How to make a mirror out of a tumor

Photography is a tumor. A long while ago, photography ceased to be the domain of Japanese tourists who spend their vacations with eye pressed against viewfinder. Then they come home and, with a square imprint on their face, look at the photos to find out where they were. Contemporary civilized humans need to have cameras on them at all times – even those in cell phones will do – so that they are able to make lasting memories of everything everywhere. (These lasting memories always last till they lose the phones.)

Photography is a democratic medium and democracy is when you shout whatever you want and no one cares. Photography is, I daresay, the most democratic medium – while you need to know the letters if you want to write a text, you don’t need to know anything to shoot a picture. That’s why there are more pictures of the Eiffel Tower on this planet than there are inhabitants and no one cares.

At first sight, Week of life is just another of those democratic photo webs where mad humans upload their photos and other mad humans look at them because otherwise they would have to do their jobs.

„The ambition of WoL is neither collecting garbage nor becoming an art gallery.”

The vast majority of such webs either store assorted unsorted photos or focus exclusively on The Art. (Common man’s image of The Art comprises Mona Lisa, a macro bee on a macro flower, a basket of kittens by sunset or, at best, one’s own reflection in a shopping window; for a studied connoisseur The Art is the photography of a dustbin on a scratched slide, developed in manure and blown up into dimensions that are financially unreachable for an ordinary human.) So – on the one hand, there is anarchy and chaos, on the other you will find a selective approach and giant dustbin photos.

The ambition of WoL is neither collecting garbage nor becoming an art gallery. It stands somewhere in between: it’s a well-designed project with certain anthroposociohistoric extensions. I made up the long word in the previous sentence. With the ambition of becoming a mirror of the world and of ourselves, WoL makes use of the human inclination towards exhibitionism. It lets ordinary folk shoot billions and trillions of photos and then pigeonhole all this human product into days, weeks, occupations, and locations; building in such a way a unique archive of our lives. In 2030, we will browse through this archive with fascination, provided that we survive the year 2012. Otherwise, an extraterrestrial civilization from the Pleiades will browse it with fascination.

Yes, we will be able to appreciate the enormous scope and value of the WoL project only after we are all dead. Commonplace object in pictures that bore us today can become symbols of our era in thirty years; for the future spectator, they will be as awe-inspiring as those ugly purple businessmen’s suits from the nineties or those repugnant hairstyles from the eighties. Privately, I guess that we will all have a good laugh over that silly artificial vignette effect from Photoshop that is overused by half of the WoL users, me included.

As we can see, documentary photography is more than a reflection of the world around us. It also says a lot about the world inside of us; it talks about the way we perceive our surroundings; it discloses our tastes; it is a witness to the visual fashion of the moment and the ways we cope with this fashion; it shows how we strive to be different from that fashion and how pathetically identical we are in our striving.

But some people really are different from the others – unlike normal people, they use their cameras 24/7. On literary servers, you can find polygraphs capable of puking out two novels in an afternoon; similarly, there are users on WoL able to shoot eleven weeks in a month. I suspect that some of them live just because they want to have something to show on WoL and that they, similarly to the above mentioned Japanese tourists, must have square imprints on their faces. In the evening, they sit down at their computers to find out what they actually did that day. The stories, though, are different: some people are like tourists fascinated by visiting their own lives; others take pictures for an endless family album; others still are creating a private, highly intimate diary, later to be shown to thousands of people.

„Yes, we will be able to appreciate the enormous scope and value of the WoL project only after we are all dead.”

The way one perceives his or her living space is also dependent on the equipment. In this respect, WoL is truly democratic: you can make pictures with whatever catches your fancy (I don’t exactly mean a woman with huge bosom or a chicken soup with noodles). For instance, I’m using a small pocket camera – despite its wide lens it doesn’t take up too much space, though it’s true I had to grow a beard because it’s pink and people might mistake me for a woman. With a big black camera I would definitely look like a better photographer, especially if it had a beige telephoto lens, but on the other hand, it would make me look a bit suspicious if I used it at a swimming pool.

As I mentioned above, WoL tries to be a reflection of the world and the people who live there; but for each and every participant of the project, taking photos is also a self-reflection. Systematic rumination over the question “What part of my world shall I present to the insatiable audience?“ can help one to rearrange his own thoughts and even ask crucial questions that have until now never crossed one‘s mind (e.g. “What the heck is WB and when I set it to the little sun, why do the colors in my photos turn blue?”).

