Peter Steinhauer’s photos of Hong Kong high-rises in cocoons of bamboo

Another brilliant photo series featured in Wired:

If you wander through the streets of Hong Kong, you’ll notice something odd about some of the buildings.

It’s hard to miss. These buildings, which soar dozens of stories into the sky, are sheathed in a bright, primary-colored nylon mesh material. It looks like a large-scale art project, but it actually has a purely practical application: Shielding construction sites and their debris from Hong Kong’s densely-packed streets.

American photographer Peter Steinhauer, has worked as an artist in Asia since the early ‘90s (he currently lives in San Francisco). In his Cocoon series, he documents the surprising beauty of Hong Kong’s in-progress construction.

Steinhauer recalls the first time he ever saw a wrapped building back in the ’90s. “I saw a giant, 40-story package in the middle of this dense city,” he says. “It was just oddly beautiful to me; it captured my imagination immediately.”

Peter Steinhauer’s photos of Hong Kong high-rises in cocoons of bamboo

Corridors of Power – Luca Zanier’s photography of places where history is made

UN Room XIX – Geneva 2013

From Wired:

Corridors of Power,” a series of photographs by Swiss photographer Luca Zanier, is a striking look at important places entirely devoid of the important people who usually inhabit them. The tour takes us through board rooms, assembly halls, parliaments, and more than one room in the United Nations. These are the cavernous spaces where history is shaped.

The series began several years ago when Zanier visited the French Communist Party headquarters, in Paris, designed by modernist master Oscar Niemeyer. The room Zanier chose to shoot, with its strangely textured mauve walls, makes it feel a little bit like you’re a cellular-sized version of yourself trapped inside a human organ. The UN Security Council room in New York is as colorful as a pack of Starburst, while the FIFA executive boardroom, in Zurich, is pretty much exactly the War Room from Dr. Strangelove, for whatever that’s worth.

Each interior has its own unique character, but there’s clearly a shared language among them. It’s hard not to notice the startling symmetry, the simple geometries rendered at imposing scale.

PCF French Communist Party – Paris 2010
The New School – New York 2008
UN General Assembly – New York 2008
Corridors of Power – Luca Zanier’s photography of places where history is made

When the highways of Southern California were new and empty

From Southland:

The images above and below—many of them produced for publication in the Los AngelesTimes, Examiner, and Herald Express—reflect the unbound optimism of the time. Sure, the concrete is freshly poured, the landscaping is trimmed, and the shoulders are free of debris, but the photographs themselves represent a deliberate celebration of the freeway. Their composition emphasizes open pavement and gently curving lines, implying speedy and graceful travel. And in many of the images, the freeway lanes fill the frame at the expense of the surrounding landscape—a subtle but reassuring message that these superhighways have conquered the long distances of the famously sprawling region.

When the highways of Southern California were new and empty

Why we love retro photos

1949 Colour photograph of Piccadilly Circus Taken on Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield, this picture is bright enough and sharp enough to look like a digital photograph. People aren’t used to a past that looks this crisp, which is why the picture got shared so much. Photograph: Chalmers Butterfield. Shared by Retronaut

From the Guardian:

It was the sign advertising Brylcreem that got me. It can be seen in one of Chalmers Butterfield’s colour photographs of Piccadilly Circus in 1949. Why did it move me? Brylcreem’s range of hair styling products for men is still very much with us. Personally, though, it always means the red plastic pot of the stuff my dad kept ever-ready in the bathroom of our home in the 1970s. It spoke then, and does now, of his youth in austerity Britain, skiffle-board Britain, Teddy Boy Britain.

What is nostalgia? For me it’s triggered by the sense that my parents might be young people in Butterfield’s deep colour vistas of the West End of London. For enthusiasts who post historic photographs on Twitter, it’s more broadly scattered. These pictures reveal the wealth of photographic documents, memories and arcana that these sites have dragged into the 21st-century limelight, from an 1890s portrait of Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female advocate and the first woman to study law at Oxford University, to the building of the Hoover dam in Roosevelt’s America.

