Photographer Danila Tkachenko traveled across Russia documenting the abandoned buildings, monuments and military craft of a once imagined utopia. His pictures of these snowbound relics look like possible sets for a Star Wars movie or images for a book by J. G. Ballard—Myths of the Near Future?
The photographs form part of his project Restricted Areas, which examines “the human impulse towards utopia, about our striving for perfection through technological progress.”
Any progress comes to its end earlier or later, what’s interesting for me is to witness what remains after.
Many of the places Danila photographed were until recently kept secret, having never appeared on any maps or public records.
Restricted Areas won Danila top prize at CENTER’s Director’s Choice Award earlier this year. See more of Danila’s work here.
Airplane – amphibia with vertical take-off VVA14. The USSR built only two of them in 1976, one of which has crashed during transportation.
Former mining town which has been closed and made a bombing trial field. The building on the photo shows the cultural center, one of the objects for bombing.
More of Danila Tkachenko’s photos of Russia’s forgotten future, after the jump….
During the 19th century posters were primarily used as a means of advertising and publicity. It would take the events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution to change their use from commercial to a means of propaganda and education. Posters became a means to educate or re-educate a nation according to the beliefs of their leaders—whether as a rallying point in war or to inspire revolution.
For Soviet Russia the poster was a means of spreading state information targeting the population across a vast and diverse country. Literacy had been a problem in Russia—according to 1897 national census, under Tsarist rule just 28.4% of the populace were literate. After the revolution, Lenin promised to “liquidate illiteracy” and by 1926, 56.6% of Russians were registered as literate.
However, knowing that at least half of your workforce was illiterate was a hinderance to the planned Soviet industrialization of the country.The workforce had to be educated as quickly and successfully as possible. To solve the problem accident prevention posters were produced disseminating clear and succinct warnings to all possible hazards faced by the Soviet workforce in industry and agriculture. “Be careful with a fork,” “Hey Scatterbrain! Don’t cripple your Friends!” or “Don’t Walk on Fish!” reinforced the need for the individual to take responsibility of their own actions for the benefit of the greater good. Though many of the messages may strike us now as bizarre or strange (“A fan is a friend of labor. Let it work forever.”), they all reflect a revolutionary change to the quality of health and safety at work.
‘Hide the Hair.’
‘Don’t Walk on Fish!’
‘Chemical containers should have accurate inscriptions!’
‘Hey Scatterbrain! Don’t cripple your Friends!’
More health and safety notices from Soviet era Russia, after the jump…
A few weeks ago, I fell (as is my wont) deep, deep down into the audiophile rabbit hole that is the Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Hoffman is a well-known audio engineer and he’s been responsible for hundreds of classic albums getting the deluxe treatment, mostly via DCC, the audiophile label famous for their gold CDs. His website is where audiophiles congregate to discuss and debate the software side of the “perfect sound” equation. I can geek out there for hours on end and often do.
So it was there, reading a thread on Hoffman’s remastering of the famous live Judy Garland album, Judy At Carnegie Hall that it occurred to me—annual TV viewings of The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid aside—that I didn’t really know that much about Judy Garland, considered by many to be the greatest entertainer who ever lived. Numero Uno. #1. Of all time. Never to be equalled. That’s already admitting to a pretty substantial gap in my musical knowledge, ain’t it? I can’t have that!
So I got a copy of Judy At Carnegie Hall, the cherished document of what was probably the single most triumphant night in the career of the great performer. It more than lives up to its reputation. It’s practically flawless. Awe-inspiring. Her voice contains multitudes. Happy. Sad. Resilient. Defeated. Deeply moving—I mean you can REALLY lose yourself in her songs. Wow.
That album is the damndest thing. I played it six times in a row the day I got it. It totally blew my mind. I expected it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this good!
