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Dimitri Karakostas is a photographer from Toronto, Ontario and is also one of the brains behind Blood of the Young Zine. Ian Bird caught up with him to talk about zines, life and DIY. Click read more for the full interview...


For anybody that isn't familiar with your work how you describe what you do?


I guess the short answer would be I take photographs and don't touch digital cameras and then furrow my eyebrows. The longer answer would be I shoot documentary-style work focused around skateboarding, graffiti, text, and work on projects with my wife.
Usually work winds up as xeroxes, whether as a zine or prints... I guess i'm the kind of photographer that thinks in series as opposed to a singular image- a little context can go a long way. 
I also run Blood of the Young Zine with some pals.


Blood of The Young has been running for a few years now, what would you say have been the highlights?


Haha, that's hard. There's so many times i've been so psyched! I guess Born into This, our first group exhibiton, was fucking phenomenal. It pretty much turned into a skateboard block party after it got shut down... we worked with so many amazing artists, 
such as Neil McClelland and Gordon Ball, that I couldn't have imagined a few years prior... it was just a serious fan-out moment. We've just gotten so much love that pretty much every day is a highlight.




If you could produce or exhibit anybodys work through Blood of The Young who's would it be?


Woah, there's a question. I'd love to work with Patrick O'Dell or Jerry Hsu, but neither ever respond to my emails. I don't have the cash to wave in front of their faces, I guess. We're currently working on my dream project, which won't be realized until the fall, but... I have to be hush on that one! It's going to be amazing, though. Like, my life-long dream, haha.




Obviously you've got a thriving interest in photography, making zines and all things DIY, what advice would you give to somebody that was new to self publishing and zine making?


DO IT YOURSELF! Printing, binding, everything. You learn your work better by being so involved... like, the more you handle a zine, the more ideas you get about future work. Also, do a lot! You won't know what kind-of zines you like until you've made 20. Send copies to your favorite artists or bookshops, too!




Okay, so we know all the positives of self publishing, but would you say there are any negatives?


Hahaha. Well, it's expensive. You never know how/if a zine will sell. There's lots of room for mistakes, and oftentimes that one little mistake will ruin everything for you. You'll lose packages and frown. You'll never make any money. It's so much work with very little payback... but it's worth it just to be in control. 


You always seem to have various projects on at once, what can you tell us about your upcoming project I Think Were Alone Now?


Well, it's been months in the making, but we're getting pretty close now... my wife, sonia, and I have been working on this book for a while now- a really large collection of cross-media work- and we decided to go abroad to make more work. I guess it's a lot about appropriating or stealing space while on some sort-of derive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9rive). It's also a lot about working with restrictions, such as on one camera for an extended period of time... or without a studio. We both really wanted to get out of our comfort zone to create new work, since it doesn't really make sense to keep shooting the same way for an extended period of time- maybe we just feel like we're at a standstill. We're going to do a series of one-day exhibitions along our travels, of all new-work created along the way, while also trying to find a new country to perhaps move to? Haha.

Is this something you'd been planning for a long time or just something that just came to you oneday?

We've both been thinking about it for a while, and once I proposed the idea to a few people it seemed to really take off. The preparatory work we've been doing here has only furthered my belief that we're supposed to do it... we're both workaholics, and I figure the only way we could have a 'vacation' is if we worked our way through it! We have so many things we want to do... it just doesn't make sense to not do them anymore!

Have you got any other upcoming projects or releases that you'd like to tell us about?

I just updated my website at http://tobehonestiexpectedmore.com and updated the Blood of the Young shop with new zines by Levi Mandel, Ryan Florig + more... I just finished a zine for my pals at http://alearningcomputer.com that will probably be out this week, and i've been working a lot on making fun skate videos for my old man skate crew (example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvv4xyZ9gls&feature=channel_video_title http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tholyLWxv2g). There is a bunch of new stuff coming out this month through BOTY, so keep your ear to the ground!

http://dimitrikarakostas.com/

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Web design is a craft that is constantly evolving and yet also sometimes sabotaged. The moment a design is released, a new version is born. In the beginning, like a baby, it seems vulnerable and weak, but in time it grows up and becomes self-sufficient. Redesigning a website for its own sake doesn’t prove anything; quite the contrary, it reveals a lack of effectiveness on the part of the designer.

Product design is a craft in which new versions come to life with increasing difficulty. We can learn a thing or two from it when designing for the Web. First, let’s look at some examples.

