A secret photographer #2

The enigmatic Vivian Maier may be the most street photographer to hide her work from the world, and a while ago I shared an article about Masha Ivashintsova, a Russian equivalent. Here’s another, though Saul Leiter might be a little different; he was still around to see his work finally recognised.

Why Saul Leiter kept his colorful street photography secret for decadesArtsy
Yet except for his inner circle, no one saw Leiter’s personal color work until toward the end of his life. He adopted the nascent medium in the 1940s, when it was relegated to splashy advertisements and amateur shooters, not fine artists. Walker Evans called color photography “vulgar,” and his contemporaries like Robert Frank and Ansel Adams agreed. When William Eggleston, Helen Levitt, and Stephen Shore ushered in the era of color in the 1970s, Leiter, a private man who never sought fame, was barely a footnote. He had made a living shooting fashion during the heyday of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, but by the ’80s, he was deep in debt and nearly forgotten.

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Leiter wasn’t interested in the human condition, like Frank or Diane Arbus; instead he understood the simple poetry of a stranger’s silhouette, or raindrops on a window pane. “I may be old-fashioned, but I believe there is such a thing as a search for beauty—a delight in the nice things in the world. And I don’t think one should have to apologize for it.”

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Men in suits

The subject might sound dry, but this photographic series from Jakob Schnetz looking at the trade fair industry offers us glimpses into a strange, strained, suited world.

Place of promise, a photographic series examining the capitalist world of trade showsIGNANT
Over a period of five years, Schnetz visited more than 40 trade fairs, documenting on film an intriguing world driven by fierce competition to maximise profit. “In Germany’s exhibition halls the newest products are presented, the most efficient services are praised, and the best know-how is exploited,” he continues. “The place of perfect marketing is dominated by standardized scenery, live-shows, men in suits, and the tough fight for customers.” Nevertheless, the images in Place of Promise focus on the social occurrences of the shows, the in-between moments: the phone calls, the morning rituals, and the coffee and cigarette breaks.

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A year of unrest

It’s that time of year again.

Top 25 news photos of 2019The Atlantic
As we approach the end of a year of unrest, here is a look back at some of the major news events and moments of 2019. Massive protests were staged against existing governments in Hong Kong, Chile, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Haiti, Algeria, Sudan, and Bolivia, while climate-change demonstrations and strikes took place worldwide. An impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was started, conflict in Syria continued, the United States won the Women’s World Cup, Hurricane Dorian lashed the Bahamas, and so much more.

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See also 2019: The year revolt went global.

The year in pictures 2019The New York Times
5.6 million. That’s roughly the number of images photo editors of The New York Times sift through each year to find the perfect photographs to represent the news for our readers. This collection of images is a testament to a mere fraction of the conflicts and triumphs, catastrophes and achievements and simple but poignant moments of everyday life in the past 365 days.

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Not an easy task.

From 500,000 photos to 116: How our editors distill the year in picturesThe New York Times
Mr. Furst described the initial stage as daunting: “When you feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re reminded that you missed a dozen different news events or these 20 photographers or these 15 projects in the newsroom.” …

“One of the big balances is news value versus craftsmanship and beauty,” Mr. Henson Scales said. “We’re always having to juggle those kinds of elements.”

Getting just the right mix of images was the most challenging part. The editors considered a number of factors, such as the impact of a photo or its ability to delight, and the variety of images in each month. A beautiful, poignant picture could edge out a more newsworthy one, and vice versa.

The beautiful game

Not being a fan of the game doesn’t stop me from enjoying these two recent football articles from The Guardian’s Art Weekly newsletter, especially with one being from my home town.

A fan’s-eye view at the football – a photo essayThe Guardian
I was interested in capturing characters, emotions and expressions and also the dynamics of the group. I kept an instinctive approach throughout and often shot from the hip. Nothing was planned or staged. It was all about capturing those little moments – a feeling that could so often get lost if I’d spent time framing the shots.

