The pigeon camera, a precursor to the drone


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Before airplanes, skyscrapers, Google Earth, drones, and GoPros brought us aerial views, there was pigeon camera.

In 1907, just a few years after the Wright brothers lifted off in Kitty Hawk, and while human flight was still being measured in metres and minutes, Dr. Julius Neubronner, a German apothecary, submitted a patent application for a new invention: the pigeon camera. The device was precisely what it sounds like—a small camera fitted with straps and equipped with a timer so that pigeons could carry it and take photos in flight.

Neubronner developed the pigeon camera for practical purposes. At first, he was simply hoping to track the flights of the birds in his flock. But his invention also represented a more sublime achievement. The images his pigeons captured, featured in “The Pigeon Photographer,” a recent book from Rorhof, are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above (the earliest were captured from balloons and kites) and are distinct for having the GoPro-like quality of channelling animal movement.

Naturally, the photos captured by the pigeons were randomly timed. This resulted in images with feathers and swooping side shots.  

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries


The Italian photographer Massimo Listri’s new book The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries showcases 55 of the most gorgeous libraries across the globe dating as far back to 766.

Featured libraries include the Sainte-Geneviève library in Paris, France, the all-white  Mafra Palace library in Portugal (my favorite), and Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland which houses Book of Kells and Book of Durrow.

While mostly in Europe, Listri also captures the Library of Alexandria, once the largest library in the world to the camel bookmobiles seen in Kenya.

Sainte-Geneviève library, Paris, France
Sainte-Geneviève library, Paris, France
Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome, Italy
Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome, Italy
The Mafra Palace library, Mafra, Portugal
The Mafra Palace library, Mafra, Portugal
Rijksmuseum research library, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Rijksmuseum research library, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

See more images at Quartzy.

Sharing sameness on the gram


I’ve blogged about it before but it’s worth repeating: Instagram homogenizes creativity.

Scroll your feed, and I bet one of the pictures that comes up includes the following: a selfie, a coffee cup in hand, someone standing on a rock, riding in a canoe, or feet up in the sand or mountains, etc. It all looks the same!

Of course, similar cliche-looking pictures can be seen on Unsplash, where I often pluck images to share on my blog.

Thankfully we have accounts like @insta_repeat to remind people, especially adventure influencers, of their mimetic desire to copy each other. The creator of the account is an unknown artist of their own, with no intention than to call out the patterns of sameness in the digital space.

From Quartz

The creator of Insta_Repeat is a 27-year-old filmmaker and artist, who wants to remain anonymous. “I’m not trying to be the arbiter of what photos have value and what don’t. I am just making observations about the homogeneous content that is popular on Instagram,” she told Quartz over email. She says she is baffled by how many shots there are of humans in canoes and atop SUVs—but does see the positives in the repetitive nature of Instagram. “I also think there’s an incredible amount of value in emulation both when someone is learning and continuing their craft,” she says. “Improving upon and building upon what has been done…is an important part the evolution of art.”

The art of conformity is real. If at first, we copy, then we deduce, mixing and meshing what others do until we develop our own unique style. That’s a creator’s ambition anyway, to do something novel.   

Below are some of the most recent posts from the @insta_repeat account. Make sure to follow along for the latest collages.

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‘The perfect image is not something that can be taught’


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“Rhein II”
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Tokyo

“The perfect image is not something that can be taught.”

— Andreas Gursky (via FT)

Gursky’s photograph “99 Cent II Diptych” was once the world’s most expensive photograph before another one of his images “Rhein II” was sold for $4.3m at Christie’s New York in 2011. 

However, I still dig the artifice projected in his 2017 high-speed train ride in Tokyo where he stitched multiple images together to give the photo a blurring effect.

You can see more of Gursky’s photos here.

Adventures in record collecting


The Dust & Grooves Book

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Photographer and blogger Eilon Paz has put together a book Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, which features more than 130 vinyl collectors across the world.

The images are amazing and diverse, ranging from the Italian man who owns the world’s largest collection of colored vinyl records to an owner who collects only Beatles’ White Album records.

Says Paz in an interview with Slate Magazine on capturing the vinyl enthusiasts:

It’s just me and the camera and that’s it. It’s like two friends hanging out listening to records and then I shoot some photos. It builds a very intimate moment between me and my subjects. When they talk about music they lose all their inhibitions. They just really enjoy it.

Vinyl has been having a resurgence the last few years as a reaction to the digitization of everything. As the most famous rock DJ John Peel promptly noted: “Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, life has surface noise.”

You can buy the 436-page book on the Dust & Grooves website or Amazon.

Churches built in post-colonial India


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Vividly-coloured and shaped like stars, ships and castles, several churches in Kerala appear to defy one of the basic tenets of architecture as set by the influential American architect Louis Sullivan – “form follows function”.

Read Why are some Kerala churches shaped like stars, ships and castles?

Sabine Weiss: Observations of French life in the 1950s


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But despite being one of the most distinctive photographers of the 20th century, Weiss insists that she is not an artist. “I am an artisan,” she says. “I don’t create anything: I am just a witness of what I see and what interests me, which has always been human beings.”

Read Sabine Weiss: an accidental tourist at 93

Photos by Jesco Denzel


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I’m sure you’ve seen Angela Merkel’s brilliant staredown at Donald Trump across the interweb. The photo was taken by German government photographer Jesco Denzel, who also won World Press Photo of the year in 2017 for the image in Lagos.

Extraordinary eye for timing and composition.