These are the things I myself have learnt during my WoL weeks:

  1. Selecting nine photos from a day when I took seven photos is difficult.
  2. Selecting nine photos from a day when I took seven hundred photos is difficult.
  3. The essential is invisible to the eyes, and cannot be photographed even at high ISO settings.
  4. Photography is poetry.
  5. Photography is a mirror.
  6. Photography is a tumor.
  7. Photography is humor.

I’ll have to shoot something soon, because, as you can see, I still have a lot to learn.

About the Author
Jan FlaškaI received the name Jan Flaška and in the 34 years I’ve been here, I have come to realize that photography is a good way how to kill off some time on this planet. You could say that I regard photography as a pleasurable activity during which I can’t eat and sleep and am not obliged to work. I am employed as an IT teacher at a high school where I work with our youth. In the beginnings of my pedagogic career, I considered writing a thesis named ‘The role of a teacher in the humanization of the youth’, but after 10 years in the field I think I’ll prepare a brochure with the exact opposite. Besides that, I’d actually like to know what IT really is.I am proud to be one of the names behind the international festival of creative photography Fotojatka ( The festival portrays great photographs of top international authors so it is quite easy to be proud of being part of such an event.

As far as my other hobbies go, I like sitting at the computer, music, reading books, sitting at the computer, writing columns and short stories, watching movies, sitting at the computer, creating graphics, searching for the meaning of life, playing games, alcoholic beverages, being a host at literary events, sitting at the computer and finally, creating a false image of being a nice, smart, humorous and fun to be around. I tend to fail in most of these activities.

I have my own website, where some of the content is already 14 years old.
I am a member of an artistic group called ‘To jsou’ (They are), a branch in České Budějovice, where other than existing, the group does not administer any other activities.
And I hate cleaning dust.

Weeks of Jan Flaška

WoL – A project for future generations

From the day photography came into existence, the desire to document unique events related to all of the fields of human activity was born. A countless number of individual collections full of captured moments are spread around the whole world recording history for future generations.

The Czech Republic does not offer many options in this field. Let us remember the first public project named ‘The Last Book of the Century’. This project documented 24 hours on the 10th of October in the year 2000, a rare combination in Roman numerals – X.X.MM. The project was created by photographer Adolf Zika, who found inspiration in the 1986 worldwide project ‘A Day in the Life of America’. In both cases, a group of photographers joined forces to capture various themes relevant to life on our planet in a selected time segment. On one hand, it was a unique occurrence, on the other, it expressed the course of events of a single day from the angle and perspective of several hundreds or thousands of photographers, who usually chase the biggest sensation and search for the rarest moment with the hopes of joining the ranks of the best.

autor:Míla Štáfek
Silly Season, author: Míla Štáfek

Suddenly, a new thing has appeared. A project, which does not focus on capturing the uniqueness of a given day, but on the contrary, deals with the ordinary lives of individuals from anywhere in the world, in the time period of 7 consecutive days. All of a sudden, it is no ordinary memorial of a short time segment in form of a book or a large exhibition. Day by day, a new characteristic photo album is formed and keeps expanding, available to be seen at any time by anyone from anywhere in the world. A place where cultures interact with traditions and different perspectives of the world. You surely know by now that I am talking about the project called Week of Life.

Today’s world full of social networks, blogs and various communication gadgets, requires for a single click and everything is at the user’s disposal without the need to do anything else. The same applies to photography. Several million internet sites offer more than billions of photographs from the whole world. You can distribute them into several groups. The most obvious group of photographs would consist of all the perfect portraits, images of animals and landscapes, often found in different internet photo galleries. The other common group would consist of the exact opposite – family celebrations, birthdays, and vacations. The former group is admired for its beauty and perfection, the latter is condemned by anyone who does not see a familiar face or themselves for that matter. The Week of Life project has existed for some time and is under continuous development. When you dig in deeper, you find out that it’s not just about photographs in the greatest quality. Amateurs cross paths with professionals and the same applies to the range of quality of the photographic equipment owned by the members. You can find contributions from world famous photographers next to a week submitted by a crazy young student documenting her life with a cell-phone. This unbelievably large spectrum of people shares the conditions of documenting their set, equally contributing to the overall value of the project. By looking at internet photo galleries, we find out that top professionals rarely meet beginners who use low-end equipment. The quality of the photographs, their technical aspect or their quality of composition is a certain bonus available for the viewer.

autor: Sergei Rogozkin
First week, author: Sergei Rogozkin

„You can find contributions from world famous photographers next to a week submitted by a crazy young student documenting her life with a cell-phone.”

