Bookends: Red and blue in Cusco

Photo by Wells Baum (Cusco, Peru)

Red used to be the world’s “first color,” writes historian Michel Pastoureau in his new book Red: The History of a Color. It was all people knew before blue emerged as a symbolic color in the 12th century.

The red color

It is the basic color of all ancient peoples (and still the color preferred by children the world over). It appears in the earliest artistic representations, the cave paintings of hunter-gatherers 30,000–plus years ago. Blood and fire (the domestication of the latter constituting an important human achievement) were always and everywhere represented by the color red.

Photos by Wells Baum

The blue color

Blue has become associated with peace and tolerance (as in the flag of the U.N. and its peacekeeping forces). In Pastoureau’s telling, blue is the color of consensus, of moderation and centrism. It does not shock, offend, disgust, or make waves; even stating a preference for black, red, or green is a declaration of some sort. Blue invites reverie, but it anaesthetizes thinking. Even white has more symbolic potential.

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Photo by Wells Baum

Read Red versus Blue

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The old crossing

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Photo by Wells Baum (Kemer, Turkey) 2013

Across the bridge, where pedestrians pass.

Even as the strong bridge rots, we continue walking to connect the gaps to the wider world.

Under or over, we suspend doubt to avoid its nonexistence.

Build your own bridge, the old crossing of words.

Photo by Wells Baum (Machu Picchu, Peru) 2017
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Photo by Wells Baum (Bronx, NY) 2014
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Photo by Wells Baum (Brooklyn Bridge, NY) May 2012
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gif by Wells Baum (Harpers Ferry, WV) 2017
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Photo by Wells Baum (Georgetown, DC) 2016

I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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Horse power 

Photo by Wells Baum (Peru)
Trains and tractors made the world less dependent on horse power. As the 19th century came to a close, horses were abundant. Consider this fact:

“In 1900 there were 145,000 horses in the French army and 130,000 horses working in Manhattan, while at the same time in Australia there was one horse to every two humans.”

Horses went from animals that drove economies and conquest to sprinters at the pop of a pistol. This looks like a fascinating read: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Rediscover this day: The Grand Central Astronaut

Photo by Wells Baum

One of my favorite features on Google Photos is ‘Rediscover This Day.’ It’ll crawl through your image library and collate a series of images from the same day years ago.

The feature isn’t new; Timehop popularized the retrospective social media feature years ago. However, Facebook and Google Photos were able to scale it.

So what does this have to do with the astronaut?

I snapped this image two years ago but forgot about it. Remember what Om Malik said: “We take too many photos and little time looking at them.” Two years in the smartphone era is like a decade!

What I enjoy about this picture other than the rarity of seeing an astronaut in Grand Central Station is the black and white contrast which makes the spaceman the center of attention. The crowd is noticeable but almost out of focus. The original color version doesn’t have the same noticeable impact.

Vladimir Lagrange, photo artist

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Vladimir Lagrange, Tomorrow Morning, 1969

Vladimir Lagrange took artistic photos of ordinary Russians for the “Soviet Union” Magazine. He also captured a bunch of personal photos that never saw the day of light because of Moscow’s censorship.

In reading up on Vladimir and looking at some of his pictures, it reminded me of this Bertolt Brecht line from War Primer (1955):

“The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter.”

The rise of mobile photography unleashes the citizen reporter, making it even harder to assess truth from propaganda. The world speaks in images to which people latch on to their own cocoon; beware the blind spots.

Chaos and order in NYC

Photo by Wells Baum
Below is an excerpt from my book Train of Thought which you can read online for free. If you want to support my work, please snag a copy on Amazon.

Paul tried to make every one of eighty-plus daily phone pickups count. The more he shot, the more photos he had to play with. The only challenge in photographing New York was the bombardment of sensory stimulation; stories oozed with opportunity in every open corner and alleyway, yet nothing, not even Broadway, felt staged. The city thrived off chaos, and it worked like a pre-programmed video game. Those who ignored the beauty of its complexity were the most aloof rats in the cage. The City struck all the right neurological notes, but you had to learn how to see to catch the profound silence in between the disorder. 

From Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight