Inspired by traditional end-of-year letters from others, never having written one myself, I’m motivated to try now. Yes, a little late. But with a twist: save for last (if ever) what tends to come first in most letters—family and travels, possibly health but usually not—and begin with what’s for me juiciest. So, here’s what I’ve been up to, what I attempt to make and do. My letter will be heavy on graphics, befitting a visual person. With very few posed smiling faces, if any.
With the advent of the internet around 1962—an outgrowth of military projects—like other photographers and anyone making media, I was fascinated, curious, and ineluctably drawn to not only explore it as a user, but harness it as a producer. Around 2004, a website designer connected to where I taught photography for many years offered to design my site. I understood it would be free as a perk for teaching at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. She showed me her design and billed me. Bill me? I didn’t like the design and refused to pay the bill because of our misunderstanding about fees. She dumped the site. Using the little I knew then about website tools, I created my own rudimentary design. The Cambridge Center’s computer tech person, Scott, offered to host it in their system. Because of a computer crash, he lost it. As compensation, he agreed to teach me rudimentary website design using coding language, HTML, HyperText Markup Language.
Altho I understand that professional designers might prefer to code websites directly with HTML, for my purposes, I found the process overly complicated and unnecessary. Isn’t there something simpler? I asked my mentor. Yes, Scott told me, Dreamweaver. I loved the name and when he demonstrated how relatively simple design with Dreamweaver is—compared to HTML coding— I learned the program thru his mentoring, multiple workshops, reading, and videos. I could now launch the site I use now created in 2004, nearly 20 years ago.
My current version of Dreamweaver is about 10 years old and now available only by subscription rather than standalone, i.e., existing for perpetuity. Subscription cost: $21 monthly, $252 yearly, in my mind, clearly a rip-off by the greedy developer, Adobe. On moral and political grounds I refuse to subscribe and so I persist with my antiquated version of Dreamweaver. There are alternatives and some are free; I link to them below.
Since that pivotal moment, I continue to maintain my website which I occasionally redesign and love to manage. I’m frequently frustrated maintaining it, often because of links and the crude tools in the Dreamweaver model I use.
Primarily my website offers access to my roaring cascade of photographs and movies, like a one-way telephone switchboard. It functions as a directory for my digital-era photography (I have an earlier analog or celluloid archive which is only partially represented on my website). My site serves as a mobile portfolio—often useful during my international travel. It is also a form of diary, reminding me of not only what and when I photographed a particular topic, but the context for it. I find my website extremely useful, altho at times frustrating because of the constant need to update and maintain. As is well known, search algorithms elevate freshness—constant new posts—to increase audience growth.
During 2022 I added 28 new photo entries and about 15 movies. Twelve of the photos series, the clear preponderance signifying my current interests, were about Extinction Rebellion (an international climate justice movement) actions, 4 were episodes in my Covid Chronicle series, and the rest spread among the activist street band, School of Honk; photography field trips; Quaker events; etc. Periodically I receive reports about traffic: in essence, not much. Surprisingly, my subsite, A Digital Timeline—A History of Digital Technology, was accessed way more frequently than my photographs and movies.
I do not intend to sell photos thru my site, far different from the purpose of many websites. Primarily, my purpose is to attract eyes—viewers—and solicit exhibits and publication. This is especially important for my current main project, The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba.
My design is unusual, some would say quirky, and difficult to navigate, cumbersome, and stuffed. For the moment it is the best I’m able to do myself.
I’d like a simpler, more navigable site, viewable on smartphones which are apparently the most used devices for viewing websites. I’ve surveyed various approaches that don’t require direct HTML coding, such as WordPress and a large number of do-it-yourself website builders such as WiX and Squarespace. None of the builders satisfy me—for various reasons, mainly how limiting they seem, especially because of my extensive website needs. I could hire a designer and work with that person to co-design a site, which I may eventually do. Because I have so much new material to post I require direct access, rather than sending instructions and material to someone who posts.
