Judith Leiber Has Died
Famed handbag designer Judith Leiber has died at the age of 97. Born in Hungary, Leiber took an apprenticeship with a top bag creator in Budapest which led to her eventual immigration to the U.S. in the wake of World War II. The acclaimed designer was best known for her signature minaudières carried by many a First Lady, including Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton. Other notable faces who have been coined as carriers of Leiber’s handbags include Elizabeth…
In the era of the “selfie”, of the relentless click-and-publish images on social media, of the mega sensors replete with megapixels, we are witnessing an unpredictable resurgence of many ancient photographic devices and techniques.
Wet collodion (tintypes) and many other alternative photo processes are being keenly rediscovered today and there is an ever-growing plethora of workshop available to those who want to learn and practice them.
A primitive photographer myself, a practitioner of what I like to define “slow photography” for most of my professional life, I observe this phenomenon with great interest, wondering about what its deepest rationale might be.
The amazing and light-fast technology that permeates our lives can become overwhelming at times. Images are indeed one of the most widespread and immediate forms of communication nowadays, when an ever-decreasing attention span makes just reading a few paragraphs a daunting task for many.
At the same time, creating digital images is devoid of the tactile, hand-dirtying, artisanal, alchemic qualities typical of the silver process heritage.
Today lenses and cameras are precisely designed and built by computers, there is no more space for the serendipitous human error neither in the photographic machines nor in the images they produce. Everything is simplified and automated, bringing the original Kodak Brownie advertising promise “ you press the button- we do the rest” to an almost dystopian level, thus hampering some peoples’ vision and their enjoyment of the creative process.
That is certainly my case and, given the choice, I’ll always opt for an ancient glass and wood large format view camera versus the latest digital device.
I suppose there are other factors too: In analog photography the creative process doesn’t end downloading your files to a computer or uploading them to social media, lost in a binary void forever, but it continues in the darkroom, where one carefully chosen image undergoes a complex voyage towards becoming a print, a tactile, permanent, often unique expression of the photographer’s vision.
To sum up, it appears that the impermanence of digital is finally starting to feel uncomfortable to some, hence a reversal to think more, click less, dabble with wet techniques from the past to create images that can actually still exist in the future.
Along those lines, I am happy to report the recent re-introduction on the market of a long gone photographic medium: dry glass plates.
Dry glass plates, invented by Dr. Richard L. Maddox in 1871, were a major advancement for photographers who until then were mostly using the wet collodion process. Wet collodion required to be poured just before taking the photograph and developed shortly afterward, something rather difficult and time-consuming outside of a studio environment.
Dry glass plates instead, being pre-coated with a light-sensitive gelatin could be easily transported to external locations and the photos developed at a later time, back in the darkroom, greatly helping photographers to expand their business in outside locations. You can admire a nearly unknown itinerant seed vendor-photographer exquisite dry plates photos taken on the Italian Alps here.
While I am familiar and have practiced in the past wet collodion photography, I too, a century later, find dry plates portability a great advantage over tintypes. With dry plates, I can even fly commercially, without having to worry about the strict Airlines regulations against the poisonous and explosive wet collodion chemistry.
Shooting these new old dry plates is not completely devoid of problems, yet, but things are improving rapidly. The first batches had some flaws and coating issues but that, by now, has been completely resolved.
The man that made dry plates photography possible again is Mr. Jason Lane, a brilliant optical engineer based in New Hampshire, who has a deep love and understanding of photographic media and techniques from a bygone era.
A one-man operation fuels this unexpected and welcome renaissance inspired by the past but with an eye to the future, giving us the opportunity to experiment with one of the most archival-stable and fascinating photographic technology from the beginning of last century.
In a world that is often keen to forget and foolishly dismiss as useless many valuable assets from the heritage of mankind, not only in photography but also in everything else, including oral tradition, popular culture, and art, I find Mr. Lane’s work extremely remarkable and inspiring.
