Milan ordinary landscapes. Giardino Robert Baden-Powell #1

Just a short quote for this post.

... when I was photographing in Vermont, photographing the landscape, I didn't know what the landscape was ... I mean the landscape was picture to me. What I was trying to find was the ideal landscape that I'd seen in other pictures. I could never find it, but it was the landscape I was looking for. And so somehow even though I was trying, sometimes, I could never see the real landscape. I could never see the landscape that was there.I was always seen through this haze of other pictures, that in some ways I was trying to reproduce, or reproduce the feeling of it.

"Thoughts on Landscape" by Frank Gohlke


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #14. February 2010

Last week I took a small vacation away from the blog. As usual in Italy the months preceding summer time are the ones where every body decides to do things (just to stop a few months later and resume operation in the late autumn). This generally ends up leaving a short time for everything. In some ways it is a habit coming from the times when life was marked by the seasonal vacancies. But, wherever it may come, it is a clear manifest of our incapacity to act in a socially organized way. But just to make something useful out of this post I like to point you to a book that I'm reading with great joy: "Thoughts on Landscape" by Frank Gohlke. The book consists mainly in interviews, intros and a few articles, the paperback edition is more than enough for quality. But even in the, somewhat, unordered collection, the book contains some very interesting thoughts expressed in plain and straight concepts. His interviews are touching in a sense I have rarely found in a book containing writings from a photographer, even in words he is clearly motivated by a search for a truthful expression of his visions and experiences. In books written by photographers we got used to a posthumous kind of rational reconstruction of their acting, it is not the case here. Gohlke may even seem to be the incarnation of the conscious landscapist. Something, I bet, many of us, aspire to be.

"I just love the way things look, all things, even if they're awful things. You know, the necessity to make moral judgements about whether this or that thing is desirable comes later, but what I'm motivated by, first of all, is just a fascination, a love for the fact that things exist in the world; they have a certain appearance and that it's possible with a camera to create a picture out of those appearances, and if you do it right, even to suggest that those appearances might have certain meanings or implications for us.
Frank Gohlke"


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #13. February 2010

Blurb and an old flame. Part three

Some handy references for those willing to adventure into the LaTex land. To start with some motivations here is an advocacy article: LaTeX isn't for everyone but it could be for you. For a first intro see A (Not So) Short Introduction to LaTeX2e. But the fastest way, if you want to experiment with it, is to install a version of "xelatex" on your computer, it is available for all most any operating system, and give it a try starting from the files mentioned in the last related post.

But even if your more interested in using your wysig have a look here for some ideas in the design of the book: tufte-latex, LaTex users will find it ready to use. Have a look at the pdfs available and mainly to the one that focuses on the book style.

In my first try, for blurb, I want to put the image slightly off centre. How to arbitrarily position an image into a page is a thing that is not present in Eric's example. The task may be addressed via the package named, quite obviously, "photo" that lets you manage the picture as a "float" object, the package is available in every LaTex2e distribution. Anyway you may find it here or in the CTAN TeX/LaTex repository.


Adopting a Logo.

When it comes to the net and mainly to the web, Art, and specifically Visual Arts, exhibit a love/hate behaviour. On one side it is quite clear that the reach that the media allows is hardly beat by anything else. However the relation with the audience is some how one way. Been shown is partly the nature of a visual artefact. But behind the “being shown”, profound differences in motivation are at work. Maybe there is little to say here, It is still the old “web as entertainment” against the “web of sharing” that is pressuring, interestingly enough the “web of selling” is usually left off. But in this case I would like to stop on the idea of the “web of sharing” as in the intentions of the web “founding fathers”.

One of the basic ideas is that the “audience” makes the Internet. And that is true and easy to appreciate. What is not always so clear is that the visitor is making the first move and you have to give something back for his/hers effort. Art world, in this model, seems instead more inclined to denial. Yes many of you may say that it is already enough to share a look at the images, as much as a nice woman shows of her ankles. It is not a case that many contemporary artists even deny themselves from the net or show off pictures of sizes so small that even a stamp collector would not be interested in them! Perhaps it is the way in which new technologies get adopted and evolved in time. But still the art world does not seem to have left the old gallery model where Art, in the form of commodities, is displayed as an object of desire.

The flaw in this model lies in the way the audience is composed over the web. If we look at the most frequented internet places we'll discover that it is the interactive one that in the last decade took over. Instead of a passive viewer there we have and individual that expresses feelings and experiences reusing and sharing what was seen. It is the anti (post) structuralist “ready made” practice taking over in recursive expressive motion. I'm quite aware that this may be considered rather naive. Times of scarcity generally rise the question of how to fill the stomach too.

