A Quick Six Minute Journey Through Modern Art: How You Get from Manet’s 1862 Painting, “The Luncheon on the Grass,” to Jackson Pollock 1950s Drip Paintings

Even those not inti­mate­ly famil­iar with Jack­son Pol­lock­’s work know to file him under a cat­e­go­ry called “abstract expres­sion­ism,” but some­how his mas­sive paint­ings — and the lay­er upon lay­er of drips that con­sti­tute their visu­al and tex­tur­al sur­face — still seem to slip cat­e­go­riza­tion. Some of the painter’s fans would sure­ly claim that, more than six­ty years after his death, he does indeed still stand apart. But how far apart, real­ly? Evan Puschak, bet­ter known as the Nerd­writer, takes on that ques­tion in the video essay above, “How Art Arrived at Jack­son Pol­lock.”

Puschak con­sid­ers a par­tic­u­lar Pol­lock paint­ing from 1950, “the only abstract work of art that has ever floored me in per­son as soon as my eyes caught it,” and asks why appre­ci­a­tion comes so much more eas­i­ly for him with it than with oth­er non-fig­u­ra­tive works of art. “I don’t think the pow­er of this Pol­lock depends on its place in the his­to­ry of art.” he says. “Its style, its use of col­or, its hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty are intrin­sic qual­i­ties, but I do think the his­to­ry of art has a lot to say.” In many ways, “they’re the cul­mi­na­tion of some­thing that has a fog­gy begin­ning about a cen­tu­ry or two before, with the grad­ual end of church and noble patron­age of the arts and the dawn of painters paint­ing what was impor­tant to them.”

This line of think­ing sets Puschak in search of the begin­ning of mod­ern art itself, which some find in the ear­ly 1860s in the high­ly fig­u­ra­tive work of Edouard Manet, with its “flat­tened” imagery and “scan­dalous sub­ject mat­ter.” Mon­et and his col­leagues brought about the move­ment known as Impres­sion­ism, “con­cern­ing them­selves not with the objects they see in the world but how the light plays off them.” From then on the degree of abstrac­tion inten­si­fies with each sub­se­quent move­ment in paint­ing, and by the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry “art has unrav­eled. Its cen­turies-long aim of repro­duc­ing the phys­i­cal world in per­spec­tive, col­or and form is rapid­ly being aban­doned.”

The high­ly com­pressed six-minute jour­ney that Puschak takes through art his­to­ry to get him to Pol­lock­’s “drip paint­ings,” which the artist began cre­at­ing in the 1940s, also includes stops at post impres­sion­ism; the work of Vin­cent Van Gogh (notably his “ugli­est mas­ter­piece” Night Cafe, sub­ject of a pre­vi­ous Nerd­writer analy­sis); Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky and Pablo Picas­so; Dada and the Sur­re­al­ist Man­i­festo, all in the span of less than a hun­dred years. “A fast-chang­ing world con­tributed huge­ly, of course, but beyond that I do believe there’s a dri­ve in us to take things as far as they can go, and the cen­tu­ry of mod­ern art is an exhil­a­rat­ing exam­ple of that” — and the oeu­vre of Pol­lock him­self remains an exam­ple of “how irre­press­ible human cre­ativ­i­ty can be.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Was Jack­son Pol­lock Over­rat­ed? Behind Every Artist There’s an Art Crit­ic, and Behind Pol­lock There Was Clement Green­berg

Jack­son Pol­lock 51: Short Film Cap­tures the Painter Cre­at­ing Abstract Expres­sion­ist Art

Watch Por­trait of an Artist: Jack­son Pol­lock, the 1987 Doc­u­men­tary Nar­rat­ed by Melvyn Bragg

The MoMA Teach­es You How to Paint Like Pol­lock, Rothko, de Koon­ing & Oth­er Abstract Painters

Dripped: An Ani­mat­ed Trib­ute to Jack­son Pollock’s Sig­na­ture Paint­ing Tech­nique

