Andreas Riegerandreas rieger photography | the fine art of capturing natural beauty

Want to Just Rent Your Gadgets? This Startup Has You Covered

(Found on wired.com posted by Ryan Tate April 15, 2014)

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Buying gadgets used to be a thrill, but now it’s a drag. There’s so many to consider that the choices become overwhelming, and then it seems they’re obsolete five minutes after you open them.

Lumoid thinks there’s a better way: Stop buying your gadgets. Rent them.

The San Francisco startup is Silicon Valley’s latest attempt to undermine the very idea of owning. It hopes to do for electronics what Uber and Zipcar have done for cars, Spotify and Pandora have done for music and Airbnb has done for vacation homes: replace ownership with access. Lumoid’s model replaces ownership with something more fluid, a sort of subscription model in which manufacturers are rewarded for each day you use a product, and punished after you grow bored.

Right now, Lumoid rents digital cameras and gear–everything from prosumer shooters like the Sony A7 to GoPro action cameras to Canon lenses. Such things can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to purchase, but Lumoid rents them for $8 to $18 a day plus shipping. If you decide you want to keep an item, Lumoid credits 30 percent of your rental cost for the past year toward the purchase price.

But just like Amazon with books, Lumoid founder Aarthi Ramamurthy isn’t just interested in cameras. She’s establishing a beachhead, using a single product to introduce a whole new way of doing business. Lumoid sees itself eventually moving beyond cameras to other digital devices, like wearables, gaming systems and 3-D printers. (Such ambitions, not to mention the purchase credit, is what differentiates Lumoid from camera rental operations like BorrowLenses.)

It’s easy to see why consumers would be weary of buying and owning such things. The number of phones, tablets, cameras, and other gadgets is torrential, and we are increasingly inundated with pitches for still more of them on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Making sense of it all to make an informed decision can be time-consuming, and there’s always the risk of choosing something that will soon be outdated, even orphaned.

“Honestly, what ends up happening is they just buy two or three [gadgets], and then it just sits in the back of their cupboard somewhere, and they never ever pull it out,” says Ramamurthy. “I have two or three Windows tablets–I have no idea when I bought them, they’re just there. There are so many of these Bluetooth speaker systems I keep buying just because they’re cute.”

For Ramamurthy, cameras seemed like the perfect opening salvo in her war on ownership. They’re pricey and they need pricey accessories like lenses, so people are reluctant to buy on a whim. Camera gear also has a tendency to go unused for long periods, with casual photographers pulling out their high-end gear for vacations or special occasions. This makes rental a financially appealing option. It helps that those looking for high-end gear tend to be tech-savvy, so they’re comfortable dealing with an online startup.

Lumoid–the name comes by combining “lumen,” the Latin word for light, with gadgety word “android”–was hatched at the influential tech incubator Y Combinator. Ramamurthy is a relentless entrepreneur. She programmed an Instagram-like photo app during her honeymoon a few years back, coding alongside her husband, at the time a fellow Microsoft employee, from their hotel in Hawaii. That earned them a writeup in The New York Times. Another project, launched while Ramamurthy was at Netflix, was a website that can expertly navigate the many sizing quirks of bras. That one, known as True&Co, launched at the Wall Street Journal‘s famed D conference and raised $2 million in venture capital.

Ramamurthy then quit Netflix. When True&Co moved into manufacturing, Ramamurthy, a programmer, left to refocus on software. She came up with Lumoid during a stint as an entrepreneur-in-residence at VC firm Battery Ventures. It idea took hold when she realized her friends in the consumer electronics biz kept inundating her with links to cool gizmos on the crowdfunding sites Indiegogo and Kickstarter. After awhile, they just got lost in the noise. She thought there had to be a better way for consumers to use gadgets, and for companies to market them.

“If there was a way to try gadgets for a fraction of the cost, without committing to buy, and we made it incredibly simple to have the items show up wherever you are,” she recalls thinking, “would people then try more items?”

Ramamurthy sold Y Combinator on the idea, and poached her head of operations, Zachary Genteman, from the camera chain Calumet in November. They launched Lumoid in January after a three-month beta. In addition to its own inventory, Lumoid also draws on equipment from second-hand camera stores and splits the revenue. That arrangement makes the startup, nominally at least, part of the vaunted sharing economy. The company is also staying connected to its crowdfunding roots; Lumoid has also begun to sell some relevant Kickstarter accessories on its check-out page, again as part of a revenue sharing deal.

