Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Peter Whale on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
6000 on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
Brian Micklethwait on Why I like Cricinfo
Darren on Why I like Cricinfo
Tatyana on English is weird
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Most recent entries
- A pig and two dogs
- The right moment and the right alignment
- UCH footbridge
- On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
- Are London’s cranes about to depart for a few years?
- The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
- Brexit graphics
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Photography
6k writes about the long journey from journeyman amateur snapper to Artist:
I don’t pretend to be a photo ninja. I can point, and I can shoot, and sometimes the results can be pretty good. Very occasionally, they can be startlingly good, but only very occasionally. I need to work more at not just pointing and shooting to increase the percentage of those startlingly good shots. We’ll get there.
There follows a picture of a bird spreading its wings. In other words, the capture of a fleeting moment.
6k photos his family quite a bit, as they do things like explore the spectacularly beautiful coastline near where he lives, in South Africa. Photoing your loved ones is also a matter of capturing the exact right moment.
With me, I think I get nearest to Art when I’m lining things up with each other. I have a mental list of things I like, and a picture counts double in my head, if I can line a couple, or maybe even more, of these things. The most characteristic of such alignments over the years have typically involved a digital photographer, with a London Big Thing in the background.
Here are a couple of efforts I might pick out to enter a competition, if someone told me I had to do that:
In these two cases, there is also an element of me waiting for the right moment, or more accurately me snapping lots of promising looking moments and picking out the best one.
Those two are from this huge collection of unrecognisable photographers, which I doubt many of you scrutinised in its entirety. So there are two of them again. I particularly like the one with the blue balloon.
And here is another exercise in lining things up, captured just a few days ago. This time, the object at the front is a plastic water bottle, resting on the anti-pigeon netting in the courtyard outside and above my kitchen window. Behind the bottle is a thing that regulars here will know that I like a lot, namely: scaffolding! This being the scaffolding at the top of the big conversion job that’s being done across the courtyard from me:
That picture involves something I don’t usually like to do, which is cropping. The original snap was rather bigger.
I don’t know what exactly I’ve got against cropping, but it feels to me like only one or two notches up from cheating. Maybe I take rather excessive pride in (the Art of) getting the snap I want to emerge straight from the camera, no muss, no fuss, no photoshop. The truth, of course, is that cropping is itself very much an Art. But because I don’t do cropping that much, I probably could have cropped this photo a whole lot better than I actually did.
Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:
And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:
The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior. The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.
To me the two pictures look nearly identical. Their technical identicality does not interest me. But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.
Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half. New York is one of the world’s great cities. And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.
Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now. Consider the cranes in these pictures. Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.
I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.
It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers. In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way. Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.
Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:
People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike. But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings. A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city. A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.
New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings. In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.
Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York. (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground. That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same. Good for him.
I have been neglecting Libertarian Home of late. Let me assure LH’s Dear Leader Simon Gibbs that this is not permanent, just a combination of the declining energy that accompanies advancing years, and being, first, knackered by my French expedition, ant then preoccupied with the meeting I hosted on Friday addressed by Dominic Frisby. (Because this was a dry run for a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August, some rearranging was required in my tiny front room, to make it less completely unlike a theatre.)
Simon has made it easy for me to respond positively to his constant nudgings, by serving up a nudge that is very easy for me to respond to, and in fact which I am glad to respond to, because it takes care of my something-every-day self-imposed rule here, for today.
At the Libertarian Home secret coven site where Simon nudges most of his nudgings to his various LH helpers and comrades, he posted this picture, which he recently snapped in Trafalgar Square:
Click on that to get the original, bigger and with more verbiage.
It is typical of Simon that he nudged this in my direction (picking me out individually thereby ensuring that an email about the nudge would reach me immediately) by emphasising the horizontality of this photo. (He had other ways of recommending it to others.) What this illustrates is that Simon is good at tuning in to how others think, which is the bedrock of the art of persuasion.
