Morris Louis

Morris Louis

The eye is an extruded part of the brain, absorbing through the thin retinal tissues whatever emits or reflects quanta in the surrounding world, and serving as a way station for the production of neural images that enable us to stop at red lights and avoid meandering cows. Enough of its mechanisms were known in Darwin’s time for him to have written, “The thought of the eye made me cold all over.’ Darwin’s thought makes me cold all over when I think of how much remains to be discovered about the visual system we use so casually. For the eye is also a part of the mind, and what we see depends, demonstrably, on what we feel and how we believe. At the philosophical cross-point of mind and brain, the eye is bound to be a contested salient in the border wars of metaphysics, and today there is little consensus on the degree to which the apparatus of cognition penetrates the physiology of sight.

Not long ago there were those who believed the penetration all but total, that our perception of the visible world is so laden with preconceptions that, in science as in common life, there is no sharp line to be drawn between observation and theory. Philosophers, anthropologists, linguists, sociologists of knowledge and social psychologists insisted that perceptual experience is thoroughly relativistic, as though the human organism were completely plastic and the perceived world nothing but a construct we acquire with our language and our culture. Deep incommensurabilities were believed to divide period from period, culture from culture, gender from gender, race from race and language community from language community, with space, shape, color, even size, fluctuating so radically as to raise the question of whether there is a shared world at all.

There is today a palpable retreat from this giddy position. Color discrimination has proved to be remarkably more invariant than anthropologists dared to believe a decade ago. Cognitive science has been coming up with striking evidence in regard to the processing equipment with which we are all wired as part of our genetic endowment, and the modularity of mind has increasingly defined research in studies of human and animal cognition. The mind is modular to the degree that its functioning is impervious, or at least extremely resistant, to belief and feeling. Thus we continue to experience perceptual illusion as perceptual illusion, no matter what we believe or how much we know about how it takes place. Although I agree that the importance of optical fidelity in pictorial representation is a matter of cultural decision, my own view is that linear perspective is modular despite its having been asserted to be a symbolic form by the art historian Erwin Panofsky, and a mere cultural convention by the philosopher Nelson Goodman. It is doubtful that the retreat from relativism will be total, but no one can predict where the lines of modularity finally will be drawn.

I have lately come to wonder whether our perception of works of art may not be a good bit more modular than most aestheticians are prepared to concede. There are extreme views abroad to the effect that a work of art is but the infinite possibility of interpretation–a view strikingly similar to John Stuart Mill’s thesis that a physical object is but the permanent possibility of sensation. It was this attitude, that the artwork itself is pure potentiality, that gave rise to the scandalizing boast of a Yale University critic that the critic is finally more creative than the artist. (Because critics too are subject to infinite interpretation, the theory turns against its proponents, who no longer have grounds for complaining that they have been misread.) The psychology of art perception is waiting for its Stone Age to dawn, but even in our prehistorical situation, we can at least begin to raise the question of the degree to which art-works are penetrable by interpretation, especially now that it is clear that the ability to recognize pictorial content is something we share with other primates and even with mere pigeons. A chimpanzee will scream in fear when shown a photograph of the leader of his pack with fangs bared. But the question of perception remains even with abstract paintings, as is evidenced by the almost total irrelevance to our response to the paintings of Morris Louis of the standard critical theories addressed to this artist’s work. These theories are typified in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition of Louis’s work at the Museum of Modern Art until January 4; the absolute distance between the catalogue by John Elderfield and the exhibition he has curated makes this one of the most important shows of recent years.