  • How many designs for the iPhone has Apple released since 2007? The answer is one, with only two tweaks. How many Motorola phones for Android can you find on the market right now? Thirteen, not counting the old models.
  • How many designs of the Mini Cooper do you know of? Just that one brave design that has continually evolved since 1959! How many Toyota Corolla models can you count since 1967? Nineteen.
  • Zippo lighters have retained their appeal since 1933!

Forget marketing, technical specs and hardware. Products such as the iPhone, the Mini Cooper and the Zippo lighter have become wildly successful because of their outstanding design. Such massive success springs from three sources: the designer, sticking to the scope and iteration. These aspects can help us in Web design, too. In this article, we’ll look at what we can learn from successful product design.

The Ability Of The Designer

Zippo
Zippo lighters have remained elegant and reliable through time. (Image: cell105)

Do you trust your instincts? You should! Because when you see a design, you judge its attractiveness in less than a second. We all know what we like, even if we can’t always explain it. It’s about aesthetics. Aesthetics is a child of harmony, and harmony is not magic. It can be achieved when the designer embraces certain principles, such as balance, contrast and dominance. Becoming a fantastic designer, though, requires more than pure technique. It requires that you see the context and make decisions accordingly.

A couple of comments by Karim Rashid, featured in the documentary Objectified are fascinating and revealing. First, Rashid talks about a stereo that he loved as a teenager:

It was a white kind of bubble stereo with these two bubble white speakers. And it was probably very inexpensive — it was a real democratic product, and it had a turntable and the whole thing built in. It was a beautiful thing. Looking back and thinking why it was a beautiful thing, it was very self-contained, and the message was very strong and very simple, and at the same time it was very human. There was a quality about it.

See? A democratic, self-contained, human, simple thing with a strong message.

Here is Rashid again on thinking outside the box:

Why do we feel like we need to keep revisiting the archetype over and over and over again? Digital cameras, for example, [whose] format, proportion, the fact that they’re a horizontal rectangle, are a model of the original silver film camera. So, in turn it’s the film that defined the shape of the camera. All of a sudden, our digital cameras have no film. So, why on earth do we have the same shape we have?

How is it that Karim Rashid extracts such clear conclusions? What hinders us from doing the same? And not just in theory. Let’s do it for real. The next time you are about to make an important design decision, stop and ask yourself, What would I do if I were Dieter Rams or Jonathan Ive or — since you’re a Web designer — Douglas Bowman?

Asking this kind of question briefly expands our skills of judgment and makes us ultra-alert. Doing it regularly can drastically heighten our perception, values and actions as designers. Is this enough? No, but it is the beginning of a beautiful relationship with design.

And the Zippo lighter? It looks both friendly and solid, a comrade that needs your attention in order to keep working. Ιt has its own scent; it’s windproof; and above all, the sound when you flip open the lid is distinctive. And if you’ve owned a Zippo for a while, you must have noticed that it learns how you touch it when you light it.

All together, a Zippo is a product of craft — just as our designs for the Web should be. This is as simple and as hard as it sounds.

Focusing On The Scope

Mini Cooper
Once a Mini, always a Mini. (Image: Shelley Gibb)

Let’s go back to cars for a moment.

As noted earlier, the Corolla models of Toyota are nothing spectacular in their design. But what is a Toyota car known for? It’s a reliable, relatively cheap family car. Is Toyota successful? You bet!

What’s a Mini Cooper? It’s a beautiful small car that appeals mostly to young people. Is it successful? Of course, it is.

Cars are complicated machines. They do more than transport people. If a Toyota were as fancy as the Mini, then it wouldn’t be affordable. If a Mini were reimagined as a family car, then it would lose some of its charm. Oversimplification? Perhaps. But you get the point.

There’s a scope behind each product. As long as the scope is met, the product will be effective and remain on the market. The same happens in Web design.

Consider a metaphor. The closest physical product to a website is a periodical. Take Wired magazine (the physical magazine, that is, not the website or iPad app, which have slightly different characteristics). I’ve been reading it for more than 10 years, and if I had to describe it succinctly I would say “forward-thinking and cool.” Wired reinvents itself every once in a while and persistently fine-tunes the design, but the scope remains the same. Excellent design and illustration, superbly written long articles and a ton of clever short ones serve the main purpose: to introduce its audience to a new era. Audiences change over time, and new eras dawn, but Wired remains. Why? Because it has always respected a higher purpose. Sure, many magazines are well designed, and enough of them have great content. But you rarely find one with a unique identity, an identity that can’t be easily copied.

Your probably less complicated Web project needs to perform similarly. You must define the objectives. The design must promote them. Good content should prevail. You know the rules; make sure to follow them. Moreover, know where to stop. If it’s a new idea with vague potential or yet another feature or a last-minute change, just say no.