60-Sec­ond Intro­duc­tions to 12 Ground­break­ing Artists: Matisse, Dalí, Duchamp, Hop­per, Pol­lock, Rothko & More

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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

How Cinemas Taught Early Movie-Goers the Rules & Etiquette for Watching Films (1912): No Whistling, Standing or Wearing Big Hats

I admit, I some­times pay a pre­mi­um at a cer­tain din­ner the­ater chain with a lob­by-slash-bar designed to look like clas­sic indie video stores of yore. It’s not only the padded reclin­ers and half-decent grub that keeps me com­ing back. Nope, it’s the rules. Print­ed on the menu are a list of dis­rup­tive behav­iors that will get you uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly tossed out—no refunds and no back­sies.

I’ve nev­er seen it hap­pen. Giv­en what peo­ple put down for tick­ets, din­ner, drinks, and/or a babysit­ter, it’s unlike­ly many risk blow­ing the evening. But know­ing that the the­ater takes silence seri­ous­ly brings seri­ous movie­go­ers peace of mind. What is a movie, after all, with­out the all-impor­tant dia­logue, music, and sound cues?

Well, it’s silent film. And even then, when movies were sound-tracked with live accom­pa­ni­ment and dia­logue appeared on title cards, peo­ple wor­ried very much about dis­trac­tions. It just so hap­pens that talk­ing and tex­ting (obvi­ous­ly) were the least of ear­ly audience’s con­cerns.

For one thing, the cin­e­ma was a place where class­es, races, sex­es, and ages “mixed much more freely than had been Vic­to­ri­an cus­tom,” notes Rebec­ca Onion at Slate. There were the usu­al con­cerns about cor­rup­tion of the “del­i­cate sen­si­bil­i­ties” of ladies.

“But female cin­e­ma-goers were just as like­ly to be seen as a prob­lem,” writes Onion, “giv­en their sup­posed propen­si­ty for wear­ing big hats and chat­ting.” The melt­ing pot demo­graph­ic of the nick­elodeon could be exhil­a­rat­ing, and audi­ence mem­bers found they some­times lost their inhi­bi­tions. “Some­how you enter into the spirt of the thing,” observed author W.W. Win­ters in 1910. “Don’t you slip away from your­self, lose your ret­i­cence, reserve, pride, and a few oth­er things?”

These days we’re accus­tomed to cram­ming in elbow-to-elbow next to any­one and every­one, and we most­ly heed the onscreen cajol­ing to put our phones away and keep qui­et, even when we aren’t quar­an­tined in spe­cial­ty bou­tique chains or local art­house the­aters. Then again, if cer­tain behav­iors weren’t an issue, there wouldn’t be ads pro­hibit­ing them.

Enor­mous hats and applause (and applause with things oth­er than hands) may be relics of cinema’s infan­cy. But swap out those admo­ni­tions for oth­ers of the smart­phone vari­ety and these lantern slides instruct­ing view­ers in 1912 about prop­er movie the­ater eti­quette don’t look so dif­fer­ent from today… sort of.

We might want for inter­mis­sions to return, espe­cial­ly after the two-hour mark, and wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of keep­ing us in our seats for post-cred­it scenes, big block­buster movies just said “Good Night”? See more of these delight­ful pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments from 1912 nick­elodeons at Back Sto­ry Radio.

via Slate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Cre­at­ing Spe­cial Effects in Silent Movies: Inge­nu­ity Before the Age of CGI

Enjoy the Great­est Silent Films Ever Made in Our Col­lec­tion of 101 Free Silent Films Online

The Char­lie Chap­lin Archive Opens, Putting Online 30,000 Pho­tos & Doc­u­ments from the Life of the Icon­ic Film Star

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

3 Iconic Paintings by Frida Kahlo Get Reborn as Vans Skate Shoes

Atten­tion Fri­da Kahlo tchotchke hounds.

