(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘photography

“I get slightly obsessive about working in archives because you don’t know what you’re going to find. In fact, you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.”*…

An update on that remarkable treasure, The Internet Archive

Within the walls of a beautiful former church in San Francisco’s Richmond district [the facade of which is pictured above], racks of computer servers hum and blink with activity. They contain the internet. Well, a very large amount of it.

The Internet Archive, a non-profit, has been collecting web pages since 1996 for its famed and beloved Wayback Machine. In 1997, the collection amounted to 2 terabytes of data. Colossal back then, you could fit it on a $50 thumb drive now.

Today, the archive’s founder Brewster Kahle tells me, the project is on the brink of surpassing 100 petabytes – approximately 50,000 times larger than in 1997. It contains more than 700bn web pages.

The work isn’t getting any easier. Websites today are highly dynamic, changing with every refresh. Walled gardens like Facebook are a source of great frustration to Kahle, who worries that much of the political activity that has taken place on the platform could be lost to history if not properly captured. In the name of privacy and security, Facebook (and others) make scraping difficult. News organisations’ paywalls (such as the FT’s) are also “problematic”, Kahle says. News archiving used to be taken extremely seriously, but changes in ownership or even just a site redesign can mean disappearing content. The technology journalist Kara Swisher recently lamented that some of her early work at The Wall Street Journal has “gone poof”, after the paper declined to sell the material to her several years ago…

A quarter of a century after it began collecting web pages, the Internet Archive is adapting to new challenges: “The ever-expanding job of preserving the internet’s backpages” (gift article) from @DaveLeeFT in the @FinancialTimes.

Antony Beevor

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As we celebrate collection, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that the Polaroid Corporation– best known for its instant film and cameras– filed for bankruptcy. Its employment had peaked in 1978 at 21,000; it revenues, in 1991 at $3 Billion.

Polaroid 80B Highlander instant camera made in the USA, circa 1959

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 11, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Take this job and shove it”*…

Chauncey Hare, “Self Portrait at EPA” (1980)

Chauncey Hare hated his job, so he captured the drudgery of office life in order to protest it…

Photography started as a hobby for Chauncey Hare. For 27 years, he worked as a chemical engineer at the Standard Oil Company of California, using his camera to escape the tedium of the office. By 1977, he couldn’t take it anymore. But before he declared himself a “corporate dropout” and committed to art full-time, Hare trained his camera on the world he hoped to leave behind…

“Head of Female Worker Seen Over Office Cubicle, Standard Oil Company of California” (1976–77)
“Office worker seated at a desk, ‘Standard Oil Company of California refinery, Richmond, California’” (1976-77)

Paradoxically, the same medium that once served as a respite from the banality of Hare’s professional life soon came to feel oppressive in its own right. In Quitting Your Day Job, a forthcoming critical biography of Hare, the scholar Robert Slifkin connects Hare’s sly, arresting portraiture to the artist’s critiques of capitalist power structures, including the cultural institutions that embraced him. (Hare won three Guggenheim fellowships, an honor shared only by Ansel Adams and Walker Evans.) The photographer went on to disavow “official art” and accept a part-time job at the Environmental Protection Agency to support himself. A self-portrait from that time [the photo at the top]shows Hare back in an office environment, where a poster hanging on a cubicle wall poses a question that its surroundings implicitly answer: What’s bugging you? By 1985, Hare had given up photography altogether and become a therapist specializing in “work abuse.”…

More of Hare’s remarkable work, and of his equally-remarkable story, at “Under the Fluorescent Lights,” by Hannah Giorgis. See also “These Photographs Were Made in Protest.”

* songwriter David Allan Coe (made famous in a recording by Johnny Paycheck)

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As we gag at our gigs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that the first motion picture “stunt man” was hired, when Lt. Henry “Hap” Arnold, a pioneer military pilot, was brought onto director William J. Humphrey‘s production of The Military Air-Scout to do stunt flying for the film; the two-reeler was released the following December.

Lt. Arnold went on to become an Army General (head of the Army Air Corps) and then the commanding general of the U.S. Air Force; he remains the only person every to hold a five-star rank in two different U.S. military services. On retirement, he helped found both Project RAND, which evolved into one of the world’s largest non-profit global policy think tanks, the RAND Corporation, and Pan American World Airways.

“Hap” Arnold, stunt pilot

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 30, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Some assembly required”*…

Photographer Todd McLellan disassembles things. As the Smithsonian explains in the web intro to an exhibition of his work…

What makes a watch tick? How does a sewing machine stitch? Where does an iPod get its shuffle? For those who have ever asked questions like these, Things Come Apart is a revelation.

Through extraordinary photographs, disassembled objects and fascinating videos, Things Come Apart reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions. Images of dozens of objects explore how things are designed and made and how technology has evolved over time. For example, the individual components of a record player, a Walkman, and an iPod illustrate the technical changes in sound reproduction over the years, and images of the parts of a mechanical and digital watch demonstrate different approaches to timepiece engineering.

As a visual investigation of design and engineering, Things Come Apart also celebrates classic examples of industrial design like the sewing machine, the mechanical pencil, and the telescope. Additionally, the exhibition explores ideas about reuse, repair, and recycling….

More on the exhibit (with examples) at “Things Come Apart@smithsonian; Even more on McLellan’s website (and at @Todd_McLellan).

* the frequently-encountered qualification in advertising and product packaging

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As we take it apart, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Charles Thurber was issued the first patent for a typewriter that actually worked. The forerunners of typewriters had been around for some time; the first known patent was issued in England in 1714, but for a machine that never worked and was never manufactured. Thurber’s “printing machine” did work– but was so slow as to be impractical. He patented an improved (but still painfully sluggish) version a few years later… then moved on. Typewriter development continued in other hands, but slowly. It wasn’t until the late 19th century (and the introduction of a QWERTY keyboard design as a standard) that typewriting became a wide-spread practice.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 26, 2022 at 1:00 am

“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]
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