To be pedantic, bees don’t really have knees, just a number of joints in their legs. But if they did, their knees would be clearly viewable with a new imaging device that combines the functions of a microscope and a cell analyser: Cytell. Follow the link to find out how it genuinely was inspired by a bee leg.
I’m mainly interested in the detailed, hypersaturated and Pixar-esque aesthetic of the images produced by the Cytell. So different from what most people would imagine when the only experience of scientific images they’ve had was their dull and probably outdated school textbooks.
The Cytell images are also interesting to me in the slightly more narcissistic sense that real science has finally caught up with the micro-made-macro rainbow look I devised in 2007 for a video installation and book about genomics and cellular biology that I did with the University of Edinburgh. Though to be fair, that aesthetic was in turn inspired by the real life microfluoroscopy that was obviously an ancestor of Cytell.
Reproduced in Full Moon by Michael Light. It basically just collects a load of NASA photos from the Apollo missions with little or no commentary, but the cumulative visual effect (of desolate strangeness, for the most part, as one might expect) makes the book worth checking out.
… always believe in your soul, etc. This post otherwise has nothing to do with Spandau Ballet.
In fact it’s a lovely, surreal image by Magnum photographer Hiroji Kubota of Burmese monks praying before the Golden Rock at Shwe Pyi Daw in 1978. I couldn’t discover exactly why it’s so venerated or who decided to paint it gold, but it’s a great example of a relatively small intervention turning a mundane object– in this case, a boulder– into a dramatic work of art. Maybe this photograph deceives with regard to how precarious and high up the rock is, but I don’t envy the person who gets to repaint this thing. Just imagine being the idiot who finally makes it topple off the precipice.
Just some splendid stills from thrillers (mostly) of the 1940s and 1950s, reproduced from ‘Film Noir’ (Alain Silver, James Ursini, Paul Duncan: Taschen). I love Film Noir. ‘Gilda’ is one of the best and most noirish. Above is Rita Hayworth doing a passive-aggressive musical number/striptease in a club to get back at her boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend for their machinations with each other and with her. As you do.
Some striking colour portrait photographs by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. In some ways they look like they could have been taken last week, but they were actually all made between 1907 and 1915, just before WWI and the Russian Revolution. The splendid example above is of Alim Khan (1880-1944) the Emir of Bukhara, in 1911. Bukhara was a vassal state of the Russian Empire, though the Emir had absolute authority within its borders. It was absorbed by the Soviet Union in 1920, and Alim Khan fled to Afghanistan.
There’s just something about seeing these long-dead people in colour that connects us to them, and to history in general, in way that hardly any monochrome image can achieve. To make them, Prokudin-Gorskii developed a system of exposing three glass plate negatives rapidly in succession, with a red filter, a green, and finally a blue. These three monochrome negatives could then be projected through a lantern similarly equipped with matching coloured filters to create a full colour image. The photos shown here have been reconstructed digitally by the US Library of Congress using the same principles, which will be familiar to anybody who uses Photoshop or any similar image editing software. Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) left Russia in 1918 after the Imperial family was murdered, settling in France via Norway and England. The Library of Congress bought the negatives from P-G’s heirs in 1948. Read more about Prokudin-Gorskii and see more images on the LOC site.
I’ve said it before, but it’s also a crime that modern day globalised clothing is rarely half as interesting, individual and vibrant as some of the amazing getups and colour schemes recorded in images that are only about a century old and yet depict a world that’s now almost completely lost to us. I don’t think anybody should romanticise what poor people and dissidents endured in Tsarist Russia, or mourn the demise of colonialism, nationalism or imperialism, but some very valuable things were also lost along with them.
A footnote to the previous post about Americans being the weirdest people in the world: the image above is the first one thrown up by a Google image search for “fat Americans”. It’s been reposted, Reddited and ripped off so many hundreds of times that I wasn’t able to track down its original photographer or origins. If you know or by some weird quirk of fate you are in fact the photographer himself or herself, leave a comment. It’s also been used by mainstream American magazines and blogs to illustrate articles about American obesity.
