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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 30th, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“’You know,’” Partridge recalls Cunningham telling her about printmaking, “ ‘people pay more money for the stained ones.’”

“I ‘spotted’ prints in her kitchen-slash-bedroom-slash-dining room, which was all one room," Partridge says with a grin. "She was so funny. I’d be working on a print and she’d say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s just going to the Museum of Modern Art.’”

“It was a wild, pretty wonderful time," filmmaker Meg Partridge says of her childhood. "You always thought as a kid, ‘This is reality; this is normal.’”


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:
Focus on Artists…

This site gives some more personalized insights into the lives and works of famous American artists and photographers.

Imogen Cunningham

American photographer known for her photography of botanicals, nudes and industry photos. (Portland, Oregon, 1883 – 1976, San Francisco, California) [Click on her name to access the special video segments.]

The late Imogen Cunningham got her start in photography in Seattle in 1901 with a 4 x 5 camera and a box of glass-plate negatives she purchased by mail-order. Quite often, she was her own subject, as in this self-portrait, taken in 1910 and printed in the studio of her employer at the time, photographer Edward Curtis

Click on Photo to see Slide show…

This resource represents a portion of SFMOMA’s collection. Information about the artworks presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at to verify information. If you are planning to visit SFMOMA, please note that not all artworks are on view at all times.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.

by Gerald Boerner


“Blossfeldt was an amazing man, did the kind of macro we’re used to seeing only with huge field cameras!”
Amateur Photography Blog

“He usually placed the subjects of his photographs against white or grey cardboard, sometimes against a black background. Hardly ever can details of the rooms be detected.”
— Rolf Sachse, from the book Karl Blossfeldt

“Some interesting studies there Larry. I’m glad to see that you at last have got access to the tools needed to match your photographic talent and all credit to Bawbee for assisting you in that area.”
— BigWill Comment, in Amateur Photography Blog

“My botanical documents should contribute to restoring
the link with nature. They should reawaken a sense of
nature, point to its teeming richness of form, and prompt
the viewer to observe for himself the surrounding plant world.”
— Karl Blossfeldt

“It is therefore even more surprising that Blossfeldt was able to achieve this so easily, considering that he accomplished it seemingly uninfluenced by questions of artistic or photographic history categories.” website

“So the isolating, monumental and formalistic approach to nature not only tied in well with concepts of New Functionalism, but was also successively interpreted as illustrating the relationship between Art and Nature and as a precursor of Conceptual Art.”
Art Blart, 28 March 2009

“My botanical documents should contribute to restoring the link with nature. They should reawaken a sense of nature, point to its teeming richness of form, and prompt the viewer to observe for himself the surrounding plant world.”
— Karl Blossfeldt

“When man uses the camera without any preconceived idea of final results, when he uses the camera as a means to penetrate the objective reality of facts, to acquire truth, when he tries to represent by itself and not by adapting it to any system of emotional representation, then, man is doing photography”
— Marius de Zayas, friend of Stieglitz

“Karl Blossfeldt first published his photographs of plants in 1928, achieving overnight fame. (…) By manifoldly enlarging the inner structures of plants, Blossfeldt was able to reveal their organic form (…) Karl Blossfeldt was neither a trained photographer nor a botanist. He was a sculptor who, as a professor of art, was interested in plants for didactic reasons.”
— Karl Blossfeldt, in Art Forms in Nature


Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932)

Carl Blossfeldt_1895 Karl Blossfeldt was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher and artist who worked in Berlin, Germany. He is famous for his close up photographs of plants.

Karl Blossfeldt was a botanist and photographer in turn-of-the-century Berlin. His entire photographic output is devoted to plant parts: twig ends, seed pods, tendrils, leaf buds, etc. These he meticulously arranged against stark backgrounds and photographed in magnification, so that unfamiliar shapes from the messy vegetal world are revealed as startling, elegant architectural forms. Indeed, his pictures influenced many architects and decorative artists of his time, who quoted Blossfeldt’s forms on scales as small as ornamental ironwork and as large as the shapes of entire buildings.

