The Broccoli Tree 🥦🌳


“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” said Andy Warhol. That was certainly true for a broccoli tree in Sweden, whose anonymity disappeared due to its popular Instagram account with 30,000 fans.

In a world of surfeit images, people actually spent the time to look at this broccoli tree. It became a tourist attraction, even hosting its own photography exhibition. But according to a heartless individual, it may have overstayed its welcome. Someone suddenly sawed off one of its limbs.

“You can’t unsaw a tree, but you can’t unsee one either.”

The broccoli tree went desist, but its fame lives on through calendars, prints, and its Instagram feed.  “To share something is to risk losing it,” especially in the era of social media.

It’s a harsh world for something that seemed already untouchable.

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Pascal Maitre’s African journey

Bata children after their First Communion. Equatorial Guinea, 1989 (Pascal Maitre/Agence Cosmos)

Photojournalist Pascal Maitre has been capturing Africa for over 30 years. But “each story is like new,” he said an interview with The New York Times, “You must find a new solution, a new piece to make the story.”

Photographers are first-class noticers. They wait for something to happen. Said Maitre:

“The most difficult part is to be in a place where something interesting is happening. To get physical access, authorization and safety. Once you’re on the spot, shooting is never difficult.”


Instagram ‘homogenized our creativity’

Instagram is a clash of sameness: the same travel pics, coffee cup shots, and innumerable selfies. The app ‘homogenizes‘ photography so that all images look roughly the same.

It’s always refreshing to see Instagram users who are trying something different, who are using the platform to explore their creativity instead of posting endless food porn.

Not only are we drowning in photos, the conformity of images is ruining the art of photography.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are countless apps for editing your photos and videos to make them stand out from others in the feed. VSCO offers some unique filter capabilities but apps like Hyperspektiv and Photofox transform your photos into something unique by mixing elements of graphics and paint.

Adding interesting captions is another way to differentiate ourselves from the crowd. Tell people what the image is about or give a unique interpretation of what the eye can’t see. Even better, bewilder the viewer and keep them guessing. Like photos, all writing is in the edit.

Give everyone a camera and the stage, and they’ll exploit it just like everybody else. The upshot is a mass experience that mostly dulls expression. Scratch it up, discolor the frame; dare to be different.

More Cliches 🚫

AMERICANS — Indians in American life

Seminoles, Braves, Redskins — Indian culture permeates American life from sports teams to table-top advertising.

Panorama by Wells Baum

Upon entering the exhibit, there’s a sign titled Indians are everywhere in American life that reads:

 “These images are worth a closer look. What if they are not trivial? What if they are instead symbols of great power? What if the stories they tell reveal a buried history — and a country forever fascinated, conflicted, and shaped by its relationship with American Indians?”

Did you know that Native American Ira Hayes was one of the six Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima?

video via Wikimedia Commons

The many variations of Native American flags.

All photos by Wells Baum

Stuck in traffic 🚦


Nowhere to go, a forced patience at the mercy of algorithmic street lights.

No right on red, Big Brother proclaims.

When we’re stuck at the corner, there isn’t more to do than look at the variations of our surroundings.

The city never stops. Why should its people, albeit looking blankly inscrutable?


“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.”

Winston Churchill

Enjoying the silence of GIFs

giphy-downsized-large-1The mind fills a silent GIF with sound.

The flags flickering in the wind, the lightbulb dancing at a Mexico City bar, to the whistle of leaves swinging outside your window.

Living in the distraction era, noise is ubiquitous. Standing still, the decibels around turn up to match the horizon.

But the calmer it becomes, the more you hear.

Silence deafens the external stimuli. In nature, it rings with the the highest volume.

TuRn it up!



Walden, water, and wifi

Photo by Wells Baum

One day we’re going to miss the powerful silence of the natural world, the way it smells and begs for an inquisition. That’s because “most people are on the world, not in it,” wrote the father of national parks John Muir.

In putting a “fence around nature,” we lock ourselves into a secluded wall of emotional current.

Nature nurtures, it humbles our deepest desires. Because we can’t control the skies, nor the mercurial blob of ourselves, we must give in to nature’s fickleness and beauty.

We’re going to be shocked when we wake up from digital’s second life and realize that becoming also means embracing the evolving whims of those things around us. We are overpowered by the Earth’s forces.

Perhaps naturalist Bernd Heinrich said it best:

“We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate. I just think it is the one thing we can all agree on.”

In the blink of an eye…

Photo by Wells Baum

That’s how subtleties move along, transparent, through the chaos of abundant information for which the likes of Facebook and Twitter sell our eyeballs to the attention merchants.

As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “seeing comes before words.” Images overpower our digital world. Video maximizes these stitched images. People lose interest in thinking by themselves and using their imagination.

Said color photography pioneer William Eggleston: “Words and pictures don’t — they’re like two different animals. They don’t particularly like each other.”

Showing speaks louder than telling. One can intuit a concept quicker with a visual cue more so than a verbalized one.

The first taste is with your eyes. But what you perceive in your mind’s eye is what empowers an agile interpretation.

Social media companies as old storefronts

Designs by Andrei Lacatusu

If Facebook’s recent newsfeed changes are any sign, social media is in decay. It’s gone from connecting people to Buzzfeed’s linkbait to a nest of echo chambers where the likeminded and bots spread fake news.

The art done here by artist Andrei Lacatusu provides a metaphor for the chaotic and ruinous state of social media, which appears to be failing like today’s brick-and-mortar stores. While we can expect the social networks to stay in business, they need to spend 2018 rebuilding the public’s trust.


Weathered or not in New York

The weathered we address: What kind of weathered is it?

It contains multitudes.



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Split Tourist

Photo May 29, 2 11 24 PM.jpg


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….Retrofitted and restored

Processed with VSCOcam with m4 preset

Weathered rock or stone, broken glass, ruptured pavement, blinding headaches, winters wear down New York but its city dwellers weather in, on, and through in flexible shifts.

All photos by Wells Baum

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The London Milkman


Photographer Fred Morley staged the famous photo of a milkman walking through the destruction of London after the German blitz during the Second World War.

That’s right – this photo was staged. Morley walked around the rubble of London until he found a group of firefighters trying to put out a fire amidst the fallen buildings, as he wanted that specific scene in the background. Here’s where the story has some variations. Apparently, Morley borrowed a milkman’s outfit and crate of bottles. He then either posed as the milkman or had his assistant pose as the milkman.

While the British government censored images of London’s destruction, it promoted this photo to show the world Britain’s resiliency and a sense of calm.

As writer and photographer Teju Cole once penned: “The facticity of a photograph can conceal the craftiness of its content and selection,” or Bertolt Brecht once wrote in his 1955 book War Primer, “The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter.”

World War II was a lesson in propaganda, in Morley’s case spreading awareness through the photographic medium to grab attention.

Marketers can be liars, which in this case proved indispensable to boosting morale and saving lives. Morley’s milkman image worked brilliantly.