Websites are like breathing organisms. They evolve; new features are added and others are dropped, but they never stay still. Or at least they shouldn’t. Thus, while a promising fresh idea shouldn’t be discarded, it should be held until the next major update.

Big, ambitious, well-funded websites often seem to lose focus. Their owners try to satisfy all requests. This is a recipe for disaster, because it creates unnecessary friction between everyone working on the project. It dulls the impact of the best features and, above all, the scope. Tension fills the air. The worst days are ahead.

Such practices have led to the infamous concept of design by committee. Simply put, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

Iterations

Apple Store, London
Is what Apple does magic? I think not. (Image: Jon Rawlinson)

Let’s talk Apple. Apple’s iconic design and its founder’s exceptional way of thinking have been overanalyzed lately.

No matter how many words we write about Steve Jobs, we still seem to explain away his success as being a kind of magic. But that’s plainly wrong. People are inclined towards the least complicated, least demanding explanation to a conundrum. It is written in our genes. We think more deeply only when there’s a serious reason to do so. (But I digress.)

So, let’s do away with what Adrian Slywotzky refers to as the “Eureka” myth:

Apple would love us to believe it’s all “Eureka.” But Apple produces 10 pixel-perfect prototypes for each feature. They compete — and are winnowed down to three, then one, resulting in a highly evolved winner. Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.

If Apple iterates so painstakingly, why shouldn’t we?

Inspiration for a great design roars when it comes. And implementing the idea brings a rush of enthusiasm. And our eyes sparkle when we anticipate outstanding success. And yet it rarely works that way.

Why? Because ideas and their execution are seldom free from flaws. You know the old cliché, “There is always room for improvement.” It still stands. There is always room for improvement, and accepting that your idea is the one that needs improvement takes courage. Demolishing your next great product in order to make it better takes nerve and self-discipline. But it also makes you wiser, and can dramatically improve the product.

Iterating extensively and in detail doesn’t depend on a certain type of project or a certain budget. It’s a tricky thing, because it forces us to confront our imperfect nature as human beings. To embrace our inner flaws is to walk the road of truth and maturity, silently, without making a show that we’re doing it.

This weight might feel a little heavy on our shoulders. If it does or if you dismiss Apple’s success, consider what Oliver Reichenstein, head of Information Architects, says about the iterations that his team makes in each development phase (this quote appears in the comments section):

It’s often almost impossible to explain easily why things look like they do, because we went through so many iterations, that it feels like explaining a chess game with all the ifs and whats.

The same goes when designing for the Web: there’s no excuse to avoid making as many iterations as we can.

Final Thoughts

When successful designers are asked where they seek inspiration, they often say something like, “Everywhere — I go for a walk and observe the world around me.” And it’s true. But what they don’t often say is that they also know what to observe and how to ignore the noise of the world.

There are many beautiful well-functioning products around us. Each has a story to tell, a story that is strongly attached to its design, its scope and the iterations that the designer took before releasing it to the world.

Take the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Its design is at least impressive, and its scope is clear (to suck dirt better than other cleaners and, thus, to make your environment healthier), and it took hundreds of prototypes for the designers to figure out how to make it work without a bag. The first Dyson vacuum cleaner was sold in 1970! To explore further and find similar products, just search for our three key words: “design scope iteration.”

Creating a lasting website is no easier than creating a lasting vacuum cleaner. But neither is it impossible. It requires a holistic approach, focus and maturity, just like the products we’ve looked at here. Not to mention, it requires a paradigm shift.

(al)

© Yiannis Konstantakopoulos for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Valentina Riccardi

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Most of my work happens in Ibiza, Spain, where I decided to live a few years ago to merge and integrate in a community and discover a way of living that was far from what I knew, having grown in a big city, but very close to what I have always aspired to. I didn’t realize that this inspiration would eventually become a huge part of my photographic practice, a photographic story. I started to photograph the people I lived with, to document  the life there. Over time, this became an intimate and personal project.

Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where the local people and the hippies merged at the end of the 60’s. At that time, Ibiza became one of the popular places to live “freedom”. What intrigued me is the fact that in the midst of all the corruption (drug dealing, partying and real estate dealing), you can still find people who want to live outside society, self-sufficient, living their lives in a humble way and pursuing other values rather than materialism, emphasizing values like sense of community and harmony with nature and themselves.

Several houses on the island are inhabited by squatters who pay no rent. And if most of the time they are allowed to live there, they don’t have the security you get if the house was private. Most of those houses (sometimes hotels) are ruins that are renovated and inhabited quite normally. I would like to show how those places are transformed and take cared for, show the way the space is used, the way they live in their community, ecologically and very creatively.