Photographic horizontality interests me because it suits the blogging format by helping to make blog postings vertically shorter and hence less unwieldy than they would otherwise be, and because horizontality also suits other circumstances that happen to be of interest to me.
So, he used it. Thus are ideological movements built and strengthened.
That Brexit thing is getting less and less horizontal by the minute, apparently. Although I promise nothing, I have in mind (more Gibbs nudging) to go to Trafalgar Square this afternoon and try to photo the whole thing.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
I already showed you some Narbonne bridges, snapped during my France expedition. Here are more bridges.
Are these first lot of bridges really bridges, or are they just buildings with holes in the bottom of them to let people through? I reckon these make the cut, but once the buildings start really piling up on top of the holes …?:
I’m doing these bridge photos in sets of three, and next is a clutch of photos of a set of three bridges that connect the town of Ceret to the other side of the local river. Picasso spent time in Ceret, because of the light. (I also photoed Renault Picassos.)
The regular shot of these bridges is from below, as you can see if you click on the second of these photos. But I was with people who were in a hurry, so I only got to photo the bridges from the other bridges, or in one case, the shadow of a bridge, from the bridge. And oh look, photographers!:
In the first of these next three bridge photos, there are three more bridges, by my count. They’re in the seaside town of Collioure. The other two are in Perpignan, where, just like in Quimper (where I have also visited these same friends (G(od)D(aughter)2’s family) – they have houses all over the place), there is a river flowing through the middle of the town with multiple bridges over it.
Finally, here are some rather more modern bridges. First there is one of the main motorway from France to Spain, which carries a lot of lorries.
The motorways of Europe may, I surmise, be the place on earth where robot drivers have their first seriously big impact. Robot cars are too complicated, and to start with, what will be the point of them? But robot lorries will be able to travel a lot faster than regular lorries, for a lot longer than regular lorries, on roads that are the most controlled and predictable roads in existence. European motorways carry colossal amounts of freight, unlike in the USA, where a lot freight goes by train, Europe’s railways being full of passenger trains. And there’s nothing like a sight of this particular motorway, handily shown off by being placed on the side of a mountain in full view of the local and non-charged version of the same road, to see all this.
In the middle below is a hastily snapped shot from a bridge as we drove over it, over a newly constructed high speed passenger railway, again connecting France to Spain. Brand new railways lines have a certain pristine charm, I think, with the gravel under the tracks yet to be blackened by constant use.
Finally, we have what may well be my favourite South of France bridge photo of them all, on the right there. This is one of those unselfconsciously functional footbridges, which more and more abound in towns and cities (London has many such bridges), and which join work spaces off the ground to other work spaces off the ground. This particular footbridge is in Perpignan.
Quite why such bridges, which have long been around, are now proliferating is an interesting question. Maybe it is just that organisations are getting bigger, and demand bigger buildings, and connecting two buildings by a footbridge of this sort turns two buildings into one building, at any rate for certain purposes. If two bureaucracies that live across the road from each other merge, then a bridge joining the top floors together is the logical first managerial step. This allows the new bosses to commune with one another, without having to trundle up and down and across the road all day long, rubbing their shoulders with the unclean shoulders of their underlings. Lower footbridges bridges enable functional specialisation to proliferate among lesser personages.
But, what do I know? My point is, I like such footbridges. And whereas most of the other bridges in this posting are the sort that feature in lots of other people’s photos and in picture postcards, these Brand-X urban footbridges are only a Thing because I say they are. Which is a major purpose of truly good photography. Truly good photography doesn’t just celebrate the already much celebrated; truly good photography offers new objects of potential celebration.
So now I will celebrate this Perpignan footbridge some more:
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
So today I went up to the roof of my block of flats, again, to photo the work in progress across the yard. And I did. But I also photoed a bird on a TV aerial:
So far so ordinary. But then this happened:
There are of course ways to take such pictures as this on purpose, with machine-gunning rather than just shooting, so to speak, and then picking out the best one. But that picture, with me shooting just the once, was a total fluke.
