Tag Archives: america

Signs vs. symbols

It’s elementary semiotics: signs are universally acknowledged whereas symbols are more personal, societal. Feel free to use any adjective denoting subjectivity.

Graphic design is the practice of perpetually crafting symbols to represent a business, company, association or product. The eventuality that the symbol becomes a universal sign is circumstance, luck and above all, good design. It is the combination of all three that comprises the recipe for graphic design immortality and one example comes to mind: Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser is the graphic designer behind the I Heart NY graphic that can be found at all the tourist shops in New York City. The simplicity of the graphic has made it a sign that has inspired many copycats to, well, copy and reinterpret Glaser’s work with the American Typewriter typeface, my personal favourite.

The red heart on Glaser’s graphic has been adapted to a maple leaf, in the case for Toronto, the Apple sign for the Apple Store in (irony!) New York City, a clover for Ireland and the list goes on. I think collecting all of the ‘tributes’ to Milton Glaser’s clean and simple work would make for a great book, if there is not one already in print. Taschen, I called this one.

It still boggles my mind how low of a priority graphic design is for organizations, yet we admire branding that has become an everyday presence among us. (Apple, anyone? or Nike’s swoosh?) Graphic designers are the unsung heroes of commerce and individuals working in business should realize that there is more to graphic design than font size and typefaces; creativity and vision are also very important.


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‘Coolness’ not for sale; on Leon Levinstein’s New York

New York City is a giant ball of energy that cannot be summed up in a few words. The streets hum with the eventual white noise that becomes that backdrop to the metropolis. It is the big city of big cities. Inspiration and aspiration become a two-headed mystical creature, fuelling people’s everyday grind.

The Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection never ceases to amaze me. The standout exhibition, in my humble opinion is Hipsters, Hustlers and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein’s New York Photographs 1950-1980. I have never heard of the photographer nor of his work. However, upon entering the modest white room in the modern art wing of the expansive museum, it is clear that his work carries the grandiosity that would shame the biggest of installations.

I tried looking for more information on the man and found that there is very little known about the photographer. He lived a very  quiet and solitary life, continuously occupied with his work. He refused any prizes or any recognition from his contemporaries, a move so bizarre given the rise of commercial photography and the luxurious life that his fellow photographers led at the time. Here I leave his work to speak for itself, as he has during his lifetime.


Filed under art, City Life, Photography, travel

…and all that jazz

In Millenium Park

A sculpture by Henry Moore

Pylon installation by the Merchandise Mart

Untitled by Picasso

An untitled sculpture by Picasso, a gift to the city

My delayed update is totally unreasonable. In internet years, the two weeks that I have not etched a mark on cyberspace would call for fireworks reminiscent of the Fourth of July during America’s bicentennial. Speaking of America, I was away for a couple of days, partaking in NeoCon, the interior design and architecture trade show, in Chicago.

Chicago is the urban planner’s wet dream, knowing that the city was built with the people in mind. Unlike Toronto, Chicago’s development was based on the nature of its surroundings; with a river running through its core, the L train system zigzags across the city on an elevated rail system, connecting both north and south Chicago areas.

Civic conversations with Chicagoans always involve the word of ‘architecture.’ With landmark structures always at a stone’s throw, residents are always keen to impart little known facts about the history of a given intersection. Newly transplanted Chicagoans from other parts of the US are eager to help because finding healthier food choices is difficult, if not defeating at times.

Design enthusiasts should make the pilgrimage to the birth place of modern architecture. Artists like Van Der Rohe, Gehry and Lloyd Wright have influenced the way people live in ways that can easily be overlooked. Going unnoticed is a good indication of smart design. Judging by the way people get around the city, either by bike, bus or foot, Chicago is a city built for living. If life is a performance art, one should be honoured to have Chicago as a stage, even for three days. Bravo. Encore.

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Ansel Adams, I’m not.

There is a shortage of sublime photography.  It could be that humans are becoming more visually driven to the point that photographic images that were once magical are just the norm.  The mentioned norm includes bundles of digital data that depicting the debauchery of a Saturday night or an album of ‘candid’ photos of homeless people.  Awe is divorced from the Image.

What people do not know is that even today, serious landscape photography is done with large format cameras that would put the weight of a portable heater to shame.  Field cameras that people imagine to have been left for dead in favour of expensive digital camera gear.  The truth is, the resolution on a large format film is so much better than the best digital camera on the market.

Ansel Adams’ landscape photography was done on a field camera.  The detail and the poetry in each of his prints still outdo the best landscape photography of the digital age.  The most advanced digital camera that costs as much as my education and a half could not meet the a large format’s image quality.

A lot of contemporary photographers use a compromise between analog by capturing the wanted image on a 4×5 format film and then using a high resolution scanner that could be the equivalent of 100 megapixels.

The 35mm format film was conceived for photojournalism before the digital era.  It was a very convenient way of transporting film supply while on task without hassle.  With the speed that news has to travel in cyberspace, it is so hard to conceive that photojournalism once involved people carrying film cameras, processing the rolls of film, doing enlarged prints of each frame, photo editing, then again editing, and then printing.  Digital photography has increased the turnover for news.  Can you imagine tabloids pre-digital? All of it was and is still junk but think of the physical garbage that one generates for one photo of a celebrity committing adultery.  How many frames were wasted to get that one Fergie-toe-sucking photo to start that scandal in the 1990s? I digress; I think that tabloid culture would not be where it is, if it were not for digital.

Photography that moves and that entrances the visual mind is done frivolously.  It requires practice, careful study of the craft, patience and the proper equipment.

As for me, 35mm is still my preferred format.  This is out of convenience and the kind of photography that I do.  Street photography is capturing life in the city, no matter how big or small.  It is compelling to see good images depicting the lives of people when they are in transition from home to work or to school.  Perhaps to meet a lover or to secure a business deal.  Either way, I feel that film’s tangibility is the most attractive element to the craft.  I am currently experimenting with 120 film because of the bigger and higher resolution prints that it makes.  I guess, in photography, size matters.

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Found: Digital Camera at Christie Pits

In the spirit of the season and also becauseI am an honest person, I am posting to find out how effective the internet is.

I found a camera on the ground at Christie Pits.  It was a cold day full of walking around in the cold, hungry and then there was this black holster that I thought would be empty.  Now, I have lost a camera before in Berlin.  I am pretty analog regarding, camera-wise, and my camera had a whole roll of my brief stay in Hamburg and Berlin until the time of said camera loss.

If you know anyone who is in town, on an American-Canadian tour, of Asian descent (as seen in the photos in camera’s memory), please let me know.

If you recognize the dog above and name a couple of cities that you visited and recorded digitally, please let me know.

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