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The Disturbing Gallery Of Rodney Alcala
April 24, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

The Daily News has posted a 215 image gallery of photos by serial killer Rodney Acala 66, convicted of the murders of 4 women and a girl in California. Authorities suspect there may be many more victims; possibly up to 20, killed between the years of 1971 to `79. The NYPD has released the photos in hopes of identifying possible victims & closing a bunch of cold cases. Thus informed, I find these photos deeply haunting; most are basic, boilerplate snapshots typical of their era, while others have a bizarre dreamlike quality (i.e.- in #3 in the posted series a young woman appears unfocused & wraithlike, her raised arms framed by trees, in #9 a subject bending over backwards at first appears to hung upside down, mouth vanished by foliage) several subjects in the series appear again & again. Alcala's photos reveal him as a pretentious manipulative hack, whose unintended best are evidence of the beast within. 21 women featured in a previous series of 120 shots have been found alive.
posted by vurnt22 (92 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, good, it's spread across 215 pages.
posted by interrobang at 12:30 PM on April 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


hmmm...interesting set of photos... but the fpp feels a like it might be more appropriate for your own blog... ykwim?
posted by HuronBob at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2010


Yeah HuronBob, I might have went a little far-I take the hint.
posted by vurnt22 at 12:38 PM on April 24, 2010


I don't know how you can really draw the conclusion that "(His) unintended best are evidence of the beast within." They're just photos. Sure, it's much creepier knowing that he may very well have killed some of them, but there's nothing I see in the pictures that would suggest that. I've seen such things from student photographers trying to be "original" and/or "edgy".
posted by inturnaround at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2010


If a mod were to cut everything from "Thus informed, I find these photos" to "evidence of the beast within." (and then cut this comment and a couple of others), you'd have yourself a post to make Joe Friday happy.
posted by pracowity at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


215 pages? Memo to the Daily News, we have scroll wheels now!
posted by aerotive at 12:45 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be the first to admit that these are beautiful, and some beautifully dark, photos.
posted by Malice at 12:56 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, good, it's spread across 215 pages.

Indeed,with an ad loading on each one. Nothing remotely distasteful about that!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on April 24, 2010


vurnt22, great creative nonfiction, don't let the monkeys keep ya down.

re: the photos, like a visual of 2666 ("The Part About the Crimes"). Page after page after page.. numbing, yet you can't look away.
posted by stbalbach at 1:12 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Couldn't the police host this on their own website?
posted by Evstar at 1:12 PM on April 24, 2010


Was browsing the photos when Playing Your Game by Barry White came on the radio. Squicky.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of them are the same girls and are posed type shots
He was maybe doing a Wayne Williams type of thing pretending to be a talent agent
very creepy :-(
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


One afternoon in '78 or '79 friend of mine and I drove to a quiet picnic area of Griffith Park to get out of the house for a while. A man drove up with 2 young girls--maybe 9-11 yrs old, I don't remember exactly. We watched from a distance as he took pictures of the girls, posing them in very specific ways. The poses weren't specifically sexual, but they weren't natural or casual poses for little girls. He had a nice camera. He didn't act like either one of the girls was his daughter--there was no physical affection, and there was a strange formality to it. At the time my friend and I thought he seemed very creepy, and we even considered intervening, just to ask what was going on. We didn't do anything, and he left with the girls in his car. Years later that incident nagged at me, and I always wondered if we allowed something terrible to happen. I'm sure it's unlikely, but reading about this guy I really, really wonder.
posted by tula at 1:44 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The modelling business attracts a fair share of creeps, for sure. That said, plenty of photographers are also normally adjusted.

Life is like that; but spreading these photos across 215 pages to generate ad-revenue is reprehensible. Some people have no shame at all.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:49 PM on April 24, 2010


Alcala wasn't much of a photographer, but he did fine on The Dating Game.
posted by delfin at 1:55 PM on April 24, 2010


All 215 images, via a Javascript (client-side) fusker. Who said porn technology couldn't be used for good?
posted by mendel at 1:57 PM on April 24, 2010 [17 favorites]


mendel, you rock! Seeing Alcala's shots unencumbered is great
posted by vurnt22 at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2010


The way some of these photos are cropped/censored just makes them infinitely more ghostly.
posted by johnnybeggs at 2:34 PM on April 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


spreading these photos across 215 pages to generate ad-revenue is reprehensible

Seriously.
So thanks mendel!

