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As Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer approach, I start thinking of that great American tradition: the summer road trip. While rising gas prices might be squeezing this tradition a bit, an interesting documentary project is going across America on several legs and sending back Postcards from America.

There are a number of ways you can follow the 5 photographers and writer as they make there way on the first trip from San Antonio to Oakland:

It’s an interesting view into how big and varied our country really is.

Our most recent blog post enjoined us to look to our past in order to understand and anticipate our future. Building on that idea, here are two images for you with the mindmunchies today:

The first is pulled from a collection of photographs titled The Ruins of Detroit. The images are stunning alone. Together they convey an almost palpable sense of thwarted ascent, that idea which is such a common theme in the Detroit narrative. The dissipation of Detroit’s city proper, a result of long-churning economic and political struggles, is significant enough in scale to have earned its own term: “urban prairie,” a term referencing the large tracts of land scattered throughout the city which are returning to seed. Civic activists, struggling with how to repurpose these empty buildings and lots left empty by a mass exodus that cut the city’s population by almost half since the 1950s, are grappling with an issue emblematic of changing social ideals – The city built on an aggressive combination of manifest destiny and a welfarist approach to resources must now learn how to scale itself back into an adaptable format.

Happily, there are some real smarties leading the charge in adjusting our views on how to inhabit urban environments in ways that are conducive to sustainable, scalable growth. The second picture is of a 3,229 sq. foot villa constructed mostly from reused materials and designed by 2012Architects. The Rotterdam, Netherlands, based architecture firm takes a fully integrated view towards resource preservation in the design and building of its structures (termed ‘Superuse’). Superuse considers not just raw materials but energy supply, human labor, water, and even traffic cycles in efforts to make smart and conservative use of resources. To this end, they developed an innovative use of harvest maps to identify reuse materials suitable for their planned structure and with closest proximity to their building site. By locating materials which were close by, the firm was able to minimize the total water, gas, and time allocated to procuring their supplies. Ultimately, 65% of the villa was comprised of reused materials.

There’s a story about rebirth somewhere in the juxtaposition of these photos, nicely summed up in the statement issued by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, the French photographers who produced Ruins: “The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change.” Hopefully, the shift in values to local sourcing, smart growth, and reuse of existing assets will come into play as Detroit inevitably blooms again.

Two weekends ago, the New York Times ran an experiment that might sound familiar to market researchers out there.  Essentially they asked their readers to take a picture that represented the moment at 11am Sunday. The results are now available for browsing via the Times’ Lens blog. This experiment in self ethnography is interesting. I think the editors were disappointed that there were so many pictures of children and dogs (often in combination) uploaded. As you spin the globe and browse the images from all over the world, you get a sense of what the photographers’ priorities were.  As I browsed some of the photographs captured on the east coast of the US, I got a sense that family and spring were the dominant themes.

What’s really interesting is how, with minimal instruction, so many people uploaded similar images.

A little Friday afternoon ribbing – graph-er to photographer.  Click through for a closer look and the sourcing path.

Photographer and mathematician Nikki Graziano overlays graphs and their corresponding equations over full color nature photography.  This set of engaging compositions reminds us of the elegance and “art” of math, and its essential function as a descriptor of natural phenomena. Click through the image below (and keep clicking) to check out the full “Found Functions” set.

Related article on Wired

By Nikki Graziano

Fast food is so ubiquitous that advertisements for a thick, juicy Whopper or a crunchy Taco Supreme fade into the back of our minds like the wallpaper in our living rooms. The television commercials, giant billboards, and glossy restaurant fronts are certainly an ever present part of our environment, but how often do we actually notice them? They tend to blend into the background serenading us occasionally with whispers of melted cheese, crisp fries, and sugary-sweet sodas. But what if the mega-watt signs, star-pimping commercials, and shiny packaging disappeared? Would fast food retain its appeal in our minds? What would we do if we were presented with burgers and fries in their most natural state? How would we react to “naked” fast food?
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That’s a question New York photographer Jon Feinstein wasn’t afraid to ask. His answer lies in a series of photos titled “Fast Food” where star menu items (think chicken nuggets, quarter-pounders, and personal pizzas) are ripped from their papery cocoons to bare their undressed parts to the world. The series is part art, part gross out reality, and, in turn, a huge commentary on the almighty power of branding and brand image. By exposing the naked parts of fast food, Feinstein erases our engineered perceptions of how “tasty and quick” cheap eats really are. Feinstein emphasizes the absence of the glitzy marketing and big-budget advertisements to show us the naked truth. And from the looks of the patties and wings pictured in these photos, we are not lovin’ McDonald’s anymore and Wendy’s doesn’t exactly look waaay better. This food is so unsexy that I daresay even the appearance of one of Carl’s Jr.’s burger babes couldn’t make it appetizing. For a full dose of naked fast food view Feinstein’s entire collection here and the next time you sink your teeth into a quarter-pounder with cheese thank the marketing and advertising team that “dressed up” your burger for you.