Book Blog · Book Review · Inspiration · Malcolm Gladwell · Motivation · Pick of the Day · Productivity

Why the World loves an Underdog? David and Goliath~Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – Book Review

Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell’s dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives.

‘A global phenomenon… there is, it seems, no subject over which he cannot scatter some magic dust’ 

Observer
David slaying Goliath by Peter Paul Rubens: image courtesy Pixels

What’s it About?

David and Goliath (2013) shares myriad stories of underdogs who won out against all odds. The book is about ordinary people who confront giants. By “giants”, the author means powerful opponents of all kinds~from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune and oppression. Throwing out our traditional ideas of what it takes to be a success, it offers unconventional views on subjects such as downside of privilege, the benefits of learning disabilities, and how authorities should treat their citizens.

The MORAL OF THE Story

Goliath

“Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”

Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath: image courtesy Rick Steves’ Travel Blog

We all know the story of David, a shepherd-turned-musician that gained immense popularity after accepting a challenge from the giant Goliath, who asked champions of the Israelite army to fight him one-on-one. According to the tale, David killed the towering Goliath using only a staff, a sling, and five stones from a brook. After the crushing defeat, David later became king of Israel and Judah himself, and took over Jerusalem, reigning between 1010-970 BC.

So the story goes, but Gladwell thinks we all have it wrong, and opens his new book with a retelling of that story. We assume that the story is about the weak defeating the strong and the mighty. But the giant has his own set of vulnerabilities ! He is huge and grotesque, which makes him slow and clumsy. He was carrying over hundred pounds of armour. David, on the other hand is a slinger, who could be deadly from distances as great as 200 yards and was lethally accurate. As Gladwell says, Goliath had as much chance against David as a man with a sword would have had against someone armed with a .45 automatic handgun.

Who’s It For?

  • Anyone looking for motivation or inspiration in their lives
  • Behind the scene stories of well known events in history
  • Anyone interested in psychology, or crime and punishment

KEY IDEAS

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

We think of underdog victories as improbable events: that’s why the story of David and Goliath has resonated so strongly all these years. However, according to the author, underdogs win all the time. Why, then, are we so shocked every time a David beats a Goliath? Why do we automatically assume that someone who is smaller or poorer or less skilled is necessarily at a disadvantage?

Image courtesy Wikipedia

One of the winning underdog, for example, was T. E. Lawrence (or, as he is better known, Lawrence of Arabia), who led the Arab revolt against the Turkish army occupying Arabia near the end of the First World War. The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and their goal was to destroy the long railroad the Turks had built running from Damascus deep into the Hejaz Desert.It was a daunting task. The Turks had a formidable modern army. Lawrence, by contrast, commanded an unruly band. But they were tough and they were mobile. Lawrence’s masterstroke was an assault unexpected by the Arabs. So the advantage that Turks had was a large army and weapons~which was a big advantage, but made them immobile. Meanwhile the Arabs had the endurance, intelligence, knowledge of the country, and courage.

The author points out, that for some reason, we all have a preconceived notion which defines what advantage is. The error we often make is to double-down on strength when we think that we need something more effective than what we’ve got. Yet past a certain point, extra-strength becomes self-defeating because it is too crude and inflexible. 

People who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong. Don’t be a Goliath. Dare to be a David. Gladwell illustrates these lessons with a characteristically dizzying array of stories, the subjects of which range from high school girls’ basketball to child murder and the Holocaust.

Conclusion

Underdogs can overturn the odds and succeed by employing unconventional tactics . The simple moral is choose your weapons carefully. Through these stories, he explore two ideas. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. 

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including Talking to StrangersDavid and GoliathOutliersBlink, and The Tipping Point. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers.

Andy Warhol · Campbell's Soup Can · Pop Art

Andy Warhol and the Campbell’s Soup Can

Image courtesy Pinterest

All art ultimately illumines the culture in which it is created, even if that culture usually serves merely as a backdrop to the projection of some more ideal or alternative reality by the artist. But with so-called Pop Art, the very backdrop of mass-culture became the foreground subject of art itself. By magnifying the lack of taste and extreme vulgarity or kitsch that are inevitable by-products of an increasingly globalised mass-culture, artists have not only ironically drawn attention to that debasement of taste, but equally stressed their own detachment from it, as though to assert that they themselves are privileged beings who stand outside society and remain untainted by its corruptions.

In 1962, the year in which Pop Art was established as the latest major artistic movement, Andy Warhol began his transition from hand-painted to photo-transferred art with a groundbreaking series of works. While these pieces mimicked a mechanical method of production, they were in fact hand-painted. The set of works was called simply Campbell’s Soup Cans, and would become one of the most iconic, signature pieces of his career. Pioneering a variety of techniques, but principally by means of the visual isolation of imagery, its repetition and enforced similarity to printed images, and the use of garish colour to denote the visual garishness that is often encountered in mass culture, Andy Warhol threw much direct or indirect light upon modern  world-weariness, nihilism, materialism, political manipulation, economic exploitation, conspicuous consumption, media hero-worship, and the creation of artificially-induced needs and aspirations.

First Pop Star of the Art World

Image Courtesy Pinterest

He was a legend in his own life time. Hardly anyones’s life has been covered by as much writing (and gossip) as Andy Warhol’s.There is a museum devoted to his work in his home- town of Pittsburgh. A foundation that bears his name distributes millions for worthwhile artistic endeavours. Shy, friendly and usually smiling, he some times gave an appearance of being aloof and and not being of the world.

Warhol’s images might initially appear to be rather simple. Yet because of that very simplicity they enjoy a high degree of immediate visual impact. Although hand-painted, the Soup Cans had the look of their industrially reproduced models. Warhol soon went further, applying the methods of mechanical re- production to painting, including later versions of the Soup Cans; he extended this industrial model of production to sculpture and the whole gamut of customarily “handmade” works of art, glorifying the banal artefacts of American consumer culture and its icons of celebrity. The Soup Cans, at first widely dismissed as the ultimate cynical gimmick, were soon recognized as the first shots of a total revolution in American culture.

Andy Warhol, the enigma

It’s too hard to look in the mirror, there’s nothing there.

Andy Warhol
American Pop artist Andy Warhol sits in front of several paintings in his ‘Endangered Species’ at his studio, the Factory, in Union Square, New York, New York, April 12, 1983. (Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images)

This enigmatic quality, which made Warhol a celebrity, infused all his work with a kind of empty secret. It was there for others to interpret; the brilliantly terse aphorisms he coined about himself and his work, the interviews in which he claimed that other people did all his paintings for him, the exhibitionists he collected as a sort of protective gang around him, created a vast field of legend that steadily multiplied the value of everything he made.

In the book, Andy Warhol was a Hoarder~inside the minds of history’s great personalities by Claudia Kalb takes a peek into the psyche, that made Andy Warhol. Why did Andy Warhol fill hundreds of boxes with old postcards, medical bills, and pizza crusts?What drives creative genius and intellectual brilliance? And what lies beneath? Step inside and you are transported back into a rousing art world of the 1960s and 70s, encapsulated in Warhol’s innovative and rebellious work : The Campbell’s silk screens, the Brillobox installation, the “Silver Clouds” balloons, the silk screen of skulls and celebrities, the haunting self portraits with spiky hair, and the artist’s infamous “oxidation” works~ created in a museum describes by the Christie’s auction house as “copper metallic pigment and ruin on canvas.”

He was an accumulator of epic promotions. he loved to shop, and he did whenever or wherever he could ~five and dime stores, antique stores, hight~end galleries. Hoarding has existed for at least as long as Dante’s 14~century epic poem :The divine Comedy condemned hoarders to the fourth circle of hell, where they would spend eternity at war with the nemesis, the wasters. Today, many of us use the world to describe a bad habit that junks up our living room with magazine and our closets with shoes. Warhol’s cache was in a league of its own. What makes Warhol’s story so captivating is that he luxuriated in such divergent worlds~the upscale and the mundane and left behind a monumental mix of both.

In perhaps the most famous quote attributed to him, Warhol said ; “In future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” For Warhol and his stuff, 15 minutes turned out to be forever.

In The End

In the twentieth century, perhaps only Picasso left a comparably prodigious and variegated body of work.No one will ever get the final word on Andy Warhol. I considered him a brilliant provocateur, an artist of genius whose personality, as much as his art, exposed the vapid conformity, sexual repressiveness, and crass commercial values of American culture that prevailed during the 70s; like many, I read into Warhol’s ongoing enterprise a satirical contempt for the banality of that culture and its norms. That enterprise had, at first, a decidedly marginal character, appealed to a special kind of minority sensibility, and was valued precisely because of its “countercultural” insouciance. Yet whether the Soup Cans, and the staggering quantity of works that followed, signified contempt or reverence, love or loathing, a mixture of feelings or an absence of any feelings at all, could not be gleaned from the paintings themselves. And the artist had, by the time they were shown, perfected a laconic and distancing persona that confounded any definition and presented itself to the public as a glacial enigma.

Book Blog · Oscar Wilde · Quotes

Quoting Oscar Wilde

Image courtesy HistoryNet

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”

Oscar Wilde

I followed his advise. I got my daughter an ebook: ‘The Canterville Ghost, The Happy Prince and Other Stories.’ It worked like a charm, like it has for generations. Witty, inspiring and charismatic. Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest of English Literature. Today, his plays and stories are beloved around the world.But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life denied him.

A Bit of History

Wilde was one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Wilde is still as popular as ever today amongst academics and students alike. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, the son of an eminent eye~surgeon and a nationalist poetess who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Speranza’. He went to Trinity College , Dublin and despite winning a first prize for poetry, Wilde failed to obtain an Oxford fellowship, and was forced to earn a living by lecturing and writing for periodicals. After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he tried to establish himself as a writer, but with little initial success.

However, his three volume of short fiction, The Happy Prince, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and A House of Pomegranates, together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, gradually won him a reputation as a modern writer with an original talent, a reputation confirmed and enhanced by the phenomenal success of his Society Comedies ~ Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and the Importance of Being Earnest, all performed on the West End stage between 1892 and 1895.

And now quoting Mr. Wilde

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

 “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

“When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”

“Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.”

“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”

 “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.”

