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The Hunter S. Thompson You Don't Know

If you talk to people who knew Hunter S. Thompson, born 74 years ago this week, you are going to hear crazy stories. From Thompson’s birth, boyhood, and schooling in Louisville, Kentucky, to a brief stint with the Air Force, even briefer stints with several newspapers and magazines in the early 1960s, the 1966 publication of his first book, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, until his death by a long-promised suicide in 2005, the author, journalist, and all-American antihero cut a broad swath through life, becoming as infamous for a love of drink, drugs, and guns, as he was famous for his literary career.

That’s a shame. Hunter’s antics as the woozy, half-mad, cosmic prankster in a golf hat, shooting glasses, and a gaudy print shirt too often can obscure a less-exciting, but perhaps more significant aspect of his character: Thompson as a writer at work.

Hunter indulged for all the typically human reasons, ranging from an authentic quest for new experience to simply bludgeoning demons into submission. Lord knows that drug-addled lunacy was essential Thompson’s life and art, just as it was to William Burroughs, Baudelaire, Byron, and Shelly.

Hunter was perhaps unique because drink-and-drug-fueled madness weren’t only his subject matter and milieu—they were his cause célèbre. As the most articulate, and most militant advocate of the better-living-through-chemistry ethos to arise in the counterculture movements 1960s, Thompson saw mind-altering chemicals, particularly high-powered hallucinogenics, as weapons in the culture wars. This was a man, after all, who ran for the Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, on a platform of Freak Power, using the campaign poster designed by Tom W. Benton depicting a fist with two thumbs clenching a button of peyote.

But Hunter did more than get blasted and do crazy stuff. That would make him no different from half of humanity. He also didn’t merely get blasted, do crazy stuff, and write a bit about it. That would make him Neal Cassady. Thompson wrote a lot, on a panoramic array of subjects, with dazzling technical proficiency, plus passion, wit, fury, sensitivity, reams of jaw-dropping sensory detail, and a fanatical devotion to the English language roughly akin to what Torquemada felt for the pope.

Read more at The Atlantic

Tip Of The Day: Invest in Glass, Not in Body

Tip Of The Day: spend more on lenses, rather than bodies. In general, the kind of glass you put in front of the body has a much higher effect on the quality of images than the body itself. Which when you think about it, is, at it’s simplest form, a light-sealed box with a shutter.

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What (apparently) makes the Leica M so unique

Insight: Unreal Handmade Dioramas by Lori Nix

Brooklyn-based photographer, Lori Nix, isn’t just your average, everyday, or even high-end photographer. Each of her creations are the result of weeks or months worth of painstaking hand-crafted tabletop dioramas of haunting scenes in still life.

Nix even eschews digital photography after all the hard work is completed, using an 8x10 instead. Now that’s determination. (Lori Nix)

The Minolta CLE: Leica's Bastard Child Who Outshone Leica For 22 Years

The little question of Leica’s bastard child, the Minolta CLE, and how it was better than anything Leica had ever produced until the M7 appeared in 2002 - a full 22 years after the CLE.

This camera was the result of an unlikely alliance between Minolta and Leica, when Leica was going through a period of suffering from the release of the M5. Leica’s collaboration with Minolta resulted in the stunning CL, followed by the most advanced Leica (cough…Minolta) produced, the CLE.
This camera came with TTL flash, aperture priority, a swing film door and an electronic shutter. Pretty heady stuff considering that this camera came out in 1980. Some of these advances were not seen on an ‘official’ Leica camera until the M7.

But one of the really impressive things about this camera was the lenses. Minolta has always been a bit of a dark horse, producing the outstanding and often overlooked Rokkor lenses. And this camera was designed to work specifically with them. Although the camera sports an M-mount, it is primarily designed for the 28mm, 40mm and 90mm Rokkor multicoated CLE lenses. Which incidentally are some of the best lenses I have ever used in my life. In theory you can actually put most Leica lenses on this camera, but only a few of them will actually fit because of the shallow film plane, and the frame lines are set for the CLE lenses.This is not a problem though, as the Rokkor lenses are more than capable. In all honesty, I could use this camera for the rest of my life and be completely content. It is small (tiny in fact), light fast and very quiet. There is not a lot to fault with this camera. The meter is extremely well balanced and actually meters from the film during the exposure. The only problems that I can find with this camera are that once the batteries are dead the camera is dead, so you need to make sure you have some spares handy at all times. And the famous spotting problem with the 28mm lenses.

The early 28mm lenses had a fault in their coating, which led to white spots forming on the coating of the lens over time. Although this rarely affected the image quality, it was unsightly and not what you would want from a premium lens. Minolta replaced a lot of these lenses, but not all of them. Which is something you should look out for when you are buying one of these.

Read more at JapanCameraHunter

On This Day: Diane Arbus Dies July 26th, 1971.

