Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Infinitesimally slow changes

Four sisters. Forty years. This simple and beautiful pictorial story started in 1975 with a delightful image.

— photo by Nicholas Nixon, annotated by William Skyvington

The original photo was taken in Connecticut by Nicholas Nixon, who happened to be the husband of the young woman named Bebe Brown. Afterwards—year in, year out, for 40 years—Nicholas called upon his wife and her sisters for the creation of an updated portrait. Click here to see the result, published by the New York Times.

I’m reminded of a fascinating theme for reflection, inspired by Richard Dawkins, concerning the impossibility of ascertaining the moment at which one kind of being is transformed into another kind of being, one species into another, one fossil into another. Was there a year in which the lovely Brown sisters ceased to be “girls”, changing into “young women”, followed by later years in which they became “women”, then “middle-aged women” ? No, it would be pointless, if not stupid, to seek such punctual moments. Everything happened gradually.

We are often tempted to imagine that life is punctuated by so-called events, when the present leaps instantly towards the future. In fact, time never “leaps”. It simply nudges imperceptibly forwards… as in the case of the Brown sisters.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First photo of a human being

In our modern world of cheap senseless selfies and trashy paparazzi images, it’s nice to be able to look back at the first fellow who happened to get stuck on the wrong side of a photographer’s lens.

Click to enlarge slightly.

This image was taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838 or 1839 in the Boulevard du Temple, Paris.

Thank God (for posterity) that nothing proves that the subject might or might not have been taking a leak with one leg raised upon a fountain, in the doggy style of our distinguished Aussie PM Tony Abbott.


Thank God, too, that the nasty Photoshop product had not yet been invented.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Biting artistically the dust

The Italian artist Sandro Giordano offers us a fascinating series of 15 photos on the theme of falling artistically onto (or often into) the ground. The series bears the title In extremis, and Giordano’s subtitle states explicitly that the various fallen bodies were “with no regret”. So, all’s well that ends well. Click here to view this series of delightful photos, presented by the French weekly Nouvel Observateur.

In the following photo from the series, the dog is wagging its tail with joy:


To my mind, this proves clearly—if need be—that no innocent animals were hurt or even distressed in any way whatsoever during the production of this set of artistic photos.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Photographic blues

The following image shows a group of women attending an electoral meeting in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.


The name of the professional photographer who obtained the image that you see here, published by AFP, is Shah Marai. On the other hand, we know nothing of the identity of the attendee who was using a blue smartphone to take a photo of her surroundings, nor do we have a copy of the image she obtained. There’s no doubt about it: the blue tones create a soothing esthetic effect, disrupted strikingly by the lady’s bordeaux garments. Needless to say, it’s a huge challenge to reveal the essential human dimensions in the case of a refractory subject such as this, and few photographers can hope to succeed. Curiously, Shah Marai’s photo seems to be marred by a small but intrusive patch of blinding white light (no doubt a technical blunder, which could easily be Photoshoped out) near the right-hand-shoulder of the lady in blue. It would be interesting to know how the image might (or might not) have been enhanced by the use of a blue filter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Great images on French website

The French website of Le Nouvel Observateur offers us regularly various collections of great images. I would imagine that this stuff should be accessible throughout the world. So, I'm including links to two specimens:
  • In this collection of kitsch record covers [access], it's amusing to notice the presence of a few dumb-looking Jesus followers wearing glasses or woollen pullovers. It makes me wonder whether maybe Jesus himself might have been a kind of dumb-looking American guy with eye problems and kitsch tastes in clothing.
  • The second collection presents photos from the night life of Cardiff in Wales [access]. Strictly nothing to do with Jesus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Photographer wins gold at Moscow

Here's a portrait of the real winner of the 100 m sprint at Moscow:


He's a photographer named Olivier Morin, who works for AFP. Even Usain Bolt himself tweeted his congratulations to the photographer.

Click here to see the famous photo. Click here to see the story of this amazing photo in Mail Online. And click here to access Olivier's Morin's portfolio.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Paris a century ago

A French photographer, Eugène Atget [1857-1927], produced a large series of fantastic photos of the working people of Paris around 1898. One of the best-known is the organ grinder and a young female singer:

The following fellow is selling stationery (sheets of paper and envelopes) to passers-by who intend to write letters:

The next photo presents an unusual professional activity. The fellow with rolled-up trousers, working alongside the Seine, earned his living by washing the dogs of passers-by.

The next photo represents a profession that still existed in Paris when I arrived here in 1962. Parisians of the generation before mine would have immediately recognized this corpulent fellow, through his hat and smock, as a member of the ancient corporation—created under the king of France known as Saint Louis [1214-1270]—called the Forts des Halles: literally, the strongmen of the markets.