The exhibition shows us Louis as he would have wanted to be seen, but also as those who regard him as a major artist believe he ought to be presented, namely through the paintings alone, without further context. For Louis did everything he could to destroy his own history (just as he almost succeeded in concealing his technique of painting so that it is now a matter of informed speculation how his characteristic works were executed). The show is minimally chronological, which is almost mandated by the fact that Louis’s oeuvre falls into a few successive genres–the Veils, the Unfurled Paintings, the Stripes–and if one decides to segregate the works by genre, it would be perverse to scramble them in time. Louis’s period of high creativity was tragically brief, from about 1954 until just before his death from cancer in 1962, with a somewhat barren period between 1955 and 1958. An isolated, nearly reclusive and secretive man, he did away with work he did not wish to be known by, so perhaps an exhibition that placed him in context would have been difficult to mount. Still, enough of the disowned work was out of Louis’s hands before he rejected it that were there the curatorial desire to mount such a show, it could have been done–relating earlier work to later; the successes to the tentative painterly probings; Louis’s work to that of his sometime associates (including Kenneth Noland), his distant peers (Barnett Newman and Jules Olitski) and his acknowledged influences (Robert Motherwell and, above all, Helen Frankenthaler). That it was not done in this way can be appreciated in the spirit of piety as respecting the wishes of a dead artist, and as acknowledging his greatness; but even more, I believe, it must be appreciated as a gesture of curatorial will, expressing the belief that history and biography do not pertain to the aesthetic absorption of his work. What, instead of history and biography, is required is a body of theory, and the theory is laid out in the catalogue. So the exhibition carries a meaning beyond whatever meaning is carried by the works themselves. It is eloquent with its omissions and tacit insistences. It is a monument to the aesthetics of Clement Greenberg.

As such, it constitutes an inadvertent crucial experiment in the perception of art. If in the end these paintings resist transformations by theory, the theory fails at its most fortified position and must retreat vanquished. For Louis was the Greenbergian artist par excellence, the one painter who executed the strategies on which Greenberg insisted, who showed, or was believed to show, what, in its purest state, painting was all about and was always all about, despite the contaminations of feeling and content that have dogged the history of art and criticism. The failure of the theory is not Louis’s fault. Louis’s paintings are extremely beautiful and even powerful. An artist whose responses I respect told me of having come to love Louis’s work in consequence of an exhibition she saw at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge years before she knew anything about Clement Greenberg and New York aesthetics. “It was like being in a marvelous garden,’ she said. Her experience is the valid experience to have with Louis’s work. The sculptor Harold Tovish writes that Louis’s work is “too pretty’ for his tastes. Tovish’s is also a valid critical response to Louis. You like him if you like art that is pretty, or art in which prettiness is raised to a monumental power. You dislike him, or find him tepid, if your taste runs to darker things. Neither of these responses takes into consideration what Greenberg, or what those who follow Greenberg, say is important about Louis’s works. That, I claim, is because Greenberg played a crucial role in Louis’s life as an artist (he seems to have had no other life). Greenberg’s view explains why the work exists in the form it does. It does not explain why it matters, or explains it wrongly.

In his celebratory introduction to the catalogue of the 1974 exhibition of Louis at the Hayward Gallery in London, Elderfield wrote, “With Louis . . . fully autonomous abstract painting came into its own for really the first time, and did so in paintings of a quality that matches the level of their innovation.’ I want to modify the implied arithmetic of this statement. The paintings are measurably greater than their degree of innovation, just because I do not believe they are fully autonomous abstract paintings. Moreover, I do not believe fully autonomous abstractness is an especially important thing for painting to possess, even supposing it is possible. Fully autonomous abstraction, however, was exactly what Greenberg was urging painters to produce, although the great artists of the New York School, whom Greenberg did so much to publicize, showed no overwhelming inclination to accomplish this. Pollock and de Kooning, the acknowledged leaders, were unregenerately figurative, and human meaning kept insinuating itself into their masterpieces as into their casual work. Even painters who were confessedly abstract–Rothko or Newman– were making painting filled with extra-artistic meaning.

What Greenberg was demanding was a form of painting that sufficed unto itself: painting about its own means; painting, the meaning of which was its means: pigment, canvas, stretchers, surface. I can sympathize with Greenberg’s thought in the context of its era. Here was an exalted discipline–painting– that had always been in the service of something outside itself: the church; the nation-state; the crown; the revolution; the oppressed class. And now, a terrible war having concluded, Greenberg raised artists to a dignity high enough that art should at last be in its own service. Beyond that, self-reflexiveness had become the mark of purity throughout the West: the autonomy of philosophy, of psychology, of literature, were parallel movements in the aggregate enterprise of professionalization which, in my view, continues most particularly to affect the criticism of art. Criticism today is practiced as though it too were done on its own behalf and for its own sake, with no ulterior point or bearing. This explains its standard opacity. It is to Greenberg’s credit, or discredit, that he brought about more a style of criticism than a style of painting. Louis may represent his entire artistic army, but the troops in his critical division are legion, and they are marching still.