You can scratch that itch, even if your sum­mer itin­er­ary doesn’t include Mex­i­co City (or Nashville, Ten­nessee, where the Frist Muse­um is host­ing Fri­da Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mex­i­can Mod­ernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gel­man Col­lec­tion through Sep­tem­ber 2).

Tak­ing its cue from Doc Marten’s Muse­um Col­lec­tion, Vans is releas­ing three shoes inspired by some of the painter’s most icon­ic works, 1939’s The Two Fridas, 1940’s Self-Por­trait with Thorn Neck­lace and Hum­ming­bird, and—for those who pre­fer a more sub­tly Fri­da-inspired shoe, 1954’s refresh­ing­ly fruity Viva la Vida.

Vans’ lim­it­ed edi­tion Fri­da Kahlo col­lec­tion hits the shelves June 29. Expect it to be snapped up quick­ly by the Waf­fle­heads, Vans’ ded­i­cat­ed group of col­lec­tors and cus­tomiz­ers, so don’t delay.

If this line doesn’t tick­le your fan­cy, there is of course an abun­dance of Fri­da Kahlo trib­ute footwear on Etsy, every­thing from huaraches and Con­verse All-Stars to socks and baby booties.

via Juxtapoz/MyMod­ern­Met

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Brief Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Life and Work of Fri­da Kahlo

Dis­cov­er Fri­da Kahlo’s Wild­ly-Illus­trat­ed Diary: It Chron­i­cled the Last 10 Years of Her Life, and Then Got Locked Away for Decades

Vis­it the Largest Col­lec­tion of Fri­da Kahlo’s Work Ever Assem­bled: 800 Arti­facts from 33 Muse­ums, All Free Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Meet Emma Willard, the First Female Map Maker in the U.S., and Her Brilliantly Inventive Maps (Circa 1826)

Amer­i­cans have nev­er like the word “empire,” hav­ing seced­ed from the British Empire to osten­si­bly found a free nation. The founders blamed slav­ery on the British, nam­ing the king as the respon­si­ble par­ty. Three of the most dis­tin­guished Vir­ginia slave­hold­ers denounced the prac­tice as a “hideous blot,” “repug­nant,” and “evil.” But they made no effort to end it. Like­wise, accord­ing to the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, the British were respon­si­ble for excit­ing “domes­tic insur­rec­tions among us,” and endeav­our­ing “to  bring on the inhab­i­tants of our fron­tiers, the mer­ci­less Indi­an Sav­ages.”

These denun­ci­a­tions aside, the new coun­try nonethe­less began a course iden­ti­cal to every oth­er Euro­pean world pow­er, wag­ing per­pet­u­al war­fare, seiz­ing ter­ri­to­ry and vast­ly expand­ing its con­trol over more and more land and resources in the decades after Inde­pen­dence.

U.S. impe­r­i­al pow­er was assert­ed not only by force of arms and coin but also through an ide­o­log­i­cal view that made its appear­ance and growth an act of both divine and sec­u­lar prov­i­dence. We see this view reflect­ed espe­cial­ly in the mak­ing of maps and ear­ly his­tor­i­cal info­graph­ics.

In 1851, three years after war with Mex­i­co had halved that coun­try and expand­ed U.S. ter­ri­to­ry into what would become sev­er­al new states, Emma Willard, the nation’s first female map­mak­er, cre­at­ed the “Chrono­g­ra­ph­er of Ancient His­to­ry” above, a visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion to “teach stu­dents about the shape of his­tor­i­cal time,” writes Rebec­ca Onion at Slate. The Chrono­g­ra­ph­er is a “more spe­cial­ized off­shoot of Willard’s mas­ter Tem­ple of Time, which tack­led all of history”—or all six thou­sand years of it, any­way, since “Cre­ation BC 4004.”

