Archives

July 2008

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Jul 31

In a post I wrote a little while ago I said that I was not very interested in the photographic process, but in the resulting images. I didn’t expect to get that many emails from people agreeing with me. But I also didn’t expect that some people would assume that my unwillingness to consider the process when looking at photography meant that I’d be happy to basically accept anything, in particular photography that was done not very well (for an example, see a recent post by Mrs. Deane).
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Jul 31

“One of the most respected photographers of the [South African] struggle years, when he was a member of the Afrapix collective and a photographer on the newspaper New Nation, Santu Mofokeng’s black and white photographs provide enduring images of great humanity, recording not only the harshness but also the moments of happiness, and the unquenchable human spirit which kept people going through those times.” (source) Also see this page and this one.
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Jul 31

“Seydou Keïta (1921-2001) was a self-taught portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali. […] As a self-trained photographer, Keïta always preferred the direct control that black and white studio portraits afforded. From 1949 to 1964, he developed a remarkable reputation; meticulously creating and preserving thousands of exceptional photographs.” (source) More samples here.
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Jul 30

Over at 2point8, Michael presents a very nice article about “street photography”.
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Jul 30

“If Malick Sidibés images emanate so much power, it is because beyond the convivial and careless atmosphere he also illustrates the difficulty of having to adapt to life in the city. The confrontation with unemployment and alcohol, the irresistible desire to be like young whites. The pictures reflect the artist: convivial, intimate and yet not voyeuristic, they tell of a great complicity between the artist and his subjects. […] Malick Sidibé got the Hasselblad Award, the golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and lately the ICP award for lifetime achievement.” (source, with many photos to look at). Also see this page, this one, and find an interview here.
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Jul 30

There has been a lot of talk about recent photography from South Africa, for example see this article, or find a very openly dissenting article here. I have been talking about this issue with a couple of close friends, one living in South Africa, one an American photographer who has spent a long time in various parts of Africa, photographing there. I’ve come to the conclusion that instead of debating the recent work I’d rather talk about and/or introduce other African photographers here. So with the help of my two friends - thanks, Tobias and Robert! - there’ll now be a week of photography from Africa on this blog.
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Jul 29

The other day, I came across Mikiya Takimoto’s wonderful book “Sightseeing”. Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible to find much about either the photographer or the book online (I don’t speak Japanese, so that certainly doesn’t help). You can see three (not particularly good) sample images from the book here, so you get an idea of the kind of photography in the book. It can be ordered via Photo-Eye. Those with too much disposable income might also find it at that popular New York City photo book boutique, which I myself am not particularly fond of.
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Jul 29

Peter Otto’s “Räume” (spaces) employs photography to investigate space and its use.
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Jul 28

The year 1968 might be considered the time when the Sixties ended prematurely. Soviet boots had crushed what people in Prague called “socialism with a human face”, students revolting in France and Germany had achieved… well… what? And by the end of 1968, two American public figures who had inspired millions of people with their visions, Dr. Martin Luther King jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, were dead, both assassinated. Richard Nixon was elected president, promising law and order and peace in Southeast Asia (instead, the American people got a man who put himself above the law and who secretly expanded the Vietnam war into Cambodia).
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Jul 28

Some juicy new research I just couldn’t walk past (even though I dislike all kinds of sausages, meat or no meat): “According to the researchers, how we feel about a sausage, regardless of whether it’s soy-based or beef, says more about our personal values than about what the sausage actually tastes like. In fact, most people can’t even tell the difference between an ersatz vegan sausage and the real thing.” (source)
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Jul 28

“Despite all the critics who have claimed photos are ‘a grammar,’ images are more like a half-language […], always both objective and freighted with meanings that even the photographer and her audience only sometimes understand. Good photography somehow can tell more, with its pulp and its present-ness. That combination of directness and mysteriousness that is part of being a half-language must be preserved into the future. Despite the fact that amateurs have made iconic images in the past […] there have been many more iconic images that are actually extremely professional […]. If we are to keep this history alive, we need to find ways to support professional photojournalists outside of the magazine and newspaper industry.” - story
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Jul 28

“This body of work is concerned with the transitional changes of childhood through recent generations, stemming from my observations in the differences between when I was a child and the childhood of my younger siblings today. It appears to me that demands are now placed on children that require them to grow up so quickly whilst simultaneously they are denied the freedom of the childhood i led.” - Andrew Burton
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Jul 27

When I first saw the disguise picked by Radovan Karadzic (left) to hide from the International War Crimes Tribunal, I was struck to see how similar his look was to former chess champion Robert “Bobby” Fisher’s (who had also been on the run from authorities, albeit for different reasons). Both one of the worst war criminals of our times and a chess champion turned raving lunatic decided to use the deranged Santa Claus look - and it’s quite interesting to see how people in both cases were extremely surprised when they finally got their glimpse of their man. Actually, one could probably Saddam Hussein’s disguise to the list.
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Jul 25

