Natsumi Hayashi’s levitation photos

The main focus of Natsumi Hayashi’s work is her levitation photos, as seen in this photo album. Using a camera with a shutter speed of 1/500thof a second, Hayashi photographs herself “levitating” in the urban setting of Tokyo. While many people associate the act of levitating with that of jumping, there is indeed a noticeable difference, as Hayashi claims. Jumping is simply the action of moving up, with many movements in between. However, levitating emphasizes the “natural flow of time”, in  which Hayashi meticulously makes a specific pose for the picture while in flight. The difference between a “jump photo” and a “levitation photo” can be seen below.

Many movements are involved in this "jump photo" (courtesy of

In contrast, Hayashi is smooth in her "levitation" (© Natsumi Hayashi)

In the first photo, a group of hikers are jumping — no symmetry, no flow However, in the latter photo, which was taken from the photo album, Hayashi truly gives the illusion of levitation. Her pose reflects grace and beauty, which meshes with the serene and empty setting. Her streaming hair and her nonchalant expression further enhances this illusion. Not to mention, the colors of her outfit contrast with the lighter colors in the foreground. These intricacies produce an elegant photo, and gives it an almost surreal feel. Unlike the Santa Muertephoto essay, I didn’t feel it was totally necessary to read the text below. Instead of he shock factor in the Santa Muerte, there was a “wow” factor in Hayashi’s photo album. I could already sense the difference between a jump photo and a levitation photo, without reading the text underneath


Final Project — Unity in Michigan

First click on the link below, then watch the YouTube video please

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “unity” as “the quality or state of not being multiple : oneness”. We are introduced to the lesson of unity form a very early age, since we comprehend that interdependence and cooperation amongst our peers is a very important quality to have. Unity defies all boundaries – race, gender, wealth, political party affiliation, sexual orientation do not matter. From the slaves that revolted against Ancient Rome during the Servile Wars to the group project in 5th grade I was assigned to do with two of my classmates, being unified is often associated with action and accomplishment.

The very same concept can be applied to life here at the University of Michigan. With students and faculty hailing from around the world, we are surrounded by a variety of faces. By just walking down the pathway that connects Observatory Avenue and North University Avenue, I see a bunch of people from all walks of life. Despite our differences, we are unified in the fact that we are getting an education from one of the most famous and respected universities in the world. Those all-nighters for reports, exam cramming, and of the course, the dreaded Math 115 team homework assignments bring us together. It’s that sort of unity I have experienced in my freshman year here at Michigan. For the first time, I had to depend solely on my peers, not my family, to assist me in adjusting to the new setting of college.

Moreover, how can I, or anyone who was ever affiliated with the university, omit the sheer significance of Football Saturdays. In addition to the students “maizing out” from Sections 29 to 33 in the Big House, alumni from near and afar flock to Ann Arbor for the special occasion. The city’s population triples and the streets are packed. As an NYC native, I am accustomed to the hustle and bustle that surrounds me. However, the fact this “hustle and bustle” was due to one cause – a football game – totally caught me off guard. It’s amazing how Wolverines of the past, present, and even the future can rejoice together every Saturday afternoon for the last few months of every year. Even as the weather gets colder and nastier, there will always be more than 100,000 screaming fans at the Big House.

The link I provided (above the YouTube video) displays the spectacle that was the Michigan-Notre Dame game, the first night football game ever played in Ann Arbor. As you can see, the fans were jubilant throughout and simply downright crazy when Michigan won on a last-second touchdown. Looking at the video now, I get pumped for this upcoming season. However, there is also a ton a pride, knowing that you are a fan of the most successful college football team. The enormity of the stadium combined with constant cheering from the crowd takes you aback, but you also appreciate the school spirit students have for their school. They really love Michigan.

Yes, it is easy to relegate “unity in Michigan” to Football Saturdays, but there is so much more to the unity. As mentioned in the definition, being unified is the state of being one – this does not simply apply to people. Manmade objects and the natural settings have their own unity, a major point I want to prove in my project. In a lot of occasions, this unity seems to be involuntary.

One important detail is the progression from “inside to outside.” I initially start in the classroom, but I eventually transition into the outer environment. By placing the pictures in this order, the theme of unity already sticks out – those pictures with similar environments are adjacent in video. This is easily noticeable, since I put a white flash transition between every different environment.

As a result of the technological boom in the 21st century, it should not be a surprise when you walk pass a student staring at their smartphone or laptop. In fact if one has nothing to do, he or she immediately looks at text messages or Facebook photos. As seen in these first two photos, students in columns and rows stare at their laptop screens. This was by no means planned, but instead a result of an involuntary unity of acceptance. In other words, it is now permissible for students to utilize their laptops during class. As we all know, students are WAY more productive when they use their laptops (that was sarcastic).