No rent, no power, no faucets, and all this by choice. Water comes from a well, the washing machine runs with a pedal mechanism, power is a gift from the sun. Not far from drunken British tourists and disco boys and girls full of Ecstasy, this is a totally different world. It’s Pink Floyd 40 years later, but with a different dream: no more utopia, just life, essential life.

I wish to document people and places that represent this lifestyle and would like to show this minority that decided to leave the struggle of the city, to get closer to the nature.

 

Bio

I was born in Brussels from a Belgo-Italian family in 1987.  I lived in Spain for several years before moving to NY to study at the International Center of Photography. I started to photograph what surrounded me, work with images in familiar situations and document the everyday life.

I am based in Ibiza now, where I plan to pursue this photographic essay. Being my first long term project I plan to dedicate myself fully in this passion, create images. I consider this an amazing journey and know there will be more, because life is a perpetual movement.

 

Related links

Valentina Riccardi

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For "Russia by Rail," the NPR photographer David Gilkey traveled nearly 6,000 miles aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, catching glimpses of passing towns and people; smoke trailing high above factories and fields quilted with snow.

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H_Fisher writes "Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times writes with a frank look at the decisions and changes that have led to Kodak's decline from top U.S. photography company to a company whose product is almost irrelevant. He writes: '[Kodak] executives couldn't foresee a future in which film had no role in image capture at all, nor come to grips with the lower profit margins or faster competitive pace of high-tech industries.' He also notes that Kodak's story comes as a cautionary tale to giants like Google and Facebook."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Busboy Juan Romero tries to comfort Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy after he was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Photo: Bill Eppridge

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Bill Eppridge knows the rules of photography have changed. The ways of the ’60s, when he was a staff photographer at LIFE magazine, are long gone: Staff photo positions are near extinct, everyone with an iPhone now claims to be a photographer and film seems to be a four-letter word of antiquity.

That said, Eppridge, who has shot many of the historic events of the last half-century, believes the power of documentary photography will always live on, no matter how many photos are out there in however many formats.

“The best still images, they just nail you, you remember them,” he says, as is evidenced by his iconic work.

Millions of people likely have one of his images burned into their consciousness and will always remember certain events the way Eppridge saw them — from his photo of Bobby Kennedy lying nearly lifeless on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel, to his shots of the Beatles arriving in the United States for the first time.

“The process of keeping that iconic image in your head is important,” he says.

For Eppridge, still images can only do their job if you give them time to sink in. As someone who came from the analog world, where people got much of their news from magazines with ample photo spreads, Eppridge says he’s not impressed with many of the ways we choose to view photography today.

“The speeding up of the universe has not helped the type of photographic journalism that we used to do,” he says. “Consequently, we are going to have to start thinking of changing our methods of working and find a way that the person can look at the image and retain that image.”

Eppridge is not a luddite; he just doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. He posts his photography on the internet, he shoots with digital cameras and he thinks there’s a place for multimedia projects that combine the still frame with video and audio. But he’s also made sure his work continues to find a home in print magazines, books and gallery shows.

The importance of having time to absorb the still frame comes from his desire to use photography as a tool for change. An image needs to be remembered in order to make a difference. After years of documenting environmental disasters, murder and war, Eppridge no longer believes in objectivity. Instead, he hopes his work has educated the world about the events he’s covered and has helped avoid repeating past mistakes.

“You stay objective until the point where you understand what is right, and what is proper,” he said. “Once you see that, I don’t think the objectivity remains.”

Eppridge says there are several instances where he went into a situation with an open mind but quickly formed an opinion about what he thought was right or wrong. In Vietnam he tried to appreciate the situation facing American soldiers, but he couldn’t look past the atrocities they committed, either.

During the funeral for James Chaney — one of three Civil Rights leaders murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964 — he says it was difficult to see the disdain the family received from the surrounding white community while suffering through a tragic personal loss.

“The treatment of the Chaney family was hateful and I couldn’t remain objective,” he says. “If you’re any kind of a journalist, you don’t remain objective.”

Several of Eppridge’s most moving frames from the Chaney funeral are currently hanging in a larger show of his work at the well-known Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe. He was also recently honored with the 2011 Lucie Award for Achievement in Photojournalism, an honor awarded to him by his peers.

Ultimately, Eppridge says he hasn’t given up on the power of photography or any kind of documentary work. While the days of 20-page spreads in LIFE magazine might never come back, he knows people are still out there telling stories for the right reasons.

“We’re in such a state of transition, I don’t think any of us can predict where we’re going to go,” he said. “But I can tell you one thing, we’re gonna’ win, the good people will end up on top, and that story has to be told.”

