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kottke.org posts about photography

Up and Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2019

Daehyuk Im

Daehyuk Im

Daehyuk Im

Photos by Daehyuk Im of the Coney Island amusement rides and other structures, framed against the sky. Looking back through some photos I’ve taken of various amusement rides, this is also my favorite way of capturing them. (via moss & fog)

Photos from Opening Day at Disneyland in 1955

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

Alan Taylor of In Focus has curated a selection of photos taken during the first few days after Disneyland was opened to the public in July 1955.

Disneyland 1955

Disneyland 1955

Disneyland 1955

Whaaaat the hell is up with Mickey and Minnie’s faces in that last photo? Maybe that’s what the kids in the top photo are running away from in terror?

Abstract Aerial Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

The Andrews brothers travel the world taking overhead drone photos that they offer as prints on their site Abstract Aerial Art. I was especially struck by this photo of a container ship, whose shadow doubles as a graph of how tall each row’s containers are.

Abstract Aerial Art

Here are a couple of other favorites:

Abstract Aerial Art

Abstract Aerial Art

You can catch more of their work on Instagram. (via colossal)

Winners of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

Audubon 2019 01

Audubon 2019 02

Audubon 2019 03

The National Audubon Society has announced the winners of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards competition. Photo credits from top to bottom: Kathrin Swoboda, Kevin Ebi, Shari McCollough. Here’s Swoboda describing how she got her amazing shot of a red-winged blackbird blowing smoke rings:

I visit this park near my home to photograph blackbirds on cold mornings, often aiming to capture the “smoke rings” that form from their breath as they sing out. On this occasion, I arrived early on a frigid day and heard the cry of the blackbirds all around the boardwalk. This particular bird was very vociferous, singing long and hard. I looked to set it against the dark background of the forest, shooting to the east as the sun rose over the trees, backlighting the vapor.

Ebi shared some of his other photos of the eagle stealing a rabbit from a fox in this blog post.

You can see the Audubon’s longlist of 100 images here. Birds are awesome! (via in focus)

Photo Requests from Solitary Confinement

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2019

Photo Requests from Solitary is a project that takes photo requests from prisoners being held in solitary confinement and invites volunteer photographers to make the images for them. For prisoners being tortured with long-term solitary stays, photos can be a lifeline to the outside world.

They spend at least 22 hours a day in a cell that measures on average of 6 x 9 feet, either in supermax prisons or in segregation units in other prisons and jails. Meals usually come through slots in the solid steel doors of their cells, as do any communications with prison staff. Exercise is usually alone, in a cage or concrete pen, for no more than one hour a day. People in solitary may be denied contact visits, telephone calls, television, reading materials, and art supplies.

The goal of PFRS is to fulfill each request to exact specifications for the person who requested it, with images that — through some combination of form, content, composition, design, and/or sheer commitment — are compelling enough that someone would want to return to them for repeated viewing. (People in solitary are sharply limited in the numbers of photographs they can have, so every image is important.)

An inmate named Sergio requested:

I would like a picture of the Mexican flag at sunrise, at the Zocalo, in the capitol of Mexico City; while the sun is rising and it hits the Mexican flag un-furled, with the Zocalo in the foreground.

And photographer Nica Ross delivered this image:

Solitary Photos

Another inmate, Dan requested:

I would like a photograph of a female in black leather pants with the same material stitches but a different color like hot pink all which that can define her figures with a setting of orange and blue in the sky posted up next to a benz (powder blue) in a park black female with hazel eyes.

A photographer named Jason Altaan submitted this:

Solitary Photos

David requested:

My photo request is simple, yet, very poignant for me. I’d very much appreciate any photos of fallen autumn leaves. I have no particular preference of area or location; just any scene focusing on the beauty of autumn leaves, (which, as you know, we do not have access to in the concrete box that is deemed as “yard” here.)

Several photographers responded, including Gerard Gaskin:

Solitary Photos

If you look at the site, there are currently many more unfilled requests than requests with submissions. Current requests include “first lady Michelle Obama planting vegetables in the White House garden”, “police being arrested by regular citizens”, “sunrise over the Sahara”, “beautiful women laughing and playing volley ball on the beach in ‘free Raul’ t-shirts”, and “wise old man with an angry expression”. Submitting a photo is easy…you can upload right from the website.