The pictures focusing on the unity of the chairs are my favorites in this project. The caption for the first picture, “The chairs stand – undisturbed” is a bit ironic. Chairs are used for sitting down on, but when left alone, they “stand” together in silence, until the next day of classes begins. The second picture was taken during a recent all-nighter. With the misery writing an organic chemistry lab report entails, I snapped this photo of three all-nighter-ers versus the chairs in the foreground. Each group seems to have their own little union – the lazy chairs and the stressed students. After thoroughly looking at the picture, you might notice how the position of the chairs mirrors those of the students. Therefore, the six of us are unified – albeit in rather abstract way.

From now on, the photos transition to the exterior. Students as well as most people in general, tend to overlook the precision that comes with the architecture of a building. Each beam or column has to be perfect, since a faulty one will result in a collapse. Therefore, every beam has to do their part in supporting the structure. One might even make the case that they are the most unified of anything, due to the significant role of interdependence between the beams.

For the final few pictures, I snapped photos at, where else, the Diag. Thousands of people walk pass the unnoticed flyers, but yet the flyers stay resilient, enduring the wind and rain. Hopefully this projects gives them a shout-out for their brash unity in informing Ann Arbor what’s going on around town. The similarities between the Bell Tower and the Rackham Graduate Building are very surprising. Sure the buildings vary greatly in height in purpose, but both contain green roofs and beige bodies. Who knows, maybe the two are long-lost cousins. As for the last picture – who says unity has to be orderly. The zigzag structures of tree branches are just part of Mother Nature’s plan. And simply because of that, they are unified in their randomness despite the uniqueness of each branch.

As aforementioned, I want to exhibit the different forms of unity around campus. Sure the unity shown during a football game will always be the most popular image, but the unity of involuntary action, architecture, and nature are also prevalent throughout campus. I can’t believe the semester is almost at its end, but hopefully “The Victors” will remind us of how proud we should be of our great university.


Preview of Final Project

Unity in Michigan

Why bother coming to lecture?

More of “Destory the Memory” by Richard Misrach

As a follow-up to my last post, I viewed two more versions of “Destroy the Memory” by Richard Misrach. The first one was from PBS, in which we hear Misrach’s commentary on his photo album. Some of the photos are recognizable, such as the “Broken Dreams” and the “destroy this memory” photos. Like in the Time version, the photos are set in a bleak and desolate setting, thus emphasizing the spray-painted text. However, the commentary by Misrach brought his work to life, as he explains the reasoning behind his work. Instead of taking photos of the clichéd aftermath scenes after a disaster, Misrach takes an alternative route to show the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. His showcase of the “voice of the people” presents an interesting display of emotions by the natives. I like how he uses haikus as a metaphor for the messages, since they are both short but powerful. Misrach’s order of the photos was effective, as he starts out with the typical enraged messages targeted towards possible looters and the government. However, the photos transition into unexpected reactions, where humor is involved (one included a reference to Elvis!). The last four photos possess a sense of existentialism, with words like “I miss you.” and “What now?” This was an effective ending, since the viewer is left to wonder whether New Orleans can ever make a rebound from this disaster.

Viewing the SFMOMA version after the previous two versions was a different experience. Additional layers such as music and video clips are added, which diminishes the true photo album feel.  In addition, I did not feel I understood the photos as much, since I was distracted by the moving video and music. However, by showing his face, the viewer forms a connection with him. Previously, Richard Misrach was just a name, but now we see him as a human. In all facets of life, it makes a big difference when you see and do things in person. From these three versions of Misrach’s work, I think it would be nice to include a few video clips into my Final Project. Unlike the SFMOMA version of “Destroy the Memory” I won’t use video clips throughout, since I don’t want viewers to get distracted from the photos.

“Destroy the Memory” by Richard Misrach

In his photo album “Destroy the Memory”, Richard Misrach photographs images of a ravaged New Orleans after the monster of Hurricane Katrina .  Unlike some of the other photo essays we’ve seen, Misrach does not use any specific style of photography, such as the use of line or texture. In fact, the photos are initially “normal” and not creative. By using a 4 Mp pocket camera instead of a professional one, it seems like Misrach snapped these photos for himself  rather than to showcase them in a  Time magazine. However, through this monotony, Misrach successfully makes his point. The backgrounds full of gray skies, deteriorated houses surrounded by weeds, and abandoned streets emphasizes the text that is present in each photo. Personally, I involuntarily looked at the text in spray-paint before viewing the other aspects of the photo. The text is not additive, for it is the centerpiece of Misrach’s work in this photo album. The various responses by the natives of New Orleans is narrated, from the sardonic dark humor of “I AM HERE. I HAVE A GUN” to the calming and prophetic message of “Keep The Faith. We Will Rebuild.” It is very interesting how one person attempts to make light of his miserable situation, while the other person places a crucifix with Jesus in a middle of highway. The latter is especially controversal — one might think, “if we should keep faith in our rebuilding efforts, why God even bestow Hurricane Katrina on us in the first place!” By just snapping a photo with an amateur camera, Misrach already lets the viewer into some insight with the struggles some New Orleans residents might be having with their faith.  

