Archives

March 2009

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Mar 30

“Helen Levitt, a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 95.” - obituary
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Mar 30

I said a while ago that I was a bit tired of typologies, but for every rule there is an exception. So if you like your houses abandoned Kevin Bauman’s 100 Abandoned Houses is where you want to go. Such a series won’t look nearly as interesting for all those McMansions that are now being foreclosed - what with those big boxes all looking the same.
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Mar 27

In photography, it’s hard to define what an “outsider artist” would be. After all, we’re all photographers! Cameras are ubiquitous. Of course, not everybody is an artist. But still, what would a true “outsider photography artist” look like?
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Mar 26

“Daikichi Amano likes to describe himself as the ‘modern day reincarnation of Katsushika Hokusai’.” (source) I will not pretend that I understand this kind of photography, but the comparison with Katsushika Hokusai strikes me as unwarranted.
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Mar 25

There’s some impressive photography in Paul D’Amato’s “Please Be Free Now”.
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Mar 24

I recently came across of contemporary practitioners of tintype (ferrotype) photography: Robert Benson (via Feature Shoot) and Robb Kendrick (via Exposure Compensation).
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Mar 20

“The phone had rung and I had been offered an artist’s residency. I had hastily answered yes, going to stay in a small town in the Arctic for two months was what I wanted to do.” Thus begins the 24 page introduction to The Place of No Roads, written by Ville Lenkkeri, the photographer. I will admit that with any photography book, I always skip the text to look at the images first, to then return to the text later. For once, I wish I had done it the other way around.
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Mar 20

Located about 50 miles south of Boston and just outside Rhode Island, Fall River is one of the countless American cities that is only a hollow shell of its former self. If you have ever driven from New York City to Cape Cod, it’s one of the towns that you pass through. It’s unlikely you’ve noticed it. Its motto is “We’ll Try.” (says Wikipedia).
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Mar 19

“I’ve decided to abandon completely the use of the terms ‘blogger’ and ‘blog’ to the extent it is possible. This comes after a not-so-scientific study done while wandering around the Pulse show a few weeks ago in New York.” - DLK
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Mar 19

“In late August 2008, McAllen Arts Council member and Voices of Art publisher David Freeman contacted Blue Star Director and sculptor Bill FitzGibbons to congratulate the artist on his ‘public art commission in McAllen.’ FitzGibbons was perplexed. Unbeknownst to him, an artwork with nearly identical qualities to FitzGibbons’s local ‘Light Channels’ had been installed in an Expressway 83 underpass in the South Texas boomtown. […] Strangely, nobody in McAllen seems to know when exactly McAllen’s lights were installed. Stranger still, the project has never been given a formal unveiling, the idea never credited to any person, and the work never titled.” - story (via)
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Mar 19

“Bayo Ogunsanya, a collector and private dealer of African-Americana and other items, said that on February 17 his lawsuit against Robert C. ‘Bob’ Langmuir of Pennsylvania reached an out-of-court settlement. Ogunsanya filed the suit in April 2008 in federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives. He did so after learning that photos he had sold to Langmuir for $3500 in 2003 were works by Diane Arbus. […] Langmuir, a rare-book dealer, had planned to sell the photos in April 2008 at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York City. The estimates on the 27 lots ranged from $20,000/30,000 to $80,000/120,000 each.” - story
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Mar 19

Reporting on Two Recessionary Shifts in Attitude, Ed Winkleman notes: “The other trend I’ve noticed (and had confirmed by other dealers) recently is a much more aggressive and, seemingly out of nowhere, clueless approach among unrepresented artists seeking gallery representation lately. Whereas we had been getting about 1-3 artists a month who clearly had no idea how best to approach a gallery either send us a package or email, now we’re getting 1-3 a day calling us up and insisting we give them a show. And we’re not the only gallery reporting this.”
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Mar 19

