‘Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl’: The androgynous self-portraits of Claude Cahun
03.31.2014
06:59 am

Topics:
Art
Queer

Tags:
photography
Claude Cahun


Self-portrait, 1927. Her shirt says, “I am in training, don’t kiss me.”
 
While David Bowie will always be my very first cultural touchstone of avant-garde androgyny, it’s Claude Cahun that’s my absolute favorite. And I’m sure Bowie would approve. He once said of Cahun, “You could call her transgressive or you could call her a cross dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies. I find this work really quite mad, in the nicest way.” You don’t really get much of a better recommendation than that, and looking as alien and draggy as anything Mr. Rebel Rebel ever dreamed of, her many photographic incarnations are just mesmerizing.

Born in 1894 as Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob in Nantes, France, she was from a family of artistic Jewish intellectuals. Cahun chose her pseudonym for its unisex ambiguity—the surname was her paternal grandmother’s who raised her, as Cahun’s mother struggled with mental illness. Her life-long artistic collaborator, romantic partner, and step-sister, Suzanne Malherbe, went by Marcel Moore, and together they fostered a true avant-garde community, hosting salons in their Paris home. André Breton, author of Surrealist Manifesto, was a regular attendant. Though photography is her most famous medium, she was also a painter, collage artist, sculptor, novelist, playwright and essayist—many of her published essays pertained to the avant-garde artistic community.

Cahun and Moore eventually moved to Jersey, in the Channel Islands, which was occupied by Germany during World War Two. Cahun and Moore were active in the resistance, feverishly creating protest materials of collage and poetry fliers denouncing the Nazis. The two actually attended German military events to discreetly hide their propaganda fliers on cars, in windows, in the seats of the crowd, and even in the pockets of Nazi soldiers. They were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. They spent some time in prison before the liberation, and though their sentencing was never carried out, Cahun’s death in 1954 is largely believed to have been the premature direct result of health problems she developed in prison. She is buried next to Moore in a church in Jersey.
 

Le Mystère d’Adam (The Mystery of Adam) 1929
 

Self-portrait, 1939
 

Self-portrait, 1929
 
More after the jump…

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
The first kiss ever filmed was between two women, and shot by a murderer
03.14.2014
10:01 am

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
photography


 
As long as we’re all watching black and white videos of strangers kissing, (and now their X-rated parodies), why don’t we take a stroll down memory lane to the very first filmed kiss, shot by groundbreaking English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, sometime between 1872 and 1885. The kiss was (gasp) between two women, but lest your prurient interests get the better of you, remember that Victorian culture didn’t really “get” lesbianism, and the nudity was to aid in Muybridge’s dedicated study of motion. From the Muybridge online archives:

While the Victorians were extremely sexually prudish by modern standards and commonly considered male homosexuality a serious threat to their society they believed women had little or no sex drive. Therefore the possibility of lesbianism was commonly ignored.

Because of Victorian sexual taboos Muybridge was not able to photograph men and women naked together and was only able to publish images of naked men together engaging in sports or work. Because he was free to show women naked together he used female models when he wanted to show two people engaging in ordinary activities. In many plates he had one of the women assume a typically male role and these are the plates which today we tend to perceive as homo-erotic.

You can see photos from the series below, as well as Muybridge’s “movie,” The Kiss. Of course, this was well before the invention of the motion picture camera—he simply set up a rig of rapidly firing cameras in sequence.

Fun fact: Muybridge actually shot and killed his wife’s lover, a man called Major Harry Larkyns, upon learning that he may have fathered their seven-month-old son. Muybridge actually tracked the guy down and said,  “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” right before shooting him, point blank. Larkyns died that night, and Muybridge was arrested. He pleaded insanity on account of a 12 year old head head injury. While the jury dismissed the insanity plea, they actually acquitted him for justifiable homicide. Muybridge and his wife divorced, she died, the son was sent to an orphanage, and though Muybridge paid the boy’s childhood expenses, he did not maintain contact.