Their task consisted of transporting manually all the meat and vegetables sold within the vast Paris markets, the Halles, referred to by Emile Zola as the "stomach of Paris".

In the next photo, the fellow on the left is selling articles that were familiar to my brother and me when we were kids out in rural Australia:

I'm talking of plaited braids of horsehair that were attached to the end of whips, to make them crack with a sharp loud noise. (Making these so-called whip crackers, and then using them effectively, were skills that both Don and I had acquired.) The customer in a top hat was probably a coach driver.

The following photo by Atget, taken in 1898, shows the St-Michel bridge, which links the Latin Quarter to the Ile de la Cité:

Here's a most unromantic modern view of the same site:

Incidentally, Eugène Atget photographed the Paris that is present in the opening pages of the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke [1875-1926]. That's why I borrowed some of Atget's photos to illustrate my movie script based upon Rilke's novel.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pictures of a new kind

I first got involved in photography at about the age of 11, using a Kodak Box Brownie.

Almost immediately, I got around to developing my films and producing black-and-white prints. I remember that some of my earliest photos were of Tiger Moth and Chipmunk aircraft, on the ground, at the South Grafton aerodrome. It's possible that one of my most successful shots still survives in a family photo album out in Australia: a rear view of my kid sister Susan, with the sun illuminating her blonde hair. At one stage, I experimented with manual tinting, which is an operation that will surely go down in the history of photography as a marvelous bad idea.

Over the years, camera technology has advanced at a fabulous rhythm. Back in the '70s, I was offered a Nikon camera to produce a publicity project (about Jalatte safety footware for workers), and I've remained a Nikon adept ever since then. The most recent brutal shock consisted of replacing my splendid analog equipment by a digital device: a Nikon D70s, which soon became my faithful companion… and still is.

Today, we learn that a revolutionary US camera named Lytro is about to arrive on the market. Accustomed to myriad tiny buttons on every available surface of our familiar photographic instruments of the Nikon kind, we are startled by the external austerity of this newcomer, which resembles a security camera in a supermarket.

[Click the photo to access the Lytro website]

The general idea is that the photographer should simply shoot, while relegating to future viewers the tasks of focussing, zooming and clipping. What an astounding idea! Here's a specimen:



You simply click to adjust the image. Clearly, this is advanced Internet photography in its purest form.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moving photos

The woman seen here, with her hair being ruffled by the breeze, is a New York fashion photographer named Jamie Beck:


Jamie and a graphic artist named Kevin Burg have enhanced the old-fashioned GIF format in order to make their photos move (a little). In the following photo, the model moves her eyes in a pleasantly realistic manner:


Here's a man seated on a bench, calmly browsing through a newspaper, surrounded by a busy but weird world in which everybody else has been frozen into immobility:


Jamie's photos can be seen on her elegant website, From Me to You [access].

TECHNICAL NOTE: To create this blog post, I first uploaded the three GIFs to a private webspace, then I transferred them from there into my blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asymmetrical faces

At first sight, you might—or might not—imagine that these are portraits of two sisters, who could well be twins (but surely not identical twins):

In fact, these two reconstructed images are based upon a unique original photo of a single individual whose facial features are rather asymmetrical. To form each image, one half of the woman's face has been copied and then combined with a mirror image of itself.

Click the double-portrait to access the website of the photographer, Julian Wolkenstein, who presents several samples of this technique. It's a pity (I feel) that he doesn't show us the original photos.

In reality, many ordinary-looking human faces turn out to be quite asymmetrical when examined closely.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Remarkable ruins

In the special case of a great American city such as Detroit, which played a central role in the history of the automobile, it's fitting that urban vestiges should have the same stark forms as the rusty dislocated carcasses of antiquated limousines reposing in a junkyard, patiently awaiting their destruction.

The beauty of derelict sites in Detroit has been captured marvelously by two French photographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. To access several splendid specimens of their work, click the above image of William Livingstone's dilapidated house in the Brush Park neighborhood of the city (finally demolished in September 2007).

It is important to realize that most of this decrepitude dates from a long time ago, and had existed already long before the relatively recent slump when the Detroit Big Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) were bowled over by Asian competition.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Eye for an eye

An eclectic choice of some of the world's finest news photos is displayed regularly on the website of Le Figaro.

I've clipped grossly this photo of two cheetahs, so that the facial details remain visible:

The photographer Luis Casiano has taken this remarkable shot at the exact instant when the eyes of the two animals were aligned. This makes it hard to determine, at a glance, which cheetah owns the visible eye. The reclining mother or her cub?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Autopsy of fake photos

The art of producing fake photos used to be practiced primarily, and more or less expertly, by tyrants such as Joseph Stalin [1879-1953], wishing to remove undesirable individuals from group snapshots.