Doreen St. Félix wrote more about the project for the New Yorker.

How to Shoot TV Commercials with Robots

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2019

Visual engineer Steve Giralt constructs bespoke robotic cameras to capture unusual scenes for TV commercials, many of which feature food. The behind-the-scenes videos of how these rigs are constructed and work are fascinating. These two short videos about Giralt’s work are a good place to start:

There are many more on his website and on Instagram, like the s’mores smush and burger flipping.

Amish Vacation Snaps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2019

Amish Vacation

Amish Vacation

From Dina Litovsky, photos of Amish and Mennonite families on their annual Florida getaway. Her photos were recently featured in The New Yorker. I first read about Amish spring break in 2012 in the NY Times.

Walking around Pinecraft is like entering an idyllic time warp. White bungalows and honeybell orange trees line streets named after Amish families: Kaufman, Schrock, Yoder. The local Laundromat keeps lines outside to hang clothes to dry. (You have to bring your own pins.) And the techiest piece of equipment at the post office is a calculator. The Sarasota county government plans to designate the village, which spreads out over 178 acres, as a cultural heritage district.

Many travelers I spoke to jokingly call it the “Amish Las Vegas,” riffing off the cliché that what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft. Cellphone and cameras, normally off-limits to Amish, occasionally make appearances, and almost everyone uses electricity in their rental homes. Three-wheeled bicycles, instead of horses and buggies, are ubiquitous.

Up in the Trees

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2019

Manuelo Bececco

Manuelo Bececco

Amongst much fine work on his website and Instagram, Manuelo Bececco’s photos of forest canopies are my favorites. And did you notice the crown shyness in the first photo?

Crown shyness, a phenomenon where the leaves and branches of individual trees don’t touch those of other trees, forming gaps in the canopy.

(via moss and fog)

Curved Cityscape Panoramas

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2019

Lestnica

Lestnica

As a long-time fan of BERG’s Here & There projection map of Manhattan (and Inception), these bendy photos of European cityscapes by Lestnica are right up my alley (which is now above my head har har). See also Aydın Büyüktaş’s Flatland photos. (via colossal)

Jon Stewart’s Defense of 9/11 First Responders

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2019

If you didn’t have the opportunity yesterday to watch Jon Stewart’s scathing and powerful opening statement before a House subcommittee about providing health benefits for surviving 9/11 first responders, you really should; it’s quite something:

As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.

Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution. You should be ashamed of yourselves, for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be. Because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.

On Twitter, archivist Jason Scott shared a cache of over 2300 photos taken by a worker at Ground Zero during the cleanup process in September & October 2001. These photos provide a unique and documentary view of the work being done there, work on behalf of Americans everywhere that this worker, and many others, paid for with his life. Scott:

So, it would probably be useful to interview the worker who took all these photos, who walked around the grounds, who captured these unique images of Ground Zero from all over the space, showing the effort being done to clear the wreckage.

Except we can’t.

He’s dead.

Ground Zero Photos

Ground Zero Photos

The parallels of all this to HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries is left as an exercise to the reader.

Update: The House subcommittee approved extending the compensation fund for 9/11 first responders until 2090. The bill is expected to pass a full House vote but the Senate is anyone (but Mitch McConnell’s) guess.

Update: For his efforts, one of the first responders gifted Stewart a firefighter’s jacket that belonged to a good friend of his, now deceased:

Gorgeous Overwater/Underwater Shots by Tobias Friedrich

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2019

Tobias Friedrich uses a specialized kit to make these great split shots — half underwater and half over — no need for stitching composites together in a digital darkroom.

Tobias Friedrich

Tobias Friedrich

Here’s some more info on split photography and the gear you’d need for giving it a shot. (via tmn)

Vintage Photos of NYC’s High Line

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2019

Gothamist recently posted some vintage photos of NYC’s High Line taken by Jake Dobkin back when it was still an abandoned rail line and not an immaculately designed space surrounded by luxury condos. Meg & I snuck up there in Feb 2004 and walked all the way down from 33rd St to the Meatpacking and back again. Here are a few photos I snapped that day:

High Line

High Line

High Line

High Line

High Line

A couple of these were kindly included in Phaidon’s book about the making-of the High Line park.