So to review: Shooting people who sleep with your wife—ok. Women and men being filmed together—very not ok. That’s those wacky Victorians for you!
 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Prison Landscapes’ reveals the painted backdrops of commemorative prison portraits
03.12.2014
08:25 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
photography
prisons


 
Photographer Alyse Emdur’s affecting book of photography, Prison Landscapes explores one of the lesser known traditions of the U.S. correctional system—the commemorative prison portrait. Whether it’s the memento of a family visit or the celebration of an achievement like acquiring a GED, Emdur’s photographs evoke a lot of emotions. On the one hand, some of the subjects look legitimately happy, and small joys are the stuff of prison survival. On the other hand, the chintzy backdrops are reminiscent of aquarium decorations, complete with fake foliage and fantasy scenes.

Of course, U.S. prisons are notorious for their lack of transparency, so Emdur compiled her material from inmates and their loved ones themselves. She spent years collecting the pictures, corresponding with contacts to, in her own words, “document a system that I did not have physical access to.” Refusing to shy away from the political implications of her work, she explicitly deconstructs the facade of the backdrops, saying:

“Prison visiting room portraits are constructed to intentionally leave out the reality of prison. The aim of my project is not to be an authority on that which is left out, but to rather make the artifice visible. Although the paintings on the backdrops represent freedom, they are vehicles to control the representation of prisons and prisoners.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Via Beautiful Decay

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
Polaroids from the sets of ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and more
10.21.2013
06:20 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
photography

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Hunter S. Thompson and Bill Murray from Where the Buffalo Roam.

Polaroid photographs are used by make-up artists, costume designers, props, and set designers to maintain visual continuity in films and television dramas. It doesn’t always work, as I recall one tale (probably apocryphal) told to me during the filming of the BBC’s drama Your Cheating Heart, which was written by artist John Byrne, and starred Tilda Swinton, John Gordon Sinclair and Ken Stott. In one scene, Byrne was allegedly unhappy that the set was not “messy” as he had described it in the script. Therefore, he supposedly moved props around the set to make it more convincing, in particular a yellow telephone. After lunch break, Byrne returned to the set and moved the props again. This (allegedly) happened throughout the day’s filming. The end result was apparent on screen, as the yellow telephone was visibly seen moving around the back shot in one key scene.

This is a selection of Polaroids taken for continuity or for fun on a variety of film sets from the 1960s to 2004.
 
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Winona Ryder, Girl Interrupted.
 
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Johnny Depp, Benny and Joon.
 
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Kate Winslet and Jim Carey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
 
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Sean Young and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner.
 
More film set photos, after the jump…

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Notes From The Niallist #8: Krys Fox and the ‘31 Days Of Halloween’
10.31.2012
10:45 am

Topics:
Art
Queer

Tags:
Halloween
photography
Horror Films
NFTN
Krys Fox


 
There are people who love Halloween. Then there are people who LOVE Halloween. Like, really, really LOVE Halloween.

Brooklyn-based photographer Krys Fox is one of the latter. To show how much he loves the witching season, Krys has just completed the mammoth feat of of shooting 31 different photos shoots in 31 days—one for each day of October—with each shoot based around one of his favourtie horror movies. Now THAT is dedication to the Halloween spirit! I sent Krys some questions to find out what had inspired him to undertake this epic task, why invert the gender roles in these photos, and what got him in to photography in the first place…
 

 
THE NIALLIST: So, how are you handling Hurricane Sandy? That seems like a real horror movie. Has it affected your shoots?

KRYS FOX: Hurricane Sandy scared me last night. It got violent out there. Our building in Brooklyn was shaking and swaying. It sounded like a monster was out there in the wind. Very much like a scary movie. Luckily, we didn’t lose power. Just internet and cable… and I own a LOT of movies so we just had a movie marathon. Halloween, The Mist, Hide & Seek and Sleepy Hollow were our films… As far as my shoots go, I shot four on my last day, I finished the last shot for the series at 9pm on Saturday night. The subways and buses were already shut down by then (and still are) so, I walked a half an hour back home (with all my props, equipment and camera on me) while Sandy started getting windy. It was a bit freaky, but also pretty cool. It was eerie outside and fun to be in it before it got too serious. So, I lucked out. If the storm had started a day earlier, I wouldn’t have finished this epic project.
 

