Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


November 11, 2008

20081104_Chicago_IL_ElectionNight1258, originally uploaded by Barack Obama.

This is a shot from an official set of photos taken on election night by someone in Obama’s campaign team – go here for the full slideshow. They were posted on Flickr within hours – seemingly without much editorial oversight – and promptly brought Flickr to a near-standstill as people all over the world clambered to get a look at history in the making.

There has already been some insightful stuff written about the shifting nature of the media ecosystem in relation to the Obama campaign and how his team harnessed power of the net – see here for one such example. I think it is fairly safe to say that, post-Obama’08, American politics will never be the same again.

What struck me particularly about this set of images was the solemnity of the occasion. This shot, for example, appears to have been taken after the result was known. It depicts a man who appreciates the magnitude of the role he has just signed up for – not someone cracking open the Champagne. With old-style editorial controls in place, I’m not sure such an interesting aspect of the evening would have cropped up – rather it would have been cropped out or ‘rechronologised’.

Generation X

March 11, 2008

Untitled, originally uploaded by Emmanuel Smague.

Larger here.

This is the one-thousandth image posted on Picture Post, which seems like a reasonable excuse to reflect.

It’s been pretty hard work keeping the momentum up on top of all the other things going on in my life! I’ve posted an average of between 3 and 4 images a day since I started last May. But it’s been a very pleasurable journey too – for me at least. I hope other people have enjoyed their visits.

Going through the process has made me realise that there’s a LOT of talent out there. Most of it goes unrecognised by the world at large. Not everyone has a name like David Bailey or Damien Hirst – a name that opens wallets and doors. But that is not ultimately what art is about. Art is about expression and communication, and has nothing intrinsically to do with the cult of celebrity. All that cult of celebrity stuff belongs to the age of broadcasting and mass media.

We are witnessing the dawn of a new age: the age of the amateur; fuelled by the digital revolution and the associated democratisation of distribution channels. It is happening everywhere (music, visual art, bookmaking, social networking and blogging to name but a few) but nowhere is it more apparent than in the realm of photography. Digital cameras are now ubiquitous and easy to use. Anyone can publish their photos online. Anyone can, with a bit of dedication and raw talent, become a great photographer.

So, farewell to the gatekeepers and the traditional barriers to entry – and long live photography, a true art form for the masses.

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take a photograph means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second– both the fact itself and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.

It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.

Henri Cartier-Bresson


January 11, 2008

Barack the vote!, originally uploaded by ekeisari.

Tag search ‘obama’; whilst campaigning earlier this year in Atlanta.

Personally, I think it will be a crying shame if Hillary Clinton wins the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. In my view, the United States and the rest of the world needs some youthful idealism right now – and Barack Obama is the right man for the job. He is one of the few politicians in America who had enough courage to publicly oppose the Iraq War during the build up (he spoke out in 2002, when the neocons were cashing in on the momentum created by the spectre of September 11th, 2001). Perhaps most importantly though, at least from an international perspective, Obama understands the crucial role that the United States can and must play in expediting the transition to a global, low-carbon economy.

Regardless of the ‘change rhetoric’ that the Clinton camp has employed, she is ultimately just another representative of the status quo. Consider this: if Hillary Clinton wins, we can look forward to the prospect of the world’s most powerful country being governed by two families for more than two decades (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton); from 1989 until at least 2013! That doesn’t strike me as being healthy in a democracy and it certainly has nothing to do with ‘change’ – more like business as usual.

Farewell Polar Bear

January 10, 2008

HI!!, originally uploaded by lami64.

It is impossible to fathom the potential consequences of current climate change scenarios without taking into account the growing likelihood of a mass extinction of species. Scientists and archeologists estimate that the last mass extinction on Earth wiped out nearly a fifth of all life. Given the interconnectedness of everything, an event of that magnitude would be very bad news for humans. What worries me is that it might already be too late to stop it happening. We are destroying the earth’s biodiversity at breakneck speed and most of our conservation efforts amount to mere window dressing in the scheme of things. Polar bears are (forgive the pun) just the tip of a very large iceberg.

See here for a recent story on the historic links between climate change and mass extinction.


November 15, 2007

tutu, originally uploaded by TommyOshima.

Taken using a Noctilux lens – one of the world’s fastest lenses and ideal for low-light conditions. For this pic, it was fitted to an Epson RD-1, which was the world’s first digital rangefinder camera.

Unlike SLR cameras, rangefinder cameras are exquisitely simple pieces of engineering. Most importantly, they do not have clunky mirrors to move out of the way every time you take a picture. This makes for sharper images because there is far less movement going on inside the camera during exposure. It also makes for more instantaneous, ‘decisive moment’ photos – as soon as you press the button the shutter opens. Moreover, rangefinder cameras are less obtrusive – both physically and in terms of noise – than SLR cameras. For these reasons, they were championed by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, a co-founder of the famous (and quite brilliant) Magnum photo agency.

In terms of digital rangefinder photography, Leica has now taken up the gauntlet from Epson with the Leica M8. Along with a Noctilux, an M8 is the first thing I would buy if I won the lottery!

Apologies for that unforgivable outburst of trainspotting nonsense.

The Fort

November 11, 2007

The Fort, originally uploaded by livinginacity.

Larger here. A beautiful old restored fort in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Today is Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War I.

