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Posts Tagged ‘photography

“But the landscape of devastation is still a landscape. There is beauty in ruins.”*…

The sparsely populated community of Wonder Valley, California, is a collection of shacks known locally as Jackrabbit Homesteads. Sitting abandoned against a dusty landscape, the worn cabins inspired a series by Berlin-based photographer Helin Bereket

“I knew little about this place but was drawn to it by the sheer aesthetic of abandonment and isolation, alienation and wreckage, uncanniness and history unknown,” says Helin. During a recent visit to the Golden State, she decided to drive around and discover more about these so-called Jackrabbit Homesteads. The renowned cabins lie east of Twentynine Palms, a city in San Bernardino County, California, that serves as one of the entry points to Joshua Tree National Park. “I had no plan, my eyes scanning the desert landscape,” she says. “Shack-leftovers stuck out from the backdrop where sandy desert blended with the sun. I thought of taming this contrast by harmonising the colour palette and kept wondering about the human traces in what seemed to be a reckless wilderness.”

Why the buildings? These shacks are the last witness of the 1938 Small Tract Act that enabled Americans to obtain five sandy acres of land deemed unusable by the state. As the condition for owning the land was to build a small shack on the plot, many prefabricated or handmade structures were installed in the Mojave Desert, especially in the 1950s and the ’60s.

“Among the thousands of dwellers were veterans with lung problems seeking a cure in the hot desert air,” explains Helin. But today, hardly anyone remains…

Back to nature: “Photographs of abandoned shacks in California’s sparse community of Wonder Valley,” from @Helin__Bereket in @creativeboom.

See also: “Abandoned buildings seen reclaimed by nature.”

* Susan Sontag

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As we ruminate on ruins, we might recall that it was on this date in 2009 that Kodak ceded the victory of digital photography and announced that it would discontinue the production and sale of Kodachrome print and slide film, a repository of “precious memories” since 1935.

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“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”*…

Staying yesterday’s agribusiness theme: George Monbiot on the extraordinary challenges facing the world’s food system…

For the past few years, scientists have been frantically sounding an alarm that governments refuse to hear: the global food system is beginning to look like the global financial system in the run-up to 2008.

While financial collapse would have been devastating to human welfare, food system collapse doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet the evidence that something is going badly wrong has been escalating rapidly. The current surge in food prices looks like the latest sign of systemic instability.

Many people assume that the food crisis was caused by a combination of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. While these are important factors, they aggravate an underlying problem. For years, it looked as if hunger was heading for extinction. The number of undernourished people fell from 811 million in 2005 to 607 million in 2014. But in 2015, the trend began to turn. Hunger has been rising ever since: to 650 million in 2019, and back to 811 million in 2020. This year is likely to be much worse.

Now brace yourself for the really bad news: this has happened at a time of great abundance. Global food production has been rising steadily for more than half a century, comfortably beating population growth. Last year, the global wheat harvest was bigger than ever. Astoundingly, the number of undernourished people began to rise just as world food prices began to fall. In 2014, when fewer people were hungry than at any time since, the global food price index stood at 115 points. In 2015, it fell to 93, and remained below 100 until 2021.

Only in the past two years has it surged. The rise in food prices is now a major driver of inflation, which reached 9% in the UK last month. [Current estimates are that it will be 9% in the U.S. as well.] Food is becoming unaffordable even to many people in rich nations. The impact in poorer countries is much worse.

So what has been going on?…

Spoiler alert: massive food producers hold too much power – and regulators scarcely understand what is happening. Sound familiar? “The banks collapsed in 2008 – and our food system is about to do the same,” from @GeorgeMonbiot in @guardian. Eminently worth reading in full.

Then iris out and consider how agricultural land is used: “Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture.”

… and consider the balance between agriculture aimed at producing food directly and agriculture aimed at producing feed and fuel: “Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare.”

Hélder Câmara

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As we secure sustenance, we might send carefully-observed birthday greetings to Dorothea Lange; she was born on this date in 1885. A photographer and photojournalist, she is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange’s photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.

Lange’s iconic 1936 photograph of Florence Owens Thompson, Migrant Mother [source]
Lange in 1936 [source]

“… chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another”*…

From artist and photographer Doris Mitsch

In Locked Down Looking Up, Bay Area photographer Doris Mitsch captures the swirling, shapeshifting flight patterns of birds and other winged creatures: a flock of vultures creates coils and whirls between rugged mesas, crows descend toward a forest in single-file trails, and gulls congregate above the sea in lengthy lines.