It does not end there however. The combination with a person’s profession or the country of origin makes it ever more interesting and increases the uniqueness of the project. By now it’s evident that graphic designers submit weeks of high quality, but what about the cooks, women on maternal leave, electricians or sailors? Everyone contributes with his or her own perspective. Somebody is detail-oriented and his week is full of artistic photographs. A different author will present his life in ordinary raw photographs depicting everyday life. Many will not be satisfied with only one week and make a habit of it, others will coherently document their life for several months. For some people, the project has become a part of life. We come to realize how family pictures consisting of 9 photos per day and some basic rules can suddenly interest the eyes of many. Long forgotten family albums on the internet are transformed into a week of a person or his family. Comments from other members, who like to compare and contrast who, what and how and experience the fates of others, can often be an influential ‘whip’ for those who have contributed and wish to continue in their documentation further. There will certainly be a WoL member meeting in the future, official or unofficial, where members will meet one another for the first time in person, but will know each other quite well from all the photographic depictions of their lives on the site.

autor: Xiong Jun
A little girl, author: Xiong Jun

All of the above mentioned and much more plays in favor of the WoL project. However, there is a certain responsibility that comes with joining the project. Abiding by the rules is obvious, but what about adjusting your life for your next week? Many of you will now say that this is not your case. But to be honest, who hasn’t experienced the time when you were about to capture an interesting moment found through your viewfinder and regarded it as a perfect image for WoL? Seeing the world in a brighter light is still a common factor with many of us, suggesting that we prefer beauty in pictures over a valuable and precise depiction of life. There are even some that struggle to adapt their life to attract such moments into their lives. For instance, there are weeks that show strong weekends, but rather bleak week days. In reality, that is often the case. We enjoy our free time during the weekend and our activities tend to be much more diverse. During the week, we spend most of our days at work, a tedious and non-photogenic image for the camera. A vacation is exactly the opposite, but it says a lot less about the person’s real life, gaining its real face only after we see more weeks from the person. When someone tries to adjust and enrich his or her life just for the sake of the audience, the project is taken out of proportion and is less beneficial for the future generations as a result. It’s not important to show the best photographs from life; it’s important to disclose life just the way it is.

autor:Eva Mueller
My week, author:Eva Mueller

„It’s not important to show the best photographs from life; it’s important to disclose life just the way it is.”Future generations will have all the information they need about the lives of people of various ages, professions and origins. They will be able to investigate and compare our common lives. It’s a pleasant site at how the project has consumed so many people, becoming a part of their everyday life. It’s not mere entertainment however; decisions and responsibilities are involved regarding our attitude towards capturing life as it is, with commitment and without prejudice.

Week of Life is more than entertainment on the internet. Let us protect it, protect its quality, since it is a result of our efforts.
About the Author
Zdeněk DvořákMy name is Zdeněk. I am a 30 year old married man with two children. I was born and have lived my entire life in the city of Znojmo (Přímětice part), to which I have become attached. I graduated from the technical school of food-processing technologies in Pardubice after successfully finishing my pastry-cook apprenticeship. During my mandatory civil service, I worked with the mentally handicapped, which urged me to prolong my studies in the pedagogic field. For the past 7 years, I have been working as a special education needs teacher and I have spent my last 3 years working at a boarding school, part of ‘Special schools of Znojmo’. Regarding photography, I became acquainted with this medium in the year of 1999 as a self-taught amateur, when I tried out a manual SLR that belonged to my father, a photography enthusiast. In the field of photography, I prefer documentaries, primarily from social and rural environments. It has also become a part of my monthly earnings. During the season, I photograph weddings and cultural events. My profession as a special education needs teacher is still my primary source of income and photography stays as my biggest hobby. My biggest achievements include 1st place in the ‘Photographer of the Year’ competition in the years 2008 and 2009, 3rd place in Czech Press Photo 2008 in category ‘Everyday life’ and also the opportunity of being able to work for the Week of Life project as a photo-assessment manager. In the foreseeable future, I would be happy to devote myself to photography in the way that it stays as a hobby that I can enjoy, not as a source of income. I would be more than satisfied if photography served me as a tool for documenting everyday life and exploring foreign countries and their cultures.
Weeks of Zdeněk Dvořák