 
More photos, and questions with Krys, after the jump. Let’s see, can you name the horror movies referenced in his work?
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
140 years of black gay male couples in photos
01.13.2012
07:19 pm

Topics:
History
Queer
Race

Tags:
History
gay
photography
race
couples


 
After Monday’s post about Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of NYC, here are pictures that delve even further into the often under-acknowledged history of gay men within the black community. Historian Trent Kelley has been collecting these photos - which span the last 140 years and mostly (but not exclusively) feature gay men - and has put them online for people to see on his Climbing Kilimanjaro Flickr account. Via Colorlines.com, Kelley says:

Afro American gay men are ignored into nonexistence in parts of black culture and are basically second class citizens in gay culture. The black church which has historically played a fundamental role in protesting against civil injustices toward its parishioners has been want to deny its gay members their right to live a life free and open without prejudice. Despite public projections of a “rainbow” community living together in harmonious co-habitation, openly active and passive prejudices exist in the larger gay community against gay Afro Americans.

 

 

 
These make for some beautiful and touching pictures. See more here.

Thanks to Chloe Cousins.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Subverting American Apparel: an interview with the amazing Nancy Upton


 
You might have seen the name Nancy Upton trending online in the last few days. After taking offence at the language in a recent talent-hunt campaign by American Apparel (a company whose image is already a source of much controversy, and who are looking for a plus-size model to advertise their new range), Nancy decided to do some satirical beauty shots of herself sexily consuming food and enter them into the contest. Well, the photos came out very well and have proved wildly popular with the public, who have voted Nancy into first place in the competition (even though she has stated that she would not accept the prize if the judges chose her to win). 

All in all this is a pretty awesome story, which touches on female sexual empowerment, body image, sexist corporate branding and the acceptability of sizeism within the mainstream. I sent Nancy some brief questions for Dangerous Minds, and she was kind enough to answer them in some detail:

How did you feel about American Apparel before their “plus size” competition? What was it about this particular campaign that made you want to enter?

I feel like they’ve always gone above and beyond other companies in objectifying women. Basically it was the fact that they were trying to take advantage of a new market but make it seem like they were doing people a favor. I answered this a bit with my Daily Beast article.

“The company was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification. The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind.
...
American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.”

 

 

What’s your reaction to being voted no. 1 by the public?

Complete and utter shock. I never expected to actually be accepted into the contest, and I certainly never expected for people (other than friends who knew what I was doing and why I was doing it) to want me to win.

You’ve taken a bit of flack for supposedly insulting large women with the pics - how do you respond to that?

It’s actually very upsetting for me to hear from women that they feel insulted by what I did. I feel like, being a plus-sized woman myself, it should be very apparent that the photos are done to mock people who are the ones judging overweight men and women. Also, that they were done in the spirit of silly shenanigans and having fun being yourself. I feel like watching a plus-sized model get brutally airbrushed or only shot from one specific, slimming angle for an ad campaign is way more insulting. It’s interesting that by insulting a company that has a history of negativity towards women, I’ve managed to insult the same women the company marginalizes.

You have already said that if you do win you wouldn’t accept the prize - but wouldn’t it be better if you did?

Would it be better? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t appear for American Apparel because I disagree with their business practices, specifically their system of advertising. I feel like putting your face on a product or brand you can’t actually get behind is pretty gross. I’m also not sure it would send a great message. I feel like I’ve had an opportunity to make a statement about standing up (or at least satirizing) for what you believe in, and if I turned around and accepted a job from AA, that statement would be negated to a degree.
 

 
Do you have any favourite other models in the comp you think should win?

I’m not going to play favorites, but I definitely think the person chosen should ACTUALLY be unknown, especially since there’s no monetary compensation. Some of the women in the competition not only had modeling experience, but are actually signed with agencies. I’ve always been under the impression that once you have representation, you should avoid contests and stunts like this. But what the hell do I know about the world of modeling?

What do you think as to how large people are treated in mainstream culture and fashion in general, and is there anything anyone can do to affect this?

I feel like it’s a dialogue/presence that is always in a flux between shrinking and expanding. For every “fat best friend” throw away character on television, we get one who is brilliantly written and portrayed. Increasingly we see different shapes and looks being incorporated into major ad campaigns and runway work. Are large people treated well across the board? No. Has their level of representation and respect grown from where it was 10 years ago? Yes.

I think people are becoming more and more outspoken about the role of the plus-sized model in fashion, as well as in other aspects of entertainment and art. If we continue to keep those lines of communication open and express our desires directly and dynamically, change will happen.
 

 
Are there any designers/labels/outlets you think DO respect plus size people?

