Lewis Hine, Annie Leibovitz, and Labor Day

It is closing in on Labor Day, 2014. Important that we, as a country, remember where we came from. Especially where we were in the heady days of the early 20th century, when sociologist Lewis Wickes Hine used his camera to remind us of the people who worked so hard to move us forward. Hine’s most famous and moving works were his photographs of child laborers, whose lives were changed– finally– by those photographs. And there were adults who labored in new and rapidly growing industries, like the mechanic pictured below. Hine’s photograph is stunning for its graphic bluntness: a hard working man forever stuck within the confines of that enormous gear:

"Power house mechanic working on steam pump" By Lewis Hine, 1920 National Archives and Records Administration
“Power house mechanic working on steam pump”
Lewis Hine, 1920 National Archives and Records Administration

The image looms large enough in our nation’s collective subconscious that photographer Annie Leibovitz borrowed its strength to create a timeless portrait of tennis player Martina Navratilova. But here, Navratilova stands outside the machine, in control, with space to move:

photo of Martina Navratilova, Dallas, Texas (1994) by Annie Leibovitz
Martina Navratilova, Dallas, Texas (1994)
Annie Leibovitz

One of the hardest working girls in tennis proves that she can spin the gear singlehandedly, but can also walk away if she chooses. Many things–salaries, health benefits, working hours– have changed in the decades since Lewis Hine made his irreplaceable, compelling images. On Labor Day, we thank the people who have moved us forward.

Logo Design: Le Bicyclette

“Bicycle” © Jero Sepanto

Last month’s Tour de France reminded me of the 100th anniversary of said Tour. It was celebrated with great fanfare and a spectacular tour-ending light show on the Arc de Triomphe. I only wish the Tour de France logo was as visually interesting as last year’s anniversary celebration, which was spectacular. Many thanks to the handsome praying mantis who designed his own Tour de France logo. Or maybe he was just out for a ride. A special thanks to photographer Jero Sepanto for really seeing this.

Pi Art: Paint By Number


Progression of the first 10,000 digits of π. By Cristian Ilies Vasile. Created with Circos.
Progression of the first 10,000 digits of π. by Cristian Ilies Vasile. Created with Circos.

Martin Kryzwinski is far too brilliant a scientist with much too rich a resume for us to try to describe him. A brief quote from his bio is better than anything we could think of:

“I try to make people think and feel good by creating visualization tools and information graphics that combine analytical clarity with an artistic dimension. Real science should look just like in movies.”

He created Circos. From his blog:

“Circos is a software package for visualizing data and information. It visualizes data in a circular layout — this makes Circos ideal for exploring relationships between objects or positions. There are other reasons why a circular layout is advantageous, not the least being the fact that it is attractive. …Circos is ideal for creating publication-quality infographics and illustrations with a high data-to-ink ratio, richly layered data and pleasant symmetries. You have fine control each element in the figure to tailor its focus points and detail to your audience.”

Regarding: ART OF π:

“Cristian Ilies Vasile had the idea of representing the digits of π as links that connected segments associated with successive digits. The image is composed of links (segment:position) 3:0 → 1:1 → 4:2 → 1:3 → 5:4 …”

Seriously, folks. The number Π. While we all know it means something, few of us know what that something is. It is just ‘Π.’ We thank Martin Kryzwinski for enabling us to see the physical world through the eyes of his beautiful program. We thank Cristian Ilies Vasile for using Circos to help us to see how beautiful Π is.

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis


Southern right whale tail, Argentina, 2004. © Amazonas Images/ TASCHEN
Southern right whale tail, Argentina, 2004. © Amazonas Images/ TASCHEN

Sebastião Salgado’s work has always been a profound mix of art and commentary. His personal and professional devotion to the welfare of humanity and to the welfare of the planet have made him a singularly important figure in contemporary photojournalism. His newest book, Genesis, was published by TASCHEN Press in May of 2013. Genesis is the result of an eight year mission to seek out life on the planet– peoples and places– that have not yet been touched by modern society.

“Some 46% of the planet is still as it was in the time of genesis,” Salgado reminds us. “We must preserve what exists.”