What takes Judy At Carnegie Hall to a whole other level though, is not what Garland herself is doing per se, but the reaction to what she’s offering her audience that’s reflecting back from them. I’ve never heard more rapturous applause (and shouting, screaming, stamping) for anybody or for any reason, at any time in my entire life. The audience isn’t merely applauding madly, they are going fucking bananas, creating an affectionate feedback loop between them and the great (and very grateful) performer that takes the whole thing into an emotionally exhausting overdrive. There’s nothing—I repeat—nothing like it. I’ll say it once more: Judy At Carnegie Hall is the damndest thing.
So now that revelation sets me off to find out more about Judy Garland, and if you have read this far, trust me when I tell you that the 2004 PBS American Masters documentary Judy Garland: By Myself is one of the most fascinating—and unspeakably SAD—documentaries you will ever see. [Easy to find on torrent trackers (PBS aired it again in March) and it’s also on the DVD extras of Easter Parade.]
The thing that I was struck with when it was over (other than a deep, deep feeling of sadness I couldn’t shake for days) was how Garland was this mutant force of nature, possessing a mysterious innate source of genius that she could draw from. Even when her frail body was ready to give out, she still gave all for her audiences, even if it meant going home in a wheelchair. Looking at this overview of her 47 short years on this planet, one sees a woman whose magnificent talent will never be forgotten. She died young, but she’s immortal, as many of her performances are woven into the fabric of American history.
And that brings me to the thing I wanted to call your attention to, Garland’s mind-boggling rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” taped a few weeks after the assassination of JFK, on December 13th, 1963. Kennedy and Garland had been friends. She raised money for him and kept a summer home near his in Hyannis Port. The oft-told story about Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” over to the telephone line to JFK many times during his presidency was no myth of Camelot, it actually did happen, several times.
After the tragic events in Dallas, Garland, then doing a weekly series on CBS, went to the network executives with the idea to do a tribute to the fallen President. They were very cool to the idea. One of the CBS brass is alleged to have told her that in a month or so, that no one would even remember Kennedy! Undaunted Garland chose to end her next show with a powerful performance of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” that left no one, but no one wondering who she was singing it for. (According to Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft, in the studio Garland had said “This is for you, Jack,” but it was edited out for broadcast by an asshole at ABC.)
This is the most stunning thing. Raw emotion—what the entire nation must’ve been feeling—channeled through the body and mighty lungs of this tiny, frail woman, who’d been told by her doctors only a few years before this that she’d soon become an invalid and be bedridden for the rest of her life.
I was at the Library of Congress last week, and while it was utterly grand to be there, I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly snapped a couple of cables when I spotted that pernicious Thomas Carlyle quotation high up on the wall: “THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS THE BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT MEN.” Look, I understand that it was put there over a century ago, and I wouldn’t expect simple values dissonance alone to be a sufficient reason to alter something so historical, but it was still a drag to see that in 2015 (the exhibit lionizing Columbus and Cortez’s New World explorations without mentioning the word “genocide” anywhere was also a disappointment—the USA still has a loooooong-ass way to go).
One of the deep faults of the “Great Man” theory of history is that it excludes the contributions of thousands, if not millions, of unheralded activists who, though they didn’t happen to be the marquee names who got to make speeches that were recorded for posterity, still committed much of their resources and lives to the causes and movements that shaped the world we live in. A more obvious flaw is the continually maddening omission of great women. For example, I hold it as a significant demerit (among many) of the public education system that I never knew the name of the amazing Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman and the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, until my late college years, when I was channel-surfing and I randomly caught a doc about her on PBS.
Another such figure I’m salty about never learning about in school, also from the US Civil Rights Movement, as it happens, is voting rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, a crucial activist and orator whose contributions to freedom in America are not, by my reckoning, sufficiently heralded—she not only endured being beaten and shot at, she underwent a non-consensual hysterectomy as part of a eugenics program. Justifiably furious at such shocking abuse at the hands of her doctor, she dove headlong into activism, helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and giving a powerful and pivotal speech to the 1964 Democratic National Convention Credentials Committee, challenging the legitimacy of Mississippi’s all-white delegation, and describing the horrors she endured for merely trying to register to vote. Presumptive nominee Lyndon Johnson, in a total asshole move, tried to keep the speech out of the news by calling a specious press conference. Hamer got crazy amounts of news coverage anyway.
