Archive for the ‘photography’ Category
Lying dormant in the archive of Britain’s National Media Museum for decades, what everyone thought were black and white films, turned out to be the first color motion pictures ever made. British photographer Edward Turner made the films using his 1899 patented color film process in about 1903, shortly before his untimely death:
A complicated process, it involved photographing successive frames of black-and-white film through blue, green and red filters. Using a special projector…these were combined on a screen to produce full-colour images.
Highlights of these never-before-shared test films can now be seen on YouTube via our 21st-century RGB screens, and of course, at the museum itself, where the specially-formatted projector can be viewed as well.
Thanks to GLIMPSE subscriber, Francis H., for sharing this with GLIMPSE readers! A very well-timed discovery with our Cinema issue.
by Myya McGregory
What makes an icon?
In the last post we talked about the documentary film, Chevolution, directed by Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez and how Alberto Korda’s photo of Che Guevara, the “Guerrillero Heroico” (the Heroic Guerrilla), transformed Guevara from a simple historical figure to a photographic and visual icon.
Painting and street art are often treated as fiction, and photography as fact. Yet a photograph can be just as constructed as a painting. Korda’s Guerrillero Heroico was not popular by simple coincidence. His photo became famous because of the expression in Guevara’s eyes, his stance, and the strong angle of his head overlooking the crowd. In that one image, Korda captured, with light and angle, what many wanted to see in Guevara. Chevolution doesn’t dwell on this point but the idea is very present. The directors highlight this by contrasting the Guerrillero Heroico with the images of Guevara on his deathbed, which, though more widely disseminated at the time, have not gained the long-lasting fame of the more vivified Korda photograph.
As art has evolved, Guevara’s image evolved with it. The Guerrillero Heroico takes on a slightly different meaning each time it is modified. Each artist adds a new interpretation. Some make Guevara appear more ambiguous, some highlight the eyes, some blur the background, some make him more ethereal softly blurring the outlines, some make him radiant (see left), some even villanize him. Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick who created what is likely the most popular rendition of the Guerrillero Heroico tells BBC news he, “deliberately designed it to breed like rabbits.” His high-contrast image darkens the eyebrows and intensifies Guevara’s gaze. The red background intensifies the black shading and the remaining white makes the entire image pop. It is a more stark and gallant interpretation of Guevara, born of the artist’s admiration.
The Guerrillero Heroico has become a symbol for both those who despise and those who love Guevara.
Street artist, Shepard Fairey (you might remember him from Exit Through the Gift Shop or the Obama “Change” poster) makes a brief cameo in Chevolution. He talks about Guevara in comparison to his own project, the OBEY Giant. Many have seen the stickers, screen prints, and the walls tagged with Andre the Giant and the simple order to “obey.” This image paired with the single word “obey,” was turned into a social statement about propaganda.
If “obey” was written in a different font would we perceive it the same way? What if Andre the Giant was not the face of the command? What if it was Mr. Rogers?
A simple alteration can affect how we perceive an image. Whenever we view any image, especially an image of another person, we impose a specular dominance over it. We bring our biases, our questions, and our needs. If given the proper image, we can fill in its blanks with our desires. We can construct an icon.
In Chevolution, the directors argue that even though Guevara’s image can be found everywhere, some people still don’t know who he was. Who Che Guevara was has evolved into what he is now.
How is Che Guevara’s image being altered right now? Will it ever fade? What is the next icon that will have a seemingly endless afterlife?
by Myya McGregory
“Chevolution” is a documentary on Che Guevara and the journey of his iconic image. The film makes the case that Che was not only an important figure in the history of Cuba and revolution but also in the history of photography and art.
Che was an Argentine doctor who left his middle class life to join the fight against poverty and corruption being waged by guerilla regiments across South and Central America. Scholars say he was strongly motivated by the rampant poverty he witnessed in his travels. With his interest in Marxism it was no surprise that Che would end up joining Fidel Castro’s “Movimiento 26 de Julio” to take down the long reigning Batista regime in Cuba.
Che was a very well liked figure. He was charismatic, skilled in combat, intelligent, he led by example, and he was the type of activist that Cuba needed at the time.
While aiding in a Bolivian rebellion against Rene Barrientos Ortuño in 1967, Che was killed by a group of CIA trained guerilla fighters.
Che’s life was profoundly influential in Latin American politics, and his legacy in the arts also continues to intrigue.
A lover of photography himself, Che insisted on documenting every step of the revolution. When he attended a mass memorial for victims of a terrorist attack at the Plaza de Revolución, Alberto Korda, fashion photographer extraordinaire, snapped the iconic image that would travel around the world inciting revolution in ways that Che could have only imagined.
At the time the Leica M2 was one of the best cameras on the market. Made by a German optics company, the Leica M2 used regular 35 mm film, groundbreaking parallax compensation, and focal-plane shutter.
Using celluloid film (which had been around for almost a century at that point) and homemade developing solution, Korda and the other photographers traveling with Che would develop, enlarge, and print their own images.
