History

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History Photography

Street Photography by Juri Nesterov Documents Ukrainian Life Across Decades

March 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

Kyiv. 2020. All images shared with permission.

Photography, and street photography, in particular, has the power to preserve the fleeting, framing the brief encounters and dalliances that sometimes end as quickly as they began. This impulse to document the momentary permeates throughout Juri Nesterov’s body of work that serves as a visual record of those he’s witnessed within the last five decades. “When I look into the camera’s viewfinder, something inexplicable happens: thousands of images appear in my memory,” he writes.

Nesterov was born in 1954 in Krasnyi Luch, a city in the Luhansk province of what is now Ukraine. At the time, the area was part of Soviet Russia, and this shift in borders parallels the photographer’s practice, which often centers on the transient and ephemeral nature of the human experience.

 

Krasnyi Luch (Khrustalny). 1987.

Because of revolution, war, and collapse, Nesterov’s photos also chronicle life under the control of governments that have since dissolved, and the context of being surrounded by such inability makes his focus on the fundamental humanity of his subjects even more impactful. He says:

After a while, looking at my prints, I feel like the photos are electric. Most of the time I hear the question: “Where was this picture taken” or “What kind of camera? What lens?” I really want to answer: “in the world of people with their thoughts, disappointments, and hopes.”…Does it matter where exactly I pressed the camera button?… Look at the world, we all have the same starry sky.

Nesterov worked in journalism for many years and has exhibited his photos throughout Europe, although some of his prints housed at a Ukrainian museum were destroyed during shelling a few years back. Head to Flickr to explore an incredible archive of his photos that until recently, he was still developing in his kitchen in Kyiv.

 

Krasnyi Luch (Khrustalny). 1985.

Christmas ornaments. Kyiv, Ukraine, 2016.

Krasnyi Luch (Khurstalny). 1984.

Holiday village. Near Kyiv, Ukraine. 2018.

Makeevka. 1987.

Friendship. Kyiv, Ukraine. 2018.

Makeevka. 1987.

Kyiv, Ukraine, 2016.

Pereyaslav-Khmelnitski, Ukraine, 2016.

 

 



Art History

Rich with Imaginative Detail, Maria Prymachenko’s Colorful Folk Art Speaks to Life in Ukraine

March 3, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Our Army, Our Protectors” (1978), gouache on paper, 61 x 86 centimeters

Maria Prymachenko (1908–1997) was a self-taught folk artist known for her renderings of life in the Ukrainian countryside. Her gouache and watercolor works are vibrant and imaginative, depicting symmetrical red poppies tucked in a small vase or fantastical bull-like animals sprouting two-headed snakes. Expressive and consistently advocating for peace, Prymachenko’s paintings are widely known throughout Ukraine and internationally: she received a gold medal at the Paris World Fair in 1937, when Pablo Picasso is said to have dubbed her “an artistic miracle.”

Earlier this week, Russian attacks northwest of Kyiv destroyed the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, where about 25 of her works were housed. According to the Ukrainian Institute, though, local residents were able to retrieve the pieces from the burning museum before they were lost entirely. The aggression subsequently prompted calls for Russia to be removed from UNESCO, which declared 2009 the year of Prymachenko.

Explore more of the renowned artist’s works and history on WikiArt.

 

“May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!” (1978), gouache on paper, 61.5 x 86.3 centimeters

“A Dove Has Spread Her Wings and Asks for Peace” (1982), gouache and fluorescent paint on paper, 61.2 x 85.7 centimeters

“Ukrainian Bull, Three Years Old, Went Walking Through the Woods and Garners Strength” (1983), gouache on paper, 61.3 x 85.5 centimeters

“Red Poppies” (1982), gouache and paper, 85.7 x 61.4 centimeters

“Ivan Gave the Landlord a Ride in his Gig and Fell Inside” (1983), gouache on paper, 61.5 x 86.3 centimeters

“A Coward Went A-Hunting” (1983), gouache and paper, 61.2 x 85.7 centimeters

 

 



History Illustration Science

A 900-Page Book Catalogs Hundreds of Medicinal Plants through Colorful Renaissance-Era Woodcuts

February 23, 2022

Grace Ebert

Mandragora officinarum L., Mandrake. All images © Taschen, shared with permission

Memorialized in his namesake flower the Fuschia, Leonhart Fuchs was a German physician and groundbreaking botanical researcher. He published an immense catalog of his studies in 1543 titled The New Herbal, which paired colorful woodcut illustrations of approximately 500 plants with detailed writings about their physical features, medical uses, and origins. Fuch’s own hand-colored copy remains in pristine condition to this day and is the basis for a forthcoming edition published by Taschen. Weighing more than 10 pounds, the nearly 900-page volume is an ode to Fuch’s research and the field of Renaissance botany, detailing plants like the leafy garden balsam and root-covered mandrake. The New Herbal is available for pre-order from Taschen and Bookshop.