The phenomenon of photography

Photography is perhaps the most characteristic phenomenon of our age. It’s irreplaceable in science, in the media, and has become so connected to ordinary life that we no longer ponder its multiple forms, functions and exposure. We have taken photography for granted, but at the same time, it has ironically become a significant part of our reality.
We can only assume that hopefully, the next generation will be able to absorb intellectually its indisputable role in the field of arts. They will no longer disparage photography as an artist’s means of expression or ignore it amongst other forms of art just because it has found practical uses and has been subject to mass dispersion throughout civilization.

Photography and architecture are by far the most loyal forms of art. Nevertheless, not every structure is an artistic masterpiece; the same applies to photographs. Both of these fields surprisingly have a lot in common; they create the space we flow in and determine its visual aspect. Both fulfill our needs and create new ones. Similarly, they have multiple layers of nature and character, as well as a debatable fate. We live within images, symbols and signs. Etymology explains the origin of the word photography in two Greek words: phos (light) and graphé (drawing / brush).

autpr:Dorothea Lange
A picture giving face to the Great Depression,
author: Dorothea Lange

‘Drawing with light’, a person cannot resist this notion, symbolizing the genesis of a new image. No wonder we are predetermined to perceive and judge photography based on the mechanism known as artistic painting. Not only the philosophy but also the history of art is obsessed with this comparison variations of it. However, it is an attempt to pass judgment on and systematize something unknown by a proven entity. Photography is an individual factor in itself. It does not need to be compared to other aspects of art or anything else for that matter. The belief that photography is just a continuation of paintings is as pathetic as claiming that man has evolved from monkeys. Just as it was the case of human kind evolving in parallel with apes as relatives, the same applies to the evolution of photography and painting (i.e. the remark that photography is only a matter of the new modern age is short-sighted). People need to realize that the invention of ‘camera obscura’ and photography itself has come a long way.

autor: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
The first photograph,
author: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

Human nature urges us to document our existence and create, as well as to follow other significant instincts like destruction and reproduction. During the Paleolithic age, also known as the Stone Age, 2.7mil to 2 thousand years before Christ, stone was obviously the hit of the era. Our dear ancestors were amazed by stone and remained dazed by its technical possibilities. Everyone simply liked stone suddenly. ‘Stone for every family’ was probably the chant of the eldest and skilful homo habilis; the upstanding homo erectus, and, lastly, the reasonable homo sapiens. Who would have thought that ordinary stone would start off the evolution of our civilization in the direction of brighter tomorrows? The last stage of the Paleolithic era gave birth to the first cave paintings, 15 to 30 thousand years ago. This shows that humans already tended to create and document despite their limited skills and knowledge. Some of the conventionalized paintings illustrate that humans painted not only to document random things, but artistically documented their existence and reality to. They perfected their technique on clay, ash, and charcoal. Jumping a few thousand years ahead to the 7th century, it was even further perfected by oil. This is evident from the discovery by French scientists of a complex of caves in the Afghani Bamyan, where we witness the oldest oil paintings in the world—Buddhist paintings.

‘Drawing with light’

Not long after, a fair 600 years later in the 13th century, oil arrived in educated Europe. The further evolution of artistic painting is quite accurately known, since the history of art is taught in similar fashion all over Europe, and no one has really deviated from this Eurocentric precedent. Only a handful of bizarre philosophic-aesthetic theories stray away.
Where does the path of photography begin? 350 years before Christ, when Aristotle discovered the principle of camera obscura. 1,996 years later, in the year 1646, the first laterna magica was invented, and in the year 1825, Nicéphore Niépce developed the oldest known photo in the world. A rapid succession of events followed: In 1888, George Eastman patented the first box camera and introduced the first commercially successful camera designed for roll film to the market. He also registered the Kodak trademark. The first of the ‘easy to use’ products, Kodak Brownie N° 1 box camera, was advertised that same year.