Though I'm still too creeped out to look at them all...
posted by From Bklyn at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2010


Seeing Alcala on The Dating Game is creeptastic beyond belief.
Cheryl Bradshaw, question- "What's your best time?"
Rodney Alcala, answer-"The best time is at Night. Night time."
Cheryl Bradshaw, question-"Why do you say that?"
Rodney Alcala, answer-"Because that's the only time there is."
Thanks delfin.
posted by vurnt22 at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2010


I'm kind of confused by the criticism of the photographs. Pretentious, manipulative hack? What? Did he claim to be an artiste? They're certainly a lot better than the crap I take as snapshots.

Seems as though it is missing the point. Like saying Hitler's biggest crime was his mediocre painting. Except worse, 'cause Hitler at least had ambitions as a painter so pointing out he was mediocre at best is tangentially relevant. I bet Alcala styled his hair oddly and sometimes wore funny clothes, too. I hear he couldn't play baseball worth shit, either.

I dunno, I guess I don't feel like one has to claim every single aspect of the life of an evil person is absolute garbage to avoid that evil rubbing off on us. It sort of misses the point; Alcala is evil because he murdered people not because he took only decentish photos.
posted by Justinian at 2:59 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Thanks. I bookmarked this.

Oh, good, it's spread across 215 pages.

Yep. The next time anyone has any questions about why traditional print media is still taking a nose-dive despite having money, a news staff, name recognition, a customer base, and every other advantage a business that traffics in information could desire before establishing a web presence, I can just send them this link.
posted by Avelwood at 3:00 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Back when Robert Pickton was in first in the news, a on-line discussion about the just-breaking case began in a group I was member of. Not normally drawn to these kinds of things, I was mildly intrigued, as the farm was located at the bottom of an off-road mountain-bike run we frequented, and we often parked there.

Imagine my horror then, when upon opening the link, I saw the picture of an old elementary and high-school friend, Cindy Feliks. She was one of the missing women. The disgust and anger I felt then remains almost as strong whenever this topic comes up. I can't bring myself to look at those pictures yet, but understand firsthand the importance of publishing them.

As difficult at is might be then, we owe a duty to the families and friends of those women to look at them if there is even the tiniest of chance that perhaps this might help to bring some sort of closure to a brother or sister or parent who is still wondering whatever happened to their loved one.

So ... Takes a deep breath ... thanks for doing that mendel, this is really important.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:05 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah looking at those photographs is a bit terrifying.
posted by fire&wings at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2010


fire&wings: "Yeah looking at those photographs is a bit terrifying."

Because we know what those people did not: that they were being photographed by someone who could quite possibly murder them.

Creepy.
posted by bwg at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2010


mendel kind of beat me to it, but there's a FireFox add-on called firefusk that allows you to do the same thing from the right-click context menu.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:35 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I actually thought the photos were very good. They all capture such emotions about their subjects. Especially presented in order without context about any single person within, each tells its own story, even without the added context of "serial killer taking pictures".

I feel really weird that my first reaction to this post is "That's really unfair criticism of this guy's photography," but it is. Possibly I just don't know enough about photography to know what defines a manipulative hack, and if somebody else wants to explain what does then I'll be grateful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2010


I've been collecting photos for years. I like vernacular photos.

In everyday... common snapshots, the photographer has a warm, personal connection with each subject. Most photos are taken for a purpose. Usually they're to capture a moment of happiness.

These seem more like a book of a hunter viewing his prey.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:43 PM on April 24, 2010


These seem more like a book of a hunter viewing his prey.

My strong suspicion is that if we took 10 of these phoots and 20 random photos from people of the same relative skill level and from the same time period but who were not serial killers you would be no better than random chance at picking out which photos were taken by a serial killer and which were not.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, no one would think these photos were unusual if it wasn't known in advance who did them. It's like those art critics who all think they can tell how evil Hitler was going to be because of his watercolors of plants or whatever. It's really ridiculous.

People are so invested in the idea that evil people are utterly alien to them, because they can't imagine that people who are otherwise "normal" could ever do anything horrible.
posted by delmoi at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


What Justinian Said. The guy obviously has an eye for composition and framing. It's very obvious some of the shots have been cropped because the originals were topless or nude, but those not so hacked up show a very obvious raw talent. This may very well be a predator's menu, but the predator had very good taste.
posted by localroger at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2010


Also, nudity has clearly been cropped out on a lot of these.