"I'll miss you." Image credit: Richard Misrach

This particular photo interested me when I viewing this photo album. Innocently enough, the photo features a typical post-Katrina household in New Orleans — unkempt, open windows, full of weeds. However, the spray-painted text on the brick wall, “I miss you,” is riveting. What exactly is this person missing? Does he miss a loved one who died in the hurricane? Does he miss the once-beautiful garden he owned in the backyard? Does he miss the childhood memories he used to have strolling down the streets of a happy New Orleans? We may never know exactly what he misses, but this statement encompasses the raison d’etre why Katrina was so effective. Not only it literally destroyed the city, but it destroyed dreams, desires, and the exuberance of thousands of people. Instead of progressing, there was rebuilding. Instead of jazz and culture, there was poverty crime. No one will ever know the true pain of those living in the city of New Orleans, even five years after the monster’s rampage.

Michigan Revealed project

 Framing Text:

These photos were taken at three museums here at the University of Michigan: The Museum of Natural History, The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, and the University Of Michigan Museum Of Art.

The University of Michigan’s Natural History collections were initially established in the mid-19th century, and it grew significantly with the donation of over 60,000 specimens by a Joseph Beal Steere, an alumnus of the university during the 1870s.  Even though The Museum of Natural History, which was specifically devoted to the development of exhibits and educational programs, was officially created in 1956, public displays had been offered 80 years earlier prior to that date. The museum offers many exhibits, from the fossils of prehistoric life to an in-depth look of the research conducted by the archeologists at the University of Michigan.

The The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, located in the School of Dentistry on N. University Ave., is devoted to preserving and exhibiting the history of dentistry. Created in 1991, the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry has over 15,000 objects used in dental practice and technology in the United States. These objects, ranging from patient chairs to X-Ray machines, are dated back as far as the 18th century.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is conveniently located on State Street in fron of the Michigan Union. At 93,000 square-feet, the museum proclaims to be a “town square,” with 18,000 pieces of art after more than 150 years of collection. The photos in this project take place in the Fluxus exhibition. The objectives of this movement, which started in the early 1960s, were that “anything can be art and anyone can do it,” and “to fuse the cadres of cultural, social, and political revolutionaries into a united front and action.” As a result, many Fluxus art is very simplistic and obvious in nature, thus blurring the boundaries between art and life. Famous Fluxus artists include George Brecht and  Yoko Ono.

Reflective Analysis:

 Last week when I was at the Museum of Natural History, I overheard an upperclassman saying, “I always heard about this place, but this is my first time actually being here.” Each of the 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students here at the University of Michigan is accustomed to the excellent academic reputation and the legendary football team, but almost all of them forget some of Michigan’s smaller gems – like the numerous museums that line the streets of Ann Arbor.  In my Michigan Revealed project, I wanted to capture some scenes from some of these hidden gems, because my goal is to encourage my peers to explore these valuable resources on campus.

I first started off with The Museum of Natural History primarily because that was the museum I enjoyed the most.  The rotunda at the entrance gave me a lasting impression, with the beautiful marble pillars surrounding me. Even though the museum consists of four floors, I chose to photograph the prehistoric exhibit. I made this decision, for this particular exhibit   had the most profound effect on a personal level. As an NYC native, I frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan for elementary school field trips. Thus, as I sauntered past the skeletons of the mastodons and read the panels describing the evolution of amphibians in Michigan, a great sense of nostalgia overcame me. However, I was content to feel that connection to my childhood. As seen in the order of the pictures, I initially placed a picture of the two mastodons. However, as I pointed out, one of them died because of a fatal wound to the skull during a fight. Likewise, the adjacent picture to the Allosaurus image is a picture of a dead Stegosaurus. This contrast in images reflects the ephemeral nature of life. Yes, the mastodons looks elegant and are full of grandeur, but a closer look reveals that they vulnerable to injuries too.

