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kottke.org posts about photography

The Saturday Night Live Portrait

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2019

SNL Bumpers

SNL Bumpers

Since 1999, Mary Ellen Matthews has been the official photographer of SNL. For each show, Matthews captures a stylized portrait of the host, which is then used for “bumpers” between commercials and the live program.

“I kind of think of them as billboards. They pop off the screen,” Matthews, a self-described “one-woman circus,” told Vulture in a recent interview. “I like to make it as easy as possible for everyone. I don’t want them overthinking this part of the show. It should be super fun and super easy. It’s an open invitation to get kooky.”

Simon Being Taken to Sea for the First Time Since His Father Drowned

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2019

Chris Killip

This photograph was taken by Chris Killip in 1983 in the British coastal village of Skinningrove. According to Killip, it shows a difficult but necessary moment in a young man’s life, rebuilding his trust in the life-giving sea.

It was a fishing village and it was very difficult to gain access to photograph there. Simon’s father had drowned in an incident at sea. They had this ritual where they came out and took Simon out to sea so that he wouldn’t become fearful of it. It’s very formal. He’s dressed very formally. I was on the boat and nobody spoke.

What an intimate moment. You can read more about Killip and his process here. In this short film by Michael Almereyda, Killip talks about the time he spent photographing in Skinningrove:

Black is Beautiful photography show and monograph

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

untitled-kwame-brathwaite-black-women-in-convertible.jpg

Photographer Kwame Brathwaite is best known for his images of black superstars in the 1970s (Muhammad Ali training for the Rumble in the Jungle, the Jackson 5 on their first tour in Africa, Bob Marley at home in Kingston). A new exhibition highlights earlier work from his archives and positions him as an influential figure in a burgeoning movement. The now 81-year-old has his first book coming out in May after a six decade career: Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful.

nomsa-brath-modeling-congolese-fabrics-sterns-department-store-1963-kwame-brathwaite-photo.png

Brathwaite co-organized a fashion show in Harlem that became iconic. Naturally ‘62: The Original African Coiffure and Fashion Extravaganza Designed to Restore Our Racial Pride and Standards used the slogan “Black is Beautiful,” later to be a major part of history. His imagery and ideals elevated the slogan to part of the zeitgeist. Artsy has a beautiful slideshow of the Grandassa models and this:

The participants, known as the Grandassa models, were not professionals in the fashion world, which reinforced Brathwaite’s political and artistic vision. They were dark-skinned and their hair was unprocessed; they wore African-inspired garments full of lush colors, waxed cotton prints, and elaborate patterns.

sikolo-brathwaite-portrait-ajass-1968-by-kwame-brathwaite.jpg

The FT has a great piece with more context on Kwame’s history and work.

kwame-brathwaite-self-portrait-ajass-1964.png

Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite opens April 11 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

The first photo of a black hole

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

The first photo of a black hole

Ok, this is pretty cool. We have the first photo of a supermassive black hole, from imagery taken two years ago of the elliptical galaxy M87 (in the constellation Virgo) by the Event Horizon Telescope project. The EHT team is a group of 200 scientist that has been working on this project for two decades. The image was created using data captured from radio telescopes from Hawaii to the South Pole and beyond using very long baseline interferometry.

The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from here, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the power and malevolence of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

Now is a good time to (re)read Jonathan Lethem’s early novel, the absurdist physics love story As She Climbed Across the Table.

Update: Vox’s Joss Fong has a good 6-minute video that explains how the photo was taken:

And this video by Veritasium is even more meaty (and this one too):

Taking the shame out of the Cone of Shame

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 09, 2019

cone-of-shame-dog-portraits-jolie-bits.png

Photographer Winnie Au spoke with Buzzfeed about her ongoing Cone of Shame project, which looks to dispel the shame of the cones dogs must wear after medical procedures. Partially inspired by her late corgi Tartine, whose medical treatment would have cost tens of thousands of dollars without insurance, Winnie is using the project to fundraise for Animal Haven Shelter in New York. She’s an advocate for adopting pets.

A lot of people I know have bought their dogs verses adopting because they wanted a very specific breed, what most don’t realize there are rescues dedicated to specific breeds. So if you are obsessed with bernedoodles, you can adopt one. Of course, I love mutts too, and you can rescue an adorable mutt also. The most important thing to me is that your dog and its age, energy, and vibe fit your lifestyle.

There are so many great rescues out there who can help you find the best pet for you. In America alone, there are 1.6 million dogs waiting to be rescued every year. If those dogs don’t get rescued, a lot of them end up euthanized. I just want to stress to people to adopt when you get your next pet as there are so many great dogs out there ready for a new home.

cone-of-shame-mishka-ryder-dog-portraits.png

Winnie collaborated with costume designer and stylist Marie-Yan Morvan, whose work helped the project coalesce. I can’t wait to see more of this project. If you want to support the work and Animal Haven, you can buy a print or a tote via the Cone of Shame shop.