(And the person described as 'hanging' in the FPP text is just doing a backbend)
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2010


I think a lot of these photos are quite good, but a lot of them look like they've been cropped.
posted by empath at 5:31 PM on April 24, 2010


oh, nudity. That make explains it.
posted by empath at 5:31 PM on April 24, 2010


My strong suspicion is that if we took 10 of these phoots and 20 random photos from people of the same relative skill level and from the same time period but who were not serial killers you would be no better than random chance at picking out which photos were taken by a serial killer and which were not.

I doubt it.
You're approaching the medium like a tourist at the Guggenheim.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:32 PM on April 24, 2010


(i.e.- in #3 in the posted series a young woman appears unfocused & wraithlike, her raised arms framed by trees, in #9 a subject bending over backwards at first appears to hung upside down, mouth vanished by foliage)

vurnt22 is Peter Sotos and I claim my five pounds.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 5:33 PM on April 24, 2010


bighappyfunhouse: You're approaching the medium like a tourist at the Guggenheim.

This being the point; that's usually the way we would approach a gallery like this. The fact that these photos were taken by a serial killer changes them, but only when we've been informed that they were taken by a serial killer. Outside of that context they are a fairly standard collection of amateur with a decent camera fantasizing about professional level shots.
posted by localroger at 5:47 PM on April 24, 2010


This being the point; that's usually the way we would approach a gallery like this. The fact that these photos were taken by a serial killer changes them, but only when we've been informed that they were taken by a serial killer. Outside of that context they are a fairly standard collection of amateur with a decent camera fantasizing about professional level shots.

I really wish this was true. Had I (or any number of photo collectors that I know), come across this collection of snapshots.... There would be a feeling that there was something else going on than just a student or someone with "relative skill level". These shots had a purpose. They seem to be trying to take something from the subject. In some of the photos you can almost see the realization in the faces of the subjects. (mostly in the multiple shots of the same model).

Photos speak volumes of the subject but even more of the photographer. There is a sense of unease in the subjects. (in particular the multiple shots).

I've bought collections from hundreds of unknown photographers. I feel blessed to have been able to see so many images from so many different people... from all different kinds of backgrounds. It's a unique perspective into the thoughts of the artist. (even as an amateur photographer)

And over the years I've found some creepy stuff. It all ends up in the burn pile out back.

Without even knowing the background of this photographer, I would still have a sense of unease about this set of photographs.

Every picture tells a story. These stories speak more a realization in the eyes of the subjects that the photographer was not as innocent as professed. There are some single shots that seem like one offs of innocence. It's the multiple shots that you start to see the realization in the models eyes that the photographer may not be all of what he proclaims to be.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:03 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


bighappyfunhouse: These shots had a purpose. They seem to be trying to take something from the subject.

You're a student of photography and you don't understand that that is, in a very primitive sense, exactly what photography is about? I mean this is why aboriginal peoples think cameras steal your soul. A really good photo does exactly that.

And over the years I've found some creepy stuff. It all ends up in the burn pile out back.

You sir are a philistine. Please stop trashing our heritage kthx bye.
posted by localroger at 6:16 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Without even knowing the background of this photographer, I would still have a sense of unease about this set of photographs.

It's trivial to say that when you already know the background of the photographer. Like those psychics who can confidently tell you how they predicted the earthquake that happened last week.

It's the multiple shots that you start to see the realization in the models eyes that the photographer may not be all of what he proclaims to be.

Specific examples? Because I'm getting some serious post-hoc going on here.
posted by Justinian at 6:18 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I rarely feed trolls but in your case I'll make an exception.
Good photography adds something to the subject.
I'd explain more, but I feel it would just subtract from your basic knowledge of the universe.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:21 PM on April 24, 2010


Wait... my asking you for specific examples of photographs in this set where you say you see a "realization in the models eyes" now constitutes trolling?

