Friday, February 19, 2016

"When People Can See Time"

Via NPR All Tech Considered
February 19, 2016
Nina Gregory

Of all of the arts, photography may be the discipline most accustomed to the nudge of technology, and photographer and artist Stephen Wilkes fully embraces the challenge. His latest project, "Day to Night," takes on the idea of showcasing, in one composite still image, the transformation of a place over the course of a day.

Take his photo of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. For 26 hours, Wilkes shot 2,200 photos without moving the camera and while suspended in the air in a tent-like structure with a little window, so that animals wouldn't see or hear him as he photographed them coming to a watering hole from sunrise to deep into the night.

"I photograph by hand; this is not a time lapse. ... It's my eye seeing very specific moments," Wilkes says. "I like to describe myself as a collector of magical moments."

Serengeti, Tanzania, Day to Night, 2015

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Day to Night, 2015
Courtesy of Stephen Wilkes                     

Once Wilkes has all the images, he picks the best moments of the day and the night and creates what he calls a master plate. Those images then get seamlessly blended into one single photograph, where time is on a diagonal vector, with sunrise beginning in the bottom right-hand corner. That process of creating a single image can take about four months — though it's photographed in a single day.

I spoke with Wilkes in Vancouver, ahead of his TED talk, about the powers of digital photography, the experience of looking in the face of time and the challenge of sharing emotion through an image. Below are some of the highlights of our conversation.

Interview Highlights

On watching animal life unfold during the Serengeti shoot

Times Square,  New York, 2010

Times Square, NYC, Day to Night, 201   

I'm changing time within the picture. As the sun is rotating, light is changing and all these animals, you can see time change on the light in the animals. It's all based on time. ... (At) sunrise you begin to see the watering hole is quiet and the animals migrate in as the sun rises. Wildebeests and zebras graze together; one has terrible eyes and the other has lousy hearing — the blind leading the deaf. There are meerkats. It was like watching the movie Jungle Book. As time is changing, you see the sun getting higher, you see the light begins to rotate and starts to go behind the animals. I'm watching them. Guess who else is watching them? A lion.

They have this whole process of coming in and going out, it's a rhythm. I'm telling the story based on time. It's such a complicated process and yet there's so much luck involved.

Paris, Tournelle Bridge, Day To Night

Pont de la Tournelle, Paris, Day to Night, 2013      
Courtesy of Stephen Wilkes             

On evolving as a photographer

I discovered digital in 2000 and started to realize, because I had to come through the process of analog ... I wanted to push the medium outward. So what I've been exploring is this concept of day-to-night, where I change time within a photograph. I'm really exploring the space-time continuum within a two-dimensional photograph. And it's really cool because I can tell stories that photographs could never tell before. Compressing an entire day into a single image, the best moments, allows me to share things on a narrative level that you just couldn't see.

On the power of seeing the face of time

The most exciting part of it really is how people respond to the work. It's an amazing, emotional thing. When people can see time, the face of time in a way, it's this thing we can never put our hands around. But yet, when you look at it, it makes you feel a different way and there's an emotional thing that happens and that's exciting. I just think it's the best time to be alive as a photographer, really. I think as technology keeps evolving the things you could only imagine or dream are at your fingertips now. It's just about where you want to go.

London, View from the Savoy, Day To Night

View from The Savoy, London, Day to Night, 2013      
Courtesy of Stephen Wilkes             

On the advantages of digital photography

When you can capture an image on a silicon chip versus a piece of film you can see it instantly, that's the first thing. For me, when I do one of my photographs, I can shoot 2,500 images in a single day. Now, if I was doing that with an 8x10 camera, which is the image quality I have in my digital back*, that would be 2,500 sheets of 8x10 film. It would be impossible to do what I'm doing, just the visualization of that would be impossible — and financially, to boot. And my assistant would probably jump out of the cherry picker!

*Editor's Note: A digital back is a piece of equipment you can add to the back of a film camera to modify it to take digital images.

On the high level of detail in digital photography

So if I'm a storyteller, I love that, suddenly things that were insignificant are really significant now. And that's the power of what's happening now. Eventually photography is going to look like a window; you're going to have a visceral experience with my pictures on the wall. Because the way you'll see into my pictures is almost the way the eye sees, and that's the way it's going. For me, I want you to feel the way I felt when I stood there and took the picture.

On the future of photo printing
I work with a master printer in New York and I actually print on conventional photographic paper because of the depth perception. I really want to enhance that, but there are so many new technologies that are coming out in terms of 3-D printing and all kinds of different things. Who knows where we're going to be five, 10, 15 years from now based on what's happening and the speed of what's happening.

View the full Day To Night Collection here.

Ellis Island, then and now

The Picture Show

Eerie Ellis Island, Then And Now

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Vintage Photojournalism Opens Friday, February 19

Yale Joel/©Time Inc - The verso (back) of “A view of the funeral for Robert F. Kennedy, 1968” showing inscriptions and usage in publications
Yale Joel/©Time Inc - The verso (back) of “A view of the funeral for Robert F. Kennedy, 1968” showing inscriptions and usage in publications

Santa Fe--Monroe Gallery of Photography, 112 Don Gaspar, is pleased to announce: “Vintage Photojournalism”, a major exhibition of rare vintage prints from the 20th Century’s master photojournalists. The exhibition opens with a public reception on Friday, February 19, 5 – 7 pm, and continues through April 17.

