My new photo project

It’s been over a year since I walked slowly away from Flickr; I really love Instagram, but I take Instagram photos for my Instagram friends with it. Since my quiet exit from Flickr the pictures I take with my dSLR have just been sitting on my hard disk, and every now and then I’ve taken them out on my iPad. Until now, that is: I think Tumblr is terrific and I found an excellent photo-friendly theme, so I’ve decided to try and run a daily photo blog.

It’s called Malevolent Aesthetic Bacon Takedown, just so I can prove SEO hasn’t won. That, and I’ve had the name on the shelf for too long. Take a look, daily updates, pretty pictures, it’ll be great.

New Day Rising

New Day Rising

The massive disco ball which stands on the prom at Blackpool, just south of the Pleasure Beach. From last Autumn’s trip, but with the weather this week showing a few chinks in winter’s armour, it seems apt.

In Taipei: taxis, rain, daysleeper

I’ve been in Taipei, Taiwan all week for Computex 2010. A lot of time dashing around, existing on very little sleep. I was reminded of a lovely late R.E.M. song called Daysleeper. It’s partly because it actually references Taipei (one of the few pop songs to admit the existence of such an unglamorous place) but more because it gets the soft, distant-feedback-in-your-cortex feel of jetlag just right.

What is David Cameron an expression of?

“You know, when they forced Khruschev out, he sat down and wrote two letters to his successor. He said – ‘When you get yourself into a situation you can’t get out of, open the first letter, and you’ll be safe. When you get yourself into another situation you can’t get out of, open the second letter’. Well, soon enough, this guy found himself into a tight place, so he opened the first letter. Which said – ‘Blame everything on me’. So he blames the old man, it worked like a charm. He got himself into a second situation he couldn’t get out of, he opened the second letter. It said – ‘Sit down, and write two letters’” – An old anecdote, quoted in Traffic

Barack Obama needed a response to the loss of Teddy Kennedy’s old seat to the Republicans, and while he talked about being more direct with the voters, and, as per the advice from Khruschev (or was it Stalin?), he landed a punch on the old guy as well:  “Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country — the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office…. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

Fine stuff, but it’s the first part of Obama’s reply that’s really interesting – and perhaps shows his true character, an incisive, but remote observer comfortable with theory, even at his own expense. To be a compelling politician, to achieve his remarkable victory, he needed to be an expression of cultural forces, views and desires.

So what then, is David Cameron – who at times has tried to harness some of the Obama magic – an expression of?

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How can you tell if an image has been Photoshopped?

Photoshop Disasters is great fun if you want to see just how warped software can make people (well, women usually) look – think missing limbs, plastic skin and banana-shaped spines – but these images are easy to detect because they’re just obviously wrong. How do you spot the Photoshop work that isn’t a disaster? This post takes a photo from Victoria’s Secret and puts it through a CSI-esque process to find out what’s been fiddled with.

Previously on The Wired Jester: Too Much Photoshop.

Garden photography

Since I’ve got family nearby, I’ve visited Wakehurst Place in West Sussex a couple of times this year. It’s lovely; it combines an Elizabethan country house with extensive gardens and the Millennium Seedbank, the world’s largest seed conservation project. Earlier in the Autumn, the gardens featured an exhibition of photos from the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. It runs until February, and it features some terrific work, especially the macros of seeds and flowers. The 2010 competition has come up, and I decided to enter two categories: garden views and plant portraits. You could enter four images in each category, so here’s a selection of the ones I went with:

Plant portraits

Stalk of Fire. An old photo that I rescued from a dusty folder on the hard disk to brighten up a dull winter day. Taken an August ago, in the gardens of one of South East London’s best days out, Eltham Palace.

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The cover of 1984 (updated)

“The typescript of George Orwell’s latest novel reached London in mid December, as promised. Warburg recognised its qualities at once (“amongst the most terrifying books I have ever read”) and so did his colleagues. An in-house memo noted “if we can’t sell 15 to 20 thousand copies we ought to be shot”.

- From the Guardian’s look back at 1984, the “Masterpiece that killed George Orwell”.

1984 is no longer the book that’s most influential on me, or my favourite, but it is still a part of who I am – like a literary tattoo. I read it at just the right age and the right place – a wordy 17 year old at college in Luton, obsessed with books and how they describe the world – and I’ve got some beautiful copies of it at home (including a beautiful illustrated one) as mementos. Penguin recently posted up a competition on Twitter to win a signed print of the Shephard Fairey image adorning the the current 1984; you had to come up with an image Penguin’s publicist can use on his Twitter page that reflects the book. I pulled two contenders from my Flickr account:

Plugboard

It’s a shot of the Colossus computer at Bletchley Park. I liked the flatness of the colours, the lack of shadows, and the suggestion of words being monitored. And also, of course, the reference to “the commons”. In the end though, I went for this one:

Rothko colours

A favourite of mine, snapped on the iPhone at Tate’s Rothko show. I think it’s funnier and stranger than a lot of 1984-derived images tend to be; of course, it doesn’t shy away from the central darkness of the novel, of how bleak life is when words cannot be trusted.

Update: I won!

Flickr Superstars

A post on the Flickr blog got me thinking about my 12 ‘Flickr Superstars’. As I made my notes, several themes emerged:

i. The Far East, specifically Japan. Having visited the Far East specifically, and having a Japanese fiancee, it’s no surprise that I’m fascinated by Japan, and I think there’s also a sense of me trying to understand it – culture, people, places, feelings – through images.
ii. Fast lenses. Quite a few of my favourite Flickr images rely on fast lenses (f1.8 and below).
iii. Simple, strong, compositions. If you look in the group devoted to these lists of 12, a lot of the photographers suggested are ‘high concept’. Lots of PhotoShop, and self-consciously arty compositions. Not for me – as with film, music (where I’m a big fan of 80s and early 90s alternative US groups such as The Replacements, Pixies, Nirvana), I tend towards images which are more strongly rooted in reality.

My favourite 12 are after the jump.

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