London in Vivid Color 125 Years Ago: See Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, Tower Bridge & Other Famous Landmarks in Photocrom Prints

"When a man is tired of London," Samuel Johnson so famously said, "he is tired of life." Of course, P.J. O'Rourke later added that "he might just be tired of shabby, sad crowds, low-income housing that looks worse than the weather, and tattoo-faced, spike-haired pea brains on the dole," but then, everyone experiences the English capital a bit differently. Johnson's London, the London of the eighteenth century, looks to some like a city at its zenith; others might even think the same about the London O'Rourke made fun of in the 1980s. Every era in London is a golden age to someone.

Today, we offer a vivid glimpse into another distinct period in London history, the late nineteenth century, by way of the Library of Congress' collection of photocrom prints. A few years ago we featured images of Venice captured with the same colorized-photography process, which produced what the Library of Congress describes as ink-based images made with "the direct photographic transfer of an original negative onto litho and chromographic printing plates."

They may "look deceptively like color photographs," but "when viewed with a magnifying glass the small dots that comprise the ink-based photomechanical image are visible. The photomechanical process permitted mass production of the vivid color prints."

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw the emergence of a robust market for photocrom prints, "sold at tourist sites and through mail order catalogs to globe trotters, armchair travelers, educators, and others to preserve in albums or put on display." Hence, perhaps, the focus on London sites of touristic appeal: Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, and even the fully outfitted "Yeoman of the Guard" you see just above. But print also (and by appearances more correctly) describes him as a "Beefeater," the popular name for the different body of ceremonial tower guardians the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary. (Got that?)

You can browse, and in various formats download, the 33 images in the Library of Congress' London photocrom print collection here. They all date from between 1890 and 1900, as do the nearly 1000 images in their England photocrom print collection, whose locations extend far beyond London. Go to England today and you'll notice how much has changed in the past 125 or so years, of course, but how much hasn't. Grumbling being something of a national sport over there, especially in London, the traveler hears no end of complaints about how the city and country have gone to the dogs, but can also take some comfort in the fact that, even back in the picturesque photocrom era, people were airing all the same gripes.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

See What Happens When a Camera’s Shutter Speed Gets Perfectly Synced with a Helicopter’s Rotor

German cameraman Chris Fay recently posted on YouTube a neat video showing what happens when the frames per second on a camera and the speed of a helicopter rotor are perfectly aligned. The helicopter blades appear not to rotate at all. And the helicopter hovers magically in the air. Even if you know the mechanics of the illusion, it's still fun to watch!

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via PetaPixel

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Loya: Valley of the Yosemite (The Sentinel), c. 1867 – c. 1872. Eadweard Muybridge. Rijksmuseum. Public Domain.

Interested in photography? You’re in the right place. Over the years, we’ve compiled free classes on digital photography, hundreds of photography lectures, courses on photography appreciation, and documentaries on famous greats like Alfred Stieglitz, Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. You can learn the history of photography in “five animated minutes,” see the venerable art of tintype recreated, and visit archives from the Soviet Union, the collection of George Eastman, and the work of pioneering motion photographer Eadweard Muybridge (animated in 93 GIFs).

Still not enough? How about a digital library of 2.2 million images from the history of photography? Europeana Collections just launched its “latest thematic collection,” Europeana Photography, which, notes Douglas McCarthy at the site’s blog, “includes images and documents from 50 European institutions in 34 different countries.”

Stunning landscapes like that of Muybridge’s Loya: Valley of the Yosemite, above, and work from other innovators like Julia Margaret Cameron, below, represent highlights of the archive’s digital scans from the first 100 years of photography.

Lilie, 1898-1903. Wilhelm Weimar. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0

The collection promises, “future exhibitions on specific themes... telling compelling stories with stunning images.” Currently, you’ll find there themed “expositions” like “Industrial Photography in the Machine Age” and “Vintage Postcards of Southeastern Europe,” among others. A gallery on “The Magic Lantern” offers a tour of a pre-cinema entertainment technology. One on photographer Johan Wilhelm Weimar introduces viewers to incredibly striking work from his 1901 Herbarium.