Willard made sev­er­al such maps, illus­trat­ing an idea pop­u­lar among 18th and 19th cen­tu­ry his­to­ri­ans, and illus­trat­ed in many sim­i­lar ways by oth­er artists: cast­ing his­to­ry as a suc­ces­sion of great empires, one tak­ing over for anoth­er. View­ers of the map stand out­side the temple’s sta­ble fram­ing, assured they are the inher­i­tors of its his­tor­i­cal largesse. Oth­er visu­al metaphors told this sto­ry, too. Willard, as Ted Wid­mer points out at The Paris ReviewWillard was an “inven­tive visu­al thinker,” if also a very con­ven­tion­al his­tor­i­cal one.

In an ear­li­er map, from 1836, Willard visu­al­ized time as a series of branch­ing impe­r­i­al streams, flow­ing down­ward from “Cre­ation.” Curi­ous­ly, she sit­u­ates Amer­i­can Inde­pen­dence on the periph­ery, end­ing with the “Empire of Napoleon” at the cen­ter. The U.S. was both some­thing new in the world and, in oth­er maps of hers, the fruition of a seed plant­ed cen­turies ear­li­er. Willard’s map­mak­ing began as an effort to sup­ple­ment her mate­ri­als as “a pio­neer­ing edu­ca­tor,” founder of the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, and a “ver­sa­tile writer, pub­lish­er and yes, map­mak­er,” who “used every tool avail­able to teach young read­ers (and espe­cial­ly young women) how to see his­to­ry in cre­ative new ways.”

In anoth­er “chrono­g­ra­ph­er” text­book illus­tra­tion, she shows the “His­to­ry of the U. States or Repub­lic of Amer­i­ca” as a tree which had been grow­ing since 1492, though no such place as the Unit­ed States exist­ed for most of this his­to­ry. Maps, writes Sarah Laskow at Atlas Obscu­ra, “have the pow­er to shape his­to­ry” as well as to record it. Willard’s maps told grand, uni­ver­sal stories—imperial stories—about how the U.S. came to be. In 1828, when she was 41, “only slight­ly old­er than the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca itself,” Willard pub­lished a series of maps in her His­to­ry of the Unit­ed States, or Repub­lic of Amer­i­ca.

This was “the first book of its kind—the first atlas to present the evo­lu­tion of Amer­i­ca.” Willard’s maps show the move­ment of Indige­nous nations in plates like “Loca­tions and Wan­der­ings of The Abo­rig­i­nal Tribes… The Direc­tion of their Wan­der­ings,” below—these were part of “a sto­ry about the tri­umph of Anglo set­tlers in this part of the world. She helped solid­i­fy, for both her peers and her stu­dents, a nar­ra­tive of Amer­i­can des­tiny and inevitabil­i­ty, writes Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver his­to­ri­an Susan Schul­ten. Willard was “an exu­ber­ant nation­al­ist,” who gen­er­al­ly “accept­ed the removal of these tribes to the west as inevitable.”

Willard was a pio­neer in many respects, includ­ing, per­haps, in her adop­ta­tion of Euro­pean neo­clas­si­cal ideas about his­to­ry and time in the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of a new Amer­i­can empire. Her snap­shots of time col­lapse “cen­turies into a sin­gle image,” Schul­ten explains, as a way of map­ping time “in a dif­fer­ent way as a pre­lude to what comes to next.” See many more of Willard’s maps from The His­to­ry of the Unit­ed States, or Repub­lic of Amer­i­ca, the first his­tor­i­cal atlas of the Unit­ed States, at Boston Rare Maps.

via The Paris Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Two Ani­mat­ed Maps Show the Expan­sion of the U.S. from the Dif­fer­ent Per­spec­tives of Set­tlers & Native Peo­ples

Inter­ac­tive Map Shows the Seizure of Over 1.5 Bil­lion Acres of Native Amer­i­can Land Between 1776 and 1887

The Atlantic Slave Trade Visu­al­ized in Two Min­utes: 10 Mil­lion Lives, 20,000 Voy­ages, Over 315 Years

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

19th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints Creatively Illustrate the Inner Workings of the Human Body

Folks with a pass­ing knowl­edge of ukiyo‑e, the Japan­ese wood­block print art form pop­u­lar in the 17th through 19th cen­turies, will be famil­iar with its land­scapes, as well as its por­traits of cour­te­sans and kabu­ki actors. But often these prints were edu­ca­tion­al, demon­strat­ed by these very odd anatom­i­cal prints that pro­mote good health as it relates to our inter­nal work­ings.

