The First Faked Photograph (1840)

The photograph was invented in the early 19th century, but who invented it? Histories of photography point to several different independent inventors, most of them French: Nicéphore Niépce, for example, who in 1826 made the first work recognizable as a photograph, or more famously Louis Daguerre, honored for his invention of the daguerreotype photographic process by the French Academy of Sciences and the Académie des Beaux Arts in 1839. But what about Daguerre's contemporary Hippolyte Bayard, who had also been developing and refining his own form of photography? After going unacknowledged by the Academy, he had only one option left: suicide.

The Vox Darkroom video above tells the story of Bayard's 1840 Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, which depicts exactly what its title suggests: Bayard's corpse, retrieved from the water and propped up unclaimed at the morgue. "The Government which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch has drowned himself," reads the note on the back of the photograph. "Oh the vagaries of human life....!"

A sorry tale, to be sure, and of a kind not unknown in the history of invention. But wait: how could a dead man shoot a "self-portrait"? And if indeed "no-one has recognized or claimed him," as the note adds, who would have bothered to write the note itself?

Bayard, still very much alive, made Self Portrait as a Drowned Man as a kind of artistic stunt, the latest in a series of self-portraits testing his photographic process. The "morgue" shot contains some of the artifacts in its predecessors, including a garden statue, a floral vase, and Bayard's signature broad straw hat. (Even the expression of death was of a piece with his previous self-portraits: the long exposure time meant he'd had to hold absolutely still with his eyes closed in all of them as well.) Until his death in 1887 — long after Daguerre had passed — Bayard continued experimenting with photography, creating reality-departing images including "double self portraits." If he couldn't go down as the inventor of the photograph, at least he could go down as the inventor of the fake photograph — a still-relevant invention, to say the least, given our increasingly complicated relationship with the truth in the 21st century.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Cy Kuckenbaker’s Time Collapse Videos Let You See Daily Life As You’ve Never Seen It Before

There are apps to track the number of daily minutes you habitually fritter away on social media, but can your smartphone help you get a handle on the automotive color preferences of midday San Diego drivers?

Or the number of planes landing at San Diego International Airport on the day after Thanksgiving?

Or, for that matter, the traffic patterns of non-professional surfers hoping to catch a wave at at Point Loma?

No, but filmmaker Cy Kuckenbaker can.

His "time collapse” videos stemmed from a desire to get to know the city in which he lives with the same vigor he brought to bear as a Peace Corps volunteer in his 20s, exploring Iraq, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

This impulse might lead others to join a club, take a class, or check out restaurants in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

For Kuckenbaker, it means setting up his camera for a fixed shot, uncertain if his experiment will even work, then spending hours and hours in the editing room, removing the time between events without altering the speed of his subjects.

It’s a form that requires a lot of patience on the part of its creator.

He estimates that he spent 2 hours editing for every second of Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3, above, providing him ample time to listen to the following audiobooks (get your free Audible trial here):

Revolution 1989 by Victor Sebestyen

How Music Works by David Byrne

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

1493 by Charles Mann

1491 by Charles Mann

With the Old Breed by E. Sledge

The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Each car was keyed out of the original shot, then ranked and reinserted based on color. 28 of the raw footage’s 462 didn’t make the cut due to erratic shape or movement. See if you can spot them in the extremely ordinary-looking original footage, below. Extra credit for spotting the empty Gatorade bottle that made it into every frame of the compression:

His studies may not reveal much about his home city to the average tourist, but Kuckenbaker himself is able to interpret the numbers in ways that go beyond mere quantity and averages, such as San Diegans’ apparent vehicular color preference:

Nationally, red is a more popular color than blue. But not San Diego. San Diego, there’s more blue than red, so it’s like, you know, an outlier. And I thought about that for a while and it’s like, personally, the way I understand the city, that makes sense to me. The sort of tone of the city, the attitude of the city—it’s an ocean city. I can see why people would think, “Well, I live in San Diego. Why would I have a red… I want a blue car!”

His Point Loma compression boiled an hour's surfing down to 2 minutes and 15 seconds that KPBS’ David Wagner heralded as “a surfer's wildest dream come true, a fantasy break where perfect waves roll in one after another like clockwork, no lulls in between.”

The raw footage and Kuckenbaker’s documentation of the After Effects technique used to composite the waves speaks to a slightly more tedious reality. No word on what audio books got him through this one, though he goes into the technical specs and quotes Joseph Conrad on his blog.

The compression of the nearly 70 arriving Black Friday flights that kicked off Kuckenbaker’s San Diego-based time collapses in 2012 feels a bit martial, especially if Ride of the Valkyries just happens to be playing in the background. It makes me worry for San Diego, and also wish for a Kuckenbaker to come collapse time in my town.