DREAMWEAVER (with the HTML panel open and accessible)PREREQUISITES FOR A WEBSITE (FOR THOSE THINKING OF CREATING ONE)
I selected a URL (Uniform Resource Locator, ie, the site’s address, coded as https://www.blah.blah); mine is http://teeksaphoto.org. For my URL host I use Webhero.com. I chose a server or storage space; mine is Laughing Squid. I pay about $130 per year for the server and $35 per year for the URL. After I die, I suspect no one will maintain my subscriptions and the site will plummet into the vast pit of discarded websites—along with me—the equivalent of outer space debris from long-gone space missions. Two friends, both now dead, Jim Harney and David Avison, both excellent photographers, had created decent sites. Their sites have disappeared from the internet. For a few months after their deaths, people regularly contacted me to learn how to access their photography. No clue. Their website presence had vanished (as probably had most of their prints).
Offering some consolation, a website service called The WayBack Machine, an internet archive, regularly scans the internet using a bot (robot) and archives sites at different moments of their existence. So theoretically, as long as The WayBackMachine exists, anyone can view various evolving versions of teeksaphoto.org. (Alert: it may not include all the original graphics.)
Here’s the first archived version of my home page from 2004, via The Wayback Machine. I’m not sure why the entire site wasn’t archived.
From this point on, I always include an eye (which is my eye) to signal the importance of seeing as opposed to looking, a key principle I attempt to follow in making photos and movies. I made predecessors but apparently they were not archived. Periodically, people ask me what Teeksa means. Altho I once had a believable answer—it’s the Nepali word for OK—now I’m not so sure about that. So, like George Eastman inventing the nonsense word that resonates, Kodak, to indicate his pioneering photographic business (he’s the first to market roll film, the first to sell an easily used camera—”You snap the shutter, we do the rest.”) I hope Teeksa links inextricably to my photography.
The featured image, which I change regularly, serves as an enticement and signals one of my current main themes.
The main title is Teeksa Photography—The Photography of Skip Schiel. The subtitle, Socially Engaged Photography, tries to briefly summarize my content and approach and inspire curiosity. This section includes links to who I am (for instance, what Socially Engaged Photography means: from socially engaged Buddhism), how to purchase prints, updates on exhibits, weblog link (i.e., blog), etc. Plus a plug for the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) Israel campaign until it ends its oppression of Palestinians. This hints to my politics.
Through photography is a further description of my approach with a link to my manifesto, Of light and image. I wrote this manifesto about 60 years ago when in I was in my early twenties and now post it with a few minor revisions.
My Latest Movies—short and long, light and heavy, easy and difficult—is next. With links to my YouTube and Vimeo channels.
Organizations I endorse and have worked or continue to work with come next. The topics tend to concentrate on Palestine-Israel, activism, and photography.
The last section presents my various sub-topics such as Detroit, Palestine-Israel, Recent Photography (limited to the current year), Archive (going back to 2004), Writings, and Workshops (altho I’ve retired from teaching I feel some of this material might be useful to photography students and others). All my materials then follow after this.
I try to keep my graphics simple, do not use animated graphics or any sort of dynamic elements (dynamic meaning animated), and avoid the latest trends in website design. Rather than use dropdown menus, which in many cases are useful and simplify design, I use an “open-face approach,” meaning a viewer can see most categories at one glance.
TWO LAUDABLE PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THEIR WEBSITESEdward Boches
FINALLY AND YET TO DO OR DO BETTER
Depending on where I am located in the world (Palestine-Israel, Detroit, Alaska, West Coast, or home in New England), I use a few social media channels (Facebook most often) to circulate my latest materials. For my subscribers—numbering around 300, only a portion regularly clicking—I use a free version of the mailing software, MailChimp; I’m satisfied with it. Before that, I’d blind-copied my subscribers but often Google considered my postings spam and blocked transmission. MailChimp links to some social media automatically so I simply click the relevant OKs. Finally, I hope to build a new simpler website and use social media more effectively.
A Digital Timeline—A History of Digital Technology (The link on my Teeksa Photography site most often clicked)
The Wayback Machine (To earlier versions of my site; some graphics may be missing)
Free Adobe Dreamweaver Alternatives for Mac
The Best Website Builders for 2023 (PC Magazine, March 2023)
Top Website Statistics For 2023 (Forbes Advisor, February 2023)
NEXT: PLANS FOR 2023 TO BUILD AND SAFEGUARD MY ARCHIVE AND CREATE A RETROSPECTIVE SLIDESHOW