History

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Design History

A 19th Century Telephone Network Covered Stockholm in Thousands of Phone Lines

September 2, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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In the late 19th century, shortly after the patent of the telephone, the race was on to connect everyone to the phone grid. However, due to technical limitations of the earliest phone lines, every telephone required its own physical line strung between a house or business to a phone exchange where the call was manually connected by a live operator. The somewhat quixotic result of so many individual lines was the construction of elaborate and unsightly towers that carried hundreds to thousands of phone lines through the air.

In Stockholm, Sweden, the central telephone exchange was the Telefontornet, a giant tower designed around 1890 that connected some 5,000 lines which sprawled in every direction across the city. Just by looking at historical photos it’s easy to recognize the absurdity and danger of the whole endeavor, especially during the winter months. Everything that could possibly go wrong did. From high winds to ice storms and fires, the network was extremely vulnerable to the elements. Luckily, phone networks evolved so rapidly that by 1913 the Telefontornet was completely decommissioned in favor of much simpler technology. The remaining shell stood as a landmark until it too caught fire in 1953 and was torn down.

If you want to see more, the Tekniska Museet (the Museum of Technology) in Stochkholm has hundreds of photos from this strange period over on Flickr organized into three main galleries: Linjeras och eldsvådor (accidents), Telefonstationer Stockholm, and the Telefontornet.

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(via Retronaut, Twisted Sifter, thnx Johnny!)

 

 



History Photography

By the Silent Line: Photographer Pierre Folk Spent Years Documenting a Vanishing 160-Year-Old Parisian Railway

August 21, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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The Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (French for “little belt railway”) was a 32 km railway that encircled Paris, connecting all the major railway stations within fortified walls during the Industrial Revolution. In service from 1852 to 1934, the line has now been partially abandoned for 80 years.

Several developers and local officials have recently set their sights on the vast swath of unused land, tunnels, and stations as an opportunity for new development. However, some railway enthusiasts and related organizations want the tracks and stations to be preserved indefinitely as part of the cities’ heritage. Others want to turn areas of de Petite Ceinture into parkways similar to the nearby Promenade plantée, a 4.7 km park built on an elevated train track in 1988 that later inspired New York’s famous High Line.

As part of his project “By the Silent Line,” photographer Pierre Folk has been working since 2011 to photograph the 160-year-old railway’s last remnants before any final decisions are made. He stalks the tracks at all times of the year, often returning to the same locations to document nature’s slow reclamation as rusted tracks and crumbling tunnels are swallowed by trees, vines, and grass. This is just a small selection of Folk’s work, you can see many more photos right here.

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History Photography

Eerie Photos of North Brother Island, the Last Unknown Place in New York City

May 23, 2014

Johnny Waldman

Coalhouse from Morgue Roof, North Brother Island, New York

How does an island in New York City’s East River go from being notoriously feared, almost 100 years ago, to being completely forgotten about today? That’s the story behind North Brother Island, the subject of photographer Christopher Payne’s new photo book.

A 10-minute boat ride from the Bronx’s Barretto Point Park, North Brother Island originally housed Riverside Hospital between the 1880s and 1930s. While in operation, the hospital served hundreds of patients who suffered from extremely communicable diseases, including smallpox, typhus, scarlet fever and even leprosy. It was also where “Typhoid Mary” was quarantined, and where she eventually died. In a 1935 profile for the New Yorker, the editor Stanley Walker described the island as “…a dismal spot. Sitting there, one may see, as the best view, the gas tanks on the Bronx shore. Now and then a ferryboat glides past. At night the dirty water of the East River laps against the rocks, making a messy, ghostly noise.”