“In every hotel in China the regular accommodation for guests is known as the ‘Standard Room’. Found on every floor is a maid, a ‘Fu Wu Yuan’, they attend to the guests and the up keep of the rooms. These women usually come from the countryside. Their pay, although better than where they came from is still too little to live in big cities. Thus their lives often only exist within the small confines of the hotel they work in and its immediate surroundings. With little opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the city they live in they are individuals whose function within society is purely utilitarian. Standard Room is a series of portraits of these women who work in these hotels.” - Wang Wei
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Mar 18

There’s a lot of interesting work about China on Ian Teh’s site.
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Mar 17

This all sounds so simple and outrageous, doesn’t it: “The British Journal of Photography reports that the band management for Coldplay has been asking concert photographers to sign a contract giving the band all the rights to their photographs” (found here). (Updated below)
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Mar 17

Sophie Jacobson’s Inside the Box contains some nice portraits, even though I’m a bit puzzled about what it is supposed to do and how (but that might be because I just spent a lot of time thinking - and writing - about exactly the complex Sophie addresses).
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Mar 16

There’s a wonderful conversation with (in alphabetical order) author, blogger, and gallerist Ed Winkleman here.
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Mar 16

Here’s something that I don’t understand. Twenty five years ago, people would not have volunteered to enter a lot of their private information into an easily accessible public space, but you could have taken their photo without their permission without much of a problem. Today, it’s the other way around: While people share more and more of their sometimes most private information with total strangers online, they’ll get very angry if you take their photo without their permission. The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s about control: Today’s situation corresponds to people having more control over what they want other people to see (even if it makes very little, if any sense, to share as much information as some people do; and one can probably argue about whether it’s really more control). However, if that is true the privacy argument about having one’s photo taken disappears - how inconvenient! In any case, this is an interesting development, isn’t it?
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Mar 16

Robert Glenn Ketchum’s ‘Books that make a difference shouldn’t have to make money’ brings up a number of interesting points, even though I am not convinced I believe in the solution outlined in it (who defines “make a difference”? what does that even mean?).
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Mar 16

See some of Brian Ulrich’s new work over here.
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Mar 16

Some interesting results in this survey. But keep in mind selection effects (it is unclear whether those who responded to the survey are a fair sample of the “population” as a whole).
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Mar 16

The other day, Mark Danner published a piece entitled US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites, which makes for a depressing and infuriating read. If you don’t have the time (or stomach) for it, there’s a shorter version, published as Op-Ed in the New York Times.
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Mar 16

In a new photo series, Paul Shambroom shows public displays of weapons in the US: “My goal is to present a collection of images that addresses the complexities of community response to war and remembrance in America.” (updated entry)
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Mar 14

Alright, move over, Martin Parr. Instead of going to an arms fair, we here at Conscientious have stayed in the comfort of our home and found this promotional video by Rafael Advanced “Defense” Systems, which Wired called ‘the most atrocious defense video of all time’ (see this story; thanks, Tom!).
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Mar 13

After more than twenty years of work, Paul Shambroom has assembled a large body of work, most of whose parts deal with aspects of power (for some details, see my conversation with Paul). In early 2008, Paul’s work became the subject of a retrospective, first shown at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; and thankfully, a companion book (the word “catalogue” doesn’t really do it full justice) was produced: Paul Shambroom: Picturing Power.
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Mar 13

Just a reminder that today is “Photo book Friday” here. As I noted last week, in an effort to make things a bit more interesting - and organized! - here, I decided to dedicate Fridays to photo books. I’ll review new books and, occasionally, I’ll talk about older books, because, after all, why only talk about new books?
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Mar 13

There is no doubt that the re-release of Charlie Parker self-titled album is marvelous - if you stick with the tracks that were on the original release, that is. Just like many jazz albums, “re-mastered” and re-packaged to appeal to those who might already possess an earlier incarnation (or even more than one, since a true fan might own a vinyl version and the first CD release, for example), it comes with a whole bunch of “bonus” tracks, including - but not limited to - aborted tracks. Does anybody really need to listen to 13 seconds of “Confirmation” (and those 13 seconds include studio chatter)? Actually, you can decide for yourself if you go to Amazon’s page for the album and click the little “play” button next to track 23: Since Amazon allows you to listen to 30 second excerpts, you can experience the whole thing.
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Mar 12

