History Photography

Over 30,000 Negatives Discovered in Russian Artist’s Attic Reveal a Lifetime of Hidden Photography

March 19, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Russian artist and theater critic Masha Ivashintsova (1942-2000) lived a secret life as a photographer, taking over 30,000 photographs in her lifetime without ever showing a soul. It wasn’t until years after her death in 2000 that her daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan stumbled upon her vast collection of negatives while cleaning out the attic. The photographs showcase an astounding look into the inner world of Ivashintsova, while also providing a glimpse of everyday life in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) from the 1960-1999.

Ivashintosova was heavily engaged in the city’s underground poetry and photography movement, yet never showed anyone her images, poetry, or personal writing during her lifetime. Ivashintsova-Melkumyan shares a quote from one of her mother’s diary entries that hints at the reasoning behind her hidden artistic life, “I loved without memory: is that not an epigraph to the book, which does not exist? I never had a memory for myself, but always for others.”

“I see my mother as a genius,” explains Ivashintsova-Melkumyan, “but she never saw herself as one—and never let anybody else see her for what she really was.”

Some have referred to Ivashintsova as the Russian Vivian Maier, an American photographer and caregiver whose extensive collection of negatives was discovered in Chicago after her death in 2009. A group of close family friends are working to scan the entirety of Ivashintsova’s life’s work. You can view more of her recently discovered images on this website and Instagram specifically created to share her legacy. (via PetaPixel)



Art History

Archaeologists Discover What May Be the World’s Oldest Crayon

March 13, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Archaeologists working on a site near an ancient lake in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK say they may have discovered one of the earliest examples of a crayon. The reddish-brown piece of ochre is thought to have been used 10,000 years ago to color animal skins or produce artwork during the Mesolithic period.

The oblong discovery is just 22 mm long and 7 mm wide, yet shows a heavily striated surface where it was most likely scraped to create red pigment. One side of the tool is sharpened, another hint that the piece was used to draw or color. Dr. Andy Needham from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology explained the discovery helps archaeologists understand how significant color might have been to the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period.

“For me it is a very significant object and helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colourful place,” said Needham in a press release.

This has been a year of many art historical firsts. Within the last few months our knowledge of Greek civilization has been completely altered by the discovery of this tiny carved stone, and archaeologists found the first known use of a smiley face on an off-white jug in Southern Turkey. You can read more about the discovery of the ochre crayon, and other pieces found near the ancient lake in North Yorkshire, in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. (via Hyperallergic)




Design History

In 1848 A French Commune Built an Interconnected Treehouse Cabaret Based on Swiss Family Robinson

February 20, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

For over a century, Parisians were drawn out of the city and into the neighboring village of Le Plessis-Piquet to experience charming summer evenings among the township’s tall trees. What started as open air dancehalls called “guinguettes,” turned into treehouse cabarets after restaurant proprietor Joseph Gueusquin built Le Grand Robinson in 1848.

Inspired by the treehouse described in The Swiss Family Robinson, the unique establishment hoisted visitors to the top branches of a thick chestnut tree to dine dozens of feet above their fellow revelers. Over the next few decades copycat restaurants began popping up in trees across town, hosting donkey races and building tall tree swings to persuade diners away from their numerous competitors. This crop of new treetop guinguettes forced Gueusquin to rename his lounge “Le Vrai de Arbre Robinson” (The Real Robinson Tree) in 1888, which ensured customers knew they were dining at the original treehouse of Le Plessis-Piquet.

In 1909, after 60 years of booming success with the popular treehouses, the town changed its name to Le Plessis-Robinson. Today none of the Parisian suburb’s treetop bars remain (the last shut its doors in 1976), however the memory of treetop revelry remains in the few forgotten boards tacked to the town’s tall trees. (via Jeroen Apers)



Design History Science

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours: a Pre-Photographic Guide for Artists and Naturalists

January 31, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

First published in the pre-photographic age, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours was the preeminent guide to color and its classification for artists, scientists, naturalists, and anthropologists in the 19th-century. Without an image for reference, the book provided immense handwritten detail describing where each specific shade could be found on an animal, plant, or mineral. Prussian Blue for instance could be located in the beauty spot of a mallard’s wing, on the stamina of a bluish-purple anemone, or in a piece of blue copper ore.

The system of classification was first devised by German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner in the late 18th-century. Shortly after Scottish painter Patrick Syme updated Werner’s guide, matching color swatches and his own list of examples to the provided nomenclature.

The book’s poetic names, such as Arterial Blood Red, Berlin Blue, and Verdigris Green, added flourish to the writings of many researchers, allowing vivid descriptions for prose which had previously been limited to a more elementary color palette. Charles Darwin even used the guide during his voyage to the Madeira, Canary, and Cape Verde islands on the H.M.S. Beagle.

The 1814 book has now been republished by Smithsonian Books as a pocket-sized guide, providing a historic connection to vivid colors found in the field for a future generation of artists, scientists, and curious naturalists. You can preorder the 2018 hardcover for its release date on February 6, 2018.  (via Co.Design)



History Photography

A Norwegian University Student Used a Spy Camera in This Amazing Example of 19th Century Street Photography

January 2, 2018

Christopher Jobson

All images courtesy the Norwegian Folk Museum.

Fredrik Carl Mülertz Størmer is known mostly as an accomplished mathematician and physicist from Norway, but as a side hobby he was also an amateur photographer, taking to the streets of Oslo with a bulky camera secreted in his clothing to capture candid moments of unsuspecting passersby. Most of his photos were taken in the 1890s while Størmer was a 19-year-old student at the Royal Frederick University using a Stirn Concealed Vest Spy Camera, a secretive camera with a narrow lens designed to poke through a vest pocket’s buttonhole.

Størmer’s photography stands in stark contrast to portraiture of the era that consisted mainly of staid and unsmiling images against decorative backdrops. Here we see a rare view of people going about their daily lives nearly 125 years ago, often smiling and perhaps caught off guard from the young student angling for the shot. To see more of Størmer’s work head over to Norwegian Folkmuseum. (via Bored Panda)



Design History Photography

The Wild Architecture of Soviet-Era Bus Stops Photographed by Christopher Herwig

December 6, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Photographer Christopher Herwig has circled the former Soviet Union, exploring the most remote areas of Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine to find and photograph its unique bus stops. After the success of his first book Soviet Bus Stops, he decided to explore the subject matter again for his new follow-up collection Soviet Bus Stops Volume II. In this book Herwig focuses on Russia rather than its former Soviet counterparts, driving nearly 10,000 miles around the massive country finding its incredibly diverse transportation shelters.

These architectural forms are more deeply explored in a forward by architecture and culture critic Owen Hatherley, who details the government policies that have allowed the bus stops to remain. You can view more of the Jordan-based photographer’s work on his website and Vimeo. (via Design You Trust)



Art Design History

Art Enamel Pins Inspired by the Masters

November 24, 2017

Christopher Jobson

The Pin Museum has a great selection of enamel pins featuring images lifted from iconic paintings and sculptures from Dali to Van Gogh. Their current lineup includes over a dozen different designs, all available in their online shop.