Ramamurthy is tight-lipped about financials, but claims revenue grew 72 percent from January to February and another 45 percent from February to March. Her only competition, marginally, is eBay, where photographers have long bought and sold used gear. Summer is almost upon us, which means vacation season–and people looking for camera gear. That should bring a surge in business.

Ramamurthy sees an even brighter future beyond that, in which access to expensive products is democratized by sharing on services like Lumoid.

“People are going to get access to things much more easily and much more cheaply,” she says, “kind of like what happened with limousines and Uber.”

The next big picture | with cameras optional, new directions in photography

(Found on nytimes.com posted by Philip Gefter posted January 23, 2014)

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Once strictly conceptual art, now in a photography show agh the Museum of Modern Art: Charles Ray’s „Plank Piece I-II“ from 1973, portraying the artist in his studio. Charles Ray/Museum of Modern Art

At first glance, viewers of “What Is a Photograph?” opening on Jan. 31 at the International Center of Photography, will not even recognize the work on the wall as photographic. There is no easily identifiable subject, no clear representational form.

“The show does not answer the question,” said Carol Squiers, the show’s curator. “It poses the question. It is an open question, and that’s why I find this period in photography so exciting.”

Ms. Squiers pointed to Travess Smalley, who cuts shapes from magazine pages and colored paper and composes them into photo collages directly on a scanner. He considers the scan the negative for the print. “He doesn’t necessarily call the result a ‘photograph,’ “ she said, but she wasn’t ready to define exactly what it was.

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Travess Smalley’s „Capture Physical Presence #7“, an image composed with paper shapes directly on a scanner, dispenses with a camera. - Travis Smalley/Higher Pictures, New York

Photography is vastly different in these early years of the 21st century, no longer the result of light exposed to film, nor necessarily lens based. As digital technology has all but replaced the chemical process, photography is now an increasingly shape-shifting medium: The iPhone, the scanner and Photoshop are yielding a daunting range of imagery, and artists mining these new technologies are making documentation of the actual world seem virtually obsolete.

“Practices have changed,” said Quentin Bajac, the Museum of Modern Art’s new chief curator of photography, one of four curators at major institutions who spoke of the opportunities and obstacles of their jobs at this pivotal moment — photography’s identity crisis.

The shift of focus from fact to fiction, and all the gradations in between, is perhaps the largest issue in the current soul-searching underway in photography circles. Questions swirl: Can the “captured” image (taken on the street — think of the documentary work of Henri Cartier-Bresson) maintain equal footing with the “constructed” image (made in the studio or on the computer, often with ideological intention)?

Museums, for their part, are debating whether photography should remain an autonomous medium or be incorporated into a mash-up of disciplines in contemporary art. And photography curators, too, are questioning the quality and validity of new practices, as the ever-morphing ubiquity of social media challenges the singularity of the photographic image.

“The biggest problem facing curators and historians of photography,” Mr. Bajac said, “is the overflow of images.”

MoMA, the first museum to create an autonomous department of photography, in 1940, perpetuated the idea that documentation of the actual world as in the work of Eugène Atget, Walker Evans and Robert Frank was the backbone of photographic art making. Mr. Bajac’s predecessors — Beaumont Newhall, Edward Steichen, John Szarkowski and Peter Galassi — presided over the field from what critics have, at times disparagingly, called “the judgment seat.” Mr. Bajac acknowledges a definite change in that paradigm.

“Today, MoMA is only one of the judgment seats,” Mr. Bajac said. “We’re writing one history of photography, while other people or institutions are writing simultaneous histories.”

Asked why he thought he was offered the job at MoMA, Mr. Bajac, impeccable and youthful at 48, surmised that “someone who is not American, who is not linked or connected to that long history of photography, is more appropriate now.” He arrived at the museum from Paris, where he had been chief curator of photography at the Pompidou Center and before that at the Musée d’Orsay.

In his inaugural exhibition, “A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio,” which opens on Feb. 8, the focus is on the practice in the photographer’s studio as opposed to the aesthetics of the print, a clear shift in emphasis from museum canon. The works on view, drawn from MoMA’s archives and arranged thematically, include 19th-century and contemporary material, and film and video.


This idea of the studio as both a laboratory and playground is exemplified by Charles Ray’s diptych, “Plank Piece I-II” (1973), showing the artist pinned to the studio wall, in two different ways, by a large wooden plank — a conceptual performance for the camera.

A 2008 work by Walead Beshty of Los Angeles, who creates photograms — cameraless pieces — by exposing photographic paper to colored lights, verges on pure abstraction. Mr. Bajac said he was among the younger generation of artists in the recent New Photography series at MoMA whose “practices are entirely studio-based.”

