kottke.org posts about photography
This is the rope seal securing the doors of Tutankhamun's tomb, unbroken for more than 3200 years until shortly after Harry Burton took this photo in 1923. A description from National Geographic:
Still intact in 1923 after 32 centuries, rope secures the doors to the second of four nested shrines in Tutankhamun's burial chamber. The necropolis seal -- depicting captives on their knees and Anubis, the jackal god of the dead -- remains unbroken, a sign that Tut's mummy lies undisturbed inside.
How did the rope last for so long? Rare Historical Photos explains:
Rope is one of the fundamental human technologies. Archaeologists have found two-ply ropes going back 28,000 years. Egyptians were the first documented civilization to use specialized tools to make rope. One key why the rope lasted so long wasn't the rope itself, it was the aridity of the air in the desert. It dries out and preserves things. Another key is oxygen deprivation. Tombs are sealed to the outside. Bacteria can break things down as long as they have oxygen, but then they effectively suffocate. It's not uncommon to find rope, wooden carvings, cloth, organic dyes, etc. in Egyptian pyramids and tombs that wouldn't have survived elsewhere in the world.
Photographer Gloria Wilson takes photos of birds in flight. A few favorites:
Wilson sells prints of this series in her Etsy shop. (thx, meg)
From the newly launched site for the National Audubon Society, some gorgeous photos of owls from Brad Wilson.
It's not easy to get owls to mug for the camera. Even in captivity the birds remain aloof, unruffled by the flash and unmoved by attempts to bribe them. Photographer Brad Wilson learned that lesson firsthand after trying to win over owls from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis and The Wildlife Center near Espanola, New Mexico. He spent hours with each bird, trying to capture its direct gaze. "It's hard to get animals to look at you like humans do," he says. "That shot became my holy grail."
I've featured Wilson's animal photography on the site before. Tons more on his site.
Removal of items from US National Parks is illegal (or at least highly frowned upon). In the case of the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, the removal of petrified wood has come to be seen by some as unlucky. Bad Luck, Hot Rocks is a book and web site containing "conscience letters" from those who are returning stolen rocks to the park.
In the more than one hundred years since its establishment in 1906, however, some visitors have still been unable to resist the urge to remove wood from the park. Some of these same visitors eventually return their ill gotten souvenirs by mail, accompanied by 'conscience letters.' The content of each letter varies, but writers often include stories of misfortune, attributed directly to their stolen petrified wood. Car troubles. Cats with cancer. Deaths of family members. For many, their hope is that by returning these rocks, good fortune will return to their lives. Other common themes include expressions of remorse, requests for forgiveness, and warnings to future visitors.
From the Daily Overview, a photo of the whirlpool exchange that connects three major roads together in Dubai (map).
Worth viewing larger...that's a 12-lane highway running through the center of this monster. (thx, bill)
Sometimes religion and a bit of wordplay come together to make something clever. So it is with Neil DaCosta's project, The Book of Mormon Missionary Positions, a collection of photos depicting two fully clothed Mormon Missionaries in various sexual positions, as in the Kama Sutra.
NSFW, I guess...I felt a bit sheepish scrolling through that page at the office even though everyone is fully clothed. (via a photo editor)
Photographer Vincent Laforet hung himself out of a helicopter hovering at 7500 feet with his high-ISO cameras to capture these gorgeous shots of NYC at night. The blue-purple glow is Times Square.
These are pictures I've wanted to make since I was in my teens, but the cameras simply have not been capable of capturing aerial images from a helicopter at night until very recently.
Helicopters vibrate pretty significantly and you have to be able to shoot at a relatively high shutter speed (even with tools like a gyroscope) and that makes it incredibly difficult to shoot post sunset.Special thanks to long time friend and aerial coordinator Mike Isler & Liberty Helicopters.
Armed with cameras such as the Canon 1DX and the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 MP back -- both capable of shooting relatively clean files at 3200 & 6400 ISO and a series of f2.8 to f1.2 lenses including a few tilt-shift lenses.
I was finally able to capture some of the images that I've dreamed of capturing for decades.
Check out the whole series on Laforet's web site.
The Atlantic is beefing up their photography coverage with the launch of The Atlantic Photo. This replaces In Focus and will be edited by Alan Taylor.
I'd like to introduce our readers to The Atlantic's new Photo section, an expanded home for photography at TheAtlantic.com. This new section features not only an updated look, but more variety in formats, wider images for bigger screens, and a design that works well across a range of mobile devices.
As the editor of the Photo section, I'll continue to publish long-form photo essays nearly every day, as I have for years, in a series we'll still call In Focus, but I'll also start publishing shorter posts-often just a single noteworthy image-under a new category we're calling Burst. I'm really excited to be able to share even more high-quality photography with even more readers.
NiemanLab did a Q&A with Taylor about the new site.
I spend almost all of my day looking through photos, trying to find stories to tell the next day or the next week. Pretty often, I will come across a single image or two or three images, and there's nothing more to go with it. And since I've made it my thing to always be posting longform narratives -- constructed either from a single photographer or multiple photographers -- I thought it would be confusing to mix it up, so I just shied away from doing it.
I've been doing the photo editing now for seven years, and now it's nice to have the ability to do it just whenever something comes up. If I want to do a historic photo of the day, something from the archives, or something from the Library of Congress, or a really amazing photo was just released by NASA -- I just don't really have an easy outlet for that, and it'd be nice to have. And now I'm going to have it, hopefully.
I've long been a fan of Taylor (since the Big Picture days) and am excited to see what he gets up to with The Atlantic Photo.
You've probably seen many of these images pop up on FB and Twitter this year. And they are amazing! But actually totally fake!
No, this isn't a solar eclipse as seen from the International Space Station.
Space photo researcher @FakeAstropix keeps debunking this one, but it keeps popping up in every corner of the internet. Which is why it's earned our top spot today. It's actually a rendering from DeviantArt user A4size-ska. Beautiful, but totally fake.
Does "even if it's fake it's real" apply here? (via @john_overholt)
Photos by AP Photo/UNRWA, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Robert Cohen/MCT/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Andrew Hara/Getty Images, Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse, and ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team, respectively.
Many many more photos of the year at In Focus, Reuters, Buzzfeed, Agence France-Presse, the NY Times, Time, and The Big Picture.
