Thursday, August 27, 2015

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz
John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz
In the 1970s, the best way to wind up on the cover of Rolling Stone was to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Strongly influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon, Leibovitz developed her unique portrait style as the chief photographer for Rolling Stone for 10 years followed by a position at Vanity Fair and numerous personal and commercial projects.

In a body of work filled with famous iconic images, one of the most iconic was the last picture ever captured of John Lennon with Yoko Ono only hours before his assassination in New York.


Self portrait by Annie Leibovitz The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
Self portrait by Annie Leibovitz
The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
Leibovitz is a master at finding unique poses, sets or situations than bring out the individual character of her subjects. She usually meets with her subjects a day or more before the photography session to find out first hand what makes them who they are and what they care about. That insight gives her work an feeling of intimacy that sets her apart from other portrait photographers.

Some of her most interesting recent work includes celebrity portraits as characters from Disney classics, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

Which Wizard of Oz character would you like to be?

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Leibovitz captures Keira Knightley as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Like 1992 Without the Supercomputers

Oculus Rift headset image by Rebke Klokke
Oculus Rift headset image by Rebke Klokke
Last week I attended the SIGGRAPH conference at the LA Convention Center. The name is an acronym for the Special Interest Group for Graphics, one of the largest special interest groups in the Association of Computer Machinery. 

For me, the SIGGRAPH conference is one of the most educational and inspirational experiences of the year. It is the best place to learn what is technically possible in the field of imaging as well as how the technology works.

Every SIGGRAPH seems to have one overwhelming theme and this year the focus was on Virtual Reality. It  was like 1992 all over again, but without the supercomputers. I remember being awed 23 years ago by the demonstrations with ten pound headsets tethered to computers that were larger than my office. Despite the hype at the time, there were few applications that could justify the expense of the hardware and the content development.

This time, the headsets are smaller, lighter and driven by the GPU board in a desktop computer or by a smartphone. In a session titled The Renaissance of VR, Ron Azuma of Intel Labs gave three reasons why virtual reality will be successful this time:

  • Performance - The graphic performance of the new generation of devices is high enough to provide compelling immersive experiences.
  • Price - The new hardware is cheap enough that many people will be able to afford and experience virtual reality first hand.
  • Investment - The huge investments being made by several large companies will lead to high quality hardware and content.

Interestingly, Azuma concluded that augmented reality might have an even bigger future than virtual reality.

In what reality would you like to be immersed?

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fashion in Motion


Veruschka by Richard Avedon, US Vogue, 1967
Veruschka by Richard Avedon, US Vogue, 1967
When most of us think of fashion photography, we picture the elegant style pioneered by Richard Avedon, staff photographer, then lead photographer, for Vogue from 1962 to 1988. Many of the most iconic celebrity images of the late 20th century were his creations.

When Avedon opened his first studio in New York in 1946, he didn't conform to the usual technique of capturing models who stood without emotion and appearing indifferent to the camera. Avedon's models were full of energy and emotion and were often smiling or laughing. He also liked outdoor settings with the models in action.


Avedon with his twin lens reflex camera.
Avedon with his twin lens reflex camera.
After leaving Vogue, Avedon continued as a portrait photographer and joined The New Yorker as a staff photographer in 1992. Interested in the emotions of his subjects, he would lead them into discussions of difficult topics or ask them psychologically probing questions. This allowed him to reveal aspects of the subject's character and personality that were typically missed by other photographers.

Twiggy by Richard Avedon
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toeing the Filament

3D printed shoes from Naim Josefi's Collection Melonia
3D printed shoes from Naim Josefi's Collection Melonia

For several years, fashion designers have been experiment with 3D printed clothing. Generally, their fanciful creations have been unique, but unlikely to be worn beyond the runway. The thermoplastics that work great in the typical 3D printer are not conducive to creating comfortable, flexible garments.

Shoes are another story. They are perfect candidates for 3D printing. Every foot is slightly different than every other, and a shoe that is perfectly matched with the foot may be more comfortable than a mass produced shoe. A shoe needs to be strong and lightweight which are characteristics well suited for 3D printing. Finally, people are willing to spend significant resources on finding and buying shoes which justify the extra design and manufacturing costs required for a personalized product.

Image from Feetz press kit
Image from Feetz press kit
Feetz, which has just completed round one of beta testing, bills itself as the digital cobbler. Using three pictures of each foot, the Feetz app allows you to design a pair of custom made shoes that they will build and ship to you. Their marketing claim is "We offer 7 billion sizes: 1 for everyone in the world."

 For a more traditional look, People Footwear have combined 3D printing and digital knitting to create a line of shoes that look remarkably normal. These, however, are produced in a standard set of colors and standard sizes which leads me to wonder how much they differ from non-3D printed shoes.

Nike Vapor Laser Talon
Nike Vapor Laser Talon
Nike is using Selective Laser Sintering to print the cleats on the Nike Vapor Laser Talon which is designed to improve traction and acceleration on football turf. The process shortened the prototyping time and enabled the manufacturing of a unique mesh that weighs only 159 grams.

What type of shoes would you to print?

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3D printed shoes on the catwalk in Paris