Life.Turns: Animating a Cast of a Thousand Strangers

Life.Turns poses
(Click this image to see the eight required poses for contributors)

There’s a collaborative animation project gathering momentum at blipfoto during the Edinburgh Festival.

The idea is that thousands of participants upload photos of family and friends one by one, posed in one of eight poses that together make up an animated walk cycle.
The pictures below will make it clear.

life turns. Making an animated film from the images sent in by thousands of people
life turns. Choose one of eight side-on walking poses
life turns. The side view poses will show many different people
life turns. The finished film will be shown at Inspace, Edinburgh, on Thursday the 26th of August and at at

Remember to check out the BlipFoto site on the 26th of August to see the completed film. – Why not join in and send your own side-on view?


Transformations Through Light – Photos by Helmar Lerski

There’s an interesting reference resource for all you CGI modellers and lighting artists looking for new ways to build on the standard three lamps setup. Take some time to study an exhibition of eighty-eight photographs by Helmar Lerski (1871–1956) currently showing at the Ubu Gallery in New York and running until the 25th of June, 2010.

The show is called “Transformations Through Light”, and it demonstrates Lerski’s skill at moulding his model’s features into dramatic volumes; a skill he learned and practiced as a cinematographer in the avant-garde German cinema of the nineteen twenties and thirties.

His compositions lent an air of grandeur to all of his subjects, even though many of them were beggars, labourers, and people found in dole (welfare) queues.

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(Aus dem Werk) “From The Factory”, 1936
(Please click this image to enlarge it)

Lerski was involved concurrently in the two major, emergent mediums of his time: film and photography. Born in Alsace in the then German city of Strausburg, he became involved in the theater and, in 1896, moved to New York to pursue a career in acting, eventually working at the Irving Place Theater and later the German Pabst Theater. It was in this setting that Lerski first became aware of the unique visual effects achievable with stage lighting. Drawing from his acting experience, he began investigating photography as an artistic medium after meeting his wife, also a photographer. While photographing their colleagues, Lerski experimented with a series of portraits that severely manipulated the lighting effects. The resulting images formed a base for his later success in both commercial and art photography.

Extreme close-up of dramatically lit male model.
(Verwandlungen des Lichts) “Untitled” 1936

Extreme close-up of a boy from Yemen, dramatically lit.
(Yemenititischer Knabe) “Yemenite Boy” 1933.

Close-up of a farm labourer's hands holding the handle of a tool.
(Hände eines Landarbeiters) “Farm labourer’s hands” 1944

Extreme lighting on the face of a housekeeper, by Helmar Lerski.
(Die Hausangestellte) “The Housekeeper” 1929

This body of work upholds the artist’s declaration that “in every human being there is everything; the question is only what the light falls on.”

Among Lerski’s many models was a young Francis Bacon, who had a dramatic studio portrait taken by Helmar Lerski, “a Swiss photographer and cinematographer”. Bacon was later to tell Stephen Spender that he had been very impressed by the work of the photographer who had produced striking effects using mirrors and natural light filtered through screens, but that he could not remember the artist’s name.” (Surprise!)

Not all of Lerski’s subjects were portrayed in this stark dramatic style, he made some dreamy portraits of a fellow film maker Leni Riefenstahl, who incidentally lived to the ripe old age of 101.

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(Click for pin-up size version)

The Tate Modern has a small collection of Lerski’s work.

There’s a tiny link to a PDF of thumbnails of all the photos in the Ubu Gallery page, and here’s a direct link.

Link to The Ubu Gallery


Vroom Broom – Cleaning Up The Mean Streets Of Sanremo.

This is another post based on photos from the recent holiday in Liguria, Northern Italy.

I came across this curious little one seater car on very hot day in Sanremo. Its driver had parked and gone off somewhere, leaving the keys in the ignition.
I was so tempted to jump in and have a ride, but I figured that: 1) It might spoil the guy’s day to find his tiny car missing, and: 2) I had no idea of how to drive it.

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(All these images get bigger if you click on them.)

Another rather whimsical thought struck me; That the little car might be magical. Apart from its unusual shape and size, and its very modern looking curves, there was a striking and arresting anomaly:- The bamboo broom clamped onto the side looked just like the besom that Kiki rides in “Kiki’s Delivery Service“.
But enough of such whimsy…

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The picture below shows the strange combination of hi-tech car, and lo-tech bamboo broom. A wonderful mix.

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The interior is a bit sparse, to put it mildly…. That dashboard / control panel will never win any prizes for style.
I was intrigued to know who made such utilitarian cars, and was surprised to find the name of a very famous Italian motorbike company on the badge…

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The “DUC” part is from “Ducati”, makers of legendary superbikes, with names like “Monster” and “Streetfighter“.

There are two branches of the Ducati group of companies, and the little single seater DUC is a product of the electrical engineering side of the company.

Here’s a link to their website, and a downloadable brochure that gives you all the vital statistics you crave.

The car in these photos is the hybrid- petrol / battery version, which gives the driver a range of about 40 kilometres ( about 25 miles) which is enough sweeping for anybody in one day….

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Although that rear end isn’t exactly pretty, the picture shows the two independent motors that propel and turn the rear wheels, without the need for any clunky steering mechanism.

To finish, I leave you with a link to a (translated) French website, that shows how many of these new types of vehicles are already available today. Most of them are designed for urban transport, rather than street cleaning, and what’s so striking is the new cartoony aesthetic that pervades so many of the novel designs.