You can blame modern art for many things, but certainly not for our mass culture, right? Actually, you can. “Oh boy,” I thought, when I saw that article this morning, linked to by Ed Winkleman (who seems to be putting the final touches on his book - congrats, Ed!). Usually I find it extremely silly to blame art for things. But of course, it’s tough to ignore statements like “All the shallowness of modern mass culture began in avant-garde art 40 years ago”.
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Mar 12

Rob sent me the link to this interview with Paul Graham, which contains some interesting nuggets.
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Mar 12

“Shit Bernd I’ve had enough. I’m sick of this crap life. Always the same. Everybody is laughing about me, nobody is noticing my potential. I’m serious. I got guns here. Tomorrow, I’ll go to my school, and I’ll have a real nice barbeque. Tomorrow, you’ll hear from me. Remember the name of the town Winnenden. And now don’t tell the police, don’t worry, I’m just trolling.” (my translation, German original of an internet chat quoted here) A day later, 15 people were dead, killed by the 17-year old Tim K., who had taken his father’s Beretta gun (the only one not kept locked up in a safe - click on the image above to see the final [edited] shootout). Tim K.’s chat partner’s reaction to the announcement: *LOL* He only told his parents about what Tim K. had told him the night before after he heard about what happened. (Updated below)
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Mar 12

There are a lot of good images in Scott Lessing’s project “The I 26 Corridor”.
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Mar 11

I mentioned Kate Hutchinson’s “Why Am I Marrying Him?” here before. Kate’s (now) husband is modeling again, this time for photos inspired by the work of other artists, this one Salvador Dali.
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Mar 11

Maybe I shouldn’t call these men thugs, since some people’s thugs are other people’s freedom fighters. These people are Velupillai Prabhakaran (center), head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and a bunch of assorted rebels, in an “undated handout photograph” by their organization (I found this photo here). What really did strike me about this image was not the people in it, but the way the photo was staged and set up. The lovely background - fluffy clouds on top of a pleasantly blue sky, with those mint-green drapes on top, and in front of all that these people with their weird uniforms and their grim expressions… It’s just so weird and so grotesque (especially given that these people are responsible for hundreds of suicide bombs). I mean what fine-art photographer, or conceptual artist, could have come up with something like this?
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Mar 11

“Where Facebook is concerned, the line between public and private exists in a sort of parallel (though oddly torqued) universe: like scrapbooks, Facebook is comprised of pages with amalgamations of diverse content, all held together by an individual’s own process of selection. […] Just like scrapbooks, there is a fair amount of posturing and proselytizing, bad grammar and bizarre juxtapositions. There’s a scarcity of snark. And an almost evangelical devotion to stuff: where scrapbook-makers once pasted in pictures of their favorite film stars, Facebook encourages the construction of fan pages, as well as groups to join, causes to support, and so forth.” - Jessica Helfand
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Mar 11

Chris Mottalini sent me his website after I posted something about “neglected” modernist architecture and pointed out his own photo series “after you left, they took it apart”. I’d be lying if I claimed I shed any tears for those utterly hideous buildings in Chris’ photos (even though I also am no proponent of simply just tearing down things - how do you get any kind of cultural history if you do that?). Chris’ “winter city” I looked at last, and I ended up liking it the best of all of his projects.
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Mar 10

Given that Fridays are now dedicated only to photo books, I think I’ll stop posting music clips (or maybe just show something here and there). This one I really want to share, though, because of the amazing piano solo in the middle.
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Mar 10

As much as I like to look at modern architecture - well, at least some of it - I’ve recently noticed that one of its problems appears to be that the some of the buildings develop very mundane problems (often right from the start).
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Mar 10

