Photographer Creates Stunning Realistic Portraits That Recreate Surreal Scenes from Hieronymus Bosch Paintings

in Art, Photography | January 19th, 2017

All images courtesy of Lori Pond

It is not often noted that the surrealist movement in the 1920s originated with poets like Paul Éluard and André Breton, himself a trained psychologist, who drew explicitly from the work of Sigmund Freud, “the private world of the mind,” as the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it. And yet we certainly see the influence of Freudian poetry in the work of Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Man Ray. We also see it, inexplicably, in the work of Hieronymus Bosch, that 15th century Dutch painter of bizarre works like The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych that becomes exponentially more nightmarish as one scans across it from left to right. (Take a virtual tour of the painting here), and from which photographer Lori Pond draws in the astonishing photographs you see here.

How does such a faraway figure as Bosch, whom we know so little about, seem to communicate so closely with our epoch’s artistic movements? The Garden of Earthly Delights, writes Stephen Holden at the New York Times, “outstrips in boldness many of the extreme digital fantasies in Hollywood horror films.” Bosch’s incredibly detailed paintings “feel startlingly contemporary…. Reproductions of his paintings have adorned rock album covers, been parodied on The Simpsons and printed on silk bodices designed by Alexander McQueen.” And he was, in fact, named “Trendiest Apocalyptic Medieval Painter of 2014.”

We might well wonder what Bosch would have done with the same technologies as those who now pay him tribute. Perhaps something very much like Pond has with her Bosch Redux series, a collection of photographs of very close-up details in several of Bosch’s paintings, featuring one or two characters. To make these photos, writes Alyssa Coppelman at Adobe’s Create blog, Pond “bought props online, in antique stores, and at swap meets, and friends donated her old Halloween costumes.” She hired a prosthetics designer and her “taxidermy teacher.” For photos like that above from the central panel of the triptych, Pond even hired a set builder to create a life-sized boat that could fit the two real-life models.

Many of these effects might have been accomplished by early twentieth century surrealists, and indeed, when these details from Bosch’s work are amplified they resemble nothing so much as those psychoanalytic modernists. But Pond admits, “I fully abide by the maxim, ‘A photograph isn’t a photograph until it goes through Photoshop.’” She makes the usual adjustments, adds filters and effects, then employs “textures, backgrounds, and other small details from the original paintings,” making Bosch a collaborator in these close-up remixes, which come from The Last Judgment, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and The Garden of Earthly Delights, of course—the painting that first gave her the inspiration when Pond saw it at the Prado in Madrid. You can see many more examples of the series at Pond’s website, sixteen surreally apocalyptic visions in all.

via Dangerous Minds

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

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Learn Digital Photography with Harvard University’s Free Online Course

in Online Courses, Photography | January 16th, 2017

Image by Phirac via Wikimedia Commons

Since the taking of the very first photograph in 1826, photography has developed, as it were, in ways hardly imaginable to its first few generations of practitioners. The most thorough transformation so far has, of course, come in the form of the digital revolution (and especially its latest fruit, the camera phone), which has in many real ways delivered on its promise of making “everyone a photographer.” But the ability to take a picture is one thing, and the ability to take a picture worth looking at — let alone looking at more than once — quite another.

Fortunately, high technology has democratized not only the means of production, but also the means of learning with online courses like this free one on digital photography sourced from no less an institution than Harvard University.  Its materials come from Dan Armendariz’s Harvard course DGMD E-10: Exposing Digital Photography, and its twelve modules “will take an average student about 10 to 15 hours to complete, and they teach a wide range of topics in digital photography, including exposure settings, reading histograms, learning about light, how sensors and lenses work, and how to post-process photos.”

Even a basic understanding of all those topics will put you far ahead of the average social-media snapper, but as with any pursuit, gaining some knowledge creates the desire for more. You thus might also consider taking the digital photography course from Stanford professor and Google researcher Marc Levoy we featured last year. (Also see this free massive open online course, Seeing Through Photographs. It’s from the MoMA, and it starts again on January 23.) It would take a lifetime to master all the gear and attain all the know-how out there, even if photography stopped changing today, but don’t let that intimidate you. Just bear in mind the wise words of Hunter S. Thompson: “Any man who can see what he wants to get on film will usually find some way to get it; and a man who thinks his equipment is going to see for him is not going to get much of anything.”

