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Ken Russell’s iconic photographs of Great Britain in the 1950s
11:06 am


Ken Russell

One of Ken Russell’s childhood memories was of going to school on a rainy day and noticing the clouds reflected in the puddles. These clouds—that seemed to float on the surface of the water—looked more real than the ones in the sky. They were beautiful and golden—the sky an iridescent blue. It seemed to young Ken that the reflected world down there was far more interesting than the one up in the sky.

It was a small epiphany: “If one could get down there,” he thought “it would be fantastic.” It was a vision of the world that Russell never gave up on.

In 1950s, after a stint in the merchant navy and as a ballet dancer, Russell picked up a camera and started taking pictures of the world as he saw it—this time reflected through the glass of his camera.

Over the decade, he took thousands of photographs capturing a beautifully strange and quirky world no one else seemed to have noticed. He started creating photo-essays on street scenes, market traders, parties, fashion, friends, dancers and documented the lives of many of London’s outsiders—the teenage gangs, the newly arrived immigrants and even the daily life for women in prison.

Russell then began to create his own imaginative flights of fancy—stories of cop and robbers, duels, races on bicycles and penny-farthings. He hawked his work around the agencies.

But I didn’t cut quite the right image. With my down-at-heel brogues and shiny Donegal three-piece suit I couldn’t look the least like Cecil Beaton, the popular image of the fashion photographer, no matter how much Honey and Flowers (from Woolworths) I sprinkled about my person. It was too early for the dirty photographer. You had to be dapper, suave, elegant, queer. If David Bailey had turned up in those days he wouldn’t have got past the door. Generally the editors would look at my stuff and say, “Yes, very nice but who’s your tailor? Ugh!

Nevertheless I did land a couple of jobs because I was so cheap. £2.10.0 a page. Peanuts!

For lack of models, Russell relied on his friends and dancer pals who hung around the Troubadour coffee bar. It was an intensive apprenticeship that led to Russell making his first film in 1956 Peepshow.

Ken Russell’s photographs from the 1950s show his unique eye for capturing the unusual and an immense his talent for creating powerful and iconic imagery.
Troubadour: the penny-farthing bicycle, 1955.
Zora the Unvanquished—writer Zora Raeburn pasting some of the hundreds of rejection letters she received to a wall outside her home, spring, 1955.
More of Ken Russell’s photos from the fifties, after the jump…

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Aliens Among Us: Almost psychedelic microscopic photography of beetles, mites, spiders and moths

Jumping spider (Phidippus otiosus).
Igor Siwanowicz’s interest in the natural world came from poring over brightly colored photographs and illustrations in biology and zoology textbooks as a child. Born in Krakow, Poland in 1976, Siwanowicz is the son of two biologists who he claims reinforced and rewarded his early interest in biology.

Certain amount of the fascination in natural sciences might be encoded in the genes, and that was definitely passed on me from my parents, along with some artistic skills that just pop up in my family generation after generation.

Siwanowicz studied for a Masters in biotechnology at Krakow and then Aarhus, Denmark, before going on to complete a PhD in structural biochemistry in Germany.

His artistic talents came to the fore during a hiatus from post-doctoral studies when Siwanowicz traveled the world as a freelance nature photographer. He “conned some people into organizing” exhibitions of his work which led to the publication of two books of his photographs.

He then returned to his career in science as a “lowly technical assistant in behavioural genetics at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Munich.” Today, Siwanowicz works as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia.

Siwanowicz believes his photographic work keeps him “(relatively) sane.”’s a sort of occupational therapy, a way to cope with the blues. I think I am slightly bipolar (as in manic-depressive), far from raving mad but still having those seasonal swings of mood and warped self-perception. Taking photos, among other things, gives me satisfaction and keeps my mind off of obsessing too much. I use my accomplishments to re-build my self-esteem and move a small step towards self-actualisation.

Siwanowicz’s photographic work includes beautiful macro “mug shots” of insects:

They are foreign, otherworldly looking creatures – the closer you get to them, the stronger the effect. See, insects have those totally alien, Gigeresque forms that I find somehow fascinating.

His incredibly trippy psychedelic extreme close-up photographs of insects—beetles, spiders, moths, mites—are made with a confocal laser-scanning microscope, which captures these beautiful creatures in greater clarity and detail than other lens-based imaging.

See more of Igor Siwanowicz’s glorious microscopy.
Jumping spider.
Jumping spider eyes.
More of these stunning photographs, after the jump…

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Photographer uses his owns kids to create terrifying pictures of our darkest nightmares
03:02 pm


Joshua Hoffine

Kids are smart. They know that thing lurking under the bed is just waiting to grab their ankles and feast on their flesh. They know behind the closet door—the one that always drifts ajar—is a monster watching for its moment to pounce. They know that’s not the wind turning in the eaves, or mice shifting across the basement floor. It’s monsters, man!

Photographer Joshua Hoffine likes horror movies. He is a horror movie buff. Taking his inspiration from such horror tropes as the monster under the bed or the creature in the closet, Hoffine creates terrifying pictures of our deepest, darkest fears.

Hoffine was also inspired by reading bedtime stories to his daughters and works with his five daughters to produce his candy-colored nightmares.

He believes a horror story is “ultimately concerned with the imminence and randomness of death, and the implication that there is no certainty to existence.”

Horror tells us that our belief in security is delusional, and that the monsters are all around us.

His daughters enjoy working with their father on these nightmarish visions and are more interested in getting a free cookie than in being scared by the terrors being depicted around them.

Hoffine is currently compiling a book of his Horror Photography and more of his awesome work can be seen here.
More scary and disturbing family horror, after the jump….

