Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bill Fink Creates Photorealistic Images Out of Literally Anything

Artist and photographer Bill Fink is the mastermind behind “Time and Matter Photography”, an art form that involves producing photorealistic images out of literally any material or matter. Instead of conventional paint, the 60-year-old artist uses hair, human ashes, soil, egg shells, and all sorts of things to create images, often using the material itself to create its portrait. Some of Bill’s most notable works include a portrait of his eye made entirely from his own hair, an image of flowers made entirely from the pollen of those flowers, and the image of a man named Bob, made using his ashes.

“Photography makes an image from light reflecting off materials. Time and Matter Photography can capture the image and the material together as one”, the artist explains. “Some people are willing to pay a lot of money for the glove of Michael Jackson, or the gown of a movie star, but how important would a picture be if a teaspoon of John Lennon’s ashes was turned into his memorial picture, or if some of Paul McCartney’s hair was turned into his picture, or if a picture of Neil Armstrong was made of moon rock, or if a picture of the Hindenburg was made from a scrap of fabric from the Hindenburg”, he adds.

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"Mom and Me"  Made entirely of Mom's hair

World Toilet Day: Toilets Around The World

Pooping may be a subject of potty humor in the West, but for millions of people in underdeveloped countries around the world, sanitation is no laughing matter. According to the United Nations, 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets, with dramatic consequences on their health, dignity and security, the environment, and social and economic development. Globally, 526 million women are forced to go to the toilet in the open. Because they lack access to a toilet that offers privacy, they are forced to wait until after dark before leaving their houses, where they are subjected to physical threats and sexual violence. To highlight these issues, World Toilet Organization, a global non-profit organization, has been celebrating 19 November as the “World Toilet Day”.

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Damien Hirst Builds Cityscapes From Surgical Tools

What at first appears to be black and white aerial images of cities are actually recreations by renowned British artist Damien Hirst using vast number of surgical instruments such as scalpels, razor blades, hooks, iron filings, stitching needles and safety-pins set against black backgrounds. These new “paintings” titled “Black Scalpel Cityscapes” were revealed in an exhibition at White Cube Gallery in São Paolo, Brazil. For this exhibition, Hirst selected 17 cities, which are either sites of recent conflict, cities relating to the artist's own life, or centres of economic, political or religious significance. The selection includes, amongst others, Washington, DC; Rome and the Vatican City; Leeds (where the artist grew up); Beijing; Moscow; New York; and London.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ifrane, The Switzerland of Morocco

If the name Morocco conjures up images of a place with narrow, maze like streets lined with old earth-colored buildings, you are not alone. Ifrane, however, is unlike any other town in Morocco. Located at an altitude of 5,460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas region, this small hill town has a Swiss alpine feel to it. With neat red-roofed houses, blooming flower beds, lake-studded parks and snowbound winters, this remarkable European styled town is often referred to as “Morocco’s Switzerland.” The lush greenery, cedar forests, and pastureland that comes to life in spring and winter is a sharp contrast to the hot and dry climate that surrounds it. Because of its accessibility, Ifrane serves as the winter playground for the wealthy Berbers from drier cites like Fez, Meknes, and Marrakech, who flock here to experience European winter.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

The Trans-Amazonian Highway: An Ecological Disaster

The Trans-Amazonian highway is a 5,000 kilometre road which cuts across the heart of the Amazon forest, spanning Brazil from the coastal city of João Pessoa in the northeast to the border with Peru. It was one of the most ambitious resettlement and economic development programs ever devised, and one of the greatest failures.

The project developed in the 1970s after General Medici, military ruler of Brazil, visited the impoverished north-east of the country, which at that time was suffering under one of its periodic droughts. What he saw shocked and upset the General deeply. Land reform, the obvious solution to the peasants’ plight, was out of the question because the military who ruled the country relied too much on the support of landowners, and there was no way to convince those wealthy landowners to part with even the smallest fraction of their lands to the rural poor. General Medici, instead, decided to relocate the poor.

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Hay-on-Wye: The Town of Books

Hay-on-Wye is a small market town and community on the banks of the river Wye in Powys, Wales, adjacent to the English border. Often described as "the town of books", Hay-on-Wye draws a large number of book lovers looking for bargain across more than 40 bookstores selling mostly second-hand books. The town is also home to the Hay Literature Festival which brings some 80,000 writers, publishers and literature fans from all across the world at end of May each year.

