Which Photo will you share in Best in Travel Award 2017?


For our first ever WSGT Travel Photo Award : 2017 Best in Travel Photo Award, share your favorite shot! Why do you love it? How did you create it? Submit a photo taken in the last two years.

Thank you for your participation!

What Picture will you share in WSGT Travel Photo Award 2017Date: Enter from August 1, 2017 to October 1, 2017

Theme: Your Favorite Photo

Deadline: Enter by midnight PST on October 1, 2017

Fees: This competition has no fee.

WSGT Travel Photo Award 2017

Prizes:

1st Prize – $200 usd
2nd Prize – $100usd
3rd Prize – $50 usd

Winners will be selected by our judges and We Said Go Travel Team. Cash prizes will be paid through PayPal in United States Dollars. All winning entries will be promoted on We Said Go Travel.

REQUIREMENTS

RULES

Photos will be published with the accompanying information given with the entry dependent on appropriateness and being family friendly (G rated). If your photo information is written in a language other than English, please also send an English translation.

Travelers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to participate. You may submit up to three photos for our first photo competition.

We are looking for an inspiring travel-oriented image that shows us your experience in the world with great subject, composition, lighting, perspective and storytelling. It must be your original photo that shares the people, places or cultures you have encountered. Do not submit studio or commercial photos.

All photos, which meet the requirements, will be published on this site, WeSaidGoTravel.com. Void where prohibited.

JUDGING

Jeana

Jeana Surf and Sunshine Travel Photo AwardTravel / Lifestyle Blogger | Geeky Mom (the cool kind, of course)
North American Travel Journalists Association
International Travel Writers Alliance
Huffington Post / Surf and Sunshine

Rarely caught without a camera, Jeana is an adventurous traveler with a passion for people, cultures and food that has led her to 38 countries in 5 years. Recently named by Social Media Week as one of eight people who have more social influence than some large travel brands, Jeana is also consistently listed in Klout’s top 10 Travel influencers as well as the top 5 of Rise Global’s Top 1000 Travel Blogs. When she’s not using her powers for social good, she enjoys photography, cooking and building LEGOs with her son. On occasion, you may also find her crocheting cute things to hide in her husband’s underwear drawer.

www.surfandsunshine.com

Gary Arndt

Gary is a self-taught travel photographer who was named Travel Photographer of the Year by both the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association. Join his Travel Photography Academy!

www.everything-everywhere.com

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Woman in red becomes leitmotif for Istanbul’s female protesters


In her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her shoulder she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party; but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that sends her long hair billowing upwards.

Endlessly shared on social media and replicated as a cartoon on posters and stickers, the image of the woman in red has become the leitmotif for female protesters during days of violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul.

“That photo encapsulates the essence of this protest,” says math student Esra at Besiktas, near the Bosphorus strait and one of the centres of this week's protests. “The violence of the police against peaceful protesters, people just trying to protect themselves and what they value.”

In one graphic copy plastered on walls the woman appears much bigger than the policeman. “The more you spray the bigger we get”, reads the slogan next to it.

The United States and the European Union as well as human rights groups have expressed concern about the heavy-handed action of Turkish police against protesters.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan branded the protesters on Monday extremists “living arm in arm with terrorism”, a description that seems to sit ill with the image of the woman in red.

There were others dressed in more combative gear and sporting face masks as they threw stones, but the large number of very young women in Besiktas and on Taksim Square where the protests began on Friday evening is notable.

With swimming goggles and flimsy surgical masks against the teargas, light tasseled scarves hanging around their necks, Esra, Hasine and Secil stand apprehensively in the Besiktas district on Monday evening, joined by ever growing numbers of youngsters as dusk falls and the mood grows more sombre.

They belong, as perhaps does the woman in red, to the ranks of young, articulate women who believe they have something to lose in Erdogan's Turkey. They feel threatened by his promotion of the Islamic headscarf, symbol of female piety.

CAREERS FOR WOMEN

Many of the women point to new abortion laws as a sign that Erdogan, who has advised Turkish women to each have three children, wants to roll back women's rights and push them into traditional, pious roles.

“I respect women who wear the headscarf, that is their right, but İ also want my rights to be protected,” says Esra. “I'm not a leftist or an anti-capitalist. İ want to be a business woman and live in a free Turkey.”

