— lucynagalik.com/en

In 1727 Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered photosensitive qualities of silver nitrate, which was one of the most important steps leading to the invention of photography a hundred years later. Photosensitivity had of course been known earlier.

This is how Stefan Themerson wrote about it in The Urge to Create Visions (1983):

When the apple was still green, a little leaf got stuck to its surface. The sun shone, the apple reddened, but not under the little leaf. And when Eve took the apple, which was pleasant to the eyes, she flicked of the little leaf, but she didn’t notice that a beautiful pale shape of the little leaf was created there, on the peal of the apple. Neither did the serpent notice it. No did Adam. Nor the author of Genesis (otherwise he would have mentioned it, and he didn’t).

Not only do apples change their colour when exposed to light, the colour of human skin changes as well.

Sometimes skin changes colour because of exposure to sunlight, sometimes because of exposure to light from an UV lamp.

When I look at photos from Illustrated People, I can’t stop thinking, that most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays. I am afraid that there will be a follow-up.

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Untitled (Pope John Paul II)

Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Pope John Paul II), 2004

The Pencil of Nature is considered to be the first (or the second) photobook in history. It was published in instalments between 1842 and 1846. The book was written by Talbot to explain this new art form that he had invented. Here is an excerpt from Part 3:

Portraits of living persons and groups of figures form one of the most attractive subjects of photography (…). Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures would require, since the Camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be: but at present we cannot well succeed in this branch of the art without some previous concert and arrangement. If we proceed to the City, and attempt to take a picture of the moving multitude, we fail, for in a small fraction of a second they change their positions so much, as to destroy the distinctness of the representation. But when a group of persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by a little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained.

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Abraham Lincoln

Alexander Gardner/ Sanna Dullaway, Abraham Lincoln, 1865/ 2012

Whenever someone famous dies, the Polish media illustrate the news with a black and white picture. I’d like it to be the result of the cultural connectedness of the two colours to death, but it is more likely only a result of identifying black and white photographs with the past tense. In Roland Topor’s La Princesse Angine the protagonists do not die, they only move from the present to the past tense. In the media the famous do not die either, but merely pass from colour to black and white. Someone in a black and white picture is someone form the past. That is why so many people find the colour photographs from the Second World War so eerie.

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Richard Avedon, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor,

Richard Avedon, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1957

In 1936 he abdicated the British throne for her. It is April 1957, almost 20 years later. Richard Avedon photographs the couple in their New York suite in the Waldorf Astoria. The famous photo shows two sad bitter people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both are proficient in being photographed. During the shoot they smile, they want to appear satisfied with life. That’s how they want to be seen, but the photographer has other plans. He knows they adore dogs, so he tells them, that his taxi has run over a dog. The couple’s mask drops and Avedon quickly takes a photo. Years later he recalls in the movie Darkness and Light:

The expression on their faces is true, because you can’t evoke an expression that doesn’t come out of the life of a person. (…) There are times when it is necessary to trick a sitter into what you want. But never for the sake of the trick!

Oh, really?

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Contents of an Ostrich's stomach

Frederick Willam Bond [1887-1942], Contents of an Ostrich’s stomach, circa 1930, collection of National Media Museum

The first time I have seen this photo I instantly thought about the beginning the Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić:

While at the Berlin zoo, beside the pool containing the live walrus, there is an unusual display. In a glass case are all the things found in the stomach of Roland the walrus, who died on 21 August 1961. Or to be precise:

a pink cigarette lighter, four ice-lolly sticks (wooden), a metal brooch in the form of a poodle, a beer-bottle opener, a woman’s bracelet (probably silver), a hair grip, a wooden pencil, a child’s plastic water pistol, a plastic knife, sunglasses, a little chain, a spring (small), a rubber ring, a parachute (child’s toy), a steel chain about 18 inches in length, four nails (large), a green plastic car, a metal comb, a plastic badge, a small doll, a beer can (Pilsner, half-pint), a box of matches, a baby’s shoe, a compass, a small car key, four coins, a knife with a wooden handle, a baby’s dummy, a bunch of keys (5), a padlock, a little plastic bag containing needles and thread.

The visitor stands in front of the unusual display, more enchanted than horrified, as before archeological exhibits. The visitor knows that their museum-display fate has been determined by chance (Roland’s whimsical appetite) but still cannot resist the poetic thought that with time the objects have acquired some subtler, secret connections.

This blog is meant to be such a random collection of everything my mind feeds on. I am curious myself what subtler, secret connections those inspirations will acquire. If at all they ever do.

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