Worth a Look: Adam Magyar’s Stainless

Photographer Adam Magyar, whose slit-camera photographs Scott wrote about in 2009, has a new project called Stainless. It is composed of both massive prints of subway cars and subway riders and innovative slow-motion videos of subway platforms as trains arrive at stations around the world. It is captivating work. And involved a tremendous amount of ingenuity and invention by Magyar to make it possible.

There have been a lot of articles about the work recently so do have a look: Matter has published a feature and interview with Magyar as Einstein’s Camera: How one renegade photographer is hacking the concept of time that I highly recommend. PetaPixel also published a piece about the Stainless videos and followed-up with a link to a fascinating video where Magyar speaks about the technology and code that he developed himself to make these projects work.

Worth a watch: A look at the visual style of The Wire

Style in The Wire from Erlend Lavik on Vimeo.

The Wire (official site) is often held up for as a paragon of modern television, and with good reason, but rarely for its cinematography and visuals. Writers have criticized the show for being so plainly shot (David Bordwell calls The Wire “uninspiringly shot” here, for instance), but the video above by Erlend Lavik, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, persuasively argues that The Wire’s plain shooting style belies the complexity of visual metaphors, compositions, and camera use throughout the series. The video is worth a watch…I rarely sit through video online, but made it through the 36 minutes of this essay with ease.

Lavik argues that just as the show doesn’t hold the hands of viewers in subject matter, dialog, characterization, and so forth, the cinematography of the show works subtly and effectively to communicate complex ideas in a visual way. Whereas the current crop of “cinematic” television can be quite heavy-handed with visual styling (Breaking Bad’s over-the-top sepia/yellow-toned scenes are a notable example), The Wire deftly uses camera movements and compositions influenced by documentary filmmaking to create a sense of verisimilitude and honesty in the story, all without really drawing attention to its techniques. The series uses wide compositions, frames within frames, lingering shots, a lack of flashbacks, music used only as experienced by characters, and a variety of other techniques to suss out mood, character, and plot, in a way that few other shows have been able to do, even with much flashier visual language.

If you liked the series, watch the video above. If you haven’t watched the series, watch the show, and then watch the video above.

While we’re at it, here’s a thread on reddit in which the supervising sound editor on the show talks about his work for the series; this comment is particularly interesting. And here’s an interesting oral history of the making of The Wire published last year. Matt and I could both go on and on about this show, having watched it as it aired, but that’s enough for now. Oh, an here’s a post from 2009 about the 100 greatest quotes from the show.

(via reddit)

This happened to me: Saint Petersburg thieves steal lens off front of tourist’s camera (video)

I was in Russia for a couple of weeks at the start of August, and the trip went well (you can see a few pictures on my tumblr). That is, it went well until my last night. Thieves stole my 35mm lens right off the front of my camera in the metro in Saint Petersburg. The red ring on the front of an L lens might as well be a neon sign.

It’s a known attack in the city, but after speaking with the police, seems to be relatively new. You can see how quickly the crime happens in the video above.

I’d spent the afternoon near the water outside the Peter and Paul Fortress (site of this Cartier-Bresson image) and, as the sun went down, joined the crowds getting back on the metro at Gorkovskaya Station. Getting on to the metro, I put my bag and my camera across my body in front, as is my habit in crowded situations. The train car doors opened and suddenly I was being jostled more than I should have been for the size of the crowd. I saw hands going for my camera, and instinctively reached to protect camera, camera bag, wallet, and phone. It was too much to protect and the 4 or 5 guys, all dressed alike, kept gently jostling me back and forth. That was enough. I finally pushed through the crowd, but then felt that some weight was gone. I looked down, and my lens had disappeared. The pickpockets had quickly run out of the train car right as the doors shut.

There was a bit of distance before the next station, and once there, I found a metro worker and got the police involved. The thieves were no doubt long gone and I would be leaving the country the next day, but I needed a police report. I don’t know how the process would have gone if I didn’t speak Russian, but I have to say the metro police were quite pleasant to deal with. They took down information about the crime, noted descriptions of the guys who surrounded me (all wearing baseball caps, buzzed haircuts, nondescript gray t-shirts), and had me look at a book of mugshots. They had apprehended one person in the area about the same time as my theft, but I couldn’t make a satisfactory identification.

I consider myself lucky. I didn’t get hurt, my gear was insured, I didn’t lose my passport, and so on. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Russia (this was my 4th time in the country, and the first during which anything bad happened) or Saint Petersburg, but I’ll stay a bit further away from crowds in touristy areas next time.

I’ve got to commend Package Choice, my gear and liability insurance company, for handling this as well as they did. Less than a week after the theft, I had a replacement lens in hand. I’ve never filed a claim with any insurance company before, but this was easy. Pay a small deductible, provide a few documents (police report, proof of ownership), and they did the rest. I shopped around a bit before settling on them a few years back, and I couldn’t find anyone else that offered the same service and coverage. From the get-go, they’ve provided domestic and international coverage for theft and accident, domestic liability (and a little international, or more if you pay extra), and very quick responses on everything from updating gear lists to getting same-day insurance certificates for free to getting my lens replaced in this case.