Editor’s note: Jason Lane has been selling his dry plates for several months now. The emulsion has a “normal” sensitivity, so it responds to UV and blue.
“In this way, it shares a lot of characteristics with wet plate, combining them with characteristics of film I really enjoy the look of the handmade plate era, and it seems I’m not the only one,” Lane told PetaPixel back in January.
Lane is selling a few standard formats and is also open to making custom plates of all sizes — he has made and delivered plates as large as 12×20″ and as small as 35mm.
About the author: Giovanni Savino is a New York-based photographer and cinematographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Savino’s work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Image credits: Header photos by Giovanni Savino. All other photos by Jason Lane.
This Photographer Caught a Bird That Caught a Shark That Caught a Fish
Florida-based fine-art nature photographer Doc Jon was walking along a beach earlier this month when he captured a once-in-a-lifetime photo showing the food chain: it was an osprey carrying a shark carrying a fish.
Since the sea hawk was some distance away, the photographer initially thought he had caught an ordinary photo of a bird carrying a fish in its talons. When he zoomed in on his photos at his computer, however, he was surprised to find that it was actually a shark in the bird’s grasp and that there was a fish in the shark’s mouth.
“The best photo I have ever taken! (By content not quality),” Jon writes on Facebook. “These are NOT Photoshopped.”
Here are a couple of alternate views Jon managed to snag of the same scene:
The photos were captured with a Canon 6D and a Sigma 150-500mm lens without a tripod, and Fstoppers reports that Jon initially photographed the bird 400 feet above him after a passerby asked him what his lens could capture.
It’s estimated that the shark in the photo is about 1 foot long.
Image credits: Header photo by Doc Jon. All photos used with permission
The 5-axis gyro-stabilized mount can take any camera and lens combo and keep it stable up to 3000mm and 380 knots. The gimbal has a “slew rate” of 240-degrees per second.
Having the Huracan’s speed and power (0-60 in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 180+ mph) allows the driver and camera operator to keep up with other sports cars on a racetrack while running off the race line that the subject is driving, producing shots that other camera cars can’t.
The Huracam is the creation of Incline Dynamic Outlet, which spent over $500,000 on the build. You can see more photos and details of the car here.
According to reports, two suicide bombers detonated bombs in Kabul, killing more than 21 people and wounding 27. Marai was killed in the second blast, which targeted journalists who rushed to the scene to report on the first bomb, AFP said on its Twitter feed.
Marai was AFP’s chief photographer in Afghanistan.
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Having spent thousands of hours on Flickr over the past 15 years or so, on a personal level I’ve become fairly invested in the site. To date I’ve published over 140,000 of my photographs there. I publish 40 or so new photos there every single day. It’s the primary archive of my photography work on the Internet.
I’ve also been actively involved in groups over the years which have led to many personal friendships for me. I’ve favorited over 720,000 photos that I’ve browsed over the years. I blog about it. I search it for photos to map as I’m going about my project of documenting America. It’s my favorite site on the internet.
That said, there are some significant ways that Flickr can improve and given the new recent ownership change I thought now would be a good time to write about some of the ways Flickr can improve from here. Jef Poskanzer another early Flickr user also made his own excellent to do list for Flickr.
The power of Flickr, in my opinion, has always been the community. I think there are ways that Flickr can recapture some of the community spirit that it did have in years past and grow to become the primary community for photographers on the web going forward. This will take work but will be worth it in the end for the community, it’s users and now SmugMug.
In the earliest days of Flickr, when a new user would join co-founder Caterina Fake would greet them personally on the site and welcome them — not a bot or a script, but Caterina herself. While this would not scale today, I think the original founders of Flickr realized how important community development was in the early success of the site.
I remember shortly after I joined Flickr going to some of my first photo meetups in San Francisco at a local coffeehouse. Flickr’s other co-founder Stewart Butterfield would show up and so would Cal Henderson and many of the other early Flickr staff and engineers. They eventually brought Heather Champ on as Community Manager and her sole focus was in managing this new community that was growing at Flickr.