“Using a digital video camera set to still mode, the artist takes multiple zoomed-in shots of specific locations in his native Israel, methodically documenting every aspect of the space in a way that mimics how a viewer absorbs information upon entering a room. He then combines these images into a large-scale composite that contains more information than a single shot ever could.” While Yuval Yairi’s method is neither new, nor particularly revolutionary, some of the results are very interesting.
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Jul 25

Starring Steve Coogan (which had me think of Alan Partridge while watching the movie) - the movie is brilliant fun, and it very accurately shows the Manchester scene back then. The companion movie to this (which might appeal to a wider crowd) is…
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Jul 24

“Les Moguichets deals with remembrance and the relationship we have with our past, with eras of our lives we can only remember in fragments.” - Betsie Genou
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Jul 24

Serious money is now being made with photo books - mind you, not all photo books, but some of them. If only half of what various people told me about the market is true, there are a lot of things going on that I find quite unpleasant.
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Jul 23

Earlier, I mentioned an interview with Hilla Becher, published in Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin has now agreed to let me publish my translation of the full interview on this blog.
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Jul 23

Rivkah Young has explored spaces that were constructed to display fantasies - such as amusement parks and TV studios.
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Jul 21

I have my reservations about several details of this review of Pieter Hugo’s work, but it’s a worthwhile read anyway.
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Jul 21

I’m sure Nicolas Wollnik’s eagerness to push the boundaries of photography (or image making) will unsettle those who are uncomfortable with the idea of moving beyond photographic orthodoxy.
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Jul 18

I’m a big fan of Tom Waits’ music, and I wasn’t looking forward to Scarlett Johansson’s interpretation of some of his music (dreadly anticipating something along the lines of Paris Hilton’s “music”). I have to say that the actual results surprised me - even though it’s one of those surprises that is neither good, nor bad, but just plainly weird: The whole thing sounds as if you somehow crossed Nico with Shinead O’Connor after sucking all the talent out of the room. For those who don’t believe me have a look at the video of the song Falling Down.
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Jul 18

Sonnabend is probably the gallery that most closely resembles an actual photography museum in (New York’s) Chelsea. Whenever I’m in town I go to see their shows, especially since almost inevitably it’s one of the usual German suspects (and even just a glimpse of, say, one of Elger Esser’s large photographs, often - and sadly enough - makes the whole trip to Chelsea worthwhile).
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Jul 18

By chance, I found HotShoe magazine a little while ago, dedicated to “fresh perspectives in contemporary photography.” Their website is a bit 20th Century - there’s nothing you can see unless you subscribe, which means you’ll have to look for the print edition (but then, a print magazine beats the experience of staring at photography on a lousy computer screen any time, doesn’t it?). I was told the magazine was being distributed in the US, and I found it in New York (but don’t count on being able to find it in Moscow, Idaho!). With its extremely nice print and contents quality it’s worth the money, so if you see it somewhere get one.
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Jul 18

Peter Wildanger’s photography is quite interesting - I’m not so sure about the statements, though (“Definition of a pictorial space: any quantity x of elements, endued with a certain structure, which presents an abstraction of the multidimensional space of perception.”)
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Jul 18

Turns out the father of brutalism was an extremely interesting character.
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Jul 18

Godzilla of course is one of the best movie monsters of all times - my favourite certainly - and the early movies contain all the fun you can have (wonderful examples how a little imagination and a rubber suit easily beat today’s combination of a meagre imagination and computer effects). The only problem is that some of those movies contain just a bit too much of “Godzilla (or some other monsters) destroys some city” - after about five minutes you get the idea (no, really!). This is why “Godzilla versus the Sea Monster” stands out, because it is a genuinely good film (needless to say incl. a lot of the usual Godzilla-movie goofiness) with just enough monster fighting to make it a lot of fun (and Mothra stars in it, too!) Another great film is…
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Jul 17

Mrs. Deane pointed me to Benoit Vollmer’s site and I have to agree with her that Ex nihilo is the strongest work.
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Jul 17

Just like me, my friend and “e”-co-conspirator Andrew H. looked through all the entries of the Blurb photo book contest (or more precisely, those that are for sale via the company’s website). Psychologists might have an idea or two what that says about us bloggers (or maybe just about Andrew and me). In any case, unlike me, he then compiled a summary post. The only thing thus left for me to say about this all is what I was thinking about the contest last night, when looking at the prices of those books: Wouldn’t it be nice if Blurb offered the books at a discount - so that people would be encouraged/enticed to buy them?
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Jul 17