It definitely helped being a Spurs boy, but you don’t just turn up and get invited in and start taking pictures. In the beginning there were certainly a few people who questioned what I was doing pointing a camera in their face. I knew from the beginning that I had to take my time. It was important for me to get to know people first, find out what they are doing and just go with the flow. It might sound like a cliché, but you can’t make images happen when you want them to – the images will come to you. It’s a little bit like fishing – sometimes you catch something and sometimes you come home empty-handed.

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The Leeds United fan making the city beautiful – one electric box at a timeThe Guardian
Popular with fans and residents alike, McVeigh creates his designs independently – he isn’t paid for his time or imagination – simply seeking to improve the aesthetics of his local neighbourhoods and honour his home club. “There’s virtually no Leeds United art anywhere in the city, which seems daft to me,” says Andy. “Even in the City Museum there’s a pretty pathetic token gesture to the club when it’s one of the most famous things about the place.”

The murals leading to the ground have become part of the matchday experience for many, with fans tapping the boxes for luck before games. Younger fans are also enamoured with his colourful compositions. “Kids love it, which is brilliant because I’m a primary teacher and had that in mind when I did them. One bloke told me his kids asked him to do a tour of them with him.”

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Up our street

A strange juxtaposition — a sophisticated New York arts magazine highlighting some very familiar terraced streets from the north of England.

Shirley Baker’s half century of street photographyThe New Yorker
Shirley Baker was born in Kersal, North Salford, England, in 1932. The body of work for which she is remembered is fairly limited, encompassing her street photography of Manchester and Salford, shot between the 1960 and 1973 (and including early experiments with color, beginning in 1965). The images reflect on a time of rapid economic and social change, when the British-built environment, and ideals of home and community, were upturned. In the wake of the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, of 1954, 1.3 million homes were demolished between 1955 and 1973. In Baker’s images, we see the clash of old and new as sooty children play in front of decrepit houses, with tower blocks emerging in the distance. “I did know that fundamental changes were taking place … and nobody seemed to be interested in recording the face of the people or anything in their lives,” Baker wrote in “Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford,” in 1989. “My interest grew into a compulsion even though the notion of someone wandering the unpicturesque streets of Manchester and Salford with a camera seemed quite crazy to most people then.”

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As Colin Ford, the first director of the National Museum of Photography, wrote, of Baker, “Not since the photographs of the Farm Security Administration in America in the thirties have I seen someone photographing people in deprived states and getting herself so involved.”

(See this earlier post for more about the Farm Security Administration project.)

VICE has an interview with Lou Stoppard, the editor of a new book showcasing her work.

Glorious photos of life up northVICE
She was born in Salford, so it was her stomping ground. These terraced houses are being cleared and she was aware that no one was documenting that process. She very much sees herself as one of her subjects, too, and she talks about all the energy that would have gone into putting those homes together, and how no one was really documenting it. All of those lives that had been destroyed and those narratives that had been acted out, and that was all going to be swept away. So she started wandering around and making pictures, and the people there came to know her and trust her. So there’s definitely a connection in the sense of: this is her hometown.

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Meanwhile, across the Atlantic.

Vancouver street photographer Fred Herzog has died, age 88The Art Newspaper
The passing of the Vancouver-based photographer Fred Herzog on Monday, at age 88, marked not only the loss of a great artist, but also the end of an era, since the city he documented over more than half a century has itself vanished. The Kodachrome images of mid-century street life he became famous for late in his career show Vancouver before it became overrun by luxury apartment towers and international real estate speculation.

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But if you’re wanting a little more glamour with your street photography, try these.

Bill Cunningham: On the StreetKottke
Until his death in 2016, Bill Cunningham captured the fashions of people walking the streets and catwalks of NYC and elsewhere, mostly for the NY Times over the past five decades. A new book, Bill Cunningham: On the Street, is the first published collection of his work and includes more than 700 photos along with a number of essays by friends, subjects, and cultural critics.

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Take a closer look

This year we’ve seen photography competitions for the best sea view and for views a little closer to home. But how about something real close — the winning images from Nikon’s Small World competition.