The exhibit features unique, one of a kind prints that were used to fill requests for reproduction in LIFE magazine and other major publications, many with important historic information inscribed and stamped on the verso (backside) of the photograph. By definition, a vintage print is a print made at or close to the time the photographer recorded the image onto the negative. Because these photographers were working on assignments for the next issue of a publication, the prints were frequently made within days of the negative and show evidence of the photographer’s or photo editor’s preferences for cropping, enlarging, or other directions. Although these images opened American eyes to the wonders of the world, many of these prints have never before been exhibited.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

“Anything was fodder for the camera with Bill Eppridge”

Beatles Press Conference. Copyright Bill Eppridge
©Bill Eppridge: Beatles Press Conference, 1964
Bill Eppridge shot 90 rolls of film while traveling with the Beatles in February 1964. Life Magazine published four photos

Ken Dixon: Gazing at history through a long lens
The Connecticut Post
February 13, 2016

Lets all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born …”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney

This column is about “The Beatles - 6 Days That Changed the World February 1964,” photographic evidence of the late Bill Eppridge’s crazy, fun week with the Fab Four and their fans in New York and Washington, with a couple of wacky train rides to boot.

But it’s also about music, memory, history and the role of photography, the scientific process that someone with an eye, interpersonal skills and degrees of luck can use to make artful journalism.

Dozens of photos from the 90 rolls of film Eppridge shot that week are beautifully hung on the walls in the Art Gallery in the Visual & Performing Arts Center at Western Connecticut State University’s Westside Campus. The hours are Monday through Thursday, noon to 4 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 4 p.m. It’s a tour de force that runs through March 13. He’s represented by the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe.

Grandmothers will remember being teens and tweens. Forty-somethings may contemplate the changes the Beatles wrought to music and culture. And millennials can discover a simple slice of 20th Century social phenomena without the chore of too much reading.

My favorite photo was captured outside The Plaza Hotel in New York. An amused black-clad chauffeur is trying to unload The Beatles’ baggage in a scrum of girls. One kid, with a huge smile, is hugging a guitar case as if it were Paul McCartney himself. If she was 14 then, she’s 66 now. Every time I look at the image it makes me laugh out loud.

Eppridge, a famous photographer for Life magazine and Sports Illustrated, died in Danbury about 2 1/2 years ago at 74. When President John F. Kennedy was murdered in November of 1963, Eppridge was with mountaineers in the Alps. He came off Mont Blanc, the tallest in Europe, where a local priest told him of the assassination. In just a few years, as the sassy ’60s unwound in violence and cynicism, he would get extremely close to another Kennedy murder.

On the morning the Beatles landed, Feb. 7, Eppridge got the assignment to meet them at the newly renamed JFK International Airport.

A welcome relief after the president’s murder less than three months earlier, the lads from Liverpool were met by thousands of teenagers. Eppridge called his editor and said he wanted to stay with the band for a few days.

“I liked these guys immediately,” Eppridge recalled in the 2013 book of photos about the week, published by Rizzoli. “Shortly after, Ringo Starr turned to me and said, ‘All right, Mr. Life Magazine, what can we do for you?’ ‘Nothing,’ I said, ‘not one single thing. Just be you and I’ll turn invisible. I won’t ask you to do a thing.’”

In the winter of 1964, the United States needed The Beatles and their pop harmonies. On Sunday night, Feb. 9, they took “The Ed Sullivan Show” by storm.

Monday, Feb. 10, was a nasty, cold rainy day in Stamford. It was so horrible that the runny-nosed masses at Belltown School — usually confined to the playground in all weather until school started — were allowed inside, to line up on a stairwell, dripping wet, to await the 9 o’clock bell. All the fourth-grade chatter was about The Beatles appearance the night before and who might be a kid’s favorite.

Alas, we were a “Disney” family on Sunday nights, watching wholesome entertainment on another TV network, rather than the usual cavalcade of nightclub comics and crooners that Sullivan trotted out every week for CBS.

I knew nothing about the Beatles, was drastically behind the pop curve and never really caught up. Maybe that’s why I’m a contrarian newspaper reporter.

Of course, I eventually found the Beatles and their poppy tunes and startling harmonies. You can easily catch their Ed Sullivan appearances on the Internet. Those first 13 minutes, with “All My Loving.” “Till There was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” say almost all you need to know about the innocent, early ’60s.

“Anything was fodder for the camera with Bill,” recalled Adrienne Aurichio, Eppridge’s wife and collaborator, who held a gallery talk the other night at WestConn. Among his 900 assignments were Dr. Jonas Salk, who defeated polio, actress Mia Farrow, President Lyndon Johnson, Woodstock, Barbra Streisand and Vietnam.

In a way, the Beatles were a welcome respite as the remainder of the ’60s played out. By the fall of 1964, Eppridge was practically living with a couple of heroin addicts for Life’s stark, harrowing, graphic “Needle Park” report on drug users at 72nd Street and Broadway. Maybe in 50-plus years we haven’t really evolved too much, as the latest heroin epidemic plays out.

Eppridge is most famous for the iconic image of Robert F. Kennedy dying on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, a bus boy by his side, after winning the California presidential primary in 1968. The murder occurred two months after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The ’60s were surely over.

Last week, RFK’s killer, Sirhan Sirhan, now 71, was denied parole for the 15th time.

Ken Dixon’s Capitol View appears Sundays in the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers. You may reach him in the Capitol at 860-549-4670 or at Find him at His Facebook address is kendixonct.hearst. Dixon’s Connecticut Blog-o-rama can be seen at