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by Justinian at 6:27 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


My assessment of Alcala as a "manipulative hack" was a bit harsh- He's pro enough, though not extraordinarily so-he's competent, & with the exception of a few off exposures his pictures are fine technically. Of course the fact that he was an active serial killer at the time he took these shots changes them contextually-When he took the bulk of these shots, he wore the mask of the handsome smiling professional; the women and girls that he shot seemed pleased & flattered with the attention, which makes them harrowing in retrospect. Scattered throughout these shots are the ones posed with his subjects-It's the younger Dating Game era Alcala in photos #76, 165, 190 (with flower girl?- was he the wedding photographer?), & 214. There's always a danger in reading too much into artifacts. Having said that, there still is insight to be gained from observing choices & patterns.
posted by vurnt22 at 6:27 PM on April 24, 2010


36, 39, 47, 58, 72, 75. 80, 91, 109, 115, 121, 132, 141, 149, 161, 169. 173, 180, 188, 207, 211
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:30 PM on April 24, 2010


Having said that, there still is insight to be gained from observing choices & patterns.

Well said sir
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:31 PM on April 24, 2010


What, I criticized your POV so I'm a troll?

Here's a protip; Photography neither adds nor subtracts anything to its subject. It records. In the process of "stealing your soul" it leaves you no poorer because your soul is made of information and what it steals is a copy. It is only people so stupid or uninformed that they don't understand the difference between information and matter who think they have lost something because they have been photographed.

If it were practical I would bet a very substantial sum of money that you could not, in controlled conditions without prior awareness, tell photos taken by our present hero from random photos taken by other randomly chosen photographers of similar equippage and skill.

I call bullshit on your claim that your elite photography skillz enable you to proclaim this the work of a monster instead of some amateur. You are reading your own feelings about the photographer into what you are seeing. This is very basic psychology 101 stuff and if you aren't aware of it you need to find out how it works. Most people think it's impossible that they could be played like a piano until they find themselves lying horizontally in front of a guy who's tapping their chest while they hum.
posted by localroger at 6:33 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Girls who like the feel of rich Corinthian leather:

34, 38, 48, 72, 78, 92, 103, 115, 176, 201, 213
posted by digsrus at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


rog, All art is open to interpretation.

I've collected photographs for over 20 years. I can tell you what I've learned over that time.

I fear it would be like talking to a guy tapping on his own chest.....
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:52 PM on April 24, 2010


36, 39, 47, 58, 72, 75. 80, 91, 109, 115, 121, 132, 141, 149, 161, 169. 173, 180, 188, 207, 211

Those just seem to be all the pictures where the model isn't similing.

Some of those were from other series. Anyway, I've seen tons of photos like that, none of which were taken by serial killers (as far as I know) For example 47 goes with 131 and 132. Are you telling me that photo 131, which features a girl smiling by the fence suddenly "realized the photographer had more in mind" when the two other photos were taken? 58 seems like a pretty standard porn/exploitive picture. Which you could argue 'takes' something if you want, but it's hardly an unusual kind of picture.

72 doesn't have much emotional content at all, it just looks like she's looking down at something. We don't know what, and this is one of the cropped pictures. 75 just looks bored. Keep in mind these are all of his photos, not just the 'good' ones. The goal is to identify the women, not present the work in the best possible light.

80, just a woman with a blank expression. You see that all the time in fashion photography. 91 looks sad, but again, so what?

141 is a 'neutral' face. You could read a lot of different emotions into it if you tried, but in general she just looks like she's modeling. *shrug*

---

Anyway, you seem like someone who wants to jump to conclusions without thinking about it, and are totally unwilling to consider the fact that you might be wrong.

109 actually seems to be smiling. 115 and 121 seem to be from the same set. I think these are some of the cropped nudes. She does look uncomfortable, but we don't really know why.
posted by delmoi at 6:53 PM on April 24, 2010


They seem to be trying to take something from the subject.

Yeah: A picture.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:53 PM on April 24, 2010


rog, All art is open to interpretation.

There is a difference between trying to "interpret" art, which is generally meaningless anyway, and actually learning anything about what really happened by doing so.

In other words, for you to 'interpret' the art and decide what you think was actually going on in the minds of the photographer and model, given that you know the story, is ridiculous.

Tell me, what do you think is going on in these images:1, 2, 3, 4, and 5* . What's the relationship between the photographer and the model?
posted by delmoi at 7:09 PM on April 24, 2010


bighappyfunhouse: I've collected photographs for over 20 years. I can tell you what I've learned over that time.

I can tell you what you haven't learned: Context. You've gone to barns and estate sales and whatever and collected pics, and when they've disturbed you (meaning that by my standards they're good) you've burned them, and you've constructed narratives about all of them without having a goddamn clue about who took them or why.

