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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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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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