(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘photography

“The circus comes as close to being the world in microcosm as anything I know; in a way, it puts all the rest of show business in the shade.”*…

Come one, come all!…

While circus acts go back to the midst of time, the circus as commercial entertainment dates to the opening decades of the nineteenth century. In Victorian England, the circus appealed across an otherwise class-divided society, its audiences ranging from poor peddlers to prestigious public figures. The acts that attracted such audiences included reenacted battle scenes, which reinforced patriotic identity; exotic animal displays that demonstrated the reach of Britain’s growing empire; female acrobatics, which disclosed anxieties about women’s changing role in the public sphere; and clowning, which spoke to popular understandings of these poor players’ melancholy lives on the margins of society.

The proprietor and showman George Sanger (from whose collection the following photographs come) was a prime example of how the circus was to evolve from a small fairground-type enterprise to a large-scale exhibition. Sanger’s circuses began in the 1840s and ’50s, but by the 1880s, they had grown to such a scale that they were able to hold their own against the behemoth of P.T. Barnum’s three-ring circus, which arrived in London for the first time in that decade.

Like many circuses in the nineteenth century, Sanger’s was indebted to the technology of modern visual culture to promote his business. Local newspapers displayed photographs alongside advertisements to announce the imminent arrival of a circus troupe. Garish posters, plastered around towns, also featured photographs of their star attractions. And individual artists used photographic portraits, too (in the form of the carte-de-visite or calling card), to draw attention to their attributes and to seek employment. One striking image in this collection [the image above] poses six performing acrobats amid the other acts—a lion tamer, an elephant trainer, a wire walker, and a clown—in one of Sanger’s circuses, all in front of the quintessential big-top tent. Maybe the projection of the collective solidarity of the circus in this image belies personal rivalries and animosities that might have characterized life on the road. Moreover, at the extreme edge of the image, on the right-hand side behind the dog trainer, there appears to be the almost ghostly presence of a Black male figure. By dint of their peripatetic existence, all those employed in the circus were often viewed as marginal and exotic. However, this image is a reminder of how racial and ethnic minorities were a presence within circus culture, even if, as here, they appear to have been banished to the margins of the photograph.

That most democratic of Victorian popular entertainments: photos from the Sanger Circus Collection.

* E. B. White

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As we head for the big top, we might recall that today is International Yada Yada Yada Day. Lenny Bruce is often credited with the first use of “yadda yadda” on the closing track on his 1961 album “Lenny Bruce – American,” though earlier uses are documented in vaudeville. Employed by comedians and TV shows to convey that something unimportant or irrelevant was being elided, it gained vernacular currency when Jerry Seinfeld’s show featured a variation on this phrase as an inside joke between characters Elaine Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and George Costanza (Jason Alexander).

The Yada Yada,” the series’ 153rd episode, focused on just how badly using the phrase can backfire when the details being omitted are actually extremely important– the fact that George’s new girlfriend is actually a kleptomaniac who steals to kill time, or that Jerry’s new girlfriend is both racist and antisemitic. (That episode also introduced the term”anti-dentite.”) Hilarity ensues when both these unwitting men find out what kind of people they have been dating, and must break off the relationships.

In 2009, the Paley Center for Media named “Yada, Yada, Yada” the No. 1 funniest phrase on “TV’s 50 Funniest Phrases.”

“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so f#@kin’ heroic.”*…

From dilapidated power plants, abandoned medical facilities, and amusement parks left in rusted ruin, the compelling scenes that French photographer Jonathan Jimenez, aka Jonk (previously), captures are evidence of nature’s endurance and power to reclaim spaces transformed by people. Now compiled in a new book titled Naturalia II, 221 images shot across 17 countries frame the thriving vegetation that crawls across chipped concrete and architecture in unruly masses.

This succeeding volume is a follow-up to Jonk’s first book by the same name and focuses on the ways the ecological crisis has evolved during the last three years. He explains the impetus for the book in a statement:

On the one hand, the situation has deteriorated even further with yet another species becoming extinct every single day. Global warming continues and has caused repeated natural catastrophes: floods, fires, droughts, etc. On the other hand, our collective awareness has widely increased. We are still a long way from the commitment needed to really change things, but we are heading in the right direction. Millions of initiatives have already emerged, and I hope that my photos and the message contained within them can play a small part in the collective challenge facing us all…

More at “Nature Resurges to Overtake Abandoned Architecture in a New Book of Photos by Jonk” and at his site.

On an apposite note: “Forest the size of France regrown worldwide over 20 years, study finds.”

* George Carlin

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As we inspect the inexorable, we might spare a thought for Hugo Marie de Vries; he died on this date in 1935. A botanist, he introduced the experimental study of organic evolution– and was, thus, was one of the first geneticists. His rediscovery in 1900 (simultaneously with the botanists Carl Correns and Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg) of Gregor Mendel’s principles of heredity and his theory of biological mutation, though considerably different from a modern understanding of the phenomenon, resolved ambiguous concepts concerning the nature of variation of species that, until then, had precluded the universal acceptance and active investigation of Charles Darwin’s system of organic evolution.