Here is how an influential critic, Michael Fried, appraised Louis in his widely respected pamphlet Three American Painters, which was devoted to Noland, Olitski and Stella. Fried, like Greenberg, gave special prominence to the implications of the way Louis applied paint to canvas. It was soaked into raw canvas to produce a stain. Since a stain is something one cannot altogether draw–one can cause a stain only by soaking or spilling–there are no willed boundaries to it. The stain, in consequence, Fried argues, has no tendency to become detached from the ground and so avoids the illusion we sustain when we perceive drawn outlines (a drawn stain would not be a stain) or “are made to feel . . . the painter’s wrist.’ The stain, then, identifies the image with “its woven canvas ground, almost as if the image were thrown onto the latter from a slide projector. The actual weave of the canvas shows through everywhere.’ So there is no illusion: the materials of that art are all there is; the work is, as it were, an achievement of pure opticality, uncontaminated by any tactile values other than those natural to the medium. Moreover, the stain itself is impersonal. Once the saturated rag or sponge is brought into contact with the cloth, capillary action takes over, and the stain, like water, seeks its own boundaries. So none of the bravura of de Kooning’s, or Pollock’s, “wrists’ is felt: as Fried has it, “painterliness from the Venetians to de Kooning is renounced.’

In truth, so far as we can infer from the work, Louis’s interventions in directing the flow of color were active and ingenious. He worked with the fluid by folding or pleating the canvas into channels, collaborating with gravity to make the paint conform to a complex intention. He was like some master dyer, whose work belongs to what, if it were craft, we would class as a lost art. But the renunciation Fried asserts is meant to proclaim the autonomy of the painting even from the painter, as though he stood aside in Oriental detachment and enabled the painting to materialize out of nothing. And the almost studied reticence of Louis with regard to personal disclosure may suggest he was an artist who rendered himself transparent in the cause of making the painting fully autonomous. The highest painting is no painting at all, as the highest acting, as readers of Proust will remember, is the absence of acting.


Small wonder Louis was considered in 1974, when the magnificent British Arts Council exhibition was held, as a very great painter, as among the very greatest painters, as the one who has discovered the tao of painting. And small wonder, again, that my fellow critic David Carrier should write me with a certain amazement that “it’s hard to think of anyone who was then high and has fallen lower.’ For in the end the paintings resisted the theory. In the end it is just impossible to see them as impersonal stains, as enhancements of paint and canvas, as “autonomous abstract paintings.’ It will be small wonder if the art magazines are anything but hostile in reviewing this exhibition of Louis’s work. Louis has betrayed the critical establishment. He has faulted the premises of its practice. The decline is not in Louis. It is in a style of critical address misread as a decline in an artist. Louis is as great as ever.

How then are we to look at the works? Really as lush and beautiful, diaphanous and tremulous, washes of color that, like veils, reveal and conceal, affording the possibility of glimpsed mysteries they also refuse to disclose: majestic cascades of color. “Veils’ was not Louis’s generic title, nor were many of the individual titles his own. But the spontaneousness with which that title adhered to what I regard as his best works is itself evidence that something more than the paintiness of paint is being transacted in these huge spaces. The soft swags and falls of color are, standardly, cropped at the bottom, and the collusion between the sharpness of the cut and the fluidity of paint-fall is as acutely felt as the contact of sword and veil in a legendary demonstration by the Sultan Saladin of the sharpness of his weapon. At their worst the paintings are just pretty, and the experience like walking through racks of negligees at Bendel. But at their best and greatest they evoke experiences like massed flowers or sunsets.

This is just a beginning. It will be awhile before we can say what these paintings are, but without our knowing very much at all, this is a greatly enjoyable show. Louis has confronted us with a module in the sphere of art, and the meaning of interpretation must be rethought against his marvelous achievement. That is the importance of the show. The importance of the work lies elsewhere. Wherever it lies, it is work that transcends its materials more than succumbs to them, and yields the kind of pleasure symphonic music affords played via the best acoustic guitar brands.