When someone like Norman Mailer says, “giving a camera to [her] is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child” you can bet that person in question is no ordinary soul.

Diane Arbus is one of the most distinctive photographers of the 20th century, known for seeking out the weird and the wacky hidden amongst the mundane. The majority of her photography took place on the streets of mid-century New York, eventually landing her work in the much respected Museum of Modern Art.

Her rarified circle included other noted photographers such as Richard Avedon and Walker Evans, yet despite the glamor and success, Arbus tragically took her own life in 1971.

Diane Arbus Photography

EDIT: The Village Voice’s original 1972 obituary for Arbus is below:

People gather outside Oslo City Hall to participate in a “rose march” in memory of the victims of the July 22 bomb attack and shooting massacre in Norway, on July 25, 2011. Gunman Anders Behring Breivik has admitted bombing Norway’s capital and opening fire on a political youth group retreat, but he entered a plea of not guilty, saying he wanted to save Europe from Muslim immigration. In November, Breivik was declared insane, and now faces compulsory psychiatric treatment, possibly for the remainder of his life. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

How To: Build Your Own Mini Flash Bouncer

Print out the image above (click on it for a bigger version) onto some fairly thick matte card and cut along the bold lines, fold on the dashed lines and voila, there you have it: a flash bouncer that should fit on most normal-sized flash heads (Speedlite 580 EX, SB-600, etc).

If you need more instructions, check out the original post on DIYPhotography)

Masters of Photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson and "The Velvet Hand and The Hawk's Eye"

It almost seems sacrilegious to post a colour photo of the man who shot exclusively in black & white, but perhaps this provides a good contrast. Undoubtedly, Henri Cartier-Bresson is the most famous street photographer in the world. Undoubtedly, he is

I originally wanted to write a piece on Henri Cartier-Bresson but during my research I stumbled upon Joanne Maguire and her wonderful HCB research project.

Quite simply, I couldn’t have written anything better so I have decided to post her text here instead. I hope she does not mind me doing so, but it is more out of tribute to her dedication and skill than anything else. (Joanne Maguire)

Early life

As a young boy, Cartier-Bresson owned a Box Brownie, using it for taking holiday snapshots; he later experimented with a 3×4 inch view camera. He was raised in a traditional French bourgeois fashion, required to address his parents using the formal vous rather than the familiar tu. His father assumed that his son would take up the family business, but the youth was strong-willed and upset by this prospect.



He attended École Fénelon, a Catholic school that prepared students to attend Lycée Condorcet. The proctor caught him reading a book by Rimbaud or Mallarmé, and reprimanded him: “Let’s have no disorder in your studies!” Cartier-Bresson said, “He used the informal ‘tu’-which usually meant you were about to get a good thrashing. But he went on: ‘You’re going to read in my office.’ Well, that wasn’t an offer he had to repeat.”

Experiments with photography

Although Cartier-Bresson gradually began to be restless under Lhote’s “rule-laden” approach to art, his rigorous theoretical training would later help him to confront and resolve problems of artistic form and composition in photography. In the 1920s, schools of photographic realism were popping up throughout Europe, but each had a different view on the direction photography should take. The photography revolution had begun: “Crush tradition! Photograph things as they are!” The Surrealist movement (founded in 1924) was a catalyst for this paradigm shift. Cartier-Bresson began socializing with the Surrealists at the Café Cyrano, in the Place Blanche. He met a number of the movement’s leading protagonists, and was particularly drawn to the Surrealist movement’s linking of the subconscious and the immediate to their work. The historian Peter Galassi explains:

The Surrealists approached photography in the same way that Aragon and Breton…approached the street: with a voracious appetite for the usual and unusual…The Surrealists recognized in plain photographic fact an essential quality that had been excluded from prior theories of photographic realism. They saw that ordinary photographs, especially when uprooted from their practical functions, contain a wealth of unintended, unpredictable meanings.



Cartier-Bresson matured artistically in this stormy cultural and political environment. He was aware of the concepts and theories mentioned, but could not find a way of expressing this imaginatively in his paintings. He was very frustrated with his experiments and subsequently destroyed the majority of his early works.

The Decisive Moment

Cartier-Bresson’s, The Decisive Moment, the 1952 US edition of Images à la sauvette. The book contains the term “the decisive moment” now synonymous with Cartier-Bresson: “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”



Cartier-Bresson achieved international recognition for his coverage of Gandhi’s funeral in India in 1948 and the last (1949) stage of the Chinese Civil War. He covered the last six months of the Kuomintang administration and the first six months of the Maoist People’s Republic. He also photographed the last surviving Imperial eunuchs in Beijing, as the city was falling to the communists. From China, he went on to Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where he documented the gaining of independence from the Dutch.