When I went to the Poptech conference 10 years ago, one of the talks featured one of the world's largest books, a book of photographs of Bhutan. The book used to fetch $10,000 a copy, but Amazon now sells it for just under $300. Something is fishy though...many of the vendors selling the book are shipping it for only $3.99, which seems unlikely for a book that weighs 133 pounds. (via cory)
Update: Long story short, there were two versions of this book made: the big one and a smaller one that's only a foot and a half tall. That Amazon link used to go to the big book but it's the little one now. Make sense? Anyway, here's a link to the big one if you want to buy it for $5,824.34 with free shipping. (thx everyone)
An exhibition by Danny Lyon of color photos he took in the NYC subway is being staged by the MTA. The photos have never been publicly shown before.
The trains shown in these two photos still run occasionally: just catch the M between 2nd Ave and Queens Plaza between 10am and 5pm on the two remaining Sundays in Dec.
Aerial Wallpapers is a collection of iPhone-sized wallpapers of satellite imagery and topographic maps from @juririm. I just downloaded several of these. The image above is a satellite image of the Namib Desert in southern Africa.
From artist Mishka Henner, a selection of satellite photos of Texas feedlots, where beef cattle are sent to be "finished", aka to quickly gain weight for slaughter on a diet of corn. I'm pretty sure the redness of that pit/lake is not blood but algae (or whatever), but it sure creates that impression, doesn't it?
Photographer Ernie Button photographs the dried remains of single malt scotch whiskies, which end up looking like desolate landscapes on distant worlds.
Curious as to how these patterns were formed by some kinds of whiskey but not others, Button reached out to an engineering professor at Princeton.
Dr. Stone's group found that the key difference in whisky is that unlike coffee, it consists of two liquids -- water and ethyl alcohol. The alcohol evaporates more quickly, and as the fraction of water increases, the surface tension of the droplet changes, an effect first noticed in the 19th century by an Italian scientist, Carlo Marangoni. That, in turn, generates complex flows that contribute to the patterns Mr. Button photographed.
"Here, they actually looked at what happens when you change the fluids that are drying," said Dr. Yunker, who is soon heading to the Georgia Institute of Technology as a physics professor, "and they found some very neat effects." (That would be neat in the usual sense of "cool and intriguing" and not as in "I'll have my whisky neat.")
For his recently released book Wild Life, Brad Wilson shot photos of all kinds of animals on a black background, resulting in unusually expressive portraits.
Reminds me of Jill Greenberg's monkey portraits...expressive in the same way.
In Focus has a photo retrospective of the Berlin Wall, 25 years after it fell. This is one of the most iconic photos, depicting East German border guard Conrad Schumann leaping over the Wall during the early days of construction, when it was only barbed wire.
Schumann made a clean getaway, settled in Bavaria, and lived to see the fall of the Wall in 1989. But Schumann struggled with the separation from his family, birthplace, and old life and, suffering from depression, died of suicide in 1998. Walls may fall, but that's not the same as never having built them in the first place.
Beginning in 1985, photographer and filmmaker Doug Menuez wrangled access to some of the people at the center of the Silicon Valley technology boom, including Steve Jobs as he broke away from Apple to create NeXT. Menuez has published more than 100 of those behind-the-scenes photos in a new book, Fearless Genius.
In the spring of 1985, a technological revolution was under way in Silicon Valley, and documentary photographer Doug Menuez was there in search of a story -- something big. At the same time, Steve Jobs was being forced out of his beloved Apple and starting over with a new company, NeXT Computer. His goal was to build a supercomputer with the power to transform education. Menuez had found his story: he proposed to photograph Jobs and his extraordinary team as they built this new computer, from conception to product launch.
In an amazing act of trust, Jobs granted Menuez unlimited access to the company, and, for the next three years, Menuez was able to get on film the spirit and substance of innovation through the day-to-day actions of the world's top technology guru.
The web site for the project details some of the other things Menuez has in store, including a feature-length documentary and a TV series. Ambitious. For a sneak peek, check out the NeXT-era photos Menuez posted at Storehouse. This image of Jobs, labelled "Steve Jobs Pretending to Be Human", is a particular favorite:
From the Guardian's photo editor, an annotated list of the 25 best photographs of Muhammad Ali. My favorite is by Neil Leifer:
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became a celebrity while aboard the International Space Station. Now he's publishing a book of photographs he took during his time in orbit: You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.
During 2,597 orbits of our planet, I took about 45,000 photographs. At first, my approach was scattershot: just take as many pictures as possible. As time went on, though, I began to think of myself as a hunter, silently stalking certain shots. Some eluded me: Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, and Uluru, or Ayers Rock, in Australia. I captured others only after methodical planning: "Today, the skies are supposed to be clear in Jeddah and we'll be passing nearby in the late afternoon, so the angle of the sun will be good. I need to get a long lens and be waiting at the window, looking in the right direction, at 4:02 because I'll have less than a minute to get the shot." Traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, the margin for error is very slim. Miss your opportunity and it may not arise again for another six weeks, depending on the ISS's orbital path and conditions on the ground.
In an interview with Quartz, Hadfield says the proceeds from the book are being donated to the Red Cross.
Actress Tippi Hedren and her family (including her then-teenage daughter Melanie Griffith) lived with a pet lion named Neil for a while back in the 1970s. Here's Neil and Melanie catching a few winks together:
Czech photographer Dita Pepe takes portraits of herself integrated into the lives of other people.
In Focus has a look at some of the early entries in National Geographic's annual photography contest. Good stuff as usual.
Photo by Mehmet Karaca. Love the way the mantis's tail mimics the branch it's standing on.
Rose Callahan photographs gentlemen with "exceptional personal style" for her blog, The Dandy Portraits.
She's collected some of her best shots into a book, I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman. See also the great dude battles of the 1880s. (via slate)
Conflict photographer Ashley Gilbertson recently embedded himself in the video game The Last of Us Remastered and sent back a selection of war photos.
Reminds me a bit of Jim Munroe's My Trip to Liberty City, a film made from the perspective of a tourist visiting the city featured in Grand Theft Auto III:
Update: New Gamer took photos of a road trip in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (via @johnke)
We've been using Eyefi cards to upload photos from the kids' cameras to Flickr. Matt Haughey has a review of their newest card, the Eyefi Mobi, which automagically syncs to your phone, resulting in a 20-second DSLR-to-Instagram workflow.
In essence, the card turns any dumb camera into an outboard lens for your phone. Last week on a trip to NYC I took my new compact camera with me and could easily upload photos to Instagram and Twitter within seconds of taking the photos. I mean that literally: I can take a photo with my camera, open up my phone, touch the mobi app icon and about ten seconds later I can be saving that image to my phone's camera roll. I could also manipulate and tweak the images in a plethora of iPhone apps like VSCOcam, Photoshop Express, etc. directly on the phone before sharing it out to the world.