>>> View more: Inquire within

Top pix: World Press Photo Awards

The ancient Chinese expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” is as true today as it was 1,000 years ago. In conveying the action and emotion of an event, nothing beats a good news photo. No number of words can express the horrors of war, the ferocity of a natural disaster, the resilience of the human spirit, or the determination of an athlete quite the way a photo can.

The images featured in this special report were shot by some of the world’s top photojournalists–photographers who capture and report the news through the lenses of their cameras. Each year, the World Press Photo Foundation sponsors a contest to select the best news photos of the year. In 2005, nearly 4,450 photographers from 122 countries entered 83,044 images. An international panel of judges gave prizes in 10 theme categories to 63 photographers from 25 nations. Nine of those photographs are pictured here.

As you look at each image, try to see the world through the photographer’s eyes. Ask yourself: What is the subject of the photo? What is going on in the background? What effect do color, contrast, and composition have on the photo? What message, if any, was the photographer trying to convey? How does looking at the photo make you feel? What story does the photo tell?



Balakot, Pakistan By Tomas Munita

This 9-year-old girl is one of hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes after an earthquake devastated parts of India and Pakistan in October 2005. Describe the girl’s expression, What might she be feeling? What might her life be like? This striking photo earned a third-place prize in the World Press Photo Foundation’s annual competition. Turn the page to see more award-winning photos.


Tahoua, Niger By Finbarr O’Reilly

World Press Photo chose this portrait as the best news photo of the year. It depicts the emaciated fingers of an infant pressed against the lips of his mother at an emergency feeding clinic in Niger, where drought has left millions of people without food. World Press jury chairman James Colton said “This image has everything–beauty, horror, and despair. It is simple, elegant, and moving.” How would you describe the photo?


Baghdad, Iraq By Scott Nelson

A wounded Iraqi girl is evacuated from her school after a car bomb exploded on May 7, 2005. How does the photo convey action? Why, do you think, is the girl holding up her hand? Where was the photographer when he shot this photo? How would the photo be different if he had stood farther away?


Freetown, Sierra Leone By Yannis Kontos

In this poignant photo, a boy helps his father button his shirt. The father lost both of his forearms during a brutal civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. The family now lives in a shelter with other war amputees. Note the many contrasts in the photo–young and old, light and dark. What is the mood of the photo? What might the father be thinking?


Reno, Nevada By Todd Heisler

As 2nd Lt. James Cathey’s body arrives at Reno Airport from Iraq, U.S. Marines drape a flag over the hero’s casket. The plane’s passengers peer out the windows as the soldier’s family gathers on the tarmac. “[The] people in the windows … [are] going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives,” says Maj. Steve Beck. What do you think is going through their minds?


New Orleans By Michael Appleton

Photojournalist Michael Appleton has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti. But covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last August was, he says, “the hardest story I’ve ever covered.” But Appleton felt that it was important for him to document one of the gravest tragedies in U.S. history. Note the stillness of the water in contrast to the fury of the fire. What effect does the photo’s angle have? What might the man in the photo be thinking?


Copenhagen, Denmark By David Hogsholt

Mia, a young drug addict, stands behind Copenhagen’s Grand Central Station. The day before the photo was taken, Mia’s boyfriend died of a drug overdose. Mia called photographer David Hogsholt and asked him to go with her to the morgue. This photograph was taken just before the drive there. What is Mia’s expression? What story does the photo tell?


Montreal By John G. Mabanglo

Ouch! This diver gives new meaning to the expression “Now that’s using your head!” In this photo, U.S. diver Chelsea Davis strikes her head on a diving board during a competition in Montreal. Timing is everything in photography. How would the photo be different if the photographer had taken it a moment earlier or a moment later?


Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo By Marcus Bleasdale

This photograph was taken at a center for street children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In exchange for light work, the children receive basic schooling, a safe place to sleep, and showers. There are approximately 30,000 street children in Kinshasa. This photo captures a moment of pure happiness in what is an otherwise difficult life. How would you describe the boy’s expression?

Get Talking

Ask students: What is photojournalism? How do images tell stories differently than words? How do photos help people better understand the news?