Blossfeldt_balsam Much like Andreas Feininger, Blossfeldt was deeply interested in forms and textures that nature uses over and over again, especially at scales not often noticed by the eye. Much like Robert Mapplethorpe, his photos also show a preoccupation for formal elements of beauty, regardless of where they may occur.

Blossfeldt achieved recognition for his microphotographs of plants, which were first seen by the public in his book Urformen der Kunst (The Originary Forms of Art), published in 1928. His book contains 120 of the almost 6,000 microphotographs he had taken since 1890, when his teacher, Moritz Meurer, assigned him to make a collection of natural forms as an inspiration. He wished to show that although nature and art are profoundly different, all forms of art have their beginning in the forms of nature. In addition to his personal work as a photographer, Blossfeldt was an art professor in Berlin.

Blossfeldt_laserwort He always considered his work as a teaching tool, not as independent works of art. The beauty of the natural forms he photographed and the objectivity and lack of sentimentality in his work readily connect him to such New Objectivity photographers as August Sander and Albert Renger Patzsch.

This line of work was not his main profession, although his fame today rests on his photographs. Rather, plant photography was part of a teaching concept, of which he was only partly the author. He taught for over thirty years at the Kunstgewerbeschule (College of Arts and Crafts) in the Charlottenburg quarter of Berlin. Shortly before his death, he announced his intention to publish his teaching methods. Neither this plan nor that of completing an archive of plant photographs was ever realized. What has remained are bundles of photographs, which have made history on their own, and the memory of a teacher, who like so many in his field left no lasting impression outside of his personal sphere.

Blossfeldt_teasel The plant photographs were produced by simple means. Legend has it that a relatively straight-forward homemade camera was used, one common in its time and not very large, with a format of 9 X 12 cm. The glass plates which served as negatives were coated with inexpensive but not completely neutral-coloured orthochromatic emulsion, and occasionally – after 1902, as they became more widely available – with panchromatic emulsions, making possible a neutral reproduction of the colour red in halftones. Since the first emulsion was thin and therefore enabled high contrast with extremely sharp edges, it served especially to stress the structural elements. It was thus used primarily for photographs with white or grey backgrounds. The rarer photos with panchromatic emulsions were used to illustrate entire clusters or beds of flowers with a wider variation of chromatic values or halftones.

Blossfeldt_X06 The most significant advance in Blossfeldt’s photo technique was in the processing stages. Rather than making prints from developed negatives or using the gum process or carbon prints (both popular at the time), Blossfeldt made slides for projection. The most common slide format before World War I (8.5 x 10.5 cm) corresponded more or less to Blossfeldt’s format; he could then select the desired section of the photo by blocking out the rest with black strips. There are no documentary records of the projection of his slides as drawing copies. We know of two methods of projection employed around 1910 however, of which he surely also made use.

One method was to project the slides onto the wall and have the students draw from the enlarged projection. The other method, used in textile design, involved reflecting the projected photo with mirrors onto the drawing board, where the students simply traced over the contours. This last exercise reduced the focus to the formal framework alone, with little relation to the original plant.

Blossfeldt_148aOn the other hand, in terms of repeated patterns and mechanics, it offered more possibilities for the application of the drawing. For such a projection to serve the mechanical copying of formal properties, the slides had to fill one precondition: they had to show the object clearly and without extraneous details. This was exactly the quality of Blossfeldt’s work, and in particular the quality of his collection of plant photographs

He wanted to give substance to the then popular notion that nature is the ultimate creative genius behind all artists and all styles of art – that, in the words of an early critic of his photographs,

"the delicacy of a Rococo ornament, the severity of a Renaissance chandelier, the mystically tangled scroll work of flamboyant Gothic, domes, towers, and the noble shafts of columns – a whole exotic language of architecture. Crosiers embossed in gold, wrought with trellises, rich sceptres: all these man-made forms find their original form in the world of plants."