Photos from the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2019

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

Alan Taylor has put together a selection of photos taken in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986. You may have seen some of these scenes recreated in HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries.

Liquidators clean the roof of the No. 3 reactor. At first, workers tried clearing the radioactive debris from the roof using West German, Japanese, and Russian robots, but the machines could not cope with the extreme radiation levels so authorities decided to use humans. In some areas, workers could not stay any longer than 40 seconds before the radiation they received reached the maximum authorized dose a human being should receive in his entire life.

See also more recent photos of Chernobyl and the exclusion zone and Masha Gessen’s take on what HBO’s series got wrong.

Night Photography of Urban Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2019

Photographer Jun Yamamoto (a.k.a. jungraphy) takes these subdued (but somehow also vibrant) photos of Japanese cities at night. This one in particular caught my eye:

Jun Yamamoto

I’m assuming the photos are processed to get that moody red/blue/black color palette.

1838-2019: Street Photography - A Photo For Every Year

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2019

This video is so far up my alley that I’m now charging it rent. (For parking in the alley. Yeah, I don’t know how metaphors work.) Anyway, this 20-minute film is a collection of photography of street scenes, from the very first photo ever taken of a person in 1838 (by Louis Daguerre) to a crowded market in Glasgow in 1869 to a ghostly Norwegian street scene in 1882 to NYC’s Mulberry St in 1900 to a newsie selling newspapers about the Titanic disaster in 1912 to more modern scenes, presented chronologically one photo per year. Along the way, you see the development of history, fashion, and technology — the people in the photos get crisper and clearer as shutters quicken and film improves.

My only complaint is that many of the photos after 1900 and into the 40s & 50s have been artificially colored…and distractingly so. Why not just feature the original B&W versions? Believe me, I understand the appeal & impact of seeing the past in color, but these colorized versions greatly detract from the historical value of this video. (via aeon)

The Martian Base in the Gobi Desert

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

Mars Base Gobi

A Chinese company called C-Space has built a simulation of a Mars base in the Gobi desert. Currently used for educational purposes, the company plans to open “Mars Base 1” up for tourism to give visitors a glimpse of what living on Mars would be like.

The facility’s unveiling comes as China is making progress in its efforts to catch up to the United States and become a space power, with ambitions of sending humans to the moon someday.

The white-coloured base has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlock.

Alan Taylor featured some photos of Mars Base 1 recently.

Mars Base Gobi

Mars Base Gobi

It’s all a little surreal, even before you get to the 2001 monolith:

Mars Base Gobi

Pulling Birds From the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

For his photo series The Pillar (which is also a book), Stephen Gill set up a camera next to a post near his home in Sweden and set the shutter to fire when a motion sensor was triggered. “I decided to try to pull the birds from the sky,” he said.

Stephen Gill Pillar

Stephen Gill Pillar

A selection of Gill’s photographs were published by the New Yorker, accompanied by a wonderful short essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

A pillar knocked into the ground next to a stream in a flat, open landscape, trees and houses visible in the distance, beneath a vast sky. That is the backdrop to all the photographs in Stephen Gill’s book “The Pillar.” We see the same landscape in spring and summer, in autumn and winter, we see it in sunshine and rain, in snow and wind. Yet there is not the slightest bit of monotony about these pictures, for in almost every one there is a bird, and each of these birds opens up a unique moment in time. We see something that has never happened before and will never happen again. The first time I looked at the photographs, I was shaken. I’d never seen birds in this way before, as if on their own terms, as independent creatures with independent lives.

Headshots

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

Kaija Straumanis took a series of portraits of herself being hit in the face with all sorts of different objects, from a dodgeball to a book to an old boot.

Kaija Straumanis

(via moss & fog)

In Remembrance of Photographer Michael Wolf

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2019

German photographer Michael Wolf, who documented life in our densest cities, has died at the age of 64.