I think some designers have cuts that are more generous or have become more generous as time has gone on. Diane Von Furstenberg, for example. I believe they go up to a 14 now, as does Kate Spade, which is interesting considering their clothing line isn’t even the company’s main selling point.

I’m a big fan of the Dove campaigns. They’re very natural and don’t feel patronizing or cheap. They’re honest, simple and encourage individuality. The Gentlewoman had a great article on Adele earlier this year, and I’m a big fan of the way they profile strong, interesting women in their magazine. Target has a great selection of sizes and, I swear, every time I walk in there, the clothes are better and better.

And finally the photographs are beautiful - can you tell us more about the photographer?

Shannon Skloss, the magnificent. She has a website that will be launching soon, but for now you can find her business page on Facebook. She’s incredibly funny, vibrant and talented. We had so much fun on the shoot, and her work is just outstanding. We were introduced through a mutual friend when I needed some headshots done a few months ago, and I’m so glad it worked out that way.

Voting has now closed on the American Apparel “Next Big Thing” campaign, though we await with interest any kind of statement from the company. Shannon Skloss’ Facebook photography page is here.

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Haunting images from an egg pinhole camera


 
Photographer and artist Francesco Capponi’s “Pinhegg” creation is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Capponi said he had a strong desire to create a special camera that took only one image: “The purpose was to sacrifice the camera in the process of photo creation—I wanted the camera to become the photograph.” The images within the eggs are not only haunting and beautiful, but the end result makes you wonder “How the hell did he do that?” 

If you’re curious how Francesco Capponi made his “Pinheggs,” there’s a step by step post on how to build and use one here.


 

 
More after the jump…

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Lewis Carroll’s haunting photographs (1856-1880)
03.30.2011
12:05 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
photography
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Lewis Carroll

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Charles Lutwidge Dodgson better known as “Lewis Carroll,” took up the then new art-form of photography in 1856. Over 3000 photographs were taken by Dodgson, but only 1000 have survived due to the passage of time and deliberate destruction. Fifty percent of Dodgson’s surviving work is of young girls, but he also photographed skeletons, dolls, dogs, families, statues and trees.

Charles Dodgson quit photography in 1880 because he thought keeping a running studio was too difficult and time-consuming. 
 
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View more photos after the jump…

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
They Walk Among Us: Alien-like photographs of insects
12.13.2010
01:20 pm

Topics:
Art
Environment

Tags:
photography
Igor Siwanowicz
insects

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I usually get a little freaked out by insects (I don’t like ‘em), but these images by photographer Igor Siwanowicz are damn beautiful. I just can’t get over the gorgeous color combinations and textures of the insects. Lovely! 
 
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See many more images after the jump…

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Judy Linn: photograph of Patti Smith as Bob Dylan

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New Yorker Judy Linn’s photographs of Patti Smith are an indelible part of the collective consciousness of Patti’s fans and admirers. But, the Dylan one is new to me.

A book of around 100 black and white photographs Lynn took between the years of 1969-1977 of Patti, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard, Gerard Malanga, among others, is being published next March by Abrams.
 
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More of Linn’s photographs of Patti after the jump…

Written by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Herman Leonard photographer of Billie Holiday, Sinatra and Miles Davis has died
08.16.2010
12:13 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
jazz
photography
Herman Leonard

image
Dexter Gordon
 
Jazz photographer Herman Leonard has died. Leonard’s black and white photographs of jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington were masterpieces of lighting and mood. He captured moments in time that became an indelible part of jazz culture. Like the musicians his camera chronicled, his photographs sang.
 
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Billie Holiday

 

Written by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Taming, Bending and Twisting Light
10.20.2009
09:22 pm

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:
photography
Alan Jaras
Reciprocity

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From photographer Alan Jaras (or Reciprocity on Flickr):

These are light refraction patterns or ‘caustics’ formed by a white light beam passing through shaped and textured transparent forms. The pattern is captured directly on to 35mm film by removing the camera lens and putting the transparent object(s) in its place. Colours are introduced by placing complex coloured optical filters directly in the light beam.

The processed film is digitally scanned for uploading. Please note these are not computer generated images but a true analogue of the way light is refracted by the objects I create.

Reciprocity’s photostream
 
(via Neatorama)

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion