Is the Famous Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald Posing with the Gun Used to Kill JFK a Fake?: 3D Forensic Analysis Reveals the Answer

As long as the 20th century remains in living memory, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will continue to draw public interest. A great many Americans feel they still haven’t heard the “whole story” behind what happened on November 22, 1963; a few have dedicated their lives to finding out, growing less inclined to accept the possibility of a lone gunman the deeper they get into the documents. But that gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, does figure directly into some of the material held up as evidence of a conspiracy. Take the “backyard photos” that depict him posing with what was ultimately found to be the very gun used to kill JFK.

Such images would seem strongly to implicate Oswald in the assassination, and the Warren Commission seems to have regarded them in just that way. But for nearly six decades now, some theorists have argued that the backyard photos are fake — an idea that began with Oswald himself, who before his own assassination insisted that he’d never seen them in his life, and that someone had “superimposed” his face onto another body.

The Vox video above lays out the main elements of one particular picture that have been called repeatedly into question: the angles of the shadows, the shape of Oswald’s chin, the length of the gun, and Oswald’s unusual posture.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, forensic experts tried just about everything to test the authenticity of this photo,” says the video’s narrator. They couldn’t find any evidence of fakery, but they didn’t have the 21st-century technology at the command of the UC Berkeley School of Information’s Hany Farid, a well-known specialist in the analysis of digital images. Farid and a team of researchers reconstructed Oswald’s body and weaponry (though not the copies of The Militant and The Worker, two ideologically opposed newspapers, he brandished in his other hand) and found that everything added up, from the seemingly misaligned shadows cast by the sun to the stability of his odd stance. If there was indeed a conspiracy to kill JFK, then, it wasn’t a conspiracy of proto-Photoshoppers.

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Noam Chomsky on Commemorating the JFK Assassination: It “Would Impress Kim Il-Sung”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

How Mushroom Time-Lapses Are Filmed: A Glimpse Into the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind the Netflix Documentary Fantastic Fungi

Mushrooms are having a moment, thanks in part to pioneering time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film has given rise to a bumper crop of funghi fantatics, who sprang up like, well, mushrooms, to join the existing ranks of citizen scientistsculinary fansweekend foragersamateur growers, and spiritual seekers.

Schwartzberg, who earlier visualized pollination from the flower’s point of view in the Meryl Streep-narrated Wings of Life, is a true believer in the power of mushrooms, citing funghi’s role in soil creation and health, and their potential for remedying a number of pressing global problems, as well as a host of human ailments.

Fantastic Funghi focuses on seven pillars of benefits brought to the table by the fungal kingdom and its Internet-like underground network of mycelium:

  1. Biodiversity

A number of projects are exploring the ways in which the mycelium world can pull us back from the bring of  desertization, water shortage, food shortage, bee colony collapsetoxic contaminants, nuclear disasters, oil spills, plastic pollution, and global warming.

  1. Innovation

Mushroom-related industries are eager to press funghi into service as environmentally sustainable faux leatherbuilding materials, packaging, and meat alternatives.

  1. Food

From fine dining to foraging off-the-grid, mushrooms are prized for their culinary and nutritional benefits.

  1. Physical Health and Wellness

Will the humble mushroom prove mighty enough to do an end run around powerful drug companies as a source of integrative medicine to help combat diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, insomnia and cognitive decline?

  1. Mental Health

Researchers at Johns HopkinsUCLA, and NYU are running clinical trials on the benefits of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as a tool for treating addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

  1. Spirituality

Of course, there’s also a rich tradition of religions and individual seekers deploying mind altering psychoactive mushrooms as a form of sacrament or a tool for plumbing the mysteries of life.

  1. The Arts

Director Schwartzberg understandably views mushrooms as muse, a fitting subject for photography, music, film, poetry, art and other creative endeavors.


With regard to this final pillar, many viewers may be surprised to learn how much of the 15 years Schwartzberg dedicated to capturing the exquisite cycle of fungal regeneration and decomposition took place indoors.

