Category Archive • Photography
January 28, 2005
Two more Twin Towers movie sightings

I've just had an idea for a regular series (although I promise nothing) of postings here. I love those Twin Towers, and I want to start writing about movies more often than I have so far here, so here's the plan. Every time I spot the Twin Towers in a DVD, I will pause it, photo it, and shove it up here.

Two things may happen. One, as I say, this may kick start me into writing about movies more than I have. But two, maybe a picture will start to form of how movie makers used to use those towers. What else happens when we see them? What do they seem to mean? And so on.

SidewalksofNewYorkTTs.jpg   NewJackCityTTs.jpg

Click on these two clictures (a word I'm hoping you first read here) to get the full pictures.

On the left, forty seconds into Sidewalks of New York, is the Twin Towers bit of the first sighting of the character played by Edward Burns (who also auteured the entire movie). He is being interviewed by an offscreen voice about his sex life. The Twin Towers are kept in shot, or very nearly, although out of focus, throughout this interview, bits of which, alongside interviews with the other main characters, intersperse the entire movie.

Which I enjoyed. The characters are pretty enough to be pretty, but real enough to be real. Perhaps the most telling plot point concerning Burns' rather gloomy view of life in New York is that only one child features in the entire thing, namely the child that the Rosario Dawson character conceives, by mistake and without telling him, with the Edward Burns character. Rosario Dawson then leaves New York, or at any rate says that she will. New York, Burns seems to be saying, is not a place that makes children. Too expensive. Everyone too fussed about their careers. Two many New Yorkers just don’t want kids.

Stanley Tucci plays a character for whom, in both appearance and behaviour, the phrase "love rat" might have been invented. Dennis Farina plays a man whose advice about cologne proves unsound. Cologne on the balls proves you care, says he. It proves he's weird, says the lady confronted with it. Penis size also gets an airing. In general, this is a movie with a lot to say about male insecurities and confusions, as well as female resentments at what swine men are.

If you love Woody Allen's New York movies, there's a good chance you'll like this, and for the time being Mr Burns seems able to choose his romantic partners in a manner that leaves his dignity in place.

Well-known actors love being in movies of this sort, for they queue up to be in them, half a dozen at a time. They get to talk and act and create character, instead of being upstaged by special effects or having to act opposite mysterious computer animations that only get put in afterwards. They don't have to kill people, or to die, or spend any time hanging from ceilings..

On the other hand, if you find semi-realistic movies about Relationships tedious, what with today's people having it so easy and being so cosseted that they can sit around all night long discussing their Relationships, unlike their grandparents who had depressions to survive and world wars to fight, well, one of the characters says that.

And, on the right is the very first frame of New Jack City, the rest of which I have yet to see, because, having just watched Sidewalks of New York and noted the Twin Towers, this was when I got the idea for this series (although I promise nothing) of postings. I should imagine that the people in this movie get to do lots of killing of one another and have little time to think about Relationships, although I could be quite wrong.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:33 PM
January 27, 2005
Billion Monkey Johnathan Pearce on top of the Empire State

I think that these clutches of photos arranged in lots of little squares to click on work rather well. The basic post seems to load quite quickly, which means that it does not cause too much inconvenience to the non-photographically inclined, and if you are interested, from then on it's one click shopping. I like the format anyway. Even though it is rather laborious.

So, why do the photos have to be mine? They don't. I have friends who take photos, but can't be doing with all the bother of putting them up on the Internet. So, why don't I do it for them? It's a great plan. If you are a friend of mine, and you have a few Billion Monkey snaps to get off your chest and share with whatever bit of the world wants to share them, but (like me) don't want to nag the basically uninterested, get in touch?

What's the worst that could happen? I'd say no they're crap, and we'd never speak to each other again. I suppose that is a consideration to be considered. But I actually don't think this is very likely. Given the nature of Billion Monkey cameras, there's pretty much bound to be a few of your pictures that I like and consider worthy of world-wide mini-fame. Most of mine are crap, after all.

So anyway, this little rectangle of clictures (ha!) is the work of my Samizdatista colleague and fellow Londoner Johnathan Pearce. They were taken when he was on holiday in New York last September. I have quite a few more nice pictures by Johnathan, but this lot makes a convenient set. All were taken from the top of the Empires State Building, with the exception of the very first, which I am guessing was taken in the lobby at the bottom of the Empire State Building. The day was a little cloudy, and I slightly beefed up the brightness and contrast of some of them, but there was no cropping. I really like them, and I particularly like that there are lots of them, and they add up to a real portrait from on high of Manhattan.

The star of these pictures is the Chrysler Building. Note also the far distant Statue of Liberty. But what is that one with the gold, octagonal spike on the top?


Native New Yorkers, as I think I have said here before, like to photo little street scenes and shop fronts, and they forget their skyscrapers because they see them every day. But for the rest of us, the skyscrapers are definitely the thing. And yes, we non New Yorkers all miss those Twin Towers, even though we gave them scant attention until they got knocked down. Well, my kind of non New Yorker, anyway.

So, thank you Johnathan, and my apologies for taking so long to get any of these up. I promise nothing (as I always say when promising anything on a blog), but I hope that another clutch of Johnathan's America pictures will follow soon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:23 PM
January 19, 2005
Billion Monkey photos dead people

As regulars here will know, I like to stick up something every day, or more exactly every night before midnight, and that something, because this is quick, is often one of my photos. This often works well, and for a particular reason. Often, I don't know straight away which of my photos I'm going to like. The ones I like best have a way of sneaking up on me. At first they look nothing special, but a month or two later, I still like them. Such a one was this:


I don't know this guy (click to make him even bigger); I just happened to encounter him in this graveyard, but I'm afraid I can't recall exactly which graveyard this was. It is the kind of graveyard where famous people are buried, I do remember that. But it is already too late for me to be able politely to ring the person I shared the walk with and find out. I'll try to do this later and with luck there will be an informative addendum.

I love the Internet. Thanks to it, we Billion Monkeys photomaniacs can exhibit our favourite snaps and have them enjoyed by whoever in the world cares to enjoy them, without forcing intolerable slide shows upon our friends and relatives.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:59 PM
January 13, 2005
Dots in the dark

Slack day at Samizdata, and this evening, I was taking it up, which left no time for here, so here is a recent favourite photo, which will not be to all tastes, on account of it being blurry and dark and insufficiently of anything. But this is my blog and I like it.


What I like is the way the dots look so painted. Click to get them bigger.

Here are the dots on the right in close-up, nearly full size:


We have entered a world of pure machine reaction here, having almost no connection with how it looks to the human eye. But in a good way, I think.

Why is it that I have so much more respect for my photos when they look almost like abstract paintings, than I do for actual abstract paintings? What's that about?

By the way, what it is is lights seen across the river Thames, at night. And there was you thinking it was lunchtime.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:55 PM
January 11, 2005
Lights that change colour (2): Natural

Monet had his haystack. With me it's 355 Kings Road.

355 Kings Road is a big boring refurbished sixties blockhouse tower, refurbished to look not quite as ugly as it used to look, by being covered in sheeting of some sort. Or maybe it was like this to start with. Who knows? Don't answer that, I don't care.

What I do care about is the amazingly different coloured pictures I have of this edifice.


The one with two different colours is the best, isn't it? It looks like it's painted, and they ran out of orange. And look at where the two colours meet. It's a paintbrush join on the left, but a spray gun join on the right. But it isn't that. It's setting sunlight, coming in from the West, with part of it in shadow. Buildings on the left and trees on the right.

No Photoshopping by the way, not even cropping. Those were the pictures, straight from the camera. And here's Lights that change colour (1).

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
January 09, 2005
My back yard from the air

Incoming email from Billy Beck, who reckons I might like this photo, of my part of London, from an airplane. He reckons right, partly because of the cute little union jack, shining forth in the gloom, but mostly because of what's on the ground.


Not to be used for any reason blah blah, so maybe it will vanish from here, but either way you can find a bigger version here.

I live pretty much in the middle, and can pick out all my local roads and walks. Top(ish) right(ish): the Wheel. Bottom in the middle: Battersea Power Station. Three famous parks (left to right): the right hand end of Hyde Park, Green Park and St James' Park.

Did some more rootling at the same site, and also came across this rather striking picture of an Airbus A320 control panel.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:32 PM
January 07, 2005
German photographer in London

Via this Samizdata posting, I found my way to these excellent London photos, of which this one, which he posted last October, is now particularly thought-making:


In general, if you like the kind of photos I like to take (minus the self-portraiture that I indulge in), then (as Michael Jennings suggests) you'll love these. Architecture, statues, oddities, and lots of interesting signs and adverts.

What's the German for Billion Monkeys?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:31 PM
January 05, 2005
Billion Monkey New York (1): MetroPlus

Instapundit links to a bunch of New York Billion Monkeys, these photos being my favourites of the ones I looked at, because I finally got to see some skyscrapers. I suppose locals get blasé about those towers, and want to do things like close-ups of peculiar signs or shops or hair or dogs or whatever. But I love those towers.


Dark grey at the front, lighter grey behind. Never fails.

And here's some excellent graffiti, …


… which always gives me a dose of mixed feelings. One: excellent graffiti. Clearlyl this is one of the defining art forms of our era. But two: graffiti suggests to me that the official owners of the place have lost some of their control of it, to a new and nastier sort of owner, and I don't like to see that. Saw some very witty graffiti-graphics yesterday evening at Vauxhall station last night, and I tried to photo it, but it was too dark and it didn't come out right.

Skyscrapers and graffiti have in common that both can be seen as male pissing contests. Discuss.

And also, discuss this. When I saved those pictures from the MetroPlus blog posting (which I assume he doesn't mind), they at first came up as just two of those annoying little red crosses in a little square, in a big blank square where the picture was supposed to be. But then, because I thought it might work and because I recall something like this having worked before, I looked at the "Format Options" in Photoshop when you save pictures (which are: "Baseline ("Standard")", "Baseline Optimized", and "Progressive") and switched them from Progressive to Baseline ("Standard"). Bingo. First I didn't see them, now you do. What's that all about?

So much of computer use seems to mean doing splig and remembering not to do splog, without knowing what the hell splig and splog really mean. So, what do splig and splog mean in this case?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:47 AM
January 02, 2005
Another photo bounced off car shock

Another year another quota photo. Midnight approaches, I like building reflections bounced off cars, with something on the surface to give it some depth don't you know. Some things never change eh?


I like the tower because it's my home tower, the one outside my front window. And I like the way the car window transforms it from a sixties blockhouse into something more shapely and cutting edge, less brutalist and more Foster.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
January 01, 2005
… and a Happy New Year

Despite all the tsunami horrors of 12/26 and onwards - this guy looks like a good man to read, if you can take it - London nevertheless celebrated the arrival of the New Year in style. BBC1 switched back and forth between appropriately doleful reportage from the smitten East, and the rather subdued celebrations that were nevertheless happening in London, in Britain and in general.

There was nothing subdued, however, about the firework display which was staged in London, in and around the Wheel. You can't tone down a firework display, I guess. You either have it as originally planned, or you don't. And London had it.

As soon as I saw how impressive it was going to be, I started snapping away at my telly.


Click and enjoy.

I seem to recall hoping here that as part of the London effort to get the Olympic Games, good things would happen to London. This, I suspect, was one of them. Look! We may have hopeless public transport and no proper stadium, but at least we can do fireworks!

I really envy those who got out to see all this for real, and here are some reaction shots of the envied, to end with. Brian's Culture Blog wouldn't be Brian's Culture Blog without a picture of someone taking pictures, so I end with a regulation Billion Monkey. This was the one shot I had to exhume from darkness with a bit of photoshopping. All the others are as snapped.


The footage of the two ladies and the moustachioed gent was very artfully set up, and recurred several times. I'm sure the BBC liked it for the beauty of the ladies, and for the ethnic mix. And what the hell, so do I. I'm glad I got Lady in the Middle brushing away a tear.

As for the other pics, I probably shouldn't have had so many of the Wheel, but really, has it ever looked better? And it must be the answer to the pyrotechnicians's (?) prayers. About the only thing missing was giant rockets attached to the Wheel to make it spin round madly like a giant catherine wheel. As it was, each pod was crammed with explosives and the entire frame must have been festooned with bangs and wires of every sort. Even on mere TV it looked remarkable, and though I say it myself, I love how it looks in some of these photos.

Brits will have seen all this on their TVs if they cared, even if they were at parties (I myself was hosting one), because at parties the TV gets switched on for the chimes of Big Ben, and to make sure you get the timing of the New Year right. But non Brits may not have seen this particular show. Even those who did see the TV may agree with me that stills of it all do add something, in an oil painting sort of way.

I wonder what Turner would have made of all this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:14 PM
December 16, 2004
Billion Monkey tips

I have been working on my tips for Billion Monkeys piece. However, this contains many of the things I was going to say, and I disagree with hardly any of it. It's presented as tips for people using portable phone cameras, but all the same principles apply to cheap digital cameras without phones.

I got to this via this having started, inevitably, from here.

BillionMonkeyCartoon.gifAlso, my thanks to Michael Jennings for the link to this, in which the case for digital photography is eloquently stated:

"Whatever did we do before digital cameras?"

"Probably only took sensible photos."

Precisely. Who wants a world containing only sensible photos? Where's the fun in that?

The cartoonist in question adds to the list of recommendations linked to above that you try hanging from the ceiling. Good idea. But best not while wearing a tie.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:51 PM
December 15, 2004
A little bridge near and a big bridge far away

I know, another Millau Viaduct posting, but it's really beautiful and why ever not?

And of all the pictures of it I've looked at lately, I think that this is one of the nicest:


I found this here, but my French is not good. So, is the small bridge in the foreground, down in the valley, the Viaduc Lerouge, as the name of the .jpg file suggests? Don't know. And have to say: don't really care.

Anyway, whatever the name of the little bridge, could you possibly have a finer illustration of how bridge technology has come on since the age of stone arches or nothing? Leaps and bounds is the phrase that springs (ha!) to mind.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:59 PM
Lights that change colour (1): Artificial

Richard Morrison (in Times Online) doesn't think much of the Christmas lights in Oxford Street:

Each December in our trendy suburb (Hendon, in case you didn’t recognise the description) people turn their front gardens into veritable winter wonderlands of strobe Santas and fluorescent flowerbeds. True, these gaudy displays may not strike metropolitan sophisticates as being in the subtlest possible taste. But their festive élan cannot be denied.

Contrast that with the dismal, dated illuminations in Central London this month. Regent Street has dreary white snowflakes in a blue border. Bond Street, daringly different, has pink snowflakes on a white border. And Oxford Street? Its attempts at yuletide cheer – squat arches on which spotlights swivel like geriatric ballerinas – look like Blitz-era anti-aircraft batteries recreated in secondhand hardboard by someone who failed GCSE woodwork.

Attend any rock concert these days and you see fabulous lighting effects. Even little villages such as Mousehole in Cornwall manage to create magic with their Christmas lights. Yet our capital city has this third-rate stuff. Mayor Ken should intervene. What else is he there for?

Well, I actually quite like them. What's wrong with Blitz-era anti-aircraft batteries? Rather dramatic, I'd say. I'd love to have seen the real thing – without being bombed too nastily I mean. But then, I've never, ever, in my entire life, been to a rock concert. If I had been to lots of rock concerts, I would surely associate multicoloured searchlights with mud and ugliness and cacophony and bursting for a pee, and I wouldn't have liked the Oxford Street lights either. Although what Morrison says is that a Mousehole (pronounced Mowzl by the way) Rock Fest would be better lit than this, so maybe I like these because I haven't seen better.

What does strike me about these lights is how non-Christmassy they are. They're just lights. I don't think they're "dismal", but they do strike me as of a piece with PC plans to not have nativity plays.

Here are some pictures I took of them a few nights ago:

Lights1s.jpg Lights2s.jpg Lights3s.jpg

Click and enjoy. Or click and sneer. I don't care.

Note that, in picture 2, a fellow Billion Monkey can be observed in operation, just in front of me and to the left. And yes, as picture 3 makes clear, that's Centre Point up there in the background, helpfully labelled. Don't scoff, it's very useful for checking which way you're facing in Oxford Street after you've emerged from a shop.

What these still photos don't show is how the lights themselves are on the whole not still, and in particular how you can see them twiddling around over Oxford Street from other streets.

But despite not getting them in motion, my digital camera probably makes the lights look more spectacular and dominant than they really are. When light is scarce, my camera goes looking for light, and when confronted by these searchlight beams, it finds a lot of light and goes rather mad. With regular coloured lights that means a bright blur, as per the regular street lights and even the quite normally lit shop windows. But with these searchlight beams it takes a relatively mundane blur and makes it sharper and more dramatic. Which is good. What matters is how reality looks in photographs, not how reality is.

Although, as Madsen Pirie (of this fame) once said, when asked to comment on the truth or otherwise of Ayn Rand's vacuous dictum to the effect that "A is A": "It all depends what you mean by 'is'." And that was years before Bill Clinton made a similar point.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:08 PM
December 10, 2004
A few quota links

This link to this Samizdata posting today about more Fritz Werner Bach, plus a reminder that I continue to churn out stuff for here, will probably be your lot today.

Well, here is a nice picture of Medellin, which is in Central America somewhere, I think (Columbia?), which I tried to steal from Harry Hutton's picture gallery. "Public" means, I can do that, right? (I mean, what the hell do I know about intellectual property. I signed up for that CNE gig to find out about it, not because I know anything about it already.) But I couldn't make that work.

That big church on the right looks to be quite something, and it still towers over its surroundings.

Flickr seems to be getting very popular nowadays. Can it show pictures as big as I like to, 800 by 600, filling most of your screen? That Medellin picture ought to be as big as possible, I think.

JP, your New York pictures will go up this weekend, I hope, big as possible, but I promise nothing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:49 PM
December 09, 2004
Three bears

No time for anything profound today. So instead something superficial, not to say rather sweet.

Three bears, in a playground, just south of Waterloo station, photoed by me about a fortnight ago, and kept on my hard disk for just such an eventuality, i.e. being caught short for a quick posting. (Busy day, blah blah.)

Two pics, the one on the left showing the figures a bit more clearly, the one on the right showing a little more of the surrounding context.

3bearsS.jpg  3bears2S.jpg

Don't know which is best, so there's both. Click to get either bigger.

This is all part of the welcome trend nowadays in the direction of representational realism in public sculpture. Sculptures these days, have an overwhelming tendency to be of something.

All of which reminds me that I really must get down to writing something about the obligation that so many bloggers feel to sling up any old something at least once a day, rather than just nothing. I feel this obligation myself, and when I have the time to explain why I choose to feel this feeling, I will.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:57 PM
December 06, 2004
Billion Monkey hands and camera but no head

This is photo of octagonal booze glass from directly above, lit from directly above (and bit from side also – below as look – hence extra shadow), with camera held out over the glass but away from head Billion Monkey style.


Hence shadow of Billion Monkey hands and Billion Monkey camera but not Billion Monkey head.

Also camera strap. Twice.

Click make bigger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:41 PM
December 02, 2004
B with wings (again)

For as long as they keep on parking it there, I'm going to go on photographing it.


A click gets it bigger.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. A white something, anyway.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:29 PM
November 30, 2004
Billion Monkey snaps self in Harley Davidson

Busy day, so instead of proper blogging, more stupid photos of things reflected off a shiny surface.

This was the big picture:


And here were two little pictures I took of myself. Click to make them bigger.


My poor little camera was set on automatic, and it had a hard time deciding what to focus on, but it did okay, I hope you agree.

This mighty, shiny, machine was and as far as I know still is parked outside a shop in the Kings Road that sells things like Harley Davidson handbags and Harley Davidson deodorant. Or I think that's what it sells. To be honest (my sister said to me when last we met and I used this expression: "Does this mean that normally you aren't?") I didn't look, on account of not caring.

And yes, I have had a hair cut. I do not need to be told this. I was fully conscious at the time, and I myself paid for this to be done.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:55 PM
November 29, 2004
The B with wings in November

Another photo for Tatyana's son (see comments here). It's the same car. But the view is slightly different, and the leaves on the trees have now gone.


Click to get the same thing bigger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 AM
November 27, 2004
London's Billion Monkey Rugby World Cup celebrations

Just under a year ago, on Monday December 8th 2003, the triumphant England Rugby Union squad paraded the Rugby World Cup which they had won the previous month, against Australia, in Australia.

I found the final almost too painful to watch, and even now I can hardly bear to watch the DVD I now have of it. England should have finished off Australia an hour sooner, but they just couldn't, and in the end only Wilkinson's famous drop kick at the death won it for England.

So for me, the big thrill was not the final itself, but the celebrations in London, which I watched on the telly. This brought two of the things I have most enjoyed looking at during my whole life, the England rugby team in all its many variations, and the great city that is London, ditto, into one grand jamboree.

You can find far better photos, technically speaking, of these celebrations than the ones I took, but here are mine, which I snapped in a technically ridiculous fashion which I am sure was unnecessary, with my newly acquired Canon A70, of the digital TV coverage of the celebrations by the BBC, which I did not (and still do not) have the technology to record properly. (The only telly tapes I have are still of much inferior analogue reception.)

I couldn't even pause the pictures to get them less blurred.

But I love these photos. They capture a moment in the life of my country and my city, and of my own life, in a way which will surely never happen in the same way again, even if England win the next Rugby World Cup and parade that around London also, as is not impossible. For by the time of the next World Cup, I will surely have some means of digitally recording digital TV, and quite possibly I will by then have worked out how to capture such imagery on my computer, with some kind of card thingy or something. This, I feel sure, is what everyone else except me does already.

But for me, the technical bizarreness of it all only all adds to the fun, and it adds even more to the atmosphere of these pics that I think I started snapping away at the telly pretty much on the spur of the moment, having never tried doing this before.

