California Dreamin’ with Marc Shur

Last year, the advertising art director and designer Marc Shur found himself needing to do something “creative” in his free time. So he started photographing signs—not your average Dunkin’ Donuts signs, mind you, but the coolest signs imaginable. “Photography has …

Fight Talk: A WWII Poster Campaign

The Second World War saw the participation of countless corporations steering and converting their talents and resources toward the war effort. At the end of the war, many of these corporations took advantage of their contributions to produce promotional pieces …

Put on a Happy Face

I’m easy. Okay, not easy like that—you people and your dirty minds. Vernacular signage makes me happy, and so do objects that have been accidentally anthropomorphized. Not long after seeing an upside-down mop in my driveway turn into a smiling …

How the World Developed Around Photography

Photography Changes Everything is a bold title for a book. It needs no subtitle. It is definitive. Edited by Marvin Heiferman, this book stems from the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.

Beauty on Newsprint

Eva: Rivista per la Donna Italiano (published by Edizioni Vitagliano) was a 1930s women’s magazine, stunning for its oversize tabloid format and velvet-like rotogravure printing. The hallmark of these issues from 1938, when Mussolini’s Fascist government had been in power …

Litho-Mania: Marketing with Lithography, Circa 1939

My last post concerned the photoengraving industry of the pre-Depression period. This week it’s pre-WWII lithography! Litho Media: A Demonstration of the Selling Power of Lithography, published in 1939 by Roger Stephens and edited by H. Homer Buckelmueller and Colin …

Evergreen: The Glossy of the Underground

This past February, the iconoclast publisher Barney Rosset died at the age of 89. Rosset was the publisher of Grove Press from 1951 until 1985. He published D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover in its first unexpurgated U.S. edition in 1957, …

Botany Blueprint: New Zealand Flax

Specimen #25: New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) New Zealand flax, a strappy foliage plant, is best known in—you guessed it—its native New Zealand, where the early Maori wove an 18th-century economy out of its long, leathery leaves. They used the …

Fascinatin' Food Fotos

What is this urge that iPhone and digital camera users have for taking food photos? We’ve all done it, right? Food porn? We’ve photographed our plates at dinner, vegetable displays at markets. And we’ve sent them to friends. Food foto …