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.”

 “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

 “The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

“Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

 “A poet can survive everything but a misprint.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”

“One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

The public has an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.

THE END

Success, however, was shot lived. In 1891 Wilde had met and fallen in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, with his success as a dramatist was at its hight, Wilde brought an unsuccessful libel action against Douglas’s father, and lost the case and two trials later was sentenced to two year imprisonment for acts of gross indecency. As a result of this experience he wrote The Ballard of Reading Goal. he was released from prison in 1897 and went into an immediate self ~ imposed exile. He died in Paris in ignominy in 1900.

Black and White · Camera · Landscape Photography · Photography Blog · Productivity · Tips

Landscape Photography: A League of its Own

‘Zigi, Cyprus: a quintessential and a picturesque fishing Village.’ Mono conversion in Photoshop with additional levels and sharpening adjustments were made.

Last post, I discussed the genera of black and white photography and as I was prepping for my next blog I realised, why not continue the thread and share some of my own black and white work and also discuss landscape photography. For many people new to the world of photography, one of the easiest and most accessible area first explored with a new camera is the great outdoors. One doesn’t need a ton of gear or a fancy studio set up ! There is plenty of available natural light, which according to my own experience is the best kind. So put on your best walking shoes and on a beautiful spring morning equipped with your camera, let’s begin our adventure. But before you do, why not take a quick look at our essential photography tips.

Although there is no right or wrong to shooting landscape, there are a few tips that can elevate your shot and have them stand out against the general background noise of countless dull photos.Landscape are an excellent subject to convert into black and white. Look at the work of Ansel Adams and his iconic black-and-white landscape images which helped establish photography among the fine arts.

Landscape Photography Tips

  1. Research your location
Photo by Vojta Kovau0159u00edk on Pexels.com

Take time to research your shooting location if you have not been there. Google Earth and google street view are good options. Not all information that comes up may be useful but some images of other photographers may pop up and that will give you a heads~up as to whether it is an easy or difficult place to reach. There may be tips concerning local regulations and best places to photograph~ so do your research before you hit the rubber !

2. Use appropriate app

Image courtsey Sunset Magazine

There are apps available that can tell you where the sun will be at any point on a given day. These apps can overlay information on a map of your given destination, showing where the sun will rise and set. This is good to know information as you can work out the best time to shoot . Shooting near sunset is a good idea especially black and white photography as shadows are long and contrasts are high. There is also the possibility of dramatic silhouette. Sun Seekers for IOS and Sun Surveyor for Android are a good options.

3. Always be prepared

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Make sure you dress for the condition you are shooting in. Travel light as possible, and a purchase of a good quality rucksack or a rough terrain camera bag will stand you in good stead for your journey. Make sure to carry extra batteries and back up camera in case you are planning a long day trip, not to forget that you tell someone you’r out there and have a phone with you all times.

4. Visualise the shots

Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

Take time to actually look around the landscape you are in, before taking any photos. Scan your surrounding and try and visualise where the best shots can be taken from. Sometimes it is a good idea to scout the location a day before you shoot, just walking through the landscape, taking note of the best positions, angles and viewpoint for future reference. Keep in mind the key requirement that the image needs to be converted to black and white. Form, composition, light and texture will define your shot when seen in black and white.

5. The Magic hour

Zigi Village, Cyprus at the time of sunset. Removing the color gives you the chance to absorb the details in the sky and rock.
Nikon D7200~35mm~f:2.8 ISO 100

In photography the golden hour is a common terminology. For gorgeous landscape shoot at sunrise and for an hour or so after that, or at sunset and a hour or so before it sets.The light has luminous quality and the shadows are long and shows off the counters of the land, which is ideal for black and white images. The sky is bright with various hues and if you catch a sunrise or subset with an interesting set of cloud formation, and more texture and details, the better the mono image. Watch your local weather forecast for a better shoot.

6. The Blue hour light

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

People also refer to the “Blue Hour”, which is the twilight period you experience at the end of the day when the sun is below the horizon, but its influence can be seen in the sky.This light is idle for cityscape where you can capture the city lights against a deep blue, inky sky. You need to be aware, though, the window of opportunity is relatively small before the sun sinks and renders the sky black.It usually last 45 minutes after sunset and before sunrise.

7. Stable with a Tripod

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

A tripod is a must for a landscape photography. You may be working in low light conditions and a handheld shots are not going to be sharp. You may also want long exposure time to render water soft and misty, or show clouds moving for added drama.An effect that works very well in black and white images. there are plenty of strong, lightweight tripod to choose from, and is a good investment.Couple a cable release with it and you are taking big step in reducing any unwanted camera shake and vibration.

8. Shoot RAW

Salt Lake~ Cyprus

Try and shoot RAW and get out of the habit of shooting jpeg.If you want the best from your shots, you need to switch to RAW format. As the name suggests, is the uncompressed, unprocessed image data straight from the camera sensor. The files are much bigger than jpeg, but give you much latitude when it comes to processing the final image. Details lost in the shadows in the original shot can be revealed through processing. You can also enhance the image contrast, tonal quality and exposure.

9. Use Filters

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Think about investing in filters. A circular polarised is a useful one. It can boost the contrast in a blue sky and white clouds which is useful when converting to mono. Just be aware that polarisers work best when the sun is behind you, or at least over your shoulder. If you are serious about landscape photography, probably the single best one you could purchase is a natural density graduated filter. If you are shooting a scene that has a lot of variation in the tonal values between the land and the bright sky, the ND grads will help stop the sky from burning up.

10. Long Distance Shot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Landscape does not always have to be the widest lens. Some time a long focal length is great at picking up distance detail which a wide~angel lens cannot. Zoom lenses are also a great way to zoom in and out, allowing you to crop your shot and alter the composition without having to move long distance. Lenses in the 24mm~105mm range are a good intermediate wide~angle zooms which gives you lot of framing choice. It is not uncommon to use 70mm~200mm lens as well. Don’t forget to shoot in portrait orientation too~experiment.

11. Framing and composition

Zigi Village ~ Cyprus. The curve of the line along the boats and the sky make for an interesting composition.

Composition is a very subjective thing. What looks good to one eye may not be same for another.If nothing else, keep the “rule of third”as your main composition tool, along with leading lines to draw you into the shot.Imagine that your frame is split into lines of third, both vertical and horizontal.Placing an object of interest in one of the points where these lines intersect means you are creating interest and also balance to your shot.Not to say, that rules can’t be broken. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

12. Mirror Lock up

When you are set up and ready to shoot, consider the stability of the tripod.Even the sturdiest tripod can shake in the wind or soft soil. In addition, the movement of the camera’s mirror flipping up and down with each shot can also create vibration that can effect the shot’s sharpness.If you set your camera for mirror lock~up, it will flip the mirror out of the way long before the shutter opens up to take the shot, giving time for any vibration to cease. Couple this with cable realise or a remote trigger to fire the camera without you needing to touch it.

13. Don’t fear the Histogram

Image Courtesy Purple 11

Most cameras today have the option to display the histogram of the image you capture. A histogram is the graphic representation of the total value in the shot and how they are distributed. If the graph is bunched at the far left, then your shot is underexposed and you risk the loss of lot of details to shadow area. If it is sliding to the right hand side, then your image is over exposed and the details will be lost in highlight area. The more dynamic range you can capture in colour, the more scope you have when you do the conversion in black and white.

Final thoughts

Always review your shots after you take them. It can be very disheartening to take what you think is a wonderful shot, only to get home , process the shot and see that it is out of focus or badly framed. Use the camera LCD screen to zoom into the shot and check them for sharpness and detail, and confirm the composition is looking as you had imagined. Bear in mind that not all cameras show you 100% of the frame in the optical or electronic view~finder, so reviewing the image on the LCD screen or on~screen is very important.

Black and White · Camera · Natural Light · Photography · Tips

Top Black and White Photography Tips:What I Wish I Had Know

Photo by Jou00e3o Cabral on Pexels.com

I first started photography with a single minded dedication around 8 years back. I started with a entry level starters kit, a Nikkon D3500. I had just enrolled in a photography course and a DSLR camera was going to be my lens to the world. At that time I knew nothing about photography, using the camera, post production ,and finishing prints.Black and White photography always had a special place in my hear, however the course did not dive much onto the nitty gritties of monochrome photography.

There are plenty of things I wish I had learned sooner than I did, a few things I wish I had done differently, and plenty of thoughts and opinions I had back then that have completely changed.  For those of you who are just starting out in the realm of monochrome, I hope that by sharing a few of the tips that I wish I had known sooner in the learning process, it can help accelerate your learning curve to a speed a bit faster than my own. 

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR BETTER BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES

  1. Shoot in Color and in Raw
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Today, the cameras have a lot of creative functions that give you the option to capture your image in black and white at the outset. Doing this may actually result in loss of tonal range. It you shoot in colour and especially in Raw format, you will be capturing the full range of tonality that your camera’s sensor can see. This is a much better starting point than an in~camera mono image. Most cameras can capture photos in two different file types.  In short, RAW files are larger than JPEG and take up more space on your hard drive, but they provide you with unparalleled freedom to edit your photo non-destructively, meaning that you can do what you want to it without risking a loss in image quality.

2. Keep your ISO low

Photo by Lu00ea Minh on Pexels.com

The lower the ISO, the less grainy the image will be. If it means using a tripod instead of hand holding in case of slower shutter speed, then that is a good thing. Too often the camera ISO will be left on auto, pushing up ISO speed to make sure there is no camera shake. The downside is that high ISO equals higher noise in your image, which will only be exacerbated by post~production stage.

3. The BEST CONDITION FOR SHOOT

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Truth be told, there aren’t necessarily any best condition to shoot black and white. Some mono shooters actually prefer to take their shots on an overcast and generally dark days. The low contrast seem to be a draw for these photographers. Certainly, a grey cloudy sky can be made to look very moody and dramatic, as opposite to a blue sky. A lot of it comes down to your personal preference and mono conversion technique.

4. LIGHTING IN YOUR SCENE

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Your image can stand or fall on the quality of light in the scene. It is generally held that midday sunlight knocks details flat and creative process is more limited. For landscape particularly, the first light of the morning or the last light of the evening is much more dramatic and prized. Light glancing across the land picks up details, throws long dramatic shadows and enhances contrasts. You can use this light for mood and dram that is absent when the sun is at its zenith.