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular republic formed in 1923 from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, encouraged women to wear Western clothes rather than headscarves and promoted the image of the professional woman. Ironically, Erdogan is seen these days as, for better or worse, the most dominant Turkish leader since Ataturk.

Erdogan was first swept to power in 2002 and remains unrivalled in popularity, drawing on strong support in the conservative Anatolian heartland.

The weekend demonstrations in dozens of cities suggest however his popularity may be dwindling, at least among middle classes who swung behind him in the early years of political and economic reform that cut back the power of the army and introduced some rights amendments.

“Erdogan says 50 percent of the people voted for him. I'm here to show I belong to the other 50 percent, the half of the population whose feelings he showed no respect for, the ones he is trying to crush,” says chemistry student Hasine.

“I want to have a future here in Turkey, a career, a freedom to live my life. But all these are under threat. I want Erdogan to understand,” she adds.

Erdogan, a pious man who denies Islamist ambitions for Turkey, rejects any suggestion he wants to cajole anyone into religious observance. He says new alcohol laws, also denounced by the women, have been passed to protect health rather than on religious grounds.

Protesters are coming better prepared now than when the unrest first began. Some have hard-hats, some are dressed all in black, most wear running shoes. But many are dressed as femininely as the girl in the red dress snapped on Taksim Square.

“Of course I'm nervous and I know I could be in danger here. But for me that is nothing compared to the danger of losing the Turkish Republic, its freedoms and spirit,” said 23 year-old economics student Busra, who says her parents support her protest.

Editing by Ralph Boulton and Andrew Heavens

Celebrate Israel Festival’s top Jews of L.A.


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Images from Israel Independence Day


Photo of dead Palestinian children wins international prize


A Swede won the 2012 World Press Photo prize for a photograph of two Palestinian children who were killed during Israel's operation in Gaza.

Paul Hansen, a photographer for the daily Dagens Nyheter, won the prize on Friday , the Associated Press reported. According to the report, the two children were killed in an Israeli missile strike.

The picture shows a group of men marching the dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. The victims, a brother and sister, are wrapped in white cloth with only their faces showing.

“The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children,” said jury member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. “It's a picture I will not forget.”

World Press Photo, one of photojournalism's most prestigious contests, issued awards in nine categories to 54 photographers of 32 nationalities.

The photo was captured during November's eight-day military operation mounted by Israel against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in response to repeated missile attacks on Israeli civilians.

Iran has photos of Israeli restricted areas, lawmaker says


An Iranian lawmaker said that Iran has photos of Israeli military bases and other restricted areas.

Esmail Kowsari, chairman of the Iranian Parliament's defense committee, told the Iranian Arabic-language Al-Alam that a drone that breached Israeli airspace earlier this month transmitted photos of restricted Israeli military sites before it was shot down, Reuters reported, citing Iran's Mehr news agency.

Israeli troops shot down the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, on Oct. 6 over the Negev Desert after it entered Israeli airspace near the Mediterranean Sea. The drone was launched from Lebanon in a cooperation between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, the Sunday Times of London reported at the time, citing unnamed sources.

IDF Pride photo was staged, Israeli news site reports


A photo posted on the Israel Defense Forces website in honor of Pride Month showing two male soldiers in uniform holding hands was staged, according to an Israeli news website.

Only one of the soldiers is gay and both work for the IDF Spokesman’s Office, The Times of Israel reported shortly after the photo went viral on Facebook earlier this week.

The photo posted Monday and captioned “It’s Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally?” had garnered more than 10,800 likes and more than 8,800 shares, as well as 1,555 comments as of Thursday evening.

Positive comments appear to outnumber the negative by a large margin.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office did not deny the photo was staged, according to the Times of Israel, and said in a statement that “The photo reflects the IDF’s open-minded attitude towards soldiers of all sexual orientations. The IDF respects the privacy of the soldiers featured in the photograph, and will not comment on their identities.”

Meanwhile, Anastassia Michaeli, an Israeli lawmaker from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, made anti-gay statements during a Knesset discussion Wednesday on sexual harassment. Michaeli said that “Most homosexuals are people who experienced sexual abuse at a very young age,” and she accused Israel’s Channel 10 of broadcasting programming that encourages children to be homosexuals,

Yisraeli Beiteinu in a statement distanced itself from the comments. Gay rights leaders and opposition political leaders slammed Michaeli’s remarks. 