All part of the oddity of them is that it has taken me so very long to finally get around to sticking them up here, the excuse being that it was a year ago. Also, today, at Twickenham this time, an almost brand new England side is playing against Australia.

Anyway, enjoy them, skip in among them, get the picture with one picture and move on, ignore them, scorn them. In short, treat this like any other brand-X blog posting. But for me, these will be a diary entry to treasure.


As you can see, the Billion Monkeys were out in force, many of us, it turns out, being England rugby players. My favourite Billion Monkey shot being the very first one here (which I'll call 1.1 – first row, first from the left), of Josh Lewsey, seen from above, photoing the Cup itself.

2.2 preserves in photo form all the clobber that surrounded my TV set at the time, and is one I will therefore particularly enjoy. And speaking of irrelevances, I especially struck by an individual I had completely not noticed at the time, namely the little blue guy whose job was to see that the Cup itself came to no harm. See especially 3.2, but he's in others too. What a day he must have had.

3.5 is a classic heroic shot from street level of Richard Hill on the bus, breathing it all in and making sure to savour these magic moments, with Jonny W for once rather spoiling things. And although 4.4 is very blurred, it gets Dallaglio very well, I think.

4.1 is another classic Billion Monkey pose, this time of the guy you have asked to try his best to do one of you with your camera. Jason Leonard is having fun, but he wants to get it right. And 5.1 is another generic Billion Monkey shot, the one where the Billion Monkey fiddles with the nobs in a somewhat puzzled way, with the strap hanging down over his hands. That's scrum half Matt Dawson.

In 5.2 and 5.3 we observe a veritable Billion Monkey Troop in full capture mode. A cameraless Mike Catt looks like he swallowed all the cream in England, but maybe Jason Robinson wishes he'd brought one of these camera thingies with him too, like all the other guys.

And who is that, just about makeable out in 6.1? Why yes, it's Mayor Livingstone! And quite right too. London needed to shake hands with these guys officially, and he was the man to do it. He did it well, not trying to barge in on anything, just making sure to be there, at the side.

There's even an artistic one, 7.5, and 1.4 is in a similar vein, with stuff flying through the air past the bus. And 5.6 is pretty artistic too, of the cup itself in reasonable focus and almost everything else blurred.

And through it all, the dominant personalities of the occasion. Captain Martin Johnson (4.3, 6.2), Head Coach Woodward (perfectly focussed in 4.5, then distracted away from the interviewer in 4.6), and Jonny Wilkinson (7.4 is especially good). And of course there are lots of pics in among it all are of the ecstatic fans, flooding into Oxford Street, Regent Street, and finally Trafalgar Square.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:22 PM
November 24, 2004
How much is that Predator in the window?

As regulars here will know, I am a statue-spotter. And this evening, in Oxford Street, and I chanced upon another very striking statue, in a shop window.

Here's the shop, so you can see the overall size of the thing, and how they displayed it:


Here's the entire thing itself:


And here's a close-up of its head and shoulders:


Scary, eh? And I really think that this is an original piece of art, rather than some piece of movie spin-off tat mass produced in plastic. All those chains and wheels look to me like someone here in London thought of it, and felt strongly about it.

These photos are going up here because I will shortly be doing a posting at Samizdata about these statues, of a horsey, a doggie-woggie, and two ickle pretty donkeys, which do rather suggest that this country is going soft.

This Predator statue, however, says otherwise, and I will link to this also.

As for how much it is, I didn't at the time think to ask.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:37 PM
November 20, 2004
Lileks piks

There are three fine photos over at yesterday's Bleat, which I've only just clocked. Trees – all utterly leafless now, in Lileksland, unlike my Transitional Trees yesterday. (Poingnant note: the ones in the background are doomed. They have dutch elm disease.) A Reflection Photo – now that I like to do these myself, I note that others love to do them too and I see great Reflection Photos everywhere. And: a Strange Building, cleverly photoed to make it look even stranger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:00 PM
November 19, 2004
Late autumn

LateAutumnS.jpgI took this snap from my own living room window a few moments ago. When autumn first strikes all the tress have leaves, of wildly different colours, some autumnal but others not yet. Now, the big tree is only a skeleton, but behind it colour continues to rage. Click to get the bigger picture.

This may be all I manage today.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:47 PM
November 17, 2004
TVs – they're getting bigger and they're getting flatter

Here are a couple of pictures of TVs, both snapped on the electric toys floor of a big London department store.

These are the bigger ones:


… and these are the flatter ones:


Click on these pics to get even more tellies!

By and large the bigger ones aren't flat yet, and the flat ones aren't big yet, although you can get anything at a price. And the little ones at the back of the top picture aren't either big or flat, merely cheap.

But … the age of the big, flat, cheap TVs cannot be far away.

Incidentally, I have started to notice boxes to stick next to your TV that record TV programmes onto a hard disc rather than only tape, or even rewritable DVDs. I think I might soon be in the market for one of these. The Yanks call these TiVos, yes? Or is that something rather different? Or would it make more sense for me to get a machine that can make DVDs as well.

At present I can't seem to be able to record digital TV onto tape. It goes all wonky. Presumably a box like this would not misbehave thus. ?

Anyone got any opinions about these gadgets?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:32 PM
November 16, 2004
Queen upstaged

Photography is all about capturing the moment.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:10 PM
Other people using Brian Micklethwait photos!

Incoming email yesterday, from my friend Amoy:

Hi Brian


Hope all is well.

That would be a bit of an exaggeration, but, to answer what you mean rather than what you say: yes.

[… personal stuff that is not BCB business …]

I reply, ditto. Then …

I have been keeping a bit up-to-date with your life through your culture blog. All of us here at Londoneasy love it and I must say, you've become quite good with that camera – so many of your photos lend themselves to a thousand stories, which is absolutely brilliant. …

Well, yes, indeed, thank you thank you.

… I am sure you know this though.

It's good to be told again, even so.

A few months ago we launched a new Features Section within Londoneasy. I have a team of four who write daily articles. They are very much in the same vein as yours – short, quirky, anecdotal. We look for stories that try to capture Londoners' preoccupations with the city.

And occasionally profound. Don't forget occasionally profound.

Last week one of my journalists had the cheek of borrowing two of your images for articles we have online: one titled Home Truths, and another titled Culture: Empire in the Capital.

We have given you credit for the images. This has only just come to my attention so apologies for not asking in before using. If you are not okay with this, I will take them down ASAP.

Seriously, and as I said to Amoy in my email back, this is fine. My line on other people using my photos is: go ahead, but please give me credit for them, as Londoneasy did. Also, please do, if you are making tons of money, give me a tiny crumb – to encourage the others and all that. If not then don't bother. I leave that to you.

The photopostings here that Amoy is referring to are this one about Foxtonspersons, and this one about Bomber Harris.

My plan for personal global domination includes people using my photos for free and me becoming a world famous layabout instead of the mere layabout that I am now, at which point, then, well, I'll take it from there. I'm just another blogger in other words. So copy away.

Besides which, what Amoy is apologising for having done is what I do anyway, namely not ask permission, give credit, and stand ready to take them down instantly if there is any problem or objection. This seems to be emerging as the blogosphere norm. So far, despite numerous featurings of other people's photos, I have had no grief whatsoever from aggrieved photo-posters.

A final thought. Although I did get credits from Londoneasy, I did not, because that is not how they do things, get any links back to my original postings. Fair enough. But, not problem. Ruminating upon this circumstance, I once again found myself being grateful that my name is Brian Micklethwait, rather than something more like Brian Smith or John Smith. Google for John Smith, and the problem is, of course: which John Smith? Suppose you are seeking the John Smith who, during the Peninsular War, married a Spanish Bride (to quote the title of Georgette Heyer's most amusing novel about that gentleman and lady), who ended up being immortalised, or so I recall reading, in the name of the city of Ladysmith in South Africa. But suppose instead that you get deluged with references to a drearily dead Labour politician. You see the problem. But if you google Brian Micklethwait, you get me and only me. Hurrah. (Caution: if you google only Micklethwait, you get a lot of stuff about my Nth (as N tends to infinity) cousin John Micklethwait.) This means that if Brian Micklethwait gets credited by name for a photo, then that, from the point of view of me building my reputation, is sufficient. No need for a link, because google will quickly find you those blog postings anyway.

Are lots of people even now changing their names from John Smith (or similar) to John Cratchetweaver (or similar), or even to Themistocles Cratchetweaver (just to be sure), for this one reason? It would make sense.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:36 PM
November 14, 2004
Graffiti man running

Excellent if immoral graffiti animation here - via boingboing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:43 PM
November 12, 2004

I will now criticise Instapundit. Twice. I don't remember ever having done this before even once, so this is new territory for me. Perhaps I will be hunted down by goon squads and locked up in a basement at the University of Tennessee.

GlennReynolds.gifCriticism number one of Instapundit is this beyond-frightful picture of him that the Guardian has been using to decorate his recent columns for them. It looks like something contrived for Halloween, and confirms, whether by accident or by design, every Guardianista prejudice about the man that there is. He is nasty, sinister, stupid, ignorant, and if this was an old and cheap black and white movie (which is what it looks as if it was taken from) he would be dead very soon and deservedly so, in the course of trying and failing to do something sinister and nasty.

Either Instapundit chose this photo, in which case he made a big mistake, or the Guardian chose it, in which case they did a very clever thing. If the Guardian chose it, and if Instapundit tried to get them to use another, but they went with this picture anyway, then that is a story and it is a story that the rest of us would, I am sure, love to be told.

And the other criticism I have to offer of Instapundit is that whenever, as he occasionally does, he features a small picture on the right hand side of a posting, he almost always fails to separate the text from the edge of the picture. This results in writing, and particularly the little permalink blob, jamming itself smack dab up against the picture, as for example here, here, here, here, here. here. and here. Here, he either did it right or got lucky, almost certainly the latter. I am not nearly such a clever blogger as Instapundit, but in this particular matter I always do better, this posting being only one of many examples of my superior typographical skills to those of Instapundit when it comes to placing small pictures in my postings, on the right hand side.

In my case the secret is to insert this gobbledegook into the code which inserts the picture:

align="right" img style="{margin-left:10}"

There. That wasn't very hard was it. Well, of course, like everything in computerisating, it is easy if you know it and do it regularly, and totally bloody impossible if you don't and you don't.

More seriously, now that the Old Mainstream Media have been toppled from their perch (my thanks to Instapundit for the link), Instapundit is now New Mainstream Media. And it is the duty of the rest of us to see that he lives up to the high standards that are appropriate for his new and elevated station in life.

In particular, he now has to realise that appearances matter.

UPDATE Nov 13: Incoming email from Gregg A Howard:

Note that the Guardian photo was taken using the "Frankenstein flash" technique used by old chaw 'n' spit newspaper photogs on particularly heinous criminals. It involved holding the flash a foot or two below the lens and the perp's face in order to distort the features in a way much admired by city editors back in the 30's and 40's. (see attached) But surely its use here is simply a coincidence and has no bearing on how GR's opinions are viewed by those at the Guardian.


I don't know whether Howard concocted this composite picture himself or found it somewhere else. The former, I'm guessing, if only because if the latter he would presumably have said. Either way, my thanks.

UPDATE Nov 14:

I did concoct it myself. The photos were scanned from Bloodletters and Badmen (isbn - 087131-113-5).

I picked the book up at a library sale for 25 cents some years ago. When I saw the Guardian photo, the inference was immediate. The composite was simple using the five-year-old software that came with this computer. The other faces are those of Harvey Murray Glatman, William Heirens and Stephen Nash.

A few more emails like this, and this blog will start to become a real Culture Blog.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:55 PM
November 10, 2004
One London drama and two London tourist snaps

I kind of, vaguely, it must have happened, realised that the Houses of Parliament got burned down some time around when it actually did happen, which was 1834. But I never knew Turner had done a picture of it. Better yet, he actually witnessed it.

This (click to get it bigger) is my favourite of the pictures he did of this dramatic occurrence:


Those miniature Twin Towers must be Westminster Abbey.

This other painting looks odd to me, although it seems to be a bit more famous. The smoke and the bridge collide in a strangely unrealistic fashion, I think. Although, maybe that's what it did look like.

No fire for Turner to paint, and there would have been no this …


… snapped by me a few evenings ago. Commonplace to Londoners. A picture postcard view. (I only did it because I was trying to get the pink vapour trails.) But this is the Internet! I find it hard to believe sometimes, but there are wretches who do not live in London, and who, worse, seldom even visit. And some of these pitifuls have computers and Internet connections, to keep them in touch with civilisation. These people badly need to be shown views such as this.

And I might as well get shot of this shot too, another tourist view, which I took a few moments earlier, looking the other way along the river. The Hungerford Footbridges, which you can just about make out, are the ones with the oddly directed spikes, on either side of the original and very mundane rail bridge.


By the way, the bridge I was on when I took this (Westminster Bridge) is not the one featured in Turner's painting, for that too has been replaced.

Will I ever myself witness anything as dramatic as that fire? If I do, will I have my camera with me? And will my pictures come out as well as Turner's (good) painting?

If the Wheel fell over, would there be warning and could I rush out to catch it falling? Would they replace it? They might. It's very popular.

I wonder what a photo of the fire Turner painted would have looked like. If Photoshop had been invented first, would oil painting (like paper compared to computer screens) have been regarded as an improvement?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:16 PM
November 08, 2004
Shanghai morning

ShanghaiBike.jpgI like this photo, which I found here.

Skyscrapers. A reflection in a puddle. Brian's Culture Blog bliss.

The Guardian is making a Shanghai week of it. With luck there will be more photos, though if there are I doubt if most of them will be this good.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:45 PM
Two faces of London

Today I was wandering around in the general area of Samizdata HQ in Chelsea, and came across this house - 50 Glebe Place, London SW3. That's a pretty bad photo at the other end of that link, but it gives you an idea. Mine is better focussed but only shows half of it.


I did a proper view from further back, but it came out blurry. Write out fifty times: I will always keep the camera still.

I googled, but all I could find about 50 Glebe Place was "vimero" describing it as "the most beautiful house in London", but saying nothing else about it.

I'll have to try looking in a book, which I don't have time to do now.

And I will also go back and try to do a better photo.

Meanwhile here is another photo of a very different sort of London exterior facade, of the generally rather dull but occasionally, as here, amusing lights in Piccadilly Circus, which I was driven through last night on my way back from doing some radio.


When you photo lights like these, you often get effects of a sort you could never actually see, as in this case. The same thing can happen, but in a less good way, when you photo TV, as I like to do from time to time.

The journey to the BBC last night was a nightmare of diversionary panic, and I only got there with about two minutes to spare. I could have walked quicker. The diversions were because they were putting up the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, which (on the way back) looked really rather good. I snapped away from inside the car, but none of those snaps came out properly either. Funny, on the way, it was nothing but bloody red lights. But when I wanted red lights, so I could snap the Christmas lights from a stationary car instead of a blurrily moving one, it was bloody green greeen green all the way.

I'll be back, on foot.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:14 PM
November 06, 2004
Barenboim looking strange

Barenboim2.jpgThese photos of Daniel Barenboim at the temporary until-it's-redone-properly Warner Classics website, especially the three colour ones, are very strange. They make him look not like the quite old gent that he now is, but rather as if he had been made up to look old about thirty years ago, and photoed then. I think it's the fact that they forgot to grey the eyebrows and eyelashes. Maybe he dies his eyebrows and eyelashes black so that he can influence orchestral musicians just by moving his eyebrows and eyelashes up and down, but I doubt this. More probably he is of a physical type whose eyebrows and eyelashes are the last of his hair to turn grey. All the same, it looks odd to me.

Maybe there's been photoshopping, in particular beefing up the colour contrast, and this has had the effect of making him look unreal.

I'm not trying to undermine Barenboim's status as a musician, which is very high and deservedly so. Several decades ago I saw him conduct in London, Mozart mainly, including piano concertos from the keyboard, but especially the late Mozart symphonies. Something about the way he conducted, something about the kind of sound he seemed to want from an orchestra - long legato paragraphs and sonoroties, elbows and armpits as well as just hands, made me think even then that he should in due course be Georg Solti's successor in Chicago, which he later was, and that he would (like Solti) one day make a notable Wagner conductor, which he now is. Even in Israel.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:38 PM
November 04, 2004
Dying leaves

There are lots of autumn pictures around, around now, what with it being, around now, autumn.

I particularly like this one.

Here are two from me, which I wondered whether to bother with, and would not have bothered with had there not been this excuse.

AutumnLeafS.jpg   AutumnS.jpg

The tower one is of a car roof. I like how the curved roof curves the tower. I like the tower because to me it is home, in the sense that I live (contentedly) opposite the thing and see it every day. If you do not like it, I understand.

If you're not that impressed with these leaves, that's okay. This is the Olde English autumn, not the blazing insanity of colours that is the New England Fall.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:42 PM
November 02, 2004
Foster photoshops Shuttleworth

Don't try to say that too fast.

From last weekend's Sunday Times:

THE tactic is more redolent of Stalinist Russia than the rarefied air of an architect’s office. A "team photo" of employees of Lord Foster, who has designed some of the world’s most famous buildings, has been "airbrushed", downgrading the importance of the architect’s former right-hand man.

In the original photograph Ken Shuttleworth, a former senior partner, is in pride of place beside Foster. Shuttleworth is credited by many with being one of the creative forces behind Foster's "gherkin" tower in the City of London.

In the published version, however, included in a new book of Foster's work, Shuttleworth has been shunted sideways and back one row into the crowd of some 350 workers.

Graham Phillips, a senior partner who was away when the main photograph was taken, has been pasted into the prime slot at Foster's right hand.

News of the picture doctoring will add to a dispute in the world of architecture over whether Shuttleworth – nicknamed "Ken the Pen" for his rapid, immaculate draughtsmanship – has been given credit for his role in the gherkin.

Shuttleworth, 52, left Foster’s firm in December after almost 30 years to start a rival practice, Make. He employs 18 former Foster staff.

It will be absolutely fascinating to see what Shuttleworth manages to do on his own.

Adam Tinworth has been kind enough to send me copies of Grid, the magazine about property development which he edits, and there is a spread in the latest one he has just sent me about Shuttleworth's plan to build, somewhere in London, the Vortex. But the Vortex picture in Gris seems to be very similar to the one I used in these two postings, so the plan doesn't seem to have advanced very far since June of this year. But maybe there have been developments and I missed them.

Adam's Vortex commenters make the point that a city can only have so many iconic buildings, Gherkin style. I reckon about another dozen such icons should be erected (such as this one), and the Vortex, and a few more memorable edifices, and then London can get back to piling high and selling cheap, i.e. building towers which are collectively impressive but individually less so, like
these ones.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:39 PM
October 31, 2004
Tv-ing the silver lining

Not every cloud has a silver lining, but this one (which I chanced upon out in the suburbs yesterday) did, which made it look not unlike this:


It actually wasn't as dramatic as that makes it look. But it did have that bright line around the edge of the cloud, definitely brighter than the sky behind. I photoed it on "AUTO" (automatic), but that completely ignored the contrast between the line around the cloud and the sky behind, making both equally bright.

Then I thought back to those digital camera lessons I did, and tried it on "Tv" (timer variation?), and quickened the shutter speed (?). My first stab with that was excessively dark, but lengthening it a little got me what I wanted. Even the crappy little screen on my cheap camera suggested that this had worked.

Back home with the computer, the original AUTO pictures weren't as bad as they looked on the camera. But the Tv ones were definitely better, at least for that silver lining.

Click to get it larger. Although I'm not sure if that really adds much.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:25 PM
Billion Monkey turn green!

I wasn't at the north London Halloween soirée at which this hideous apparition was to be observed.


My thanks to fellow BM Michael Jennings, who was there.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:25 PM
October 24, 2004
Classy birds

Another photo to show you. I went walking in the Hammersmith area earlier in the week, beside the river, the weather being windy but otherwise perfect. Some seagulls were congregating around a man throwing bread to them and my companion said I should I attempt to photo them. So I snapped away, but I wasn't hopeful. I expected tiny smudges. However, when I got home and screened them, it turned out that some of them were decidedly okay, this being the best bit of the best one.


Had I known how well I was doing I'd have done more snaps, and maybe got something even better. The two on the lower right of things are a bit of a muddle. I have been learning Photoshop lately, and in particular have learned how to eliminate such things. But Photoshop is evil. We can now all lie with our cameras, but we shouldn't.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:34 AM
October 23, 2004
Friday night at Foxton's

These fun photos was taken by me last night, as I walked from Sloane Square along the Kings Road towards Perry de Havilland's, for a party, which puts time-of-taking at around 7pm. The premises in which all these young chaps and chapesses were gathered was Foxton's, the estate agents. Click to see them bigger.

What were they there for? My guess would be that they were Foxtonians who were about to be dosed with some Foxtonian propaganda about how to sell houses for more than people want to pay and for less than people want to charge, and that after that they would be having a party of their own. They certainly seemed cheerful enough.


Collectively, they responded much as these ladies of fond memory did. That is, as soon as I decided that there was a photograph to be taken here, they started playing up to my camera, even though it was only my tiny little Canon A70. I myself made no secret whatever of my photographic intentions. I stood proud in front of their window, grinning at them much as they grinned at me. Once again, my tiny camera proved its worth be being in my pocket when I needed it for the simple reason that I now never go out without it. Obviously I had it with me this time for my party later, but the principle still applies. Were I the owner only of a bigger camera, I might not have bothered taking that even to my party.

(Actually that is quite plausible. It does occur to me that silly little digital cameras like mine are party fun cameras, but that big heavy cameras are big and heavy, and not proper party-machines for photo-ing party-animals. Too serious. It's like you've come as A Photographer, rather than as a party-animal yourself, who just happens to have one of these stupid toys on him.)