As he explains in the Wired video above, his precision equipment excels at capturing development that’s invisible to the human eye, but is no match for such natural world disruptions as insects and wind.

Instead, he and his team built controlled growing environments, where highly sensitive time lapse cameras, dollies, timed grow lights, and more cinematic lighting instruments could be left in place.

Set dressings of moss and logs, coupled with a very short depth of field helped to bring the Great Outdoors onscreen, with occasional chromakeyed panoramas of the natural world filling in the gaps.

Even in such lab-like conditions, certain elements were necessarily left to chance. Mushrooms grow notoriously quickly, and even with constant monitoring and calculations, there was plenty of potential for one of his stars to miss their mark, shooting out of frame.

Just one of the ways that mushrooms and humans operate on radically different timelines. The director bowed to the shrooms, returning to square one on the frequent occasions when a sequence got away from him.

Providing viewers an immersive experience of the underground mycelium network required high powered microscopes, a solid cement floor, and a bit of movie magic to finesse. What you see in the final cut is the work of CGI animators, who used Schwartzberg’s footage as their blueprint.

Netflix subscribers can stream Fantastic Fungi for free.

From October 15 – 17, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg is hosting a free, virtual Fantastic Fungi Global Summit. Register here.

You can also browse his collection of community mushroom recipes and submit your own, download Fantastic Fungi’s Stoned Ape poster, or have a ramble through a trove of related videos and articles in the Mush Room.

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

An Illustrated History of Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Last year, photographer Anton Corbijn released a new book, MOOD/MODE, showcasing work outside the boundaries of the rock photography world in which he’d made his name. But no matter whom he’s photographing, Corbijn brings a high seriousness to the endeavor that he explains as part of his religious upbringing in the book’s introduction. “My Protestant background always marked & influenced my portrait photography. Mankind. Humanity. Empathy,” he writes, were the ideals he absorbed as a child. Such beliefs “kept me from doing work that lacked a deeper purpose.”

Corbijn grew up in a small village outside Rotterdam, Jean-Jacques Naudet writes. “His father and many other male members of his family were pastors. Life was strict and simple, on Sunday everybody dressed in black. Religion was omnipresent.”

He moved away to the city and began taking photos of the music scene at 17. But the look and feel of his early life never left him. It was this aesthetic that attracted Depeche Mode, one of Corbijn’s longest-running musical collaborators and a band who were no strangers to brooding in black and making religious references and appeals to humanity.

“We were seen as just a pop band,” says Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore. “We thought that Anton had a certain seriousness, a certain gravity to his work, that would help us get away from that.” Corbijn first helped them refine their look in mid-80s and “was able to give the Depeche Mode sound, that we were beginning to create, a visual identity,” says singer Dave Gahan. That identity is now the subject of a new book from Taschen that collects “over 500 photographs from Anton Corbijn’s personal archives,” notes the arts publisher, “some never seen before, as well as stage set designs, sketches, album covers, and personal observations” about the “world’s biggest cult band.”

Corbijn became such an integral part of Depeche Mode’s success, the band considered him “a veritable unseen member of the group,” writes, mediating their image not only through photography but also live projections and, of course, music videos. They were able to achieve “a kind of cult status,” says Gore in the mini-documentary above, which also has an interview with Corbijn. The photographer walks us through his history with the legendary synth pioneers (whom he did not like at first), beginning with the first image he shot of them in 1981, when founder Vince Clarke was still in the band.

Clarke leans behind Gahan’s left shoulder, the full band framed by a stone arch. To Gahan’s right is an enormous crucifix. It set a tone for the working relationship to come. “There has to be an element of the person in the photograph,” says Corbijn of his portraiture, “but there also has to be an element of the photographer.” It took another few years after that first shoot, he tells The Guardian, but he realized “how good their music and my visuals actually went together…. They had soul.” You can order a copy of the new book, Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn from Taschen here.