* Photojournalism began in the mid-1800’s with the work of early photographers such as Matthew Brady (1823-1869). When the American Civil War began in 1861, Brady decided that the war should be recorded in photographs. He organized a staff of more than 100 photographers. The photographers followed the Union soldiers, taking thousands of pictures of battles, camp life, and soldiers’ daily struggles. Brady and his crew captured the emotion of the war in the faces of the soldiers–setting a standard of photojournalism that still inspires photographers today.

* The World Press Photo contest is considered the most prestigious international photo contest in professional press photography. The contest is now in its 49th year. The World Press judging panel is made up of 13 picture editors, photographers, and press representatives from around the world.

Doing More

The main function of a news photo is to convey information. Ask students to look at a daily newspaper and look at the photos without reading the headlines or stories. After they’ve looked at the photos, ask students to decide what the stories that accompany them might be about. Then ask students to check their predictions by reading the stories. How close were their guesses? If they were wrong, what kind of image might have told the story better?

>>> View more: Darth Vader’s New Offices; What happens to Lucasfilm now that ‘Star Wars’ is over? The company has big plans, soon to move into spectacular $350 million digs

Inquire within

talian Drawings: Highlights from the Collection

The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 10 July

Beyond the Human Clay

James Hyman Fine Art, 5 Savile Row, W1, until 18 June

In the Mellon Gallery of the Fitzwilliam is an unashamedly rich and demanding exhibition of Italian drawings, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century. I say ‘demanding’ because you need to look closely and with attention at these works–not simply to decipher what is going on (the narrative component), but to appreciate how it has been achieved (the formal aspect). So much of the stuff that is produced under the name of art today is easy on the eye and mind, with as much aesthetic nourishment as used air. Real art solicits the spectator’s involvement: it’s not a variant on wallpaper, it requires interpretation and response, intellectual as well as emotional. Drawings, being an artist’s first ideas, or evidence of the thought processes that result in a finished work, are especially vital and direct in their communication. We don’t have to have a detailed specialist knowledge of the period in which they were made (though this does help)–what we need more is an open and receptive eye and an inquiring mind.

Drawings are fragile and particularly susceptible to the deleterious effects of sunlight, so the gallery is dimly lit and the ambience suitably reverential. Out of the gloom comes a wild boar by Pisanello: snouty, tusky and questing, drawn in black chalk and ink. This swift access of living reality is confirmed in the drawings of another great master–Leonardo, represented here by a trio of studies. There’s a beautiful metal-point of two horses seen head-on and a moving depiction of the ermine as a symbol of purity, caught by hunters who block up its burrow with mud, knowing it will not sully its spotless pelt by attempting to go to earth. (This drawing might have been made as a design for a hat badge.)


Then there’s a highly effective grouping of figures in a drawing of the Holy Family by Parmigianino, and in a corner a study of two standing women by Perino del Vaga. Done in pen and wash, with small heads and great statuesque bodies, this has something of the monumentality of Henry Moore.

In a flat cabinet nearby are a couple of Raphael drawings, one in pen and brown ink, the other in red chalk, that are unexpectedly inquiring for such an assured artist, both exploring ways of representing groups of figures interacting. Moving on to Venice in the 16th century, we are offered Vittore Carpaccio’s telling evocation of two groups of ecclesiastics facing one another, roughly scratched in with brown ink and given body with red chalk, though in fact the chalk was put on first. And here’s a lovely sexy Titian drawing of an embracing couple, in which the bodies–drawn with caressing strokes of charcoal–seem to be moving and melting into one another.

Then there’s a Michelangelo sheet showing a draped figure of Christ, in which the black chalk is gently stroked into the paper, like smoke solidifying into form; expressive and emotional rather than linear and declarative. I enjoyed the group by Annibale Carracci: the large head of a bearded man in red chalk, looking a little like D.H. Lawrence; below it a black chalk study of the head and torso of a male nude; to the left a fabulous pen and brown ink ‘Adoration of the Shepherds‘, a large and complex drawing, vigorously dynamic.

A wild and vibrant Guercino drawing comes next, with singing single lines coalescing into darker knots of passion, the subject being ‘The sleeping Rinaldo abducted by Armida‘. On the opposite wall is a more illustrational drawing by Magnasco in pen and brush of a standing singing man with a musician. Dramatic and engaging, this works partly through distortions of scale and collapsing of space.