As often happens on occasions like this, I took quite a few photos, but the first was, I think, the best. Technically it is no great shakes (although that of course is the exact wrong expression to describe what happened), but humanly, I like it a lot.

I took some closer-ups, but then did a final panorama, reproduced below, by which time they seemed to have calmed down a little. No doubt if I had snapped away for another two minutes they would have reverted to a state of nature.


I then proceeded to my party, where I finally remembered to ask David Carr, my friend and fellow Samizdatista, and more to the point my fellow-contributor here, about the law of taking photos without the consent of the photoed and then (b) shoving them up on the Internet.

That's now illegal, apparently. It used not to be in Britain, but now there has been a Euro-Directive and there is now someone called the "Information Commissioner" to whom you can complain about this, and the photoer can then be fined.

But crowd scenes, whatever exactly that means, are okay, Daivd said. which means that I'm hoping that these pix don't break any law. And more to the point, someone has to complain, and I'm guessing none of these people will. Plus, there are no snide captions sneering at any individual, plus I'm not making any money. Plus, if anyone complains to me first, the pictures will come down from here at once, with no further questions asked, on netiquette as well as legal grounds.

Nevertheless, I do want to know more about these photo-ing and Internetting laws, if only to do a posting at that CNE intellectual property blog I write for, that I linked to above and which both I and David write for. Anyone know of any blogs/sites where this stuff is explained?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:14 PM
October 19, 2004
Photo-ing the skateboarders

I was out snapping in the late afternoon sunshine yesterday, and frankly I found the light hard to handle.

I think this lady may have been doing better.


Like me, she was photo-ing the skateboarders under the National Theatre. This was the best shot of any of these guys that I got. (And oh look, there's me again, on the left.)


As you can imagine, there was a lot of snapping, and later, a lot of deleting. But that's digital photography for you. You can do that!

Click to get them bigger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
October 14, 2004
Hong Kong photo-reflection

Snap. (My point being: snap. But his is better, I think. Better focus. And his camera's way bigger than my camera. With lenses, I am learning, size matters.)


For lots more of his snaps start here. And here looks like an especially good place to go a-browsing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:18 PM
October 12, 2004
Reflection in blue

I've stuck up more photos of some of my new Billion Monkey friends, at my Education Blog.

The first picture is probably the best, but, my photographic proclivities being what they are, I also like the one that contains this:


Click to get it even bigger. Follow the link and scroll down to see what the guy looks like.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:16 PM
October 07, 2004
At last – a good picture of Vicky Pollard

Finally, today, I found – and am able to show you – a picture of the one, the only, the magnificent Vicky Pollard


… which does her justice, and puts her in her deserved place in British society, on a phone box.

Vicky is already working her magic on British Pop Culture. One of my favourite TV shows just now – actually it just finished this evening – is called Doc Martin. It's about a grumpy doctor in a Cornwall village played by Martin Clunes. And, Doc Martin has an amazingly strange and insubordinate secretary, played by the excellent Lucy Punch. Now it may all be coincidence, but as far as I'm concerned Lucy Punch in Doc Martin was a thinner, better looking Vicky Pollard, with twiddlier hair.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:43 PM
October 06, 2004
B with wings and trees and sky

A lot yesterday. Today, just a quota photo.


It's a car, a Bentley.

I am learning that the things that the human eye hardly registers, to the camera can be fascinating.

And vice versa. Yesterday London enjoyed bright sunshine, followed by rain, in other words, a rainbow! To look at, it was spectacular. I took photos. Boring. We don't need a camera to make us notice a rainbow. So, the camera adds nothing.

Reflections in cars, on the other hand, we are programmed not to notice. We only notice the cars. The camera sees it all.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:49 PM
October 05, 2004
Memo to self re digital photography book

DigitalPhotoHacks.jpgThis posting is to remind me to get hold of a copy of this book.

Amazon review:

Your digital camera is more than new incarnation of your old film camera. Yes, it still produces photos, but it also offers new outlets for creativity, including instant gratification of seeing your photos now, the ability to experiment without worrying about expense, the technology to fine-tune your photos with advanced professional techniques, and the means to share your work instantaneously with anyone, anyplace in the world. It's no wonder that digital cameras are outselling traditional cameras for the first time ever. But the question most digital camera users ask is this, "How do I get from taking 'decent' photos to doing the things I'd really like to do? How do I tap into that potential?"

Digital Photography Hacks is your passport to taking the kind of digital photos you've always aspired to. Written by Derrick Story, photographer and author of Digital Photography Pocket Guide and other books, it goes beyond the standard fare of most digital photography books – such as camera basics, understanding memory cards, and when to use a flash – to the things that professional photographers have learned through thousands of shots' worth of experience, years of experimentation, and fiddling and hacking. The book includes a foreword by photographer Rick Smolan, author of America 24/7.

With exquisite, full-color photos throughout, the book presents a collection of tips, tricks, and techniques for photographers ready to move beyond the basics. And if you don't have the latest in digital camera photography, this book will show you how to extend the life and functionality of your existing camera. All the hacks in the book are platform-agnostic, designed for use on both Mac on Windows-based computers. You'll find 100 proven techniques in the areas of: Daytime and nighttime photo secrets Flash magic Digital camera attachments The computer connection Photoshop magic Fun photo projects Camera phone tricks This book is for the photographer you are now, and the one you want to be. Digital Photography Hacks is for the creative adventurer who resides in each of us.

My kind of book.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:06 PM
Venice on Thames

I took another trip up to the top of Peter Jones, in different and sunnier light, but I'm afraid that the nice part of the view that I already photoed was silhouetted, again, i.e. no change except that the sky was duller, and only the drearier part of the view was differently and better lit.

But I did take this remarkable photo of Venice:


Click on it to get the bigger and real picture. Ha.

Also, you can have a lot of fun pointing cameras upwards. This is the Peter Jones stairwell:


See also this photo. And while you're there, scroll down to this amusing image, also snapped by Adam Tinworth in Budapest.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:26 PM
Billion Monkey heaven

I know, I know, far too many photos. But this is my blog and I'll stick up far too many photos if I want to. Anyway, a lot of them are pretty good, though I say it myself.

They were all taken last Wednesday, at my Digital Camera class. A dozen or more Billion Monkeys, me among them, have been assembling themselves at one of the Westminster Council Adult Education Centres, the one at the top end of Warwick Way (a mere walk from my home), there to be told, every Wednesday for five weeks, about digital photography, by a German guy called André who teaches at one of the London Universities, in the department of photography (which is reassuring). André is the one in the glasses and the red top. He reminds me vaguely of a slightly nerdier version of Alan Rickman, but he is in all other respects very nice. His assistant, the one with the pony tail, is called Giovanni.

One of my most hobbiastic hobbies these days, as regulars here will be wearily aware of, is taking digital photographs of digital photographers. Well, at this class, last Wednesday, we were all being told to take digital photos of each other. Imagine how that felt for me. No wonder I took thousands of snaps and was only, and with extreme difficulty, able to narrow them down to a mere 72 for here. Plus, I am actually learning things, about apertures and exposure times, and such like. (The night time portrait mode on digital cameras deserves a whole posting all to itself. That was fascinating.)


Some trivial observations:

First, quite a few of these pictures have bits in focus and bits not. This is because the main business of the day was learning about focussing, and learning about focussing by taking photos where bits were in focus and bits were not. So a lot of that was deliberate. Besides which, a bit blurring can be fun.

Second (these points are in no particular order – I'm just clearing the decks of trivia before getting stuck into the main point I want to make here), there are bottles present. Several of these pictures, and one in particular, illustrate one of the most basic laws of digital photography. This is: that digital cameras are, for who knows what reason, fascinated by water bottles and always present them to the world in perfect, pin sharp focus and any people in the vicinity as only a vague blur by comparison, unless severely discouraged. The bottles here are plastic water bottles, but digital cameras get equally excited about wine bottles, especially those in the middle of the table at dinner parties.

Third, one or two of the pictures show various of us pupils doing something I have never before observed. They are reading the manual. To me this is extraordinary. Maybe there is a lesson there for me.

Fourth, I am aware that these photos look like a prolonged commercial for the Canon EOS 300D. This is because André brought about six of these with him for us to use if we didn't have our own cameras. He says, yes, these are pretty good cameras. And I must say I am envious. (I fear that something similar will also happen when we start playing with the cute Macintosh computers that you can also see in some of the pictures.)

There were other digital cameras to be seen, as some of the pictures illustrate, but the Canon EOS 300D dominates.

What appeals to me about the Canon EOS 300D is that it is what is called an SLR. SLR stands for … well, I don't know what it stands for literally. Single Lens something? I don't know. But what this means is that it is a WYSIWYG camera, and I do know what WYSIWYG stands for. It stands for What You See Is What You Get. What you see through the little spy hole at the top is exactly what you get on your photo, because both you and the sensitive surface where the picture is made inside the camera are both receiving exactly the same picture, which is not the way it works with my little Canon A70. There the camera gets one thing, and you look through the bit at the top in the same general direction, but it's guesswork how your actual picture will turn out. And before you ask, the little screen thingy on my A70 is good for telling me the general composition, but hopeless at telling me about focussing, or about whether the light is too bright And because you can twiddle the lenses on the front manually on the EOS 300D rather than just fiddle about with computer type settings, this means you can immediately start to control things far better. I am sorely tempted, I don't mind telling you.

The bad news is that this EOS 300D is a bulky piece of kit, and I wouldn't be able to use it to take those little impulse photos with it that we bloggers so like to capture, of posters, adverts, and surprise events and excitements generally, because it would be too big to take around always, just in case. Maybe I'll take a deep breath and get a EOS 300D, and use it for special occasions when I deliberately go out looking for pictures, and keep the A70 in my jacket for opportunistic shots. Extravagant. But at least they both use the same kind of storage: Compact Flash cards.


But enough technical trivia. The real story here is how amazingly good looking so many of my fellow students are. I was expecting at least one man with a huge paunch and with a face that made him look like some ghastly failed genetic experiment. But at our worst, the men among us are non-repulsive, and at least half a dozen of those present (equally distributed across the genders) look like film actors of the sort that make me say: of course, film actors are always good looking, but real people seldom look as nice as that. Maybe, being so very, very happy, I was seeing everyone as beautiful even when they weren't. Or, maybe, having mixed for most of my life up until now with fringe political people, I expect everyone to look grotesque, and am dazzled if they merely look half-reasonable. But I don't think I was just seeing this. I think it was actually there. What do you reckon?

I wonder if photography attracts a higher proportion than average of good looking people, or whether I just got lucky with my particular Billion Monkey troupe. My tentative theory is that Billion Monkey Ladies are good looking because they and their friends like to take each others' photos, and those who are uncomfortable with this stay away from digital photo-ing. As a general tendency. As to Billion Monkey Men, well, we just creep about on our own, with no friends, seeing everything but never getting involved, and we are Invisible. Ugly, okay, beautiful, it doesn't matter. It's beside the point. But if that's so, how come so many of the men in these pictures are so very good looking?

Another explanation is that there is something special about digital photography just now, and good looking people, good looking young women especially, are instinctively attracted to milieus where something of significance is going on. I wish. But I actually don't think that's it.


I was going to put all the thumbnails together in one great rectangle, but eventually I decided on having the three separate clutches. One day, I will do thumbnail collection in such a way that they come together to make another picture. Each little bit of a picture being chosen not to entice you to the big one behind it, but in order to help make the big picture that the thumbnails combine to make. This kind of thing has been done a million times before in other contexts, and no doubt dozens of times on the Internet, but never by me, and I'd like to have a go at that. Not that I've seen anyone else doing this. Any links, anyone?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:20 AM
October 02, 2004
At the top of Peter Jones

Peter Jones is a big (by London standards) department store in Sloane Square. Yesterday afternoon I went there with my friend Elena (who I hope may one day become a blogger – she'd be an excellent one, I think). We like to meet for coffee from time to time, and I wanted to see the view from the café at the top of Peter Jones. Peter Jones has recently been closed for refurbishment, but I was seeing the inside of the place for the first time. The view did not disappoint.


Click to see these photos bigger. The first three are mine, but since mine of Elena is a little unflattering, I have added one taken a while ago of Elena by my friend Bruce The Real Photographer, which Elena uses for all her various attempts to become an Award Winning Actress. His is by far the best photo, I think you will agree.

The interior of Peter Jones is also very fine, but I took no photos of that yesterday. I definitely intend to go back there soon on my own and go Billion Monkey mad, both inside and looking outwards.

Does anyone know what all the various pointed towers are? The ones with the horizontal bits at the top are, I think, the Science Museum. Certainly, they are in that part of London. And could the one that looks like a crown, featured in the thumbnail photo above, perhaps be the Victorian and Albert Museum? Yes.

By the way, does anyone know of other high-up places with good views out over London from which members of the public such as I can take photos? Elena says that the Oxo Tower, just downstream from the National Theatre, is another such good vantage point. Anyone know of any more? Anyone work in a skyscraper and like to invite me to lunch? Just asking.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:34 AM
September 28, 2004
Another inappropriate edition

First it was potato crisps (see five below), now it's chocolate bars:


Obviously this stuff works. And it can't all be people buying them because they're stupid and photo-ing them and putting the photos up on their blogs and having a laugh.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:28 PM
September 27, 2004
Digital photographic opportunism

Yesterday I blogged about the extreme usefulness of having a digital camera small enough to take everywhere, all the time. Here are some photos which illustrate this.

From the left.

One. A picture of England's ace rugby fly half Jonny Wilkinson, advertising cholesterol, or something to do with cholesterol, in a local chemist. I thought this might come in handy at this blog, and in fact I have already used it, although not very relevantly.

Two. Every so often, the evening sun shines in from the West, straight back down Oxford Street, and if there are clouds above, the effects can be very striking, as they were when I took this photo. Clearly, a better camera, or me being cleverer with my existing camera, would have been better. But a better camera would not have been in my pocket and ready to go.

Three. Taken moments before or after the previous one, after I think - "Borders" featuring in both. The first of three pictures where the point is not photographic excellence but the facts being photographed, in this case the fact that Bill Bryson's book on science, which I like and admire so much is being piled high and sold cheap in London's bookshops. Either they think they can massively increase their sales by discounting, or they printed far too many copies and are desperate to get rid of them. Don't know which.

Four. The point here, once again, is the price tag. And this is in Blockbuster. That's right. Blockbuster is now in the second hand DVD market and its cheapest DVDs are going for £3. That's less than Oxfam charges. A sure sign of a price plunge is when the people who know the business are discounting their product more severely than the charity shops. And we're talking about reasonably good DVDs too. Not total rubbish by any means. The Grinch was quite a hit, I believe.

I think these cheapo DVDs are the result of a scheme where they buy DVDs off customers in exchange for further business, at about £1 or £2 a go presumably,.

And finally five. Here is a case of a photo which doesn't need an expensive camera, and where again, the info is the point. My particular point being that I think there is something slightly out of line with the universe when potato crisps are sold in "limited editions". What are they? Engravings? David Hockneys? Read of a customer sighting here (scroll down to Friday May 21 2004), by this guy.

They are very tasty, though. And I thought I'd best be sure and buy two bags, what with it being only a limited edition ...


Not a Billion Monkey to be seen.

I think I have zeroed in on what digital camera I want:

The best digital camera in the world, money no object, that I can fit into my jacket pocket, and preferably which uses Compact Flash cards so I don't have to stop using the ones I have.

So, what might that be?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:59 PM
September 26, 2004
More Blackheath pictures

This posting is being done to test out the spacing of thumbnail photos, to see if they will fit. Don't bother yourself about what this involves or why. Just click on the small photos to get the bigger versions.

All these photos were taken on the same expedition as yielded these two snaps.

All are good in some way or another, but not necessarily as good in all ways as I would like. In particular, some are of nice things, but didn't come out so nicely. My twin obsessions – London towers (in this case the Docklands towers, again) and digital photographers – are on show, sometimes in the same picture. The lady with her bottom facing us was chasing a squirrel.


Those who are somewhat distressed by the technical inadequacy of these snaps will not be surprised to learn that I have signed up for a course in Beginner Digital Photography. I did the first day of this last week. I said that the things that bothered me most were controlling light, and focussing. With luck, I will learn how to do these things better. Next week it's "controlling image outcomes", which sounds like what I want.

While at the class, I asked whether it made sense for me to get a more expensive camera, or make do with the cheap (Canon A70) camera that I already have. The teacher brought along a bunch of Canon EOS 300D cameras, which he said were good, costing around £700, he reckoned. Would that be great improvement, or just an opportunity for me to take bad pictures more expensively?

One thing I do know is that this Canon EOS whatever is a whole lot less convenient. The thing I love about the tiny ones like mine is that I can catch opportunist snaps which I didn't go looking for but merely chanced upon, as a result of having it with me all the time. And using two different cameras seems like a really bad idea, never mind the extra expense.

The teacher favoured more teaching. But then he would, wouldn't he?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:20 PM
September 21, 2004
Quota kitty

Busy this evening, and up early tomorrow, assuming all goes to plan, to do an all-day-long Billion Monkeys beginners' digital camera course.


Taken at Perry de Havilland's a few weeks ago.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:33 PM
September 10, 2004
Quota river photo

Can't stay long. So just a recent favourite photo, looking up river from Westminster Bridge:


Click to get it bigger, with a bit more context. No cropping of the bigger one. Just a bit of lightening and contrasting.

I like the light on the buildings. Like one of those Dutch oil paintings.

Tomorrow, I hope, wedding photos.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:00 PM
July 31, 2004
A shadow – a bean – a photoblogging contest

Kind words from the Relaxed Homeskooler about my Education Blog, referring to this posting there.

So, kind words from me to her, about her photos. I especially liked these two.

The first is just a fun shadow. The second is not only a fun photo but a fun photo of two other things that are fun too – not that little girls in bathing costumes aren't fun, but you get my drift.

Fun thing number one is the mighty Towers of Chicago Illinois, the Birthplace of the Skyscraper.

Fun thing number two is that the mighty Towers of Chicago Illinois are not photoed direct, but rather are reflected in something called by its creator "Cloud Gate", but apparently known to all in Chicago as The Bean. I (by which I mean London) want(s) one too. It wouldn't necessarily have to be bean shaped, as per Chicago. It could be more elaborate than that. But the super-mirroredness idea is definitely one to copy. And it should be big. Like the artist says, you should be able to see the clouds in it.

You know how I feel about reflections. They are a fantastic source of fun photos, especially on a summer day, because they keep the scene with all its contrasts but moderate the strength of the light, which (like the artist says – reprise) is especially great for getting the complexities of clouds. This object gets that process a little bit organised. And think how many Billion Monkeys I could snap in one Bean photo, me included of course.

This is a perfect example of how very, very much public sculpture has improved since the meaningless lump phase of a few decades ago.

Here's another picture of The Bean. Relaxed Homeskooler concentrated on what you could see bouncing off The Bean. This photo shows you the overall shape of the thing.

I am also going to check out this photoblogging contest, and probably enter one of mine, maybe several if that's allowed. Are you also a Billion Monkey? Which are your favourites of the ones you've taken? Post at your place, and link to hers. She decides.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:11 PM
July 30, 2004
Evening sun on it and darkness behind it

I did a link-piece to today to Robert Paterson's Weblog, about small schools, and on my travels among his stuff I encountered this photo, one of a pair, which demonstrates that he shares my helpless love for evening sun hitting objects with dark clouds behind them, the objects in Robert Paterson's case being trees:


I constantly take pictures like this one, but they constantly disappoint. The trouble is that my camera isn't powerful enough to do justice to such scenes. By the nature of things, there is not as much light around, and especially not in the dark bits of course, as during regular daylight, and my poor little camera goes into what is, I think, called "lossy" mode. And if I want to see any detail in the dark bits, the light bits are far too light So don't look closely, all you will see is a blur only bigger. But I can't help myself. When I see evening sun on anything with dramatic dark clouds behind it, and if I have my camera with me, I immediately start snapping.

So here are two recent efforts by me in the same genre:



I'm sure Robert Paterson's trees looked even better when he actually saw them. So did these chimneys and this spire and this office block. Trust me.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:09 PM
July 25, 2004
A Trafalgar Square of thumbnails

Last week I went to photograph a plastic rocket in Trafalgar Square, and you know me. I took some other photos. I really like tourists, now that I've found a way to exploit them, and most of these pictures are of tourists of one sort or another. In fact I rather think all of them are. Many are members of the Billion Monkey tribe. They illustrate many facts about the Billion Monkeys which are becoming pleasurably familiar to me, as I get to know them and their habits.

They keep their bags with them at all times. They don't put them down while photo-ing. On the contrary, the bags hang down in clutches, like ripe fruit, often from the same arm as is holding the camera.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras in a special way, and make remarkable shapes with their fingers. This is ensure that they don't get their spare fingers in front of the lens and spoil the picture. It comes of the cameras being so small, such that they can only be held between two fingers, which leaves the others either to get in the way or be held out of harm's way, as if holding a tea cup in Jane Austen world.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras out in front of them, so that they can see the picture they are taking on the little screen.

While they are taking their pictures they stay still.

There are no pictures here of any Billion Monkey groups all studying the same picture, like Soviet Workers all entranced by the same issue of Pravda in a propaganda photo, or like groups in old paintings gazing enraptured at the Baby Jesus, lit up by his divine light.

But the best thing about the Billion Monkeys is well illustrated by several of these snaps, which is that when they are taking their pictures they are so busy taking their pictures that they don't realise I'm sneaking up beside them until it is too, and on the whole they don't care even when they do realise it. I'm not shooting to kill, any more than they are.

Click on any square you fancy to get the big picture.


