-82. Helen Thomas (2003) Dance, modernity, and culture : explorations in the sociology of dance. Routledge. Steven Wainwright et al (2006) ‘Varieties of habitus and the embodiment of ballet’. Qualitative Sociology, 6(4): 535-558

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Mondrian Windows

"Behind the windows of Piet Mondrian". Lines, vibrant colours and abstraction characterized Piet Mondrian work. That was precisely what Rachel Tanur saw in these windows, that she titled "the windows of Piet Mondrian". Although at first, I see in this picture the paintings of the Dutch painter as she does, I stop for a momento at the man by the window, and in the way that his action alters and modifies the entire scene. This man by the window makes me think about the relationship between the action and the structure and the way in which the subjects, holds, modifies, involves and influence their environment, while this has an influence on them. So, the picture of Rachel Tanur allow us to see Piet Mondrian, but it also allow us to see the relationship between the agency and the subject, which plays but at the same time modifies that same space and structured space. (Giddens,1984). This picture also allows me to think the notion of space and the way how it is defined through the production and reproduction of certain relationships and practices (Lefebvre,2013, Castells, 1996). Would it be the same space if the subject were not there? I stop one last time at the picture, and then i think of what Rachel Tanur saw in those windows and what I saw. I either can see relationship between representation, the producer and tmultiple images that from one picture could be, as Rancière says: ".. .the image is not a thing twice." It is a complex set of relationships between the visible and the invisible, the visible and the word, what was said and the unspoken. It is not a simple reproduction of what has been ahead of the photographer or filmmaker. "It is always a disturbance that takes place in a chain of images which, in turn, alters it" (Rancière, 2010: 94). " Work cited: Carreño Andrade, Alfredo, La fundamentación del núcleo conceptual de la teoría de la estructuración de Anthony Giddens, Revista Sociológica, Numero 40, año 1999. Giddens, Anthony, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration,University of California,1984 Lefebvre, Henry, La producción del espacio. Madrid: Capitán Swing, 2013. Rancière Jacques,El espectador emancipado Buenos Aires: Bordes Manantial, 2010.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Flat Road

“ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”(Robert Frost). When I see Rachel Tanur’s image titled Alaska Flat Road, the first thing I think of is this poem, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. It takes me back to my time in the Smoky Mountains, and my time in the Rockies in Colorado. I see the road, and I see the mountain. The road is straight and narrow, with some gravel on it. It leads to snow-peaked mountains, and a deep green pine tree forest. By using semiology, we can use this picture to symbolize life choices. The first path, the road, represents the path many people choose in life because it’s easy. I see the road as representing peoples comfort zone. If you never get off the road and never get out of your comfort zone you can miss so many great opportunities and adventures. The mountain in contrast represents challenges, risk taking and obstacles. The mountain is covered in rocks and snow, which represents challenges that someone might face in life. But the thing is if you choose this path, it is more rewarding. Sometimes the best things in life come from taking a big risk, come from taking a challenge head on, from getting out of your comfort zone. It isn’t easy, it will make you work very hard, but then you get to the top and get to see the view. And that’s life. If you work hard, challenge yourself, push yourself to be better, you will be rewarded and live a more fulfilling life. If you only stay on the road, on the easy path, you will never get to see what life really has to offer. I know all of this is very true for me. All the best things that have happened to me in life, and my cherished memories, have come from challenges, from taking a risk, from getting out of my comfort zone. The mountains, challenges, call my name. Whether it’s applying for a new job and driving there on my own, to hopping in the car and deciding to road trip to Colorado with no plans, just to see the mountains, to applying to study abroad in Tanzania next fall, these adventures have lead to so much personal growth and so many amazing friends. Some people may enjoy the easy road, and that’s okay, but I know I love the challenging road so much more. For me, choosing the path less traveled, really did make all the difference.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Squash Blossoms

The main elements of this Rachel’s work are squash blossoms in a fruit and vegetables stand in a local market with a price behind it. It is a particular subject because they are dainty flowers not fruits or vegetables, they offer a gentle flavor of zucchini and yellow squash and they can be taste great fried but also as are, on their own. Squash blossoms are a typical italian dish but you can’t find it in a typical tourist menu. It is a local product in a global point of view. This flowers represent the sense of the fruit market as a place of traditional tastes and the products of local agricultural in a global world and in a crossroad of people and culture. Bauman introduces the term glocalization to combine the idea of globalization with that of local considerations. According to Andrew Herod local place is a particular moment in the spatialized networks of social relations. Glocalization corresponds to the integration of local markets into world capitalism of globalization. Squash blossom is like a hybrid: not only a flower but not only a fruit, it is local but also global. Squash Blossom is also the name of one of the most characteristic of Native American jewelry designs: the squash blossom necklace that wasn’t traditional until the arrival of Europeans. It is unknown where the name “squash blossom necklace” originally come from, it may have been a mistranslations between English, Spanish and one of American Indian languages.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Peek-a-boo

In Rachel Tanur’s “Guatemalan Peek-a-boo,” our eyes meet the partially shielded eyes of a young Guatemalan child. Sitting amongst the traditional fabrics of the marketplace, she does so rather easily on the ground, with both legs presumably folded to one side. While there are piles of yarn behind her on a table, some tapestry covers her legs. Perhaps she is in the middle of folding it, or maybe she is less easily covering herself in light of the camera and photographer. Meanwhile, any attending adult is outside the frame of the picture. Perhaps the young girl has accompanied a parent or caregiver to the market (if it is that place) or perhaps she works there herself. Through the Western gaze (1), the sight of a young child in a marketplace might provoke feelings of indignation; not only is she literally in a marketplace but proverbially she may also already be part of the market labor force. The troubling notion of child labor may enter the scene of interpretation, though very little evidence in the image points to that. Due to their physical and social stature, children are oftentimes subject to the gaze of adults and the camera, and even more troublingly so, the narratives spun around images are even less up to them. Children have little say over their images or the stories that get told about those images. With that in mind, the most that I can discuss here has to do with the flows of power that move between children and adults around photographs. In Patricia Holland’s book Picturing Childhood, she writes about adults’ imposition over children’s identities through photography. The need to protect and coddle children is, in many ways, an indirect result of the ways that they have been portrayed in photographs. “Over history,” she writes, “children have been the objects of imagery, very rarely its makers” (2004:20). While this photograph of a young Guatemalan girl covering her eyes, either from the sun or from the photographer (or possibly both), could be read as the perennial tale of the child as object of adoration (3), it more powerfully elucidates the child’s ability to resist adult framings of her. While she may not hold the camera—the sociopolitical tool of power—she is able to maneuver her body in such a way as to disrupt what the camera intends to do with her image. And while Holland goes on to write that children are unable to even curate how they are to be seen, the girl in this image defies that notion. She exemplifies what Anne Higonnet might have been referring to when she called our attention to the 21st century’s Knowing Child: the “child who [understands] more about adults’ motives and foibles than their belief in her innocence [allows] them to guess” (1998: 207). Lutz and Collins, in their formative work Reading National Geographic, illuminate the ways that images in popular media have been significant in the construction of cultural difference (1993). In writing specifically about depictions of children across issues of National Geographic, they note the magazine’s romanticization of childhood. Increasingly, to highlight sociopolitical issues, the editors employed poignant images of children to tell heart-wrenching stories. Tanur’s photo of this Guatemalan child, however, sits in opposition to the kinds of exoticized photos of children depicted in National Geographic. The young girl may be playing peek-a-boo, but she may not be doing so with the same jocularity as we would imagine or perhaps she did not begin in jest. Tanur’s title, as does the child’s more serious countenance, may suggest that this is less a game, and more a strategy to resist the adult gaze. The ambiguity of the title positions the child not as the innocent bystander of the camera, but rather as the one directing the course of the ‘game’ itself. (1) Lutz, Catherine A., and Jane L. Collins. Reading National Geographic. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993. (2) Holland, Patricia. Picturing Childhood: The Myth of the Child in Popular Imagery. New York, NY: I.B. Tauris, 2004. (3) Higonnet, Anne. Pictures of Innocence. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: US Sign

Firstly, there is a quote on this picture, telling that the ideas of a nation can be reproduced by it’s advertisements. According to sociological theory, it is true. As we all know, advertising – is a social process, an exchange between two actors – the buyer and the seller. The main goal of a seller – is meeting buyer’s needs and selling his own products. But in today’s globalizing world this process is getting more and more complicated. Nowadays we buy not a classical Marx’s commodity, (which has it’s use value, exchange value, price and can satisfy human needs or wants) – we buy a simulacrum (by Baudrillard) and live in unreal reality. So, a company, which tries to sell it’s product faces a serious impediment – a buyer is completely sated, thanks to commodity diversity. It is not easy to capture buyer’s attention no more. And, because of this fact, irrational aspects of advertising are so widely used. And, among them, is operation of Jungian archetypes. They are elements of collective unconscious and can be depicted in images, traditions, art, myths and so on. Than, they can be a bright indicator of national idea, which, in it’s turn, can be a powerful mechanism of marketing. This idea lies in our statement, isn’t it? Somewhere in the USA there is a signboard, telling with it’s austerity to a spectacular, that the US is free from unconscious archetypes. However, it is a delusion – each nation has it’s own archetypes. Belligerence and glorification for the USA; preservation and archetype of The Ruler for Russia, my native country. That’s why, probably, people in my country worship all their presidents. As a conclusion, I would like to mention, that advertising is a really good implement for cognition of it’s nation-producer.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban School Kids and Columns

A group of five Cuban women stroll past an imposing classical building, painted in an array of pastel hues, featuring decorative columns and a charming veranda. The visual relationship between human and nonhuman forms in Rachel Tanur’s “Cuban School Kids and Columns”, offers a dynamic contrast to my photograph of an urban dweller and a national monument in the Dominican Republic. Unlike the still male subject in my photograph, the women in Tanur’s image are captured in motion, walking away from the viewer, perhaps engaging in casual conversation about the everyday challenges of Cuban life. The women of average height are juxtaposed with a massive structure that fills most of the frame, competing for the viewer’s attention. The intricate columns, as an architectural symbol of stability, commands notice and powerfully recalls the monumental structures of ancient Pompeii. Yet a prominently figured diagonal line not only draws the viewer’s gaze directly to the women striding towards the distance, but also poignantly evokes a sense of optimism for the nation’s future. While the nostalgic scene set against a backdrop of historic architecture appeals to Western imaginings of a magical Cuba fixed in time, the evocative directionality of the moving subjects, seen in light of restored U.S.-Cuba relations, challenges this assumption. The contemporary political realities indexed in Tanur’s image also disrupt enduring visual metaphors associated with colonial photographic conventions, namely subjects walking off frame and a diagonal line, that served to illustrate a romantic late nineteenth century vision of cultural “others” deemed as “vanishing” people (Lyman 1982). Several visual theorists underscore that the context of viewing images can alter the meanings of visual codes and thus deeply influence the viewer’s interpretation (Sturken and Cartwright 2001; Sontag 2003). The physical and historical moment in which a given image is read establishes a different frame for negotiating social relationships as well as national and cultural significations. In the context of improved relations between the United States and Cuba, following fifty years of an economic embargo, Tanur’s image simultaneously signals and subverts Western imagery of cultural “others”. Rather than suggesting that the embargo lift has launched an era of change in Cuba, Tanur’s striking image reminds us that Cuban society and culture has not remained static. The archeological record in fact demonstrates that cultural change, primarily driven by social interaction, operates at a continual pace, despite the political system of a population. Contemporary cultural anthropologists, moreover, assert that cultures and identities are constantly in a state of flux. The defiant bodily action of the women in the photograph, propelling sociocultural change with nuanced gestures and styles of dress, speaks to their individual and collective agency in making and remaking Cuban identity. With their backs facing the viewer’s gaze, the women convey an embodied resilience that underpins decades of self-directed innovation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boys

Two Cuban boys embrace. Their happiness radiates out of their beautiful smile and their eyes light up as they enjoy the photographer’s attention. The dusty appearance on the boy’s legs along with the dirty sandals and rugged clothing allude to their impoverished status. The boys sit in a doorway of a tattered building with nothing but each other’s company. Unlike in first world countries, the boys do not carry a bag or some sort of technological entertainment such as a phone or iPod. Though having seemingly little, the boys seem to have a raw form of joy emanating from their inner beings. The Cuban boys contrast to my photo of the Portuguese girls. The girls carefully planned and perfected their pose. The movement in the arm of the Cuban boy on the left suggests that their pose was a hasty one compared to the girl’s deliberate one. The boys were photographed by a third party observer, Rachel Tanur, while the girls were the master behind their selfie. Prior to selfies, an artist or photographer created an image of another subject. Richard Avedon once said, “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.(Avedon, n.d.)” Avedon advocates that photographs are accurate depictions yet cannot be seen as pure truth because the photograph may be altered by the photographer’s opinion. In selfies the individual is in more control of creating the photograph that will advertise their identity. However, both photographers and selfie takers have the option to manipulate the subject by attempting to capture different actions or use different angles. These urges to manipulate the photo often stem from pre-conceived notions. Canon Australia conducted an experiment to show the “power of perspective in portrait photography, demonstrating that a photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what’s in front of it” (Azzi, 2015). In this experiment six photographers were given the task to photograph one man but each photographer was told a different backstory. The backstories ranged from the talent being an ex-convict to a self-made millionaire. Although the photographers were photographing the same person and used the same props the results were different because the photographers had different perceptions of their talent (Azzi, 2015). In opposition to selfies or portrait photography, Tanur captures engaging candid photos. There is nothing pre-planned about it. The innocence in this photo gives credibility that Tanur’s photography accurately reflects the culture and way of life of the subjects she studies. In this case, that is two Cuban boys who have succeeded in harnessing happiness despite their possible poverty and lack of resources. Her photo reveals the two boys may be brothers or at the least close friends. They are comfortable with their environment and with each other. Sitting on the rough ground versus a nice sofa does not seem to bother them. The boys embrace and interlocking legs reveal that touch is a norm in their culture. Their mismatched clothing gives insight that vanity is not a high priority in their life. This is in opposition to (not all) but many selfie takers who wish to manicure any product they broadcast on social media to ensure that they only put forth an image they want others to see. I wonder how the two boys would choose to capture their selfie if given the chance. Sources Avedon, R. (n.d.). Quotes About Photography. Retrieved from goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/photography Azzi, M. (2015, Novemeber 10). Ex-convict, self-made millionaire or psychic? Six photographers are told different backstories about one man -- and take remarkably different portraits. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from Daily Mail Australia : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3311311/Ex-convict-self-millionaire-psychic-Six-photographers-told-different-backstories-one-man-remarkably-different-portraits.html Heimy, F. (2014, February 15). Stripped Statement Selfie Campaigns. Retrieved January 21, 2016, from Trend Hunter: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/stripforjackie Schwartz, R. (2015, July 16). Is it Time to Rethink the Selfie as a Feminist Political Statement? Retrieved January 23, 2016, from Good: https://magazine.good.is/articles/selfie-sign-of-self-expression-and-revolutionary-political-movement

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Great Wall

Images are powerful because they elicit many things depending on the viewer: memory, emotions, political discourses, etc. To Chinese people the image of the Great Wall is an important part of a discourse of Chinese national identity. However, what makes the case of the Great Wall particularly interesting is that, during the Cultural Revolution in China, its image belonged amongst those things (traditions of the “old China”) that should be destroyed in order to give way to the so-called “new” identity of China, that of the proletariat paradise under the guidance of Mao and the Communist Party. After the tumultuous political, economic and ideological transformations of the last three decades, the Great Wall has regained its status as a signifier of Chinese identity. Through this process, its image has been at the center of a battle for meaning fought between the realms of politics, culture, and economics. That being said, it is important to remember that identity occurs –first and foremost—in the cultural dimension of a society (with its strong effects on how people “feel” about their own place in society and their identities) even if identities are also central in the supposedly rationalized realm of politics and civil society (Habermas 1962). In trying to explain the power of the image of the Great Wall, perhaps it would be useful to recall how “imagined communities” are constructed (Anderson, 1983). According to Anderson, print media allowed different individuals and groups to read the same things. As a consequence of this, people in different locations and (usually) from different backgrounds felt that they all belong to common horizontal “identities” even if these individuals had never actually met each other. In the same way, as part of their upbringing and socialization, Chinese people from all over the country and from all parts of society learn to identify the image of the Great Wall with being Chinese. This occurs even if most of the 1.3 billion of people in China have or will never go see the Wall itself, and even if these people do not share a common sense of a lifestyle, religious practices, or even a language (China, after all, is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with a language that only shares a common way of writing but not common phonetics). Despite its heterogeneity, however, the image of the Great Wall is one of those symbols that allows people to belong to a same imagined community of China. This not only occurs in China. In my own dissertation research I have found that similar examples can be found in Peru and in France (Ferguson 2004), where food provides an analogous case in which an element of national identity has become a recipient for not only political discourses of identity, but moreover for emotions and the construction of civil society. Thus, around the world, signifiers of identity and civil society not only elicit a rational response in regards to what it means to belong to a national community, but it also has an important emotional dimension, constructed through everyday interactions between individuals, institutions, history and memory (Calhoun 1991). What is citizenship? The answer to this question lies not only in realm of legality or politics, but perhaps more potently in the realm of culture. From this perspective, images are extremely important because they evoke emotions that are intrinsic to a sense of mutual connectedness. Images are an integral element in the construction of public spheres (Habermas 1962) and of “civility”, social spaces in which different publics can meet with each other, even if it does not happen in an area of democratic participation or equality (Ikegami 2005). In a way then, the image of the Great Wall serves the same function as the Great Wall itself: just as emperor Qin used it to delimit the area of its multicultural (and multilingual) territories, nowadays the image of the Great Wall is part of a series of cultural markers that allow Chinese to understand who they are, despite the fact they may or may not agree with the politics of its government, speak the same language, live in the city or countryside, etc. - Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. - Calhoun, C.1994. Social theory and the politics of identity. Wiley-Blackwell - Ferguson, P.P. 2004. Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine. - Habermas, J. 1991. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. - Ikegami, E. 2005. Bonds Of Civility: Aesthetic Networks And The Political Origins Of Japanese Culture.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Fan Ladies

With their faces mostly hidden, these women still reveal much. The three dames in elaborate dress sit on a low bench against an aging stone façade – perhaps a church or cathedral - somewhere in Cuba. Fans mostly obscure their faces and long dresses and a basket of flowers remove five of the six feet from view. Like a carefully constructed studio photograph, the image shows them as sumptuously adorned and associated with the beauty of the equally colorful flowers in the basket. Bangles, fans, rings, lace, headscarves, ruffles and yards of bright fabric decorate their bodies and add to the compelling appeal of the image. They appear to be dressed for a special occasion – to perform a dance, to attend a special service, or celebrate a particular festival or holiday. Such a photograph seems to draw from a rich history of social science photography as a means to document material culture. Photographs are powerful not only for their ability to be used as ‘evidence’ (Tagg 1988), but also for their inherent ambiguity (Berger 1973). Each photograph will raise more questions than it answers. Here, due to the minimal context included, it is hard to see much beyond the well-framed portrait. One can see that women sit, well dressed, on the bench. Two of the fan ladies cover their faces, potentially avoiding a photograph that can identify them. This raises questions about the power dynamics and expectations of appearance in relation to notions of gender, class, and race within Cuba. Moreover, it also raises questions about the power dynamics between the seated women and Rachel, as a foreign female photographer. Answers to these questions lie in the unpacking of the situation in which the photograph was created. Was this a rural or urban space? Was the photograph created because these women represented a part of Cuba Rachel regularly interacted with? Or perhaps this photo, like her photographs of the Massai in Africa, potentially speaks to the beauty of tradition, which is made ever more visible by its contemporary rarity. Additionally, I’m curious about what the women’s body positions say about Rachel’s interaction with them. Did she ask for their permission to take this photograph? Is it fear, irritation, or modesty that causes them to cover their faces. Nonetheless, there is agency in this photograph, showing a physical communication between Rachel and the women. The women respond to her as a photographer. But do they also respond to her as a young American woman? Would this photo have been different if created by a man or by another Cuban citizen? Moreover, I suspect that Rachel may not be the only photographer involved in the broader scene. For, the woman on the right gazes to her left with a difficult to pinpoint emotion – is she irritated? Tired? Hot? Simply resting? The woman in the blue dress also points her fan and her face towards that same direction, potentially indicating engagement with additional photographers, while the yellow-fan-holding woman seems to address Rachel directly. As such, if there were more than one photographer, it suggests that the opportunity to photograph these beautifully decorated women was unique and perhaps fleeting. Ultimately though, the pretty composition of such a portrait leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. It also creates a compelling photograph through which to spin myriad hypotheses, the reality of which only Rachel and the three fan women would be able to confirm.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Paris Bookstalls

To whom does this city belong? Since the arrival of the first Iranian Ambassador of Safavid court in the capital of France and the palace of Louis XIV in 1715 up to now – after 3 centuries – Paris has enthralled numerous Iranians clad in the attire of diplomats, tourists, students, soldiers, immigrants, intellectuals, statesmen and political activists with its culture and iconoclastic revolutions(Elahi,2014). Perhaps the aforementioned historical roots together with French music and cinema form an image of France in my mind which I would like to visit. Though, the Paris of my dreams is not defined by long and wide streets, splendid shops, Paris Motor Show , top restaurants of the world and French skyscrapers; it is rather defined by its tiny neighborhoods, cozy cafés and Bouquinistes; Somewhere in the proximity of Seine and Notre Dame de Paris, a street which vendors, artists and musicians have occupied and made into an exciting and lively district; a legacy from the early 17th century; a legacy still providing the city with an identity after three centuries. This is the place where publics claim the city as theirs; where they occupy the sidewalk while they neglect the street signs and places allocated to selling books; where they trade on the streets, play music and occupy the space through restoring the right to the city. In La révolution urbaine, Lefebvre writes that “meta-philosophy frees itself from philosophy just as urban community emerges from the city facing its blast/destruction.” They take back the city from which they were dismissed, a type of revolutionary citizenship which is in no way related to passports: here, citizenship has connotations in and beyond passports, in and beyond any official document. This idea does not signify the legal rights given to citizens by an institution of bourgeois national government. Thus, when I heard that ISIS broke through France I shivered with the thought that how this small village was going to confront this monster. Where are the brave guardians of the village who turned the pages of history? Those youth of the 68’ who are now over 60 years old. How I wish these chiefs trained young forces. May 68 was the legacy of a generation who wanted change; a generation that proved the impossibility of establishing peace and security through the bigger prisons and longer chains of authoritarian regimes (from the state of de Gaulle in France to dictators of the third world countries). The 60s generation showed that they didn’t want to become tame consumers under bureaucratic laws. What they wanted to see was the realization of the mottos of French Revolution. They had great ideals in their minds: freedom and equality for everyone. Now take a look at the heritage of today. This movement started with a question, a question which should be asked once more: “why sociology? ” Although French students saw the companionship of leftist movements too early, they didn’t totally exchange their beloved anarchy with the ideals of French leftists. Even though the leaders of student movement of France welcomed the support of labor movements and student syndicates, in order to put emphasis on the distinction between May 68 of France and contemporary movements of other countries, they addressed their comrades as follows: “Comrade! Here is France.” References: Bayat, Asef (2010). "Life as politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East". Amsterdam University Pub Bourdieu, Pierre (1991)."Physischer, Sozialer and angeeigneter physischer Raum". In stadt-Raume, ed. M. Wentz, Frankfurt: Campus, translation by Bandulasena Goonewardena, 113) Elahi, Amirsaeed (2014). "We and Paris". 1st Pub. Tehran: Abadboom Publication Foucault, Michel (1999[1967]). " Different Spaces", in Aesthetics, Method, and Epistomology: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Volume II,ed. J. D. Faubion, trans. R. Hurley et al., New York: The New Press, 175. Lefebvre, Henri (1970). "The urban revolution". Translation: Robert Bononno. University of Minnesota Press. Websites: http://www.mondial-automobile.com/en/visitors/ http://www.frenchmoments.eu http://www.theworlds50best.com//

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Greek Temple Newlyweds

The appeal of Tanur’s Greek Temple Newlyweds lies in the tantalising sense of ambiguity the photograph evokes. In the foreground are the stairs of the temple, inviting the viewer’s eyes towards the spot where the newlyweds are framed (and dwarfed) by the imposing columns next to them. Who are these people, and why are they here? Apart from the fact that they are dressed in wedding finery, the image provides no details as to their age, race or status. While it would seem that the focus is upon the anonymous couple, the fact that the majority of the canvas is devoted to the surroundings indicates that for Tanur the temple is an equally important subject. She is consciously setting the scene, locating the couple unambiguously within it. Keeping this in mind, I’d like to ask two questions. One, what does the site do for the newlyweds? The Greek temple is no doubt a majestic location; it would be reasonable to assume that the aesthetics of the space appealed to the couple – possibly as a setting for wedding photos. However, as Palmer’s (2005) research on English visits to local heritage sites shows, encountering places of national significance - landscapes and monuments that promote a sense of history and community - offers individuals an opportunity to reaffirm their sense of belonging, ‘tap-into’ the national vein of identity. Therefore, no matter what motivated this excursion, in enacting their intimacy in a historic setting, the couple are also affirming their relationship to the nation. The nexus between heteronormativity and citizenship is well-established in academic literature (Bell & Binnie 2000), and as Johnston (1999:192) remarks, weddings are ‘the public performance party piece of heteronormativity’. Furthermore, as she points out, part of the work of wedding rituals is to present a type of ‘natural’ heterosexuality that conceals historical and material changes. I contend that the staging of a wedding scene at a longstanding historic edifice enables such a naturalisation. It gives the union the solemnity of temporal extension; the reassurance of what has been and the promise of what is yet to come. The millennia-old temple stands witness to their story - co-opting them into the history of the nation, legitimising their love, preparing it for eternity. My second question is: what does the presence of the couple do for the site? As Pink (2011:348) observes, our understanding of ‘place’ has shifted from taking it to be a pre-existing empirical reality that is in some way physically identifiable and circumscribed, to characterising it as a constellation of processes rather than a thing. Speaking specifically of tourist places, Larsen (2005: 423) has observed that they are neither inert nor fixed – they are repeatedly produced, and tourists are co-producers of such places. For the duration of the couple’s presence, the temple becomes what Pink calls a ‘place-event’ – a unique, ephemeral assemblage of space, activity and presence as experienced by embodied human subjects from specific subjectivities (2011:349). By locating themselves at the temple on their wedding day, the newlyweds have appropriated an ancient site for inscribing their modern day romantic tale, thus re-imagining the space and investing it with new meanings and associations. And it doesn’t end there. The temple will, henceforth, materialise in subsequent retellings of their wedding story; retellings that will continue to resurrect it long past the wedding day. Tanur’s photograph - like my own – helps us examine the relationship between sight and site. Engaging in a bit of flânerie – ‘the art of seeing without being caught looking' (Bauman 1994:141) – she has captured what was likely the offstage area of a photoshoot, and gives the viewer an insight into how the site embeds the newlyweds in the nation’s history, and how the newlyweds in their turn, animate the site via imaginative wedding practices. REFERENCES AVAILABLE

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Fan Ladies

One of the most intriguing photographs that I saw in the compilation of Rachel Tanur’s work is titled, “Cuban Fan Ladies”. When I look at this image, based on the semiological perspective of sociology, I see signs of fear and uncertainty in the women’s bodily expressions. To me, this does not seem strange at all. I feel like all women these days are hesitant to stand out and be themselves, especially women of color. They may not hide behind fans, but they still figuratively “hide”. In this image, all three women are dressed up in beautiful outfits and look like they are about to go dance at some sort of celebration. So my question is: Why would three women who are dressed so beautifully want to hide from being photographed for everyone to see? I believe the answer to this question lies in the social construction of gender in Cuba and all over the world, for that matter. All over the world, women are viewed as objects, as decoration, not as the individual people that they are. According to John Berger, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight” (Berger 1973: 47). Because of this, I feel that the women in this photograph are hiding, not because they are afraid of being seen, but because they feel as if people do not want to see them as anything, other than objects. The woman on the right is a black woman. By the expression on her face, it appears to me that she feels she needs to be hidden as well from the public eye. Since she has darker skin though, it is like she is already wearing a mask that is hiding her and making her invisible to others, therefore she does not need to use her fan to cover her face. This image captures both gender and racial issues to me. If individuals were unaware of these issues in the photograph, they may just believe that the women are either bored or camera shy. Since these issues are evident though, it is clear that this is still a prevalent issue in our society today. All woman are beautiful. They all deserve to feel that way and they also all deserve to feel like they can show off themselves and not be treated like just an object. References Berger, J. (1973). Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Miracles

The sandwich board advertising Wonderful Works on first glance appears to be like any of those found on the sidewalks of bustling commercial districts in cities of the United States. However, the offer of free “coffee, counseling, prayer, and miracles” suggests that Wonderful Works is not offering the typical goods and services one would associate with a retail store. Usually, such signs inform pedestrians of daily specials, sales, and sometimes even inspirational or funny quotes that uplift passersby and encourage them to come inside. While the offer of free miracles seems like false advertising, there is an underlying truth to the claim. In many ways, small businesses act as vital centers of community life, providing more than a place to buy toilet paper or drop off dry cleaning. In addition to the goods that they sell and the services they provide, the interactions between small business owners and customers can transcend purely economic transactions. Hence, while the sign may be comical, such claims acknowledge the wider role of small businesses and their proprietors, recognizing their ability to perform miracles on a daily basis. The literature on small business development disproportionately addresses their economic impacts for neighborhoods, with less empirical investigations into the ways they organize social life. At the same time, many community studies and urban ethnographies take place amongst such establishments. For example, such businesses include Liebow’s (1967) carry-out, Duneier’s (1994) Valois, May’s (2001) Trena’s, and Grazian’s (2005) jazz clubs. However, much of these places serve merely as backdrops or containers for social life. The ways they facilitate interactions between individuals and groups within a neighborhood deserves further attention. Jacob’s (1961) recognized the importance of small businesses to neighborhood life in her depiction of the sidewalk ballet. Most importantly, proprietors provide eyes on the street, watching out for children and informally policing the area. In addition, they also provide small favors such as accepting packages or holding a set of spare keys. Some critics may point out that such interactions are classed or that relationships between small business owners and residents tend to be antagonistic in impoverished communities. However, Sánchez-Jankowski (2008) demonstrates that such establishments are also important to the poor, by providing informal credit and more generally providing a sense of order and stability. The concept of third spaces is useful for understanding the claims on Wonderful Work’s sandwich board. Oldenburg (1989) names places other than the home and work as “third spaces,” which he views as important sites for the establishment of democratic ideals, civic engagement, and a sense of community. Third spaces are characterized by their neutral ground (individuals are not obligated to be there), the lack of importance on status, conversation as the main activity that occurs there, easy accessibility, regular patrons, non-exclusivity, a playful mood, and a feeling as a home away from home. The sandwich board reflects many of the characteristics described above, suggesting that Wonderful Work’s is a third space of the community. Future research on the social impacts of small businesses should take seriously the claim that businesses provide “miracles.” More recent work has begun to examine the ways in which such spaces produce interactions. For example, Hunter (2010) finds that night clubs patronized by blacks function more than a space of leisure, but rather as spaces that expand social networks and where critical information and resources are exchanged. Similarly, Small (2010) finds that the generation of social capital is largely a product of indirect organizational decisions that facilitate and remove barriers to interaction. Indeed, in today’s networked society, such face-to-face interactions may be the “miracles” the sign advertises.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

In Rachel’s photo “Guatemalan Tourist Market” we see two women standing behind an array of goods they are selling. Hats, curios, wooden bowls, cloth, statues, and numerous other items are on display along what seems to be a prominent square. Clearly this is a marketplace set up to appeal to tourists, not residents. Despite being a place where local vendors frequently interact with tourists, there are no tourists in sight. The depiction of a tourist market devoid of tourists represents, to me, the invisibility of the tourists’ direct role in shaping the cultural objects that are available for their purchase. It is likely that the items for sale are specifically crafted and marketed to appeal to tourists. For example, even in some cultures where carved masks have not historically been used in rituals, they are still available because vendors know that tourists buy them (Swanson & Timothy 2012). In this image, tourists may assume that the woman selling these items is the artisan herself (and she may well be), and that she crafted this item just as her mother and grandmother did, according to her “cultural tradition.” And while she may have learned to craft the object from her mother, at the same time the tourist is being sold an object as well as a narrative; their souvenir is “proof” of a cultural experience. However, most tourists do not consider the role of the tourism industry in creating demand for certain “authentic” objects. Regardless of whether or not the women selling these items are the ones who made them, it is important to ask who makes the decisions about which items to sell? Ballengee-Morris (2002) suggests that those with more social power, and usually those outside of the culture being marketed, are often the ones who decide which items are authentic and which items should be produced. Individuals in tourism marketing help shape tourists’ interests in specific cultural products, which locals then sell. However, the way in which cultural authenticity is commoditized depends on whether the tourist purchases a tangible object representative of culture, or an experience (Tegelberg 2013). When buying a cultural experience, some tourists prefer to avoid direct interaction in order to preserve the idea that the culture they are viewing is authentic because it is untouched (as seen in my photo); whereas, a tourist buying a cultural object must be convinced, through interaction with a local and the narrative that is conveyed, that the object is a real representation of culture. Why does the narrative of cultural tradition and authenticity appeal to the tourist? Perhaps due to the widespread alienation of labor. According to Marx, this occurs when a laborer is alienated from the products they produce and buyers are separated from producers. In the context of this photo, this would make tourists to Guatemala yearn for a connection between buyer and seller, and seller and product. Although the same economic processes (alienation of labor) exist in the tourism industry, those who purchase a “cultural souvenir” may mistakenly believe that ‘authentic’ means ‘untouched by globalization or market forces.’ Nor may they consider the different kinds of labor that go into selling the cultural item. It has been noted that those in the service and tourism industries, particularly women, engage in emotional labor to manage the moods and attitudes of customers. Hochschild (1983) describes emotional labor as a worker’s deliberate manipulation of their own emotions in order to invoke the right kinds of emotions in a customer. Like many vendors, the women in this photo most likely try to invoke certain feelings that will make tourists want to purchase an item, alongside a belief in the authenticity of the goods they are selling. Several feminists of color have noted that controlling images help inform how people treat women of color and what is expected of them (Collins 2000). Based on stereotypes, the women in this photo may perform in a way that the tourist expects an “authentic Guatemalan woman” to act, dress, and behave. Since belief in the cultural authenticity of the object is premised on the tourists’ belief in the vendor’s own cultural authenticity, the women also help confirm and support the tourists’ own imagery of an authentic Guatemalan women to make a sale. Thus, while the tourists are absent from the photo, their idea of an authentic Guatemalan women that they construct is visible, as this image is essential to the tourist-market process.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Hardware Market