History and nostalgia are not the same thing. Looking again at Piccadilly Circus in 1949, its historical evidence is crisp and unsettling. In its eerily immediate colours, you can see an underlying chromatic order. All the people are wearing brown, grey, black or a daring dark blue. Buses provide a refreshing redness, but cars mainly come in any colour you like so long as it’s black. Austerity is not something the historians made up – you really can see, in this picture, the limitations of life in a postwar Britain regulated by ration books. No wonder everyone smoked (another habit of the age my parents took with them to later life). A giant cigarette in an ashtray advertises Craven “A” high above Piccadilly Circus. It’s a reminder that George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in the year Butterfield took his pictures – the relentless smoker’s ads resemble his totalitarian hoardings for Victory cigarettes.

Read in full

Sarla Thakral, the first Indian woman to fly. In 1936 she earned her pilot’s licence and flew a Gypsy Moth. Photograph: Viv Chavan. Shared by IndiaHistoryPic
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was paid by the Tsar to capture images of the Russian Empire. The colour wipes away the years like polish wiping away tarnish from a ring. Here, three young women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River, near the town of Kirillov, circa 1909. Photograph: Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress. Shared by Retronaut
Why we love retro photos

American prison lights


From the Atlantic Cities:

Like many towns around the country facing economic hardship, a string of job losses in the 1980s and ’90s led Galesburg, Illinois, to embrace the construction of a prison on what was previously nearby prairie land. Galesburg is where Boston-based photographer Stephen Tourlentes grew up, and on a visit back there nearly two decades ago, he became fascinated by the new prison facility and the way it lit up his old hometown at night.

Tourlentes photographed the local state prison on that trip, and the more he thought about what he’d seen, the more he wanted to know. After his father, a former state psychiatric hospital director, mentioned that some of his old patients had ended up in the new prison, the photographer began a journey that has since taken him to penitentiaries all over the country.

He’s not done yet, but 17 years worth of the resulting photographs can be seen in Of Length and MeasuresTourlentes’ haunting collection of the U.S. prisons he’s shot at night, usually from afar. While the photographs are visually interesting on their own, Tourlentes says he now knows that these facilities, often built on the periphery of small towns with weak economies, say something much deeper about the odd relationship between economic development and the judicial system in the United States.


American prison lights

Finding Vivien Maier

I can’t wait to watch Finding Vivien Maier. From the New York Times:

An exciting electric current of discovery runs through “Finding Vivian Maier,” a documentary about a street photographer who never exhibited her work. She scarcely shared it even with those who knew her. Then again, many of her acquaintances when she was taking some of her remarkable images, particularly in and around Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s, were the children she cared for while working as a nanny. Later in her life, some of those children took care of her in turn, first by moving her into an apartment and then the nursing home where she died in 2009. What rotten timing: She was on the verge of being discovered, first as a curiosity and then as a social-media sensation and a mystery.

It’s no surprise that Maier is now the subject of a documentary, given the quality of her work, the nominal exoticism of her life and the secrets that still drift around her. She’s a terrific story — part Mary Poppins, part Weegee — who was at once emancipated and in service. She was introduced to the world, as it were, by John Maloof, one of this movie’s directors, who bought a box of her negatives at a Chicago auction in 2007 for about $400. The auction house, he explains, told him the work was by Maier, but he found nothing about her on Google. He had purchased the negatives for a book he was working on, but after deciding that they were of no use, he stashed the box away.

And then he took it out again, scanned some images and put them up on Flickr.

Finding Vivien Maier

The art of bridges

Humber Bridge by Annie Devereux

I spotted the following quote on Russell Davies’ blog, and thought it made sense to illustrate it with some images from this collection.

“I think art is overrated, and bridges are underrated. In fact, I don’t understand why bridges aren’t art. It seems to me they’re penalized for having a use.”
– Max Barry – Machine Man

Sydney Harbour Bridge by SantaPhilly
Tyne Bridges by robstoke
Newcastle bridges by patric
Hoeg Brök – Maastricht, The Netherlands Bridge desgin: René Greisch (Belgium). Opened on December 18th 2003.
Forth Bridge Mid summer, mid night by David Richardson
Snowy Trestle in Washington The view from the back of a train as it crosses a trestle in the northern Cascades of the US state of Washington by purplearth
The art of bridges