(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘daguerreotype

“Time and tide wait for no man”*…

The week both arranges and imposes on our time…

Among many collective discoveries during the pandemic confinement of 2020, Americans learned just how attached we are to our seven weekdays. As complaints about temporal disorientation mounted that April, we focused not on the clock – the classic metonym for the power and experience of time – but rather on the calendar, and specifically the weekly one. A Cleveland news station affiliated with the Fox Media network entertained viewers with a daily feature, much circulated on the internet, entitled ‘What Day Is It? With Todd Meany’ – the answer to which was always a weekday, not a Gregorian calendar date…

Weeks serve as powerful mnemonic anchors because they are fundamentally artificial. Unlike days, months and years, all of which track, approximate, mimic or at least allude to some natural process (with hours, minutes and seconds representing neat fractions of those larger units), the week finds its foundation entirely in history. To say ‘today is Tuesday’ is to make a claim about the past rather than about the stars or the tides or the weather. We are asserting that a certain number of days, reckoned by uninterrupted counts of seven, separate today from some earlier moment. And because those counts have no prospect of astronomical confirmation or alignment, weeks depend in some sense on meticulous historical recordkeeping. But practically speaking, weekly counts are reinforced by the habits and rituals of other people. When those habits and rituals were radically obscured or altered in 2020, the week itself seemed to unravel…

The history of weekly timekeeping, which is only about 2,000 years old. Although taboos and cosmologies in several different cultures attached significance to seven-day cycles much earlier, there is no clear evidence of any society using such cycles to track time in the form of a common calendar before the end of the 1st century CE. As the scholars Ilaria Bultrighini and Sacha Stern have recently documented, it was in the context of the Roman Empire that a standardised weekly calendar emerged out of a combination and conflation of Jewish Sabbath counts and Roman planetary cycles. The weekly calendar, from the moment of its effective invention, reflected a union of very different ways of counting days…

The crucial formation of our modern experience of weekly time took place around the first half of the 1800s, with the rising prominence of… the differentiated weekly schedule…

The week is the most artificial and most recent of the ways we account for time, but it’s effectively impossible to imagine our shared lives without it: “How we became weekly,” by David Henkin in @aeonmag.

See also Jill Lepore‘s characteristically informative review of Henkin’s book on the week: “How the Week Organizes and Tyrannizes Our Lives” (source of the image above)

* Geoffrey Chaucer

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As we mark time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that John William Draper took a daguerreotype of the moon (the “governor” of months, while the sun determines days, seasons, and years); it was the first celestial photograph (or astrophotograph) made in the U.S.  (He exposed the plate for 20 minutes using a 5-inch telescope and produced an image one inch in diameter.)   Draper’s picture of his sister, taken the following year, is the oldest surviving photographic portrait.

An 1840 shot of the moon by Draper– the oldest surviving “astrophotograph,” as his first is lost

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“Wherever there is light, one can photograph”*…

 

Three decades ago, as a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute, Mimi Plumb [see here] was wandering around Bernal Heights when she came across the site of a recent house fire. Plumb went inside to explore the building’s charred remains. She paused to photograph a blackened globe and a singed stack of telephone books. In the basement, she found snapshots of an unknown family, and in the bedroom, a burned lamp and dresser. The grim, soot-filled rooms would later remind her of her childhood during the Cuban missile crisis, when duck-and-cover drills occurred every few weeks. “My mother told me there might be a nuclear war,” Plumb says. “I would wake up in the middle of the night.”

The photos of the house were among the first that Plumb would take for her series Dark Days, which will be published this summer by TBW Books in a collection titled Landfall

After seven years of taking photos for the series, Plumb did the unthinkable: She packed the negatives into a box and didn’t look at them again. In some ways, she knew she had nothing more to add to the work, that she had adequately captured that feeling of imbalance. But there was also another reason. Plumb felt pressure as a female photographer to take more “palatable” images.

The series was tucked away until 2015, when Plumb, having retired from teaching black-and-white photography, began going through her archives. She was struck by how much the work — with its themes of nuclear anxiety and environmental decline — “runs eerily parallel to our current situation.”…

More on Plumb’s work at “Unearthed“; see more of the Dark Days series at her site

* Alfred Stieglitz

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As we ponder the pix, we might recall that it was on this date in 1845 that French physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault took the first photograph of the sun.  The daguerreotype was just 4.7 inches, but as National Geographic reported, still caught sunspots.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 2, 2018 at 1:01 am

Going, going…

Goroka, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Before They Pass Away is a powerful documentary series by photographer Jimmy Nelson featuring dozens of cultures around the world whose people live in seclusion and are at risk of fading away. Traveling across five continents, the English photographer manages to embrace the various cultures he has encountered and highlights each of the 35 tribes’ unique beauty.

From Ethiopia and Nepal to Papua New Guinea and Siberia, Nelson exhibits a wide array of environments that these diverse tribes inhabit.The refreshing project goes beyond exhibiting humans across the globe, though, documenting their culturally rich lifestyles and appearances. Each community displays their own means of survival while retaining their distinct spirituality and exhibiting their diverse decorative adornments.

There is a very human appeal to viewing Nelson’s series. Though modern civilizations are equipped with technology and an abundance of unnecessary possessions, the photographer digs deep into the remote tribes of the world, finding something far greater than gadgets and gizmos—a sense of humanity…

Kazakh, Eastern Europe and northern parts of Central Asia

More of the story– and many more photos– at My Modern Met.

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As we celebrate diversity, we might send snappy birthday greetings to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre; he was born on this date in 1787.  An accomplished painter, Daguerre became fascinated by the work of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who took the very first photograph in 1826.  Niépce’s camera obscura shot took eight hours’ of exposure time; Daguerre was able to develop a process that cut the exposure first to 20 minutes, and ultimately (using better lens and different chemistry) down to several seconds.  His technique, known as the daguerreotype process, was the first practical photographic process.

Before turning to photography, Daguerre partnered with Charles Bouton to create the Diorama, a theatrical experience viewed by an audience in a specially-constructed theater next to Daguerre’s studio in Paris.  As many as 350 patrons would file in to view a landscape painting that would change its appearance both subtly and dramatically.  The show lasted 10 to 15 minutes, after which time the entire audience would rotate (on a massive turntable) to view a second painting.  The Diorama was a huge hit– it’s estimated that, at its height, Daguerre’s Diorama had 80,000 visitors a year (at an entrance fee of 2.50 Francs).  Daguerre and Bouton opened a second show in Regent’s Park in London, which was similarly successful.  But that success attracted imitators, who became competitors; Daguerre’s interest wained…  and he turned to photography.

The earliest reliably dated photo­graph of a person, taken in spring 1838 by Daguerre. Though it shows Paris’ busy Boul­e­vard du Temple, the long exposure time (about ten or twelve minutes) meant that moving traffic cannot be seen; however, the two men at lower left (one apparently having his boots polished by the other) remained still long enough to be dist­inctly visible. The image is laterally (left-right) reversed, as were most daguerre­o­types, as seen in the build­ing signage at upper left.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

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