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Photographer and Boing Boing reader Tom Blackwell shot a wonderful series of images from a visit to an abandoned coal power plant in the UK: the Thorpe Marsh Power Station. He shared them with us in the BB Flickr pool, and explains about the image above:

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I have only ever seen these from a great distance and was always aware of their vast magnitude, but the size becomes breathtakingly apparent when looking directly up at one.

During regular operation they are filled with an array of equipment to assist with the cooling of the moisture that they vent; but many of the towers at Thorpe Marsh have been gutted of their innards and allow superb views right up through the interior.

A few more below, with Tom's notes. Do have a look at the whole set in his Flickr stream.

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The crumbling skeleton of this coal-fired giant sits broodingly in low lying fields to the north of Doncaster. The story of Thorpe Marsh Power Station began with its construction in 1959, amid much fanfare heralding its advanced generators and state-of-the-art component technologies.

After decades of faithful service to the National Grid, the station was finally terminated in 1994 and is rapidly succumbing to the ravages of foliage and the British weather. It's one of the more intruiging abandoned places that I've visited.

For many photographers there's always a ghostly awareness of the activities that once transpired in derelict structures but Thorpe Marsh is a truly thrilling spot to visit due to the sheer scale of it. The 45 acres that encompass the property were clearly seething with human activity once upon a time - but now are as still as the grave, awaiting their fate in silence broken only by whistling winds.

Although earmarked for demolition, no action has yet been taken to raze the towers for reasons of safety. It is said that any explosion big enough to bring these things down would generate enough of a shockwave to rupture the wall of the nearby canal, bringing massive disruption to the area. In addition to that concern, the structures are liberally packed with asbestos that would be scattered across farmland for miles around following an exposive demolition. As such, the towers prevail for now at least.

Click here to see an aerial view of this location.

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Cooling towers are cast in a hyperboloid shape, which make for some fun perspectives when photographing them. They also generate some incredible echos inside. It was a very windy day when I visited Thorpe Marsh and the rustling of some old debris at the base of the tower turned into a crescendo of loud whispers which was very eerie indeed.

Have a look at this image
to see how these structures appear during construction.

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Whilst this site has long since ceased to generate anything, it remains connected to the grid as part of the "Sheffield Ring" - a group of circuits and substations which transport electricity to the Sheffield conurbation and allow the transmission of power more generally across the whole of England. The remaining Thorpe Marsh switching station, a 275 kilovolt unit, was shut down on the week commencing 25th June 2007 when flooding threatened to consume the site.

It is believed that the national grid would have been temporarily knocked out if flood waters had eventually overrun the land here, but it came to pass that the rain receded. It's an interesting thought that there is still a spark of essential electrical life at the heart of this abandoned giant.

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All of the towers at the abandoned Thorpe Marsh Power Station are equipped with one of these tiny doorways peeking out from the sheer concrete drop, about a quarter of the way up. They used to provide access to a central inspection walkway over the grid of pipework and cooling equipment in the bottom level. For a sense of scale, one of these doorways can be seen cut into a place near the top of a tower in the lower left of this photograph.

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The calling card of an old British industrial manufacturer which was founded in 1918 and largely disbanded in 1968. Old logos and brands are always valued by photographers in abandoned places - they make a great comment on the transient nature of commercialism when you see a powerful company of the past reduced to an obituary in the form of a rusty plaque.

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This shed could once be considered the mouth of the power station. When running smoothly, this hungry beast could consume well over half a million tonnes of coal per year so it was important to have consistent and continuous supply. Railway vehicles known as hoppers would roll over the large pits beneath these rails and shed their load of coal to stock up the fuel reserves and keep Yorkshire's light bulbs burning brightly.

Fellow Flickr user Bob Daniels photographed Thorpe Marsh in its final months and captured images all around the area. Some of the photos in his collection include this coal drop point - there's an internal view of the building here and a nice external shot of a coal hopper on the line just outside.

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When operational, the interior of these tall hollow cooling towers is honeycombed with a network of pipes and a spray system for venting the steam. After condensation, the water was recycled for return to the nearby river or re-used for industrial processes after it had played its part in driving the turbines. The horizontal concrete bars at the top of this shot are known as 'cooling baffles', and there are many thousands of them radiating out from the centre of the structure.

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If you'd like to read more detail about this generation of power plants, click here to browse through an interesting little book detailing the construction of one of Thorpe Marsh's contemporaries. It provides an insight into the earliest days of Connah's Quay, a power station in Wales built to similar standards in the early fifties. Unlike this location, Connah's Quay continued to be developed and is now one of the largest combined cycle generators in the UK.

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