Let’s look at that bird in flight more closely:
To me it seems somewhat strange. The wings are those of a black angel, yet the body of the bird is more like an old woman in black with stooped shoulders. And all that in sharp contrast to the erect posture of the bird when it was just perched there. It’s just an accident of the exact moment in the flapping cycle that the bird got frozen, but it sill looks odd.
Postcards like this one, which I photoed this morning, in ... well, you can see where:
Why not just take my own photos?
Well, I do take my own photos, a ton of them, and many of them look extremely like the ones in this photo of a clutch of photos. But what I learn from these picture postcard pictures is what in, in this case, the small historic town of Castelnou is considered by all the others who visit Castelnou to be most worthy of photographic attention. I may agree. I may disagree. Either way, I consider this to be interesting information.
Incoming from Darren (to whom thanks also for various recent comments):
Saw this White Van story and thought of you.
The artist, known only as Mr Konjusha is 22 and from east London.
His work has been spotted at various locations since he started drawing on the vehicles about three weeks ago. He said he had worked on 10 vans so far.
I think the whiteness of White Vans is all part of their appeal. If they are white and clean, they look really clean. If they are white a dirty, they look really dirty.
But if they are white and dirty, but if the dirt has been turned into art, what are they then?
Once again we have here an art form which is greatly encouraged by cheap digital photography. Would Mr Konjusha be so inclined to exert himself thus, were it not possible for his efforts to be quickly and easily recorded and equally easily shared with an admiring public?
Judging by what he says about how he was trying to put a smile on delivery drivers’ faces, he started doing this just for a bit of fun. But if he likes the fame and the attention he is now getting, he’ll perhaps continue for a while, more than he would have done in the previous century. Maybe, thanks to all the attention, his next job will be in advertising.
What’s the betting someone turns this dirty art into something that will actually get printed, nice and cleanly, onto a nice clean van?
I’ve included “cats and kittens” in the category list because the guy says that some of the faces he does look like hybrid human/lion faces.
What do you suppose this is?:
Just looking at that, I can’t tell. A bit of pink string or wool? A vapour trail in the sunset? Clue: This is Friday here at BMdotcom and living creatures are involved.
But click on it, getting the bigger picture, and it all becomes clearer.
However, I submit that this clarity is not because of the picture being slightly bigger. It is because we see where this strange Thin Thing is to be seen. We don’t so much see what it is as deduce it. We? Maybe it was not like that for you. Maybe you have a better screen than I do. But this was how I worked it out.
The picture is one of these. 6K called it “The thin pink line”, so I’m guessing he realised how it might be cropped. By, e.g., me.
Kudos to the Real Photographer who contrived to photo an airship in a way that has surely gone viral already:
The applications for the plane are broad, such as transporting cargo, performing surveillance operations, or simply to carrying super-rich tourists through the skies over London. The Guardian reports that two potential uses are monitoring refugees crossing the Mediterranean and acting as a mobile communications network at large sporting events.
A blimp. Can someone tell me how it differs from the blimps that we see already?
First customers, according to the Guardian, will be people like oil sheikhs. I suppose the dream is that the a sector of the more-money-than-sense super-rich will each want one, the way they now want a yacht.
One of the very best The Wires! photos that Dezeen has ever published.
Seoul-based ThePlus Architects was tasked with accommodating all of these activities within a heavily restricted site in Seogyo-dong, measuring six metres across and 10 metres deep, and flanked by taller buildings on three sides.
Here is another picture of the same building, from the same report:
The Wires! are, as is usual, not mentioned in the text of the report. But the photographer is, I think, intensely aware of The Wires! In the first picture he searches out a rare shot in which The Wires! don’t interrupt the starkly white modernity of the building’s exterior. And in this second shot, where there are far fewer of The Wires!, he deliberately lines up the roof of the building with some of The Wires! that remain.
But that alignment is not merely something he saw. It is almost as if it is part of the design. It’s almost as if the building has been designed, not just to stay out of the way of The Wires!, but to include The Wires! in the overall composition.