These days, countless computer users have tried their hand at innocent "Photoshopping", often in a crude fashion, as demonstrated in my fake photo of Marseille's ferry boat scampering around out in the sea as if it were an offshore racer:

On last year's April Fool's Day, my article entitled Stray animal at Gamone [display] wasn't intended to convince anybody that my donkey Moshé really rolled around in the dust at Gamone with a visiting red kangaroo:

Things get a little bit murkier when professional people use Photoshop retouching in a deliberate attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. My article of 23 August 2007 entitled Photoshop surgery [display] indicated a ridiculous case of such an operation:

A much talked-about recent case of falsification was this Chinese image of Tibetan antelopes racing away from a high-speed train:

Observers were amazed that a photographer, Liu Weiqing, could be present at exactly the moment that the train emerged on the viaduct, sending the herd of rare animals hurtling away in fear. Well, he wasn't! It's simply yet another fake photo, obtained by combining the train and the antelopes. The story of how this photo was first acclaimed as a masterpiece, before being revealed as a fake, is utterly fascinating.

Today, I learn [once again from the excellent Scientific American magazine, mentioned in my previous blog article] that there's a clever US specialist named Hany Farid who has developed methods of revealing that such-and-such a photo is fake. I advise you to visit his fine website [display] to see specimens of Farid's art and findings. In his magazine article, Farid offers us this lovely image of Jan Ullrich shaking hands with an attractive female cyclist:

Cautious viewers, discovering this image, might ask semantic questions. First of all: What on earth was this unusual cycling event that brought together Ullrich and a female in a yellow jersey, with long hair and superbly muscular legs? Second: How come the female's helmet appears to be a recolored clone of Ullrich's helmet? Last, but not least: What's that American fire hydrant doing alongside the road? Did Jan Ullrich ever get around to competing in the USA in a mixed male/female event (?) during the brief period in 2003 when he was a member of the Bianchi team? Click the fake photo [or, better still, subscribe to Scientific American] to find answers.

Many observers are anguished when they realize how easy it has become to cheat with photos. Hany Farid's excellent article entitled Digital Image Forensics informs us that the goodies and baddies are at love-all. [Excuse me for borrowing a tennis metaphor... but the final of the French Open is about to start at Roland-Garros.] The image crooks use ingenious techniques to create fake photos, but the cops have a lot of excellent detection tricks up their sleeves.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Aussie prudishness: a taste for censorship

Outsiders probably imagine my native Australia as an open-minded nation whose citizens are accustomed to basking around half-naked in a carefree atmosphere of sea, sand, sun and sex. This is not the case. Australians are an exceptionally prudish people, who don't hesitate in using police intervention and censorship to handle certain situations. In my article of 13 March 2007 entitled Rambo caught with his pants down [display], I sketched a few notorious examples of this amazing prudishness and abhorrence of explicit sensuality that might be interpreted as sexual misbehavior... with the sole exception, curiously, of the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Once again, this subject has come to the forefront of Aussie news concerning vaguely erotic images of adolescents by the celebrated photographer Bill Henson displayed in a Sydney gallery.

Yesterday, in the dawn hours preceding the opening of the exhibition, police invaded the private gallery and seized more than twenty photos. And this could well be the prelude to legal prosecutions.

The photographer Bill Henson is acclaimed internationally. His works have been exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Venice Biennale, not to mention the national galleries of Victoria and New South Wales. A deplorable aspect of this Philistine affair is the fact that justifications for this dawn seizure of works of art have been coming from the likes of Kevin Rudd (prime minister of Australia, who apparently employed the adjective "revolting" in describing Henson's photos), Morris Iemma (premier of the state of New South Wales) and representatives of the New South Wales police force. These individuals are deciding whether Bill Henson's work has artistic merit or whether it should be condemned as pornography.

Personally, since I harbor no desire of returning to my native land, let alone trying to get onto the same wavelength as my former compatriots, I guess I shouldn't get worked up by such a silly storm in an Aussie teacup. But I see it as interesting data of a genealogical kind. Maybe "anthropological" would be a more appropriate adjective.

Official portrait

In Great Britain, where official portraits of royalty and other distinguished folk are a serious business, Cecil Beaton was one of the most celebrated photographers. Even here in the French Republic, the concept of official portraits exists, but solely for one individual: the president. Photos in this category have always amused me. Between an official portrait and an ordinary photo taken by a news photographer, there's the same difference as between the bright smiling face in my blog photo and me in the bathroom mirrror when I get up in the morning.

Now, the reason I've brought up this subject is that I'm happy to publish this photo, taken by Natacha last weekend, that corresponds ideally to what might be termed an official portrait of Sophia.