 

Impatiens balsamina L., Garden Balsam, Common Balsam, Jewelweed

Pulsatilla vulgaris MILL., Pasque Flower

 

 



Design Documentary History

A Massive Chainmail Shelter Prevents a Renowned Scottish Mansion from Dissolving in the Rain

February 7, 2022

Grace Ebert

The coastal town of Helensburgh is located in one of the wettest regions of Scotland, averaging more than 190 days and 63 inches of rainfall each year, and it’s also the site of an architectural masterpiece by famed designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Built in 1904, “Hill House” is a modern construction with a focus on light and texture, and its facade is made of gray Portland cement rather than a more traditional and hardier substance like lime.

While the material was innovative at the time, it hasn’t endured the wet conditions of its surroundings and has started to deteriorate and crumble as it soaks up moisture from the air and ground—the National Trust of Scotland, which manages the home, describes it as “dissolving like an aspirin in a glass of water.” To dry out the facade and hopefully preserve it for generations to come, the trust commissioned a giant, greenhouse-like box to sit over top.

English YouTuber and educator Tom Scott visits the porous covering, which at 32.4 million steel rings is the largest sheet of chainmail in the world, in a short documentary that reveals how the uniquely designed mesh structure has become a landmark of sustainability and innovative conservation in its own right. He discusses the unusual reasons for a permeable wall, the ways the chainmail offers the proper amount of ventilation without sacrificing protection, and how the multi-story walkways allow for otherwise impossible views of the “Hill House” roof and upper floors. Join Scott on his tour above to see the enclosure up-close, and in case you missed it, make sure to watch his trip to this mountain of mannequins.

 

 

 



History Photography

A New Photo Book Spotlights What Remains of American Movie Theaters

January 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

Fox Theater, Inglewood, California. All images © Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, courtesy of Prestel, shared with permission

Lights, camera, say goodbye to the action. A new book titled Movie Theaters is the culmination of two French photographers’ shared attempt to document the grandiose, historical, and now vastly altered landscape of American cinema. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have been traveling the U.S. since 2005 capturing the torn vinyl seating, chipped paint, and sometimes wildly transformed architecture of more than 200 shuttered venues. Published by Prestel, the photos are a visual memorial to a once-thriving industry and part of a broader effort to save what remains.

 

Paramount Theater, Brooklyn, New York

The first public theater in the U.S. opened in 1905 in Pittsburgh, and as a result of the boom in entertainment in the early part of the century, film studios began to commission architects to design elaborate auditoriums that were extravagant in aesthetic and often celebratory in function: ranging in style from Spanish gothic to art nouveau, most feature massive marquees flanking the entrance, ornamental trim lining high gilded ceilings, and rows of plush seating that could comfortably accommodate hundreds of people. “The movie theater was the cathedral of the beginning of the 20th century,” Meffre told Fast Company.

By the end of the 1920s, 20,500 venues were screening films, but that success began to dwindle as people bought TVs in the 60s and again decades later when streaming services became ubiquitous. Following additional closures spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, that number dropped once more, leaving less than 5,500 theaters open in 2020.

 

Proctor’s Theater, Troy, New York

Many of the buildings Marchand and Meffre visited over their nearly two-decade project are either abandoned in states of decay or firmly in their sequel, having been revitalized into new spaces like bingo halls, warehouses, and markets. Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, for example, now houses basketball courts, while others like Fox Theater in Inglewood contain remnants of their once-opulent architecture peeking through the otherwise derelict surroundings.

Some venues, including the strange storage space that was the Spooner Theater in the Bronx, have been gutted or razed entirely since the duo snapped their interiors. “The only thing that’s left is a picture,” Meffre said. “We hope that by showing many remarkable buildings in a state of decay, people will notice.”

To see dozens more of the forgotten venues, head to the pair’s Instagram and pick up a copy of the book from Bookshop.

 

Robins Theaters, Warren, Ohio

Spooner Theater, Bronx, New York

Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

 



Craft History

Archeologists Unearth a Roman Glass Bowl Dating Back 2,000 Years in Pristine Condition

January 27, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy Marieke Mom, shared with permission

Sitting a few miles from the German border, Nijmegen is the oldest city in The Netherlands, and after a recent archeological dig, it’s also the site that unearthed a stunningly preserved bowl made of blue glass. The pristine finding, which is estimated to be about 2,000 years old, is from the agricultural Bataven settlement that once populated the region. Featuring diagonal ridges, the translucent vessel was made by pouring molten glass into a mold, sculpting the stripes while the material was liquid, and using metal oxide to produce the vibrant blue. Archeologists uncovered it without a single chip or crack.

Around the time the bowl was procured, Nijmegen was an early Roman military camp and later, the first to be named a municipium, or Roman city. Archeologist Pepjin van de Geer, who led the excavation, told the De Stentor that while it’s possible the vessel was created in a German glass workshop in cities like Cologne or Xanten, it’s also likely that the Batavians traded cattle hides to procure it. In addition to the piece, van de Geer’s team has also uncovered human bones, pitchers, cups, and other precious goods like jewelry, which indicates the site was once a burial ground. (via Hyperallergic)

 

The excavation site