And now you sit on your mountain of ignorance claiming in conveniently un-verifiable certainty that you could have seen this guy coming from miles down the road. Yeah, right.

If you're that good might I suggest you shag your sorry ass down to the nearest police department and volunteer to help them out. Somebody will probably make a TV series about you one day if you do.
posted by localroger at 7:16 PM on April 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


delmoi, that knife seems to be pretty dull.
posted by localroger at 7:19 PM on April 24, 2010


delmoi: I went through all 215 yesterday & didn't see the ones you just posted. Are you saying those are by Alcala? His pics are also available at flickr.

I blogged about this myself and posted only those pictures in which Alcala himself appears, if anyone's interested.

Reasons Alcala's photography is particularly interesting and/or different than yours and mine:

1. He often used photography as a vehicle to meet/pick up women.
2. He studied photography under Polanski (and yes, I think all the jokes on that connection have been used up but you can have a go).
3. He arranged the bodies of his victims into positions and then photographed them post-mortem.

Personally, I think many of the shots are quite stunning. YMMV.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:26 PM on April 24, 2010


Oddly enough, some of the photos at mendel's link are even more cropped than in their original cropped release.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2010


Are you saying those are by Alcala?

Those pictures are by someone else. Since Bighappyfunhouse was so sure he would totally come to the same conclusions without knowing anything about the pictures, I was wondering what he thought of those images, presented without context.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2010


via stinkycheese:

1. He often used photography as a vehicle to meet/pick up women.

Making him a member of a very exclusive group of only about ten million guys.

2. He studied photography under Polanski (and yes, I think all the jokes on that connection have been used up but you can have a go).

OK, you got me there. I just figured it all out for myself, but if you can get Roman Polanski to give you pointers, you'd be stupid not to follow them.

3. He arranged the bodies of his victims into positions and then photographed them post-mortem.

Making him a member of a very exclusive group of only about a hundred known serial killers, at minimum. Really, we take pictures of everything nowadays, why would we expect serial killers to be different? That doesn't mean that their photographic methodology is somehow special though. It just means they take pictures of things they find interesting or that they are proud of.
posted by localroger at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2010


Making him a member of a very exclusive group of only about ten million guys.

I guess I should have pointed out that some of these women were his murder victims? In other words, he was using his camera to help him hunt.

Making him a member of a very exclusive group of only about a hundred known serial killers, at minimum.

Sure, serial killers take pictures so they have a trophy of their kills. But Alcala was an amateur photographer. He did a lot of photography. That doesn't make his methodology special but nor did I say it did. It just means he wasn't like those your 'average' serial killer taking pictures of dead bodies.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:07 PM on April 24, 2010


so stinkycheese the point is that he wasn't just an "average" serial killer taking pictures of dead bodies, he was an actual competent photographer who happened also to be a serial killer and used his skills in a rather obvious way.

My point being that none of the pics in this release set are of dead bodies, and the idea that you could somehow tell they are the product of a murderer from them is just, let me think, there's a word on the tip of my tongue...

*drinks big glass of water*

Stupid. Knew I'd get it.
posted by localroger at 8:14 PM on April 24, 2010


Those pictures are by someone else.

So sad. delmoi, you've really fallen to a new low. (even for you)

This has turned into a petty little bitchfest. All art is open to interpretation.

Do you know the background of every artist that you see. No, never. Candid photography is one of those areas of art where the relationship between subject and artist is intertwined. Here we have a person who used his camera to lure victims. After the murders, he posed the bodies in various positions. To me, the photos look like a hunter viewing his prey.... well holy fuck... it turns out that's exactly what they were. Even viewed out of context... without background info, I would still say there is something unsettling about the photos.

But how the fuck would I know. I just have a collection of over 500k photographs. Been obsessed with collecting photos for over 20 years and sell to some of the best museums in the country. I'm called in to appraise photographic collections. You're right delmoi and rog. I'm just a fucking tourist.

That doesn't mean that their photographic methodology is somehow special though. It just means they take pictures of things they find interesting or that they are proud of.

localroger, if you take the time to look into the case, you'll see he used his camera as a way of attracting victims. He found hunting people "interesting". He was "proud of" luring people so he could kill them.

(jesus H christ, I'm done with this tomfoolery)
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 8:14 PM on April 24, 2010


the idea that you could somehow tell they are the product of a murderer from them is...