Blossfeldt wished to show how logic and suitability could lead to the highest degrees of visual form. To do so, he editorialized at every juncture by carefully choosing plants with a character that suited his ends. In the selectively cast lighting, the close-up point of view, and the neutral background, he directed our attention to the particular details that he wished us to see first. The menacing thorns are half in shadow and half in light in order to exaggerate their mordant character and possibly to suggest something from the arsenal of a satanic warrior.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Karl Bloomfeldt that can be found at…

Also see…

Masters of Photography: Karl Bloomfeldt

Photography: Soulcatcher Studio on Karl Bloomfeldt…

by Gerald Boerner


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke

“The machine unmakes the man. Now that the machine is so perfect, the engineer is nobody.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Technology…the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.”
— Max Frisch

“If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery.”
— Michael Harrington

“One has to look out for engineers—they begin with sewing machines and end up with the atomic bomb.”
— Marcel Pagnol

“Technology…is a queer thing; it brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”
— C.P. Snow

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”
— Richard P. Feynman

“It’s apparent that many consumers intend to spend less and save more this holiday season.”
— Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman

“Machines are worshipped because they are beautiful and valued because they confer power; they are hated because they are hideous and loathed because they impose slavery.”
— Bertrand Russell

“Cyber Monday, the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday, is the e-commerce equivalent of Black Friday, traditionally marking the start of the online holiday shopping season.”
— James Rogers,

“Retailers have a very acute sense of the importance of Cyber Monday in kick-starting holiday sales and have been planning their promotions for months.”
— Scott Silverman, Executive Director of

“After weathering the challenge of negative growth rates throughout much of the year, we are finally forecasting a return to positive growth at a rate of 3 percent for the 2009 holiday season.”
— Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman


Cyber Monday: Online Shopping for Christmas

Cyber Monday is a marketing term that refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday being the busiest day of the year for retail electronic commerce. The term was created by the National Retail Federation and announced in conjunction with the deployment of their own website designed to serve as a portal for Cyber Monday deals and offers.

cyber-monday Since its inception, critics contend that consumer purchasing habits represent more of a static growth throughout the holiday season as opposed to one day in which companies "see any (unusual) traffic" on websites. It has been postulated that through mainstream media adoption of the term, combined with retailers hoping to drive more traffic to their sites, that the "Gimmick" of Cyber Monday could become a "Real Trend".

Origin of term

cyber-monday-2008 The term "Cyber Monday" is a neologism invented by, part of the U.S. trade association National Retail Federation. It was first used within the ecommerce community during the 2005 holiday season. According to Scott Silverman, the head of, the term was coined based on research showing that 77% of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004. In late November 2005, the New York Times reported that "The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked."

cyber monday 2 In late November 2005, ComScore Networks, an e-commerce tracking firm, reported that online spending on Cyber Monday, excluding travel, was $486 million, a 26 percent increase from a year earlier. Total visits to shopping sites increased by 35 percent compared to a year earlier, according to Akamai Technologies. In late 2005, after the holidays, ecommerce sites reported that the busiest shopping days usually were between December 5-15 in a given year. For 2005, the year the term Cyber Monday was coined, the busiest online shopping day of the year in the U.S. was actually December 12, two weeks after "Cyber Monday".’s survey of its members found that their busiest day in 2005 was December 12. MasterCard’s worldwide (not just U.S.) data for 2005 showed that the day with the highest amount of Web transactions processed was December 5. In November 2006, prior to the holidays, MasterCard reported that an online survey it had commissioned found that only 10 percent of Americans said they would shop on the Web on Cyber Monday.

On Nov 27, 2007 Comscore reported Cyber Monday sales of US 610 Million in 2006 and US 730 Million 2007.


Some critics online and in the media have called for a boycott of the term, calling it a useless media buzzword with no basis in fact. Fark founder Drew Curtis critically mocked the term in his 2007 book It’s Not News, It’s Fark as a leading example of holiday-based "fluff journalism".


Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Cyber Monday that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
— Mark Twain

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”
— Mark Twain

“All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.”
— Mark Twain

“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”
— Mark Twain

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”
— Mark Twain

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”
— Mark Twain

“A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.”
— Mark Twain

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
— Mark Twain


Mark Twain: The father of American Literature

Mark_Twain_Brady-Feb_7,_1871 Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is extensively quoted. During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

Twain enjoyed immense public popularity. His keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".


Twain joined his brother, Orion, who in 1861 had been appointed secretary to James W. Nye, the territorial governor of Nevada, and headed west. Twain and his brother traveled for more than two weeks on a stagecoach across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, visiting the Mormon community in Salt Lake City along the way. These experiences inspired Roughing It, and provided material for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Twain’s journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, where he became a miner. Twain failed as a miner and found work at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. It was here that he first used his famous pen name. On February 3, 1863, he signed a humorous travel account "LETTER FROM CARSON — re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson’s; music" with "Mark Twain".

Twain_AppletonsJournal_4July74  1874 engraving of Twain

Twain then moved to San Francisco, California in 1864, where he continued working as a journalist. He met other writers, such as Bret Harte, Artemus Ward and Dan DeQuille. The young poet Ina Coolbrith may have romanced him.

His first great success as a writer came when his humorous tall tale, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. It was an immediate hit and brought him national attention. A year later, he traveled to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii) as a reporter for the Sacramento Union. His travelogues were popular and became the basis for his first lectures.

In 1867, a local newspaper funded a trip to the Mediterranean. During his tour of Europe and the Middle East, he wrote a popular collection of travel letters, which were later compiled as The Innocents Abroad in 1869. It was on this trip that he met his future brother-in-law.

Early journalism and travelogues

Twain’s first important work, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was first published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. The only reason it was published there was that his story arrived too late to be included in a book Artemus Ward was compiling featuring sketches of the wild American West.

Mark_Twain_Cabin_Exterior_MVC-082X  Cabin in which Twain wrote Jumping Frog of Calaveras, located on Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County.

After this burst of popularity, Twain was commissioned by the Sacramento Union to write letters about his travel experiences for publication in the newspaper, his first of which was to ride the steamer Ajax in its maiden voyage to Hawaii, referred to at the time as the Sandwich Islands. These humorous letters proved the genesis to his work with the San Francisco Alta California newspaper, which designated him a traveling correspondent for a trip from San Francisco to New York City via the Panama isthmus. All the while, Twain was writing letters meant for publishing back and forth, chronicling his experiences with his burlesque humor. On June 8, 1867, Twain set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for five months. This trip resulted in The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims’ Progress.

This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition it would have about it the gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive. Yet not withstanding it is only a record of a picnic, it has a purpose, which is, to suggest to the reader how he would be likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I make small pretense of showing anyone how he ought to look at objects of interest beyond the sea – other books do that, and therefore, even if I were competent to do it, there is no need.

In 1872, Twain published a second piece of travel literature, Roughing It, as a semi-sequel to Innocents. Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical account of Twain’s journey to Nevada and his subsequent life in the American West. The book lampoons American and Western society in the same way that Innocents critiqued the various countries of Europe and the Middle East. Twain’s next work kept Roughing It’s focus on American society but focused more on the events of the day. Entitled The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, it was not a travel piece, as his previous two books had been, and it was his first attempt at writing a novel. The book is also notable because it is Twain’s only collaboration; it was written with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner.

Twain’s next two works drew on his experiences on the Mississippi River. Old Times on the Mississippi, a series of sketches published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, featured Twain’s disillusionment with Romanticism. Old Times eventually became the starting point for Life on the Mississippi.


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1782…
    In Paris, the British sign a preliminary treaty recognizing American independence.

  • In 1829…
    The First Welland Canal opens, connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario.

  • In 1835…
    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is born in Florida, Missouri

  • In 1864…
    Confederate troops suffer devastating losses at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

  • In 1943…
    At the Tehran Conference, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin agree on an invasion of Europe, code-named Operation Overlord.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Mark Twain that can be found at…