Posts Tagged ‘photography’
As we perl one, knit two, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Francis Picabia; he was born (Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia) on this date in 1879. A French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist, Picabia experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism before becoming a Cubist. He then became one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France, and was later briefly associated with Surrealism.
See his work at the major retrospective now hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and on their web site.
Built in the early 1970s, a decaying Midwestern relic of throw-away consumer architecture will be torn down and developed into an updated outdoor shopping space. What is lost in the process?
An era is coming to its end in a mid-size Illinois city few Americans might recognize. Sandburg Mall, the four-anchor shopping arena constructed in 1974 on the northwest corner of Galesburg, is finally being torn down after decades of decline. Located near the intersection of Henderson street and Carl Sandburg Drive, just off the US-34 exit, the shopping center was built during Galesburg’s population apex — nearly 38,000 citizens were registered in 1960 census, dropping only about 1,000 by 1970. Per the city’s most recent census report, that number has dropped to just above 32,000…
Sandburg Mall is now a relic about to disintegrate, albeit one few citizens will probably miss. Its existence has been maligned for most of my teenage and adult life. It taunts and reminds most of a better, more colorful economic past in a town still struggling — and in some places, succeeding — to get back on its feet…
Tag Hartman-Simkins‘ haunting photo essay: “Baby Come Back: Images of an American Shopping Mall Before Its Death.”
* Charles Saunders
As we shop til we drop, we might send fabulous birthday greetings to Charles Perrault; he was born on this date in 1628. A member of the Académie Française, he laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, deriving his work from extant folk tales. He is best known for Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), La Belle au bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty), and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard).
Hugely influential (e.g., on The Brothers Grimm, who wrote over 100 years later), his versions became canonical– and thus the basis for other literary tellings, operas, play, and ultimately movies… which is why Disney’s Cinderella (among other incarnations) has to contend with fragile footwear: Perrault is believed to have confused vair for verre (the commonly-used descriptor in earlier versions), and thus to have given his princess-to-be “glass” slippers instead of “squirrel fur slippers.”
Anton LaVey was a fan, and so was Ansel Adams who called him the “Antichrist.” William Mortensen was clearly no ordinary photographer.
Born in Utah, William Mortensen spent the formative years of his career in Hollywood working as a still photographer on Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings, among other gigs, before setting up shop in Laguna Beach in 1931. Mortensen’s experiences in the fantasy factory of Hollywood provided a solid starting point for his jaw-dropping exercises in imaginative manipulation. Consciously channeling the Old Masters of centuries past, Mortensen tirelessly executed dozens of astounding portraits and evocative “scenes”—pictures so ravishing that the viewer is often bound to question their status as photographs…
Read more of Mortensen, and see more of his work, at “William Mortensen– the Anti-Christ of Photography.” There’s even more in this short (23 minute) documentary, Monsters and Madonnas:
* Diane Arbus
As we fiddle with the focus, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that John William Draper took a daguerreotype of the moon, 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.
“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound”*…
Langdon Clay spent two years in the 1970s roaming the streets of the Big Apple at night, photographing parked and abandoned cars. See more of the results at “Eerie portraits of cars in 1970s New York.”
* Marshall McLuhan
As we slip behind the wheel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1921 that Thomas Midgley Jr., then a young engineer at General Motors, discovered that, when added to gasoline, a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) eliminated the unpleasant noises (known as “knock” or “pinging”) that internal-combustion engines made when they ran. Midgley could scarcely have imagined the consequences of his discovery: for more than five decades, oil companies saturated the gasoline they sold with lead– a deadly poison.
(Resonantly, 13 years later Midgley led the team that developed chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]– specifically, Freon– for use in refrigeration [and ultimately, air conditioning and aerosols]. Like the lead additive, CFCs were celebrated in their time… but later banned for their contributions to climate change.)
Many, many more glances at yesteryear at “Vintage Stock Photos“– all free.
* Susan Sontag
As we check those photos in our wallets, we might spare a thought for Eliot Porter; he died on this date in 1990. An American photographer, he is best known for his color photographs of nature. With encouragement from Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams, Porter turned an adolescent hobby into his profession.
Porter was the first established artist-photographer to commit to exploring the beauty and diversity of the natural world in color photographs. Over much of his career, black-and-white photography set the artistic standard, and he had to fight his colleagues’ prejudices against the medium. But in 1962 the Sierra Club published “In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World.” That immensely popular book, combining his evocative color photographs of New England woods with excerpts from the writings of Henry David Thoreau, revolutionized photographic book publishing, and legitimized color. Its success set Porter on a lifelong path of creating similar photographic portraits of a wide variety of ecologically significant locations the world over.
Photographer Robert Ormerod took a road trip from Roswell, New Mexico to Area 51, exploring our fascination with the unknown by immersing himself in the lore extra-terrestrials… and in the lives of those who seek them.
More of his photographs, with his commentary, at “Inside the everyday world of UFO hunters.”
* tagline of The X-Files
As we deliberate the Drake Equation, we might send ideal birthday greetings to Marsilio Ficino; he was born on this date in 1433. An Italian scholar and Catholic priest, he was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance. The first translator of Plato’s complete extant works into Latin, he was important in the revival of Neoplatonism, and was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day. His Florentine Academy was an attempt to revive Plato’s Academy, and influenced both the direction and the tenor of the Italian Renaissance and thus the development of European philosophy.
Ficino was also an astrologer, and is credited with having inspired the Tarot card deck– the Tarot of Marseilles– that was the pattern from which many subsequent tarot decks derive.
“You think you’re having a hard time in academia, but have you ever thought of the chairs? Will no-one think of the chairs?”
Choose a seat at Sad Chairs of Academia.
* George Steiner
As we encourage endowment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1773 that the first recorded (Western) Ministry of Education, the Commission of National Education, was formed in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. An important facet of the Polish Enlightenment, it broadened access to education, incorporated Enlightenment thought into tuition (laying the foundation for the prominent Polish scientists and authors of the 19th century), and helped preserve Polish language and culture during the Partitions of Poland – heavy Russification and Germanisation notwithstanding.