Rachel Tanur’s photograph “Guatemala Hardware Market” is a familiar scene to Latin America, especially in Central America and Mexico, and yet the movement and elements of the photograph offer much to the viewer. One’s eye is immediately drawn to the man in the chair, presumably the owner or worker of the stand of local textiles bearing the designs of indigenous, Maya tradition and labor, his posture inviting to those walking past. Behind him shine metals and hardware’s for sale, to be bought and used in kitchens or over fire, to boil water and cook food. The goods are not the only thing illuminated however, as light bounces off the barbed wire, warning off any potential intruders, intimidating passers-by and demarcating the division of public/ private space sharply. The barbed wire also harkens to the militarization of Guatemalan society, the use of private security by those who can afford it, and the long-awaited, tenuous peace since the end of the Guatemalan genocide, where from 1960-1996, 200,000, mostly non-combatant indigenous Mayan people were murdered or disappeared (Esparza 2005). Further on, the eye moves along the path to the young cyclists biking toward a more crowded section of the market, where people shop and negotiate prices. Open air markets are often the center of commercial and social life in the towns and cities, and people frequently travel from the outskirts or countryside to them to sell or buy produce and handmade goods or food, especially on the weekends during the traditional ‘tianguis’. The markets offer a rhythm to the community, a site of contact, and their familiarity and tradition, which is pre-Columbian, is both a comfort that life goes on after immense tragedy as much as a testament to the strength of their traditions and way of life. The metals used for the pots and goods sold at the market, were probably extracted in Guatemala or regionally, as Central America is rich in precious metals and raw materials. Canadian mining companies have led the push for expansion of extractive industries or megaprojects throughout Central America and Mexico, taking advantage of the diminished strength of dissenters in the face of terror and violence due to the climate of the drug wars in the region (Paley 2014). Finally, this photograph offers us a window into what many characterize as features of Latin American coloniality, the systems of power that remain after formal colonization has ended (Quijano 2000): indigenous persons and their traditions confronted with international markets, where profit from their materially rich lands are privatized and often siphoned abroad, and north, as well as the accompanying militarization and securitization of daily life to protect private property before people. Esparza, M. (2005). Post-war Guatemala: long-term effects of psychological and ideological militarization of the K'iche Mayans. Journal of Genocide Research, 7(3), 377-391. Paley, D. (2014). Drug war capitalism. AK Press. Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. International Sociology, 15(2), 215-232.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Cows

In Rachel Tanur’s work Cuban Cows, the viewer sees a picture of two cows yoked together. The two animals are standing patiently, and a plow is nestled into the dirt behind them. The farmer who should be firmly holding and guiding the plow forward is not depicted. In the foreground of the picture, there is grass, and there can be seen two chickens and a rooster in the newly plowed field presumably they are looking for an easy lunch, insects, in the freshly unearthed ground. In the background of the picture, all that can be seen is fields, a tree line, and the outline of a small mountain range, there appears to be no sight of urbanization. In fact, the only evidence alluding to the presence of anyone is the simple machinery attached to the two cows: a yoke and plow. The image captures a scene that depicts the Cuban farmer as one who is still dependent on the most basic tools and methods of production. The plow being used is made of wood, presumably made by the farmer’s two hands. In the picture, a small portion of land has been plowed, which leads the viewer to believe that the process of plowing a field is a long arduous one. Perhaps, the most significant thing about this image is that it fails to capture the relationship the viewer wants to understand most: the relationship between the farmer and the land. The absence of the farmer in this picture leads the viewer to wonder who it is that has yoked these cows together, who is it that plows these fields, and who it is that maintains or perhaps depends on a relationship with the land and animals. The viewer continues to ponder these questions while trying to imagine what it is the Cuban farmer might look like. The viewer may imagine an old man carrying on with a tradition that he learned long ago, or perhaps a young man that is carrying on a tradition of old. Perhaps the one plowing the field is a woman. Regardless of who the farmer is the viewer can imagine that he or she works the land and carefully tends to the crops that grow there. Due to the lack of new technologies the assumption can be made that the farmer is not wealthy and depends on the land for a living. One may imagine a small home nearby in which the farmer lives with a family. In contrast to the old machinery, the Massey Harris tractor that sits idly by in the image that I have captured, considerably older machinery, a wooden plow plays an active role in the photograph of the two Cuban cows. The old machinery being used portrays to the viewer a history of farming practices that have not transformed greatly over time. In contrast to the American Midwest in which new technologies transformed agricultural practices and completely transformed the American farm, the Cuban cow image portrays farming practices that have remained largely unchanged. The viewer may imagine that because the farming practices have remained largely unchanged the ways of life practiced by Cuban farmers has not been greatly transformed either.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Fish with Hands 1

Gloves with no hands over fish with no heads. Rachel Tanur’s image, « Fish with Hands 1 », gives a multisensory comprehension of a social activity : selling fish on a market. Rachel did not take a picture of a fishmonger’s face, not even of his or her hands at work. The robustness of the orange gloves, the coldness of the fish that has been prepared and the contrast between the non-living fish turned into merchandise and the non-living attributes of work - gloves with no hands inside them : all these elements make work present through its very absence. Work is done, gloves are resting their absent hands. The composition reinforces the contrast between colors, textures and temperatures, humidity and dryness. Blue prices on yellow price tags in a transparent box full of ice. In their ethnographic research on fishmongers in a global economy, Dawn Lyon and Les Back (1) gave attention to the embodiement and sensory dimensions of work : they observed « the sensuous nature of work (that) brings to the fore the interconnections of mind and hand, and knives and fish (tools and materials) ». Rachel Tanur’s image captures this sensuous nature made of surfaces, textures, sensations, smells and sounds. In the Seer Letter, Arthur Rimbaud writes : « It is too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin ». To explain his poetic vocation, he takes the détour of senses and things, sensuous materialities. This metaphor allows him to enhance his vision and makes him able to see. As a graduate student sociology, this ability to see – patterns, relationships, meanings – is possible through « ethnographic imagination » (2) and a « sensory anthropology » (3). They make us attentive to the social activities observed along their process but also to the discreet and subtle marks left in things and surfaces by these activities. (1) Lyon, Dawn and Back, Les (2012). « Fishmongers in a Global Economy : Craft and Social Relations on a London Market », Sociological Research Online, 17 (2 )23. http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/2/23.html (2) Willis, Paul (2000). The Ethnographic Imagination. Polity (3) Pink, Sarah (2010). « The future of sensory anthropology / the anthropology of the senses », Social Anthropology /anthropologie sociale, 18, 3. 331-340

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Poultry Market

Rachel Tanur’s photograph of a Guatemalan market is a fitting companion to my photograph. The two share a number of sociological themes, including, the space of work, the informal economy, and the woman worker. These themes are represented visually in both images, despite the very different settings in which we find the women. The subject in Tanur’s photograph is a young street vendor. Her workday is spent at an outdoor market, interacting with strangers to sell her goods. This is in contrast to that of the home-based workers who stays within the walls of her home for work. Yet, the large baskets of eggs enclose the young woman, delineating the space of her work in an open, public place. In front of her is a chicken, whose freedom of movement is in mocking contrast to her own. The young woman is in the market, a “public,” masculine space that contrasts to the “private,” domestic space associated with women. Yet through her activity of selling eggs, a product of sustenance to be used by women in their kitchens, she is similarly confined by boundaries as that of the home-based worker. In the background, her neighbor’s vegetable baskets form another barrier, but it is also a mirror’s reflection of the subject as her older self – at the market twenty years from now, still selling her goods. Compared to the girl in my photograph who stands as a younger version of her grandmother, the young street vendor’s choice of work seems to have already been decided for her. Looking at this image, we are asked to consider if the past decades of economic development have been successful and who has been included in these projects? In this photograph, Tanur captures a young woman’s experience with work, even if it is just a snapshot of her workday. It illustrates the configuration of space through social relations as the image presents a spatial articulation of the young woman’s gender roles (Massey 1994). In this way, a photograph is able to illuminate the spatial and symbolic boundaries with which we interact daily. Massey, Doreen. 1994. Space, Place, and Gender. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

Homeless in NYC “Streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city, are its most vital organs.” Jane Jacobs (1961:29) New York City's streets have long been a subject of examination and rumination for artists and social scientists alike (see for example Chantal Akerman's evocative documentary News from Home [1977] or Jane Jacobs' praise of its street life [1961]). Walking down Fourteenth Street, Richard Sennett describes in detail his experience of traversing the space, a deeply sensory and personal experience concurrently informed by his knowledge of the local socio-cultural and historical entanglements. “The power of simultaneous perception is aroused, rather than the linear perceptions of my restaurant walk. This is a street of overlays” he proclaims (1990:166). It may be argued that accounting for such “street of overlays” from the point of view of the social scientist, drawn from her own reflexive experience of the street, can be done with a relative ease. It becomes far more problematic, however, when we have to grapple with experiences that reside outside the normative awareness of the street. Robert Desjarlais (1994) has shown how the homeless of cities – those who reside on the margins of urban society yet move around right in the midst of it – may very well experience and engage with the street in a substantially different way to most other city dwellers. Drawing on his extensive ethnographic practice in homeless shelters, he notes that “their [the homeless'] worlds, to be sure, are marked by interiority and a sensate reflexivity, but the subjective and temporal contours of their lives are distinct from the act of experiencing as it is commonly defined”. (1994: 887) Desjarlais thus points to how our whole definition of experience itself must be put into question, consequently forcing us to ask: if the experiences we gain by walking along a street can differ so inherently from those on the margins, is there any way in which we may find a common ground of understanding? An understanding that perhaps needs to be based less on an idea of a rounded, 'complete' experience and more on sensory instances, moments of apprehension? I see a potential in visual research approaches to provide means to access such moments and interpretations. As applied visual anthropologists Sarah Pink and Kerstin Leder Mackley argue “video creates a trace of our routes through [a] sensory environment” (2012:4.5) and this aspect could be granted to much still photography as well, like Rachel Tanur's Homeless in NYC. Here, the still photograph alludes to a momentary awareness of the street beyond, or besides, the spoken or written word. This awareness grants the subject of the picture an instance of agency that is beyond, or besides, the hegemonic urbanity of New York City. Bibliography Desjarlais, Robert. 1994. “Struggling Along: The Possibilities Experience among the Homeless Mentally Ill” American Anthropologist 96(4):886-901. Jacobs, Jane. 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House. Pink, Sarah and Leder Mackley, Kerstin. 2012. “Video and a Sense of the Invisible: Approaching Domestic Energy Consumption Through the Sensory Home” Sociological Research Online, 17,1. Accessed January 10, 2016. Sennett, Richard. 1990. The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities. New York: Knopf. Filmography News from Home. 1977. Chantal Akerman. France & Belgium. 85 min.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Farmland 2

A gentle-sloping hillside, carpeted in native and imported plants, surrounds olive groves and vineyards. Patterned fields of contrasting greens and golds are compelling and reflect a diverse social history. The beauty of the landscape initiates a natural affection and evokes a sense of place. Although the title of the image is “Italian Farmland 2,” viewing Tanur’s photograph fosters a connection, an attachment and belonging to a place I have never visited. This photograph is an artifact that “carries activity across space and time (Edwards).” Tanur framed the landscape from a higher vantage point, providing a perspective where the working farm can be observed as a whole. The rows of the vineyards and olive groves introduce an environment shaped by stewardship, a rich cultural history, and ecological importance—a place of connectedness. The image acts as a “tactile object . . . with an emotional and sensory impact (Pink).” The immensity of the farmland is juxtaposed against neat rows of vegetation. This visual representation communicates the daily work of the farmer, the attention to every need of the farm, and the care and sacrifice necessary to sustain livelihoods. This same commitment is evident in my image. As the young child gently leads her show steer across the corral, she turns back to face him. As the caretaker, her tiny hands gently tug at the lead as she coaxes her steer to the feed bucket. Edwards, Elizabeth. 2002. Material beings: Objecthood and ethnographic photographs. Visual Studies 17 (1): 67–75. 2005. Photographs and the sound of history. Visual Anthropology Review 21 (1–2): 27–46. Pink, Sarah. 2006. The future of visual anthropology: Engaging the senses. London: Routledge.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Poultry Market

Both the Comuna 13 photo and Rachel Tanur’s photo of the Guatemalan Poultry Market show people creating particular kinds of social life through symbolic interactions. While the graffiti artists in Comuna 13 constitute social life through the symbolic interventions and interactions with urban space, the vendors in the Guatemalan market constitute social life through their symbolic interactions with animals. The way that the chicken gazes in the direction of its apparent owner in this photo reveals important insights about social life. The chicken is not constrained, but it does not wander, expressing some kind of loyalty or connection to this woman. Similarly, the woman likely depends on this chicken for her livelihood, and her relationship with the chicken is the major reason why she sits in the market on this day. The interesting part of this relationship is the fact that this woman likely has plans to either kill or sell the chicken, a chicken that has played a prominent role in constituting her social world. The kind of situation depicted in the photo illuminates an important extension of Erving Goffman’s “interaction order”[1] related to human-animal interactions.The chickens are participants in social interactions in a way that constitutes a very particular kind of society. For example, this photo seems to differ from societies where the industrial farming system dominates and people do not generally have such a close interactions with the life, care, and death of chickens. Animal slaughterhouses in the United States have been described as spaces that facilitate a violent “industrialized killing” mostly out of sight and out of mind to the wider public.[2] Conversely, the Guatemalan poultry market pictured here is likely part of a system of “smallholder family poultry production” that relies on more intimate interactions with chickens, kept adjacent to residences or free range.[3] Without large industrial machinery the violence shifts its symbolic social and spatial location; slaughtering a chicken becomes a much more personal, participatory, and public event through the system represented in this Guatemalan market. Accordingly, the contrast between the social experience (or lack of experience) with chickens in the United States and Guatemala illuminates important differences in the social order and cultural values of these two societies. The social experience of animals shapes a society’s stories, values and consciousness. For example, in a global ethnographic study of pigeons sociologist Colin Jerolmack noticed that interactions with pigeons can mediate a person’s experience with society, offering connection to culture and place.[4] Similarly, interactions with the chickens in the market pictured here mediate people’s experience with society and constitute a particular kind of culture in Guatemala. For example, it looks like the woman has four baskets of chickens, but how did these chickens arrive at the market? Did she carry these on her back or on a motorbike? Where and how do the chickens live? Do they interact with this woman’s children at home? Interacting with chickens throughout their lives (or in their deaths) leads to potential moments of sociability with family, friends, or other people in the market. It also creates different kinds of cultural values about meat consumption, mealtime ritual, or the nonhuman world more generally. [1] Goffman, E. 1983. “The Interaction Order.” American Sociological Review, Volume 48, Number 1: pages 1-17. [2] Pachirat, T. 2013. Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. New Haven: Yale University Press. [3] Mallia JG. 1999. “Observations on family poultry units in parts of Central America and sustainable development opportunities.” Livestock Research for Rural Development, Volume 11, Issue 3. [4] Jerolmack, C. 2013. The Global Pigeon. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Daschund in Party Hat

I will use discourse analysis for analyzing this photo. Discourse Analysis is a form of visual analysis that focuses on the intertextuality of images, it examines the history and discursive formation of an image. Man’s best friend has had a long history. Since around 15,000 years ago dogs had always been feral and hunted in packs like wolves. Since ancient times dogs have had much of the same role that they have had today. Ancient mosaics depict dogs as being guards, family companions and as hunting partners.(Mark 2014) The relationship that humans have with dogs is one of the closest bonds that humans have with nonhumans, even more than the domestic cat which is not as obedient. The domesticated dog, Canis familiaris is a loyal companion to humans that we cherish as family pets. This picture shows a Dachshund breed dog resting on the shoulder of middle-aged woman. The Dachshund breed is historically known as a hunting dog that can scent small burrowing animals. However, the dog is presented in a guarded and protected manner like a mother and a child. According to Sturken and Cartwright (2009: 27) “image codes change meaning in different contexts.” In this context it appears that the dog is domesticated almost to the point where the dog resembles a child. This picture reminds me of a painting by Mitra Shadfar titled “Maternal Love.” (Shadfar 2004) It depicts a mother holding a young child who is cradled on a mother’s shoulder, this image is important because it shows a universality of images of motherhood, it could be seen this same way in other cultures. Pets have been treated as children in our society. In U.S. culture when couples grow old enough they move in together and want to have children. They instead purchase a pet as a form of “training wheels” for parenting. They may use the pet to test if they can handle the responsibility of raising a child. Even when couples have children they will sometimes address their pets as one of their children saying “this is my baby.” Another element of this photo is the clothing that the dog is wearing. The dog is dressed for some sort of social gathering. It is first interesting to compare the way that this dog is dressed to the way that babies are dressed by their parents. Babies wear all sorts of outfits that parents make them wear, furthering the comparison of this dog to a child. Another interesting aspect of this picture is the unfocused objects in the background. Seeing as the dog is wearing a party hat and there are others around I can only assume that this picture is depicting a social gathering. However the relationship between owner and pet must be very strong in order for the dog to be taken out to a party and not left at home. This depicts a strong relationship between owner and pet, a relationship that some people call family. I see myself in this picture because I love animals, and I see my own little pooch symbolized in this picture. In our current society there are lingering issues of overpopulation. It seems as though this woman does not need to pursue her “role” of birthing children and has looked at other alternatives for companionship. From what I can tell from the picture there is a maternal instinct that is signified by the woman. She is cradling the dog over the shoulder. The dog is kept close, the dog is her companion, a symbol of preciousness like a child. The Dachshund can be seen as an alternative to raising a traditional family. Mark, J. J. (2014, June 21). Dogs in the Ancient World. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://www.ancient.eu/article/184/ Rose, G. (2012). Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (3rd ed.). London: Sage. Shadfar, M. (n.d.). مهر مادری (1383) Maternal Love (2004). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://mitrashadfar.com/gallery/mitrashadfargallery05.htm

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Girls and Infant

I have learned two important lessons from ethnography: that the visuality of the group is of utmost importance and that how they dress, pierce, feed, move, and restrict their bodies speaks volumes about their collectivity. While ethnography is a great way to learn about a community, visuality is the most important tool in obtaining a sociological understanding of its collective experience. Hence, ethnography must be accompanied by photography or film, as both analytic and teaching tools. A description alone never suffices. Visual familiarity allows for a deeper ethnographic understanding as well. While spending an extensive amount of time with a community, the visual boundaries between the body of a member and the body of the social scientist can become porous. For example, my own photograph is of a religious community I have researched for seven years. When there, I am indistinguishable from members since I dress somewhat similarly. By becoming part of the collective body, albeit only visually, I am nonetheless subject to regulation by the members of the group and subject to marginalization by outsiders. In other words, I am expected to behave accordingly and am held responsible within the confines of the community and am subject to the same social persecutions outside of the community’s communal boundaries. This in-depth understanding of their experience is accomplished, primarily, by how I dress, braid my hair, and stand with the other women. Rachel Turner’s photographs collectively capture the corporeal human condition as they focus on both the daily activities of individual bodies (the boy packing products to sell or the girl carrying the day’s harvest) and the social positioning of those bodies within a collectivity (children in line or a family in prayer). While they reveal much about space, landscape, and material culture, they also encapsulate an experience of physicality. “African Girls and Infant” demonstrates an important aspect of the Maasai culture. After years of regulation from both Kenyan and Tanzanian governments to renounce their customs, the Maasai continue to reaffirm their traditions. These traditions, such as nomadic farming and dress, are not simply old customs, but are trends to be adhered to, valued, and executed in unity. A Durkheimian approach to tradition would bring our attention to the solidarity among bodies in this photograph. They ways in which bodies are adorned and positioned in relation to others are functional only in relation to the collectivity (Melucci 1995). Yet objects, especially those that adorn, are not only functional in and of themselves; they invite a collective gaze and are gazed upon by others (Morgan 2012). Hence, visuality becomes functional as the body of the individual is tailored to become part of the collective body. The Maasai girls not only construct their bodies to look the same, but they also stand, grouped together, against Rachel’s body further “othered” by the camera. The composition of Rachel’s foreign skin, dress, and camera create a unit and composite agency that is gazed upon by the girls. Her camera, body, and dress are technologies that construct her as an individual (Becker 2000). In the same way, their hairstyle, dress, adornments, and spatial positionality (especially relative to Rachel) construct them as a collectivity. The most interesting lesson Rachel’s “African Girls and Infant” teaches us is that dress and adornments are a technology, tools used to construct a collective body. Becker, Barbara. 2000. “Cyborgs, Agents, and Transhumanists: Crossing Traditional Border of Body and Identity in the Context of New Technology.” Leonardo 33 (5): 361-365. Melucci, Alberto. 1995. “The Process of Collective Identity,” in Social Movements and Culture, edited by Hank Johnston and Bert Klandermans. University of Minnesota Press. Morgan, David. 2012. The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture And The Social Life Of Feeling. University Of California Press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Clothesline

Why public – private space’s boundary is located somewhere on the clothesline? Тhe location and signification of the public – private boundary is an issue relevant in a lot of sociological researches. Analyzing the notions of public, power and boundary requires the use of discourse analysis as method. First name Habermas’ concept of the public consist of the following: "We call events and occasions 'public' when they are open to all, in contrast to closed or exclusive affairs" (1989:1). Therefore in most cases it indicates the places from which all community members benefit. Often given examples of such spaces are public squares, markets, temples, etc. From my point of view another important characteristic of these places is the visibility. Being part of the public space and life means that all the individuals and their actions become even more visible. Another important note to add is that being on the public space means that individuals are seen and observed both from the people around them, and the authorities. The control in these spaces/places aims to bring order and also to educate citizens how to behave. Taking this into account one must notice that the facades, terraces and entrances of residential buildings are also part of the public spaces. The facades can also be considered as a borderline area. They are easily changed by their owners by placing different decorations or by hanging out the laundry. The visibility has the function to obligate, from institutional perspective and in this sense to guide the eyes of the citizen. An example is the existence of certain policies that aim at the construction of the landscape. Part of these institutional actions is the restriction for laundry out hanging on the visible parts of the buildings. Hanging out laundry is an everyday practice associated with the human performativity. Even though it is linked to the taboo for the naked body applied in the public spaces. This taboo requires wearing clothes to cover the naked body and in order to fulfill this rule, norms for clean clothing occur therefore activities like doing laundry and hanging out laundry are being performed. The photo of Rachel Tanur made me think about hanging out clothes as practice which could change the landscape. Lack of space inside the private space, transform the terrace and the facades into a part of the living space. Furthermore, it becomes a border zone between private and public and in addition, is the most visible part of the home. Depending on the behavioral norms, laws, etc. the balconies are arranged in a certain way. An interesting fact is owners’ decisions in transforming terraces into rooms by being rounded by windows and becoming even less public. Exposing clothes in the visible/public space is changing the urban environment providing possibilities for performing new everyday practices. Considering the aforementioned one could state that hanging laundry out exemplifies the appropriation of the public in favor of the private space. When terraces/facades are filled with personal belongings, they are already perceived in a different way by the eye of the passing person. On one hand, the visibility allows the places with exposed laundry to become part of the public landscape. On the other hand hanging out laundry in the public spaces allows its owners to convert a fraction of the visible/public space into a private/owned one. 1. Habermas, Jürgen (German(1962)English Translation 1989), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Thomas Burger, Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press 2. Merleau-Ponty,Maurice. 1964. Le Visible et l’invisible, suivi de notes de travail, Edited by Claude Lefort. Paris: Gallimard 3. Foucault, Michel. 1975. Surveiller et punir, naissance de la prison. Paris. Gallimard 4. Collier, M. 2001 Approaches to Analysis in Visual Anthropology. In: Handbook of Visual Analysis, Ed. By Theo van Leeuwen and Carey Jewitt, Sage Publication, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: China Old and New

The Industrialization of a nation has its own arguable merits but often the convergence of old and new not only slowly erases and neglects remnants of not only a past but a culture once valued. In this photo, the meeting of China old and new represents not only the vast industrial expansionism brought about by a growing economy and modern infrastructures but also represents cultural imperialism and to an effect the globalization of competing capitalist market economies and the ideal models represented in rapidly developing business encased in tall buildings. The skyscrapers once a representative American marvel which also represents power and will, rise above the quaint, “mythical” Chinese architecture that once dominated not only the river banks but the cities beyond. The rapid expansion of the “new” and deterioration of the “old” reminds one of competition. This work is truly a symbol of globalization and its effects not only from a structural standpoint but also from a cultural one.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Man

An indigenous man sits close to the main plaza in a small town in Guatemala’s highlands. The lively colours on his clothing concealing a troubled history: from colonial times when local population was reduced to pueblos de indigenas (indigenous towns) and the colours on the costumes were assign for better control of the population; to a long and brutal internal conflict targeting indigenous population in the north western region of the country. Still, they endured. Not solely anchored into geographical meanings the traditional costume has turned into a symbol of resistance and pride. As stated by Piot, things appropriated from the outside are forever refigured and resignified in locally meaningful ways. (Piot 1999: 174). The hüipil, for instance, a female blouse thickly woven in colourful fabrics has turned into a museum collection item as the most complicated motifs slowly disappear. Indigenous textiles have penetrated the household of many non-indigenous population, locally and abroad, adopting new forms and shapes in a process of revalorizing a unique and historically rich textile. REFERENCES: Piot, Charles (1999) Remotely Global. Village Modernity in West Africa. The University of Chicago Press

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Africa Rachel with Elephant

Before reading these lines, take a good look at Rachel Tanur’s image “Africa Rachel with Elephant.” Take another look. What do you see? It was only after dozens of times, and many minutes of watching that I noticed that there is no elephant in the picture. We do see, however, Rachel standing next to a big dark rock on which a second person sits. Susan Sontag (2003:10) claimed that “all photographs wait to be explained or falsified by their captions.” So what is it, an explanation or a falsification? Walter Benjamin said that a caption can “rescue” an image “from the ravages of modishness and confer upon it a revolutionary use value” (Sontag 2005:83). Indeed, without the troubling missing elephant, this image would be a standard touristic photograph from a trip to Africa. But, (with some help from Susan Sontag) it gained a revolutionary value by exposing not one, but three elephants in the room. Elephant no.1: The title directs us to see an elephant in the image and we follow orders and “see” an elephant. As Sontag noted, “words do speak louder than pictures” (Sontag 2005:84). But the revolutionary value of this act of falsification is its sobering effect. Once the spectators realize they saw an elephant where no elephant could be found, the alliance formed between spectator and image is broken. This then leads the spectator to re-examine the image, and perhaps the entire gallery. It transforms the spectator from a passive consumer of visual representations into a critic, a revolutionary. Elephant no.2: But what if the title is more an explanation than a falsification? It is possible that an elephant was indeed there, just a few inches to the side. Rachel and her companion were photographed next to an elephant and the proximity of the elephant is an important aspect of their state of mind and attitude. They are not just two people sitting on a rock, they are two people sitting on a rock in close proximity to a six ton mammal. This scenario, which the title of the photograph brings into the realm of the possible, makes us think about the question of framing. As Sontag (2005:17) commented, “in a world ruled by photographic images, all borders ("framing") seem arbitrary.” The confusing title thus calls into spectators’ attention the thin slice of space and time which the photograph aims to represent. Elephant no.3: Finally, and since our basic trust in this image was already put in question, it is tempting to ask, also, in what sense is this Rachel’s photograph? It is, no doubt, a photograph of Rachel. But who is the photographer? It is possible that Rachel is both the photographer and the photographed; maybe she placed the camera on a nearby rock and used the timer function to document a joyful moment on a nice day of hiking (with an elephant?). Maybe she asked a friend to take her picture. Media theorist Ariella Azoulay (2008) suggests that the unintentional encounter of strangers in the act of photography – photographer, photographed subject, and spectator – create a sense of solidarity, a sort of a civil contract. This singular image, featuring Rachel herself, is making this contract between spectators and photographer visual. It thus makes this partnership more tangible but less genuine at one and the same time. This ambivalence brings the very contract to the fore. Rachel Tanur’s image, staring at us, could have been a naïve representation of a tourist in Africa. But, observing it in conjuncture with its incongruous title makes it revolutionary. It inserts doubt into the contract. It makes us reconsider our relation to the image, the context and the photographer. Azoulay, Ariella. 2008. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone Books. Sontag, Susan. 2005 (1977). On Photography, New York: Rosetta Books. Sontag, Susan. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Bus Stop

When I see this picture, a vivid memory comes to my mind. It was mid-december of last year, when I was in Rio de Janeiro peacefully eating a skewer from a food stand. A bus driver, while still at the wheel, called the vendor asking for a piece of meat. Naturally, the man took a stick from his grill and handed it over to the driver. Both smiled, with some kind of complicity, and the bus driver continued his trip. This situation, although anecdotal, remided me how useful retail market can be in order to generate emotional networks, as well as a sense of community at a local scale. Rachel Tanur´s photograph, “Guatemalan bus stop”, places the street-food vendor in a leading role, being the first node of an invisible human chain around that bus stop. Getting ready for work, or just walking around – including the kid and the dog- every person in the image is connected in that common moment, waiting to go elsewhere. With the exception of the street-vendor, who will probably remain there for a long time, making the scene a little more homely. We could perform an experiment by removing the street-vendor from Tanur´s picture. The bus stop and the people would probably still be there. The sky would still be growing light. However, the scenario may probably look more adverse and hostile. If Jane Jacobs (1) was right, and the presence of people in public spaces is one the most efficient mechanisms for social regulation, informal street-vendors are enhancing elements for the settler's perception of control and safety. What is not seen in the picture is the complex situation that this street-vendor lives, along with many others. In 2015, 97,3% of Guatemalan population had a job, but only 33,2% in the formal sector (66,8% in the informal sector). Of those in the informal sector, 8 out of 10 lived in rural areas, and 3 out of 10 worked in the urban commercial sector (2). These data reminds us that informal commertial sectors are related to a broader context of inequality and precariousness. Usually, modern states have being moved between an attitude of laissez-faire, and a tendency towards the criminalization of informality. At the same time, they have been unable -or had not real intentions- to solve the original conditions that made informal sectors look for other survival strategies. Taking the importance and diversity of informal street-vendors in most places, some challenges now seem to reside on how to guarantee laboral and legal protection, as well as dignified conditions, for informal workers (3). How to shelter from extortions and mafias, like it happens in México, the neighboured country of Guatemala (4). And finally, how to ensure some public health standards (5) while avoiding over-regulation by the state. But, probably, the most challenging task invoked in Tanur´s picture and mine, may be how to incorporate historically expelled sectors into the whole, while avoiding falling into typical neoliberal tricks. In other words, how to dialogue with cultural diversity, making them part of the common, without falling into banalization and commodification of “the others”. REFERENCES (1) Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. Random House, Inc., Nueva York. (2) National Statistics Institute of Guatemala. 2014 “National employment survey 2-2014”. (3) International Labour Organization. 2014. Transitioning from the informal economy to the formal economy. Report V (1). (4) Cabrera, Y. (2004). El comercio informal, una afrenta a los poderes establecidos: vendedores ambulantes en el Centro histórico de la Ciudad de México, Espiral México, 1-6. (5) FAO. United States. 2003. Assuring Food Safety and Quality. Guidelines for Strengthening National Food Control Systems. Food and Nutrition, Paper 76.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Egg Seller

