Abelardo Morell and his Camera Obscuras

“For the last 15 years, Abelardo Morell has been quietly building one of the great ongoing photography projects – a view of the world through rooms that have been turned into camera obscuras.”

This is such a stoned idea –

Camera Obscuras
(Click to enlarge) Central Park looking Northwest, New York City, 1999.

Camera Obscuras
Uffizi Museum Windows, Florence, Italy 2000

Morell has continued the Camera Obscura series venturing further and further afield to different cities and states and then to England, France, Italy, and Cuba.


Russell Brookes’ spot for the NSPCC

N.S.P.C.C. spot

I’m not sure when this film dates from*, but Russell Brooke’s animated film for the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is a harrowing 30 seconds experience.

It’s a powerful piece that uses cartoon imagery to describe a most unfunny situation.

N.S.P.C.C. spot

N.S.P.C.C. spot

You can find the 30 second spot on the Passion Pictures website.

N.S.P.C.C. spot

It might be hard to watch this piece more than once.
The children who suffer violent abuse in the home will unfortunately suffer for more than 30 seconds.

I think it’s a masterpiece of communication.

*(I’ve just found that it dates from 2002. I have been living without a television for the last eight years, so a few things might have escaped my notice during that time.)

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

thumbnail of title
(Click to enlarge)-(and no stupid puns intended.)

I found this arresting image on the amazing Dutch Circus Museum website a while ago. It dates from the 1920’s, I think.
(CAUTION! When you follow that link you will immediately be subjected to irritating and loud announcements in Dutch. There’s a button at top right that turns off the ringmaster style announcer. Find it quickly. Use it. It is your friend.)

Every time I see this picture in the folder where it lives on my hard drive, I wonder about the people standing around in that model village so long ago. What became of them? How did they manage during the war years?

The website doesn’t give a lot of information about them, and regrettably not much about anybody else save for the barest minimum.

It makes me wonder though, that if an entrepreneur were to succeed in assembling a troupe of people of restricted growth (P.O.R.G) (Note to sub: Check this for political correctness.), and parade them before the paying public in a circus under the banner: Schaefers Liliput Co., then it’s within the realms of possibility that that same mind might just be capable of building a three fifths scale model village for them to live in, No?
(This is pure fantasist conjecture on my part, so please don’t take the idea seriously, charming though it might be.)

Put that worrying thought aside for a moment, and stop concentrating on the lad on the left who looks as if he has an extreme case of hirsutism.

The museum, being a museum, can only hold up for us a graphic reflection of times gone by.
I believe that it’s a good thing that those times that allowed the objectification of people as circus freaks are now history.

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Lionel The Lion Man

Whatever happened to Lionel, “Half Man & Half Lion”? It’s hard to imagine living a life of such strange otherness, and then gracefully retiring from it, without some serious re-adjustment. I’m trying, with great difficulty, to visualise Lionel queueing quietly and unobtrusively for his pension in the post office.
While reading Shakespeare.

The Original Monkey Suit
Solomon The Man Monkey: – “He goes on Sunday to the church”.

This image is absolutely a fruit of its times, and can’t easily be discussed outside its historical context.
I harbour a mental image of a modern day creationist trying to reconcile the idea of this embodiment of evolutionism turning up at church every Sunday. Natty suit though.

Solomon is so transparently not human that, aside from all the moral challenges that his presence radiates, it’s impossible for us to empathise with him. We may share 98% of his genes but we do not share 98% of his feelings.

This next person (or persons) is just so bizarre as to register as a surrealist artwork in his or their own right.

The freakishness of what I see initially blocks my humanity, my empathy. At least to start with.
But then after slowly taking in the evidence in front of me, I start to wonder about the realities of everyday life for this man / couple. Not just the strangeness of talking with his / their tailor, but his / their acceptance by ordinary people: Neighbours, shopkeepers and so on.
What on earth would your life be like had you been born with the same condition?

thumbnail of Jean & Jacques Libbera
Almost too weird to contemplate.

The next couple at least have the choice of separating should they want to. However it seems that a tragical but symmetrical collection of injuries has cast them together on the stage of life, and their mutual interdependence binds them tightly together in a sad union that exists for as long as the public has a liking for amputee uniped soldiers doing a novelty act.

I imagine that theirs was not a long and fruitful career, given the ready supply of mutilated soldier comic turns available in Europe of that time, but, hey, what else could they do?
I also wonder what rôle the nurse figure played in their on and off stage lives?

thumbnail of Bistrews Co

This last selection from the Circus Museum is just heartbreaking. (I’m sorry I can’t link to the original image because the site is riddled with venomous and repugnant use of Flash, but if you are a dedicated image truffler, you will find this one without too much trouble.)

thumbnail of 2 Humans

All I can say is that it is the picture of 2 human beings, photographed in a circus environment because that was the only place that offered them validation and a degree of dignity at that time..

The Spider And The Zeppelin

This is a slightly calmer and gentler story from the Minuscule crew.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t crazy and completely branché, however!

It’s called “Zzeplin”

It looks like 2 conjoined teddy bears!  How could that possibly be a spider?
(Click to enlarge, please.)