He suggested the concept of genes and introduced the term “mutation”, and developed a mutation theory of evolution.

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“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light”*…

The Ecological Relations of Roots (1919) is a book by John Ernest Weaver (1884 – 1966),  an American biologist and prairie ecologist. During his life, Weaver published a series of books on the relationship between plant species, their climate and the specific soils they inhabit. This book focuses on the roots of native plants in desert climates, featuring more than 140 species chosen after the examination of more than 1000 individual plants across different territories. 

The text is beautifully illustrated, with detailed section drawings depicting the relationship between the plants emerging over the soil and its underneath root system. The drawings were either made from photographs or at the same time as the root was excavated featuring precise measurements. 

Series of grids and scales illustrate very efficiently the varying proportions of the different species. For Weaver, one of the main aims of this publication is to understand the root distribution to ultimately find “a more intelligent solution to the ecological problems of grazing.”

In the last section of the publication, a series of photographs show the plants and their roots over a black background. While both illustrations and photos are employed for scientific purpose, they reveal an underlying aesthetic pleasure in their composition and execution.

In the introduction of the book, John Ernest Weaver thanks Miss Annie Mogensen and Mrs F. C. Jean for their assistance in drawing many of the root systems… 

More beautiful illustrations at Socks (@socks_studio): “Patterns from the World Underneath: The Ecological Relations of Roots by John Ernest Weaver.” Or browse the entire book at The Internet Archive. (Via the ever-illuminating Boing Boing)

Loosely related (and similarly beautiful): “How Xavi Bou Makes His Mesmerizing Portraits of Birds in Flight.” (TotH to EWW) 

* Theodore Roethke

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As we dig it, we might spare a thought for Hieronymus Bock; he died on this date in 1554. A Lutheran minister, physician, and botanist, he began the transition from medieval to modern scientific botany by arranging and naming (over 700) plants by their relation or resemblance. His was the first documented use of the modern word “Riesling” (in 1552).

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 21, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Commercials are about products in the same sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales”*…

The Superbowl has, since its inception been… well, the superbowl of broadcasting; this year’s expected audience is over 100 million. Even in this pandemic-challenged economy, 30-second spots on today’s sold-out Superbowl telecast listed for $5.6 million each (though in Scott’s Miracle-Gro reportedly scored a steal at $5.5 million); there’s an extra $300,000 fee to be included in the livestream.

With that kind of investment at stake, and their sights set on the gargantuan audience who will see their commercials, the companies that advertise take their ads very seriously. And as for viewers, many report that the commercials are their favorite part of the show…

Like millions of viewers who tune into the big game year after year, we at FiveThirtyEight LOVE Super Bowl commercials. We love them so much, in fact, that we wanted to know everything about them … by analyzing and categorizing them, of course. We dug into the defining characteristics of a Super Bowl ad, then grouped commercials based on which criteria they shared — and let me tell you, we found some really weird clusters of commercials.

We watched 233 ads from the 10 brands that aired the most spots in all 21 Super Bowls this century, according to superbowl-ads.com. While we watched, we evaluated ads using seven specific criteria…

Superbowl commercials, as only FiveThirtyEight could analyze them: “According To Super Bowl Ads, Americans Love America, Animals And Sex“… sometimes even all at the same time. (Videos included!)

* Neil Postman

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As we contemplate our culture, we might recall that the first organized Mardi Gras celebration in (what is now) the United States was held by French settlers in Mobile, Alabama on this date in 1703.

The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans processed on this date in 1827 when masked and costumed students danced through the streets.

Mardi Gras 1937- by Eudora Welty (who, before she became a writer, took photos for the WPA)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 7, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”*…

While wandering around a snowy New York City this past December, the artist Jan Baracz began to notice patterns forming in the grates of storm drains. “They reminded me of the I Ching hexagrams and ideographic language systems,” he writes. “They also reminded me of when I lived in Japan and researched how water patterns (from vapor to ice) are represented in kanji. It was a time when I had given my apophenia free rein. I was transfixed by logograms and language characters built upon symbolic origins. I thought these snow glyphs may be a perfect set of images to reflect this intense time in which we seek signs and project meaning onto the physical world that surrounds us.”

More of Jan Baracz‘s portentous photos at: “Snow Oracles.”

See also Vivian Wu‘s marvelous “Snowflake Generator.”

*”For the listener, who listens in the snow, / And, nothing himself, beholds /
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” – Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

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As we search for signs, we might note that today is National Weatherperson Day, honoring individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting, and broadcast meteorology, as well as volunteer storm spotters and observers.

It is celebrated on this date in honor of the man credited with being America’s first (scientific) weather observer, John Jeffries (born on this date in 1744), who began making and recording daily weather observations in Boston in 1774.

Jeffries sided with the Crown in the unpleasantness that soon followed with the British, so fled to Nova Scotia in 1776, and from there to London, where his observations continued. In 1785, Jeffries and inventor/aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard crossed the English Channel in a balloon, becoming the first human beings to cross the Channel by air; Jeffries measured the temperature throughout the voyage.

John Jeffries

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