flickr lit photo

A peek into Obama's speech-writing process

Obama speech - Jon Favreau - FlickrPho­to: Pete Souza

I real­ly geek out out on glimpses of the marked-up copy of oth­er writ­ers, so I was pret­ty fas­ci­nat­ed to see a page of a Pres­i­den­tial speech-in-progress. If you click through to the zoomed-in page, you'll see that all of Obama's notes are all copy-edits; there are no devel­op­men­tal "what I'm try­ing to say here"-style edits. Not sure what that means, but I thought it was inter­est­ing. The Flickr cap­tion indi­cates that the pho­to was tak­en "in the Oval Office, Sept. 9, 2009, in prepa­ra­tion for the president's address to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress." Cool.

flickr photo tv

Let's put this matter to bed

That's what she saidGenius stitch­ing and polaroid by: That Kate.
flickr photo san francisco

Transbay bird swirl

Transbay terminal San Francisco birds

Perched among the tall build­ings in down­town San Fran­cis­co, my office can feel like a nest in a tall tree. Yes­ter­day evening, the birds that live atop the Trans­bay ter­mi­nal swirled up to, and around, the win­dows of our con­fer­ence room, and the aerie-like feel­ing was stronger than ever. One bird even land­ed, briefly, on the ledge of the win­dow. I have no idea what kind of birds they are, what brought them to us, or what they hope to achieve. But I am in awe of them.

baseball photo

Absolutely undeniable proof that you belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Nolan Ryan - Robin Ventura

You auto­graph pho­tos of your­self using Robin Ventura's head as a speed­bag. And, they sell for $100 each on ebay.

flickr photo

Unconsciously satisfying

David Mellor - Pride - flatware

Great design hits you on many lev­els. Design­ers love to talk about clos­ing the door of a BMW. It feels dif­fer­ent. And this feel­ing may not even reg­is­ter in the con­scious mind, but it mat­ters. The feel­ing of solid­i­ty and integri­ty dur­ing that action is unique and last­ing, even though it occu­pies a tiny sliv­er around the expe­ri­ence of dri­ving. You may not con­scious­ly notice it, but your mind reg­is­ters it and you body remem­bers it.I hes­i­tate to admit this in a pub­lic forum, but I don't think I've ever pur­chased a new piece of sil­ver­ware. Our sil­ver­ware draw­er is a hodge­podge of air­line spoons, thrift store forks, garage sale knives, odds and ends of var­i­ous shapes and sizes. But you've got to won­der whether the expe­ri­ence of eat­ing wouldn't be great­ly enhanced — even uncon­scious­ly — by great sil­ver­ware, like the set above by crafts­man David Mel­lor. I saw it yes­ter­day at Heath Ceram­ics in Sausal­i­to, and even a philis­tine like me could tell that it's got some­thing going on. For $160, you can find out for your­self.If you do, lis­ten to your sub­con­scious, and let me know what it says.

inside art photo visual

Dream team

Saul Steinberg - Robert Frank - The Americans - Les Americains - first edition

Saul Stein­berg's cov­er for the first edi­tion The Amer­i­cans by Robert Frank. Pub­lish­er Robert Delpire: "The only point of dis­agree­ment was the cov­er. I insist­ed right away on using a draw­ing by Saul Stein­berg, whom I had met and whose work I liked. Frank said, 'It's a book of pho­tos, we could use a pho­to.' I told him, 'You can use a pho­to for the Amer­i­can edi­tion, but let me use a Stein­berg draw­ing.' But when I reprint­ed the book in 1986, I used a pho­to­graph because I had dis­cov­ered, basi­cal­ly, that he was right."

inside art photo san francisco visual

Robert Frank, The Americans, and grant-writing

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Robert Frank is known for a few things, pri­mar­i­ly The Amer­i­cans, a ground-break­ing book of pho­tog­ra­phy pub­lished in the late 50's. He is also known for avant-garde film-mak­ing, e.g., Pull My Daisy, and his nev­er-released Rolling Stones doc­u­men­tary with an unprint­able name.We checked out SFMOMA's 50th anniver­sary ret­ro­spec­tive of The Amer­i­cans today, and I was aston­ished at anoth­er of Frank's skills: Grant-writ­ing. In order to fund the gath­er­ing of the pho­tos that became The Amer­i­cans, he applied for a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship. I've past­ed his clear, sim­ple, two-part essay below. 

Part 1: Frank's brief summary of the proposal

To pho­to­graph freely through­out the Unit­ed States, using the minia­ture cam­era exclu­sive­ly. The mak­ing of a broad, volu­mi­nous pic­ture record of things Amer­i­can, past and present. This project is essen­tial­ly the visu­al study of a civ­i­liza­tion and will include cap­tion notes; but it is only part­ly doc­u­men­tary in nature: one of its aims is more artis­tic than the word doc­u­men­tary implies.