Of course, this advertizes the show at the museum in Milwaukee, but even if you can’t make it there, I think you might to listen to what George has to say about art and life. So simple, so true.
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Jul 16

I admit that as an astronomer I’m a bit jaded about astronomy photos, and I’m particularly uninterested in new Mars images (and even more uninterested in the almost comical fuss NASA creates every time yet another little robot going to Mars sends back photos that look like… well… all the other Mars robot photos - give me a break already!). But these images here are really quite spectacular.
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Jul 16

In my six years of blogging, there is one post that I started to write maybe up to ten times, and each time, I refrained from posting it. Maybe it’s time to get it out of my system. It’s not even anything particularly interesting, even though I’m sure some people might disagree.
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Jul 16

Manuel Vazquez’s “Traces” is an elegant commentary on the anonymity and exposure of city life.
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Jul 16

Two good takes on the latest New Yorker cartoon (which, I’m sure, by now everybody has heard of): “So should we tread warily, lest we are misunderstood? Of course we should. Cartoonists are some of the most painstaking, careful, shy and sensitive people on earth, yet we do play with fire, toying with other people’s (and of course our own) most deeply held beliefs and most cherished illusions.” writes Steve Bell. And: “See, the Rude Pundit’s problem with the whole Barack-as-Muslim and Michelle-as-Black-Panther plus burning flag and bin Laden’s picture in the Oval Office isn’t that it’s particularly offensive. It’s that it’s just not very funny. It’s not even enough to make you go, ‘Hmmm.’ You glance at it once and think, ‘Yeah, some people think that, don’t they? That’s a shame.’ And there the whole joke ends. There’s no more levels to it. It’s like an Upper East Side version of South Park, an elitist attempt at crude humor, like an ironic fart at a wine tasting.” writes Lee Papa, aka “The Rude Pundit”.
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Jul 15

Here’s a podcast of Richard Ross talking about his work “Architecture of Authority” (and the page gives some samples).
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Jul 15

A while back, Mark Tucker emailed me to tell me about Tim Simmons’ work, which he had seen on Heather Morton’s blog. It’s very nice work, but I think at the end of the day it might be a tad too decorative for me.
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Jul 15

Boy, this blog just had its sixth birthday, and I didn’t even realize… In internet time, six years is something like 30 years maybe (or 50?). I have some plans for the coming months, so hopefully things will get even more interesting…
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Jul 14

The road trip is an archetypical American concept - but then you don’t have to be American to do one, and you don’t have to do it in America, either. Thierry Girard’s somewhat conceptual trips have taken him to China or down the river Rhine.
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Jul 12

A wonderful gem of a movie, with very little dialogue, a lot of wonderful photography, and a very moving - albeit unhappy (even though that’s actually debatable) - ending. If you think Jim Jarmush films are “boring” or if your idea of comedy is anything with Adam Sandler this movie is not for you, though. Out on DVD.
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Jul 11

I found this video a few days ago - so simple, so good (in every possible way)!
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Jul 11

Check out Justin Partyka’s work, especially “Farm Sales in East Anglia”, which is about the death of small agriculture in that region.
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Jul 11

I found a moving interview with Hilla Becher, which, unfortunately, only appears to be available in German. I translated some of the passages that struck me below.
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Jul 10

“Week by week, a township, once at the center of a farming expanse, is steadily loosing ground to the exploding metropolis known as the ‘greater Phoenix area’. Two-lane, dirt-shouldered, rough paved roads with names like Ellsworth, Ray, or Pecos are being widened and annexed by entrance drives to bedroom communities with promising names like ‘Heritage Springs’ or ‘Sunset Haven’. […] vast lots of land, along with their history are loosing the battle against a homogenous America. These photographs of Higley and the surrounding towns of Gilbert, Chandler and Queen Creek are an on-going documentation of this micro-cosmos of globalization.” - Andrew Phelps
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Jul 10

“Their story touched millions: the brave young marine who fought for his country and was left horribly disfigured. The high-school sweetheart who stood by his side. When we met them last year, their marriage was blossoming. But was the pressure to live happily ever after too much to bear?” story (photo by Nina Berman)
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Jul 9

