Brain Pickings

Menagerie: Sharon Montrose’s Evocative Portraits of Animals

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Earth’s creatures like you’ve never seen them before.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of photographer Sharon Montrose’s stunning animal portraits, so I’m thrilled for the release of Menagerie — a stunning collection of her most evocative images that will make you see at even the most familiar animals with new, awe-filled eyes.

From lambs to baby porcupines to giraffes, these tender, minimalist portraits exude a certain nakedness that makes the creatures in them appear at once more vulnerable and more relatable.

These beauties are also available as prints.

Menagerie is part Andrew Zuckerman’s Creature, part Tamara Staples’ The Fairest Fowl, part something all its own, and entirely delightful.

via Swiss Miss; images courtesy of Sharon Montrose

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A Manifesto for the Spirit of Journalism circa 1940

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Recentering lessons in idealism for journalism 2.0 from the golden age of journalism 1.0.

As we ponder the future of journalism and grapple with its declining ethical standards, it’s as good a time as any to revisit the history and heart of journalism. This 1940 film from Encyclopedia Britannica Films’ (remember them?) Your Life Work series is as much a fascinating time-capsule of bygone publishing practicalities as it is a timeless, charmingly idealistic manifesto for the deeper ethos of journalism as a calling.

…there’s a real thrill in seeing your own byline over a story when it’s in print, and there’s always the feeling that you’ll try to make the next story just a little better.”

My favorite part is this bit on the qualities and responsibilities of the editorial writer which, despite the era’s near-comic gender bias, remains a powerful reminder of all those things the lack of which accounts for most of today’s Bad Journalism — clarity, curiosity, conviction, and networked knowledge.

The editorial writer must be able to write on many subjects. But instead of merely reporting news, he analyzes it and explains its meaning, often expressing his personal opinions. He must reason accurately and fairly, and write in an interesting manner. To understand and interpret problems of the day, he must read and study continually, in addition to having a great amount of knowledge and experience.”

The film is also available as part of a fantastic though somewhat hard to hunt down DVD compilation, also featuring a fascinating newspaper reporter interview with animation pioneer Max Fleischer.

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From Freud’s Couch to Emily Dickinson’s Only Surviving Dress: Annie Leibovitz Catalogs Meta-Cultural Iconography

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What Virginia Woolf’s writing table has to do with Darwin’s countryside cottage and Freud’s final couch.

Annie Leibovitz is one of today’s most prolific and celebrated photographers, her lens having captured generations of cultural icons with equal parts admiration and humanity. Unlike her other volumes, her latest book, out today, features no celebrities, no luminaries, no models. Instead, Pilgrimage is Leibovitz’s thoughtful meditation on how she can sustain her creativity in the face of adversity and make the most of her remaining time on Earth. The quest took her to such fascinating locales and pockets of cultural history as Charles Darwin’s cottage in the English countryside, Virginia Woolf’s writing table, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home, Ansel Adams’s darkroom, Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, and Freud’s final couch.

The kernel of the idea came before Leibovitz’s partner, the great Susan Sontag, died — the two of them had planned to do a book of places that were important to them, which they meticulously compiled in lists. Years after Sontag’s death, upon visiting Niagara Falls with her three young kids, Leibovitz decided to start her own list and do the book on her own.

From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, it was an exercise in renewal. It taught me to see again.” ~ Annie Leibovitz

The darkroom in Ansel Adams's home in Carmel, California, now owned by Adams’s son, Michael, and his wife, Jeanne, friends of Leibovitz

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

The Niagara Falls in Ontario

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Annie Oakley’s heart target from a private collection in Los Angeles, California

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Emily Dickinson's only surviving dress at the Amherst Historical Society in Amherst, Massachusetts

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

A glass negative of a multiple-lens portrait of Lincoln made on Feb. 9, 1864, by Anthony Berger at the Brady Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Sigmund Freud's couch in his study at 20 Maresfield Gardens in London

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Virginia Woolf’s bedroom in her country home, which is a few miles from Charleston, England

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

A door in the adobe patio wall of Georgia O’Keefe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance warehouse in Yonkers, New York

Image courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

Dominique Browning paid Leibovitz a visit to chat about the book and has a lovely piece about it in the Times.

I needed to save myself. I needed to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.” ~ Annie Leibovitz

An intimate catalog of cultural meta-iconography, Pilgrimage is as much a photographic feat of Leibovitz’s characteristically epic proportion as it is a timeless cultural treasure chest full of mementos from the hotbed of 20th-century thought.

Images courtesy of Annie Leibovitz via The New York Times

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