Archive for ‘Photography’

January 30, 2012

Voir Paris


The only thing I’m not impressed by on Marion Blank’s Tumblr are the photos by the old masters like André Kertesz. Which is not to say that I dislike Kertesz’s photos. On the contrary. But they have no place among Marion Blank’s black and white photos of contemporary Paris.

Generally when I see photos of Paris, although they may be beautiful photos, I have a sense of looking into the past. The photos are looking backwards, to past glories and supposedly better times. We are already saturated with images of Paris from the 1920s, ’30s, ’50s, that when we look through a camera lens, this is what we’re looking for. Nor is this entirely the fault of the nostalgic masses of tourists that swarm the City of Light. Paris itself, as a city harkens back to previous times. This is what Adam Gopnik referred to as the “museumification of Paris.”

It is hard to see Paris as anything else than a parody of its former self. Looking at photos of contemporary Paris, I generally see a photo that is self-consciously trying to be a past Paris. Like a pose, the photo knows what Paris is supposed to look like and imitates that.

This is not true of Marion Blank’s photos. (I don’t know Marion Blank, not even if it’s a person or persons, and the name sounds suspiciously like a pseudonym, but I’m here assuming it is indeed one person with that name and that she is a woman.)

When I look at them, I see a living, breathing, un-self-conscious city, with its dwellers and structures being nothing other than what they are at that very moment.

Look at the photos. On the surface, black and white, one could almost confuse them with the old masters’ photos of Paris. But then you see that they are all taken in 2012. These are photos not one month old! (Marion Blank’s Tumblr contains many photos from before 2012, but I selected for my post ten out of seventy-seven photos that were marked 2012.) Instead of looking at a contemporary photo and seeing a previous Paris, as is the case with most photos of the great city, these are photos that look old but reveal a Paris that is present, imminent, our peer.

I see in these photos a city surprisingly vibrant, not ready to be thrown into the bin of “been there, done that.” Not ready for museumification. A city which still wants to be photographed. Not for what it used to be, but for the way it is. Paris isn’t over, we’ve just been photographing it wrong. Until now.



July 1, 2011

The Clerkenwell Kid

The Retronaut posted some black and white photos of Clerkenwell, London. When Colin O’Brien was a child, in the 1950s, he had a window looking over an intersection that had a recurring traffic light problem.

The pictures reminded me (ok, not so much the picture as much as the idea of Clerkenwell from the past) of The Clerkenwell Kid, and this fantastic video somebody made for the song.

The band made an album as a soundtrack to a novel, the frontman, Stephen Coates blogs about London (under the name The Clerkenwell Kid!), and the music lends itself to great animation, like so and so.

Colin O’Brien‘s also has a great website, with more photos of Clerkenwell among many others.

June 24, 2011


I found this photo over at First Time User.

It is one of Eugène Atget‘s better known photos, taken in 1898.
I was reminded of a recording I made from my window in Paris in 2008. Three guys with brass instruments went by catching change people threw from windows.

A friend later identified the song as Historia de un Amor, which has it’s own story.

June 21, 2011

A Familiar Place

I’m discovering the photos of André Kertész. You can see a bunch of them here. One you can’t see among those, and has personal significance for me, is this. In 1929:

And by the grace of Google, today:

June 17, 2011

The Brandy Glass

The Brandy Glass
– by Louis MacNeice

Only let it form within his hands once more  – 
The moment cradled like a brandy glass.
Sitting alone in the empty dining hall…
From the chandeliers the snow begins to fall
Piling around carafes and table legs
And chokes the passage of the revolving door.
The last diner, like a ventriloquist’s doll
Left by his master, gazes before him, begs:
‘Only let it form within my hands once more.’ 

May 27, 2011


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April 11, 2011

Le Sacré Corps

The US National Library of Medicine has something they call The Visible Human Project® (also on Wiki). In 1993 they took the body of an executed criminal from Texas, Joseph Jernigan, to try and better visualize human anatomy.
The doctors encased the body in a gelatin and water mixture and then froze it to stabilize it. It was then “cut” into 1,871 sections, 1 millimeter apart and each part was photographed to create a detailed set of anatomical visualizations.

Croix Gagnon, an American artist, put the “slices” together to create this video. (More about the art project after the break.)

Now the reason I put the words cut and slices in scare quotes is that neither of them are exactly right. The body frozen in the gelatin and water was ground down millimeter by millimeter, in a way that completely, entirely destroyed the specimen. The video is not only an accurate visualization of the body, but a sped up record of its destruction.

If ever there was an example of the potentially destructive nature of the curious human gaze, this is it.

Croix Gagnon created that video as part of his art project 12:31. (12:31am is the time Joseph Jernigan was executed.) Along with the photographer Frank Schott, he created “light paintings” of the entire cadaver “to put it back together.” (Click the link for all the photos.)

Perhaps not quite bringing him back to life, but turning an entirely destroyed specimen of a cadaver back into something sacred: the body.

February 27, 2011

Cigarettes And Coffee