Tag Archives: photo

Geo-tagged maps of Krakow and Warsaw

Here’s a cool and non-controversial thingy: maps of Warsaw and Krakow superimposed with visualizations of where people take photos. They were created by a chap called Eric Fischer, along with a lot of similar maps of other cities that you can see on his flickr page.

Using location data added to photos on Flickr and Picasa, Fischer plotted where photos were taken, and then coloured them according to whether they were taken by residents or tourists—a trick he achieved by classifying individuals who took photos in the same city over a period of more than 3 months as residents, and less then 3 months as visitors. Red dots indicate photos taken by visitors, blue by residents, and the yellow are unknown (individuals who took only one photo).

Click the image for an absolutely enormous version covering a wider area. Can you identify the hot spots? There are some clusters in outlying regions that must represent the work of local photography enthusiasts. Anyone we know?

The second map is of Krakow, but in this case the colours represent distance in time between photographs taken by the same individuals. Fischer interprets this as photos taken by pedestrians (black), photos taken by cyclists (red), and photos taken by drivers (blue).

Click the image for a huge version and indulge your compulsive pattern-recognition disorder.

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Oddest photo in Polish history?

Another gem turned up in my search through the excellent Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (National Digital Archive). This photo was taken in Krakow in 1941, according to the notes that accompany it. The wartime date and the city are confirmed by the destination plate on the back of the tram: Adolf Hitler Platz was the new name given to the Rynek Głowny by the occupying Germans. That’s all clear enough. What I don’t understand is what the hell is going on here. The more I look at it, the weirder it gets.

Click for a larger version

A number of questions spring to mind:

1. Why is nobody helping these people?

Possibly the guy who has come off his bicycle is dead, but the guy in front of the car isn’t. Why isn’t somebody at least helping him up? At first I though perhaps the accident had just happened when the photo was taken but:

a) there is no driver in the car;

b) a crowd of onlookers has gathered; and

c) a police officer is already on the scene (under the tree with his back to the camera).

2. What happened?

I’m fairly sure that’s the back of the tram, not the front: I see no driving position and there is a hitching coupling visible. If so, the tram must have been heading to the right, out of the frame of the picture. How did that car get there in that orientation? It looks like it’s come directly off the pavement.

3. How likely is it that there was a photographer right there?

Cameras were expensive and rare things in the 1940s, especially in occupied Europe. It’s an amazing coincidence that there should have been a photographer on the scene, with a loaded camera, within a short time of this incident. The photo looks much more like the kind of thing you would see taken today with a phone camera than the kind of thing you might expect from 1940s photography. Could the whole scene be staged? Is it part of a film set?

These questions and many more will undoubtedly be answered by our indefatigable readers. Or not.

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The Polish wallet photo

One of the very few occasions on which you will see a Krakowian reaching for his wallet is when he’s about to show you a photo of his wife, child, or dog. In fact most Poles seem to treat their wallets as a handy portable family album with a supplementary money-carrying facility. Some Brits carry photos in their wallets, and I know it’s quite popular in the US, but here it seems to be compulsory. Not having photos of your nearest and dearest in your wallet is like walking around with no trousers on—people look at you funny and are inclined to call the police in both cases.


Cousin Bill was disappointed not to have made the final ten on the “Nation’s Greatest Mullet” show

I’m not at all sure what the purpose of the wallet photo is. Obviously if you’re a heavy drinker it can be a useful way of identifying the woman bearing down on you with a frying pan and murderous intent in her eyes. Equally it can be a useful aide-mémoire for vodka fans when they are sent to pick the kids up from school. Other than that I just don’t get it. I assume we are supposed to believe the wallet-photo carrier spends some moments each day gazing lovingly at the image of their wife, husband, or child. People certainly do this a lot in Polish soap operas, but I’ve never seen it in real life.


Uncle Fred was beginning to wonder if his lifelong derision of cosmetic dentistry might have been a mistake

Is it a coincidence that in a country where you are required to carry around an identity card with your photo on it that people carry photos of everyone else they know too? Imagine the wife sends you out at midnight to buy food for little Magda’s puppy. If the police stop you there’s photographic evidence of the existence of all these characters right there in your wallet. You have a watertight case. I confess I’m not completely familiar with the evidential standing of the wallet photo in Polish law but I’m guessing it’s right up there with a signed letter from the Pope.


Popeye had never been the same since that terrible day when his pipe fell in the bacon slicer

I have two theories that explain the popularity of the Polish wallet photo. Theory number one is to do with the Catholic tradition of miraculous images. It’s a kind of associative magic. If I have a photo of my loved one with me, then my loved one is also with me in some kind of vague spiritual way. In the same way a painting of a saint somehow has the holiness of that saint, even if it was painted by a nun-bothering alcoholic with Protestant tendencies. This makes absolutely no sense and I am, therefore, completely in favor of it since very little else of value makes any sense either. It does make me wonder what people did before the invention of photography though.


Aunt Janice didn’t seem pleased when we asked her to smile

Theory two is slightly more cynical. Okay, it’s a lot more cynical. Photos are a great way of boasting, a failing to which the average Pole is not entirely immune. Have you seen a picture of my incredibly attractive wife / supernaturally cute child / award winning sausage dog? No? Well thank heavens I have one right here in my wallet to show you. I know Polish women are generally ridiculously attractive but I’ve seen some wallet photos that have made me wonder if the carrier hasn’t just taken a pair of scissors to the latest copy of Vogue. Are there some people out there with fake wallet photos? Is the pope a bear-eating catholic in the woods?*


Grandpa Jack was unenthusiastic about the whole bikini wax concept

Now I’m a married man I’m required under art. 12 para. 14 of the Polish constitution to carry a picture of my wife in my wallet. There are a couple of snapshots from our trip to Barcelona’s nudist beach that I though fit the bill perfectly, but apparently I was wrong.


Day four of the diet and cousin Phil is not in the best of moods

*I may have got this slightly wrong

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