5. CONSIDER YOUR SUBJECT

Photo by Sanaan Mazhar on Pexels.com

Trying to think in black and white~that is to say, trying to visualise the scene in front of you with all its colours absent ~ is a good skill to try and develop. The question you have to ask your self is that whether the resulting image will improve by being in black and white, or whether colour would be the best option. Not every image will work in black and white. Sometimes the removal of colour can also remove the differentiation between objects that could easily be distinguished were they in colour.

6. COMPOSE YOURSELF

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

The basic rules that apply to colour photography also apply to black and white. The rule of thirds, golden ratio, leading lines, framing and viewpoints are all well established guidelines that can make even the simplest scene stronger with some care and attention given to the composition of the final shot. Now, having said that, sometimes rules can be broken. If you find your scene not compliant with the rules, but aesthetically pleasing, no harm in going for it.

7. Look for shapes and forms

Photo by Takeshi Arai on Pexels.com

In black and white particularly, shape and form become very important to the success of the image. Converting to black and white means you can no longer rely on colours in the scene to define or differentiate your subject from the environment. You need to be able to take the shapes, lines and forms available in the shot, and use them as the method by which the image is given an obvious focal point or point of interest.

8. Emerging Patterns

Photo by gdtography on Pexels.com

The shift from colour to black and white often revels details that might otherwise have been hidden under the clock of colour. Colourful items in a shot can be distracting, as we’ve already mentioned, sometimes to the point of masking very interesting but perhaps subtle patterns that can only be appreciated once striped off its colour.

9. TEXTURE ADDS INTEREST

Photo by Gilberto Reyes on Pexels.com

Can you imagine how flat and featureless our world would be without texture? Keep in mind when you shoot for black and white. A mono image and texture are inexplicably linked, and part of the overall success of an image depends on the elements that can show the depth, dimensions, and contrast. Textured objects reflect light in interesting ways and draw the viewer’s eye into the scene

10. COLOUR your image

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Black and white images do not need to be in just one tone. Consider a duotone image where shades of black and white is replaced by two other colours. Sepia toning is one of the main staples of a black and white image. There is also the cyanotype or the split toning technique. All these results can be very exciting.

11. DODGE AND BURN

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Just relying on a simple desaturated image is not exploring the potential of black and white photography. The tonal quality of an image can be enhanced by a few simple adjustments to brightness and contrast. By using dodge (lightening) and burn (darkening) techniques in specific area of your image, can work wonders in improving the overall quality of the image.

12. Consider HDR

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

‘HDR’ stands for High Dynamic Range. The term originates in photography, and refers to a technique to heighten a picture’s dynamic range – the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks.Usually two or three stops apart, these LDR’s when fused together, capture more light data in a scene than a single shot. Perfect for scenes with lots of texture that you can bring out in the conversion stage of your workflow.

13. Watch the Skies

Photo by MOHAMED ABDELSADIG on Pexels.com

Be aware the grey overcast can produce some spectacular moody shots. However, watch out for skies that are one single tone of grey with no cloud formation showing. When converted, this will make for a fairly boring looking sky with no texture or point of interest.

14. Shoot as often and learn

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Guess, it all boils down to the fact that you have to be out there and shoot. The more you shoot, the wider the range of subject you experience, and the greater the variety of lighting conditions you encounter. This will all help to train your eye and your brain to “see” that perfect black and white image through a sea of colour. Experiment and have fun.

Social media is the go-to way for most people to get their work out into the world, and for good reason.  Platforms like Facebook and Instagram give everyone the ability to get their work in front of thousands of people that would never see it otherwise.  However, consistently posting on social media and replying to those interacting with you can be a part-time job in itself, and for most photographers, the benefits are rarely proportional.  If you want your photos to be seen in a meaningful way (as opposed to most on the internet who will scroll past it within literally two seconds), network the old fashion way.  Join camera clubs, reach out to other photographers, and meet with prospective clients.

15. SEEK INSPIRATION

Image by Sally Mann on Pinterest

Take time to familiarise yourself not only with the work of some of the greats of black and white photographers, but also your contemporaries. Flickr, the image sharing website, is a great place to gain inspiration and see what other photographers are doing. Also look at images by yesteryear photographers like Ansel Adams, Man Ray, Richard Avedon , Michael Kenna, Fan Ho and Sally Mann to name a few.

Final Thoughts

Discover through trial and error the great potential of black and white photography. It takes time to develop a knack for seeing through the clutter of colors. I am still learning and by no means even close to perfection and the list is far from a comprehensive, but hopeful it will bring you a little closer in honing your skills as a black and white photographer, and every insight may be able to give budding photographers what they need to continue to progress.

Bill Gates · Book Blog · Book Review · nonfiction

5 Books recommended by Bill Gates during lockdown year, 2020

Every year, Bill Gates comes out with his personal reading recommendations. He focuses on a certain number of books each time, providing a brief overview of why each one has stood out for him.Most of the books that he recommends are deeply informative and not all are easy read. Starting in 2014, he even began recording short videos to go with his book recommendations.

WHAT ARE BILL GATES’S BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS?

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For the year just gone by, which had no semblance to reality, somehow still feels more like a bad dream than reality~ here are five books which Bill Gates recommends, as most of us have some time in hand to read. It is an impressive list, consisting largely of nonfiction. Science and technology, medicine, business, economics, education, international development, sociology, history, biography, memoir—name it, and chances are there is at least one book in the genre.

Well the list is not perfect, especially if you are someone not into the genre of nonfiction, there are notably fewer choices in this list for you. However, take a look, chances are that there may be some book that may grab your attention. As for me, the book ” The Spy and the Traitors” by Ben Macintyre was a total a nail-biter of a read!

  1. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
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Considering that this book belongs to a nonfiction genre, it has all the elements of a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.Bill Gates points out that though it may be hard for most of us to remember the Cold War era~ the Soviet Union was once viewed as a better system in a certain moral sense than the West. What makes the book so interesting is the complexity of the plot which is just as good as a spy novel and yet it is a true story.

2. Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever by Bijal P. Trivedi

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Cystic fibrosis was once a mysterious disease that killed infants and children. Now it could be the key to healing millions with genetic diseases of every type—from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to diabetes and sickle cell anemia. The books is all about: What is this disease to tracking these kids and how to keep them alive ? It’s a book about hope for children suffering from this genetic disease. If the kids are started on the drug at a young age, chances are that they will live a normal life.

3. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

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The book explores the idea that should you just do one thing very well or a broad set of things. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. But the author tries to make a case that over specialisation in general, can actually make you less effective. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

4. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

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This a a brilliant and fast paced, a history book can get, according to Gates. On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–and willing to fight to the end.

5. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color blindness by Michelle Alexander

Image Amazon.com

The author writes, how low~income people and particularly black people get into a cycle where males are often locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.The judicial system and its harshness to a great extent is responsible for creating this terrible situation.

Chances are that there might be at least one read that will grab your attention. So go ahead and choose your pick. Happy Reading !

P.S. Do drop in a line if any of the above mentioned book you have already read or planning to read in future.

Book Blog · Book Review · Charles Duhigg · Non Fiction · Self~Help

Be Smarter, Leaner, Faster: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I don’t know about you, but this habit of snacking has to stop and thanks to this book, I have the perfect solution to my dilemma or gluttony !

Define Habit

They are the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point we consciously decide how much to eat, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behaviour became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.

More than 40% of the actions people perform each day weren’t actual decision, but habits.

Duke University research, 2006

Practical Example : Step 1

As I have already mentioned I above, this insatiable habit of snacking. Come late afternoon and I am on the prowl~the refrigerator, the pantry~ nothing is beyond my reach. Think I’ll just have one cookie or a couple of potato chips?

Not if there’s a bag of either in the kitchen. ” Self~discipline is overrated and undependable.” Tim Ferris

Not only it is unhealthy, I soon realised that the pounds were adding on. Charles says that the first thing we do is that we start by diagnosing and changing this behavior. By figuring out the habit loop.And the first step is to identify the routine ~ as in my case the routine is the most obvious aspect: it’s the behaviour you want to change . I get up from my desk in the afternoon, walk up to my pantry or fridge and eat handful of nuts or chips ~ which is never limited to one handful !

Image Courtesy Milestone Fitness

So now we do some brainstorming

  • Whats the cue?
  • Is it hunger?
  • or boredom?
  • a sugar low or fatigue?

And What’s the reward

  • The snack itself?
  • The change of scenery?
  • Temporary distraction?
  • Craving for sweet\sugar?

Step 2

Rewards are powerful beacuse they satisfy craving. But we are often not conscious of the craving that drives the behaviour. To find out which craving are driving a particular habit, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. This require some patience as it may take a few days or a week. I started experimenting ~ everytime I feel the urge to walk up to the pantry, I change my course and go to my precocious eleven years old, who does’t approve of my sudden appearance, or the days when she banned me totally, I went for an early walk outside. I also tried substituting junk food or as Tim Ferris would call the “domino food” with healthy alternative like carrot or an apple. You get the idea. The point is to test different hypothesis to determine which craving is driving the routine. Keep experimenting and jot down three things that come to your mind. They can be emotions, random thoughts, reflection on how you feel. Then set an alarm on your watch for 15 minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself~ do you still feel the urge to snack? Once you figure the routine and the reward, what remains is identifying the cue.

STEP 3: Isolate the cue

Charles says that the reason why its so hard to identify the cue that triggers our habits because there are too many information bombarding us as our behaviour unfolds. What I realised that the cue in my case was an urge to get a snack at a certain time of the day. It wasn’t the hunger but a temporary distraction that I was craving~ the kind that comes from gossiping with friends.

STEP 4: HAVE A PLAN

Once you figure the habit loop~you’ve identified the reward driving your behaviour, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself~you can begin to shift the behaviour. Now all I do is call a friend and chat for ten minutes. It didn’t work immediately but as I worked towards it ~abided by my plan ~ I forced myself at times to call a friend ~mostly my mum, I found that I ended my day feeling better.