Though seldom commented on by art critics, there was a political undertone to Wolf’s work. In several of his best-known series, even the ones where people were an invisible presence, his striking images point to the human cost and extraordinary resilience of contemporary city dwellers caught up in the Darwinian thrust of global capitalism. For every epic project like Architecture of Density, there were intimately observed series’ created during his various trawls through Hong Kong’s back alleys. There, he caught telling glimpses of the city’s makeshift character: customised chairs, surreal arrangements of kitchen mops and wire coat hangers, twisting gas and water pipes, all the mundane everyday objects that speak of the relentless resourcefulness of its residents, and of Wolf’s eye for accidental sculptural beauty amid the seemingly mundane. A detached gaze, yes, but an expressively tender one all the same. It will be missed.

Wolf’s most well-known project was Architecture of Density, a series of photos taken of the buildings of Hong Kong.

Michael Wolf

Another Hong Kong project was 100x100, in which he documented 100 apartments of the now-demolished Shek Kip Mei Estate that were each about 100 square feet in size.

Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression catches Japanese commuters pressed up against the windows of their train cars.

Michael Wolf

Bastard Chairs catalogues dozens of improvised devices for seating.

Michael Wolf

Wolf talked about his work in this short video profile:

You can view Wolf’s complete catalog of work on his website.

The Saturday Night Live Portrait

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2019

SNL Bumpers

SNL Bumpers

Since 1999, Mary Ellen Matthews has been the official photographer of SNL. For each show, Matthews captures a stylized portrait of the host, which is then used for “bumpers” between commercials and the live program.

“I kind of think of them as billboards. They pop off the screen,” Matthews, a self-described “one-woman circus,” told Vulture in a recent interview. “I like to make it as easy as possible for everyone. I don’t want them overthinking this part of the show. It should be super fun and super easy. It’s an open invitation to get kooky.”

Simon Being Taken to Sea for the First Time Since His Father Drowned

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2019

Chris Killip

This photograph was taken by Chris Killip in 1983 in the British coastal village of Skinningrove. According to Killip, it shows a difficult but necessary moment in a young man’s life, rebuilding his trust in the life-giving sea.

It was a fishing village and it was very difficult to gain access to photograph there. Simon’s father had drowned in an incident at sea. They had this ritual where they came out and took Simon out to sea so that he wouldn’t become fearful of it. It’s very formal. He’s dressed very formally. I was on the boat and nobody spoke.

What an intimate moment. You can read more about Killip and his process here. In this short film by Michael Almereyda, Killip talks about the time he spent photographing in Skinningrove:

Black is Beautiful photography show and monograph

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

untitled-kwame-brathwaite-black-women-in-convertible.jpg

Photographer Kwame Brathwaite is best known for his images of black superstars in the 1970s (Muhammad Ali training for the Rumble in the Jungle, the Jackson 5 on their first tour in Africa, Bob Marley at home in Kingston). A new exhibition highlights earlier work from his archives and positions him as an influential figure in a burgeoning movement. The now 81-year-old has his first book coming out in May after a six decade career: Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful.

nomsa-brath-modeling-congolese-fabrics-sterns-department-store-1963-kwame-brathwaite-photo.png

Brathwaite co-organized a fashion show in Harlem that became iconic. Naturally ‘62: The Original African Coiffure and Fashion Extravaganza Designed to Restore Our Racial Pride and Standards used the slogan “Black is Beautiful,” later to be a major part of history. His imagery and ideals elevated the slogan to part of the zeitgeist. Artsy has a beautiful slideshow of the Grandassa models and this:

The participants, known as the Grandassa models, were not professionals in the fashion world, which reinforced Brathwaite’s political and artistic vision. They were dark-skinned and their hair was unprocessed; they wore African-inspired garments full of lush colors, waxed cotton prints, and elaborate patterns.

sikolo-brathwaite-portrait-ajass-1968-by-kwame-brathwaite.jpg

The FT has a great piece with more context on Kwame’s history and work.

kwame-brathwaite-self-portrait-ajass-1964.png

Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite opens April 11 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

The first photo of a black hole

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

The first photo of a black hole

Ok, this is pretty cool. We have the first photo of a supermassive black hole, from imagery taken two years ago of the elliptical galaxy M87 (in the constellation Virgo) by the Event Horizon Telescope project. The EHT team is a group of 200 scientist that has been working on this project for two decades. The image was created using data captured from radio telescopes from Hawaii to the South Pole and beyond using very long baseline interferometry.