In January, Michaeli was suspended from the Knesset plenum for a month after she threw water at Labor Party lawmaker Ghaleb Majadele’s face during an Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting.

Philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz celebrated by West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch


The largest gathering of rabbis in West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch history celebrated philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz and his wife, Tamar. On March 4, Chabad’s more than 260 emissaries on the West Coast gathered for its 40th West Coast Kinus HaShluchim convention at Chabad’s Westwood headquarters.  The highlight of the event was the presentation of the Chesed Award to Rechnitz (right). Photo by David Miller

 

Skirball photo exhibit shows Pope John Paul II’s lifetime of outreach to Jews


A large photo in the exhibition “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” shows a smiling Elio Toaff, the chief rabbi of Rome, warmly welcoming the pontiff to Rome’s Great Synagogue in 1986.

Today, when interfaith meetings and celebrations are routine, it is difficult to imagine the impact of the first papal visit to the synagogue after 2,000 years of Catholic antagonism and persecution of Jews.

John Paul II, who once worked in a stone quarry, seemed destined by history and background to smash a large opening in the wall that had separated the two faiths for centuries.

As richly illustrated through text panels, documents, photos and videos in the Skirball Cultural Center exhibition, which continues through Jan. 4, the pope’s 84-year lifespan is divided into four chronological segments.

The first section introduces the young boy, born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, about midway between Krakow and Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

In contrast to most Polish towns, Catholics and Jews mingled freely in Wadowice. The Wojtyla family lived in a predominantly Jewish apartment building, many of Karol’s classmates were Jewish, and he played goalie on a Jewish soccer team.

Next comes Karol’s young adulthood, when the Nazi invasion and occupation closed the Krakow seminary attended by the future pope. He and 800 other students organized underground classes and continued their clandestine studies.

In the third section, with the war over, Wojtyla rises from priest to bishop, cardinal and archbishop of Krakow. He participates as a junior member in the Second Vatican Council, which opens a new chapter in the church’s attitude toward other faiths. At the same time, he renews ties with the surviving Jewish community of Poland.

The final and climactic section, both in the exhibit and in Wojtyla’s life, is his papacy, from his election in 1978 to his death in 2005.

This period included his visits to Auschwitz and to the Rome synagogue, and his formal repentance for his church’s past antagonism toward the Jewish people. Earlier, in 1993, John Paul II commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in words imprinted in the exhibit’s title:

“As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”

In 2000, the pope undertook a pilgrimage to and formally recognized the State of Israel, inserting a note between the stones of the Western Wall.

In commemoration of this visit, a replica of part of the Western Wall stands near the exhibit’s exit. There visitors can write their own notes and prayers, which will be transferred to the actual Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Across from the simulated wall is a bronze casting of the pope’s hand as “a symbolic expression of the power of John Paul II’s personal touch in reaching out to people across the globe,” said Skirball senior curator Grace Cohen Grossman.

The Skirball center is making a special effort to attract Catholic visitors and members of the Polish community in Los Angeles to the exhibit, said museum director Robert Kirschner.

A large number of parochial schools have signed up for tours and the regular Skirball docents will be supplemented by guides drawn from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Given the large number of non-Jewish visitors, who may not be too familiar with the Holocaust, the exhibit also includes information on the extermination of Poland’s and Europe’s Jewry.

Two areas not covered in the show are the generally conservative doctrine and theology of John Paul II, and the attitudes and transgressions by past popes toward Jews.

“Our focus is on the remarkable outreach toward Jews and other peoples by John Paul II, his charisma and personal connections with people, and how the experiences of his early years led to his later accomplishments,” Kirschner said.

The exhibition was created and produced by Xavier University, a Jesuit institution, and the Hillel Jewish Student Center, both in Cincinnati, together with the Shtetl Foundation. The local showing is supported by the Polish consulate in Los Angeles and private donors.

Several related public programs will complement the exhibition during its nearly four-month run. Included are concerts, films, classes, lectures, family workshops and gallery tours. For more information, call or phone (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org.

Photo exhibition reveals challenges, dreams of teen immigrants


Arsim Mustafa, a 14-year-old boy who immigrated with his parents from Kosovo to the United States, is leaning against a paint-spattered wall, arms loosely crossed as they rest on the oversized T-shirt he is wearing. He looks like any American teen, wearing baggy pants and high-top sneakers, his boyish face framed by close-cropped dark hair, his gaze meeting the camera with apparent equanimity.

