History

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Animation Art Design History

155 Years Before the First Animated Gif, Joseph Plateau Set Images in Motion with the Phenakistoscope

October 17, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Nearly 155 years before CompuServe debuted the first animated gif in 1987, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau unveiled an invention called the Phenakistoscope, a device that is largely considered to be the first mechanism for true animation. The simple gadget relied on the persistence of vision principle to display the illusion of images in motion. Via Juxtapoz:

The phenakistoscope used a spinning disc attached vertically to a handle. Arrayed around the disc’s center were a series of drawings showing phases of the animation, and cut through it were a series of equally spaced radial slits. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the disc’s reflection in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images kept them from simply blurring together, so that the user would see a rapid succession of images that appeared to be a single moving picture.

Though Plateau is credited with inventing the device, there were numerous other mathematicians and physicists who were working on similar ideas around the same time, and even they were building on the works of Greek mathematician Euclid and Sir Isaac Newton who had also identified principles behind the phenakistoscope.
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Courtesy the Richard Balzer Collection

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Courtesy the Richard Balzer Collection

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The moving image was only viewable through a narrow slit. Via Wikimedia Commons

So what kinds of things did people want to see animated as they peered into these curious motion devices? Lions eating people. Women morphing into witches. And some other pretty wild and psychedelic imagery, not unlike animated gifs today. Included here is a random selection of some of the first animated images, several of which are courtesy The Richard Balzer Collection who has been painstakingly digitizing old phenakistoscopes over on their Tumblr. (via Juxtapoz, 2headedsnake, thanks Brian!)

 

 



Art History Illustration

Secret Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa

September 2, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.

When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here. Above are photos of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter which were donated to the University of Iowa by Charlotte Smith. How much fun are these? Keep an eye on the University of Iowa’s special collections Tumblr as they unearth more artifacts from the archives.

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Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Update: Because this post is getting so much attention, here are some more amazing fore-edge paintings found on YouTube.

 

 



Art History Photography

Face Painting at the Maha Shivaratri Festival

June 10, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Photographer Rakesh JV captured this phenomenal portrait of a girl having her face painted prior to the Maha Shivaratri festival in India, an annual Hindu celebration in reverence of Lord Shiva. During the festival people offer sacrifices through various means, kids are dressed up as gods, and older individuals are known to inflict pain on themselves through a variety of self torture. Rakesh has traveled all around the country the last few years and has captured a wealth of incredible portraits and scenes that are well worth a look.

 

 



History Photography

A 102-Year-Old Transport Ship Sprouts a Floating Forest

June 3, 2013

Christopher Jobson

Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia is home to the remnants of a ship-breaking yard that operated during the mid 20th-century. Large watercraft that outlived their usefulness were towed to Homebush Bay and dismantled to salvage any components that could be reused or sold for scrap.

One such ship was the SS Ayrfield, a 1,140-tonne behemoth built in 1911 as a steam collier that was later used during WWII as a transport ship. In 1972 it was brought to Homebush Bay to be dismantled, but fate would decide differently. Operations at the ship-breaking yard subsequently ceased and parts of several large vessels including the Ayrfield were left behind, the largest objects in an area now infamous for decades of chemical dumping and pollution. But only this century-old transport ship would be transformed by time into a floating forest, a peculiar home for trees and other vegetation that have since sprouted over the last few decades.

From 2008-2010 a concerted effort was made to remove many of the lingering chemicals in Homebush left from the industrial era. Not far away is the Brickpit Ring Walk, a former industrial site where nearly three billion bricks were made from 1911 through the 1980s that is now a carefully protected natural habitat. As the forest has grown inside the SS Ayrfield, the bay is now a popular place for photographers who wish to capture the uncanny sight of this strangely beautiful relic of the bay’s industrial past, not to mention nature’s resiliency.

A huge thanks to Bruce Hood, Andy Brill and Stephane & Eva for providing photos for this post. If you liked reading about the SS Ayrfield you might also like the Glass Beach in California. (via my modern met)

 

 



Design History Photography

The Floating Temple: How to Lift a Seven Million Pound, 112-year-old Building

May 17, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Something’s up in Provo, Utah and it weighs around seven million pounds. It’s the 112-year-old exterior of the Provo Tabernacle that was severely damaged in a 2010 fire but has since been saved by the LDS church so it can be converted into a temple. Engineers first gutted the damaged interior and then supported the exterior walls with special scaffolding as they dug down to create space for a two story basement, so in actuality the building hasn’t even moved. The entire structure is now on stilts some 40 feet in the air and from some angles appears to be floating above ground, such as in the first photograph above provided by Brian Hansen. Additional photos courtesy the LDS Newsroom.

 

 



History Photography

Happy End: Photos of Miraculous Airplane Crashes where All the Passengers Survived

April 23, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Dancing on Thin Ice, Happy End #9.1, Canada, 2012 / Bristol freighter broke through ice while landing in 1956, all survived.

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Bamboo in the Wine, Happy End #31.1, USA, 2012 / Cessna T50 bamboo bomber ran out of fuel in the 60s, all on board survived and walked over frozen river to Fort Yukon.

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The Scenic Route to Nowhere, Happy End #3.1, Mexico, 2010 / Grumman Albatross, no official report as used for drug trafficking, locals say all survived.

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Forces at Work, Happy End #2.1, Canada, 2010 / Douglas C3 stalled at take-off on skis in deep snow, all 6 survived. February 1950.

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Knock on Wood, Happy End #11.3, USA, 2012 / Fairchild C-82 with total electrical failure, all survived for three days at -50°F (-45°C).

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Passion is Rebel to Reason, Happy End #4.1, West Sahara, 2011 / Avro Shackleton Pelican, 25y SAAF, forced landing on flight to UK, all 19 saved by Polisario Rebels in July of 1994.

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Never Eat More than You Can Lift, Happy End #5.1, Canada, 2011 / Curtiss C46 Commando, nicknamed Mrs. Piggy as she could load so much freight, including pigs. All survived, 1979.

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Fuel of Life, Happy End #6.1, Canada, 2011 / Curtiss C46 Commando, lost engine power on a fuel run, all survived in 1977.

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Life is a Tide, Happy End #8.1, USA, 2012 / The pilot swam to shore with favorable tides in 1947 and is still alive 65 years later.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention this post made my palms sweat a bit while writing the details, but despite the unnerving visuals of these downed aircraft, each one of these photographs by Dietmar Eckell tells the story of a genuine miracle. In his series Happy End Eckell captures incredible moments in aviation history where planes went down and everyone walked away or was rescued shortly thereafter. Above are just a selection of photos, many more of which can be found over on his website, where you can also explore Eckell’s unceasing fascination with abandoned locations and objects. He’s currently raising money over on Indiegogo to print a 96-page book complete with 50 photos and accompanied by facts about each plane and the story of the survivors. (via laughing squid)