8.17.2013

visionaries: sergei mikhailovich prokudin-gorskii

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Now, where were we?  Ah, yes.

The photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) offer a vivid portrait of a lost world:  the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming revolution.

Supported by Tsar Nicholas II, Prokudin-Gorskii completed surveys of eleven regions of Russia between 1909 and 1915, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia's diverse population.

Born in St. Petersburg and educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii devoted his career to the advancement of photography.  In the early 1900s, while the world was still shooting black and white photographs, Prokudin-Gorskii was busy inventing an ingenious technique for creating color images.  Credited with taking the only known color photograph of Leo Tolstoy, Prokudin-Gorskii's technique involved capturing three separate monochrome photographs of the same scene.  The same object was captured in black and white on glass plate negatives, using red, green and blue filters. He then presented these images in color in slide lectures using a light-projection system which reconstructed the original color scene.  Since the images were captured at different times, any subtle changes or shifts in the scene appear as ghosted images.

In 1918, after the revolution, Prokudin-Gorskii went into exile, taking with him only his collection of nearly 2,000 glass-plate negatives and his photograph albums. The collection was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948 from his heirs.  Since 2001, many of Prokudin-Gorskii's plates have been scanned and, through an innovative process known as digichromatography, brilliant color images produced.

In 1948, the United States Library of Congress purchased 1,902 of Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs from his family.  Prokudin-Gorskii's entire collection of unrestored photographs can be seen on the Library's website.  Be prepared for a journey to visual wonderland.






:glass-plate negative title: krestʹi︠a︡nskīi︠a︡ di︠e︡vushki. [rossiĭskai︠a︡ imperii︠a︡].  title translation: peasant girls.  three young women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the sheksna river, near the town of kirillov.


2.02.2012

russia in color: a century ago

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Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, seated holding a sword in Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910.



Between 1909 and 1912, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation. Prokudin-Gorskii used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near-true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time. When these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun. Collected here are a few of the hundreds of color images made available by (the miracle that is) the Library of Congress, which purchased the original glass plates back in 1948.



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A chapel sits on the site where the city of Belozersk was founded in ancient times, ca. 1909.



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An Armenian woman in national costume poses for Prokudin-Gorskii on a hillside near Artvin (near present-day Turkey), ca. 1910.




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A view of the Nikolaevskii Cathedral in Mozhaisk, ca. 1911.



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A man and woman pose in Dagestan, ca. 1910.



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Metal truss bridge on stone piers, part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, crossing the Kama River near Perm, Ural Mountains Region, ca. 1910.


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A boy leans on a wooden gatepost in the Ural Mountain region, 1910.


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In this last image, Self-portrait on the Karolitskhali River (ca. 1910), Prokudin-Gorskii is seated on a rock beside the Karolitskhali River. The Karolitskhali is located in the Caucasus Mountains near the seaport of Batumi on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.


I'm enthralled by this whole Prokudin-Gorskii trove. Next post will offer more information on the innovative, ingenious process that Prokudin-Gorskii developed to produce these brilliant images.


:library of congress

1.16.2012

i still have a dream



The night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King warned, in his famous "I See the Promised Land" speech in Memphis, that "if something isn't done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed."





In "A Christmas Sermon on Peace," broadcast on Christmas Eve 1967 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as part of the Massey Lectures, Dr. King acknowledged "that not long after talking about" the dream in Washington in 1963,
"I started seeing it turn into a nightmare."




He spoke of the nightmarish conditions of Birmingham, where four girls were murdered in a church bombing a few weeks after his speech. He spoke of the punishing poverty that he observed in the nation's ghettoes as the antithesis of his dream, as were the race riots and the Vietnam War. King confessed that while "I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes," that "I still have a dream."




By 1967, Martin Luther King had stretched his dream to include the desire "that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda."





These speeches place Dr. King's dream in the broader context of his spiritual and moral evolution over the last three years of his life. Set free from the ideological confines of his "I Have a Dream" speech, King's true ethical ambitions were free to breathe through the words he spoke and wrote as he made his way to the promised land. Perhaps even more so than when he dreamed out loud in Washington in 1963, Dr. King's act of dreaming in 1967 was a courageous act of social imagination and national hope:

Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can't give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.