In 1948, the legendary brand Hasselblad enters the market with its first product. In the same year, people were able to purchase a Polaroid with its ‘instant’ photos. 21 years later, Willard Boyle and George E. Smith invented the first CCD chip in Bell’s laboratories. Within the scope of the history of photography, this technology brings us to the present time, influencing the entire world. In 1994, the market was enriched by the first digital camera with CCD technology, distributed on mass scale: AppleQuickTake100. CCD technology – Charge coupled device – exploits the advantages of chip instead of celluloid film. In crude terms, the photosensitive circuit detects the light and converts it to an electric charge, which is then measured and converted to a digital image. This kind of system is composed of an enormous amount of ‘miniature cells’ catching light individually. The digital image is assembled from particular points – pixels; the more ‘cells’ a sensor has, the higher resolution of the resulting digital image. In other words, by this process we gain more data. As a matter of fact, the mechanism closely resembles the functions of the human eye. Thus, this is the reality of the present. The technological progress of the photographic camera cannot be confused with the history of photography, especially not with the artistic part. Nevertheless, it’s always an advantage to have at least the slightest idea about things that come across and affect our everyday lives.

autor: Murray Becker
A photo that destroyed one of the industrial sectors, author: Murray Becker

The purpose of technology is to help us and make our lives easier. Today, it is as easy as ever just to pick up a camera and practically take a picture of anything we desire. As a result, the practice of photography has changed compared to previous times: Comparing the present situation to the one a hundred years earlier, we come to the conclusion that in those days, the target situations to be shot by the camera were carefully chosen, composed and arranged. Taking pictures was more of an occasional event. The outcome was usually artificial—perfectly satisfying the setup and arrangement. Today, photos are not bound to some sort of responsibility for the result. The process of photography is not as elaborate anymore and is nowhere as expensive for the ordinary person, who now has the ability to afford spontaneous and imminent images. There are no boundaries for the creative mind. Therefore, the camera’s notation of certain situations can be far more sincere than before.
Lately, the trend has reached the situation where we hear negative evaluations and opinions about the present time; that photography is heading towards a decadent slope, that its value is degraded by postproduction, that it has become profane, and, finally, that its standard has dropped both on the amateur every-day level, as well as on the artistic professional level. Sentimental memories follow, praising the days when photography was ‘worthy’.

autpr:Philippe Halsman
A photo that made surrealism real,
author: Philippe Halsman

Hardly anybody realizes that these beliefs lead to a dead end. The spiritual quality of photography is not based on the technology used, since technology is not the result but only the tool. According to what you desire, you are free to choose the respective tool. If you choose to take pictures on a large light sensitive glass with a box camera and would like to return to the wet collodion process, no one will stand in your way. On the other hand, if you chose to use the Hasselblad H4D-40 and take pictures in the RAW format in the 1880s, tough luck. The present day simply offers a wider range of possibilities, nothing more and nothing less. The photography of old cannot be considered better just on the basis of being more respectable, scarce and a matter of rare occasion, since people could not simply afford any other approach. The same applies to the present day. Photography cannot be labeled as decadent just because it has expanded on a massive scale. Present day photography can’t be discriminated against based on the technological-economic aspects resulting in its affordability. The conditions are far more favorable today than a hundred years ago, true, but it is surely not the decisive and relative criterion of the consequent aesthetic experience. The gifts of progress need to be utilized without guilt and remorse. And besides, mastering digital technology requires similar expertise as handling film does, if a person wants to accomplish truly top-notch results. You need your eye and a sensibility for light no matter what. A perfect photo always stands out, no matter how many people around us own a camera.

“…sentimental memories, praising the days when photography was ‘worthy’.”

The Week of Life project allows for a wonderful thing: it enables every one of us to illustrate our week, documented by photographs, in pure democratic fashion. It creates a mosaic consisting of individuals and their photographic ‘manuscripts’. These photos show who we are, what we do, what we consider important, what we like to share and disclose to others or on the contrary, what we indirectly try to keep in our private sphere. This indirect approach tells a lot about us: how we perceive things around us, how we ‘filter’ our reality, what is our inner order of values, how spontaneous we are, or the other way around, what our abilities are when it comes to composing with reason. Week of Life works as an all-round visual exploration probe.

