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 Learning to See 
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Learning to See
Image

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Jordi Gual. A portrait of his blind daughter, Natasha.
"Natasha's eyes taught me to see."


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About a year ago, on an impulse, I began to immerse myself in the world of photography in an attempt to broaden and refine my knowledge. I wanted to uncover the essence of photography, to get a sense of why certain photographs had power over me while others did not. Over the course of this year, I culled a selection of photographs that attracted my attention. I've browsed through tens of thousands of photographs, saving the ones I found most evocative. In this thread, I will share what I gathered, hoping that discourse and discussion will enrich my appreciation even further.

Although I do not promise to post a new photograph every single day, I will post with a regularity that is more or less daily.

However, I will not post more than one photograph each day -- unless it's several images that constitute a series, or if I wish to draw a deliberate comparison between two photographs. Our daily lives of television and social media are already smothered in an overabundance of images. I want these photographs to stand on their own, to merit a few moments of solitary contemplation. I don't want them to be lost in the slipstream of tumblr and instagram. They deserve a chance to earn your attention.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:58 am
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DUDE DENNIS HOPPER DID PHOTOGRAPHY TOO.

I'm pumped, let do this. Is New Orleans kind to photographers? I do plan on bringing my nice camera.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:20 am
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Ooh, nice. I love this idea! And that's a beautiful portrait of absolute un-self-consciousness.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:20 am
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Very nice idea. And a good start, too.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:23 am
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By the way, sorry I didn't do a proper banner. I would have but I didn't want to mar any of the images with text, given the nature of the project, so I separated them.

Kayden: New Orleans is a very photogenic city. A lot of the pictures I've gathered were taken here (or elsewhere in Louisiana), and I'll probably be doing some cross-posting with that thread.

Maiden: That's what I love most about this portrait. I'll be posting several more of Gual's Natasha portraits over the next week or so (with additional ground rules or commentary about the project), but this one is without a doubt my favorite.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:02 am
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A wonderful idea!

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:01 pm
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Apologizing for not having a 'proper banner' is poor form. Proper banners are for conformist sissies. Your approach is far more faithful to the spirit of the thread, a thread which is not about making proper banners. Power to the people!

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:08 pm
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

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Preferences and Guidelines for Selection

Because this selection is dictated purely by personal instinct, my personal prejudices will tend to reveal themselves. I am often attracted to high contrast black and white photography, particularly those with bold and geometric compositions; clear-eyed, hard-edged photographs appeal more than anything soft focus or misty-eyed. I generally prefer documentary photographs -- those that capture the moment (the decisive moment, as Henri Cartier-Bresson called it) -- to photographs that are staged or otherwise manipulated. I like portraits, but only chose the few that really stood out to me. There may be types of photographs, even entire schools of thought, that I'll omit due to a lack of information or appreciation.

However, I've also made an effort to diversify and broaden my taste and have made pains to pore through color photography (although I still tend to prefer the bright and the bold), photomanipulation, conceptual photography, etc. These may not appear as often, but sometimes I find something very compelling in them, and I've included them to better develop that impulse.


.

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Wed Aug 27, 2014 7:56 am
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This second photo with Natasha "looking" right at the lens is a good example of how our perceptions can mis-color the truth of what we see.

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BIC Bicycle Thieves/Beijing Bicycle Es1, 4 Rv1 DP
BOU La Guerre des Boutons/War of the Buttons Es1 2 3 4 5 Rv1 2 3 Sc
BRH Battle Royale/Hunger Games Es1 Sc Rv1 2
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DRB Devil's Backbone/Dorm Es1 2 Rv1 2 Sc
HEL Mayor of Hell/Crime School/Hell's Kitchen DP Rv1 Es1
PAI Pinocchio/A. I. Es2 Rv1 DP Mu
SKN Victim/Skin I Live In Es1 3 Dir Rv1 2
TNS Tingler/Creeps/Slither Rv1 Rv2 Es1 SFX
TZN Tarzan of the Apes/Tarzan the Ape Man/Greystoke Script Rv1 2 3 Es1 2 3

The Future Unreels

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Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:03 am
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

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Commentary

The photographs may be accompanied by personal commentary (and, potentially, background or quotations from photographers and critics). This is not an informed or expert opinion, but an effort to develop one, or at the very least to develop my own personal sense of judgment. Hopefully my comments are worthwhile -- ideally they should inspire -- but they are not incontestable insights, and I encourage everyone to contribute their own opinion or contradict my own.

