Category Archives: Uncategorized

Father of the Selfie.

Self-portrait, 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Self-portrait, 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

A brief piggy-back post, touting the depths of Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collections. Aside from his Farm Security Administration photographs held at the Library of Congress, the archive of American Photographer, Walker Evans (1903-1975) is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and accessible via the online collections. Walker Evans not only photo-documented American life, and often plight, resulting in heightened awareness of economic conditions and urging social change; he did it poetically. When looking through  8,000+ of Evan’s photography hosted by the Met, his mastery of portraiture strikes me the most. His profound ability to capture deep meaning or mystery in just a glance, reveal or conceal clandestine thoughts by way of light and shadow, or change sentiment with a tilt of the camera angle to artfully capture bone structure. It is no wonder he was also able to capture this in his self-portraits. If these selfies don’t melt your heart, you should check your pulse. You should also check out all of his photography, as it is a celebrated, dreamy documentation at America(ns): from rural village(r)s to New York City urban(ites) sights. I have a particular fondness for a collection of ‘instant print‘ Polaroids taken in the last years of his life.

Self-Portrait in Sunglasses Before Bookshelf, 48 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York. 1929. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Self-Portrait in Sunglasses Before Bookshelf, 48 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York. 1929. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Self-portrait Seated on Floor, Holding Cigarette, 1930-1932. Evans, Walker (1903-1975).  Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: www.metmuseum.org/

Self-portrait Seated on Floor, Holding Cigarette, 1930-1932. Evans, Walker (1903-1975). Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: http://www.metmuseum.org/

Shadow Self-Portrait Profile,  January 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Shadow Self-Portrait Profile, January 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Shadow Self-Portrait Right Profile Wearing Hat,  January 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

Shadow Self-Portrait Right Profile Wearing Hat, January 1927. Courtesy of Walker Evans Archive: metmuseum.org

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Yeaah Rijks.

Fast Simplex Strong, Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig, 1900 – 1910. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl/

Fast Simplex Strong, Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig, 1900 – 1910. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl/

No copyright restrictions, no watermarks, and hassle-free high quality downloadable images – No problem!  When dealing with museum collections online: Yeah right, one (digital archive enthusiast) might say.

The national museum of the Netherlands, Rijksmuseum, just re-opened in April, 2013 after nearly 10 year closure dedicated to building renovations and digitizing its collection.

Girl in white kimono, George Hendrik Breitner, 1894.  Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

Girl in white kimono, George Hendrik Breitner, 1894.
Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

Focusing on Netherlands history, from the medieval era to present day, Dutch artists and masterpieces dominate the collection. Currently there are 125k high resolution images (2500 x 2500 pixels, 300 dpi) which allows close inspection of cracks, brush strokes, and other signs of age and imperfections that can illuminate the lifespan and history of a piece of art (click on images for resolution gratification). AND, of course reproductions.

Delft Salad Oil, Jan Toorop, 1894. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

Delft Salad Oil, Jan Toorop, 1894. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

Not only are high resolution downloads available, the user interface is easy and user-friendly. If an item has copyright restrictions, it can’t be downloaded: simple. But the Rijksmuseum doesn’t stop at providing free access to images, they encourage creative use of artworks. The Rijksstudio gives users the ability to add items (or snippets of images) to various user created sets. Images can be then be purchased in several formats: poster, canvas, aluminum, or Plexiglas.

Image Example

However, images are at such a quality users are encouraged to use artwork at their own creative whims and the upload re-works to share with other users. Still life tattoo, anyone? A masterpiece for your milk carton? User sets can be made public which can be useful in browsing the collection to see others’ created sets. This can be helpful since although the site can be viewed in English, only the metadata field titles are translated, not the content of those fields. Meaning, keyword searches are more fruitful when translated in Dutch.  For me, I found it extremely helpful to have two Google Translate open:  one for English to Dutch / the other for Dutch to English for title and description translation.While this is an extra step and could be an annoyance for some, being overly catered to as an English speaker I found it a good exercise in accommodating another language. And, I even learned a few new words:  canal – kanaal, summer – zomer, winter – winter.

View of Houses in Delft, known as 'the street', Johannes Vermeer, ca 1658. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

View of Houses in Delft, known as ‘the street’, Johannes Vermeer, ca 1658. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

While extensive metadata fields, often linking to related objects, are provided for each record, the coolest feature (to me) is search-ability by color. When looking at each image, a color palate is displayed for that image which allows users to click on a specific color which then yields all other items in the collection with that color. Color classification and search-ability adds to the usability of the Rijksmuseum collection as a visual resource for the arts. The generosity of Rijksmuseum to provide high quality, free images of artworks in an innovative interface might just redefine the phrase: Going Dutch.

Tile panel with the country's ship Rotterdam and the herring fleet, Tile Bakery at the Delft canal, ca 1700 - ca 1725. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

Tile panel with the country’s ship Rotterdam and the herring fleet, Tile Bakery at the Delft canal, ca 1700 – ca 1725. Retrieved from: rijksmuseum.nl

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