OK, I'll step out here as I never said that.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:17 PM on April 24, 2010


OK stinkycheese fair enough. It was bighappyfunhouse who implied that.
posted by localroger at 8:27 PM on April 24, 2010


You're right delmoi and rog. I'm just a fucking tourist.

Yes you are. Because you're not about the serial killer, you're about the photos, and you think they tell you something about the serial killer.

I'm about the serial killer. And that tells me something about the photos. And what it tells me is that you take pictures of things that interest you, and while you're stalking your victims there is no special aura of serialkillerness that infects them. You just point the camera and click. If you have competence with the camera then that shows, but unless you are taking pictures of the actual dead bodies or otherwise inexplicable planning shots your serialkillerness is not going to be obvious.

Without the provenance you would have no idea these pictures are special at all. I can say that with great confidence because, thinking as the serial killer, there isnt' a damn thing I'd do differently than I would as my non-serial-killer self in taking them. And while I'm not a collector of photographs for museums or otherwise, I am very obsessed with the whole idea of serial killers. You collect photos; I collect crime. Easier hobby. I don't have to go to barns and estate sales to get my fix.
posted by localroger at 8:39 PM on April 24, 2010


thinking as the serial killer, there isnt' a damn thing I'd do differently than I would as my non-serial-killer self in taking them.

Dammit. Now you say. I was all "take a couple pics and then move on to "okay those were good, now try it with more 'I've just been stabbed a couple times' look to it!"? No wonder nobody would let me take pictures.
posted by Justinian at 8:52 PM on April 24, 2010


So sad. delmoi, you've really fallen to a new low. (even for you)

LOL. I've never even heard of you before this thread.

Look, you're the one who said you could tell that the photographer was "Hunting" in his pictures, that the models "realized that he wanted more then pictures" in his images. You said you could "tell by the [facial expressions] from having seen a lot of [vernacular snapshots] in my day"

Look man, you're the one who claimed that you could tell what was going on in photos without context. So, this is a simple test. I linked to some photos. You tell us what the relationship is between the photographer and subject. Is it sexual? Is it predatory? Is it friendly? You tell us.

And if you can't tell us, you're full of shit.
posted by delmoi at 9:03 PM on April 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


If, nothin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 PM on April 24, 2010


metafilter: You tell us. And if you can't tell us, you're full of shit.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:06 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You tell us. And if you can't tell us, you're full of shit.

Basically. What's wrong with that? He claimed he could intuit the context of a photo by looking at. Lets see him demonstrate his clairvoyance, if he's so sure of it.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on April 24, 2010


Nothing's wrong with that, it just made me laugh. I just thought it encapsulated so much of Metafilter lately, that almost(?)-confrontational vibe.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:31 PM on April 24, 2010


This is very disappointing. One would hope to encounter a higher level of discourse on such a serious subject here.

I believe that Matt made a place for these kinds of comments.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:41 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd say it's too many newbs, but he's actually a 17ker... *shrug*

Anyway, if anything metafilter is less confrontational now then in years passed.
posted by delmoi at 9:42 PM on April 24, 2010


???
posted by stinkycheese at 10:01 PM on April 24, 2010


This is one of those instances where a [more inside] Gotcha! would have been interesting--don't say it's a serial killer's snapshots up front. From mendel's greatly appreciated all-photos-on-one-page link, only the fourth one from the end gave me a actual "in distress" vibe. The rest are all just disconnected, run-of-the-mill shots from either a opportunistic or semi-candid photographer (cute kid on a beach! *click*) or some fratboy's trophy photos.
posted by Decimask at 10:13 PM on April 24, 2010


Holy cow. I don't think anybody here is appreciating the fact that about half these are topless photos! That struck me more than the fact that the photographer was later discovered to be a murderer. Heck, I should have carried around a camera in college! (Although we certainly don't need #69).
posted by gnossie at 10:17 PM on April 24, 2010


These photos are kind of bland out of context.
(Because of PareidoliaticBoy's comment I looked at them all.)

And the point of their display now is to identify potential victims, not show what a creepy guy the photog. was or wasn't.

I kinda wanna link to Barthes and Sontag - both of whom speak way more eloquently about photographs and their inability to tell us any more than exactly what is there in front of the film at that moment of exposure and the rest is our own baggage, and also how photographs have an uncanny ability to not show all of a story - but it's so long since I read it I'm not sure I could and you're all grownups and can find them yourself (Camera Lucida Barthers, and On Photography Sontag) and if you're interested you will.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:15 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heck, I should have carried around a camera in college!