The collection is searchable, downloadable, shareable, and you can choose from 23 different languages, including English. Its mission is international, but also very much built on the idea---some might say political fiction---of a culturally unified Europe, allowing people to “connect with their past, with fellow European citizens, explore remote eras and locations, and better appreciate the value of their continental, national and local cultural heritage.”

Grand Canal, Venice, 1929. Nicola Perscheid. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0

Lofty goals, but one need no such larger purpose to simply enjoy casually browsing, and making the kind of odd discoveries one might on a continental walking tour, with no particular destination in mind.

Visit the Europeana Photography archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

NASA Releases a Massive Online Archive: 140,000 Photos, Videos & Audio Files Free to Search and Download

Last summer, astronomer Michael Summer wrote that, despite a relatively low profile, NASA and its international partners have been “living Carl Sagan’s dream for space exploration.” Summers’ catalogue of discoveries and groundbreaking experiments—such as Scott Kelly’s yearlong stay aboard the International Space Station—speaks for itself. But for those focused on more earthbound concerns, or those less emotionally moved by science, it may take a certain eloquence to communicate the value of space in words. “Perhaps,” writes Summers, “we should have had a poet as a member of every space mission to better capture the intense thrill of discovery.”

Sagan was the closest we've come. Though he never went into space himself, he worked closely on NASA missions since the 1950s and communicated better than anyone, in deeply poetic terms, the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. Likely you’re familiar with his “pale blue dot” soliloquy, but consider this quote from his 1968 lectures, Planetary Exploration:

There is a place with four suns in the sky — red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth — and made of diamond. There are atomic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thirty times a second. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atomic composition of bacteria. There are stars leaving the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are turbulent plasmas writhing with X- and gamma-rays and mighty stellar explosions. There are, perhaps, places which are outside our universe. The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.

Sagan’s lyrical prose alone captured the imagination of millions. But what has most often made us to fall in love with, and fund, the space program, is photography. No mission has ever had a resident poet, but every one, manned and unmanned, has had multiple high-tech photographers.

NASA has long had “a trove of images, audio, and video the general public wanted to see,” writes Eric Berger at Ars Technica. “After all, this was the agency that had sent people to the Moon, taken photos of every planet in the Solar System, and launched the Hubble Space Telescope.”

Until the advent of the Internet, only a few select, and unforgettable, images made their way to the public. Since the 1990s, the agency has published hundreds of photos and videos online, but these efforts have been fragmentary and not particularly user-friendly. That changed this month with the release of a huge photo archive140,000 pictures, videos, and audio files, to be exact—that aggregates materials from the agency’s centers all across the country and the world, and makes them searchable. The visual poetry on display is staggering, as is the amount of technical information for the more technically inclined.

Since Summers lauded NASA's accomplishments, the fraught politics of science funding have become deeply concerning for scientists and the public, provoking what will likely be a well-attended march for science tomorrow. Where does NASA stand in all of this? You may be surprised to learn that the president has signed a bill authorizing considerable funding for the agency. You may be unsurprised to learn how that funding is to be allocated. Earth science and education are out. A mission to Mars is in.

As I perused the stunning NASA photo archive, picking my jaw up from the floor several times, I found in some cases that my view began to shift, especially while looking at photos from the Mars rover missions, and reading the captions, which casually refer to every rocky outcropping, mountain, crater, and valley by name as though they were tourist destinations on a map of New Mexico. In addition to Sagan’s Cosmos, I also began to think of the colonization epics of Ray Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson—the corporate greed, the apocalyptic wars, the history repeating itself on another planet….

It’s easy to blame the current anti-science lobby for shifting the focus to planets other than our own. There is no justification for the mutually assured destruction of climate science denialism or nuclear escalation. But in addition to mapping and naming galaxies, black holes, and nebulae, we’ve seen an intense focus on the Red Planet for many years. It seems inevitable, as it did to the most far-sighted of science fiction writers, that we would make our way there one way or another.