But when documentary photographer Barbara Beirne asked him about his homeland, he told her how scared he had been before he came to America.

“In my country, it was always war. I saw people dying. I saw people without arms, eyes, hands — without heads,” Mustafa said. “We finally got away, but I was upset.”

On a winter day, just four months after arriving from Ukraine, a 15-year-old girl stood beneath low-hanging gray clouds on a deserted stretch of Coney Island Beach, amusement park rides visible far behind her. Engulfed in winter garb, holding a scarf to her neck against the wind, her eyes are fixed on a point in the distance over the ocean. She told Beirne that she missed “Ukraine and nature,” where everyone in her village worked in the fields, then picked and ate apples together.

“Is it true that you can’t pick apples from trees here?” she asked.

These teens’ impressions of their homelands — from Mustafa’s wartime horrors to the young Ukrainian woman’s pastoral idyll — are just two examples of the wide-ranging sentiments expressed by 59 teens included in the exhibition, “Becoming American: Teenagers and Immigration,” opening Oct. 17 at the Skirball Cultural Center. Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), “Becoming American” premiered March 10, 2007, at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and will travel to various venues around the country through 2011. The teenagers’ stories, as told through their own words, appear alongside Beirne’s evocative photographic portraits, drawing viewers into a maelstrom of the teens’ hopes, fears and dreams as they face a new life in a foreign land.

Beirne, who studied photography with Philip Perkis and Robert Mapplethorpe, has amassed an impressive body of work over the past 25 years. She has worked in India, Nepal and Ecuador; has documented the lives of children in war-torn Belfast, Ireland, and has had a prior exhibition, “Serving Home and Community: The Women of Appalachia,” tour the United States from 1999-2003, also through SITES.

Beirne first became interested in teenage immigrants while on a magazine assignment in her home state of New Jersey in 1999. More than 3,000 Kosovar Albanians had been brought to the United States in a humanitarian response to the crisis in Kosovo; hundreds of them were housed at Fort Dix, N.J., awaiting resettlement assistance. Visiting them weekly, Beirne discovered that of the refugees, it was the teenagers who were the most willing — excited, even — to talk to the news media.

” title=”www.skirball.org”>www.skirball.org.

All photos by Barbara Beirne

Briefs: Cancer helps Olmert poll numbers, Mrs. El Presidente in Argentina — still good for the Jews


Olmert’s Popularity Buoyed by Cancer

Ehud Olmert’s disclosure that he has prostate cancer edged up his approval ratings. A poll commissioned by Yediot Achronot after Olmert’s surprise announcement Monday found that 41 percent of Israelis “appreciate” his performance as prime minister, up from 35 percent last month.

Olmert, whose popularity plummeted after last year’s Lebanon war and amid ongoing corruption allegations, also got high marks in the survey for his “bravery” in coming forward, an act that 61 percent of respondents said they found moving. Eighty-seven percent of respondents agreed with Olmert’s decision to stay in office. But asked which among Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is most fit to be prime minister, 14 percent said Olmert, 17 percent said Barak and 35 percent said Netanyahu. Yediot did not say how many people were polled. The margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Argentine Vote Means No Change for Jews

Argentina’s new president likely will not change government policies toward the Jewish community.

The victory by current first lady and senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in national elections Sunday will be a continuation of official policies regarding Jewish interests, according to Aldo Donzis, president of the DAIA, Argentina’s Jewish umbrella organization. The government of her husband, Nestor Kirschner, was active in seeking justice for the terrorist attack on the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in 1994, and initiated projects to fight anti-Semitism, discrimination and xenophobia.

The first lady and now president-elect was active in these efforts, according to Donzis. On Monday morning, with 97 percent of the election results calculated, Fernandez de Kirchner had garnered 45 percent of the vote. She needed at least 40 percent to avoid a runoff. In the capital city of Buenos Aires, where most of the Jewish community resides, she received 23 percent of the vote.

Alleged Syrian Reactor in 2003 Photo

A 2003 photo shows the alleged nuclear reactor Israel bombed in Syria last month under construction. The Sept. 16, 2003 photo, released by GeoEye, an aerial image archive in Dulles, Va., and published in Saturday’s New York Times, suggests that Syria’s nuclear weapons program long predates the Sept. 6 Israeli attack. Initial reports suggested that the reactor Israel allegedly targeted was in its nascent stage. Israel, Syria and the United States will not confirm the nature of the attack.