The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry was an interesting choice, because like the 99% of those affiliated with the university, I was not acquainted with this museum’s existence. However, I pleasantly surprised when I took a look at it. Full of artifacts used by dentists over the decades, it was only natural that I began with the most familiar object at the dentist’s office – the dreaded chair. The contrast between the patient chair from the 1890s (notice the “old film” effect) and the chair used in the military is apparent. Moreover, the differences in the appearances signify their varying functions. In my opinion, the dentists in the 1890s used comfortable chairs in order to ease the anxiety of patients who were not familiar with dental care, while the military used short and compact chairs because armies frequently transported from place to place. Sandwiched between the two “comic relief” pictures is an image of X-Ray machines. It is interesting how they resemble cranes – both the bird and the machine.

Finally, pictures from UMMA appear. By far this was the largest museum, covering 93,000 square-feet. As seen in the entrance photo, UMMA contains many forms of art. In the video, we see a 14th-century sculpture of an Apostle, with its head facing down. Therefore, it can be inferred that sculpture was placed above the viewer’s eye level.  The subsequent pictures I took significantly contrast with the medieval, religious sculpture. These images (in order, Dance by Benjamin Patterson, Exit by George Brecht, Fluxfilm No. 4 Disappearing Music for Face by Mieko Shiomi) are all part of the Fluxus movement, which began in the 1960s. The mantra of Fluxus is to blur the boundaries between life and art. As seen in all three of these art forms, the artists use simple and obvious images to convey their message. For example, the footprints that read “Now” and “Later” in Dance symbolize a performance by a dancer, while the sign in Exit might symbolize death. As simple as the art pieces may be, the viewer is still able to find the entire story behind the art. I highly recommend students to visit this exhibit, since Fluxus is very unconventional form of art. Who knows, it might even change your perception of life!

As seen in this reflective analysis, a major theme in my project is the “contrast.” The purpose of displaying this theme is to illustrate the variety of fossils, artifacts, and objects within these museums, as there is something for everyone. If you have the time, you can easily spend hours at these three magnificent buildings, with each having their own treasures. The song I used is Island in the Sun by Weezer, one of my favorite bands. This song is very soothing, and it is representative of the mood one should be when visiting a museum.  I know many students right now are swamped with projects and exams, but if they have a chance after their finals, they should take a peek at the museums Michigan has to offer. These gems I revealed are pretty valuable!

“Embedded in Afghanistan” by Finbarr O’Reilly

The impressive “Embedded in Afghanistan” photo essay by Finbarr O’Reilly truly has a profound effect on its viewers. From  the placement of the  images to the captions, O’Reilly demonstrates the epitome of an effective photo essay. The story being told in these 25 photos is very clear — to show the world what quotidien life in present-day Afghanistan entails. We see the the perspectives from the American soldiers as well as from the native Afghans that are unfortuantely placed into the seemingly eternal war. Despite the vast cultural differences, O’Reilly ties them together by placing the Americans and Afghans in corresponding situations in adjacent photos. For example, the first two photos depict an American soldier weightlifting and an Afghan soldier sleeping, respectively. Despite all the negative coverage spewed out the media, people in Afghanistan, whether soldiers or natives, are actually human beings who attempt to live a life the “normal way.” O’ Reilly’s photos open up minds that many aspects of life in America exist in Afghanistan: town meetings, reading comprehension lessons, and the innocence of children. To be frank, the captions seem to be unnecessary. The photos speak to me; hence, I know the story of every frame without ever reading the text. This is a testament to O’Reilly’s work, since his photos of excercise, learning, water, gatherings, children, and of course, guns elicits a theme of occasional normalcy in this war-torn region.

Marines from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company watch a video on a computer in their living quarters at an outpost in Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, February 18, 2011. REUTERS-Finbarr O'Reilly

A band of brothers
Photo by Finbarr O'Reilly

 The second part of “Embedded in Afghanistan,” is a nice complement to the first version. Instead of reading captions, the viewer listens to the “captions” by hearing Sgt. Thomas James Brennan’s commentary and other auditive pieces, such as gunshots and short conversations between the soldiers. As much as I appreciated O’Reilly’s photo album in the first version, I found the combination of visual presentation with audio to be more powerful especially since the audio generates a new dimension to the project. By simply hearing him commending his fellow soldiers’ bravery despite the heavy concussions they suffered, you immediately have an emotional response. You are part of the action, with the shots and shouts of war. You felt a father’s pain of not seeing his young daughter in her early years. You hear his pride in serving our country overseas. In essence, the story is the same — life in Afghanistan. But the audio places you in that setting of the vast, arid lands of Afghanistan. O’Reilly’s expertise in combining sounds with pictures brings the album to life, a talent that demonstrates the brevity and sheer effectiveness of “composing with images.”

Preview of UMMNH

Enter into the rotunda -- and don't get dizzy!

Prehistoric Animalia

Credit: University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

UMMNH will be one of the three museums I will be featuring in my Michigan Revealed project.