Other artists create mood and meaning through the areas of paper left blank between the scratchy lines and the flow of brushed ink, such as Luca Giordano in ‘Christ at the marriage of Cana’. This technique can be seen in even more extreme form in Luca Cambiaso’s ‘Angel blowing a trumpet into St Jerome’s ear‘, in which the areas left blank are made to work as hard as the drawn ones.

Among the other treasures that I feel impelled to mention (and there are many more works of varied appeal) is a splendid large Guardi ink drawing of the Grand Canal in Venice, all energetic lines and rags of dark and light, and no fewer than eight Tiepolos. (I loved the drawings of houses and the three male nudes on clouds.) I was not so moved by the Grand Tour vision of Marco Ricci and Francesco Panini but, of the more modern works, particularly fine is the Indian ink and wash ‘Portrait of a bearded man‘ by Modigliani, bequeathed to the museum by Lillian Browse.

The rewards of an hour’s concentrated looking are immense. If you have any energy left over, the adjoining displays of modern art–in particular, a group of Nicolas de Staël’s paintings, a fine Morandi landscape and a magnificent Roger Hilton abstract from 1959–are well worth a visit.

Thirty-five years ago, the American painter R.B. Kitaj, at that time living in London, organised an Arts Council exhibition of contemporary figurative art entitled The Human Clay . It was a manifesto exhibition promoting a ‘School of London‘–painters who were seriously interested in drawing the figure.

Kitaj’s original selection numbered nearly 50 artists, some now well known, others who have slipped off the radar, such as Richard Carline and Philip Rawson. Subsequently, the School of London came to mean only a handful of artists: Kitaj himself, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Various others were attached at different times by writers or exhibition organisers, but that core has held. James Hyman, an art historian of British figuration as well as a dealer, now examines Kitaj’s original exhibition and opens up the field once more to include a wider range of artists.


Hyman’s show falls into two parts: a selection of Kitaj’s original choices, and a group of works by other artists for whom drawing is important. There are notable omissions: nothing by Maggi Hambling, Ken Kiff or Paula Rego, but there are also compensations. The display is built around a classic early Kitaj from 1961 called ‘The Bells of Hell’, a wonderfully lucid modernist account of the Battle of Little Bighorn seen as a ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and heads-bodies-legs assemblage. Next to it are a darkly potent Kossoff self-portrait and an elegiac Dennis Creffield drawing. A large Peter de Francia allegory from c.1970 contrasts keenly with the extraordinary ‘Night Interior with Lay Figure‘ by Lewis Chamberlain, one of the most fanatical pencil drawings I’ve seen.

There are a couple of Colin Self’s inimitable studies of people and three small but luscious Basil Beattie oils of his familiar repertoire of forms: steps, ladders, tunnel. In the back room is a surprisingly delicate early nude drawing in ink by Euan Uglow and Robert Medley’s brilliantly minimal portrait of Philip Prowse.

Hyman has produced a catalogue, which echoes Kitaj’s original 1976 publication, in which he writes lucidly of the School of London and subsequent artistic responses to the High Art seriousness of Kitaj and his colleagues. With this intriguing show, James Hyman celebrates a decade of staging often challenging and always stimulating exhibitions of British figurative art.


When it comes to telling a news story, the camera doesn’t lie. A photograph can capture the triumph or tragedy of an event and convey a message of hope, celebration, or sorrow that cannot be denied. Great news photos freeze for all time a moment in history–fixing events, places, and human beings in our memory as words can never do. Words seldom can convey the horror of armed combat or the unabashed joy of a victorious athlete as well as a good photograph can.

Photos that tell a story are taken by photojournalists. Photojournalists are members of the media who record events primarily through a camera lens. According to Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995), a pioneer photojournalist for Life magazine, the best photojournalists take the trouble to deeply understand their subjects before they focus the camera. Eisenstaedt said, “It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”

Each year, the world’s top news photos are honored by the World Press Photo Foundation. In the year 2000, a total of 3,938 photojournalists from 121 countries submitted photos. An international panel of judges picked the winning photos from 42,321 entries. Lara Jo Regan, an American, won the top award, the World Press Photo of the Year 2000. Regan’s photo shows an impoverished mother and her children at home in Texas.