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cone-of-shame-dog-portrait-feathers.png

Calling All Fungi & Slime Mold Fans

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2019

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

On her Instagram account, Marin Mushrooms, nature photographer Alison Pollack captures the otherworldly beauty of fungi and slime molds in northern California forests. (via laura olin)

Beautiful Hand-Colored Photographs of Flowers from 19th-Century Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2019

Ogawa Kazumasa

Ogawa Kazumasa

From The Public Domain Review, Ogawa Kazumasa’s Hand-Coloured Photographs of Flowers.

The stunning floral images featured here are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era.

A reprinted book containing these images by Kazumasa is available as are prints. (via @john_overholt)

This Photo of Farmers Contains No Farmers

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2019

This is a photo taken in Germany in 1914 by August Sander:

August Sander Young Farmers

It’s called Young Farmers and it depicts three young men on their way to a dance in rural Germany. But as John Green explains in this video, there is so much more going on with this photo.

From The Tate, which has a print of Young Farmers in its collection:

The Marxist art critic John Berger famously analysed the photograph in his influential essay ‘The Suit and the Photograph’ (1980) writing: ‘The date is 1914. The three young men belong, at the very most, to the second generation who ever wore such suits in the European countryside. Twenty or 30 years earlier, such clothes did not exist at a price which peasants could afford.’ (Berger 1980, p.30.) Berger suggests that these mass market suits, emulating the higher quality attire of the bourgeois urban class, draws attention to, rather than disguises, their ‘social caste’, and not in a particularly flattering sense. In his essay, Berger considers that the three young men are of a social group not beyond the reach of aspirational advertising campaigns and travelling salesmen, and in a state of awkward transition, succumbing to a new ‘cultural hegemony’. The posturing of these three rural ‘lads’, perhaps on their way to a dance, confounds and subverts expectations of the peasant ‘type’, especially in that they smoke cigarettes. Peasants were traditionally depicted smoking a pipe handcrafted from wood, and which like the wooden canes that appear frequently in Sander’s volume of photographs devoted to peasants and farmers, including this one, connoted an organic connection to the native soil as well as a certain time-honoured wisdom. By contrast, the mass-manufactured cigarette was often seen at the time as an urban symbol of social dissolution.

However, Green also cautions that there’s only so much you can infer about people from a photograph (given, for example, that the three men weren’t actually farmers).

This video is from a new-to-me channel called The Art Assignment, which is about art and art history. Subscribed!

Photos of the Women Clearing One of the Largest Minefields in the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2019

Sri Lanka Deminers

Sri Lanka Deminers

Photographer Allison Joyce has been in Sri Lanka photographing the women clearing one of the biggest minefields in the world. The mines were left over from the Sri Lankan civil war and the women are employed by NGO HALO Trust.

Landmines were used in vast quantities by both sides at different stages of the fighting in the north. From 2010 to 2012, HALO deminers removed over 30,000 mines a year. By 2014 the total had fallen to 16,000 annually, but those remaining threaten the most economically vulnerable people in the country. Mines present an obstacle to the safe return of internally displaced people (IDPs) and prevent access to paddy fields, fishing jetties and grazing land affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people.

HALO remains the largest international mine action operator in the country. Our 830 staff, including a large proportion of former IDPs, work in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Fifty percent of our deminers are women, many of them war widows with children to support.

In Focus and The Guardian have photo essays about the women and their work.

A Day in the Life at a Bell Labs Datacenter in the Late 60s

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2019

Larry Luckham was a manager at a Bell Labs data center in Oakland in the late 60s and early 70s. One day, he captured daily life at the company with his camera.

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Note how many of his coworkers were women, including women of color. From The Secret History of Women in Coding:

A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits. “It was like working logic puzzles — big, complicated logic puzzles,” Wilkes says. “I still have a very picky, precise mind, to a fault. I notice pictures that are crooked on the wall.”

What sort of person possesses that kind of mentality? Back then, it was assumed to be women. They had already played a foundational role in the prehistory of computing: During World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s, where Wilkes worked, she recalls that most of those the government categorized as “career programmers” were female. It wasn’t high-status work — yet.

A Camera Lens Made from an Iceberg

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2019

Mathieu Stern had an idea. He thought that if you could sculpt a piece of ultra-clear ice into the correct shape, it would function as a camera lens. To find that quality of ice, he traveled to Iceland to scavenge a chunk of an iceberg washed ashore on a black sandy beach. After some trial and error, he succeeded in making his iceberg lens and using it to shoot some photos and video. The lens lasted for about a minute before melting.

Here are some of the photos he took:

Iceberg Lens

Iceberg Lens

It’s a little impractical to go all the way to Iceland for iceberg ice when you can make your own clear ice at home, but Stern had this to say:

Now if people asks me “Are you happy with the result? it’s a bunch of blurry photos!?”, my response would be: “this project is a scientific, artistic and poetic project, I never imagined the result would look like the photos that comes from an ultra modern lens, but I was amazed by the strange beauty of the images I made with the first ever 10 000 year old lens.”

