Pranksters Create Divinely Inspired Photo Series

Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News

Don't you hate it when you love a movie that your friends could care less about? Delicatessen by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is like that for me. For years, I've been trying to turn my friends on to that amazing film with little success. It's for this reason that I was overjoyed when Amelie (from the same director) became a big hit in America. It was a real pleasure sitting in the packed Landmark Century theater and laughing so hard that I cried when Amelie's dad received the photos of his garden gnome's travels around the world.

I wasn't the only one who liked the idea of taking an object on a photo excursion. Travelocity ripped off the garden gnome idea for their ads, and very recently, you may have heard about The Baby Jesus Chronicles, a prank-turned-art project that gets my vote for "Most Creative Photo Series of The Year."

On December 23rd, 2005, John and Joan Leising of Buffalo, NY discovered the baby Jesus statue missing from the nativity scene in their front yard. In its place was a note saying that the statue would be returned in three days. Eight months later, the baby Jesus returned to the Leisings with a note and a photo album that told the story of his adventures. The note said
"We are simply a group of young adults who wished to show the baby Jesus a better life than he would have seen cooped up in an attic crawl space. He has traveled over counties and states, met people and animals alike. We have done our best to show the baby Jesus the many glorious aspects of our world."

Baby Jesus camping

Baby Jesus riding a bike

I don't advocate stealing, but I'm fascinated by how these pranksters created something interesting out of such mundane photos. It challenges me to think about how I can make my photos more interesting by telling a story.

The note went on to say:
"The baby Jesus has made us happy at numerous times in the past eight months, so we hope the chronicles of his life with us can pass some of that happiness on to you."

Baby Jesus making brownies

Read the full story here.

Do You Want To Know What IT Is?

Morpheus asking Neo that ominous question was what I heard echoing in my head after learning about a completely different kind of photo software called Photosynth. According to the press release, "Photosynth takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next. In these collections, you can access gigabytes of photos in seconds, view a scene from nearly any angle, find similar photos with a single click, and zoom in to make the smallest detail as big as your monitor."

Looking at this remarkable technology reminded me of a science magazine article I read in the early 90's that predicted virtual reality technology would be commonly used by the mid 2000s. Well I'm no prognosticator, but it's almost 2007 and I'm still typing this blog entry on a physical keyboard when I'd rather be composing on the virtual terminal that Keanu Reeves used in Johnny Mnemonic or the one that Tom Cruise used in Minority Reporty.
What the heck happened? The closest I get to virtual reality these days is browsing past the want ads for virtual tour real estate photographers. Umm...thanks, but no thanks!

I'm not a video game player, but I appreciate the technological advances that the industry pushes forward. But I guess there isn't yet a large enough number of people willing to fork out the dough for a computer that can handle the processing needs of virtual reality technology (though I think the new Wii game system is a step in that direction). Fortunately, we won't have to wait long to enjoy Photosynth, an imaging program that will allow us to visually explore our photos in a way that goes slightly beyond the two dimensional constraints of our existing technolgy. What really bakes my noodle is that the photos of hundreds of people can be combined into a virtual construct. I won't try to explain it beyond that. Morpheus said it best- "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

You can learn more about Photosynth (and start creating some!) here. In the meantime, I'm going to work out my strategy for creating three dimensional portraits!

Does 0 + 1 = Art?

ASCII conversion courtesy of

I recently became thoughtful at first hearing the news that there exists a robot that has been painting for the past 20 years. According to the website, "AARON
mixes its own paints, creates striking artwork and even washes its own brushes." This revelation reminded me of my initial trepidation about digital photography back in 1991.

I was in college and deeply involved in my photography classes. I was producing more work than I ever had previously. I had even started tutoring other classmates in the use of the darkroom. It was during this slightly elitist period in my photographic career that I first learned of the emergence of digital photography, a bizarre melding of art and computer science that dared to replace film
with 0s and 1s. Without exception, every photography student who got involved in the conversation of this new technology swore they'd NEVER use a digital camera. I wonder if we would have more clearly realized the world we were living in had we known that AARON existed, and that it already had several years of experience in creating art? It's 15 years later, and I'd love to track all those former classmates down to take a poll of what camera they're currently shooting!

It's feasible that several of those photography students stayed with film. The 35mm SLR camera body that I paid $1000 for in 2001 can now be purchased for $500. But economics isn't the deciding factor for many photographers. Most of the serious photographers I know do not shoot for money, they shoot for the love of it, and this is what brings me back to AARON the painting robot. The first question I asked when learning about AARON is "Why?" Why would someone create a robot for the purpose of creating art? This news was especially timely because I'm currently listening to an audiobook called "Lead the Field" by Earl Nightingale. One of the more memorable quotes is when the author recounts hearing someone say "scientists are happier than artists because scientists are regularly involved in objective tasks while artists are usually staring at their navel."

So here I am, once again trying to make sense of the marriage between art and science. When I was 19, I lacked the perspective to appreciate the valuable benefits that digital photography would offer me. Right now, I'm having a hard time appreciating the value of a painting robot. Can a robot create art? Is digital photography as valid an art form as film photography? I don't know these answers, but I have a hunch that there's something very profound hiding in our endless pursuit to do things differently.
Photo courtesy of

To learn more about AARON, click here.