A Brief History

Photojournalism began in the 1800s with early photographers such as Matthew Brady (1823-1896). When the American Civil War began in 1861, Brady decided that the war should be documented. Brady closed his portrait shop and organized a staff of photographers to record the war. Brady’s crew followed the Union armies, taking thousands of pictures of battles, camp life, and soldiers.

Today, Brady’s photographs are still considered some of the best photographs ever taken. He and his crew captured the emotions of war in the faces of the men who fought the battles–setting a standard of photojournalism that still inspires photographers today. Look at the winners of this year’s World Press Photo contest, shown on the following pages. What is the main emotion in each photo? What makes each photo a prizewinner?

General News Story, Second Prize

Mozambique Floods by Karel Prinsloo, South Africa

In February and March 2000, a series of severe floods hit Mozambique. United Nations officials said the floods were the worst Mozambique had endured in about 30 years. More than 1 million people were left homeless by raging rivers and streams. What story does this photo tell?

Science and Technology Third Prize

Scientist Jurgen Bachl with Genetically Manipulated Mouse by Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottawa, Germany

No, this isn’t tricky lighting. Scientists transplanted a gene that gives a jellyfish its fluorescence to a mouse for medical research. How does this photo convey the mystery and excitement of science?

Sports Single, First Prize

Marion Jones Wins 100m Sprint at Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia by Bill Frakes and David Callow, United States

Marion Jones beat her nearest competitor in the 100-meter race by 0.37 seconds. Does this photo make it seem as if Jones won her race by a larger margin?

Nature and the Environment, Second Prize

Relaxing on a Shore of Industrial Waste, Russia by Jacqueline Mia Foster, United States

In this photo, sunbathers enjoy a warm day on a pile of industrial waste in Russia. What can you tell about the Russian environment from this photograph?

World Press Photo of the Year 2000

Uncounted Americans: Sanchez Family at Home, Texas by Lara Jo Regan, United States

This photo shows an impoverished immigrant family in their Texas home. Life magazine originally published Regan’s photo as part of a series on Americans who are not counted in the U.S. census. What does the photo say about living conditions among some Texas immigrant families? What emotions does the photo convey to you? Why do you think this photo was chosen as the contest’s top prizewinner?

Nature and the Environment Story, Third Prize

Penguin Rescue and Rehabilitation After Oil Spill, South Africa by Jon Hrusa, South Africa

About 22,000 penguins were endangered when a cargo ship sank near Cape Town, South Africa, in June 2000, spilling oil into the penguins’ home waters. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) led the penguin rescue mission, which cost about $2.5 million. Why do you think this photo won a prize?


Science and Technology Single, First Prize

Refugee Camp, Sierra Leone by Harald Henden, Norway

Thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed in a bloody civil war in the African country of Sierra Leone. How does this photo portray the horror of that war? How might the photo also show hope for the future of Sierra Leone?

Spot News, Second Prize

Cuban Refugee Elian Gonzalez Seized by U.S. Federal Agents, Miami, Fla. by Alan Diaz, United States

Federal agents seize 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives’ home on April 22, 2000. What emotions does the photo show?

Children’s Award

Young Landmine Victim, Afghanistan by Stephan Vanfleteren, Belgium

The World Press Photo Children’s Jury selected the photo below as the best of the year. The jury was made up of nine children ages 11 and 12 from around the world. The photo shows a boy who lost his leg after stepping on a land mine. Why might the children’s jury have picked this photo?

>>> View more: Top pix: World Press Photo Awards

Darth Vader’s New Offices; What happens to Lucasfilm now that ‘Star Wars’ is over? The company has big plans, soon to move into spectacular $350 million digs

Full Text:

Byline: Brad Stone

The massive new office park of George Lucas’s entertainment empire, Lucasfilm Ltd., is so picturesque and idyllic that it could stand in for one of those improbable computer-generated landscapes in the “Star Wars” prequels. Four classically designed brick-and-terra-cotta buildings rise amid Japanese maples, weeping willows and a winding stone creek on 23 acres of San Francisco’s Presidio National Park, in the shadow of the Golden Gate. But something is definitely missing: iconography from the movies that made the company famous in the first place. In keeping with the low-key corporate image, there’s only one clue as to who rules around here. At the entrance to the front door, perched atop a tiled fountain, sits a small bronze statue of everyone’s little green friend, Yoda.

