A Third Win for The Telling Image


The National Indie Excellence Awards emphasize a synergy of form and content in judging their award winners. My book, The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times delivers its message through its 200 images, as much as its text delivers its ideas - a synergy of form and content. So I was thrilled to be selected for its Excellence Award for both Arts and Entertainment as well as Cover Design.

As a former documentary filmmaker for NBC News, I had to find a telling image that conveyed the essence of the information that I scripted. In covering foreign cultures or national issues, I realized how important shape is in downloading the world into order and meaning. Shape itself can be a symbol that tells us the thinking, the mental map, of the culture that built a circular settlement, a pyramid, a town square, a roundabout or a downtown grid. These very shapes reflect whether a society is based on equality or hierarchy, on qualities or quantities, on flow or fixed places.

National awards for Indie books are especially welcomed as independent publishing, from university presses to hybrid publishing, are rising dramatically while traditional publishers are merging and shrinking. The more ideas that are shared, the stronger the society. Thanks to awards such as this, merit can still be recognized even within a system where all can enter. I am grateful to the National Indie Excellence Award judges for the difference their recognition makes for independent writers and excited to be recognized for excellence.

A Second Gold for The Telling Image: Next Generation Indie Book Award


The Telling Image Wins Gold

The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times was awarded a Next Generation Indie Book Award in the category of Coffee Table Book/Photography!


Another happy surprise. My book, The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times won another Gold book award. Next Generation Indie Book Awards will celebrate its winners in a Washington, DC ceremony in June. This Gold adds to the Gold from Nautilus Book Awards. It is gratifying that the book’s ideas and images on our search for pattern and meaning have found their way into the minds of readers.

Images are the dominant language of our time. Visual processing takes up 30% of the brain’s function. It is the first and foremost way we take in the world. The 200 images in this book reveal how humans throughout time, from migratory to modern living, have made sense of the world through shape. So it is particularly fitting that this Gold award is for the category of Coffee Table Book/Photography. The eyes are our portal and pathway. Yet, the way we see and understand the world shifts at pivot points in history.

Pattern recognition is a buzz word of our data processing age. Yet pattern recognition is what humans have always done, ordering the world through shape, from stone circles, to pyramids, to helices and networks.

May images of the circle dances in tribal societies, the skyscrapers of modern cities, the helix of DNA and the links and nodes of networks seep into your eyes and show you how we shape our world, then how that shape, shapes us.

Space Exploration or Space Race?


The air belongs to everyone; the best things in life are free.

Maybe not. Air space, air quality, and aerial views are subject to ownership, pollution, and obstruction today.

When space exploration began, we felt a thrill seeing Earth as a whole sphere. Consciously and unconsciously, this created the sense that humans are bound together on this planet in common consequences. But our own human nature doesn’t fully understand our interconnectedness. Space exploration became the space race.

When the first satellites went up, bringing us images of weather patterns and ocean currents that played supra roles in the drama of nations, we received a larger context. I was hopeful that these images, beyond rhetoric and beyond political philosophies, could create a unifying awareness of our fragility and need for cooperation.


My wish was that a space perspective would engender a set of laws between nations creating a common purpose girded by space law. Like admiralty law controls how the oceans are governed— accommodating for navigation, fishing rights, territorial waters—I believed we could evolve to develop more comprehensive, more beneficial principles to oversee space.

It was particularly painful to see my dream die.

First China shot down its own satellite to demonstrate that they could—and to show they might use that power against others as well. The USA and Russia have done the same. And now India joins that pack. In March 2019, India shot down its own satellite.

Think of the debris from each of these smatterings. The pieces of the blasted satellites will float on and on. There are no vacuum cleaners in space. Obstacles are dancing around the same orbit in which the space station and working satellites fly.

What strikes me about this bullet to my dream is that blowing up a satellite is not conquering territory in the classic sense. It is destroying another country’s ability to communicate. The life or death of information and communication are now more vital than citizens’ life and death.

When I think about military history, information lines were always a critical target, from capturing runners to blowing up bridges to encryption messages. So maybe it is only the technology that has changed, not the way we proceed. Maybe the costumes of our offenses and defenses have changed, but not the narrative of the play we call history. Still, it hit me like a thud, that the wild blue yonder does not belong to everyone.

It belongs to the latest technology.