This is not a project for everyday photography, it was an adventure and a bet that when you have a crazy hypothesis, you should do everything to experiment it in the field.

I also wondered whether iceberg ice was actually more clear or pure than ice you could make at home. I didn’t find anything definitive but I did read this piece by Michelle Iwen about drinking single-malt scotch cooled by iceberg ice.

Our expedition leader, an Irish biologist studying southern birds, fished small chunks of clear-bubbled ice directly from the water as he worked to dislodge a sharp edged growler from beneath the propeller. He encouraged us to taste the ice, licking off the overlying salt water to find the pure, flavorless cold underneath.

“If you hold it in your bare hand long enough to speed the melting, you’ll hear it fizzle,” he told us. The fizzy pop of bergy seltzer is a familiar, yet unexpected sound. It sounds like a freshly opened can of soda, as the bubbles newly freed from the ice travel up toward the surface of the water. Yet the mundane sound of bergy seltzer belies the sinister power of melt against the bottom of the iceberg. Each bubble released scores the surface of the ice, compromising its structural integrity. We held the ice shards in our hands to make it fizz, let our skin burn against the freeze, as our expedition guide hoisted the free-floating remnants of a tiny growler into the zodiac to be chipped apart and consumed in cocktails that evening.

(via @peteashton)

Neighborhood Golf Association

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2019

Street photographer Patrick Barr has been out photographing NYC since the 1990s. Barr also goes by the name of Tiger Hood (or Nappy Gilmore) and when he’s out on the street selling prints of his photographs, he passes the time playing a street golf game of his own invention.

It’s a game that requires only three items: a golf club, a newspaper-stuffed milk carton, and a crate. What was initially just a way for Barr to pass time has gained traction from major news outlets and celebrities on a global scale. However, street golf seems to overshadow his true passion… photography. Barr’s archive consists of thousands of mind blowing film photographs of NYC from the 1990’s to 2000’s. His goal was to preserve a time and place that he predicted would dissolve in the coming years. With his archive as evidence, he predicted correctly.

You can find some of Barr’s photos on Flickr and Instagram but if you want to buy a print, you’ll have to catch him on the streets of lower Manhattan.

1969 in Pictures

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2019

1969 was quite a year that saw the founding of Sesame Street, PBS, Monty Python, and the Internet as well as Woodstock and my favorite, the crew of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

At In Focus, Alan Taylor has collected 50 photos from 1969, a visual record of that iconic year.

1969 Photos

1969 Photos

1969 Photos

From top to bottom, Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, Queen Elizabeth riding on the Tube in London, and a billboard in Times Square featuring John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s message of peace.

Photos of the Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2019

As part of his The World in Faces project, Alexander Khimushin has been making portraits of the indigenous people of Siberia wearing native dress.

Alexander Khimushin

Alexander Khimushin

Alexander Khimushin

The photo at the top is of three-year-old Gulnara Kayarina wearing her everyday outfit:

She lives in a portable little 2x3 meter house on skis, wrapped in the reindeer skins, at the endless tundra, about 50 km away from the nearest settlement of Tukhard (pronounced Too-Hard) — one the the remotest and coldest places of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Located at the Taymyr Peninsula (Arctic part of Siberia and the Northernmost region of Eurasia) Tukhard is accessible by helicopter only. Gulnara is one of two daughters in the family of reindeer herders Prokopy and Maya Kayarin. Her sister Rimma is a bit older, she is 5. Both girls live nomadic life with their parents and their reindeer in the vast snowy expanse of the tundra, extended as far as the edge on the Arctic Ocean. Nenets People are one of five ethnic group on Indigenous People of Taymyr Peninsula. Most of Nenets People still live traditional lifestyle in this extremely remote and coldest region of the world. Right now the region experiencing a so-called polar night — 45 days long period of total darkness. Winter temperature regularly drops below -40C/-40F. With a combination of strong winds with a speed as high as 35 meters/sec the climate of Taymyr is certainly one of the most extreme ones of the world.

You can follow this project on Facebook and Instagram.

Fan Ho’s Street Photography of 50s & 60s Hong Kong

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2019

Fan Ho

Fan Ho

When he was a teenager, Fan Ho grabbed his father’s camera and started documenting street scenes in Hong Kong. From there, he built up a documentary body of work that puts him among the great practitioners of street photography.

Dubbed the “Cartier-Bresson of the East”, Fan Ho patiently waited for ‘the decisive moment’; very often a collision of the unexpected, framed against a very clever composed background of geometrical construction, patterns and texture. He often created drama and atmosphere with backlit effects or through the combination of smoke and light. His favorite locations were the streets, alleys and markets around dusk or life on the sea.