The ongoing project began early in 2020 when Mitsch set up a camera outside her front door and shot consecutive images of birds flying around her home. “While everything in my life has come to a standstill, up in the air, there is still a lot going on,” she writes. She’s since traveled along the California coast and to Moab’s desert landscapes capturing similar swarming phenomena featuring vultures, gulls, and crows…

See more of at “Photographic Composites Document the Mesmerizing Flight Trails of Vultures, Crows, and Bats,” in @Colossal and at Doris’ site.

  • “Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” – John Muir

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As we ponder patterns, we might send faithfully-captured birthday greetings to Thomas Wedgwood; he was born on this date in 1771. An English inventor, he was the first person reliably documented to have used light-sensitive chemicals to capture silhouette images on durable media such as paper, and the first known to have attempted to photograph the image formed in a camera obscura. His practical experiments yielded only shadow image photograms that were not light-fast, but his conceptual breakthrough and partial success have led some historians to call him “the first photographer.”

Wedgwood was the son of Josiah Wedgwood, and so the uncle of Charles Darwin (the son of Thomas’ sister, Susannah), and he was a friend and patron of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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“I’ve always lived by signs”*…

185. CENTRAL SAANICH – honestly if you’re gonna make it this small why bother – would you actually be able to read this while driving? would it be safe? – in conclusion and summary: no

Justin McElroy, Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, has taken to Twitter to perform an important public service…

I’ve identified 185 communities in the province of British Columbia that have welcome signs.

And in this thread, I’m going to rank every single one.

You can follow the thread, which is underway now: Rating the Welcome Signs of British Columbia, from @j_mcelroy. Via @broderick.

* Iris Murdoch, Henry and Cato

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As we contemplate connoisseurship, we might might send significant birthday greetings to a master of a different kind of sign, William Lilly; he was born on this date in 1602 (O.S.). Described as a genius at something “that modern mainstream opinion has since decided cannot be done at all,” he was an astrologer who was powerfully influential in his own time and hugely impactful on the future course of Western astrological tradition.

Lilly’s autobiography, published towards the end of his life in 1681, at the request of his patron Elias Ashmole, gives candid accounts of the political events of his era, and biographical details of contemporaries that are unavailable elsewhere. It was described, in the late 18th century, as “one of the most entertaining narratives in our language”, in particular for the historical portrayal it leaves of men like John Dee, Simon Forman, John Booker, Edward Kelley, including a whimsical first meeting of John Napier and Henry Briggs, respective co-inventors of the logarithm and Briggsian logarithms, and for its curious tales about the effects of crystals and the appearance of Queen Mab. In it, Lilly describes the friendly support of Oliver Cromwell during a period in which he faced prosecution for issuing political astrological predictions. He also writes about the 1666 Great Fire of London, and how he was brought before the committee investigating the cause of the fire, being suspected of involvement because of his publication of images, 15 years earlier, which depicted a city in flames surrounded by coffins… To his supporters he was an “English Merlin”; to his detractors he was a “juggling wizard and imposter.”…

Wikipedia
Portrait of Lilly, aged 45, now housed in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford

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“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure”*…

Shakespeare, New Mexico

Shakespeare, New Mexico has a fraught history. Built around a desert spring, it was an Apache settlement, then a stage stop on the route linking St. Louis and San Francisco in the mid-18th century. When silver was found nearby, its population briefly soared to 3,000; but as the deposits nearby were meager, the propectors– and almost everyone else– left, leaving only the proprietor of the stage stop. Then in 1879, The Shakespeare Mining Company filed claims for a number of neglected mines in the area. Its Anglophile owners changed the town’s name to Shakespeare, dubbed the main street “Avon Avenue,” and called the hotel (which they built within the walls of a Civil War fort) “The Stratford.” But the Silver Panic of 1893 turned Shakespeare into a ghost town once and for all. Even the stage stop was gone (as the railroad had built a stop in nearby Lordsburg).

There are dozens of stories like this, all illustrated with photos like the one above, in Daniel and Ligian Ter-Nedden‘s Ghost Town Gallery.

* Rumi

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As we ruminate on ruins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion premiered. A deserved cult classic, it’s the story of two 28 year-old women who fear that their achievements-to-date are underwhelming, so invent fake careers for their ten-year high school class reunion. Beyond that hilarity that ensues, it’s a testament to the acting skills of the two leads that they were each playing against their own backgrounds (Lisa Kudrow graduated from Vassar; Mira Sorvino, from Harvard).

Michele : Did you lose weight?

Romy : Actually, I have been trying this new fat free diet I invented. All I’ve had to eat for the past six days are gummy bears, jelly beans, and candy corns.

Michele : God, I wish I had your discipline.

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