Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

30 APRIL, 2010

Urban Hackscapes: Augmented Reality 1.0


iPhone vs. pencil, or what the Library of Congress has to do with cartoon dinosaurs.

If you think augmented reality is a recent fascination woven from the fabric of the camera phone age, think again — artists, photographers and casual creative pranksters have long been using camera tricks to hack urban landscape by layering additional fascination over the naked eye’s view of the city. Here are three of our favorite photographic hackscapes.


You recall Michael Hughes‘ wonderful Souvenirs collection from pickings past. The British photographer travels the world and “replaces” some of its most iconic landmarks with their cheap touristy souvenir replicas — miniatures, snow globes, plates, postcards — by holding them in front of the camera at just the right angle.

The result is a playful take on tourism which, depending on how philosophically inclined you are, even exudes subtle commentary on the artificiality of souvenir collecting in the context of the actual experience and our often excessive propensity for sentimentality.

Prints from the project are available on Hughes’ website.


Because we love the cross-pollination of ideas and the transference of creative inspiration, we love Jason Powell‘s Looking Into The Past project (which you may remember from one of our most popular features of all time, Photographic Time Machine), inspired by Hughes’ Souvenirs.

Powell prints out historical photographs from The Library of Congress digital archive (remember that, too?) and holds them up against the physical locations depicted in them, offering an absolutely fascinating glimpse of how urban landscape, dress and transportation have evolved over the past couple of centuries.

To contribute to this fold in the space-time continuum, submit your own photographic time capsules to the eponymous Flickr pool Powell set up for the project.


After object-in-photo and photo-in-photo, it’s only fitting that someone comes up with drawing-in-photo. Artist Benjamin Heine did — his series Pencil vs. Camera adds an element of playful fantasy to the already innovative cross-medium technique.

We imagine being trampled by cartoon Godzilla while staring at a four-eyed cat is among the eeriest yet most amusing of deaths.

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29 APRIL, 2010

Photographer Jason Hawkes’ London At Night


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


© 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

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


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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