Goodreads Giveaway of The Telling Image

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Telling Image by Lois Farfel Stark

The Telling Image

by Lois Farfel Stark

Giveaway ends December 27, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Are you on Goodreads? I'm excited to announce that I'll be giving away 25 advance copies of The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times via Goodreads! To enter, click the above link. 

Announcing The Telling Image

The Telling Image

Shapes of Changing Times

by Lois Farfel Stark

Now Available for Pre-Order! 

I am very pleased to share with you the cover for my new book, The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times. This book has been ten years in the making. As many of my friends can attest, these ideas have been swirling with me since my years as a documentary filmmaker for NBC News. During my travels, I was trained to look for the telling image—a picture that gives the essence of the story. In covering countries in times of tension and transition, I had to look through other people’s eyes to learn how they saw the world. I filmed in Abu Dhabi before the United Arab Emirates were unified, in Cuba ten years after their revolution, in Northern Ireland when their religious conflict burst into urban warfare, and in Liberia covering its social split.

While history gives us versions of a story, a telling image has the power to tap a deeper understanding. I practiced seeing with new eyes, open to take in the unfamiliar and to discover clues to another culture’s worldview. Dropping into a foreign country and trying to understand it enough to present its various factions, historic background, and current controversy was daunting and humbling. I knew I needed to lasso the topics at play, and I knew I would never know everything. One approach I took was to step back and look at the situation with the largest lens, seeing all sides, noticing the geography that influenced the culture’s way of living, and learning the historic background. I had to find an image that could relay the issues and emotions, the culture and landscape, in a way that could convey more than words can explain.

Searching for the telling image of a story, I found one, hiding in plain sight. It was shape itself. Once I looked for shape, I saw it everywhere—in shelters, social systems, and sacred sites. From indigenous cultures to modern societies, our answers to survival, social bonding, and sacred symbols differ vastly. Yet the blueprint for each culture became clear when I looked for shape.

Now you can join in my journey. I extend my thanks to my friends, colleagues, and supporters who have been there with me along the way. Without you, this book wouldn't be possible.

If you'd like to receive more updates about my book, click here to sign up for my book newsletter and get a free excerpt of the book. Or you can pre-order your copy on Amazon. 

Technology's New Lens


Technology's New Lens

We often don’t realize how much technology shapes our daily lives. A few decades ago, a cell phone was something out of Star Trek. But now new technologies seem less and less like science fiction and more like essential parts of our world. What we don’t realize is how much this can affect our perception.


For example, the new Nokia 8 allows you to take a picture of what is in front of you as it also records you and what is behind you. This is called a “Bothie” now adding to selfies, allowing people to take pictures forward and backwards simultaneously. The concept is simple—two lenses. But it blows open our habit of perception. Will we start to perceive like the proverbial teacher with eyes in the back of her head?


3-D printing is another way of seeing in new ways. It incorporates a full-sphere visual of the object being replicated. The blueprint of a hand tool can be sent to the International Space Station, where a 3-D printer creates the tool for astronauts to use. This cuts down on payloads launched and allows for devices to be created as they are needed. But it wouldn’t be possible without the technology that allows us to see in multiple dimensions. Inside the space station, astronauts float and summersault to move about. They tether themselves to a spot with a foot latch to anchor themselves to a place on the cylinder-shaped interior walls. Without gravity, our way of seeing the world changes. When the first crew left earth they were astounded by the sight of our Earth from outer space, it allowed them to see our world in new ways.

Robotic Surgery.jpg

Even healthcare is rearranging. Robotic assists during medical surgery become a 360-degree eye that can image the space around and under the bones, nerves, tissues, muscles, and organs being operated on.


These new ways of recording, seeing, moving, working upend our basic assumptions. We can feel unmoored, as dizzyingly adrift as an astronaut floating in space. The ability to see all around us at once will be an acquired perception, much like a blind person suddenly given sight needs to learn to distinguish the depth of fields, the outline of forms. Add virtual reality to these multiple lenses, and the job of making sense out of what is real or imagined, what is forward or back, or what is in around the corner, requires a major adjustment in our senses and how we make sense of the world. The question is: What will you do with this new sight?