Archaeologists have uncovered 2,400-year-old golden bongs used by royalty to smoke cannabis and opium in Russia. The bongs were uncovered in a secret chamber covered with clay by construction workers during excavations to install power lines. The ancient paraphernalia was found alongside 7 lbs of other gold items—three gold cups, a heavy gold finger ring, two neck rings, and a gold bracelet.
Experts believe the bongs to be the oldest in existence—used by Scythians, an ancient Iranian nomadic people who dominated the Eurasian grasslands for almost 1,000 years, roughly 800 BC to 300 AD.
The haul of bongs and jewelry.
The bongs contained a thick black residue which on examination was found to be a mix of cannabis and opium. Cannabis played an important part in the Scythian religion—smoked as a way to induce a state of trance and help with divination. It is believed this potent mix was smoked by Scythian kings before leading their armies into battle. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484 BC-425 BC) wrote:
“The Scythians used a plant to produce smoke that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass” and that “transported by the vapour, [they] shout aloud.”
Antonn Gass, of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, in Berlin, Germany, believes that the Scythians used both drugs is “beyond doubt.”
“It’s a once-in-a-century discovery, these are among the finest objects we know from the region.”
The ornate bongs also tell a story. One shows a bearded man killing young warrior—or perhaps a jealous husband slaying a rival lover or son; while, the other has mythological creatures on it, including griffons ripping apart a horse and a stag—the Scythians had seven gods in their religion and sacrificed animals to them.
Painting of the ‘Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs’ by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1881.
The Scythians were known as notoriously aggressive warriors, who “fought to live and lived to fight” and were said to drink “the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins.” They practiced guerilla warfare and were famed as archers—using arrows with poisonous tips to conquer their enemies.
The haul of treasure was found in a kurgan (burial mound) in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, in 2013. Due to fear of looters raiding the site, the find was kept quiet. Now the bongs and jewelry have been cleaned up and are to be exhibited in a Russian museum.
“I was interested in them because they were punks and they were against society.”—Kazuhiro Hazuki, Narushino Specter gang
Back in the 1970s the term bōsōzoku (or “speed tribes”) was first used to describe Japanese biker gangs that routinely fought in the streets with rival gangs and the police. Often dressed like Kamikaze pilots, the bōsōzoku wreaked havoc speeding through the streets on their illegally modified bikes, blowing through red lights, and smashing the car windows of any motorist that dared defy them with baseball bats. Foreigners were an especially favorite target of the bōsōzoku’s aggression.
Bōsōzoku biker with illegally modified bike and helmet (taken from a Japanese biker magazine)
Bōsōzoku bikers, 1970’s
Bōsōzoku biker, 1980’s
The earliest incarnation of the bōsōzoku, the kaminari zoku, appeared in the 1950’s. Not unlike their idols from the films, The Wild Ones or Rebel Without a Cause, the group was formed by the youthful and disenchanted members of Japan’s proletariat, and the gang provided a place for the emerging delinquents to call their own. A fiercely disciplined and rebellious group, the bōsōzoku once boasted more than 40,000 members. By 2003 the bōsōzoku’s numbers had dwindled to just over 7000. According to first-hand accounts from former senior members, the modern version of the bōsōzoku (known as Kyushakai) no longer embody the rebel spirit of their predecessors. In fact, some have returned to homaging their rockabilly idols by donning elaborate Riizentos, a style of pompadour synonymous with disobedience. These days many ex-bōsōzoku parade around on their bikes in non-disruptive groups and enjoy dancing, performing music and socializing in groups in Harajuku, an area well known for its outrageous fashion.