P.S. If this disappears, and I’m looking the other way and fail to notice, please get in touch by using the Contact Form in my “About” page, and I’ll see if there’s a backup copy knocking around somewhere. :Â ¬)

Producer: Phillipe Delarue
Concept & Art Direction: Hélà ¨ne Giraud
Music: Hervé Lavandier
Concept & Direction: Thomas Szabo
Script: Stephane Mit (?) & Nicolas Gallet
Storyboard: Gilles Cazaux

It’s really difficult to link you to the relevant (Minuscule) part of Futirikon’s website.
I gave up trying to grope my way through Flash pages (with no back button natch,) trying to find the page I discovered several months ago,,,

What’s The Worst Job You Ever Had?

I’m sure you must have had a job (or even two) in your career that was just so unremittingly tedious, and / or badly paid that it now demarcates and defines the outer edge of your professional experience.

When I saw this photoset on Flickr the other day, my first reaction was to shudder at the idea of having a job creating these minute textures that are used to decorate and obfuscate the content of airmail (and other) envelopes.

And yet someone has found them to be attractive and interesting enough to celebrate them in their own right. (Click to enlarge)

Mickey Mouse shaped envelope security markings

Memphis Group

This second example is named in honour of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group (from the early 1980’s). I’m sure that the group feels honoured by being commemorated by this piece of postal ephemera.

The third example that caught my eye, almost literally, was this vibrant zig-zag masterpiece. I find the little silhouettes of aircraft particularly charming.

Aircraft against a dazzle background

Roland Barthes would have had a field day with this collection. I think that you might find it oddly compulsive viewing too.

Dreamworks Shifting To Stereoscopic 3D Production

Earlier this week, Dreamworks Animation announced that it will be producing all of its films in stereoscopic 3D technology from now on, and that the first feature to be released will be in 2009.

UPDATE. Click this funny looking retro icon to listen to a 6’30” audio clip (mp3) Radio Player from the BBC’s “Film Programme” discussing the future of 3D in the age of the digital movie.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks, said:-

“I believe that this is the greatest opportunity for movies and for the theatrical exhibition business that has come along in 30 years.
Advancements in sound have dramatically improved the auditory experience, but there hasn’t been a corresponding breakthrough in the way we see movies until now. Stereoscopic 3D technology gives us a real opportunity to significantly enhance the theater experience.”

30 Years? Hello??? How long has 3D Stereo been around?

Wikipedia states:

The stereoscopic era of motion pictures begins in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene files a patent for a 3-D movie process. In his patent, two films are projected side by side on screen.

So why does Katzenberg believe that the adoption of 3D stereo will suddenly enhance the movie going experience?

Surely it’s the stories that pull people into cinemas, not the, er, spectacles.

Methinks that the cinema distribution and exhibition sectors are gearing up to try and seduce their former audience back to the multiplex. The cinema-goer will soon not have any need to go out for a good movie “experience”, because high definition display devices and relatively inexpensive screens can be easily installed in the home nowadays. Why bother going out?

The Dreamworks press release is accompanied by this extraordinary concept painting of “Monsters vs. Aliens”, scheduled for release in 2009.

The dreaded Insectosaurus
I’ve re-rendered the picture (above) for your convenience.
The original concept painting looked like this:-

Insectosaurus versus THAT bridge

(Notice the cinema-goer at bottom left abandoning all hope of seeing a well written animated film that doesn’t depend for its appeal on CG or 3D technology.)

A delicious touch, added at the end of the press release and strongly reminiscent of those useless corporate caveats attcahed to e-mails that absolve the company’s lawyers from any repercussions arising from anything, anywhere, ever, is this gem, entitled: “Caution concerning forward looking statements”.

It’s a masterpiece of corporate arse covering, and I advise you to save a copy of it and attach it to all your documents in future.

You will never be to blame for anything from now on. Especially not the quality of any films you might release.
The full arsewipe statement can be found after the jump….
Continue reading Dreamworks Shifting To Stereoscopic 3D Production

Laputa Flying Sled in 3D

Murat Vishnyakov has looked long and hard at the little flying machines featured in Hayao Miyazake’s film, Laputa.
Flying machine from Laputa

And after a long inspection of the 2D craft, Murat decided that what they really needed was to be re-engineered as high resolution3D models.
Flying Machine

I’ve always liked these strange machines because of their weird design. They seem to be an amalgam of a skidoo and a dragonfly, with a dash of funfair ride thrown in.

Flying Sled from Laputa in 3D

There’s some amazing attention to detail in the 3D models, based on tiny scraps of information gathered from a very small number of frames in the film.

Flying Sled from Laputa in 3D

Truly a labour of fanboy love!
See the whole richly illustrated story here.

Musical Riot

I found this wonderful piece of craziness while trawling through Bonham’s catalogue for yesterday’s entry about Stanhope Forbes’ painting:- The Quarry Team.

I’d never heard of John Bulloch Souter (1890-1972) before, but he obviously painted with gusto and immense enjoyment while doing it!.

John Souter's Musical Riot
(Click to enlarge)

There’s prodigious quantities of life drawing feeding into this picture.

It seems he studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen and at Hospitalfield in Arbroath.

Apart from a few references to the prices that his art now commands, there are very few images that I can find on the net. It’s a shame, because I really like his style!

John Bulloch Souter
(He’s the one on the left)

Anyway, here’s the link to the Bonhams Auction page.

Update The picture sold for £3,500 plus Premium and tax.

That sounds like a bargain to me. If you imagine that just to commission a painting of this nature and sheer craftsmanship that’s over 4 ft by 3 ft and involving 20 characters, you’d be looking at a sum much greater than three and a half grand (plus premium and tax, of course).

I just hope that Souter got a good price for it when he was still alive!