Use Photography to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

You may have heard about the new Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. movie "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus" I haven't seen it, though I'm a fan of both the main actors and Diane Arbus. My photography teacher in college used to show us slide shows of Arbus' work. I used to wonder what it was like for her to visit all of those seedy places in order to create her famous portraits. I've been to a couple of seedy places in the name of getting an interesting photo (check out my "Goth Prom" folder for an example), but I certainly don't intend to make a career of it. However, I do see the value in using photography to get out of your comfort zone. The boy in the picture above is a great example.

On the day that I was photographing a wedding at Glastonbury Woods in Indiana, I saw this boy run out of a bathroom crying. He was going to wash his hands when he saw a large spider crawling around the sink. God bless his father, because after he calmed his son down a little, he went back into the bathroom with him and snapped a photo of the spider. The little boy carried around that camera for at least an hour to show everyone how brave he was. The next time he sees a spider, I wonder if he's less likely to be scared, now that he has a positive association. Similarly, I'm less likely to be wary of young people dressed in black with spikes and dark eye makeup because I had such a fun time photographing them. Can you think of something that puts you on edge that you might be able to get a better handle on by taking a picture of it?

"But I thought she was a ____?"

Amy Aiello is different things to different people. When I work with her, she's a videographer. When I'm out shooting for fun, she's a fellow photographer. But there's an Amy I don't even know, even though it's probably the most important part of her - she's a pianist, and as the video above shows, a very talented one.

I've never heard Amy perform before. I just watched this video a minute ago for the first time, and I was reminded of the people I know who think that a person is only capable of having one talent (if that). Sometimes when I tell people about the success I've enjoyed as an internet marketer (for example, generating $15k+ for a spa business with a $0 ad budget), a couple of people have responded by saying "But I thought you were a photographer?" I often get the same response when I tell people that my wife is a web designer, a soapmaker, a photographer, a graphic designer, an amazing cook, and much more. "But I thought she was a ____?"

Maybe it's a result of the distraction-filled society we currently live in, or the fact that most Americans define themselves by their occupation, but there's a lot of people who think that 1 talent is enough. Amy clearly disagrees with that idea, and her life is so much richer as a result. To see some photographic examples of her rich talent, click the lovely abstract below.

Bill Gates Is My Co-Pilot

It's 10 degrees in Chicago today, but I feel warm and fuzzy all over. Why? Because Microsoft's search engine has chosen this website as #1 for the keyword phrase "photographer chicago". Woohoo! You'll notice in the screenshot above that there are 3 paid listings above me, but mine is the #1 organic listing. It's important to note that organic listings are clicked on far more than paid listings. [FYI- It's purely coincidental that my website name is and the search engines call their free listings "organic."]

"Photographer Chicago" isn't just a random phrase that sounded clever to me at the time. Photographer Chicago is the search term that is used most often when people are looking for a photographer in Chicago. How do I know this? Because when I'm not on a photo shoot, I'm studying internet marketing so that I can market my photography business more effectively. I bought a software tool that shows you exactly what people are searching for. I thought "Chicago pro photographer" or "Chicago wedding photographer" would be more commonly searched phrases, but photographer chicago was way ahead of every other search term.

I mentioned in a previous post ("Even Santa Claus is getting hip to blogging") that the search engines love blogs. However, most people still haven't figured this out. Many people have questioned my logic in changing from a typical artist website that focuses on me me me, into a blog with photography articles that focus on you you you. The results speak for themselves. This website gets WAY more traffic today than it did a year ago. The reason is simple. The search engines are looking for fresh content and you are looking for information (as opposed to self-promotion).

Now while it's true that the search engines are looking for images (as demonstrated by Google's Image Search Engine), written content is far easier to "spider" and is generally more effective than images. This idea runs contrary to the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words", but consider the fact that just a few years ago, graphic banner ads were the most common form of online advertising. Banner ads quickly became such a nuisance that we learned to avoid them completely. Are images more effective than text ads? Just look at Google's annual revenues from AdWords ($5 billion the last I heard) and it's obvious that words are more effective than images when it comes to advertising.

I never thought that being a photographer would lead me into writing, but I guess it's not so far of a stretch when you consider the fact that
the word "photography" comes from two Greek words: "phos", meaning "light" and "grapho", meaning "to write." Photography's root meaning is "to write with light." A "photographer" then would be "one who writes with light."

an you talk a person's ear off about the subject you're most passionate about? Well that's how I am with photography, so it's certainly no hardship to write these blog posts. You can do the same thing. Creating fresh and relevant content is a surefire way to get the word out about your business, hobby, passion, etc. Of course there are many other marketing strategies that complement blogging, but blogging is a free, easy and effective way to get started in internet marketing.

Here are a few of my other 1st page search engine victories:

1. How to be a freelance photographer
2. Professional portrait photographers Chicago IL
3. Photographer
4. How to be a great photographer
5. Meaningful pictures
6. Photos amazing
7. Where to get professional pictures taken in Chicago
8. How do you put videos on Blogger