Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

29 APRIL, 2010

Photographer Jason Hawkes’ London At Night

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The view from cloudy skies, or why the financial district is blingier than you thought.

It’s no secret we’re totally obsessed with aerial photography. But while most of the genre focuses on nature’s most magnificent landscapes and man’s most monumental industrial spaces, a breathtaking birdseye view of urbanity’s living fabric — metropolitan cities — is something of a rarity. Which is why we’re completely swept away by photographer Jason Hawkes’ new book, London At Night — a remarkable anthology of images

London's financial district

© Jason Hawkes

While the series is available on Hawkes’ website (which also features similar images of New York), there’s something quite powerful about the physicality to the book that ads to the lushness and vibrant glamor of the images.

Waterloo and Eurostar terminal

© Jason Hawkes

Harrods

© Jason Hawkes

Shooting aerial photography during the daytime had its own difficulties, you are strapped tightly into a harness leaning out of the helicopter, shouting directions through the headsets to the pilot. If shooting in the day can be difficult, night and the lack of light causes its own set of problems, but overcoming them is half the fun and the results can be stunning.” ~ Jason Hawkes for boston.com

A classic London roundabout

© Jason Hawkes

While the light porn does make us worry about London’s carbon footprint, we have admit the exuberant urban whimsy of Hawkes’ photographs makes make it oh-so-easy to surrender to the beauty and forget the ecology of it.

Motorway junction

© Jason Hawkes

Whether you’re a born-and-raised Londoner or someone who’s always admired the grand city from a distance, grab a copy of London At Night to experience one of humanity’s most iconic urban epicenters on a whole new level — literally.

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31 MARCH, 2010

Stolen Moments: Secret Glimpses of Neighbors’ Lives

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What Lower East Side kisses have to do with oil painting and the age of surveillance.

We love the intersection of art and voyeurism — from PostSecret to AnthroPosts to We Feel Fine to The Apology Line. But Yasmine Chatila takes it to new heights in her Stolen Moments series, an indulgent and fascinating glimpse of raw, private human existence amidst the orchestrated public chaos of New York City.

On a quiet winter night, I looked out a window. I could see a building far away, the windows where illuminated, and I could vaguely make out people inside their apartments. When I imagined what they might be doing, my mind fluttered between wild fantasies and mundane clichés. I was curious to compare my expectations to the reality of their lives.

Chatila spent months staking out NYC apartment interiors with her photographic and telescopic equipment, working from well-situated apartments across the street exclusively under the cover of night. The intimate, painting-like, noirish black-and-white results are part Hitchcock, part Shakespeare, part ephemeral postmodern visual poetry.

woman standing on kitchen counter - Upper West Side, Sat 4:03 AM

At times, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of human nature when it was not guarded, not self-conscious and completely uninhibited. This provided me with a stage where it was possible to observe myself in the most secret and vulnerable moments of others.

the kiss - Lower East Side, Sun 11:37 PM

To preserve both the privacy of her unaware subjects and the authenticity of the art, Chatila spent countless hours in post-production, transforming the recognizable into archetypal, often displacing her subjects from their original habitats and transplanting the unedited human moments into another building in an entirely different location.

fat girls in devil window - Soho, Friday 6:36 PM

Chatila is actually a painter by training, which makes this project all the more interesting as she trades the brush, oil paint and canvas for digital tools while still managing to capture these candid scenes in an incredibly delicate and analog way.

office romance - Tribecca, Thu 5:46 PM

Explore Stolen Moments in its entirety for an unexpected encounter with the city’s most human undercurrents.

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25 MARCH, 2010

Love Me: The Cross-Cultural Manufacturing of Beauty

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What Chinese noses and hairy Brazilians have to do with the Moore’s law of breast.

The “beauty industry.” The glaring oxymoron of this very term — standardizing and industrializing something that’s supposed to be abstract and subjective and “in the eye of the beholder” — aptly reflects its status as one of the most controversial yet ubiquitous facets of culture. We’ve all read about, heard of or seen first-hand the various disjointed manifestations and consequences of humanity’s unhealthy obsession with “beauty” — eating disorders, plastic surgery addiction, plain old nacrissism and social discrimination — but capturing the complete, wide-angle story of this cultural idée fixe is an incredibly ambitious task.

That’s exactly what photographer Zed Nelson explores in Love Me — a gripping, powerful series of images that capture the conflicting social, psychological and economic rewards and penalties of appearance obsessions.

Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. The worldwide pursuit of body improvement has become a new religion.

Elham, 19, and her mother, 55. Rhinoplasty 'nose job' operation.

Tehran, Iran.

The idea that blonde is best began as early as the eighteenth century when ethnologists, sociologists and English anthropologists such as Englishman Charles White began drawing up hierarchical gradations for mankind, starting with what were believed to be the lowliest — the negroes, bushmen and aborigines — to the yellow races and Slavs, until they reached the white race, thought to be the supreme species.” ~ The Observer

'I'm competing with men 20 years younger than me.' - Anthony Mascolo, 46. Liposuction to chin and abdomen.

New Jersey, USA

The book reveals the frightening commodification of beauty, both industrially and culturally, (did you know that ten years ago, reconstructing a woman’s breasts cost $12,000, compared to $600 today?), exposing the intricate network of transactions and businesses that govern it — the fashion, cosmetics, diet, medical and entertainment industries, with their powerful propaganda mechanisms and meticulous marketing plans.

‘Westernising’ the human body has become a new form of globalisation, with ‘Beauty’ becoming a homogenous brand. The more rigorously our vision is trained to appreciate the artificial, the more industries benefit.

Nose bridge prosthetic implants, to increase size of nose.

Beijing, China

Like it or not, we are judged, and judge, by appearance. Perhaps we are obsessed with the way our own bodies look because we know how instinctively judgemental we are of the bodies that we look at.

'I want to be thin. I was always very sporty at school. Now I am a skeleton.' - Fiona Harris, 44. Anorexic. 6.5 stone.

Winchester, UK

The body has, in a sense, become just another consumer purchase. Everyone can, in the spirit of our age, go shopping for bodily transformation. Banks now offer loans for plastic surgery. American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 per cent of all cosmetic surgery patients. Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.

'Men's Health magazine (USA) hasn't had a hairy chest on its cover since 1995.' - Wall Street Journal

Copacabana Beach. Rio, Brazil.

From sexed up teenage club-hoppers to prison beauty queens to a brilliantly curated Alain de Botton quote, the book is a cover-to-cover gem that explores, with superb creative direction and a merciless confrontation with superficiality, the most uncomfortable fringes of cultural anthropology.

Ox and Angela, plastic surgeon and wife.

Rio, Brazil

Nelson’s introductory statement about the project is very much worth a read. Explore the collection online, or grab a copy of Love Me for the real deal of glossy-paged coffeetable indulgence.

On a tangential design-pet-peeve aside, it’s worth noting that Nelson’s site exemplifies everything that a well-designed, slick, navigable, share-friendly photographer website should be, combining the seamlessness of Flash with the link shareability of HTML, all delivered in a brilliantly architectured and user-friendly interface — a welcome break from the unshareable, nightmarish to navigate flashturbation dominating today’s photographer portfolios. Hat tip to you, Sir Zed.

Nelson is represented by INSTITUTE for Artist Management, where you can find out more about his work.

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