What made his work so intensely human is his love for the common Hong Kong people: Coolies, vendors, hawkers selling fruits and vegetables, kids playing in the street or doing their homework, people crossing the street… He never intended to create a historic record of the city’s buildings and monuments; rather he aimed to capture the soul of Hong Kong, the hardship and resilience of its citizens.

Before his death a few years ago, Ho selected some images from his archives that have become the basis of a new show at the Blue Lotus Gallery.

The photographic selection expressed in this new body of work feels more natural, indeed closer to documentary and pure street photography compared to his previously highly stylised approach. In his own manifesto ‘Thoughts on Street Photography’ which he wrote at the age of 28, and of which carefully selected quotes can be found throughout the book, he explains, “my realistic street photos are rarely selected. Pictorial aesthetics and images with a sense of humour are still the key for salon photos but I expect changes to happen soon. In the meantime, I will just keep trying.”

(via moss & fog)

Threadstories

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2019

Threadstories

For the past few years, visual artist Threadstories has been making these amazing masks and posting selfies of her wearing them on Instagram. She starts each mask with a crocheted balaclava:

Threadstories

And ends up at many different endpoints:

Threadstories

Threadstories

You can see the masks in motion in this video and read more about the project in this RedMilk interview.

I don’t have any one line of enquiry or source of inspiration. Everything from traditional basket making to Francis Bacons portraits to the sight of someone with really crooked teeth or an episode of Blue Planet might inspire a mask. Thematically I am questioning how the erosion of personal privacy online effects how we view and portray ourselves. I am constructing facades — masks in response to these questions. We are all so over exposed and to what end? Privacy is precious.

(via swissmiss)

The Making of an Iconic Photograph: Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2019

At the end of a long day in March 1936, Dorothea Lange stopped in a migrant workers camp in California for just 10 minutes and took six photos of a woman and her children. The final photo, known as Migrant Mother, became one of the most iconic photographs of the Great Depression.

Migrant Mother

In this video, Evan Puschak details not only the context the photo was created under (FDR’s administration wanted photos that would shift public support towards providing government aid) but also how Lange stage-managed the scene to get the shot she wanted.

As Puschak notes, the photo we are all familiar with was retouched three years after its initial publication to remove what Lange saw as a detriment to the balance of the scene: the thumb of the woman’s hand holding the tent post in the lower right-hand corner.

It is easy to tell whether a print of “Migrant Mother” was made before 1939, because that year Ms. Lange had an assistant retouch the negative and remove Ms. Thompson’s thumb from the bottom right corner, much to the chagrin of Roy Stryker, her boss at the Farm Security Administration. While that was a fairly common practice at the time, Mr. Stryker thought it compromised the authenticity not just of the photo but also of his whole F.S.A. documentary project, Ms. Meister said. But Ms. Lange considered the thumb to be such a glaring defect that she apparently didn’t have a second thought about removing it.

Here’s what it looked like before the alteration:

Migrant Mother Unretouched

There are some other things about the photo that may prompt us to think about the objectivity of documentary photography. The cultural story of Migrant Mother is that this is a white woman who came west during the Great Depression for migrant work. The real story is more complicated. The woman was identified in the late 1970s as Florence Owens Thompson, and as she told her story, we learned some things that Lange didn’t have time to discover during her fleeting time at the camp:

1. Thompson was a full-blooded Cherokee born in Indian Territory (which later became the state of Oklahoma). As this NY Times review of Sarah Meister’s book on the photograph says, if people had known the woman wasn’t white, the photo may not have had the impact it did.

“We have never been a race-blind country, frankly,” Ms. Meister said. “I wish that I could say that the response would have been the same if everyone had been aware that she was Cherokee, but I don’t think that you can.”

2. The family were not recent migrants to California and had actually moved from Oklahoma in 1926, well before the Depression started. The family briefly moved back to Oklahoma because Thompson was pregnant and afraid the father’s family would take the baby from her, but returned to California in 1934.

3. Thompson’s first husband died in 1931 of tuberculosis while she was pregnant with her sixth child. A seventh child resulted from a brief relationship with the father mentioned above. An eighth child followed by a new husband in 1935. But it was Thompson who provided for the family while taking care of 8 kids:

By all accounts, Jim Hill was a nice guy from a respectable family who never could seem to get his act together. “I loved my dad dearly,” Norma Rydlewski said, “but he had little ambition. He was never was able to hold down a job.” The burden of supporting the family, and of keeping it together, fell on Florence.

4. The ultimate goal of Lange taking Thompson’s photo for the FSA was to stimulate public support for government aid to people who were out of work because of the Depression. But Thompson herself didn’t want any aid:

“Her biggest fear,” recalled son Troy Owens, “was that if she were to ask for help [from the government], then they would have reason to take her children away from her. That was her biggest fear all through her entire life.”

5. Thompson and her family weren’t actually living at the pea pickers camp when Lange photographed them there. They had just stopped temporarily to fix their car and were only there for a day or two.