Rabin Killer Can’t Attend Brit

Yitzhak Rabin’s jailed assassin lost an appeal to be allowed to attend the circumcision of his first son. Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday turned down a petition by Yigal Amir for a special furlough on Nov. 4, when his son is to be circumcised. Amir had argued that he should not be denied leave rights granted to other convicted murderers in Israel.

Amir’s wife, Larissa, became pregnant during a conjugal visit to the prison where Amir is serving a life sentence in isolation. She gave birth on Sunday. The fact that the circumcision will take place exactly 12 years after Amir gunned down Prime Minister Rabin at a Tel Aviv peace rally has stoked the ire of Israelis opposed to seeing the assassin enjoy any jailhouse leniency.

Terrorism Led Portman Into Activism

The anguish of a friend grieving over a terror victim in Israel led actress Natalie Portman to become an activist.

“When I was at Harvard, a very close friend lost someone to the violence in Israel,” the Israeli-born movie star says in a first-person essay that appeared this weekend in Parade magazine. “I felt so helpless watching her pain. I really wanted to do something, but I didn’t know where to begin. Coming from Israel, I know how polarized that part of the world scene can be.”

Portman called Jordanian Queen Rania, a Palestinian, who told Portman about the Foundation for International Community Assistance. The group, Portman says, “grants loans, mostly to women, to start small businesses. Rather than donate food, it helps people earn the money to buy their own food and gives women the opportunity to better their lives.”

Portman has since traveled to Central America and Africa for the foundation.

“It’s impossible to know the outcome of anything,” she writes. “You have no idea whether the life you impact will go on to bring peace to the Middle East or will go blow up a building. All you can do is act with the best intention and have faith.”

Israeli Film Takes Top Prize in Kiev

An Israeli film took the top prize at a Kiev film festival. “The Band’s Visit” received the Grand Prix and $10,000 at the 37th Molodist (“Youth”) International Film Festival on Sunday.

It was the first feature-length film by 34-year-old Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin. The whimsical tale, which has won other awards, follows the iconoclastic adventures of a band of Egyptian musicians who are lost in a small town in Israel’s Negev Desert. Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko participated in the festival’s opening.

‘The Tribe’ Hits No. 1 on iTunes

A documentary about Jewish identity is in the No. 1 spot of most downloaded short films on iTunes. Tiffany Shlain, director of “The Tribe,” a humorous look at American Jewish identity through the lens of Barbie, says she launched her film on iTunes Oct. 2, hoping to crack the top 10 list. It is now the first independent documentary to hit No. 1, Shlain notes.

“This says there’s an audience that wants to watch documentaries about American Jewish identity,” says Shlain, who lives in Mill Valley, Calif. “This opens the doors for other filmmakers and expands the options of what is available to download.” The other films in the top 10 are all by major studies such as Disney and Pixar, except for the indie “West Bank Story,” in the No. 7 spot, which won this year’s Academy Award for Best Short Film.

“The Tribe,” released in December 2005, was shown at 75 film festivals, including Sundance and Tribeca, and won nine awards. It is available at

Israeli photo application promises more beautiful you


If the camera could lie, would you let it?

Three Israeli computer scientists from Tel Aviv University have developed the ultimate enhancement tool for retouching digital images. Called the Beauty Function, their program scans an image of your face, studies it and produces a slightly more beautiful you.

Introduced at a conference in Boston recently after more than three years of work, the Beauty Function is the inspiration of Tel Aviv University’s Daniel Cohen-Or and Tommer Leyvand.

In developing the Beauty Function, they asked 300 men and women to rank pictures of peoples’ faces — with varying degrees of beauty — on an attractiveness scale of 1-7. The scores were correlated to detailed measurements and ratios of facial features, such as nose width, chin length and distance from eyes to ears.

Some 250 measurement points were taken into account and, once formulated, researchers developed an algorithm that let them apply some of the desired elements of attractiveness — as mathematical equations — to a fresh image.

The result is a computer program that within minutes can decide how to make you more beautiful. Larger eyes perhaps? A less-crooked nose? How about lips slightly closer to the chin?

When carried out on a large number of sample images, volunteers agreed that 79 percent of time the effects of the Beauty Function — which can be applied to both men and women — made a face more attractive.