Back in those early days, Heather organized an event at the San Francisco Apple Store where some Flickr photographers shared their photos on the giant large screen upstairs in the old Apple Store off Market Street. There was a show where Flickr photographers from all over the world sent in a photo and Flickr printed them all for a group gallery show at 111 Minna. There were active meetups and drinkups and photowalks and even a giant party hosted by Flickr once a year. Flickr Fiesta, Flickr Turns 2, Flickr Turns 3…
I think what Flickr realized early on was that getting users to connect personally offline after first meeting online could be a powerful thing. Friendships were created. A group I was in started doing phototrips together. We did a trip to Miami, a trip to Detroit, a trip to Las Vegas, a trip to Toronto.
These trips would originate and be planned out in groups on Flickr. When out of town Flickr friends came to town you’d meet up and go shooting together. Meeting Mr. Chalk for the first time in person was fantastic! Because Flickr was the online community bringing all of these people together, it became a very beloved site for so many early Flickr users.
The challenge now is to try and restore much of that sense of community that over the years has been lost in my opinion. I think SmugMug should invest in this aspect of Flickr more than any other. They should hire perhaps a few community managers. They should host events. They should engage directly with the most active users on the site and promote Flickr evangelists from their user base who work to build and maintain that photography community at Flickr.
I think Don MacAskill (SmugMug’s CEO) is the type of guy who will be good at this. It was good to see him engaging publicly about the acquisition on Hacker News shortly after the purchase. Management most of all has a role in actively engaging with the users of the site following the early example of Caterina Fake.
Much of Flickr’s early success was built around groups. More than just places to post a photo about a certain topic the group threads were vibrant conversations. Conversations about photography and Flickr itself sure, but also conversations about politics, about popular movies and television, about really anything and everything. Through some redesign over the years group discussions lost ground to the photos themselves. Discussions became harder and harder to track and follow. Facebook showed up and many people moved conversations over there, etc.
There are some significant ways that Flickr could rebuild group conversations.
The single most significant thing Flickr could do to improve group discussions would be to allow users to subscribe to individual discussion threads and then give them a central page where those conversations are bumped as activity/conversations happen in those threads. These are the conversations that I care the most about.
Many Flickr users belong to many different groups. Having to go to each individual group discussion page one by one just does not work for monitoring all of the conversations you are a part of. I may really care about a conversation about William Eggleston’s photography, but if there is only one new update to that conversation a week, as much as I care about it, I may not be checking it as regularly as I should. What’s more, the best time to see a conversation is as quickly after it happens as possible because that’s when others in that conversation still might be online. If I reply to a conversation 10 minutes after it happens that generates much more activity than if I reply 1 day after it happens. Giving users the ability to track all of the conversations they are interested in across the site would be a powerful tool.
Conversation begets more conversation. Activity begets activity. Give users the tool to track all of the group conversations across Flickr that they care about. This thread subscription page should be easily accessed in the mobile app as well.
After building conversation subscriptions, Flickr should also allow users to hide conversations in groups. Groups can get very noisy at times. The most recent group discussion is bumped to the top of the discussion page. If I don’t care about Game of Thrones, but that is the conversation that is repeatedly being bumped to the top of the threads, I should be allowed to hide it and make it disappear for me.
Flickr should identify 50 or so of the most active groups and have their community managers personally be involved in those groups and conversations. People should know that they can interact with management there. Flickr’s help forum is a bit like this, but the help forum is really only about Flickr help which can be boring at times. Flickr should promote these groups across the site and do everything that they can to make them as active as possible. If the discussions are not active in a group people stop coming. If the discussions are active it becomes a wonderful watering hole where people will spend hours online engaging with each other.
I should also be able to mute certain users in a group. Inevitably trolls can/will invade groups and while some trolls can be charming and funny, others can be destructive. Allowing me to mute certain people gives me a bit of control over these conversations.
Groups should have photo pools, but these should really be secondary to the discussion threads and the groups pages should be designed to reflect this.