“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Legacy

Cartier-Bresson spent more than three decades on assignment for Life and other journals. He traveled without bounds, documenting some of the great upheavals of the 20th century — the Spanish civil war, the liberation of Paris in 1944, the 1968 student rebellion in Paris, the fall of the Kuomintang in China to the communists, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the Berlin Wall, and the deserts of Egypt. And along the way he paused to document portraits of Camus, Picasso, Colette, Matisse, Pound and Giacometti. But many of his most renowned photographs, such as Behind the Gare St. Lazare, are of ordinary daily life, seemingly unimportant moments captured and then gone.



Cartier-Bresson was a photographer who hated to be photographed and treasured his privacy above all. Photographs of Cartier-Bresson do exist, but they are scant. When he accepted an honorary degree from Oxford University in 1975, he held a paper in front of his face to avoid being photographed.

Technique

Cartier-Bresson exclusively used Leica 35 mm rangefinder cameras equipped with normal 50 mm lenses or occasionally a wide-angle for landscapes. He often wrapped black tape around the camera’s chrome body to make it less conspicuous. With fast black and white films and sharp lenses, he was able to photograph almost by stealth to capture the events. No longer bound by a huge 4×5 press camera or an awkward medium format twin-lens reflex camera, miniature-format cameras gave Cartier-Bresson what he called “the velvet hand [and] the hawk’s eye.”[citation needed] He never photographed with flash, a practice he saw as “[i]mpolite…like coming to a concert with a pistol in your hand.”

He believed in composing his photographs in the viewfinder, not in the darkroom. He showcased this belief by having nearly all his photographs printed only at full-frame and completely free of any cropping or other darkroom manipulation. Indeed, he emphasized that his prints were not cropped by insisting they include the first millimetre or so of the unexposed clear negative around the image area resulting, after printing, in a black border around the positive image.



Cartier-Bresson worked exclusively in black and white, other than a few unsuccessful attempts in color. He disliked developing or making his own prints. He said: “I’ve never been interested in the process of photography, never, never. Right from the beginning. For me, photography with a small camera like the Leica is an instant drawing.”

He started the tradition of testing new camera lenses by taking photographs of ducks in urban parks. He never published the images but referred to them as ‘my only superstition’ as he considered it a ‘baptism’ of the lens.

Cartier-Bresson is regarded as one of the art world’s most unassuming personalities. He disliked publicity and exhibited a ferocious shyness since his days in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Although he took many famous portraits, his own face was little known to the world at large (which presumably had the advantage of allowing him to work on the street in peace). He dismissed others’ applications of the term “art” to his photographs, which he thought were merely his gut reactions to moments in time that he had happened upon.



The simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression… . In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little human detail can become a leitmotif.

Henri Cartier is one of my favorite photographers, mostly because he tried to shoot everything as naturally as possible, he didn’t believe in editing his photos. He was know for catching the decisive moment, what ever it may have been at the time. This photo below is one of his most blunt photos.

When i first saw this photo I asked how Henri could just let it happen but i don’t know if he lived or died, I know most photographers don’t realize what they are seeing because they are looking at it through a lens, it feels like a different reality, but as someone just looking at the photo sees Pain, Anger, Why, How, Truth. I find this with all of Henri’s photos, he makes you ask questions and want to know what really happen and find out the story.

A picture says a thousand words, but which words? 

Tip Of The Day #1: Never Take Your Finger Off The Shutter

You simply never know what will come into view or when that moment will appear. People wonder why we carry cameras tied around our wrists when we’re walking down a street or out for a seemingly innocuous walk. This is why. 

People like us crave images: we all have our own genres and themes which we connect with. We see hundreds of “photos” every day, at least 90% of the ones I see are magnitudes better than what I actually manage to record on camera. 

The problem is: by the time we’ve swung our camera round, removed the lens cap, hit the ON switch, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, cocked the shutter - we’ve missed it. Rewind and remove the previous points only if you carry your camera pre-focused, cocked and held in your hand by your side. Even then, the swing of camera to eye usually means you’ve missed that initial moment that first piqued your interest.

It’s not to look cool with a big chunk of expensive plastic-metal-composite (we passed that moment in our early twenties), it’s not to scare young children or old people, and it’s not for us to feel like we’re getting our money’s worth - we do it because our brains are wired in such a way we can’t wait for the day when we can digitally record images directly off our retinas.

Taken with a Mamiya 6 and 50mm f/4, a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 - and a hankering for idling standing by waiting for that moment. This was shot in Osaka, Japan.

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One Polaroid shot a day, for 10 years. 

Did You Know: Photograph Means "Light Drawing" In Greek?

The word “photograph” comes from two ancient Greek words: “photo” which means “light”, and “graph” which means “drawing”. 

Light drawing has quite a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? 