We would do well to recover the sense of awe and wonder outer space used to inspire in us---sublime feelings that can motivate us not only to explore the seemingly limitless resources of space but to conserve and preserve our own on Earth. Hopefully you can find your own slice of the sublime in this massive photo archive.


via the Creators Project

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Photos of 19th-Century Black Women Activists Digitized and Put Online by The Library of Congress

A couple days ago, a visually compelling thread on Twitter exploded with thousands of shares and likes and dozens of users submitting their own contributions. The thread (a series of connected tweets for the Twitter uninitiated) has become an evolving photo essay of women activists standing up to walls of militarized riot police and mobs of angry bigots. The photos feature subjects like Tess Asplund, Leshia Evans, and Saffiyah Khan, and historical inspirations like Gloria Richardson and Bernadette Devlin. Many of the subjects are unknown or unnamed, but no less iconic. These images, from all over the world, of women standing defiantly and often alone, against heavily armed and armored, mostly male power structures inspire and, in the case of children like Ruby Bridges, can break your heart.

Photos like these serve as powerful and necessary testaments to the fact that in social movements throughout history, women have held the front lines. And photographers have captured their activist spirit since the early days of the medium. In the 19th century, long exposures and fragile, finicky equipment made action shots difficult-to-impossible, and for a variety of cultural reasons, many women were far less likely to confront armed men on the streets. Therefore, the portraits of women activists from the time tend toward traditional seated poses. But as famous photographs of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth demonstrate, these images do not show us passive observers of history.

Pictures of Tubman and Truth have made their way into every elementary school history textbook. Far less well-known are the many other African-American women activists of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who fought for the rights of black Americans in education, at the voting booth, and everywhere else. During Reconstruction especially, many such activists rose to prominence in academia, journalism, and civic leadership. Women like Fannie Barrier Williams, at the top, whose wise, direct gaze illustrates her fearlessness as an educational reformer and suffragist, who, despite her maiden name, broke several barriers for black women in higher education and prominent public events like the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Against paternalistic claims that former slaves weren’t ready for citizenship, writes the Rochester Regional Library Council, Williams “called on all women to unite and claim their inalienable rights.”

Above, we see Laura A. Moore Westbrook. Of the first generation to grow up after slavery, Westbrook received a master’s degree in 1880, the only woman in a class of four. She went on to teach and fight fiercely for formerly enslaved students in Texas, earning admiration, as Monroe Alphus Majors wrote in 1893, “in conspicuous instances and under very flattering circumstances” from contemporaries like Frederick Douglass. Majors’ characterization will sound patronizing to our ears, but in the rigid terms of the time, it offers nearly as vivid a portrait as her photograph: “Her motive to do good far surpasses her vanity, except when her race is attacked, then, manlike, she with the pen strikes back, and even goes beyond her loyalty to serve, but makes lasting impressions upon those who are so unfortunate to get within her range.”

These images come from a Library of Congress archive of nineteenth-century African American activists from the collection of William Henry Richards, a professor at Howard University Law School from 1890 to 1928 and a staunch campaigner for civil rights and liberties. Most of the portraits are of the formal, staged variety, but we also have the more relaxed, even playful series of poses from activists Elizabeth Brooks and Emma Hackley, above. Richards’ collection, writes curator Beverly Brannon at the LoC site, includes many “people who joined him and others working in the suffrage and temperance movements and in education, journalism and the arts.” The photographs “show the women at earlier ages than most portraits previously available of them online.”

These portraits date from a time, notes Allison Meier at Hyperallergic, when “rights and opportunities for African Americans, especially women, remained severely limited.” Many “obscure black women writers," journalists, and teachers “await their biographers,”  argues Jonathan Daniel Wells, and perhaps the rediscovery of these photographs will prompt historians to reconsider their prominence. While they did not physically stand up to armed mobs or police battalions, these activists, writes Meier, “spoke out boldly against gender inequality, while at the same time remaining cognizant that especially in the so-called New South, racism, violence and murder were ever-present dangers for African American women and men.”