The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from here, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the power and malevolence of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

Now is a good time to (re)read Jonathan Lethem’s early novel, the absurdist physics love story As She Climbed Across the Table.

Update: Vox’s Joss Fong has a good 6-minute video that explains how the photo was taken:

And this video by Veritasium is even more meaty (and this one too):

Taking the shame out of the Cone of Shame

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 09, 2019

cone-of-shame-dog-portraits-jolie-bits.png

Photographer Winnie Au spoke with Buzzfeed about her ongoing Cone of Shame project, which looks to dispel the shame of the cones dogs must wear after medical procedures. Partially inspired by her late corgi Tartine, whose medical treatment would have cost tens of thousands of dollars without insurance, Winnie is using the project to fundraise for Animal Haven Shelter in New York. She’s an advocate for adopting pets.

A lot of people I know have bought their dogs verses adopting because they wanted a very specific breed, what most don’t realize there are rescues dedicated to specific breeds. So if you are obsessed with bernedoodles, you can adopt one. Of course, I love mutts too, and you can rescue an adorable mutt also. The most important thing to me is that your dog and its age, energy, and vibe fit your lifestyle.

There are so many great rescues out there who can help you find the best pet for you. In America alone, there are 1.6 million dogs waiting to be rescued every year. If those dogs don’t get rescued, a lot of them end up euthanized. I just want to stress to people to adopt when you get your next pet as there are so many great dogs out there ready for a new home.

cone-of-shame-mishka-ryder-dog-portraits.png

Winnie collaborated with costume designer and stylist Marie-Yan Morvan, whose work helped the project coalesce. I can’t wait to see more of this project. If you want to support the work and Animal Haven, you can buy a print or a tote via the Cone of Shame shop.

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cone-of-shame-dog-portrait-feathers.png

Calling All Fungi & Slime Mold Fans

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2019

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

On her Instagram account, Marin Mushrooms, nature photographer Alison Pollack captures the otherworldly beauty of fungi and slime molds in northern California forests. (via laura olin)

Beautiful Hand-Colored Photographs of Flowers from 19th-Century Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2019

Ogawa Kazumasa

Ogawa Kazumasa

From The Public Domain Review, Ogawa Kazumasa’s Hand-Coloured Photographs of Flowers.

The stunning floral images featured here are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era.

A reprinted book containing these images by Kazumasa is available as are prints. (via @john_overholt)

This Photo of Farmers Contains No Farmers

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2019

This is a photo taken in Germany in 1914 by August Sander:

August Sander Young Farmers

It’s called Young Farmers and it depicts three young men on their way to a dance in rural Germany. But as John Green explains in this video, there is so much more going on with this photo.

From The Tate, which has a print of Young Farmers in its collection:

The Marxist art critic John Berger famously analysed the photograph in his influential essay ‘The Suit and the Photograph’ (1980) writing: ‘The date is 1914. The three young men belong, at the very most, to the second generation who ever wore such suits in the European countryside. Twenty or 30 years earlier, such clothes did not exist at a price which peasants could afford.’ (Berger 1980, p.30.) Berger suggests that these mass market suits, emulating the higher quality attire of the bourgeois urban class, draws attention to, rather than disguises, their ‘social caste’, and not in a particularly flattering sense. In his essay, Berger considers that the three young men are of a social group not beyond the reach of aspirational advertising campaigns and travelling salesmen, and in a state of awkward transition, succumbing to a new ‘cultural hegemony’. The posturing of these three rural ‘lads’, perhaps on their way to a dance, confounds and subverts expectations of the peasant ‘type’, especially in that they smoke cigarettes. Peasants were traditionally depicted smoking a pipe handcrafted from wood, and which like the wooden canes that appear frequently in Sander’s volume of photographs devoted to peasants and farmers, including this one, connoted an organic connection to the native soil as well as a certain time-honoured wisdom. By contrast, the mass-manufactured cigarette was often seen at the time as an urban symbol of social dissolution.

