Archive for August, 2013

August 19, 2013

Celebrating the Free Gift of Photography Today

On August 19th 2010, World Photography Day hosted it’s first global online gallery. With 270 photographs shared and website visitors from over 100 countries, World Photography Day was born.

Although the earliest surviving photo dates back to 1826, the history of photography dates back to 1790 associated with the invention and development of the camera and the creation of permanent images starting with Thomas Wedgwood.

So what is so special about August 19th? It was on this date in 1839 that the French government announced the invention of Daguerreotype technology a gift “Free to the World”.

Daguerreotype photographic processes, developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre,were officially unveiled by The French Academy of Sciences on January 9, 1839. Though from the modern perspective daguerreotypes were expensive and time consuming to produce, at the time it was the first practicable photographic process. Being unique images, daguerreotypes could still be copied by re-daguerreotyping the original. Copies were also produced by lithography or engraving.

The invention gave boost to the portrait photography market that became a flourishing business practiced by traveling photographers. For the first time common folks could afford to get the likeness of themselves and their loved ones captured.

By 1853 an estimated three million daguerreotypes per year were being produced in the United States alone. This might sound like an insignificant number given that today over 200,000 shots are being uploaded to Facebook every minute. But in those days someone would spend a day’s worth salary to have a family picture taken. These were family treasures to be kept through generations.

Nicéphore Niépce's earliest surviving camera photograph, circa 1826

Nicéphore Niépce’s earliest surviving camera photograph, circa 1826

August 8, 2013

Take good pictures of the ones you love while you still can!

It’s been estimated that every two minutes, we take more pictures than the whole of humanity in the 1800s. How many of them were worth taking and sharing is a question that will not be answered.
With such a turnover per capita, one might think our lives are being documented at every step and then when a dear one passes away there is somehow no good photo to keep. I know this from experience as I talk to people all the time who call to ask if anything can be done to fix the cherished image. more often than not it’s a phone camera shot that gets too blurry when enlarged. Take good pictures of the ones you love while you still can!

Family Photos

The Poetry of Steve McDonald

I lift them like kisses from the wall:
my daughter in a pumpkin costume;

my mother and her poodle, the one she loved
like the sister, soul mate, lover she never had;

my father, shoulders back, belly out,
a flat blue lake, a gray sky. And in the spaces

left behind—one for each memory
wrapped and packed away— thin, sharp nails.

One-by-one I extract them, gripping
and twisting needle-nosed pliers

to prevent the chip or flake of paint.
But I can’t avoid exposing the plaster

under its layers of years, the same way
the mortician who applies the makeup

to my father’s body cannot prevent
the incidental scraping of his ear,

revealing the cold gray flesh. My wife
at the funeral says His ear is blue.

Once the nails are out, I consider
the pencil marks made years earlier

to define the placement of each frame.
I use an eraser, the kind you knead

until it’s warm and soft, pliable
as an infant’s fist, while outside the window

a sparrow hops across the brick planter,
one of the wild birds my father always fed

when he could still rise on his own.
When I see his body lying in its coffin,

I bend across the torso, press my lips
to the stone-cold brow. I kiss him

the way I never kissed him in life,
stripped now of all defenses, naked

before me even in his gown of coat and tie.
And I do not wonder why I kiss him.

I know I have lifted the pictures from the walls.
I know the walls are white and I will fill

the holes with care—covering anything
that might reveal what has been damaged, or where.

family-photos-poem

August 7, 2013

One Family Life Story of 36 Years

sistersIt was in 1975 when the world-renowned Detroit-born photographer Nicolas Nixon, a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art originally photographed his wife Bebe and her 3 sisters. They liked the picture so much that they collectively decided to make it a yearly event – the annual family photo – the family’s “annual rite of passage,” as Nicolas Nixon has called it.

Each image reflects another year of life experiences that take their toll.

In 1999, when the resulting series of photographs reached its twenty-fifth anniversary, The Museum of Modern Art published The Brown Sisters photography book, presenting all of the portraits in sequence. “We might wish,” said Peter Galassi, the Museum’s Chief Curator of Photography, “that our family included a photographer of such discipline and skill but otherwise Nixon’s pictures do what all family photographs do: they fix a presence and mark the passage of time, graciously declining to expound or explain.”

That edition is out of print. Eight years later the Museum is published a second edition, including eight new photographs that brought the series up to date.

As of today the Brown Sisters photo story numbers 36 photographs – candid and and at the same time poetic.

You can view them here »