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Posts Tagged ‘photography

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”*…

 

Back in the 18th and 19th century, recreational swimming kickstarted a service industry of aids for decent beach life etiquette. These tools of maintaining dignity were perhaps unsurprisingly mostly aimed at women. Among innovations of this time was the Bathing Machine, or the Bathing Van, which helped bathers change into to their bathing attire right next to the water.

Bathing machines became a thing around all of Great Britain’s empire starting ca. 1750 and spread to the United States, France, Germany and Mexico to serve the greater goal of common decency at beaches…

The passenger enters a horse or human drawn carriage, which is transported some distance out into the water. The van’s human cargo changes into whatever shapeless sack was deemed suitable at the time. The mechanics of it all are unsurprisingly not that glamorous and worth exploring in further detail

More at “Victorian Beach Life: Photos of 19th Century Bathing Machines in Operation.”

* Isak Dinesen

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As we dive in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that the foundation stone was laid for the Tay Railway Bridge to be built across the Firth of Tay on the east Scottish coast.  It’s designer, Sir Thomas Bouch, a railway engineer and executive, was knighted for engineering and overseeing the building of the two-mile-long bridge— on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch and his creation are thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Contemporary illustration of the search after the disaster

 source

 

Written by LW

July 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing)*…

 

The speed of light, at which radio waves propagate into space, is fast– really fast– but it’s not instant.  So what a space traveler would hear at ever-greater distances from Earth is an ever-older playlist of radio hits.

Hear them for yourself at Lightyear.fm.

* “FM signals and those of broadcast television…[travel] out to space at the speed of light. Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing), and know nothing of the politics of AM talk-show hosts (probably a safe thing)…”

-Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole, p. 172

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As we aim for about 50 LY out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1850 that Harvard Observatory director William Cranch Bond and Boston photographer John Adams Whipple took a daguerreotype of Vega– the first photograph of a star ever made.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The camera is an instrument of detection. We photograph not only what we know, but also what we don’t know”*…

 

When top chemists and engineers at Harvard and MIT are preparing to reveal new research in the world’s premier journals, they call Felice Frankel.  For over two decades, Frankel has had a front-row seat at some of the biggest discoveries emerging from both ends of Cambridge, photographing experiments within the labs that created them.

Read her extraordinary story in “Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries“; and check out her work– from daisy-colored yeast colonies through rainbow-colored quantum dots to soft. flexible electronics that can be tattooed onto the skin– on her site.

* Lisette Model

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As we find focus, we might remark that today is the birthday of not one but two extraordinary mathematicians:  Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646; variants on his date of birth are due to calendar changes), the German  philosopher, scientist, mathematician, diplomat, librarian, lawyer, co-inventor, with Newton, of The Calculus, and “hero” (well, one hero) of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy…  and  Alan Turing (1912), British mathematician, computer science pioneer (inventor of the Turing Machine, creator of “the Turing Test” and inspiration for “The Turing Prize”), and cryptographer (leading member of the team that cracked the Enigma code during WWII).

Go figure…

Liebnitz (source: UNC)

Turing (source: Univ. of Birmingham)

Written by LW

June 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I find it soothing, the thought of a movie theater”*…

 

 

Saubine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche are intrepid photographers of thought-provoking things.  Here, they discuss their series on movie theaters in India…

In three journeys between 2010 and 2013 we have photographed movie theatres from the ‘Thirties to the ‘Seventies in South India. The photos of these buildings give eloquent testimony to the rich cinematic culture of those times. We are particularly interested in the culturally influenced reinterpretation of modern building style apparent in the architectural style, which displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of colour and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco…

Many movie theatres in South India are left in their original state. Nonetheless, remodelling into multiplex cinemas is already underway, in particular in major cities, and will result in these buildings’ disappearance as witnesses to their times. The photographs document a part of cinema culture that has already largely vanished in Europe and the USA, and is increasingly being supplanted by commercial interests and technical developments in India, as well.

Take the tour at here.

* Theophilus London

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As we lounge in the loge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Vitagraph released Miss Jekyll and Madame Hyde, a retelling of Stevenson’s famous tale in which Helen Gardner played the lead role(s).  Ms Gardner, whose career consisted mostly of portrayals of strong women (Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, Cleopatra, et al.) was herself a formidable player in the film industry, one of the first actors to form an independent production company (The Helen Gardner Players).

Helen Gardner, c. 1912 (the time of her break-out role, Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair)

 source

 

Written by LW

June 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this”*…

 

Certain scientific circles of the nineteenth century were home to a rather unexpected preoccupation: the dropping of cats. While at university in Trinity College, Cambridge, James Clerk Maxwell, who would go onto become arguably the greatest theoretical physicist of the nineteenth century, was reportedly well known for the activity. In a letter to his wife reflecting on this reputation he’d earned, Maxwell wrote, “There is a tradition in Trinity that when I was here I discovered a method of throwing a cat so as not to light on its feet, and that I used to throw cats out of windows. I had to explain that the proper object of research was to find how quick the cat would turn round, and that the proper method was to let the cat drop on a table or bed from about two inches, and that even then the cat lights on her feet.” He was not the only prominent scientist to be intrigued by the question of how cats, when falling from a height, seemingly were able to defy the laws of Newtonian physics and change motion in mid air to land on their feet. At around the same time, the eminent mathematician George Stokes was also prone to a spot of “cat-turning”. As his daughter relates in a 1907 memoir: “He was much interested, as also was Prof. Clerk Maxwell about the same time, in cat-turning, a word invented to describe the way in which a cat manages to fall upon her feet if you hold her by the four feet and drop her, back downwards, close to the floor.”