This sounds amazing. Step one for me: get a camera. Any suggestions? I've been eyeing Fujifilm's X100S for quite awhile...
Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan recently captured some photos of lakes in California showing the extent of the drought there. For me, this is the craziest one, of Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville:
And this is what it normally looks like:
In 1984, Daniel Root took photos of the East Village in NYC. Root is revisiting the locations of those photos and posting comparisons to a Tumblr.
Wish the images were bigger...370x250 is more of a 1984 resolution.
World War II began 75 years ago today with Germany's invasion of Poland. A few years back, Alan Taylor did a 20-part photographic retrospective of the war for In Focus, which is well worth the time to scroll through.
These images still give us glimpses into the experiences of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, moments that shaped the world as it is today.
Life has a collection of color photos of the invasion of Poland. Time has a map dated Aug 28, 1939 that shows how Europe was preparing for war, including "Americans scuttle home".
In celebration of National Aviation Day, In Focus has a slideshow of photos of the Wright Brothers' first flights.
The caption on that photo reads:
First flight: 120 feet in 12 seconds, on December 17, 1903. This photograph shows man's first powered, controlled, sustained flight. Orville Wright at the controls of the machine, lying prone on the lower wing with hips in the cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. Wilbur Wright running alongside to balance the machine, has just released his hold on the forward upright of the right wing. The starting rail, the wing-rest, a coil box, and other items needed for flight preparation are visible behind the machine. Orville Wright preset the camera and had John T. Daniels squeeze the rubber bulb, tripping the shutter.
The Wright Brothers were 32 & 36 years old when they made their first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The Wright Flyer was not the product of daring youthful innovation (as with Picasso, Bill Gates, or Mozart) but rather of years of experience and experimentation (like Cezanne, Twain, or Frank Lloyd Wright).
People are taking photos of statues that cleverly make it look as though the statues are taking selfies.
There's a group on Reddit but most of the photos really aren't that good. There are more examples on Instagram, including this one and this one from June that predate the activity on Reddit. But the earliest instances I found of statue selfies were this Instagram photo from The Art Institute of Chicago and this tweet featuring the Statue of Liberty, both from December 2013.
Update: See also Museum of Selfies.
Photographer David Slater wants Wikipedia to remove his photograph of a monkey taking a photo of itself but Wikipedia has refused, saying that as the monkey was the photographer, Slater has no right to the copyright to the photo.
The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained to Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.
But shouldn't Wikipedia take it down anyway because they don't have the monkey's permission to release the photo into the public domain? (I mean, probably not...monkeys don't have any rights under the law, yes?) (via @capndesign)
Update: A previous version of this post stated that Wikipedia said that the monkey held the copyright. They said no such thing...that was my poor paraphrase. In the US at least, monkeys obviously can't hold copyrights. From the Compendium II of Copyright Office Practices, section 202.02(b) states:
The term "authorship" implies that, for a work to be copyrightable, it must owe its origin to a human being. Materials produced solely by nature, by plants, or by animals are not copyrightable.
Interesting phrase, "owe its origin to"...perhaps Slater has a point. (via @stvnrlly)
Update: According to a recent 1000+ page document produced by the US Copyright Office, a photograph taken by a monkey is "unprotected intellectual property".
The US Copyright Office, in a 1,222-page report discussing federal copyright law, said that a "photograph taken by a monkey" is unprotected intellectual property.
"The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit," said the draft report, "Compendium of US Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition."
Alan Taylor has concluded his 10-part series on WWI over at In Focus with a look at the present-day effects of the war. If you haven't been following along, it's worth starting at the beginning and working your way through.
Also worth a look is the NY Times' interactive package about the war.
Apple is stopping development of Aperture and iPhoto in favor of its new Photos app.
"With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture," said Apple in a statement provided to The Loop. "When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS."
I wonder if the Photos app will be geared at all towards semi-pro/pro photographers or if they've permanently ceded that market to Lightroom.
Beginning in 1991, Zed Nelson took a photo of the same family (father, mother, and son) in front of the same backdrop every year for 21 years. Here's the first photo:
And the most recent one:
There are many more such projects, including the Goldberg family's annual portraits, Nicholas Nixon's annual portraits of The Brown Sisters, and Noah Kalina's Everyday.
From Bernhard Lang, aerial photos of the largest made-made hole in Europe, the Hambach Mine in Germany. The mine was started in 1978, is 1150 feet deep, and will eventually encompass an area of over 32 square miles. Here's the mine on Google Maps; it's huge.
That's a photo of one of the massive mining machines used to extract lignite (aka "brown coal") from the mine. The machines are almost 800 feet long and 315 feet high...those yellow specks to the right of the machine are likely fairly sizable construction trucks. (via co.exist)
You've probably seen Bruce Davidson's photos of the gritty 1980s NYC subway, which were collected into a book published in 1986.
Earlier this year, Time posted some previously unpublished photos of the NYC subway taken in 1981 by Christopher Morris, an admirer of Davidson's.
The NY Times has a bunch of photos by Seth Casteel of babies undergoing infant survival swim training.
Zoe was being introduced to "self-rescue," in which babies are taught to hold their breath underwater, kick their feet, turn over to float on their backs and rest until help arrives.
The self-rescue idea is pretty amazing. You take kids who can't talk and can barely walk and teach them how to float on their backs. I didn't really believe it until I saw it:
Bonus summer PSA: drowning doesn't look like drowning.
I've seen the waterfalls and the hot springs and the rocky desolation, but I didn't know that Iceland was also this:
I mean, come on. Photos by Max Rive, Menno Schaefer, and Johnathan Esper. Many more here. (via mr)
The IPPAWARDS has been judging an iPhone photography competition since 2007 and they recently announced the winners of their 2014 competition.
Impressive stuff. I've been saying recently that the iPhone 5s is the best camera in the world. Looking back on the 2008 winners, it becomes apparent how much more comfortable photographers have become wielding this increasingly powerful device. (via the verge)
Speaking of WWI, the landscape of the Western Front in Europe still shows the scars from the war 100 years on.
The latest installment of the In Focus series on WWI is Aerial Warfare.
Great series so far, really enjoying it. Start from the beginning if you haven't seen it yet.
Photographer Alec Soth is interviewed by his young son Gus about his job, art, and leaving his family for work.
