Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
- A picture of a book about pictures
- To Tottenham (8): Zooming in on some Big Things
- Playing golf versus following cricket
- Quota bicycles
- Another Capital Golf car
- Battersea Power Station then and now and soon
- Timing shits instead of forcing them
- Lincoln Paine shifts the emphasis from land to water (with a very big book)
- Classic cars in Lower Marsh
- Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
- A selfie being taken a decade ago
- Gloucester Road with evening sun
- Lea River footbridge
- “Yeah, no …”
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Category archive: Photography
The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots. She loves all the books. I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top. This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.
So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies. All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book. I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”. I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention. So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.
The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts. Nonsense, say Hockney and pal. The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while. They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand. These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic. Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying. Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around. Photograhy was leading the Artists.
This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is. It didn’t erupt all at once. It crept up on the world, step by step. And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time. Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.
Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards. In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees a interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover? Are we bad people?
For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.
In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking. How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.
Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:
Hm, what to do?
Easy. Use a drone instead.
LATER: See first comment. It’s this:
There can only be one fort like that.
Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.
Blog and learn.
I’m still photoing photoers, basically because the photos of photoers I took about a decade ago get more interesting by the year, and so, I’m betting, will photos like these, which I took in Trafalgar Square, last October:
The difference from ten years ago is that I avoid photoing faces far more than I tried to then. That means, as explained in this earlier posting, that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, as above. Although, 3.3 is the hair on a lady’s sleeve, and the guy in 2.3 has no hair. But, he has a hair style.
But I’m not a hair fetishist. I’m just a not-face photoer, when I’m photoing strangers who are themselves photoing.
There was a posting at Mick Hartley’s yesterday which showed that concern about photoing the faces of strangers and thereby in some way stealing from them is not new. Hartley reproduces a great pile of photos, photos like this:
Scroll down to the bottom of Hartley’s posting, and you will encounter quotes from the man, Richard Sandler, who took all these ancient black-and-white photos, of strangers. Go to where Hartley got these pictures and the quote, and you’ll get one of the questions, as well as the answer.
Have you had anyone ever question your motives in the street? Did you ever piss off anybody?
Occasionally people get angry and they have a right to, I am stealing a little something from them. Also for many years I used the strobe on the street and so there was no hiding what I was doing ... it can be startling. I have been kicked, spit on, and chased, but not very often. Once a woman with a rabbit pursued me for 30 minutes because I had flashed her and her pet.
Hartley also quotes Sandler saying this:
I think those were more interesting times because the warts of corporate/capitalist society were more visible then they are today, and those contradictions could be photographed more directly than now ... also every third person was not virtual, being on the fucking phone and not really on the street ....
Two things about that. One, there is something rather exploitative about these photos, as he goes on to admit, sort of like an old school colonist photoing the natives. Second, why the hell are “fucking” phones not themselves fit objects for his photoing? Not really on the street? Come on.
They are certainly fit objects for my photoing.
Could it be that Sandler is suffering from a dose of professional jealousy? Suddenly, the damn natives can photo the warts of corporate/capitalist society for themselves. And nowadays, they don’t even have to use a dedicated camera.
And as for flash, well, the latest cameras hardly need them. They can pretty much see in the dark.
Another drone application hovers into view:
Yes, it’s UPS:
“This is really a vision for the future for us,” UPS senior vice president for engineering and sustainability, Mark Wallace, said in an interview with Business Insider.
The drone will work as a mechanized helper for the driver, reducing the number of miles a driver will need to drive. According to Wallace, UPS can save $50 million a year if everyone of its drivers reduces the length of their delivery routes by one mile.
UPS sees several potential usage cases for its autonomous drones. This ranges from inventory control at warehouses to the delivery of urgent packages such as medical supplies. However, this latest test is geared towards the company’s operations in rural areas where drivers have to cover vast distances between delivery points.
But all this is still some way off:
Currently, the technology [is] still in the testing phase and UPS doesn’t have an exact timeline for its introduction into service, Wallace said.
Timeline being the twenty first century way of saying: time. See also learning curve (learning); learning experience (fuck-up); etc.
I once had a job delivering number plates, in a white van, all over Britain. Much of it was lots of unassembled number plate components in big heavy boxes, to big suppliers, which we delivered direct. And the rest of the job was one-off finished number plates to motorbike shops, which the other drivers often used to deliver by posting them. I always went there direct, because I enjoyed the drive, but either way the economics of those one-off number plates was ridiculous. A drone to do the final thirty miles or so would have been most handy, if it could have been organised. (A digital camera would have been very nice also. But alas, I had to wait a quarter of a century for that.)
The serious point: drones are useful tools for running big and visible and trustable (because so easily embarrassable and controlable) businesses, for example the big and very visible enterprise that provided this. Drones are, basically, tools for workers rather that toys for funsters. They may supply fun, but they will mostly be operated by workers.
In London anyway. Things may be different out in the wilds of the countryside. But even taking photos out in the wilds of Yorkshire involves – I bet – getting some kind of permit. If not, it soon will. Because there will be complaints, and drones are highly visible.
Also audible, yes? Anyone know how noisy drones tend to be? 6K? How noisy is your drone?
Incoming from 6k telling me about a scheme to light up London’s bridges. (I often hear about London things from him.) This Guardian piece doesn’t, or not so I noticed, say explicitly whether this is intended to be a permanent arrangement or temporary, but it seems like it will be permanent.
Plans to light up London’s bridges in what would be one of the biggest public art projects the UK has ever seen have taken a step forward with six schemes shortlisted.
I agree with the Guardian that this picture, which is of this entry, is very enticing:
There’s a ton of verbiage attached to each of the six entries, but artistic verbiage is one of the things in the world that I respect the least, right down there with a few other things that I don’t respect at all. Which doesn’t mean that the winning scheme will be bad. It could be terrific.
The proof of the pudding will be when we all start photoing it.
No public money involved at all. So they say.
I’ve visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension several times in recent weeks, so this story particularly entertained me:
Here’s the story:
Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour-designed Neo Bankside apartments have threatened legal action, after Tate Modern opened an observation deck that provides views into their private apartments.
The 360-degree rooftop viewing deck is one of the headline features of the Switch House – the 64.5-metre-high Tate Modern gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron, which opened to the public in June.
But residents of the adjacent apartment complex have claimed that gallery visitors are using zoom-lens cameras and binoculars to peer inside their glass-walled homes and take photographs.
Having failed to reach a solution with Tate, the homeowners are now seeking legal action to regain their privacy.
I was particularly diverted by this bit:
So far the only change has been the addition of a sign asking Tate visitors to be more considerate.
Dezeen does not show any picture of this sign, but here, I can, because I photoed it several weeks ago:
I remember thinking at the time that this is almost contemptuously perfunctory. I’m not surprised that it failed to subdue the snoopers
I believe that, as London gets more and more interesting, and full of more and more intriguing Big Things, there will be more and more such viewing platforms like this one at Tate Modern. So, this problem of what you can see from such platforms that people don’t want you to see isn’t going to go away.
And the problem gets far worse when you consider that zoom lenses are only going to get ever more powerful. I often joke here that my camera has better eyesight than I do, and it’s true. But pretty soon, all cameras will have better eyesight than everyone.
It could be that about half of this particular viewing platform will be shut down, in which case, I need to make sure now that I have seen everything from that part of it that I can, before this happens.
I’d prefer the other idea, which is that these people living in glass houses should have one way mirrors installed, so they can see out but the rest of us can’t see in. But then, expect the internet to be awash with before/after photos.
Indeed. I find sunsets hard to photo effectively. Photography is light, but the more that light, the thing itself, is what I am trying to photo, the less my pictures seem to see the amazing thing that I personally just saw. A sunset of truly spectacular vulgarity and garishness presents itself to me, and I snap away. But the snaps, although vulgar and garish, tend to have none of the extreme vulgarity and extreme garishness that I remember actually seeing.
Towards the end of last month, however, while awaiting a train at Bermondsey South railway station, I observed a sunset of an extremity so extreme that this extremity managed to communicate itself to my camera.
Here are two of the eight or so pictures I took of it.
Also involved was … a Shard …:
… and a crane and a BT Tower:
Actually, the crane and the BT Tower can also be seen in the top of these two snaps, the bottom one basically being a closer-up version of the left of the top picture, homing in on the BT Tower, and ignoring the Shard. The reason I include both is because they actually present two distinct takes on the sunset. In the top picture, we get that weird slab of purple cloud, and the Shard. In the bottom picture, there is no Shard, and that’s not good, but by zeroing in on the weirdest bit of the sunset, I show you that in all its weirdness.
I regularly photo sunsets, as I say, but I seldom show the results here, partly because my photos just don’t seem to do the sunsets justice, but also because sunsets are routinely photoed by far better photographers than I am, who give far more thought to the technicalities of photoing sunsets than I do. Type “sunset” into google, specifying that you want images, and … well, you get the pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. What on earth can I add to all this? Very little indeed. However, the above two sunset photos of mine do not look out of place in this company.
It is noticeable how the most effective sunset photos often have other things on show besides the mere sunshine, clouds etc. Often the things in question are animals of some sort, in silhouette. Or trees. Or people. My silhouetted things are of course a couple of London’s Big Things. And a crane.
Indeed. Photoed by her in a zoo in or around Quimper, where she is staying at the moment.
First, an elephant. At first I thought there was a camera smudge in this, in the middle. But the elephant is chucking dust over itself, and also some into the air:
GD2 particularly drew my attention to its legs. Also indeed.
And here are some monkeys, looking very learned:
This picture cries out for a caption competition, but caption competitions don’t seem to work here. By all means try to change that if you’d like to.
These - I think - very nice photos were apparently taken with an iPhone 6. Impressive.
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.