Conclusion

When I see a CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.

To re~engineer that formula, we need to begin making choices again. And the easiest way to do this is to have a plan. Psychologists call it ” implementation intention”

All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.

William James

Most of the choice we make each day may feel like the product of well considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.

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Book Blog · Book Review · Cook Book · Food · Health · Illustrations · Pick of the Day · Samin Nosrat · Wendy Macnaughton

Want to cook like a Pro? ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ by Samin Nosrat

Book Review

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I am not a professional cook by a long shot, but if there is one book I would recommend which is just more than a collection of recipes, and more about the art of cooking, this would be it! The run-of-the-mill kind expects you to follow rather than to ask questions. Those books insist on fidelity and faith but do nothing to earn and explain. For me this book was like attending a good cooking school, where you learn the principles. Armed with reason we don’t have to cling to recipes like a lifeboat, when you know the fundamentals of cooking~ you can improvise.

Image Courtesy Pinterest

What’s it about?

Samin Nosrat a writer, teacher and chef hailing from California, says that this book is a culmination of her years of cooking and five years of writing. It’s a distillation of her cooking philosophy. The idea that you can master just four basic elements in the kitchen~ Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat ~ you can use that to guide you in cooking anything and making any food delicious.

Learn about salt which is a mineral that enhances flavour of everything that we cook. Fat which gives taste and help us get all sort of delicious texture in our cooking. Acid which ultimately balances flavours and heat which is the major control to get the texture we want in all our food. She promises that if you master the four elements, you can make anything taste great.

The book is designed to help you punch up the flavour of even basic dishes (salad!) and guide you towards trusting your gut instead of dutifully following directions — ultimately making your cooking more instinctive, flavourful and yes, fun.

Who is it for?

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  • Cooks and Cooking apprentices
  • Cooking enthusiasts
  • Epicureans devoted to good living

The Principles

There are only Four basic factors which will determine how good your food will taste :

Image courtesy Pinterest

Salt which enhances flavour. Samin says that if you get the salt right and you know how much to use, anything you cook will taste better. After reading the section on salt, I took Nosrat’s advice to boil my potatoes in salted water before roasting. Game changer! I will never again roast my potatoes without first taking them through this step. The potatoes were seasoned outside and in — guaranteed to make your meat-and-potato meals mysteriously more delicious than everyone else’s.

Just like salt, fat is one of the most important and versatile elements of cooking. Her travel to Italy made her realise that Italian cooking is the relationship with fat which is so essential to why their food taste so good!!

Image Courtesy Pinterest

Conclusion

Image courtesy Pinterest

There are about 100 recipes in the book with countless variations. What makes the book so attractive is the infographics and illustrations by Wendy Macnaughton and they are very helpful in making the book simple and drive the complicated points that connects all the dots, teaching you how, all cooking from around the world is really more similar than it is different. If you only read the chapter on “salt,” you’d up your kitchen game by 50 percent. But Nosrat also has an amazing gift for storytelling~ give it a try and you will never look back !

Image Courtesy Pinterest

Bon Appétit

Book Review · Classics · Inspiration · Non Fiction · Self~Help

What sets you apart~Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Published in 2008, outliers is one of my top favourite books of all time. I often go back and pick up old books which has shaped my thinking and revisit for a fresh perspective . Books that inspire and help light a fire in your heart are worth a second or a third read.

What’s it about ?

This is book is about individuals who achieve a level of success that is out of ordinary. From rock stars, to remarkable lawyers, to what make a pilot better than the rest of his flock, or why asians are so good at math. So what makes them so extraordinary that they lie outside the realm of normal experience?

We often think that these outliers assess some innate, mysterious ability that makes them rise to the top of the field, however, most of these so called ” outliers” are not some mystical being, people just don’t rise from nothing. Some merit may be cause of their parentage or they may look like this “self~made man” which our society attaches so much credit. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of some hidden advantage and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allowed them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in a way others cannot.

Who is it for ?

  • Anyone who wants to deepen his idea of what drives success and what are the things successful people do differently
  • Teachers, coaches and others in training professions
  • Consulting professionals and others interested in policy reforms

Key Ideas

  1. The idea of a “self~made” man is very enticing and our culture celebrates this myth, but there is more than meets the eye. The author sites an example of a tall oak tree. The tree is the tallest in the forest not because it grew from the most robust and hardiest of acorn, it is taller also because as a sapling, it got the right amount of sunshine, a soil rich and deep and no rabbit gnawing its roots before it got time to grow.
  2. Once you reach a certain threshold, increased ability no longer help you succeed.
  3. To achieve world class mastery of anything requires around 10,000 hours of single~minded and purposeful practice. What differentiates a world class soloist from the merely “good” violinist is the number of hours they practice from the time they picked up the violin. The author sites many such examples to prove his point~from chess grandmasters to Mozart to the Beatles, all have this in common.
  4. How you are brought up can radically impact how successful you become. So Bill Gates is introduced as a young computer programmer from Seattle whose brilliance and ambition outshine the brilliance and ambition of the thousands of other young programmers. But then Gladwell takes us back to Seattle, and we discover that Gates’s high school happened to have a computer club when almost no other high schools did. He then lucked into the opportunity to use the computers at the University of Washington, for hours on end. By the time he turned 20, he had spent well more than 10,000 hours as a programmer.
  5. Where you come from ~geographically and culturally ~can have a large impact on our success
  6. If we recognise the reason behind the uneven playing fields, we can create more opportunities for people to succeed.

Final Summary

“It is not the brightest who succeed,” Gladwell writes. “Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

About the author

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including Talking to StrangersDavid and GoliathOutliersBlink, and The Tipping Point. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers.

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Barry Loewer · Books · Non Fiction · Philosophy · Stephen Law

30~Second Philosophies~The 50 most thought~provoking philosophies each explained in half a minute

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” The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard P Feynman

30 second philosophies is a whistle stop tour of the major questions posted by philosophers through the centuries, from Aristotle to Ludwig Wittgenstein to Naom Chomsky.

What’s it about?

I’ve no doubt that a little exposure to philosophy can be valuable. The kind of skill philosophy fosters~ such as the ability to spot a logical fallacy, or to make a point succinctly and with precision~they are the kind of transferrable skills that employers value. Whether you realise or not, we all hold philosophical beliefs. That God exists is a philosophical belief, as is the belief that he doesn’t. Many of us go through life without even registering that we hold philosophical beliefs, let alone question them. As Socrates is suppose to have said,

” The unexamined life is not worth living.”

So what is it all about?

  • Does God Exist or Not?
  • How should I Behave?
  • What is Real?
  • How do we know what we know?

Philosophers have been thinking about these questions for at least 2500 years. It starts with the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and has continued to the present day. This book is a crash course in understanding the foundation of philosophy and keeps your thought process totally engaged.

Who’s it for?

  • The Philo~curious
  • Those looking for a bird’s eye view of philosophy
  • Students of broad~scope History

But I am sure that you are skeptical that this is too good to be true~30 seconds to become a philosopher! Then let me tell you my friends, that you have taken the first small step towards becoming one. The attitude of skepticism and inclination to question are the central to philosophy. By questioning your (and others’) beliefs with an open mind, you will better understand what it is you believe, what your concepts are, and thus come to know your self better.

Final Summery

In conclusion, philosophy addresses what are sometimes called the “big questions.” These include questions about morality (“What makes things morally right or wrong?”); about what we can know, if anything (“Can you know that the world around you is real, and not a computer-generated virtual reality?”); about the nature of human existence (“Are you your brain? Do we possess souls?”); and about the nature of reality (“Why is there anything at all?”).Religion addresses many of the same questions, but while philosophy and religion overlap in the questions they address, they can differ in the approach they take to answering them. While faith and revelation are typically the cornerstones of religious belief, philosophy places great emphasis on reason—on applying our intelligence in order to figure out, as best we can, what the answers are.”

“The God that philosophers of religion like to argue about isn’t one that most of us would recognise. He tends to be more on the abstract side, like “The Force” in Star Wars, and less like a Heavenly Father who stays up at night worrying about you.

DIMITRI: I was talking to Zeus the other day, and he thinks you’re a bad influence on me.

TASSO: That’s interesting, because I think he’s a bad influence on you.

DIMITRI: In what way?

TASSO: He makes you think the voices in your head are real.”

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. Cathcart, Thomas

If that doesn’t convince you that a little philosophy is a good idea—well, there remains the fact that, good for you or not, philosophy is fun.In here you’ll find some of the most intriguing, clever, astonishing, and sometimes downright disturbing ideas ever entertained by mankind. Dip in and find out.”

Book Review · Brain · Kevin Simler · Non Fiction · Robin Hanson · species

The Elephant in the Brain~Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

Book Review

Image from Amazon.com

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’s it about?

We human beings are a species that’s not only capable of acting on hidden motives~ we’re designed to do it. The book highlights the fact that humans have hidden motives, which we hide even from our selves. We have many reasons for our behaviour, but we habitually accentuate and exaggerate our pretty, prosocial motives and down play the ugly and selfishness.

The authors illustrates with the following examples as to how we effectively rationalise our behaviour, by telling half truth, by cherry picking our most acceptable, prosocial reasons while concealing our ulterior motives. For instance ~

  1. Parents often enforce kid’s early bedtime “for their own good”, when a self serving motive seems just as likely~ that parents simply want an hour or two of peace and quiet without the kids. Though most parents genuinely believe that early bedtimes are good for their children, but the belief is self serving.
  2. Minor issues are often exaggerated to avoid unwanted social encounters “I’m not feeling well today” as an excuse not to go to work may only have half a grain of truth, and meanwhile other reasons (“I simply don’t want to”) are conveniently omitted.

There are many such wide-ranging, covering many fields and current events, and offering many concrete relatable examples which challenges how you think about yourself and how you see the world by shining a light on things people would rather stay hidden.