2019 Photomicrography Competition
The Nikon International Small World Competition first began in 1975 as a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Since then, Small World has become a leading showcase for photomicrographers from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

Phantom midge larva (though it reminds me of something else), Christopher Algar:

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Neuron growth, Dr Torsten Wittman:

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Housefly compound eye pattern, Dr Razvan Cornel Constantin:

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Small white hair spider, Javier Rupérez:

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OK that’s maybe a little too close. Let’s take a step back. Wayyy back.

These beautiful, swirling images are maps of Washington’s geology
These maps reveal the shapes of the state’s landslides, river basins, and glaciers, along with other strange features, like glacial drumlins and mysterious mima mounds. Lidar data can be used to make maps that highlight elevation contours as well as the aspect and slope of the land. They can reveal landslides hidden by trees and faults beneath the earth’s surface.

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So that’s Washington. What about the rest of the globe?

Can we make a 3-D map of the whole world?
Their ultimate goal now is to create a comprehensive archive of lidar scans, including some that are already in existence and more to be added over time, to fuel an immense dataset of the Earth’s surface, in three dimensions. It will have tremendous utility in the short term for finding ancient sites and large-scale patterns, but Fisher and Leisz are taking a long view. With such a tool, they say, when the full impacts of climate change begin to set in, future generations will have a comprehensive understanding of how things once were.

The plan, he says, is to start with the most vulnerable ecological and cultural heritage sites, and go from there. For example, Fisher estimates that the entire Amazon rain forest, where a scourge of forest fires recently made international headlines, could be lidar scanned by plane and helicopter in six years, for $15 million. The next step could be to use some future technology that puts lidar in orbit and makes covering large areas easier.

“Right now we’re not able to put a lidar instrument into the orbit that would give us the kind of resolution we’re requiring,” Fisher says. “Ten years from now, maybe that might not be true. But we can’t wait 10 years.”

I’ve just added a reminder in my Google calendar to come back to this post in ten years’ time, to see how they got on.

Do not erase

For a number of weekends now, my son and I have attended several university open days, touring facilities and listening to presentations in lecture theatres up and down the land. These photos of blackboards by Jessica Wynne look quite familiar—and equally incomprehensible.

A photographic survey by Jessica Wynne of chalkboards filled by mathematicians
Wynne tells Colossal that she enjoys photographing the dusty work surfaces because of “their beauty, mystery and the pleasure of creating a permanent document of something that is ephemeral.” The “Do Not Erase” photo series, soon to be published in a book by Princeton University Press for release in 2020, includes boards from institutions and universities around the world. Wynne hopes that viewers can appreciate the aesthetic of the worked surfaces while “simultaneously appreciating that the work on the board represents something much deeper, beyond the surface.”

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More people who aren’t there

Remember that website full of photos of fake faces? Well, Dr Julian Koplin from the University of Melbourne has been combining those AI generated portraits with AI generated text, and now there’s a whole city of them.

Humans of an unreal city
These stories were composed by Open AI’s GPT-2 language model and AllenAI’s Grover news generator, which were given various prompts and asked to elaborate. My favourite results are recorded here – some lightly edited, many entirely intact. The accompanying photos were generated by the AI at This Person Does Not Exist. They are not real humans, but you can look into their eyes nonetheless.

As he explains in this commentary on the ethics of the project, some of the results are convincingly human.

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The very human language of AI
AI can tell stories about oceans and drowning, about dinners shared with friends, about childhood trauma and loveless marriages. They can write about the glare and heat of the sun without ever having seen light or felt heat. It seems so human. At the same time, the weirdness of some AI-generated text shows that they ‘understand’ the world very differently to us.

I’m worried less about the machines becoming sentient and taking over, with their AI generated art and poetry, and more about the dangers these tools pose when in the hands of ill-intentioned humans.

Meanwhile.

