Thursday, October 29, 2009

Antonioni's "Blowup": Subjective Reality Through the Photographer's Eye

Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blowup” is a cinematic masterpiece that has withstood the test of time. It is as relevant now as it was in 1966. It has inspired and influenced countless filmmakers, as well as sparked heated debates among movie aficionados. It is a very potent work of art that either agitates or aggravates its viewers into spontaneous applause or inordinate disdain.

I just purchased my copy of the film yesterday, after seeing it on cable the other week. I have seen the film more than a dozen times before and my feelings had been mixed. But seeing it again after so many years made it fresh, and this time around I was applauding.

I remember attending a special screening of “Blowup” with my wife Anne eight years ago, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. While we were visiting the museum, I saw an announcement of the screening. I literally pushed Anne into the auditorium, eager to finally see the movie on the ‘big screen.’ We were newly married then and I really did not know how she will react to the film’s ending.

Antonioni directing the "fashion shoot" sequence.

I was still a teenager the first time I saw “Blowup,” and I thought it was an absolute work of genius. The second time I saw it, I was in college and I thought it was clever. The third to the nth time I saw the movie, I was in film school and my feelings toward it vacillated from admiration to revulsion. By the time I was seated next to my wife in the LACMA Theater, I was somewhat indifferent. Pathetic as it may sound, I was basically watching it again to relish the ‘photography sequences’ (I was not yet a career photographer then) – It is, after all, the quintessential “photographer film.”

As the crowd stood up from their seats to give the film a standing ovation, Anne looked at me quizzically with the most amusing “what the F___” expression I will never forget. She hated the film! She understood what Antonioni was trying to do, but she hated the movie for manipulating her – taking her for a ride. Anne believes that the film is too artificial, too contrived even to be considered clever.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mamiya DM Series Digital Backs

[This entry was set for 10/22/09 but was delayed for several hours by a Blogspot system error]

Earlier today, Mamiya (USA) introduced four new Digital Backs: the DM22 (22megapixels), the DM28 (28megapixels), the DM33 (33megapixels) and the DM56 (56megapixels).  Earlier this week, the company also introduced four new cameras with basically the same model numbers -- the reason for this is because the body is essentially the same model for all the cameras, the new Mamiya 645DF (or Phase One 645DF), the only difference between each camera model is their Digital Backs.

Manufactured by Leaf and designed by Mamiya with the help of Phase One, the new Digital Backs feature 22, 28, 33 and  56 megapixel sensors coupled with a 16 bit/channel color palette, which promises to deliver exceptional color accuracy and high dynamic range (12 f-stops).  It processes its RAW images as Leaf Mosaic HDR-type and is fully compatible with Capture One and Leaf Capture (both included in the package) or Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.  The ISO range varies for each model -- from 25-400 for the DM22, 50-800 for the DM28 and DM33, to 80-800 for the DM56.  All four models have 6 x 7 cm touchscreen LCDs.  The Digital Backs are also fully compatible with the Mamiya 645 series, as well as the RZ67 and the RB67 systems through special adapters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canon 1D Mark IV

A few hours ago, Canon Inc. released a new Pro DSLR "the Canon 1D Mark IV" to replace its previous Canon 1D Mark III model.   It features a new 16.1 megapixel APS-H CMOS sensor with improved ISO sensitivity from 100 - 12,800 (standard) to 50 - 102,400 (expanded).  It also features dual DIGIC 4 image processors, full HD Video and improved AF points.

Like the Mark III (its recent predecessor), it features a professional grade magnesium alloy outer and inner body with weather and dust resistant seals and gaskets.   It is also capable of shooting at a burst of 10 frames per second and offers a "Live View" mode with autofocusing options.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

David Hockney Paints with an IPhone

David Hockney has been painting with an IPhone for more than a year now. He discovered an IPhone application called "Brushes" and just started to doodle, sending 4 or 5 of his spontaneous "sketch-paintings" per day via email to a group of about a dozen friends -- from where the electronic paintings eventually find their way out to the rest of the world. David has created hundreds, maybe even thousands of these original "art pieces"  by now ever since he began.

I am intrigued by this story because David Hockney is a prominent artist, who's not only widely famous, but is also reconized as a seminal figure in 20/21th Century Art. An artist of this caliber utilizing the cellphone (particularly the IPhone) as a tool to create "Art", gives "cellphone art/photography" a boost, an endorsement of sorts -- publicly declaring the electronic gadget fit for the creation of "Fine Art." Of course a lot of photographers (and artists) have been using the IPhone as a serious photographic tool since it was first introduced, but there have been many cynics.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Man-Made Black Hole Traps Light

Not a real Black Hole by definition, but rather an electromagnetic device (mimicking a Black Hole) that traps light, was built by two Chinese Scientists from the Southeast University in Nanjing.  It works at microwave frequencies and may soon be extended to trap visible light, leading to a more efficient way to harvest solar energy.

I wonder if this would also lead to applications in "the Art of Photography"...

For the full story, go to:

--Images by scientists Qiang Cheng and Tie Jun Cui

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The September Issue - Vogue Documentary

Like most fashion photographers, I aspire to shoot for the top magazines.  Vogue is one of the oldest iconic fashion bibles in the whole world, and arguably the most prestigious.  Its roster of celebrity photographers are the world's most celebrated -- Annie Liebovitz, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino, David LaChapelle, Herb Ritts and Jeanloup Sieff, just to name a few.

Cover Photo: Mario Testino

R.J. Cutler's award-winning (Sundance-Cinematography Award) documentary "The September Issue" takes a behind-the-scenes look inside the mythical world of Vogue Magazine (US) as it prepares its highly anticipated September 2007 issue.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Irving Penn Dead at 92

Legendary photographer Irving Penn died yesterday (October 7) in his Manhattan home at the age of 92.

Known for the stark Euclidean-simplicity of his compositions, Irving Penn transformed the mundane into beautiful abstract photographic masterpieces.

He was born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1917. Although he started taking photographs in the late '30s, his original ambition was to be a painter.   As a student at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Design, he studied with famed Harper's Bazaar Art Editor Alexey Brodovich.  He ended up working with Brodovich in the magazine, then became Art Director at Saks 5th Avenue.

He left Saks to paint in Mexico for a year.  Dissatisfied with his efforts, he went back to New York to work in the Vogue Art Department under Alexander Liberman.  Unimpressed with some of the photographer's work, he started shooting the layouts himself.  Except for a brief stint in World War II as an ambulance driver and photographer for the American Field Service, he became a permanent fixture at Vogue -- A legend in residence.   His photographs are in the permanent collections of numerous institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago among many others.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Captive Wildlife Photography

"Captive Wildlife Photography" is a sensitive issue for Wildlife Photographers.

I stumbled on a good blog entry by Wildlife Photographer Paul Burwell today on this particular issue:

On the blog, he questions the integrity of photographers who claim to shoot in the wild, but actually shoot animals in captivity (zoos and wildlife parks).  He proposes that "captive wildlife photographs" should include a disclaimer or a designation that indicates its "captivity" origins.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I am proud to announce that "Atomic Vision" (this blog) is now a featured Blog on Alltop, a leading news aggregator online.  It is listed under filmmaking and photography.

Featured in Alltop