Members of many cultures participate on this project. Every culture predestines how we view and perceive the world around us, be it in form of the language we speak and think in or the respective religion. For example, each society has its own perception of time and moreover, every one of us individually creates an attitude of one’s self. Personally, I identify myself with Heidegger’s conception of time and life as a ‘question of being’, ‘da sein’ to be exact. I consider his theory regarding the sense of being and creation of time as the most meaningful and concise. On the other hand, we can expect a Hindu, for instance, to distance himself from my views and beliefs as he or she lives in his or her own philosophical system, and so on. The perception of time is just a small raindrop in a pool of various factors that influence our attitude towards life. Let us compare, for example, the idea of beauty of individual societies, the notions of taboo within different cultures, various habits, the terms of social coexistence, the functional models of family life, etc. etc. All of this makes us who we are as well as determines our ability to reflect upon miscellaneous events and interpret them. Therefore, all of this is considered a factor when we press the shutter of a camera. We no longer need to paint the inside of a cave; we simply hang photos on our walls.
Therefore, Week of Life gathers testimonials in the form of photographs. And after some time passes by, it would certainly be interesting to examine these photos closely and perhaps come up with several comparisons. The individual pieces both directly and indirectly predicate the status of the society and its cultural development. The potential of the ‘Week’ is substantial regarding the essence of scientific visual studies.
Furthermore, it is extremely interesting to inspect one another, as well as ourselves, while gathering memories—moments rare as well as common, and so on. Most sets also include self-portraits, as though we follow some kind of an instinct to perpetuate ourselves. The way we approach our self-portrait has a lot to say emotionally in itself. One person captures only parts of his or her body – for example, his feet at rest or his own shadow or reflection. Another person will stand in front of a mirror naked and without hesitation capture him/her self ‘totally’. Many of us decide to conceive this photographic documentary in a specific style, which is ever more interesting, since we can monitor our own games and quirks.

autor: Arthur Sasse
A photograph that enabled genius minds to have a sense of humor, author: Arthur Sasse

Photography is a democratic medium. It captures positive events but also negative ones, as well as the occasional pathological phenomenon. Thanks to this medium we can not only inform others that we spent our vacation in the Canary Islands, but also show that children in the north of Kenya are dying of hunger and as a consequence of deadly diseases. Through the means of photography we can document such elusive moments as a snowflake melting the instant it lands on our hand. We can catch precious moments such as the first gasps for air of a new-born child. And from a different perspective, we can capture things of a cruel nature, for instance the immediate expression of a person’s face stunned by the sight of a war-infested city bombarded to ashes. A Photo never illustrates more than what really is happening in the world.

About the Author
Stanislava KopáčkováMy name is Stanislava Kopáčková and I’m 22 years old. I come from a little village in Central Bohemia called Obecnice. After graduating from high school in the city of Příbram, I continued my studies at the Faculty of philosophy of the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, in the field of aesthetics. At present, I’m finishing my bachelor’s program and preparing for the Leaving Certificate Exam and the defense of my thesis, called ‘The insight into the aesthetics of culture of living by Adolf Loose and Le Corbusier’. I live in Prague and work here as an import manager at an advertising agency. As a model, I co-operate with artistic photographers in the Czech Republic as well as abroad. The person that has affected my life the most is my mother, who taught me everything I know and what it is that makes me who I am. On top of that, I have been greatly touched by photography, architecture and in the last year and a half, punk culture, and Harley Davidson motorcycles. I am fascinated by the systems of nature and its laws, by oceans, space, and life in primeval forests. I like to experience how things actually work. I like to travel. I like everything that is amazing: a well-built house, an ably tailored cloth, the furniture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the elegant automobiles of the 30s. My ideal plan for the distant future is to live in a warm remote place, with a house on the hill by the seaside, drink gin and tonic, raise grandchildren, relax in my private luxurious library, and tend to a herd of goats. Life is a journey with constant lessons prepared for us, but it all earns its meaning only when we have someone beside us to share it with and love. Otherwise it loses its significance. I feel at ease in the arms of the man of my heart. This kind of feeling cannot be measured or compared to anything else, perhaps only with having children. A person is condemned to existing; it is just a matter of understanding that it is a gift.