Monday, March 30, 2009

Helen Levitt, Who Froze New York Street Life on Film, Is Dead at 95

By MARGARETT LOKE @ New York Times

Helen Levitt, a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 95.

Her death was confirmed by her brother, Bill Levitt, of Alta, Utah.

Ms. Levitt captured instances of a cinematic and delightfully guileless form of street choreography that held at its heart, as William Butler Yeats put it, “the ceremony of innocence.” A man handles garbage-can lids like an exuberant child imitating a master juggler. Even an inanimate object — a broken record — appears to skip and dance on an empty street as a child might, observed by a group of women’s dresses in a shop window.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

14 Rare Color Photos From the FSA

@Photo District News

"Even today, many documentary photographers will tell you they are influenced by the works of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and 40s. Under the direction of Roy Emerson Stryker, the FSA sent photographers to document the plight of the rural farmer during the Great Depression and the progress of New Deal programs. When the U.S. entered World War II, the photography program continued under the Office of War Information (OWI)."


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Art of the iPhone impressionist

by Jonathan Jones @ The Guardian

In the early 20th century, the photograph still seemed new. The German intellectual Walter Benjamin tried to understand how photography changed art: it replaced the "aura" of the masterpiece with a new, democratic way of making pictures. Going on for a century later, we're living in the midst of a technological revolution that has left photography itself behind. Here's the latest: artist Jorge Colombo makes pictures of New York street life using the Brushes application (bought for $4.99 - "a great leveller") on his iPhone. The results are impressively delicate and lively.

Lots of people take photos on a phone - the casual record of what you see is fun to share. Colombo's pictures are a creative extension of that: he sketches what he sees in New York, and these fast, fragmentary glimpses of a car park entrance, a pizza joint, a view between buildings have an impressionistic immediacy. He can "draw in the dark", working on the illuminated screen to depict the city by night. They are not pretentious, they do not claim to be more than a sort of visual diary. But they show that a sensitive eye can use any medium to respond to the beauty of the world - whether it's a brush or Brushes.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to read a photograph

Photographs can create illusions, communicate arguments or document a changing world. Learn how to look at them here

by Ian Jeffrey @ The Guardian

Understanding photographs has never been straightforward. Not all photographs – including some of the best known – were taken with a clear idea in mind. Even if they were, the idea was soon overlooked or forgotten. An outline history of photography would be easy enough to write, taking into account a symbolist phrase around 1900, followed by abstract "graphic" photography in the 1920s, replaced in its turn by humanist documentary in the 1930s. The would-be historian, however, would soon be puzzled by anomalies: false starts, anachronisms and examples of uneven development. It is almost as if photography took place in a perpetual present in which, for instance, William Fox Talbot (the inventor of the negative-positive process in the 1840s) remains an interesting contemporary. Under these terms of reference it is probably best to look at photographs one at a time, which is what I concentrate on in How to Read a Photograph.