Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Return of FotoTales



Ten years ago, I shot anywhere from ten to two hundred digital photos of San Francisco and the wider world for 365 straight days. It was an attempt both to capture time and revolutionize photojournalism, back in the days before photoblogs and the practice of posting pictures of perfect strangers on the internet became ubiquitous. Not knowing what would be important to viewers in the future, I tried to capture a bit of everything, from the mundane to the sensational, and a major surprise was discovering how much of each day we flush from our brains each day. Editing the photos in Photoshop every evening before turning each day's collection into a PowerPoint presentation the next morning, the recurring thought was, "This all happened today?"



The year-long project started without any clue what the various storylines would be. A few of the narratives turned out to be the California energy crisis created by Enron, the collapse of the dot-com boom in the Bay Area, the increasing corruption of the financial services industry which I witnessed first-hand creating propaganda for Wells Fargo Bank, and the world before and after 9/11. There were also recurring characters who were friends, crazy people on the street, Muni bus riders, coworkers, and family. It turned out to be a very rich stew.



After finishing this ambitious project, I joined the public access TV station in San Francisco which had just opened a new studio at Market and Valencia Streets, and turned the 365 PowerPoint shows into 52 weekly, half-hour episodes that mirrored a year. This involved a good deal of editing, mostly pruning the text, and then scoring the shows with 365 different pieces of music which were half classical and half everything else under the sun. The title theme, a glorious trumpet fanfare from Britten's obscure opera "Gloriana," is the only recurring music and it's great fun. After its first showing, I spent the next year polishing the entire series and rebroadcast it in that revised, final form.

Ten years have passed since April 2001 to March 2002, so it seemed a good time to rebroadcast the series again. BAVC (the Bay Area Video Coalition) is now in charge of public access TV in San Francisco, and they are helping to export the old digital videotapes into more current formats.

The show started broadcasting with Episode 1 last week and a new episode will appear every Thursday at 7:30 PM on Channel 29 via Comcast cable in San Francisco. Check out our recently vanished world.

Update: For reasons unknown, the show wasn't broadcast tonight (Thursday). However, you can watch it streamed online from the BAVC site on your computer where it probably works better anyway. Click here for Episode 1. Click here for Episode 2.

8 comments:

AphotoAday said...

That is SO cool, Mike... I had heard of your Foto-Tales somewhere and wondered what it was... What an ambitious undertaking... Neat idea...
So, have you thought about a DVD for the collection -- I'd buy one 'fer sure... A real collector's item...

AphotoAday said...

Hi Mike, it's me again...
I was going to send you an email, but the address I found looked sort of old... Anyway, I wanted to tell you about a photo exhibit at the LGBT Community Center -- opening reception is tonight (Thursday April 14 from 7 to 9)...

Anyway, this Tom Schmidt fellow -- I know him from a night class I'm currently taking at Stanford -- has done an incredible set of posed nudes... Based on Old Testament stories -- with clouds in the backgrounds, they really are quite dramatic...

Tom has a curious story about the LGBT Center not allowing full frontal-nudity in their lobby area where the show was originally intended to be hung, and the show almost didn't go on, but they gave him a large conference room and one hallway... Anyway, just thought I would mention it... Way too many crazy people for me to show up tonight for the opening but I want to check it out before it closes -- he really has some classic stuff...

Thought you would want to know...

sfmike said...

Thanks for the heads up, Donald. I'll check it out even though I hate the Gay, Etc. Center.

Timothy said...

Just watched Episode 1 in its entirety. I had never seen it although you had discussed the concept and process with me frequently. Wonderful. Episode 2 tomorrow...

sfmike said...

I just watched the first two episodes at the BAVC link and realized it actually does belong on a computer screen because of pixel resolution issues, not on a TV screen. It's holding up pretty brilliantly, though, if I do say so myself, and the classical/pop soundtrack is a pre-iPod shuffle wonder.

AphotoAday said...

Hi Mike, it's me again...
But I finally had time to watch all of both episodes and found them really great. Ten points and a gold star -- my highest rating...

Great stuff and rather witty... Fun to see places like the Mechanics Library staircase that I haven't seen since I was a kid.

Didn't know you previously had a beautiful Siamese. Fun to see Mission Bay ten years ago. And geeezzz, I thought they caught the Unabomber years ago. All good stuff. Lively and entertaining. Any new projects in the pipeline?

sfmike said...

Dear Donald: Nothing new in the pipeline besides this blog, because frankly the amount of work I put into FotoTales just about killed me. There's still another 50 episodes to go that I need to get digitized which is also taking forever.

Kimo C said...

Very exciting development Mike - welcome back from vacation!