Many works in the show are by international artists like Constantin Brancusi, who considered his studio as much a photographic subject as his sculpture. Another such artist is Geta Bratescu of Romania, who lived in her Bucharest studio in the 1970s, during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausesu, and made a 17-minute film, “L’atelier” (“The Studio,” 1978) acquired by Mr. Bajac for MoMA, signaling the recognition of video in a photographic context.

“For Bratescu, of course, the studio was a place of open expression,” the curator said, an escape from the pressure to create propagandist art glorifying Ceausescu.

Mr. Bajac also explores the studio backdrop, an artifice that divorces the subject from context — “The model or subject becomes a kind of specimen in scientific terms,” he said — and the use of props and costumes for portraiture, from the draped curtain behind an Auguste Belloc nude in the 1850s to Cindy Sherman disguises in 1983.

“Taking people away from their natural circumstances and putting them into the studio in front of a camera did not simply isolate them, it transformed them,” Irving Penn said, in a quotation on the gallery wall.

Matthew Witkovsky, the curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, echoed a growing consensus among curators that, today, the field is more pluralistic. “One wants not a judgment seat,” he argued, “but strong judgment.”

In the past, the role of the curator required tireless advocacy for the medium’s legitimacy. Christopher McCall, the 38-year-old director of Pier 24, a museum-caliber private photography center in San Francisco with roughly twice the gallery space for photography as MoMA, sees that battle as ancient history.

“For myself and my generation, whether photography is art has never even been the question,” he says.

Today, the job calls for distinguishing serious photographic art making within the vast, visual cacophony of image making. What criteria are to be applied to what is called a “photograph” when digital technology has revolutionized where, how and how often pictures are viewed?

The wall-size photographic print was already the rage in Chelsea galleries at the turn of the century (the 21st, that is), as digital files replaced the film negative. Thanks to scanners that can read imagery with optical fidelity, the evolution from chemical process to digital is nearly complete.

Yet several works in “A Sense of Place,” at Pier 24 through May 1, pose more questions than answers. Eric William Carroll’s large diazotype prints — a process used for architectural blueprints — fill the gallery with blue-tinted shadows that resemble leaves, evoking a walk in the forest. For “24 HRS in Photos,” Erik Kessels downloaded and printed every photo uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours; an avalanche of images tumbles down — wedding photos, selfies and “sexties” — the democratization of art made tangible, and threatening.

Lucia Koch, a Brazilian artist, registers a welcome degree of wit in her digital exploration of perceptual, as opposed to technical, anomaly: Her photograph appears to be a sun-filled hallway; in fact, it is the interior of a spaghetti box with two cellophane windows.

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Lucia Koch’s „Spaghetti (2 Windows)“ from 2006. Her photograph appears to be a sun-filled hallway, in fact, it is the interior of a spaghetti box with two cellophane windows. Lucia Koch/Pier 24, San Francisco

At the International Center for Photography, Ms. Squiers asked the essential question that permeates the field: What even constitutes a photograph?

While younger artists are incorporating chemical processes into their experiments with digital techniques, many “are still finding this need to make an object,” Ms. Squiers said.

An example is Marco Breuer, who has several works on display with no visible relationship to photographic imagery. His work “Spin” consists of fine concentric circles scratched and embossed on chromogenic paper. The camera-less process still requires emulsion and developer, but the result is a one-of-a-kind handmade object.

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Marco Breuer’s „Spin (C-826), 2008.“ The work, which consists of the fine concentric circles scratchd and embossed on chromogenic paper, is part of the International Center of Photography’s exhibition „What Is a Photograph?“ Marco Breuer/Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Ms. Squiers also included the work of Christopher Williams, whose photographs compose an inventory of increasingly obsolescent film-based equipment — cameras, lenses and darkroom gear — as beautiful and precise as catalog product shots. The accompanying text adds detail about how the equipment was used. Such scrutiny suggests, with elegiac clarity, the end of the chemical era in photography.

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A Work by Christopher Williams, whose photographs compose an inventory of increasingly obsolescent film-based equipment - cameras, lenses and darkroom gear - as beautiful and precise as catalog product shots. Christopher Williams/David Zwirner, New York/London, and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, via Museum of Modern Art.

Mr. Witkovsky, at the Art Institute of Chicago, is giving Mr. Williams his first museum retrospective, beginning this month, in a traveling show, “The Production Line of Happiness.”