The island’s facilities have since been decommissioned and the island itself abandoned since 1963. It sank into the depths of our memories until 2008, when Christopher Payne wrote a proposal to photograph and document the island in its current state. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation agreed, and thus began Payne’s expeditions, which would continue for the next 5 years. His stunning photographs are now available in his new book, “North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City.” (via Animal and Slate)

Boilerplant from Morgue Roof, North Brother Island, New York

Boilerplant Roof Interior, North Brother Island, New York

Church, North Brother Island, New York

Classroom books, North Brother Island, New York

Classroom, North Brother Island, New York

Male Dormitory, North Brother Island, New York

Nurse's Home, North Brother Island, New York

Tuberculosis Pavilion Balcony, North Brother Island, New York

Tuberculosis Pavilion Lobby, North Brother Island, New York

Beach at Dusk, North Brother Island, New York

 

 



Art History Photography

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases 400,000 Images Online for Non-Commercial Use

May 20, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Kinder in einem Feriendorf / Martin Munkacsi / 1929

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has released a vast archive of 400,000 (mostly) hi-resolution digital images online that you can download and use for non-commercial purposes. From a 12-megapixel scan of Rembrandt’s 1660 self-portrait to over 18,000 photos spanning almost two centuries. Here are a few quick gems from the Photography collection, see also: Arms & Armor, Modern and Contemporary Art, and other highlights. (via Kottke)

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Daughters of Jerusalem / Julia Margaret Camero / 1865

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Head of Man with Hat and Cigar / Leon Levinstein / 1960

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel Standing Before the Launching Chains of the Great Eastern / Robert Howlett / 1857

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A Study, No. 1 / Rudolph Eickemeyer / 1901

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Street Minstrel, Gose / Shinichi Suzuki / 1870s

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Group of Thirteen Decapitated Soldiers / Unknown / 1910

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Sincerely Yours, Woodrow Wilson / Arthur S. Mole / 1918

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A Girl, Carmel / Johan Hagemeyer / 1930. Unidentified Child Picking Nose / Walker Evans / 1930.

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Art Design History

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book

May 5, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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In 1692 an artist known only as “A. Boogert” sat down to write a book in Dutch about mixing watercolors. Not only would he begin the book with a bit about the use of color in painting, but would go on to explain how to create certain hues and change the tone by adding one, two, or three parts of water. The premise sounds simple enough, but the final product is almost unfathomable in its detail and scope.

Spanning nearly 800 completely handwritten (and painted) pages, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, was probably the most comprehensive guide to paint and color of its time. According to Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel who translated part of the introduction, the color book was intended as an educational guide. The irony being there was only a single copy that was probably seen by very few eyes.

It’s hard not to compare the hundreds of pages of color to its contemporary equivalent, the Pantone Color Guide, which wouldn’t be published for the first time until 1963.

The entire book is viewable in high resolution here. The book is currently kept at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France. (via Erik Kwakkel)

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History Photography Science

Artist Rachel Sussman Photographs the Oldest Living Things in the World before They Vanish

April 14, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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La Llareta (up to 3,000 years old; Atacama Desert, Chile)

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Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)

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Welwitschia Mirabilis #0707-22411 (2,000 years old; Namib-Naukluft Desert, Namibia)

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Antarctic Moss #0212-7B33 (5,500 years old; Elephant Island, Antarctica)

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Jōmon Sugi, Japanese Cedar #0704-002 (2,180-7,000 years old; Yakushima, Japan

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Underground Forest #0707-10333 (13,000 years old; Pretoria South Africa) DECEASED

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Since 2004, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Rachel Sussman has researched, collaborated with biologists, and braved some of the world’s harshest climates from Antarctica to the Mojave Desert in order to photograph the oldest continuously living organisms on Earth. This includes plants like Pando, the “Trembling Giant,” a colony of aspens in Utah with a massive underground root system estimated to be around 80,000 years old. Or the dense Llareta plants in South America that grow 1.5 centimeters annually and live over 3,000 years. This is the realm of life where time is measured in millennia, and where despite such astonishing longevity, ecosystems are now threatened due to climate change and human encroachment.

Sussman’s photographs have now been gathered together for the first time in The Oldest Living Things in the World, a new book published by the University of Chicago Press. Sitting at the intersection of art, science, and travelogue, the book details her adventures in tracking down each subject and relays the valuable scientific work done by scientists to understand them. It includes 124 photographs, 30 essays, infographics and forewords by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer.

You can learn more about Sussman’s project in her 2010 TED Talk. (via Hyperallergic)

Update: Rachel Sussman was just named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.