I have the impression that Sophia, reclining majestically upon her big wickerwork throne, is making an effort to look like a dignified dog. As if she'd just been elected president, or raised to the status of Royal Duchess of Gamone.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Photoshop surgery

Nowadays, it's so easy and so common to use a computer to retouch photos [above all with the celebrated Adobe Photoshop software tool] that it should come as no surprise to discover that the illustrated weekly Paris-Match has resorted to this possibility in order to beautify the French president... who happens to be a dear friend of Arnaud Lagardère, owner of the famous weekly.

In the original Reuters photo [on the right], showing the president paddling a canoe on a lake during his recent vacation at Wolfeboro in the USA, there's an unsightly roll of fat at the level of Sarkozy's waist. In the retouched photo published by Paris-Match, this fat has magically disappeared.

In everyday French, which is a colorful language, a male with rolls of waist-level fat of this kind is said to sport "love handles".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Photography lessons

A few weeks ago, just before my excursions to England and then Provence, I phoned my son in order to obtain technical advice on an aspect of photography with a digital camera. First, I must explain that, since purchasing a Nikon D70S over a year ago (prior to my voyage to Australia), I've tended to rely entirely upon the automatic possibilities of the camera. That's to say, I simply point it at my subject and push the button, leaving it up to the machine to calculate everything: focus, aperture and shutter speed. I wanted to learn from my son how to become a little less reliant upon the camera's automatisms, at least to the extent of deciding, for example, upon the desired lens opening. Well, I was somewhat surprised to discover that my son dislikes the automatisms of modern digital cameras. So, he turns them off and operates in a purely manual fashion. And that approach enables him to decide upon the exact subject that he wishes to shoot, as seen here:

There's no doubt whatsoever that François is interested here, not in the seashore, but in this section of corroded green hand-railing. Here's another similar example:

It's not the vast sea that interests François, but the tiny round pool at the foot of the crag with oysters attached to it. On the other hand, the presence of a small island in the background is a significant element of the global composition. But this island is of lesser importance than the pool in the foreground.

In the following photo, the woman in a scarlet gown, walking in a determined style towards the road, is the central subject:

But François has taken the photo at the exact instant that a girl is going past the house on a bike. Although the fuzziness of the girl on the bike indicates that she is not the main subject of the photo, she plays a role in the overall sense of the image. Maybe her presence explains why the red-gowned woman is heading towards the road.

In most of my son's photos [click here to visit his website], we find a constant interplay between these two aspects:

— reduction of the depth of field to put the accent upon a precise subject;

— integration of background objects so as to form a harmonious whole.

The effectiveness of his photographic approach and style is particularly apparent in the two series he did for the French weekly Le Figaro Madame: one in Morocco and the other for a luxury hotel in the sand dunes in south-west France.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My son's photos

My son and I recently started to build a website to display his photos. For the moment, only one of François' four basic categories contains photos: his billiards images. You can visit the website by clicking the following block, and then clicking the billiards photo:

François considers that it's undesirable, if not impossible, to create rigid labeled categories for his photos. He prefers to let them speak for themselves, as it were, rather than encumbering the website with words. So, that's why the site has a minimalist look and feel. On the other hand, we're happy to discover that any photo can be displayed on a broadband connection within a second or so. To attain this result, we've used a highly-modular Flash approach, which means that each photo is downloaded onto the viewer's computer at the last possible instant: that's to say, only at the moment that the photo is actually requested.

At present, François is preoccupied by an exciting documentary film project. So, he's not likely to find time to complete the photo website for another few weeks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Water and the web

Almost without my realizing it, my son François has become a professional photographer. First, there was his book on the Mobylette [click to see]. Then, a few weeks ago, four of his Moroccan photos were included in the prestigious Madame Figaro magazine [click to see].

François tells me that these images are just the tip of the iceberg, since he possesses a rich photothèque... which he would like to present on the web. So, for the last few days, I've been examining ways and means of presenting photos in a website, and I've been using my own snapshots to build a maquette [click to see].

Technically, this question of presenting photos is a challenge. The basic problem consists of building a website that gets displayed rapidly. Concerning my maquette of Provençal photos, Natacha informs me that it downloads instantly in the high-powered Internet environment of Marseille. On the other hand, in Brittany (where François is staying) and here at Choranche, my maquette takes several seconds to download. And I have no idea whatsoever about how it might behave, say, in distant Australia. [Blog readers might provide me with information.]

I find it normal that the Internet, in spite of its popularity and stardom, remains constantly a high-tech challenge. I was going to say that it would indeed be surprising if the Internet could be turned on simply like a water faucet. In fact, the miracles that we citizens of the planet Earth are seeking, and deserve, would be the possibility of turning on a magic tap that provides us with both water and the web.