In the field notes that she filed with her Nipomo photographs, Lange included the following description: “Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food.”

Owens scoffed at the description. “There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell,” he told this writer. “The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have.”

“Mother always said that Lange never asked her name or any questions, so what she [Lange] wrote she must have got from the older kids or other people in the camp,” speculates daughter Katherine McIntosh, who appears in the Migrant Mother photo with her head turned away behind her mother’s right shoulder. “She also told mother the negatives would never be published — that she was only going to use the photos to help out the people in the camp.”

So what are we to make of what we thought we knew about this photograph and what we know now? In 2009, Errol Morris wrote of the FSA photos:

Rothstein, Lange and Evans have been accused of posing their photographs, in short, of manipulating them to some end. And yet all photographs are posed. There is no such thing as pure documentary photography. The problem is not in what any of them have done, but in our misunderstanding of photography. No crimes were committed by the F.S.A. photographers. They labored as employees of an organization dedicated to providing propaganda for the Roosevelt administration. And they created some of the greatest photographs in American history. Photographs can be works of art, bearers of evidence, and a connection with the past for individuals, families and society as a whole. It should not be lost on any of us that these controversies are still with us. The Photoshop alteration of a photograph “documenting” the launching of Iranian missiles, the cropping of a Christmas get-together at the Cheney ranch. These are just the latest iterations. In 1936, Roosevelt was reelected in a contentious election. Photography played a controversial role, reminding us that wherever there are intense disagreements, particularly political disagreements, there will be disagreements about photography, as well.

The stories we tell about photographs change as we change and as our culture changes. Yes, Migrant Mother is a symbol of the hardship endured by many during the Great Depression. But Migrant Mother is also the portrait of a fiercely independent Native American single mother who fought to provide for her family and keep them together during the most difficult time in our nation. That’s a story worth hearing today.

Both prints above are courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division: with thumb and without. You can also explore the rest of the LOC’s FSA collection.

Scenes from the Anthropocene, an Earth Forever Changed by Humans

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2019

Burtynsky Anthropocene

Burtynsky Anthropocene

These are photographs by Edward Burtynsky from The Anthropocene Project, a multimedia undertaking that showcases the effect humans have had on our planet. Top: a palm oil plantation in Malaysia. Bottom: a coal mine in Germany.

In addition to the photographs, there’s also a book and a film among other things.

I’ve been a fan of Burtynsky’s photography for years and I’m hoping to see both the film and the photos somewhere soon.

The Layers of Motherhood

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2019

In what she calls a “time-tunnel artwork”, photographer Annie Wang has been taking a periodic photo of herself and her son over the past 18 years, each time with the previous photo in the background.

Different layers of my son and I emerge on the same surface after a lengthy accumulation of detail and texture. Different stages of my son and I are overlaid; and from the different pictures we have created dialogue with each other in this dimension upon compressed dimension. From within these dimensions will emerge a new depiction/visualization of Motherhood.

Here are two consecutive photos in the series from when her son was young.

Annie Wang

Annie Wang

(via swissmiss)

Menendez Brothers Found Courtside on 1990 Basketball Card

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jan 17, 2019

About 30 years ago, the Menendez brothers of Beverly Hills murdered their parents, collected a hefty life insurance policy, and then went on an 8 month spending spree. The brothers bought cars, watches, opulent vacations, restaurants (what?!), and… courtside tickets to see the Knicks play. Incidentally, a photo of Mark Jackson from that game was used as his 1990 basketball card, and you’ll never guess who was in the background

Mark Jackson 1990 Basketball Card

The guy who found it, Stephen Zerance, isn’t an NBA fan but a fan of true-crime. He’d read in court documents the brothers had bought the tickets and went looking for proof. When archival photo and video searches were fruitless, he thought about basketball cards. After looking on eBay, Zerance found his match and announced it this past August, 29 years after the murders. It’s some sort of real-life Time Travelers in Historic Photos bananas coincidence.

As an aside, I learned while writing this post the Menendez brothers weren’t initially considered suspects and got caught after one of the brothers admitted the murders to his psychologist, who told his mistress (the psychologist’s, not the brother’s), who told the cops. Eventually, the affair between the mistress and the psychologist ended, perhaps on account of the stress related to being an ancillary part of a high profile murder case, and likely badly as evidenced by the fact the mistress attended the Menendez trial as a witness for the defense with the intention of impugning the character of the psychologist. What a ride.

The Year in Photos 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 31, 2018

Best Photos 2018

Best Photos 2018

Best Photos 2018

Best Photos 2018

Best Photos 2018

Best Photos 2018

From top to bottom: Christine Blasey Ford by Win McNamee, Emma Gonzalez by Jonathan Ernst, White House rally by Carolyn Kaster, Indian LGBT activist by Abhishek Chinnappa, Nakosha Smith of the Caramel Curves motorcycle club by Akasha Rabut, and a young churchgoer at Orthodox Easter service by Mikhail Svetlov.

