Beautiful And Bizarre Bookstores Of The World

bookstores
Wherever I travel, I always find myself drawn to bookstores. They’re a pleasant comfort zone when far from home. I love hunting for local authors and books of local interest while chatting with the people who frequent these places. I’ve found that bibliophiles are pretty much the same whether they’re American, Ethiopian, Arab, Tibetan or whatever.

One bookstore I haven’t shopped in (but would love to) is the Shah Mohammed Book Company, the subject of the famous “Bookseller of Kabul.” Yes, books and adventure travel go together, as Peretz Partensky showed when he took this photo. I’ve been to plenty of other bookstores in out of the way places, though, and enjoyed them all, like the dusty bookshop in Harar that saved me with some timely Tolstoy when I’d run out of things to read, or the Tibetan bookshop in McLeod Ganj where the owner holds forth on Asian politics. Whenever I’m in a bookstore, I feel at home.

Of course, I also frequent bookstores when I really am home. One favorite here in Santander in northern Spain is Librería Gil. Like all good indie bookshops, it has a knowledgeable staff and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The kids’ section is well stocked and as soon as we enter my son grabs a book and plops down in the little red plastic chair in the corner, only to emerge when we tell him we’re leaving. The bookstore hosts lots of readings and even had a guest appearance by Geronimo Stilton, a time-traveling mouse detective who is hugely popular with Spanish kids.

Upstairs is a large exhibition space filled with customers’ photos of bookstores around the world. Some are old, some are ultra-modern, and then there’s that one in Indonesia that’s floating on a barge. The best of the ever-growing collection are being turned into posters and make for a fun viewing. You can see the world of readers all in one room. It inspired me to scour the web to bring you a gallery of beautiful and odd bookstores from all around the world.

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Do you have a favorite bookstore I missed? Tell us about it in the comments section. To navigate the world of books, there’s a handy online Bookstore Guide that has plenty of good, detailed reviews of stores in more than a hundred cities, mostly in Europe. They’re always looking for new additions, so tell them too!
bookstores
[Photos by Sean McLachlan featuring some of the posters in the exhibition]

How To Put On A Travel Photography Exhibition

travel photography
You got back from an amazing adventure travel vacation a few weeks ago. Your friends and family have heard all your stories and seen all your photos. Now what? Instead of tucking your photos away in an album or hard drive, why not show off your travel photography to a wider audience?

I’ve run two photography exhibitions and been in several more. My first exhibition was on the painted caves of Laas Geel in Somaliland. Right now my wife and I have an exhibition up about Ethiopia. We are by no means experts but we have learned a few things from the experience. The main thing is that putting on a successful photography exhibition isn’t as hard as you might think, although it does take a fair amount of organization. Here are some things to keep in mind.

You don’t need to be a pro
Here’s the secret to getting good photos: take lots of pictures of interesting subjects and some will turn out well. Look through your collection with a critical eye and have someone who hasn’t been to these places look with you. They’ll be looking at the shots with fresh eyes like your audience will. Take your photos at the highest resolution possible, 300dpi minimum, so they will be publication quality. A good photo shop will be able to turn your hi-resolution photos into lovely prints. This won’t cost much and you can get decent frames cheaply too.

Decide on a theme and purpose
It helps to have a coherent theme: wildlife, a certain historic site, etc. We’ve focused on Ethiopia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and children, Ethiopia’s past and future. Our show benefits A Glimmer of Hope, an NGO working on rural education. Having a coherent theme helps people grasp your subject better and a charity benefit tends to attract more attention.

Pick an appropriate venue
Not being superstar photographers, we picked a local bar here in Santander, Spain, that’s a popular hangout for artists, musicians and generally liberal-minded people who would be interested in photography about Africa. Our themes fit in with the general vibe. Bar Rubicón is a Santander institution and word gets around when they host an event. Putting your prize photos up in a bar may not seem very glamorous, but over a month-long exhibition they’ll get seen by lots of people.Think out size and spacing
How many photos do you want to exhibit? What’s the lighting like in your venue? Which are the most visible walls? Think all these things through ahead of time. It helps to bring a print in the size you want to display and take a look at it within the space. In my first exhibition, I made the mistake of printing the photos too small and they looked a bit lonely hanging on a big wall.

Make a snappy poster
I’m lucky that my brother-in-law, Andrès Alonso-Herrero, is an artist. He whipped up this poster in no time. Even if you don’t have access to someone with talent, it’s not too hard to make a poster with Photoshop or PowerPoint that highlights one of your photos and gives all the necessary information.

Send out a press release
Having worked for two small newspapers, I can tell you that editors are starved for interesting local content. The regional paper El Diario Montañés gave us a nice write-up and we made it onto several “What’s On” style websites as well. Be sure to write a clear press release with all the information and attach a couple of high-resolution photos they can publish. Try to write the press release like a newspaper article. Journalists are overworked, underpaid, and many of them are quite lazy. You’ll find that much of their coverage will be simply cut and pasted from your press release. Sad to say, much of the news you read is written this way. If governments and corporations benefit from it, why shouldn’t you?

Tell everyone
Email your friends, hang up posters, do a social media blitz. Get your friends to spread the word too. Don’t be shy; you want people to see your work!

While you have their attention …
You might as well mention any other projects you have going. In the press release I mentioned I had just come out with a novel and that made it into the newspaper coverage.

