Brain Pickings

Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things

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If Pixar films have taught us one thing about the world, it’s that everyday objects live extraordinary secret lives while we aren’t looking. That’s exactly what photographer-turned-artist Terry Border, who left commercial photography for the world of storytelling, explores with wit and whimsy in Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things — a collection of micro-sculptures using everyday objects and thin wire to create anthropomorphic, charmingly emotive beings and scenes.

I get ideas for photographs when everyday objects remind me of something else. Then I try to think about how I can show others the connection I made. The next step – I try really hard to take it one step further- add humor, emotion of some kind, maybe an “aha” moment. For example, with ‘Mail Order Bride,’I came up with the characters, but the little chair against the door really makes that shot for most people.” ~ Terry Border

Though the photos themselves are a delight, what makes the project most charming are Border’s clever captions. For a sneak peek, look no further than his excellent Gel Conference talk, which captures the humor and imagination with which Border approaches his work:

Playful and poetic, Bent Objects will make you smile and nod knowingly as the most mundane of objects bring to life all-too-human moments.

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David Friedman’s Portraits of Inventors

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What Instagram has to do with ice fishing and specialty chairs for canoodling.

For the past few years, New-York-based photographer David Friedman has been taking portraits of inventors — those ordinary people who came up with ordinary-seeming things that transform lives, often our lives, in extraordinary ways. Rather than lofty and fluff-padded, like many such efforts tend to be, these profiles blend humility with creative restlessness, demystifying invention and reframing it not as the idle blessing of some arbitrary muse but as the product of combinatorial creativity and one’s everyday life experience.

STEVEN SASSON: THE DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an Instagram obsessive like we are, you’re grateful for the advances in digital imaging on a daily basis. But they didn’t just “happen.” In 1975, American electrical engineer Steven Sasson began exploring ideas that eventually led to his invention of the digital camera, the patent for which was officially issued in 1978, paving the way for the imaging revolution. This portrait was taken shortly before President Obama awarded Sasson the National Medal of Technology.

The options the average person has today for imaging [are] unlimited. You walk around with you cell phone or digital camera today, and the pictures are excellent, they’re reliably produced, you can share them instantly. I like to say to inventors, ‘Be aware that your invention is in an environment when the rest of the world is inventing along with you, and so by the time the idea matures, it’ll be in a totally different world. I think that was the case with the digital camera.”

via Swiss Miss

TAMI GALT: FOLDING WAGON

Looking for an easy way to cary her groceries back from the farmers market that didn’t make her look like a wire-cart-dragging old lady, Tami Galt came up with teh Fold It & Go portable wagon, quitting her 9-to-5 job to work on the seemingly kooky creation.

One day, my boss was yelling at one of my coworkers and I’m like, ‘I gotta do something else, this isn’t working.’ So I just looked through my book of ideas, I looked at which one I liked the best, and said, ‘That’s what I’m working on!’”

JERRY FORD: WHEELCHAIR BRAKE SYSTEM

When crop farmer Jerry Ford‘s son was working at a nursing home and noted the need for a braking system that would prevent wheelchair accidents, Ford decided to invent one.

The cost of the falls is huge, and the technology is there to prevent them. Seat belts in cars actually prevent you from getting more seriously injured in an accident, where my automatic brake system prevents the accident from ever happening.”

TOM ROERING: AMPHIBIOUS VEHICLE

Ice fisherman Tom Roering‘s lightweight drivable amphibious vehicle for land, water and ice that doubles as an ice-fishing shelter and can also be adapted as an ice rescue vehicle.

Ice is never predictable, so each year there is loss of property as well as loss of life.”

BRENT FARLEY: MULTIPLE

Brent Farley‘s first patent was a “chair for aiding the [conjugal] relationships for the confirmed” — that is, a chair for having sex on. Farley went on to become one the most prolific of Friedman’s inventors, his creations ranging from the numbingly utilitarian (“self-hanging hammer” anyone?) to the gobsmackingly kooky (“wing walker,” we’re looking at you).

I look for the slightest problem that I can see, and ask myself, ‘Could there really be, maybe, a little bit better way to actually do that?”

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The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens

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A universal standard for beauty, or what 12,000 birds have to do with NPR.

Humans have the beauty pageants. Dogs have the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But who knew chickens, too, had their own line of competitive narcissism? In The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens, photographer Tamara Staples documents the fascinating and glamorous world of poultry fanciers and their prized barnyard beauties, from the surprisingly elaborate judging process to the distinct personalities of individual birds that shine through Staples’ portraits. Printed on appropriately lavish paper and garnished with a delicious essay by NPR’s Ira Glass illuminating the intricacies of chicken portraiture, the book is equal parts rich anthropology of a curious subculture and remarkable feat of photographic brilliance.

Chickens this amazing don’t just happen. People help them along — breed them, nurture them, take them from the humble coop to the top of the poultry world. In what’s left of rural America, there is a poultry world. And it’s bigger than you think. At a recent national competition, 12,000 birds showed up.”

In the world of championship chickens, there’s a 100-point scale, and every feature counts. [...] The American Standard of Perfection is regularly linked to the Bible. Almost every breeder or judge speaks of the book in such exalted terms. The Standard exhaustively discusses every possible nuance of a show chicken, and there is little to no ambiguity between its covers.”

All images copyright Tamara Staples

Equal parts kooky and artful, The Fairest Fowl captures a rare convergence of idiosyncrasy and idealism, making room for extraordinary grace and dignity in what could otherwise be dismissed as frivolous eccentricity.

Reminder via Swiss Miss

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