Still moving!

Moving lies.

Those who follow me across the various social media platform know that I am a photo-enthusiast. Back in my student years though I chaired the video association. I used to produce short films with a bunch of friends to capture the student life through its events, sport performances, parties, seminars, binging... Lot of fun and also a realization: when editing videos you can easily manipulate the truth. You can make people believe. Two characters can appear to be in the same room whilst they were not for instance... This was an eye-opener, because if I were able to achieve that effect with our very restricted means, what could the bigger media corporations do?!? I since went back to my first love, still images and photography. I am not saying that I went back to photography because they are more trust-worthy, in fact they can lie as well as films (read this interview of multi-talented artist David Hockney from the Guardian)... It's just that I personaly prefer a single lie to 24 lies a second!

With the rise of digital a new array of possibilities have become accessible to the masses. And with them people are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, even more easily. David Hockney for instance enjoyed doing
photo-collages back in the analog era. He was thus showing the bigger picture through smaller ones. He used to achive that manually with loads of print outs of a bespoke subject, glue, and patience. The results in his portfolio are exceptional, to my mind. And they are great because you can see the process through the result. A bit like Impressionism which is showing you the landscape through brush strokes.

Nowadays, softwares enable you to automatically stitch batches of pictures by recognising common denominators in the landscape. I personnaly feel that the result look a bit clinical, and consequently fake. So I prefer to adopt a more manual, though digital way, and accept the imperfections. It is maybe a way to demystify the lie some could say... Here is a link to a panography tutorial if you are interested to experience it by yourself (beware, this is both time-consuming and addictive!), and some of my own collages:

But I am not saying that the softwares that enable you to turn still images into more than a 10x15 piece of paper are bad. Let's take a look at Microsoft Photosynth for instance. This is a brilliant piece of software by the Redmond giant which does exactly what I mentioned above: it looks at 2D images, identify common visual denominators, and stich them to create a 3D image that you can explore. The best thing? These pictures do not have to have been taken by a single individual, on the contrary the diversity of the point of views enable a greater experience. I find this really bluffing. For instance, here you can explore Venice, the Piazza San Marco, the Doge palace... All that by photosynthing something like 500 snapshots by tourists. You are not into pizzas, and preferbig historical event? Well, Microsoft and CNN partnered to capture the Obama Inauguration speech through PhotoSynth. Zoom in from the back row to the speech balcony thanks to the thousands of people who were in Washington that day and snapped... Finally here is another example for the couch potatoes on how Photosynth can help the CSI experts to solve a crime using the camera phones!

Moving though still.

There is another techniques based on still image that has been around for a while and which I keep on being baffled about: Stop Motion. I already wrote about it in a previous blog post as this original technique is becoming popular again in short movies, advertising, etc. And when I say 'original', I really mean it: it is the origins of cinema. You can indeed manualy create a movement by collating still images at the right pace. Your eyes and brain do the rest, i.e. extrapolate the missing pieces to provide a smooth movement.

Here is another great example of genuine creativity through stop motion:

To read further:

  • London in Stop Motion, a visit of the UK capital on a Daft Punk beat.
  • Bunn-invasion, an article featuring a stop-motion advert for Sony Bravia which hides a bit more than just a unique selling proposition...


Ride on the edge of difference

I like to ride my bicycle...

I appreciate people who dare to do things differently, and you can only admit that Danny MacAskill does things differently with his bike. Neither gravity, nor edges or handrails seem to prevent him from riding the street of Edinburg, Scotland. The best thing is still to let the artist speak for himself, or at least demonstrate his expertise...

Filmed over the period of a few months in and around Edinburgh by Dave Sowerby, this video of Inspired Bicycles team rider Danny MacAskill features probably the best collection of street/street trials riding ever seen. There's some huge riding, but also some of the most technically difficult and imaginative lines you will ever see. Without a doubt, this video pushes the envelope of what is perceived as possible on a trials bike. Credit to Band of Horses for their epic song 'The Funeral.' You can find out more about the band and their music at www.bandofhorses.com.

Just one thing, Danny, you are so busy jumping around that you have not realised that some one stole your saddle a couple weeks back. Beware, it could really hurt.

To read further:


Be Welsh!

Great Britain is... great. It is a patchwork of nations. I have often shared my enthusiasm for Scotland but I recently bumped into this webcast by David Mitchell in which he bitches about lot of things. The British comedian who also stars in the UK-version of the PC vs. Mac advertising campaign, looks at the British society, its flaws, etc. In the below-stated clip, Mitchell pays a tribute to the Welsh nation, with great humour. I simply love it:

To read further:


In-form uniforms

6-a-side and 6-pack.

