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Here are some recent posts to Tim Oake's Blog concerning film, video and photography recommendations for our clients, partners and visitors. The current home page of the Blog can be found here.

Tuesday, Februrary 23rd

Photos from before the deluge

Seven Bridges Jazz Festival

Belgian photographer and Magnum member Carl de Keyzer has a beautiful collection of images on his site, created by Group94, for whom website design for photographers seems to be a speciality. The Flash-driven portfolio contains thousands of photographs and the homepage opens with a short movie that is one of very few intros that you may actually want to see again rather than hitting the skip button.


Much of De Keyzer’s most impressive work deals with emotionally challenging themes, with many collections based on location work in third world countries. He is currently working on a major new European project however, called ‘Moments Before the Flood’. It began in 2008 and will run through to 2012. De Keyzer is spending a few months each year travelling the coasts of Europe, addressing the question of whether Europe is prepared for the possible dramatic rise of the sea level. A key focus is on the latent tension created by our incapacity to define just how real the threat actually is and how efficient our defences are against it.


The project is supported by mobile operator Orange, Magnum Photos, Hogeschool Gent and the Belgian Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Group94 have created a separate site for it, linked from the main site, which contains a very well written project description and a project blog, as well as the photo portfolio as it develops. As I looked through the first of the photos, I was reminded of the prophetic lines from 'Before the Deluge', from Jackson Browne's classic 1974 'Late for the Sky' album:

"Some of them were angry at the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them, only to be confused
By the magnitude of the fury in the final hour"


Having photographed in locations in the Benelux at the start of the project, he spent last year around the coast of Great Britain, and I've included three of the resulting photos here. This year he plans to travel through Ireland, Iceland, France and Iberia. Next year he'll be going to Italy and Scandinavia, and visits to Germany, Poland, the Balkans and Greece will complete the project in 2012. I look forward to revisiting the site over the coming three years, and can thoroughly recommend that you take an opportunity to give it a look.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Perturbing portrait puzzles

Eric Meyer Photography

Eric Myer is a photographer based in Malibu, near Los Angeles, California, and specializes in portrait and location work for advertising, editorial and corporate clients. ‘Stereotypes’ is a kind of interactive photographic game that has been a feature of Myer’s website for some time.

Eric Myer Photography

‘Stereotypes: Edition I’ is the original version, featuring twenty head and shoulder thumbnail portraits displayed in a grid. Site visitors can choose any top and bottom half, with the combination being displayed in a larger frame. Playing around with the combinations leads to some perturbing results, but is strangely compelling. 'Edition II' features nine larger colour portraits, and works in the same way.


Apparently the original idea for the project came from a time when Myer was reading a children’s book with his daughter which allowed you to create funny (both '-peculiar' and '–ha ha') animals by combining the head of one with the body of another. Myer thought of applying the concept to photographic portraits, initially planning to produce a book in a similar format. Eventually he realized that it would work even better on a website. The concept was thoughtfully and carefully developed, since Myer discovered that while some combinations could just be amusing, others played on our stereotypical prejudices about race, age, gender and social type. The amount of work that must have gone into casting, resizing, retouching and Java scripting is evident, and it’s paid off.


As well as often being funny, some combinations are at least as ‘believable’ as the ‘real’ originals, while others are quite disturbing. The process of asking yourself why they’ve produced these different reactions leads to you questioning your own prejudices and the nature of physical stereotypes in general. Give ‘Stereotypes’ a visit; you might find it harder to leave than you’d have thought, and if you’re like me you’ll also be encouraged to check out the impressive portfolio on the site.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Great new online video blog


Dutch journalist Herbert Blankesteijn, and his special interests in science, technology and new media, will be known to many from his columns in NRC Handelsblad.


Two weeks ago he launched VideoVolt, his new weblog focusing on online video. Having come across fascinating films, documentaries and animations – often accidentally – as a by-product of Internet searches in the course of his work during the last few years, he decided that it would be a good idea to share his discoveries.


On the launch of VideoVolt he promised to present something new on the blog with a frequency of daily to weekly. He’s delivered on more or less a daily basis so far, and as I’ve checked back from time to time I’ve been delighted to find a wide variety of really interesting posts. Herbert is providing a truly valuable service with his blog, and I can heartily recommend frequent visits to VideoVolt.

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Putting social networks to work: online animation collaboration

Aniboom, set up four years ago by Uri Shinar, the former president of a leading commercial broadcaster in Israel, is a website offering a collection of short animations, tools and competitions. Users submit animated movies, which are categorized on the site according to type and are evaluated by their peers. The animations can be e-mailed to a friend, posted to a blog or social network site.

Last month they partnered with the History Channel to give amateur and professional filmmakers the opportunity to have their animated take on a historical speech shown on television. They recruited a number of Hollywood actors to read some famous US speeches and writings, mostly promoting the US take on free speech and democracy. Between July 15th and September 2nd, competition entrants can download these recordings, together with pre-prepared background music tracks, and then create an animated short around them.

The People Speak

Five finalists will be chosen by a professional jury and announced in mid-September, and they will then have until November 4th to complete their ‘final cut’. The winner will receive a cash prize, a development deal, and have their entry screened on The History Channel, forming part of a two-hour special airing in December called ‘The People Speak’. Its aim is to “inspire audiences to think about the importance of speaking out and participating in the democratic process”.