It's worth noting that I tend to dislike when photographers comment on their own photographs. Contextualization and occasional clarification can be useful, but commentary of a more personal nature often impinges upon the purity of the photograph. Many photographers seem capable of only making blanket political statements or articulating the obvious, and very few possess a gift for providing any kind of poetic insight that deepens rather than cheapens the photograph. In short, the more minimal and objective the commentary, the more I'll tend to like it.

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Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:29 am
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Ha ha. There is at least one visual pun in that photo. She is sitting in a field while her father plays with depth of field in his photograph!

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YTMN's Remake Rematch Thread. Catalog Rounds 1-3
Latest 20 Apr 2017. Thread COMPLETE 25 May 14 (2d time!)
Round Four complete: BTM Batman -- BCH On the Beach/These Final Hours NQRR

in progress:
BIC Bicycle Thieves/Beijing Bicycle Es1, 4 Rv1 DP
BOU La Guerre des Boutons/War of the Buttons Es1 2 3 4 5 Rv1 2 3 Sc
BRH Battle Royale/Hunger Games Es1 Sc Rv1 2
BRN Tom Brown's Schooldays Es 1 2 3 Sc Mu Rv1
DRB Devil's Backbone/Dorm Es1 2 Rv1 2 Sc
HEL Mayor of Hell/Crime School/Hell's Kitchen DP Rv1 Es1
PAI Pinocchio/A. I. Es2 Rv1 DP Mu
SKN Victim/Skin I Live In Es1 3 Dir Rv1 2
TNS Tingler/Creeps/Slither Rv1 Rv2 Es1 SFX
TZN Tarzan of the Apes/Tarzan the Ape Man/Greystoke Script Rv1 2 3 Es1 2 3

The Future Unreels

trxbooks.com


Thu Aug 28, 2014 12:41 pm
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

.

Not a Lecture

By no means is this project a lecture or a history of photography; I am neither qualified for nor interested in that pursuit. Rather, this is a personal exploration you're invited to take part in, an effort to articulate and refine my personal tastes in an art form I have a limited familiarity with, on my own terms but in the broader context of the art form as a whole. I may very well neglect iconic photographs or important photographers, possibly out of ignorance, possibly because I don't want to explore territory that's already too well tread. A work I select may not be very representative of that photographer's oeuvre. I have compiled photographs that strike me, and now I'm trying to determine why they strike me, in order to connect that to a broader appreciation of the art.

.

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Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:05 pm
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

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On Recommendations

This is an on-going effort. I will continue to look for more photographs to share, albeit at a more leisurely pace. On that note, if anyone wants to share anything -- favorite photographs, photographers of interest, any reading material -- I totally encourage it. I'm always willing to check out new stuff because in spite of all the effort I've made, photography is still something I know very little about.

.

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Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:57 am
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

.

On Portraiture (which will not be so prevalent as these Natasha pictures suggest)

Portraits are an essential form of photography, one of the oldest and most compelling. That's part of the problem, unfortunately: one can be overwhelmed by the ubiquity of portraits, especially in our image-laden culture of instagram and selfies. As a result, I often find myself attracted to radical formal choices and compositions. The best portraits capture something rare and distinctive, some moment or gesture that seems to contain unfathomable depths, but these are few and far between. Rather, a fusion of these two styles may be what compels me most: portraits of people situated within their environments, which reveal how they're affected by those environments and how they, in turn, affect everything around them. This has a breadth and complexity often absent in the abstractions of formalism and the intimacy of portraiture.


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Sun Aug 31, 2014 11:05 am
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Ah, this is my second favorite from this set. I can get lost in the play of focus.

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Dear Zindagi ▪ The Invitation ▪ Om Shanti Om ▪ Happy New Year ▪ The Dressmaker ▪ Cameraperson ▪ Tale of Tales ▪ Maggie's Plan ▪ The Handmaiden ▪ Captain Fantastic ▪ Under the Shadow ▪ I Am Not Your Negro

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Mon Sep 01, 2014 9:38 pm
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I know nothing about photography. Black and white photos though= :heart:

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Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:27 am
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.

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On Graphic Content

Some photographs will contain imagery that is violent, disturbing, or risque. Some may feature carnage, suffering, death, and political atrocities. Others will depict nudity or sexual acts. Just so ya know.

.

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Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:55 am
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Image

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Jordi Gual. Le petit oiseau.

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Posting Logic

There is no solid reasoning behind the order in which I'll post; I'll merely cull from my collection on a whim. For the sake of simplicity, though, I'll tend to group posts by photographer. This will help me organize my posts and will also encourage discussion about that photographer's ouevre: the diversity of their work, the themes that interest them, the visual motifs that crop up again and again. I'll only diverge from this convention if I find another photograph by a photographer I've already posted.