The Magic of Coincidence: On the Solar Eclipse

The Magic of Coincidence: On the Solar Eclipse

Predicting the future sounds like the power of a super hero. But in early Aztec and Babylonian cultures, priests held the knowledge to do just that. Take for example, the total solar eclipse. Priests received the wonder of their flock for being able to chart the skies—something we consider now a natural science. The trick of magic is knowing where the secret actually is—up a sleeve, in a hat, coming out of a scarf.

In the case of the total solar eclipse, the magic of coincidence mounts. It is not only that the moon enters the path of the sun. The relative size and position of the sun and the moon also matter. The moon is four hundred times smaller than the sun, but it floats four hundred times nearer to Earth. From a certain spot on our globe, the smaller moon can then entirely cover the larger sun to the viewer on Earth. 

This is a coincidence in our notion of time and space. But in a few hundred million years, total solar eclipses will be over forever. The moon has been moving away from us at a rate of one and a half inches per year, since its birth four billion years ago. What we see in the sky the as the total eclipse will be but a memory, a chance encounter that can either change our perception of the world or simply pass us by. 

How easy it must have been for early cultures to believe that the sun revolves around the Earth. Like early humans, we too experience our day as starting with sunrise and ending at sunset. But we know now the opposite is true, that the Earth revolves around the sun.

The sun rises in the morning and the moon appears at night, two fixed points of reality—daylight and moonlight. Sure as can be, the world must be divided by twos. But this perspective changes when you’re in space. An astronaut sees a whole new reality—a system with moving parts. From a space ship there are 16 sunrises in 24 hours.

We are a part of a solar system that is a part of the Milky Way. How grand and beautiful it feels to see the whole splay of stars in the sky from a rural area on a cloudless night. You know where you are. But hold on. We are part of a galaxy that is one of two trillion galaxies. I repeat, two trillion, so far and still counting. Put your mind around it. You cannot. It’s more than we can fully comprehend. Yet it does quicken our appreciation that whatever answers we have are partial answers to ever larger possibilities. 

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Square, Triangle, Circle

Square, Triangle, Circle

You’ve heard about trying to put square pegs into round holes. The message is they don’t fit. It’s one of the first games young children are taught—how to distinguish a circle from a square from a triangle. Once we learn this way of seeing, we tend to categorize. We determine the shape of things and figure out what fits where. As useful as this lesson is, it sticks so deeply that we forget there’s more than one way to see things, more than one approach to a problem, more than one way to write an equation.

In today’s world, visual information outranks text. Animations can show us dimensional fields. With 3-D printing machines, children can easily imagine multiple dimensions. So let’s teach them how what seems impossible is possible with a new way of thinking, and that there can be multiple correct answers to a question.

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Upside Down

Upside Down

Have you ever looked at photograph of a human face upside down? It takes awhile for our eyes to process through our brain, to even be sure it is a face, much less a face we know.  Our automatic recognition of the world is keyed to frame and name the familiar. 
Today’s world can seem upside down. Accelerated change has made it almost impossible to find a fixed point that is not in flux. The shape of cities will alter as we go from cars we drive to cars that drive themselves. Drones multiply our capacities to see with 360 degree vision, both from above the landscape and within buildings .Think of astronauts floating in the space station, with no up nor down, somersaulting rather than walking. We relearn how to orient, how to pattern, while it’s all in motion.
Henry Ford said if he had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses. If Steve Jobs had asked us, we could not have imagined icons that lead us to draw on a computer, icons that let us shop on a cell phone. So let’s be clear. Since we are in motion, since the new can come to us from any angle, we must start to see like a floating astronaut, alert in all directions.
Familiar patterns are coming to us upside down. Dylan the musician gave a concert in England in 1965 where the first half was his popular folksong style. The second half burst open with an electric band, full of unfamiliar sounds, that are now classics, such as Tell Me How Does It Feel from the song Like a Rolling Stone. Food is in fusion, from IndoChine to Tex Mex. Family systems now come in multiple combinations, as well as gender. It feels like a blend, a potpourri, but eventually fresh forms become their own new selves, like jazz, where African beats become American blues.
More voices are being heard today by more people than ever before. By voices I mean musicians, writers from all cultures, tech creations from drones to genomics.
It is the age of participation, of networking, of the inane and the incredible in the same mix.
It can disorient, seem raw, but also freshly intriguing, up to each of us to discern the pattern in unfamiliar terms, like recognizing a face upside down.

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