Photo-editing software companies such as Adobe (manufacturer of Photoshop) are potential customers of the new tool, and researchers hope it will also become a must-have add-on for all digital cameras in the future, “just like the red-eye function is today,” Leyvand said.

Like a true scientist, Leyvand has also tried using the Beauty Function on himself and family members. One relative told him that she was pleased with the output.

“She told me, ‘Now I know what I need to do to improve my makeup application,'” Leyvand said.

“If you can understand what the algorithm of the Beauty Function has chosen to do on your face,” he added, “it can help you accentuate parts of yourself deemed more attractive. You might want to use more lipstick to make your lips fuller.”

Plastic surgeons, he adds, may find it helpful to increase business. With a flick of a switch they can show people how minor alterations on the face and neck can enhance attractiveness.

Chances are most people will opt to keep enhancements in the realm of the digital world. And there is a need: It is no big secret that celebrities and models are being digitally enhanced in pictures and magazines. Why shouldn’t all of us enjoy some of that picture-perfect retouching too?

“Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder,” co-researcher Cohen-Or said. “Beauty is merely a function of mathematical distances or ratios. And interestingly, it is usually the average distances to features which appears to most people to be the most beautiful.”

“I don’t know much about beauty and I don’t pretend that I do,” he added, “but the nice thing about this project is that we didn’t intend or aim to define beauty. We don’t care about the reasons that make someone appear to be more beautiful. For us, every picture is just a collection of numbers.”

Leyvand and Cohen-Or envision that such a tool will be used for producing the ultimate dating site picture, and as a one-stop-shop enhancement tool for photo editors at glossy magazines.

Whatever the purpose behind using Beauty Function, the researchers are confident it will make a splash in the photo-editing world. Unlike existing software that relies on human intervention to decide what changes to make, the Beauty Function uses the computer to decide. Also, current touch-up software has magazine editors complaining of doctored images looking “cartoony” and little like the original. By comparison, the output of the Beauty Function looks natural.

Since its unveiling in Boston, the response to the Beauty Function has been overwhelming: Media, including New Scientist and Forbes, have been eager to report on a computer program that can change the landscape of digital photography.

The Beauty Function idea started around the time Leyvand had finished his master’s degree in 2003. Lingering around the computer science lab at Tel Aviv University, he continued to ping-pong ideas off his former mentor, Cohen-Or. Together they decided to build on a body of work in the area of computer learning, which was started by Dr. Gideon Dror at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo.

“When I thought about what he did, I thought about using his idea to guide an actual change towards making a picture more beautiful,” Leyvand recalled.
Today, Leyvand is in Redmond, Wash., working for Microsoft as a computer developer, while Cohen-Or has taken on the task of commercializing the beauty software.

As part of his ongoing work as a computer scientist, Cohen-Or also works with the notion of finding a similar beauty function related to color. Color harmonies exist, he said, yet not a lot has been done with aesthetics and color. Finding or matching the right harmonies of color — opposites or colors belonging to the same hue — can have a big impact on advertising and art, he believes.

But with or without color, the Beauty Function is bound to impact the way snapshots of our faces are taken and processed.

“Think about how great this could be for a professional photographer at a photo shoot,” Leyvand said. “Normally they take hundreds of pictures to capture the right expression for the perfect shot. It is a rare combination of light, camera position and angle of the face that makes the perfect picture.

“Getting that moment is a kind of magic. I think with our software we can capture that magic moment every single time.”


Tel Aviv University Homepage:
‘ TARGET=’_blank’>http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/~tommer/

Daniel Cohen-Or’s page:
‘ TARGET=’_blank’>http://www2.mta.ac.il/~gideon/

Karin Kloosterman is a freelance writer for ISRAEL21c, a media organization focusing on 21st century Israel.

Photo exhibit of Persian Jewry on exhibit at Huntington


Since arriving in Southern California more than 25 years ago, the Persian Jewish community has been tight-knit and has largely chosen to be closed off from the rest of the greater Jewish community and American society. Yet with an undying curiosity and persistence, local Jewish photojournalist Shelley Gazin has managed to capture the true essence of Persian Jewish life in a series of photographs.
 