Despite the many falling cats, neither Maxwell nor Stokes made much headway in their investigations. It wasn’t until some decades later, with the invention of chronophotography (which allowed many photographs to be taken in quick succession), that a more rigorous study could be applied beyond the limitations of the human eye. The man to do it was the French scientist and photographer Étienne-Jules Marey who in 1894 created a series of images from which he was able to make some important deductions. The images pictured below, captured at 12 frames per second, debunked the idea that the cat was using the dropper’s hand as a fulcrum in order to begin the motion of turning at the beginning of the fall. Rather, the pictures showed that the cat had no rotational motion at the start of its descent and so was somehow acquiring angular momentum while in free-fall. Marey published these pictures, and his investigations, in an 1894 issue of Comptes Rendus, with a summary of his findings published in the journal Nature in the same year. The latter summarises Marey’s thoughts as follows:

M. Marey thinks that it is the inertia of its own mass that the cat uses to right itself. The torsion couple which produces the action of the muscles of the vertebra acts at first on the forelegs, which have a very small motion of inertia on account of the front feet being foreshortened and pressed against the neck. The hind legs, however, being stretched out and almost perpendicular to the axis of the body, possesses a moment of inertia which opposes motion in the opposite direction to that which the torsion couple tends to produce. In the second phase of the action, the attitude of the feet is reversed, and it is the inertia of the forepart that furnishes a fulcrum for the rotation of the rear.

In a rather humorous turn the author of the article also states that “The expression of offended dignity shown by the cat at the end of the first series indicates a want of interest in scientific investigation.”…

See the series of photos and read the whole account at “Photographs of a Falling Cat (1894)“; and see how the riddle was finally solved, 70 years later, Kane and Scher’s 1969 paper “A dynamical explanation of the falling cat phenomenon” (and in this Wikipedia article).

* Terry Pratchett

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As we adjust our attitudes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first lab test was released in Arizona confirming a bee involved in a fatal on attack on a small dog at a Tucson home was an Africanized honey bee. Because of their more intense defensive swarming behavior, such non-native bees earned the name “killer bee” in the media.

Arizona was the second state to be invaded, less than three years after this species spread north into Texas from Mexico. Six years later, the bees claimed their first human victim in California: Virgil Foster, an 83-year-old bee-keeper, was mowing his lawn in Los Angeles County when he was stung at least 50 times by the highly-aggressive bees.  Foster’s three hives had been taken over by wild Africanized honey bees. Originally hybridized in Brazil in the 1950s in attempt to increase honey production, the killer bees had migrated north through Central America.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance”*…

 

Man in a Three-Piece Suit Dancing Within the Circle at a Wedding,” Rockville Centre, New York, 1976.

 

The first monograph by the New York-based photographer Meryl Meisler, published last year, included rambunctious scenes from Manhattan’s disco scene, taken in Meisler’s club-hopping youth, alongside images of a crumbling, pre-gentrifying Bushwick, shot when Meisler was teaching art at a local public school, in the early eighties. But, before she began documenting urban life in New York, Meisler trained her eye outside of the city, photographing her own Jewish extended family on Long Island’s South Shore. In the early seventies, while home on winter break from studying illustration at the University of Wisconsin, Meisler began experimenting with deadpan self-portraiture, donning the Girl Scouts uniforms and the ballet and tap costumes of her childhood. Soon she was photographing her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—the whole mishpocha—finding loopy antics and exaggerated period detail in holiday gatherings and daily ritual. The result is a delightfully outlandish family photo album, and a capsule of seventies suburbia crackling with humor and mischief. In the Meisler-clan milieu, kitsch bedspreads match kitsch wallpaper, hairdressers blow chewing-gum bubbles the size of their clients’ bouffants, Hustler is the beach reading of choice, and everyone is a character or a ham…

“Mom Getting Her Hair Teased at Besame Beauty Salon,” North Massapequa, New York.

 

See it all at “Seventies Long Island: The Whole Mishpocha.”

* George Bernard Shaw, Immaturity

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As we prepare to reune, we might spare a utilitarian thought for Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer died on this date in 1832.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of students including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

 see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

Written by LW

June 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Every day above ground is a good day”*…

 

Beijing Airport

 

”Google Earth is marvelous and changed the way we live more than we imagine,” [artist Federico Winer] writes. “We use it as a tool to travel, to find addresses, to explore our world, so the next level was to convert that tool into an artistic expression.”

That’s what his Ultradistancia project is all about. Winer infuses Google Earth landscapes with vivid color—distorting them and making the shapes, contours, and patterns on the planet’s surface pop. As the project’s name suggests, the idea is to become intimate with these mini-portraits of Earth, from afar…

Dallas, TX

 

More at “One Artist’s Vivid Distortions of Google Earth Images.”

* “Mel Bernstein” (Haris Yulin), Scarface

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As we mind the gap, we might send lofty birthday greetings to Glenn Hammond Curtiss; he was born on this date in 1878.  While it’s generally accepted that the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight, Curtiss took the plane from its wood, fabric, and wire beginnings to the earliest versions of the modern transport aircraft we know today.  Curtiss made his first flight on his 30th birthday (this date in 1908), in White Wing, a design of the Aerial Experiment Association, a group led by Alexander Graham Bell.  White Wing was the first plane in America to be controlled by ailerons (instead of the wing-warping used by the Wrights) and the first plane on wheels in the U.S.  Curtiss went on to found the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company (now part of Curtiss-Wright Corporation), and to make dozens of contributions to the technology of flight.  Perhaps most notably his experiments with seaplanes during the years leading up to World War I led to major advances in naval aviation; indeed, Curtiss civil and military aircraft were predominant in the inter-war and World War II eras.

 source

 

Written by LW

May 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

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