Harvard’s free digital photography course will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

via PetaPixel

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, 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.

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Thousands of Photos from the George Eastman Museum, the World’s Oldest Photography Collection, Now Available Online

in Photography | January 3rd, 2017


There was a time when anyone with even the remotest interest in photography knew the name Eastman, if not the life and work of George Eastman himself. Eastman Kodak—the company founded in 1888 by that entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Great American Success Story—once held a dominant share of the camera and film market. Generally known in later decades just by the name “Kodak,” Eastman’s company seems to have nearly disappeared from the market in the digital age (though it may be poised for a comeback).


Yet many of the devices and materials Eastman’s company invented saw daily use in film and photography throughout all of the previous century. Eastman bought the patents for and manufactured the first roll film, indispensable in both industries until recently. (He has two stars on the Hollywood walk of fame for his technical contributions.) With the ease of roll film, Eastman’s company also created and sold the first camera for consumer use in 1888, simply called the Kodak.

“The camera was a great success,” writes a Kodak history, “and many people, among them a lot of women, started taking photographs. When the 100 pictures of the film were shot, the photographer could mail the camera to Eastman Kodak, where all the technical work would be done by skilled people.”


Eastman’s legacy lives on in another important capacity as well: since the 40s, his Rochester, NY mansion housed one of the largest, the oldest, and perhaps the most impressive collections of photography in the world, the Eastman Museum. “In 1989,” the museum tells us, it “completed construction of a 73,000-square-foot building (more than 70 percent of which is below ground level) that included climate-controlled collection vaults, exhibition galleries, libraries, offices, and photographic conservation and film preservations labs.” And now, over a quarter of a million of the Eastman Museum’s holdings are available online in searchable galleries of “thousands of photographs that date back to the medium’s earliest years,” notes Claire Voon at Hyperallergic, “as well as “objects from its massive library of artifacts that together chronicle the history of image-making.”


You’ll find the 1921 portrait of Igor Stravinsky, at the top, and the front cover of an 1888 Kodak manual (“Part First”), below it. You’ll see experimental oddities like the 1889 “Self-Portrait ‘Transformation’” by Louis Docos du Hauron, further up; and striking portraits like Lewis W. Hine’s “No Soap, Pittsburgh Steel Worker Child 1909,” above. “The museum holds the collections of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre,” writes Voon, “Lewis Hine, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Nickolas Muray, and Edward Steichen, so their works are available here for you to easily browse.” You’ll surely recognize at least one of those names. Before Eastman, Daguerre became one of the fathers of photography in the early 19th century. Just below, see an 1844 portrait of the artist and inventor by a contemporary, Jean Baptiste Sabatier-Blot, “among the most famous portraitists of the Parisian daguerreotype of the 1840s,” as Monoskop describes him.


“Objects from the museum’s photography, technology and George Eastman Legacy collections are now searchable,” the Eastman Museum writes in its press release, “and more objects from the museum’s vast holdings are being added on an ongoing basis.” And, to honor Eastman’s considerable legacy in motion pictures, “objects from the moving image collection will become accessible in the coming months.” For now, we can see work by pioneering English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who began conducting motion studies in the 1870s, which contributed to the development of Eastman’s film and Thomas Edison’s cameras. See Muybridge’s 1877 “Man in derby riding horse” below, and enter the online Eastman Museum collection here.


via Hyperallergic

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

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Ansel Adams, Photographer: 1958 Documentary Captures the Creative Process of the Iconic American Photographer1

in Film, Photography | December 13th, 2016

America has specialized in both the beautiful and the terrible, inspiring awe of every positive and negative variety. That goes for both the human achievements that have happened there as well of the natural environments they’ve happened in and around, both of which define America equally and have made it the kind of place the word sublime, mixing in as it does a tinge of fear with admiration, was coined to describe. Ansel Adams, who ascended to the top of the photographic pantheon with his career spent shooting the 20th-century American West, seemed born to capture that sublimity.

