“Corn Along a River” Marion Post Wolcott, 1940. Library of Congress.
My overview of American government goes generally like this: (1) Something happens. (2) The government passes some laws in response to it, adds on a few pork projects, and raises taxes to pay for the laws and the pork. (3) The laws (or pork) cause an entirely new problem. (4) Repeat.
The usual outcome of this cycle is that every year we have more laws and higher taxes. But every so often, some accidental side effect occurs and something awesomely good happens. So it was during the alphabet-soup days of New Deal government during the Great Depression. The accidental side effect was the Golden Age of American Photography. How it happened is rather interesting. Read more…
On Tuesday, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by militants, resulting in the deaths of ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his staff. In an article reporting on the attack, The New York Times included a photograph that reportedly showed a bloody and unconscious Stevens, moments away from death. The image caused outrage with some readers, and soon attracted the attention of the United States government, which asked the Times to pull the photo. The Times said no. Read more…
You probably know of the iconic photograph titled Migrant Mother, but do you know the government photo project that led to its creation? Between 1935 and 1943, the US Government launched the largest photo project in the history of the country through its Resettlement Administration (RA) — later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The project enlisted the likes of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange to help educate citizens in the East about what was going on in the West, and the giant PR campaign ended up producing over 170,000 photos and one of the most important photo collections in the US. The lecture above by Yale student Lauren Tilton offers a brief history lesson on this project.
Ever wonder how the US government managed to capture spy photos with satellites during the Cold War without the help of digital cameras, computers, or wireless transmission? The Atlantic has a fascinating article on the various techniques that were used:
From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles (100 kilometers) of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth’s atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks.
Facial recognition technology has become ubiquitous in recent years, being found in everything from the latest compact camera to websites like Facebook. The same may soon be said about location recognition. Through a new project called “Finder“, the US government military research division IARPA is looking into how to quickly and automatically identify where a photograph was taken without any geotag data. The goal is to use only the identifying features found in the background of scenes to determine the location — kinda like facial recognition except for landscapes.
Between 1969 and 1972, NASA left 12 Hasselblad cameras on the moon to make room for moon rocks. One camera that wasn’t left there was a 16mm camera called the “Data Acquisition Camera” used during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. It’s now in the center of a legal dispute between the US government and astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to set foot on the moon. Mitchell claims that NASA allowed him to keep the camera as a souvenir after the mission, while NASA says that no evidence of this transfer ever took place. The camera was slated to be auctioned for an estimated $60,000-$80,000, but now NASA is suing Mitchell to get the camera back. The lawsuit states,
All equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party.
Looks like those Hasselblads on the moon aren’t free for the taking after all. Shucks.