In Barry Windsor-Smith's autobiography he wrote that he was geniunely surprised as a naive young painter how many women would hear he was a professional fine art painter and immediately want to get their kit off to be painted.

I showed it to my wife who commented that she finds the same is still true today.
posted by rodgerd at 2:55 AM on April 25, 2010


These girls are very likely Danish - as the sign behind them reads; "rental of bikes via platform 7" in Danish. (udlejning af....)
posted by dabitch at 6:40 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Life is like that; but spreading these photos across 215 pages to generate ad-revenue is reprehensible"

I think the ad-revenue is a side-effect, ascribing reprehensible motives to the people who work at a newspaper who likely have a limited set of tools to put up slideshows -- I find that offensive. This strikes me not as reprehensibly exploitive, but rather, standard operating procedure. If you have a suggestion to the NY Daily News web team that they need to rethink and improve their slideshows, make it: "Questions, comments or problems with the site: Contact webmaster@web.nydailynews.com."

whew

Now that I have that off my chest, I see the unease Bighappyfunhouse is talking about in the subjects of these photos. I find myself fearful that *all* these people were killed by the guy, though I guess that that's unlikely.

This is a novel (but not new) way for the police to find information about a set of photos related to a criminal. I hope they get some useful information.
posted by artlung at 7:25 AM on April 25, 2010


Thus far, 21 women have been identified in the photos, all of them alive. One of these women reports she was molested by Alacala.

dabitch: I do know the police have had responses from Denmark since they posted the pics.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looking through these photos, informed as I am of what Alcala did, they are of a little haunting. It's the whole story coming together, the potential of what some of the photos might mean, the horror in that idea, etc. For me it's the subject, no matter what their expression or mood, that is compliant and unknowing of what this person is capable of. Otherwise, as better than average as they are, the photos are only interesting due to the background story. I know a few photographers. The kind who have used their camera to get to know people. Photography is predetory, as someone already mentioned upthread. The only thing that these photos tell me (and this only because there were so many) is that the photographer was interested in (and very capable of) photographing women (and sometimes children, and sometimes young men).
posted by marimeko at 8:37 AM on April 25, 2010


And over the years I've found some creepy stuff. It all ends up in the burn pile out back.

Spurious nonsense about photography I can take, but that is just appalling behaviour.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 8:38 AM on April 25, 2010


I think the ad-revenue is a side-effect, ascribing reprehensible motives to the people who work at a newspaper who likely have a limited set of tools to put up slideshows

Oh please. There are many quality publications who don't stoop to such abysmal tactics. There is precisely zero need to spread those photos over 215 pages; the only reason for doing so is to increase page views. Therefore I have no suggestions for the ghouls at that dung-pile of a newspaper, artlung. In fact, I hope they go bankrupt.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2010


On third thought, my criticism of Alcala as a "pretentious hack" is back on. Pretension? On the Dating Game, he was introduced as a "professional" photographer; which he never was-he worked as a typesetter for the LA Times where he weirded out his colleagues with the pictures of underage nude girls from his "portfolio" & was, ironically, questioned by the LAPD about the Hillside Strangler murders. As far as his being a hack is concerned, the banal narrowness of the majority of his choices (sentimental shots of children, bland or cheezily posed shots of pretty women & girls) is exactly that-hackneyed and easy. He took "good enough" photos to chat up "chicks"; the talent he had above that, he was lazy with.

The photos that IMO rise above the crop are all the unintentionally revealing- 4, 9, 12, 18, 19, 23, 27, 28, 35, 39, 76 (She rather looks like Tiger Woods imaginary sister?), 80, 91, 94, 102, & ALL of the pictures of the androgynous subject of picture 114-mendel's sequence. They're the most interesting & unsettling of the bunch for me & I would pick them out as such in ANY case. Wether or not a killer made them. We (fortunately!) don't have the post-mortem posed pictures of his victims to compare them against.

The way craft is applied always says something about the craftsperson even if it can NEVER be the whole story. It's just as much nonsense to say that these photos say NOTHING about the photographer as it is to say the photos SHOW him to be a killer. And with that I contradict my "reveal the Beast Within" part of my initial post TA-DA!
posted by vurnt22 at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2010


the banal narrowness of the majority of his choices

Yes. This is what I think when I think of the photographers I know who only photograph young, attractive women. Not because they are fashion photographers, not because they are making money doing this and are some how "trapped" via the money, but because that is all they are interested in.