This is completely charming and awesome and heartbreaking. (via @polan)
Clayton Cubitt took photographs of The Beautifully Frightful Wooden Children of Gehard Demetz, now on display at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. From the gallery's description of the project:
With impeccable craftsmanship, Demetz builds figures and reliefs of children and rural, often religious, architectural forms. While his subjects often take the forms of adolescent or very young children who are at the precipice of self-realization, their grave expressions and powerful stances suggest something much less innocent than their ages might suggest. Situated on plinths, these life-size works are elevated above their natural stature, allowing them to confront adults at eye level with a fierce or introspective gaze far beyond their years. Rather than being carved from a single large block of wood, these sculptures are built up from smaller rectangular units-mimicking classic building blocks-with gaps in their structures like pieces missing from their bodies or lost fragments of their being.
Back in January, an astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph of the Korean Peninsula, which shows the stark difference in nighttime light levels in North Korea compared to the neighboring countries of South Korea and China.
I remember seeing a satellite photo several years ago, thought it was fake, then heard it had been photoshopped to accentuate the darkness, and dismissed the whole thing as a hoax. I can't believe the whole country is that dark. (via in focus)
From Annalisa Hartlaub, a series of self-portraits portraying "culture and counterculture for the past 10 decades". Here is her representation of the 1960s (culture on the left, counterculture on the right):
In the latest installment of his ten-part series on WWI, Alan Taylor covers the technology used in the war.
When Europe's armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy.
It's fascinating to observe both sides using trial and error with things like tanks, testing out what works and what doesn't. Look at this kooky German cannon for instance:
Nothing about that looks efficient.
Alan Taylor has started doing weekly round-ups of interesting photos at In Focus. This is my favorite from last week's batch, the head of Mick Jagger, destined for a wax museum in Prague.
Heather Ogden is a principal dancer for the National Ballet of Canada and The Heather Project is a series of short videos shot by Christopher Wahl that shows how beautiful and demanding ballet can be. (via cup of jo)
The Daily Overview offers up an interesting satellite photo every day. The site's name is inspired by the Overview Effect:
The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts' perspective of Earth and mankind's place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 'Overview' is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features important commentary on the wider implications of this new understanding for both our society, and our relationship to the environment.
The Planetary Collective made a short documentary about the Overview Effect:
Photographer David Liittschwager captured the little ecosystem of life contained in a splash of seawater magnified 25 times:
It's the microscopic equivalent of the Hubble Deep Field image and worth seeing larger. Here's part of the larger image:
Liittschwager took the photo for National Geographic, but it also might be contained in his book, A World in One Cubic Foot, in which he took photos in locations all over the world of the life that passed through 1 cubic foot of space in 24 hours.
For A World in One Cubic Foot, esteemed nature photographer David Liittschwager took a bright green metal cube-measuring precisely one cubic foot-and set it in various ecosystems around the world, from Costa Rica to Central Park. Working with local scientists, he measured what moved through that small space in a period of twenty-four hours. He then photographed the cube's setting and the plant, animal, and insect life inside it -- anything visible to the naked eye. The result is a stunning portrait of the amazing diversity that can be found in ecosystems around the globe.
Prints of this image are available at Art.com in sizes up to 64"x48". (via colossal)
Swedish artist Hans Jörgen Johansen makes photographs of mold landscapes, grown in his studio from flour and bread.
Over at In Focus, Alan Taylor has posted the first part of a 10-part photographic retrospective of World War I.
Represented in this first installment is early color photography (many more of which can be found here), dazzle camouflage, and a photo I've never seen before of an aerial view of the trenches of the western front. Can't wait to follow along with the rest of it.
The very first Kickstarter campaign I ever backed was Rachel Sussman's project to photograph the oldest living organisms in the world.
I'm researching, working with biologists, and traveling all over the world to find and photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. I started the project 5 years ago, and have since photographed nearly 25 different organisms, ranging from the Bristlecone Pine and Giant Sequoias that you've surely heard of, to some truly unusual and unique desert shrubs, bacteria, a predatory fungus, and a clonal colony of Aspen trees that's male and, in theory, immortal.
Her goal was to compile the photographs into a book. Almost four years later, the book is out. Looks like it was worth the wait. The trailer does a nice job explaining what the book is all about:
Asher Svidensky's photographs from Mongolia of apprentice eagle hunters are fantastic. (FYI, they hunt with eagles, not for them.) Among Svidensky's subjects is a 13-year-old girl, Ashol Pan:
At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:
"How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?"
"And honestly... would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia's first ever female eagle huntress?"
I expected a straightforward "No" or a joking "Maybe", but after a short pause he replied:
"Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he's now an officer, so he probably won't be back with the tradition. It's been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn't dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place."
From the father's answer I realized that the idea of women's participation in keeping the tradition is a possible future, but just like many other aspect of Mongolian life, it's an option which women will need to take on by themselves.
For the past couple of months, Amit Gupta has been playing around with taking moving self-portraits with a camera mounted on a drone. Here's an early effort. This past weekend, Amit's efforts crossed over into the realm of art. This is beautiful:
In the comments at Vimeo, Alex Dao dubbed this type of photograph a "dronie". We'll see if that catches on.
Update: More examples of dronies here.
Back in the olden days, you just tied your cameraman right to the car:
Looks almost as goofy as Google Glass. Legendary F1 driver Jackie Stewart wore this stills-only proto-GoPro at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1966 (though not during the actual race):
Stewart ended up winning that race. I believe Stewart is also the model for this contraption, which looks like a film camera counterbalanced with a battery pack?
That couldn't have been comfortable. For some reason, neither of Stewart's helmet cams are recognized by Wikipedia as being the first documented helmet cam, which is instead attributed to a motorcycle race in 1986:
Update: Another early use of the helmet cam comes from the world of skydiving. Here's Bob Sinclair with a camera setup from 1961:
Update: Not even a bulky taped-up helmet camera can keep Steve McQueen from looking cool:
Well, he just barely looks cool. McQueen wore the helmet during the filming of 1971's Le Mans. While researching this, I came across another film featuring McQueen that used helmet cams to get footage: 1971s On Any Sunday, a documentary about motorcycle racing. (via @jackshafer)
Life magazine asks: Is this the happiest photo ever made?
The photo was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, who was covering the University of Michigan's marching band. When some children playing nearby set off after this practicing drum major, he snapped the photo. Said Eisenstaedt, "This is a completely spontaneous, unstaged picture."
The photographer took many notable photos -- the famous V-J Day kiss in Times Square, of Marilyn Monroe, of Albert Einstein, of Joseph Goebbels -- but the drum major one above and his ballet series are my favorites (particularly this one).
Smithsonian Magazine has announced the finalists in their annual photography contest. The shot above is a finalist in the Mobile category...it was taken with an iPhone 5. (via colossal)
From a large collection of photos shot on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, two of my favorites:
Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.
