Thursday, July 31, 2008

August "Monthly Special": Photo within a photo

Dog shopping for a photogravure at a Paris flea market.

Stories within stories alter our perspective. When a new level of fiction appears, it can change our outlook, emotions, and ideas. Think about Shakespeare's use of the play-within-a-play. Or if you have a three-year-old obsessed with "Monsters, Inc." as I do, you might remember how the opening scene of that movie shifts from horror (the classic childhood bedtime fear of the monster in the closet) to comedy as the sudden wider perspective reveals the video monitors and the sets surrounding Mr. Bile's failed scare simulation. Incidentally, the revelation of Mr. Waternoose's corruption gets its dramatic impact from the same video-within-a-film set-up (I have seen that movie WAY too many times.) In any case, if you take a minute, I bet you can come up with other examples of art-within-art, both high- and low-brow, each with its own effect and function.

My last post hinted at this new theme with a photo of a man painting at the Oregon Coast. The photo showed what he was seeing/painting as well as what I was seeing/photographing. His painting and my photo offer two different perspectives. But as I said, my photo only touches on the theme (in the general sense of art within art), but does not quite fit this month's project.

The challenge
This month I propose the theme of "photo within a photo" as a way of exploring how we interact with photos and how photography affects our perspective. If you blog, please share the story behind your photo and link back to this page (remember to link to the URL of that specific post, not just your general blog address).

Countless variations or How two images can be better than one
The opportunities for storytelling increase with multiple photos. For example, your photo within a photo might use juxtaposition and/or repetition to do any of the following:
  • create humor or satire
  • look at change (now vs. then)
  • transcend time or place (e.g. make the absent become present)
  • reveal how your family uses photos (or doesn't)
  • make a political or social statement
  • change scale
  • play with trompe l'oeil illusions many possibilities for just one month. Are you getting ideas? I am. In fact, as usual, I can't even wait until the first day of the month to post the new challenge. Plan on a lot of posts from me this month. I hope to see a lot links from you as well.

Let the creativity begin!

Monday, July 28, 2008

A hint about the next Monthly Special?

One last photo from the Oregon coast. It's not architectural, but it hints at what is to come.

The August Monthly Special will soon be here. Meanwhile, I would still love to see more results from the July Special. If you haven't checked it out recently, there are some new links to enjoy.

A disclaimer for the coming August Special: Although I had planned on doing a Photoshop-based challenge for next month, I changed my mind. So, the good news is that you won't need any special software to participate. And there's no bad news. If you're dying to learn some Photoshop tricks (as you did in June's grid project), I promise to post a Photoshop trick or two within the context of the August Special.

And now for the hint: The photo above would NOT work for the August special, but it touches on the theme.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon

As inspiration for this month's architectural detail project, here are a few photos of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon.

I pulled over to the side of the road in a precarious spot only to learn upon leaving that there was a safer (and official) place to pull over about 50 feet away. Oops. The stepped sides of the pillars screamed Art Deco to me, probably because I had just spent two weeks in Paris studying archives related to the origins of Art Deco for part of a chapter in my book project.

The view from underneath the bridge makes me think of what historian David E. Nye calls the "technological sublime." The arches and the beam of light coming from the upper right of the photo mimic the view from inside a cathedral, except that in place of stained glass we can look out to admire the complex geometry of steel.

This final photo is a detail of the staircase leading to the main road and the top side of the bridge. I was tempted to use Photoshop to clean up the signs of graffiti tags at the bottom, but decided against it.

Be sure to check out what other people have been posting this month, and add your own if you can.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon

I'm now on the Oregon coast--a far cry from Paris, but not without its own architectural beauty. Today we visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and I snapped a few pics and put them together in a grid (click on the photo to enlarge it):

The iron staircase (top middle) is as beautiful as it is hard on the knees, but I also noticed the appeal of the lighting mechanism. Even the floor in the top of the tower caught my eye for its signs of age. And the simplicity of the windows compliments the serenity of the coast.

It's not too late to participate in the Monthly Special. Think about a building in your area that you can better appreciate through photography and share it by linking back here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Last day in Paris

It's 1 a.m. here and I have to take a taxi to the airport in seven hours. As part of my own personal re-acclimatization to the U.S. program I went and saw Hancock on the Champs-Elysées. I know the critics hated the movie, but I also know that seeing anything on the Champs-Elysées automatically boosts its rating for me.

Before I cross my fingers and try to pack my suitcase full of goodies for the kids and enough chocolate to last a self-disciplined person a few months, I will indulge myself by posting two photos that don't quite fit my "architectural detail" definition:

First, from the rock star of all pastry chefs, Pierre Hermé, a rather architectural dessert:
I bought this yesterday. It's called (and I translate...) an "individual plenitude." Plenitude indeed. Chocolate in several forms, a little caramel, some fleur de sel, love, magic, etc. It cost me more than twice as much as the sandwich I ate for lunch (you've got to have priorities). Maybe I'm just seeing architectural detail everywhere or maybe it's just that desserts like this deserve their own photo session before being eaten. Ephemeral architecture.