It's their choice. Their art. Okay..

I would say the same thing if someone who proclaims themselves to be a photographer only shot photos of farms houses. Or clouds. Except that I have yet to meet anyone who (personally, anyway - I used to work in the commercial photography business - this is why I know so many photogs) is obsessed with any simgular "topic" outside that of young, attractive women.

Such photos (by the people I am thinking of) might be beautifully shot, with a great grasp of lighting and compositiion, etc. It's the fact that only one topic (for decades/ tens of thousands of photos) moves them that is disturbing. That makes them (in my eyes) a "hack".
posted by marimeko at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, this guy sure does like to take pictures of topless women cropped just above the nipple.
posted by tehloki at 3:32 PM on April 25, 2010


the banal narrowness of the majority of his choices

Don't you guys think that, just maybe, this guy took photographs of lots of different things and we're not seeing a representative sample because, well, most serial killers don't spend their time killing an interestingly lit weeping willow tree or whatever?

These are mostly photographs of women because this guy killed women and they're hoping these potentially-killed women can be identified.

Now, it's true that most serial killers have a banal narrowness in their choice of victim. But criticizing the photographs on that basis seems weird in the way that some of us have tried to elucidate earlier.
posted by Justinian at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beat an 8 year old over the head and raped her, only to escape out the back door when cops kicked the door in. He served minimal time for that crime.
Kidnapped and killed a 12 year old, only to be tried 3 times. What gets me is the forest ranger saw the girl being led away, saw her bones, saw a coworker notice them and said NOTHING. On top of giving some horrible testimony that made her seem like a flake and the evidence was proved inconclusive.
Showing off his hack photography to coworkers a LA Times which did indeed contain child ponography and not one employee said something to management/cops.
Killed 3 other women only to get tried for their murders this year.

There was no justice in this case for 30 years. Now he sits on death row. He'll probably sit another 30.
posted by stormpooper at 7:37 AM on April 26, 2010


The photoset is a fascinating time capsule without the context. Given the context, I won't be looking at my old yearbooks for quite a while.
posted by whuppy at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2010


I had a look through some of them but gave up pretty quickly. Why do some people still think quantity is better than quality? Either that or it's just very slack editing.


But how the fuck would I know. I just have a collection of over 500k photographs. Been obsessed with collecting photos for over 20 years and sell to some of the best museums in the country. I'm called in to appraise photographic collections. You're right delmoi and rog. I'm just a fucking tourist.

And you think that having such an obsession makes you less prone to projecting your own feelings and ideas onto the photos you see?

Photography can be so subjective. People can see all kinds of things into them that aren't really there. Some would say that good photos are good precisely because they allow viewers to do this.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 10:07 PM on April 26, 2010


I had a look through some of them but gave up pretty quickly. Why do some people still think quantity is better than quality? Either that or it's just very slack editing.

They're trying to track down the women in the photos to make sure they weren't murdered, it kind of IS about quantity over quality.
posted by empath at 12:42 AM on April 27, 2010


I'm just a fucking tourist.

Nope. People who burn art they don't like aren't "tourists." They can only aspire to that exalted stated from the pox-rudden filth-pile they're at the bottom of.
posted by rodgerd at 12:56 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nope. People who burn art they don't like aren't "tourists." They can only aspire to that exalted stated from the pox-rudden filth-pile they're at the bottom of.

There was an interesting and related bit on the FX show "Justified" a few weeks ago. Long story short, an art collector was checking out a few paintings to see if they were legitimate "Hitlers". Somebody asked how many Hitlers he had and he said 42. The protagonist did not take kindly to him after that even though he seemed like a good guy. Hitler Guy kept asking the marshal to view his collection as he might find it illuminating. Protagonist declined for obvious reasons until the very end when Hitler Guy insisted, given he had been quite helpful to the case.

A panning shot across the room reveals a display case with 42 (one assumes) jars containing ash. Turns out the guys father had been some blah blah blah Nazi during and after the war so now he traveled around trying to track down and burn every Hitler painting he could get his hands on.

I wouldn't do it, but I'd have a hard time condemning somebody who did destroy a piece of art like that, presuming they owned the thing.
posted by Justinian at 3:17 PM on April 27, 2010


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