Friday, 17 September 2010

Day 260, on which John admires some Icelandic photography [17.9.10]

Dag to hundrede og tres. Because, in Danish, fifty sounds a lot like half-sixty. Silly language, but I still love it. Moving on, I'm still ill. Even more, perhaps. Was fine when I woke up but throughout the day I got worse and worse and now I feel like - uh, let's say I feel like rubbish. If I recall correctly, the last time I blagged on about how ill I was on this blog was back in January. When I kept mentioning snow. I need to reread my January posts sometime.

Before we finally finish Dieter Rams' 10 principles of good design, I have some photography for you. Yay.

Pétur Thomsen is an Icelandic photographer, but that's about all I know about him. Iceland is one of those half-Scandinavian countries I'm always interested in. It's like Scandinavia's cousin, somewhere far off, somewhere snowy, somewhere seismic, somewhere barren. It always seems like a rougher, more remote version of Sweden. And kinda like Denmark too.

Iceland's a great place for photographers. Lots of stunning landscapes. But what I love about Thomsen's photography is that he shows you the urban side of Icelandic. Not even Reykjavik; he explores the suburbs and small towns nestled in pine forests in the landscape. The human side of Iceland, though there's little human activity to see in his photos. The following are from his set, 'il y a':

I always love old cars, and this shot reminds me of my Renault C4 photo from Portugal, heh
I like to think this defines Icelandic towns - barren, rough and embedded within the landscape. As if, the landscape comes first and 'don't mind us, we'll just fit our buildings in here, between the trees'. Notice the total lack of people, too. Spooky. Another thing to notice is that, though I'd usually prefer film for these moods of photos, the crisp lines of digital photography remind me of Iceland's sharp peaks and clear skies over snowy slopes.
This, I feel, perfectly defines the mood of Icelandic settlements Thomsen is trying to achieve in 'il y a'. It's urban, it's bleak, it's unimaginative, it's desaturated, and there's even a mysterious figure on the left to hint at life. There's not much of it, though.
Notice how man-made things are working around the landscape, yet again. Though, I guess, if you have a landscape like Iceland's, you wouldn't really want to build telegraph poles into it. Nice framing here too. And colours.
Sadly, we must leave Pétur Thomsen alone for now. However, the next 20-day challenge (after it being the same three times in a row, whoops) is this general guide: 'write posts about photography'! So hopefully more Thomsen stuff tomorrow.

Dieter Rams' 10 principles of 'good design' cont'd

10. Good design is as little design as possible.

I like this one. I don't agree with it much, but it's cleverly said. This really is a Dieter Rams thing to say: it's about stripping a product to its bare minimums, so it's simple functions in a box. I like to think that Rams is also saying that the way the functions are naturally arranged are the best way. So if you just wired up all the components to make the product do the right stuff (thinking of radios here), the way the components have to be placed to prevent wiring becoming tangled will actually turn out to be the best way for them to be arranged. It's a nice thought.

However, that isn't the case. If it weren't for the problem of the mechanisms in early typewriters, we'd all be using DVORAK keyboards. You see, the QWERTY formation originated in typewriter, where it was chosen simply because it meant the bits inside didn't get jammed. That was just where the keys turned out to be after they managed to make all the insides worked. That's now stuck, even though it's not the most efficient version. DVORAK is another keyboard formation that has letters placed strategically to allow users to type more efficiently. Much better. But, because it worked in typewriters, QWERTY has now become the only keyboard formation to use. A simple story of when 'as little design as possible' ends up creating something that we'd rather design a bit more!

So there's the ten principles of 'good design'. And, for the most part, I agree with them. They're centred a lot of industrial/product design, or what I'd call 'design' - so not the kinds of things Jacobsen was too fussed about - but some of them are very, very important. My favourite? Either 'good design is honest' or 'good design is unobtrusive'. Those are my ethics, at least.

Onto different things tomorrow, at last!

~John

1 comment:

Stickman said...

Phew, that's over. Who said that?!?!