Michael Paul Smith takes photographs of classic cars that evoke feelings of nostalgia for America in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Take a look, these are about as Pleasantville as you can get:
But as you'll discover browsing through Smith's collection, the cars he photographs are scale models. Here's the set-up for that second shot:
And here's further evidence of Smith's trickery:
No Photoshop here...all effects are done in-camera. As Smith notes, "It is the oldest trick in the special effects book: lining up a model with an appropriate background, then photographing it." (via @osteslag)
Now showing at IFC Center in NYC: Finding Vivian Maier. Maier is the Chicago street photographer whose extensive and impressive body of work was recently discovered at an auction. John Maloof bought Maier's work, started posting it to a blog several years ago, did a Kickstarter (one of the first I backed) to fund a documentary about Maier and her photos, and now the film is showing in theaters around the US and Canada.
Photographer Ernest Goh documents chicken beauty pageants in Malaysia. Gorgeous photos, gorgeous animals.
National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has visited Chernobyl nine times over the past twenty years. The Long Shadow of Chernobyl is a forthcoming book collecting Ludwig's photos, which includes an essay by Mikhail Gorbachev. The publication of the book is being funded via Kickstarter. There is also an iOS app.
Aw man, the International Center of Photography is closing its museum on 6th Ave. The good news is they're planning on reopening in another location.
At our request for an interview, Lubell issued the following statement. "The International Center of Photography has been and continues to be at the center, both nationally and internationally, of the conversation regarding photography and the explosive growth of visual communications. In advancing this conversation, ICP has decided to move its current museum to a new space. This decision reflects the evolution of photography and our role in setting the agenda for visual communications for the 21st century. ICP will announce our future sites this spring. The school will remain at 1114 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan."
I'm long overdue for a visit...the Capa in Color exhibition looks promising, perhaps I'll stop in this weekend. (via @akuban)
The folks behind Cabin Porn are making a book with photography by Noah Kalina. Outstanding.
I keep waiting to get sick of seeing photos of huge flocks of birds flying around like they share a brain, but it hasn't happened. Alan Taylor has collected a bunch of starling murmuration photos at In Focus.
They're even better in motion.
Like Ukraine, Venezuela has been experiencing anti-government protests over the past few weeks. In Focus has a selection of photos from the protests.
Moisés Naím has an article that explains what's behind the protests.
This is the half of the country whose sons and daughters have taken to the streets to protest against a repressive regime that treats them as mortal enemies. And maybe they are. After all, they represent the vanguard of a society no longer willing to tolerate an abusive government with disastrous results to show for its 15-year grip on power: Venezuela is now the world champion of inflation, homicide, insecurity, and shortages of essential goods-from milk for children to insulin for diabetics and all kinds of indispensable products. All this despite having the greatest oil reserves in the world and a government with absolute control of all state institutions and levers of power. Sadly, that government has used its immense wealth and authority to push through unsustainable populist policies, buy votes, jail opposition leaders, and shut down television channels. Daily shortages of basic goods, fear of crime, and hopelessness have become unbearable.
Since November, anti-government protests have been happening in Ukraine. A recent truce gave hope that the violence would end, but mistrust on both sides has resulted in the worst clashes yet. The photos from the main fighting in Kiev are unbelievable.
Why the protests? Think Progress published an explainer this morning, before the latest round of violence.
The protests began on November 22, after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed course and refused to sign political and trade agreements with the European Union that had been in the works for years after heavy pressure from Moscow to abandon the agreements. Despite a violent police crackdown, protesters vowed to continue blockading streets and occupying public buildings until their central demand is met: the current government, including Yanukovych, must go.
The treaties would have opened the European Union market to Ukrainian companies and could have boosted the Ukrainian GDP by more than six percent over ten years. The country is suffering through an economic depression and lower tariffs and expanded competition could have also lowered prices, "fueling an increase of household consumption of some 12 percent." Ukraine would have also adopted 350 EU laws, codifying what many Ukrainians saw as a "commitment to European standards of governance and social justice." To them, the treaty was a way of diminishing Russia's long-time influence and reversing the trend of persistent economic corruption and sluggishness.
Photo-sharing community Flickr turned ten years old this week. At Time, Harry McCracken takes a look back.
Earlier photo sites were mostly concerned with letting you put your pictures in front of friends and family. Flickr did that, too. But from the start, it was building a community of photo lovers around the world who wanted to share images with other photo lovers, as well as thousands of special interest sub-communities. It was about storytelling.
I was at Etech when Flickr launched and was one of the site's first few hundred users. The photo chat room they launched with was not that interesting to me, but when they turned it inside out, I was hooked. Happy birthday, Flickr.
Hassan Hajjaj's photos of female motorbike enthusiasts from Morocco are fun.
On display at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in NYC through March 7.
In Focus has posted some shortlisted images from The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. This wildebeest photo by Bonnie Cheung stopped me in my tracks...it looks like a painting (or a cave painting).
More here and here.
From photographer Victoria Will, olde tyme tin type portraits of celebrities at Sundance. The one of William H. Macy stopped me in my tracks:
Several others are worth a look as well. (via @khoi)
Photographer Jeremy Cowart writes about a rare time he made a real connection with one of his celebrity subjects. It happened during a shoot with the cast of The Haves and the Have Nots, a show on Oprah's network. As usual with shoots like this, Cowart only got a few minutes with each subject, time to shoot but not much else. But then John Schneider pulled him aside.
Once we wrapped up his session, Tika walked off set and John came to me and whispered in my ear "Hey can you sneak a few more portraits of me?" and I said "sure of course". He said "there's something going on and I just need a photo."
So I grabbed my camera again and John walked back on set.
He immediately began weeping. Legitimately crying. He was so good at impressions that I thought this was another impression and I thought "wow, what an acting talent."
The British Library has a million images up at Flickr. 1,019,998 to be precise. And it appears that most (all?) of the images are copyright-free. An amazing resource.
From photographer Greg Alessandrini, a collection of photos of diners in New York City taken in the 1990s. I was pleased to see a shot of Jones Diner, which I ate at several months before moving to NYC:
It closed shortly before we moved and I never got to eat there again. At the time, word was some condos were being built on the site, but it took ten years for construction to start. What a waste.
BTW, the rest of Alessandrini's site is well worth a look...hundreds and possibly thousands of photographs of NYC from the 80s and 90s. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)
In March, the New York Historical Society is mounting an exhibition of photographer Bill Cunningham's project, Façades.
Scouring the city's thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Façades, which paired models -- in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman -- in period costumes with historic settings.