The Key Ideas

  • Human behaviour is often driven by multiple motives. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as humans are complex creatures. But more importantly what they are suggesting is that some of these motives are unconscious.
  • Human beings are primates, and primates are political animals. Our brains, therefore, are designed not just to hunt and gather, but also to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. While most of the time we are trying to maximise social status~ we are quite skilful and strategic in pursuing our self~interest without explicitly acknowledging it, even to ourself
  • Our brains are designed to act in our self~interest while at the same time trying not to act selfish in front of others. And in order to throw them off the trail, our brain often keeps “us” our conscious mind, in the dark
  • Self~deception is therefore strategic, a ploy our brain uses to look good while behaving badly.
  • We are competitive social animal fighting for power, status, and sex. The fact that we are sometimes willing to lie and cheat and go ahead, the fact that we hide some of our motives~ and that we do in order to mislead others.

The Elephant is used as a metaphor. The elephant~ whether in a room or in our brain~simply stands there, out in the open, and can easily be seen if only we steel ourself to look in its direction.

Final Summary

The aim of this book, then, is to confront our hidden motives directly – to track down the darker, unexamined corners of our psyches and blast them with floodlights. Then, once everything is clearly visible, we can work to better understand ourselves: Why do we laugh? Why are artists sexy? Why do we brag about travel? Why do we prefer to speak rather than listen? Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behavior; they also infect our venerated social institutions such as Art, School, Charity, Medicine, Politics, and Religion. In fact, these institutions are in many ways designed to accommodate our hidden motives, to serve covert agendas alongside their “official” ones. 

So my take away from the book is that it is useful to understand the motives of our fellow humans~but that is not all~ we often misunderstand our own motives. We have a gaping blind spot at the very centre of our introspective vision. Above all recognising this teaches us humility. It calls for a more thoughtful interaction with our fellow self~deceivers.

Art · Artist · Auguste Renoir · Baroque · Chateau de Versailles · Renaissance · Style

How to See Art

Birth of Europe

The beginning of true European art is roughly placed at around 800A.D. Charlemagne (c.742-814) coronation could be placed as the beginning of the European civilisation~ also known as Karl and Charles the Great, was a medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814. In 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany. He embarked on a mission to unite all Germanic peoples into one kingdom, and convert his subjects to Christianity.

Charlemagne’s empire encompassed much of Western Europe, and he had also ensured the survival of Christianity in the West. Today, Charlemagne is referred to by some as the father of Europe.

Categories Of European Art

  • Greek and Roman Art~ Classical Antiquity
  • Medival Art~Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic
  • Renaissance ~ The central achievement of the European Civilisation
  • Baroque~This period is truly European, politically and culturally. One Europe with many national powers with a shared artistic language.
  • Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Academism and Realism~ the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period that followed it established France as the de facto capital of European art in the 19th century.
  • Modern art~The vitality, the inventiveness and the conviction of Modern Art

Art History is the study of the visual arts including architecture, sculpture, graphic art of a particular period or a civilisation. But it is more than a recitation of famous works of art and their makers, dates, material, subsequent history and so on. It also should be a guide to looking , how to look with understanding and pleasure.

Five Elements of “Looking”

  • Subject
  • Interpretation
  • Style
  • Context
  • Emotion

Let’s look at several works of art closely with you while referring to these elements. My aim is for you is to see how works of art effects us. That we begin to see art consciously, with fuller awareness of “looking at.” Looking at art requires time. Hopefully this will enhance your future enjoyment of looking at art.

Every work of art has a subject. The way a subject is expressed In art is the artist’s interpretation, and the artistic means of interpretation is the artist’s style i.e within the Gothic period style each artist still has a personal style. The context can be of the moment, the events of an artist’s life, of contemporary political events, of the historical period or long term cultural determinants in Europe~like Christianity. Our own emotional response must be tested against what we can learn about the artist and the period.

Artist of the Renaissance and Baroque where specially found of subject drawn from mythology.The myths are so common in art that we must know the stories especially the loves of the Gods. Here are two famous works with mythological subjects~

Knowledge of the myth is essential.The two subjects were also interpreted by the artist is obvious.

Baccus and Ariadne by Titian, c.1522,National Gallery, London and Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1722~25, Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

Here are two paintings of the same subject made two centuries apart in contrasting styles.

The first is Rogier van Der Weyden’s Deposition made in 1435, and the other is Peter Paul Rubens on the same subject. Both paintings depict the lowering of the dead body of Christ. But so different in some way and so similar in others.

Deposition by Rogier van Der Weyden, c.1435, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain and Deposition by Peter Paul Rubens, 1612~14, Antwerp,Belgium

Just as one does not have to believe in a religion to be moved by its cultural expressions, so one does not have to believe in the divine rights of the kings or absolute monarchy to be awed by the great palace of Louis XIV~ Chateau de Versailles.

Chateau de Versailles, 1661~1710,Versailles, France

As Biblical and Mythological themes became less common in the 19th century, the emotional content of art was more directly related to individual pleasures and sorrows. Thus art increasingly reflected the modern European middle class that arose in the 19th century, and turned to their lives and experiences for subjects and emotional expression. One Great example is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. It seems so obvious. We understand it. We feel as if it speaks our language~ it’s free from any references to another time. The emotion comes from the pure joy of the artist. We feel we are included in the meeting of old friends.

Luncheon Of the Boating Party by Auguste Renoir, 1841~1919, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Conclusion

These are some guide and tools which assists in looking at works of art. Art is important. Something when properly seen, considered and felt, can change our lives for the better. Like great Music and great Literature, Art is civilising.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” 

― Leonardo da Vinci

Books · Cyprus · Lawrence Durrell

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus ~ Lawrence Durrell

This Island, floating in water like a diamond iceberg. Call it Kipros (Cyprus) from the king that married his daughter, Ennis and Achaeus Tefkros, who founded Salamina when he was exiled from the Trojan War.

Another version relates the island to the Greek word for Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens, Cypress or evergreen) or even the Greek name for the plant henna (Lawsonia alba), Cyprus. The Cyprus plant is what is today called the Henna. The plant cyprus is a deciduous shrub, native to North Africa and Asia. From the leaves of the plant a dye is produced, while its flowers are delicious and from them probably was produced the Cypriot myrrh of the ancient.

The most widely used version of the Cyprus name refers to the overseas trade of copper, whereby the island gave its name to the Latin word for copper through the phrase aes Cyprium, meaning “Cyprus metal”, the phrase was later shortened to Cuprum.

The name hardly matters because entering from the greater reality of elsewhere, one is only in search of a city, a place to hide, to lose or discover oneself, to make your dreams come true. With these thoughts in my mind, seeing from the window of the plane which is to carry me down to the island, a strange looking mass of land, wobbling in the blue of the Mediterranean, cool as jelly.

 satellite-map-of-cyprus4

That was the year 2016, when my journey began in Cyprus. Back to 1953, Lawrence Durrell, an expatriate British novelist, poet and travel writer set foot in Cyprus. It was a different era ~ Durrell, who lived abroad for much of his life, brilliantly captures the romance, beauty, excitement and sadness of the island, and the lives of the people of Bellapaix where he bought a house. In a compelling and atmospheric account beautifully suited to the Spoken Word medium, Durrell charts affectionately the romances and relationships of the many characters he befriended there.

Clouds and water mixed into each other, dripping with colour, merging, overlapping, liquefying, with steeples and balconies and roofs floating in space, like the fragments of some stained~glass window seen through a dozen veils of rice paper. Fragments of history touched with colour of wine, tar, ocher, blood, fire~opal and ripening grains.

Lawrence Durrell

Cape Greco~Ayia Napa, Cyprus as seen from my lens

Yes, I was in Cyprus. Who knew, I was going to make this Mediterranean island my temporary abode, indeed the whole adventure had began to smell of improbability~I was glad that I was touching wood ! An ancient land, fertile, full of goodness and mineral springs, ancient castles and monasteries, fruits and grain and verdant grasslands, priests and gypsies and brigands.

Bitter lemons of Cyprus is a beautiful and atmospheric travelogue based in 1950s Cyprus. It paints a memorable picture of village life and a social and historical document of a lost community as seen by the author. Written during the gradual uprising of the Greek Cypriots who wanted union with Greece, Durrell observes the people’s struggles on an intimate and personal level.

” Journey, like artists are born and not made.”

Bitter Lemons Of Cyprus

Books · Brain · Dominic O'Brien · Greek · Memory · Non Fiction

How to develop a Brilliant Memory~Dominic O’Brien

Penguin Random House

There were no survivors .

When family members arrived at the scene of the fifth century B.C. banquet hall, nearly everything was destroyed, with no sign of their loved ones.Miraculously, the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos had escaped the catastrophe as he had just stepped out of the hall, summoned by two men on horseback waiting outside, anxious to tell him something. At the very moment as he crossed the threshold, the roof of the banquet hall collapsed.

Nothing was left, of what was once a magnificent hall of marble, now crumpled into a mass of rubble and entombed bodies which once were alive. Team of rescuers set to work, digging through the collapsed building. The corpses they pulled out of the wreckage were mangled beyond recognition. No one could even be sure who had been inside.

Then something remarkable happened that would change forever how people think about memories. Simonides as if by magic, conjured up the whole scene just before the catastrophe, in his mind. He caught the glimpse of each of the guest at his seat. He saw them, his fellow poets just as they had been, laughing and chatting, minutes before the tragedy ensued.He took the grieving relatives and carefully guided them, one by one, to the spot in the rubble where their loved ones had been sitting.

They say, at that moment the art of memory was born.

Training ones memory has untold benefits.

What’s it About

The Book by Dominic O’ Brien explores the potential that most of us have to become “memory champions”. He is optimistic that by using the basic principles outlined in the book, one can transform their memory power instantly. The book is an attempt to unleash the power of your memory by simply using techniques in easy, bit~sized chapters.

Who is it for

What’s great is that you don’t have to be a certain age bracket to make the cut. You are never too young or too old to acquire these skills.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Dr. Seuss: Oh, the places you will go.

How does it work

It only requires you to perform tests and exercises, which have to be taken on a daily basis as laid down in the book. So get your notebook for writing down your answers and keeping a note of your score and see your mental power increase exponentially .