How did he do it? The 1958 documentary Ansel Adams, Photographer (also available on offers a twenty-minute look into the life and work of the man whose name has become a byword for the majestic black-and-white American landscape. We also hear a few of his philosophical positions on his work. “Perhaps music is the most expressive of the arts,” says Adams himself after a few minutes at the piano. “However, as a photographer, I believe that creative photography, when practiced in terms of its inherent qualities, may also reveal endless horizons of meaning.”

We then see and hear about all the (highly pre-digital) cameras and associated tools with which Adams engaged in that practice before heading out to the coast to watch him in action. “Like every good photographer,” says the narrator, Adams “pre-visualizes his final print right there,” a technique we’ve previously covered here on Open Culture. Then out comes the light meter, in order to “estimate what exposure he needs now and what development he needs later.” Every choice Adams made — about “film, lens, filter, lens extension, lens aperture, shutter setting,” and more — he meticulously recorded in his notebook.

After developing and examining the negative in his lab, he tries out a “test exposure,” which pleasingly turns out as a “quite well-balanced” image, but one that nevertheless suggests improving tweaks for the next one. (Color film’s relative lack of flexibility in this part of the process kept black-and-white Adams’ photographic form of choice.) “Once Adams has achieved the print he wants,” the narrator tells us, “he is able, simply by controlling exposure and processing, to make from one negative hundreds of fine prints in a day. By this technique, he can produce portfolios of original prints which are in themselves works of art.”

Much has changed about photography since Adams did it, of course, though mostly in the technical sense. As the process of simply making a photograph becomes ever faster and easier, the discipline, concentration, and appetite for rigor of a photographer like Adams, whose “standards are as high as those of an architect or an engineer,” become ever rarer and more valuable. Like all of the most important artists, his process in combination with his very nature transcended the limitations of his time, resulting in images of America that, to this day, still look not just as if we could step right into them, but realer, somehow, than reality itself.

Ansel Adams, Photographer has been added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, 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.

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Man Ray Creates a “Surrealist Chessboard,” Featuring Portraits of Surrealist Icons: Dalí, Breton, Picasso, Magritte, Miró & Others (1934)

in Art, Photography | December 1st, 2016


Like most artists, Emmanuel Radnitzky had more than one major interest in his life. We who know him as Man Ray usually first encounter him through his photography, such as the artist and writer portraits featured here at Open Culture last year. But Man Ray himself ultimately considered painting his main creative field. And, apart from his work, he had chess–or at least his friend and fellow conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp had chess. Duchamp seems to have turned Man Ray on to it as well, and they even appear playing together in Rene Clair’s 1924 film Entr’acte.

Duchamp’s passion for chess ran deep enough that, for a time, he all but abandoned art to devote himself to the game. Later he came to the realization that “chess was art; art was chess,” having pursued both of those interests at once in the creation of an art deco chessboard. Man Ray, for his part, brought art and chess together in 1934’s Surrealist Chessboard, a mosaic of his portraits of artists associated with the Surrealist movement, including Salvador Dalí, Andre Breton, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Joan Miró, and of course himself — but with the chess-loving Duchamp nowhere to be seen.

“Surrealist exhibition group photographs include the frequent participation of Man Ray but rarely Duchamp,” writes Lewis Kachur in aka Marcel Duchamp: Meditations on the Identities of an Artist, his non-appearance on the Surrealist Chessboard being the “most astonishing” example. “The structure is the democratic grid format of the chessboard, with each of twenty surrealists or fellow travelers as a head shot against a black or light-colored background, alternating to suggest the black and white squares of the board. Man Ray had a negative of an appropriate profile bust of Duchamp (1930), striking for its absence here.”