The little black girl and her dad were not using a Billion Monkeys camera. Theirs was a Real Camera, of the sort that required film to be wound on with a little handle. I know this because they asked me to take some photos of them with their camera.

I am aware that these pictures have many technical things wrong with them. Crowds of people are hard to frame, and/or crop satisfactorily. Inevitably, someone gets cut in half, and I don't like that. The light was beginning to fade towards the end, and several of them could have been better focussed. Objects in the background need to be very big or very small, either big enough to be one great big solid background, or small enough to be a patterned background, like wallpaper. In between sized shapes distract, and people behind someone you are photo-ing is often in between sized.

But I had a good time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
July 21, 2004
Instead of a tripod

A couple of emails from Adriana, making sure that I heard about this crucial technological development, and of this DIY version of the same thing.

If you are a Billion Monkey with a drink habit, follow those links. If the contents have made your camera unsteady, use the bottle to steady it again. Thanks to Boing Boing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:53 PM
July 20, 2004
Katherine Hepburn snapping in Venice

From the far off days when there weren't nearly a billion of them. Katherine Hepburn in Summertime (1955).


Rossano Brazzo waits nearby, contemplating his moves.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:49 PM
July 18, 2004
Partying – film reviewing – internetting – photo-ing

On the Friday before last, I attended the talk already referred to here given by David Carr at the Evans home, and present also was Amanda Oliver, who mentioned afterwards that she had written a review of The Barbarian Invasions. I missed this the first time round, despite having myself seen the movie and having enjoyed it and admired it a lot, and despite the fact that Amandas' review was linked to at the time by the Reason Hit and Run blog. Either that or I read the review but didn't clock that she was who had written it. Her piece is very good, and a model of what a review should be. That is, she tells you what she thought of it, but gives you enough information to be able to tell whether you would be likely to share her opinion. My Samizdata piece, by comparison, is a muddle. It started with how wrong some Guardian bloke was about the movie, and that, if present at all, should have been at the end. Live and learn.


That's Amanda Oliver on right. This is one of the best photos I've taken recently. The redness is real, not Photoshopped, the walls being all red, which means they turn all light bouncing off them red. I'm in it once again (which Scott Wickstein will like – see his comment here – although I'm probably far too easy to spot for his liking), and Patrick Crozier looks on, all unaware that he's in it too. Patrick and I are blurred, while Amanda is sharp (or as sharp as my camera and your screen can between them contrive) which is as it should be. Click on it if you want it larger.

If you find my relentless photo-blogging wearisome, you can, as stated in the bit linked to above, blame my friend Gerald Hartup. He made a point at that same gathering of telling me how good some of my photos are.


I wonder what he thinks of them now. Gerald has a most interesting face, and I always seem to get great pictures of him. That was taken on that same evening. With flash this time, which changes everything.

The Internet combines very well with partying, doesn't it? You go to a party, and learn of some interesting internetted item, and can google it as soon as you get home. Without the party you wouldn't have heard about it, but without the internet, reading it would be a nightmare of clumsy snail mail correspondence that would probably not be bothered with.

And now tonight, another party means that I need to post the picture of Amanda, because she will be there tonight again too. Having delayed posting it all week, I now have an excuse. Also, a reason, because she might have asked me tonight why I didn't use it (still might), what with emailing her to say can I?, blah blah.

The Barbarian Invasions is now out on DVD. I will buy it when its price comes down to a tenner or less.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:58 PM
July 15, 2004
Filling the frame with the plane

I'm turning over in my mind an introductory essay about How To Be One Of The Billion Monkeys, which will probably end up being called something less cleverly cryptic and more helpfully informative, like: What I Have So Far Learned About Cheap Digital Photography. I don't plan to do much in the way of introductory reading of rival essays in a similar vein. Plenty of time for that later. But I did check out this guy. (I did a Samizdata posting a while back linking to his brilliant photos of SpaceShipOne.)

I found my way quickly to this essay, which lead to this further essay which included an enticing link to a piece on airshow photography. Follow that link, and you get to this ultra-cool photo:


This man knows what he's talking about. Wow!

He starts what he says about airshow photoing thus:

The only special piece of equipment which is required for airshow photography is a long lens. You don't need an auto-focus camera and you don't need image stabilization or vibration reduction, but if you can't fill the frame with the aircraft then your photos will lack impact.

You got that right mate. I love airplanes, and London has a constant supply of them, on their way to land at Heathrow or taking off from the airport in the City. I keep photographing them, and they keep ending up either like insects crawling across huge deserts, or, if I zoom in close with Photoshop, like the work of a spy in a great hurry. Far too blurry, that is to say.

Which illustrates one of the points my Big Essay will probably contain, which goes: get a cheap camera first, and use it to learn, and in particular to learn just what sort of more expensive camera (which itself will be as cheap as your first one in a few years time) you should be getting next.

My next camera will have a lens enabling me, provided the price is right, to photograph the Great Wall of China from the moon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:52 PM
Scientists with model

dnamodel.gifAnother "culture means what I say it means" posting.

While concocting a posting (it will appear tomorrow – link here when it does) for the blog that pays me, I came across this famous photograph, and in a particularly clear version (often it is very blurred), here.

I put in my posting that how Crick and Watson communicated their DNA idea didn't matter. It was enough that they got it across somehow.

But I wonder. There is something very beautiful about a helix, and all the more so when the elements that go to make it are complicated and cloudy and confused. The essential helicalness of the combined object is then all the more remarkable. Complexity leading to simplicity, blah blah. I wonder how well Crick and Watson would have done with such primitive modelling technology had the shape they were chasing been less simple and elegant. Try googling for images of "protein". See what I mean?

Well, I don't know. This is really just an excuse to stick up that picture.

Has anyone redone this, and redone it better, as an oil painting? It would make sense if they did. Here is a clue to what that might look like.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:47 AM
July 12, 2004
Portable phone camera art

The BBC reports, here.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:00 PM
July 11, 2004
The Millennium Bridge (again)

Recently I had a go at retaking this picture without the pink sky, in other words with the new camera.

There was a beggar sitting on the exact spot where I took the first photo from, so I shifted to one side, which may even have improved matters. The best shot, I think, was this one:


St Pauls has come out much better. And the way the central figures are lit, it almost looks like one of those oil paintings, the justification of which is that the camera could never do that.

Click to get a bigger version.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:33 PM
July 10, 2004
Early evening on Putney Bridge

Last night I was out and about and my friend Gerald said nice things about my photos. So here is another photo, which I took on the way to where I was going. As often happens, the very first was one of the very best.

In the first version of this posting I stuck this picture up exactly as it emerged from the Flash Card, but looking at it again, I decided on a little juicing up of the contrast. This does actually make it look more as it looked for real.


Magic hour lighting, yes? And look! At the bottom, on the road, that's me. I guess that for lots of Real Photographers that would be a no no, but I love that kind of thing.

Click to get it bigger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:06 AM
July 08, 2004
Twin Towers in the sunset

I love this picture, which I found here, via this, while composing this.


Point your camera at the sun and let the light refract in the air on its way to you, dusting the distant objects with light that you see but which never did anything to them (if you get my meaning). It never fails.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:57 AM
July 06, 2004
The Billion Monkeys chase Formula One cars

I was in the West End of London this evening, and the whole place was bent completely out of shape by some Formula One car parade.

According to this report

Around 200,000 fans watched as the drivers and other F1 stars raced their cars along Regent Street, one of London's most famous shopping areas.

Well, this particular "fan" never set eyes on any racing cars, although he did hear a few making deafening revving up noises. However, he did realise that this was a happy hunting ground to snap a few more of the Billion Monkeys in action.

Sure enough:







Snap snap. Vroom vroom.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
July 05, 2004
Billion Monkey TV programme that I must see

Damn. I just missed this:

The Gadget Show

This is Channel Five, by the way. This evening, 7.30 pm.

4/10. …

That means it's the fourth in a series of ten shows.

… One of the current "must have" items, the digital camera, is put to the test as Suzi Perry compares its photos to those from a 35mm film camera. Tom Dunmore recommends the best digital models on the market.

I'm putting this up here not for the edification of my readers. You are all, let's face it, edified enough as it is. No, it's for me. The show will be repeated at 9.25 am on Wednesday morning, and by typing this in I increase my chances of catching it then, or at the very least setting the video for then.

Here's a picture of some people who are quite happy with what they have:


…complete with a moving car in the background. This is an effect which I particular like.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:22 PM
July 02, 2004
Tube Monkeys

No time for a real posting, so here's a quota posting, of two more of the Billion Monkeys, comparing their Billion Monkey Machines in the Underground.


I could be quite wrong about this (and if this blog comes to a sudden standstill this could be the sort of reason why), but I had the definite sense that all the other passengers felt that whereas a Billion Monkey taking photos of regular people in the tube would be outrageous, a Billion Monkey photo-ing other Billion Monkeys is not a problem.

Of course, it helped that I truly believe they had no idea what I was doing.

The (very nice looking) woman right opposite me saw it all, of course. She was smiling. (And you'll just have to take my word for that.)

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:50 PM
June 29, 2004
Flared trousers are back!

Self-portrait in shadow of a Digital Monkey:


Funny how the evening sun can take you right back to the seventies.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:42 PM
June 25, 2004

Five photos I took yesterday, on a walk along and then across the river, stopping while it rained at the BFI café. All of them involve reflections of one sort or another.

The first is bounced off a window of the Royal Festival Hall.


The second is bounced off the outside of the BFI café, but also looks through that window, and through back outside again. The snatch of bright blue sky is actually a poster.


This next one, of puddles, illustrates just how differently the camera sees things to the way you and I with our eyes (and our brains) see things. Walk along a wet pavement and all we see is a wet pavement, a flat surface. We know it's flat, so we flatten it. The camera sees right through the wetness to everything that is reflected in it.


Here is a (small and blurred) self portrait, taken on the north side of the river, in the mysterious tunnel leading to Charing Cross station, which was also featured in this set of photos, the one with the blurry arches.


The final one is maybe even more extreme. This is of an entirely flat, black wall. Outside the PriceWaterhouse building, if I remember it right.


Have a nice weekend.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:52 PM
June 21, 2004
Broken mirror monkey

Last Saturday I attended the Chelsea Art School end of year show, or whatever they call it. I saw lots of stuff, concerning which I hope to write more later, but this will have to do for now:


The exhibit was just a broken mirror. I found the person photographing it much more interesting.

However, I went in too close, and at the top I left myself no cropping leeway at all. Live and learn.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:36 PM
June 18, 2004
Kings Road statues

I'm fond of these statues. I've photographed them before, and then I had time to explain them.

I particularly like the way that the very human girl sits in such a totally abstract and non-human setting. This emphasises her humanness. And this particular angle of her adds to the effect with more rectangularity.


And here is her companion.


I like the accident of, on our right, the lady walking behind him so determinedly. She, by contrast, emphasises the statue's statueness.

That's one of the particular pleasures of my kind of photography. I aim at one thing, and with any luck I get it. But with more luck, I get other things too.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:37 PM
June 16, 2004
Waterloo elephant

Once again, no time for anything properly thought out. But I snapped this remarkable beast today, at the top of the stairs down to the Jubilee Line at Waterloo. I've tried to photo this thing a number of times, and they never get much better.


The redness of the elephant is not painted on. It's done with lighting. The thing itself is made of grey gauzey material.

Hey! Guess what! I found another picture of it. On the Internet! Here. See what I mean. It's grey.

The same guy also supplies this link to a pavement artist.

And he likes the Gherkin too. But then, doesn't everybody.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
June 13, 2004
Friend – sculpture – sunset – bridge

No time for anything serious. So two quota photas, both taken during a walk on the south side of the Thames a few weeks ago, with a friend.




Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
June 11, 2004
Chelsea Embankment views

I began concocting this posting last night when trade at Samizdata seemed very thin, so that I could put up little versions of these photos there and link to the bigger ones here. But trade at Samizdata then thickened a little and I went to bed. But I had already done the Photoshopping of everything last night, so I now think: here they are anyway. So, here they are anyway.

All were taken from the Chelsea Embankment, just south of Samizdata HQ. I like these ducks as much for the trees of Battersea Park across the river as for the ducks.


And I like these red sailed sailing boats because I have never seen them before, and once again, I enjoy the background, this time of Battersea Power Station just down stream from the trees, and of the general mundane riverside clutter in the other picture, which is not what you generally think of when you think River Thames in London, and while soon, I should guess, be gone. The boats were fun, because they were trying to sail upstream but not making much headway, which gave me lots of time to photo them.

RedSales2detail.jpg   RedSales1detail.jpg

Then I turned my camera around and got this Bombay thing, on the road next to the embankment, which I like because I just do. I didn't get quite the picture I wanted, but enough of it to satisfy. Without help from a red traffic light, I wouldn't have got anything.


There is no significance to the confluence of Bombay and ducks. To get the bigger picture, click on these little pictures.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:16 PM
June 08, 2004
Wheel Monkeys

Busy day, so a couple of pix now and I don't have to worry later.

First, an early effort with the Minolta, before it Went Pink, on The Wheel, of the next pod along. Evidently the Billion Monkeys have been a source of fascination to me for some while.


And another Wheel Monkey, who this time did Go Pink, and I did ruthless things involving "replacing colour" with Photoshop. It still looks strange, but the faces are clear, as is the Monkey Machine.


Have a nice day.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:13 PM
June 02, 2004
Old London buildings!

And here's another quota phota (see previous):


I don't usually get excited about old buildings, but I remember noticing this view and grabbing it. That's the big church beside Parliament Square in London. St Margaret's, is it? Once again, I have a lit building against a darker sky.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:10 PM
Three strawberry blonde ladies from the photo archives

I've been having a sift through my photo archives, for reasons that may or may not have visible consequences here Quite Soon Now, and I had half an eye open for a quota posting for today. And I came across this, of three London Ladies striding through Soho:


Click on it for a bigger version.

I took this with the old Minolta – which explains the somewhat pinkish hue to everything despite Photoshop's best efforts – and I got lucky. The settings were such that the slightest movement by the subject relative to the camera would cause blurring. I was moving the camera to track the ladies, and got quite a lot of them approximatelly 'still', especially the one at the back. The further down the legs you go the faster there was movement and the more blurry things get, a pleasing effect. And the camera was moving enough relative to the background to blur that also. All of which is pretty obvious, or I wouldn't have been able to tell you myself. All I really mean is: hope you like it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:13 PM
June 01, 2004
The Museum of London Picture Library

Thanks to this Spectator article about it, I found my way, if not to the London Museum itself, at least to its website, and then, I of course clicked on this treasure trove of photos, in seach of treasure.

My two favourites were this:


… and this:


Both include a heavy dose of "nature", although I have no idea what that proves. Possibly that the hustle and bustle of London only interests me if I am the one photographing it, and that I happen now to be more interested in new London buildings than in older ones.

This collection seems to contain a lot of pictures of Suffragettes and also, for some reason, of the Notting Hill Carnival, the latter ones being among the relatively few recent colour photos.

Of the Suffragette ones, I especially liked this one (which I found myself muddling up with this equally fetching photo), plus I also liked this one, of some Suffragette celebs. And of the Carnival pictures, try this.

Ah. classy birds.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:16 PM
May 30, 2004
Close-up of Saturn

Deepest thanks to Scott Wickstein for telling me about these pictures, taken by an unmanned spaceship called Cassini, now in the vicinity of …


Art or what?

By the way, the tiny white dot to the top left is not a mistake, it's a moon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:11 AM
May 28, 2004
The new EU Parliament building in Brussels

All the effort in this posting went into the interminable process of organising all these pretty little pictures. So don't expect literature. Don't expect all that much in the way of coherence.

Anyway, what they are is the new EUroParliament building in Brussels. I was there however many weeks ago it was, and took a stack of photos of it.

It is very impressive I think, and if you disapprove of what goes on inside the thing as much as I do, very scary.

But photographing it is hard, if you don't have a very wide angle lens (as I don't), like trying to photograph an elephant in a crowd. All the other buildings near it are too close for you to be able to get the big picture. Behind the thing, there is a big park, but it slopes away downwards, and again, you can't see everything, just the bit at the back.

So before I tell you about my snaps, here is an aerial view of the thing, which gives you an idea of its entire scope.


There's the Parliament thing in middle at the back, the oval shape. And then on each side, in front and taller, are two huge slabs of Office, two Walls of Bureaucracy. No good can come of this place, it seems to me.

My first lot of pictures were taken at the front, some in the square on the Central Brussels side of the thing, and some nearer to the beast itself.

Click on these little squares to get the big picture of which the square is a detail.

parl13detail.jpg     parl12detail.jpg     parl3detail.jpg     parl11detail.jpg

parl15detail.jpg     parlentrancedetail.jpg     parl16detail.jpg     parlstationdetail.jpg

They are still building it, and the last one is of the railway station entrance for what I think will be another railway.

The next few are of the central Oval, the Parliament building itself, which is particularly well designed, I think, at any rate in terms of how it looks from outside. Everything about this building says: Money No Object. We Are The Bosses. You Cannot Defy Us. Which is entirely deliberate, and goodness knows what this thing did in fact cost. But as I say, I'm sure that they wanted an expensive building, that looked expensive, and was expensive. This is not a building to save money. It is a building to rule. That is Micklethwait's Alternative Theory of why public sector building always costs far more than was originally "planned". It's deliberate.

parl1detail.jpg     parl4detail.jpg     parl2detail.jpg     parl7detail.jpg

Now some looks at the back of the huge offices. The bridge in the third of these next pictures joins the offices and the main building, I think.

parl8detail.jpg     parlupdetail.jpg     parlbridgedetail.jpg     parl6detail.jpg

These next ones are near the heart of the beast. The sign is as near as I actually went to venturing inside. I should have. At the time I just really, really didn't want to, and didn't. The green picture was taken pearing into the inside through a green window.

parl5detail.jpg     parl17detail.jpg     parlgreendetail.jpg     parlsigndetail.jpg

And now I am round the back, in the big park, part of which got swallowed up by this vast new erection. From behind, it feels more like Glyndebourne, or some such place, rather than the fuck-you fuck-Brussels fuck-the-World object it looks like from the front.

parltreesdetail.jpg     parltrees2detail.jpg     parl9detail.jpg     parl10detail.jpg

I just hope that one of the not-so-well-known Parkinson's Laws applies, and that the EUropean Parliament, having constructed itself a magnificent new purpose built headquarters, will never again be such a force in the affairs of men as it has been, and that the EU itself will now disintegrate. I wish. It is actually quite possible that the relative importance of this Parliament is actually about to decline, within the EU as a whole, the real business of which will continue to be run from anonymous office blocks that do not flaunt themselves nearly as much as this place does.

And I wish doing postings like this was not such a labour. Hope you like the photos. But the point is not actually the photos; it's what they're of.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:08 AM
May 24, 2004

So yesterday afternoon I was out and about in London town, taking salad and coffee with a friend, and, inevitably, taking the odd snap, including this very odd snap. Sometimes I misunderstand when the photo is actually being taken, and by the time it gets taken, the camera is pointing in the wrong direction entirely.


But, of all my photography mistakes, this is the one I have so far liked the best.

I think, but am not sure, that the shadow was thrown by one of the Billion Monkeys, and that the big thing sticking out at the front is a great big lens. It would figure. I am often in a confused rush when I spot particularly fine specimens, and you never know when you are going to meet one.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:31 AM
May 22, 2004
Why I miss my old Minolta

I'm taking the day off, and am fobbing you off with an old photo from my Minolta archives.

This is one of my most favourite photos that I've ever taken. He's a boy I once taught maths to. He looked very bright, and he was.


What this picture illustrates is why I so miss my old Minolta Dimage XYZPQR Whateveritwas camera. (There's a picture of it in this posting from way back.)

This photo illustrates why, despite its defects (like absurdly short battery life), I regret the Minolta's passing. It separated the photo-ing from the flash-ing, by putting them at opposite ends of a bit of wire. This meant I could throw fascinating shadows, avoid stupid direct flash shadows, avoided red eye, and I could side light faces instead of flooding them with in the face direct light. I could also direct the victim's attention away from the bit doing the photo-ing. Too bad it stopped working, and when I got them to mend it they sent me another which also didn't work.

To photo indoors, I now set the Canon at "P", and something else to "200" or even "400". What does that mean? I'll tell you what it means. It means I can take photos indoors that come out, without using flash. They don't come out all that well. But they come out.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:48 PM
May 15, 2004
Photos and TV commentary on Samizdata

Off to my Mum's Ninetieth so expect no more today. But I've been quite busy at Samizdata lately doing cultural type things.

I've done a couple of recent photo postings. Natalie Solent was kind enough to say of the first lot that they made a nice change from other photos that have been much on people's minds lately, and in general they seemed to be well received. So I've just done another little set.

samizmay12adetail.jpg  samizmay12cdetail.jpg  annsumsmall.jpg

I'd be interested to know what people think about the size I've used to display these photos. In deference to Samizdata stylistic requirements, these pics are nearer 300 across than the 500 I tend to use here. Is that bad because detail is lost? - or good because loading time is shortened?

I've also done a couple of pieces at Samizdata about a most interesting TV series.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:35 AM
May 09, 2004
More pictures of you know what plus one more from me

More ghreat Gherkin pictures courtesy Ghuardian Unlimited.

Apparently, these guys were just cleaning the windows.

This building has become an instant classic, like the Wheel, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, etc. See Jonny Vaughan fondling it in his Capital Radio adverts on buses. Picture of that follows, I hope, but adverts come and go, and I may not be able to supply that.

Meanwhile, here from me is another photo, featuring another bus advert, which I took in London the other day.


That's exactly as it emerged from the Canon A70. No cropping, no Photoshopping. Very London I think.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:19 PM
May 07, 2004
White bloke monkeys

I think you know what I am doing here.