Host an opening party
On opening night, be there to meet and greet. It helps to have some sort of presentation. Since people will be coming and going it’s best not to have a formal speech at a set time. I’ve found that a slideshow running on a TV hooked to your photo archive works well. It goes on a continuous loop and shows everyone the photos that didn’t make it into the exhibition.
On our opening night, many people gathered around the slideshow and I gave them a running commentary of the places shown in the pictures. It also helps to have some music. There’s no local Ethiopian band that I know of (although there’s a West African band in Santander) so the bartender compensated by putting Ethiopian music on the sound system.

Don’t expect to make much money
Unless you’re a pro showing your photos at a major gallery, you’re not going to make much. If you break even you’re doing well. The point of showing off your photos isn’t the cash but the exposure. You’ll meet plenty of cool people and have the satisfaction of knowing your photos are hanging in people’s homes. Being relative newcomers in northern Spain, our opening night made us lots of new, interesting acquaintances. We’ll take any photos left over at the end of the month and give them away as gifts or hang them in our own apartment.

Most important of all … have fun!!!

Images of Paris in La Belle Époque

Paris, AtgetParis has always captured the imagination with its architectural beauty and interesting inhabitants. La Belle Époque from the late 19th century to the start of World War One is considered a high point of Parisian life, and this life was captured by an eccentric photographer named Eugène Atget.

Atget started taking photographs of Paris in the 1890s. Working in the early hours of the morning with large-format negatives in order to catch as much detail as possible, he photographed many fine old buildings that have since disappeared. He photographed people too, preferring street vendors, shopkeepers, prostitutes, and the homeless. Instead of the rich and famous, he focused on people you’d commonly see on the street in those days, like this little girl singing along to an organ grinder, courtesy the Gilman Paper Company Collection.

Atget continued to work after the war until his death in 1927, documenting a Paris that even then was beginning to disappear. He was a bit of an anachronism, using the same equipment and same techniques he had thirty years before. A photo of him from the 1920s shows him as a shabby, hunched old man. He must have been an object of fun among the Bohemian set, for his looks, mannerisms (in old age he only ate bread, milk, and sugar) and outdated photographic style. The art world never really appreciated him until after his death, but now he’s renowned as one of the most important artists of the era.

Atget’s work is now the subject of a free exhibition at Madrid’s Fundación Mapfre, one of the best private galleries in the city. Eugène Atget, Paris 1898-1924 runs until August 27.

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The photographer who changed the way we see the world


We’ve all seen them, those grainy series of black and white images showing animals walking or nude people climbing stairs or jumping. They’ve been used in art pieces, music videos, and are part of our visual heritage, but what are they all about?

A new exhibition at London’s Tate Britain tells the story of the photographer who took these enduring images. Eadweard Muybridge was a British immigrant to the U.S. in the 1850s. A skilled photographer, he traveled the world taking giant panoramic shots that he would then put on display, sort of an IMAX theater for Victorians. His seventeen-foot long panorama of San Francisco is one of the exhibition’s highlights.

His fame comes from his experiments with high-speed film in the 1870s. Muybridge wanted to answer the question of whether a galloping horse took all four hooves off the ground at the same time. People had been arguing about this for ages but the movement was too quick to catch with the unaided eye. Muybridge hired the Sacremento racetrack and put up a series of high-speed cameras that would be set off when the horse hit their tripwires. This technological innovation proved horses actually do leave the ground while galloping.

Muybridge became fascinated by human and animal movement and produced thousands of images. The people in his photographs are generally nude. While stuffy Victorian morality frowned on this sort of thing, since it was in the name of science Muybridge got away with it. One wonders how many of his books sold not for their scientific value, but because they contained plenty of cheesecake. He even made movies by stringing the images together on a spinning wheel called a zoopraxiscope. Muybridge was making movies twenty years before the movie camera was invented.

Muybridge at Tate Britain
runs until 16 January 2011.

[Photo courtesy Library of Congress]

Photos show effects of climate change on Everest

A new series of photos from the Himalaya reveal the undeniable effects of global climate change on the glaciers there. This is especially evident on Mt. Everest, where comparative shots from 1921 show just how much the Rongbuk Glacier has retreated over the past 89 years.

Filmmaker and mountaineer David Breashears made the journey to Everest’s North Side, where explorer George Mallory once took a very famous photo of the mountain. Standing in the very spot where Mallory once shot his image, Breashears took a new one, and the differences between the two are startling. In the earlier photo, a thick layer of snow and ice stretches far down the valley, but in the one taken by Breashears, the glacier has withered dramatically. In fact, the Rongbuk has lost more than 320 vertical feet since Mallory shot his photo.

Over the past few years, Breashears has visited a number of other famous mountains throughout Nepal, Tibet, and Pakistan as well. While there, he took similar photos, and each case he discovered a significant loss of glacial ice, which is particularly troubling considering that the Himalayan glaciers are the Earth’s largest sub-polar ice reserves. The loss of that ice has already had a direct and profound impact on the mountains and the people that live there, many of whom now have to walk for hours each day just to find fresh water.

Breashears has taken his collection of photos and created an exhibit known as Rivers of Ice, which just went on display last week at the Asia Society, located in Manhattan. The photos will be open to the public to see until August 15, giving visitors a chance to witness the changes for themselves.

[Photo credit: AFP]