100,000 free AI-generated headshots put stock photo companies on notice
It’s getting easier and easier to use AI to generate convincing-looking, yet entirely fake, pictures of people. Now, one company wants to find a use for these photos, by offering a resource of 100,000 AI-generated faces to anyone that can use them — royalty free. Many of the images look fake but others are difficult to distinguish from images licensed by stock photo companies …

Zhabinskiy is keen to emphasize that the AI used to generate these images was trained using data shot in-house, rather than using stock media or scraping photographs from the internet. “Such an approach requires thousands of hours of labor, but in the end, it will certainly be worth it!” exclaims an Icons8 blog post. Ivan Braun, the founder of Icons8, says that in total the team took 29,000 pictures of 69 models over the course of three years which it used to train its algorithm.

There are valid concerns about technology that’s able to generate convincing-looking fakes like these at scale. This project is trying to create images that make life easier for designers, but the software could one day be used for all sorts of malicious activity.

Fixing space and time

Here’s a wonderfully poetic extract on time and impermanence from Maria Popova’s new book, Figuring.

The first surviving photograph of the Moon: John Adams Whipple and how the birth of astrophotography married immortality and impermanence
Four years into it, the thirty-year-old Whipple would awe the world with his stunning photographs of celestial objects — particularly his photographs of the Moon. Louis Daguerre himself had taken the first lunar photograph on January 2, 1839 — five days before announcing his invention, which marked the birth of photography — but his studio and his entire archive were destroyed by a fire two months later. Whipple’s remains the earliest known surviving photograph of the Moon — an image that continues to stun with its simple visual poetics even as technology has far eclipsed the primitive equipment of its photographer.

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Yes, it’s an incredible photograph (here’s my own version), but this is about more than just astronomy.

We say that photographs “immortalize,” and yet they do the very opposite. Every photograph razes us on our ephemeral temporality by forcing us to contemplate a moment — an unrepeatable fragment of existence — that once was and never again will be. To look at a daguerreotype is to confront the fact of your own mortality in the countenance of a person long dead, a person who once inhabited a fleeting moment — alive with dreams and desperations — just as you now inhabit this one. Rather than bringing us closer to immortality, photography humbled us before our mortal finitude. Florence Nightingale resisted it. “I wish to be forgotten,” she wrote, and consented to being photographed only when Queen Victoria insisted.

I wonder about this as I stand amid the stacks of the Harvard College Observatory surrounded by half a million glass plates meticulously annotated by the hands of women long returned to stardust. I imagine the flesh of steady fingers, atoms spun into molecules throbbing with life, carefully slipping a glass plate from its paper sleeve to examine it. In a museum jar across the Atlantic, Galileo’s finger, which once pointed to the Moon with flesh just as alive, shrivels like all of our certitudes.

Pinned above the main desk area at the observatory is an archival photograph of Annie Jump Cannon — the deaf computer who catalogued more than 20,000 variable stars in a short period after joining the observatory — examining one of the photographic plates with a magnifying glass. I take out my smartphone — a disembodied computer of Venus, mundane proof of Einstein’s relativity, instant access to more knowledge than Newton ever knew — and take a photograph of a photograph of a photograph.

 

The sea, the sea

UK’s best sea view photography competition 2019
National maritime charity, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, has revealed the eagerly awaited results of its seventh annual photography competition, showcasing images relating to all aspects of the UK’s historic relationship with the sea.

Some stunning photographs here, but I wonder if in the future, given what we were discussing yesterday, we might see fewer images like this…

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… and more like these:

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Almost a Great Wave, that last one.

Cut-up cameras

They may be on their way out, but film cameras are nevertheless remarkable machines. This project from Fabian Oefner shows them off in a whole new way.

Vintage cameras dissected with a saw and suspended in resin by Fabian Oefner
For his latest series titled “CutUp,” artist Fabian Oefner used a band saw to slice film and still cameras into pieces, revealing their beautiful and complex inner workings. The pieces were rearranged, reassembled, and suspended in resin in interesting configurations. Each new sculpture transforms the tools for making art into new works of art designed to be viewed from multiple angles.