Radical Identification Rachel Tanur’s photo: Guatemalan Egg Seller Instead of presenting the typical magazine cover photo of an exotic “other” whose gaze pierces the lens with a direct glance at the audience, Tanur offers a radically different identification with the woman in this photograph. Had the person selling eggs been posing for, and looking at, the camera, the audience would be invited to draw from conventional assumptions about her life, about womanhood, rural life, poverty, and otherness. But because what is being performed is daily life and not a severe stare back, this photo tears through, and forces a critical and ethical reevaluation of, those kinds of essentialist conceptions. Of course, as the audience our relationship with the egg seller is mediated by the photographer’s intent and work to produce this scene; but even without sacrificing our awareness of mediation, the verisimilitude of this moment in quotidian experience provides a nuanced look into concepts such as patience and waiting. The egg seller is waiting, like a patient of the market, for a customer; she waits—like many of us—for her commute back to her home, for the day’s end, for better times. She waits under the advertisement of an English-named international company that promises, in the colonial language, that things will come “quick and safely.” Perhaps she is waiting for justice, as so many Guatemalans who experienced any part of their country’s half-century-long genocide of indigenous and rural communities, and waiting for those responsible to be held accountable—but Tanur has presented us not a victim, not an “other” to pity, but a human being at work. The effects of this representation are a radical departure from standard narratives, and this break is precisely what exposes the formation of social concepts. It is here that the potential decolonizing power of this photograph is clearest: it undoes invisibility, it it turns the logic of political subjectivity on its head, and it brings into the fore the everyday violence of post-colonial relations and the politics of patience in neoliberal states. Perhaps this is why more disciplines like political science have begun a reversal of their decades-long neglect of visual politics. In challenging us to see the work of waiting, by making us see, Tanur implicates “us”—most likely, outsiders looking in from a position of comfort. There’s no excuse anymore. We can no longer say that we don’t know. This violence is not so invisible.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boy with Bike and Game

When analyzing Cuban Boy with Bike and Game, a photograph by Rachel Tanur, the focus is largely on the young Cuban boy in the center of the image. We can see the clothes he is wearing, as well as the bicycle next to him that we can assume is his own bicycle. Finally, we look closer at the details of the image to see what the boy is also gazing upon. We then discover in his hands an electronic device known as the Gameboy. This device can be interpreted using semiology, a method author Gillian Rose describes in her book Visual Methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual methods. “Semiology confronts the question of how images make meanings head on” (Rose 2012:105). The Gameboy device in this case is a symbol of technology, or a metonymic sign, meaning “something associated with something else, that then represents that something else” (Rose 2012:120). In society today, technology use has started in some of the youngest generations of kids, seeing as technology such as the computer has always been present in their lives whether in school or at home. When analyzing the Cuban boy further, we can see the expression on his face, or his representation of manner. Gillian Dyer’s book Advertising as Communication (1982), she created a checklist of explanations for what humans are symbolizing in the way they present themselves. The expression on the Cuban boy’s face appears focused on his Gameboy, while also very bland. Staring at a screen for certain amount of time takes focus that apparently also takes notice away from his surroundings. His eye contact is directly on the handheld device and nowhere else. Moving from the Cuban boy specifically, we can then take notice in the bicycle to his left. Once it has been established that the boy has all his attention on the Gameboy, we can see the irrelevance of the bicycle to the Cuban boy. The bicycle is a symbol of activeness and transportation. Using a bicycle requires power from the user to get where you need to go at a faster rate than walking. Having the bike pictured next to the distracted boy conveys a strong image about his choices of activity. He appears more infatuated with an activity that does not require physical effort of the body, therefore he does not need to use energy. The Gameboy may require mental effort of the brain, but it does not do anything for physical health. Though this picture was taken in Cuba, it does not mean this doesn’t happen across the world with those who are able to afford such technologies. In conclusion, this image of a Cuban boy can be very powerful as well as iconic. As Sturken and Cartwright state an icon is “something (or someone) that has great symbolic meaning for many people (Cartwright 2009:36). This image holds great symbolism in how our younger generations are consumed with the new technologies in their lives.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Peek-a-boo

Threads and Girl in the Sun As a tropical country, Guatemala is never lack of sunshine. In the photo, piles of colorful threads and the little barefoot cross-legged girl sitting on the ground are all overflowing with sunshine. The little girl is dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothes which has color fringes. And she has her hands crossed as if she is blocking sunshine as well as hiding from Tuner’s camera. In Guatemala’s markets, there are many stalls selling raw weaving materials. Colorful threads heaped behind the girl would be clothes after manufacturing. It can be found from the fact of those stalls that the use of traditional handicraft of clothing production still exists in Guatemalan society, especially among women. From Turner’s other photographs recording Guatemala’s markets, we can see that men is hardly wearing traditional costume, which is exactly the same as the situation of Changjiaomiao’s (a branch of Hmong) traditional costume. Colorful threads are not only used in clothing production, but also produced as bags, like the one beside the girl. From this we can find that Guatemalan people’s love and inheritance of traditional handicraft have penetrated into their economic life. As early as 2012, according to data of Committee on Manufacturing of Agexport1, Guatemala has 30,000 people work on handcraft. 70% of its production exported to America, 15% to Europe, and 15% to other areas. In creative designs, shoes, haversacks, hand bags, change purses, back cushions and sheets are manufactured in traditional design and color. Furthermore, coconut shells and roots are created as lamps . At background of globalization, traditional manufacturing industry explores its market share through the change of daily clothing into circulation domain as cultural and creative products. This phenomenon is common in Guatemala as well as Changjiaomiao society. Girls in two photographs are wearing traditional clothes and they would be the bearer of traditional clothing craftsmanship. At the side of wooden stand is a plastic crate. As a product of industrialism, it forms a distinct contrast with the traditional craft raw material, just as the Changjiaomiao kids in traditional clothes purchase snacks made in North China. Globalization is an inevitable process. Both photographs show a new phenomenon of traditional community to us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Deer

A deer peers out from under pine needles towards the viewer, clearly seeing the photographer. In a moment it might dash away, or it might stay to feed. However the moment it is here is captured forever on film, and therefore says it exists. There is a saying, "if a tree fell in the woods, would it make a sound if no one was there to hear it?" If no one was there to witness wildlife, did it really exist? But this is a very human centric viewpoint. Peter Singer's idea of 'specieism' is about how the perspective of animal treatment by humans is propelled by a medieval concept of man as the centre of the universe. This is especially strong in the Judeo Christian concept of being allowed to take nature's riches because humans hold dominion over it all. When interacting with nature, then, humans have a tendency to hold themselves apart, to hold themselves as 'other'. Nature is nature, and human is human; humans are not part of nature. What humans do is not part of nature, and humans' actions, good or bad, affect nature, as if homo sapiens is not part of the natural life systems on earth. Humans' actions on animals and plants are therefore artificial selection, while if the weather or environment or other animals were to intervene on another organism's life it would be natural selection. Removing ourselves from nature puts us apart from nature, removes us in terms of sympathy, empathy, and the ability to understand nature as being part of ourselves, that even actions that only affect 'ourselves' affect nature too, as we are part of nature.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Papoose

The blue sky is clear and the sun is warming the stone pavement. They may be passersby in the quiet market square. A child is holding tightly onto her mother’s back in the sling of colorful Guatemalan textile. The textiles that the mother is wearing are beautiful like her gentle proud face. They seem to be Mayan descendants in highland Guatemala. Traditional Guatemalan textiles are their rich cultural heritage, and still today, textiles are among the most important industries in Guatemala. The global marketing of such products by women promoted women’s independence by giving opportunities to earn money by themselves in countries like Guatemala and Mexico [Nanda Warms, 2015]. In this country, two women are killed every day, according to the UNICEF report in November 2011. It states that Guatemala is one of the most dangerous place for women in all of Latin America [Siu, 2011]. Violence on women is almost a cultural norm in Guatemala. Their voice won’t reach police, judicial officials, hospital, neighbors, or family members because of the strong gender bias. To improve the situation, the Guatemalan congress passed a law against femicide in 2008 – I was surprised to learn that a word like “femicide” exists. It means, women are killed only because they are women. Poverty and lack of education prevent Guatemalan women from protecting themselves. According to the World Factbook [CIA, 2016], 54% of the population is below the poverty line, and 21% of children ages 5-17 are working. A high rate of sexual abuse makes many young girls mothers. They are condemned and deprived of the chance of education, while the offenders are usually unpunished. Even in 98% of femicide cases, the perpetrators remain with impunity [Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, 2013]. The two females in the picture are an affectionate mother and a daughter, just like in any other country. Mayan girls are the most vulnerable of the women in Guatemala because of their social origin and race. In the direction they are walking, there are steep mountains and an empty market under the clear sky. They are tied tightly together with the Guatemalan textile. It was the capitalist economy that exacerbated the Guatemalan civil war which led to the cruel torture of many women. Now looking at this picture, I cannot help thinking of the humanistic global economic system that can improve the living conditions of these women. It is not the easy road, but they are walking on their feet. CIA. (2016, January 5). The World Factbook: Guatemala. Retrieved from Central Inteligent Agency: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA. (2013). Guatemala Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from Fact Sheet: Femicide and Feminicide: http://www.ghrc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Femicide-FACTsheet-2013.pdf Nanda, S., & Warms, R. L. (2015). Culture Counts. Stamford. Siu, V. (2011, Novmber 28). At A Glance: Guatemala. Retrieved from UNICEF: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/guatemala_60748.html

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Paris Clocks 02

In visual sociology semiology is a method where meaning is discerned from images. The image of these clocks is symbolic of the effect of globalization on our everyday lives. This picture is of many clocks set up haphazardly facing many different directions. This picture is a good representation of how globalization has affected our world. The large number of clocks makes it very clear that time is important to Western society. It seems that there is always a deadline we are trying to meet whether it is for school, work or making dinner on time before evening activities. This leads to a lifestyle where we are so focused on the next thing we need to complete that we do not “have time” to take out of our busy schedules to really enjoy our life. The clocks in this picture are facing in almost every direction. This reinforces the importance of time in our society. It is as though we would be lost if we did not constantly know what time it was. Since the world is becoming more and more globalized companies put a heavier emphasis on deadlines because the work that gets done needs to be coordinated on a global level. This has caused the United States to be very dependent on time where if we do not get things done punctually we can lose our jobs. Instead we follow strict schedules and lose some of our freedom.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancers

Chest to chest, hand to hand, the tango takes on an intimate approach to the visual art of dance. In a world where we are becoming self-obsessed and can’t seem to depart our eyes from a screen, dance is one of the only things left that require two people to become intimate with each other in the way of visual art. Bodies coming in contact with each other, and the need to work together, keeps this art social. The tango is a dance that has progressed to be a commonly known tradition of Argentina. It is deeply rooted in the culture or Argentina, and has history written all over it. Dancing is a way of expressing yourself and tells a story. This being said, it is a visual art. Through the movement of the body and the rhythm that we move to, it is quite visual indeed. While certain types of dances, such as the tango, are constructed, some forms of dance allow you to move your body freely. For example, freestyle can be anything you make it. Within the mechanics of the tango, there are roles that the dancers play. One leads and one follows. It is perceived that the woman is submissive yet responsive, and the man dominates. As Don Berry writes in an article of the tango, “He evokes this inner feminine spirit for his own enjoyment, but also so the woman can enjoy her own femininity.” While the man dominates, he draws out the femininity in the dance. Some may say that the tango is a very masculine, romantic, sexualized dance, but it has an interesting take on gender roles. It reminds the viewer of traditional European art, where the man acts and the woman appears. The visual is for the man’s enjoyment. Regardless, dance is different in throughout the different cultures. However, tango remains to be a romantic dance involving a leading man and a responsive woman. Dance helps push the self to be social with the surrounding world. Whether it is expressing yourself with your audience, or socially interacting with your dance partner, we tell a visual story. Berry, Don. "Tango." Tango. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man with Child

Few things could seem to be further removed than the now booming tourist town of Karlovy Vary than Rachel Tanur’s photograph of an African man and his son dressed in tribal attire on the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. But in fact, like the photograph of the Hotel Thermal, Tanur’s photograph positions everyday details in ways that provide clear insights into the relationship between past and present. Some might consider the Man and his son incongruous with their surroundings—their brightly colored vests and skirts and without their shoes on the tree-lined Avenue Chardy. Or perhaps it is the street sign, a reminder of French rule, that could be considered out of place in this scene. I would argue, however, that Tanur’s juxtaposition of colonial and African elements is not meant to suggest “out-of-placeness” at all, but rather calls the viewer to morally recognize the realities and weight of history. Writing primarily about photographs of war, John Berger has argued that photojournalism invokes the horror of the viewer without leading viewers to question the political systems that create these conditions. (1) Tanur succeeds in forcing the viewer to recognize the continuing complexities of post-colonial life by focusing on the mundane and banal, what Siegfried Kracauer would have called the overlooked “detritus” of everyday life, rather than overt images of violence or pain. (2) The sign reminds the viewer that the colonial past cannot be shaken; French, after all, is still the first official language of Cote d’Ivoire. However, this is not the only legacy of French colonial infrastructures. The street itself— the white iron fence, the trees of a nearby public park crowding over the cobblestone sidewalk and the cars parked in the street—permeates the photo. Tanur’s subjects, the Man and his son, are not evading this past. Though they are dressed in ceremonial attire for cultural practices from long before the arrival of French imperial officers, their body language shows no attempt to shy away from this past. The small boy stares directly into the camera, while his father strides forward confidently. The box and books in the Man's hands make it even more apparent that the subjects of this photograph are aware of this reality: that the contemporary necessarily lives with the confluence of colonial and ancestral pasts. Tanur’s photo is more forceful than the photo of Karlovy Vary, in part due to the focused gaze of the camera and the body language of the subjects. Where the photo of Karlovy Vary shows temporal pasts laid in strips over one another, distorted and reflected through the mirrored lenses of the present, Tanur’s photo shows two Abidjan residents enveloped by the city’s colonial legacy. Nonetheless, both photos challenge the viewer to recognize the impossible entanglement of the past and present in each moment. (1) John Berger, “Photographs of Agony,” in Ways of Looking (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), 41-44. (2) Siegfried Kracauer, “Photography,” in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, trans. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 62-3.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Mondrian Windows

To some extent, this picture is similar to the one I submitted to this competition, and yet it is also a very different one. To begin with, we have windows in both images as well as a focus on one subject. Also, the expression of the main characters is ambiguous, leaving room for some interpretation. The depiction of an urban space is another point of commonality, although it is not the same. The building in this picture resembles a children’s play area, whereas the physical space in my picture has a more urban, rather sombre, feeling to it. The style of photography used in these two pictures corresponds to the genre known as street photography, in which chance encounters in public places are captured, often with unaware subjects. It is interesting to note that just as Tanur made reference to a visual artist (Dutch painter Piet Mondrian), I too linked my picture to the work of another important painter (American artist Edward Hopper). Despite these similarities, there are some important differences between these two photographs. Firstly, Tanur’s image was taken during daytime, whereas mine depicts a scene taking place at night and shot at street level. Secondly, Tanur’s main subject is a man, whereas my picture shows a woman instead. Finally, this man is looking out, whereas the woman in my picture is looking in with her face hardly visible to the onlooker. On this point, the position of the body of these two characters could also be suggesting a public/private binary operating from within. Although it is unclear where Tanur took this picture (based on information available on the website), it did remind me of the houses in the popular neighbourhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina, particularly the famous street called Caminito with its brightly painted houses, similar to Manarola in northern Italy. I think the idea of power and masculinity is the main narrative running through this picture. Here we see a man looking out from the top of a building as ‘king of the castle’. The fact that he fills up almost the entire window, suggests a sense of environmental mastery and active control, which is not present in my picture, where the woman is dwarfed by her surroundings and appears vulnerable. The theme of the lone individual comes up again, this time stressing the gendered dimension, especially when looking at these two pictures simultaneously. This other layer of analysis allows a second reading of this image: this man is being stripped from his power and becoming a passive subject. Indeed, he would seem to be calmly looking at the world passing by in front of him, perhaps unable to stop the rapid social changes he is witnessing. In a metaphorical sense, the heavy jacket he is wearing becomes a straightjacket that keeps his arms close to the chest, thus restraining his movements. All he can do is to observe from his colourful dreamlike vantage point the inevitable events unfolding.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancer Rehearsing

Billy Elliot approaches the classic ballet barre on tiptoe, wearing headgear and boxing gloves, and watches little girls harmoniously performing classic ballet movements. The camera focuses on the girls' legs and feet, wrapped in canvas ballet shoes. Their steps are delicate, as expected in classical ballet. “Why don't you join us?”, a girl asks Billy Elliot. After a moment of confusion, Billy Elliot decides to accept the invitation, and then the camera focuses on his blue boxing shoes. The contrast suggested by the encounter of canvas ballet shoes and boxing shoes underlines popular understandings that certain sporting activities are either masculine or feminine. Billy Elliot, breaking into the classical ballet world with his boxing shoes, breaks that microcosm generally considered to be a feminine domain. It is a world in which people expect bodies to “naturally” reflect those features that are defined as feminine, such as elegance, prettiness, and softness. “Classical ballet dancer?”, Billy Elliot's father asks him. “Dancer, why not?”, said Billy Elliot. “I always wanted to be a classical ballet dancer when I was a little girl”, said Billy Elliot's grandmother. “Boys play football, boxing and fight. They aren't dancers!” This space invasion of the feminine domain represents a border crossing in which bodies are considered rigid and “natural”. Billy Elliot's father suggests that classical ballet is a girls’ business, and that highlights the idea of masculinity to which he is referring. Loveliness and grace do not belong to men, and those who cross this border are often accused of being homosexuals or effeminates: they are not real men. On the one hand, hegemonic models of masculinity and femininity, which also exist in sport, call for what we can do and what we cannot do, and coercive power states imposes difference on bodies, even in practice; on the other hand, in everyday individual experiences and relations, there are breaking points in these models of hegemonic masculinity and femininity and of the established gender hierarchy (Connell, 1992). The man in the picture, with his body subverting the common thinking that men cannot be dancers, performs another way to be a man in sport and in a patriarchal society. The contradiction that some experience when seeing a male dancer can exist only if we consider and endorse a “one-and-only” model of masculinity, thereby devaluing the possibility for men to perform classical ballet without first having to break the norms of what is to be considered as masculine or feminine. Connell, Raewyn, 1992, A very straight gay: masculinity, homosexual experience, and the dynamics of gender, in “American Sociological Review”, vol. 57, pp. 735-751.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Man

Rachel Tanur’s “Chinese Man” is of a similar color palette as my “English Rain” piece, both evoking the chilly atmosphere of a cloudy day. Yet “Chinese Man” is distinctly colder; the grimace on the elderly man’s face as he braces against the cold makes the winter’s chill palatable through the image. He is an older man, perhaps catching his breath on the marble pedestal after a brisk morning walk. It is an unassuming photograph but though he is sitting still, Tanur captures a markedly dynamic image; one can hear the rustle of his waterproof jacket as he scrunches tightly against the marble step, hands tucked into the sleeves of the other, his cane resting silently on the dusty floor. He sits against a slab with Chinese characters, perhaps once polished and clean, but now grimy and stained. The composition of this photograph is reminiscent of those of veterans with war memorials, poignant photos of aging soldiers and their monument. Perhaps this man is a veteran himself of some bygone war. Much like the elderly are venerated in traditional Chinese society, soldiers are too today, particularly in the United States. The military is seen as supra-societal and something untouchable that lives by a different set of rules and norms. Yet Tanur’s photo generates a different image from the reverence of the elderly and military. The man looks weathered and weary, a reflection of the memorial behind him. This embodies issues with veterans’ affairs today: society’s perception of returning men and women, as well as the inadequacy of care for veterans. Wars alter the social structure and returning veterans often face disadvantages. These disadvantages cover a large range of issues from unemployment to physical challenges. Many are out of the job market after multiple deployments and find it difficult readjusting to civilian life. Combat veterans in particular face significant lifelong socioeconomic challenges compare to veterans who have not seen combat; a large portion of the homeless population is comprised of veterans. The demand of deindividuation and disassociation in the military also causes adverse mental health effects during the postwar transition (Smith and True 147). Yet one must remember that veterans are not unique from the general population. They do not all share the same experiences and are a diverse group of people. Soldiers are trained to respond to highly stressful events and do not normally perceive themselves as victims (Hoge 549). Traumatic or stress experiences do not necessarily result in psychological distress or disorder (Thoits 10). In addition, post-traumatic stress disorder has a controversial aspect as it is hard to verify and is often “difficult to distinguish between distress and disorder” due to vague and ambiguous boundaries (Smith and True 2). In conclusion, one should not focus on the trope of the “damaged vet” as it robs veterans of their identity. Veteran or not, the tablet behind him is indeed a war memorial. The characters, etched deep in stone, hold the memory of Gengxu New Army Uprising of 1910, just one of the numerous uprisings of the Chinese Revolution which deposed of the Qing Dynasty and established the Republic of China. It was a tumultuous time in Chinese history and its ramifications can still be felt today as it paved the way for the Chinese Communist Revolution. While the elderly man would not have experienced this conflict, it would have its mark in the collective memory of the people. Rachel Tanur presents her audience with a quotidian scene of a man taking a break during a cold winter’s walk. Yet the subtle motion forever frozen in time through this photograph does not tell us much about this man; we will never know what he was actually doing that day or his identity. We can only take a peek into his life and try to create meaning from this brief moment.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Mondrian Windows

When you feel bored or stuffy just go to the window and take a deep breath to feel the air, and feel free spirit of them. Window is air hole and could be closed. Its function as a room air circulation in order to be fresh. The man in the picture can see scenery of the outside and get the sunlight that makes him feel warm. The hole that we called it windows normally have cover si we can open it when we need fresh air or sunlight and close it when we dont want getting cold and also we dont want any mosquitos or other insect come to our house. In the picture we can see that the window with different color that makes it look a little big if we see from afar. So it also function for road users outside the building to get fresh views. Settlement building should not only consider the comfort of occupants in it but also those outside who also saw the building. how to keep the building is not an eyesore for the people who saw it is also important to note.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Staircase 01

In the picture titled Italian staircase, there is a steep staircase encased by buildings. The focus does not seem to be on the stairs themselves, but instead on the stone buildings around it. The viewer’s eyes are quickly guided up the staircase to show their end and the prize that is at the top. I use semiology to address the signs in the photo and contemplate their visual meaning (Rose 2012). Staircases are often a symbol of the near future and in this photo I believe the staircase symbolizes a journey that must be made in order to reach the top. The staircase itself is not in focus and is merely a guiding point for the eye, showing that the journey is not of interest. The viewer visually starts at the bottom of the stairs and follows the pathway of leading lines that are shown with the stone in the staircase. The future of the viewer lies at the top of the stairs, and I believe this represents social mobility in Italy. The upward journey of the viewer’s eyes from the bottom to the top of the picture symbolizes upward mobility. This portrays that upward mobility is possible because the end of the staircase is in sight, and even though it is evident that there are many stairs, they blend together out of focus and unimportant. What is important is making it to the top and being successful in society. We can see that there are many stairs but they are quite small. This may represent a journey that has many small obstacles that will not be difficult to conquer. It looks as though you may be able to skip stairs in the journey to the top. Overall, the path is clearly marked with the brick center of the stairs, and there is no chance of wandering off path because it is surrounded by buildings. This may suggest that the path to success is easily seen, and can be accomplished by anyone. With this interpretation in mind, it would seem that the photographer, Rachel Tanur, saw opportunity for advancement in Italy. I do not know her intentions when she took this photo, but my analysis of the symbolism in the staircase, would conclude that she enjoyed Italy and saw a bright future for the people who live there. There can also be other interpretations of this image, but I believe my interpretation of the staircase as an example of social mobility is influenced by my experience in the United States where there is less chance for upward social mobility (Beller 2006). Beller, E., & Hout, M. (2006). Intergenerational Social Mobility: The United States in Comparative Perspective. Future Of Children, 16(2), 19-36. Rose, Gillian. (2012). “Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful.” Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Visual Materials. Sage Publications. London. 105-148.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boys

Christian Erazo January 18th, 2016 Project Three: Tanur’s “Cuban Boys” Images taken by Rachel Tanur needed careful analysis and consideration with several visual methods. However, using a semiotic approach, it is handy in making meaning of an image after using compositional modality. In this picture, we see two young men sitting in a doorway appearing to be smiling positively. Assessing the environment in the small frame, it appears these boys live in a village that is impoverished because of the shape of how the front of their house looks. Furthermore, I observed the types of footwear the boys are wearing which are sandals compared to shoes, illustrating a society not driven by sports or consumption of material brands. Gillian Rose describes semiology in her book, Visual Methodologies as, “Its focus on signs means that semiology always pays very careful attention to the compositional modality of that site; but its concern for the social effects of an image’s meaning men that some attention is also paid to the social modality of that site,” (Rose, 78). Focusing on the social modality is crucial, for it studies the social effects and what it means in society. Relating this to Tanur’s “Cuban Boys”, socioeconomically, Cuba struggles with communism and finding peace in their homeland. Thus, making meaning of “Cuban Boys” required my own questioning of the smiles these boys have. Even with their struggles as young boys living in poverty, their smiles shine positively on the photographer. Using Semiology, we can make meaning of the visual culture these boys live in as young Cubans. Reiterating the economic status of the boys, I view their sandals as a powerful symbol for hope. This hope lives in the world outside consumerism. In the consumerist society we live in, our appearance is a huge factor into what people think about you. The hundred dollar shoes I buy make me think about the life I live and if it is really worth it. At the end of the day, is my smile brighter than theirs? Source: Gillian Rose - Visual Methodologies Rachel Tanur Memorial Prize for Visual Sociology

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Italian Band 01

Through the visual sociological methods of semiology, a research method that is meant to confront the overall question of how an image creates an at face value meaning and creates ways to display and convey societal norms/societal controversy through images;I will compare and contrast Rachel Tanur’s photograph, Italian Band 01. Within this image(Italian Band 01) there is as small Italian jazz band playing outside of what appears to be a restaurant. This is portrayed as a commodity and regular within the Italian culture. When comparing the Rachel Tanur photograph to that of the American culture, a small jazz band playing outside or inside of a restaurant within our society would be portrayed as a luxury, only for those with high socioeconomic status. A well known late sociologist, C. Wright Mills, discusses the many factors of one’s milieux, or social environment, can impact not just the individual but also affects the surrounding of that individual. In sociological terms, this is known as the sociological imagination. “The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals; enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.”(Mills 1959:3) In other words, Mills explains how previous historical events and current events create an individual and in return the individual assists in creating new historical events. When applying the sociological imagination into a visual sociological perspective, imagine the individual troubles of someone’s social environment (i.e. socioeconomic status, social class) then look at the outside factor of where that individual resides and the public issues of that social structure (i.e. impoverished neighborhood). In doing this process is to become aware of the idea of social structure and the sensibility of social environment. Once the sociological imagination is understood, then the process of increasing visual literacy is more easily comprehended. Concluding that through the visual sociological perspectives of semiology and visual research of my American culture,where we tend to celebrate other cultures while still celebrating our own, the Italian jazz band and their culture would be something that the majority of American’s would not see due to their social class and socioeconomic status. When comparing to Italy, this is a common factor of the culture.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Woman on Road

The composition of the photo has a woman walking on a narrow footpath stretching in the pictorial axis, a footpath vanishing into the mountainous background. Yet to where is the African woman walking? She is walking to no meaningful place but to the pale mountain ridge, at least not meaningful from an outsider’s view. Why is the footpath composed in the centre, firmly and briskly dividing the whole picture, but actually ambiguously leading to nowhere? As in art history, Warnke analyzed a series of Dutch “road” paintings from 17th to 19th century, it was always the mansion, the castle, the church etc. appearing at the end of a road, showing the omnipresent state. Until Meindert Hobbema’s famous painting The Avenue (1689), with a blank space at the end of the road, it “frees the avenue from any link with a sately home and does not even relate it to the local church (Warnke 1994,16).” How possible is it, that this Nowhere replaces Here and There? How possible is it that an absence of a meaningful whereness is put in a visual field of all the things concretely embodied and photographed? Hence is there an epistemic genre of no-whereness graspable in visual conceptualization? Nowhere is no longer a concept that is ontologically dependent on Here/There/Where, but is in itself an established epistemic genre in African villages, established enough to be visually captured in photos. A common ambivalence of African modernization emerges for a photo reader—how do I give a story to the image, especially to give the teleological modernization stories, if it is composed of a woman walking, but walking to no teleological end, walking to a no-whereness? The woman walks in the ambivalence of the photographic composition to a no-whereness, simultaneously there is an ambivalence of the village spatial constitution unfolds along the walk. It is an ambivalence between orderly human habitat and orderless wild: If she walks in the wild, that wildness is evidenced by the disorderly trees, evidenced by the crops hardly recognizable but mixed with bushes, and by the village huts not apparently visible, but hidden in lush vegetation. On the other hand, if she walks in a vivid habitat, that community habitat is evidenced by the very existence of crop fields, huts and a human footpath. Nevertheless this is a visual field of disorder to the high-modernists’ eyes (Scott 1998): no clear-cut cropping fields, no mechanically ploughed geometric squares, no monocrop systems but poly-vegetations chaotically mixed in the same field. Hence both the photographic composition and the village cultivation space cause an illegibility---in contrast to Scott’s research (ibid.) on the modernized visual fields. Here the visual field is illegible in the sense of an absence of Whereness, and in the sense of an absent modernist spatial order. Does this illegibility result in un-analysability? No. The visual field is full of bushes, weeds, or other crops altogether, there is not a pattern to order their alignment, not an easy glance to grasp the visuality such as it is in monocroping. Nonetheless, Scott (ibid., 273) discovers that the disorderly diversity of plantations was arranged by the local community within non-modernist’s logics, as the weeds in the chaotic crop field are for soil preservation, yet monocropping fails in that. The very attempt to rationalize the visual field by a decontextualized logic—the Western modernity, is problematic. The modernist ideology erases process, complexity and open-endedness of the society. This is how an African village would be visualized: reacting to Western modernity, it brings in visibilities of Disorder, Illegibility and No-whereness, despite that such conceptions were originally parasitic on a set of conceptual hosts—that is, Order, Legibility, Here and There. Beyond a legible Whereness to anchor the African village in photo, Nowhere is where the analysis can start: the distant “wild” society in making, not the society already projected to a teleological end, or on a footpath already charted on map. Scott, James. Seeing Like a State, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998. Warnke, Martin. Political Landscape: The Art History of Nature (trans. David McLintock). London: Reaktion Books, 1994.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Drag Queen 1

From the gold-rimmed glasses to the plum-red lipstick; to the pearl necklace popping against her skin tone and the way her terry-towel getup is seamlessly draped across her shoulders; to the power stance and stilettos wedged against the truck’s hubcap, this queen is perfectly at ease in this photograph. Stereotypes, though constructed, have material truths whether we like to admit them or not, and this photograph’s story is compiled from the juxtaposition of this fabulous queen seemingly climbing into the front seat of a large cargo truck. The message is deeply imbued with possibility. She could be driving the truck or looking in the window to fix her makeup. Upon closer examination, you can see a dark figure in the cab. She could be picking up a date. Moreover, she could just be posing for a photograph. Regardless, it is the mixing of two worlds – the story of potential – that animates this photograph. This image resonates especially loud in the context of queer futurities. In one of his last works, José Esteban Muñoz (2009) writes that “Queerness is essentially about the rejection of the here and now and an insistence on the potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.” In a world where critical imagination – our ability to think of new trajectories – is severely limited by events such as increasingly uneven capitalist development or a rapidly changing climate it is crucial to engage in the process of speculation. It is important to imagine a better world. Hope, according to Derrida (1999), is a matter of embracing the unknown and unpredictable. It is about looking forward to something better and different, but that difference is undefined. This image speaks to difference in process. In particular, this photograph, with its implicit references to queer potentiality, directly relates to the promise of queer and emergent ecologies, which is at the heart of my research and work. Coming to grips with our time in the “Anthropocene” – the epic moment that humans have entered geologic time (Yusoff, 2013) – means we have to confront the fact ‘nature,’ as we understand it being separate from ourselves, no longer exists; that ecology, which requires an a priori baseline that predates humanity, needs to be expanded to include “the whole of subjectivity” (Guatarri, 2008:35). Along similar lines, queer ecology “emerges in tandem with what we hope it contributes to the world” (Azzarello, 2012: 84). When we open our eyes to the possibilities of a “charming Anthropocene” (Buck, 2015); when we begin to explore the potential relationships we already have and can further develop with the Earth’s co-habitants (Haraway, 2015); we are creating a hopeful future. This photograph, though not explicitly ‘about nature,’ invokes the feeling that other worlds are possible; that the friction created between the fabulous queen and the dirty cargo truck is imbued with potentiality. Haraway’s (1996) adage to “reclaim the visual” seems especially pertinent in this case. She contends that the visual allows us to see past certain binaries, invoking a sense of situated worlds and knowledges only visible from certain perspectives. However partial, these situated knowledges provide insights into truth, which, in many ways, is a utopian concept. However, at the cusp of a new ecological moment, it is imperative to imagine the impossible to see what happens. Azzarello, R. 2012. Queer Ecology: A Roundtable Discussion. Jamie Heckert, ed. European Journal of Ecopsychology. 3, pp. 82-103. Derrida, J. 1999. Mars and Sons. In: M. Sprinker, ed., Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx. New York, NY: Verso. Guatarri, F. 2008. The Three Ecologies. London: Continuum. Haraway, D. 1996. Situated Knowledges: the Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. In: John Agnew, David N. Livingstone, and Alisdair Rogers, eds., Human Geography: An Essential Anthology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. Haraway, D. 2015. Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin. Environmental Humanities. 6, pp. 159-165. Muñoz, J. E. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press. Yusoff, K. 2013. Geologic Life: Prehistory, Climate, Futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 31, pp. 79-795.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Greek City Through Ruins

