Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Loving the interweb’s serendipity


Daniel Levitin's "This Is Your Brain On Music" published by Atlantic Books

Don’t you just love the serendipity of the web? Two things have been on my mind recently:

  1. I joined the flickr 365 Days project where members take a self portrait every day for a year. Many use it to improve their photography or photoshopping skills. I’m treating it as an exercise in archiving and self exploration and presentation (i.e. I hope my efforts will be something I can look back on in later years as an interesting journal of how my year went aged 43/44).
  2. I’ve been reading “This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession” by Daniel Levitin that Kate got me as a birthday present. I’m enjoying it, and I really like the cover which seems to combine paint splats to symbolise creativity, plant forms to symbolise beauty, a silhouette to reference the human brain, and data visualization like arcs to symbolise algorithmic complexity. It also seems to capture one of the current visual Zeitgeists I see in lots of design work.

So I’ve been looking out for ways to algorithmically draw a similar background so that I can make one of my daily portraits a similar silhouette. So I was excited this morning when my daily flick through ffffound unearthed this great piece of generative art:

'Cyl 0149 150x100' by Marius Watz

‘Cyl 0149 150×100’ by Marius Watz which lead in turn to his two amazing blogs. The first, Art from code – Generator.x, is all about “the current role of software and generative strategies in art and design” and looks like an amazing resource of news, inspiration, and code. The second CODE & FORM: COMPUTATIONAL AESTHETICS is a blog supporting Watz’s coding and teaching activities and contains tantalising entries like this recent round up of computational typography:


Why can’t we take photos in galleries?


I don’t understand copyright laws at the best of times but I can understand why content owners are nervous about piracy. In the old days when I taped a new album from a mate onto a C90, or sat by the radio so I could record my favourite track,  the quality of the reproduction was pretty terrible. Now electronic copies of music or movies are often identical to the original media. But let’s put music and video to one side. What about art? What about textiles? What about ceramics? What about jewellery? Clearly if I take a photo of a piece of artwork at an exhibition, or a piece of jewellery at a degree show no one is ever going to mistake my photo for the original. Let’s try an experiment. Is this a photo of a Patrick Heron stained glass window or is it the real thing?

There, that was easy. So why ban photography?

I can see why one would ban flash photography – that would be very annoying for those reflecting on the pieces on display. I can also imagine that cash strapped galleries might want to charge for a photography permit – I’d pay.

I’m not saying that galleries should be forced to allow photography (though if the artwork was acquired with public money I would be tempted to force them). Clearly in a private space one has the right to prevent photos being taken. But why do it? It is frustrating for those of us who enjoy capturing things we enjoy either to help us remember them or to try and see them from some new and creative angle.

Some galleries are great – friends in New York have said that most galleries allow photography, and the V&A seems to have a wonderfully enlightened policy. But then on the other end I was amazed that several of the recent degree shows I visited banned photography. For example I loved the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design show, and put together a trip report for colleagues at work and used the report as a blog post here. I focused on the Communications Design Masters. In truth this was because I love their work, but it helped that you were allowed to take pictures. It made explaining what was hot, what was the zeitgeist, etc much much easier. I also visited the jewellery section as a colleague was interested to know what CSM students were producing (he’d enjoyed the jewellery RCA students had produced last year). So can I show him my favourite piece? Yes, here it is:


Well the less said about my sketching skills the better. But photographing it was a no-no:

(N.B. The jeweller, Clio Alphas, has some wonderful photos of this piece on her flickr stream if you do want to see why I liked the necklace she’d designed so much:

I had the same problem at the RCA show. Some designers let you take photos despite the sinage but others didn’t. This was especially frustrating in the fabrics section where I saw some great things that I’d have loved to have shared. One designer had made a fabulous fabric that combined geometric patterned thick felt with fluorescent plastic squares  matching the pattern, but slightly offset. Inevitably I’m struggling to describe the piece without a picture. The designer felt that allowing photos would enable people to steal her ideas; but I feel the buzz created by people discussing your work online far outweighs the potential for espionage.

Celebrate – I got a TtV in a "best of month" thread :-)


Back in 2004 a friend of mine, Rachel Jones from Instrata, took part in a UK government Technology Mission to the US looking at Future of User-Centred Design. When she got back she alerted me to two new services she’d seen (delicious and flickr) that she felt I’d enjoy because of the close links between their feature growth and the availability of their public APIs. Both recommendations proved valuable. Those who know me won’t be surprised that I quickly became obsessed with flickr. I started posting photos there in autumn 2005, but one of the joys of flickr is the groups: the community features are as exciting as the photo storage features. If you imagine a style of photography or a subject you enjoy photos of then you can bet that there is an active flickr group about it. Wonderful. My favourite group is the Through the Viewfinder group, though my route to finding it was convoluted. Another friend of mine (Matt Williams of ecru) mentioned that a designer he knew (Andy Gosling) was into a style of photography whereby one used a digital camera to take a photo “through” an old camera.

Since then one of my hobbies (should that read obsessions?) has been Through the Viewfinder (TtV) photography. There’s a great flickr group all about it, complete with links to detailed instructions on how to build your contraption (mine’s pictured above). It’s wonderfully experimental, with people trying new cameras, new subjects, new contraption constructions all the time. TtV is also growing in popularity, so much so that the group photo pool is difficult to keep up with. Hence they started regular “best of month” threads in the group’s discussions where people can post their favourites, as long as they are not posting their own work. I’ve long hoped to get one of my TtV pictures posted into a “best of the month” thread and in May I did. Alan organised a meeting at the The Møller Centre which is in Churchill College. I took the opportunity to take my TtV kit and spent some time afterwards taking shots on the roof, like this one.

But the real fun came after that. I knew that Churchill College Chapel had some John Piper (and Patrick Reyntiens?) stained glass and since I administer the Contemporary Stained Glass Windows group on flickr I was eager to go and photograph them. The chapel is locked, so I had to get a key from the porter, but it was well worth it. An understated, leaky, but beautiful modern chapel. And lo, one of my TtV shots of the Piper glass was posted by Friendly Joe to May’s “best of the month” thread. I’m sooooooo chuffed. Here it is.