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Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:52 am
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Image

.

Jordi Gual. Portrait of Natasha.
(This is the last of Gual's portraits. Now we'll move on to something completely different.)

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On Contributing

If anyone wants to post their own finds in this thread, I eagerly encourage them to do so. Maybe something I post prompts a response from you -- a painting or another photograph that my post brought to mind. Maybe you just stumbled across something and want to share it. Everything is welcome. This is basically an open forum for photography. I ask only that you post the photography of others and not you own, since we already have a separate thread for that purpose.

.

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Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:45 am
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My personal favourite:

Image

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Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:54 am
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I really like that -- the pale purple that seduces your eye toward the center of the frame and emphasizes the tenderness there, off-set by the hot red/orange accent to the left. Any idea who took it?

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Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:03 pm
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Burk Uzzle. Just googled it, guess he worked for Magnum as well.

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Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:43 pm
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Huh. I have one Burk Uzzle photo saved, although I hadn't seen the one you posted before.

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Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:37 am
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Macrology wrote:
Huh. I have one Burk Uzzle photo saved, although I hadn't seen the one you posted before.


WOODSTOCK BABY

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Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:19 am
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Apparently that couple is still together, too.

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Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:20 am
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Image

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Burk Uzzle. Daytona Beach. Florida.

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Figured I'd post the Uzzle I had, since we're talking about him.

There is so much going on here; I love how densely and vividly it captures how bizarre American culture can be. You have the giant fake sunglasses on the right, that terrifying mascot on the left, and the flock of birds flying overhead, which are mirrored by the flock of trophies lined up on the ground.

.

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Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:06 am
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I usually favour photography from the 60s and 70s. The trends and styles from those decades are just too perfect.

Are you a fan of David LaChappelle? I bought his Taschen book awhile ago. Not the vintage stuff I go with, but his photography is like some freakshow portrait of American culture. And Pam. <3

Image

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Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:55 am
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Image

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David LaChapelle. The Rape of Africa. 2009.

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I figure I'll run with the flow of conversation as long as I can.

This is the only LaChapelle I have saved because I'm not that drawn to his kitsch aesthetic (or conceptual photography in general). But I can't resist the bold, gaudy complexity of this one.

He modeled the composition after Botticelli's Venus and Mars, which makes it feel like high art lost in a pop art fever dream.

LaChapelle's own comments on the picture.

Sandro Botticelli's Venus and Mars
Image

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Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:05 am
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Image

Since you're looking at color at the moment... I recently came across this one in a set of portraits of Harlem luminaries by Carl van Vechten. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's of James Baldwin, a man who never took a bad picture, but this is definitely one of my favorites. Look at the way he claims the backdrop, the way his hands look like a lover's hands, the way he hides behind and wears the colors! <3

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Dear Zindagi ▪ The Invitation ▪ Om Shanti Om ▪ Happy New Year ▪ The Dressmaker ▪ Cameraperson ▪ Tale of Tales ▪ Maggie's Plan ▪ The Handmaiden ▪ Captain Fantastic ▪ Under the Shadow ▪ I Am Not Your Negro

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 9:15 am
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Macrology wrote:
This one has an exposed nipple.
Image
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David LaChapelle. The Rape of Africa. 2009.


If you count carefully you will notice that there are actually four, possibly five exposed nipples. But only one counts, in the final tally.

The whole situation reminds me of the musings in this post.

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YTMN's Remake Rematch Thread. Catalog Rounds 1-3
Latest 20 Apr 2017. Thread COMPLETE 25 May 14 (2d time!)
Round Four complete: BTM Batman -- BCH On the Beach/These Final Hours NQRR

in progress:
BIC Bicycle Thieves/Beijing Bicycle Es1, 4 Rv1 DP
BOU La Guerre des Boutons/War of the Buttons Es1 2 3 4 5 Rv1 2 3 Sc
BRH Battle Royale/Hunger Games Es1 Sc Rv1 2
BRN Tom Brown's Schooldays Es 1 2 3 Sc Mu Rv1
DRB Devil's Backbone/Dorm Es1 2 Rv1 2 Sc
HEL Mayor of Hell/Crime School/Hell's Kitchen DP Rv1 Es1
PAI Pinocchio/A. I. Es2 Rv1 DP Mu
SKN Victim/Skin I Live In Es1 3 Dir Rv1 2
TNS Tingler/Creeps/Slither Rv1 Rv2 Es1 SFX
TZN Tarzan of the Apes/Tarzan the Ape Man/Greystoke Script Rv1 2 3 Es1 2 3

The Future Unreels

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 9:24 am
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Today, I watched the two available documentaries on Vivian Maier. Such wonderful images!