The 14 Key Memory Tools

  1. Test Your Memory
  2. Visualisation and Observation
  3. Acronyms
  4. Turning Numbers into Sentences
  5. The Body System
  6. Association ~ The First Key
  7. The Link Method
  8. Location~The Second Key
  9. Imagination ~ The Third Key
  10. The Journey Method
  11. Concentration
  12. The Language of numbers
  13. The Number~Rhyme Systwm
  14. The Alphabet System

My Take on the Book

Training ones memory has untold benefits. Apart from the practical advantages, I noticed that my memory in general is now more efficient and I have gained confidence in this ability. When I took up the book, my motive was not to be sitting in some Memory Championship grand slam event , which of course requires a lot of perseverance and dedication to achieve, and it is possible if you put your heart and soul into it. My sole reason for reading the book was that I could never remember names, miss on a couple of items in my shopping list, or birthdays, or telephone numbers. I was just getting a bit forgetful in general. I have to say that I have enjoyed this journey tremendously .

As the author points out that you don’t have to be born with special gift of recall or a photographic memory. Nothing could be further from the truth. It all about training your memory with the right tools. I have been trying to pass these tools to my daughter so that she can study more effectively. It is an investment in the future well~being of your mind.

One doesn’t require fancy tools to do this. When you are out and about, get into the habit of employing your skills to recall names, house numbers, street numbers, even car registration numbers. I find myself automatically translating numbers into images. You don’t need a pen when someone tells you his phone number. And you never get embarrassed when you forget someones name you have just met.

Camera · Depth Of Field · night photography · Photography · Portrait

Faces & Photography

“One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

blue zones · Book Review · Dan Buettner · fitness · longevity · National Geographic · nutrition · spices

The Blue Zone Diet~Live to be a Centenarian

Photo Via Amazon.com

What is a Blue Zone Diet?

It began in 2004, when American explorer Dan Buetttner teamed up with National Geographic to identify places in the world where communities lived considerabley longer and better than the average person. Mr Buettner identifies five of these places termed Blue Zones and with the help of scientists began to research just what characteristics extended the longevity of these communities. He discovered that these long living communities showed several characteristics including a strong sense of family, constant physical activity and lean towards plant base diet.

Places in the world identified as “Blue Zone”

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicola, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California

So why should we pay attention to what the people in the relatively isolated Blue Zone communities eat? Because, as Buettner writes, their more traditional diets harken back to an era before we were inundated with greasy fast food and sugar. And to qualify as a Blue Zone, these communities also have to be largely free of afflictions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. So clearly they’re doing something right.These people don’t live long because of supplements, pills, or other such modern day cure like anti-aging serums. They do so because they are surroundings nudge them into the right behaviour.

In the new book, Buettner distills the researchers’ findings on what all the Blue Zones share when it comes to their diet. Here’s a taste:

  • Use Fewer Ingredients ~Less variety may help keep people from overeating and keep the immune system strong.
  • Add Cruciferous Vegetables ~ Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower have been known to help protect the heart, stave off cancer, and lower oxidative stress.
  • Make Beans Tasty~ In the Blue Zones, beans are the main story. They’re cooked into soup and stews, enhanced with spices, and complemented by grains and vegetables.
  • Finish Dishes with Olive Oil ~ Room temperature Olive oil is added to breads, drizzled over vegetables, and added to soups and stews.
  • Supplement with Fresh Herbs and Spices~Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Mint, Garlic, Turmeric, and Mugwort all possess well documented medicinal value.
  • Fiber is More Important ~ Grains, greens, nuts, and beans not only contain protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that keep our heart healthy and our mind sharp they also feed eight pounds of bacteria living in our gut.
  • Enjoy your meals with Red Wine ~ We have all heard plenty about polyphenols and antioxidants, which occur more often in red wine that white wine.

Finally, the author says that eating for longevity is not just what you eat, but how you eat. Blue zones teaches us that diner with family, pausing before a meal to express gratitude, fasting occasionally, eating a big breakfast, and trying to eat all of your calories in an eight~hour window helps stay healthier, live longer, and feel better.

CONCLUSION

Granted, it’s not easy to emulate the Blue Zoners especially if you live in the US or anywhere in the industrial world, where you’re likely to be tempted with bacon and cupcakes every day. And maybe you don’t want to become a vegan.

But Buettner has plenty to say about simple ways we could live like these isolated tribes of exceptional health in The Blue Zone Solution. That’s what he’s focused on now with the Blue Zone Project: helping communities adapt the cross-cutting tenets of a healthful lifestyle. So far, the project has gotten several towns and U.S. states.

Book Review · Books · Non Fiction

Think Like a Freak by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, book review

So what does it mean to think like a freak?

There are all sorts of questions in the world, for instance~ Is college degree still “worth it”? Short answer: yes; long answer: also yes. Is it a good idea to pass along a family business to the next generation? Sure, if your goal is to kill off the business~ for the data shows it’s generally better to bring in outside management.

Some questions are existential says our authors ~ What makes people truly happy? Is income equality as dangerous as it seems?

People want to know the pros and cons off: autonomous vehicles, breast~feeding, chemotherapy, estate taxes, fracking, lotteries, online dating, patent reform, rhino poaching, and virtual currencies. These are the kind of questions are authors are frequently bombarded with as though they have some magic frekonomics forceps !!!

The thing is that solving problems is hard and most people would rather not try doing it as it moves them away from the herd mentality and requires them to start thinking rationally and independently. “Cogito, ergo sum” translated to English~ “I think, therefore I am.” Rene` Descartes.

This third book in the Freak series is different from the previous two bestsellers~ Freakonomics and Super~Freakonomics because this book teaches us how to think. Why is that you may ask ? In a lot of cases it’s the biases~political, intellectual, or otherwise. It’s tempting to run with the herd. Even on the most important issues of the day, we tend to adopt the view of our friends, families and colleagues. But that is like embracing the status quo, we are resistant to change, more than happy to delegate our thinking.

They quote George Bernard Shaw – “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation by thinking once or twice a week.”

There is an inherent problem in how people think. Too much is emotion and lack of data to make a proper call. They site the example of NHS (National Health Service)~ which provides cradle~to~grave healthcare for every Briton, most of it free at the point of use. This comes at an enormous cost and has been rising ever since. This does not make practical sense~ while the goal of free, unlimited, lifetime of healthcare is laudable, the economics are tricky, because there is so much emotion attached to healthcare that people can’t take a rational call. The problem is that when people don’t pay the true cost, they tend to consume it inefficiently.

So most people make decisions based on incomplete data, prejudices, their environment or peer and family pressure. Moreover, because they often have little idea of the impact, of their choices, they leave others to make decisions for them. The authors describe how, in a controlled experiment, and with the agreement of those involved, dilemmas were resolved with the toss of a coin to such questions as: “Shall I leave my girlfriend?” . A considerable percentage accepted a random outcome and professed themselves to be happy with the choice that was made for them!

Think Like a Freak is well-populated with case studies for freaky thinking in business, which should prove of value to futurists and foresight professionals working with business trends and clients. Much of this relates to developing persuasiveness, clearly a key trait to success in any endeavor.

“Thinking like a freak may sometimes sound like an exercise in using clever means to get exactly what you want, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” the authors write. But “the best way to get what you want is to treat other people with decency. Decency can push almost any interaction into the cooperative frame.”

Finally, the bravest act of freaky thinking may very well be admitting failure. We certainly value fortitude and determination, but not obsessiveness in the face of futility. Quitting isn’t failure, the authors remind us; failing is failure. The upside to quitting—to recognizing a brick wall before you hit it—is reserving resources and resilience for finding a way around, over, or even under that brick wall.

Fixing huge problems like runaway health~care is hard~ so the advise is to focus on small problems when possible. So let us begin by retraining our brain to think differently about problems, one problem at a time. Are you willing to try it? Excellent ! Then go and read the book and don’t get embarrassed by how much you don’t yet know….

Photos via Amazon.com authors’ pages.

Binocular · Depth Of Field · Perspective · Stereo Photography

Stereo Photography~A vision of depth

Let’s play a game!

The cross-eyed method can be used on stereoscopic pictures where the left image is on the right side and vice versa. It requires no 3D glasses or gear, only the desire to learn. This is one way to do it:

1 Eat the marigold, open your mind.

2 Look at what looks like two identical images.

3 Cross your eyes. A third image should appear in the middle. If you see 4 images, you’ll have to relax your eyes and cross them less.

4 Focus on that middle image until it pops out in 3D.It may take time to master the technique, but once you get it, it will only take seconds to focus and experience a crystal clear 3D image.

Welcome to the World of 3D

The Principle

No sooner had photography established itself as a commercial success in 1840s, photographers began experimenting with ways to  depict an aspect of human vision that painters had been capable of rendering for centuries-perception of depth. What artists achieved through technique of linear, or “diminishing” perspective~ photographers would accomplish mechanically with Special equipment for creating and viewing stereoscopic images.

The principle of depth perception was known as far back as A.D. 280, when Euclid observed thar humans perceive slightly different view of an object with each eye. This phenomenon-known as stereo or binocular vision, stems from the fact that a person’s eyes are about two and a half inches apart. The slightly different views that our two eyes take in are fused into one image by the brain, creating a sense of depth.

Artists learned how to represent depth following the discovery of the laws of perspective by Italian architect Fillipo  Brunelleschi in the 15th century. Knowing that objects appear to get smaller and parallel lines converge the farther they are from observer, artists could simulate depth with verisimilitude-a classic example being Leonardo da Vinci’s painting the last supper, in which all linesof perspective converge on the figure of Christ.

Fillipo Brunelleschi ~ Dome of Santa Marina del Fiore ~ image from Pinterest

History

With the introduction on Daguerreotype in 1839, photography became accessible to a mass audience. The first photograph, being two dimensional, conveyed only the sense of depth afforded by natural linear perspective within the image themselves, such as receding lines of building or streets. It wasn’t long, though, before a new method of photography sparked the creation of images that drew viewers into the very depth of the scene, as if they were beholding nature itself. This new type of photography took advantage of the phenomenon of binocular vision capturing slightly different perspective on a scene in two separate photographs, which were mounted side by side on a card for viewing. 

Stereograph of a young woman using a stereoscope, the popular 3D technology of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Note the cabinet of stereographs to her right, offered by publishers Underwood and Underwood. Courtesy of Library of Congress

The equipment used to create this pair of images consisted of a camera and two lenses spaced the same distance as the human eye. The the two photos, called the stereograph, was viewed through a device called the stereoscope, which permitted the left eye to see one version of the image and the right to see the other.The technology of stereo photography grew out of research of Sir Charles Wheatstone, who developed the ” reflecting mirror stereoscope”, for viewing three dimensional drawings in the 1830s. 