Harajuku Black Shadow dancers (ex-bōsōzoku), hanging out in Harajuku, 2008
Many factors are to blame for the demise of the traditional bosozuku. A former leader of from the Narushino Specter gang in the 90s (and one time Yakuza loan shark), Kazuhiro Hazuki recalls that the police were once content to allow the bōsōzoku to run riot and no matter how many times they were arrested, a gang member never had their license revoked. Over the years, revised traffic laws have led to a rise in the arrest and prosecution of the bōsōzoku. Some also point to the inclusion of women as bōsōzoku riders, now a common sight in Japan, and a less than robust economy (many bōsōzoku bikes can cost as much as ten grand) for the drastic reduction in the gang’s numbers.
Modern Kyushakai bikers
If this post has piqued your interest of vintage Japanese biker culture, there are several documentaries and films based on the bōsōzoku and other speed tribes in Japan, such as 1976’s God Speed You! Black Emperor, 2012’s Sayonara Speed Tribes, a short documentary that features historical perspective from the aforementioned Kazuhiro Hazuki, or the series of films from director Teruo Ishii based on the bōsōzoku that began in 1975 with, Detonation! Violent Riders. If you are a fan of Japanese anime, the story told in the cult film Akira deeply parallels the real world of the bōsōzoku in their heyday. Many images of the bōsōzoku of the past and their mind-boggling motorcycles follow.
Here’s a collection of historical “drag queens” dating back to the 1800s and then onwards. The reason I’m using “drag queen” in double quotes is because I’m not entirely sure if these people were transgender, cross-dressers, dressing up as women for theatrical purposes or just for the of fun it. The information is very limited for each image. Either way, they’re all gorgeous and seem quite comfortable with themselves in front of a lens during a time when society looked down on such self-expression.
Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton AKA “Fanny and Stella.”
When photographer Felice Beato arrived in Japan in 1863, he found the country in the midst of civil war. After spending over two hundred years in seclusion, Japan was being forced by the Americans—under a mission led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry—to expand its trade with the west. The country was divided between the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo and the Imperial Court based in Kyoto. Over the next decade, a period known as the Bakumatsu, Japan was riven as the Imperial order gradually took control. The key moment came when the samurai of the Chōshū and Satsuma provinces defeated the Shogunate in 1867, which led to the restoration of imperial rule under Emperor Meiji.
Beato was an Anglo-Italian, born in Venice in 1832, and raised in the British protectorate of Corfu. He learnt his trade under the renowned photographic pioneer James Robertson, with whom he traveled to Constantinople documenting many British imperial wars fought in Crimea, India and China. Beato’s skill saw him (along with his brother Antonio) hailed as one of the century’s leading photojournalists.
In 1862, Beato sold most of his photographic work and invested the money in the London Stock Exchange, where it was quickly lost. The following year, he decided to quit England and start out on a new adventure, this time to Japan. On his arrival in Yokohama, Beato set-up a business with English artist Charles Wirgman, who drew sketches and engravings based on Beato’s photographs. Travel was dangerous in Japan, with many of the Shogunate samurai warriors killing westerners—in Edo the American legation was burned to the ground and westerners threatened with death. On one occasion, Beato escaped such a fate after declining a tour of Kamakura with two Imperial officers, who happened across two masterless samurais (or ronin) and were beheaded. However, through his contacts in the military, Beato did manage to travel to many of the secluded areas of the country, where he documented the last years of feudal Japan.
Among his first photographs were the portraits of the Satsuma samurais, who happily posed for him. In one group portrait, four samurais symbolically show their strength and ambition by presenting themselves with one standing samurai holding a red book of English literature and one seated with an unsheathed knife—highlighting their hold on western knowledge and their strength in Japanese tradition. As travel became restricted because of the civil war, Beato opened a studio back in Yokohama, where he photographed many samurai warriors and their courtesans.
A selection of Felice Beato’s rare hand-colored photographs will be on display at the London Photographic Fair 23rd-24th May.