Long before ani­mat­ed mon­sters warned us about our mucus-filled chests, Japan­ese artists like Uta­gawa Kunisa­da (1786–1865) filled the guts of these men and women with lit­tle work­ers, mak­ing sure the human body worked like a func­tion­ing vil­lage or town.

In the first print, Inshoku Yojo Kaga­mi (“Mir­ror of the Phys­i­ol­o­gy of Drink­ing and Eat­ing”), a man dines on fish and drinks sake. Inside, lit­tle men scur­ry about a pool wrapped in intestines, stoke a fire under the heart, all the while a schol­ar keeps ref­er­ence mate­ri­als near­by. Down below lone­ly fig­ures guard the “urine gate” and the “feces gate,” sure­ly one of the worst jobs in all the body econ­o­my.

One of Kunisada’s stu­dents cre­at­ed a print for the women, focus­ing on the repro­duc­tive organs, called Boji Yojo Kaga­mi (“Rules of Sex­u­al Life”). Keen eyed view­ers will note that the minia­ture work­ers here are all women, so at least there’s some equal­i­ty at play.

The two prints were meant as instruc­tion­al, point­ing out best health prac­tices, and warn­ing against overindul­gence and excess.

Oth­er prints are just as inven­tive: a back and abdomen cov­ered in chil­dren play­ing famil­iar games; anoth­er fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar kabu­ki actors stand­ing in for var­i­ous organs. (Now, that is just cry­ing out for a mod­ern remake). The last print shows a preg­nant woman whose bel­ly con­tains Tainai jukkai no zu (Ten realms with­in the body), a Bud­dhist idea that you can read more about here. As for their func­tion inside the womb, that is for oth­ers of a high­er con­scious­ness to dis­cern.

via Spoon & Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Map­ping Emo­tions in the Body: A Finnish Neu­ro­science Study Reveals Where We Feel Emo­tions in Our Bod­ies

A Sub­way Map of Human Anato­my: All the Sys­tems of Our Body Visu­al­ized in the Style of the Lon­don Under­ground

“Man as Indus­tri­al Palace,” the 1926 Lith­o­graph Depict­ing the Human Body as a Mod­ern Fac­to­ry, Comes to Life in a New Ani­ma­tion

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

How to Rescue a Wet, Damaged Book: A Handy Visual Primer

How to save those wet, dam­aged books? The ques­tion has to be asked. Above, you can watch a visu­al primer from the Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Libraries–peo­ple who know some­thing about tak­ing care of books. It con­tains a series of tips–some intu­itive, some less so–that will give you a clear action plan the next time water and paper meet.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Mak­ing Old-Fash­ioned, Hand-Print­ed Books

How to Clean Your Vinyl Records with Wood Glue

How to Open a Wine Bot­tle with Your Shoe

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 4 ) |

Deliberate Practice: A Mindful & Methodical Way to Master Any Skill

Each and every day we eat, we sleep, we read, we brush our teeth. So why haven’t we all become world-class mas­ters of eat­ing, sleep­ing, read­ing, and teeth-brush­ing? Most of us, if we’re hon­est with our­selves, plateaued on those par­tic­u­lar skills decades ago, despite nev­er hav­ing missed our dai­ly prac­tice ses­sions. This should tell us some­thing impor­tant about the dif­fer­ence between prac­tic­ing an action and sim­ply doing it a lot, a dis­tinc­tion at the heart of the con­cept of “delib­er­ate prac­tice.” As the Sprouts video above explains it, delib­er­ate prac­tice “is a mind­ful and high­ly struc­tured form of learn­ing by doing,” a “process of con­tin­ued exper­i­men­ta­tion to first achieve mas­tery and even­tu­al­ly full auto­matic­i­ty of a spe­cif­ic skill.”

Psy­chol­o­gist Anders Eric­s­son, the sin­gle fig­ure most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with delib­er­ate prac­tice, draws a dis­tinc­tion with what he calls naive prac­tice: “Naive prac­tice is peo­ple who just play games,” and in so doing “just accu­mu­late more expe­ri­ence.” But in delib­er­ate prac­tice, “you actu­al­ly pin­point some­thing you want to change. And once you have that spe­cif­ic goal of chang­ing it, you will now engage in a prac­tice activ­i­ty that has a pur­pose of chang­ing that.”

As a post on delib­er­ate prac­tice at Far­nam Street puts it, “great per­form­ers decon­struct ele­ments of what they do into chunks they can prac­tice. They get bet­ter at that aspect and move on to the next,” often under the guid­ance of a teacher who can more clear­ly see their strengths and weak­ness­es in action.

“Most of the time we’re prac­tic­ing we’re real­ly doing activ­i­ties in our com­fort zone,” says the Far­nam Street post. “This doesn’t help us improve because we can already do these activ­i­ties eas­i­ly” — just as eas­i­ly, per­haps, as we eat, sleep, read, and brush our teeth. But we also fail to improve when we oper­ate at the oth­er end of the spec­trum, in the “pan­ic zone” that “leaves us par­a­lyzed as the activ­i­ties are too dif­fi­cult and we don’t know where to start. The only way to make progress is to oper­ate in the learn­ing zone, which are those activ­i­ties that are just out of reach.” As in every oth­er area of life, what chal­lenges us too much frus­trates us and what chal­lenges us too lit­tle bores us; only at just the right bal­ance do we ben­e­fit.

But strik­ing that bal­ance presents chal­lenges of its own, chal­lenges that have ensured a read­er­ship for writ­ings on the sub­ject of how best to engage in delib­er­ate prac­tice by Eric­s­son as well as many oth­ers (such as writer-entre­pre­neur James Clear, whose begin­ner’s guide to delib­er­ate prac­tice you can read online here). The video above on Eric­sson’s book Peak: How to Mas­ter Almost Any­thing explains his view of the goal of delib­er­ate prac­tice as to devel­op the kind of library of “men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions” that mas­ters of every dis­ci­pline — golfers, doc­tors, gui­tarists, come­di­ans, nov­el­ists — use to approach every sit­u­a­tion that might arise. Devel­op­ing those men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions requires spe­cif­ic goals, intense peri­ods of prac­tice, imme­di­ate feed­back dur­ing that prac­tice, and above all, fre­quent dis­com­fort. Every­one enjoys mas­tery once they attain it, but if you find your­self hav­ing too much fun on the way, con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty that you’re not prac­tic­ing delib­er­ate­ly enough.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Richard Feynman’s “Note­book Tech­nique” Will Help You Learn Any Subject–at School, at Work, or in Life

The Cor­nell Note-Tak­ing Sys­tem: Learn the Method Stu­dents Have Used to Enhance Their Learn­ing Since the 1940s

Wyn­ton Marsalis Gives 12 Tips on How to Prac­tice: For Musi­cians, Ath­letes, or Any­one Who Wants to Learn Some­thing New

How to Prac­tice Effec­tive­ly: Lessons from Neu­ro­science Can Help Us Mas­ter Skills in Music, Sports & Beyond

What’s a Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-Proven Way to Improve Your Abil­i­ty to Learn? Get Out and Exer­cise

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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Arab Photography Archive Puts 22,000 Historic Images Online: Get a Rare Glimpse into Life and Art in the Arab World

The his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy, as most of us know it, has expand­ed by sev­er­al thou­sand images and sev­er­al more coun­tries, thanks to the launch last month of the Arab Image Foundation’s online archive of pho­tog­ra­phy “from the Mid­dle East, North Africa, and the Arab dias­po­ra dat­ing from the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry,” as the Get­ty’s pho­tog­ra­phy blog The Iris reports.

