Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

16 JANUARY, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Word-of-Mouths


Salt mines, German sanatoriums, and how a social media rescue mission saved one lovable photographic underdog.

JPG logo Print is dying. You hear it everywhere. And over the past couple of years, a number of excellent publications have indeed folded. (Business 2.0 and JANE, we’re looking at you.) But the latest title to be kicked into a publishing coma, JPG Magazine, ended up as a weird ray of light for the relationship between traditional and new media.

Here’s the story in a nutshell.

JPG Magazine In 2005, husband and wife duo Heather Champ and Derek Powazek set out to found a magazine where the content was completely user-created and voted on by other users, so that the best of the best ends up in the print publication. (Published photos receive $100 to stash with their pride and glory.) A truly democratic magazine, if you will.

A magazine that brought us the alphabet in the sky…

type in the sky

…and the aerial wonder (yep, we’re going at it again) of Utah’s salt mines…

Moab salt mine

…and the beautiful decay of an early 20th century German sanatorium.


Unsurprisingly, JPG amassed a significant base of dedicated loyalists over the years — people passionate about both photography and the idea of an inclusive arena for photographic excellence open to more than just the handful of professional photographers circulating all the other photo pubs. A place for up-and-coming talent to truly showcase their work.

But in late 2008, something left JPG supporters utterly distraught: Editor Laura Brunow Miler announced the magazine was folding under the pressure of funding.

Issue 19: Faith That’s when the social media rescue mission started. Supporters quickly launched and unleashed a flurry of Twitter and Flickr buzz that eventually landed JPG several big-time acquisition offers. As a result, the magazine was resurrected and just launched into a new future with the latest issue, appropriately titled Faith.

And while we love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, we must admit there was one wonderful upside to the temporary downside of JPG’s existence: One motivated fan, Derek Steen, put together a comprehensive PDF archive of every JPG issue ever published — 223.4MB of free goodness — so grab yours and start catching up, or head over to the Faith issue and see what all the fuss was about.

via Photojojo

28 NOVEMBER, 2008

Small World, Big Bite


The big picture painted through smallness and sprinkles.

Here’s a paradox: Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude for what we have, a kind of humbling appreciation of our blessings, but somehow me manage to turn it into a celebration of gluttony.

Photographer Matthew Carden‘s Small World collection offers a particularly timely poke at the irony. Just a cool bunch of macro photographs on the surface, the project actually digs deeper with a more thoughtful exploration of our dichotomous relationship with food — part necessary play therapy, part unnecessary excess and wastefulness.

Carden is also working with the Slow Food Foundation on a fascinating project to save the Gravenstein Apple, one of the last foods grown by farmers who truly nurture their crop from tree to table.

The collection both captures the labor-of-love production process that puts food on our plates and reminds us of our own smallness in the natural world that we so freely take from.

Plus, we’d just love to slalom down a sprinkles-covered hill.

via Inhabitat

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25 NOVEMBER, 2008

Photography Spotlight: The Obama Phenomenon


What a camera and a chalkboard have to do with the political and cultural heritage of our time.

There’s no question the Obama campaign ignited some powerful human emotions. But it’s hard to grasp just how powerful by simply talking about them from the sidelines of abstraction. That’s why photographer Scout Tufankjian decided to dissect those most visceral, deeply moving elements of the history-making campaign.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

Nearly two years ago, Tufankjian reluctantly took an assignment to shoot an Obama book signing, something she called “a photographer’s nightmare.” Scout Tufankjian: Book Signing

But as soon as Obama walked into the room, the crowd became so transfixed that Tufankjian couldn’t help being intrigued and absorbed by the energy. Inspired, she set to explore this incredible phenomenon by following the candidate along the campaign trail, documenting not the stereotypical glamor moments of high-stakes politics but, rather, the Obama’s guy-next-door everyday, the immense emotional charge of his supporters, the most intimate moments of the Obama family.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

What started as a reluctant assignment evolved into a rich and incredibly profound portrait of America.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

You can’t help finding yourself absorbed and overwhelmed by Obama’s incredibly powerful presence — powerful not because he is now the leader of the free world, but because it appears to move people — everyday people — deeply, to touch them on a fundamentally human level so uncommon in politics.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Somewhere between Beatlemania and The Fallen, the collection captures those big human truths that Obama resonated with so deeply, the very resonance that got him elected in the end.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Indeed, it’s hard not to appreciate the strong resemblance, both photographic and cultural, to the incredible social force that was Kennedy captured in The Fallen, particularly in the eerie reminiscence of the images showing Obama’s arrival via the Pennsylvania rail.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

It’s no surprise, really, since one of Tufankjian’s photographs shows a woman answering the question of why she was voting Obama with a simple yet momentous phrase: “The Kennedy Package.”

Perhaps the most powerful element of Tufankjian’s photographic feat is actually just that — his exploration of the vast spectrum of Obama supporters. Armed with a chalkboard and a camera, she simply asked people at Obama rallies to jot down why they were voting for him.

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Amazon: Yes We Can
The book, featuring over 200 of Tufankjian’s most impactful photographs from this 2-year-long portrait of the Obama phenomenon, is available on Amazon December 8 — and what better holiday gift than a rich piece of political, cultural and emotional history?

via DPS

Update: Thanks to a friend of Scout’s for pointing out Scout is indeed a she, not a he. The mistake has been fixed and we’re, needless to say, deeply embarrassed to have been even less accurate than GWAP’s infamous Gender Test.