Craig Mod, writing for the New Yorker, says goodbye to cameras as photography transitions to the use of "networked lenses".
After two and a half years, the GF1 was replaced by the slightly improved Panasonic GX1, which I brought on the six-day Kumano Kodo hike in October. During the trip, I alternated between shooting with it and an iPhone 5. After importing the results into Lightroom, Adobe's photo-development software, it was difficult to distinguish the GX1's photos from the iPhone 5's. (That's not even the latest iPhone; Austin Mann's superlative results make it clear that the iPhone 5S operates on an even higher level.) Of course, zooming in and poking around the photos revealed differences: the iPhone 5 doesn't capture as much highlight detail as the GX1, or handle low light as well, or withstand intense editing, such as drastic changes in exposure. But it seems clear that in a couple of years, with an iPhone 6S in our pockets, it will be nearly impossible to justify taking a dedicated camera on trips like the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.
And indeed, the mid-tier Japanese camera makers (Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus) are struggling to find their way in the networked lens era. A few years ago, I wrote a post called "Your company? There's an app for that." about how smartphones were not only going to make certain devices obsolete, but drive entire companies and industries out of business. This bit, about cameras, seems almost quaint now:
Point and shoot camera -- While not as full-featured as something like a PowerShot, the camera on the iPhone 3GS has a 3-megapxiel lens with both auto and manual focus, shoots in low-light, does macro, and can shoot video. Plus, it's easy to instantly publish your photos online using the iPhone's networking capabilities and automatically tag your photos with your location.
The best camera is the
one you have with you the one with built-in posting to Facebook.
In a feature straight out of the movies, Dr. Rob Jenkins and his team have demonstrated that for sufficiently high-resolution photos, recognizable images of reflected faces of the photographer and bystanders can be retrieved from a subject's eyes.
The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators. Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations could be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.
By zooming in on high-resolution passport-style photographs, Jenkins and co-researcher Christie Kerr of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow were able to recover bystander images that could be identified accurately by observers, despite their low resolution.
Here's some older research about reading confidential data using reflections from tea pots, glasses, eyes, and even diffuse materials like fabric. And of course, there's the famous eBay tea kettle. (via waxy)
Alex is 2-year-old Henry's nanny. She's also a photographer. One day, at Henry's behest, the pair took photos of each other in the same pose. It turned into a project called Henry's Concepts.
Each of these photos is strictly Henry's idea. He chooses the location and the pose. I take the photo of him and then he takes the photo of me.
(via cup of jo)
As I said last year, the photos are always my favorite end-of-the-year media to check out. It's only early December, but a few media outlets are out of the gate already with their year-end lists.
Best photos of the year 2013 from Reuters.
The Top 10 Photos of 2013 from Time.
2013 Pictures of the Year from Agence France Presse.
The 80 Most Powerful Photos of 2013 from The Roosevelts.
Las mejores fotos del 2013 from Yahoo En Español.
The 45 Most Powerful Photos Of 2013 from BuzzFeed.
2013: The Year in Photos from In Focus. Here are parts two and three.
2013 Year in Pictures from Big Picture. Here are parts two and three.
Year in Focus 2013 from Getty Images.
Year in Photos 2013 from The Wall Street Journal.
The Year in Pictures from The New York Times.
Do you have a list for this list? Send it along!
Errol Morris is at it again, publishing book-length blog posts for the NY Times. This time, he's examining the photograph evidence of Abraham Lincoln and, I think, what those photos might tell us about Lincoln's death. Here's the prologue and part one (of an eventual four).
My fascination with the dating and interpretation of photographs is really a fascination with the push-pull of history. Facts vs. beliefs. Our desire to know the origins of things vs. our desire to rework, to reconfigure the past to suit our own beliefs and predilections. Perhaps nothing better illustrates this than two radically different predispositions to objects -- the storyteller vs. the collector.
For the collector the image with the crack [in one of Lincoln's photographs] is a damaged piece of goods -- the crack potentially undermining the value of the photograph as an artifact, a link to the past. The storyteller doesn't care about the photograph's condition, or its provenance, but about its thematic connections with events. To the storyteller, the crack is the beginning of a legend -- the legend of a death foretold. The crack seems to anticipate the bullet fired into the back of Lincoln's head at Ford's Theater on Good Friday, April 14, 1865.
It should have a name. I call it "the proleptic crack."
Alexey Kljatov takes amazing photographs of snowflakes. Infinite beautiful variation. The large versions are worth checking out.
I Pixel U is an iOS app that lets you selectively pixelate people and objects in photos, creating the effect of 8-bit characters in the real world. Many examples are available on Instagram.
See also Aled Lewis' Video Games vs. Real Life series. (via prosthetic knowledge)
I love these color typologies by photographer Emily Blincoe. This gold candy one is particularly fetching:
Prolific and celebrated writer William T. Vollmann is a "devoted" cross-dresser.
Mr. Vollmann is 54, heterosexual and married with a daughter in high school. He began cross-dressing seriously about five years ago. Sometimes he transforms himself into a woman as part of a strange vision quest, aided by drugs or alcohol, to mind-meld with a female character in a book he's writing. Other times it's just because he likes the "smooth and slippery" feel of women's lingerie.
He said his wife, who is an oncologist, is not thrilled with his outré experiments and keeps her distance. "Probably when the book comes out, it'll be the first she's heard of it," he said. "I always try to keep my wife and child out of what I do. I don't want to cause them any embarrassment." He asked that his wife not be interviewed for this article.
Vollmann has collected self-portraits of himself as his female alter ego in The Book of Dolores. (via @DavidGrann)
In Focus has a selection of winning photos from Nikon's Small World Photomicrography Competition. The award for most terrifying goes to Dimitri Seeboruth for his shot of a worker ant:
I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.
Jay Zeamer and a group of fellow misfits collectively called the Eager Beavers were an American photoreconnaissance team in the Pacific theater during WWII. They flew their beat-up B-17 bomber into enemy territory to collection reconnaissance photographs. Roger Cicala shares the engaging story of their most noteworthy photo.
The only crew that volunteered, of course, was Jay Zeamer and the Eager Beavers. One of the crew, bombardier Joseph Sarnovski, had absolutely no reason to volunteer. He'd already been in combat for 18 months and was scheduled to go home in 3 days. Being a photo mission, there was no need for a bombardier. But if his friends were going, he wanted to go, and one of the bombardier's battle stations was to man the forward machine guns. They might need him, so he went.
They suspected the airstrip at Buka had been expanded and reinforced, but weren't sure until they got close. As soon as the airfield came in sight, they saw numerous fighters taking off and heading their way. The logical thing to do would have been to turn right and head for home. They would be able to tell the intelligence officers about the increased number of planes at Buka even if they didn't get photos.
