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John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: A Truly American Book

I don’t know and in truth I don’t much care whether it’s the “work of genius” ! What sticks with me is that here is a book, non-political, non-…

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: A Truly American Book
American Photography · Ansel Adams · Camera · Edward Weston · Filter · History · Immogen Cunningham · Inspirational Art · ISO · Landscape Photography · Photography · Surrealism

What do you know about the “Group f.64”?

Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and the Community of Artist who revolutionised American Photography Excerpt from the Book Group f.64 by…

What do you know about the “Group f.64”?
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.

Autochrome · Cinematography · History · Lumière Brothers · Photography

Autochrome~Painting with colour

Girl with fan, Lagartera, Spain, circa 1926

Jacob J. Gayer/National Geographic Society/ Steven Kasher Gallery

History

Of the many innovators in the  history of photography, none has more auspicious surname than the inventors of Autochrome, the first widely used color process. French brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière~ whose last name means ” light” – patented their new colour system in 1904. Brought up near Lyon, the brothers worked for their farther’s photographic firm. In 1895, they became pioneers in the field of moving pictures when they patented the cinematography, a combination of camera, projector and printer. They then turned their attention to the challenge of color photography. While three quarters of a century had passed since Joseph-Nicephore Niepce made the worlds first photograph, there had been little progress in coming up with a practical color process. Color illustrations were still largely the providence of the painters. Building on the existing additive principle of color reproduction – in which all colours are reproduction- colours are replicated through the combination of red, green and blue- the Lumière set about perfecting the process that would be easy to use and commercially viable.

The Process

To make an Autochrome, Lumière ground up potato starch into microscopic granules, which were then dyed in separate batches of red, green and blue.  The three colors of powder were evenly mixed , and a fine coating of this material was spread on a glass plate treated with pitch. Since the color granules were not completely flat, the space between were filled with lampblack. The powder was then sealed with a layer of varnish before a final layer of black and white photographic emulsion  was applied. To expose an autochrome, the glass plate was placed in view camera with emulsion side away from lens. As light travelled through the glass plate, it was filtered by color granules before reaching the emulsion. The plate was reversed processed in acid dichromate to produce a positive transparency. To view the image, light was passed through the glass plate, and the tiny grains of potato starch filtered the stippled look of a Pointillist painting, with a wide gradation of soft pastel tones.

 The Lumière introduced the autochrome in 1907, and the new colour process was immediately embraced by professional and amateur photographers alike. At first, the Lumiere’s  had trouble keeping up with the production demand, as critics everywhere heaped praises on the new process. Soon the world will be “colour mad,” proclaimed photographer Alfred Stiegliz and “Lumière will be responsible”.

With the addition of colours, photographers had a new tool to help them produce striking images. Autochrome also brought scenes of the world to the readers of periodicals. The National Geographic Society embraced these new colour images, publishing many in the pages of its journal between 1914 and 1937 and amassing a collection of some 14000 glass plates.

Images from National Geographic Society ~PHOTOGRAPH BY HANS HILDENBRAND

LimitationS

The autochrome, however had its limitations. Relatively expensive and not viable for making prints, the technology left many of its early enthusiasts frustrated. The autochrome had narrow exposure latitude, and the color were difficult to manipulate.  Nevertheless, Louis Lumière, the scientific brain of the Lumière brothers partnership, would call the autochrome the greatest invention of his life, saying that it demanded the most intellectual effort and imagination of any of his creations. A the invention of Cinematography  had captured the movement on films, the Autochrome had captured colour.

Until it was surpassed by the color film of the 1930s, the Autochrome would be the most popular method of depicting life photographically in its full spectrum of color- and it would go down as a step in the evolution of photography that has come to be appreciated by many as an art form itself.