Part 2: The full statement of intent

I am apply­ing for a Fel­low­ship with a very sim­ple inten­tion: I wish to con­tin­ue, devel­op and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the Amer­i­can nation in gen­er­al. I am sub­mit­ting work that will be seen to be doc­u­men­ta­tion — most broad­ly speak­ing. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found car­ry­ing its own visu­al impact with­out much work expla­na­tion. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it pro­ceeds, and is essen­tial­ly elas­tic. The mate­r­i­al is there: the prac­tice will be in the photographer's hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embar­rass­ment but one can­not do less than claim vision if one is to ask for con­sid­er­a­tion. "The pho­tograph­ing of Amer­i­ca" is a large order — read at all lit­er­al­ly, the phrase would be an absur­di­ty. What I have in mind, then, is obser­va­tion and record of what one nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can finds to see in the Unit­ed States that sig­ni­fies the kind of civ­i­liza­tion born here and spread­ing else­where. Inci­den­tal­ly, it is fair to assume that when an obser­vant Amer­i­can trav­els abroad his eye will see fresh­ly; and that the reverse may be true when a Euro­pean eye looks at the Unit­ed States. I speak of the things that are there, any­where and every­where — eas­i­ly found, not eas­i­ly select­ed and inter­pret­ed. A small cat­a­log comes to the mind's eye: a town at night, a park­ing lot, a super­mar­ket, a high­way, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his chil­dren, a new house and a warped clap­board house, the dic­ta­tion of taste, the dream of grandeur, adver­tis­ing, neon lights, the faces of the lead­ers and the faces of the fol­low­ers, gas tanks and postof­fices and back­yards. The uses of my project would be soci­o­log­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal and aes­thet­ic. My total pro­duc­tion will be volu­mi­nous, as is usu­al­ly the case when the pho­tog­ra­ph­er works with minia­ture film. I intend to clas­si­fy and anno­tate my work on the spot, as I pro­ceed. Ulti­mate­ly the file I shall make should be deposit­ed in a col­lec­tion such as the one in the Library of Con­gress. A more imme­di­ate use I have in mind is both book and mag­a­zine publication.

Frank was award­ed a fel­low­ship, which amount­ed to $3,600, and he used this to trav­el in a long loop around the US in 1955–6. That "more imme­di­ate use" that he refers to in the final sen­tence turned into The Amer­i­cans, a stun­ning doc­u­ment that is every bit as inter­est­ing 50 years lat­er. The exhi­bi­tion is cap­tured in an extend­ed ver­sion of The Amer­i­cans, includ­ing con­tact sheets and commentary.

photo politics

A man with a shopping bag

The NYT's Lens blog recent­ly post­ed a cou­ple of great arti­cles about the pho­tog­ra­phers who cap­tured the Tien­an­men Square protests in 1989. The first offers four riv­et­ing oral his­to­ries from pho­tog­ra­phers who cap­tured the "Tank Man" in his moment of defi­ance, and the sec­ond adds a new twist: this amaz­ing image from street level.

Tank Man at street level - New York Times - Lens BlogDis­or­der. Peo­ple flee­ing. This was hap­pen­ing as the Tank Man, seem­ing­ly so calm, stood in the street. I also think it's inter­est­ing that all the men in the pho­to are wear­ing — as a com­menter on the NYT blog put it — "the same drab clothes." A true illus­tra­tion of how much has changed in Chi­na in the last 20 years.

The Roshomon-like details in all of the pho­tog­ra­phers' sto­ries are vivid and heart­break­ing: "Vehi­cles were smol­der­ing," "a line of stu­dents fac­ing a line of sol­diers and a col­umn of tanks," "anoth­er vol­ley of shots rang out from where the tanks were, and peo­ple began duck­ing, shriek­ing, stum­bling and run­ning," "some guy in a white shirt runs out in front," "a man wav­ing two plas­tic shop­ping bags," "wav­ing his jack­et and shop­ping bag," "remon­strat­ing with the tank dri­ver in an act of defi­ance," "he then dis­ap­peared into the crowd," "the PSB (Pub­lic Secu­ri­ty Bureau) grabbed him and ran away."

And then what happened?

Char­lie Cole: "I then placed the tank roll in a plas­tic film can and wrapped it in a plas­tic bag and attached it to the flush chain in the tank of the toilet."Stuart Franklin: "The film was smug­gled out in a pack­et of tea by a French stu­dent and deliv­ered to the Mag­num office in Paris."Jeff Widen­er: "I gave all my rolls of film to [some­one named] Kurt/Kirk who smug­gled it back to the A.P. office in his under­wear. The long-haired col­lege kid was wear­ing a dirty Ram­bo T‑shirt, shorts and san­dals." Arthur Tsang Hin Wah: "A col­league rode over on a bike and picked up the film."And Ter­ril Jones, the reporter who cap­tured the shot at street lev­el: "I nev­er pub­lished them, and only showed them to a few friends and fel­low reporters."And the rest is his­to­ry. That keeps unfold­ing, I guess.

flickr photo politics

Not a bad idea

Renaming Bush Street - San Francisco - Pranksters after the inauguration

Okay, one last polit­i­cal thing. In the wee hours before yesterday's inau­gu­ra­tion, a genius prankster named Alex Zec­ca report­ed­ly cov­ered every "Bush" street sign from down­town to the Mari­na with a stick­er that said "Oba­ma." I heard about it when I got into work, but missed the chance to see it for myself. Luck­i­ly, Vanes­sa Nay­lon saw it hap­pen. Awesome.

photo politics

Obama's inauguration, seen from space

Obama inauguration - Washington Mall

It appears to have been attend­ed pri­mar­i­ly by ants. Thx, Chris. From Geo­Eye.