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Depeche Mode Before They Were Actually Depeche Mode: Stream Their Early Demo Recordings from 1980

Lost Depeche Mode Documentary Is Now Online: Watch Our Hobby is Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode Releases a Goosebump-Inducing Cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”


Watch 400+ Documentaries from German Broadcaster Deutsche Welle: Art Forgery, Fashion Photography, the Mona Lisa, and More

You’re certainly familiar with Nouvelle Vague, the “French new wave” that shook up world cinema in the mid-2oth century. You’ve probably also heard of Hallyu, the “Korean wave” of pop music and television dramas (and, increasingly, films) now crashing across not just Asia but the West. As for Deutsche Welle, literally the “German wave,” you may know the term better in its abbreviated form: DW, the brand of Germany’s public international broadcaster. Here on Open Culture we’ve previously featured DW’s series Bauhaus World, a celebration of that influential German school of art, architecture, and design, but it’s just one of 415 documentaries free to watch on the DW Documentary Youtube channel.

DW’s documentarians have a thoroughly international mandate, as evidenced by their popular examinations of the dictatorial regime of North Korea, Bulgaria’s Roma marriage market, extravagant wealth in central Africa, and dire poverty in the United States. You can also browse the archive through themed playlists ranging from politics and economics to human nature and society to culture and arts.

That last section, no doubt of particular interest to Open Culture readers, demonstrates DW’s advantage as a long-standing broadcaster situated in the heart of Europe. Where better to start learning about Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals, top electronic dance music DJs, Martin Luther and the Reformation, or the truth behind the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa?

Even more interest lies in DW’s explorations of lesser-known topics like the treasures of Turkmenistan, fakery in the art world, and Berlin’s Little Hanoi. There are also profiles of such German figures as Peter Lindbergh, the late fashion and advertising photographer counted as an inspiration by the likes of Wim Wenders, and Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, outgoing president of the Goethe-Institut, a natural subject for DW to cover. Founded within a couple of years of one another, both DW and the Goethe-Institut take the promotion of German culture abroad as a large part of their mission — and both do so in the knowledge that, to get other societies interested in your culture, you’ve got to show genuine interest in all of theirs as well. Explore the complete list of DW documentaries here. And find more documentaries online in our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

3D Print 18,000 Famous Sculptures, Statues & Artworks: Rodin’s Thinker, Michelangelo’s David & More

To recent news stories about 3D printed gunsprosthetics, and homes, you can add Scan the World’s push to create “an ecosystem of 3D printable objects of cultural significance.”

Items that took the ancients untold hours to sculpt from marble and stone can be reproduced in considerably less time, provided you’ve got the technology and the know-how to use it.

Since we last wrote about this free, open source initiative in 2017, Scan the World has added Google Arts and Culture to the many cultural institutions with whom it partners, expanding both its audience and the audience of the museums who allow items in their collections to be scanned prior to 3D printing.

Community contributors have uploaded scan data for over 18,000 sculptures and artifacts onto the platform.

China and India are actively courting participants to make some of their treasures available.

Although Scan the World is searchable by collection, artist, and location, with so many options, the community blog is a great place to start.

Here you will find helpful tips for beginners hoping to produce realistic looking skulls and sculptures — control your temperature, shake your resin, and learn from your mistakes.

Got an unreachable object you’re itching to print? Take a look at the drone photogrammetry tutorial to prep yourself for taking a good scan — rotate slowly, remember the importance of light, and get up to speed on your drone by test-driving it in an open location.

Keep an eye peeled for competitions, like this one, which was won by a photo editor and retoucher with no formal 3-D training.

Art lovers with little inclination to crack out the 3D printer will find interesting essays on such topics as the Gates of Hellscanning in the pandemic, and the history of hairstyles in sculpture

You can also embark on a virtual tour of some of the global locations whose splendors are being scanned, programmed, and rendered in resin.

virtual trip to Paris takes in some of the Louvre’s greatest 3-dimensional hits: the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.

(Any one of those oughta class up the ol’ bedsit…)

The virtual trip to Austria includes Kierling’s monument to Franz Kafka, the Beethoven memorial in Vienna’s Heiligenstädter Park, and Klaus Weber’s tribute to Hugo Rheinhold’s Darwinian sculpture, Monkey with Skull. (1,868 downloads and counting!)

