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Posts Tagged ‘photography

“The truth is out there”*…


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.

Marsilio Ficino, from a fresco painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence



Written by LW

October 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I have students who are now in chairs in five continents”*…


Cornell University Press, office chair. @Scott_E_Levine

“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.

Bishop of Vilnius, Ignacy Massalski, the first Chairman of the Commission of National Education 



“No fiction romantic / Could ever’ve predicted / All the things that happen in my life”*…


John Maher was just sixteen when he was asked to play drums for a local band called the Buzzcocks in 1976. The Buzzcocks had been formed by Peter Shelley and Howard Devoto in Manchester in late 1975. Maher didn’t really think about it—he just said yes. His first gig playing drums with the band was supporting the Sex Pistols at their second (now legendary) appearance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in July 1976.

When he was eighteen, Maher bought his first camera—an Olympus Trip—just prior to the Buzzcocks tour of America in 1978. Photography was something to do on the road—but for Maher it was soon became a passion.

After the Buzzcocks split in 1981, Maher played drums for Wah! and Flag of Convenience. But his interest in music waned. When the Buzzcocks reformed in 1989, Maher opted out—only ever making occasional guest appearances with the band.

Maher had an interest in drag racing which led to his launching an incredibly successful business making high performance engines—John Maher Racing. His engines and transmissions are described as the best built in the UK. The success of his company allowed Maher to retire. It was then that he returned to photography.

In 2002, Maher relocated from Manchester to the Isle of Harris in Scotland. The beautiful, bleak Hebridean landscape was in stark contrast to his busy post-industrial hometown of Manchester. The land inspired Maher and he became fascinated with the deserted crofts dotted across the island. Homes once filled with working families and children now lay abandoned in disrepair—belongings scattered across wooden floors, empty chairs faithfully waiting for a new owner, wallpaper and paint drifting from the walls, windows smashed, and gardens long untended…

More of Maher’s story– and more of his wonderful photos– at “What a Buzzcock Did Next: Drummer John Maher’s stunning photographs of abandoned homes.”

* from “Fiction Romance,” on Another Music in a Different Kitchen, the Buzzcocks’ first album


As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that Johnny Cash was stopped by U.S. Customs officials at the Mexican border on suspicion of heroin smuggling and found to be holding over 1,000 doses of prescription narcotics and amphetamines.  He received a suspended sentence.



Written by LW

October 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

“There’s a good deal in common between the mind’s eye and the TV screen”*…


Not your correspondent… but might have been

It’s widely suggested these days that we’re in a “Golden Age of Television”… but hasn’t the history of the TV been one long Golden Age?

In case of fire, 82% of 20th Century Americans surveyed in the pre-Internet era would rescue the TV set. The other 18% would stay still watching the thing and ask, ‘What fire?’ America loved the magic box…

More glimpses of Americans and their tubes at “Found Photos: Mid-Century People Standing By Modern TVs.” Volume Two here.

* Ursula K. LeGuin


As we tune in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1998 that Frasier set an Emmy record, becoming the first to take top honors for outstanding comedy series five years in a row (a record currently tied by Modern Family).  Frasier won a total of 37 Primetime Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, breaking the record long held by The Mary Tyler Moore Show (29).



Written by LW

September 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”*…


Decode the pictures above– and experience synesthesia– at “This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like.”

* Leopold Stokowski


As we move to the music of the spheres, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Louis Armstrong; he was born on this date in 1901.  A trumpeter, composer, singer (and occasional actor), he was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance, and helping to pioneer scat singing.  Nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, he has 11 records in the Grammy Hall of Fame.



Written by LW

August 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Take support and comfort from your own group as you can, but don’t hide within it”*…


Johnny Miller was just starting out as a photographer in Seattle in 2011 when he won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that took him to Cape Town, South Africa—a country that, like his own, has a long history of institutional racism and segregation.

After learning more and more about the history of apartheid in academic settings and encountering its legacy on Cape Town’s streets, Miller decided to engage with the topic in a fresh way: by using a drone to photograph birds-eye views of South African cities and suburbs. The resulting series, called “Unequal Scenes,” shows just how drastically different the urban experience is depending on what side of the color line you are on today, more than 20 years after the end of apartheid…

More photos, and an interview with Miller, at “Apartheid’s Urban Legacy, in Striking Aerial Photographs.”

* Sonia Sotomayor


As we Cry, The Beloved Country, we might send beautifully-composed birthday greetings to James Van Der Zee; he was born on this date in 1886.  A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, he was a photographer whose subjects included the famous (Marcus Garvey, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Countee Cullen, and the artist below), but whose full body of work is probably the most comprehensive pictorial documentation of the full range of life in the period.

For a look at (some of) his work beyond the examples here, visit The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian.

“Escape Artist”


Jean Michel Basquiat


Van Der Zee in 1982 (the year before his death)



Written by LW

June 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise”*…


Your correspondent is off on a whistle tour of the Midwest.  While altogether auspicious, it packs what may be too many stops into too few days…  Thus, regular service will likely be interrupted until late this month…  See you all again as Independence Day approaches.  Meantime, something to keep you amusedly occupied…

A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late -19th and early-20th centuries. The site is browsable by actor, character, and play.

In the 19th century, scholar Lawrence W. Levine writes, many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage… in the first half of the 19th century, theater “played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.”…

from The Taming of the Shrew

Richard Carline, writing in 1971, says:

Those who only know the postcards of today can scarcely be expected to appreciate what they meant to people sixty or more years ago. Many of us seldom think of buying a picture postcard, except as a matter of convenience; but during the quarter of a century that preceded the Great War in 1914, it would have been hard to find anyone who did not buy postcards from genuine pleasure…

More at “Browse Nearly 1,000 Photo Postcards of Late-19th-Century Stage Productions of Shakespeare,” and at the curator’s preface.

* George Orwell


As we bark the Bard, we might recall that it was on this ate in 1910 that Florenz Ziegfeld, in a blow against racial prejudice, opened the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production.  Williams was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called him “one of the great comedians of the world.”  Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.”


Written by LW

June 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

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