#3. Explore is So Broken
There are so many bad photos regularly in Explore. The algorithm screens out more active users (like myself and many others). I looked at Explore for the first time in months yesterday and what do I see? Exactly the type of photos I don’t want to see on Flickr. Macro photos of insects. Lots of photos with signatures and watermarks. Three photos in a row of a LEGO airplane. Some screengrab of some user mocking Explore. Photos of big trucks and other transport. I don’t mind great train shots actually, but shots of boring city buses and big trucks that some Flickr transport fans collect are less interesting to me.
As much as I dislike Instagram and their world of ads, of all things, Instagram is doing a great job with their version of Explore. When I click on the search bar on Instagram it populates their version. What do I see there? Lots of photos of neon signs. Interesting analog photography. Great architecture.
The problem is that everyone sees the exact same version of Explore. In today’s world of AI Flickr should be smart enough to look at the photos I’m favoriting and serve me up my own customized version of Explore. Photos that I might be interested in based on what it knows about me.
Do I never favorite the classic bee on a flower shot? Then don’t show more to me. Someone who favorites 10,000 Second Life screengrabs might like to see more of them that they don’t know about on the site. I don’t. I love neon signs. Show me the most kickass photos of neon signs that I haven’t seen yet on the site from the past 24 hours. If I hate watermarked photos and never favorite them, don’t show them to me. If someone else watermarks their own photos and only favorites watermarked photos, show lots of them to them.
Although Stig’s excellent Flickr Fixr already fixes this, put a link to the Google Maps location under the map of a geotagged photo on Flickr. Google’s maps are the best in the world — and while it may be too expensive to actually license the maps to embed themselves, put a link there so users can go actually find the place. As it is now the Flickr maps are worthless. They won’t show you where something is. They will provide you the general vicinity of where something is, but they won’t show you exactly where it is.
If I am going on a trip and want to research a new city on Flickr, I want to know EXACTLY where things are so I can build a Google Map to go see and photograph those things myself.
#5. Fix the Yahoo Login
This is probably easy to do and from what I’ve read Don MacAskill is already on this one as a first priority. The Yahoo Login system (and especially for those using old legacy AT&T, PacBell, etc, versions of the login) is much too difficult to use. Pre-yahoo Flickr had a very simple username/password login that you set yourself. Users should be given an easy option to have that again and to get back into their Yahoo accounts that so many seem to be locked out of.
#6. Jumpy Photos Problem
Fix the jumpy problem in photos from your contacts. Jef Poskanzer mentioned this one in his post as well. For years now whenever you browse photos by your contacts, right before you are about to favorite a photo on that page Flickr will inexplicably jolt and jump to some other random area on the page making you lose your place.
Worse, right when you press the favorite button, because the page has suddenly jolted somewhere else, you will accidentally click on a photo which will take you away from that page and you have to press the browser back bar to get back and reload your contact’s photos page from the beginning. It’s a frustrating user experience and something that has been broken for YEARS now. It is time to fix it. Photos from your contacts is a very popular page and it is a problem that your most active users are having.
#7. Flickr App Connection Issues
The Flickr photo app has a connection problem that other apps don’t. Just about every single day at some point you get a red “no internet connection” message at the bottom of the app. Even if you are connected to the Internet and even if all your other apps work just fine. Flickr will not work. The only way to make the Flickr app work again is to quit the app and relaunch it.
I think what may be happening is that at some point the Flickr app loses internet connection and isn’t smart enough to try and re-establish the connection. So the app is dead and the only way to re-establish the connection is to quit it and relaunch it.
#8. Fix Search
I’ve got a trip to Pennsylvania planned in a few months. Why when I search “Pennsylvania” (over 3.5 million photos on Flickr by the way) and sort by interestingness is the 2nd most interesting photo on all of Flickr a dumb aerial map screengrab with a squiggly blue line with a “whacking fatties” watermark? The photo has zero faves, zero comments, and only 11 views. In fact, there are four “whacking fatties” screengrabs in the top 20 most interesting of the millions of photos of Pennsylvania. This is dumb.