But Zeamer and photographer William Kendrick knew that photos would be invaluable for subsequent planes attacking the base, and for Marines who were planning to invade the island later. Zeamer held the plane level (tilting the wings even one degree at that altitude could put the photograph half a mile off target) and Kendrick took his photos, which gave plenty of time for over 20 enemy fighters to get up to the altitude Old 666 was flying at.
At In Focus, Alan Taylor surveys the state-of-the-art in robotics with a varied selection of photos. For example, here are two Big Dogs frolicking in the robot dog park:
And better yet, Florian Lopes looks as though he's enjoying his new bionic hand:
In her series City of Brother Love, Hannah Price photographs the men who catcall her on the street. A selection of her images and a short interview is available on The Morning News.
Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.
An interesting approach to sexist heckling. Here's another by jogger Anna Hart:
But sometimes, a heckler still makes himself heard, like the wheezing smoker on a park bench who called out to me: "I could give you a better workout, love," as I ran past him earlier this week.
I suddenly thought of that 16-year-old stuck indoors on the treadmill, and turned around. "You know what I want?" I said, as he shrank back in alarm. "I want you to never, ever speak to another woman or girl like that, you pathetic old fool." I was very sweaty, very pink and very angry, and he was plainly terrified.
If you're into cheese, you'll want to take this photographic journey into a season with Swiss cheesemakers.
In Gruyeres, western Switzerland, from mid-May to mid-October, the fifth generation of the Murith family produces its distinctive mountain pasture Gruyere cheese. Each wheel of cheese weighs between 25 and 40 kilograms, and takes a minimum of six months to mature. The family produces 200 wheels each year to sell locally, using unpasteurized milk from their own herd of cows. Reuters photographer Denis Balibouse spent time with the Murith family over this past grazing season, capturing days and nights in the alpine pastures of Switzerland.
Over at The Planetary Society, Emily Lakdawalla highlighted an image taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn separate from its rings.
This enormous mosaic showing the flattened globe of Saturn floating amongst the complete disk of its rings must surely be counted among the great images of the Cassini mission. From Earth, we never see Saturn separate from its rings. Here, we can see the whole thing, a gas giant like Jupiter, separated at last from the rings that encircle it.
Taking this idea one step further, I removed the rings completely, along with the "ringlight" lighting up the night hemisphere, creating a more-or-less pure look of what Saturn would look like without its rings.
Larger version is available on Mlkshk.
In Focus has a nice slideshow of photos of blimps, dirigibles, and airships, from the first flights in the early 1900s to the Hindenburg disaster to the blimps flying high over sporting events.
Photographer Edward Burtynsky's latest project is called Water.
While trying to accommodate the growing needs of an expanding, and very thirsty civilization, we are reshaping the Earth in colossal ways. In this new and powerful role over the planet, we are also capable of engineering our own demise. We have to learn to think more long-term about the consequences of what we are doing, while we are doing it. My hope is that these pictures will stimulate a process of thinking about something essential to our survival; something we often take for granted -- until it's gone.
Water is on display this month in NYC at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery and Howard Greenberg Gallery and in London at Flowers Gallery. There is also a book and an upcoming feature-length film:
This group on Flickr shows just how fantastically designed Japanese manhole covers are. Here are some of my favorites:
This is powerful and amazing (and upsetting): Project Unbreakable is a photography project that features images of sexual assault survivors holding signs showing what others (attackers, family members, cops, etc.) said to them about the assaults.
It's difficult to pick the yuckiest bottom-of-the-barrel sludge here, but the comments from the police officers really get my dander up.
"If you were my daughter I would have killed you." - Lady police officer while being interrogated
"If you don't tell us how many people you've slept with, the ADA won't even consider your case." - Interviewing Dectective
"This is why we have underage drinking laws! THIS IS YOUR FAULT! If you hadn't been drinking this wouldn't have happened to you!" - St. Petersburg police when I tried to press charges
Sickening, sickening. The police are supposed to protect the vulnerable, not persecute them. (via @rebeccablood)
In the parlance of NYC graffiti enthusiasts, going "all city" means getting your stuff known all over the five boroughs. Now a group of designers are challenging each other to go "all RGB", to make images that contain all of the 16.7 million colors that make up the RGB spectrum once each. This entry is amazing because it still looks like an actual photograph when you zoom out (many others do not):
You can find many more entries on allRGB.com or make your own using this code on GitHub. (via digg)
NASA created this lovely high resolution view of the Moon doing one complete rotation using footage from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
I watched a lot of pro wrestling when I was a kid and this photo of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, and fashion photographer Terry Richardson is just too much for me. If nostalgia truly is death, someone better make some arrangements for me.
(If you're not with me on this whole reminiscing about 1980s professional wrestlers thing, Richardson also recently took a photo of Miley Cyrus eating a salad, so you're basically all caught up on current events and you're welcome.)
I have a soft spot for photography that reaches, seemingly impossibly, back into time...e.g. early color photography. It's an inexpensive form of time travel. The American Revolution took place back in the days before photography and the way we remember it visually is something like this:
But, some Revolutionary War participants lived long enough to have their daguerreotypes taken in the 1850s and 1860s. This is a photo of Lemuel Cook, the last official surviving veteran of the Revolution1, taken sometime before his death in 1866.
The source of many of these photos is a book published in 1864 by E.B. Hillard called The Last Men of the Revolution. The book contains six photos of surviving war vets and brief biographies of each man. (via @ftrain)
 Daniel Bakeman lived until 1869 but could not prove his service in the war. However, Congress passed a special act in 1867 that provided him with a war pension. Bakeman's longevity (he lived to 109) contributed to another astounding achievement: he and his wife Susan had the longest marriage on record, 91 years. Their marriage began 3 years before the Revolution and continued until Susan's death in 1863, right in the midst of the Civil War. Amazing. ↩
In Focus has a collection of some of the most excellent Red Bull Illume Photo Contest winners. And as you'd expect, they are about as Red Bull as you can get. Great shots.
You've probably seen some of these before, but the 1600+ color photos from the 1930s & 1940s uploaded by the Library of Congress to Flickr are a wonderful look at America around the time of WWII. Here are a few quick favorites:
Romanian photographer Maximilian Teodorescu recently caught the International Space Station in transit across the Sun.
Teodorescu has also taken photos of the ISS in transit across the Moon.
These photos make the ISS seem tiny and huge all at the same time. And be sure to click through on the links to see the full-sized photos.