I’m not saying that many Americans aren’t obese, because they are and contrary to some particularly shrill and screwed up segments of obese American society it’s not “fat-shaming”, “hate speech” or whatever to tell people that it’s unhealthy, self-destructive and a needless drain on the state’s and the planet’s finite resources to eat so much and so badly that you get this fat. People slowly killing themselves with eating disorders is a major and ever-growing psychological and societal problem in most developed countries, not a personal lifestyle choice that doesn’t really impact anybody else like dyeing your hair or getting a tattoo.
But anyway, what nobody appears to have noticed is that the sign in the window (top left) suggests that this McDonald’s is not in the USA because the sign is in some kind of non-Western script. Cyrillic, maybe? Armenian? Again, please correct my ignorance if it’s immediately obvious to you what language the sign is in. I suppose the children themselves could still be American.
My slightly autistic observational skills noticed this discrepancy immediately, I just thought I’d share it especially for any Americans who might have been feeling a bit fragile after the last thing I posted. Assuming it’s some consolation to you that children in other countries are getting as horrifically, life-threateningly obese as they are in yours.
This strange image, which looks like it could be a still from The Twilight Zone, is in fact from a 1952 exhibition in West Berlin: ‘We’re Building a Better Life’ (‘Wir bauen ein besseres Leben’). It was part of the German Industrial Trade Fair; a strange human zoo where the new paradigm of civilian living was played out by two shifts of adult actors playing husband and wife, along with eight pairs of children. In the picture below you can see a bird’s eye view of the house, and of the strange– and disturbing, given that this was less than ten years on from German death camps and the devastation of central Berlin– observation tower with a white-coated narrator. What was the new paradigm? According to the US State Department, who were behind it, the new way of living was to be a “high production, high-wage, low-unit-cost, low-profit margin, high consumption system.” And so it came to pass. One of the actresses playing a housewife was perhaps in the grip of some peculiar combination of Stockholm Syndrome and cabin fever when she said “The house is so perfect that I am afraid we will not want to move out… What will happen if I fall in love with the kitchen too?” A German magazine also described it as a “white paradise”, presumably referring to the kitchen equipment but still demonstrating that sensitivity to political correctness was a long way off.
During its three week run, the simultaneously aspirational and voyeuristic exhibition attracted over half a million visitors, nearly 40% of them from East Germany. It later toured to Stuttgart, Hanover, Paris and Milan.
This stuff is from Cold War Modern, a great book about Modernist design and industry between 1945-1970 and based on the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition of the same name in 2008. The exhibition was also good, if a wee bit gung-ho and overly gushing about the design aspects while for the most part noticeably glossing over the suffering and poverty of the millions who found themselves arbitrarily trapped behind the Iron Curtain after the Second World War.
As psychic powers or ways of communicating with spirits go, being able to lift living room furniture a few feet off the ground in the dark has to be one of the more useless and absurd. And yet it was a thing that persisted in the repertoire of mediums for several decades. I’ve mainly been enjoying these pictures as exercises in domestic surrealism rather than as documentation of unknown powers. They’re from a (long out of print, 1981) book called Photographs of the Unknown, which seems to be associated– although not by name– with Fortean Times. In the photo above I like the fact that couple on the right are gripping each other’s hand apprehensively while the fellow on the left is still nonchalantly puffing away on his cigarette. The position of his left hand suggests slight annoyance that his ashtray has just been whisked away telekinetically. Continue Reading
It’s Aquacade beauty Mussolini, photographer’s model Stalin, and charming salesgirl Hitler. With huge butcher knives, on Manhattan Beach. Photographed by Weegee, better known for his horrifying, stark, brutal photos of crime and accident scenes in New York City; less well known as being the vocal blueprint for Peter Sellers’ strangled, adenoidal Dr. Strangelove voice. Perhaps for Weegee, taking photos of scantily clad transsexual dictators amounted to light relief.
The caption notes that the “comely pyramid is spoiled by the faces”, but that’s quite a heteronormative assumption to make, don’t you think? Perhaps the faces are being spoiled by the comely pyramid?