Live Music

‘The People Speak’ follows on from last year’s ‘Live Music’ project, for which Aniboom created a ‘fan page’ application for an outfit called Mass Animation on social networking site Facebook. ‘Live Music’ is a five-minute animated short created by 52 people in 17 countries who collaborated to create it using the application. With backing from Sony Pictures and Intel, Mass Animation invited animation enthusiasts to compete and collaborate to create individual shots for the short.

Mass Animation provided Maya software, the story, soundtrack, and rendered the first scene to set the style and look. The Romeo and Juliet-inspired storyline centres on the “star-crossed love” between an electric guitar and a violin. The collaboration phase began in mid-November last year, and the animators had about two months to submit work that was voted on by the Facebook community. ‘Live Music’ will have its theatrical premiere this coming November, when it will be shown along with TriStar Pictures' animated feature, ‘Planet 51’.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Dreaming up composite moments in Amsterdam

A few years ago, local photographer and concept developer Jamain Brigitha dreamt up the idea of an annual project to give established contemporary visual artists from around the world the opportunity each summer to use Amsterdam as both a source of inspiration and an exhibition space. The first 'Dream Amsterdam' was held in 2007, when Spencer Tunick, who had already become famous for his large-scale photo reportages of thousands of naked people in public places in cities around the world, got 2,000 more to pose naked in the centre of Amsterdam and a bulb field. As with his previous projects, naturally enough it was good for media coverage, but the results left me as cold as the participants probably were. Last year's invitee, Ryoji Ikeda, set up light installations in four locations in the city, but once again I felt it failed to deliver on the promise of Brigitha's concept as it neither revealed nor added to anything about the essence of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Stories

'Amsterdam Stories' is the resulting exhibition of the third 'Dream Amsterdam', and opened this month around the pond in the middle of the Museumplein. And this time, by commissioning Danish photographer Peter Funch, Brigitha and her colleagues have made an excellent choice. Using the same concept he developed for 'Babel Tales', set in his adopted home of New York City, Funch has created a series of photographs that are clearly inspired by Amsterdam and that give its residents a new perspective on their city.

Amsterdam Stories

Funch shot the series on 15 locations in Amsterdam over a period of six weeks. As with 'Babel Tales', the works are composed of many separate moments taken over several weeks for each piece. He shoots in exactly the same position over a period of time and then superimposes images on top of each other, creating a fictional work based on documentary photography. Once again he has demonstrated his ability to create patterns out of our chaos. Funch is one of the rare photographers who know how to use Photoshop to create and enhance their work rather than just to clean it up.

Amsterdam Stories

One of the keys to his success is the thought and preparation he puts into his compositions. Unless he's the recipient of a chain of lucky coincidences – which I very much doubt – he first observes a location and picks up on similar collective behaviour that occurs there over time. A scene from ‘Babel Tales’ shows a group of people apparently all yawning at the same time as they walk down a New York street for example – I can imagine that he’d noticed a number of people doing this on their way to work early in the morning. Similarly, in ‘Amsterdam Stories’ he has people looking at timetables on a Central Station platform and checking their watches, and a group of dogs – with no humans in sight – converging on a city park.

Amsterdam Stories

The Dream Amsterdam 2009 exhibition can be seen in the Museumplein until August 31st, and both ‘Amsterdam Stories’ and ‘Babel Tales’ are on show at the Ron Mandos Gallery, Prinsengracht 282 until July 11th, from 12.00 to 18.00, Wednesdays to Saturdays.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Pictures of a planet in peril

Prix Pictet

A travelling photographic exhibition opened yesterday at the Eindhoven University of Technology, featuring images shortlisted for last year’s launch edition of the world’s first award dedicated to photography and sustainability. The idea behind the Prix Pictet, sponsored by the Swiss private bank Pictet & Cie, is to use the power of photography to communicate crucial messages to a global audience about today’s social and environmental threats.


Over 200 photographers from 43 countries were nominated for the 2008 Prix Pictet, the theme of which was ‘Water’. The jury shortlisted 18 of them, and their compelling images highlight how vital water (or, in several cases, its absence) is to our food supply, health, fragile ecosystems, and ultimately to our peace and security. The Canadian photographer Benoit Aquin won the first Prix Pictet for his series of photos called ‘The Chinese Dust Bowl’, focusing on the over-farming and deep drilling for water that are turning arable soil into barren sand dunes. The photo above is from that collection, taken in 2006 in the Bayannur Region of Inner Mongolia.

De Keyzer

Of the many other great images in the exhibition, there are outstanding collections from two of my favourite photographers. Carl de Keyser was shortlisted for his series called ‘Moments before the Flood’, which includes the shot above, taken in Blankenberge, Belgium in 2006. The image below is by Reza Deghati, who has covered most of the globe for National Geographic. Called ‘Scream’, it was taken above the Caspian Sea in 1997. It’s easy to imagine that the sea is using the oil on its surface to send us a message.


Prix Pictet 2009, with the theme of ‘Earth’, was launched last month. As the organizers say, the theme refers “not only to the planet and the soil beneath our feet, but also to the marks that man makes on the face of the land – either directly by creating mines, toxic waste, vast refuse dumps and blasted desert landscapes; or indirectly, through the scars left by fire, flood or famine. It also refers to the impact of natural disasters: earthquakes, landslides and volcanoes.” The shortlist for this year’s Prix Pictet will be announced at the Rencontres des Arles festival in July and the winner will be announced in Paris in October. Meanwhile you can see the exhibition of last year’s shortlist in the Hall of the Hoofdgebouw at the 'TU/e'. It's open from 09.00 to 18.00 during the week, from 14.00 to 17.00 at weekends, and runs until May 29th.

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