Kachur imagines that Duchamp “chose not to take part,” in keeping with his “somewhat shadowy” position in relation to the Surrealists, “on the margins of the movement group’s identity.” Or he may simply have wanted to save his friend the trouble of figuring out a shape in which to arrange 21 portraits instead of 20. Whatever Duchamp thought of this project that used the chessboard only as visual structure, he probably preferred the chess set Man Ray designed a decade earlier using historically inspired pure geometric forms — and one that he could actually play chess with. You can still purchase own copy of that chess set today.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, 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.

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The Photography of Poet Arthur Rimbaud (1883)

in Photography, Poetry | November 30th, 2016


Arthur Rimbaud, far-seeing prodigy, “has been memorialized in song and story as few in history,” writes Wyatt Mason in an introduction to the poet’s complete works; “the thumbnail of his legend has proved irresistible.” The poet, we often hear, ended his brief but brilliant literary career when he ran off to the Horn of Africa and became a gunrunner… or some other sort of adventurous outlaw character many miles removed, it seems, from the intense symbolist hero of Illuminations and A Season in Hell.


Rimbaud’s break with poetry was so decisive, so abrupt, that critics have spent decades trying to account for what one “hyperbolic assessment” deemed as having “caused more lasting, widespread consternation than the break-up of the Beatles.” What could have caused the young libertine, so drawn to urban voyeurism and the skewering of the local bourgeoisie, to disappear from society for an anonymous, rootless life?


On the other hand, in revisiting the poetry we find—amidst the grotesque, hallucinogenic reveries—that “travel, adventure, and departure on various levels are thematic concerns that run through much of Rimbaud”: from 1871’s “The Drunken Boat” to A Season in Hell’s “Farewell,” in which the poet writes, “The time has come to bury my imagination and my memories! A fitting end for an artist and teller of tales.”


He was only 18 then, in 1873, when he wrote his farewell. Two years later, he would finally end his violent tumultuous relationship with Paul Verlaine, and embark on a series of voyages, first by foot all over Europe, then to the Dutch East Indies, Cyprus, Yemen, and finally Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), where he settled in Harar, struck up a friendship with the governor (the father of future Emperor Haile Selassie), and became a highly-regarded coffee trader, and yes, gun dealer.


Rimbaud may have left poetry behind, deciding he had realized all he could in language. But he had not given up on approaching his experience aesthetically. Only, instead of trying “to invent new flowers, new stars, new flesh, new tongues,” as he wrote in “Farewell,” he had evidently decided to take the world in on its own terms. He documented his findings in essays on geography and travel accounts and, in 1883, several photographs, including two self-portraits he sent to his mother in May, writing, “Enclosed are two photographs of me which I took.”


You can see one of those portraits at the top of the post, and the other, in much worse shape, below it, and a third self-portrait just below. The “circumstances in which the photographs were taken are quite mysterious,” writes Lucille Pennel at The Eye of Photography.

Starting in 1882, Rimbaud became fascinated with the new technology. He ordered a camera in Lyon in order to illustrate a book on “Harar and the Gallas country,” a camera he received only in early 1883. He also ordered specialized books and photo processing equipment. The planned scientific publication was never realized, and the six photographs are the only trace of Rimbaud’s activity.

“I am not yet well established, nor aware of things,” Rimbaud wrote in the letter to his mother, “But I will be soon, and I will send you some interesting things.” It’s not exactly clear why Rimbaud abandoned his photographic endeavors. He had approached the pursuit not only as hobby, but also as a commercial venture, writing in his letter, “Here everyone wants to be photographed. They even offer one guinea a photograph.”

The comment leads Pennel to conclude “there must have been other photographs, but any trace of them is lost, raising doubts about the degree of Rimbaud’s engagement with photography.”


Perhaps, however, he’d simply decided that he’d done all he could do with the medium, and let it go with a graceful farewell. History, posterity, the cementing of a reputation—these are phenomena that seemed of little interest to Rimbaud. “What will become of the world when you leave?” he had written in “Youth, IV”—“No matter what happens, no trace of now will remain.” In a historical irony, Rimbaud’s photographs “were developed in ‘filthy water,’” notes Pennel, meaning they “will continue to fade until the images are all gone. They are as fleeting as the man with the soles of wind.”