However, Green also cautions that there’s only so much you can infer about people from a photograph (given, for example, that the three men weren’t actually farmers).

This video is from a new-to-me channel called The Art Assignment, which is about art and art history. Subscribed!

Photos of the Women Clearing One of the Largest Minefields in the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2019

Sri Lanka Deminers

Sri Lanka Deminers

Photographer Allison Joyce has been in Sri Lanka photographing the women clearing one of the biggest minefields in the world. The mines were left over from the Sri Lankan civil war and the women are employed by NGO HALO Trust.

Landmines were used in vast quantities by both sides at different stages of the fighting in the north. From 2010 to 2012, HALO deminers removed over 30,000 mines a year. By 2014 the total had fallen to 16,000 annually, but those remaining threaten the most economically vulnerable people in the country. Mines present an obstacle to the safe return of internally displaced people (IDPs) and prevent access to paddy fields, fishing jetties and grazing land affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people.

HALO remains the largest international mine action operator in the country. Our 830 staff, including a large proportion of former IDPs, work in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Fifty percent of our deminers are women, many of them war widows with children to support.

In Focus and The Guardian have photo essays about the women and their work.

A Day in the Life at a Bell Labs Datacenter in the Late 60s

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2019

Larry Luckham was a manager at a Bell Labs data center in Oakland in the late 60s and early 70s. One day, he captured daily life at the company with his camera.

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Note how many of his coworkers were women, including women of color. From The Secret History of Women in Coding:

A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits. “It was like working logic puzzles — big, complicated logic puzzles,” Wilkes says. “I still have a very picky, precise mind, to a fault. I notice pictures that are crooked on the wall.”

What sort of person possesses that kind of mentality? Back then, it was assumed to be women. They had already played a foundational role in the prehistory of computing: During World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s, where Wilkes worked, she recalls that most of those the government categorized as “career programmers” were female. It wasn’t high-status work — yet.

A Camera Lens Made from an Iceberg

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2019

Mathieu Stern had an idea. He thought that if you could sculpt a piece of ultra-clear ice into the correct shape, it would function as a camera lens. To find that quality of ice, he traveled to Iceland to scavenge a chunk of an iceberg washed ashore on a black sandy beach. After some trial and error, he succeeded in making his iceberg lens and using it to shoot some photos and video. The lens lasted for about a minute before melting.

Here are some of the photos he took:

Iceberg Lens

Iceberg Lens

It’s a little impractical to go all the way to Iceland for iceberg ice when you can make your own clear ice at home, but Stern had this to say:

Now if people asks me “Are you happy with the result? it’s a bunch of blurry photos!?”, my response would be: “this project is a scientific, artistic and poetic project, I never imagined the result would look like the photos that comes from an ultra modern lens, but I was amazed by the strange beauty of the images I made with the first ever 10 000 year old lens.”

This is not a project for everyday photography, it was an adventure and a bet that when you have a crazy hypothesis, you should do everything to experiment it in the field.

I also wondered whether iceberg ice was actually more clear or pure than ice you could make at home. I didn’t find anything definitive but I did read this piece by Michelle Iwen about drinking single-malt scotch cooled by iceberg ice.

Our expedition leader, an Irish biologist studying southern birds, fished small chunks of clear-bubbled ice directly from the water as he worked to dislodge a sharp edged growler from beneath the propeller. He encouraged us to taste the ice, licking off the overlying salt water to find the pure, flavorless cold underneath.

“If you hold it in your bare hand long enough to speed the melting, you’ll hear it fizzle,” he told us. The fizzy pop of bergy seltzer is a familiar, yet unexpected sound. It sounds like a freshly opened can of soda, as the bubbles newly freed from the ice travel up toward the surface of the water. Yet the mundane sound of bergy seltzer belies the sinister power of melt against the bottom of the iceberg. Each bubble released scores the surface of the ice, compromising its structural integrity. We held the ice shards in our hands to make it fizz, let our skin burn against the freeze, as our expedition guide hoisted the free-floating remnants of a tiny growler into the zodiac to be chipped apart and consumed in cocktails that evening.

(via @peteashton)