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Posts Tagged ‘photography

“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

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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.)

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Written by LW

December 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

“All photographs are memento mori”*…

 

Tropical Street: tourists walking past shops and restaurants in a tropical setting, Hawaii, USA

Many, many more glances at yesteryear at “Vintage Stock Photos“– all free.

* Susan Sontag

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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.

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Written by LW

November 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

“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

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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

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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

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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 

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“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

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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.

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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

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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).

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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

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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.

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Written by LW

August 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

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