If we wish to see them in person, the time is short. The photo at the top of the post now resides at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The other six are housed at the Arthur Rimbaud Museum in Charleville-Mézières.

via Vintage Anchor/The Eye of Photography.

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

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An Introduction to Digital Photography: Take a Free Course from Stanford Prof/Google Researcher Marc Levoy

in How to Learn for Free, Online Courses, Photography | September 9th, 2016

Photography and video have advanced to such a degree that any one of us, for a modest investment of capital, can own the requisite equipment to make productions at the same level of quality as the pros. And most of us already hold in our hands computers capable of producing and editing hundreds of rich still and moving images. What we may lack, what most of us lack, are the skills and experience of the professionals. No amount of fancy photo gear can make up the difference, but you can at least acquire the education—a very thorough, technical education in digital photography—online, and for free.

Taught by Stanford professor Emeritus of Computer Science Marc Levoy, the course above, simply called “Lectures on Digital Photography,” covers seemingly everything you might need to know and then some: from the parts of a digital camera (“every screw”), to the formula for depth of field, the principles of high dynamic range, and the history and art of photographic composition.

Beware, this course may not suit the casual Instagrammer—it requires aspiration and “a cell phone won’t suffice.” Additionally, though Levoy says he assumes no prior knowledge, he does expect a few non-camera-related academic skill sets:

The only knowledge I assume is enough facility and comfort with mathematics that you’re not afraid to see the depth-of-field formula in all its glory, and an integral sign here or there won’t send you running for the hills. Some topics will require concepts from elementary probability and statistics (like mean and variance), but I define these concepts in lecture. I also make use of matrix algebra, but only at the level of matrix multiplication. Finally, an exposure to digital signal processing or Fourier analysis will give you a better intuition for some topics, but it is not required.

Sound a little daunting? You will not need an expensive SLR camera (single lens reflex), though it would help you get the most out of complex discussions of settings. The topics of some interactive features may sound mystifying—“gamut-mapping,” “cylindrical-panoramas”—but Levoy’s lectures, all in well-shot video, move at a brisk pace, and he contextualizes new scientific terms and concepts with a facility that will put you at ease. Levoy formerly taught the course at Stanford between 2009 and 2014. The version he teaches online here comes from a Google class given this year—eighteen lectures spanning 11 weeks.

Find all of the course materials—including interactive applets and assignments—at Levoy’s course site. As he notes, since the course has “gone viral,” many videos embedded on the site won’t play properly. Levoy directs potential students to his Youtube channel. You can see the full playlist of lectures at the top of this post as well.  For more resources in photography education—practical and theoretical, beginner to advanced—see PetaPixel’s list of “the best free online photography courses and tutorials.”

Lectures on Digital Photography” will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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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Eadweard Muybridge’s Motion Photography Experiments from the 1870s Presented in 93 Animated Gifs

in Animation, Photography | September 9th, 2016


When a horse trots, do all four of its hooves ever leave the ground at once? At one time, we not only had no answer to that question, we had no way of finding out. But in 1872, when the matter piqued the curiosity of Leland Stanford, tycoon, former governor of California, co-founder of Stanford University, and race-horse owner, it did so at just the right time. Having made a bet on the answer, Stanford called on an English photographer named Eadweard Muybridge, known for his work in such then-cutting-edge subfields as time-lapse and stereography, and tasked him with figuring it out. Using a series of cameras activated by trip wires as the horse trotted past, Muybridge proved that all four of its hooves do indeed leave the ground, winning Stanford the wager.


But that only began his groundbreaking work in motion photography, which made it so, in the words of the Library of Congress, “viewers of the late 19th century were able to see in a sequence of photos every step taken by a horse at full gallop, the sleek movements of a cat running and each flap of the wings of a bird in flight.”


He later developed what he called the Zoopraxiscope: “One inserted a disc with images around the edge into the device, which rotated and projected the images onto a screen. The discs were usually painted glass based on Muybridge’s photographs. The effect was to give the audience an impression of movement, bringing Muybridge’s work to life.” Imagine how that would have looked to someone who’d never seen — who’d never even imagined — organic-looking movement in manmade art?