12.24.2011

are you ready? here comes santa!

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These boys are either on leave from flying duty this year, or they're lichen loading before their Big Night.

Merry Christmas!






:dmitriy nikonov, reindeer herder, siberia; via national geographic

7.24.2011

nicole dextras: ephemeral fashion

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For the past six years, Nicole Dextras has taken the native plants of the Pacific Northwest and turned them into elaborate dresses she calls "weedrobes."

Dextras’s art is made out of things found in nature: ice, grass, flowers and leaves. As such, they melt, crack, rot, disintegrate and return to their original composite elements. The dresses are beautiful, but Dextras has more than a pretty picture in mind. Her plant-based apparel is designed to confront important environmental concerns.




"I've had an ongoing interest in environmental art, and working in the theater as a clothes designer opened me up to the idea that the way people dress affects their psychology," Dextras says. "I want these dresses to open a dialogue to people about where their clothes come from."



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On frames woven from flexible boughs, Dextras layers sturdy plant materials, such as yucca and eucalyptus leaves, stitched to the frames with hawthorn ‘pins’. Professional actors bring the costumes to life, improvising on themes of nature, such as Jordi Sancho’s memorable Eco-man or Nita Bowerman’s “Ivy” from the 2009 Invasive Species Show. The costumes are brought to Dextras’s back yard where the process of disintegration begins.



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Dextras's studio is located on Granville Island in Vancouver BC. The artist divides her time between her art practice, teaching, casting editions for local artists and volunteering for art organizations such as the BC Book Arts Guild and the Artists and Artisans of Granville Island.


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Dextras has meticulously photographed all her pieces and the performances, on view at her flickr stream and on her website.







:nicole dextras, weedrobes summer series; artist statement; shop

3.25.2011

triangle shirtwaist fire: march 25, 1911

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One hundred years ago today, New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burst into flames, killing 146 garment workers and fundamentally changing the way America viewed its laborers. In the months after the blaze, dozens of workplace regulations were passed, helping to make factories much safer. The Triangle fire inspired a massive unionization push that paved the way for the development of America's middle class.



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On March 25, 1911, a fire tore through the top three floors of New York's Asch Building (Washington Place and Greene Street), home of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. On the eighth floor, where the blaze began, garment workers and their supervisors quickly filed out. Two floors up, the company's owners — Max Blanck and Isaac Harris — were notified by telephone of the fire and escaped by jumping to the roof of a nearby building.

But on the ninth floor, there were no phone calls, fire alarms or other warnings. In fact, the 200 seamstresses who worked there — many of them new immigrants to America — didn't realize there was a fire until smoke began pouring in from the floor below. Within a half hour, more than half of those women were dead.



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In remembrance of the tragedy, a special memorial meeting was held this morning at the factory site. A fire truck ladder was raised to the sixth floor, representing the highest story firefighters could reach during the tragedy.



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:washington post article, "what the triangle shirtwaist fire means for workers now"; wnyc article, "remembering the triangle shirtwaist fire, 100 years later"

3.22.2011

visionaries: shadi ghadirian

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Shadi Ghadirian is a photographer who lives and works in her native Tehran.

Ghadirian's work is intimately linked to her identity as a Muslim woman living in Iran. In her Qajar series, Ghadirian questions the role of women in society at large and explores ideas of censorship, religion, modernity and the status of women. The Qajar series of portraits was inspired by old plate-glass photographs from Iran's Qajar period (1794-1925). "Until that time, portraits were forbidden in Iran for religious reasons," Ghadirian says, "so the impact of these photographs on 19th-century Iranians was enormous."

For her own Qajar portraits, Ghadirian asked a painter friend to recreate the elaborate 19th-century backdrops. She then borrowed vintage clothing in which to dress female friends, and reproduced the poses from the old photographs, incorporating her own twist. Ghadirian juxtaposes the traditional images with symbols of contemporary life.


