Category: Photography

“Take picture now of what we have…”


Illustration by Tom Bachtell

In June, 2001, Konstantin Petrov, an immigrant from Estonia, got a job as an electrician at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was given a little office without cabinets, and after he built a shelf there, by bolting a steel plate to an exposed steel girder, he sent his friends a photograph of himself lying across it, and boasted that if the shelf ever collapsed the building would go down with it…

Petrov worked the night shift. This suited him, not only because he had a day job, as the superintendent of an apartment building at the other end of Manhattan, but because he was an avid photographer, and the emptiness of the Trade Center at night, together with the stunning vistas at dawn, gave him a lot to shoot, and a lot of time and space in which to shoot it. In the summer of 2001, he took hundreds of digital photographs, mostly of offices, table settings, banquettes, sconces, stairwells, kitchen equipment, and elevator fixtures. Many shots were lit by the rising sun, with the landscape of the city in the background, gleaming and stark-shadowed, more than a hundred floors below.

This past summer, Erik Nelson, a documentary filmmaker, was trying to finish cutting a film called “9/10: The Final Hours,” for the National Geographic Channel. He’d dug up all kinds of footage shot the day before the September 11th terrorist attacks, but very little of what the buildings had looked like inside. Amid a desperation for interiors, there was talk of abandoning the project. Then one of Nelson’s film researchers came across a trove of Petrov’s pictures, on an Estonian photo-sharing site called Fotki.

Nelson felt as though he had stumbled on the tomb of King Tut. For whatever reason, this Petrov had turned an archivist’s eye on the banalities of an office building and a sky-top restaurant, which, though destroyed in one of history’s most photographed events, had hardly been photographed at all. The pictures were beautiful, too. Devoid of people, and suffused with premonitory gloom, they made art out of a site that most New Yorkers, at the time, had come to think of as an eyesore. Petrov seemed to be a kind of savant of the commonplace, as though he’d known that all of it would soon disappear down a smoking pit. Inadvertently or not, he left behind a ghostly record, apparently the only one, of this strange twentieth-century aerie, as though he’d been sent here for this purpose alone.

Another Estonian named Dmitri Don developed one of the first photo-sharing sites – for Estonians to share photos from America with friends back home. Fotki is where Petrov’s photos live. RTFA for the whole tale.

Petrov died less than a year after 9/11 in a motorcycle crash on the West Side Highway.

“It’s a big lesson to all of us,” Dmitri Don said. “Take picture now of what we have.”

Thanks, Mike

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Pic of the Day

survivors
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Five workers killed while rescuers pull out 29 miners alive after an earthquake collapsed a tunnel in central Bosnia-Herzegovina coal mine.

Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the danger is double and pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls the sun never shines
It’s a dark as a dungeon way down in the mine

Is red the new black?


Click to enlargeRex Features

Crimson tide: Is red the new black? The presence of at least 14 scarlet women at the Emmys last night would seem to suggest so. Finding a shade that flatters skintone but doesn’t clash or merge into the carpet is a styling challenge.

Used to be celebrities hated to be seen in public looking very much like another celebrity.

Time for a cute fix


AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Saturday marked her first birthday and the the zoo held an event with a traditional ‘Zhuazhou’ ceremony, a Chinese birthday tradition symbolizing long life to mark the event.

Haven’t posted a Panda in a while.

Art rises from blitzkrieg


Click to enlarge

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The images of so many houses destroyed, so many bomb blasts, even so many bodies wrapped in burial shrouds can begin to blur together, indistinguishable. But Belal Khaled, a young photojournalist and painter in this southern Gaza town, saw symbols and stories in the smoke all around him.

First, in a black cloud staining the bright blue sky above a beach, he saw hints of a prominent nose, thick mustache and wild hair, “like an old man contemplating the situation of Gaza,” Mr. Khaled said. Then, in a friend’s photograph of a taller, thinner plume, he saw a fist with the index finger extended, a gesture Muslims make when saying, “No God but Allah.” Using Photoshop, Mr. Khaled added a few simple lines to emphasize these hidden icons, and uploaded the artwork to Facebook, where it was shared and “liked” thousands of times.

Artists may see things others can’t see,” said Mr. Khaled, 23, who works for a Turkish news agency. “Even at the very tense times and very hard moments, we still draw…”

Mr. Khaled said he learned Arabic calligraphy in the seventh grade and painted Quranic verses on the walls of his family home. He started taking photographs at 18 and dropped out of college, where he was studying interior design, to take a job at Anadolu, a Turkish news agency. Three years ago, he began painting — haunting portraits, mostly, of the forlorn old men and impoverished youths in his neighborhood. At the office one night, he used the coffee left in his cup to paint a child screaming.

RTFA. Details and description of work by other artists in Gaza. Yes, even simple things like paints and other graphic materials are limited and regulated by the Israeli government. As you would expect.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge — AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Newspapers, other media, even galleries displaying the work of photographers stick to the protocol of detailing not only every technical jot of taking the photo; but, they persist in describing the context and incidence of the photo. This is one of those photos where I think it doesn’t matter in the least.

It’s an interesting picture. Use your imagination.

If you really need to know what’s going on – click over here.

Comet close-ups from the Rosetta spacecraft

Following a decade-long meandering multi-loop de loop through the solar system, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft has finally reached its primary target: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. What the comet lacks in a stylish name, it makes up for in historical prominence as it is the very first comet to get up close and personal with a manmade spacecraft…

Over the next few months, Rosetta will attempt to close in on a near-circular orbit of 30 km…before attempting to send a lander (dubbed” Philae”) onto the comet where it will take direct scientific measurements.

The Rosetta team has identified five possible landing sites on the comet and plans to settle on one by the middle of October, after which the agency will attempt to land the Philae lander in mid-November…

While the Rosetta mission will surely unlock a new understanding of our solar system, it has—more immediately—given us the privilege of being the very generation to see what a comet really looks like. Click through our slideshow of some of these spectacular images courtesy of the ESA.

As close as any of us are likely to get, folks. Take advantage of the photos.

Thanks, Mike