See more of Cy Kuckenbaker’s Time Collapse videos here.

via Twisted Sifter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

People Pose in Uncanny Alignment with Iconic Album Covers: Discover The Sleeveface Project

We've all heard a great deal over the past twenty years or so about the death of the album. This talk seems to have begun with the emergence of the downloadable individual song, a technology that would finally allow us consumers to purchase only the tracks we want to hear and avoid paying full price for "filler." But against these odds, the long-playing album has persisted: artists still record them and listeners, at least dedicated listeners, still buy them, sometimes even on vinyl.

Somehow the album has remained culturally relevant, and a fair bit of the credit must go to its cover. It didn't take long after the introduction of the 12-inch, 33 1/3-RPM vinyl record in 1948 for the marketing purposes of its large outer sleeve to become evident, and the past 71 years have produced many a memorable image in that form. Few platforms could be as representative of our digital age as Instagram, but it is on Instagram that the album cover has recently received homage from across the globe.

"Sleeveface is an amusing participatory photo project in which people from all over the world strategically pose with matching album covers," writes Laughing Squid's Lori Dorn, "creating the illusion that the original picture is complete."

Browse the tags #sleeveface and #sleevefacesunday (for everything on the internet eventually gets its day) on Instagram and you'll see a variety of tribute poses, some of them uncannily well-aligned, to musicians whose faces we all know not least because they've appeared on iconic album covers: Bruce Springsteen to Bob Marley, Simon and Garfunkel to Iggy and the Stooges, Leonard Cohen to Freddie Mercury, Janis Joplin to Adele.

All those famous names have undergone the sleeveface treatment, and quite a few of them have undergone it more than once. Many of us have grown familiar indeed with these albums, and surely even those of us who've never listened to them start-to-finish probably know at least a couple of their songs. But even if you've never heard so much as a measure of any of them, you've almost certainly seen their covers — and may well, at one time or another, have been tempted to hold them up in front of your own face to see how they lined up. Popular music shows us how much we have in common, but so does its packaging.

via Laughing Squid

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Enjoy Dazzling & Dizzying 360° Virtual Tours of Los Angeles Landmarks

Remember when armchair travel meant a book, a magazine, a handful of postcards, or the occasional after-dinner slideshow of the neighbors’ vacation photos?

Those were the days.

The throngs of travel “influencers”—both professional and aspirant—have taken much of the fun out of living through others’ visits to far-flung locales. The focus seems to have shifted from imagining ourselves in their shoes to feeling oppressed by their highly-staged, heavily-filtered Instagram-perfect existence.

Photographer Jim Newberry's dazzling, dizzying 360° photos of Los Angeles, like the views of Echo Park, Chinatown, East L.A., and Downtown, above, offer armchair travelers transportation back to those giddy pre-influencer days.

(Angelinos and other LA-versed visitors will enjoy swooping through City of Angels landmarks as if rotating on the no-parallax point, too.)

The Chicago transplant admits that it took a while for him to find his Los Angeles groove:

After being disabused of my Midwestern, anti-L.A. views, I've found that the city has much more to offer than I had imagined, but the gems of Los Angeles often don't reveal themselves readily; it takes a bit of legwork to seek out the best spots, and well worth it. Mountains, beaches, vibrant urban life, tons of museums, gorgeous nature.

While easy-to-use "one-shot" 360 cameras exist, Newberry prefers the quality afforded by using a high-resolution non-360 camera with a wide angle lens, mounted on a panoramic tripod head that rotates it in such a way as to prevent perspective errors.

With the equipment set up in the center of the room, he shoots four photos, spaced 90° apart. Another shot is aimed directly downward toward the floor.

Panoramic software helps to stitch the images together for a "spherical panorama,” giving viewers an experience that’s the digital equivalent of swiveling their heads in awe.

Newberry’s roving lens turns Lee Lawrie’s Zodiac ChandelierDean Cornwell’s California history murals, and the decorative ceiling stencils of the Central Public Library’s Grand Rotunda into a gorgeous kaleidoscope.

The Taoist Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown is a more recent attraction, founded in the 1980s in a former Christian church. Community members raised funds to build the larger temple, above, dedicating it in 2006 as a shrine to Mazu, the goddess of the sea, protector of fisherman and sailors.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology, a self-described “educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic,” served as Newberry’s point of entry, when management okayed his request to shoot 360° photos there:

It's a very special place—my panoramic photos are no match for an in-person visit. Unlike many other museums these days, the Museum of Jurassic Technology doesn't normally allow photography, and there's not many photos of the place to be found. 