You can see 93 of Muybridge’s moving photographs, zoopraxiscope discs, and other experiments in decoding the movement of living things and granting it to images at Wikimedia Commons. “Although Eadweard Muybridge thought of himself primarily as an artist, he encouraged the aura of scientific investigation that surrounded his project,” says the site of Freeze Frame, the National Museum of American History’s exhibition of his work. It makes sense that Muybridge, who qualified as an eccentric as well as a genius, would occupy the space between art and science, inquiry and creation, reality and illusion — and it makes sense to view the fruits of his labors as animated GIFs, their technological descendants that also looked pretty impressive, so I recall, when first we laid eyes on them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, 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.

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The History of Russia in 70,000 Photos: New Photo Archive Presents Russian History from 1860 to 1999

in History, Photography | September 2nd, 2016

1860 Rider

Back in college, I took a survey class on Russian history, taught by one of these people who take up the profession in their active retirement after a career spent working in the field. This particular professor had gone to work for the State Department after graduate school and served in various posts in Soviet Russia for several decades. The format of his class seemed unremarkable on paper. One standard syllabus, one bulky, expensive textbook. But the classes themselves consisted of long, fascinating stories about personal encounters with Brezhnev and Gorbachev, or journeys into ancient Kiev, or to the outer reaches of the Steppes.

1920 Red Square

All that was missing from those vivid recollections was a comparable photo essay to tell the story visually. This has been remedied and then some by the “The History of Russia,” an enormous joint archive project from Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum and Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine. The archive contains over 70,000 photos, gathered from “more than 40 institutions and collections,” writes Hyperallergic, and representing “over 150 years of photographs capturing all sorts of scenes of Russian life.”

August Putsch

Non-Russian speakers can load the site in Google Chrome and have it translated into English. Additionally, “a timeline allows you to browse by date, a map enables location-based searches, and preset categories filter the images by theme.” Russian speakers can enter specific keywords into the site’s search engine. Currently, the archive features an exhibition on the August Putsch, the 1991 coup attempt on the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev, staged by hard-line Communist Party Members opposed to reform. See one iconic photo of that historical event above, and many more at the virtual exhibition.

Christmas Tree in Luzhniki Stadium

The late 1980s and 90s may be a period of particular interest for students and writers of Russian history, like David Remnick, and for good reason. But every decade in the archive holds its own fascination. Stately portraits from the 1860s, like that at the top of the post, show us the society of Tolstoy in the decade he serialized War and Peace. Photos from the 20s, like the satirical display in Red Square, further down, show us the days of Lenin’s rule and the early years of the Soviet Union. Images from the 50s give us unique insider views—often impossible at the time—of ordinary Soviet life at the height of the Cold War, such as the Christmas tree in the Luzhniki Stadium, above, or the man leading an elephant from the Red Army Theater, below.

Elephant Red Army Theater

The 60s in particular look like a Life magazine spread, with dramatic photos of Olympic athletes in training, statesmen posed with wives and children, and hundreds of arresting pictures from everyday life, like that of two boys boxing below. The huge galleries can be a little cumbersome to navigate and require some patience on the part of the non-Russian-speaking user. But that patience is richly rewarded with photograph after photograph of a country we rarely hear spoken of in less than inflammatory terms. We encounter, of course, the odd portrait of Stalin and other well-worn propaganda images, but for the most part, the photos look and feel candid, and for good reason.

1962 Boys Boxing

“According to a release,” Hyperallergic writes, “many of the photographs are published here for the first time, partly because the portal invites users to upload, describe, and tag images from personal archives. It has the feel of a museum collection”—and also of a family photo album stretching back generations. “The History of Russia” archive offers occasional context in addition to the dates, names, and locations of subjects. But informative text appears rarely, and in nearly unreadable translations for us non-speakers. Nonetheless, a few hours lost in these galleries feel like a near total immersion in Russian history. You can enter the archive here.

