WMMNA points us towards Andrew Schneider’s BlinkCam captures a Polaroid self portrait each and every time he blinks. Why? “Every year each of us lose about 192 hours of valuable visual sight time to blinking. That’s eight days of blink.” 30*To think, I’m in my thirties and I am heading towards pissing a year’s worth of sight by blinking! [via]


Grand Illusions Music Box Set & Otokibako Music Box Kit

Two for one special offer post! Here are a cool couple of music boxes that I came across on the same day. First of all, the Grand Illusions Music Box and a small update on the classic music box. Instead of being hard wired (or should that be pinned) to play a single tune, the Grand Illusions Music Box includes card strips and a hole punch so that you can punch your own tunes out and play them. The Otokibako Music Box on the other hand, is an electronic version that does similar tricks. However, this time you program the tune on a PC, print out a card strip with black markings on, feed it into the Otokibako Music Box and crank the handle. [via & via respectively]


Alex Fakso’s Heavy Metal Book Review

About a year ago, I was reading an issue of Graphotism when I happened across an interview with an Italian photographer named Alex Fakso. The interview was accompanied by a few of his photos depicting a gritty and grainy underworld of graffiti writing. These were unlike most graff photos that I had previously seen as they weren’t just shot’s of final pieces or black-book sketches or actions shots per se but fly on the wall documents of the illegal missions that graff’s traditions holds so strong; painting trains…or Heavy Metal as they are known in Italy. It turns out that Alex himself used to be a writer but has since taken to the camera to document the art form rather than to paint himself. Since then I’ve spent spent many an evening trying to find out more information about a book that was being promoted in the article. Fakso’s website remained under construction for those months (and still does) and my searching remained fruitless. I saw some tasty teasers but still no book. It appears that the book hit other regions in Europe but not the UK and US. Well, here I am, a year later, in the lucky position of sitting over the fine piece of art itself, Alex Fakso’s Heavy Metal and it should be hitting the shelves in the UK, courtesy of Damiani any time now.

It is said, in the preface of Heavy Metal, that Alex Fakso believes what Robert Capa once said – if a war photo wasn’t any good then the photographer wasn’t close enough. I guess this should have read as some kind of warning as to what Heavy Metal was going to be like because being up close is an understatement when describing Alex Fakso’s photos; you’re almost on top/underneath/to the side of the whole scene. You really do get a feel for the calm, the chaos and also the precision of the writers missions…the whole missions. He has captured the writers masking up, entering yards and tunnels via fences and manhole covers respectively, crawling under the trains to get to the ones they need to, trains are prepared by having the plastic covering removed, they paint their piece, stand back for that split second to see their work before preparing their getaway. There are also momentary glances from the writers. Some are posed but some are caught off guard. These really do speak loudly. In fact, I can go as far to say that these images speak louder than that of any other photographers that I can think of…of any photographic style or subject matter for that matter. Maybe it’s just my deep interest in graffiti as an art-form, the tradition of train painting or just my love of photography but these photos truly manage to convey a real feeling of being there.

Most of his photos are taken in low or artificial light but he doesn’t allow the low light to be a problem. Alex uses film to capture his photo. Fast film and a tripod rule the night. To say that he focuses on the moment he clicks the shutter release cable rather than on any particular piece of graffiti is an understatement. In fact, there is hardly any graffiti in Heavy Metal at all. There are tags here and there and even a few pieces but they are far removed from the focus of the moment.The best example of this (and one photo that does actually contain a large piece of garffiti) is one of my favourite photos in the book. There’s a great piece covering the lower half of a carriage with a ghost writer doing his thing. It’s one of those moments captured on film that is so much more than the sum of its parts (or should that be arts?!). Fill in flash rather than an overpowering blast retains all the mood and atmosphere of the evening’s low light but is enough to capture the writer but the exposure time is also enough for his image to be burnt through the film. It’s a stunning wide-screen fisheye beauty but it’s just a single example of how amazing the other photos are in Heavy Metal.

It’s not all about the wide angle shots though. There are some impressive portraits here too. They are often just silhouettes or even photos of peoples backs but, again, this always seems to add a certain something to his photos. I really should stop calling them images and photos because, for me at least, they are so much more…they are cinematic. What really surprises me most is that some of these portraits are far from anonymous. There are many balaclavas, scarves, hands, and slow-shutter blurring around the writers’ faces but there are also some faces that are not hidden at all. I can’t quite get my head around this aspect of the photos. I guess that many writers are coming out of the closet and not concerned with the legal aspects of this.

In the forward, Alsex speaks of how he can look back at his photos and remember the lights and smells from each one. I’ve dipped my toe in the world of urbex a few times and feel that I can relate to the way in which Fakso talks about how he remembers each image playing out in real life. I to can look through my urbex photos and the whole moment comes flooding back. I can remember so mcuh about each one that they alsmost become super-real…not just the obvious stuff but all the other stuff that normally gets filtered out (what other people were saying, what position I had to get into to get the photos, etc.). I can also distinctly remember how adrenaline fuelled my urbex trips were but these simply couldn’t compare with how vivid Fakso’s memories must be after doing what he has to do to get to these images of these train yard invaders. You would think that you could only imagine how adrenaline fuelled his outings must have been by studying these dark and grainy images but the truth is that as each image draws you in and envelops you with grain and darkness you can almost feel some of what Fakso, and the writers he has accompanied, must have felt in that fleeting moment.

With it’s 164 pages in a landscape format (11.8 x 7.1 inches) hardcover it also kind of feels like an oversized flickerbook. Sure, it doesn’t work as an animation but you do feel that no matter how quickly you flick through Heavy Metal that each shot jumps out at you as it must have for the writers as the shutter made its drawn out exposure and flash popped to freeze the frame. To say that this is the very best graffiti photography book that I have seen is a huge understatement too. I’ve not seen anything come close to the quality and atmosphere that Alex has captured. For most of us this will be the closest we’ll get to the sights, frights, thrills, smells and the sounds of what these writers endure to get up. You’ll be able to pick up Heavy Metal now direct from Damiani or from all the usual places any time now, including Amazon UK.


Antony Micallef

A while back, I saw an amazing piece at a local gallery. I made a mental note of the artist’s name with a view to finding out more when I got home. My Google search proved fruitless and I gave up. Anyway, I’ve just stumbled across Antony Micallef’s website and realised that I had previously been searching for Anthony Metcalf…maybe it was my poor reading skills or my crap memory! I just lost myself for a while in his incredibly dark artwork. I’ve also realised that I had seen another one of his pieces a year ago at Santa’s Ghetto but didn’t make the connection between the two. In hindsight, it seems fairly obvious that they were both from the same artist. Looks like he had a book out as well but it’s long been sold out…needless to say that I really need a copy of it now! [via]


Japanese Banquet of Cannibalism

These Japanese Banquet of Cannibalism photos show that “Japan has just invented another way of eating, where a “body” is made from food and placed on an operating table, much as though in a hospital. You can operate anyway and anywhere you want by cutting open the body and eating what you find inside. The body will actually bleed as you cut it and the intestines and organs inside are completely editable. It’s a banquet of Cannibalism.” Tasty! [via]