Robert L. Peters

5 February 2009

Easily fooled…


Kyoto, Japan

Although we live in a WYSIWYG world in which “seeing is believing,” as a species, we’re actually quite easily fooled… which I quite enjoy. I’ve posted before (here) about the illusionary work of Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto. (Warning: his site “contains some works of ‘anomalous motion illusion,’ which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick [e.g. epileptic seizures, which can happen if the brain can’t handle conflicting information from your two eyes]). Check out Akiyoshi’s latest visual illusions (along with lucid explanations of the related phenomena) here.

Images: the Rotating Snakes above appear to move in a circular fashion, though this is actually a still image; the Runway on the right appears to tilt from the vertical more than the one on the left, even though both are identical; similarly, the horizontally aligned rows of Chromosomes appear to tilt (though the lines are parallel). So don’t believe everything you see…

2 February 2009

Leningrad’s haunting past…




St. Petersburg, Russia

All too often we forget the hardship experienced by generations past, especially during certain wars, yet some people have a profound way of reflecting on times gone by, presenting their take on the world in a new light. These haunting, hybrid images of past and present St. Petersburg—formerly known as Leningrad—are the works of Sergei Larenkov. After studying old images of the city, Larenkov visited the same spots, capturing them on film. He then digitally superimposed the old image over new, producing these eerie and thought-provoking shots.

Like ghosts captured forever on film the scenes depict all too clearly a harshness that can result only from times of war. The 900-day Siege of Leningrad, also known as The Leningrad Blockade, lasted from 9 September 1941 to 27 January 1944—just over 65 years ago—and was one of the longest and most destructive sieges of major cities in modern history, and second most costly…

“During nine hundred(!) days a few million people in the city of Leningrad suffered from cold and hunger, being deprived of almost all supplies of food and fuel. Many thousands died; those who survived remember this not very willingly. The situation with food was so heavy, no food was sold/distributed among people except a few grams (not even tens or hundred grams) of bread, and not each day, that people had to eat stuff that they would never eat in normal life, like making soups of leather boots (because leather is of animal origin) or boiling the wallpaper because the glue with which they were attached to walls contained a bit of organic stuff. Of course many occasions of cannibalism occurred.”

See more images at English Russia, here. Thanks Adrian for the link.

31 January 2009

After El Lissitzky…


Somewhere in Sweden

What goes around comes around, right? Henning Cedmar-Brandstedt kindly drew my attention to a sweet bit of serendiptous trivia today… it seems that in 1933, a mere three years after El Lissitzy designed his famous poster Russische Ausstellung 1929 (a copy of which I have hanging in my home and about which I posted last year here), the Swedish Socialist Party (Women’s League) created a valaffisch (election poster) which borrows directly the ‘merged heads’ (depicting gender equality) first used by El Lissitzky. The kicker? In a 2006 poll of Swedish union members the derivative poster was voted as “the best looking poster in Swedish history”—methinks El Lissitzky would be proud.

Thanks, Henning!

Worth 1000 words…







Paris, France

Sometimes you just don’t need captions. René Maltête (1930-2000) was a French “illustrative photographer,” poet, non-conformist, and pacifist who learned his craft in the école de la rue and practiced with a penchant for humor and a keen understanding of “the human condition.”

(Thanks to Guy Schockaert for introducing René to me).

30 January 2009

The Places We Live






in slums, around the world

For the first time in history more people now live in cities than in rural areas. Of those urban dwellers, a third—approximately 1 billion—live in slums, ghettos, shantytowns, and favelas. (I’ve had the chance to see some of these first-hand in places such as Johannesburg, Mumbai, the outskirts of Sao Paulo—the memories are haunting and raise serious questions about the “great divides” within humankind and between us “haves” and “have-nots.”)

“The United Nations forecasts that the number of slum dwellers will double in the next 25 years. Urban slums are the fastest-growing human habitat. The UN defines slums as poor, overcrowded communities lacking adequate access to safe water and sanitation, public services, basic infrastructure, and quality housing. Slums exist outside the official city grid, built without architects or municipal maps, and are in a constant state of transition.”

Check out the telling documentary photographs and touching narratives of slum dwellers in The Places We Live, here (heart-wrenching images from Caracas, Venezuela; Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; and Jakarta, Indonesia).

(Thanks for the link, Gregor).

29 January 2009

Mimmo Cozzolino… resurfaced.





Melbourne, Australia

Well, well, well… my crazy old friend Mimmo Cozzolino broke radio silence today with the launch of a wicked new website, here. I first met Mimmo in Sydney a decade ago (the 1999 Icograda/ICSID/IFI World Congress), bent elbows with him a few times in shadowy bars after that, and then crossed paths (in the same building) for a period of time during my stint as Designer in Residence in the Faculty of Art & Design at Monash University in Melbourne. Of course I’d known of Mimmo long before I first met him—by dent of his seminal historic work on the book Symbols of Australia (which I later drew from liberally in the feature piece I wrote on design in Oz for Communication Arts magazine a few years back, 2.5 MB PDF here).

My recommendation? Visit Mimmo’s new site for an eclectic and inspirational experience (and to better understand the select images above) and to see what can happen when a talented career designer switches over to art photographer.

Good to know you’re still kicking it, mate! Cheers!

27 January 2009

A nod to Heartfield…


Berlin, Germany

John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) was a German artist whose politically charged photomontages were banned in his home country during the Nazi regime (John changed his name in part as a way to protest the rabid nationalism and anti-British sentiment of World War I)—during the Weimar period he became a member of the Berlin Dada group. He was rediscovered in the German Democratic Republic in the late 1950s… since then his activism and work has influenced generations of artists and graphic designers.

Image: The cross was not heavy enough; collage.

26 January 2009

Gung Hei Fat Choy! Sun Leen Fai Lok!


Best wishes to all on this Chinese New Year’s Day—the Year of the Ox.

25 January 2009

Robbie Burns at 250… forever young.


Scotland and beyond…

Today is Robbie Burns day, as well as the famous Scottish bard’s 250th birthday—around the world, Scots, honorary Scots, Scots-by-marriage and wannabe Scots are celebrating with banquets and toasting with single malts in honour of Scotland’s 18th-century versifier, a poet “who has mysteriously acquired a celebrity in death that vastly outshines the public reputations of other great poets.” Burns’ lyrical voice rings true across the centuries, and he has been lauded as the “authentic representation of the romantic spirit of the common man.”

Here’s one of my favorites of Robbie’s poems, a piece penned in 1785 (with a glossary to help decipher archaic terms in the poem here—just click on the underlined words):

+  +  + +  +

To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi’ bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,

Has broken nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

Which makes thee startle

At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,

An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen icker in a thrave

‘S a sma’ request;

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,

An’ weary winter comin fast,

An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,

Thou thought to dwell-

Till crash! the cruel coulter past

Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,

Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

But house or hald,

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,

An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain;

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men

Gang aft agley,

An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me

The present only toucheth thee:

But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.

On prospects drear!

An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,

I guess an’ fear!

23 January 2009

Dada da-day…




Yes, it’s been a Dada kind of da-day…

Images above: Typical Vertical Mess as Depiction of the Dada Baargeld, 1920, by Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Greunwald), German, 1892-1927; Kleine Dada soirée Haagsche K.K. [lithographic proof], January 1923(?), by Theo van Doesburg (Christian Emil Marie Küpper), Dutch, 1883-1931; ABCD (self-portrait, photomontage from 1923-24), Raoul Hausmann, Austrian, 1886-1971.

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