After nearly two years of work on “Becoming Persian: A Photographic Narrative With Text Threads Illuminating the Persian Jewish Community,” a small portion of Gazin’s work will go on view for a one-day event at the Huntington Library in San Marino on Nov. 4.”I found Persian hospitality so encompassing that I was pulled in, almost as if by a magnet,” said Gazin, whose photographs have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time, and Forbes magazine. “I’m surprised by how deeply I felt a part of it.”

The event will also feature presentations from more than 40 archives of the arts, economies, politics and cultures of various Los Angeles-area communities. Gazin said she was originally attracted to documenting life in the Iranian Jewish community after photographing the late Persian Jewish Chief Rabbi Hacham Yedidia Shofet for her 2001 exhibition, “Looking for a Rabbi,” at the Skirball Museum.
 
“It was interesting and impressive to realize that my own neighborhood [Los Angeles] had been transformed, and that this successful community has emerged who has made major contributions in science, medicine and business,” Gazin said. “I realized that this might be the greatest saga of 20th century immigration”.
 
Gazin’s photos include various facets of local Iranian Jewish life, from extravagant weddings, to images of local leaders, to close-ups of community organizations supporting new immigrants from Iran.
 
Despite her limited knowledge of the Persian culture and inability to speak Persian, Gazin’s desire to give an accurate portrayal of Persian Jewish life in Los Angeles has earned her the respect of the community’s leaders, who have welcomed her with open arms.
 
“For a lot of people who don’t know us or who have seen us only from a distance, what she [Gazin] has done will give them a better idea of who we really are and put a face to our community,” said Dr. Morgan Hakimi, president of the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills.
 
Gazin’s presence at local Persian Jewish events and gatherings has forced many Persian Jews to re-examine their lack of openness with other Jewish groups, Hakimi said.
 
“Sometimes we’re out of touch with the Jewish community and the greater community since we’re all within our own inner circles,” she said. “So it’s natural for us to learn about ourselves from a project like this”.

Other local Jewish leaders said Gazin’s work was significant for research purposes, because no one had previously documented with photos the lives of Persian Jews in Southern California.
 
“The Persian Jewish community is vitally important to the Los Angeles Jewish community, therefore it is essential that there are records of their history,” said UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who has collaborated with Gazin on past projects.
 
Seidler-Feller said Gazin’s photographs ultimately would help bridge the cultural gap between older Persian Jews and the younger generation of Persian Jews that have been Americanized after living here all their lives.
 
After receiving the initial funding for her project from the California Council for the Humanities, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Durfee Foundation, Gazin is still seeking sponsorship from new donors in order to complete this extensive project. When she is done, she hopes to have exhibitions of the completed work, though probably not for another two to three years. The Laura & David Merage Foundation have provided funding for Gazin’s presentation at the Huntington Library.
 
For more information on attending the Huntington Library’s Inaugural Los Angeles Archives Bazaar on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., or contact (626) 405-2100.



“The Passing Of Hacham Yedidia Shofet.” Photo ©2005 Shelley Gazin

Ghanaian Kicks It Up for Israel Fans


World Cup viewers were confronted with more than one big surprise on Saturday when Ghana defeated the Czech Republic 2-0 in what was perhaps the greatest upset of the tournament so far. The second shocker came when Ghanaian defender John Pantsil pulled an Israeli flag out of his sock during Ghana’s celebrations of its two goals.

The gesture has been greeted by an array of reactions all over the world. While some call Pantsil, a religious Christian, a hero, others say he acted with na?veté and foolishness.

But Pantsil, who isn’t Israeli, told one Israeli sports Web site that his actions were motivated by good-hearted intentions: “I love the fans in Israel. I have played at Hapoel [Haifa] and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and the fans always made me happy so I wanted to make them happy.”

Pantsil is one of three Ghanaian players who play in the Israeli Premier League.

The Ghanaian Football Association issued an apology on Monday in response to outrage in the Arab world caused by Pantsil’s action: “He is obviously unaware of the implications of what he did. He’s unaware of international politics,” Randy Abbey, spokesman of the Ghanaian FA, said at a press conference.

“We apologize to anybody who was offended and we promise that it will never happen again. He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naïve.”

But FIFA, the organization that runs the World Cup, said that it had no problem with Pantsil’s actions.

Meanwhile, Israeli Sports Minister Ofir Pines-Paz has been quoted as saying, “We have an Israeli at the World Cup. Pantsil’s gesture has warmed our hearts and many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana.”