If Flickr’s interestingness algorithm is so broken that it puts this photo as the 2nd most interesting photo in all of Pennsylvania at least give me the option to sort the photos by favorites. If I sort the photos by favorites chances are that some of the most favorited photos might be better and more interesting photos. While favorites alone might not be the best indicator of what photos are most interesting, at least give me that option. Alternatively, stop showing photos with low faves, comments, views on the first page of search results by interestingness.
#9. Fix recent activity. The recent activity page is the most important page on Flickr. I load it more than any other page. For myself (and many others) recently it stopped loading. It times out the majority of the time and returns a server error. I can get around this error by changing my recent activity settings from “since the beginning” to “in the last month” but I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to get it to load reliably 100% of the time since the beginning. Your most active users are users are your most valuable users. This should be fixed.
#10. Favoriting Multi-Photo Batches
Let users favorite multi photo batches from the Flickr homepage. At present, if I go to the main Flickr homepage at flickr.com and I hover over a single photo there I’m given an option to favorite that photo by pressing a little star. This is great. But if I hover over a batch of photos that a user has uploaded I am not given this option. The only way there I can favorite a photo is to click through on the photo and leave a favorite. Flickr should treat all photos whether individual or batch on that page the same giving me a hover over star to favorite the photos.
Bonus: The “taken on” date on a photo’s photo page, really should be a hyperlink that you can click that will take you to that date in your camera roll.
That’s all for now. Much more later. See you on Flickr.
About the author: Thomas Hawk is a photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Visit his website here and his Flickr photostream here. This article was also published here.
An Interview with Photographer Conor McDonnell, A Nikon Ambassador at 26
Conor McDonnell is a UK-based photographer who became a Nikon ambassador earlier this month at the age of 26. In 2014, at the age of 22, McDonnell was asked to photograph the wedding of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and one of his photos from the wedding shattered Instagram’s then-record for most likes. We spoke to McDonnell to learn more about his life and career journey.
PetaPixel: How did you first get into photography?
Conor McDonnell: I first got into photography by accident. When I was 16, there was a concert I really wanted to go to but it was sold out so I decided to try and find a way in. I used to go to lots of concerts and always used to see photographers in the pit and thought that was such a cool job, so I decided to find out who managed the band and try and get a press pass. I also searched for the band members Myspace profiles and messaged them and amazingly one of them got back to me with their managements details and told me that the manager was expecting an email and it will all be sorted. And that started it all!
I had a very basic knowledge of cameras, to the extent that when I got there I actually thought that automatic mode would do the job, but after checking some photos after the first 30 seconds of the show I realized how wrong I was, so I popped it into manual and there began my obsession with photography. It hasn’t left manual mode since. After that show I would email whoever was playing in Liverpool, I’d send 100 emails a day and get about 2 replies back, most of them saying ‘No’ but I stuck at it and gradually started to build up a portfolio as well as my knowledge of photography and my camera.
Is there an event that you consider your first “big break”?
I guess my first big break was that first concert. If I didn’t get a reply or got a ‘No’ from them, I probably would have thought ‘Oh I can’t do this then, I guess I have to study photography to do that’. I don’t think I’d be here today where I am if that hadn’t have happened.
How did you become a Nikon ambassador? Can you tell us what that process is like?
I’ve actually only been shooting with Nikon over the past year, I’d been using another camera brand pretty much from day one. They were extremely unsupportive even after lots of communication with them, unlike Nikon who have been absolutely incredible from the get-go. They were the main sponsor for an Arctic expedition I was on last summer and so they loaned a bunch of amazing gear for me to use on the expedition. I used it day in and day out on the whole expedition and absolutely loved it all.
When I returned I asked if I could try it out in my normal day to day job, on tour, and they allowed me to, and again it blew me away at just how much better it was. We kept in touch and when I was back in the UK I went to visit the team at their HQ in London where they put forward the idea of me becoming an ambassador for them, as they really liked my work and my story.