That’s just a tiny slice of 2018…check out these sites for many more photos from the year that was:

2018 in Photos (part 2, part 3), Top 25 News Photos of 2018, The Most 2018 Photos Ever, and Hopeful Images From 2018, all from The Atlantic.

Best photos of 2018 from National Geographic.

Pictures of the year 2018 from Reuters.

These Are The Most Powerful Photos From 2018 from Buzzfeed.

Year in Pictures 2018 from Bloomberg.

The Year in Pictures 2018 from the NY Times.

2018 Year in Photos from Associated Press.

2018: The year in pictures from CNN.

Top 100 Photos of 2018 from Time.

AI-Generated Human Faces That Look Amazingly Real

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2018

The opening line of Madeline Miller’s Circe is: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” In Miller’s telling of the mythological story, Circe was the daughter of a Titan and a sea nymph (a lesser deity born of two Titans). Yes, she was an immortal deity but lacked the powers and bearing of a god or a nymph, making her seem unnervingly human. Not knowing what to make of her and for their own safety, the Titans and Olympic gods agreed to banish her forever to an island.

Here’s a photograph of a woman who could also claim “when I was born, the name for what I was did not exist”:

AI Faces

The previous line contains two lies: this is not a photograph and that’s not a real person. It’s an image generated by an AI program developed by researchers at NVIDIA capable of borrowing styles from two actual photographs of real people to produce an infinite number of fake but human-like & photograph-like images.

AI Faces

We propose an alternative generator architecture for generative adversarial networks, borrowing from style transfer literature. The new architecture leads to an automatically learned, unsupervised separation of high-level attributes (e.g., pose and identity when trained on human faces) and stochastic variation in the generated images (e.g., freckles, hair), and it enables intuitive, scale-specific control of the synthesis.

The video offers a good look at how this works, with realistic facial features that you can change with a slider, like adjusting the volume on your stereo.

Photographs that aren’t photographs and people that aren’t people, born of a self-learning machine developed by humans. We’ll want to trust these images because they look so real, especially once they start moving and talking. I wonder…will we soon seek to banish them for our own safety as the gods banished Circe?

Update: This Person Does Not Exist is a single serving site that provides a new portrait of a non-existent person with each reload.

Time Lapse Photos of Nighttime Airport Traffic

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2018

Pete Mauney

Pete Mauney

Pete Mauney spends his nighttime hours hunkered down near airports to capture these these time lapse photos of arriving and departing air traffic. (He does a similar thing with fireflies.)

On Facebook, Mauney is selling prints of some of these photos, hand-printed and quality guaranteed.

All prints are lovingly made by myself and print robot Epson 3880. They are fully archival and should last until well after I am dead, assuming they are properly cared for. I am super uptight/compulsive and quality control is strict. I spent many years making my living as an exhibition printer and no image of mine will leave my hands unless I am happy with it. If something not up to spec manages to squeak through, I will happily replace.

The post also doubles as a look into the process of photography & printmaking and how to price your art.

Pricing is the hard part for me. On one side there is there $12 in materials that that make and pack each print for shipping and the minimal labor involved in making the physical objects once the hard work in photoshop is already done. Based on that I could sell them for $15 and make a profit. Then, of course, are the hours spent processing and compositing each image. Oh, and then, there is the time spent driving and flying and and actually making the images. And days spent on Google Maps and Flight Aware observing flight patterns and planning my routes and locations. The mosquitoes. Hypothermia.

But, really, I am OK with doing all of that because I will do it regardless of whether I am getting paid or not (see “compulsive” above). I do it because I fucking love it. The point of all this is not to justify my labor and obsessions. The point of this is to pay for an awesome show so I can share these in the real world with other real humans like yourselves. As stated previously, all proceeds from this sale will go towards production, materials, software, prints, monitors, frames, and all the other inevitable costs that I can’t think of right now and that keep me up at night.

I read something years ago about the expense of art and photography that’s always stuck with me. Time, materials, and equipment are one part of the equation, but really what you are paying for is the lifetime of expertise, the hundreds of thousands of their previous shots and an aesthetic honed to a razor-sharp edge. $5000 for shoot by someone who knows exactly how to get the perfect shot in just 20 minutes can seem like an outrageous price (that’s $15,000/hour!), but $1000 for an two-hour-long shoot by some doofus often isn’t going to get you the result you actually need.

So yeah, drop Mauney a line and get some great prints delivered in time for the holidays. (via jen bekman)

Dogs Catching Treats

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2018

Dogs Catching Treats

Dogs Catching Treats

This is pretty straightforward and hilarious: using a high-speed setup, Christian Vieler photographs dogs catching treats. The photographs also come in book form and as a 2019 wall calendar.

The Stylish & Colorful Computing Machines of Yesteryear

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2018

Holy moly, these photographs of vintage computers & peripherals by “design and tech obsessive” James Ball are fantastic.