The photograph shows the remains of a Greek temple or another ancient building, consisting of some columns and parts of huge walls, covered with grassy plants. In the centre of the picture there are several dwellings, together constituting a town or small city next to a steep mountain. The composition is a striking, though of course unintended visualisation of the current situation in Greece, especially in economic and social terms. The financial crisis in Europe has been going on for more than five years now, with Greece being the country most affected by it. With its national debt perpetually rising, Greece has eventually become dependent on considerable financial help by the so-called Troika, consisting of the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to avoid national bankruptcy. In turn for three bail-outs within five years, the Greek government had to enforce several reforms, the latest having been rejected by Greek voters in a referendum in July 2015. Yet, pressure from the Troika forced the Greek government to implement them all the same [1]. Rachel Tanur’s photograph is a metaphor for this financial and social crisis in several ways. The ruins may stand for the shattered relationship of trust between Greece and the rest of the EU. However, they can also function as a symbol for the breakdown of the country’s social system, a consequence of the number of austerity laws enforced as a precondition for the economic aid package to be released. The austerity measures include tax hikes and cuts in public spending [2] and primarily affect Greece's middle class and its socially deprived population, with cuts on pensions, the educational system, and health care, among other things. The crumbling pillars of the ancient building on the photograph embody this economic breakdown and the consequential suffering of the Greek population. At the same time, life in the country has to go on somehow, a fact visually represented by the town in the background of Rachel Tanur's picture. People in Greece are trying to live an ordinary life as well as in any way possible, although it is increasingly difficult. The town in the photograph seems to cling on the rocky mountain but at the same time appears quite small in its shadow, a metaphor for the fact that Greece is dependent on financial help from other European states, but at the same time is overwhelmed by its incredible amount of national debt. Marxist theory states that "[…] there is no such thing as a stable capitalist system" [3]. Social equality and capitalism obviously don't go along that well, as exemplified by the Greek crisis. According to David Harvey, "capital doesn't solve its crisis tendencies but moves them around" [3]. Austerity measures probably help to solve the economic crisis in Greece, but at the same time trigger a social crisis, namely one of unemployment, social inequality, and social unrest, with the gap between rich and poor continuously growing. Thus, in a broader and more theoretical sense, the photograph functions as a metaphor for the instability of capitalism and for its potentially harmful consequences, as exemplified by the Greek debt crisis. [1] “Greece signs up to a painful, humiliating agreement with Europe” (2015), available at http://www.economist.com/node/21657627 [2] “Greece's parliament approves new round of austerity measures” (2015), available at http://www.dw.com/en/greeces-parliament-approves-new-round-of-austerity-measures/a-18788213 [3] Agredano Rivera, H. & Harvey, D. (2010): "Explaining the Crisis", in International Socialist Review, issue 73.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Gondola Newlyweds 01

I argue that the story surrounding the image is as important as, if not more important than, the image itself. This is precisely what I have tried to demonstrate in my commentary of “Katb el-Kitab.” An image taken out of the context in which it was taken is like a word taken out of its sentence. How then can we appraise an image like Rachel Tanur’s “Gondola Newlyweds 01?” What does it attempt to say about being a newlywed in Venice as my image attempts to speak around similar issues in Cairo? This is the challenge that we are facing today in the social sciences and liberal arts. In our disciplines, the image has already begun to lose its objective magic. To compensate we need a new set of registries and forums in which to present and represent the Other, especially when we do so visually. One thing I could do then—because of my ignorance of Venetian newlyweds, gondolas, and of Tanur’s relationship to such things, and because I eschew reducing the thickness of cultural experience to statistics or -isms—is to appraise Tanur’s image aesthetically, as a photographer. However, if I am adamant about playing the role of social scientist, I must at least acknowledge that my analysis of “Gondola Newlyweds 01” would at best be a third order interpretation—an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation (Geertz 1973). “Gondola Newlyweds 01” is among the most aesthetically pleasing of Tanur’s photographs. The couple and their vessel are a touch out of focus, giving the image a paint-like quality. This is especially apparent in how sunlight hits the top of the groom’s seat, a rumpled tarp, and a gondolier’s hat. It is as if Tanur was more liberal with her oil paints in those areas than anywhere else in the image. The depth and density of color is very palpable in this image. Also, there is just the right amount of shimmer beneath the bride to frame the gondola without engulfing it, and to imply a sense of forward motion. That same streak of shimmer also works to counterbalance what appears to be the lower hull of another gondola in our background; together they frame our couple. Even though it is very clear what one is looking at in this picture, there is a certain abstractness to it that lends it a dream-like quality. I also find very interesting the angle of the photo and what it implies about the relationship between the taker and the taken. A viewer cannot help but derive at least a little voyeuristic pleasure from this image. We also cannot help but imagine the tip of Tanur’s zoom lens poking out of a Venetian alleyway, narrow and shadowy. Our subjects are not even remotely aware of us, and perforce, we are spying on them, intruding even, on what they perceive as a private moment of intimacy. Oblivious to us, how can they not be behaving candidly and sincerely? How can this moment not be “real?” Romantic, dream-like, a mutual and intimate experience—this image seems to be saying something totally different about marriage than mine. But in the end, what is “Gondola Newlyweds 01”—alone, devoid of the context in which it was taken—really capable of telling us? If anything, that Rachel Tanur was an adept photographer. Perhaps more so that the social sciences are in need not only of a new way of deconstructing images, but a new way of presenting them. References: Geertz, Clifford. “Interpretations of Culture.” New York: Basic Books, 1973.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Woman

What are the camera's special assets that make photography of great value to anthropology? (Collier and Collier, 1986: 9) Rachel Tanur’s photograph shows a Guatemalan woman, in a public place, probably in a market. In the middle of the frame an aged woman, possibly an aboriginal woman, dressed in traditional clothes. The “visual message method” (Joly, 2008), allows me to decompose the photograph in order to analyze its ethnographic meaning. The plastic message describes the way the image was constructed. The first plastic characteristic of the photograph is the vertical framing. The vertical frame forces us to concentrate our view on the aged woman. The reduced depth of field and the use of a standard or telephoto lens, isolates the main subject from the social environment in which the image was taken. Consequently, the photographer forces us to analyze the details of the main character. The central presence of a Guatemalan woman in the middle of the frame is revived by the presence of a reduced depth of field (DOP that blurs the subjects that are behind the woman). We can distinguish some elements of the context (a group of people, a handmade basket), however our sight is directed to the woman’s face. As Erving Goffman did forty years ago in Gender Advertisement (1979), the ethnographer is forced to analyze meticulously the characteristics of the actors. Her physiognomy, the way she dresses and the way she keeps her body show us some “ethnographic characteristics” of the actor. The visible left hand gives us information about the kind of job she realizes ordinarily (probably manual tasks). Rachel’s photo isolates the main subject by reducing the depth of field. Therefore, we can see clearly the ornamental details of the Guatemalan woman: the way her hair is arranged, the use of earrings, the external “dressing code” based on a colorful garment and an internal coat. The photograph of Rachel Tanur has ethnographic and documentary value as she describes the social world of a specific community by combining different aspects of Guatemalan life (cf. the photographs Guatemalan Clothesline, Guatemalan Communal Laundry, Guatemalan Houses, Guatemalan Farmland, Guatemalan Bus Stop) with a close view of people (portraits of Guatemalan Men and Women). This photograph explores the complexity of social life by describing ethno-methodologically the characteristics of locals: the image allows us to discover some of the main characteristics of the person, in particular her dressing code and other physical features. Thereby, Rachel’s photograph may help to answer the question formulated by John and Malcolm Collier at the beginning of Visual Anthropology: the camera, and more widely photography, is value to ethnography because it allow us to understand, by using a nonverbal language, the specificities of social life by engaging new understandings of social interactions. References Collier, J., & Collier, M. (1986). Visual Anthropology: Photography As a Research Method (Rev Exp). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Joly, M. (2009). Introduction à l’analyse de l’image. (F. Vanoye, Ed.). Paris, France: A. Colin, DL 2009. Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. Cambridge, MA, France: Harvard University press.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Campground

The tents and place organized for cooking and heating were captured on the photo of Rachel Tanur "Alaska Campground" as on the photo "The field kitchen of Euromaidan". However, if the tents in the historic center of Kyiv break the usual context of everyday life and can be described as an example of the paradoxical situation of breaking the usual, normal social context (1), on Rachel Tanur’s picture tents in a forest meadow look natural and harmonious. In the shade of trees two tents are set up, and therefore probably not one person travels, but a group of people, which indicates that the motive for hiking to the forest is a desire to spend time outdoors, but not to reject society (as in the case with the hermits who live far from the cities and settlements) in favor of nature. Perhaps it is not a wild meadow, but the place where tourists often stay. This is indicated by an appropriate place for cutting firewood and a safe place for fire. These hikes are likely to have the purpose to contact with nature opposite to tourism as a means of consumption, in terms of expensive holiday in the popular tourist locations. One of the important functions of hiking is to establish and strengthen social bonds in small social groups, as well as the acquisition of new useful skills and experience. Spending time with family and/or friends outdoors, extreme, unusual conditions for inhabitant of modern city, accustomed to comfort, encourage people to take care of themselves in unusual, natural conditions (e.g., as on the photo: to light a fire with the help of available tools, camping); contribute to the acquisition of new skills and experience life in natural conditions. Common memories of backpacking are also favorable basis for the continuation of successful social relationships. A key function of photography, if it is considered as a social practice (2), is to document the events. This photograph shows the pacified moment in a beautiful forest. Return to one of the travel moments, its re-experience through photography construct and support the image of the photo owner as a traveler. Tourism as a mass phenomenon appeared only in the second half of the XIX century. Apart from the fact that from this time period long journeys become real due to the transport improvement, important preconditions of mass tourism are the increase of the middle class and quite more free time of employed population. In today's globalized society, far removed from the era when the great geographical discoveries were made by a few people and only a relatively small number of people traveled, the middle class member can try a role of traveler-discoverer, photographing the newly discovered (for himself) new places on the planet, filling "white spots" in the online photo album, similar to the "white spots" on geographical maps. Traveling can be distant and not, but an invariable attribute of each trip is the photo, explained by the popularity of photo-tourism as a distinct tourist destination. Travelers used photography as a means of temporality conquest – possibility to stop the moment of acquisition of a new cultural experience. To take a photo – is a way to consume something that is impossible to consume in traditional way; it is a way to "assign photographed objects" (3): nature, architecture, monuments, and events. Due to photography, consumer society transforms the culture or nature into services sold by travel agencies. 1. Garfinkel, Harold, Studies in Ethnomethodology, (Polity Press: Oxford. 1984) 2. Bourdieu, Pierre, Photography: A Middle-brow Art, (Stanford University Press. 1996) 3. Sontag, Susan, On Photography, (Picador: New York. 2001)

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Cows

The “Cuban Cows” captured in Rachel Tanur’s photograph also teem with the traces of human-bovine relations. Unlike the leisurely cows grazing on a Cambridgeshire meadow, the Cuban cows—or perhaps oxen—are at work, ploughing the land in the slanting light of the morning or evening. The land undulates into the distance, bordered first by a darker shade of green grass, then by a forest, possibly marking the boundaries of the farmland. The shrubs to the left also indicate another form of boundary making, where hedges are allowed to divide the land between different types of crops. In contrast to the grassy ground in the first image, the earth in Tanur’s photograph is upturned, exposing a smorgasbord of worms and other small flightless insects that attract the attention of a couple of hens and a cockerel. Although no human is visible in the photograph, a person must be standing close by, making sure the cows can prepare the ground for sowing, directing their next turn. Hidden from our view is a wooden beam strapped perpendicular to and between the necks of both cows. To this beam, ropes, which are visible, are attached to the beam to connect it to a plough. As the cows move forward in the field, the plough is pulled, tilling the land for agriculture. The animals in Tanur’s photograph play a very different role from those in the first. The setting of Tanur’s photograph indicates that the cows play an essential role in providing labor to farmers. The size of the plough and the presence of chickens suggest that the farming is on a self-sufficient scale, and if there is any produce that exceed the needs of the household, it might be sold at the market or shared with others. This photograph reveals the essential functions that nonhuman animals serve in the production of livelihood and subsistence. Other than labor, cows and chickens also provide a source of protein in the form of meat and eggs. It would be premature, however, to conclude that these animals only play a material role in constituting the social worlds of their human counterparts. As James Ferguson (1990) notes about oxen in Lesotho and Jha (2002) on the sacredness of cows in India, animals are often entangled within a complex network of human symbolism and iconography. It is perhaps easier to discern the symbolic roles of the cows in Cambridge compared with the Cuban cows. They simultaneously act as bearers of a tradition, while serving a practical purpose of maintaining the integrity of the meadows. But this ease should not also mean that the Cuban cows are not embedded in a mesh of local cultural understandings about the animal. Tanur’s photograph may quickly reveal the agricultural function of these cows but it also hides their symbolic relations to the humans outside of the photograph. In the same way that the wooden beam between the cows are obscured, obscuring the mechanical relation between animal and machine power, the exact meanings ascribed to the cows by Cuban farmers is left unspecified. They invite viewers to ask more questions about the cows. Why have they been allowed to grow their horns? Do they have names? Are they passed on from generation to generation? Is their ownership predicated on a specific class position?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Produce Market

In her series focused on women in a Guatemalan food market Rachel Tanur rendered visible an ethnographic participant that has been historically marginalised, that is, the rural woman. While rural women around the world have been central protagonists in struggles around food and land sovereignty, and community and agricultural sustainability, researchers and development proponents have historically overlooked them. Even as globalization and neoliberal reform have exacerbated their experiences of poverty and hardship they have continued to be invisible in much scholarship. As a peasant, the woman pictured by Turner is part of a group that is often viewed by neoliberal proponents as backward, static and in decline. The photograph powerfully challenges this thesis on a number of counts. Firstly, it highlights peasant women’s agency in responding to the corporatisation of agriculture, their continued efforts to engage with the land and to foster sustainability. The woman is shown surrounded by her produce based on small farming systems that generations of peasant women in Latin America have relied on and continue to do so. Secondly, the photograph represents the importance of understanding individual women’s experiences to understand place-based realities. This woman is at work despite the patriarchy that characterises Latin American rural cultures, and therefore her class, intersects with gendered and, social and cultural experiences. These processes of intersecting identities have been in the centre of feminist debates in the last twenty years, as different struggles (ie. black feminism, chicana feminism) have called for recognising difference in women’s experiences. Thirdly, the connection that Tanur achieved with her subjects also tells a story of being accountable for our own actions as visual researchers. Of seeking consent, and respecting and representing the dignity of the people that generously open their privacy and lives to us. This entails what feminist methodologies and committed documentary photographers have taught us for years, of being reflexive of our practices and our often privileged position. Overall, Tanur’s work represented in this photograph opens a door to understand a much more complex story of rurality and development. Rachel was a good observer that understood the relationships and the context of the people she photographed. This is the importance of representing the countryside and women with dignity, agency and fairness. The situation of rural women in the developing world is one of unremunerated work, poverty, and instability due to market and global forces. Still, there is a story of agency, everyday struggle, sustainable living, and an utter respect for nature that is slowly getting support from transnational movements, the academy and civil society. The strength of these stories comes from the legacy of decades of peasant struggles in Latin America that have preceded neoliberal processes. The Latin American countryside although hurting, is strong and will continue to be for a long time.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatamala Handicraft Stall

Rachel Tanur’s photograph, “Guatemala Handcraft Stall” captures many of the issues surrounding the commercialization of culture that I address in my research and analysis of the postwar Japanese photographic industry. In her photograph, an impressive Spanish colonial brick gate is foregrounded by a row of corrugated iron-roofed booths. In the most visible booth, various colorful items hang from the eaves of the roof and a few small tables stand in front of the stall, bearing what appears to be fruit and bread. Though there is not a single human in sight, the architectural forms and objects in the photograph embody historical and contemporary figures. The massive Spanish colonial gate acts as a stand-in for centuries of oppressive rule, but its state of decay signals to the viewer that this structure might be one of the few details left of that history. The craft stall and its objects present to the viewer a regional culture and the people who actively construct it. We know little of the conditions of their labor or the historical significance of these craft items, and yet the Spanish gate and the craft stall act together to invite the passerby to consume Guatemala’s complex history and present in the form of a trinket or refreshment. This experience has been carefully constructed for the tourist or shopper. Anthropologist Millie Creighton calls this the “staged authenticity of indigenous arts, crafts, foods, and clothing” to provide “recognizable symbols of shared cultural identity,” (1992, 55). Each of these symbols works together visually to create a consumptive reality based on a particular vision of Guatemala for the viewer. In my research, I examine how in Japan the Japanese camera industry used events it organized such as “National Photography Day” to create the sense that photography and cameras had an inherent “Japaneseness” to them. At the same time, corporations such as Nikon and sought to downplay connotations of Japaneseness when it sold its cameras internationally, even going so far as to start companies with American sounding names to sell its cameras to American buyers. This demonstrates the flexibility of consumptive desire; while some shoppers may seek out embodiments of themselves, others often are in search of what they perceive to exotic, finding amusement and satisfaction in the other. This photograph displays the awareness that a buyer in this square would be encouraged by a particular shopping context and form of item to buy culture. There are no advertisements in this photograph, and yet there is enough visual guidance to sell the shopper a particular experience. Judith Williamson argues that “advertisements are selling us something else besides consumer goods; in providing us with a structure in which we, and those goods, are interchangeable, they are selling us ourselves,” (1978, 13). In this compelling photograph, Rachel Tanur has captured the ways in which visual signs collude to create a specific politics of consumption found not only in this photograph but also in many other similar situations.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Florida Beach

This photograph immediately caught my attention because its composition almost mirrors the image I submitted. However, in this case, the seats facing an oceanic view have nothing to do with an artistic approach. Instead, economic motives have resulted in their presence on the beach. Upon researching the origins of the beach chair, I was surprised to find out that the model captured in the picture had not evolved much from the first beach equipment designed in 1883. Conceived by a German craftsman specialized in making baskets, the “strandkorb” (literally the beach basket) quickly became very popular. While at it, he immediately saw an opportunity to set up a rental business right on the beach for those who did not own a chair (1). Although the desire to find shelter and comfort while being on the beach is unchanging, society and lifestyles have evolved since the beginning of the 20th century. Most notably, intensive urban development has transformed the planning and management of cities, impacting people's customs and behaviors. The private sector is a constant presence behind all aspects of our contemporary built environments; yet, even in public spaces apparently free from any control or ruling there exists a push to consume, to take a seat. Sociologist Richard Sennett, like many other theoreticians fellows, claims the privatization of public space has hastened people's incapacity to be sociable; they forgot how to "treat others as though they were strangers" and how to "forge a bond upon that distance” (2). In Florida, monetization of the beach has launched complex disputes on the right for all to access the beachfront. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, more than 60% of the beaches in the state are private (3). Coastline property owners, who paid handsomely for a prime location, hold dear the right to limit access within their property lines. On the other hand, residents and vacationers convinced that the beach should be open to all find access routes to the ocean only with difficulty. Evidently, privatization of land yields alluring tax revenues, but so does tourism. Florida's tourism industry is in full expansion, foreseeing the escalation of conflicts, Erika Kranz wrote a comprehensive report on the situation and proposed possible routes to avoid litigations in the future (4). To conclude, I believe this picture invites us to reflect on the downsides of individualism. Even an innocent act of claiming a seat on the beach, when done in a particular manner, simultaneously forms an imposing barrier to its collective enjoyment and eventually turns auto-satisfaction into a fiction. Would you honestly feel comfortable lying so close to a stranger when there is so much space all around? The fact that Rachel Tanur waited for a moment with no one present to disturb her frame makes this message even stronger. References 1) "Strandkorb," Wikipedia, last modified January 12, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strandkorb. 2) Sennett, Richard. The fall of public man. WW Norton & Company, 1992. 3) Spain, S. Brent. “Florida beach access: Nothing but wet sand?” Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law 15 (1) (1999): 167–93. 4) Kranz, Erika. "Sand for the people: the continuing controversy over public access to Florida's beaches." The Florida Bar Journal 83 (2009): 10-11.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

In the United States of America, homelessness is an ongoing issue that affects every generation in every corner of the Nation. While definitions vary and exact data of homeless people are hard to determine (PBS, 2009), the National Law Centre on Homeless and Poverty estimates that 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009). Cities across America continue to spend thousands of dollars ‘cleaning-up’ and making homeless invisible. In 2015, the City of Oakland spent over $72,000 removing 162 homeless encampments, rather than addressing socio-economic inequalities (Bond Graham, 2015). This photograph is compelling because it brings to life the statistics of a preventable problem. From a macro-sociological perspective, it is outrageous that this continues to happen in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Within a Conflict Theory framework, homelessness is a product of a system that excludes the most vulnerable for the sake of ‘development’ and ‘business.’ As sociologists point out, all homeless people “suffer from economic deprivation” (Shalay & Rossi, 1992, p. 129). This image was taken in New York City, the center of the financial world, with Wall Street bankers and the Stock Exchange determining the flow of the global financial market. While most trading and business transactions are not visible or tangible, this photograph symbolically highlights a micro-sociological perspective of one man’s experience and provides a visual representation of economic inequalities. Rachel’s image displays an often-invisible problem of contemporary society, and a problem most city Mayors would rather not see. Aesthetically, this photograph represents many characteristics of America. Patriotism is displayed through two American flags, most likely made in China, with the man transporting the accumulation of plastic possessions in a shopping cart. In America, bankers responsible for the Global Financial Crisis continue to reap the benefits of risky investments and corrupt deals, while the homeless are criminalized. This man is standing on the margins in the street rather than the sidewalk, occupying illegal spaces of the social and economic systems. In a society that categorizes him based on his housing status, his social agency is denied. He remains faceless, his personal identity not shown, but his history, past, dreams and hopes are represented in his gaze to the street. Does he remember a better time? Does he have mental health issues? His is a veteran? Does he have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Perhaps he defended America overseas, protected the homeland and even the economic system that led to these inequalities. He possibly remains patriotic to a social system that excludes him through economic inequality and poor urban planning. Considering the financial cost of war and the budget of the Pentagon, the statistics for homeless veterans is concerning. Twenty percent of male veterans are homeless (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2015) while female veterans are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population and are four times as likely to be homeless as other women (Estrin, 2015). Bibliography Bond Graham, D. (2015, 22 December). Updated: Oakland Spent $72K Closing 162 Homeless Camps in 2015. East Bay Express. Retrieved from http://m.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/12/22/oakland-spent-72k-closing-162-homeless-camps-in-2015 Estrin, J. (2015). Homeless Veterans Surviving Rape and Indifference. Retrieved from http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/homeless-veterans-surviving-rape-and-indifference/?_r=2 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. (2015). FAQ About Homeless Veterans. Retrieved from http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/ National Coalition for the Homeless. (2009, 15 December, 2011). How Many People Experience Homelessness? Retrieved from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html PBS. (2009). Facts and Figures: The Homeless. Now on PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/526/homeless-facts.html Shalay, A. B., & Rossi, P. H. (1992). Social Science Research and Contemporary Studies of Homelessness. Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 129-160. Retrieved from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.so.18.080192.001021

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: View of African Village 01

This photo captures the essence of what sociology is about: social groups and individuals within them. The particular social group shown here is a community of an unknown village somewhere in Africa. However, the picture can be also read as giving a symbolic perspective on a community as a social phenomenon beyond this particular setting. In the background we can see a system of human settlement composed of rectangular buildings arranged with a degree of regularity and intertwined with rounded structures of a different colour: a patterned composition which indicates certain social system created by members of this village community. Nevertheless, it is the people in the foreground who catch our attention as we first look at the photo. Indeed, communities and social systems are products of human agency driven by the desire to live collectively rather than individualistically. The three persons visible in the picture might be coming back from labouring in the field or, possibly in a nearby town (i.e. another community). In this interpretation, community appears as a refuge: a predictable and safe haven where people can rest and socialise after the hard day of labour to reproduce their labouring capabilities for the next day. However, it is exactly the ambiguity about the ‘story’ of these people that makes this photo interesting, leaving it open for interpretation. Similarly, the gaze that the third of these people sends to the camera carries a symbolic meaning. To me, it captures the moment of encountering the Other: the researcher or a photographer who curiously watches the village and villagers but, at the same time, is observed by the villager. Communities are the founding blocks of which our societies are made of. We all belong to some community or communities some of which play more important roles than others. It can be a small community of friends or people sharing certain interests, a village community – as in the photo; a town or city community, local community, national community, international community, European community, global community, online community. Therefore, community can mean something different people. While we usually think of it as a space of solidarity, mutual respect and cooperation, there is also a dark underbelly to communities as they can become actors of divisions and competition for power, status, territory, resources, leading to clashes with other communities. They can become ideological constructs in whose name people commit atrocities against other human beings. They also become spaces of exclusion and denial of respect for their own members. Anderson (2013) talks about ‘communities of value’ as manifested by immigration policies and discourses in modern states. It is not only ‘the migrant’ Other that can be excluded from such communities but also internal others: people deemed as having failed in living up to norms and expectations of a community. References: Anderson, Bridgette. 2013. Us and them? The dangerous politics of immigration control. Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Drag Queen 2

In Tanur’s photo, two drag queens cross a busy street, dressed similarly in tight black outfits, black hosiery, and heels; both are adorned with jewelry, accessories, and coiffed hair, their faces indiscernible, their bodies a medium for femininity. Tanur’s queens render the distinction between sex, sex category, and gender, as elucidated by West and Zimmerman, abundantly clear as they detach femininity from the female body and do “woman” in stereotypical and exaggerated ways that reveal the constructedness of the category. However, their performances occur under what West and Zimmerman call “the risk of gender assessment” from others who interact with and observe their presentations (1987: 136). As these queens cross the street, they are subject to the gazes of others who are invested in the (re)production of gender and can thus be discredited as failing to portray the expected attitudes and behaviors of either sex category. Much like in Taylor and Rupp’s (2004) extended case study of the 801 Cabaret in Key West, Florida, these queens enact a complex, hybrid version of femininity that barely disguises it’s male-bodied foundation and allows for greater fluidity in the meanings of femininity. In their foundational piece, “Doing Gender,” West and Zimmerman draw on Goffman’s “gender displays,” where gender is constructed as highly conventionalized yet optional expressive behavior, extending this concept by arguing that individuals always and unavoidably enact gender under the threat of evaluation from others. As Tanur’s queens navigate the street, they may “pass” as women at a brief glance; however, closer inspection may discredit their gender presentation by revealing them as failing at womanhood by virtue of presumed sex characteristics – their artificial cleavage and curves and the shadow of facial hair, for instance, may betray their performances and label them as inadequate gender actors. Importantly, though, being discredited through assessment is where the power of drag lies: in being recognized as male-bodied individuals who are enacting what is interactionally and institutionally coded as feminine, drag queens challenge the “naturalness” of gender and reject the presumption that gender necessarily follows from sex. In doing femininity as detached from the female body, drag queens pose a powerful critique of hegemonic gender and heteronormativity. Butler furthers this understanding of critical and imitative gender parodies by addressing the resistance potential of drag in Gender Trouble (1990). Here Butler argues that performances such as drag make explicit and destabilize assumptions about the fixedness of sex and the prevailing concept of an original, preexisting gender. In taking their gender performances out of the (usually) safe haven of a gay bar or drag club, Tanur’s queens are potentially exposing themselves to a level of marginalization and violence that reveals the entrenched nature of the gender binary in Western societies. In this sense, their transgression makes them gender warriors as they traverse the street and the woman/man dichotomy to present a femininity that challenges those who view and interact with them to reconsider their dedication to the fragile and limiting construct that is the gender binary. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. Taylor, Verta, and Leila J. Rupp. 2004. “Chicks with Dicks, Men in Dresses.” Journal of Homosexuality 46(3/4): 113- 133. West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1(2): 125-151.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Commercial Fishing

The photo shows a lone fishing vessel setting out or returning from a fishing trip. The fact that the photograph is of an Alaskan commercial fishing trawler, suggests it will have ventured into Arctic waters to complete its mission. As climate change takes effect the loss of sea ice in the Arctic is opening up the region to mining, oil extraction and industrial fishing. Arctic seas are particularly vulnerable and understudied in terms of ecosystem interactions and until recently they have been out of reach of industrial fisheries (Christiansen et al., 2014). However as the ice melts the commodity frontier expands northward this is no longer the case. This expansion is likely to create conflict between large trawlers and previously existing sustainable fisheries as there is an increase in competition for finite resources. Like in Cruz de Mayo ever increasing rates of consumption bring vulnerable communities into conflict with international business interests. The boat seems small against the vastness of the ocean, it seems fragile and unthreatening. This impression however belies the truth, overfishing is an increasing problem: 63% of the world’s fisheries are being fished at an unsustainable rate and are in need of rebuilding (Worm et al., 2009). The mist hanging over the ocean seems to cast fishing as voyage into the unknown but bottom trawling (dragging huge rugby pitch sized nets across the ocean floor to sweep up everything in their path) and sonar detection methods (that can accurately pin point schools of fish) mean that there is little uncertainty over whether the nets will come up full or not, even if most of this is bycatch to be discarded before the ship reaches port. The unsustainable extraction of marine resources is a difficult story to tell when the oceans have always been conceived as wild and eternal, and fish stocks as limitless. From our vantage point the sea rarely varies meaning there is little recognition that throughout history and across the world fisheries and fishing communities have experienced changing fortunes as new technologies and changing food fashions allowed certain species to be fished to collapse, marine environments such as coral reefs to be destroyed and ‘ships […] carrying marine hitchhikers from one sea to another [to] … quietly re-shap[e] the oceans of the world’ (Bolster, 2006:pp568). Further as Steinberg notes: ‘the industrial capitalist-era ocean-space regime sought to facilitate both of capitalism's contradictory spatial tendencies—the tendency toward movement (which is facilitated by the absence of social barriers) and the tendency toward fixity (which is facilitated by territorial regulation)’ (pp412). Thus the ocean was divided into coastal waters and high seas. Outside coastal waters the ocean is constructed as unconquerable and the historic and continuing lack of regulation works to allow the smooth transit of capital, inside there is an increasing tendency to allow fixed capital investments into previously non territorial spaces (Steinberg, 1999). To return to overfishing, the inscrutability of the sea serves to hides a ‘metanarrative of environmental decline’ (Bolster, 2006:pp569) and its social construction as immortal and eternal has serious implications for marine conservation. If fish supplies are seen as endless and human impact is automatically conceived as negligible what chance is there that there the globalisation of the problem will be recognised and appropriate conservation steps will be taken? Christiansen J, Mecklenburg, C and Karamushki, O 2014 Arctic marine fishes and their fisheries in light of global change, Global Change Biology, 20pp352-359 Bolster J 2006 Opportunities in Marine Environmental History, Environmental History, 11(3)pp567-6597 Steinberg P 1999 The maritime mystique: sustainable development, capital mobility, and nostalgia in the ocean world, Society and Space, 17:pp403-426 Worm, B et al. 2009 Rebuilding Global Fisheries, Science 325,pp578-585

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Paris Ferris Wheel

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.” ― Victor Hugo Life within the iconic Parisian metropolis entails encounters with the built environment, made of ashen city streets, wide archways and amusements. Here faceless city dwellers walk towards a wondrous modern structure, away from the pictured, antiquity of an archway (the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel). This evidences a tension between—or perhaps simply coexistence of—the ancient and innovative in a single urbanity, known for its deep emotive capacity. The city itself is almost alive. Through this photograph, Rachel Tanur captures the iconicity of the city of Paris, in all of its wonder and gray. The sense of openness experienced within the built structure of Paris, from such archways to bustling bridges, beautiful building facades and the metal latticework of the Eiffel Towel contrasts with the street-level lived nature of urbanity. Here one sees—and subsequently feels—both, the looming arch high above the heads of faceless passersby. The light, the stone, the sky are mostly gray. Rachel Tanur captures the anonymity of this and arguably other cities, through the black-clad backs of her subjects turned towards the camera, shadows stretched below their feet. This photograph links to the sociological classics as much as contemporary theoretical contributions in the discipline, evoking notions of display (as in the work of Erving Goffman), the lived and the constructed in interaction (signaling the work of Claude Levi-Strauss) and iconicity (as developed by Jeffrey Alexander). Not only does this photograph demonstrate the depth of visual sociology, but it concurrently captures a visual of urban sociology: how life interacts with the planned city, the human, rooted trees, stone remnants and a spinning metal ferris wheel. Through this photograph, Rachel Tanur rouses key questions marking, if not making, the subfield of urban sociology: what is unique about life within a metropolis? How does a cityscape inform society and vice versa? How can we as sociologists dig beneath facades—whether literal, of a building, or figurative, of stereotypes regarding a particular group—to reach the deep processes of meaning making taking place from Paris to Lima, New York to Melbourne, Havana to Johannesburg? How do the historical layers of a city contribute to its meaning, whether made (as in this photograph) of cement or blood and bones, shadows, street lights, the slightest glimpse of blueness in the sky? We also find in this photograph the convergence of the general (an urge to understand the interaction of the human with(in) the built environment), with the particular (the eerie, beckoning beauty of Paris as an iconic city itself). Reflecting on this image today, years after it was taken, yet only weeks after terror attacks on Paris, motivates other sociological questioning. What does Paris mean, with its lasting historical monuments and its modernities, with its combination of tradition and innovation? Why does the sight of such a photograph evoke the smell of boulangeries, hustle, bustle and all the romance of a fairytale even for those of us an ocean away? The photograph itself not only lasts but remains potent in analytical reflections on this city and all cities; their peoples positioned in a specific physicality; and the devastating failures, as much as intoxicating promise, of modernity.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Dirt Road