Nice peek into the process of Photoshopping an old photo to make it look new again:
A frog using a leaf as an umbrella in a rain storm. Shot by Penkdix Palme.
Today's fun game is: Golf Ball Innards or Bowl of Gelato? Let's get started. Is this a creamy bowl of lemon-lime pistachio gelato or the inside of a golf ball?
Ok, that was an easy one. How about this one...is this half of a crazy-ass golf ball or a delicious bowl of watermelon bubble gum gelato?
It's gotta be gelato, right? Ok, last one: gelato or cross section of a golf ball from a project called Interior Designs by photographer James Friedman?
Yum, I can almost taste the blueberries through the screen. Well, that's all the time we have today, folks. You've been a great group of contestants, and we hope to see you next week on Golf Ball Innards or Bowl of Gelato? (via edible geography)
Thomas Prior's photographs from the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico are pretty much exhibit A in why your parents didn't want you and your idiot friends to play with fireworks.
That's the iconic "Lunch atop a Skyscraper" photo taken in 1932 during the construction of the RCA Building (aka 30 Rock) in NYC. Eleven construction workers eating lunch on a steel girder 840 feet in the air. The shot was a PR stunt to drum up excitement around the near completion of the new skyscraper...no one even knows for sure who took the photo because it was likely a multiple photographer situation. On the same day the lunch photo was taken, some of the same men were photographed taking a nap on the same girder:
Photographer Clayton Cubitt and Rex Sorgatz have both written essays about how photography is becoming something more than just standing in front of something and snapping a photo of it with a camera. Here's Cubitt's On the Constant Moment.
So the Decisive Moment itself was merely a form of performance art that the limits of technology forced photographers to engage in. One photographer. One lens. One camera. One angle. One moment. Once you miss it, it is gone forever. Future generations will lament all the decisive moments we lost to these limitations, just as we lament the absence of photographs from pre-photographic eras. But these limitations (the missed moments) were never central to what makes photography an art (the curation of time,) and as the evolution of technology created them, so too is it on the verge of liberating us from them.
And Sorgatz's The Case of the Trombone and the Mysterious Disappearing Camera.
Photography was once an act of intent, the pushing of a button to record a moment. But photography is becoming an accident, the curatorial attention given to captured images.
Slightly different takes, but both are sniffing around the same issue: photography not as capturing a moment in realtime but sometime later, during the editing process. As I wrote a few years ago riffing on a Megan Fox photo shoot, I side more with Cubitt's take:
As resolution rises & prices fall on video cameras and hard drive space, memory, and video editing capabilities increase on PCs, I suspect that in 5-10 years, photography will largely involve pointing video cameras at things and finding the best images in the editing phase. Professional photographers already take hundreds or thousands of shots during the course of a shoot like this, so it's not such a huge shift for them. The photographer's exact set of duties has always been malleable; the recent shift from film processing in the darkroom to the digital darkroom is only the most recent example.
What's interesting about the hot video/photo mobile apps of the moment, Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat, is that, if you believe what Cubitt and Sorgatz are saying, they follow the more outdated definition of photography. You hold the camera in front of something, take a video or photo of that moment, and post it. If you missed it, it's gone forever. What if these apps worked the other way around: you "take" the photo or video from footage previously (or even constantly) gathered by your phone?
To post something to Instagram, you have the app take 100 photos in 10-15 seconds and then select your photo by scrubbing through them to find the best moment. Same with Snapchat. Vine would work similarly...your phone takes 20-30 seconds of video and you use Vine's already simple editing process to select your perfect six seconds. This is similar to one of my favorite technology-driven techniques from the past few years:
In order to get the jaw-dropping slow-motion footage of great white sharks jumping out of the ocean, the filmmakers for Planet Earth used a high-speed camera with continuous buffering...that is, the camera only kept a few seconds of video at a time and dumped the rest. When the shark jumped, the cameraman would push a button to save the buffer.
Only an after-the-fact camera is able to capture moments like great whites jumping out of the water:
And it would make it much easier to capture moments like your kid's first steps, a friend's quick smile, or a skateboarder's ollie. I suspect that once somebody makes an easy-to-use and popular app that works this way, it will be difficult to go back to doing it the old way.
Due to the increasing ubiquity of connected cameras, writes Nick Bilton in the NY Times, photography is shifting away from documentation to communication.
Photos, once slices of a moment in the past -- sunsets, meetings with friends, the family vacation -- are fast becoming an entirely new type of dialogue. The cutting-edge crowd is learning that communicating with a simple image, be it a picture of what's for dinner or a street sign that slyly indicates to a friend, "Hey, I'm waiting for you," is easier than bothering with words, even in a world of hyper-abbreviated Twitter posts and texts.
"This is a watershed time where we are moving away from photography as a way of recording and storing a past moment," said Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, and we are "turning photography into a communication medium."
Dave Pell worries that the realtime availability of all these photos is getting in the way of our experiencing selves.
Maybe it was a bad angle. Maybe I didn't get his good side. Maybe he just didn't have that surfer vibe. Whatever it was, the photo wasn't all that cool. Given time to reflect (even the few days I used to get between my own childhood birthdays and my mom picking up a set of 4x6 prints at the local pharmacy), my son probably would've developed a version of that day that had him riding a giant a wave, looking like a cross between Laird Hamilton and Eddie Vedder. Instead, he pretty much looked like a landlocked three year-old on a beach-bound surfboard who was suffering from a rare -- but particularly punishing -- bad hair day.
The instant my son looked at the image, his imagination-driven perception of himself was replaced by a digital reproduction of the moment he had just experienced. He had a few seconds, not nearly long enough, to create is own internal version of what that moment looked -- and by extension felt -- like.
[Sherlock season 2 spoilers ahead...] At the end of the second season of the excellent BBC series Sherlock, Holmes jumps off the roof of a building in Smithfield, London. Ever since then, fans of the show have been leaving notes near where he would have landed.
Sabine Pearlman's photos of bullets split in half reveals there are many ways to make them.
This is what it feels like to use the Web sometimes:
That's from National Geographic's excellent Found blog; Porters transport a car on long poles across a stream in Nepal, January 1950.
In the early 1900s, photographer George Lawrence built what he called the Lawrence Captive Airship, a series of kites and wires able to hold aloft a camera mounted on a stabilizing mechanism. With his invention, he was able to take aerial photos of cities all over the country -- Brooklyn, Atlantic City, Chicago, Kansas City. You've probably seen his photos of a burnt-out San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.
You gotta love anyone whose company motto was "the hitherto impossible in photography is our specialty". (via coudal)