Che came along in a time when photography was becoming more public. Nitrate based celluloid film was no longer commercailly available by the early 1950s because it was highly flammable and toxic. In fact the Northeast Document Conservation Center points out that because cellulose nitrate was so unstable, many of the images taken on this film have deteriorated drastically. It is more likely that Korda took his iconic photo using 35mm acetate based celluloid film. Cellulose acetate was considerably less toxic that cellulose nitrate however its decomposition was equally as autocatalytic and just as caustic (it would produce vinegar as a byproduct in decomposition). Luckily for Korda, copying negatives of photos was a relatively simple process and creating an interpositive could lessen the risk of diluting the image quality along the way. It seems that Che lived at just the right time in photographic history.
How would history would have changed if Che arrived in different place along the photographic history timeline? What about other leaders and cultural/historical icons?
by Myya McGregory
Eadweard Muybridge developed the zoopraxiscope in 1876. The zoopraxiscope was a very complicated device that featured a large lense, a lamp, and a motor to show successive images printed on 16″ glass in simulated motion. This invention garnered much praise for Muybridge and he is credited as the father of the motion picture.
The National Museum of American History is exploring an interesting aspect of Muybridge’s work. They question whether his photogrpahic invention was science or art. Muybridge was able to capture incremental elements of motion and expose them in ways never seen before. While at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1880s, Muybridge began the project of documenting human and animal locomotion. Using up to 36 different lenses and two dozen cameras each placed at 30, 60, and 90 degrees to the subject, Muybridge produced 36 negatives. The negatives were enlarged and then inked on glass plates. The succession of images, when showed on the zoopraxiscope revealed an almost scientific precision. Find out more in the Cinema Issue.
The history of color photography features many key players and pioneers. In anticipation of the Cinema Issue, GLIMPSE is taking a brief look at some of them, and their contributions to the world of photography.
Paris, France 1864
Louis Ducos du Hauron, a French physicist, developed a motin picture device in 1864. In 1869, he patented a series of practical methods of color printing based on the tri-color theory and the heliochrome system. Using a series of filters, he was able to print color photographs by printing the negatives on sheets of bichromated gelatin that were complementary colors of the negatives themselves. When the positive images were superimposed over the negatives, the resulting image was in color.
Meanwhile, Charles Crocs, another French physicist, developed the similar process in his physics lab. Unfortunately he published his findings 48 hours after de Hauron patented his.
London, England 1861
James Clerk Maxwell, prominent physicist and mathematician, projected a color photograph through a series of filters to show a photograph of the original image in its original color.
West Kill, New York 1851
Levi Hill, an American minister, claimed to be the father if color photography. He presented what he claimed was the first color photograph while experimenting in an early photographic process known as the ”daguerreotype.” Hill failed to patent his eponymous “Hillotype” process but did not give up on what he discovered, making a series of Hillotype photographs in color. Over 160 years later, the Smithsonian Institution now boasts a collection of 62 Hillotypes that have been under severe scrutiny. Using spectroscopy the Smithsonian Institution has finally given substance to the myth. It was found that though Levi Hill enriched his photographs with a series of chemical pigments, the photographs the he produced were in fact faint color photographs.
How about it, all you photographers/photo-appreciators? Who are your favorite historical heros of color photography?
As many of you will soon find out in the upcoming Cinema issue, persistence of vision is «the phenomenon of the eye by which an afterimage is thought to persist for approximately one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina». While the image is burned on the retina of the eye, we have time to send signals to the brain to identify the image.
Persistence of vision, though thought to be a myth, could explain why our eyes perceive one continuous, moving image when we look at a progressions of stills.
This theory not only explains flipbooks but is also the basis of many film devices of the 19th century. The idea that images remain on the retina seconds after viewing means that images can be perceived as moving at speeds as low as 5 frames per second.
This also means that if an image vibrates fast enough, it can be perceived as static rather than kinetic.
Check out this website by the American Museum of the Moving Image to discover more.
(via NASA.gov, 1/25/2012) “A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.
Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth. Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.”
The idea of infinity can be difficult to wrap our minds around—it’s been talked about in math classes and used in many a hyperbole, but the idea of ‘forever’ is still so abstract. Now you can experience a glimpse of visual infinity for yourself with National Geographic’s “Infinite Photograph.” At first it just looks like a single picture. But with a single click, you find out it’s made of countless other pictures. You keep clicking only to find out each of those pictures is made of more pictures. And those pictures? Yup, just more pictures. Try and stop clicking. Go ahead. Believe us—it’s not that easy. And because this is National Geographic, each photograph is stunning.
The photo mosaic dates not too far back in the late twentieth century. Both Robert Silvers and Joseph Francis pioneered the art form through computer programming. The effect is a sort of meta-art, with some pretty incredible results. The concept of a mosaic has roots in pointillism, an art form popular during the 1800s. Pointillism is a painting technique where many small dots are created in patterns to produce a larger, single image. This, along with photo mosaics, are great representations of interconnectedness, the breakdown of how all the parts contribute to a whole.
The most recent Infinite Photo is one of marine and terrestrial life on the South Pacific island of Mo‘orea. Besides being an excellent way to kill ten minutes of your time at the office or wherever you may be, it’s also quite educational. By continuing to click on an individual photo (more clicking!), you’ll learn a specie’s common and scientific name. This photograph is a physical, interactive, beautiful representation of infinity. And it’s awesome.