(In return for permission to shoot the museum’s Fauna of Mirrors murals, rooftop courtyard, and Tula Tea Room, Newberry agreed to maintain its mysterious aura by limiting the publication of those photos to his Panoramic Eye site. Feast your eyes here.)

The photographer is looking forward to working with more museums, creating 3-dimensional documentation of exhibits.

His interest in the ephemeral has also spurred him to create virtual tours of local landmarks on the verge of being torn down. Entries in the ongoing Lost Landmarks series include Los Feliz’s Good Luck Bar (RIP), Tom Bergin's Pub (above, spared at the last minute when the Los Angeles Conservancy declared it an Historic-Cultural Monument), and the Alpine Village, currently for sale in neighboring Torrance.

Begin your explorations of Jim Newberry’s Panoramic Eye 360° virtual tours of Los Angeles, including the Griffith Park Observatorythe St. Sophia Cathedral, and the Everything Is Terrible! store here.

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Ayun Halliday is the author of seven books, including No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Lateand the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Scientists Colorize Those Beautiful Space Photos Taken By the Hubble Space Telescope

When you picture the giant formations of gasses and space dust that make up a nebula, maybe you see the deliciously garish CGI of Guardians of the Galaxy. The look of the Marvel universe is, of course, inspired by eye-popping images of nebulae taken by the Hubble telescope, images that have appeared routinely for the past three decades in the pages of National Geographic, Discover, and your favorite screen savers.

Whether you’re into sci-fi superhero flicks or not, you’ve surely stared in awe and disbelief at these photographs: ghostly, glowing, resembling the illustrations of outer space by certain pulp sci-fi illustrators twenty years before the Hubble was launched into orbit in 1990. If these images seem too painterly to be real, it's because they are, as the Vox video above explains, to a great degree, products of photographic art and imagination.

The Hubble telescope only takes images in black and white. The images are then colorized by scientists. Their work is not pure fantasy. A process called “broadband filtering” allows them to reasonably estimate a range of colors in the black and white photo. Some imaginative license must be taken “to show us portions of the image that would never have been visible to our eyes in the first place,” notes PetaPixel. “For example: turning certain gasses into visible color in a photograph.”

In an impressive few minutes, the Vox explainer digs deep into the science of optics to explain how and why we see color as combinations of three wavelengths. The science has been “the guiding principle in coloring black and white images” since the turn of the 20th century. We learn above how broadband filtering—the photographic technique bringing us full-color galactic fever dreams—originated in the earliest experiments in color photography.

In fact, the very first color photograph ever taken, by physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1861, used a very early version of the technique Hubble scientists now use to colorize images of space, combining three black and white photos of the same object, taken through three different-colored filters. Given the advances in imaging technology over the past 100+ years, why doesn’t the powerful space telescope just take color pictures?

It would compromise the Hubble’s primary purpose, to measure the intensity of light reflecting off objects in space, a measurement best taken in black and white. But the scientific instrument can still be used as cosmic paintbrush, creating jaw-dropping images that themselves serve a scientific purpose. If you were disappointed to learn that the photography fueling our our space imagination has been doctored, watch this video and see if a sense of wonder isn't restored.

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

Why a Cat Always Lands on Its Feet: How a French Scientist Used Photography to Solve the Problem in 1894

In the era of the CATS trailer and #catsofinstagram, it’s easy to forget that scientific research is what originally convinced our feline friends to allow their images to be captured and disseminated.

An anonymous white French pussy took one for the team in 1894, when scientist/inventor Étienne-Jules Marey dropped it from an unspecified height in the Bois de Boulogne, filming its descent at 12 frames per second.

Ultimately, this brave and likely unsuspecting specimen furthered the cause of space exploration, though it took over 50 years for NASA-backed researchers T.R. Kane and M.P. Scher to publish their findings in a paper titled "A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon."

As the Vox Darkroom episode above makes clear, Marey’s obsession was loftier than a fondness for Stupid Pet Tricks and the mischievous impulse to drop things off of tall buildings that motivated TV host David Letterman once upon a time.

Marey's preoccupation with the mechanics of organic locomotion extended to horses and humans. It prompted him to invent photographic techniques that prefigured cinematography, and, more darkly, to subject other, less-catlike creatures to deadfalls from similar heights.

(Children and animal rights activists, consider this your trigger warning.)

The white cat survived its ordeal by arching its back mid-air, effectively splitting its body in two to harness the inertia of its body weight, much like a figure skater controlling the velocity of her spin by the position of her arms.

Why waste a single one of your nine lives? Physics is your friend, especially when falling from a great height.

See one of Marey's pioneering falling cat chronophotographs below.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Mont Saint-Michel Beautifully Viewed from a Drone

This short film was an award winner at the 2015 Drone Film festival held in Cabourg, France. Enjoy the ride.

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