There’s a real sense that this market for electric and hybrid vehicles is maturing in Europe..

And furthermore, there aren’t really any mean streets in the belle epoque gentility of Sanremo. But you knew that, anyway.


Scary Scorpion

While preparing a salad in the kitchen of the house in Liguria, I nearly jumped out of my skin when this fierce looking scorpion scuttled out onto the work surface. Amazingly, I happened to have the camera handy….

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(Click to see terrifying detailed view.)

More photos coming later….


Mystery Building

What and where is the building shown in the picture below?

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You an click the thumbnail to enlarge it, if that helps.

OK. Here’s the rather surprising answer to the mystery building question:

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You’ve obviously twigged that it’s a Russian Orthodox church from the onion domes. What’s unexpected is the location: Sanremo, in the Italian Riviera, close to the border with France.

It’s the Church of Christ the Saviour, St. Catherine and St. Seraph, erected in 1912 by rich Russian emigrés who liked to winter on the Riviera.
I came across it while on holiday recently, when the town was lit by the warm late afternoon light of “golden hour”.
(Link to the church’s website – in Italian)

The church was designed by Alexey Shchusev, who also designed Lenin’s tomb in Red Square in three breathless days.

The church is undergoing a bit of restoration at present. All the bells were stored in the vestibule, as you can see in the bottom right of this next picture.

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( Click on these pictures to enlarge them, please. )

The church has a slightly magical quality with its icing sugar decoration, and it suggests to me something that might easily figure in a landscape dreamed up by Maurits Escher.
Have you ever seen pictures of the churches on Kizhi Island?

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More pictures from Liguria and the Italian Riviera coming soon….

I Spied a Spider…

This tiny fellow had made a web on one of the panes of the back door.
What you see below is an extreme close up of the spider, who is very very tiny indeed. It was a really tricky shot because the camera’s auto-focus was easily confused by the foliage beyond the hammer pattern glass.

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If you click this small image, you’ll see a big version that shows more of the spider’s point of view.

Imagine looking at that background with four pairs of eyes! It’s like some LSD hallucination.

It reminded me of Doctor Peter Witt’s experiments in the 1960’s, when he administered tiny doses of drugs to spiders. His research has been updated recently, as you will see in the video below.


Photo Gallery of Animation People

Richard Keith Wolff has been patiently taking photos of people in the animation business for nearly twenty years.
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Paul Chung, Russell Brooke, and Molly Jo Sanderson, Soho 1995
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Richard has a long standing reputation as a rostrum cameraman. He has concentrated on his hand held camera work for many years now, and has been photographing people in the creative arts world, mostly in London.
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Peter Blake stares into Richard Wolff's lens.
Peter Blake, Artist, October 2007
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The Richard Wolff website galleries show his interest not just in animators, but also musicians, actors, authors, and campaigners.
Here’s the Link.
See if you can find yourself in there!


Waiting For The Staff To Turn Up….

A modern building has sprouted up in my town, and while it waits patiently to be occupied by suits, it shimmers quietly in the morning sun looking for all the world like a swimming pool, tinted by the greenish cast of the windows.

I just happened to have my camera with me….

Kingsgate Redhill 01
(Click this picture to make it MUCH bigger!)

If I were the boss of the company who will eventually occupy this space, I’d organise a few days of rollerblading, marbles and ballroom dancing for the staff, before all the office furniture is moved in and transforms this magical looking place into any other boring office.

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(Click it!)


Wayne Levin

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Floating (Please click to enlarge)

Amazing photography by Wayne Levin.

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Mark under breaking wave

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Mark under (another) breaking wave

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Swimmers in the Iron Man event, Hawaii

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Column of Akule, Hawaii

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Free diver surrounded by Akule, Hawaii

Wayne Levin has spent a career photographing the eerie and mysterious underwater world. Working in black and white, he removes the surface illusions about the ocean and the assumptions about underwater photography.

See more of his work at The Robert Koch Gallery


Frank Zappa’s Mum and Dad

Yes, even “Uncle” Frank had parents, but what Francis and Rosemary thought of his purple home décor was not recorded by the Life photographer, John Olson, back in 1970 when this photo was taken.

thumbnail of Francis & Rosemary Zappa and son
(Click this small picture to reveal the whole purple gloriousness of Franks lounge area)

This image is another treasure released from Life magazine‘s archive of 10,000,000 images now hosted on Google’s servers.

Searching for Frank Zappa pictures yielded some other unexpected shots of rock stars and their parents:-

  • Enjoy Elton John having a laugh with his mother Shelia and his stepfather Fred Fairebrother in their flat.

  • The Jackson Five chillin’ on midget motorbikes.
  • Grace Slick holding her daughter upside down by the ankles,while her mother, Mrs. Virginia Wing looks on completely unfazed from her place on the sofa.
  • There’s a tender portrait of Joe Cocker and his mum, and…
  • In complete contrast to the Zappa’s Californian residence, a touching image of Cream’s drummer Peter “Ginger” Baker posing with his mum, Ruby Streatfield, outside her house in Bexley.
  • And finally we have “God” A.K.A. Eric Clapton, shown with his grandmother Rose Clapp, who raised him from a lad. (Click the image below to make it fearsomely big, please)

    thumbnail of Eric

    Happy image truffling!