Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fatuous "Art"/fabulous photos

The fatuous red line "Art"

On Robert Elms' show on BBC Radio London (1.3.2006) they tracked down the young woman who had spray-painted a red line on roads from Tottenham Court Road to the Thames. A male friend had phoned in; she was reluctant to talk but finally agreed. It turned out that she was an Artist - oh dear. Asked about the idea behind it she said she didn't want to say because she liked it that people were asking questions and didn't want to stop them by saying what her idea was. How many times do we have to hear this nonsense ? To start with, according to her, it's not just a line but it is the beginning of a shape - which we wouldn't know, so our guessing would be hampered by this lack of information. But, of course, it's absurd to suppose that hearing her idea will stop people asking questions and thinking for themselves. Though what they'll probably think when they do find out is that her idea is about as fatuous as those behind so many bits of "conceptual" "Art".

The fabulous photos of Lennart Nilsson

By contrast we have the beautiful, informative, technically brilliant photographs by Lennart Nilsson of the human body which he began in 1957. His latest book, Life, has incredible images of viruses attacking cells taken with an electron scanning microscope.

See the gallery of photos at Channel 4

How Life Begins - 1965

"In 1957 he began taking pictures with an endoscope, an instrument that can see inside a body cavity, but when Lennart Nilsson presented the rewards of his work to LIFE’s editors several years later, they demanded that witnesses confirm that they were seeing what they thought they were seeing. Finally convinced, they published a cover story in 1965 that went on for 16 pages, and it created a sensation. Then, and over the intervening years, Nilsson’s painstakingly made pictures informed how humanity feels about . . . well, humanity. They also were appropriated for purposes that Nilsson never intended. Nearly as soon as the 1965 portfolio appeared in LIFE, images from it were enlarged by right-to-life activists and pasted to placards."

Digital Journalist

Capturing Birdflu

Now he's working on photographing the birdflu virus:

"I want to describe it in the highest possible sharpness so we can know what it is," Lennart Nilsson said during a phone conversation yesterday. The Swedish photographer has been traveling inside the human body in order to show how it works since 1965, when he published A Child is Born to international acclaim. Using high-powered microscopes, Nilsson has taken pictures of HIV, SARS, and now H5N1, better known as birdflu. You can see those pictures in all of their surreal glory here.

Photography may not seem like a weapon for combatting infectious disease, but Nilsson has been using photo-journalism to help scientists understand the viruses they study for decades. The scientists he is collaborating with at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm want to see inside cells so they can better develop a vaccine.

“It is a simple story in a way,” Nilsson said, “but the problem is to have the instrument.” Nilsson will receive a new Japanese microscope in the next few months that magnifies up to ten billion times, allowing him to go inside cells to show how they are infiltrated.

"To take pictures of it in a new way– of the virus as an invader, to see it in sharp pictures in three dimensions– this is my dream."

Lennart Nilsson, from a conversation with Open Source on 1/16/06


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