Group Portrait 1900

via Hyperallergic

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

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Download 100,000 Photos of 20 Great U.S. National Parks, Courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

in History, Photography | August 29th, 2016


The story of the U.S.’s national parks isn’t one story, but many. These have been told and retold since the founding of the National Park Service, a century ago this past Thursday. And they stretch back even further, to the Civil War, the conquering and settling of the west, and the beginnings of the American conservation movement. Nearly every one of us who grew up within a cramped, contentious family car ride from one (or more) of those parks has our own story to tell. But our nostalgic memories can conflict with the history. Virginia and North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, for example—the park closest to my childhood home—offers visitors an idyllic vision of Appalachian life and landscape. But the founding and construction of the park in the 1930s and 40s was anything but.


On the one hand, the building of the gorgeously scenic, 469-mile highway provided jobs for out-of-work civilians and, later, conscientious objectors under FDR’s Works Progress Administration, Emergency Relief Administration, and Civilian Conservation Corps. On the other hand, the federal government’s seizure of the land created hardships for existing farmers and landowners, forced sometimes to sell their property or to obtain permission for building and development. The Park Service project also engendered resentment among the Eastern Cherokee, who fought the Parkway, and won some concessions. (In one story that represents both of these hardships, a Cherokee man Jerry Wolfe tells WRAL what it was like to work on the road, one that ran directly through the cabin he once shared with his parents.)

Planting Plan Blue Ridge

To celebrate their 100 years of existence, the National Park Service has launched what it calls its Open Parks Network, a portal to thousands of photographs and documents dating from the very beginnings of many of its parks—some of which, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, came under federal protection before the NPS existed, and some, like New York’s Stonewall Inn, only given protected monumental status this year. The Open Parks Network includes over 20 different parks and several dozen collections that document specific periods.

Great Smoky Mountains Shelton

In the case of Blue Ridge Parkway, we have only one—a collection of the park’s engineering plans. One might hope for images of those toiling Depression-era crews, or of the anxious faces of the region’s residents. But instead we can piece together the story of the park through fascinating documents like the “Planting Plan” further up, from 1965, which reminds us how much the natural beauty of the Parkway is achieved through human intervention. And we can imagine what many of those early-20th century Appalachian folks looked like in historic photos like that above, from a collection of Great Smokey Mountains photographs taken in the teens and 20s by Jim Shelton.

Lincoln's Birthplace Nearby House

Regardless of how much meddling we have done to create the scenic overlooks and mountain and Redwood underpasses that constitute the nation’s protected parks, there’s no denying their appeal to us all, nature lovers and otherwise, as symbols of the country’s rough grandeur. We can skip the hikes and long car rides, or plan for them in the future, surveying the parks’ beauty through over 100,000 high-resolution digital scans of photographs and 200,000 images in all, including more galleries of building plans, maps, and illustrations. Some of the galleries are quite unusual—like this collection of aerial infrared photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains, or this one of “historic goats” of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. And many of the photos—like the faded 1968 photo of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, further up, look just like your family vacation photos.


There are beautiful historical images like that of a house near Hodgenville, Kentucky, site of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, further up; images of park rangers and staff, like the charming group photo above from Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia; and sublime vistas like the photo at the top of the post from the Kings Mountain National Military Park in Yosemite Valley. The Open Parks Network, writes Joe Toneli at Digg, “is constantly being added to, and is an important tool in preserving the history of the NPS and the national monuments it protects.” Developed in partnership with Clemson University since 2010, Open Parks hosts all public domain images, free to explore and download. See this guide for a detailed explanation on how to best navigate the collections, all of which are fully searchable.


Each image, like that of Yosemite Falls, above, has options for viewing full-screen and zooming in and out. So absorbing are these archives, you may find yourself getting lost in them, and any one of these beautifully-preserved parks and their incredible histories offer welcome places to get lost for several hours, or several days. For even more historic photography from the nation’s many parks, see selections online from the Eastman Museum’s current exhibit, Photography and America’s National Parks, “designed,” writes Johnny Simon at Quartz, “to inspire people to look at national landscape just as Teddy Roosevelt once did, a century ago.”

Enter Open Parks here.

via Digg

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

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