“This is a fully arrived ‘history of art’ in photography,” Mr. Witkovsky said of the work by Mr. Williams, who applies an art historian’s scrutiny to the social and historical implications of the medium in the mid-20th century.

Mr. McCall, of Pier 24, acknowledged that a curatorial consensus on the photography’s future has not been reached. “There has to be some photographic process involved, some piece of technology that we acknowledge as photographic, but I don’t think it means it has to be lens-based,” he said. (But don’t feel bad for the auteurs of representational photography in the digital age: Shown at Pier 24 are also Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky and Paul Graham — whose photographic documentation of the “authentic” moment continues a stalwart tradition.)

Mr. McCall dismissed the notion that experimentation with unconventional processes or the overabundance of images poses any threat to contemporary photography. “It’s a benefit,” he said, encouraging curators “to analyze and think about images because they’re everywhere.”

Trying to define what a photograph is today situates the curator at a new frontier, Ms. Squiers suggested. While it’s unclear where the medium is headed, she is certain that contemporary photographers are doing something that is disorienting yet ultimately transformative.

“You feel like the cord to the mother ship has been cut,” she said, “and now you’re floating in space.”

Mysterious alter-ego created through imaginative self-portraits

(Found on MY MODERN MET posted by Noel Kat published January 20, 2014)

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These beautiful photographs of a solitary female in an imaginative world are the work of the exceptionally talented Rachel Baran. Each photograph is conceptually based and tells a truly, unique story.

Baran uses herself as a model and then makes slight manipulations in Photoshop to create fascinating details that completely change the image and push it outside the sphere of reality. Fire springs gracefully from outstretched arms, a bloody hand print hangs in the sky, and a lit tongue melts away like a wax candle.

In these unconventional self-portraits, Baran perfectly creates a mysterious alter-ego for herself with an incredible, unknown world to explore.

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2014 could be the year web browsers replace Photoshop

(Found on QUARZ posted by Nick Stockton, published January 17, 2014)

The language that controls the web’s style—CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets—could be getting a new set of features that will make it the new gold standard for graphic design. These features, collectively known as blending modes, are currently under consideration by the World Wide Web Consortium, the group with the largest influence over standardizing features in your browser. If approved, blending modes will let web developers tinker with colors, tones and textures on the web in the same way they can with graphics and image files on programs like Photoshop.

Blending modes control nuances like brightness, hue, contrast and transparency. This might seem like fodder of interest only to design wonks, but blending modes are the secret sauce that behind the mood of digital photography and film, and would have a big impact on how everyone experiences the web.

For developers, the problem with desktop graphic design programs like Adobe Photoshop is that their images have to be converted from a feature-rich proprietary format to something flatter, with less colors (like a JPEG) that the web can host. This slows developers down and limits what they can create on the web.

By contrast, web-native blending would work with the rest of the web’s bells and whistles. Applied to a web page, blending modes affect the overall mood and feel, similar to how Instagram filters (which are preset combinations of blending modes) can brighten up your selfie or add gravitas to your group photo. This gallery shows extreme examples of what blending modes can do, but most designers use them to create more subtle effects.

Since the web pages are more like collages than seamless images, web designers would be able to fine tune the color blends of individual features (like text, photos, or data visualizations). What’s more, blending modes could control your browsing experience in real time, with subtle or dramatic mood shifts depending on where you scroll, point your mouse, or otherwise interact with the page. This would enhance digital storytelling, beyond what the New York Times has shown with their new experiments in long form (that don’t use blending modes. Yet).

Hardcore developers will point out that blending modes already exist on the internet in the form of the HTML canvas tag. But the inner workings of the canvas tag are clunky, and ill-suited for interactivity.

Blending modes are still under review by the W3C’s working group in charge of CSS standards. But their potential is so powerful that even Photoshop’s publisher, Adobe, wants them added to the web. Moving its business from the desktop to the cloud could be lucrative, as mapping company ESRI proved with its shift to web-native programs.

The only downside is that graphic designers who use Photoshop for designing in print will have to learn some basic coding if they want to follow their profession’s migration to the web. However, this shouldn’t be overly daunting to anyone who has mastered Adobe’s baffling array of tools and menus.

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | Chris McCaw "Sunburned"

Chris McCaw investigates the primal side of photography by using its most basic components—a lens, time and light—resulting in one-of-a-kind prints in which the sun itself burns its mark on the paper.

More on Chris McCaw


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MoMA | New photography 2012 walkthrough

(Found on MoMA.org - posted in 2012)

An archived broadcast of a live walkthrough with curator Eva Respini.



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