September @ MOMA
My favorite camera is my film Hasselblad—a little brick—portable and heavy duty. When I go climbing, that Hasselblad is part of my enjoyment. A while ago, pinhole diagrams and suspended disbelief convinced me that science happens here: light bends, distances focus, the real world becomes small and flat thanks to concavity and silver halide crystals.
However, I have never seen inside a real camera lens. At least, not until I had the opportunity to view Christopher Williams’ photographs, which gave me a new appreciation for the precision and detail that drives the high cost of a quality lens.
Christopher Williams’ work was on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which I visited earlier in September. Also on view was the work of the recently deceased Massimo Vignelli, and Conceptions of Space, the museum’s recent acquisitions in contemporary architecture.
Massimo Vignellis’ diagrams of the New York City Subway system have been used for over 40 years to navigate its five boroughs. Proportionally the map is distorted—depicting an inflated Manhattan and a shrunken Brooklyn and Bronx—to achieve an even graphic density of subway lines. In The Vignelli Canon, Massimo explains his Modernist approach to graphic design:
“Very often people think that Design is a particular style. Nothing could be more wrong! Design is a discipline, a creative process with its own rules, controlling the consistency of its output toward its objective in the most direct and expressive way.”
“How often we see design that has no meaning: stripes and swash of color splashed across pages for no reason whatsoever. Well, they are either meaningless or incredibly vulgar or criminal when done on purpose.”
“Clarity of intent will translate in to clarity of result and that is of paramount importance in Design.”
“As much as I love things in flux, I love them within a frame of reference—a consistent reassurance that at least and at last I am the one responsible for every detail”.
To read more about the story of the development of typography in the New York City subway, check out AIGA’s article “The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway”.