The Beirut-based non-prof­it AIF has since dig­i­tized 22,000 images from its phys­i­cal col­lec­tion of 500,000+ pho­tographs, col­lect­ed since 1997, notes the Foun­da­tion, in “research mis­sions and projects in Lebanon, Syr­ia, Pales­tine, Jor­dan, Egypt, Moroc­co, Iraq, Iran, Mex­i­co, Argenti­na and Sene­gal.” AIF hopes to even­tu­al­ly upload 55,000 scanned images, but fund­ing issues have made the project a chal­lenge.

Nonethe­less, the trove of pho­tos and neg­a­tives already made avail­able not only sig­nif­i­cant­ly expands our view of photography’s reach and scope, but also our view of the Arab world—recording lost tra­di­tions, mod­ernisms, and an array of cul­tur­al prac­tices and atti­tudes that may sur­prise us, and that have since been sup­pressed in many of these same soci­eties.

“From same-sex kiss­es and men in drag,” writes India Stoughton for the BBC, “to nude por­traits and chil­dren pos­ing with assault rifles, the Arab Image Foun­da­tion is replete with star­tling and sen­sa­tion­al­ist pho­tographs.”  There are many pho­tographs of flam­boy­ant stage per­form­ers and celebri­ties. And there are many more con­ven­tion­al col­lec­tions, such as the fam­i­ly por­traits of Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramal­lah, and Jaf­fa before 1948.

Amidst the hun­dreds of stiff por­traits and awk­ward fam­i­ly pho­tos, the archive fea­tures can­did street shots and “many images of his­toric events and fig­ures.” It also doc­u­ments “water­shed moments that have been over­looked by his­to­ry.” Pin-up pho­tog­ra­phy and pic­tures of male body­builders in Egypt; sur­re­al­ist exper­i­ments with dou­ble expo­sures in 1924 by Lebanese pho­tog­ra­ph­er Marie al-Khazen, “one of the first female pho­tog­ra­phers in the Mid­dle East,” writes Stoughton.

Al-Khazen’s “avant-garde com­po­si­tions and habit of pho­tograph­ing her­self and oth­er women enjoy­ing tra­di­tion­al­ly male pas­times, such as smok­ing, dri­ving and hunt­ing, made her a fas­ci­nat­ing and uncon­ven­tion­al fig­ure.” The same adjec­tives apply to many of the pho­tog­ra­phers in this archive, whose work often shocks and sur­pris­es, but just as often com­mu­ni­cates in more sub­tle ways the tex­ture of every­day life for peo­ple in the Mid­dle East and North Africa over the course of the late-19th to mid-20th cen­turies.

These images cap­ture the dai­ly lives of over­looked peo­ple groups, like the Bedouin hunters of Syr­ia, as well as the lives of reg­u­lar peo­ple before con­ser­v­a­tive regimes swept into pow­er around the region and wiped away traces of mod­ern­iza­tion and the per­son­al, reli­gious, cre­ative, and sex­u­al free­doms we see rep­re­sent­ed. Now this pho­to­graph­ic his­to­ry joins sev­er­al oth­er com­pre­hen­sive online libraries of his­toric pho­tog­ra­phy, such as Euro­peana Pho­tog­ra­phy, the George East­man Muse­um, the Sovi­et Union’s pre­mier pho­to mag­a­zine, and many more.

While not as exten­sive as some of these oth­er col­lec­tions, the AIF’s dig­i­tal project is no less essen­tial for the light it sheds on a past, and a medi­um, that con­tin­ues to prove itself resis­tant to stereo­types. Enter the Arab Image Foun­da­tion’s dig­i­tal archive here, and learn more about how these pho­tographs have been dig­i­tal­ly pre­served at The Iris.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vis­it a New Dig­i­tal Archive of 2.2 Mil­lion Images from the First Hun­dred Years of Pho­tog­ra­phy

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

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

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

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.