Some think that Walker Evans can travel through time just by holding up a camera.

In 1974, the sociologist Jib Fowler coined a concept called “Chronocentrism”. It describes “the belief that one’s own times are paramount, that other periods pale in comparison”.

I noted down the term when I read about it, as I found it particularly relevant for today; particularly descriptive of something I’ve…

Each era’s dominant technology shapes how we picture it. With Apple embracing wide-angle lenses, the next years are going broaden our horizons.

When we look at photographs, the perspective is determined by what was the dominant imaging technology of their age. The most obvious example for this is photographic film: Starting out in black and white, later turning into color, the whims of film manufacturers determined the chromatics of an entire era.

Between 1978 and 1997, a Polish photographer tried capturing every household in her homeland. She got quite far. Did she also get carried away?

An epic quest

It’s 1982 in the Polish People’s Republic. Time seems to stand still in the countryside near Kraków. An old woman with a crooked back walks from house to house, dragging behind her a tripod and a camera.

She knocks on doors, tells the startled inhabitants that she is there to…

The future of the camera is algorithmic. But as technical constraints tumble, a crucial part of photography might be getting lost.

Earlier this week, Google showed off an impressive new technology. Called “Night Sight”, it’s a software solution that makes it possible to take smartphone photos in virtual darkness — with impressive results.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the future of cameras is algorithmic: As digital sensor advancements have largely plateaued…

Riding the ropeways of Stalin’s impossible mining city.

Stalin had a utopian streak.

The Soviet Union’s second leader is rightly known for his brutality in crushing enemies and dissidents alike. But in the 1950s he used some of his might to build a “workers’ paradise”: It’s a mining city called Chiatura, located in the Caucasus mountains of Georgia.

I traveled to Stockholm to ask photographer Anders Petersen how he takes his photos—and got a some very different answers than I expected.

For the newest episode of Available Light (Apple Podcasts/Soundcloud/Google Play), I spoke with Swedish photographer Anders Petersen about his unique approach to photography. I was inspired to interview him after seeing a particular image of his:

Why looking at the past in color is such an uncanny experience.

We tend to think of the past in black and white. Since color photography only became mainstream in the 1970s, anything from before is usually pictured in monochrome. Flip through an old photo album and you see smiling grey faces, people in grey clothes, driving grey cars. …

How a Mexican photographer captured something that can’t be seen.

Qué chiquito es el mundo, 1942

Here’s a simple but curious photo, taken by the photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo: A black and white shot of a street scene. We see an exposed brick wall under a dark sky with diagonal power lines cutting through the clouds above it. In the foreground there’s a sidewalk, gleaming in…

Why bad writing undermines great design — and what to do about it.

I have a favorite definition of the word ‘design’: “to do or plan something with a specific purpose in mind.” It’s a broad definition, sure, but I like that it puts concrete outcomes first — even before aesthetics and functionality.

The reason I’m rehashing it here is start a discussion…

In the 1950s, early color photography was widely scorned. Now it’s the default. What happened?

Prologue: No Space for Dreams

In 2015, Leica released a beautiful, ridiculous ad. It was for a special product in their lineup; a digital camera that only takes black and white photos.

The clip itself is strangely compelling. Set to hypnotizing black and white patterns, a calm voiceover says B&W is purer than color. The…

Lars Mensel

I write about visual culture and host the photo podcast Available Light. www.larsmensel.com

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