Ball Computers

Ball Computers

Ball Computers

He did a similar series with early personal computers subtitled “Icons of Beige”.

Ball Computers

(via @mwichary)

Winners of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2018

Wildlife Photo 2018

Wildlife Photo 2018

Wildlife Photo 2018

Wildlife Photo 2018

London’s Natural History Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

I included some of my favorites above. From top to bottom, Darío Podestá,
Marsel van Oosten, Cristobal Serrano, and Carlos Perez Naval (who competed in the 11-14 year-old category).

Gorgeous Low-Angle Satellite Photo of San Francisco

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2018

SF Satellite Side

SF Satellite Close

For practical reasons, satellite images are usually taken from straight overhead. But as this low-angle shot of San Francisco taken by DigitalGlobe’s Worldview-3 satellite illustrates, satellites are also capable of capturing more artful & surprising photographs of our planet. Due to the odd angle, it almost looks fake, computer-generated. Look at that toy Golden Gate Bridge connecting SimCity to a hyperrealist painting of the rugged California coast!

The image is worth seeing at full-resolution…you can find it at DigitalGlobe (they released it under a Creative Commons license) or Imgur. In the nearly full-res view of one slice of the map above, you can make out boats in the bay and even cars on the bridges. You can zoom and pan the image in Mapbox:

Charlie Loyd of Mapbox explains how they captured such a crisp image:

We don’t often see pictures like this one. The problem is haze: as a camera in space looks toward the horizon, it sees more water vapor, smog, and other stuff in the atmosphere that obscures the Earth. But our friends at DigitalGlobe built WorldView-3 with a sensor suite called CAVIS, which lets it quantify and subtract haze - making atmospheric effects virtually invisible. Only WorldView-3 can see so clearly at this angle.

See also more satellite images taken from the side. (via daily overview)

The Stories Behind Legendary Hip-Hop Photos

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 02, 2018

outkast-contacts.png

Hua Hsu reviews Contact High, a visual history of hip-hop by Vikki Tobak that takes interviews, essays, and outtakes from over 100 photographers through all of hip-hop’s history, from early b-boys and b-girls breaking to iconic album covers.

There’s something thrilling about seeing Michael Lavine’s outtake versions of OutKast’s “Stankonia” cover, where André 3000 has his hands up rather than pointed toward the viewer in a hex, or alternate versions of Danny Clinch’s famed portrait of a shirtless Tupac and his “Thug Life” tattoo, where he’s looking down at the ground with a measure of peace, rather than toward the sky or directly at the viewer in defiance. These images are like portals into alternate time lines. There’s a lone photo of the Notorious B.I.G., wearing a crown and grinning, surrounded by a dozen versions of him flashing a tragic scowl. The crown was the photographer Barron Claiborne’s idea, meant to evoke Biggie as the king of New York. Biggie’s close friend and producer, Sean “Puffy” Combs, feared that it made him look like the Burger King.

Here are a few photos and contact sheets from the book, including Biggie in his crown, plus outtakes from Baduizm by Marc Baptiste, and the Rock Steady Crew’s Frosty Freeze by Martha Cooper.

biggie-contacts.jpg

baduizm-contacts.jpg

Frosty-Freeze.jpg

This was taken in 1981. I love it so much.

The Winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2018

Astronomy Photos Year 2018

Astronomy Photos Year 2018

Astronomy Photos Year 2018

The Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK has announced the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2018.

Above are three of my favorites from the overall winners list. From top to bottom are Steven Mohr’s photo of the NGC 3521 galaxy (stitched together using hundreds of exposures), Nicolas Lefaudeux’s photo of an aurora (which he somehow turns into a landscape image), and Lefaudeux’s shot of the 2017 eclipse (you know I’m a sucker for a good eclipse photo).

If you find yourself in London before May, the winning photos are on display at the National Maritime Museum or in book form everywhere.

Some Reflections from My Trip to Berlin

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2018

Berlin Trip 2018

Even for a city almost 800 years old, Berlin has seen more than its fair share of history, especially in the 20th century. Watching the fall of the Berlin Wall on television 29 years ago this month was one of my most memorable experiences as a teen. In 2001, my girlfriend and I visited Berlin, loved it, and wanted to return soon. But you know how that goes sometimes, and I didn’t make it back there for a visit until mid last month, when I spent the better part of a week exploring Germany’s largest city. Here are of my impressions from the trip.

Museum-going is one of my favorite things to do when travelling and Berlin has a bunch of great ones. And they’re not generally these behemoths like the Met or Louvre…they’re reasonably sized places you can knock out in a couple of hours. The recreation of the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon is one of my favorite things at any museum I’ve been to.

The public transportation in Berlin is great. One ticketing scheme covers buses, trams (in the old East Berlin), surface trains (S-Bahn), and subways (U-Bahn). I bought a weekly pass and used it to travel all over the city. One afternoon with no fixed agenda, I explored by randomly hopping on trams and trains and getting off when things started looking interesting…navigation by an arbitrary stupid goal.