We are happy to share with you a video conversation between Benedikt Taschen, of  TASCHEN, and Sebastião Salgado, regarding the May 2013 publication of Genesis:

Books, in particular the life-altering photo books of Sebastião Salgado, are among every society’s most important legacy. We thank TASCHEN for their continued support of this great artist. We very humbly thank Sebastião Salgado for being one of the reasons we take such great pride in being photographers.

The Ongoing Moment: Geoff Dyer on Photography

Geoff Dyer is an essayist and novelist. His book, “The Ongoing Moment,” was written in 2005. It is still fresh, relevant. I love his honesty. I love that he takes on icons of photography and shows how images and their makers play off from one another. Take for example Paul Strand’s image of the blind woman. Now blindness and photography are somewhat oppositional: if one photographs a blind person there is no chance the person will see the image. There is a strong possibility too, that the person will remain unaware that the image was taken. Strand did it. Lewis Hine did it in 1911. Gary Winogrand did it in 1968- all photographed blind people in their own style.

Aperture Foundation,
Aperture Foundation, “Blind Woman, New York,” a photograph by Paul Strand, 1916

Dyer places the photographs within a historical framework and does so with humor and intelligence. Dyer talks about photographer’s working methods, and how photographers see their own work. He looks at photographs and the history of medium from the perspective of someone who might borrow a camera when he travels, but hardly ever uses one otherwise. He speaks clearly, with visual examples to back up his evaluations. He is knowledgeable and insightful. He writes as if he is having a conversation, and a rather free flowing one at that. I found inspiration on every page, along with a dab of cynicism, some new connections, and lots of ideas to mull over. And over.

A Code of Ethics: Norwegian Good

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a designer, blogger, WordPress guy genius and all around decent human being. As our first blog, we thought it might be a really, really good idea to state what we believe to be a right way to exist as designers, photographers, journalists, bloggers, creators. Or rather, Morten’s statement is so good that we will let him state it for us. Here is Morten’s still-evolving Code of Ethics.

War Photography: What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?

The current crisis in Syria is one which demands our attention and one which, sadly, reminds us of our war weariness. We know what images to expect: photos of people lying dead in a street, videos of bombs wasting buildings. We expect them because we, as a species, and for want of a better word, like them.

Race car drivers are skilled at taking corners, driving fast, holding the car on the track – some even run marathons to stay in shape. But fans come for the crashes. Those burst-into-flames, fear-inducing moments of horror:  the injuries, the smashing of cars. This is what the fans crave. In ice hockey it is not so much the skill on skates or stick handling that the fans come to see, but, rather, the fist fights. In football, head injuries occur and yet fans love the tackling. We — and not just the ‘we’ of the united states, we — worldwide bystanders to action — love to see flames, blood and terror. It is also true of the news. We see war,  violence, murder, and grim photographs of mourning mothers and outraged fathers, as news . We see photographs of bombed out cities and people running in fear, and we think that is all there is to the story. But there is so much more.

VII” is one of the world’s preeminent photo agencies. Its director, Stephen Mayes, is attempting to lead photojournalism in the direction of that ‘so much more.’ Here is Mayes, speaking to the French magazine 6Mois, The 21st Century in Pictures:

‘The representations of war are bound up in stereotypes. Certain visual codes regularly recur. They show us what we already know, instead of attempting to open up new horizons,’ he says, denouncing the standardisation of images. He suggests that photojournalists tell other stories, ones that are closer to daily life or the economic world.

Even in war-torn communities, people struggle to earn a living, educate their children, build shelters, purify water. They are also struggling to raise white flags and talk at a table. There are new businesses starting, and history is being made in places other than battlefields. There are important stories to be told far away from the bloodshed:

'Marisol,' a loong term photo project by Janet Jarman
‘Marisol,’ photo project by Janet Jarman, 6Mois Magazine

From 6Mois:

‘Marisol was 8 when photographer Janet Jarman met her for the first time. The little girl was recycling refuse at a dump in Mexico. Seventeen years later, the two women still meet. Marisol, a mother of three children, lives in the United States.’

A long term photo story looks at who makes war, who is affected by war, who is trying to mend the wounds of war, but as with ‘Marisol,’ it can also offer so many other ways to look at the world besides the killing, besides the same horror-stricken faces of the victims and their families. Stephen Mayes of “VII is asking some great questions here, and in its commitment to publishing these other stories, and 6Mois is trying to answer them.