It all started in 1961 when Richard Booth opened his first second-hand bookshop in Hay, in an old fire station. He hired a couple of strong men from the town and took them to America, where libraries were closing fast. There he bought books and shipped them in containers back to Hay-on-Wye. Over time other libraries joined the initiative and started shelves, shops and more ways to sell used books appeared in every corner. By the 1970s Hay had become internationally known as the "Town of Books". Today, the town receives an estimated 500,000 tourists a year.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Survival Condo Project: A Luxurious Underground Doomsday Bunker

The Survival Condo Project is a luxury condo complex housed in a former underground missile silo near Concordia, in Kansas, in the US. Located 15 stories below ground, it was designed to comfortably survive any apocalypse such as global health pandemics, cataclysmic weather, and terror attack, including a nuclear one. The missile silo was originally built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960’s for the Atlas “F” missile, and there were 72 of them around the country. The walls of the silo, constructed out of epoxy-hardened concrete, are 9 feet thick and designed to survive a direct nuclear strike. The dome structure that covers the silo cap can withstand winds in excess of 500 mph.

The survival condos are designed to hold up to 70 people and have enough resources to keep them alive for years, as they wait for the dust to settle. A single condo in nearly 2,000-square-foot in size and cost anywhere from $1.5 to $3 million. Larry Hall, the brainchild behind the project, says that the condos are already sold out, but Mr Hall is currently working on a second.

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The entrance to the condo has two doors that are 16,000 pounds each

The Stone Towers Of Svaneti, Georgia

The ancient province of Svaneti in Georgia, is located on the southern slopes of the Caucasus mountain range, on the north-western part of the country. Surrounded by the gigantic, snow-capped peaks of the high Caucasus and deep gorges, Svaneti is home to some of the highest and most isolated villages in the Caucasus. The region is so remote that it remained unconquered until the Russians exerted control in the mid-19th century. But marauding armies from foreign lands used to trouble the Svans during the Middle Ages leading to the construction of watchtowers and fortified homes. When powerful empires rampaged through Georgia, icons, jewels, religious artefacts and manuscripts were brought to the towers for safekeeping, turning Svaneti into a repository of early Georgian culture. Over the centuries the Svans preserved not only the priceless artefacts but their culture, tradition and language, that many scholars believe predates Georgian.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Pigeon Towers of Iran

During the 16th and 17th century, particularly around the time of the Safavid reign, the Iranian folks built a large number of towers to house pigeons. The pigeons were domesticated not for their meat (pigeon is especially revered in Islam), but rather for their droppings, which the locals collected and used to fertilize melon and cucumber fields. The Safavids had a particular liking for melons and consumed them in staggering numbers. Pigeon dung was thought to be the best manure for these crops, and the towers were built for the purpose of attracting pigeons to them so that they would nest in the towers and their dung could be harvested. Built with brick and overlaid with plaster and lime, these towers were some of the finest dovecots in any part of the world. At its peak, Isfahan had an estimated 3,000 pigeon towers. Today, around 300 remain scattered throughout the countryside in various states of disrepair. Modern fertilizers and chemicals have rendered these magnificent structures obsolete leading to their abandonment in the fields, where they continue to deteriorate due to lack of maintenance.

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The inside of a pigeon tower, looking from the bottom towards the ceiling. The walls are lined with hundreds of pigeonholes. Photo credit

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Historical Village of Abyaneh

When the Arabs invaded Persia in the 7th century, some followers of the Zoroastrian religion fled to the surrounding mountains and deserts to escape forced conversion to Islam. In a long and narrow valley in the Karkas Mountains, north of Isfahan, the Zoroastrians is believed to have founded a string of villages. Abyaneh is one of the last surviving village of the valley.

Abyaneh is located at the foot of Karkas Mountain, 70 kilometers southeast of Kashan in Isfahan province, in Iran. The ancient village is a muddle of narrow and sloped lanes, and crumbling mud-brick houses with lattice windows and fragile wooden balconies that cling to the slope. The terrain around Abyaneh contains iron oxides which give it a reddish colour, and because the houses are built with mud bricks they have the same colour as the rock above the village.

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