Alaska Dirt Road can be interpreted as a visual quote, just like An Italian Dirty Cell. Nothing is apparently happening in Tanur's picture neither. Other similarity (and evidently contrasting differences) might be also stressed: the absence of people as well as the anthropomorphous space might suffice here. Alaska Dirt Road is also a beautiful image that clearly resonate with the contemporary photographic (high) culture; in fact, it is not an image of an beautiful 'landscape' like the ones usually published on the mainstream media. Nor is it the product of what Urry called a Turist Gaze (1). It marks its difference to the tradition of 'nature photography' popularised by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, among others. On the contrary, it is an image that is deeply grounded on the critical American photographic culture of the 'New topographics' that publicly emerged in the 1970s focussing on 'a Man-Altered Landscape' (2); a photographic tradition that has still been deeply influencing the contemporary photographic and visual sociological practice internationally, at least in Europe and USA. Alaska Dirt Road is an 'open text' which polysemy – that is also enhanced by the complex relationships between the image and its title– does not allow for a clear 'preferred meaning' or for any easy decoding process to emerge automatically (3). Rachel Tanur's critical stance in general, and Alaska Dirt Road in particular, deserve an articulate and nuanced attention to their complexity. Alaska's complexity escapes any simple reading and resists clear-cut interpretations from whatever standpoints. In fact Tanur forged that image –and the critical visuality within it –clearly relying, and emphasising, the openness and indetermination of the picture's meaning, the author gaze, and the visuality embedded in the referent as such. From this point of view, just like An Italian Dirty Cell it risks to be exploited during media circulation (as well as by this particular academic interpretation). This image immediately affected me when I first saw it; it seems suspended in time and geography . It deeply engaged me with my own experiences, memories and emotions both as a spectator, and prison ethnographer who always have to decide where to stand, what to show and what to hide when writing verbal or visual notes. Those mountains in the backgrounds of the picture might well be the Alps or the Himalaya; the title tells us that those mountains are in Alaska; yet, Tanur' gaze made Alaska familiar to me.. The foreground, then, is at least as 'open' as the background to many different symbolic interpretations. Possibly, those living nearby that 'dirty road' –knowing both the place and Rachel Tanur's visual interpretation of it –might articulate that image's meaning differently introducing political issues as well as local anecdotes and personal memories. In conclusion, Rachel Tanur's photographic production in general, and Alaska Dirt Road in particular, ought to be now interpreted as an invitation to social scientists to start using, observing and producing visual images (5); not only can images be used as nice illustrations, but, more importantly, they can also, just like Rachel Tanur's ones, become complex vectors of meanings, subjectivities, and participants' voices; even when participants are made invisible. It is worth following her lessons. 1. Urry, J. (2002) (second edition) The Tourist Gaze, London: Sage. 2. Jenkins, W. (1975) (Catalogue) New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape. Rochester, NY: International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. 3. Sturken, M. and L. Cartwright (2009) Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 4. Hall, S. (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, London: Sage. 5. Rose G (2014) 'On the relation between “visual research methods” and contemporary visual culture', in The Sociological Review 62(1): 24–46.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalans Boarding Bus

Rachel Tanur's photograph illustrates a social relationship that is very different from the deliberate distancing practiced by the young, male Silicon Valley workers I captured waiting for a Facebook bus. Absent are the hallmarks of mass transit in the U.S—reading material, sunglasses, or expensive data devices used to buffer the rider from others. In Tanur’s image, the people at the bus stop are engaged with their surroundings and their neighbors—there are conversations taking place, and snacks and goods for sale. The waiting passengers stand closely grouped, the colorful patterns of their clothes overlapping. The bus to Sololá behind them is equally bright—with red and yellow paint and a multicolored destination placard—and pops out against the bright blue of the food stand in the background. The accumulation of details in Tanur’s composition produces a significantly different effect from the setting of my photograph: regardless of whether these people are traveling to work, to see family, or to conduct business, their transit space seems lively and inclusive. The techies, waiting for a bus that will carry only those with the right employment credentials and social capital, are walled off from each other and utterly disengaged from their environments. In the view of Henri Lefebvre, spatial relations are produced by and reflective of social relations (1). This observation applies not only to cities or regions, but also to the systems and technologies that connect them, such as public transport. This dynamic is manifest in the very different experiences produced by the spaces of transit in the hyper wealthy SF Bay Area and impoverished rural Guatemala. It is a marked irony of the tension over the exclusive “Google Buses” that in most of the world, buses are a cheap, populist mode of transit. Even in the U.S., municipal buses are the most common form of state-supported transit due to their relative lack of costly infrastructure; increasing numbers of low-cost, private buses now travel the interstates as an alternative to expensive air travel, and the ailing Amtrak system. But, of course, the car is the preferred mode of transportation in the U.S., and is heavily linked with notions of citizenship (the driver’s license is the default form of ID), wealth and class status, and autonomy. For Americans, discomfort with public transit is due in part to the fact that few use it as their primary or only mode of transportation; in 2010 there were 797 vehicles per 1,000 U.S citizens. By contrast, in Guatemala, there are only 68 (2). Most of the 68 vehicles per 1,000 Guatemalans are buses. To cope with extreme poverty, income inequality, lack of social and geographic mobility, and widespread failure of public train and bus services, Guatemala has developed an expansive network of cheap, private buses that serve almost every community in the country. The majority of these are repurposed school buses from elsewhere in the Americas, repainted with eye-popping colors like those on the bus to Sololá, and with even more spectacular, mural-like decorations shown in other images from Tanur’s travels. The buses are crowded and not particularly comfortable, but they are democratic in this. The experience of travel by bus produces a communal space that begins in the social scenes of their many stopping locations, flows into the buses’ cramped confines, and then feeds back into the communities they connect. Given that others of Tanur’s photos were taken at Lake Atitlán, near Sololá, I imagine these images were taken while she herself was traveling the country by bus, making her images both an outside and an inside view of this important aspect of Guatemalan social life. 1) Lefebvre, Henri, "State, Space," World, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 186. 2) The World Bank, “Motor vehicles (per 1,000 people),” http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IS.VEH.NVEH.P3 (accessed 17 Feb. 2014).

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Newsstand

A Chinese man selling newspapers and journals from a mobile cart. This touching scene captures a moment and a method of the dissemination of information that has become ever rarer in today’s China. This man puts a series of recent newspapers and journals on his mobile cart, and customers can browse freely and leisurely. The man in this photo probably did not worry much about theft; he knew many of his morning and afternoon clients. He never expected to get rich through this profession. He probably just wanted to get by and pay some basic bills. Most importantly, as customers skimmed over the day’s news, this man could give a word or two of commentary or recommendation – a kind of insider’s view from the streets – from the perspective of a person whose job it is to sell the news. In this photograph, we are treated to a moment when, maybe due to a lack of customer or simply a mid-day rest, he shuffles through his own papers to look for a headline which catches his eye. Yet he is not bored, not does he dislike the job: this vendor has agency and power more than his humble cart might imply. The practice of selling newspapers in this fashion became common in Hong Kong during the first half of the twentieth century and gradually spread to the mainland in subsequent decades. These carts have almost completely been replaced by much more daunting and less inviting stands in twenty-first century China. At the time this photo was taken, this vehicle of information (the news cart) was mobile. In the image, two rocks have to be placed on either side of the wheel to prevent the cart from moving. At the end of the day, he would take his cart back home. The place on the street where his cart stood that day would be empty by night’s fall. This beautiful photograph captures a system of distribution of knowledge and allows viewers to see it on par – as important – as the information itself. We get a living example of what Manuel Castells has defined in his trilogy, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture as “production, power, and experience” (2000), localized social dynamics produced through and invariably linked to the economy, state, and social order. This is experience: the image informs by documenting a way of knowing that informed the self and societal narratives of a generation. In this image, we see China as a media-saturated society and as a developing information society (Giddens: 1991), but one which has still retained a personable experience of information consumption. In this pre-internet world, customers might need advice on which news or magazines to consume as they head to work. The man in this photo was that middleman, whose functions are no longer necessary with the increasing saturation of the information society we see in embryo here. At last, there is a feeling of dismay that perhaps the decline of persons like this has left the distribution and commentary of media information to invisible and powerful actors.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

The photograph “Guatemalan Weaving” evokes an earlier, almost romantic, era of weaving and work – one which pre-dates that typically associated with the production of textiles: the cacophony of the industrial age with its clattering looms, cast-iron flywheels, and nimble fingers of artisans tying and retying broken threads among the thousands draped across the machinery. As the textile industry now fades from the American industrial scene with much of the nation’s nondurable manufacturing base – and those work sites that remain being computerized spaces with power looms of air and water jets moving shuttles back and forth based on electronic design inputs – the legacy of this form of work and expression becomes increasingly invisible to us. “Guatemalan Weaving” confronts our modern understandings of manufacturing with a weaver using a simple backstrap loom (typically tied to a tree and wrapped around the individual for stability) with lee sticks (used to separate layers of fabric to keep patterns discernable during production) – a traditional form of craft production with designs usually passed from one generation to the next. Far from the more perfect textiles computerized looms produce today (which must meet a variety of industry codes and price-points to remain competitive), the patterns of cloth woven on a backstrap loom can be understood as representing the values and practices of everyday life within a community – with any “technical” mistakes a sign of authenticity in the work process and the worker’s own individual charm. Just over the gentle sound of weft threads being passed with a wooden shuttle, “Guatemalan Weaving” whispers to us the meaning work can have in the life of an individual and community through the sheer beauty and power of weaving textiles.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

The role of colors in culture is rather specific. On the one hand, people do not think much about colors in their everyday life. On the other hand, they pay great attention to them when choosing such goods as clothes and home furnishings. When a stranger visits an alien culture s/he understands that his/her color perception is rather different from the perception of those native to the culture. Natives pay attention to some colors and ignore others. Color perception becomes a part of tradition. These photos depict the variety of colors used by Guatemalans. Putting these photos together we can notice that sets of colors used in decorating clothes, buses, and buildings are rather similar, with the palettes of colors being extremely varied.. There are enormous gradations of red, blue, yellow on the clothes, the buildings, and to a lesser extent, the buses. These photos illustrate a link between traditional culture and globalization of cultures. We can see people in traditional clothes, but a similar color spectrum decorates the buses. Although vehicles are artifacts of modern civilization, the traditions of the Guatemalans transform them and they are assimilated in the structure of traditions. Buses decorated in this way, far from arousing discomfort in traditional people, become a part of their national culture thanks to this transformation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Weaving

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Plowing

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Plowing

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Guard

Social life always requires some degree of participation. Nevertheless, the extent to which people are engaged into it can differ very noticeably: from genuine actors to barely observers, so to speak – outsiders. City street, which is undoubtedly an excellent scene for sociological observations, as being a very primary space where one becomes ‘publicly exposed’, also reflects this division. The photograph in question is worth analysing in two ways: what it is visible and what it lacks – what is somehow represented by its absence. The man supposed to be a Chinese guard is an observer. He is not interacting with others nor participating in any active action. This is his role and specific responsibility (materialized by the building in the photograph’s background) which inclines him to behave in such a way – determining to adapt a rather passive demeanour. However, his presence is in one sense directed towards others – he is observing surroundings and accurately registering street’s life, which goes its own way. In the focus of the man’s attention there is the ‘lacking part’ of the photography, which consists of people’s casual everyday life: driving cars, hurrying to job, chatting with friends, walking with a dog, selling things on stalls along streets, etc. In other words, even if the man is a valuable source of information about people’s behaviours and actions, his position may exclude him from ‘real’ social life. What about further situations in which someone occurs to be an outsider? Not only can the social role determine it, but also other factors need to be mentioned. For example, it is quite common in Poland to see elderly people sitting in windows (in cities) or on benches in front of their houses (regarding villages). In this case such a behaviour is to some extent a matter of choice, yet taken mostly under pressure of age and specific sense of exclusion from ‘modern life’. Of course, reasons can differ across societies – and specific observations can say a lot about their potential problems. What was mentioned as a popular phenomenon in Poland, might not appear in other cases. North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, where I was personally very impressed by the idea of social meetings of elderly people, can stand as an example. Such initiatives, through preventing potential social exclusion of these people, cause the abovementioned situation of ‘window-’ or ‘bench-observers’ much more unlikely to observe. City streets are indeed objects of observations – and this very fact as such has a great social significance. It can shape not only directly related behaviours but also some more or less general attitudes towards life and society. Moreover, it can provide a valuable material for analysis attempting to discover who may belong to actors, really involved into social life, and who may belong to passive observers, outsiders – as well as trying to answer the question about determinants of this eventual division.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Scene

The presence of a huge number of peasant workers in Chinese cities is a new and significant phenomenon following the economic reform in China 1978. The large-scale of rural-urban migration has first of all brought about a flourishing of the urban economy, mostly under public ownership. The small traders were the first ones coming to the cities and they were able to provide the urban residents with convenient supply of fresh produce at free markets. Then there came to the cities people in almost all trades: house-keepers, small artisans, cooks and helpers, construction workers, contract workers, to name a few. Peasant workers were under a free labor market, a sharp contrast to the largely state-controlled labor system at the time, featuring lifetime employment and a low level of efficiency. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Scene

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing.

Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. 

Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Scene

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time.

Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? 

These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded.
Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Scene

The men and women in these few photos represent a newly emerging social class in China: the rural-urban migrant workers. 

From1958 to 1978 the Chinese government prohibited farmers from leaving their countryside residences, and forced farmers to deliver their agricultural produce to the government at low prices so that the government could use income from the price differences between the industrial and agricultural products for industrialization, and to provide decent social welfare for the urban residents. As a result, a rural- urban dual society emerged. 

The most recent economic reform, which started in the 1980s, has gradually broken the rural-urban boundary. Rural residents have been allowed to find jobs in cities. However, in order to protect urban workers many local urban governments still have restrictions on what jobs the migrant works can take. In addition, because migrant workers often have relatively low education and few skills, they have usually landed in construction industry, service sectors or factories, doing dirty, manual and low income jobs. They often face such problems as not being paid on time, extended working hours, poor living conditions, lack of health insurance, and separation from their children. 

There are about 120 - 140 millions rural-urban migrant workers in China as of 2005. 




Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Street Scene

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boatman

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing.

Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. 

Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boatman

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time.

Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? 

These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded.
Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boatman

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boatman

Africa is a continent with a tremendous wealth of resources – timber, oil, and minerals. According to Scott Pegg (“Poverty Reducton or Poverty Exacerbation,” Department of Political Science, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, April 2003, p.8, http://www.foe.org/res/pubs/pdf/pegg.pdf), Africa is a victim of the “resource curse.” Natural resource extraction has not alleviated poverty but rather has fueled its continuance and also exacted severe environmental and social costs in this region. Corruption, authoritarianism, civil war, and government ineffectiveness have also compounded the difficulty of promoting economic growth in the resource rich countries of Africa. Pegg asserts that resource- rich countries suffer from poor economic growth more than resource-poor countries. “Between 1987 and 1998, poverty in the region increased by 30 percent. As a result, Africa is now the region with the largest share of people living on less than $1.00 per day” (page 2). Pegg cites a World Bank study that affirmed the negative effects of resource dependence on growth rates. “According to the World Bank’s study while the sub-Saharan countries contracted by 0.8% throughout the 1990’s, mining countries in the region did even worse, contracting by 1 percent per year, or 25 percent more than the region as a whole. Perhaps nowhere in the world has resource-led development more spectacularly failed to catalyze economic growth than in Nigeria, where per capita income remains at less than $1 a day, despite the fact that $300 billion in oil rents have been generated over the past 25 years” (pages 8-9).

Land degradation and population displacement have also been negative side effects of globalization. Natural resource depletion takes the form of air, water, and land pollution. According to Jekwu Ikeme, western industries incur heavy taxes for degrading the environment. These costs are then factored into the products that they export. Not so in Africa. “For instance, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that the average unit export price of wood products appears to be about 20% less in developing countries than in developed countries. The implication of this is that earnings from these natural asset-degrading productions are often below costs and even if adequate re-investment were to be made, economic loss remains the net result” (“Africa and Global Competitiveness: The Neglected Perspective,” p.6, http://www.africaeconomicanalysis.org) 

Ikeme further argues that multi-nationals continue to transfer their production end of their businesses to Africa because it costs less than doing business in the highly regulated and taxed countries of the developed nations. “The emissions from such industries pollute the waters of the poor nations causing; loss of livelihood for fisherman and farmers; ill health for the general populace decreasing life expectancy of the citizens of such poor nations and consequently entailing extra health costs for the poor nations. These health and economic costs are not recognized in the prices of export goods manufactured from such pollution-intensive activities. Conversely, in developed nations, such externalities are captured through adequate taxes and the proceeds used for (i) funding free health care, (ii) research and development in industry-related technologies (iii)compensation of victims of economic related pollution, etc.” (page 7). Thus African nations import value- added products from the developed world at relatively environmental cost-embodied prices and sell off their own products at a price less than the true cost.” 

Although globalization has contributed to the world’s progress through knowledge, trade, science, technology, and other cultural influences, it needs reform, especially in places like Africa. To counter the negative effects, Africa also needs to empower itself for the sake of its society. Africa must recognize and develop strategies that harness the potential gains of globalization for its people, and at the same time protect the environment on which its population so clearly depends. Without this reform, poverty and all its associated ills will continue making it very difficult for Africa to compete in the global arena and to shape its own future. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man in Boat

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing.

Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. 

Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man in Boat




Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time.

Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? 

These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded.
Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man in Boat

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man in Boat

Africa is a continent with a tremendous wealth of resources – timber, oil, and minerals. According to Scott Pegg (“Poverty Reducton or Poverty Exacerbation,” Department of Political Science, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, April 2003, p.8, http://www.foe.org/res/pubs/pdf/pegg.pdf), Africa is a victim of the “resource curse.” Natural resource extraction has not alleviated poverty but rather has fueled its continuance and also exacted severe environmental and social costs in this region. Corruption, authoritarianism, civil war, and government ineffectiveness have also compounded the difficulty of promoting economic growth in the resource rich countries of Africa. Pegg asserts that resource- rich countries suffer from poor economic growth more than resource-poor countries. “Between 1987 and 1998, poverty in the region increased by 30 percent. As a result, Africa is now the region with the largest share of people living on less than $1.00 per day” (page 2). Pegg cites a World Bank study that affirmed the negative effects of resource dependence on growth rates. “According to the World Bank’s study while the sub-Saharan countries contracted by 0.8% throughout the 1990’s, mining countries in the region did even worse, contracting by 1 percent per year, or 25 percent more than the region as a whole. Perhaps nowhere in the world has resource-led development more spectacularly failed to catalyze economic growth than in Nigeria, where per capita income remains at less than $1 a day, despite the fact that $300 billion in oil rents have been generated over the past 25 years” (pages 8-9).

Land degradation and population displacement have also been negative side effects of globalization. Natural resource depletion takes the form of air, water, and land pollution. According to Jekwu Ikeme, western industries incur heavy taxes for degrading the environment. These costs are then factored into the products that they export. Not so in Africa. “For instance, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that the average unit export price of wood products appears to be about 20% less in developing countries than in developed countries. The implication of this is that earnings from these natural asset-degrading productions are often below costs and even if adequate re-investment were to be made, economic loss remains the net result” (“Africa and Global Competitiveness: The Neglected Perspective,” p.6, http://www.africaeconomicanalysis.org) 

Ikeme further argues that multi-nationals continue to transfer their production end of their businesses to Africa because it costs less than doing business in the highly regulated and taxed countries of the developed nations. “The emissions from such industries pollute the waters of the poor nations causing; loss of livelihood for fisherman and farmers; ill health for the general populace decreasing life expectancy of the citizens of such poor nations and consequently entailing extra health costs for the poor nations. These health and economic costs are not recognized in the prices of export goods manufactured from such pollution-intensive activities. Conversely, in developed nations, such externalities are captured through adequate taxes and the proceeds used for (i) funding free health care, (ii) research and development in industry-related technologies (iii)compensation of victims of economic related pollution, etc.” (page 7). Thus African nations import value- added products from the developed world at relatively environmental cost-embodied prices and sell off their own products at a price less than the true cost.” 

Although globalization has contributed to the world’s progress through knowledge, trade, science, technology, and other cultural influences, it needs reform, especially in places like Africa. To counter the negative effects, Africa also needs to empower itself for the sake of its society. Africa must recognize and develop strategies that harness the potential gains of globalization for its people, and at the same time protect the environment on which its population so clearly depends. Without this reform, poverty and all its associated ills will continue making it very difficult for Africa to compete in the global arena and to shape its own future.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalans Boarding Bus

Bus terminal is always full of sociological insights. The terminal of mass transportations, whether it is of bus, airplane, or train, is the point of exchange. It is not only where different buses (or cargos) meet, but it is also the intersection of people and their values. In this photograph, a gentleman in the rear is trying to sell a golden vase and a lady in the foreground colorfully woven clothes. Where there is a line of passengers, there is a vender. Customers are always sought regardless of time and space, and a market opens where there is a crowd of people. The informal economy is so prevalent in the “Third World” societies that it has gained recognition by tourists as well as by locals, making it the norm of daily transaction in these societies. Some people dislike the hassle of the vendors, but others enjoy the human interactions and enchanting bargaining that are long gone in many of the industrialized societies which are increasingly dominated by chain stores and online shopping. Thus, the informal economy serves people in different ways. For locals, it provides necessities to sustain their everyday lives, and for the insecure crowd of tourists from the “developed” countries, it provides the comfort and the thrill of human interactions. Further, in the foreground of the photograph, we notice that there are smiling faces of the passengers waiting to board the bus. Their smiles infer a friendly conversation. They could be the regulars sharing stories of everyday lives as a mother and wife as well as a laborer. These casual conversations allow people to find the common ground and reassure their sense of belonging to the community. How about the mass transportation that is not in this photograph? In other words, what is the image associated with the mass transportation in the “developed” countries? In a car-oriented society such as Phoenix (and a number of cities in the United States), the image attached to bus is relatively negative. It is far from the lively and colorful image depicted in this photograph. Rather, the bus terminal is often located in the area which is considered as “not a ‘nice’ neighborhood” if it is a long distance bus. The commuting bus is often equivalent to “inconvenience”, and as such, it is a powerful depiction of class divide. Furthermore, the rich interactions that emerge at the terminals as well as on the buses are often simplified by those who care less to hop on the bus. In densely populated cities like Tokyo, bus is a crucial transportation which supplements the rail, and yet as infamous as the commuting trains are, the rush hour buses are preferred to be avoided whenever possible. Considering the heavy traffic, relatively punctual and frequent schedule promises passengers the convenience, but rarely do we encounter smiles or even a hint of conversation. Instead, the buses are often filled with dull and tired faces that are seemingly dreading to start yet another long day of work. Bus, as a result, is a culturally distinct vehicle. The meaning attached to the mass transportation varies by societies. Therefore, the atmosphere of the bus terminals is socially and culturally embedded. It is the point of intersection where different values meet as well as the point where culturally specific values are expressed and emphasized. Mon, 06/30/2008 Winner 2008 User Commentary, First prize

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: French Bicycle Cart

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Railway

The power of this photograph rests in the irony it conveys. How ironic that it is the man-made technological advancement, the railroad, which leads the eye to one of nature’s finest masterpieces, the mountains. Since antiquity, people have been concerned with the impact of technology on both the social and natural world. Thus, by photographing the trail of the train tracks into the mountains it begs the audience to ask themselves, “Where does technology lead our society—closer to nature or further away?”; ” What impact will technology have on nature, our relationship with the natural environment, and human interaction?" It is these types of questions that led to the birth of the Social Sciences, which is rooted in an interest of the relationship between technological advancements and human relations. The most notable social scientists of the 18th and 19th century, Karl Marx, Emile Durkhiem, and Max Weber, were writing as witnesses of the shift from agricultural industry to industrialized factory based industry. They noted this shift in the mode of production was instrumental to the rise in capitalism, which these three theorists feared would negatively impact the organization and behavior of society. Such broad concerns are highlighted in this photograph, but more so this image draws attention to a specific 19th century technological advancement, the railroad and its impact on society. The railroad is regarded as one of the most significant instrument to the progress of our society. It helped pave the way for the social and economic possibilities and opportunities that exist in our modern society. Given this, the railroad is a symbol of both progress and democracy. Rail roads made it possible for fast and efficient transportation across great distances, conjoining distant towns to modern cities. This provided the chance for those who were at a geographic disadvantage the possibilities to advance both their economic and cultural capital. Many people, regardless of their socioeconomic status, could afford the price of a train ticket. Because of this, the railroad was seen as a technology that would further advance democracy.[1] Looking critically at the history of the railroad, one can see this technology was riddled with false promises of progress and democracy. The railroads became a site for extreme exploitation among workers, thus only benefiting the few wealthy initial investors of this innovation. Furthermore, this technology has left a permanent carbon footprint on our environment, which is a problem we continue to face when finding solutions to the current global climate crisis. Even though the railroad may not have kept it’s original promises, one can not deny the fact that the railroads truly altered the way in which society functioned politically, economically, culturally and socially. The railroad had the ability to transform the understanding of time and space from limitations to possibilities. Thus, allowing people to travel to new lands and utilize resources. As Marx, Weber and Durkhiem feared, this technology provided early capitalists the opportunity for further exploitation of natural resources and human labor. In addition, the railroad offered society a technologically-mediated experience with nature that continues to shape how individuals experience both the social and natural world. In conclusion, the railroad was one of the first baby steps towards a technology-based, globalized society. The railroad radically shifted society’s ideological framework by reconstructing prior limitations of time and space, which allowed for various social groups to circulate ideas, commerce, language, and culture despite geographic location. Society continues to manage the implications of this ideology as well as the real consequences of technology, both positive and negative, this has on all individuals and the land they inhabit. The invention of the railroad highlights how technological advancements exploit human labor and the ways in which these advancements impact the global climate. References: [1] Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. The Railway Journey: the Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, 1987.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boys with Bikes

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Boys with Bikes

With the centrality of the automobile to everyday American life, it is easy to forget how peripheral - even insignificant - cars are to the majority of people on Earth. While in America there is nearly one car for every two people, in sub-Saharan Africa, there is slightly more than one car for every one hundred people (Development Data Group, The World Bank. WorldDevelopment Indicators Online. Accessed January 2006. Available online at http://publications.worldbank.org/ecommerce/catalog/product?item_id=631625 Washington, D.C.: The World Bank). For most of the world, bicycles fill the central transportation mode that cars fill for America – there are 1.4 billion bicycles worldwide compared to 340 million automobiles. (Benjiman, Ed. Earth Day action: Ride an electric bike! Available online: http://www.nationalguild.com/earthart.html Sebastapol, CA: PRNewswire.). These photos capture both the utilitarian role bicycles play in many people's lives but also seem to depict the more personal relationship between bicycle and owner. These photos suggest a connection between bicycler and bicyclist. When the cyclist is present, as he is in Cuba Boy with Bike and game, it is easy to imagine a bond much like that many Americans develop with their cars as the car/bicycle acts as symbol representing its owner’s values and status. Martin Barron NORC, University of Chicago The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Paris Clocks 02

In contemplating contemporary globalization the main emphasis should not be placed on looking at the separate "trajectories" of social changes in a particular sphere, but at the interaction between these changes, their interweaving and reciprocity. The younger generations have accepted this trend of universal changes. Young people live in short time spans ("projects"), without setting themselves long-term goals. An individual evolves as he or she transfers from one "life project" to another. Each "project" (education, a new job, a personal relationship, and so on) blots out the memories of a past "project" in the perception of a young person. Each time, he or she begins everything anew. A significant number of young people are inclined to forget the past and have no wish to stir it up. The retrospective depth of their historical thinking has become greatly reduced. Even the Post WWII era is to a certain extent terra incognita for them. In this context, the new god for young people is not the stability of historical retrospective, not the link between centuries and generations, but a state of constant change. What seems like torment for the older generations is another modus vivendi for the young. Most young people simply cannot imagine how it is possible to make long-term plans, think about tomorrow, maintain relations with people, and be concerned about one's own authority. For them everything is very transient, momentary, and superficial. But this does not mean a decline in morals, rather it is the new reality of globalization. It is bringing with it a new perception of social time, broken down into short “projects" and demands from a person, primarily a young one, maximum mobilization of current resources and then the rapid transfer to a new project. The world is never likely to return to the old perception of social time. The older generations will have to accept the new concept of time and find their niche in it, without necessarily imitating the youth culture and its style, but by establishing relations with this culture. This constitutes the high art of being beneficial to the younger generation. And this art is a means for maintaining the longevity of the older generations. Any departure into blind defense or alienation is fraught if not with physical, at least, with social and psychological self-destruction.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancers 02

Argentine people like to say that the country is all about tango and fútbol. And while soccer has remained at the top of national passions, it is only during the last two decades that Argentines (and foreigners, for that matter) have fallen back in love with tango. Milongas (as the places in which tango is danced are known) are now everywhere in the city, attracting increasingly younger generations of porteños (as the residents of the city of Buenos Aires are known). Nationals and foreigners are seduced by the passion and, at the same time, the melancholia expressed in tango – both in its lyrics and music and, as these pictures wonderfully capture, in the movements of the bodies. Tango is music; tango is dance; tango is also something else, Argentines like to believe. That “something else,” the soul of tango, is beautifully portrayed in the light that falls into these two dancers’ (or is it lovers’?) performance.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancers 02

Tango is a dance, a conversation. It’s not exact, it’s spontaneous and it doesn’t follow a set pattern. It’s difficult to pin down because it’s difficult to say where it will go. Tango in essence is a dialogue. *** Sophie: There’s quite an intensity in the photograph isn’t there? Makes me almost feel that I’m intruding. The intimacy between the dancers gives tango its quality, but there’s a performative dimension too. Is this a contradiction? Is the intimacy lost when there is a consciousness of performance for others? Abby: Tango is so much an internal dialogue, a conversation had between two people in the intimate space of El Abrazo (The Embrace). When we start to look at it from the outside it turns into something else. There's a way in which tango, with this intense focus on the relationship between the couple, draws in the audience. I think when we watch something so intensely personal it’s almost slightly voyeuristic but still beautiful. Sophie: And yet somewhere in the story of tango this intimacy gives way to performance or rather the performative function of representation and symbolism. Is this where authenticity is lost? When the dance becomes a representation of itself? But it's more complicated isn't it? Intimacy and performance mingle inherently in tango, so is authenticity in the emotional sincerity that compels us to dance, and stills others into watching? As an observer to this photographed moment it also makes me consider how tango is viewed from outside. Tango is such a strong symbol but what does it represent? Abby: Yes, we now associate very much this ‘brand’ of passion, seduction, intrigue, sensuality with Argentine Tango. Over time, maybe through representations in popular culture and cinema, this is how we view the Tango. Sophie: And who or where does this representation of tango belong? Abby: Ah, such a moot subject! You could say that the tango 'belongs' or 'belonged' to Paris, London etc. as it went on such a journey and was then re-branded or reclaimed as Argentinian. Sophie: The history and culture of tango is quite a contested issue, isn’t it? Buenos Aires claims this brand, but what about the rest of Argentina? What about the immigrants from Europe and the neighbouring countries' influences, didn't Uruguay recently petition UNESCO for joint cultural heritage? Abby: Yes, the claims over authenticity are harder to resolve. All dance steps are in principle 'borrowed' from other cultures, other races, usually stemming from the African continents - the word 'tango' itself is African. Sophie: What about the people who danced tango? The photograph shows them in traditional tango dress; men in suits, those dapper shoes and the women.... Abby: I guess tango has always been a dance of the people, and it has been said that originally it was danced by and for prostitutes. The poor tangueros, who would be honing their dance skills to be close to a lady for three minutes in their loneliness living in the slums! While the origins can be disputed there’s no doubt that during tango's evolution, at various points it has been ‘sanitized’, Europeanised. For example, Vernon and Irene Castle, American dance teachers in the 1920/30, were responsible for ‘cleaning up' (for cleaning read ‘whitening’) the tango and making it a respectable dance for young women, rather than the ‘dangerous’ activity that rendered it scandalous and erotic. Sophie: Yes, so as to make it a legitimate dance for the elites. But tango originated at the borders of society, in the brothels by the ports. They danced for themselves, with others also pushed to the margins of society; prostitutes and foreigners. Tango lyrics sing of grief and hardship yet tango is now Argentine 'haut couture'. The dancers in the photograph are dark haired and dark skinned and even today in Argentina the indigenous peoples are still discriminated against compared with Argentines of white skin and European blood. In the picture they are dancing on the street where it started and at its height it was a resistance dance against the state wasn't it? Abby: Marta E. Savigliano in Tango and the Political Economy of Passion writes: "Tango is a practice already ready for struggle. It knows about taking sides, positions, risks. It has the experience of domination/resistance from within. Tango, stretching the colonized stereotypes of the latino-macho-Catholic fatalism, is a language of decolonization. So, pick and choose. Improvise. Hide away. Run after them. Stay still. Move at an astonishing speed. Shut up. Scream a rumor. Turn around. Go back without returning. Upside down. Let your feet do the thinking. Be comfortable in your restlessness. Tango." Sophie: Tango began as a dance of seduction and resistance by those on the margins of society driven by a need to escape from the mundanity of life, to fulfil a craving for contact and intimacy. A breath in synchronicity, receptive to another person, all guards down. This I think gives tango emotional authenticity if nothing else. But when something is claimed, it stops, crystallized. Like a photograph it is only an image of itself; a representation or symbol reduced and reproduced into a single narrative. Tango needs at least two. [In conversation with Abby Hoffmann]

