This week: Restrictions are easing across the country as cities and states prepare for a return to some version of a new normal. Film production is now allowed in California.[Header Photo by Santi Fox on Unsplash]
Filming Allowed in Los Angeles
Yesterday Los Angeles County released their set of regulations for resuming film and TV production. Filming is allowed to resume as soon as today, though realistically it will take time for production companies to figure out how to implement the rules.
The guide is formatted as a checklist which is a useful way to organize the information–you can just run down the list and check each item off. That being said, for your own production you’ll likely need to convert the rules into your own system to make sure you comply.
As I write this Hollywood’s unions have released their protocol for restarting productions. It has been in the works for some time and is built on the industry whitepaper released last week. We’ll get a chance to dig into the rules more next week, but the main takeaway from skimming is that they’ve devised a zone system for testing and monitoring which underlies the entire process. The document itself is readable, written in a conversational tone, and walks you through setting up a shoot and running your set.
Read it here. We’ll continue to dig and report more on this next week.
The Shirley Card and the Racial Bias of Photography
The main way I’ve been following the protests these past two weeks has been through the words and lenses of people on the ground via Twitter and Instagram. The images and videos being produced are powerful, and some of these will no doubt become symbolic and representative of this place and moment in time. The calls to highlight and amplify Black photographers and voices are beyond warranted–they are important.
As an avid photographer, and as a member of a community of image makers, I wanted to continue my education this week on understanding historical racial biases within this world I spend my time in.
unconscious bias that was built into photography. By categorizing light skin as the norm and other skin tones as needing special corrective care, photography has altered how we interact with each other without us realizing it.
She goes on to explain the history of the Shirley card:
When you sent off your film to get developed, lab technicians would use the image of a white woman with brown hair named Shirley as the measuring stick against which they calibrated the colors.
And when digital cameras came, they blindly reproduced the color profiles of their film predecessors, perpetuating this bias towards developing film for white skin tones as the norm.
In the past, Fuji developed a reputation among professional photographers as the go-to film for darker skin tones. Kodak eventually created Kodak Max,
billed as being “able to photograph the details of a dark horse in lowlight,” a coded message for being able to photograph people of color.
This was only after receiving multiple complaints from chocolate and furniture companies who “weren’t getting the right brown tones on the chocolates” or “enough variation between the different color woods in their advertisements.” What’s most disturbing and not left unsaid is this:
It was never black flesh that was addressed as a serious problem at the time.
Lewis’s point in calling out the historical prejudices within photography specifically is that photos are and have been critically important in building a shared narrative and culture. Photos are powerful and emotional. They shape our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to each other. In a separate interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, she describes how Frederick Douglass gave a speech during the Civil War entitled “Pictures and Progress.”
He was interested in what he called “thought pictures.” This was his gesture toward narrative; he used this term to describe the ways in which culture, what we consume daily through pictures, can shift our notion of the world…Douglass was the most photographed American man in the nineteenth century, for good reason. He believed in this idea.
Douglass was using photos as a tool to “create a corrective image about race and American life.” If the systems underlying photography naturally discriminates against Black skintones, then you have to actively work to negate those effects. This should not be the norm in a world where everyone with a phone is a photographer.
And beyond the ideas of shifting the national narrative around race, it’s also simply about being black and being able to take a family photo. It’s about growing up black and being able to see photos of Michelle Obama and other heroes who look just like you. As Lewis puts it,
You can’t become what you can’t accurately see.
Brown Girls Doc Mafia Members–available to hire.
Hire Black photographers.
Protests Through the Eyes of Black Photographers.
The Annenberg Space for Photography in LA closes for good due to coronavirus.
What creative, bizarre and beautiful images: Quarantined Travel Photographer Creates Miniature “Outdoor” Scenes With Everyday Objects
See you next week.