Given this wonderful airy intro I'm finally getting to the point. I have been looking for a logo for my photo activity for some time . Given the hight costs I was oriented towards an in house solution. That was till a few days ago I've came across this nice initiative named TOBERND/YOURHILLA where the Artist Didier Falzone decided to give away some abstractions derived from the works of Bernd and Hilla Becher in the form of usable logos. I liked them a lot but more I liked the form of the gift. A logo does not necessarily explain or, in a pornographic way, describe. It must be first and foremost an object of interest. So after a few very nice mails I was able to have my own. Well, there are many emotional and utilitarian sides in my choice, however, I think that the Artist deserves a lot of appreciation for either the content (the logo itself) either the action. I have to give thanks to Hippolyte Bayard for bringing the thing to my attention.


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #12. February 2010

Blurb and an old flame. Part two

The first impact of blurb, with regard to the practical help the site hands out, is of dismay. "Hell another site for Adobe devotees" was my exclamation. Just to say it plainly and once: I think that Adobe is exercising an unfair use of its dominant market position both in pricing and in sloppy quality of the software. But, fortunately, while Photoshop may have no rivals, Adobe's tool for desktop publishing has some fierce rivals in the Open Source world, and, much more important, on Linux (I'm a linux user and programmer till the day one when in circa 22 posts I've got it's former version in the usenet news). The simplest and easiest one to use is Scribus; to start out I've made some experiments with it. The Metrics from the blurb calculator were easy to adapt after having grasped the intricacies of blurb margin and boundaries settings (the mentioned paper model helped a lot).Scribus however is a wisyg and that means that it is quite easy to get to a first draft, but it requires a lot of clicks and it is short on automation. Yes there is a templating engine but it seems best suited for short brochures. Changing the style of an already made book requires a lot of repetitive and not automated work. Till now my needs always have been of pure text pdf writing. For that I've always resorted to an other tool: TeX/LaTex, in my opinion the best publishing software ever made and fully available in the open source free for the entire humanity. Unfortunately TeX/LaTex is a bit uncomfortable to use for a total end user. Mainly you operate it from the command line, you may as well resort to and interactive shell, but I think that at the end the command line version is simpler to use and after some exercise it is easy to make a set of automated scripts that in a few steps will reassemble the entire book. So I decided to do some googling to find out what was available from the LaTex community for composing books and photobooks targeted at blurb. As for almost everything in the TeX/LaTex world I did not come away empty handed. To begin with you may start from this resource that Eric Jeschke kindly made available in a true open source spirit. The post comes complete of a downloadable archive containing the basic scripts and the picture of one of his books. You may either study the way in which the metrics is laid out or simply assemble his book till you are sure to have a fully functional LaTex setup. There are two supported formats one to build up a blurb pdf and one to make a web version for the web.


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #11. February 2010

For a definition of "Dèrive" see here. For the entire ongoing series of detours around the Garibaldi building site see here.

Blurb and an old flame. Part one

It's my turn to get interested in photo books. Frankly I have some doubt, on the ethic side, about the opportunity to participate in the great consumption of natural resources that the photographic allows. Digital, for me, represented a renewed interest in the thing for its seemingly low profile in resource hungriness. But there is a side in which its undeniable that an Art object needs to be an object of desire too. So online books in some ways seem to be a sort of sustainable compromise. The great advantage is that in the end only the strict demanded ones get printed and thanks to the parallel pdf version the option in circulation may not suffer from any restriction.

After having evaluated several services I finally landed to blurb for my first attempts. I'm aware that it may not be the best one. But it seems certainly the most frequented one in photographic realm.

Having made the first step the second one that comes in immediately after is how to do it. As a Humanist with a romantic side, I've always loved well composed and printed books. It is incredible the amount of knowledge involved in a book design, in our era of wysigs it is easy to forget about it. Every thing seems easy and only a matter to test and try. The results, however, are not always so good, as you may easily find out by yourself by looking at several previews available online. Plus I have a personal dismay for the huge amount of time that the test and try practice requires. So I went to a library and bought an old book making manual, just at least have an idea of what was needed and discovered the joys of the material practice of the cut and paste, no not the one you perform with a computer, but the one you make with a ruler and a cutter to build up a model of what you are looking for.