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Tango Sign

Argentine people like to say that the country is all about tango and fútbol. And while soccer has remained at the top of national passions, it is only during the last two decades that Argentines (and foreigners, for that matter) have fallen back in love with tango. Milongas (as the places in which tango is danced are known) are now everywhere in the city, attracting increasingly younger generations of porteños (as the residents of the city of Buenos Aires are known). Nationals and foreigners are seduced by the passion and, at the same time, the melancholia expressed in tango – both in its lyrics and music and, as these pictures wonderfully capture, in the movements of the bodies. Tango is music; tango is dance; tango is also something else, Argentines like to believe. That “something else,” the soul of tango, is beautifully portrayed in the light that falls into these two dancers’ (or is it lovers’?) performance.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dancers

Argentine people like to say that the country is all about tango and fútbol. And while soccer has remained at the top of national passions, it is only during the last two decades that Argentines (and foreigners, for that matter) have fallen back in love with tango. Milongas (as the places in which tango is danced are known) are now everywhere in the city, attracting increasingly younger generations of porteños (as the residents of the city of Buenos Aires are known). Nationals and foreigners are seduced by the passion and, at the same time, the melancholia expressed in tango – both in its lyrics and music and, as these pictures wonderfully capture, in the movements of the bodies. Tango is music; tango is dance; tango is also something else, Argentines like to believe. That “something else,” the soul of tango, is beautifully portrayed in the light that falls into these two dancers’ (or is it lovers’?) performance.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Sculpture Girl Pair

The ‘Sculpture girl pair’ spoke to me immediately. The image of two bronzed female-bodied entities made me think of the potential and possibilities for the expression of different types of femininity and sexuality – a type of diversity where one’s identity and sexuality are ambiguous. In a society where gender and sexuality stereotypes remain deeply entrenched, and where assumptions and expectations of gender and sexuality performances are restrictive, having the opportunity to see a representation of gender and sexuality as fluid, flexible and ambiguous is both thought provoking and exciting. Based on this photograph alone, we are unable to contextualize this sculpture. We cannot tell whether or not this sculpture, with its pair of smiling faces, is located in an art museum; or housed on private property; or is actually an art gallery installment. I would like to think that Tanur captured this image out of a similar curiosity to mine where we both wondered and asked ourselves ‘who these women are and what they are doing.’ We can see gender and sexuality fluidity and ambiguity if we look at this sculpture as either representing same-sex female camaraderie or same-sex female sexuality. Each figure has an arm around her companion, their feet are touching, they are leaning in towards one another, and one is holding a heart in her hand. These signs could be interpreted as either bonds of friendship or of family (as between friends, sisters or between a mother and daughter) but could also be interpreted as signs of a romantic love. This ambiguity gives the sculpture its strength and value in terms of fighting gender and sexual inequalities that are a consequence of stereotypes and societal expectations of gender and sexual conformity. Also, we can see that they are ‘joined at the hip’ – a metaphorical phrase used to describe two individuals who are inseparable. In this photograph, their joining is literal, making these two females forever inseparable. This draws our attention to the importance of female friendship, whether platonic or romantic. The full-bodied figures also challenge contemporary representations of femininity as seen in the media and popular culture, which emphasize a commodified beauty, one that can supposedly be achieved through the disciplining of the body and the purchasing of ‘beauty’ products and procedures. These figures, however, question the commodification and hypersexualization of the female form, while simultaneously opening up the possibilities for a more diverse range of representation. What excites me most about this sculpture is that it dares to challenge the restrictive and compulsory female heterosexuality most often held up as the ideal. Given that my approach to this sculpture has been to focus on its representation of gender and sexuality, I was at first perturbed by the name given to this piece - ‘Sculpture girl pair’. I wondered why the term ‘girl’ had been used here given the adult or ‘womanly’ figures. But then I thought that the term ‘girl’ could also point to the whimsical nature of the figures’ poses while highlighting the playfulness of their postures’, allowing us to reminisce about a less complicated time in our life. Their facial features are very simple, reminding us of a child’s drawing and again a playfulness; but also pointing to gender ambiguity because we cannot categorize or label these figures according to gender simply based on their facial features. The uncertainty of the meaning of this relationship is important given the ongoing struggles for gender and sexual freedom and equality. Whether this public display of affection is interpreted as a friendship or romance, the female bond is strong and heartfelt. As a friendship, we see female strength and power. As a romance, we see a range of possibilities. In either case, both figures are smiling and this gives me hope.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Drag Queen 3

Within the city faintly recognized as New York in the background, sits a concentrated intersection of people of different identities – cultural, racial and even sexual. It is hard to miss the flamboyant character in the foreground and it is easy to guess why Tanur chose to focus her photograph on this individual. The fact that he dons a brilliant green dress is deceivingly obvious – the true phenomenon of gender socialization that lies beneath this single instance proves richer and more captivating to sociologists.

From a young age, girls are taught to play with dolls while boys with guns. This is usually in accordance to the way their parents were brought up, as well as their parents’ parents and so on. With most of us abiding by the social norms within the social structures we interact within, children are taught and thus differentially socialized to behave and acquire tastes only specific to their gender roles – as a man or woman. This assignment of gender roles is further solidified through a child’s social learning where he is punished or rewarded for specific behaviours. Having been brought up in this existing system, the child will eventually internalize these norms and further reinforce them through his own behaviour and subsequent rearing of his offspring. This social reproduction of reality will thus perpetuate through future generations.

This serves to explain why the surface of lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals was first frowned upon as deviance from a social norm. While alternative gender lifestyles have persisted through the ages, it was only in the previous century that communities formed and gained public interest. Once set apart something different and displeasing, behaviour straying from the typical heterosexual behaviour became labelled as ‘deviance’. Interestingly, it was the very act of labelling such behaviour as deviance that innervated its actors to proliferate such behaviour. According to labelling theory, actors labelled as deviant would eventually identify with the stigma and are subsequently driven to fulfil our expectations of them. Also, the labelling of individuals facilitates their association with others similarly labelled and this association encourages them to perpetuate their ‘deviance’, together. Indeed, the formal labelling of transvestism as deviance from gender norms and its subsequent perpetuation is best summed up by an excerpt from Feinbloom’s Transvestites and Transsexuals. In a letter, a transsexual comments:

“...inner conflict leaves little energy for interaction with others... it is easier to get some attention and satisfaction as a flamboyant and fascinating freak than to try and relate to other people as a full human person... On the other hand, our "normal" person, by favouring curiosity over repulsion, can easily accept our "abnormal" human being -- as a freak. It is a miniature social contract.”

When transsexuals can be accepted only as freaks or otherwise rejected as a normal person, it leaves them little choice. In fact, there are transsexual communities that even exploit society’s labelling as ‘freaks’. The hijras in India hinge upon the strange captivation they hold over society to earn their keep. They boldly demand money along the streets or at ceremonies and many oblige for fear of being mystically cursed by the hijra or even having him expose his genitals.

Where the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ were once synonymous, we find in today a growing separation between the two that sets them as distinct. West and Zimmerman drive this distinction home by defining sex as ‘a determination made through the application of socially agreed upon biological criteria’ while gender is defined as ‘the activity of managing situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for one’s sex category’ i.e. male or female. It is worth noting that even in this attempt to distinguish between the two, gender is still defined in terms of sex. Would this not then create an a priori notion necessitating that it is natural for gender and sexual identities to remain congruent, since the determinate nature of sex is embodied in the very definition of gender? Perhaps then it might help to further enhance the separation between the two, maintaining the close relation between them but yet still addressing them as two independently distinct concepts. Maybe only then can we remove ourselves from our current frames of mind and move beyond gawking in morbid fascination like the man in the background of this scene.

 References
 Feinbloom, D. (1977). Transvestites and transsexuals. Dell Publishing. 
Ravaging the vulnerable. (2003, August). Human Rights Watch, 15(6), 1 - 53.
West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1(2), 125 - 151.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Drag Queen 2

Since the time of it’s invention the camera has come to play a significant role in the development of social discourse. In addition to many other functions, photography has the ability to visually capture shifts in the social structure and society’s changing theories of the human subject. As can be seen with Rachel Tanur’s photograph of two drag queens in public, the camera can also document ways in which individuals challenge society’s notion of “normalness.” As a student of sociology I’ve come to be influenced by Susan Sontag’s sociological work with photojournalism, which has taught me to always incorporate critique into my visual analyses. In Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others (2004) – her final examination of society’s obsession with photographs – the author explores photography’s seemingly contradictory dual powers as both an art form and a method of historical documentation (76). Throughout her body of work, Rachel Tanur continually proves that photography does have this dual power; photography can allow the viewer to not only be captivated by visual aesthetics, but at the same time creates a portal through which one can witness change in society and throughout time. This “dual power” is what makes photography and visual documentation such an indispensable tool to sociological analysis. Tension and animosity between people in society has historically been based on racial and ethnic “otherness,” exemplified by skin color, hair texture and facial features. However, as society progresses, sexual and gender differences that manifest themselves visually have become central to the discourse on oppression and acceptance. On one hand it seems that society is becoming more accepting of “non-normative” sexual and gender expression. The fact that the photograph’s two subjects are in a public place during public hours is in a way representative of society’s increasing acceptance of queer and transgender identities. A politics of gender and sexuality has been growing for some time, and the past few decades, and the contribution of visual documentation, has really allowed the discourse to flourish. Rachel’s candid photograph of two drag queens crossing a public street reveals a way in which members of contemporary society challenge traditional constructions of sexual and gender identity. Although the subjects in the photo may have had no political motivations for cross-dressing in public, their outward expression is nonetheless powerful because it deviates from the man/woman binary that prevails in Western society, forcing us to rethink the way we construct identity. As alternative categorizations of sexual/gender identity continue to emerge in our progressive society, we are confronted with the task of redefining and reconceptualizing structural elements that guide social life. Everything from language (gendered pronouns) and law to marriage and procreation rights must be readdressed in our post-structural and post-modern world. Although we certainly have a long road ahead of us, Rachel Tanur shows us through her photograph that the doors to a public discourse on different sexual and gender identities are beginning to open. We must look at what we see in our everyday lives in order to fully engage in a discourse on society, and this photograph certainly aids in this practice. References: Sontag, Susan. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York, NY: Picador.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Miracles

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Miracles

Religion in the United States is a dynamic social phenomenon. It shapes American society and is shaped by it in return in ways that are unique and surprising; ways that defy simplistic generalizations. Yes, Americans are the most religious society in the Western world, but they do not accept religion passively. They reframe and reshape religious dogmas. There is a constant dialogue between religion and the contradictory demands of living in a secular, contemporary American society. The sign advertising “coffee, counseling, prayer and miracles” sums this up so well. It is a recognition of what so many contemporary Americans seem to need – a little physical, emotional and spiritual “pick-me-up” every day… And it is an example of how people come up with creative ways to try to meet such needs.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Miracles

The Wonderful Works sign in this photograph, most likely inspired by Psalm 107:14 in the New King James Bible (“His wonderful works”), offers prayer and miracles for free, but the expectation is a commercial exchange, not on the basis of Church requirements, but as a reflection of the evolving needs of those who seek to either supplement their traditional religious associations or receive the same benefits of a congregation without the institutional restrictions. Despite being one of the least religious states in the United States, Alaska (the location of Wonderful Works) features a majority Protestant population, and with no official religion, evangelicalism has taken on an important role in American society. Faced with the strain of competing against other denominations and religions, Protestants early on in American history applied concepts originating in commerce to their efforts of enticing members to their church. This has led to a proliferation of wealthy megachurches, which, due to the pressures of modernity, have had to carefully manage the changing interests of their congregations. The entrepreneurial spirit of evangelicals can be traced back at least as far as the Reformation churches of Luther and the emphasis he placed on serving the needs of local communities. Coupled with a resistance to institutional authority, this gave rise to a rebellious diversity that easily adapted to environments less accommodating to hierarchical arrangements. This entrepreneurial approach encouraged theological innovation, if not in interpretation of the Bible then in how to spread the gospel. Various strategies were employed to get the message out, from entertainment services featuring celebrities to targeting demographics according to their niche interests. The language of Christian service began to take on a more individualistic dimension, partly as an outgrowth of already liberal Reformed churches and partly as a reaction to the harsher forms of Calvinism which were less palatable to the growing Middle Class. The New Thought movement of the 19th century emerged in concert with an exploding publishing industry, and was able to reach audiences less interested in public rituals and worship despite its minority representation among Protestants. This coincided with the feminist movement, once again, likely as a response to harsh Calvinism, which placed significant restrictions on women. In response to these new demands, volumes of positive thinking books and magazines were published catering to both male and female needs and forever linking capitalism with religion in the United States.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Venice Market

Outdoor markets, however colorful and vibrant, always project some degree of humility, especially when contrasted with our idea of a supermarket or when they are set against the background of imposing architectural structures. And yet, the outdoor/street market scenes in Africa, China, Guatemala and Europe, become tools of capturing global inequalities. The presence (or absence) and the degree of rigidity of boundaries (between the products and the sellers; among the products, the sellers and the environment; between the sellers and the potential customers; or among the different groups of sellers and products) are important factors in each scene as they become cues of different levels of economic development.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Venice Market

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.”

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Venice Market

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Venice Market

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Market from Above

Much is written about the social construction of markets and their embeddedness in the local social structures of relations. There are several different Guatemalan markets depicted in which Guatemalan women (and their children) sell the products of their own labor. Because these are obviously local markets, they reveal the social structure of the local community in which women complete the entire circle of production and sale of small-scale agricultural products and tourist goods. These are women’s markets. Men do not participate in these tasks. It would be interesting to know if these markets are a recent phenomenon connected to men earning money away from home communities, or women were always solely responsible for tending small fields, domestic birds and small animals.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Market from Above

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.”

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Market from Above

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Market from Above

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Rachel was an expert in showing transitions and unlikely juxtapositions. In many of the pictures, what catches your eye is the unexpected combination of things, the fact that she populates her pictures with inherently unlikely pieces of a puzzle that invite you to put it together for yourself. Here is a young boy in Cuba, on the doorstep of a building, in what does not look like an affluent neighborhood (cobble stones and raw surfaces), his bicycle leaning against the wall, totally engrossed in some hand-held techno game. In the body posture, the way he holds the artifact, and the complete absorption, this is a familiar picture for all of us who have children in their lives. Only one doesn’t just necessarily expect it in that neighborhood, in Cuba, and at the end of the twentieth century. What this picture reminds us of is the extent to which globalization, through formal and informal channels, is covering our world with techno gadgets and the extent to which those gadgets are eagerly and often unexpectedly, incorporated in people’s lives. Here is another example: Recently we were hiking in the hills behind Chichicastenango, a famous Indian market town in Guatemala Rachel also photographed. On market days, the town is transformed with vendors coming from the countryside, putting up booths in every street, or just squatting on the side walks, especially around the plaza in front of the main church. A wonderful and interesting mixture of Indian and missionary practices carried out side by side. A bedlam of sights and sounds in a cloud of burning copal (incense) on the steps of the main church. When we had had enough of the market, we went for a little hike in the mountains around the town. We had heard that there was a stone idol somewhere up there, but were rather surprised when we actually happened upon it. Just as we prepared to get a closer look, a man and a woman arrived whom we took to be a couple. Wrong. Turned out he was a Mayan shaman there with his client, an Indian woman in the colorful traditional garb, and they were preparing a ceremony for whatever the woman’s problem was. We ended up standing there for two hours, watching them on their knees, praying with outstretched arms to Pascual Abaj, imploring him to help with whatever was the problem. We watched the shaman build an offering, a circle of sugar, filled with copal, then with dozens of candles of different colors, mostly white and orange, pointing to the center (though the black ones were turned upside down), 12 thick cigars of tobaco puro, two cakes of chocolate, candy, and some kind of liquor. At some point he set all of that aflame. As the shaman was pleading with the spirit in a loud voice, on his knees in front of the idol, with the woman standing behind him with outstretched arms holding bunches of candles – this really unbelievable thing happened: the woman’s cell phone rang. She picked it up. Talked animatedly for a minute or so (again in Quiche as all of their interaction had been), handed the phone to the shaman; he talked for another minute, hung up, and they went on imploring the idol without missing a beat. Globalization? Rachel would have loved it!

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

The role of colors in culture is rather specific. On the one hand, people do not think much about colors in their everyday life. On the other hand, they pay great attention to them when choosing such goods as clothes and home furnishings. When a stranger visits an alien culture s/he understands that his/her color perception is rather different from the perception of those native to the culture. Natives pay attention to some colors and ignore others. Color perception becomes a part of tradition. These photos depict the variety of colors used by Guatemalans. Putting these photos together we can notice that sets of colors used in decorating clothes, buses, and buildings are rather similar, with the palettes of colors being extremely varied.. There are enormous gradations of red, blue, yellow on the clothes, the buildings, and to a lesser extent, the buses. These photos illustrate a link between traditional culture and globalization of cultures. We can see people in traditional clothes, but a similar color spectrum decorates the buses. Although vehicles are artifacts of modern civilization, the traditions of the Guatemalans transform them and they are assimilated in the structure of traditions. Buses decorated in this way, far from arousing discomfort in traditional people, become a part of their national culture thanks to this transformation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Much is written about the social construction of markets and their embeddedness in the local social structures of relations. There are several different Guatemalan markets depicted in which Guatemalan women (and their children) sell the products of their own labor. Because these are obviously local markets, they reveal the social structure of the local community in which women complete the entire circle of production and sale of small-scale agricultural products and tourist goods. These are women’s markets. Men do not participate in these tasks. It would be interesting to know if these markets are a recent phenomenon connected to men earning money away from home communities, or women were always solely responsible for tending small fields, domestic birds and small animals.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Outdoor markets, however colorful and vibrant, always project some degree of humility, especially when contrasted with our idea of a supermarket or when they are set against the background of imposing architectural structures. And yet, the outdoor/street market scenes in Africa, China, Guatemala and Europe, become tools of capturing global inequalities. The presence (or absence) and the degree of rigidity of boundaries (between the products and the sellers; among the products, the sellers and the environment; between the sellers and the potential customers; or among the different groups of sellers and products) are important factors in each scene as they become cues of different levels of economic development.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.”

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Tourist Market

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

The presence of a huge number of peasant workers in Chinese cities is a new and significant phenomenon following the economic reform in China 1978. The large-scale of rural-urban migration has first of all brought about a flourishing of the urban economy, mostly under public ownership. The small traders were the first ones coming to the cities and they were able to provide the urban residents with convenient supply of fresh produce at free markets. Then there came to the cities people in almost all trades: house-keepers, small artisans, cooks and helpers, construction workers, contract workers, to name a few. Peasant workers were under a free labor market, a sharp contrast to the largely state-controlled labor system at the time, featuring lifetime employment and a low level of efficiency.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

As part of market reforms the Chinese government “decollectivized” agriculture, distributing use rights to land among village households. With a great deal more discretion over what they grow, peasants grow specialized crops for urban or semi-urban markets, often coordinating transportation to these markets.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

The men and women in these few photos represent a newly emerging social class in China: the rural-urban migrant workers. From1958 to 1978 the Chinese government prohibited farmers from leaving their countryside residences, and forced farmers to deliver their agricultural produce to the government at low prices so that the government could use income from the price differences between the industrial and agricultural products for industrialization, and to provide decent social welfare for the urban residents. As a result, a rural- urban dual society emerged. The most recent economic reform, which started in the 1980s, has gradually broken the rural-urban boundary. Rural residents have been allowed to find jobs in cities. However, in order to protect urban workers many local urban governments still have restrictions on what jobs the migrant works can take. In addition, because migrant workers often have relatively low education and few skills, they have usually landed in construction industry, service sectors or factories, doing dirty, manual and low income jobs. They often face such problems as not being paid on time, extended working hours, poor living conditions, lack of health insurance, and separation from their children. There are about 120 - 140 millions rural-urban migrant workers in China as of 2005.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

Outdoor markets, however colorful and vibrant, always project some degree of humility, especially when contrasted with our idea of a supermarket or when they are set against the background of imposing architectural structures. And yet, the outdoor/street market scenes in Africa, China, Guatemala and Europe, become tools of capturing global inequalities. The presence (or absence) and the degree of rigidity of boundaries (between the products and the sellers; among the products, the sellers and the environment; between the sellers and the potential customers; or among the different groups of sellers and products) are important factors in each scene as they become cues of different levels of economic development.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.”

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Men with Onions 01

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Food is a luxury. Having surplus to sell means you are not starving in a country where unemployment exceeds 50% in urban areas. Being able to buy or barter for food means you have the strength to do so in a country where as much as half of the adult population in some villages is HIV positive. Going to the market means you have survived the ever-present danger posed by malaria. And the market captures the beauty of African women, their laughter and strength in the face of obstacles. Their elegance as they walk home carrying food on their heads and babies on their backs. Their determination and hope for a better life despite government policies and practices that often contribute to impeding their progress.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Outdoor markets, however colorful and vibrant, always project some degree of humility, especially when contrasted with our idea of a supermarket or when they are set against the background of imposing architectural structures. And yet, the outdoor/street market scenes in Africa, China, Guatemala and Europe, become tools of capturing global inequalities. The presence (or absence) and the degree of rigidity of boundaries (between the products and the sellers; among the products, the sellers and the environment; between the sellers and the potential customers; or among the different groups of sellers and products) are important factors in each scene as they become cues of different levels of economic development.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.”

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Food Market

Africa is a continent with a tremendous wealth of resources – timber, oil, and minerals. According to Scott Pegg (“Poverty Reducton or Poverty Exacerbation,” Department of Political Science, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, April 2003, p.8, www.foe.org/res/pubs/pdf/pegg.pdf), Africa is a victim of the “resource curse.” Natural resource extraction has not alleviated poverty but rather has fueled its continuance and also exacted severe environmental and social costs in this region. Corruption, authoritarianism, civil war, and government ineffectiveness have also compounded the difficulty of promoting economic growth in the resource rich countries of Africa. Pegg asserts that resource- rich countries suffer from poor economic growth more than resource-poor countries. “Between 1987 and 1998, poverty in the region increased by 30 percent. As a result, Africa is now the region with the largest share of people living on less than $1.00 per day” (page 2). Pegg cites a World Bank study that affirmed the negative effects of resource dependence on growth rates. “According to the World Bank’s study while the sub-Saharan countries contracted by 0.8% throughout the 1990’s, mining countries in the region did even worse, contracting by 1 percent per year, or 25 percent more than the region as a whole. Perhaps nowhere in the world has resource-led development more spectacularly failed to catalyze economic growth than in Nigeria, where per capita income remains at less than $1 a day, despite the fact that $300 billion in oil rents have been generated over the past 25 years” (pages 8-9). Land degradation and population displacement have also been negative side effects of globalization. Natural resource depletion takes the form of air, water, and land pollution. According to Jekwu Ikeme, western industries incur heavy taxes for degrading the environment. These costs are then factored into the products that they export. Not so in Africa. “For instance, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that the average unit export price of wood products appears to be about 20% less in developing countries than in developed countries. The implication of this is that earnings from these natural asset-degrading productions are often below costs and even if adequate re-investment were to be made, economic loss remains the net result” (“Africa and Global Competitiveness: The Neglected Perspective,” p.6, www.africaeconomicanalysis.org) Ikeme further argues that multi-nationals continue to transfer their production end of their businesses to Africa because it costs less than doing business in the highly regulated and taxed countries of the developed nations. “The emissions from such industries pollute the waters of the poor nations causing; loss of livelihood for fisherman and farmers; ill health for the general populace decreasing life expectancy of the citizens of such poor nations and consequently entailing extra health costs for the poor nations. These health and economic costs are not recognized in the prices of export goods manufactured from such pollution-intensive activities. Conversely, in developed nations, such externalities are captured through adequate taxes and the proceeds used for (i) funding free health care, (ii) research and development in industry-related technologies (iii)compensation of victims of economic related pollution, etc.” (page 7). Thus African nations import value- added products from the developed world at relatively environmental cost-embodied prices and sell off their own products at a price less than the true cost.” Although globalization has contributed to the world’s progress through knowledge, trade, science, technology, and other cultural influences, it needs reform, especially in places like Africa. To counter the negative effects, Africa also needs to empower itself for the sake of its society. Africa must recognize and develop strategies that harness the potential gains of globalization for its people, and at the same time protect the environment on which its population so clearly depends. Without this reform, poverty and all its associated ills will continue making it very difficult for Africa to compete in the global arena and to shape its own future.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Arch

Rachel’s Guatemalan Arch powerfully evokes the arch as an architectural symbol of conquest. This massive, brooding archway in Guatemala hearkens to the monumental arches of ancient Rome that celebrate the triumphs of Roman emperors, such as, Severus Septimus, Augustus and Constantine. The Guatemalan Arch leads into an imposing Roman Catholic Church – legacy of Spanish conquest. Christian churches in Guatemala rose on the dust of the Mayan civilization that flourished during the first millennium A.D. The Catholic Church has supported human rights campaigns in Guatemala during the past two decades. However, over the 300 years of Spanish colonialism, churches in Guatemala, as in other Spanish colonies, helped to consolidate Spanish rule. Today, Mestizo (Amerindian and European mixed) populations and Europeans comprise 59.4% of Guatemala’s population (2001 Census) and 60% of Guatemalans are primarily Spanish speakers. It is estimated, that about 50-60% of Guatemalans are Roman Catholics. Land seized from indigenous Mayan and other tribes by the Spanish were often turned into coffee, banana and sugar plantations. The encomienda system established by the Spanish forced the Maya and other indigenous people to work on these plantations. Today, Guatemala’s poverty is partly rooted in an economy that continues to lean heavily on the export of coffee, banana and sugar. Independence from foreign rule in 1822 brought little relief to Guatemala’s poverty-stricken indigenous peoples, since wealth and political power was concentrated in the hands of elites, mostly of Spanish descent. In the 1940s and 1950s, the United Fruit Company – a powerful American company in Guatemala – and the United States Government too, conspired successfully with large landowners and the Guatemalan military to suppress reforms for strengthening workers’ rights and distributing land to the poor. In the 1960s, guerilla movements supported by large numbers of students and peasants rose against Guatemala’s military government. The bitter civil war that ensued killed around 200,000 Guatemalans and created over a million refugees. It is estimated that 80% of the victims of murder, torture and the Guatemalan government’s “scorched earth” policies were indigenous people. In 1996, a peace agreement was signed between President Álvaro Arzú and the guerrillas. This peace agreement acknowledged that Guatemala’s indigenous peoples had been exploited and discriminated against. It was agreed that human rights violations would be investigated and reforms initiated to achieve greater equality in the future. The peace agreement stopped the civil war, but Guatemala continues to face huge challenges in implementing these reforms successfully.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Arch

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function. Suzanne Salzinger Child and Adolescent Psychiatry New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Fan Ladies

Hiding, bored, or hot? The eye is drawn first to color, second to composition, and only third to wonder about the subjects. But what are they thinking, feeling, expecting? Three women sit, dressed in bright finery. Two hide their faces behind fans. The third, sitting next to a basket of fresh flowers looks away and puts her fan between herself and the other two. It’s an accidental gesture, perhaps, but there is more distance. On closer inspection, the central figure is blond and relatively pale. On her right is a woman dark-haired but relatively light skinned. On her left, looking bored or a little anxious, is a Black woman. The Black wears bigger jewelry and a bright red wrap in a bow on her head. She has no wedding ring, as the other women do. And on such seeming details much turns. Are the white women visitors, only for the moment making a matched set with the Black in the seemingly self-evident unity of the picture? Are the flowers for sale or just bought? Is there an element of play for some where there is work for others? Or have the appearances I have sought to decipher deceived me? Travel and comparative research alike offer us the chance to project our interpretations onto others they may not fit, but also the chance to break with the illusion that the meanings of the world are obvious. These chances are not options for everyone. Sometimes the world intrudes, sometimes it is sought out. Sometimes interpretation is neither the traveler’s play nor the researcher’s work but the necessity of someone who lives by sizing up customers to make small sales, or women who must determine whether men are to be greeted with fear or flirtation (or boredom). Only the woman I guess to be poorer and local puts her bare foot or her face plainly into view. But she is not entirely revealed.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Blue Street

For me, these pictures of dwellings in different cultures are a reflection of the differences in income and standard of living of peoples across the world. Each house represents a summary of life in that part of the world. I remember being shown around a one room house for many people, in a village in Zimbabwe. The “Cuban Blue Street” took me back to the poverty I saw in Cuba, Central America, Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America. The Guatemalan houses, by contrast, reminded me of the contrast in housing that people prefer, regardless of wealth. People are different, and like to remain so. The Mondrian window is fascinating. It is the essence of the combination of art and science. There is a science to arranging different squares of colors to make a pattern, but the art is found in the combination of the arrangement of colors and squares to be pleasing to the eye, and yet functional. It shows that the path between art and science often is blurred by a natural continuity that was understood by the photographer, Rachel Tanur, and one which pervaded and unified all of her architecture, her photography, and her legal work. The “African Village,” with the view of the variously shaped rooftops, reminds me of the explanation I was given of how a census was carried out in the South African homelands under apartheid. When I asked what method was used in South Africa to determine the population of a Black homeland I was told that they flew over the area in an airplane, took pictures, and counted the number of roofs. This includes the many roofs made out of a single section of corrugated aluminum. Then they estimated the maximum number of people who could possibly be living under such a roof, and multiplied the two figures.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Blue Street

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Peek-a-boo

The young Guatemalan girl captured by Rachel Tanur’s lens sits in almost direct opposition to my photograph of a young American girl. Tanur frames this young girl with the tidy chaos of gloriously colorful yarn, perhaps, to draw attention to the strained and somewhat defensive posture of her subject. What this young girl does have in common with the young girl that I featured in my photograph is a relationship to set of overarching patriarchal power structures. This girl’s bodily posture, with tightly crossed legs, interlaced fingers used to shield half of her face, speaks back to the viewer, asking him politely but insistently to go away. 

At the very least, this image tells us that someone has educated this Guatemalan girl about her approaching womanhood through her appearance in proper and “womanly” conservative attire. In addition, her reclined, passively resistant posture shows some willingness to control her body to conform to cultural gendered norms. In this way, she shows some similarity to the woman depicted by Marianne Wex’s typical female subjects. Photographed “with arms close to the body, hands folded together in their laps, toes pointing straight ahead or turned inward, and legs pressed together … the women in these photographs make themselves seem small and narrow, harmless; they seem tense; they take up little space.” The young girl pictured here is almost a textbook example of one of Wex’s subjects. Her defiant gesture should not, however, go unnoticed. As she purposefully covers her face to block the camera’s line of sight while simultaneously peering out under her hand mask, this girl expresses a conflicted bodily discipline. Though she polices her body to conform to lady-like carriage and dress, she is seated, unconcerned for her clothing, with one eye winking at the camera. 

In closing, it should be considered that her resistant gesture could be partially related to an amplified sense of power she has experienced as the proprietor of the yarn in the marketplace. Mary Crain has argued that the increased earning power that the informal economy often times affords women in developing countries facilitates women’s redefinition of traditional gender roles. Participating in a public, fiscal, and historically male sphere, these “market women” speak and gesture in a far more “assertive and powerful manner” both in and outside the market. 

(1)Wex, Marianne. 1979. Let’s Take Back Our Space: “Female” and “Male” Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures. Berlin: Frauenliteraturverlag Hermine Fees. 