Conclusion

The social Impact of stereoscopic photography was remarkable. At height of its popularity, from 1860 to 1920, the stereograph represented the main type of home entertainment, with friends and family gathering in the parlor to view the latest images from around the world. Companies in Europe and America churned out millions of stereograph, depicting everything from the Pyramids to the streets of Paris to haunting scenes from American civil War and World War 1. While the popularity of stereograph began to wane in the early 1900s with the introduction of cheap, simple camera such as Kodak Brownie, along with the rise of motion picture, stereo photography has never died out. Since the 1930s the View- Master, with it’s disks of stereo images with travel scenes or cartoon characters, has long been a family staple. Kodak and other companies manufactured stereo cameras in the 1950s and 60s, and the 1970s saw the introduction of  the NIMSLO camera, which takes four photos simultaneously that can be viewed as a stereoscopic image without any special equipment.  For a short time in the 1930s, 3D movies were the rage. Their new incarnation is the IMAX movie, introduced in the 1990s.  Stereo photography is still utilized in star mapping and aerial reconnaissance, and it’s principles have been adopted to computer graphics. Perhaps the most imaginative ongoing use of this technology is the hologram, which is used as a security device on credit cards- meaning that a sizable portion of the population carry an example of stereo photography with them where they go.

Book Review · Books · History · Homo sapiens · Non Fiction · Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari ~ Book Review

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.
Caesar:
What man is that?
Brutus:
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2

Do not be alarmed my readers , it’s the 16th of March today, the ides of March was yesterday, but I compare the author Mr. Yuval Noah Harari to the soothsayer who rings the alarm bells to wake us up ~ us, Homo sapiens from our slumber and take stock of things going around us on a global scale.

The previous two books by Mr Harari~ Sapiens, which showed us where we came from. Homo Deus, which lookes at the future, but 21 Lessons for the 21st century explores the present. The questions is: “Are we still capable of understanding the world we have created?”

Introduction

The book is a revelation of sorts. With the world of 7 billion people with 7 billion agendas~ thinking about the big picture is a rare luxury. We all have pressing issues, our day to day problems, but we cannot ignor global issues~such as climate change or crisis of liberal democracy and carry on thinking it will not effect our lives~ cause eventually global warming will make the Mumbai slums uninhabitable, send enormous waves of refugees across Mediterranean, and lead to a world wide crisis in healthcare~ which we are already witnessing first hand with the spread of the Covid pandemic which has raised its ugly head and refuses to bow down.

The book covers different aspects of global predicaments~

What is happening in the world today and what is the deep meaning of the events?

What does rise and fall of Donald Trump signifies?

Why is the liberal democracy in crisis?

Is God back?

Is a new World War coming?

Which civilisation dominates the world~the West, China, Islam?

Should Europe keep its door open to Immigrants?

Can Nationalism solve the problem of inequality and climate change?

The above mentioned issues have a connection to the internal lives of individuals. Our daily routine influences the lives of people and animals half way across the world, and seemingly isolated personal gestures can unexpectedly set the entire world ablaze ~ the so called butterfly effect ~ for instance self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, ignited the Arab Spring and with the women who shared their stories of sexual harassment sparked the #MeToo movement.

Key message

The book starts with the current political and technological predicaments. With the end of the twentieth century the ideological shift took place from fascism and communism to liberalism, which resulted in democratic politics, human rights and free~market capitalism. However nothing lasts for ever and now liberalism is in a jam . So where are we heading? This puts the whole human race in a jeopardy as information technologies and biotechnologies confronts us with even bigger challenges our species has ever encountered. It threatens the very fibre of our social structure where billions of humans could find themselves out of the job market.

Big Data Algorithms might create digital dictatorship in which all the power will be concentrated in the hands of few elite and most people will have a fate worse than being exploited ~ irrelevance and redundancy.

The book is divided into five parts ~ each covers an area which highlights the threats and dangers. The first part deals with the impact of new technologies.

In the second part, the book examines a wide range of setups like communities, civilisation, nationalism, religion, and immigration.

The third part talks about the menace of terrorism, and the dangers of global war, about the biases and hatred that sparks such conflicts.

The fourth part engages with notion of post truth. Are we still capable of distinguishing between wrong doing from justice.

The fifth and the final part the author gets all the threads together and takes a more general look at life in an age of bewilderment. Questions life ~ what should we do in life? What kind of skills do we need ? What is the meaning of life today?

Conclusion

We have to wake up to what is happening around us. We cannot ignore anymore the global dimension of our personal lives and it is more important than ever to uncover religion and political biases, our racial and gender privileges and our unwitting complicity in institutional oppression. Homo sapiens can’t wait . Philosophy, religion, and science is running out of time . The looming ecological crisis, the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction, the use of new disruptive technologies will not allow it. Perhaps the most important, artificial Intelligence and biotechnologies are giving humanity the power to reshape and re~engineer human life.

Calotype · Camera Obscura · Daguerre · Daguerreotype · Henry Fox Talbot · Lazlo Moholy~Nagy · Man Ray · Natural Light · Photography · Photomontage

Camera-less imagery~A tribute to the Founding Fathers of photography.

Calotype Negative and Daguerreotype Photography ~ Images from Pinterest and Smithsonian Magazine respectively.

In the first three decades of the 19th Century, a handful of talented men in England and in France laid down the basic technology of photography in an astonishing burst of inventiveness. Working independently for the most part, these men bought together the principles of optics and chemistry that made photography possible- specifically, the use of glass lens to transmitt light and focus an image, coupled with light sensitive medium to record the image. Their work was a blend of old and new technologies, their success accomplished through patience trial and error. The optic knowledge required for photographs had been around for centuries in the form of the camera obscurant, a devise used by artists to project an image from life that they could trace. Originally the camera obscure was a darkened room with a hole in one wall to admit light. The light cast an image of the outside scene onto a wall or a screen inside the room. In the 16 th century a lens was substituted for the hole, which brightened and focused the projected image. By the 18th century the camera obscurant had been reduced to a size of a portable box with a mirror inside that reflected the image onto a glasstop where it could be conveniently traced onto paper.

Camera Obscura~ Image from Pinterest

History

The knowledge of chemistry necessary for photography was a more recent discovery. Prior to the 18th century, alchemists and other observers had noted that certain mineral and organic substance were subject to change in color under light, but they were uncertain about the cause. Then in 1727, a German professor Johann Schulze determined that silver nitrate turned dark through exposed to light.In the spring of 1834, English scientist Willam Henry Fox Talbot began his own experiments with photograms, which he called photogenic drawings .In the process Talbot perfected one of the most significant principles of photography-the creation of a stable negative image from which multiple images can be made. Talbot made a few improvements to his process, notably building a camera in 1834 to hold the sensitized paper. However, it was only when French artist Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre unveiled his own photographic process, the daguerreotype, in 1839 that Talbot hurriedly publicized his discoveries. 

Although Talbot patented his process, in the end it brought him little income, and in fact his patents slowed the adoption of his paper based process. Despite such setbacks, Talbot’ s principle negative – to- positive imaging paved the way to modern negative based film. In addition, the early experiments of Talbot and Thomas Wedgwood with placing objects in direct contact with sensitized paper spurred an art photography movement after World War 1, when avant-garde photographers such as Man Ray and Laszlo Moholy- Nagy created surreal photograms. The technique of camera-less imagery is still used today, a tribute to discoveries of these founding fathers of photography. 

My images inspired by Lazlo Moholy~Nagy

Book Review · Books · Matthew Dicks · Non Fiction · Storytelling · Storyworthy · Tools

Book Review ~Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks

My Story

Let’s start with me telling you a story about me~ as the author says, people would rather hear what happened to you than someone else , as there is an “immediate and inherent vulnerability in hearing a story of someone standing in front of you.”

I was returning from school in my car after picking up my daughter, on my regular way which I take every day ~ going neither too fast nor too slow, preoccupied in my head with the humdrum of daily life , trying to get through life one day at a time, one road at a time. When from no where, a dead cat shows up, very out of place, lying quite dead in the middle of the road~ a place she is not suppose to be! We slow down, cars ahead of me change their course to avoid the obvious flesh and blood. I, no better, follow the crowd and do the same inhuman stuff we humans are so good at ~disregard any life form which is not as precious or valuable as ours. After all a dead cat should not come in the way of so many more important things we have scheduled in our daily lives. However as I swerved from my path, my eyes caught the car behind me, which instead of doing what the rest of us have been avoiding~ stoppes in the middle of the road. She got down, the women in black, with her dark glasses and her hair pulled back. I watched from my rear view mirror as she steppes out with a plastic bag, liftes the dead cat~ which folks like us had left to die~ places her gently on the side of the road. As the traffic moves on I see my perversity reflect back at me in the harsh afternoon sun. I saluted to the lady in black in my mind and went on driving.

The author points that when telling a story to an audience, you cannot tell it the same way you would be telling your friends at a dinner, but slightly more crafted version~however he stresses that we refrain from getting too melodramatic or poetic. To an audience you may sound unprepared or unrehearsed, but this is not true. One has to be prepared to tell them. So it’s more a skill which has to be worked on and made perfect, which Matthew Dicks has mastered as a storyteller ~ check out his YouTube channel “Storyworthy the Book”.

The Art Of Telling Stories

The art of storytelling is a skill which has to be mastered keeping your audience in mind . To keep your story compelling, there are certain rules which the author has come up with, which has served him well over the years at events such as Moth Story~Slam for a very good reason. The five different strategies to infuse a story to make it effective.