Hyperallergic/Library of Congress

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

School of Visual Arts Presents 99 Hours of Free Photography Lectures

FYI: Last week, photographer Dan Culberson flagged on Reddit a trove of free photography lectures available on School of Visual Arts' rich YouTube channel. Elaborating, the photography blog Petapixel writes:

Tons of hour-long lectures can be found on the channel’s Images, Ideas, Inspiration playlist, most of them photography related and all of them fascinating.

You’ll find something for everyone on this channel—from a lecture by gallery rep Margit Erb talking about her close personal and professional relationship with the great Saul Leiter, to a talk by Dancers Among Us photographer Jordan Matter, to Jack Hollingsworth’s fascinating talk titled “Small Camera Big Results.”

There are a total of 99 videos in that playlist alone—approximately 99 hours of education, inspiration, and ideas.

Above you can watch Jack Hollingsworth's lecture, "Small Camera Big Results." He has "traveled to over 20 countries and shot over 400,000 images with his iPhone," and here he discusses his iPhone photography technique, and all the apps he uses. Find more lectures on this Images, Ideas, Inspiration playlist. Also find courses on digital photography in our collection, 1,250 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

via Petapixel

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Download 437 Issues of Soviet Photo Magazine, the Soviet Union’s Historic Photography Journal (1926-1991)

The early years of the Soviet Union roiled with internal tensions, intrigues, and ideological warfare, and the new empire’s art reflected its uneasy heterodoxy. Formalists, Futurists, Suprematists, Constructivists, and other schools mingled, published journals, critiqued and reviewed each other’s work, and like modernists elsewhere in the world, experimented with every possible medium, including those just coming into their own at the beginning of the 20th century, like film and photography.

These two mediums, along with radio, also happened to serve as the primary means of propagandizing Soviet citizens and carrying the messages of the Party in ways everyone could understand. And like much of the rest of the world, photography engendered its own consumer culture.

Out of these competing impulses came Soviet Photo (Sovetskoe foto), a monthly photography magazine featuring, writes Ksenia Nouril at the Museum of Modern Art’s site, “editorials, letters, articles, and photographic essays alongside advertisements for photography, photographic processes, and photographic chemicals and equipment.”

Soviet Photo was not founded by artists, but by a photojournalist, Arkady Shaikhet, in 1926 (see the first issue's cover at the top). Though its audience primarily consisted of a “Soviet amateur photographers and photo clubs,” its early years freely mixed documentary, didacticism, and experimental art. It published the “works of international and professional photographers” and that of avant-gardists like Constructivist painter and graphic designer Aleksander Rodchenko.

The aesthetic purges under Stalin---in which artists and writers one after another fell victim to charges of elitism and obscurantism---also played out in the pages of Soviet Photo. “Even before Socialist Realism was decreed to be the official style of the Soviet Union in 1934,” Nouril writes, “the works of avant-garde photographers,” including Rodchenko, “were denounced as formalist (implying that they reflected a foreign and elitist style).” Soviet Photo boycotted Rodchenko’s work in 1928 and “throughout the 1930s this state-sanctioned journal became increasingly conservative,” emphasizing “content over form.”

This does not mean that that the contents of the magazine were inelegant or pedestrian. Though it once briefly bore the name Proletarskoe foto (Proletariat Photography), and tended toward monumental and industrial subjects, war photography, and idealizations of Soviet life during the Stalinist years. After the 60s thaw, experimental photomontages returned, and more abstract compositions became commonplace. Soviet Photo also kept pace with many glossy magazines in the West, with stunning full-color photojournalism and, after glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall, high fashion and advertising photography.

Fans of photography, Soviet history, or some measure of both, can follow Soviet Photo’s evolution in a huge archive featuring 437 digitized issues, published between 1926 and 1991. Expect to find a gap between 1942 and 1956, when publication ceased “due to World War II and the war’s aftereffects.” Aside from these years and a few other missing months, the archive contains nearly every issue of Soviet Photo, free to browse or download in various formats. “Dig deep enough,” writes photo blog PetaPixel, “and you’ll find some really interesting (and surprisingly familiar) things in there.” Enter the archive here.


via PetaPixel

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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