Part 2 of this year’s look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2013. Among the events covered in this essay (the second of a three-part photo summary of the year), massive protests in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere, the aftermath of a massive tornado that flattened much of Moore, Oklahoma, and Malala Yousafzai celebrates her 16th birthday with an address to the United Nations. Click here for part 1, and please come back tomorrow for part 3. The series will comprise 120 images in all. Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.
December is here, and it’s time for a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2013. Among the events covered in this essay (the first of a three-part photo summary of the year), Americans inaugurated President Barack Obama for a second term, a 13,000 ton meteor burned up in the sky over Russia, two young men detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon, and Dennis Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un enjoyed a basketball game together in Pyongyang. Please come back tomorrow and Wednesday for parts 2 and 3. The series will comprise 120 images in all. Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.
Weather conditions in Arizona’s Grand Canyon last week gave rise to a rare phenomenon called total cloud inversion. Last Friday, and again on Sunday, the ground apparently released some of its heat rapidly enough at dawn to create a layer of cool, damp air inside the canyon, trapping it beneath the unusually warmer sky above the canyon walls and filling the space with a sea of fog. Park officials said the phenomenon is a once-in-a-decade occurrence and ran to capture these fantastic photos.
No two snowflakes are alike, they say. And yet: We rarely get proof of that. Our eyes perceive snow not as individual, idiosyncratic crystals … but rather as uniformly fluffy flakes. And! When we try to get a better look at the true intricacy of snow by capturing one of the flakes … the thing melts. Snow is a cold and fickle thing.
Unless, that is, you are a photographer in the tradition of Wilson Bentley—one of the photographers who specializes in the highly technical art of snowflake imagery. The photographer Alexey Kljatov is one of those. And his Flickr page is full of close-up, highly magnified shots of snow flakes—dainty structures whose variety hints at the mind-boggling range of the humble, ephemeral flake.
And: You could take similar shots! If, that is, you have a fancy camera, some household tools, and a DIY attitude. You need, first of all, a glass surface, lighted by either an LED flashlight or natural light. (In the latter case, you need a dark background that will maximize the visibility of the flakes: Kljatov likes dark, woolen fabrics.)
While Saint Nicholas may bring gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack. In keeping with pre-Germanic Pagan traditions, men dressed as these demons have been frightening children on Krampusnacht for centuries, chasing them and hitting them with sticks, on an (often alcohol-fueled) run through the dark streets.
Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine took to the streets to demonstrate against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to abandon an EU integration pact, as he works to strengthen economic ties to Russia, rather than Europe. Protesters blockaded government buildings and occupied Independence Square in Kiev today, seeking to force Yanukovich from office. After harsh crackdowns last night, demonstrations continued this morning, with leaders calling for a nationwide strike.
Far off the coast of Yemen lies isolated Socotra island, where hundreds of plants and animals have developed into species unique to the island. The best-known of these might be the Dragon Blood trees, with their densely-packed crowns and blood-red sap. Socotra, sometimes referred to as “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean,” is slowly emerging from its long isolation — in 1999, the first airport opened, and tourism began to pick up. In an effort to counter any negative impacts, UNESCO recognized the island as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2008, promoting conservation of the unique environment and some of its endangered species.
When the Oxford Dictionary declared “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, it inadvertently kicked off a familiar argument about the relationship between women—or more precisely girls—and culture.
On Slate, Rachel Simmons took the standard third-wave-feminism, girl-culture-is-good line. She argues that selfies are an example of young women promoting themselves and taking control of their own self-presentation: Think of each one, she says, as “a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self.” In response, Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel opted for an old-school, second-wave-feminism, culture-is-oppressive argument. Selfies teach girls to obsess over their appearance and judge themselves on the basis of beauty rather than accomplishments, she says: “They’re a reflection of the warped way we teach girls to see themselves as decorative.”
Both perspectives have their strengths and their drawback. What’s interesting, though, is that, beneath Simmons and Ryan’s disagreements lies a broader consensus: that all selfies share an essential selfie-ness. Ryan, for example, acknowledges that a selfie of the first female Marines to finish infantry training (and one who was injured before she could complete the course) is awesome and empowering. But then she brushes it away as irrelevant and not a “typical” selfie. Simmons, meanwhile, says she worries about girls who spend hours editing out the blemishes in their selfies, but concludes by insisting that “The selfie flaunts the restrictions of ‘good girl’ culture.” The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.
But is there really an essential selfie-ness?
Read more. [Image: AP/Mal Fairclough and Kevin Wolf]
The British photographers were stationed on the front lines of the Somme, ready to capture the “Big Push” as it unfolded. Starting at 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1916, line after line of British soldiers weighed down by 70‑plus pounds of equipment trudged straight into German machine-gun fire. Later that hot day, which would become the costliest day in the history of the British military and one of the deadliest single days of combat in any war, the wounded lay stranded in no-man’s-land. The lucky ones found shelter in shell holes; the rest were left exposed and baking in the sun. They could not be rescued yet, and so an anonymous official photographer attached to the Royal Engineers did what he could to record the scene. The picture he took, though, tells almost nothing without a caption. The landscape is flat and featureless. The dead and wounded look like dots. “Like a million bloody rugs,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald of the Somme carnage. In fact, you can’t make out blood. You can’t even tell you’re looking at bodies.
Starting in the American Civil War, photographers could claim to have provided the iconic representations of war. Reproduced on stereographic cards and exhibited at Mathew Brady’s gallery in New York, Alexander Gardner’s pictures of dead soldiers strewn about the Antietam battlefield shocked the divided nation, and remain the searing record of destruction. Robert Capa’s falling soldier (possibly a staged picture) came to define the Spanish Civil War, as Joe Rosenthal’s picture of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima did, for Americans, the Second World War. Nick Ut’s photo of the crying, naked girl burned by napalm conveyed the horrors of Vietnam, it is often said, in a way that words could not. But in this litany, the First World War is the notable exception.
Read more. [Image: John Warwick Brooke/British Imperial War Museums]
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