Google map awaits those who would tour the original flavor inspirations in person.

Begin your explorations of Scan the World here, and do let us know in the comments if you have plans for printing.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker, Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, and sometimes, a French Canadian bear known as L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Women Street Photographers: The Web Site, Instragram Account & Book That Amplify the Work of Women Artists Worldwide

It’s almost impossible not to wonder how reclusive artists of the past — like anonymous street photographer and Chicago nanny Vivian Maier — would fare in the age of Tumblr and Instagram. Would Maier have become internet famous? Would she have posted any of her photographs? The little we know about her makes it hard to answer the question. Maier lived a life of abstemious self-negation. “She never exhibited her work,” Alex Kotlowitz writes at Mother Jones, “she didn’t share her photos with anyone, except some of the children in her care.”

And yet, Maier was known to enjoy conversations about film and theater with knowledgeable people. One suspects that if she had been able to stay in touch with like minds, she might have been encouraged by a supportive community she couldn’t find anywhere else. We might imagine her, for example, submitting a select few photographs to Women Street Photographers, a project that began in 2017 as an Instagram account and has since “burgeoned into a website, artist residency, series of exhibitions, film series, and now a book published this month by Prestel,” Grace Ebert writes at Colossal.

For women street photographers living and working today, the project offers what founder Gulnara Samoilova says she needed and couldn’t find: “I soon began to realize that with this platform, I could create everything I had always wanted to receive as a photographer: the kinds of support and opportunities that would have helped me grow during those formative and pivotal points on my journey.” The project is international in scope, bringing together the work of 100 women from 31 countries, “a tiny sampling of what’s out there.”

In her introduction to the 224-page book, Samoilova describes the importance of such a collection:

Street photography is both a record of the world and a statement of the artist themselves: it is how they see the world, who they are, what captures their attention, and fascinates them. There’s a wonderful mixture of art and artifact, poetry and testimony that makes street photography so appealing. It’s both documentary and fine art at the same time, yet highly accessible to people outside the photography world.

There are Vivian Maiers around the world driven to document their surroundings, whether anyone ever sees their work or not. Maier made her photographs “for all the right reasons,” says Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick. “She made them because to not make them was impossible. She had no choice.” But perhaps she might have chosen to show her work if she had access to platforms like Women Street Photographers. We can be grateful for such outlets now: they offer perspectives that we can find nowhere else. Women Street Photographers will announce the winners of its inaugural virtual exhibition “on or around April 1.”

via Colossal

Related Content: 

Meet Gerda Taro, the First Female Photojournalist to Die on the Front Lines

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Vivian Maier, Street Photographer, Discovered

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

A Finnish Astrophotographer Spent 12 Years Creating a 1.7 Gigapixel Panoramic Photo of the Entire Milky Way

In the final, climactic scene of Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, the Milky Way engulfs the protagonist — an aesthete who keeps himself detached from the world, a universal perspective overtaking an insignificant individual.

We now know the Milky Way itself to be a minuscule part of the whole, just one of 100 to 200 billion galaxies. But until Edwin Hubble’s observations in 1924, it was thought to contain all the stars in existence.

The Milky Way-as-universe is a powerful image, and certainly more comprehensible than the universe as astronomers currently understand it. Its vastness can’t be compressed into a symbolic form like the via lactea, “Milky Way,” or as the Greeks called it, galaktikos kýklos, “milky circle.” Andy Briggs summarizes just a few of the ancient myths and legends:

To the ancient Armenians, it was straw strewn across the sky by the god Vahagn. In eastern Asia, it was the Silvery River of Heaven. The Finns and Estonians saw it as the Pathway of the Birds…. Both the Greeks and the Romans saw the starry band as a river of milk. The Greek myth said it was milk from the breast of the goddess Hera, divine wife of Zeus. The Romans saw the river of light as milk from their goddess Ops.