First, trivially, the Billion Monkeys Project doesn't just mean female monkeys. Second, more seriously, Billion Monkeys could sound like some sort of racist complaint about all the non-white people wandering around London taking pictures. Actually the monkeys thing is a reference to those million monkeys who wouldn't type the works of Shakespeare no matter how long they went at it. The Billion Monkeys have a billion little digital cameras, and are doing, I assert, rather better than those literary monkeys. So it isn't a racist thing.

So here to prove all that: some White Bloke Monkeys. I'm one myself, but I've concentrated here on some of the others, one in particular, who had the decency to stand in front of a better background that is usual, and to cast some amusing shadows.

I hope soon to manage a little essay on why I am enjoying this project so much, and on why I believe it to be such a huge public service. But I've no time for that now.


blokestanding.jpg   blokeposter.jpg








Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:27 PM
May 05, 2004

Yesterday I photographed hail. Here is another in the same series.

HailonCarThumb.jpgI took the advice of Rich Coencas - commenter number one among several, (almost) all greatly appreciated, here – and beefed up the colour and contrast with Photoshop. It made a terrific difference.

UPDATE: RAB, commenting on my Samizdata pix, says:

Fine photos! Isn't digital wonderful. I take my Nikon with me everywhere now and try all sorts of shots that in the old print processing days you'd say to yourself "nahh that'll never come out, and why pay good money for a blurry blob of a photo 15 times out of 24". They don't all come out now , but digital is increasing my interest and imagination and it's costing very little. Add to that the photoshop type editing progs and we're in a new world.

Indeed. It's all down to the marginal cost of the next photo being ... zero!

But 15 out of 24? That's way above my hit rate now. Although I suppose "come out" could cover a multitude of sins.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:00 PM
May 03, 2004
Photoblogging (1): questions

I share the high opinion that people seem to have of these photographs.

Thanks to Adam Tinworth for the link.

I particularly like this one. By this I mean, this is the kind of picture I myself like to take, and wish I could get looking as pin sharp as this, where pin sharpness is wanted, and as artistically blurred as this where that is the objective.

PhotoblogRestDetail.jpgLet me now try to do one of those thumbnail procedures, in which I link from a small detail of the picture here to the real thing separately, but uploaded to my own … thing.

Back soon.

Well, that seems to be working. My Graphics Guru is coming round later today, and I wanted to be able to show him some homework I'd done.

So, about these Chromasia photos. They are extraordinarily good photos, from the technical point of view. They are, in particular, perfectly focussed. Plus, they look magnificent even on my little Brand-X computer screen.

So Question: how does he/she/they do that? Is the secret a better camera than my Canon A70? Or is it that he/she/etc. know how to take better pictures than I know how to take? Is it a matter of pushing the right buttons on a cheap camera rather than having a more expensive camera? Or to put it another way: Should my next step be a better camera, or some lessons in how to use my existing camera? If the latter, can anyone recommend a good course in London for someone like me, where I could learn a decent amount cheaply and quickly? Any suggestions welcome.

Further question: I notice that the Chromasia guy(s) do the large version of their pictures at 700 times 526 size. Is this a good choice? I am hoping to set up a photo-archive myself, to enable those who like my photos to see more without the rest of your being bored to death. What is the best size for this? Have Chromasia get it right? Or is larger a bonus?

My originals are much bigger than 700 by 500. Would people like to be able to see the mega-huge original? Should there be a three tier arrangement? Thumbnails, then single screen friendly versions, and finally, behind that, the mega-huge original? That might make sense. Bear in my mind that I have no plans ever to try to make any money with my pictures, and don't mind even if someone else makes quite a lot and me nothing. I just enjoy them and hope others do too.

BenGrosvenor2detail.jpgHere is my latest photo that I like. It's of this extraordinary boy, playing the Ravel piano concerto on the TV last night in the final of the Young Musician of the Year tournament. He didn't win although he did play excellently, and I think many would have tipped him.

This is a classic click-and-pick job. I took about a hundred photos while he was playing, and I think this is the best, because it captures what I think it must be like (a) to be a real musician, and (b) to have a a real orchestra playing along with you. As with the previous picture of this boy, it was of a TV picture in transition from one shot to another. TV in Photoshop mode, you might say.

In future, I will make all little pictures on the right the same width, within each post I mean, but don't have time to do this now. Live and learn.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:13 PM
April 29, 2004
The Dissident Frogman's London

The Dissident Frogman (who designed this blog for me) has been in London, and taking photographs.

They're good. Lots of bridges.

Also houses:


I think he may have played some Photoshop tricks with that one, focussing the middle and blurring the house at the back. It ends up looking rather like a model. In a good way. He's giving me another Movable Type lesson soon, and he will throw in some more Photoshop, and that trick with the focussing in particular.

I also picked this house because of the bright colours. DF generally seems to prefer dark ones. His favourite colour seems to be dark sepia. But I like the bright yellow car, and the bus with Waterloo on it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:15 PM
April 26, 2004
Testing testing

crowddetail.JPGOn the right, we have what is known as a thumbnail. But you probably knew that. And you probably also know that if you click on this "thumbnail" you get the whole thumb, in the form of another, much bigger picture, of which this little picture is but a small glimpse. The picture was chosen in some haste from the enormous picture pile on my hard disc. No doubt I could have chosen better, but the priority here was getting the procedure working properly, not aesthetics. It is of a crowd of tourists on the south side of the Thames, just downstream from Westminster Bridge. A little further downstream the London Wheel towers.

I have been taking Movable Type (and also Photoshop) lessons from the Dissident Frogman, who has been honouring my bit of the London blogosphere with his enlightening presence in recent weeks. Sometimes there is no substitute for face to face teaching and learning. My thanks to him, both for his wisdom, and for being willing to share it with me in my kitchen. It's one thing to see things working on someone else's computer. It is something else again to have it demonstrated, and then for you to learn it, on your own computer. So, merci beaucoup.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:40 PM
April 22, 2004
Picture of bloke monkey!

Here it is. Proof that I don't only take pictures of classy looking bird monkeys. This is a really nice looking picture of a bloke monkey ...


… taken in Brussels, the day before I took this picture.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:28 PM
April 19, 2004
Who is that with Jeremy?

JeremyCynthiaNixon.jpgI love this. It's a really great slant on the ancient art of Sticking Photos Up On The Internet. The gimmick here is that the Photographer has a baby called Jeremy, and he gets celebs to hold/sit with Jeremy, while he photos the two of them.

On the right is my favourite of the pictures, Jeremy being held by Cynthia Nixon, who plays the ginger one called I forget what in Sex and the City.

There are quite a few politicians involved, mostly of the Democrat persuasion, although G. Gordon Liddy also gets a look in. But I suppose Democrats like him because he keeps the memory of Republican Watergate Wickedness alive by continuing to be a celeb.

Thanks to for linking to this. They swear a lot, but they have hearts of mush and regularly feature ultrasentimentality such as this, or kittens. Or sheep.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:35 AM
April 18, 2004
Another classy bird monkey (and another bird)

A commenter has insinuated that my ongoing Brian's Culture Blog Billion Monkeys project is just an excuse to photograph nice looking women.

Absolutely not. Only the other day I photoed an ugly fat bloke taking pictures. It's just that pictures like this look nicer:


anastacia5.jpg anastacia1.jpg

But mayble I will change it into the Half a Billion Lady Monkeys project, for the time being.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:06 PM
April 16, 2004
Photos about greatness and ungreatness

This afternoon I came across this vehicle.


Now I remember Solidarnosc as the Gallant Trade Union that did away with the USSR by making Poland impervious to Soviet Imperialism. What could that be? Something heroic, I hoped. Something terrible I feared. I feared right. It's a porn site. Either that or it is a branch of Solidarnosc Poland that you have to be over 18 to learn about. How depressing.

No link from here. This is a family blog. Well no it's not, but anyway, no link.

So let me cheer you - myself anyway - up with another picture I took from almost the exact same place, which is a street called Lower Marsh, a regular haunt of mine because there is a guy there who sells second hand classical CDs from a market stall, and a regular indoors second hand classical CD shop called Grammex.

One of the things about London's big new landmarks is that, because London is not yet choc-a-block with big tall buildings or big things generally, when there is a great big thing in the vicinity, it towers over the surrounding muddle and confers distinction upon the otherwise undistinguished, thus:


I like this. I'm not saying this is a great picture, although please feel free to think so. I am saying that if you are actually there, it's a nice effect.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:10 PM
April 13, 2004
I photoed it - but what is it?

I took this photograph this afternoon in the general vicinity of Tate Modern, and it is definitely of some Art, because I saw a bit on TV about it arriving, presumably at Tate Modern. The person I was with told me who did it, but I didn't catch the name, and can't find any trace of it at the Tate Modern website.


Can anyone clarify?

You don't often get the chance to photograph Art, because galleries (understandably) don't take kindly to it. But this was just standing there, right next to a big floor to ceiling window, and just begging to be photoed. So I photoed. But what is it called and who is it by?

They look like underwater tentacles to me. And what they are (as opposed to what they're called and who they're by) is rather beautiful, to my eye.

UPDATE: My companion of yesterday tells me that it is by Ioan Nemtoi. I can't find this particular piece, but that is presumably because it is new work.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:44 PM
April 09, 2004
The joy of new London

In his comment about this photograph, Scott Wickstein makes sense of something that had been puzzling me. Why do I so definitely prefer photographing new nice London buildings to old nice London buildings and even to old great London buildings? What's that about? Do I really think that some snazzy new block of flats is actually superior as architecture to St Paul's Cathedral? Hardly. So, why the photos?

Here is what Scott says:

What it also says to me personally is that there are places in the world that still have a bit of self-belief and are ready to take risks. This is important to me as I live in a city which lost its self-belief long ago, and its doubts are starting to corrode onto myself.

And there you have it. I can't say anything to cheer him up about his home city (Melbourne?), having never been anywhere near it, ever. But he is right on the money about London. The old buildings are great, but the new ones are "important to me", and to me also, for the exact same reason that they are important to him.

St Paul's is great and all that. But the thing that really cheers me up about new buildings which are only half as great, but nevertheless great, is that they say something about the direction that London is going in, now. Unlike St Paul's, decent London buildings now are the promise of greater things to come. Even dreary London buildings can sometimes be the promise of greater things to come, if only because they are the promise of bigger things to come, and because the general standard of the big stuff is improving all the time.

Were it not for the new stuff, I would probably find the great old stuff actively depressing. The contrast between the grandeur of the past and the dreariness of now, between the splendour of my generation's inheritance and the boringness of what it had done with it, would be very hard to stomach, as it actually was in the seventies, when this pretty much was the story. I can really understand why crazy Chinese people in the seventies used to smash all their old stuff. They were stupid, ignorant and philistine, but I can truly understand why they did it. Thank God that this phase of their history stopped, and they are now back on track and matching the achievements of their past rather than just wrecking them.

I'm not the only one who feels this way about the new London. Last night I watched Murder City, again. It was everything I said it was, again. The plot was barking bonkers. But the locations … They were all what Scott called "Micklethwaitvision" places. Basically, they were newly minted little spots in between shiny new buildings, dotted with intriguingly retro and representational statues. (Last night's statues were two oarsman in among, I think, the new Broad Street development, near Liverpool Street Station.) The very first shots last night, for example, were on one of the new Hungerford Footbridges. Later, they wandered all along the river, and wandering along the river in London gets better every year, what with the new bridges, and the new buildings and the new footpaths and coffee bars and art galleries and statues and general tourist trappery. When public places and new buildings get featured (approvingly) in TV and the movies, they have arrived.


In short, thank you Scott, and the photos will keep coming.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:03 PM
April 06, 2004
Evening sun on it and dark clouds behind it

The dullest buildings come alive, for me, when the sun lights them up lighter than the sky behind them, and these buildings are not that dull. The big tower was not long ago given a makeover, and behind it, you can see the triple winged rooves of St George's Wharf.


On any day, this, the view as you look down Vauxhall Bridge Road and across the river, is one of my more favourite ones. When the Weather Gods join in with their special effects, the effects can be special indeed. Or so I think.

Although, if you're thinking that the actual photography could have been better, and that maybe one of those old fashioned non-digital ones might have done better, well, this time I agree.

Not that I would have got the picture with it, because I wouldn't have had it with me in the first place. The benefits of digicams are so much more than the mere techical satisfactoriness (or unsatisfactoriness) of the mere pictures. They are small. I can take five pictures of a view like this and pick the least worst. I don't have to faff about in a special room filled with evil smelling chemicals or pay fortunes to a chemist every time I want to actually look at my pictures. So if you like my pictures, and I really hope you do, it's digital or nothing.

The reactions of the analogue photographers to digital cameras remind me uncannily of the reactions of the black vinyl crowd when CDs first got into their magic stride, and this time the room for improvement in the digital product is so huge that soon it will all be over.

My next digicam will be the size of a credit card, cost £50, and be able to photograph the breasts of sunbathers in perfect focus from earth orbit.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:39 PM
April 04, 2004
Superior lady monkey

I was in Brussels the week before last, and took a ton of pictures. Many were private, so to speak. Others were public, that is to say they were pictures either of inanimate objects or of strangers. Of the public ones, this is one of my favourites.


This picture is part of my ongoing Billion Monkeys Project, the billion monkeys being all the people who now have digital cameras and who are snapping away at random. One of these monkeys of course being me.

However, I suspect that this classy bird may have been equipped with something better than a cheapo digicam. Something about the way she is standing, and about the obvious fact that she chooses to observe Life, even though Life would obviously be perfectly willing to offer her a starring role should she ever want one, and very possibly already has.

Photographing photographers works, and I am going to keep on with it. The great thing about them is that they are usually too busy with their photography to care about me snapping away at them, but that if they do decide they don't like it, what can they say? Yes, it's complicated, isn't it? By the time they have worked out the distinction between the wrongness of the photos I'm taking but nevertheless the okayness of the ones they are taking, the deed is done.

And mostly, if they do realise what I'm doing, they don't mind at all.

By the way, if you turn right you are looking at a spectacular view of the centre of Brussels. On that particular day there was not a cloud in the sky. Not one. This is very rare apparently.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:30 PM
March 24, 2004
Mirror mirror

mirror.jpgWell so much for my plan to do better here today. Shall I fob you off with another photo? Why not? But this time it's one that I think works better if it is smaller than my usual size (the one that hardly fits on the screen), miniature even. Hope you like it.

I took it last Monday at a dinner party. The dinner party was good, but this photo makes it look better even than it was. I like that. That is what photographers are for, to make reality better than it ever was. Or scarier, or more significant, or more ugly, or more … more. Am I perhaps becoming one of these creatures?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
I'm a web designer!

He already had this. But I was the one who turned that into this and now there is this.

Warning: I'm not cheap, and you will have to sort out all that … (waves hand in air) … computer stuff, for yourselves.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:08 AM
March 23, 2004
A reflection

One of the fun things nowadays is the amount of reflecting that happens.

Here is what turned out to be a self-portrait. I like it:


Hope you do to. Taken in the Kings Road. Quota post. Will do better tomorrow.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:58 AM
March 17, 2004
Clinking glasses and learning more about my camera

This is a blatant quota post. I have been out and about all day, doing things, and then out all evening attending a sparkling dinner party, at which I sparkled, which is to say I drank some alcohol. So, I am under time pressure, and under alcohol pressure. Expect foolishness, and typographical and other kinds of errors.

I learned two things of a cultural nature today, one concerning alcohol, and the other rather duller. Start with the alcohol thing. Why do we drink each other's health by clinking our drink glasses together. Apparently the practice dates from the times in our past when guests were liable to be poisoned by their hosts with spiked drinks. When you "clinked" your glass with that of your guest you really banged into it, and fluids were exchanged between the two glasses, or tankards, or whatever. This ensured that you would drink a sip of anything you had arranged for your guest to drink. So the link between touching glasses and health is more intimate than I had realised.

Also, the French people present (there were French people present) said that when clinking glasses you must make eye contact. If you don't this means you are a shifty person. This is apparently a recent French fashion, and it is now de rigueur (sp?).

That could all be lies, and maybe they were pulling my leg, but I think it's an interesting clutch of information.

And the other thing I learned of a cultural nature today, I learned by mistake. I was out taking photos, and I had the camera set in the "view pictures already taken" mode. But I mistook it for "take another picture" mode and tried to zoom in on the scene I was photo-ing. And the camera promptly zoomed in on the picture I had already taken, and proved will to move the picture also from side to side, in accordance with encouragement from the arrow buttons. How about that! Well, I'm glad about this. I am learning new stuff about my Canon A70 every time I use it.

Also, I now remember, at the sparkling dinner party, one of the sparkly guests wanted to borrow the camera, and she switched it to movie making mode. Which I kind of knew I could do, but didn't really know know, if you know what I mean.

Good night and sleep well. No links in this posting. I sparkled way too much to attempt that.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:32 PM
March 14, 2004
Ceefax photos

Warning: this post stretches the meaning of the "culture", but: see above.

I had to put these pictures somewhere, and the truth is that it is a whole lot easier sticking pictures up at your own blog than anywhere else. None of that do you actually want pictures?, how big shall I make them?, how do you centre them? nonsense.

I suppose I could pass these things off as pictures of where I blog, of the sort that are buzzing about the blogosphere just now. Thus:


Okay, so there's the computer screen on the lower right, and above there's lots of gunk too brightly light by the, you know, lights, and on the left, that would be …? A TV set perhaps? But what story does it tell? Let us look closer.


Yikes on a bike.

That was the actually decisive moment. Lara c Flintoff b Hoggard 0. At that point it was all over. So, I know you want to know how it all finished. Well basically, this was what happened:


… which meant the following:


Note the brightness of the lettering, and the strangely disturbing, even nihilistic black background. These images capture the profoundly evanescent nature of media imagery in our modern technological society, both in the obsolescence of the technology being used, and in the fundamental emphemerality of the message being conveyed. Plus, the Windies got a right stuffing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:16 PM
March 11, 2004
Moscow magic

A commenter at my Education Blog, for some strange reason, commented on this, thus:

There's a superb and magical shot of Moscow at night over at

Beware, though - beautiful as it is, it appears to be heavily copyrighted!

Well, let's give it a go:


It doesn't fit into my screen. I have to choose the top, or the bottom. I prefer the top.

If this blog collapses into oblivion in the near future, chased by black helicopters, this picture will be why.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:31 PM
March 07, 2004
Random bridge

This guy kindly linked to this, which got me looking at this:


I'm not sure if that is his permanent picture at the top or if it keeps changing. Anyway this was what was there this morning. Hope he doesn't mind me borrowing it.

Another sky-darker-than-what's-below-it picture, and another towards-the-light-nearer-equals-darker picture.

So much for the no more bridges pledge.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:06 PM
March 06, 2004
The expected - and the unexpected

A couple of photos from my walkabouts yesterday.

First, number two in what may or may not become a series here: London Pubs Dwarfed by Surrounding Modernity. Number one having been picture number two of this posting.


This one is the Albert, in Victoria Street, just down the road from Westminster City Hall in the Parliament Square direction.

That was the picture I went looking for. But later, in a charity shop, I found something much more unexpected. A swastika!


All perfectly logical and all perfectly innocent.


Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:47 AM
March 03, 2004
If in the old days you committed suicide by jumping off the top of the Empire State Building people used to respect your privacy but not any more

James Lileks today manages to combine two of my favourite subjects, skyscrapers and cheap digital photography:

Still reading the history of the Empire State Building, and came across a remarkable anecdote. (One or two per page, really – it's such a fine book.) In the 30s the networks broadcast national shows from the toppermost of the ESB, and you imagine what it must have been like to sit in a kitchen in Witchita and listen to a live concert from the 86th floor in Manhattan. What a modern world, full of wonders. Well. WOR had a show called "Microphone in the Sky," which aired at 1 PM, interviewing people on the observation deck. In October 1937 a man standing six feet from the mike threw himself off the deck one minute before air time. Here's the difference between then and now:

"Although the broadcasters were stunned by the suicide, they remained calm, and pleaded with the crowd not to become hysterical. The program went on the air as usual, with no mention of the suicide."

Why? Because people were tuning in to hear a happy Manhattan melody from the top of the ESB, that’s why. And if the broadcasters didn’t say it happened, then for the next half hour it hadn't happened. Such a thing would be impossible now – the announcers would devote the entire show to the event, webcams would catch the fall, people would blog it from the lounge.

And the worst picture of all would be not the man plummeting, but a dozen people leaning over the railing, pointing their cellphones at the man, snapping a photo as he fell to his death.

Could you blame them? The more ubiquitous these things become, the more people’s instincts will shift from horrified helpless onlooker to impromptu archiver of random history.

And why not? - is what I say. I always carry my camera with me, but it does take a bit of a while to get ready, and the first picture is either flash when I don't want flash or no flash when I do. Still, I live in hope of snapping any falling bodies in my immediate vicinity before they land.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:28 PM
February 28, 2004
Let there be light – and let Michael Jennings buy a Canon A70

Once again, the fact that photography is all about a machine reacting to light, is punched home to me by these three pictures, two of which I took, and one of which someone else took of me and my speaker, at my Brian's Last Friday meeting last night.

Start with the one with me in it. This was taken in my living room, where the light is rather dim. But you can still make out Jacky D and me, me wearing my serial killer glasses, the ones I use for computer work. But the lighting is not flattering, is it?


Sadly, Jackie D has just announced that she is having a hiatus with her au currant blog (i.e. that those two links are liable for a while to take you to the exact same place), on account of having other things to attend to. I hope having to give the talk last night wasn't the last straw that temporarily broke her blogging, and I hope that the pause is indeed temporary.