(2)Crain, Mary M. 1996. “Ecuadorian Andes: Native Women’s Self-Fashioning in the Urban Marketplace” in Machos, Mistresses, and Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. London: New Left Books.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

The role of colors in culture is rather specific. On the one hand, people do not think much about colors in their everyday life. On the other hand, they pay great attention to them when choosing such goods as clothes and home furnishings. When a stranger visits an alien culture s/he understands that his/her color perception is rather different from the perception of those native to the culture. Natives pay attention to some colors and ignore others. Color perception becomes a part of tradition. These photos depict the variety of colors used by Guatemalans. Putting these photos together we can notice that sets of colors used in decorating clothes, buses, and buildings are rather similar, with the palettes of colors being extremely varied.. There are enormous gradations of red, blue, yellow on the clothes, the buildings, and to a lesser extent, the buses. These photos illustrate a link between traditional culture and globalization of cultures. We can see people in traditional clothes, but a similar color spectrum decorates the buses. Although vehicles are artifacts of modern civilization, the traditions of the Guatemalans transform them and they are assimilated in the structure of traditions. Buses decorated in this way, far from arousing discomfort in traditional people, become a part of their national culture thanks to this transformation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

These photos first reminded me of the colorful markets of my beloved city, Istanbul. Then I thought about the children in those markets; some behind the tables, trying to sell their goods and some buying them, while holding their mother’s hands. As a mother, I immediately felt that all the children should have been the buyers in those markets. After all, they were children. As a social scientist, however, I knew that this was just wishful thinking for the countries such as Turkey and Guatemala where child labor was still a fact of life. Recent estimates on the participation rate of children in local markets show that Africa has the highest participation rate with 28%. It is 15% in Latin America and Asia while it is below 1.5 % in Europe. Research on this topic suggests that child labor is a direct result of poverty. Most parents in the developing world do not want their children to work, and studies show that incidence of child labor decreases when family income increases. A large majority of the children who work in low-income countries are employed by their parents and work in the farms or other family businesses. Even if some of them make an attempt to also go to school, these children generally have to sacrifice their education and hence face an equally difficult future. Researchers and policy advisers recommend that in addition to international legislation that protects children, policies that are aimed at increasing wealth and education in poorer countries would be the safest way to solve the child labor problem.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

Much is written about the social construction of markets and their embeddedness in the local social structures of relations. There are several different Guatemalan markets depicted in which Guatemalan women (and their children) sell the products of their own labor. Because these are obviously local markets, they reveal the social structure of the local community in which women complete the entire circle of production and sale of small-scale agricultural products and tourist goods. These are women’s markets. Men do not participate in these tasks. It would be interesting to know if these markets are a recent phenomenon connected to men earning money away from home communities, or women were always solely responsible for tending small fields, domestic birds and small animals.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

A daughter learns from her mother by following her footsteps, and sharing work, happiness and sorrow along the way. The family is the most important institution in a society. It is impossible for a human being to become a member of a society without family experiences. Socialization begins at home. We learn by imitating our mothers, fathers, grand parents, siblings, and other significant others. A little girl experiences the outside world by chasing her mother’s shadow. In developing countries, a little girl is expected to help her mother. The little girl cleans, cooks, and raises smaller siblings.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Mother and Child

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

These photos first reminded me of the colorful markets of my beloved city, Istanbul. Then I thought about the children in those markets; some behind the tables, trying to sell their goods and some buying them, while holding their mother’s hands. As a mother, I immediately felt that all the children should have been the buyers in those markets. After all, they were children. As a social scientist, however, I knew that this was just wishful thinking for the countries such as Turkey and Guatemala where child labor was still a fact of life. Recent estimates on the participation rate of children in local markets show that Africa has the highest participation rate with 28%. It is 15% in Latin America and Asia while it is below 1.5 % in Europe. Research on this topic suggests that child labor is a direct result of poverty. Most parents in the developing world do not want their children to work, and studies show that incidence of child labor decreases when family income increases. A large majority of the children who work in low-income countries are employed by their parents and work in the farms or other family businesses. Even if some of them make an attempt to also go to school, these children generally have to sacrifice their education and hence face an equally difficult future. Researchers and policy advisers recommend that in addition to international legislation that protects children, policies that are aimed at increasing wealth and education in poorer countries would be the safest way to solve the child labor problem.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

This powerful and highly evocative image, a child at work in adult dress wearing an adult expression, vividly captures the fate of millions of children in the third world. Forced into early labor, children are left with no choice but to sacrifice their childhoods, their freedom, their joy, their play, their true selves in order to survive. But the sacrifice and employment of children is not just a developing world problem. Child abuse and neglect remain highly prominent in the first world. While we may not send our children to work in America and Europe, we have our own ways of stealing childhood from our children, of demanding that they sacrifice their needs to ours. While our children may not carry baskets on their heads, too many of our children, both rich and poor, carry inside them deep sorrow and crushing psychological burdens from parents that have been cruel, absent, ignorant, overwhelmed. This beautiful photograph tells a profound and painful truth about children the world over, daring us to see.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

The role of colors in culture is rather specific. On the one hand, people do not think much about colors in their everyday life. On the other hand, they pay great attention to them when choosing such goods as clothes and home furnishings. When a stranger visits an alien culture s/he understands that his/her color perception is rather different from the perception of those native to the culture. Natives pay attention to some colors and ignore others. Color perception becomes a part of tradition. These photos depict the variety of colors used by Guatemalans. Putting these photos together we can notice that sets of colors used in decorating clothes, buses, and buildings are rather similar, with the palettes of colors being extremely varied.. There are enormous gradations of red, blue, yellow on the clothes, the buildings, and to a lesser extent, the buses. These photos illustrate a link between traditional culture and globalization of cultures. We can see people in traditional clothes, but a similar color spectrum decorates the buses. Although vehicles are artifacts of modern civilization, the traditions of the Guatemalans transform them and they are assimilated in the structure of traditions. Buses decorated in this way, far from arousing discomfort in traditional people, become a part of their national culture thanks to this transformation.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

Much is written about the social construction of markets and their embeddedness in the local social structures of relations. There are several different Guatemalan markets depicted in which Guatemalan women (and their children) sell the products of their own labor. Because these are obviously local markets, they reveal the social structure of the local community in which women complete the entire circle of production and sale of small-scale agricultural products and tourist goods. These are women’s markets. Men do not participate in these tasks. It would be interesting to know if these markets are a recent phenomenon connected to men earning money away from home communities, or women were always solely responsible for tending small fields, domestic birds and small animals.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Child with Basket

A child walks alone, her burden her own. Her face turned away from the glare of an unrelenting midday sun, she finds brief respite in the shadows of a tree. She marches on. What are we to make of such a scene? It is easy to assume that this young girl from Guatemala was born into a life mired in poverty, denied of the rights she is entitled to. Bearing a basket laden with wares, she is probably on her way to the market, hoping to sell enough goods to provide for the next meal. How long more does she have to walk? Alone, with no friends or family alongside her arduous trek, she has but linen shoes to protect her tender soles from the harsh grounds. This daily journey takes up so much time she cannot attend classes at the communal schoolhouse. Or so we think. But perhaps there is another way to view this photograph. I see a girl, standing tall and walking proud. She is young, but she is courageous. She balances the basket of crafts with skill and pride - it is her trophy, a mark of strength. Her face bespeaks fierce determination. I see a girl, strong of heart and will. She is fiercely proud of her culture. She is not cowered by the hardships that we assume characterizes her life. Her step, caught in mid-stride, underlies her conviction. No, this photograph does not elicit pity from me. Instead, I feel a surge of respect and awe for the pride she has for herself and the life she was born into. And perhaps this is a paradigm shift that should be adopted if we seek to be agents of positive change against the ills of poverty and underdevelopment. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) advocates for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. But at what cost? Are we really working for the betterment of the child if we have to yank her out of a culture that she grew up in and is proud of? It might be worthwhile to remember that sometimes, as outsiders, we do not truly understand the circumstances unique to each child, and what we are doing is simply making the child conform to our expectations of development. A child of tender age should be learning the alphabet. How to count; how to read; how to write. A child should be pursuing a basic education. Yes, that is the right of a child. A child of tender age should be painting the world around them. Singing songs. Creating beautiful music. A child should be playing with friends. Yes, that is the right of a child. A child of tender age should be able to speak up. Express their opinions. Make their views known. Be heard. A child should have a voice. Yes, that is the right of a child. But there is more than one way to achieve these rights – perhaps it is time for a re-think, on the part of UNICEF and other child development agencies.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

These photos first reminded me of the colorful markets of my beloved city, Istanbul. Then I thought about the children in those markets; some behind the tables, trying to sell their goods and some buying them, while holding their mother’s hands. As a mother, I immediately felt that all the children should have been the buyers in those markets. After all, they were children. As a social scientist, however, I knew that this was just wishful thinking for the countries such as Turkey and Guatemala where child labor was still a fact of life.

Recent estimates on the participation rate of children in local markets show that Africa has the highest participation rate with 28%. It is 15% in Latin America and Asia while it is below 1.5 % in Europe. Research on this topic suggests that child labor is a direct result of poverty. Most parents in the developing world do not want their children to work, and studies show that incidence of child labor decreases when family income increases. A large majority of the children who work in low-income countries are employed by their parents and work in the farms or other family businesses. Even if some of them make an attempt to also go to school, these children generally have to sacrifice their education and hence face an equally difficult future. Researchers and policy advisers recommend that in addition to international legislation that protects children, policies that are aimed at increasing wealth and education in poorer countries would be the safest way to solve the child labor problem. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

The role of colors in culture is rather specific. On the one hand, people do not think much about colors in their everyday life. On the other hand, they pay great attention to them when choosing such goods as clothes and home furnishings. When a stranger visits an alien culture s/he understands that his/her color perception is rather different from the perception of those native to the culture. Natives pay attention to some colors and ignore others. Color perception becomes a part of tradition. These photos depict the variety of colors used by Guatemalans.

Putting these photos together we can notice that sets of colors used in decorating clothes, buses, and buildings are rather similar, with the palettes of colors being extremely varied.. There are enormous gradations of red, blue, yellow on the clothes, the buildings, and to a lesser extent, the buses.

These photos illustrate a link between traditional culture and globalization of cultures. We can see people in traditional clothes, but a similar color spectrum decorates the buses. Although vehicles are artifacts of modern civilization, the traditions of the Guatemalans transform them and they are assimilated in the structure of traditions. Buses decorated in this way, far from arousing discomfort in traditional people, become a part of their national culture thanks to this transformation.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

Markets enrich our lives by providing more opportunities than we would have in their absence. Economists have long studied their properties and benefits. Rachel’s pictures remind us of the universality and diversity of markets and how they enrich us in ways other than by simply offering the opportunity (as the late 19th century economist/sociologist Vilfredo Pareto noted) for “making someone better off without making someone else worse off.” 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

Women everywhere work to support their families. This is all the more visible in developing societies, for it is in such societies that women's work is absolutely central to the everyday well-being and survival of their families. As is true elsewhere, the types of work they do is sex-segregated. While men often range farther from home, as fishermen, hunters, or migrants to distant cities, women's work is typically an extension of the home and their domestic responsibilities. They cook food, raise chickens, grow vegetables, or weave or sew garments to sell in local markets. In the markets, women can combine their family and work lives, selling their wares at the same time they are watching their children. Indeed, along with their mothers, children are often producers and sellers of the family's food and household wares, enlistees in the family's struggle to survive. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

Much is written about the social construction of markets and their embeddedness in the local social structures of relations. There are several different Guatemalan markets depicted in which Guatemalan women (and their children) sell the products of their own labor. Because these are obviously local markets, they reveal the social structure of the local community in which women complete the entire circle of production and sale of small-scale agricultural products and tourist goods. These are women’s markets. Men do not participate in these tasks. It would be interesting to know if these markets are a recent phenomenon connected to men earning money away from home communities, or women were always solely responsible for tending small fields, domestic birds and small animals. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Boy in Market

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Kids and Bus

Only when Westerners stay in China can they understand why China has to conduct the “one family one child policy.” There are too many people in China! Yet simply imagining the structure of one child as the focus of two parents and four grandparents suggests that there must be something wrong. Nevertheless, these “little emperors” are enjoying their happy lives right now, no matter what the future will be.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Girls in Rain

The Chinese government successfully implemented the one-child per family policy in urban centers, creating the phenomenon known as “the little Emperor.” With only one child for two sets of grandparents to dote on, the children born within the plan receive seemingly endless gifts and attention, prompting some to worry about a generation of spoiled children. Interestingly, many urbanites increasingly accept having a daughter as the only child. Whereas in rural China the family planning policy has led to the abandonment of daughters, in urban China the policy has led to a increased value placed on daughters now the sole child in many families. Families invest in their daughters’ education and future. It will be interesting to see how their families react in the future when these daughters confront labor market discrimination against women that is widespread.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Girls in Rain

More than a fifth of the world's population lives in China today. Even though the Chinese government has implemented a fairly strict one-child policy, the Chinese population will continue to grow until it is estimated to level off sometime before 2100. The policy was enforced with reward and punishment; it has been largely successful. This policy, however, is creating serious social issues such as gender imbalance (especially at marriageable ages) and orphans. The policy is somewhat controversial in term of birth control methods, in particular, mass sterilizations and forced abortions.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Girls in Rain

Memory – whether personal or social – is a tricky entity which is elusive, cunning, tempting and full of magic. Memory promises a bridge to the past, to the way we were, to the way things were. And yet, this promise can never be fulfilled. If the past wasn't a past, it would be here, with us. And of course, it is not. And the memory is an imperfect and unstable representation of the past. Whenever one attempts to touch the past – even with a smile – one is doomed to discover that there is no way one can touch what is gone. These are perhaps the hardest moments. Traveling to one's childhood home is a trying experience: the home which we remembered as huge, glorious and warm seems later in life as small, ugly, run down and estranged. The way to school which was long, full of temptations is by now short, and lacking any excitement. And those who went to school with us and whom we meet twenty years later are less witnesses of the past than witnesses of the present, of our aging, of the time that passes, and of the past that can never be re-enacted and relived. And the memory – through its pictures of rainy days and a shared umbrella and an optimistic smile and a sense of friendship – is perhaps our last defense line against the recognition the past is untouchable, and that there is no way back and that the loss is a loss.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Kids and Bus 02

The Chinese government successfully implemented the one-child per family policy in urban centers, creating the phenomenon known as “the little Emperor.” With only one child for two sets of grandparents to dote on, the children born within the plan receive seemingly endless gifts and attention, prompting some to worry about a generation of spoiled children. Interestingly, many urbanites increasingly accept having a daughter as the only child. Whereas in rural China the family planning policy has led to the abandonment of daughters, in urban China the policy has led to a increased value placed on daughters now the sole child in many families. Families invest in their daughters’ education and future. It will be interesting to see how their families react in the future when these daughters confront labor market discrimination against women that is widespread.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Kids and Bus 02

The Chinese way is for children to follow behind each other, rather than to hold hands in pairs as is done in the United States.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Kids and Bus 02

In 1970, Premier Zhou Enlai initiated the first involuntary population control campaign in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This campaign, which limited each Chinese couple to two children, was replaced in 1978 by more stringent family planning legislation. Commonly referred to as the one-child policy, this new legislation restricted most Chinese couples to one child. In the late 1970’s, Chinese officials and demographers alike were careful about the language that they used to describe the PRC’s new population control efforts. With little reference to the fact that China comprised 20% of the world’s population on 7% of the world’s arable land, they stressed how fertility limits would hasten the modernization of China’s national agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense. As Vanessa L. Fong describes in Only Hope: Coming of Age under China’s One-Child Policy (2004), this legislation has radically transformed the life of the average Chinese child. Like those captured in this photograph, these children have quickly become the center of the modern Chinese family unit and the PRC’s burgeoning economy. Given an increase in the familiar and national resources now available to them, an extraordinary number of Chinese children can compete in a capitalist world system that they – and their nation – are helping to transform.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Kids and Bus 02

A wise man once said that nation is an imagined community. Its boundaries are imagined through media, symbols and collective memories of wars. One may wonder how these children imagine their nation. When will they realize the pictures of cute cartoons on their backpacks are from a country who once invaded their nation? When they realize it, will they despise these cartoons as part of a collective national memory or embrace them as part of their childhood memory? If every nation is imagined through the minds of innocent children, nationalism may not be a reason for conflict.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Babies

The Chinese government successfully implemented the one-child per family policy in urban centers, creating the phenomenon known as “the little Emperor.” With only one child for two sets of grandparents to dote on, the children born within the plan receive seemingly endless gifts and attention, prompting some to worry about a generation of spoiled children. Interestingly, many urbanites increasingly accept having a daughter as the only child. Whereas in rural China the family planning policy has led to the abandonment of daughters, in urban China the policy has led to a increased value placed on daughters now the sole child in many families. Families invest in their daughters’ education and future. It will be interesting to see how their families react in the future when these daughters confront labor market discrimination against women that is widespread.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Babies

More than a fifth of the world's population lives in China today. Even though the Chinese government has implemented a fairly strict one-child policy, the Chinese population will continue to grow until it is estimated to level off sometime before 2100. The policy was enforced with reward and punishment; it has been largely successful. This policy, however, is creating serious social issues such as gender imbalance (especially at marriageable ages) and orphans. The policy is somewhat controversial in term of birth control methods, in particular, mass sterilizations and forced abortions.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Babies

In November 2005, the nation’s 50,000th Chinese adoptee joined an American family. Most of these families cherish a photograph just like this one; an image that captures the newly adopted child, with members of his or her orphanage cohort, in the lobby of the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China. Asian children have long comprised the majority in American Inter-Country Adoption (ICA). In fact, many attribute the birth of ICA in America to the adoption of Japanese children after World War II. While over 100,000 Korean children have been adopted by parents in the U.S. since the end of the Korean War in 1958, China has recently emerged as the foremost “sending” Asian nation – and foremost “sending” nation, more generally – in American ICA. Growing alongside this contingent of American families is public and academic interest in ICA from China. Cable news programs like National Geographic follow American parents’ China adoption trips. U.S.-based corporations like American Express and Kodak utilize China adoption story-lines in their commercials. Newspaper articles like “Love has no borders: Couple bridges desire for children with Chinese adoptions” profile American families created through adoption. Additionally, as the headline “Love has no borders” also indicates, China adoption has also become a fertile case study for an expanding sociological literature on boundaries; it brings to life many of our most salient borders while it highlights their very permeability.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Chinese Babies

In 1970, Premier Zhou Enlai initiated the first involuntary population control campaign in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This campaign, which limited each Chinese couple to two children, was replaced in 1978 by more stringent family planning legislation. Commonly referred to as the one-child policy, this new legislation restricted most Chinese couples to one child. In the late 1970’s, Chinese officials and demographers alike were careful about the language that they used to describe the PRC’s new population control efforts. With little reference to the fact that China comprised 20% of the world’s population on 7% of the world’s arable land, they stressed how fertility limits would hasten the modernization of China’s national agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense. As Vanessa L. Fong describes in Only Hope: Coming of Age under China’s One-Child Policy (2004), this legislation has radically transformed the life of the average Chinese child. Like those captured in this photograph, these children have quickly become the center of the modern Chinese family unit and the PRC’s burgeoning economy. Given an increase in the familiar and national resources now available to them, an extraordinary number of Chinese children can compete in a capitalist world system that they – and their nation – are helping to transform.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man with Child

Many of these pictures are both beautiful and thought provoking, but the Ghana Stock Exchange Billboard is irresistible, particularly set next to others: a bookstore advertising all manner of legal services posted on wooden slats; mass-produced “traditional” pottery; a man and child in traditional(?) costume walking barefoot in the city, grocery carton in hand. What’s so remarkable about globalization I think is not as much its reach as the dependable inconsistency of its effects. These incongruities are not new, but they have intensified in recent decades. Where one wonders are that man and child coming from, going to? Who chooses the patterns on that pottery? How many people who can’t read and write themselves need to have letters written, to truck in powers of attorney and affidavits, even as the rest of their lives are structured through old or emergent magical beliefs? The pictures don’t answer these questions, but they richly raise them. The stock exchange billboard takes all this to another level, since if anywhere in the rich countries we see an ongoing interaction with magical thinking, it is in the world of stocks and bonds, where individual lives are buffeted by forces beyond their control or comprehension. To see that purveyor of new luck and misfortune, standing against the scrubby dirt in Ghana, makes concrete in a way that no words can, the incongruous but nonetheless simultaneous schemas into which globalization has thrown us all.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Man with Child

Common among all societies is the fact that widely diverse family structures produce happy, healthy children. Children always benefit from the emotional nurturing and developmental support provided by caring adults, both men and women. Increasingly, societies are looking beyond a fathers’ economic responsibility to consider the other forms of support that fathers can and do give. Here a father and son in traditional African attire represent timeless family values in an increasingly modern Africa.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Girls and Infant

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

What does it mean to be a patriotic homeless person? The two flags are such a prominent part of this man's meager belongings. They are located in the front of the cart, placed higher than anything else he owns. Perhaps he even has a flag on his shirt. It is hard to tell. But what seems clear is that this man is proud to be an American. Now I wonder, how does this photo make us, the viewers, feel? Does his pride shame us for our lack of patriotism? Does it make us want to do more for this man, to perhaps provide for him more tangible reasons for his pride? Or does it make us feel wonderment or skepticism that a person with so little could be so proud to live in this country? Raising these questions now makes me question what the flag means to this man. Is it saying, "Don’t screw with me" much like the Bush administration conveys to other countries? Is it a message to the terrorists? Does it signify that "Though homeless, I am one of you, I belong here"? Does it engender conversation from others? Or scare them away? Is he protecting against possibly harmful outside forces or trying to fit in with those around him? Perhaps the flags are just colorful decorations he rescued from the trash.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

The public work relief programs that the depression spawned were said by some to have given men who were broke and broken new hope. Indeed, they caused a revival of hobo working culture that had developed from economic depressions at the end of the 19th century. While working on urban construction or when on hiatus between rurally-based projects the legions of this mobile and unattached workforce took up residence in the city center neighborhoods known as the Main Stem. Along with readily available single room occupancy hotels and employment agencies the Stem had its bawdy-houses, saloons, gambling enterprises, theaters, and all the sorts of things that enlivened the existence of the single working man. Among the unintended consequences of supporting the hobo working force, however, were that men were wrested from normative life-course development and embodied a de facto counterculture. Post WWII economic and social policy sought to eradicate the economic basis of hobemia so that the American Main Stems fell into disrepair, revealing a morally suspect and now literally bankrupt counterculture. Hobos who remained on became known as bums, and the once vital economic center of the mobile workforce became skid row. In the 1960’s the Social Science Encyclopedia defined homeless specifically as dis-integration with the main normative (marriage and family) and the economic and political (work and civil society) institutions of society. Bums had lost all grasp on a legitimate position in civil society and were characterized as politically and morally impotent, homeless. They had not, by and large, lost their housing such as it was. Scholars have tended to agree that contemporary American homelessness emerged between 1978 and 1982, the latter date defined by the success of activists in naming the new legions as homeless rather than tramps, hobos, bums, or bag ladies. The auspicious label, even if it was a political success, did nothing to tell us who these men, women, and children were, nor from where they came from. A vast literature attempted to assign all manner of personal pathology to the victims of this massive social and economic development. A few analysts noticed a deep economic recession followed by an apparent recovery that did not touch the poorest ten percent of the population, the gentrification of skid row including demolishment of the nation’s stock of SRO, and intra- and inter-national job migration that left a new generation of the workforce suddenly without hope of employment. When we studied them closely we found the homeless to be anything but dis-integrated. In fact, we found that they survived on little else than deep embededness in survival networks, and that these were often far more elaborate than the networks they could have called upon when they still did have housing. Could this be a nouveau -hobemia? What could be the long-term effects of engendering a counterculture consisting of citizens for whom we do not even provide housing? Do not take this man’s gaze lightly, for he may know better than you of a deep and brewing economic contradiction that may yet set sunder the foundations of the world’s greatest economic force.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

This homeless man in New York City pushes his possessions in a wagon that he topped with two American flags, symbols of the country that failed him. He appears to have on clean clothes and, indeed, his belongings include a bottle of laundry detergent. He may be homeless, but he does not give us impression of hopelessness.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Homeless in NYC

“An absence of positive satisfactions in life, rather than an increase in negative forces, is the main consequence of a depressive economic climate. It is the lack of joy in Mudville rather than the presence of sorrow that makes the difference.” Reports on Happiness, N.M. Bradburn and D. Caplovitz, Chicago: Aldine, 1965.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Waterfront

The irony of cultural imperialism. The clever comment that “you can tell the ideas of a nation by it’s advertisements” resonates with Americans, and conveys the flavor of self-criticism that characterizes American culture. But its ethnocentrism is reflected in the actual advertisements in the third world. In Ghana, “Own some shares today,” becomes an effort to deny the grinding poverty that makes it impossible for 95% of the population to even aspire to such ownership. In Guatemala, the advertisements for Orange Crush and Pepsi Cola reflect the empty calories, imported from America, that contribute to the desperation of an impoverished country. Only in America…do the advertisements reflect “the ideas of a nation.” In the Third World… the advertisements reflect the ideas of…America.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Ghana Billboard

The photos of Africa quite profoundly captured the absence of globalization’s impact on that continent. A shed takes the place of both a notary and a bookstore and piles of sturdy traditional pottery are piled up as small-scale production for a local market. I see in these images the periphery of global capitalism. The notary/bookstore captures the idea of a weak state combined with the high rates of illiteracy; one factor contributes to the other resulting in the absence of local social development. Given Africa’s poverty and stalled development, a surprising sign of globalization is a billboard for a stock exchange in Ghana. In a search to see what is being traded in Ghana, I found, of course, all the components of neoliberal development: a large scale privatization program initiated in the early 1990s, multinational oil companies operating there, timber, gold, and diamonds being the main export, as well as a complete liberalization of international trade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Ghana Billboard

The irony of cultural imperialism. The clever comment that “you can tell the ideas of a nation by it’s advertisements” resonates with Americans, and conveys the flavor of self-criticism that characterizes American culture. But its ethnocentrism is reflected in the actual advertisements in the third world. In Ghana, “Own some shares today,” becomes an effort to deny the grinding poverty that makes it impossible for 95% of the population to even aspire to such ownership. In Guatemala, the advertisements for Orange Crush and Pepsi Cola reflect the empty calories, imported from America, that contribute to the desperation of an impoverished country. Only in America…do the advertisements reflect “the ideas of a nation.” In the Third World… the advertisements reflect the ideas of…America.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Ghana Billboard

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Ghana Billboard

Many of these pictures are both beautiful and thought provoking, but the Ghana Stock Exchange Billboard is irresistible, particularly set next to others: a bookstore advertising all manner of legal services posted on wooden slats; mass-produced “traditional” pottery; a man and child in traditional(?) costume walking barefoot in the city, grocery carton in hand. What’s so remarkable about globalization I think is not as much its reach as the dependable inconsistency of its effects. These incongruities are not new, but they have intensified in recent decades. Where one wonders are that man and child coming from, going to? Who chooses the patterns on that pottery? How many people who can’t read and write themselves need to have letters written, to truck in powers of attorney and affidavits, even as the rest of their lives are structured through old or emergent magical beliefs? The pictures don’t answer these questions, but they richly raise them. The stock exchange billboard takes all this to another level, since if anywhere in the rich countries we see an ongoing interaction with magical thinking, it is in the world of stocks and bonds, where individual lives are buffeted by forces beyond their control or comprehension. To see that purveyor of new luck and misfortune, standing against the scrubby dirt in Ghana, makes concrete in a way that no words can, the incongruous but nonetheless simultaneous schemas into which globalization has thrown us all.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boy with Bike and Game

American ways of life have been exported all over the world - even to young children, as this photo illustrates. The young Cuban boy has put aside his bicycle for the more sedentary pastime of playing an electronic game. Will the next American export be our obesity epidemic?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boy with Bike and Game

Rachel was an expert in showing transitions and unlikely juxtapositions. In many of the pictures, what catches your eye is the unexpected combination of things, the fact that she populates her pictures with inherently unlikely pieces of a puzzle that invite you to put it together for yourself. Here is a young boy in Cuba, on the doorstep of a building, in what does not look like an affluent neighborhood (cobble stones and raw surfaces), his bicycle leaning against the wall, totally engrossed in some hand-held techno game. In the body posture, the way he holds the artifact, and the complete absorption, this is a familiar picture for all of us who have children in their lives. Only one doesn’t just necessarily expect it in that neighborhood, in Cuba, and at the end of the twentieth century. What this picture reminds us of is the extent to which globalization, through formal and informal channels, is covering our world with techno gadgets and the extent to which those gadgets are eagerly and often unexpectedly, incorporated in people’s lives. Here is another example: Recently we were hiking in the hills behind Chichicastenango, a famous Indian market town in Guatemala Rachel also photographed. On market days, the town is transformed with vendors coming from the countryside, putting up booths in every street, or just squatting on the side walks, especially around the plaza in front of the main church. A wonderful and interesting mixture of Indian and missionary practices carried out side by side. A bedlam of sights and sounds in a cloud of burning copal (incense) on the steps of the main church. When we had had enough of the market, we went for a little hike in the mountains around the town. We had heard that there was a stone idol somewhere up there, but were rather surprised when we actually happened upon it. Just as we prepared to get a closer look, a man and a woman arrived whom we took to be a couple. Wrong. Turned out he was a Mayan shaman there with his client, an Indian woman in the colorful traditional garb, and they were preparing a ceremony for whatever the woman’s problem was. We ended up standing there for two hours, watching them on their knees, praying with outstretched arms to Pascual Abaj, imploring him to help with whatever was the problem. We watched the shaman build an offering, a circle of sugar, filled with copal, then with dozens of candles of different colors, mostly white and orange, pointing to the center (though the black ones were turned upside down), 12 thick cigars of tobaco puro, two cakes of chocolate, candy, and some kind of liquor. At some point he set all of that aflame. As the shaman was pleading with the spirit in a loud voice, on his knees in front of the idol, with the woman standing behind him with outstretched arms holding bunches of candles – this really unbelievable thing happened: the woman’s cell phone rang. She picked it up. Talked animatedly for a minute or so (again in Quiche as all of their interaction had been), handed the phone to the shaman; he talked for another minute, hung up, and they went on imploring the idol without missing a beat. Globalization? Rachel would have loved it!

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cuban Boy with Bike and Game

What touches me most about this image is not the bike, which comfortably rests near this young boy, and is not the game which he devotes the majority of his present attention to. But it's his white tennis shoes neatly tucked below the cuffs of his pants that draw my eyes in. We can imagine that these same shoes were at once one with the pedals of the bike, propelling him down a bumpy Cuban street and finally propping him up when he and the bike came to a complete stop. Like the bike and the game, the shoes speak of movement - the movement of people, of ideas and of cultures. Globalization makes this possible. The picture does not tell us how far he had to travel to find this comfortable nook to entertain himself. And we can only imagine how far these precious items had to go to find him in Cuba. Nonetheless, this photograph is a powerful reminder of the reach of globalization and its ability to facilitate contact with distant and diverse people and objects. One wonders whether the tides of globalization will make it so that this image and the boy's shoes no longer touch us, but both fold into well-known views of our modern world.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

The photos of Africa quite profoundly captured the absence of globalization’s impact on that continent. A shed takes the place of both a notary and a bookstore and piles of sturdy traditional pottery are piled up as small-scale production for a local market. I see in these images the periphery of global capitalism. The notary/bookstore captures the idea of a weak state combined with the high rates of illiteracy; one factor contributes to the other resulting in the absence of local social development. Given Africa’s poverty and stalled development, a surprising sign of globalization is a billboard for a stock exchange in Ghana. In a search to see what is being traded in Ghana, I found, of course, all the components of neoliberal development: a large scale privatization program initiated in the early 1990s, multinational oil companies operating there, timber, gold, and diamonds being the main export, as well as a complete liberalization of international trade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

Many of these pictures are both beautiful and thought provoking, but the Ghana Stock Exchange Billboard is irresistible, particularly set next to others: a bookstore advertising all manner of legal services posted on wooden slats; mass-produced “traditional” pottery; a man and child in traditional(?) costume walking barefoot in the city, grocery carton in hand. What’s so remarkable about globalization I think is not as much its reach as the dependable inconsistency of its effects. These incongruities are not new, but they have intensified in recent decades. Where one wonders are that man and child coming from, going to? Who chooses the patterns on that pottery? How many people who can’t read and write themselves need to have letters written, to truck in powers of attorney and affidavits, even as the rest of their lives are structured through old or emergent magical beliefs? The pictures don’t answer these questions, but they richly raise them. The stock exchange billboard takes all this to another level, since if anywhere in the rich countries we see an ongoing interaction with magical thinking, it is in the world of stocks and bonds, where individual lives are buffeted by forces beyond their control or comprehension. To see that purveyor of new luck and misfortune, standing against the scrubby dirt in Ghana, makes concrete in a way that no words can, the incongruous but nonetheless simultaneous schemas into which globalization has thrown us all.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Pottery 01

Village and small scale industries produce important consumer goods and help to absorb surplus labor which in turn alleviates poverty and unemployment. They also ensure a more equitable distribution of national income, enhanced balanced regional industrial development, act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate the mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain unutilized. These striking photographs demonstrate the resolve and beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit that is found worldwide.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Book Store

The photos of Africa quite profoundly captured the absence of globalization’s impact on that continent. A shed takes the place of both a notary and a bookstore and piles of sturdy traditional pottery are piled up as small-scale production for a local market. I see in these images the periphery of global capitalism. The notary/bookstore captures the idea of a weak state combined with the high rates of illiteracy; one factor contributes to the other resulting in the absence of local social development. Given Africa’s poverty and stalled development, a surprising sign of globalization is a billboard for a stock exchange in Ghana. In a search to see what is being traded in Ghana, I found, of course, all the components of neoliberal development: a large scale privatization program initiated in the early 1990s, multinational oil companies operating there, timber, gold, and diamonds being the main export, as well as a complete liberalization of international trade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Book Store

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Book Store

Many of these pictures are both beautiful and thought provoking, but the Ghana Stock Exchange Billboard is irresistible, particularly set next to others: a bookstore advertising all manner of legal services posted on wooden slats; mass-produced “traditional” pottery; a man and child in traditional(?) costume walking barefoot in the city, grocery carton in hand. What’s so remarkable about globalization I think is not as much its reach as the dependable inconsistency of its effects. These incongruities are not new, but they have intensified in recent decades. Where one wonders are that man and child coming from, going to? Who chooses the patterns on that pottery? How many people who can’t read and write themselves need to have letters written, to truck in powers of attorney and affidavits, even as the rest of their lives are structured through old or emergent magical beliefs? The pictures don’t answer these questions, but they richly raise them. The stock exchange billboard takes all this to another level, since if anywhere in the rich countries we see an ongoing interaction with magical thinking, it is in the world of stocks and bonds, where individual lives are buffeted by forces beyond their control or comprehension. To see that purveyor of new luck and misfortune, standing against the scrubby dirt in Ghana, makes concrete in a way that no words can, the incongruous but nonetheless simultaneous schemas into which globalization has thrown us all.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

Cultures that revere elders are sustained by family systems and family lives that integrate the old and the young, and in which elders contribute productive work, family services and valued knowledge of sacred or secular ways.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

He is skinny, wearing only a worn cloth around his waist, sitting on a simple bench under a tree and surrounded by basic open-fire cooking equipment. By the standards of our “advanced society” we could dismiss him as merely a poor old man. Yet this old man projects anything but poverty and unhappiness. The lean, bent body still reveals muscular strength that hints at a great strength of will. His strong grip unusually contrasts with a white beard and balding head, illustrating that he embodies a great sense of vitality and perseverance. Most of all, the man’s genuinely content smile expresses his inner happiness with who he is and how he lives. Through her lenses, Rachel underlines that happiness does not necessary come from material goods of comfort. All of these symbols are missing. Instead, we are overwhelmed with the warmth and happiness of basic human habitat. Looking at this picture, one cannot escape questions about the nature and “achievements” of what we consider to be an advanced society. Wanda R. Lopuch Brain Fitness Institute

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

Rachel’s “Guatemala fruit plate” naturally brought to my mind some of our recent research showing that memory manipulation can change what we choose to eat. In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005, we plied research subjects with misinformation about their food histories and induced them to create a detailed story about how strawberry ice cream made them ill as kids. In one study, up to 40% were persuaded that they actually had gotten sick on the ice cream, and now claimed they were less inclined to eat it. In other studies, we have shown that we can plant a positive childhood memory involving a healthy food (asparagus) and people become more inclined to want to eat it. The New York Times Magazine published a list of 78 of the "most noteworthy ideas" of 2005. One item that made the list was "The False Memory Diet," based on this research. (The research also made Discover Magazine's 100 top science stories of 2005.) The False Memory Diet may work by creating or strengthening negative or positive associations to foods. But perhaps there are other ways to accomplish this. Pondering Rachel’s “Guatemala fruit plate” might be all it takes to make people want to eat more bananas and cantaloupe, rendering The False Memory Diet, as a route to healthier eating, obsolete.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

The World on a Plate: It is striking the extent to which even the simplest foods and beverages testify to a long history of human contact and exchange. In Rachel Tanur’s lovely photo, a Guatemalan fruit plate holds a banana (domesticated in Southeast Asia), pineapple (native to South America), papaya (originated in Central America), and melon (originated in Africa; may have been domesticated in Africa, in Asia, or in both).