How she had such an incredible hit-rate, being self-taught and developing so few of her negatives, I find utterly baffling.

Image Image
Image Image

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 10:10 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
How she had such an incredible hit-rate, being self-taught and developing so few of her negatives, I find utterly baffling.
Oh, definitely. She's amazing!

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Dear Zindagi ▪ The Invitation ▪ Om Shanti Om ▪ Happy New Year ▪ The Dressmaker ▪ Cameraperson ▪ Tale of Tales ▪ Maggie's Plan ▪ The Handmaiden ▪ Captain Fantastic ▪ Under the Shadow ▪ I Am Not Your Negro

Voyage | Female Gaze | MACBETH | Sokurov | Fassbinder | Greenaway | Denis | Book Shelf


Sun Sep 07, 2014 10:27 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
How she had such an incredible hit-rate, being self-taught and developing so few of her negatives, I find utterly baffling.

I'm checking on a point because I haven't seen the documentaries: did they say she didn't develop her negatives, or that she didn't print very many? You can't really tell what you have without developing the negative, but you can look at the negative and decide that it isn't worth printing.

Yet, she might have had such a sure sense of what she captured as she exposed the negatives that she truly didn't bother to develop the "bad" negatives in the first place!

Which would be doubly amazing to me.

And I fret that I cannot see the goldfish in those tiny bowls in the ULC photo.

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YTMN's Remake Rematch Thread. Catalog Rounds 1-3
Latest 20 Apr 2017. Thread COMPLETE 25 May 14 (2d time!)
Round Four complete: BTM Batman -- BCH On the Beach/These Final Hours NQRR

in progress:
BIC Bicycle Thieves/Beijing Bicycle Es1, 4 Rv1 DP
BOU La Guerre des Boutons/War of the Buttons Es1 2 3 4 5 Rv1 2 3 Sc
BRH Battle Royale/Hunger Games Es1 Sc Rv1 2
BRN Tom Brown's Schooldays Es 1 2 3 Sc Mu Rv1
DRB Devil's Backbone/Dorm Es1 2 Rv1 2 Sc
HEL Mayor of Hell/Crime School/Hell's Kitchen DP Rv1 Es1
PAI Pinocchio/A. I. Es2 Rv1 DP Mu
SKN Victim/Skin I Live In Es1 3 Dir Rv1 2
TNS Tingler/Creeps/Slither Rv1 Rv2 Es1 SFX
TZN Tarzan of the Apes/Tarzan the Ape Man/Greystoke Script Rv1 2 3 Es1 2 3

The Future Unreels

trxbooks.com


Sun Sep 07, 2014 9:02 pm
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Gort wrote:
I'm checking on a point because I haven't seen the documentaries: did they say she didn't develop her negatives, or that she didn't print very many? You can't really tell what you have without developing the negative, but you can look at the negative and decide that it isn't worth printing.

Yet, she might have had such a sure sense of what she captured as she exposed the negatives that she truly didn't bother to develop the "bad" negatives in the first place!

Which would be doubly amazing to me.

And I fret that I cannot see the goldfish in those tiny bowls in the ULC photo.

From what I understood, she left most of her work undeveloped, which is how it was unwittingly discovered by the box-load back in 2007. The camera she used was a Rolleiflex, which offers only 12 shots before the film has to be reloaded. It's the kind of technological restraint that would certainly inspire efficiency in one's work, but that doesn't explain how she was so proficient in capturing everything so perfectly, first time, every time. My only explanation, especially given the often shrouded details of her past, is that she did indeed have some kind of formal training - then simply honed this over the decades to produce the stunning photos we've been so lucky to stumbled across.

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 9:47 pm
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Image

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Vivian Maier. 1953.

.

Y'all are awesome. This is all great stuff. And I have several Maier photographs saved, so I'll start sharing those (I should check out those docs, her story really is remarkable).

This one doesn't demonstrate Maier's visual sense like the ones Jedi posted, but it has a sinister suggestiveness that really draws me in. We're probably witnessing something innocent and easily explainable, but her framing of the shot heightens our uncertainty. What is that man doing? Is he stripping her? If so, why? He seems older than her, but we can't see either of their faces clearly. We don't know their intentions or whether their actions are consensual. All we can do is wonder and suspect the worst.

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 9:54 pm
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That's a lovely shot, Mac.

I think one of the most striking things about her work is the use of contrast between black and white: shadows falling across a face, for example, or in this case a manicured lawn. I guess this reflects her own dark side and inner demons, as suggested in the documentaries. It's also suggested that she was very suspicious of men in general, which the photo you posted seems to depict.

