(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘history of photography

“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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“Turn left at Greenland”*…

 

 

FSA photos

 

After a series of setbacks in the courts that repealed many of the First New Deal’s program, President Roosevelt pursued a new set of initiatives including the Resettlement Administration in 1935. It was charged with aiding the poorest third of farmers displaced by the depression and particularly focused on resettlement on viable lands and providing low-interest loans. Directed by Rexford Tugwell, a Columbia University economist, the RA came under immediate scrutiny. Realizing the battle for public opinion had begun, Tugwell hired his former student Roy Stryker to lead the Historic Section within the Information Division of the RA, which in 1937 was moved to the FSA.

In order to build support for and justify government programs, the Historical Section set out to document America, often at her most vulnerable, and the successful administration of relief service. The Farm Security Administration—Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) produced some of the most iconic images of the Great Depression and World War II and included photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein who shaped the visual culture of the era both in its moment and in American memory. Unit photographers were sent across the country. The negatives were sent to Washington, DC. The growing collection came to be known as “The File.” With the United State’s entry into WWII, the unit moved into the Office of War Information and the collection became known as the FSA-OWI File…

Now, from Yale, a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing 90,000 of those 170,000 photographs created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) from 1935 to 1945: Programmer.

* Ringo Starr, in response to the question “How do you find America?,” asked in a Beatles press conference on the first U.S. tour

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As we look and see, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that Cab Calloway recorded “Minnie the Moocher,” the first jazz record to sell one million copies and the song that cemented the popularity of “scat” singing (which had been first popularized in 1926 by Louis Armstrong’s “Heebie Jeebies.”)

 

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

Pre-Raphaelite Photography…

 

Philosopher Thomas Carlyle

When Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) received her first camera in December 1863 as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law, Cameron was forty-eight, a mother of six, and a deeply religious, well-read, somewhat eccentric friend of many notable Victorian artists, poets, and thinkers. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour,” she wrote, “and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.” Condemned by some contemporaries for sloppy craftsmanship, she purposely avoided the perfect resolution and minute detail that glass negatives permitted, opting instead for carefully directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed the sitters’ slight movement to register in her pictures, instilling them with an uncommon sense of breath and life.

The exhibition will feature masterpieces from each of Cameron’s three major bodies of work: portraits of men “great thro’ genius,” including painter G. F. Watts, poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, scientist Sir John Herschel, and philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle; women “great thro’ love,” including relatives, neighbors, and household staff, often titled as literary, historical, or biblical subjects; and staged groupings such as her illustrations for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King or her Annunciation in the style of Perugino.

Julia Jackson, when she was Mrs. Herbert Duckworth. Widowed by Duckworth, Jackson married Sir Leslie Stephen, and gave birth to the painter Vanessa Bell and the writer Virginia Woolf.

Read the full story and see more photos at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the first exhibition of Cameron’s work mounted in New York in a generation is on show through early January.

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As we say “cheese,” we might spare a thought for Arthur Rackham; he died on this date in 1939.  One of the leading illustrators of the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration (1900-1914), Rackham worked in a style that, while characterized at the time as “a fusion of a northern European ‘Nordic’ style strongly influenced by the Japanese woodblock tradition of the 19th century,” clearly owed a debt to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Rackham won a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition in 1906 and another at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1912; his works were included in numerous exhibitions, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

“Freya,” one of Rackham’s illustrations for Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” (1910)

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Self-portrait, 1934

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 6, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Altering life by holding it still”*…

 

The first of a series of multimedia essays on photography and photojournalism; quoth Leica…

Building on their shared history, Magnum and Leica agreed to collaborate on a series of projects that continue their longstanding dedication to independent documentary photography. Beginning in the spring of 2011, Leica will sponsor the creation of a series of independently-produced multimedia essays that will highlight the personal journeys and insatiable curiosity of Magnum photographers. The stories will be published at the homepages of Magnum Photos, LFI Magazine, and Leica.

And for readers who are inspired, some riveting advice from the extraordinary Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, the photo-documentarian of the underside of New York life in the 30s, 40s, and 50s…

* “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still”- Dorothea Lange

 

As we adjust our f-stops, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that player-manager Mel Ott of the (then New York) Giants hit his 511th and final career home run.  Ott, the first National League player to hit 500 home runs, managed the Giants from 1942-48, during which stretch the Giant’s best finish was 3rd place.  It was in refeence to Ott’s easy-going stewardship of the Giants that then-Dodgers manager Leo Durocher made his oft-quoted (albeit somewhat out-of-context) remark, “Nice guys finish last!”

Baseball card on which Ott struck an uncharacteristically-fierce pose (source)

 

 

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