Tag Archives: photography

I.M. Pei Leaves His Mark With Design That Endures

The National Gallery of Art East Wing

National Gallery of Art atrium

photo ©John Siebenthaler

News of architect I.M. Pei’s passing this week at the age of 102 touched off memories of my early years spent as a commercial photographer shooting everything from rock bands to cookie-cutter real estate housing developments to a nightmarish oxy-acetylene catalytic torch that could melt concrete. One of those adventures included two days in Washington, D.C., for an assignment at the then still new National Gallery of Art East Wing.

Though usually associated with his unconventional Egyptian pyramid inspired design solution at the Louvre, my path crossed his for a very brief moment the time I photographed his landmark atrium, with its signature Calder mobile floating lazily overhead while my client’s grove of ficus trees softened the sharp angularity of the structure’s beautifully polished marble surfaces, in the nation’s capitol.

If It’s Thursday It Must Be Washington

National Gallery of Art East WingThe gallery shoot was part of an extended romp around the heartland, with previous stops on the road that week in Wichita, Milwaukee, and the still under construction Minneapolis Zoo. It was the last leg of an exhausting schedule, which perhaps explains why I failed to take advantage of the unique access I was granted to this memorable national landmark.

Not that I’d ever be described as being a student of architecture’s role in modern culture today, but my knowledge back then of recognizable firms pretty much started and stopped with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

And that’s how I landed right in the middle of this most celebrated structure, with relatively unfettered access to its rooms and galleries housing priceless exhibits, all kept safe and secure within the walls of Mr. Pei’s amazing achievement.

A few weeks after wrapping up the assignment — back when the results from analog taking to viewing were measured in days waiting for lab processing rather than digital seconds — I began editing the dozens of rolls of film shot, and picked out two Kodachromes for Cibachrome prints to send to Mr. Pei on behalf of the client. Ha! As if he didn’t already have access to gorgeous photography from the best in the business. Normally, that kind of small effort might go unremarked, or at best acknowledged by a low level assistant.

When Courtesy And Correspondence Was Still Vogue


Instead, I.M. Pei, one of the world’s most celebrated architects, took time to compose a most thoughtful personal note thanking me for the effort. I’m glad I hung on to it over the years, and even more relieved I was able to retrieve it for inclusion in this remembrance of the time I brushed up against architectural royalty.

I.M. Pei personal note

I never met him. Didn’t know anything about him prior to that assignment. But for a brief moment in time I was immersed in the physical and spatial experience he wanted me to enjoy.

It’s clear from reading the tributes to his singular talent that his genius was tempered with humility and a common connection to the public that would, and will, enjoy his inspired vision for decades and more to come. I wish I’d had the opportunity to offer him personally my gratitude for his talent.

what’s flickr done lately? plenty!

Flickr Fills Social Media Marketing’s Bill

Flickr’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with photographers over the years. What started as a stand-alone cloud service that debuted in 2004 and catered to the professional market with a paid option, was pushed to the background after being acquired by Yahoo in 2005 right before the dot-com bubble popped.

When Yahoo hired Marissa Mayer as CEO to shake up the troubled social-news-entertainment-search URL, she moved quickly to revamp the languishing asset, turning it into what it is today – a fully functional resource for all photographers that offers 1TB of free storage to every Flickr member.

no shortage of online storage options

While there’s no shortage of free storage silos – from Apple to Google to Dropbox and more – Flickr’s got a lot more going for it than just online access.

The latest round of upgrades features a fresh textual filter that allows selective image recognition filtering even if the image isn’t tagged with matching text. Your search term “red tomato” is recognized even if the red tomato isn’t tagged. Green wheelbarrow? Covered. And the returns are quick, no waiting in line.

Earlier this year they debuted Camera Roll, a feature that automatically displays a user’s images chronologically that also packs a powerful search punch, while automatic grouping of images on upload is another tweak aimed at promoting greater utilization and engagement.

Fresh mobile apps are also coming out, making the continued transformation from what began as a storage solution into a fully implemented social channel a reality that while it doesn’t pose a threat to Facebook operates perfectly within its own sphere of devotees.

social media marketing metadata options

When a user takes the time and has the insight to implement the powerful metadata opportunities offered by the service, Flickr becomes a social media marketing superhero. By taking advantage of albums for event grouping, headline, location, description, and various other available tags, users turn visual content into easily searchable content that can stand alone as unique content or be cross-referenced to bolster online content elsewhere.

Power users like Josh Hallett’s hyku stream, with over 25,000 images online, illustrate how adept Flickr is at dealing with quantity.

The Commons project is Flickr’s collection of free public domain imagery from the Library of Congress and other sources. Flickr can also filter Creative Commons licenses, including free to use with various restrictions.

For me, Flickr is the perfect still companion to YouTube’s emphasis on video, and a solid addition to a well-rounded social media marketing strategy.

my (really big) kodachrome moment

scale of enlargement? try 12,000 percent

In the mid-’70s a client wondered if the new design trend utilizing large format color prints could be adapted for the welcome center to a golf course subdivision on Florida’s West Coast. One of the labs I used at the time – Dallas based Meisel who then also had a lab in Atlanta – was actively promoting the concept, including some of my own stock.

It was only when the finished size required was measured against the original media used to produce the image that eyebrows raised. My plan: shoot the scene, an early morning dew drenched landscape of a green framed with Spanish moss, on 35 mil transparency. In my mind it was simple: load up a Leica factory loaner with K25 and fire away.

Today, December 30, 2010,  is the last day a roll of Kodachrome will ever be processed. It is the end of an era, the end of a very large chapter in the history of photography. Read more of my story here.

ps – happy 20th birthday!

PS as in Photoshop, that is.

This year Adobe’s flagship application turned 20. Before, and thankfully briefly, there was bitmapped hell, which didn’t look like a giant killer as far as the graphic arts were concerned. But with the introduction of PS, the brothers Knoll were about to change the course of human history.

You don’t have to take my word for it. What Photoshop did was nothing short of revolutionary in terms of changing the way we, humans, communicate. And by pairing their imaging software with the first editions of desktop publishing in the form of Aldus’ Pagemaker, publishers – at least those able to afford fledgling Mac computers – set sail for an unimaginable brave new world. Continue reading

the gorgeousness of dakar/argentina

down a dusty road - with rocks, boulders and bridge trollsThanks to Robin Hartfiel’s forward of powersports photog Joe Bonello’s link to some stunning images at the Getty collection of this year’s Dakar coverage posted at Boston.com’s sports section. Big thumbs up for their rally listing, as well as other magnificent sports photography under the Big Shots general heading. Big indeed. Check them out.

Photo info: Manuel Jamett of Chile rides his Yamaha motorcycle during the sixth stage of the 2nd South American edition of the Dakar Rally 2010 from Antofagasta to Iquique January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (CHILE – Tags: SPORT MOTOR RACING)