Category Archives: Photography

Happy New Year!

Seasonal greetings to all my readers, friends, and even to over a thousand visitors who ended up on this blog googling “nude white women standing facing forward” (I hope antique Venuses you were likely to find here provided an adequate reference if not the desired thrills).

I wish you all a year full of creativity, new art finds, ancient art history revelations, and – to the “forward-looking” thousand of guests – to discover the “three quarters” angle.

I have seen precious little art and read nothing but labels since December, travelling through Geneva to the French Alps and lamenting global warming along the way. If you doubt it exists, go visit glaciers or rather places where glaciers used to be a mere decade ago.

In fact, Geneva should run a referendum of relegating December from winter to late summer.

It’s serene, green, and ticks life away as a $2m tourbillon watch locked in a safe deposit box in an underground bank vault. Geneva is great to visit if you need a few peaceful days, but many of its residents complain it becomes too peaceful in about two weeks of living there, when life starts resembling the said bank vault, but without the money being stacked high all around.

I am sure in terms of art Geneva could benefit from an injection of creative steroids. The only exhibition I enjoyed (out of the two I visited) was a tiny show of Apocalypse graphics in the Art and History Museum, where visitors were provided with magnifying glasses to see tiny details of the exhibits.

It helped me to find something new even among the images I had seen many times before, like Durer’s Adam and Eve of 1504:

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No, it’s not the cat and mouse at the bottom. They are too obvious: one can miss neither them nor their metaphoric references.

My surprise was the bewildered goat at the top right corner that has climbed up a cliff and watches birds flying below, and the cunningly evil expression of the snake achieved by Durer’s endowing the snake with almost human eyelids.

Of course, as any large city, Geneva tries to compensate the lack of private art initiative with public spending. This Xmas it was running a festival of light installations by contemporary artists which I would totally miss were I not living right in front of one of them.

Sophie Guyot, an artist from Lausanne, converted Longemalle square into a garden of symbolic objects that would light up in the evening changing colour from white to red and providing the perfect photo opportunity for transit skiing enthusiasts:

She left the interpretation open: it can be flowers, animals, or even human organs. The latter must be addressed to those who have reviewed a Hannibal Lector movie recently, which I find slightly disturbing, given the generally festive time of the year.

Otherwise, it is just fun and a huge electricity bill.

But, despite the slow start, I hope 2016 will serve me with a healthy helping of great art, heaps of art history discoveries, and plenty of opportunities to write about it all.

Happy New Year and see you soon in this blog!

P.S. WordPress spellchecker insists on replacing “Durer” with “Durex” in a vain hope I would abandon art and move over to the more popular domain of erotic literature. Thank you, I’d rather stay with “ü”.

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Escher was real. In India.

“At that moment the bottom fell out of Arthur’s mind. His eyes turned inside out. His feet began to leak out of the top of his head. The room folded flat about him, spun around, shifted out of existence and left him sliding into his own navel. They were passing through hyperspace.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

If you thought M.C.Escher’s reality-twisting drawings were a by-product of his imagination totally irrelevant to Man busy with remodeling his terraced house, go through this gallery of Indian temples step wells by Victoria Lautman (and some Escher drawings), and think again.

I don’t remember when was the last time ancient architecture stunned me so much.

Patriotic marketing in photography history

I am sure you loved the cigarette spy camera from my previous post, and many of you now want to find or buy it for your collection. If it turns out to be unavailable, here’s another idea. In 1888, this hand-held camera was introduced by a guy from Geneva, who used advantages of the flexible film developed by George Eastman for Kodak.

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It is a dream item for collectors too, especially those with alcoholic tendencies: I am sure you’ve noticed it is ideal for hiding a bottle. If no such need arises, it can be resold in another fifty years at a profit.

This camera is valuable because it didn’t live long: Kodak was fast to reformat the world of photography with its compact offer.

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Unlike Ford who insisted on staying black, Kodak also offered cameras that were pink (for ladies) and green (for boy scouts):

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This is the right spot to stop and wonder how much the world has changed in a hundred years! I mean, no producer cares a bit about boy scouts anymore. It’s all about the empowerment of women with a zillion shades of pink and gold.

If you don’t think that offering a wider range of pink is about female empowerment, I know two things about you. First, you are not in marketing. Second, you have been had by people who are in marketing. For instance, think of the Dove brand that claims to empower women by promoting real natural beauty, but introduces pink bottles to accelerate sales. They know that at the end of the day, when the dust of facebook fights around women’s issues settles down, pink still sells like hell.

I am not saying this to start a discussion, but merely to softly land on the planet of marketing,   exclusively inhabited by beautiful people and A-list celebrities who can never tell a truth that wouldn’t be a lie at the same time.

This is a Kodak ad from the Great War. I urge you to read it (it’s clickable). Selling cameras to people who most likely will be dead before they can start using the product under the pretext of fighting trench boredom is very clever, but a tad cynical, don’t you think? Or is it just me?

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Monotony and not bullets, you say? Taking photos in the trenches, while being gassed by the Germans? Really? But I admit, it reads nice and quite convincing.

PS All this wonderful stuff comes from Vevey Museum of Photography. If you are a Nestle employee, make sure you get there (Nestle is headquartered in Vevey). If you are not a Nestle employee and don’t live nearby, I can’t imagine what accident can bring you over to this beautiful spot in Switzerland, except, perhaps, the two first weeks of July when Montreux, a neighbour town, hosts a jazz festival.

 

CU on most expensive camera

This is not your average pack of John Player Specials. It is a close-up on a photo camera, produced in Kiev, Ukraine (then a republic of the USSR), for the KGB. Despite the KGB had never used this spying tool, it became one of the most sought after collection prizes.

If you happen to find one in the attic, don’t smoke it. It can buy you a new house.

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Stay tuned for more bizarre photography stuff! )

Don’t shoot the photographer!

Telescopic lens, auto-focus, continuous shooting at 30 frames per second, and  – bang! – emotions of the striker who scored a goal can be felt in the minuscule detail of the macro take of sweat beads on his forehead. Close-up shots go as smooth and easy as vodka ones, but without the headache. It has not always been like this, folks.

A close-up shot from a long range once required an assistant, preferably under-sized, and hardy both physically and mentally: he had to be prepared for a barrage of abuse if he so much as twitched his shoulder. It’s not ancient history, it is 1948.

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Imagine reaction of the police if they see it, say, pointed at a government official today. There are photographers who love using historic equipment, but someone with this device is likely to have life-expectancy of a moth, possibly shorter.

This photo comes from the Vevey Photography museum in Switzerland. More to follow.