A barred spiral galaxy spinning around a “galactic bulge” with an empty center, a “monstrous black hole,” notes, “billions of times as massive as the sun”… the Milky Way remains an awesome symbol for a universe too vast for us to hold in our minds.

Witness, for example, the just-released image further up, a 1.7 gigapixel panoramic photo of the Milky Way, from Taurus to Cygnus, 100,000 pixels wide, pieced together from 234 panels by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio, who began the project all the way back in 2009. “I can hear music in this composition,” he writes at his site, “from high sparks and bubbles at left to deep and massive sounds at right.”

Over 12 years, and around 1250 hours of exposure, Michael Zhang writes at Petapixel, Metsavainio “focused on different areas and objects in the Milky Way, shooting stitched mosaics of them as individual artworks.” As he began to knit the galactic clouds of stars and gasses together into a Photoshop panorama, he discovered a “complex image set which is partly overlapping with lots of unimaged areas between and around frames.” Over the years, he filled in the gaps, shooting the “missing data.” He describes his equipment and process in detail, for those fluent in the technical jargon. The rest of us can stare in silent wonder at more of Metsavainio’s work on his website (where you can also purchase prints) and Facebook, and let ourselves be overtaken by awe.

via Petapixel and Kottke

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

Alan Watts Reads “One of the Greatest Things Carl Jung Ever Wrote”

Carl Jung founded the field of analytical psychology more than a century ago, and many reference his insights into the human mind and condition still today. Alan Watts certainly did his bit to keep the Jungian flame alive, whatever the outward differences between a Swiss psychiatrist and an English interpreter of Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, especially of the Zen variety. Both men believed in casting a wide spiritual net, all the better to expose the common core elements of seemingly disparate ancient traditions. And in so doing they could hardly afford to ignore the religious underpinnings of the European civilization, broadly speaking, from which they emerged. In fact, Watts became an ordained Episcopal priest at the age of 30 — though, owing to the complexities of his beliefs as well as his personal life, he resigned the ministry by age 35.

But Watts’ investment in certain tenets of Christianity endured, and he named as one of Jung’s greatest writings a lecture delivered to a Swiss clergy group. “People forget that even doctors have moral scruples and that certain patient’s confessions are hard even for a doctor to swallow,” begins the speech as Watts reads it aloud in the video above. “Yet the patient does not feel himself accepted unless the very worst in him is accepted too. No one can bring this about by mere words. It comes only through reflection and through the doctor’s attitude towards himself and his own dark side.” To help another person, in other words, one must first accept that person as he is; but to accept another person as he is first requires taking oneself straight, less-than-admirable qualities and all.

According to Watts, Jung himself demonstrated this rare self-awareness. “He knew and recognized what I sometimes call the element of irreducible rascality in himself,” says Watts in a talk of his own previously featured here on Open Culture. “He knew it so strongly and so clearly, and in a way so lovingly, that he would not condemn the same thing in others, and would therefore not be led into those thoughts, feelings, and acts of violence towards others which are always characteristic of the people who project the devil in themselves upon the outside, upon somebody else, upon the scapegoat.” As Jung puts it to his clerical audience, “In the sphere of social or national relations, the state of suffering may be civil war, and this state is to be cured by the Christian virtue of forgiveness and love of one’s enemies.”

What Christianity holds as true of the outer world goes just as well, Jung argues, for the inner one. “This is why modern man has heard enough about guilt and sin. He is sorely beset by his own bad conscience and wants, rather, to know how he is to reconcile himself with his own nature, how he is to love the enemy in his own heart and call the wolf his brother.” He “does not want to know in what way he can imitate Christ, but in what way he can live his own individual life, however meagre and uninteresting it may be.” Only by being allowed to follow this “egoism” to its conclusion of “complete isolation” can he “get to know himself and learn what an invaluable treasure is the love of his fellow beings”; it is only “in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures.” Without knowing our own natures, we can hardly expect even the most time-tested belief systems to put an end to the civil wars inside us.

Related Content:

Zen Master Alan Watts Explains What Made Carl Jung Such an Influential Thinker

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

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