More of Felice Beato’s incredible photographs, after the jump…
Dubbed the “father of modern neurosurgery,” Dr. Harvey Cushing had a brilliant medical career. In 1901 he discovered what was later called the Cushing reflex—basically, what happens to your body when the brain is squeezed (That sounds way less science-y than it actually is, I swear). From there he continued to pioneer new ways of diagnosing brain tumors through X-rays, which produced new surgical techniques that drastically improved patients’ chances at survival from previously deadly conditions. Cushing also left a collection of about 500 preserved brains and nearly 10,000 patient photographs for posterity. In 2010—after sitting in a Yale dorm basement for more than 30 years—the brains were transferred to a museum, but it’s only recently that the pictures have been made available to the public.
The full series, titled “Cushing Tumor Registry,” covers Cushing’s patients from 1900 to 1933, and honestly if you had told me these were taken by Richard Avedon or Irving Penn, I wouldn’t have questioned it. The saturated, intense portraiture is stunning, whether focused on a pretty face or a brutal scar. Despite the medical nature of the photography, nothing in this cross-section elicits a shudder. Even the photo of the disembodied brain just looks like a still life.
This is the good stuff, good people, a genuine once-in-a-blue-moon recovery of a lost treasure trove. You, Dangerous Minds’ readers, are literally the first people in the word to see these photos, apart from the photographer and a tiny handful of others.
In 1976, Dave Treat, a student at the now defunct Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, lived in a Lakewood apartment building that also hoveled the members of a rock band that had just re-christened itself from Frankenstein to the Dead Boys. As he was both the nearest accessible art student who owned a camera and a close friend to singer Stiv Bators, Treat was recruited to shoot publicity photos of the band, and while one of them may have been used (it remains unclear, but we’ll get to that), the rest have sat unseen since then. They became obsolete quickly, as Jeff Magnum would be added as the band’s bassist shortly after these were shot. In the last year, their existence became known to art historian Brittany Mariel Hudak and photographer/gallery owner Bryon Miller, who are working to release them in a book, and preparing them for exhibit in Cleveland, with the possibly of a New York exhibit later in the year. What the photos reveal is a band unknowingly on the cusp of achieving legendary status, and a sensitive, vulnerable Stiv Bators very, very unlike his self-consciously bratty public persona.
From Hudak’s introduction to the forthcoming Stiv 1976: Lost Photographs of Stiv Bators & The Dead Boys:
This is not about the onstage, very public Stiv or his antics – you can visit that guy on YouTube, read about his New York shenanigans in Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me, or watch him wield a baseball bat as tough guy “Bo-Bo Belsinger” in John Water’s film, Polyester. In contrast, these photographs taken by his neighbor Dave Treat in 1976 capture a different Stiv altogether – what they capture is “Stiv” in the making. They offer a rare glimpse into the private life of a young man on the brink of something, with a marked sense of unfettered opportunities and grand plans. There’s an unquestionable eagerness in his eyes, a what-do-I-have-to-lose attitude – and even hints of the onstage Stiv being built. He poses quite consciously for the camera, wearing the soon to be comfortable guise of the seductive rock star – lanky, languid, oozing sex appeal and confidence, complete with outrageous platform boots.
But if you look closely you can detect another, more vulnerable side of the performer. Crouched in a corner or staring off into the distance, at times there’s a palpable sadness – a peculiar malaise. This too could be a pose – the tortured artist suffering for his art, another familiar component of the rock-star myth. But one gets a sense that this side is genuine, and for Stiv rarely seen, which makes these photos all the more special.
The negatives for these amazing photos were buried in a closet for almost 40 years, and most have been printed for the first time this year by Miller, a gallery proprietor and photographer for High Times and Billboard, who, out of respect for their origins and provenance, actually printed them old-school gelatin silver style. In an actual darkroom. Some of those still exist. The photos will be exhibited at Miller’s Gallery 160 in Cleveland beginning on Friday, June 5th, to mark the 25th anniversary of Stiv’s death from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car, with an opening reception beginning at 6:00PM. Apart from Treat, Hudak, Miller, myself, and the Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome, nobody has ever seen these images before you, right now. Clicking on an image spawns an enlargement in a new browser tab.