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There are more images of these familiar yet previously unseen objects on his website.

CutUp – Studio Oefner
Oefner deliberately selected still and video cameras to slice apart. This is an allusion to his earlier photographic work, where the image made with the camera is the “art” and the camera itself is merely a tool. For this series, the tool is transformed into a piece of art. It is at the same time a deconstruction of the technology of image capturing, revealing the beauty underneath the surface of these objects.

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And here’s how it’s done.

Fabian Oefner – CutUp
CutUp is a series of technical objects, that are sliced, rearranged and distorted into a new form. The objects are encapsulated in resin, captured in their current state forever.

Reminds me a little of Damien Hirst’s cows.

Good night Japan

Tokyo is such an evocative place, futuristic yet grounded. No wonder it attracts so many visual artists.

Davide Sasso’s seductive “video game inspired” photographs of a neon-lit Tokyo at night
Inspired by his favourite films – Blade Runner, Akira and Enter the Void – as well as video games like Final Fantasy VII and Snatcher, these photographs are seductive, nostalgic yet manage to capture the modern vibrancy of the world’s largest city.

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Here’s another photographer with a similar idea.

Night photography of urban Japan
Photographer Jun Yamamoto (a.k.a. jungraphy) takes these subdued (but somehow also vibrant) photos of Japanese cities at night.

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Listen to this, ol’ timer

Here’s an addition to the god-that-makes-me-feel-old list — the Walkman turns 40 this year. Fancy having to explain to someone what a Walkman was. Or what Napster was…

Walkman turns 40 today: How listening to music changed over the years
Though it was first invented 40 years ago, in 1979, the iconic cassette tape player defined the decade when legwarmers weren’t part of costumes and Reaganomics ruled the land. It was the first device that allowed listeners to take music with them on the go (hence, the name).

Since then, we’ve evolved to CDs, iPods, and the current age of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It’s easy to forget how revolutionary the Walkman was for its time, and that it marked a pivotal moment in the nearly 150-year-old history of recorded music.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how we’ve listened to music through the years — from the 1800s to today.

There are some great photos here. We’ve certainly gone through a number of formats here. I wonder what’s next.

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So long everybody

Hell is other people? No problem.

This camera app uses AI to erase people from your photographs
Bye Bye Camera is an iOS app built for the “post-human world,” says Damjanski, a mononymous artist based in New York City who helped create the software. Why post-human? Because it uses AI to remove people from images and paint over their absence. “One joke we always make about it is: ‘finally, you can take a selfie without yourself.’”

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Bye Bye Camera – an app for the post-human era
According to Damjanski: The app takes out the vanity of any selfie and also the person. I consider Bye Bye Camera an app for the post-human era. It’s a gentle nod to a future where complex programs replace human labor and some would argue the human race. It’s interesting to ask what is a human from an Ai (yes, the small “i” is intended) perspective? In this case, a collection of pixels that identify a person based on previously labeled data. But who labels this data that defines a person immaterially? So many questions for such an innocent little camera app …

A lot of friends asked us if we can implement the feature to choose which person to take out. But for us, this app is not an utility app in a classical sense that solves a problem. It’s an artistic tool and ultimately a piece of software art.

But, as that Artnome article explains, he’s by no means the first to do this…

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Meanwhile, Italian sculptor Arcangelo Sassolino (is he a sculptor? What’s the reverse of sculpture?) is creating another disappearance.

Dust to Dust: Arcangelo Sassolino’s literal and conceptual erasure of the classical aesthetic
In Arcangelo Sassolino’s ‘Damnatio Memoriae’, a custom-made machine grinds a white marble torso to dust; dematerializing classicism and all that it revered over the course of a four month exhibition period at Galerie Rolando Anselmi in Berlin.