But, as I say, no mention of any of that in the text of the piece.
Question: Once The Wires! are installed in this or that particular place, are they likely subsequently to change very much? For my surmise to make sense, it would need to be that once The Wires! are in place, there tend to remain in the same place.
Bright sunlight on a basically rather dull day can make the most commonplace objects seem heavenly. But when a shaft of sunlight slashed across Cape Town earlier in the week, it hit a big container ship and a flock of container cranes, who ended up looking like a herd of giraffes. Amazing. And crying out to be horizontalised:
I was saving that for yesterday, because yesterday was Friday and my day for animals (the more bizarre the better). But come yesterday, I forgot.
Too good to delay, too good to ignore.
My photos of London contain may oddities, which I sometimes only notice later, and often only much later.
Take this photo, for instance, which was one of the first I took from the top of One New Change, on the second of two visits I made in the early summer of 2012, on May 22nd:
I like it. Big Ben, seen through the Wheel, the Wheel presumably being what I thought I was photoing at the time. Outstanding roof clutter, right next to the Wheel. The pleasingly eccentric Oxo House, slightly nearer to us. Good stuff, albeit rather dimly lit.
But what about that big photo-within-the-photo, of what looks like the late Lord Mountbatten, standing next to a young man who looks vaguely like a young Prince Andrew, underneath where it says “Sea Containers House”? What on earth is that about?
Image google “Mountbatten Sea Containters House”, and all quickly becomes clear.
The largest ever photograph of the Royal Family has been unveiled on a prominent South Bank building in the heart of the capital to celebrate the Queen’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee.
When finished, a day or two afte4r I took my photo, the complete photo on Sea Containers House looked like this:
I caught the process of this photo being contrived at its very earliest stage. And yes, that is a young Prince Andrew.
The only thing I remember about all that Jubilee fuss in 2012 is that, for some reason or other, I pretty much ignored it. I think I may have watch the boats on the telly. Had I paid more attention, it would have been obvious to me soon after I took my photo of that photo what had been going on.
Google is wonderful. Also very sinister. Very sinister because so wonderful.
Blog buddy 6k recently did a posting about a Finnish word, “kalsarikännit”, which apparently means: “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”.
I came across the big word in the title of this posting as a result of photoing a van, as it entered Victoria Street, on Tuesday:
What got me photoing this van was not any long word on it, for there are none. No, what got my attention was how amazingly posh this van looked. Amazingly posh like one of those amazingly posh magazines about Design, two-thirds full of posh car, posh frock, posh watch and posh property adverts. Goddaughter 1, if she sees this, will surely be delighted. The market for aesthetically sophisticated architectural photography (which is what she mostly does for a living) has now spread to the sides of vans.
But what is BRS? BRS.NL was a big clue. Dutch, yes? Yes. Here’s the website. I had a rootle around in it, and that was when I came across “Toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Here is the original Dutch:
Het accent van de werkzaamheden van BRS Traffic Systems BV ligt op het ontwikkelen, produceren, installeren en onderhouden van toegangsbeveiligingsproducten zoals Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speeddoors en Pevac®Traps.
By the way, “van” is not the Dutch for a van.
The only translation of “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten” that I could coax out of the internet was the English translation of the above verbiage:
The emphasis of the work of BRS Traffic Systems BV is the development, production, installation and maintenance of access security as Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speed Doors, and Pevac®Traps.
So, “access security products”? Fancy metal gates, in other words. That’s not as good as “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”, but I reckon “kalsarikännit” is not as impressive as “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Thank heavens for copy-and-paste.
German, I know, and Dutch, which I presume to be very similar, would seem to have this ability to construct infinitely long words, like good trains. So perhaps this particular word is not that surprising. But I like it. I wonder if there is a single German, or Dutch, word for “a word that is in principle infinitely long, to which you can keep adding stuff for ever, like a goods train”. Probably. It could, that is to say, be devised.