Veteran libertarian and regular Brian's Fridays attendee Chris Cooper, on the other hand, is back blogging again after a long gap, so blogging comebacks do happen. His latest posting was put up as recently as February 12th.


Talking of serial killers, that's Chris on the left, with the bread knife. But he only had designs on a swiss roll (I think it was) so Ernie doesn't need to look so disapproving. But the light in my kitchen is a lot better, isn't it? Bruce the Real Photographer wasn't impressed with the excess of diversioary business in the background, but I rather like all that.


This, making better use of the light in the living room, what there is of it once again all being on the wall rather than in the centre of the room, is a study of John and Gareth, looking as if they are about to have a duel, but they're just talking to different people. I must do something about that bit of wire hanging down.

More seriously, what this shows me is that, now that I can do indoor portraits without too much bother, the difference between this level of domestic light and that rather better level suddenly looms large.

The smartest move I ever made with this camera (as I think I may have said here before), other than buying it I mean, and learning how to use it indoors, was getting a 256MB Flash Card. This turns me from a careful, mustn't-waste-it amateur into a pseudo-pro who clicks away so much that people stop noticing. Now, taking a portrait, as I said to Peter Cuthbertson last night while snapping away at him, reminds me of that thing you do when buying shares, when you spread your purchases over a predetermined period rather than doing it all at once. Click-click-click-click-click-click regardless of what the subject is doing. Your chances of one being good are good. (With shares you can't just delete the bad purchase decisions. With digital photos, that's exactly what you can do.)

I'm learning. When I next try taking pictures of Important People at an Important Event, my chances of success will be that much greater.

As soon as Michael Jennings (now of oh you're Michael Jennings fame) has a proper job, which he now says he is optimistic about, we must start a campaign for him to get a Canon A70 also, so that he can be our user group Guru, in addition to taking better pictures himself. It occurs to me that Antoine, Patrick and I might actually throw a couple of tenners each at him to buy the A70 rather than another camera, so helpful would it be for us to have him actually reading – and even making some sense of – the A70's baffling manual. Seriously, the London bit of the blogosphere would be a photographically far more expert place if Michael had the same camera as the rest of us.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:07 PM
February 16, 2004
Another great bridge photo

Via Instapundit, I got to this:


And it's British. In Middlesbrough.

Talking of bridges, the Samizdata commentariat has now, it would appear, sorted out why the Coronado Bridge was paid for by the Federal Government and why it is so long and so kinky. And it actually does seem to make sense, as I at first contested with extreme enthusiasm. Or rather, as David Sucher notes, it makes sense if you are content with how civilisation won the Cold War, as I am.

Busy day today, so maybe that's your lot. But despite threatening nothing over the weekend, I actually put up quite a lot here, so you may still now have quite a bit to catch up with.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:11 AM
February 11, 2004
Two nice London photos

I've been trawling through all my photos looking for transport stuff, either to put there, or to put here and link to from there, in the course of which I found these two photos, both river related which strike me as above average. Why waste them?

I could waffle away about what they signify and why they are so brilliant, but I waffled a lot yesterday, so I'll keep the waffle to a polite minimum and just stick them up and hope that at least some of you like them.

The first is of the Millenium Footbridge, looking up river:


And the second is of boring office blocks, unboringly lit by the evening sun, somewhere upstream of Westminster Bridge:


I love that sunlight on the building dark clouds behind thing. And the water emphasises just how sharp the contrast was.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:59 PM
February 10, 2004
Indoor photos of people

pdhtripd.jpgLast Sunday evening I had dinner chez Perry de Havilland, and as often happens when Samizdatistas gather chez Perry de Havilland photos were taken and put up on Samizdata. Of those six pix, numbers three, four and five were taken by me.

Aside from my Canon A70 (now improved upon by Canon in the form of the A80 with no doubt further improvements to come), the vital pieces of kit I used were: my recently acquired 256MB Flash Card (which means I don't have to worry about running out of card space and can click a lot to the point where people stop noticing, or noticing so much); and: the little tripod that Perry (a friend indeed) gave me recently when I admired it, and promptly replaced by buying another one just like it for himself to carry on using. It's definitely got the word "Velbon" on it, and I think it's the tripod in this picture. My first picture here shows Perry complete with new tripod supporting his digicam, which is the Sony he used to take his other three pictures. I'm the little guy in Hobbit Corner.

louisa.jpgThree quarters of the battle with these cheap digicams, I'm learning, is keeping the camera still, which is especially the case if you are taking photos without flash, indoors. Flashing away at a dinner party is a deeply anti-social habit, and in any case the results are generally just what you'd expect, garishly lit and hideously unnatural, nothing like a real dinner party at all. So, no flash, and if in addition there is not that much light then stillness is crucial, hence the value of the tripod. Even resting a camera on a wine bottle, in the way I rest it against a lamp post when out and about in London town, is far too wobbly.


Even quite small tripods do two valuable things with dinner party pix. First, they improve the angle and get a little bit further above people's chins. But much more importantly, they raise the camera above all the glasses and clutter on the table and enable people actually to be seen properly. Photography of humans is a very human thing, as well as a technical thing, and anything which reduces the disruption and allows attention to wander from the photography process and back to the party itself gives you an extra little advantage.

tripodcd.jpgAnd these particular tripods, like our digicams, are small enough to just keep in a pocket all the time, which means that when we suddenly decide we need them, we actually do have them and can actually use them. I have two other bigger and "better" tripods, but they mostly just gather dust. Too much bother.

Despite all the kit being used, all these picture here (and unlike most of the outdoor pictures I have taken that I show here) needed Photoshop enhancement to brighten and contrast them up. Especially this one, which was the absolute last photo I took that night. Despite the rather unfavourable light conditions, and partly because of them, I got lucky. My human target ( editor Adriana Cronin) stayed reasonably still, while behind her there was commotion.


Result: that nineteenth century human in foreground with twentieth century chaos in background effect that most of us like so much. Usually what emerges from a digital camera in such circumstances is a blurred and deranged twentieth century person in front of a mockingly perfect nineteenth century background.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:17 PM
February 07, 2004
Sliding doors

Anyone can now take great photos, if they take enough photos. A week or two ago I bought a 256MB Flash Card, which means I can snap-snap-snap away for half an hour and still have space for a hundred and fifty more snaps. Add that to the fact that batteries in digicams now last a decent length of time, and the only thing that now worries me is the size of my hard disc.

What still separates the pros from us Digital Monkeys is that they presumably know how to take the great photos they decide beforehand that they want to take, as well as just the great photos they just happen to take.

This is one I took today, by which I mean that I just happened to take it today. I didn't go looking for it, and I don't think I even saw it in its entirety before taking it. It just looked like something that might work. Marginal cost of going snap: zero. Ergo: snap.


I just shoved the camera against the glass screen that stops anyone from committing suicide by jumping into the Jubilee Line at Westminster Tube Station, and, like I said: snap.

All that is missing is a couple of Gwynneth Paltrows.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:53 PM
February 01, 2004
More joy of cropping

This is good:


See the whole thing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:00 PM
January 30, 2004
The joy of cropping

Blatant quota posting. Busy day, preparing for and then presiding over one of my Friday evenings. (Thanks Patrick, excellent.)

More snapping today, after doing some shopping. On the left, the original as it emerged from the camera. On the right, how I cropped it. Originally I was only going to show you the cropped one, and write lots of stuff in the space to the side of it, but then I would have had to write lots of stuff to fill up all the space to the side of it which defeats the point of a quota posting. Quota posts take no time at all to do.

girl2.jpg    girl1.jpg

The point of it is she looks like a film star, I would say. I love the way the yellow makes such a good background for her, and the way his face fits so nicely just in front of her hair.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:20 PM
January 28, 2004
Try both the snow pictures

It snowed in London today, and we were all plunged into chaos. Quarter inch snow drifts brought our capital city to a halt. Road chaos. Rail chaos. Well not quite, but to watch the TV news you'd think so. We're just not used to snow, so when it happens, panic stations.

I was out shopping when the blizzard struck, and I took some snaps, with my Tesco shopping dumped next to me. What is he doing? – they must have thought. In fact I know they did, because several of them asked me. I was photo-ing because it was my surmise that the snow covering would make normally dull streets look a little less dull.


That was taken with the flash operating.

And this one …


… was with the flash switched off.

Flash equals less light. That's because the camera chose to take in less light when the flash was operating, but when it wasn't it hung around, so to speak. I don't know which is nicer, so, in the words of a Welshman who once gave me directions about which steep Welsh hill I should bicycle up to get to wherever it was I was going: "You can try both and then you'll be shoo-er won't you?" That is actually what he said. And there are bicycles in the pictures too.

While I was looking through these snaps, my friend Bruce the Real Photographer rang me, and we chatted about the Digital Revolution in Photography, and he told me what has to be true, that the more pictures you take (and I can now take as many shots as I feel like at no extra cost beyond a bit of battery power), the more you learn. What I am now mostly learning is: make sure you are focussing on what you want to focus on but that you at least focus on something; and: hold the camera still, e.g. by jamming it up against something still. Just holding it, in light that is other than perfect as was the case with these shots, tends not to be nearly good enough.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Michael has been doing a different kind of photography.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:31 PM
January 25, 2004
The Charles W. Cushman online photograph collection

If you like photos, and if you hate them you will have been avoiding this blog, then take a look at these, in colour, taken in 1940s and 50s Chicago. Thanks to David Sucher for the link.

Even more incredible, the man only shows a tiny few of them. The motherlode is, if I understand all this correctly, here.

There are pictures from all over the world, including 278 from London alone.

Looking at all the London photos, what they say to me is, don't just record the most magnificent buildings and great sights, photograph the god-awful waste land bombsite, total dump places, and the most hideously nothing buildings you can find, because they are the ones that will change.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:26 AM
January 22, 2004
Why we billion monkeys have been right all along

Good story from the BBC laying out the reasons why people like me love digital cameras. The pros also did the old snap-snap-snap and then select the lucky ones routine, and now amateurs can be like that too. You can see it beforehand on a screen. You can fiddle about with it afterwards on your computer. All the basic arguments in other words. But this is news?

Thanks to the esteemed lady reader who emailed the link. She knows who she is.

UPDATE: I also found this at

Last September, Daniel Carp, Kodak’s chief executive, unveiled a new strategy: the firm would no longer focus on the film and paper that have generated the bulk of its revenue and profit till now, but which are in sharp decline. Instead, Kodak would beef up its investment in digital photography, which has already helped it claim the number two slot in digital-camera sales in America (see chart). The dividend paid out on Kodak shares was slashed by 72% in order to help release some $3 billion to be spent on digital investment and acquisitions. The latest in a string of recent deals, announced on Thursday, is the $35m acquisition of the shares in Chinon Industries, a Japanese digital-camera firm, which Kodak did not already own.

That says it all. If Kodak, the archetypical photography-on-paper business, is going digital, that means the whole world is.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:51 PM
January 21, 2004
Indoor sun inside Tate Modern

The Digital Camera Monkey visited Tate Modern a few days ago, and once again the best results were from pointing the camera almost directly at the sun, although in this case it was an artificial sun. Michael Jenning' pictures here had made me want to see this, and photo it. Remember, the more light there is pouring into the camera, the less long the camera wants to look, and the sharper the picture.


As you can see, the horizontals of which the sun is constructed have slid a bit sideways.

I like that rather Wagnerian wall to the right, don't you? We're not in London, we're in post-Nazi Bayreuth and everything is being re-evaluated, confusingly but impressively.

It took me a while to get that the people lit by it were more interesting, photographically, than the sun itself.


And I tried doing all sorts of things to this next one, cropping and photoshop fiddling, but in the end I left it as it emerged from the camera, the best of a blurry lot of attempted portraits, because it gets how much she's enjoying it. Other viewers were better photographed, but less fun to look at.


And here are all the true worshippers.


However, they are not worshipping the sun. They are worshipping themselves, as reflected in the ceiling, as you can see at the top of this.


Right, that's enough Tate Modern sun photos. For more about the sun go here.

I recall once visiting the Acropolis and hearing an American, who had been taking lots of photos, say to his children (who wanted to stay and look at it): "Come on, come on, we'll look at it when we get home." This is now how I feel about my photography expeditions. The things themselves are okay, but the point is the photos. Make or break time comes when I get home.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:30 PM
January 16, 2004
Monkey meets ballerina

We all know that thing about a million monkeys banging away at a million typewriters, and the general opinion is that there wouldn't be much to show from such an exercise of any great literary value.

But the current global social experiment now well in hand of placing about a billion digital cameras in the hands of about a billion monkeys, of whom I am one, promises to yield much better results.

This monkey went a-snapping earlier in the week. I was after a footbridge that had been recommended to me, but the light was fading, and with fading light the camera seems to want to expose itself for longer and that blurs things. So results were mixed, that is to say useable, but I believe I can do better.

However the monkey got luckier, or so I think, with this ballerina statue. I even thought to get that window behind her in a sensible place.


I don't know what all those phone boxes are doing there. London now seems to sport such clutches, after what I recall as a decision to banish these things from our lives entirely, and replace with something more modern and bland and dull. That's how I remember it, but this could be all wrong. Anyway, I like how they look.

Statues are good. They stay still. And they don't suffer from red eye. On the other hand they are weird colours, and look best in sillouette, as this ballerina is, pretty much.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:08 PM
January 14, 2004
Brave Women and Wimpettes – reality does a switch and so do the dreams

Adam Tinworth links to this photo-essay about fashion photography. Fashion is foreign territory to me, but some of this I definitely got.

model.jpg For example. the caption to this picture (Number 22 of 28) reads as follows:

Today, 30 years into feminism, we have models who look not just weak and unsophisticated, but also dumb and victimized. Academic feminists haven't complained because the models are supposedly playing a subversive role and subversion is inherently politically correct. Moreover, many of the young photographers are female. But now we've moved into "fashion vérité" and the models still look stupid. Is this how women in fashion see themselves?

The gist of Ms. Lehrman's complaint is that fashion models used to look like Lauren Bacall in her pomp, and now they look like under-age wimpettes.

Well that was as long as this post was going to be, but then I remembered someone else saying all this. One of my favourite middlebrow writers is Susan Isaacs. And that's where I got that word "wimpette" from.

Here is an excerpt from Ms. Isaacs' quite recent (2000) non-fiction book Brave Dames and Wimpettes:

What brave dames have in common is that they're passionate about something besides passion. Yes, Jane Eyre loved Edward Rochester, but her lifelong quest was not for love but for justice. Brave dames, then, are self-sufficient, active, dynamic, three-dimensional heroes who see past that picket fence. They may love their children, but they also love the work that takes them away from them. They may be interested in men--and often are successful in their relationships with them--but they rarely spend their time mooning over a man. Nor are they full-time victims, either of circumstance or of villains. The message of the movies, books, and television shows they inhabit is that you can care about home and hearth and also the world beyond them. You can do well, do good, or simply do. Brave dames can be strong and active, but they are not only about kicking butt. Like Marge on The Simpsons, who is often the lone voice of decency speaking out against her town's and husband's flaming stupidity, they are moral.

And here, because it says all this so very clearly, is what the plug for the book above that excerpt says:

In this thoroughly witty, incisive look at the role of women on screen and page, Susan Isaacs argues that assertive, ethical women characters are losing ground to wounded, shallow sisters who are driven by what she calls the articles of wimpette philosophy. (Article Eight: A wimpette looks to a man to give her an identity.) Although female roles today include lawyers like Ally McBeal and CEOs like Ronnie of Veronica's Closet, they are wimpettes nonetheless. A brave dame, on the other hand, is a dignified, three-dimensional hero who may care about men, home, and hearth, but also cares--and acts--passionately about something in the world beyond. Brave dames' stories range from mundane (Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show) to romantic (Francesca in The Horse Whisperer) to fantastic (Xena: Warrior Princess), but whatever they do, they care about justice and carry themselves with self-respect and decency. For a Really Brave Dame, think Frances McDormand as the tenacious, pregnant police chief in Fargo.

Well, yes, I see that. But try this for an explanation of Modern Woman and her dreams. If it's wrong, you can tell me. My ego isn't on the line here. I'm new at this kind of thing. But here's how this all might make sense, in a way that no women need feel especially ashamed about. (We men are another matter.)

Fifty years ago, women were all stuck in the role of Wimpette, and many secretly dreamed of being Brave Women. Now, women can all be as brave as they want to be. Their problem now is that they have to be Brave Women all the time. Many can manage this. But many can't, and secretly yearn to be Wimpettes, which is the thing you now aren't allowed to say. Oh you can say you want to be a housewife, but woe betide your Modern Woman if she dares to say that she'd like to be a weak and dependent housewife, or a weak and dependent commodities trader for that matter. The women now all have these exhausting, macho jobs their grannies fought so hard for, and now they have to disguise their inner Wimpette under a façade of Brave Woman.

The men don't help, because while the women have been becoming Brave Women, huge numbers of the men have gone wimp on them. And the last thing a wimp man wants is a wimp woman to worry about.

Ergo, womanly dreams, as performed in the fashion photos and the most cutting edge TV shows, are now Wimpette dreams. Ergo, Ally McBeal – Ms. High Powered Lawyer but a Wimpette – because the Wimpette thing is what you are now not allowed to be for real. Only in your dreams. Only on the telly. Only in the fashion mags. Reality has done a switch and so have the dreams.

Remember that great scene in Ally McBeal where a Feminist Battleaxe, having selected Ally McBeal as Woman of the Year, or some such thing, then tells her she'll have to damn well shape up (get rid of that "thin thing") and put some backbone into herself, and generally live up to her responsibilities as a FemaleRole Model. You are going to have to be strong, Little Missy, whether you like it or not, you hear me girl!! That's what Modern Woman is now up against.

Well, perhaps you didn't see that, because when I – wimp that I am – was watching that, you were watching The Dirty Dozen with your Superheroic Rich Husband.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:20 AM
January 13, 2004
This is not an ice sculpture

Here's an ice sculpture, which I found here that is to say a picture of an ice sculpture, and it vividly illustrates the difference between how a camera sees and how the human eye sees.


During the run-up to the recently and very satisfactorily concluded Rugby World Cup, I posted some great photos of the great rugby player Jonah Lomu, and I made this same point. Chris disagreed:

And Brian ... I beg to differ about your take on how the eye actually sees things. All that blurry stuff, caused by depth of field focus is exactly what I see when I focus on something HERE and not BACK THERE. Try it.

Ever since then I've been meaning to respond to Chris, and have meanwhile been watching myself watch foreground objects and background backgrounds, to see how I do it. So I have tried it. And Chris is, unless he and I are members of different species which I suppose is always a possibility, completely wrong. When we see an object and a background, what we see is a volume. We see the space between the object and things behind it. We size up the situation, by moving, both our bodies and our eyes. We theorise – sometimes wrongly, which is when this difference really hits you – about what is going on, and from then on that theory informs and shapes every incoming signal.

But what the camera sees is a static, two dimensional surface, in or out of focus but never both at different moments right next to each other, still less any different angle on the scene. The two experiences could hardly be more different.

Getting back to the picture of the ice sculpture, there is no way that the human eye would allow itself to be so comprehensively confused about what the hell this object consists of, the way this camera was. This picture is about as clear a description of what is going on as the special effects in the latest James Bond for that invisible car.

The eye would duck and weave, to establish volume and shape and surface. It wouldn't just gawp – camera style – at whatever incoming light signals came in, and just tabulate them in a baffling, static rectangle. I'm not saying it's a bad photo. In a way, its very bafflingness makes it rather a good one, if you like that sort of thing. But it is a very different experience from actually seeing the thing.

Photography is one of the great under-discussed influences on Modern Art. It is discussed quite a lot, but not enough.

Consider. Photography pretty much drove the painters out of the likeness-making industry. They had to do other things. Photography publicised what the painters subsequently did, which gave huge impetus to the whole shock-art style of self-advancement. In general, the experience of Art nowadays is utterly saturated with the experiencing of Art via photos. And maybe (I'm a lot less sure of this part of the story but it makes sense to me that it should be so) the very first thing that photography did to Art was to make painters unprecedentedly aware of and self-conscious about the various processes involved in seeing things. After all, many of the first photographers were themselves painters, applying this new technology to their existing trade.

Impressionism looks very post-photographic to me. You can just here them saying: hey, we could do that, but in colour. But, we'd better get a move on.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:12 PM
January 07, 2004
More bridges

Not feeling well today, so a quota picture from the archives is all I can manage, of the Millenium Footbridge (the one that wobbled) which joins St Pauls to Tate Modern, looking downstream. Tower Bridge beyond.


Taken with the old camera, so a hint of strawberry icecream in the sky, I'm afraid.

I rather think I may have put up something like this here before. The way I see it is: never mind. It's pretty.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:02 PM
January 05, 2004
Snowflake photos

I tried various googlings in search of photographs, and the best one by far proved to be photographs. With that I got to these snowflake photos and in particular to Wilson A. Bentley, who seems to have been something of a snowflake photography pioneer.

Here's one of Bentley's pictures that I like:


What I find intriguing about this image is that it doesn't really look like a snowflake, perhaps because it is melting. Instead, it looks more like a manufactured structure, maybe some kind of plastic moulded object. Or even a biological object. If Mother Nature ever evolved wheels, maybe that's what they'd look like.

The same applies to many of the pictures in colour at the top, like this one for instance:


Again, it seems to be melting, Do snowflake photos always look like that? Surely not.

Here are some tips from these guys for if you want to photo snowflakes yourself.

That's if it ever snows in your part of the world.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:49 AM
December 29, 2003
Gerald (Ratner) on line - the jewelry may be okay this time but the pictures are terrible

Gerald Ratner, famous for saying of one of his own products that it was "total crap", has, having long ago lost that job and that business, started a new online jewelry business.