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In this conceptual and literal erasure of the classical aesthetic, Sassolino questions the value of the narrative proposed by the Western canon and asks if we can free ourselves from the rules of the past. While the statue is changed by the process of grinding, it does not disappear—becoming instead fine dust that spreads through the exhibition space like mist. This new form allows the sculpture, and thus classicism, to invisibly permeate the exhibition space. As it settles on the walls and floors of Galerie Rolando Anselmi, and on those who visit the show, the complex reality of extracting oneself from the restrictive idealism of classicism becomes abundantly clear.

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Speaking of classically proportioned behinds.

New art project seeks to reveal the “real size” of modern life’s most famous behind
“The wait is finally over,” we’re told. “Hundreds, potentially thousands of images of the world’s most famous body part have been analysed and carefully measured. Interviews have been read through and words evaluated. Everyone has always known that it’s big, but exactly how big is it?”

Ida-Simon is, of course, talking about Kim Kardashian’s behind. No mere attempt at digital titillation, the pair describes the project, simply titled The Bum as “a commentary on the time we live in.”

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Looking through Cindy Sherman’s Rear Window

News of an upcoming exhibition of Cindy Sherman’s photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from the end of June to mid September. This is from the British Journal of Photography last year.

Huge Cindy Sherman retrospective goes on show at NPG next year
Titled Cindy Sherman, the exhibition will feature around 180 works, including the seminal series Untitled Film Stills. Shot from 1977-1980 in New York, the 70-strong series cemented both her reputation and her approach – manipulating her own appearance to explore the complex relationship between facade and reality.

Also on show will be all five of Sherman’s Cover Girl series, made in 1976 when she was a student, as well as more recent work such as Clowns and Society Portraits, plus material from her studio that gives an insight into her working process.

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Interestingly, as The Art Newspaper explains, this is all Hitchcock’s doing.

Cindy Sherman gets first UK retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery
The photographer Cindy Sherman grew up in New York’s Long Island in the 1950s. She was a self-confessed “child TV addict”. Her parents would leave her at home to go to parties, and she would watch the same films on repeat. Her favourite childhood film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, is “her blueprint,” the curator Paul Moorhouse says ahead of Sherman’s first retrospective in the UK, at London’s National Portrait Gallery. “That’s how I understand her work,” Moorhouse adds.

Sherman would repeatedly watch the wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart as he in turn obsessively observes his neighbours, attempting to fathom their lives via fragmentary visual glimpses. In adulthood, Sherman would quote Grace Kelly’s instruction to Stewart: “Tell me everything you saw—and what you think it means.”

“Sherman’s art poses the very same challenge,” Moorhouse says. “She invites us to see her and then work out what she means. She is pure appearance.”

She began in the 70s, but her work is still vital today.

Sherman succeeded in “expanding the definition” of portraiture by actively “presenting a false image”, Moorhouse says. And that makes her “almost uniquely current”.

“There’s a sacrosanct notion, a holy cow, in art history: that we can read a person’s character by looking at their face,” Moorhouse says. “We’re always looking at other people and trying to work out who they are. But the truth is we can never really tell. You can only interrogate their appearance.”

Understanding and exploring that tension lies at the heart of Sherman’s art, Moorhouse says. And this tension is ever more pressing when seen through the prism of social media and projected identity.

“No other artist interrogates the illusions presented by modern culture in such a penetrating way,” Moorhouse says. “Advertising, fake news, social media, even pornography—no other artist scrutinises so tellingly the façades that people adopt or our struggle to make sense of what’s presented to us via our cultural outposts.”

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AI Spy

It seems we’re not the only ones playing with that AI fake face website.

Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets
“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.

Yes, it’s obviously a fake. I mean, only a fool would fall for that, right?

“I’m probably the worst LinkedIn user in the history of LinkedIn,” said Winfree, the former deputy director of President Donald Trump’s domestic policy council, who confirmed connection with Jones on March 28.

Winfree, whose name came up last month in relation to one of the vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said he rarely logs on to LinkedIn and tends to just approve all the piled-up invites when he does.

“I literally accept every friend request that I get,” he said.

Lionel Fatton, who teaches East Asian affairs at Webster University in Geneva, said the fact that he didn’t know Jones did prompt a brief pause when he connected with her back in March.