Image

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 11:33 pm
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Macrology wrote:
What is that man doing? Is he stripping her? If so, why? He seems older than her, but we can't see either of their faces clearly. We don't know their intentions or whether their actions are consensual. All we can do is wonder and suspect the worst.
That's a camera around his neck, right? So, sinister, yes, but almost a self-commentary, as she surreptitiously catches them in the act.

Love all these Vivian Maier photos!

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Dear Zindagi ▪ The Invitation ▪ Om Shanti Om ▪ Happy New Year ▪ The Dressmaker ▪ Cameraperson ▪ Tale of Tales ▪ Maggie's Plan ▪ The Handmaiden ▪ Captain Fantastic ▪ Under the Shadow ▪ I Am Not Your Negro

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Sun Sep 07, 2014 11:49 pm
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See! Photographs contain so much! I never even noticed the camera somehow, which is such an essential key to divining what's going on. It doesn't solve the mystery, but it offers more concrete possibilities. And, as you noted, it makes her more obviously complicit in this strange scenario, since she's not so different from him.

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:08 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
From what I understood, she left most of her work undeveloped, ...

Corroborated by this blog, which is by the man who acquired a lot of her work, John Maloof. From the explanation on the blog website:
John Maloof wrote:
Out of the more than 100,000 negatives I have in the collection, about 20-30,000 negatives were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960's-1970's. I have been successfully developing these rolls. I must say, it's very exciting for me. Most of her negatives that were developed in sleeves have the date and location penciled in French (she had poor penmanship).

That is totally amazing. Of 16 rolls of color film I couldn't afford to get developed for 10 years, with dozens of shots of my little boys growing into men, only three frames were printable. That Maier's film would still be in good enough shape to develop after all this time is astoundingly lucky. And a third of what he bought was undeveloped.

They don't make film like they used to!

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 4:35 am
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Yeah, the second documentary I watched was actually made by Maloof, who narrates most of it. He was the first one to stumble across Maier's work and essentially blind-buy some of it, only to realise its potential value and seek out the remaining material. The documentary is interesting in that it relates the process that he goes through, from confusion to curiosity, etc. His interviews reveal a lot of conflicting information about Maier: that she perhaps fabricated her French accent, experienced an abusive childhood and consequently abused the children she looked after, too. This is why I preferred the BBC documentary, which is somewhat shorter but tends to focus more on the images left behind and the spaces that Maier moved through rather than the person herself.

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:12 am
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The second photo that Jedi posted is one of the best photographs I've ever seen, and I'm not even sure why.


Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:20 am
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It's so De Chirico. :heart:

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:33 am
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Now that you mention it, I can kinda see the resemblance. But the thing about it is that it's not dreamlike like his paintings, it seems more to suggest concrete urban isolation/alienation, so it's like De Chirico mixed with Hopper, and since they're both in my top 10 ever, well...


Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:45 am
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Yeah, most of her shots are of downtown Chicago and New York, but many of them are also of the suburban areas where she lived - or, where the family she worked for lived. As such, there is this jarring distinction between the two areas of the city: littered streets and grizzled faces, as opposed to leafy avenues and youthful smiles. Again, this contrast between light and dark.

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:59 am
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Post Re: Learning to See

Image

.

Vivian Maier. New York.

.

The pictures Jedi posted demonstrate Maier's remarkable visual acuity, with their striking compositions and the contrast he noted between light and darkness. And it's strange - since I'm usually attracted to those qualities - that for some reason I honed in on her portraits. She has a sympathetic and humane eye, with a knack for evoking a passerby's inner life, picking out personalities and moments of contemplation amid the turmoil of the city. Such versatility speaks not only to the strength but also to the breadth of her talent.

.

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Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:00 am
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Image

.

Vivian Maier. Chicago. December 1962.

.

For more of her work: http://www.vivianmaier.com/

.

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Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:51 am
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Image Image

There was another I couldn't find online, but it was an apartment or something underneath a chop suey sign. Totally peepin on the people inside.

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Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:56 am
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Image

.

Vivian Maier. Chicago. 1960s.

.

I'm going to start spoiler tagging any comments I make. Sometimes I have things to say, but those things often feel unnecessary or superfluous. They can distract from the essence of the image.
A bold, possibly exploitative portrait. But there's such tenderness in it. Because he's talking on a phone, particular attention is drawn to the deformation of his missing ear.


.

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Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:09 am
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Kayden Kross wrote:
Image

This one is probably my favourite of hers!

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Thu Sep 11, 2014 4:27 pm
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Image

.

Vivian Maier. 1979.

.

Since we haven't seen any of her color work yet.

.

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Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:54 am
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