I know and care very little about jewelry of this sort, but one thing does strike me about this website, which is what total crap the photos are. Unbelievably feeble and uninformative. A million and half hits per day, apparently, but how many of those hits will be one hit wonders, wondering why he doesn't use a better photographer? The likelihood that Mr Ratner knows things about his business which I don't is very high, but from where I sit, I don't get it.

Presumably the idea, if there is one, is that a site which loads reasonably quickly is more important than a site which tells you very much about the products. Nevertheless, it really looks to me like they overdid the loading-friendliness and underdid the informativeness with this stie. And anyway, nice pictures don't have to take for ever to load. And surely with jewelry, the way it looks, in detail, is the most important thing about it. I mean, guys in jewelry shops look at the stuff with magnifying glasses. No point in scrutinising these pictures.

Selling jewelry on the internet ought to work really well, but I can't believe that this is how to do it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:53 AM
December 19, 2003
196 kitten pictures

The vanishing kittens are back.


That's picture number 178. There are 195 others. Obviously cute photos of sweet kittens are too nice and too wholesome to be art, viewed individually. But the 14 by 14 rectangle of all of them in miniature that you get by following the "back" link above is momentarily confusing enough to be artistic.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:02 PM
A magic hour with the digital camera - Hungerford Footbridge - London

On Wednesday afternoon I found myself just south of Waterloo Station with no pressing need to be home at any time in particular. The sky was cloudless, and the sun bright. I was well wrapped up. So instead of going straight home I went on one of my favourite walks, the one across the Thames from outside the Royal Festival Hall, across the now new Hungerford double footbridge, through Charing Cross railway station, and onwards into the West End and its various second hand CD shops.

I had my camera with me, because I had wanted to photograph the new Sainsbury's in Wilton Road, which is now emerging from its wrapping, and had already taken some very dull pictures of that, earlier in the day. The light spoilt them, by lighting up the top and plunging the street into darkness.

But now this same light became my friend.

I am starting to look at things photographically rather than as a person, and I saw the possibilities in this shot.

I'm on the downstream side of Hungerford Railway bridge and looking upstream through one of the old brick railway arches, and this is the Wheel, and one of the towers of Parliament. No Photoshopping at all.


That's it, exactly as it emerged from my Canon A70. I didn't know for sure if it would come out that good, but I gave it half a dozen goes and was confident. I climbed happily onto the deck outside the RFH, past Nelson Mandela:


It's not that I violently object to NM. But I do object to most of the people who worship the man, so I don't much care for this object of their worship either. But even that looked good on this magic afternoon. If he looks larger than life, that's because he is. It's not a great photo, but I thought you might like to see this thing.

The new Hungerford Bridge footbridge gives you a choice of two footbridges, up or downstream of the railway bridge itself. They hang by cable from a series of spikes that are like inverted Vs, and the result is to make the original railway bridge, a girdered object of extreme banality and considerable antiquity, look like a suspension bridge, when in fact it is only the pedestrian bridges which are suspended.

Here's how it looked just before I climbed aboard, looking towards the new Charing Cross station on the far side of the river. I tried messing about with the darkness/lightness settings to lighten things up a little, but in the end I left it as was:


Up onto the bridge. Now I look downstream, to the towers of the city, and as I cross, they come into view. King Midas, in the form of the late afternoon sun during what I believe the movie makers call Magic Hour, has reached out and touched the NatWest Tower, turning it to gold, but has left the Gherkin looking its usual self, for once upstaged. Even those cloddish lumps nearer to us, on the south bank, are turned into things of beauty.


On to the other side of the river, and a look back across the footbridge towards the Royal Festival Hall:


Just before we dive under Charing Cross station, another view of the towers of the city, this time through an artistic foreground of autumn arboreality, and this time including St Pauls:


My next few shots were of one of my favourite secret spots of London, by which I merely mean a spot you don't see in the picture postcards. It's a strangely Dickensian little stretch of the walkway through Charing Cross station, which has been tricked out in cream coloured ceramic tiling. I like it. And I guess it was just one of those days, because the most blurred photo I took all day was also one of the ones I most liked when it came up on my computer screen at home:


I really like that. It looks like an artist's sketch, probably a watercolour. I love the colours, in fact I love everything about it. It's the arches that make it work.

More snaps, and then the card runs out. Here's the very last picture I took, a few yards further along towards the station concourse. We've moved from ancient to modern, from claustrophic masonry to modernistical metal work. It's a suspension bridge under a building and over a sheltered pavement, approximately speaking:


It's not the best photo I took all day, as a photo. But I like what it shows, albeit a little blurrily. And then the card ran out of space.

As usual this happened long before the batteries gave out, the battery life being one of the more remarkable improvements on the old Minolta. That, and the fact that the Canon A70 actually works. Which I now carry with me all the time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:10 AM
December 08, 2003
Snow sculpture

The unignorable (I put that so I didn't have to start this sentence with a small letter) links to some pages of snow sculptures. This is one of my favourites:


One of the many huge boons bestowed upon us by photography is that inherently ephemeral objects such as snow sculptures can live on permanently in our affections. When we can take ten snaps from different directions, feed them all into our PC, and crank out a 3D image in some form, such as a view of the thing on our screens that we can virtually walk around and in among, if you get my drift (hah! - snow, drift), then snow sculpture will become even more productive as a means of entertainment and spiritual uplift.

Probably this is already possible. When I say "we", I mean when we all do it because it is so cheap and so easy and so routine, and our computer savvier mates can tell us how to do it. And when even I know how to do it.

On the basis of such records, maybe the best snow sculptures could be recreated in more durable materials. In icing sugar, for example.

I once did a snow sculpture myself, when I was at school. There was for a House Exhibition" in which the creative and showy offy among us showed off our various creations, and it coincided with some snow and and with enough coldness to allow snow sculpture to last a bit. So in the courtyard outside the main indoor exhibition area (the house dining hall), and clearly visible from inside, I did a reclining man.

My collaborator in art was, to begin with, a member of the Keynes clan by the name of Randall. He wanted us to do a fake Henry Moore, with a hole where the man's stomach should have been. I vetoed this as pretentious and stupid. I knew even then that a genuine and serious effort to get the man looking right was better by far than some ironically distanced knock-off of someone else's hard won discoveries about the sculpting of the human form. Randall Keynes resigned from the project. Good riddance. I finished it on my own.

Somewhere, I think I even have a photo of this effort.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:03 PM
December 02, 2003
Gep but not hard

As so often, Dave Barry takes you to the things that really matter, like for instance

this photo:


Which just shows that if you hang around flags and politicians for long enough, with a camera, you'll eventually snap yourself a true work of art.

This image is destined to hang around, I think. So to speak.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:18 PM
November 26, 2003
SpaceShipOne flies over a wind farm

SpaceShipOne is the gizmo that Dale Amon reports about on Samizdata, whenever it makes an advance, and I love it.

This picture is a thing of great beauty, I think:


What's fun about this is that it combines in one image two iconic technologies of our time, but two technologies which are worshipped by utterly different people. So where else but here would a picture that combines wind farming and space travelling get linked to? Well, wherever business people are trying to talk past entrenched political positions to get a simple "wow" response, from humans, I guess.

At first glance, the wind machines look small, the SpaceShipOne is only feet off the ground. But the Scaled Composites caption speaks of SpaceShipOne being "in the skies" over the Mojave, so I'm guessing looks are rather deceiving. How tall are those wind things?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:21 AM
November 19, 2003
Men at work

So I had just had lunch with one of my fancy city friends, and I saw this cute little view of the Gherkin, towering over a cute little church. As often happens with photography sessions, the very first picture proved to be one of the best.

Later, though, I realised that something rather more interesting was happening, although I think this picture may have been taken before I realised what it was really of. There were actually men working on the top of the Gherkin! I don't know what they were doing, apart from mountaineering. Window cleaning? Essential maintenance? Anyway, fun picture, I hope you agree.

gherclok.jpg   ghermen1.jpg

Is this sufficiently cultural? Trouble is, I've now got a terrible cold and a headache, and a very busy tomorrow, so whether it is or not, it will have to do for today.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:55 PM
November 16, 2003
A grey view from a London bridge

This, just now, is one of my favourite London views. Partly, I guess, it's because it probably isn't a popular favourite. No Parliament, no Wheel, no Tower Bridge or Erotic Gherkin. Just a little clutch of blocks, with only the triple winged roofs of St George's Wharf lending any distinction. But the clouds helped, I think.


It was taken yesterday, looking up river from Vauxhall Bridge. Unlike some pictures here, it's a convenient shape for a blog posting.

That curious object that looks like a stealth ship is a stopping off point for the boats that now go up and down the river, this one being opposite the old Tate Gallery. You can go by boat from there, downstream, to the new Tate Gallery.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:30 PM
November 04, 2003
Sorry Isabella

Move down Isabella. This is truly beautiful.


Michael Jennings, please confine your explanations to Transport Blog.

It even has little Thomas The Tank Engine type eyes, although they are rather far apart.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:58 PM
November 03, 2003
That's what I call snaking

I followed the rather pretty train picture (the train is pretty - the picture is nothing special) here and found myself browsing through mostly very tedious – well, "specialist interest" – train photos here.

But this picture is very fine, I think:


It's the way the train is so long, and, given the snakelike nature of the track, so very snakey. The train itself is nothing special. The track is the track. But putting the two together gets a photo that I do admire.

Okay, the next posting will about oil paintings by a dead person, or some such thing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:17 PM
Concorde again

David Farrer has this picture of Concorde up at Freedom and Whisky, taken at Edinburch airport. I'm guessing he took it himself but he doesn't say.


I believe I may have improved its presentation. He has it up as a .bmp, and on my screen it has bumpy things happening at the join between the fuselage and the sky. Also it takes a long time to load, because he had it as a rather big file. On my screen - and maybe yours? - this now looks better. If you want a/the bigger version of this picture, do what I did and copy it from David.

The earlier Concorde picture here showed the shape from below. This is the best I've seen lately of its beak.

Antoine Clarke gave an excellent talk at my place last Friday evening about Concorde, and about the contrasting attitudes of Britain and France to its demise. Basically, British Airways made a success of running it, if you exclude the small matter of how much it cost to build the damn thing! So we mourned and celebrated. Air France couldn't even do that, and were glad to see it go. And France didn't mourn or celebrate, other than giving a media nod to all the mourning and celebrating going on in Britain.

Which is odd, because usually the French State is quite good at these money-no-object flag-waving ikon things, while here in Britain we tend to screw them up.

Although, British Airways also owns London's Wheel (of the "London Eye" as they insist on calling it) and that looks great and works well too.

It's obvious really. Give The Dome to British Airways too. They obviously have the magic touch with these things. After all, for many decades they themselves were one of "these things". Turning national monuments into profitable national monuments is what they do, because when they were privatised they started by doing this to themselves.

This will have to mentioned also at Transport Blog.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:32 PM
October 27, 2003
Mystery photo

Blatant quota posting, in the form of a fun photo I took a few weeks ago.


I know what you're thinking. Why is the sky above the buildings made of big leaves? The thing is: this is the photo I took. No photoshopping was involved. This is exactly how it came out of the camera. But if Photoshop wasn't involved, what was?

Answers in comments please. If anyone feels like it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:47 PM
October 24, 2003
Farewell to Concorde

Today Concorde flies for the last time, in England, I think. I really can't tell exactly what's happening today, which is being called a "celebration". Will the French be flying theirs some more? Will there be further celebrations? Will Richard Branson buy one and use it for holiday outings and to annoy British Airways, which he likes to do? Don't know, don't care. All that matters to me is that the serious flying career is ending, some time around now, of one of the most beautiful objects ever to take to the skies. I will almost certainly neither hear it or see it ever again.

Really good photos of the big bird are surprisingly hard to come by on the internet, although there are dull ones in abundance, mostly of one of them on the ground, or taking off which is impressive I do agree.

I like this photo because it shows Concorde as I saw it, from below, and dwarfed by the sky which it still dominates aesthetically. It captures the shape of the whole thing, whereas many of the pictures seem to focus in on close-up detail, like that extraordinary dipping beak, or the strangely thick neck, or those downward sloping wings as seen from head on.


The ideal Concorde photo, for me, would have a vast and mundane London roofscape, with Concorde itself only a tiny fragment of faraway beauty in the sky. I might have taken such a photo myself, but I never got around to it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:39 PM
October 09, 2003
The true art of rugby

The Philosophical Cowboy (link not working properly - scroll down to Sept 30 7.16pm), gearing up for the Rugby World Cup, likes this stuff.

With respect, as people say when they are about to say something completely lacking in respect hence the need to shake some verbal respect on with a verbal bottle of pseudo-respect, I … don't like it as much as The PhC does.

The real art of rugby is the game itself, and all the great photos of it that there are, and before that I daresay the odd painting. The idea that in order to make rugby artistic you have to subject it to abstract expressionism is insulting to rugby, and misses a basic point about art which is that it should be all of a piece. Art should be tight, and consistent, and the connections within it should make sense. The art should grow out of the thing itself, not be slopped on afterwards. This Adidas site makes "art" out of rugby in the manner of a Photoshop dork who thinks he can make his holiday snaps more "artistic" by pressing the Cézanne button. Okay, I'm taking it too seriously, it's only a bit of fun, blah blah, but this does suggest to me a wholly unjustified and unnecessary sense of artistic inferiority on the part of the rugby people.

That famous photo of Fran Cotton with mud all over him on a Lions Tour (that's the only www version of it I could find) is worth this entire Adidas site put together, artistically speaking (never mind rugbily speaking), and then some. No metaphorical violence was done to rugby with that photo. It arose completely naturally out of the game itself.

If those New York idiots who chucked paint about want to enjoy this photo too, and pretend that what they do, or used to do thirty years ago (isn't that nonsense rather passé now?), is being backhandedly referred to by it, fine. It isn't, but they can pretend if they want to. But the real art of rugby and of rugby photography is quite different.

Consider these two photos.

This photo doesn't capture the defining moment of this particular moment, which came a fraction of a moment later. What we see here is Jonah Lomu of New Zealand about to run over the top of Mike Catt of England. But we do not see Lomu actually doing it, although I've seen the exact photo somewhere that does show this.


This next photo, on the other hand, from the same site, does capture the exact moment of this moment, during the same game (NZ v England – World Cup 1995). That was exactly when Lomu got past the wretched Rob Andrew.


There's no need to splash paint about to make stuff like this artistic. Both photos have those blurry and "artistic" backgrounds that you often get in sports photos, if you like that sort of thing. Since it arises naturally out of the regular processes involved in photography (focussing, following the action by swinging the camera around to follow it, etc.), I do like this sort of effect a lot. It's quite unlike how the eye sees things, but that's half the fun.

To be fair to The PhC, he does have one terrific rugby photo up at his new World Cup Rugby site, namely the one of Wendell Sailor (who by the way is my tip for Man of the Tournament). He's the beautifully lit black guy, second row down on the right. Although, it does occur to me that there may also be something artistically contrived about this picture too. But if it is contrived, it's contrived in a good way, in a genuine hero-worshipping way, rather than in a pseudo-art way. It doesn't look as if it was taken during a game, but you never know, what with the floodlights they have for games these days … Maybe it was. Either way, it's dead artistic, I think. (Another argument for sporting floodlights!)

It really helps that the rugby players (like the soccer players) don't wear stupid costumes that drain the pictures of individuality, the way that cricketers and American footballers do. Complicated headgear is particularly damaging in this respect.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:21 PM
October 02, 2003
Printed books as the first modern art

Here's an interesting Blowhard insight:

Many people don't realize that the nothing-but-text, read-it-straight-through book that's still seen by many overly-serious people as the only kind of "real book" was a bizarre and anomalous publishing development; it was (in large part) a historical accident attributable to the difficulties of getting industrial-era publishing technology to manage images and text well.

A related myopia is that a lot of people don't seem to get that "books" and therefore also "literature" are not just one of the old arts – they were and are the first of the new. The first mass produced art, the first "modern" art. And I'll bet you anything that when those trashy "novels" (listen to the word for God's sakes!!), read by … everyone!!, there was all hell from the existing literati.

Now they fake up printed books to be like works of, you know, Real Art, and give them prizes for being profound and selling only twenty copies. It's as if they're trying to disguise their true roots.

Even more crazy, to me, perhaps because more recent and hence even more obviously ridiculous, is the attempt to dress up photography and colour printing as a fine, one-off, but-you-just-have-to-see-it-in-the-original-my-dear Art, instead of as machine arts. The whole point of photography, and of the printing press, is that you can have an infinite number of copies, each of which is just as good as the original.

How soon before the Art-snobbos demand to see the original digital electronic files of things, and to claim that no copy is really as good, and try to charge extra for the damn things? I wouldn't put it past them.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:36 PM
September 27, 2003

Today I wandered around near where I live, taking photos with my new little camera. Some things I had in mind to photograph, like the new half finished Sainsbury's that is open on the ground floor but still under wraps from the third floor and upwards. Other pictures were serendipitous. A Rolls Royce decked out for a wedding, and eventually also the bride. An entirely accidental but very successful picture of the friend I was with, in the bottom right hand corner of one of the Sainsbury's photos.

And there was this, which is a Philippino Travel Agency:


The tile of this photograph is: Heaven on Earth.

My friend observed that one day I will photograph a violent crime being committed, but that I will only realise that I did this when I see the picture 100 percent size on my computer screen and see the evil deed being done. In my friend's version of this story, it's American college students here on holiday who take the picture, and Foul Play is only Suspected when they get back to the USA and show their holiday snaps on a big screen.

Here's the right hand upstairs window, original size:


I know, nothing untoward there. No Philippinos doing bad things there. But there could be. Ah, the secrets of the big city.

Was there not a very arty film made in the sixties starring David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave where this was the plot? Yes. Blow Up, it was called. And there are those scenes in Blade Runner where Harrison Ford subjects a photograph to successive enlargements and enhancements.

Enhancements I can't do. But my pictures are pretty huge and quite detailed to start with. (The camera says "3.2 megapixels" in proud red paint on the front.)

Now I'm watching TV, and its Law and Order. They're analysing a video recording of a gay party. Go here, enlarge, enhance, just like in Blade Runner.

It's in the culture, I tell you. How long before I too can do enhancement? I probably already can, did I but know it.

STOP PRESS: I could have seen this first, but I didn't, I truly didn't. Radio Times, tonight again, BBC1, Blow Out starring John Travolta:

Movie sound man Jack Terry records a car accident while working on a horror film, but suspects foul play. Widescreen.

Ah, "suspects foul play" again. It never loses its charm.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:52 PM
September 24, 2003
Smack it – it's a Minolta Dimage EX Zoom 1500

I have just replaced my digital camera with a cheaper, cheerfuller sort of beast. I did this not because my previous camera was badly designed or badly specified. It was just that it didn't work properly. If it had worked I'd have been happy to carry on with it more or less indefinitely. But once you start trying to mend discontinued electronic kit, there's no knowing what it will cost or when the grief will end, so I cut my losses.

My old camera, a Minolta Dimage blah blah see above, still works after a fashion, in its own clunky and unsatisfactory way, and it still has its uses. But for wandering round London taking open-air shots of London's buildings, old and new, it won't do.

Basically, ever since it conked out and I had it "mended", it has turned any seriously bright light it sees into strawberry icecream. Like this:


You can't do culture blogging with every other sky you ever show looking like that. Photoshop? Well, it can work, but washing out the strawberry can also wash out a lot of other things. No,that won't do. And it has other problems too, which rule it even further out for serious outdoor snapping.

But I will miss this old Minolta. If it had only worked properly, it would have been wonderful.

Almost all digital cameras are built in one piece. (My new one is, for example.) Everything is combined into one small, or not so small, case. But if you want to do clever things with flash, this creates a problem. If the flash is built into your camera, then you are stuck with light that only comes at your subject from the same direction that you and the lense of your camera do. If you want faces side lit, or if you want to prevent those little linear shadows that crop up in flash photos, you have to get a digital camera with a gizmo on it which allows "external" flash, which means a flash gun at the end of a wire. These cameras are much more expensive than regular ones. And the flash guns and the wire to connect them to the camera aren't cheap either. If you want external flash, you end up having to pay anything up to a grand or more.

The Minolta Dimage EX Zoom 1500 was different. It looks like this.


It wasn't cheap, but the ability to separate the flash gun from the lens, if you get my meaning, was built into the design. Instead of separating the flash from the rest of the camera, the Dimage EX 1500 separates … well, the camera, from the rest of the camera. By the "camera", I mean the lens and the little box within which (I suppose) the picture is assembled. Then an optional wire intervenes, which you can either attach or not as you please, to the rest of the camera, where there's the little TV screen, the place where you stick the wafer thin mint that stores your pictures, the batteries, and all the nobs that control everything.

There are several advantages to this beyond being able to vary the direction of the flash light. First, if you have the wire in place, when you push the button to take a photo, you don't simultaneously push the bit of the camera that actually does the photography – a big plus for avoiding camera wobble just when you don't want it to. Second, this strange set-up confuses people about where the photography is coming from, and even about whether it's happening. Impromptu shots are a lot easier to contrive. Manipulating the direction of the lens without moving the picture that tells you what your picture is also makes things easier.

I just wish the damn thing worked properly. In addition to the strawberry icecream syndrome, there's also the fact that when I have that wire installed, I have to smack the camera to get it to receive any pictures at all. Some kind of missing connection. This doesn't happen when the wire is cut out of things, but with the wire, trouble trouble trouble.

But the thing still has its uses. If you own a new digital camera, it's funny how much easier it is to make your old camera behave itself. I can now afford to risk destroying the old camera for the chance of making it do the one thing I still want, which is take indoor shots with the wire attached. And I think it realises this, and is suddenly desperate to please. Now, what with my new camera ready to take over everything, I can smack the old one like I was Harrison Ford smacking the controls of his spaceship in the original Star Wars movie. And it can work.