Berlin Trip 2018

Yes, I had the currywurst. And a kartoffelpuffer (served with a massive dollop of delicious sour cream w/ herbs in it). I preferred the knackwurst I got from Konnopke’s Imbiß and the schnitzel from Scheers, which reminded me a bit of Crif Dogs (but for schnitzel). The guy at Konnopke’s made an “ick” face when I asked for ketchup with my knackwurst instead of mustard. *shrug*

According to Pedometer++, I walked 65 miles over a 7 day period in Berlin.

At the Neues Museum, I read a bit of Homer’s Iliad on a papyrus scroll from more than 2000 years ago. The kids and I have been reading Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey so that was a nice moment of connection across the centuries. (I also saw the bust of Nefertiti there.)

Berlin Trip 2018

My favorite thing about public transport in Berlin is that instead of having entry turnstiles and swiping your ticket when you get on the bus, you simply buy a ticket and get it stamped on the platform to validate it. That’s it. With my weekly pass, I had to stamp it once to “activate” it, but after that, I could just get on the tram or subway without worrying about it. I love this system…it eliminates so much infrastructure, makes it easier to use public transport, and doesn’t track you around the system like smartcards do. It also makes it easier to ride for free, although there are teams of ticket inspectors moving throughout the system checking for valid tickets. Fines of €60 on up are assessed & paid on the spot.

A team of three undercover ticket inspectors got onto a tram I was riding…they were young, dressed a bit like hooligans, and looked way more like they were gonna steal wallets than officially check tickets. After nonchalantly boarding, they announced themselves to the passengers, pulled out their badges, and worked very quickly, impatiently looking at tickets before the tram pulled into the next stop and scofflaws could escape.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is an open-air memorial of more than 2700 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. While I was there, I saw it being used as a bench, a picnic area, a playground, a hide-n-go-seek maze, a selfie background, a parkour apparatus, and as the backdrop for Instagram influencers…pretty much everything but thoughtful reflection about the murder of 6 million people. See also Yolocaust.

Everyone kept telling me that the city had changed so much since I’d been there, but one of the only differences I could detect was that in 2001, it was pretty easy to tell which parts of the city had been in East Berlin and which had been in West Berlin, just by looking at the buildings and streets. Now, aside from the presence of random Soviet monuments and the tram in the former East Berlin, I couldn’t really tell. After almost 30 years, Berlin finally seems like a single city again (at least to this outsider).

The Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) is actually huge and completely amazing, especially the collection of trains and train cars housed in the massive buildings of a former railway company. The smell of grease and oil that hit me walking into the exhibition took me right back to when I was a kid, helping my dad fix cars in the garage. As I mentioned in this post, the exhibition included a freight car that was used for transporting Jews to concentration camps that you could walk inside of “and try to imagine, in some small way, you and your children cheek to jowl with 80 other people, on the way to be murdered”. An intense experience.

Berlin Trip 2018

The massive seven-story KaDeWe department store has an entire floor dedicated to food (in addition to the eatery on the top floor) and the butcher cases must have featured over 120 different kinds of sausage & wurst…it was unbelievable. I spent more than an hour wandering through and ended up having dinner, some scrambled eggs with a side of potatoes and onions — the menu had a disclaimer on the bottom of each page: “Of course our potatoes and onions are made with bacon!” Duh, this is Germany.

The permanent exhibition at the Topographie Des Terrors is a must-see presentation of how the Nazis persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered millions in the 30s and 40s. While sobering and completely gutting in parts, this was one of my favorite things I did in Berlin.

While not quite public transport, Berlin has a thriving bike share scene. I signed up for Mobike because they seemed to have the most inventory. As a bike-friendly city to begin with, there are lots of places on the streets to park these dockless bikes, although locals have complained about bike littering. This was my first time using a dockless bike, and like with WiFi on a laptop or pairing a Bluetooth speaker, the first time feels a little magical.

My favorite meal was at the restaurant in my hotel. That’s a bit of an odd thing to hear because we’re used to hotel restaurants being kind of a default mediocre. But the food at the Michelberger’s restaurant was delicious, surprising, and inventive. I had the burrata w/ pear & dukkah and the arctic char w/ smoked mashed potatoes & buttermilk. Just thinking about that meal is making me hungry!

Berlin Trip 2018

Berlin reclaimed Tempelhofer Field as a public park after the Tempelhof airport closed in 2008. I’d never walked on a large runway like that before…they’re huge! I was supposed to meet up with Felipe of Fotostrasse to take a more extensive tour of the area, but it was rainy and I was sick, so I only managed a quick solo visit. Next time!

I only posted a couple of pics from Berlin on Instagram, but I did post a bunch of Instagram Stories (collected here). And thanks to everyone on Twitter and Instagram who offered suggestions for my trip! I had a great time and I will definitely be back, hopefully before 17 more years have passed.