“With a $3 trillion war bill and an economy that flounders as China’s soars, could America’s era of dominance on the world stage be coming to an end? Mick Brown and the photographer Alec Soth travelled across America and China to observe how the future of these two great nations is intertwined, and to find out whether, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics and the US election, we are on the brink of a new world order. In the first of a four-part series, they meet army recruitment officers in Virginia and cadets at West Point.” Part 2: “Once symbolic of optimism and certainty, America’s credit-crunched suburbs may be facing a decline as dramatic as that of Detroit, itself once a beacon of industry.” (found via Colin Pantall’s blog) Part 3: “The thrusting tower blocks of Chongqing stand testament to the headlong economic growth that is changing the lives of millions of Chinese. Mick Brown and the photographer Alec Soth continue their investigation into the contrasting fortunes of the US and China by exploring the world’s fastest-growing city.” Part 4: “With the Beijing Olympics, China hopes to cement its position alongside the USA on the podium of global power. In the final part of their special investigation, Mick Brown and photographer Alec Soth examine how both nations are playing the Games.”
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Jul 9

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. - commentary
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Jul 9

Over at The Guardian, there’s a new feature up called Portraits of China. I know this is an incredibly vague way to say this, but what bothers me about the photography a little is that everybody is striking some heroic pose (or maybe it’s just too much of an influence of commercial/editorial photography). In any case, it’s an interesting series, even though for me it’s not even remotely close to Liu Zheng’s The Chinese, which I keep coming back to.
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Jul 9

Maxim Ryazansky’s Pursuit of Happiness is quite excellent.
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Jul 8

“Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis. The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the U.S.” (story)
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Jul 8

Via we can’t paint I came across the work of Alain Paiement, whose work is similar to what Andreas Gefeller’s Supervisions.
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Jul 7

“My hands still shake and my heart pounds despite my fatigue. A combination of depression, fear, and adrenaline makes my thoughts race with the realization that a simple decision was the only thing that seperated [sic] me from a body count that grows daily. I look at the images I took on the 26th of June, and realize they do nothing to capture the emotion of being an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Al-Qaeda suicide attack in Karmah/Garma… the smell… the sound of screams and crying. I want you to observe and comprehend what others live through on a daily basis — to see what the Iraqi civilians and foreign soldiers see. I want people who follow my photography to understand that although I am able to bring images of war to the world in a form of art, what actually goes on here is horror. My message is not that war yields great photography. My message is: War yields human misery and suffering.” - Zoriah Miller (related: Journalist Charges Censorship by U.S. Military in Fallujah)
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Jul 7

Einar Hansen’s photography is very quiet and requires the viewer to remain with it for a while.
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Jul 7

Here’s an article about a photo show “curated” “by 3,344 self-selected people”. I think the experiment is interesting enough, but the underlying ideas - summarized in “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki - are a nice and inspiring read, but little more. It’s not very hard to see how the theory has tons of gaping holes (if the crowd was really so wise how come that George W. Bush was re-elected president in 2004 when it was already painfully obvious how incompetent he is? if the crowd is so wise how is it possible for stock- (or property-) market bubbles to develop? etc. etc.).
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Jul 5

As much as I detest (yes, detest) some of the architecture that went up in the 1960s and 70s - I mentioned brutalism earlier - when it comes to tearing it down I actually am very much opposed to it. There lately has been a discussion in Britain about a place called Robin Hood Gardens, a thoroughly disgusting piece of architecture, which, it has been determined, is not worth protecting (as “English Heritage”).
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Jul 4

At the beginning of the 21st Century, photojournalism finds itself in a somewhat uncomfortable position. On the one had, it has become an established and widely accepted form of journalism. On the other hand, its main language - grainy, crooked, and/or partially blurry images, often still black and white - has lost most of its impact because of the fact that it has become so ubiquitous. Of course, I am somewhat exaggerating, but while some of the most egregious facts of life on this planet have not changed at all over the past thirty, forty, fifty years (take, for example, widespread poverty and starvation, combined with political corruption, in large parts of Africa), we, as the viewers of photojournalism, simply are not quite as affected any longer, simply because we are so familiar with the imagery. Just the other day, I read a comment where someone talked about the work of an American photojournalist who had covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the complaint being that the photographer had failed to deliver “something new”. Just covering the wars, it seems, is not good enough. Just showing what war does - what our war does - is not good enough, we have to see something new. This is because I do not envy photojournalists, especially since I know, from having talked to some of them, that they often are very engaged and very interested in making the world look at the injustice and/or violence they are trying to cover.
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Jul 4

I am a bit torn about Bryan Lear’s portfolio, but it contains some very nice images that make his site worth the visit.
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Jul 3

“Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can […] be considered to have been rediscovered.” - story
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Jul 3

“I have photographed a group of girls, between the ages of ten and twenty, who are involved in a secret society known as Job’s Daughters. The girls are the direct blood relatives of Master Masons and the group is the only Masonic Youth organization to require this blood relationship.” - Alison Malone
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Jul 2

Thomas Misik’s architectural background is very clearly visible in his photography.
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Jul 1

The short answer is “Of course not.” A somewhat longer and more detailed answer is provided by an expert from the reality-based science community, Brian Cox.
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