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

Winner 2008 User Commentary, Second prize: Vanessa Dodd According to the United Nations and protected under international human rights, the right to food is a fundamental human right [1]. Tanur’s “Guatemalan Fruit Plate” displays the vibrant, simplistic beauty of Earth’s gifts without which human survival would be impossible. The photograph evokes a perception of bounty; a pleasing image of a human right available for the asking. Tanur's photograph serves as a gift of cultural symbolism to visitors and guests. Juxtaposing this serene image against the harsh realities of food insecurity forces the engagement of one’s Sociological Imagination to understand the dire consequences of stratification that culminate in, among other things, food insecurity in developing countries like Guatemala. Somewhat slyly, with a muted voice so quiet it is deafening, this photograph implores its viewers to understand, protect, and promote a fundamental human right that not all are being afforded.
Food security is “a condition that exists when all people at all times are free from hunger” [2]. Food security entails access to available foods that are affordable, culturally appropriate, nutritious and safe. Theoretically, food may be available, but not accessible. It might be that certain factions deny others access to the food. This easily can happen in times of war, in societies harshly divided along gender, class, caste and ethnic lines. There might be a lack of transportation, roads, bridges, or boats – especially for use by the poor and the otherwise disenfranchised. For the poor, including the working/toiling poor, there will be times when they have to make harsh decisions regarding eating versus using their meager incomes to take care of things such as doctor’s bills or a bus ride into town.

Food insecurity occurs all over the world. However, it is most pronounced in developing countries – and especially in those where human rights are secondary to other larger goals and agendas. Historical patterns of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination compound the situation. Despite the Malthusian contention that population increases geometrically while world capacity to give people the materials for survival increases arithmetically, changes in technologies have made it theoretically possible for all of the world’s peoples to be food secure at all times. For well over 100 years, more food has been produced all over the world than can be eaten by the world’s population in that year. All the same, food insecurity remains a constant in the lives of millions of people around the world.

Gerhard Lenski’s theory of social stratification brings understanding to the establishment and perpetuation of food insecurity. To Lenski, the systems of production and distribution of goods and services heavily influence the fates of the people within the system [3]. Technological innovations lead to higher levels of productivity; surplus emerges as a factor in the social system. With surplus comes a shift from mutual interdependence and subsistence to differential access to surplus and systems of inequality. His hypothesis correlates that an increased level of economic development, the more power plays into distribution of goods and services. When combined with further technological advances, even greater inequality exists in the society. In developing societies, however, the disparities between the wealthy and the poor are more pronounced than in industrialized societies, with long-term negative impacts disproportionately affecting the poor. Indigenous, primarily rural, groups continue to suffer gross inequalities. Women’s status is measurably low. Those disenfranchised by poverty and hierarchical social structure are vulnerable to, among other things, food insecurity.

The United Nations has outlined the “eradication of extreme hunger and poverty” as the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals. This placement reflects the pivotal role that this goal has in all aspects of human rights and improvement in the quality of life for all. As with Tanur’s lovely picture of fruit and its power to have us delve deeper, placing this goal at the top of all goals helps us move beyond the single issue and into its interface with other equally but not necessarily separable social facts.

Those most affected by food insecurity often are those most essential to food production and harvest. It is a significant reality that the people who harvested the foods photographed might not have been able to afford to buy them in a market square. Food represents the sustainability of life. The fruit's significance begs you to step back critically to imagine the unseen and bitter realities of whole cultures of people whose fundamental rights, including the right to food, are at the whim of groups, systems and social forces that can doom them or be altered and set them free.

References
1. Ziegler, Jean. (2003). The Right to Food. United Nations General Assembly 58th Session, Item 119(b).
2. United Nations World Food Program (2007). World Hunger Series 2007: Hunger and Health. London: Earthscan.
3. Beeghley, Leonard. (2008). The Structure of Social Stratification. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

 (Tue, 07/01/2008)

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemala Fruit Plate

Any given picture tells multiple stories. The audience makes sense of the very same visual differently depending on their social background and the context of interpretation. Rachel Tanur must have had a reason why she took this photo entitled, “Guatemala Fruit Plate,” but it evokes the following memories and thoughts to me. In 2000, as an activist in Atlanta, Georgia, I helped facilitate a few speaking events for Enrique Villeda, a leader of the labor union representing Del Monte banana workers in Guatemala. He was invited to the United States by the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala to garner support for his union’s struggle for justice in the aftermath of a mass firing of 900 workers and violent assaults on the union leadership by armed paramilitaries with an implicit nod by the Guatemalan government. He told us that the neoliberal global economy has undermined unions and workers’ livelihoods, and that the price of a bunch of bananas in the United States represents two days’ wages for a banana picker in Guatemala. I also learned about Guatemala’s history of being forced to become a “banana republic,” American support of the 1954 coup of the democratically elected president on behalf of the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), and US aids for often brutal and unaccountable political leaders during the thirty six year-long Cold War-induced civil war that ended in 1996. Mr. Villeda’s struggle illustrates the uneven power relations through which food has historically been produced, distributed, and consumed globally, as argued by the food regime theory. But, this unevenness also constitutes the dynamics within the Global North, including the United States. For example, the increasing consolidation and industrialization of food production has pushed small farmers off the land and made agri-business and retailers control agriculture and the distribution of often highly processed, unhealthy food. Migrants primarily from Mexico and Central America continue to work in “sweatshop” farm fields to this day although they may now harvest organic produce. Despite a rising concern for food safety and quality, the consumption of “organic,” “slow,” or “ethical” food is complicated by class, racial, gender, and spatial dynamics. Consequently, many small farmers in the United States are linking up with their counterparts worldwide to advocate “food sovereignty” for the right to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, ecologically sustainable, and socially just food production and consumption through truly democratic processes. Finally, I argue that Rachel’s photographs share the basic premise with “public sociology” as put forth by Michael Burawoy and even the founders of sociology. Burawoy’s concept refers to a type of sociology by professional sociologists who engage the public with sociological research to induce debates and possibly social change. Rachel was not a sociologist by profession, but I believe she was a “public sociologist” in practice. I can imagine how her commitment to the less fortunate shaped the ways in which she interacted with people she met in her trips and why she took those photos which were then perhaps made available to them and the public through the Internet. As I made clear in my essay, pictures often prompt people to reflect, communicate their thoughts, and perhaps do more. As a result, she has engaged and enriched human life, mine included, in many parts of the world, if in her own modest way.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Sea Gull on Heavy Equipment

The striking contrast between the beauty of Nature and ugliness of human activity – between the seagull and the crane – embodies our growing awareness of the fragility of our ecological system and the need for immediate action aimed at saving the Earth. This awareness has already resulted in various processes in society today. Growing numbers of organizations, such as Greenpeace, institutionalize people’s concern, gaining global scale and reach by effectively using mass media and communications to promote their values and ideas. This eco-shift affects the economic and political spheres, resulting, for instance, in numerous international treaties (like the Montreal protocol or biodiversity treaties) that directly influence economic and political processes and dispositions.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Sea Gull on Heavy Equipment

In 2000, a study published by a global alliance of conservation groups called BirdLife International found that about 12 percent of the world's 9,900 bird species are threatened with extinction within the next century. Human activities that cause pollution and habitat loss are primary contributors to the problem, while global warming is an increasing threat. Climate change will likely alter many bird habitats and cause the demise of numerous species. In 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change consisting of 2,000 scientists from 100 nations concluded that the earth is warming due to the increase of carbon dioxide in the air. However, the demand for the fossil fuels that release this gas when burned and contribute to global warming has not slowed. Pristine environments are degraded through oil exploration and drilling encouraged by powerful fossil fuel industries, government leaders beholden to these corporations, and Americans, who lead the world in consumption. While only 4% of the world's population, the United States contributes 25% of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Sea Gull on Heavy Equipment

Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time. Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded. Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Sea Gull on Heavy Equipment

Geologists believe that there are 10.4 billion barrels of oil resting beneath the tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve in Alaska; the high cost of fuel threatens this important animal refuge as oil companies seek access. Environmentalists argue that a web of pipelines and drilling platforms would harm calving caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds that use the coastal plain. Here the seagull seems at peace with the encroachment into the pristine Alaskan wilderness.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Sea Gull on Heavy Equipment

Many of Rachel’s pictures are simply arresting, making one pause in wonder. Artists can’t control how their work is interpreted. The pictures that most captured my imagination are ones that show people interacting with physical environments, or with environmental possibilities. I look at them and see beautiful scenes, as I’m sure Rachel meant them to be seen. But I also see things that Rachel probably didn’t intend her viewers to see. For example, I see Alaska—surely one of the most awesomely beautiful places in the world—with oil in the water. Serenity and beauty, these pictures show, are part of the human condition. So are their opposites. But we forget that simple truth and thereby increase our vulnerabilities to worst cases. We live longer and better, in rich societies, compared to our ancestors or the poor. This fosters hubris, one aspect of which is a sense of entitlement: that we’ll be safe, and that government can keep us safe. Hubris allowed New Orleans to be a city, once. It does the same thing for Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami. There are almost 300 million people in the United States and more than half of them live near the seas. Eighty percent of Florida’s people live within 20 miles of either the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Around the world more and more people are moving to the shores, concentrating themselves as if to create targets for hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and worse. One reassuring message from disaster research is that people are remarkably resilient, able to bounce back from all kinds of calamities. New York survived 9/11, Alaska survived Exxon Valdez, and Florida survived some of the worst hurricanes on record. But we do not know the limits of social resilience because we’ve not thought deeply enough about how dependent modern people are on their physical infrastructures: What if half of oil production is destroyed? What if all of New York’s bridges are blown up? What if a monster hurricane creates a tsunami on Florida’s west coast and then east coast?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Alaska Houses on the Shore 02

Many of Rachel’s pictures are simply arresting, making one pause in wonder. Artists can’t control how their work is interpreted. The pictures that most captured my imagination are ones that show people interacting with physical environments, or with environmental possibilities. I look at them and see beautiful scenes, as I’m sure Rachel meant them to be seen. But I also see things that Rachel probably didn’t intend her viewers to see. For example, I see Alaska—surely one of the most awesomely beautiful places in the world—with oil in the water. 

Serenity and beauty, these pictures show, are part of the human condition. So are their opposites. But we forget that simple truth and thereby increase our vulnerabilities to worst cases. We live longer and better, in rich societies, compared to our ancestors or the poor. This fosters hubris, one aspect of which is a sense of entitlement: that we’ll be safe, and that government can keep us safe. Hubris allowed New Orleans to be a city, once. It does the same thing for Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami. 

There are almost 300 million people in the United States and more than half of them live near the seas. Eighty percent of Florida’s people live within 20 miles of either the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Around the world more and more people are moving to the shores, concentrating themselves as if to create targets for hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and worse. 

One reassuring message from disaster research is that people are remarkably resilient, able to bounce back from all kinds of calamities. New York survived 9/11, Alaska survived Exxon Valdez, and Florida survived some of the worst hurricanes on record. But we do not know the limits of social resilience because we’ve not thought deeply enough about how dependent modern people are on their physical infrastructures: What if half of oil production is destroyed? What if all of New York’s bridges are blown up? What if a monster hurricane creates a tsunami on Florida’s west coast and then east coast?



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: African Village 01

For me, these pictures of dwellings in different cultures are a reflection of the differences in income and standard of living of peoples across the world. Each house represents a summary of life in that part of the world. I remember being shown around a one room house for many people, in a village in Zimbabwe. The “Cuban Blue Street” took me back to the poverty I saw in Cuba, Central America, Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America. The Guatemalan houses, by contrast, reminded me of the contrast in housing that people prefer, regardless of wealth. People are different, and like to remain so. The Mondrian window is fascinating. It is the essence of the combination of art and science. There is a science to arranging different squares of colors to make a pattern, but the art is found in the combination of the arrangement of colors and squares to be pleasing to the eye, and yet functional. It shows that the path between art and science often is blurred by a natural continuity that was understood by the photographer, Rachel Tanur, and one which pervaded and unified all of her architecture, her photography, and her legal work. The “African Village,” with the view of the variously shaped rooftops, reminds me of the explanation I was given of how a census was carried out in the South African homelands under apartheid. When I asked what method was used in South Africa to determine the population of a Black homeland I was told that they flew over the area in an airplane, took pictures, and counted the number of roofs. This includes the many roofs made out of a single section of corrugated aluminum. Then they estimated the maximum number of people who could possibly be living under such a roof, and multiplied the two figures.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Communal Laundry

The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing. Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Communal Laundry

One way in which we can fruitfully look at what passed through Rachel’s eyes is by using the thoughts of Anthony Giddens who informs us that one impact of modernity is that it poses a dilemma between “personalized and commodified” experiences. From this perspective we can conceive of the experience of travel away from the center of modernity as providing, on the one hand, personal escape from modernity via the belief that authentic, traditional, worlds still exist while on the other hand bringing us face to face with the modern reality of the juxtaposition of traditional and modern worlds. In the latter case objects from traditional worlds become commodities in the modern world. Rachel’s photographs provide us with the opportunity to experience Giddens’s point. Rachel’s images of traditional societies offer us the feeling of having gotten into a time machine to travel back in time. As such they provide us with some of the personal experiences that we strive for. We search for those personal, authentic, experiences precisely as a way in which to escape the routines, the lack of mystery, that legal-rational authority has generated in the modern world. Who knows what is around the corner, but there right in front of the modern traveler is a scene so traditional that one is encouraged to accept the fact that there are new experiences to be had in life. Down there, down this street, is a world that feels unknown to the modern traveler. And that is precisely the appeal of the image. To be told about a traditional world is one thing, to be shown an image of it, of what we can be convinced it looks like, is to be offered the special gift of the opportunity to forget the modern. Who has walked here and for how long have people done so? These images invite the viewer to go inward in order to construct a narrative. In the process of constructing a narrative the viewer is allowed to disengage from the contemporary world. This image of a traditional work in progress by a fundamentally traditional looking Guatemalan weaver allows the viewer to take in the beauty of the intense colors and the overall elegant harmony of the product itself. When the traditional and the modern are juxtaposed, however, we are necessarily confounded by the way the modern intrudes upon the traditional and by the way what was once traditional takes on a commodified form even while holding onto the traditional look, for it is that indication of the traditional, the authentic, that is of value. The large number of identical items of African pottery clearly indicates factory production. Nonetheless, the traditional pottery style speaks of individuality and authenticity. The commodification of traditional culture is evident here, but once these items are broken up and installed in the homes of individuals “back home,” the air of the traditional is reestablished. Seeing tradition commodified is thus but artistically intriguing and socially revealing. The photograph of the Guatemalan Tourist market is conceptually identical to that of the African pottery. Both provide us with insight into the commodification of traditional cultures. Who will consume this modern presentation of traditional fruits on the Guatemalan fruit plate? The image of Chinese men in a traditional market is reinforced by the two bundles of onions that sit before them. Deep into the image are other products and people on traditional bike haulers. The cropped image of the large blue truck with its load of produce indicates that the traditional and the modern are closer than mere attention to the men and their bundle of onions would indicate. Rachel’s photographs provide us with both conditions by which we can reach towards the authentic and the reality that we live in a global economy in which the authentic is commodified. As Giddens points out, it is attempting to manage those two realities that is a fundamental part of the modern human condition. Through her photographs Rachel has provided us with another opportunity to embrace the modern human condition.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Clothesline

Many people, apparently, are taken with pictures of laundry on the line: silhouetted against the sky, contrasted with ancient stone or stucco walls. Rachel clearly was one of them; so am I. Part of what grabs us, I think, is aesthetic: the wonderful play of light on windswept cloth, the unconscious but still striking splash of colors, the very grounded local set against the very aerie infinite, the very present in front of the very past. There’s also something social in our fascination: something about finding beauty in the mundane, something about finding meaning in the everyday-ness of laundry. There’s nostalgia, of course: memories of our childhoods or longings for a past that we wish were better than we know it was. And family, of course: since the hanging of laundry is both a real and a symbolic act, signifying that someone is out there, caring for someone else. But the person who did the work is absent. Would Rachel have taken those pictures if someone worn out from care giving, someone not very “picturesque” had been caught in the act of hanging that laundry? Would I like them less? Still want to hang them on my study wall?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Clothesline

Laundry is a universal fact of life. No matter the time or the place, laundry has to be done. In our personal lives laundry is a burden. Each of us is troubled by it – haunted by it – in different ways. There is the dirty laundry that piles up needing to be done and the clean laundry that can sit for days waiting to be put away. Strangely, the bags of dirty clothes and the stacks of clean clothes relentlessly remind us of what we feel to be personal failings: our inability to get control of this very basic aspect of our lives. Ours is a private failing. We hide our laundry – both dirty and clean – like a dirty secret in the private spaces of our private homes. Yet, laundry is not always private, as these pictures remind us. Nor is it always dirty. These photographs transform laundry into art without the benefit of splendid scenery or the possibility of romance. In one picture, the laundry hangs, almost precariously, against the backdrop of forbidding, threatening clouds. In another it hangs outside of what appears to be an upper level apartment with varying degrees of grit mingling with sunshine. There might be rusticity in the other photos, but there is no romance here. These photos remind us that laundry is more than romantic; it is the product of domestic labor. Although laundry is a universal fact of life, the form laundry takes and the way it hangs, reflect the context in which it is done. Another theme that emerges from the laundry photos is technology, or lack thereof. Whether in Europe or Latin America, we see clean laundry that is hanging out to dry on someone’s balcony or in her backyard. And in one photo, we see women meeting in a public place to wash the clothes and linens in the traditional way. All of this laundry has been cleaned in the absence of a washing machine, or at least in the absence of a dryer. The combined photos remind us of resource inequality between rich and poor. A laundry machine is a labor and time saving device. A clothes dryer works much faster to complete the task and takes much less time and effort to load than the clothesline method. With a dryer, you don’t have to cart a heavy basket full of soaking wet clothes outside, into the elements. You also don’t have to stretch out each piece individually and reach up high to hang it carefully on the line. Those with access to a laundromat or to their own washer and dryer enjoy the convenience and time saving aspects of these modern machines. At home, one can do laundry while multi-tasking. This is important to free women, who in most societies are responsible for laundry, to pursue other activities, including paid work, housework, child care, or leisure. The possession of a washing machine and dryer is a symbol of social class in most cultures. However, we also realize that similar to other modern conveniences, household labor saving devices aren’t always panaceas. The industrial revolution promised that modern housework technology would fully free women from the burdens of this never-ending labor. But we now know that one of the unintended consequences of the technology is that society’s standards of cleanliness adjusted to the available technology. People with washing machines wear their clothes fewer times before washing them, and social expectations are for clothes to have that “just washed” look and smell. Beds and towels get changed weekly and we tell ourselves that they ought to be for a healthy life. In a family of four with a washing machine and dryer, laundry can be a daily chore compared with once a week or less often if traditional methods are used. Further, just as with our gas-guzzling cars, modern laundry involves environmental social costs. Machine washing and drying consumes more fresh water and much more of the world’s precious power resources. It also releases many chemicals and detergents into the environment. Nonetheless, it is likely that the people whose laundry hangs so picturesquely in the photographs would prefer to have a dryer in their kitchen. Possessing a clothes dryer is desirable and envied for more than its labor saving attributes, however; the private aspect of indoor laundry is also important. The first thing we notice when we look at the photos of laundry hanging out is….the laundry hanging out, in public. It seems too obvious to mention, but people all over the world have their personal items hanging in public so that neighbors and passersby can see them and photos may be taken of them. In this sense, the photos invoke a certain voyeurism as we gaze at the personal items of strangers. Thus, one of the benefits of a dryer is the freedom to keep one’s personal items, especially underwear, private and out of public view. Privacy of all sorts increases with income, including private spaces to sleep, bathe and engage in leisure activities. Laundry, we are reminded, is another one of these sites. Yet, while the laundry hanging in public may be seen as a negative, the photo of the women communally washing the laundry provides a reminder of something positive about traditional ways that the modern world has dismissed. While homemakers with washers and dryers suffer high rates of depression and social isolation from their individual, separate daily burdens, meeting others and working together lessens these feelings of anomie. Feeling part of a community is good for our psyche, if not our backs. Thus, the communal laundry transforms what could be private and isolating into a community-building activity that promotes social cohesion and a sense of belonging.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Clothesline

Why is hanging laundry outside considered such a social taboo in the United States? It makes perfectly good sense if we're trying to save energy; it exposes stains to the most effective bleach there is (at least at certain times of the year, and especially in certain countries); it perfumes linens so they freshen a whole room for days; and almost every country I know cherishes the practice. Here the only industrialized country on view is Italy; but I have photos of laundry hung up to dry on balconies in Hamburg and Paris. Yet in the United States, the bylaws of every condominium and coop forbid the practice; representatives of the neighborhood association come to call if the unwritten law is broken; and a homely practice with many benefits has fallen not only into disuse but into opprobrium. How much oil could be saved, do you suppose, if laundry were dried outdoors when the weather permitted?

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Yellow People

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Yellow People

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us. 



Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Man on Bridge

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Man on Bridge

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Man with Mirror

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Man with Mirror

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dog and Masker

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Dog and Masker

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cone Heads

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cone Heads

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Cone Heads

This is, for me, an especially evocative picture. Aesthetically, the composition is a pure delight, from the jaunty angles of the revelers “cones,” to the attitudes of their bodies in relation to each other. The colors of their costumes are also so bright and vibrant against the somber gray of the Venice backdrop. But that backdrop—and specifically the contrast between the “be here now” gaiety of the revelers and the intimations of decay and mortality that are everywhere in Venice—adds depth and an elegiac feel to the image. Knowing of the all too early death of the photographer invites a final parallel. In the photo’s contrast between the “in the moment” vitality of the revelers and the impermanence of Venice, we see reflected the full arch of Rachel Tanur’s short but exceptional life. Finally, at the most general level, the image reminds us of what might be termed the “existential functions of the social.” Whatever else social attachments do for us, they serve at a very basic level to hold our worst existential fears at arm’s length. As Durkheim reminds us, life is never more meaningful than during periods of intense social engagement. Absorbed in the planning, anticipation, and actual events of Carnavale, the revelers temporarily banish their fears of aloneness, meaninglessness and mortality…..even as the somber backdrop of Venice reminds us of their inevitable presence in our lives.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Clown on Bench

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Clown on Bench

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Clown on Bench

There is something intriguing about a character that is a buffoon, particularly in this image. A character, that represents a form of mindless entertainment, whose purpose is to provide perhaps nothing greater than a few moments of laughter and enjoyment yet he is engaged in reading. What does this say about culture in today’s society? Have we turned into those anti-intellectuals, who prefer their information to be easily deliverable? I would like to think that this is not the case. Better yet, I see the reading clown as those who have control and power over information, the area of journalism to be specific, however their duty is not to share their knowledge, but to only provide us with what they think society needs: entertainment. In Pierre Bourdieu’s “On Television” he discusses the problems with the televised journalistic area, seeing it as a danger because information is not autonomous but it is masticated by several talking heads and from there they concisely package said information for the viewer and does not allow for additional opinions or interpretation. It is also a danger because it runs into what both he and several cultural theorists (such as those who are a part of the Frankfurt School) see as watered down information. It goes under the assumption that the viewer is not capable of understanding or formulating an opinion on their own. That the viewer does not want to see what matters just something that will entertain us, shock us, and give us the illusion that everything is right in the world, even if it just for those small moments. That is what I see in this image, an isolated figure that has the knowledge and the power to share what they have learned and disseminate this acquired knowledge to the viewers whom they have that undivided attention, for a fleeting moment. What this figure chooses to do, merely entertain or inform his viewers comes down to how this figure decides to use its power. After all in today’s hegemonic and binary society where everything seems to be stemmed around who has access to what and why, it always comes down to power. Who has the power, and what they choose to do with it.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Black and White

Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Massai Woman

Cultures that revere elders are sustained by family systems and family lives that integrate the old and the young, and in which elders contribute productive work, family services and valued knowledge of sacred or secular ways.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Massai Woman

An aging population is presenting a challenge globally. Most societies, especially the poorest ones, find it difficult to set aside scarce resources to take care of the elderly. It is estimated that US spending on the elderly will consume half of the federal budget by 2015; the US is in far better shape than most of the developed world. The burden of an impoverished elderly class with a thin or non-existent safety net will be especially acute. The Maasai woman seems to be reflecting on the lessons and experiences of what appears to have been a long and fruitful life.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Massai Woman

I am struck by this woman's direct gaze and crinkly, somewhat bemused smile; such a contrast to the Maasai women I first met in the Amboseli area in the early 1960's, when they would run in hiding if any men were with me. Even when I was alone or with my toddler, they would approach only after I had been, quietly but visibly, engaged in other things, in the area for a while. Often then, several giggly young women would approach, look around my vehicle, touch skin and hair and child but glance away from direct eye contact, soon depart to continue their trek to collect water, perhaps some firewood, and make the long journey back to their manyatta (temporary homestead) before dusk would bring elephants coming to water and more predators ready to hunt. This woman, perhaps in her forties, might be joined by her young daughters and grand-daughters and her daughters-in-law, perhaps carrying their youngest children. Her daily routine has probably changed little over the decades, but her familiarity with 'wazungu' or strangers, is so evident in her comfortable, probing gaze and willingness to be photographed. How familiar was she with the photographer we wonder? Does she still speak only Maa as her mother probably did, or does she share Swahili with some of those who are now around her? Does she have children who have gone to school? Surely grandchildren who are there now. Rather than carrying all her most special items against her body in a handmade leather bag that she would have throughout her adulthood, since she first married, she apparently leaves some behind in a locked box. Or does she now live in a permanent structure with a lock on the door? How much of her jewelry is recent, beads on wire, absent the cowry shells and beads sewed onto leather? Does she still make the more traditional pieces for special occasions or are these the new favorites? Is she a widow as so many women are? A 'co-widow' with a late husband's other wives? Is some young adult first son now starting a family and also responsible for his younger siblings, and is his mother having yet more children for which he will be responsible? Is her life better than her mother's and her grandmother's? Will her children's and grandchildren's be in a world of less, even more arid land, fewer trees and less water, AIDS and malaria.........and also schools, clinics, perhaps sources of income for women? I try to tell from her gaze but much is not known.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Massai Woman

In this picture of an elderly African woman, Rachel captured a moment that challenges so many stereotypes of aging. This matured yet somewhat mischievous Maasai woman illustrates what we often forget. Aging can be attractive. Her conspicuous face is framed with deep wrinkles around the narrow eyes, contrasting sharply with full lips not touched by time. Aging can be colorful and vibrant. She projects vigor and vitally despite a somewhat cynical look of perhaps one too many disappointments and unrealized dreams. Aging can be sensual. Her bald head is striking, reminiscent of the way in which bald heads of young women going through chemotherapy are sexy and sensual. Rachel, being only in her 30s, used the camera to see far beyond her own frame of reference. With this picture she unveiled just slightly the mystery of human pursuit of longevity and happiness.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Black and White

Carnival is celebrated throughout the western world; it is particularly famous in New Orleans. What immediately comes to mind is the stark contrast between the white-faced images of the Venice festival captured here, and the pictures of those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of who were African American. Indeed, when I think of New Orleans’ most famous event, I think of whiteness; of white faces partially hidden by masks and masks painted white. Who would ever imagine in examining Mardi Gras, in its organization, in its media representation, in its exclusivity, in its old-line krewes, that New Orleans is 70% African American? Understanding the dynamics driving the way that Mardi Gras is constructed may very well provide a map for interpreting the post hurricane images that continue to haunt us.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: Guatemalan Woman

Cultures that revere elders are sustained by family systems and family lives that integrate the old and the young, and in which elders contribute productive work, family services and valued knowledge of sacred or secular ways.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works

The street primarily invokes images of movement, a bustle of transactions; the street is not a final destination. But the pedestrians in Tanur’s “African Street Scene” stand about as if waiting. They seem to have nowhere to go; put differently, they seem to be where they are going.

African urbanites contend with the “modernization myth” wherein the future represents a moment passed.(1) Such lived experience grates against the teleological philosophy of the [colonialist/]capitalist project, predicated on positive sum, ever-expanding material gain. For members of freshly independent African nations, self-rule invigorated faith in history-as-progress. Within a generation, however, new manifestations of old global inequalities delegitimized claims of everyday Africans to equal participation in this narrative.

Tanur’s street scene illustrates this predicament. Mbembe and Roitman call the suspension of the history-as-progress narrative “contemporaneousness,” or the “immediate present” which demarcates the lived experience of the crisis – that all-encompassing term for the geopolitically-sensitive experience of time [neoliberal globalization] and space [too much of urban Africa].(2) In what could be a caption for this photograph, they write, “Its most physical and visible mark…is the image of abandonment and general decomposition which contrasts so starkly with the picture of affluence and prosperity that prevailed only a few years ago.” They elaborate on the dilapidated roads, particularly proud markers of modernity since colonialism. (3)

This street scene portrays decadence, in the sense of the decadent imaginary of colonialism-as-pillared architecture in the tropics, and the decay indicated in the building’s weathered façade and the “street” that is little more than a wide, muddied track. But it also indicates a renaissance [renewal, a political assertion] of the periphery within the urban cosmos indicated by the pedestrians’ easy blending of traditional and modern dress, the colorful conversion of the building’s lower level into local shops, and the vendors’ street stalls.

In the decadent city, the street is a central site in the crisis of contemporaneousness, a crisis dramatized by the widespread loss of work, a purposeful ordering principle for daily life. For the otherwise idle, the street becomes a place of “potentiality and refuse.” (4) It governs the informal economy which governs the urban economy. It is the pulsing market economy of the masses, often intent on survival in the immediate present. Here where the street encompasses much of the social and economic parameters of urban informality, opportunity and rejection are as awkwardly juxtaposed as potentiality and refuse. For the barter economy of capitalism-on-the-periphery, use value prioritizes exchange value. Africa is the final destination for everything recycled, a cyclical renaissance that defies teleology.

Where, then, in this photograph does one locate the future and where the past? How does our definition of the modern hinge on a steadfast ideological surety in teleos? Life in the “global shadows” is the reality of “Africa in the neoliberal world order” (5); it is not outside the modern history that produced London or Shanghai. But the comparative advantage of capitalism’s unequal geographies [geo-polities] resonates hollow in the daily street hustles of the neoliberal economy’s surplus laborers.

I am prompted to ask if those pedestrians are where they want to be.

1. Ferguson, J. 1999. Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt. Berkeley: University of California Press.
2. Mbembe, A. and J. Roitman. 1995. “Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis.” Public Culture, 7 pp. 324-325.
3. Ibid, p. 328.
4. Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2010. City life from Jakarta to Dakar:
Movements at the crossroads. New York: Routledge, p. 224.
5. Ferguson, James. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham: Duke University Press.