Fritz Fabert’s Archäologie der Arbeit [Archeology of Work] presents “relics” from closed down businesses and hospitals. It’s such a simple idea, it works so well, and it’s such a fine alternative to giving the world yet another series of abandoned buildings (seriously, we’ve had more than enough of those!).
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Mar 9

Despite its whiff of People magazine style reporting (“In the midst of the scariest art downturn in more than a decade, Mr. Gagosian is sticking with his Hermès suits and jetting around on a private plane. Sporting a helmet of silvery hair and looking like a cross between an aging bon vivant and a secret agent, he still radiates total confidence - which, these days, not everyone is buying.”), this piece about art dealer Larry Gagosian is quite interesting.
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Mar 9

“Inta Ruka says that she takes photographs because she is interested in people. The camera is her way of making contact with others. This is why she has worked on developing the art of the photographic portrait. Her vision is to reveal each individual, their personality, and to show that everyone has their own special place and something to tell. Inta Ruka is a vital contributor to the Baltic contemporary photography that related and adapted to the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 90s and then documented the changes in the region during the post-Soviet era.” (source) More images here.
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Mar 6

Strictly speaking this is not photo book related, but since it’s about books: Have you ever noticed that paperbacks seem to have expanded along with the rest of America? On the left a paperback from 1980, on the right one from 2006. (Updated below)
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Mar 6

Oxbow Archive by Joel Sternfeld is a book that I had been looking forward to. It contains photographs taken in a small patch of land - the East Meadows - right outside the city of Northampton in Western Massachusetts. I live not ten minutes away from the East Meadows, and ever since moving here I have been thinking about landscape photography.
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Mar 6

The difference between a good photo book and a great one is often that in the latter case, somebody paid attention to detail. Sometimes, the smallest things can make a huge difference. Adam Bartos’ Yard Sale Photographs provides an excellent example. The book cover looks just like what you would find at an actual yard sale, including, and this is the detail, the round blue sticker with the price (“$1-“). The cover, of course, doesn’t make a book, but it usually dots the i.
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Mar 5

There’s some very, very nice portraiture in Lisa Wiseman’s portfolio.
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Mar 5

“Over the past decade – until, at least, global credit began to crunch our fun – the art world has developed into a high-turnover, high-visibility international activity that everyone wants a slice of. It’s an exponentially expanded system of artists, audiences, art markets, dealers, galleries, curators, critics, collectors, museums, institutes, foundations, biennials, triennials, quadrennials, fairs, auction houses, art schools, prizes, books, magazines, journals and consultancies. […] In recent months, though, this expansion has been tempered by anxiety. The tighter the credit crunch grips us, the louder you can hear the gloating of those who think a drop in auction prices and a swathe of galleries going under will somehow result in the disappearance of the present art system and the resurgence of some kind of prelapsarian art paradise unfettered by the evils of capitalism and what they perceive to be cultural con-artistry.” - story
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Mar 4

“We are afloat in a world in which the endless invocation of theoreticians, philosophers and political theorists serves very little purpose other than to bolster the cultural capital pretensions of an artworld detached from anything other than its communicative connectivity and its obscure economic value in an economy of fleeting and faddish desires.” - source
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Mar 4

When I was younger I always wondered how so much of our cultural heritage is simply gone, and I learned of burned (and/or looted) libraries and other such disasters. “That,” I used to think, “surely can’t happen today.” Turns out it can: “The building housing Cologne’s municipal archive collapsed on Tuesday, bringing parts of some surrounding structures down with it. At least two people are missing. Some of the documents housed in the archive date back to the year 922.” (story) They’re building a subway nearby - go figure. (Updated below)
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Mar 4

