Beautiful Images: GoPro in Ice Caves

Tipped off by a great environmental blog,, I, happened on some spectacular GoPro footage.

From Greenfriar: (If you visit, read the whole post so you get the context; video link is at the bottom).

The Bad News That At Least Comes With The Faintest Silver Lining

Alaska’s glaciers are all melting, but in the process they’re opening up a whole world of ephemeral, short-lived ice caves, so filmmakers from Firefight Films attached a GoPro to a drone and produced this breathtaking footage from inside the caves….


Beautiful Pictures: Hugh Mangum

The NYTImes Lens blog has a feature on an unknown Reconstruction-era photographer named Hugh Mangum, who took “penny pictures” of ordinary people.  I thought the title came from sitters paying a penny for a photo, but apparently it refers to the camera itself.

His portraits, presented many on a page, are full of life. I couldn’t help wondering about the stories of the individuals and the relationships.  A nice find.


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Here’s the type of camera he used.

The “Penny Picture Camera.”


And there are more of his photos at Duke University Libraries’ Digital Collections.

Reasonable Words: The Comfort of Things

Years ago an editor friend and I thought up a feature called “It’s my bag,” in which we stopped people at Copley Square and asked them to share what was in their bag, knapsack, purse, you name it. It would run with a photo and a first-person description.

Like all good ideas, it’s already been done. Photographer Moyra Peralta asked people who lived on the street in London to share their possessions and tell her about them. The resulting photographs, which I found on Spitalfields Life, are poignant and telling.

Moyra Peralta's Worldly Goods

She’s documented street life more fully in a book, Nearly Invisible, text by John Berger (he of the modestly titled Ways of Seeing.)

Places for Opera

Tipped via WQXR, beautiful photos of empty opera houses by David Leventi, but brightly lit and expectant–a few moments before the house doors open and the audience floods in?

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I’ve been to only a few of these (winking to Andrea, who has probably been to every single one, lucky dog). The most memorable was Paris’ Garnier, where I went on an extensive tour specifically for people who worked in opera. It is an extraordinary building. If opera is the 19th century in music, then the Palais Garnier is the 19th century in stone.

The photos also evoke those haunting pictures of movie house screens by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Those have the added mystery that comes from his having left the shutter open for the entire film, resulting in a blank screen.

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Since these empty spaces might seem a bit gloomy, here’s a famous picture of the old Metropolitan Opera House (39th and Broadway) filled to rafters for the final gala performance in 1966, before it moved uptown to its present site.  The exciting “new” singer at the gala was Renata Tebaldi, but the singer people went crazy for was Zinka Milanov,  who owned the old Met in Verdi. (I have this on good authority, namely my opera-loving uncle, who was there.) She connected to a style of singing that went back to the golden age (or ages), heard in many of the houses above once.

Beautiful Pictures: Airplane Photos

Lots of work, so lots of air travel (and not much blogging, sorry). But did see this photo at Reagan National Airport (which I’d rather call DCA) this week, and it, and the rest of the show caught my eye.

Jeffrey Milstein, 49 Jets

The show is “The Jet as Art” and the photographer is Jeffrey Milstein. He’s also had work at the Smithsonian. Getting these shots must have been quite an ordeal. He stands on the runways! The results are graphically striking, and its also somehow helpful to be reminded of airplanes as an object of physical and technological beauty when you are at an airport, not generally a contemplative experience.

Winogrand and Wall: Photography untidy and neat

SF Moma has a Garry Winogrand show up. The Bronx-born photographer is best known for capturing everyday life in candid, spur of the moment portraits. This photo (from the Met’s collection, not sure if it’s in the SF Moma show or not) is from the NYC nightclub El Morroco in 1955. The Met annotation describes W’s style aptly, “intuitive,” “street smart,” “direct.” I would add instantaneous to the mix, which perhaps relates to the photographer’s own gnomic remark on why he takes pictures, “I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.” A given instant, an illusion. All at once and quickly over. Like short stories, his pix often leave you with a little stabbing twist at the end. NYTimes has a good preview of the show up. Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 8.01.44 AM

I learned about Winogrand by reading Arthur C. Danto’s (to me, somewhat soggy) book about Mapplethorpe from the era of the flap over “The Perfect Moment.” Danto compared Mapplethorpe to Winogrand to the latter’s disadvantage. (I think it was about formalism, which I always thought ruined a lot of Mapplethorpe’s work, but Danto, and many others, liked that aspect.)

In those days, I was also floored by the works of Canadian photographer Jeff Wall, who has a show up in Sydney (but one that I think started at NY’s MOMA). I first saw his big theatrical and backlit photographs at the Hirshhorn, where they took up an entire wall, and pulled you in, not like a short story, but like a big rich novel (one with strong art historical roots). MOMA put up an online exhibition, which doesn’t really give you a sense of the scale, or of the meticulous cinematographic preparation (casting, lighting, stage set, etc.) but is still worth checking out. Anything but a stolen moment of street life, captured in an instant, a la Winogrand. Wall’s shoots presumably take days, and the results, like Cindy Sherman’s work,  are panoramic slices of an epic movie. Virtuosic playing with time, which photography does to such bewildering and delightful cognitive effect.

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A Beautiful Picture: Photos from the Heartland at Nelson-Adkins

Design Observer has a piece on photos of the American Midwest by Terry Evans–mostly taken from a Cessna airplane.

From the essay by Alan Thomas:

“The airplane,” Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote, “has unveiled for us the true face of the earth.” [2] From the vantage of a Cessna, Evans could tell different stories of the prairie — stories of irrigation and extraction, flooded fields and drained wetlands, feedlots and bomb targets. Seen from the air, these features of the prairie could be shown in truer relation to one another, although in Evans’s photographs the aerial perspective offers not a panoptical view but a provisional and humble one.

The exhibit has a good web site. And the Nelson-Adkins was a spectacular museum even before the new building by Steven Holl, which judging from the photos is an astonishing addition.

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