And then, there's the Eiffel Tower at night....
This definitely NOT an architectural detail shot (unless you count light as a detail). Without a tripod or the hands of a surgeon you can't get a night shot of the Eiffel Tower without some blur, so if it has to be blurry why not make it on purpose? This was the result of me moving my camera around in a heart-like shape during a one-second (approx.) exposure. I'm sure the people around me thought I was less-than-adapt at holding my camera still, but I think the photo feels joyful.

Be sure to check out the Monthly Special. Another brave soul has conquered the architectural challenge. Will you be next?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two more architectural photos from Paris

With three out of five of us in our family having names beginning with the letter "M," this balcony not far from the Centre Pompidou has always caught my eye. I also like the simple white curtains against the brown window frame. What's not to like?

Like my taste for the films of Guy Maddin (I know other fans must be out there, but I have yet to meet another person who likes, for example, the film "The Saddest Music in the World"), I don't expect my love of this photo to be shared by many. It's minimalist, modern, and it was taken outside the IRCAM building, which in the wonderful book, Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik describes as a "modern music institute, which sponsors contemporary composers who write music that so far no one has ever heard." It just makes it all the more appropriate, doesn't it?

This post will likely bump the July Monthly Special off the main page, but even if it's out of sight I hope it won't be out of mind. I'm still hoping to see a lot of you take up the architectural detail challenge.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More architectural detail from Paris

I was out taking some pictures this morning. Here are a few photos--all from a calm residential neighborhood. How would you like to have these ornaments carved into the side of your house? (click on any of the photos for a larger view)

Escargot anyone? Leave it to the French to immortalize a snail in stone.

Are you familiar with Jean de La Fontaine's fable of the Raven and the Fox? I bet the residents of this house know it by heart.

The Lion King, French style?
Just like certain fashions, these details look perfectly at home in Paris but would be a bit ostentatious back home.
So, even though you may not have snails, fables, and lions carved around your neighborhood, you can still celebrate the architectural detail that surrounds you by participating in the July Monthly Special.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Room with a view

I'm not sure if I love this photo I just took, but here are a couple of things I do like about it:
  1. The signs of aging: the chipped paint, the faded edges of the street sign. Now if I could just appreciate signs of aging on my face as much as I do on a building.
  2. The hint of red and white awning that gives some color and let's you know that a café sits below.
  3. Last but not least, the reflection of the Eglise de la Trinité that tells you what kind of a view the person living in that apartment wakes up to every day.
The church, by the way, is a relatively new construction by French standards. It was built during the time when Napoleon III (Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, who was elected president of the Second Republic and then, when his term was up in 1851, decided to proclaim himself emperor--Don't let this give you any ideas, George W.) had given free reign to Baron Haussmann to modernize Paris. And nothing says "modern" like a 19th-century church built in the Italian Renaissance style, right?

I'll try to do more frequent posts while I'm in Paris, but meanwhile, I hope to see more links of your own architectural photos on the July Monthly Special.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

King of the World (or Google Analytics Risk)

This post has nothing to do with photography, but I haven't had a chance to do a new architectural post for this month's special yet (and it seems I'm not the only one), so...

Ever play Risk? You know, the board game of complete world domination? Well, look at this screen shot from google analytics (a site that lets you track how many hits you're getting) and tell me it doesn't make you think of Risk. No? I guess it's just me.

A friend of mine started a sports blog around the same time I started Take-Out Photo, so I proposed a friendly little game of google analytics Risk because we revel in pointless competition.

Let me digress....For example, we invented "King of Paris" a few years ago while on a research trip in Paris and here we are once again in Paris and still making up rules. To be king of Paris, you must know the best metro routes (including which car will stop closest to the exit you need) without looking at maps, you must never step in dog poop, stumble, or do anything un-French. Mess up and the title shifts to the other person. Since he lost the title two days ago on a bet involving chocolate (never make a bet with me involving chocolate), he was scheming over dinner about how a person might steal the title rather than waiting for the other to mess up. I said that if a French person asks you directions AND you can give them directions (without recourse to maps, of course) AND they never suspect you're not French, THEN you can steal the title. So we left the restaurant talking about food, of course (how a riz au lait, no matter how transcendent it may aspire to be, cannot overcome the fact that it is still just rice pudding), and suddenly a French woman came up to us asking where she could find rue de l'Exposition. Never before has a person received more enthusiastic directions--and in stereo. We even knew the restaurant she was going to. My friend is arguing with me even as I write that we gave her bad directions (which, if true, makes it all the more French, n'est-ce pas?). So my title remains intact. Had he thought to recommend the caramelized endive with apples and blue cheese as a starter, he would have the crown.

OK, so I am currently king of Paris, but it's not enough. I want to be KING OF THE WORLD! And wouldn't you--dear blog reader--love to help me in my quest for illusory and meaningless power?

So here is how google analytics risk works: Whoever has the most hits (from different individuals, so not 1,000 hits from your mother, Corry) claims a territory. If, at any time you have more hits from the other guy in every single country on earth, you win. It could happen.

Have a pen-pal in Moldova? Let her know about Take-Out Photo.
Like to chat with the people of Palau about the 2005 season of Survivor? Mention my blog in passing.
Oh, and I'm seven states short of USA domination.

Help a guy out. It's all the fun of world domination with none of the carnage.