Award-winning Photographer Admits to Faking His Own Photos

(Extract from Petapixel)

A huge photo scandal erupted over in Sweden this past weekend after a well-known and award-winning wildlife photographer admitted to faking some of his photographs. Terje Helleso — a nature photographer who was named Nature Photographer of the Year by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 — was discovered to have published multiple images in which stock photographs of hard-to-find animals were Photoshopped into nature scenes.
 
The manipulations came to light when conservationist Gunnar Gloerson noticed that one of Helleso’s photographs of a lynx showed the cat with winter fur, even though the photo was supposedly taken around July. He was also suspicious of Helleso’s claim that he had seen 150 lynx in just 9 months, since Gloerson himself had only seen 15 of them in 52 years of his studies.

That photo of a lynx at the top of this post? It was created using this stock photo:

After this story spread like wildfire through the Swedish media last week, Helleso admitted to the manipulation on Saturday. In response, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is looking into stripping the photographer of his title.

By the way — when Helleso received his award in May of this year, he stated,

“We nature photographers should never forget the responsibility we have with our images, from both a documentary and artistic perspective.”

North Korea: Off The Dictated Path (NY Times)

PYONGYANG, North Korea — A little boy skips along grasping a classmate’s hand, his cheeks flushed and a badge of the Great Leader’s smiling face pinned to his Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt. Men in military green share a joke over beers at a German-style pub next door to the Juche tower. Schoolgirls wearing the red scarves of the Young Pioneers sway in unison as they sing a classic Korean tune that I, too, learned as a child.

Everywhere I look, Communist North Korea is a world both foreign and familiar to my Korean-American eyes, a place where the men wear Mao suits and children tote Mickey Mouse backpacks, where they call one another “comrade” and love their spicy kimchi.

Since becoming the Seoul bureau chief for The Associated Press in 2008, I have made five eye-opening visits to North Korea. The chief Asia photographer, David Guttenfelder, has traveled to the country numerous times over the past 12 years.

This year, David and I have been granted unprecedented access. We traveled into the countryside, accompanied by North Korean journalists, not government minders. We had a cellphone, Internet access and a van with a driver who took us to Kaesong to the south, Mount Myohyang to the north and Nampho to the west.

During our wanderings, we got a glimpse of daily life in one of the most hidden nations in the world and found a country on the cusp of change.

Much of what we see during our reporting trips is calculated to show the bright side of a nation suffering from chronic economic hardship. The poverty isn’t immediately visible in the modern metropolis of Pyongyang. We are led through gleaming hallways and cavernous, chandeliered lobbies by guides in sparkling gowns or neat military uniforms, speaking as though from a script. The hedges are trimmed, the begonias in bloom.

But in between the staged visits, candid moments put a human face on a society enigmatic to the West, more complex and textured than typically portrayed.

New York Times

Feature: Living With Alzheimer's

It is often said that Alzheimer’s, for which there are no treatments and no cure, has a more profound impact on the families of patients than on the patients themselves.

Angel Serrano lived in the town of Talavera de la Reina, an hour’s drive from Madrid, with his wife Dioni, youngest son Carlos and daughter Cristina. His family devoted virtually all of their time to caring for Angel in the final few years of his life.

When they noticed his memory failing several years ago, the family immediately recognized the classic early symptom of Alzheimer’s—Angel’s sister had suffered the same illness and died a year and a half before. It would claim Angel’s life on October 15, 2004.

She was just 48 when she died; he was 56—the same age as their father when he succumbed to the disease. These are uncommonly young ages to die from Alzheimer’s, which is usually diagnosed in patients over 65. However, a form of the disease is inherited and can appear in middle-age.

For Dioni, Carlos and Cristina, looking after Angel became increasingly onerous and all-consuming. In the final two years of his life, he needed their full-time care and attention even for the most basic routines of daily life. Angel lost the power to speak, walk, and wash and clothe himself—and finally, a week before he died, the power to eat.

“It was a difficult time for us all,” recalls Cristina. “The worst thing was seeing him deteriorate every day. He had once been such a strong, energetic, outgoing person but the disease robbed us of the man we knew and loved so much. I think about him all the time, the conversations we had, the advice he used to give me, most of all I miss his smile. He is at peace now.” (Time)

Did you know: Secret Tour Hong Kong

Secret Tour Hong Kong takes visitors (and locals, too!) to all the places in Hong Kong they’ve never heard, experienced or seen before. The mission is to show visitors and sheltered locals a side of Hong Kong that rarely gets exposure. Stephen Chung, one of the founders of Secret Tour Hong Kong, wants visitors to experience what its like to be a real local - not the kind that live in Mid-Levels or fancy high-rises across gentrified districts.

I can’t think of a better way to spend an entire day in a new city, particularly if you’re a photographer.

Check out the Secret Tour Hong Kong Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/secrettourhk