Today for example, I damn near set fire to the camera, by poking around with the connections on the off chance that this might improve matters. There was evil smelling smoke, and frankly I expected a very bad sort of flash at any moment, of the sort that liquifies things. So I quickly switched it off, and removed the batteries and the wafer thin mint, and let it blow off its steam and cool down. Then I reassembled everything, and hey presto, it still worked, provided I smacked it in the right place. And I took a stack of photos, of myself, to get one to put at the top of this blog when it gets its new makeover which it will Real Soon Now.

This is the kind of thing I have in mind, although maybe my design team will overrule me and want it all to be posher and uglier, more significant and less cheerful:


What you see here is me looking at the picture of myself on the main body of the camera, which is on the right as you survey the scene. The wire hanging down leads to the little lens bit surveying the whole scene. Those are classical CDs in the background. And I wasn't faking how pleased I was about all this. Basically, anything good I get out of the old camera is a bonus.

The strawberry icecream thing is not a problem for this photo session, because the colours will be yanked around all over the place by Photoshop or whatever anyway, to fit the blog colour scheme.

And now I also have a cheap, cheerful, and touch wood fully functioning camera, trailing rave reviews in all the magazines, much lighter than the old one and light enough to take with me everywhere in my pocket to grab all photo-opportunities as they present themselves. It also uses the exact same brand of wafer thin mints and batteries as the old Minolta, which greatly simplifies things. The new one also uses much less power. I went photo-ing across the river yesterday, and the wafer thin mint ran out of puff before the batteries did, which was a big surprise after the old Minolta, I can tell you.

Best of all, the new camera is cheap. Dropping it in the Thames would be painful, but not nearly as painful as totalling a serious piece of heavyweight kit, such as the Minolta once was.

So I'll end with one of the photos I took with the new camera:


I know. Nothing special. Just a curvy new building I happen to like a lot more than I would have if it had been straight and dull. Not arty. But that was how it emerged, straight from the camera. And the only pink on show is the pink tower, which is pink. No strawberry icecream to be seen anywhere.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:57 PM
September 20, 2003
He is the eggman

I saw this rather startling faked-up photo of an egghead, in the June 2003 issue of Digital Camera Magazine, which I was reading because I'm about to buy a new digital camera myself.


This picture is the work of Roy Oldershaw, who emailed Digital Camera Magazine as follows:

I am a small time photographer (I say small time because it's not my main source of income). My reason for this email to you is to hope you will publish some of my photos in your magazine. I followed the egghead tutorial from your mag and I personally feel that the results turned out quite well. If anyone would like to see any more of my photos, I have galleries at

The Digital Camera people were impressed. As am I by this entire situation.

The picture reminds me of the scene in one of the Hannibal Lector books where HL carves open someone's head and eats their brains.

This chap (I don't known if it is Oldershaw himself or someone else) also reminds me, both in appearance and in demeanour, of my good friend and fellow Samizdatista Paul Marks.

I don't promise any imagery as arresting as this with my new camera.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:41 PM
September 09, 2003
Dogosphere picture

I found it here, after he'd linked to a Samizdata piece of mine which was based on this posting


He apparently got it from here.

I love the blogosphere.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:31 PM
August 20, 2003

A great way to edge your profile in the blogosphere in the upwards direction is to do one of those links to a Samizdata posting that turns the bit where it says "TrackBack [0]" to "TrackBack [1]". Noticing such a circumstance (and making it go now to "TrackBack [2]") at the top of Dale Amon's posting about SpaceShipOne (which I have a soft spot for simply because it photographs so prettily), I backtracked my way to a blog called The Speculist, which is about the onward march into the wild blue future yonder of technology. Whenever Samizdata gets too gloomy about the European Union, income tax, UK gun control, etc., this will be one of the places I go for optimistic refreshment about life's possibilities.

My favourite posting there at present, edging the one about DNA computing into second place, is this one about Chinese human-rabbit hybrids.

Hollywood must be told about this. The pitch: The Fly, only instead of a fly it's a bunny. The Bunny! Jeff Goldblum with fur and whiskers (which he has already practised doing in the outstanding Earth Girls Are Easy), winning an Olympic sprinting medal and then disappearing into a hole in the ground. Maybe not.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:12 PM
August 12, 2003
Beautiful SpaceShipOne

This picture (one of these) is here because it is beautiful, both the photography and the thing photographed.


For techical elucidation, go here:

Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne had a successful drop test yesterday. This demonstrated the ability to take off with the vehicles mated (which had already been demonstrated in previous captive-carry flights), to smoothly separate the mated vehicles, and for both vehicles to fly safely back to Mojave. A couple more tests, and they'll be ready to integrate propulsion into the vehicle, and go for altitude.

Beats anything in Tate Modern.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:05 AM
August 03, 2003
Family photos and a blog service warning

Real photographers set up the shots they want and get them. I just snap away, and if I snap away enough, which is mostly to do with remembering to recharge the batteries a few hours before going wherever it is – that's the key variable, I sometimes get lucky. For some reason, if you recharge a rechargeable battery and then leave it for a few days, all the electricity dribbles out of it.

Anyway, I had another trawl through my personal pix, and found these snaps of my elder brother Peter, looking very weathered and Checkovian, on Christmas Day 2001 I think it was. He's a book dealer by trade. In fact it was he who got me my copy of this book.


That one, above, catches the kind of person I feel Peter to be, eccentric but not in any way hostile. I like that treescape in the background, which is also eccentric but not hostile. We were all indoors, but Pete was seated in front of one of those big suburban windows that stretches all across the room and backs onto a patio.


And that one is for if Pete ever decides to polish up his piano playing and make a CD of some piano sonatas. If that sells well, I have more pictures of Pete for the covers of follow-up issues of further piano pieces.

More seriously, what a profound difference all these family snaps make to our lives! I really treasure the old black and white relics from my nineteenth century ancestors, and I have let it be known that my family may do what they like with their furniture, but that if they die and let their photo albums get trashed, I'll kill them.

I also have a few good pictures of my mother. She was very coy about it. Maybe she thought that being willing to pose nicely for photos meant that she was a show-off or something. I had to put my camera down and give her a big speech about how posterity, at any rate the bit of it that we share, was really going to want to know what she really looked like. Now, assuming that my hard disc and back-up CDs don't let me down, it will. Assuming it cares. If not, the Internet probably has some communal ancestor dump where such unappreciated treasures may be deposited.

PS: I am about to have this blog transferred from wherever it is to wherever it's going. I'm being helped, as I think you can tell. I have clever friends and all should be well, but just in case this goes blank and unobtainable, or perhaps obtainable but with no additions, for three days or so, that will be what it is. I haven't been killed by someone taking exception to my views on Modern Art, or if I have, that was pure coincidence.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:57 PM
August 01, 2003
Umbrellas photo

Another fine image from Wired News Images Gallery. This picture was taken on July 17th, which was day one of the British Open Golf tournament, when the weather was particularly nasty.


There's something very photogenic about umbrellas. Also, looking at a photograph of a lot of umbrellas is so very much more agreeable than having to stand under one of them in circumstances such as these. Although even on the sunniest of days, golf leaves me cold.

It's the umbrella at left of centre of the picture, held up higher than the others, that makes the picture special.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:12 AM
July 23, 2003
St Pauls from Tate Modern - figures in bridgescape

A quota posting. Didn't have time to think of anything profound, so here's a fun photo from the Brian Collection.


What I like is that it isn't obvious straight away what's going on here. Suggested short answer: a lot.

St Pauls looks a bit dim, I know. It was either that or a very bright pink sky, and actually it wasn't pink at all. But my camera is a Grease 2 fan, especially when it is looking at a bright sky.

Luckily photography is not about accuracy; it is about the effect of light - as received by a camera - on a surface. You retina only gets involved after all that has happened.

I'm serious. What you see and what a camera registers are two entirely different things. Try it. See if I'm not right.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:25 PM
July 17, 2003
More jpgs

I'm just going, from time to time, to go on picking out the nicest photos from this collection until someone tells me to stop.

And given that I have to thank for this picture, in this batch, these are, appropriately enough, wired sculptures.


But, we're getting awfully close to garage sale kitsch here. Not, as Dave Barry (currently on vacation – and supporting the art of poetry in his absence) would say, that there's anything wrong with that.

This, on the other hand, is a regular news photo. But the tiny version of it that I first found here makes it look like a Monet waterscape or something. It works both as real world reportage and abstract art artage, as representation and as misrepresentation.


A refugee walks amongst washed clothes laid out to dry on the pitch at the Samuel K. Doe stadium in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Wednesday, July 16, 2003. The stadium is now home to over 30,000 refugees who have fled fighting in the war-torn West-African nation. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

If it's a Monet, then the refugee is walking on water.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:09 PM
July 11, 2003
As found Art in London

Okay what's this? A three-dimensional piece of Abstract Impressionism? (That's the one where you just chuck it about at random.) The latest Brit Art imperialising of an entire room in some government-funded art palace?


It's a photo I took on my wanderings around London earlier this week. And I know it hasn't come out very well, but you get the idea. You get the picture. Is it some kind of vegetation? The roots of a huge tree that's fallen over, perhaps?

Well, you probably know already, but for those of you who don't, I'll tell you that it's the reinforced concrete bottom end of a tower block in the middle of being destroyed to make way for some boring flats. The "vegetation" is bent out of shape steel reinforcing rods after a grubbing machine has been at them.

The ex-towers were the Department of the Environment towers which used to wreck the view of the Houses of Parliament from the Wheel by looming up behind them. That piece of visual bad manners aside, I used to rather like those towers. I liked the view of them from the big square near me. But now that they're gone I can see the Wheel and Big Ben from the same square. How about that?

If you suspect that this photo is all part of my campaign to piss on Modern Art so often and so completely that it is reduced to a sodden slurry of gunge in the sewer of history, you'd be right. But actually, in its more lucid moments, I'm doing what Modern Art says I should, which is just keep my eyes open for interesting things that crop up in the real world, which look as if they could be Modern Art too.

As so often with Modern Art, this is a message that makes more sense as a piece of verbal advice. There's no need to go to the bother of making Art out of it, other than by taking a photo or two. After all, if Art is all around us, who needs it in museums?

Photography is the way to capture these sorts of things. It's one of the nicest things about photography that it can do this. Thanks to photography, we can see and record these strangenesses and spare the world the bother of lugging whatever it is into a museum.

In the olden days, I suppose someone could have done a painting, but I think that would have been a waste of scarce skilled picture making time. When there are people in the world who haven't been pictured, you shoudn't be painting demolitional serendipity, however amusing. Cameras have changed all that, glory be to them. Now all who want pictures of themselves can have them, and there is abundant camera power left over for us to note the amusingness of disintegrating tower foundations.

But it was capitalism (in the form of the cameras) that did all this. The Artists are merely tagging along behind, trying to stay relevant and to find things to do that still make some sense. Not succeeding mind, just trying.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:49 AM
July 06, 2003
NASA pictures

Dave Barry links to this photo, but I recommend that those interested in striking photographic imagery should take a browse through the others.

This one reminded me of this guy's stuff.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:49 PM
July 03, 2003
Bush looking his best

Those White House Italians have been hard at work again.


The New York Times story to which I previously linked has become emaciated, and the pictures are gone. So here is the latest picture here.

The secret is in the focussing, I think you will agree.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:49 PM
July 02, 2003
I like this chair

A few days ago I took about twenty pictures of a poster in the tube, for Samizdata, and almost every photo came out really well. I could have used any one of a dozen for the piece. Hey! I'm a photographer! So now I'm back in the groove of taking my camera with me whenever I go out.

Today I was humping an electrical item home when the still (to me) amazing BT Tower suddenly presented itself out of a clear grey sky. So I took a lot of photos of that, and then I came across this delightful chair in a shop, just near the front door. I took about a hundred more photos after seeing this chair and taking a dozen pictures of that, and about half a dozen times I nearly left the electrical thing in the street. But this photo of it is of it is probably the best one I took all afternoon.


The chair was near the front of a shop, and I went right inside with my camera. The bloke at the back, behind his desk, on the phone, didn't seem to mind. In fact he waved. Alright mate? Copying our designs? Any time.

Frankly, most of the stuff in there was pretty forgettable, although the place was beautifully layed out and everything there looked good because of that. But this chair stood out.

It's the contrast between the straight-up classical, normal shape of it, and the outrageous home-made-ness of how it is actually put together (or maybe decorated). I have no idea who made/designed it. I can find no reference to it at the website of the shop, the address of which was, as always these days, prominently displayed on the front window.

I am, of course, not a real phtographer. Not in the slightest. Absolutely not at all. Real photographers know what they want the picture to look like, and they set it up, and they take it. And that's what it looks like. The only surprise is if it comes out even better than they imagined, as what they wanted only more so.

Me, as with all the other digitised amateurs now turned loose upon the world by the Japanese electronics industry, I just get out there and take a hundred pictures, and then pick out the three or six best ones, and try to pass them off as decisions instead of happy flukes.

The only clever thing I did was realise that the digital camera was the first camera ever made that suited me. With a digital camera, I spent all the money at the outset. The marginal cost of taking another stupid failed photo is: zero. And that goes for bother as well as the expense. There's no faffing about with film or taking things to Boots the Chemist so that they can tell on you to the Government. You just take out the little chocolate-biscuit-like object where the pictures are stored, stuff it into the PC, and copy it all across. All the hardware can be used over and over again, including the chocolate biscuit.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:04 PM
May 27, 2003
The means of reproduction

Here are two extraordinarily interesting chunks of writing, which both converge, from wildly different starting conversations, on the same end-point. The first version of this end-point is the throwaway sting in the tale of this.

If you only read The New York Times, you might think the only truly important recent event in Iraq was the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. For art lovers, this branded the U.S. occupation with the worst of all possible labels, worse than "imperialist," worse than "illegal" -- "Philistine."

Robert Deutsch, an archeologist at Haifa University and a licensed antiquities dealer, shakes his head at all the coverage of the museum sacking. The Times originally reported that 170,000 pieces had been stolen. "Nonsense," says Deutsch. He points out that there would have to be "miles and miles" of display area for such a massive amount of material to be readily available for the snatching. …

"They just had to have something to complain about," Deutsch says of the museum hype from skeptics of the war. "The war was fast. It was clean. They found a small place where they can complain." ...

"I don't see any big or significant damage from this looting," says Deutsch. "It was very small-scale. And the historical value of an antiquity is in its publication. Once it's published, it's part of our knowledge." Thereafter, its value is mostly as an object of art.

Those paragraphs were reproduced in full by the indispensable Instapundit, to whom deep and reverent thanks as always, who got it from Bill Quick, who got it from Rich Lowry of

And here is a letter from the latest (paper so no dedicated link) issue of Prospect magazine, from Martin Mayer, of Westoning, Bedfordshire:

In support of Patrick Lyndon, I recall my own experience as a student in Rome in 1964. In that year there was an exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of Michelangelo's death. It did not include a single original work. Instead it showed reproductions of every major work of his, from alabaster copies of his sculptures to, sometimes, just black and white photographs of his paintings. I went every day for a week. And I would still say, 39 years later, that I was more inspired by seeing his complete body of work in this way than I have been by any exhibition of originals I have seen since.

It seems to me – and I'm sure I've said this here before and that I will say it again here many, many times – that you just cannot understand the place of "art" in the modern world if you glide past the profound effects – on painting itself, and on the publicising and disseminating of the achievements of painters, and sculptors, and architects, and the whole lot of them – of the means of artistic reproduction.

Think what it will do to the culture when three dimensional reproduction is perfected – when we can all just set up our 3DRepro boards on our coffee tables and click our way through all of sculpture and architecture. This surely isn't far away.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:15 PM
May 24, 2003
Bloke on purse

Deadline looms. So here's what I think is a fun photo, which I found here.


Very artistic. The work of someone called Jesse Marlow.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:41 PM
Bloke on purse

Deadline looms. So here's what I think is a fun photo, which I found here.


Very artistic. The work of someone called Jesse Marlow.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:41 PM
May 21, 2003
Yann Arthus Bertrand – aesthetics trumps politics

Earlier this evening there was a TV show about a French aerial photographer by the name of Yann Arthus Bertrand. This is a new name to me, but it turns out his work is not, because there was an exhibition of his photos outside the London Science Museum about a year ago or so, and I saw it. And guess what, I really liked it.

I even liked it despite Bertrand's extremely obvious political ambitions for his activities. He votes a straight environmental left ticket, and peppers his shows with big, simple-minded slogans about how X per cent of people are starving or suffering from Y or whatever, and the implied but not actually stated punch line is that we should all be socialists and thereby save the desperately threatened world and the desperately miserable people who live on it.

The trouble is that his pictures tell an entirely different story. They are gorgeous, and they tell of a gorgeous world, of a world so big and splendid that it will effortlessly shrug off any nasty thing that mere people may manage to disfigure it with, and in any case most of the things that men do are, if viewed from the air, really rather nice to look at. Even things like rubbish dumps.

This is an "irregular river" in the desert of southern Morocco. Jackson Pollock eat your heart out.


And here are some olive groves viewed from above Tunisia. Not quite so gorgeous, maybe, but very interesting. Turn it sideways and it's a lovely start-up screen.


The captions are all fashionable misery, but the pictures themselves are sheer delight. And I bet I'm not the only one gazing and smiling, and reading only to find out what they are, rather than to find out what terrible news it all is.

The link to the man (above) takes you to the collection of pictures from which these two come. I recommend a leisurely browse. Since this is a "culture" blog, I'll allow myself one more, chosen because it looks even more like nice looking abstract art than the previous two.


This man also knows a lot about spontaneous architectural orders, but I'll save that for another time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
May 16, 2003
Sforza in DeService of George W

Whereas "art" is now all frivolity and ironic distance and "Why do you take it so seriously?" wide eyed pseudo-innocence (see my previous posting), after the crap is in the can and has got the desired response, this is the real thing. And don't whatever you do miss the extra pictures. Click were it says "MULTIMEDIA" to the right of the second paragraph of the story. I especially like the first one, with its oh-so-artful ethnic mixing, of The Man embracing his fellow fliers, at "magic hour".

In fifty year's time, this is the stuff that should be in the museums.

The New York Times can't help itself. It is impressed. As am I.

"They understand the visual as well as anybody ever has," said Michael K. Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief image maker. "They watched what we did, they watched the mistakes of Bush I, they watched how Clinton kind of stumbled into it, and they've taken it to an art form."

In case the links collapse, what all this is about is the extraordinary pictorial propaganda effort being run from the Geroge W. Bush White House to glorify George W. Bush.

"I don't know who does it," Mr. Deaver said, "but somebody's got a good eye over there."

That somebody, White House officials and television executives say, is in fact three or four people. First among equals is Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer who was hired by the Bush campaign in Austin, Tex., and who now works for Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Mr. Sforza created the White House "message of the day" backdrops and helped design the $250,000 set at the United States Central Command forward headquarters in Doha, Qatar, during the Iraq war.

Mr. Sforza works closely with Bob DeServi, a former NBC cameraman whom the Bush White House hired after seeing his work in the 2000 campaign. Mr. DeServi, whose title is associate director of communications for production, is considered a master at lighting. "You want it, I'll heat it up and make a picture," he said early this week. Mr. DeServi helped produce one of Mr. Bush's largest events, a speech to a crowd in Revolution Square in Bucharest last November.

To stage the event, Mr. DeServi went so far as to rent Musco lights in Britain, which were then shipped across the English Channel and driven across Europe to Romania, where they lighted Mr. Bush and the giant stage across from the country's former Communist headquarters.

Interesting how Italian names like Sforza and DeServi crop up as two of the leading brains behind this stuff. Some things never change. Think of those amazing Italian renaissance portraits with their extraordinary and extraordinarily detailed and carefully crafted backgrounds. Well, here come those Italians again.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:53 PM
April 29, 2003
Statues – right shapes but wrong colours

In about 1970 the western world endured a fashion for erecting meaningless lumps of metal and stone, known to their perpetrators as "scupture" and to everybody else as: "What the hell is that bloody thing? Take it away at once."

This fad is now mercifully drawing to a close, and public statuary that is actually of somebody is back in business again.

I took the picture below on a recent trip to Bratislava. Similarly entertaining objects are now appearing in London, where I recently observed what looked like a leprechaun leapfrogging over a bollard just outside Bond Street Tube Station. And, in the posh clothes selling bit of London just south of Picadilly, I spotted not long ago a recently erected statute of Beau Brummel, no less, looking very dapper.


For an anonymous made-up character like the one above, plain bronze is probably sufficient, but why do all outdoor statues have to be drearily monochrome, with the shape right, but the colour merely the colour of bronze, or whatever it is?

I was provoked into asking this here by a fleeting TV glimpse of a statue of the late Leeds United soccer player Billy Bremner which now stands outside the Leeds ground.


From my little TV glimpse I thought that this time some attempt has been made to get the colour looking right. Bremner's upper right thigh certainly looks thigh-coloured rather than merely metal coloured. Sadly, the dark looking face suggests otherwise.

I wonder why more effort is not made to make statues realistic in colour as well as shape. Here, for example, is a recently unveiled statue of four of the England 1966 World Cup winning side, done in the usual solemn and "historic" monochrome. Do things have to be done this way, still?

Beau Brummel in particular would look a lot finer if justice had been done to the real look of the man, and of his famed attire.

Madame Tussaud's does better indoors. Why can't something similar be done outdoors? Is it just too difficult? Or is it assumed that monochromatic bronze is what a statue is just dumb, plain supposed to be made of?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:48 PM