But Yoda’s cinematic time has come and gone, and Lucasfilm–as a Jedi might put it–must be mindful of the future. Three original “Star Wars” films, three subsequent prequels and the bounteous licensing of bedsheets and toys (might we offer you a Wookiee Water Blaster?) has earned the company an out-of-this-universe $12.4 billion (and counting). The movies, though, are now history. While Lucasfilm’s famously introverted founder George Lucas sticks close to his vast, remote Skywalker Ranch north of San Francisco, making art films and “Star Wars” TV spinoffs, 1,500 of his employees will move to the Presidio this summer from dozens of buildings scattered around Marin County. Workers at special-effects division Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), videogame maker LucasArts and Web firm Lucas Online will operate from a central location for the first time in Lucasfilm’s 34-year history.

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The idiosyncratic company has never revealed financial results or growth plans. It has the luxury of being enigmatic, since it’s owned exclusively by Lucas. But executives are hoping that the new $350 million digs–financed solely by Lucasfilm–will inspire collaboration and synergy, two forces that could make it even more competitive in a tough entertainment landscape. It “will allow us to think about what life is like after ‘Star Wars’ and after George,” says Lucasfilm president Micheline Chau.

Chau hopes the new space will also help the company maintain another tradition for which it’s lauded: technology innovation. Lucas and his band of Hollywood rebels have long been developing tools to assist their own films, which have in turn revolutionized the rest of the industry. EditDroid, an early editing system created at ILM in the ’80s, allowed Lucas to scan film onto laser disc and cut scenes without touching the original film. It evolved into the Avid editing system in use today. Lucas employees also developed the first high-quality movie sound system, THX, and the industry’s first graphics simulation on computers. That division was spun out and became the successful Pixar studio after being sold to Steve Jobs.

More recent Lucasfilm breakthroughs have come in computer graphics–from “Star Wars: Episode I” ‘s Jar Jar Binks, the first photorealistic all-digital main character in a movie (and surely the most annoying), to the dinosaurs for “Jurassic Park.” CG images, of course, became ubiquitous in the industry, presenting ILM, still the largest special-effects house, with challengers.

The new Presidio headquarters is central to Lucasfilm’s strategy to maintain supremacy. Executives tout the largest high-performance data network in the industry: 600 miles of cable connect visual-effects artists to a 10-gigabyte network–10 times more bandwidth than they had in their former offices. A 13,500-square-foot data center will crunch ILM’s digital images 24 hours a day, using more than 3,000 high-end computer processors from Silicon Valley firm AMD. But the Lucas folks are just as excited about the more pedestrian features of the campus: the 350-seat cafeteria, the fitness center and day care, which they hope will foster an ongoing exchange of ideas among employees. For example, a videogame designer thinking about how to render a character’s virtual hair could tap an ILM employee for tips. And an ILM artist who finishes a summer special-effects movie could be put to work on a videogame. “Collaboration between games and cinema is the way we become unique again,” says ILM R&D chief Steve Sullivan.

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Lucasfilm wants to extend this teamwork into the digital-filmmaking process itself. Traditionally, ILM animators and artists work on one element of a shot, then hand it to another colleague who works on a separate element. ILM chief technology officer Cliff Plumer talks about “the new pipeline,” in which the technology infrastructure of the Presidio, along with specialized software developed inside ILM, will allow digital artists to work together virtually as they might on a physical set. They can look at the same shot and make changes that their colleagues can see in real time.

The new headquarters may have another, perhaps unintended consequence–creating new distance between the company and its chairman. Lucas will spend only a few hours each month at the new office, according to Chau. Further detached from its creator and his whims, Lucasfilm should look more like a real company with a balance statement that’s healthy even without “Star Wars” revenues. Chau insists that despite press speculation, an IPO is not imminent: “There is a certain uniqueness to being private. We can take risks.” Nonetheless, a streamlined Lucasfilm will look better to customers and prospective partners–just as its new offices will surely impress anyone who wanders by.

CAPTION(S): The sprawling Presidio site, located southeast of the Gate