Brain Pickings

Samuel Price’s Incredible Dog Portrait Collages

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What recycled magazines have to do with the essence of the canine soul.

We love dogs. From Tim Flach’s extraordinary dog portraits to the great mystery of how to photograph a black dog, we have a particularly soft spot for unusual ways to capture (wo)man’s best friend. That’s exactly what San Francisco collage artist Samuel Price does in his stunning dog portrait collages made of hand-cut photographs from recycled magazines.

And while the whole eco-art card may have been played and played again over the past few years, it’s worth noting that a single ton of glossy virgin paper, like that used for magazines like National Geographic, requires 15 trees to make about 1,100 magazines. Sam collages about 20 recycled magazines every day, or 48,000 over the ten years he’s been making his stunning collages — that’s 650 trees saved over the course of his creative career.

I study the image and focus on the details and subtle nuances of the mouth and eyes that make every animal unique. The relationship between the owners and their pet is special and I look forward to mirroring that affection in my work.” ~ Sam Price

For the dog lover in your life, Sam’s work can be commissioned for custom collages.

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The Ragged Edge of Silence: The Art of Listening

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What 17 years of silence have to do with National Geographic and your ringtone.

In 1971, after the devastating 800,000-gallon oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, John Francis, then a young man, pledged to never ride a motorized vehicle again. Two years later, he added voluntary silence to his vow, spending 17 years in silence as he walked the world and became known as The Planetwalker. The first words that he spoke again were in Washington, D.C., on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. In 2009, Francis, by then a National Geographic fellow with a Ph.D, told his remarkable story in the candid and deeply inspirational Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.

This year, Dr. Francis is back with the highly anticipated and most excellent follow-up, The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World — a powerful and poetic exploration of the beauty of our world and our place in it, and a timely antidote to our increasingly networked, ping-scored existence.

The Ragged Edge of Silence explores the art of listening through a beautiful collage of personal accounts, interviews, science, storytelling, and a fascinating historical perspective on the role of silence across Hindu, Buddhist and Native American cultures. Francis transcends the purely philosophical to offer practical ways of building constructive silence into our everyday routines as micro-oases of self-discovery amidst our stimulus-overloaded lives.

The Ragged Edge of Silence digs deeply into the phenomenology of silence and the practice of listening. As in Planetwalker, I followed a methodology that recognizes the importance of personal documents, explanations, and interpretation of silence. This story, then, is my personal account and interpretation of silence as I experienced it.” ~ John Francis

For a moving glimpse of Francis’ unusual story, don’t miss his excellent 2008 TED talk:

Part adventure story, part philosophical reflection, part heartfelt memoir, The Ragged Edge of Silence is a pure joy to read, lacking the self-righteous preachiness this line of thinking often festers into and instead extending a humble but powerful invitation to reexamine your worldview.

Thanks, Jim

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Edward Burtynsky’s Oil

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What vintage airplanes have to do with Chinese bridges and tire retirement.

As we revisit the Gulf oil spill on its first anniversary, its gruesome and deep-running consequences are more uncomfortably palpable than ever. And no one exposes the underbelly of this oil economy more viscerally than environmental photographer Edward Burtynsky. In his 2009 book, Oil, he explores the scale and reach of these politicized resourced through a decade’s worth of images from the world’s largest oil fields, refineries, auto plants and freeway interchanges.

State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) oilfields, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2006

Image: Edward Burtynsky /Courtesy HASTD HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Nanpu Bridge interchange, Shanghai, China, 2004

Image: Edward Burtynsky /Courtesy HASTD HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Alberta oil sands, Fort McMurray, Alberta, 2007

Image: Edward Burtynsky /Courtesy HASTD HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Oxford tire pile, Westley, California, USA, 1999

Image: Edward Burtynsky /Courtesy HASTD HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Centre (AMARC), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 2006

Image: Edward Burtynsky /Courtesy HASTD HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Images via The Guardian

In 1997 I had what I refer to as my oil epiphany. It occurred to me that all the vast, man-altered landscapes I had been in pursuit of for over 20 years were all possible because of the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal combustion engine.” ~ Edward Burtynsky

Burtynsky offers a fascinating closer look at the Oil project in this short but powerful 2009 TED talk:

Gripping and post-apocalyptic, the images in Oil reveal many facets of our petroleum lust with unprecedented breadth, depth and intimacy.

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