  1. The Elephant ~ Every story must have an elephant. It is basically a clear statement of the need, the want, the problem, the peril, or the mystery. It makes it clear to an audience that it’s a story and not a simple musing on a subject. Just like movies have trailers and summaries that you can read on websites like Rotten Tomatoes to inform you of the gist of the story. Storytellers don’t have a trailer, they need to give some preview to get the audience attention.
  2. Backpacks ~ This is a strategy that increases the stakes of the story by increasing the audience’s anticipation about a coming event . Its when a storyteller makes the audience wonder what would happen next.
  3. Breadcrumbs~They are little hints that the storyteller drops of some future event, but only revels enough to keep the audience guessing. The trick is to choose the breadcrumbs which creates the most wondering the mind of the audience .
  4. Hourglasses ~ This is like a climax in a movie scene; the crescendo in a musical piece. Its the time when the story reaches the moment the audience has been waiting for. The sentence the audience has been waiting to hear. The author advise is to slow things down. Grind it to a halt; drag out and wait as long as possible.
  5. Crystal Ball ~ It is a false prediction made by a storyteller to cause an audience to wonder if the prediction is true. We as humans are always trying to anticipate the future, so when telling stories, recounting those on~the~moment predictions is critical.

A story needs to have stakes. Using the above mentioned techniques will only work if your story has stakes. If your story is boring, the strategies will only get you so far.

Lessons for Life

I like the book at many levels. The thing about stories are that they are moments in time which we have all experienced which are unique and beautiful and crafted in a way that blossoms into a story worth sharing. These moments are all around us; every day we go through life missing them entirely. However Matthew Dicks points out that it does not have to be so. He calls it the “Homework for Life”.

He says that at the end of every day, “I’d reflect upon my day and ask myself one simple question: If I had to tell a story from today ~ a five minute story onstage about something that happened in the course of this day , what would it be?” So he writes down a sentence or two that captures his day on an excel sheet . This gives him a constant supply of all storyworthy topics he can present , but more than that I feel this technique helps you record all the meaningful memories that come in our mind, moments from the past that one has forgotten.

I don’t know if I will ever muster the courage to stand in front of an audience and pour out my heart but I do capture my day in my journal. Sometimes I see patterns in my life, some storyworthy stories which I share with my family . It is kind of therapeutic in a way, it stops us from rushing through life and take stock of things around us.

Quoting the author “We are the sum of our experience, the culmination of everything that has come before. “

Andre Breton · Dali · Dream · Man Ray · Photography · Photomontage · Surrealism

Photography And Surrealism~Dream Photographs

Welcome to my Surrealistic world ~ or welcome to my mind. There is a creative freedom in making pictures which uses illegal juxtaposition of dissimilar objects. This process of photography which in the accepted means of the world is a documentation of reality, however when used in a surrealist manner, upsets the conventional way of looking at the world, as it captured oddities in life or allowed fantastic alterations of it through such technical experiments as photograms and photomontages.

HISTORY

Andre Breton the “Pope”of Surrealism~Photographs by Man Ray.Images from Pinterest

The art world’s attention was dominated from the mid 1920s through the 30s by Surrealism- the movement in all the arts largely inspired by the tools and ideas of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Andre Breton, the poet “pope” of the movement, gave at half serious dictionary style definition in his 1924 Surrealist Manifesto: “Surrealism. Noun, Masculine. Pure psychic automatism, by which one intends to express verbally, in writing or by any other method, the real functioning of the mind.Dictation by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, and beyond any esthetic or moral preoccupation. ”

While Freud attempted to restore  his patients to reason, the Surrealists reveled in the word of id, where new sources of beauty and mystery were felt to lie. The indexical nature or the truth value of a photograph made it, paradoxically, a key medium for the Surrealists.

Breton and artists such as Dali ( who called his canvas”hand-painted dream photographs”) selected documentary photographs and gave them new visionary readings, to insist to the interpretation of oneiric and walking experience. 

Breton reproduced works of Eugene Atget in Surrealist magazine La Revolution Surrealiste; while Dali collaged scientific photographs of hysterical women together with details of the Spaniard Antonio Gaudi’s fantastic architecture. Brassai photographed nude torsos from the rear to resemble bones, like Arp’s biomorphic sculpture, and he recorded graffiti as the art of the child and the aberrant mind-as the pure expression of the subconscious” without  control  exercised by reason.” Other photographers explored various darkroom effects to undercut photographic realism. None was more inventive than American-born Man Ray.

Photographer~Man Ray. Images from Pinterest

Conclusion

It is hard to ignore the fact that surrealism is still an important part of the art and fashion world today. With ostentatious sets of Vogue fashion shoots to the catwalks in Paris and Milan ~ we still get the glimpse of the outlandish.

Breton had said surrealism was complete nonconformity. “The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful,” he wrote in 1924. It was a fitting statement for a movement that utilized photography as an art form in a way that had never been done before, creating nonrepresentational images of dreams and nightmares.~Excerpt from Man Ray~Surrealism and Photography by Meghan Garven in NYPD

Camera · catacombs · Flash Photography · ISO · Natural Light · Photography · Weegee · William Henry Talbot

Flash Photography ~ Beyond Natural Light

Introduction

There is something very stark and bare about flash photography . It is something we have been told should be used judiciously . For the average photographer, coping with the technical requirements of flash can be daunting, which is why high quality cameras come with such features as auto flash, fill in flash, red eye reduction. But even these conveniences can still result in a harsh, flat looking photos that bear little resemblance to the refined image achieved by a professionals~ illustrating just how complex the proper use of lighting can be, whether the light is natural or artificial. 

History

The 1800s~photography took place in bright light of the day, since sunlight was originally the only source of lighting sufficient to record an image on the low-sensitivity media used by early photographers. However, even then the quest was on to make images in dark or low light settings. However, until the sensitivity of the material was improved, they were unable to make exposures by common sources of artificial light, such as gaslight or tungsten lamps.

Instead, they turned to the technique of flash-a brief, intense light that allows them to capture images of poorly lit subjects.The earliest type of flash was limelight, produced by heating lime with an oxygen-hydrogen gas flame. The burning lime gave off an intense light. The quality that made limelight effective was its strong blue component, which worked well with the blue-sensitive media of the time. But because it’s use resulted in harsh images, limelight soon fell out of flavor.

William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the first practical method of negative-to-positive imaging in the 1830s, experimented with illumination provided by a high voltage spark from a Leyden jar. Using this technique, Talbot took pictures of rapidly spinning newspaper during a lecture at the Royal Institution in 1851, thereby demonstrating the principle of stopping motion with a high speed flash for the first time. 

About the same time, French photographer Gaspard Felix Tournachon, known professionally to Nadar, made use of Bunsen batteries and reflectors to take a series of some hundred photographs in the catacombs of Paris.

In 1864, photographers in England used burning magnesium wire to light photographs taken in under ground mines.In the 1880s powder made of magnesium and potassium chlorite became the standard for flash photography, until the creation of a prototype flashbulb in 1925 by Germany’s Dr. Paul Vierkotter, who encased magnesium wire inside a glass bulb, creating a safer, smokeless flash.

Flashbulbs of various designs dominated flash photography prior to the introductions of electronic flash, which came about through experiments in the 1930s at the Massachusetts institute of technology. Unlike the light produced by flashbulb, which takes time to reach its peak, electronic flash is instantaneous, although there is slight delay between successive flashes.

Despite the fact that most modern cameras now comes equipped with built-in electronic flash, photographers still use flashbulb for special requirements, including cave photography and imaging related to research on explosives and testing of aircraft engines.

Advantage of using Flash

Besides illuminating an under-lit scene or stopping high speed action, flash photography has come to be used in other ways. Pictures taken in daylight can benefit from fill in flash, which can counteract extreme backlighting and soften hard shadow.

In the 1930s, New York crime photographer Arthur Fellig, known as “Weegee the Famous” , used harsh flash to render his subjects in the starkest possible light. 

It can be daunting to use flash , especially if the aesthetic appeal is not obvious instantaneously . However when used in the right combination the result can be very pleasing. And in todays day and age where we have smartphones which are comparable to a DSLR cameras getting creative with flash photography can give you an edge .

Book Review · Books · corona Virus, Plague, Albert Camus, Spillover, David Quammen, pest, 2021 · Fiction

Plague 2020

"And indeed , as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperilled. He knew that the jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books:that plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good: that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen closet, that it bides its time in bedroom , cellars, trunks and bookshelves , and perhaps the day would come when for the bane and enlightening men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city". 

As I read these last lines of the book "Plague by Albert Camus", it left me wondering ....
Is it really all there is , is this how things will go down or that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.
Now that a year has gone since the outbreak and we are still struggling to curtail the virus, how would life change or will we forget and move on with our lives, assuming that the blight seem to have retreated , slinking back to the obscure lair from which it had stealthily emerged.

To get an insight into how virus works and spreads ~ "Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic"is a great read.
 "When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in establishing itself as an infectious presence, sometimes causing illness or death, the result is a zoonosis," Mr. Quammen writes, and he tells us that the term is "a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the twenty-first century."

The fatal leap from animal to human~ Life-threatening infectious diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, virus flu, SARS and currently Covid-19 can spread quickly over large areas thanks to globalization and trigger epidemics or even pandemics. They have one thing in common: the pathogens jumped from animals to humans - the so-called spillover. In a book that is as excitingly narrated as it is disturbing, the award-winning science author David Quammen describes how and where viruses, bacteria and other pathogens are preferentially transmitted to humans. He accompanies researchers in their search for the origin of the epidemics, including gorillas in the Congo, observes them working with bats in China and monkeys in Bangladesh and explains why the risk of spillover has increased. A science thriller about the increasing risk of pandemics in the globalised world.

The two novels talk of the same issue but at different levels.
In Camus work you read how a small town is shut off from the rest of the world, its citizens confined to their homes, as a contagion spreads, infecting thousands, and subjecting thousands more to quarantine?
 How would you cope if an epidemic disrupted daily life, closing schools, packing hospitals, and putting social gatherings, sporting events and concerts, conferences, festivals and travel plans on indefinite hold?
Sadly we are very much aware of this situation today.Given the relevance of this book today~the book demands reading. 

Spillover on the other hand covers a wider perspective. It divulges into the science of an epidemic. It take instances from different diseases and the cause of its spread. 
Certainly humans can be destructive and shortsighted, they can also be forward thinking and altruistic. Time and time again people have demonstrated that they care about the problem of sharing the earth with other creatures.

The one feature these events have in common is change and, to more specific, rate of change. When world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out.