Monthly Archives: May 2009

Picture Show: The Oxford Project


Imagine photographing every member of your community. How long would it take? Days? Weeks? Years? It wouldn’t be easy. Which is why Peter Feldstein is one of the few people — if not the sole person — to have done it. In 1984, he set up a small studio in his town of Oxford, Iowa (population 676), and, with a fat red marker, made a sign that said “Free Pictures.” He taped it to a storefront on Augusta Avenue, Oxford’s main street, and waited.

Twenty years later, Feldstein did it again. While many of Oxford’s residents had moved or passed away, a great number were still there. And this time they did more than just pose for a photograph; they shared their life stories with writer Stephen G. Bloom. The photographs and stories have been compiled in a book called The Oxford Project, recent winner of ALA’s Alex Award and recipient of the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher’s Outstanding Books of the Year for Most Original Concept.

“Oxford’s still the kind of place,” reads the introduction, “where drivers don’t put on their turn signals because everyone knows where everyone else is going. Almost everyone’s phone number starts with the same prefix (828). Dinner and supper are two different meals. Everybody knows what a mudroom is — and has one. The word elevator more commonly refers to a device that raises and lowers grain, not people.”


What’s most amazing is how, 20 years later, many of the Oxford residents pose in exactly the same way. It’s proof that although they’ve changed physically, their habits are much the same. In both photos, Linda Cox stands with her feet together, her left hand holding her right wrist, head tilted slightly to the left. Carol Ann Hebl’s body is twice turned slightly to the right, as she holds two fingers with her right hand — which now has a wedding ring on it. Vince Grabin is still wearing a cowboy hat, and so are his brothers.


Read more and see the slideshow at NPR: The Oxford Project.

NPR / Picture Show / Published: May 29, 2009

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Finger Painting

Jorge Colombo drew this week’s cover using Brushes, an application for the iPhone, while standing for an hour outside Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square.

“I got a phone in the beginning of February, and I immediately got the program so I could entertain myself,” says Colombo, who first published his drawings in The New Yorker in 1994. Colombo has been drawing since he was seven, but he discovered an advantage of digital drawing on a nighttime drive to Vermont. “Before, unless I had a flashlight or a miner’s hat, I could not draw in the dark.” (When the sun is up, it’s a bit harder, “because of the glare on the phone,” he says.) It also allows him to draw without being noticed; most pedestrians assume he’s checking his e-mail.

There’s a companion application, Brushes Viewer, that makes a video recapitulating each step of how Colombo composed the picture. (Watch how he drew this week’s cover below.) Colombo leans heavily on the Undo feature: “It looks like I draw everything with supernatural assurance and very fast—it gets rid of all the hesitations.”

Colombo’s phone drawing is very much in the tradition of a certain kind of New Yorker cover, and he doesn’t see the fact that it’s a virtual finger painting as such a big deal. “Imagine twenty years ago, writing about these people who are sending these letters on their computer.” But watching the video playback has made him aware that how he draws a picture can tell a story, and he’s hoping to build suspense as he builds up layers of color and shape.

And so are we: look for a new drawing by Colombo each week on

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The New Yorker / Cover Story / Published: May 25, 2009

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Avedon Fashion


Richard Avedon (1923–2004) revolutionized fashion photography starting in the post-World War II era and redefined the role of the fashion photographer. Anticipating many of the cultural cross-fertilizations that have occurred between high art, commercial art, fashion, advertising, and pop culture in the last twenty years, he created spirited, imaginative photographs that showed fashion and the modern woman in a new light. He shook up the chilly, static formulas of the fashion photograph and by 1950 was the most imitated American editorial photographer. Injecting a forthright, American energy into a business that had been dominated by Europeans, Avedon’s stylistic innovations continue to influence photographers around the world.

This exhibition will be the most comprehensive exploration to date of Avedon’s fashion photography during his long career at Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, The New Yorker, and beyond. The exhibition will feature more than 200 works by Richard Avedon, spanning his entire career, and will include vintage prints, contact sheets, magazine layouts, and archival material.

International Center of Photography / Avedon Fashion / May 15th – September 6th


Hear the curators in the New York Times audio slideshow: Through the Eyes of Richard Avedon.


Photos from The New Yorker / Portfolio / Published: May 18, 2009

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Whale Song

All my favorite things come together.

Australian telecommunications company Optus asks the question, “What if you could write a love song for a whale, and an orchestra went out into the ocean to play it?” Film director David Denneen worked with composer Bruce Heald and a specially selected chamber music group to perform music that both whales and humans could appreciate.

An orchestra was placed on a barge with film crew and sent out to serenade the whales, emulating the sounds made by male humpback whales as they migrate along the coast of Queensland. “When it comes to communication, anything is possible.”

[inspiration credit: jessie may]

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Quote of the Day

All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came. -John F. Kennedy

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Brooklyn Botanical Garden


At the best time of the year.


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