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Ghadirian studied photography at Azad University in Tehran. After finishing her undergraduate work, Ghadirian began her professional career as a photographer. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across Europe and the United States. Ghadirian's photographs are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Currently, Ghadirian works at the Museum of Photography in Tehran.


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:images shadi ghadirian

3.21.2011

empire

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From the Top of the Rock, mid-week, late February. The sunset, supported by a stunning cast of thousands, takes its rightful turn at showing off.



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:images diana murphy

2.17.2011

saturday fare: the metropolitan

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Taking multiple detail shots of works of art satisfies me on several levels — not the least of which is that I can make my own postcards for later study and recall.* I've found (have you?) that museums no longer deliver on the extensive-variety-of-exhibition-postcards front. This makes me cranky, since I'm a compulsive postcard collector from way back. My solution has been to stop the moaning, just deal with it already and do it myself.

Case in point: Two or three (four? whatever) Saturdays ago, I took these photos of the Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck at the Met. I've seen the sculpture many, many times on Met visits — and I've photographed it before as well — but this time around, I wanted to move in and capture a sense of the rich patina and the artistry of the folds and deep relief. And so? And then? Well?
Me likey. Me not grumpy anymore. And for you, my dearest darlings, repros of these and many other swoond and beautimuse images (card-size, wall-size and in-betweens) will soon be available to order online.



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About the artwork: After the death of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck (1846-1888), her bereaved husband, the painter Frank Duveneck, modeled a funerary monument with the guidance of the Cincinnati sculptor Clement J. Barnhorn. Reminiscent of Gothic and Renaissance gisant (recumbent) tomb effigies, the figure reclines peacefully, arms folded over her chest. The palm branch stretching nearly the entire length of her body symbolizes Christian victory over death. The original bronze is on Elizabeth Duveneck's grave in the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori, the Protestant cemetery on the outskirts of Florence.



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* Many thanks to all of you who have inquired about prints, cards and large-scale reproductions(!) of my photos. I've responded to most of you individually, but I want to make sure you know that you'll soon be able to place orders online. As ever, thanks for your visits and support. Mwah! and again, Mmmwah!!



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:all images diana murphy; tomb effigy of elizabeth boot duveneck, 1891; this cast, 1927; gilt bronze; the metropolitan museum of art, new york city

2.04.2011

frozen fruit

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To quote the Cowardly Lion: Unusual weather we're having, ain't it?


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:images diana, groundhog day on ice

check out groupings of my upsized photos here at beautimuse

1.27.2011

today in new york

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My thought: The neighbors will probably postpone their garden party.






:image diana, rear window series

1.21.2011

here comes the sun

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The depth of color and shadow produced by sidelong sunrise light (featured here) is endlessly fascinating to me.

(And, lest we forget, sunset light has its own special mojo. But it's sunrise's turn today. Thank you.)





:image diana murphy

1.17.2011

snow divide

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This afternoon in Riverside Park.









:image diana murphy, new york city

1.01.2011

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1-Jan-65


The kings will lose your old address.
No star will flare up to impress.
The ear may yield, under duress,
to blizzards’ nagging roar.
The shadows falling off your back,
you’d snuff the candle, hit the sack,
for calendars more nights can pack
than there are candles for.

What is this? Sadness? Yes, perhaps.
A little tune that never stops.
One knows by heart its downs and ups.
May it be played on par
with things to come, with one’s eclipse,
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for what occasionally keeps
them trained on something far.

And staring up where no cloud drifts
because your sock’s devoid of gifts
you’ll understand this thrift: it fits
your age; it’s not a slight.
It is too late for some breakthrough,
for miracles, for Santa’s crew.
And suddenly you’ll realize that you
yourself are a gift outright.

- Joseph Brodsky
(translated from the Russian by the author)




Brodsky wrote this poem while in internal exile in Norenskaia, in the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia. In the Soviet Union,
New Year’s celebrations came to be seen as a substitute for Christmas. This translation was found among his papers.





:image diana murphy, new york city

12.22.2010