“I remember hesitating,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘What’s the harm?’”

<sigh> It might not be the technology we need, but it’s the technology we deserve.

But fear not, help is at hand!

Adobe’s new AI tool automatically spots Photoshopped faces
The world is becoming increasingly anxious about the spread of fake videos and pictures, and Adobe — a name synonymous with edited imagery — says it shares those concerns. Today, it’s sharing new research in collaboration with scientists from UC Berkeley that uses machine learning to automatically detect when images of faces have been manipulated.

But as Benedict Evans points out in a recent newsletter,

Potentially useful but one suspect this is just an arms race, and of course the people anyone would want to trick with such images won’t be using the tool.

Along a bleak river

Expect more of these over the coming years; melancholic, soulful studies of our degrading environment.

Zhang Kechun documents the bleak reality of China’s Yellow River
Once a site of prosperity, the river is filled with a spiritual history in Chinese mythology. “I decided to take a walk along the Yellow River… so that I could find the root of my soul”, explains Kechun in his artist statement. “Along the way, the river from my mind was inundated by the stream of reality. Once full of legends, [the river] had gone and disappeared. That is kind of my profound pessimism”, he writes. Zhang spent four years documenting the river, the results of which reflect a bleak reality: industrial sabotage, pollution, and the long-term effects of floods are portrayed through grey and beige tones. The river has flooded many times and with such extreme consequences, that is has become known as the River of Sorrow.

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A week to remember

Two significant anniversaries last week. Let’s start in northern France, with some staggering numbers.

13 memorable facts about D-Day
D-Day was the opening chapter in a long campaign. The Normandy invasion was not a one-day affair; it raged on until Allied forces crossed the River Seine in August. Altogether, the Allies took about 200,000 casualties over the course of the campaign—including 4413 deaths on D-Day alone. According to the D-Day Center, “No reliable figures exist for the German losses, but it is estimated that around 200,000 were killed or wounded with approximately 200,000 more taken prisoner.” On May 7, 1945—less than a year after D-Day—Germany surrendered, ending the war in its European Theater.

Some of these images really get across the scale of that operation.

Photos: Take a look at D-Day, then and now
The 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings will fall on June 6. Here, we take a look back at iconic images of the day and at modern photos related to the day’s events.

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It all looks very different now.

11 incredible D-Day Landing pictures that show the beaches then and now
The following pictures combine original photos taken on and around D-Day with others taken in 2014 and show holidaymakers in the sun, largely oblivious to the horror that took place where they stood over 70 years ago.

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And for a different, but very direct, perspective of events that day, you must take a look at these scanned documents.

Bletchley Park and D-Day
A rare collection of Enigma messages sent on D-Day by the German navy, and broken at Bletchley Park, gives a blow-by-blow account of the action. As events unfold, confusion gives way to a realisation of the scale and importance of the invasion. Intelligence from Bletchley Park played a crucial part in the operation’s planning and execution.

The D-Day commemoration coincided with Trump’s state visit. I loved the language in this view of that from across the Atlantic.

We are being embarrassed by ugly-American grifters on an ego trip to London
Referring to “the red-carpet treatment” accorded to Donald Trump and the ignominious confederacy of unindicted co-conspirators that accompanied him to London, the city’s mayor remarked, “In years to come, I suspect this state visit will be one we look back on with profound regret and acknowledge that we were on the wrong side of history.” Why wait? As an American, I’m already regretting the spectacle of the Trumps tweeting pictures of themselves stumbling around Buckingham Palace. It’s not just that, as a republican, I have no taste for the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the British royal family. It is not even that Trumps are so obviously enthralled by imperial excess.

What I have a problem with is the notion that the United States of America is being “represented” on the global stage by an ugly-American cabal of black hats in ill-fitting tuxedos. Mehdi Hasan got it brilliantly right when he said of the president’s decampment to the United Kingdom: “He’s taken four of his five kids with him, his four grifter kids with him to Buckingham Palace. They’ve been posting pictures all night on Twitter of themselves. They’re all loving it. It’s a great day for the whole grifter family.”