For those who are actively following my activities (I love you mum) through the various social media platforms you must now be aware that I am back on track with my sporting life. Before moving to the UK I used to play really regularly volley ball. I am not talking about working on my tanning in a cute little bathing suit whilst flexing my abs every time a lady walked by... No, I am talking about regular indoor volley ball, 6 on 6, no sand, just hard (really hard) ground.

"Regularly" means, sorry "meant", two two-hour practices per week plus matches on the week-end. Usually that was just enough to remain sharp and to leave my professional stress in a locker. But let's face it, after 18 years jumping and digging around, winning a few medals on the way like a University National Champion title in 1998, the skin of my knees and my meniscii were asking for some relief. I thus decided to grant them and stopped playing when I crossed the Channel in 2005. Since then, the harsh combination of
Cornish Pasties and sudden lack of exercise have had a dramatic effect on my athletic silhouette. Bye bye 6-Pack, hello "one-pack with handles"!

Merry Christmas... she said.

Of course I could not decently let my beautiful body down, and as decided in my
2008 resolutions, I joined a gym and got on a diet. Not enough apparently for my beloved better-half who had the brilliant idea to offer me for Christmas a forced registration for the Annecy Half Marathon. Got the message, I love you too...

Obviously the great thing about volleyball is that it is played indoor, on a 9m by 18m field. So it suited perfectly my taste for explosive short sprints in a warm environment, rather than endurance runs in the freezing countryside. But as I said above, I have now quited my career of volleyball player, so I have to discover the joys of the other sports. As a result, since January I am regularly running on the Thames banks and around Hyde Park. Every two days, 10km as a minimum. And when I really want more, I go to the gym...

Uniforms... Doh.

My gym being part of the Fulham and Hammersmith borrough infrastructure, it is also visited by the local schools. It is therefore not too rare to share the apparels with a bunch of girls in their school uniforms.

Now this is something quite odd to me. Obviously after a few years in the UK I am now used to seeing all these pupils in their uniforms in the tube. The boys with their stripped ties half done over a stained white shirt, the girls in skirts and dark tights. But to see the later in the gym with skirts over jogging pants is really puzzling me. I don't get it. It seems to me like a desperate attempt to respect outdated traditions, no matter the practicity of it.

I understand why the school uniforms. It is statutory for the private schools and set their pupils aside from the crowd... A social statement that will one day be replaced by an expensive car or silk suits. In public schools, the interest is different. It is a way to normalise the different social classes. All students are equals: no one can boast an expensive pair of sneakers or a fancy designer sweatshirt... This should enable to avoid tensions linked to different buying power, or even racket.

Tradition versus practicity and pragmatism.

As a child of the Republique, this social value is critical to me. "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" (Freedom, Equality, Fraternity) is indeed the motto of the French Republic. It is thus critical that everyone has equal chances, especially in terms of education. Back in the 60s, all French pupils attending state schools (by opposition of private catholic schools) were wearing grey blouses as a uniform. One model, no fancy accessories. Everyone dressed in the same dresscode. The only eventual difference were maybe the buttons of the trousers (which inspired
a book to Louis Pergaud, "the Button War" where two bands of village boys are fighting over a treasure of buttons). It was a social choice, combined with some pragmatism, i.e. avoiding the children to get dirty.

But soon enough these codes relaxed to enable individual expression, non-conformism... And practicity. For instance, the technical evolution of sport gear and the intensity of exercises rapidly required the sport gear to evolve. You could no longer run with basic shoes, or you would risk to damage some ankles and knees in the process. The State is of course responsible for the physical integrity of the pupils. It is also supposed to remain commercially unbiaised: as a result it could not encourage parents to buy a given brand of sport shoes. The decision to buy or not shifted to the parents...

So you can wonder whether school uniforms are good or not. In Italy the politicians are considering bringing them back after dropping them in the 60s. France is more reluctant, maybe because uniforms relates to an iconography of private education.

I personaly understand the social dynamic behind the debate, but for god sake let's remain pragmatic. There is no need for a girl to wear skirts in all circumstances, and certainly not over a trouser... Why would they? To make it clear that they are girls? Let's level social differences, but at the same time let's stay away from sexual discrimination. Girls don't need to be ridiculous in a sport uniform. Otherwise, how do you want to cheer desperate sportsmen like me to finish their gruelling endurance programmes, seriously?

To read further:

Edit: for the curious, I ran the above-mentionned half marathon in 1 hour 56 minutes... And celebrated that with a delicious cheese fondue. Well worth it!