(Laura’s poem) The Manhunt, by Simon Armitage

After the first phase,

after passionate nights and intimate days,

only then would he let me trace

the frozen river which ran through his face,

only then would he let me explore

the blown hinge of his lower jaw,

and handle and hold

the damaged, porcelain collar-bone,

and mind and attend the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade,

and finger and thumb the parachute silk of his punctured lung.

Only then could I bind the struts

and climb the rungs of his broken ribs,

and feel the hurt

of his grazed heart.

Skirting along,

only then could I picture the scan,

the foetus of metal beneath his chest

where the bullet had finally come to rest.

Then I widened the search,

traced the scarring back to its source

to a sweating, unexploded mine

buried deep in his mind,

around which every nerve in his body had tightened and closed.

Then, and only then, did I come close.

California Burning

October 30, 2007

IMG_2761, originally uploaded by jrzedevl.

Carrying on the silhouette theme…


A firefighter works to stamp out the flames at a burning landscape nursery off Sierra Highway in Canyon Country, CA.

The comments thread below the original post really is worth reading. It includes a debate about “Gaia’s revenge” and how cities like LA have been sucking the water/life out of the land around them for decades; a fact which – at least according to some of the people commenting – has lead to the current state of affairs.

I’m sure we are all responsible for much of the increased environmental volatility in today’s world but the underlying reasons do not mitigate the human suffering involved — something I thought environmentalists, of all people, would be quick to recognise!

OK Computer

October 10, 2007

Radiohead @ The V Festival 2006, originally uploaded by Guy Eppel.

Since the early days of the illegal music download debate, Radiohead have been on the side of change. Whilst bands like Metallica were teaming up with record company execs and filing spurious lawsuits, Radiohead were showing their support for Shawn Fanning and the Net World Order.

I remember thinking at the time that it was an extremely progressive stance for a band to take, considering that they personally stood to lose a lot of money from peer to peer file sharing. But today they have done something much bigger than nailing their colours to the mast; something that I believe will one day be viewed as a defining point in the digital music era. Their new album, In Rainbows, is available for download at whatever price the user chooses to pay for it. And yes, in case you were wondering, that includes downloading it for free!

Some have referred to it in an off-hand way as nothing more than a brilliant marketing stunt (presumably these are superficial marketing types who view everything in the world through tiny little ‘marketability’ prisms). Others label it as an interesting social experiment, which indeed it is (I, for one, am very interested to know how people exercise their freedom to choose).

But, for my money (or not as the case may be), it’s much more than that. I believe it has profound implications for the future of music and many other forms of electronic content – especially if it proves to be financially successful. Admittedly, the central idea behind today’s launch is not revolutionary. Software programmers and the open source community have used this model for some time now – the ‘donate if you value what we do’ model – but it is radical because it is taking that ethos into the hitherto capitalistic world of mainstream consumer culture. And I believe that will have far-reaching consequences.

What Radiohead have understood from the outset is that swimming against the digital tide is ultimately futile – that it is much better to embrace change and to go with the flow. That’s why they are now blazing trails where others will soon follow.

Without question, it is yet another dirty great nail in the coffin of the music establishment. They must be chewing their fingers off at the moment. And funny as this may sound: after this latest development, in 10 years time, Apple’s iTunes music store might just turn out to be part of that crumbling, old-world infrastructure too.

So, go on, it’s really up to you:

Dog Days

September 25, 2007

k-9, originally uploaded by junku-newcleus.

Larger here.

Today’s tag search was ‘leica’. Leica make beautiful cameras and lenses, and have been doing so for the best part of a century. The first portable (pocket-sized) camera was a Leica – released in 1925. Before then, cameras were very large instruments that were difficult to transport and impossible to use in the way that we use cameras today.

Since 1925, Leicas have been used by some of the world’s greatest photographers, including one of my all-time favourite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Cartier-Bresson once said that his Leica literally constitued the optical extension of his eye.  As far as I am aware, he never used anything else.

If you are already a Leica fan, or would simply like to know more about the Leica story, then I recommend taking 20 minutes out of your day to read this wonderful essay in the New Yorker by Anthony Lane. It’s a lovely piece of writing and it captures the essence of what Leica cameras are all about.

Time Travel

September 17, 2007


Temporal Paradox by PatsPiks.

Tag search ‘clock’.

Erm, I’m not quite sure to make of this but a well-respected Professor from the University of Connecticut believes that he has a blueprint for creating a working time machine within a decade – not to transport people (although he does believe that this is ultimately possible) but to transport neutrons. He plans to measure the ‘half-life’ of these particles after their journey through the aforementioned machine to demonstrate that they have travelled back in time.

His work has caused quite a stir because, despite being completely leftfield, it is – at least in theory – feasible; the basic underlying mathematics appear to stack. His ideas are based on an extrapolation of Einstein’s relativity theories. Einstein was able to demonstrate that gravity is the effect of a warping in the fabric of space-time. Time can therefore – at least potentially – be manipulated.

Professor Ronald Mallett believes that it is possible to warp space-time by using high-powered, circulating laser beams. He likens it to stirring up a cup of coffee – the coffee being analogous to the space inside a tunnel of circulating light. If you can stir up space, you can stir up time.

According to an interview I recently watched, Mallett’s longer-term objective is to send information back through time – to find a way of codifying messages that can travel in his machine.

It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that he is struggling to find the necessary funding to get his ideas off the ground.

For more on this bizarre story, see here.