The other anniversary, of course, was in China.

Beijing falls silent as tight security surrounds Tiananmen Square anniversary
Thirty years after bloody crackdown in China, visitors have IDs checked and journalists are warned against taking pictures.

In the UK and elsewhere, reminders of what happened, like this one from The Guardian ten years ago, are so easy to find.

20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square: how events unfolded
Revisiting the protests, from the beginning of the student uprising to the brutal crushing of dissent by the Chinese regime.

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That’s obviously not the case in China.

A look at the many ways China suppresses online discourse about the Tiananmen Square protests
Suppression of information means that an entire generation of people know little about the events, even as the activists involved continue to suffer repercussions, including long prison sentences. In recent years, the government’s censorship apparatus has become even more powerful, with voice and image recognition and machine learning making it easier to block or remove posts at scale.

Jiayang Fan, writing in The New Yorker, was four in 1989.

Memories of Tiananmen Square
I had left China when I was too young to know about censorship, when I was just being introduced to the written word and to the stories that written words told. It would never have occurred to me, or, perhaps, to any child, to question the history books, because that would have seemed like an interrogation of reality itself. In China, the past is never past, but it is frequently purged. The story is rewritten, the narrative reframed, the villains and the heroes recast. There is a hallucinatory quality to such a society, as if you are living a life that does not and never can fully belong to you. China’s vertiginous economic growth during the last three decades, for example, has given people permission to pursue prosperity without ever granting them political autonomy, reducing them to children at the mercy of an irascible, paternalistic government.

Ilaria Maria Sala was an exchange student in Beijing at the time, just a couple of years older than me then.

The very last spring all things seemed possible in Beijing
People handed me spent bullets and bloodied items, wanting me to go back home and tell the world what the army had done. I told them that people knew, every journalist was in Beijing. I was evacuated by the British Embassy to Hong Kong in the early hours of June 7, and returned home to Italy. As soon as I could, at the end of August, I went back to Beijing again, to study, to look for friends, to try to understand what had happened.

Her story continues.

Beijing Autumn: My return to China three months after Tiananmen
Beishida felt too desolate, so I transferred to Peking University, where all the few returning foreign students seemed to have congregated. But as the students there were those most involved in the demonstrations, the authorities decided to suspend the first year, and send all the freshmen to the army instead. The notice-boards at Sanjiaodi, where the political posters had been hoisted just a few months before, where the international TV crews had filmed the students keeping up-to-date with the strike and its developments, where impromptu speeches had been given, was now a deserted triangle dotted with forlorn little posters advertising English classes, chess tournaments, and qigong demonstrations.

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The great (fake) outdoors

Fernando Maselli creates infinite mountainscapes in his quest for the sublime
To create his works, he photographs mountainous areas from different angles over a period of days; something only possible because of his training as a climber. Later, in the studio, he combines these images, creating a new landscape that through repetition attempts to achieve what he calls the “artificial infinite effect…[and] the concept of the sublime as it was defined by Burke”.

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Meanwhile.

I plant trees for a living, but Flat Earthers tell me they don’t exist
That’s a simplification of the concept, of course. The main idea is that within the overall Flat Earth theory, there are no more “real” trees left. According to them, the trees we see now are small ersatz versions of giant, 20-mile-high trees that used to exist on earth in ancient times. In short, the things we think are trees today are actually…bushes.

Dear me.

Sports days

Great to see some more work from this most patient of photographers.

“Crowded Fields” by photographer Pelle Cass
“I’m still fascinated by the body in motion and the strangeness of time (although I’m sick of watching college sports!). To make the compositions, I put my camera on a tripod, take up to a thousand pictures, and compile selected figures into a final photograph that is kind of a still time-lapse. I change nothing — not a pixel. I simply select what to keep and what to omit. It all happened precisely as you see it, just not at the same time.”

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