“An estimated 20,000 children were born of rapes that occurred during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Fifteen years later, the mothers of these children still face enormous challenges, not least of which is the stigma of bearing and raising a child fathered by a Hutu militiaman. Over the past three years, photographer Jonathan Torgovnik has made repeated visits to Rwanda to document the stories of these women. The portraits and testimonies featured in Intended Consequences offer intensely personal and honest accounts of these survivors’ experiences of the genocide, as well as their conflicted feelings about raising a child who is a palpable reminder of horrors endured.” Presented here are images and testimonies, courtesy of Aperture Foundation.
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Mar 4

On his blog, Ian Aleksander Adams offers an analysis of Ryan McGinley’s work, which is well worth the read: “This is an image, then, of a very specific America, a very specific American youth. Adventure and sexuality may be freer (and gay, youthful McGinley himself is adamant about this) but there is a possibly disturbing undertone that this fantasy is for a certain group of people, the people approved and selected for this lifestyle. Then, for the majority of the world, even outside of its ridiculousness, it is exponentially unattainable. You must be young, American, waifish, freely naked, and part of ‘whiteness.’”
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Mar 4

“Ismo Hölttö is considered one of the greatest Finnish photographers of all time.”
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Mar 3

“The 50 States Project has brought together 50 photographers from across the USA. Each photographer lives in one of the 50 States and during the year long project each photographer will represent the State where they live. Every two months each photographer will be sent an assignment by e-mail, they then have two months to produce one image in response. The images must represent both their style and the State in which they live.”
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Mar 3

Former war photographer Bruce Haley just added Tao of War Photography to his website, “written over a decade ago, so some of it is a bit dated”. If you look through his portfolio of work you’ll see that he covered a lot of conflicts, and his writing provides a very harsh dose of reality. For example, “Make sure you can count (remember, we’re talking photographers here)… if the multiple-tube rocket launcher that’s firing at your position goes ‘fffwuupppp’ six times in a row, please count six explosions around you before poking your head back up……”
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Mar 3

Dorothée Smith’s work mixes video with photography, each using reduced palettes and quiet imagery.
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Mar 3

Subjectify raises a point concerning nude self portraits of women, which I have been thinking about for a while: “i have been thinking about the trouble with beauty in art photography for some time. i can see an alternate world in which i would earnestly feel that female photographers’ naked self-portraits were brave, theoretically rigorous, challenging, honest, etc…etc… except i rarely do feel that way, because lately i notice that mainly thin, beautiful women engage in these projects in the first place. or at least, their projects are the ones that gain recognition (which is why i see them?). of course, such projects might have something thought-provoking and honest to offer, but overall, it still troubles me.” The occasional exception notwithstanding, I have the exact same problems with this kind of work.
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Mar 2

The Empire in the form of Ben Street is unhappy about the state of curating (or more precisely what is taken as curating) and strikes back: “Nowadays it’s not uncommon for a curator’s name to be foregrounded in exhibition literature and sometimes announced in forty-point Letraset at an exhibition’s starting point […] It’s a great example of a profession’s lack of clear definition in the public eye being inversely proportional to the amount of flatulent endorsement it acquires from those who should know better.” Regardless of whether you agree with Ben Street or not, this indeed seems to be a topic worthwhile debating (especially since it would be a welcome diversion from the currently so ubiquitous chants of “The end of the art market is near! Repent! Repent!”).
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Mar 2

Intriguing images from Japan taken by Pierre Faure - I just wish the samples were a little bit bigger.
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Mar 2

“Most of [Annie Leibovitz’s] financial woes stemmed from her inheritance of her long time partner, Susan Sontag’s, estate.” - Rob
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Mar 2

My hosting company’s servers crashed - they added a new “firmware update”, which “introduced a new bug that we have never seen”. The one thing I’ve learned from the many years of having a website is that there is no perfect hosting (the one I have right now is vastly better than the ones I had before, though); so if you tried to look through this site yesterday and couldn’t, I’m sorry… Update (2 March 2009): Looks like my hosting company is still trying to fix the mess. There still might be performance issues, and occasionally, the site might be unreachable. Turns out this site was luckier than others which were down for much longer.
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