I honestly didn’t think I would end up getting it but amazingly a few weeks later I got the confirmation and then a couple of weeks after that it got announced. It’s pretty awesome to have the backing and support of them. I really appreciate it.
What was it like being chosen to photograph Kanye and Kim’s wedding at the age of 22? How did that come about, and what was the experience like?
I actually can’t say that much about it but it was really great. I got the call for it the day before the wedding. Kim and Kanye and their team were amazing to work with, they were incredibly welcoming and really easy to work with from the get-go, which was great considering it was the first (and only) wedding I’ve ever shot!
What are the benefits of being a Nikon ambassador from the ambassador’s point of view? What are your perks?
I do get a gear allowance but for me, the benefit is simply just having the support and backing of the biggest camera brand in the world. Simple as that. They are incredibly supportive and always there for me whenever I need a hand, be it technical or equipment. That to me is also the best perk.
How did you go from shooting musicians and concerts to going on expeditions? What’s the goal of your expedition photography, and do you have sponsors supporting your trips?
It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing. My granddad used to read stories to me about the early polar explorers and I think it probably comes from that. Also as a long time reader of National Geographic and seeing their incredible photographers such as Paul Nicklen (who is one of my heroes) and Cory Richards work in those regions made me want to see it for myself even more.
The way it came about was by basically me saying ‘yes’ to going on a trip to Svalbard a few years ago with a friend who is a polar expert. Svalbard is an island deep in the Arctic with more polar bears than people, it’s a magical wonderland and I became obsessed.
My goal of expedition photography is to raise awareness for our planet and what we as humans are doing to it. Even in some of the most remote and fragile places on earth, I’ve found evidence of human consumption, such as plastics next to the North Pole. It’s really sad to see, but if my photography can change people to do something different like cut out single-use plastics, or use a reusable coffee cup, then that to me is the most rewarding thing possible.
Some of my trips are self-funded as they are mostly for personal projects, but the bigger expeditions are supported by sponsors, yes. I also have the incredible backing of the World Wildlife Fund, as I was asked to become an ambassador for them too at the end of last year.
What’s something you’ve learned since starting photography that has caused the biggest improvement in your photos?
Anticipating the moment. There’s no point chasing something that has already happened, chances are, it’s not going to happen again. This happens in both music and on expeditions. I see so many music photographers chasing shots that they just missed on stage hoping that it will happen again.
What are your main sources of income as a professional photographer?
I work very closely with a lot of musicians, record labels, and management companies and tour with them/do all their promo and press shots and create all their content etc. I also do a lot of commercial work but my day to day is mostly working with musicians/record labels/touring.
How has the industry changed since you started your photography journey? What do you see things going from here?
Social media has taken over, when I started it was there, but nowhere near as big and no way near as much effort was put into it. Everything these days is about online content and constantly supplying for that purpose, be it Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc. It’s such a powerful tool and can’t be overlooked these days. There is a lot more effort going into video content at the moment too so I guess that’s the way things are starting to go.
If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything different! I’ve learned so much so far, be it from failing at something or doing something wrong but I wouldn’t even change those moments — they’re all part of it!
Do you have any advice for photographers who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Just go out there and get it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. If I listened to them, and there were a lot of them, and there still are to this day, I wouldn’t be doing what I do and love today. If you really want it, it will happen.
Janelle Monáe’s ‘Dirty Computer’ Is Her Defining Moment
It was nice knowing you, Cindy Mayweather. Janelle Monáe is a master of the concept album, crafting the cyber-borg alter-ego of Cindy to carry her through 2010’s The ArchAndroid and 2013’s The Electric Lady, two brilliant records that show her innate ability to mix rock, funk, electronica, ska, R&B-soul, and unadulterated pop into one gigantic, vivid fusion. On the highly anticipated Dirty Computer, her first offering in five years, she sheds the persona and stands as simply Janelle Mon…