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Vintage photos of creepy homemade Halloween costumes from yesteryear
09:25 am


halloween costume

Of course these pictures are creepy—that’s surely the intention of dressing up on Halloween, isn’t it? Scaring the bejesus out of family, friends and strangers?

Back then, in what some call simpler times, Halloween was all about making a costume from bits and bobs—cardboard, paper and what old clothes parents left lying around—bobbing for apples, trick or treating and telling ghost stories. These homemade costumes may make some of the revelers look like the offspring of Leatherface but the effect was most probably rewarded with candy, not screams.

Some of these photographs of kids and grownups in their Halloween costumes from way back when may not be acceptable now—in particular the black face—but there’s a great sense of innocence, joy, and an adventure to be gained.
More vintage scary monsters and super-creeps, after the jump…

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What a Buzzcock did next: Drummer John Maher’s stunning photographs of abandoned homes

‘Rust in Peace.’

The chance decisions we make in our teens can sometimes bring wondrous returns.

John Maher was just sixteen when he was asked to play drums for a local band called the Buzzcocks in 1976. The Buzzcocks had been formed by Peter Shelley and Howard Devoto in Manchester in late 1975. Maher didn’t really think about it—he just said yes. His first gig playing drums with the band was supporting the Sex Pistols at their second (now legendary) appearance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in July 1976.

When he was eighteen, Maher bought his first camera—an Olympus Trip—just prior to the Buzzcocks tour of America in 1978. Photography was something to do on the road—but for Maher it was soon became a passion.

After the Buzzcocks split in 1981, Maher played drums for Wah! and Flag of Convenience. But his interest in music waned. When the Buzzcocks reformed in 1989, Maher opted out—only ever making occasional guest appearances with the band.

Maher had an interest in drag racing which led to his launching an incredibly successful business making high performance engines—John Maher Racing. His engines and transmissions are described as the best built in the UK. The success of his company allowed Maher to retire. It was then that he returned to photography.

In 2002, Maher relocated from Manchester to the Isle of Harris in Scotland. The beautiful, bleak Hebridean landscape was in stark contrast to his busy post-industrial hometown of Manchester. The land inspired Maher and he became fascinated with the deserted crofts dotted across the island. Homes once filled with working families and children now lay abandoned in disrepair—belongings scattered across wooden floors, empty chairs faithfully waiting for a new owner, wallpaper and paint drifting from the walls, windows smashed, and gardens long untended.

Maher started documenting these abandoned buildings that spoke more to him about human life than most museums. He took long exposures to achieve a certain look—often blending analogue and digital images to create the best picture. For example, the photograph TV Set was created from “a compilation of nine separate exposures.”

His fascination with the deserted crofts started an idea to have these homes reclaimed and reused bringing new life back to the island. As Maher told the BBC earlier this year:

“What started out as a personal project—documenting abandoned croft houses in the Outer Hebrides—has had an unexpected side effect.

“As a result of displaying my photographs, there’s now a real possibility of seeing at least one of the properties becoming a family home once again.”

Maher’s photographs led to a joint venture by the Carnegie Trust and the local housing association to start renovating some of Harris’s derelict buildings for habitation. Maher’s photographs have been exhibited on the isle and across the UK. “It shows,” he says, “that looking through a lens to the past can help shape things in the future.”

See more of John Maher’s work here.
‘Waiting Room.’
‘Blue Chair.’
More of ex-Buzzcock John Maher’s work, after the jump….

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Cum Face: Portraits of Women Reaching Orgasm
08:55 am


Albert Pocej

Photographer Albert Pocej set himself an unusual challenge. He wanted “to capture the moment of women reaching the highest point of physical pleasure.”

How did he come (ahem) up with this idea? In his wildest dreams, of course.

I simply woke up and I knew I just had to do it. So I tried to explore the female orgasm through a photography experiment.

At first I thought it would be impossible. Finding the models was the most difficult part. I started to write to everybody I know without any boundaries since all the women are so different. The answers I got were mostly two kinds: “I don’t have enough courage”, and just the silence, which is also pretty obvious as an answer. When I finally found 20 women that were ready to take part in this project, some of them refused to continue when I told them that it will not be acting, and some of them weren’t able to relax already while shooting. So at the end there were only 15 left.

According to Albert—all of the participating models “experienced real orgasms” during their photographic session. To achieve the “best results” Albert used time lapse to help the models relax. Some of them didn’t need it and were happy to enjoy themselves in front of the photographer.

I didn’t want this project to be a cliché, I didn’t want any acting – just the real feeling as it is. Every human being is different, so are their orgasms. I wasn’t trying to make it any better as it is in life. I wanted to make those looking at these pictures to think.

And clichés don’t make people think.

Born in Lithuania in 1974, Pocej studied at the University of Educational Sciences. After graduation, he worked in IT before dedicating himself to a full-time career as a photographer when he was thirty. Now based in Monaco with a mighty impressive portfolio, Pocej has established him as a highly respected photographer and teacher across Europe.

More of Albert’s work can be seen here and you can follow him on Facebook.
More portraits of women captured in the heat of the moment, after the jump…

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Prostitutes, mannequins and street traders: The flâneur who photographed Paris, 1890s-1920s

Prostitute, rue Asselin.
Eugène Atget first tried his hand as sailor, actor and painter before discovering his true vocation as a documentary photographer on the streets of Paris.

Documenting city life combined Atget’s passion for photography with his life as a flâneur. A flâneur is someone who strolls aimlessly through a city with no particular place to go—the route steered only by curiosity and chance. A flâneur dwells between the twin poles of private reverie and public space.

Novelist Charles Baudelaire first described a flâneur in an essay titled “The Painter of Modern Life” in 1863:

For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world…

Paris has long been hailed as the city of the flâneur. Its streets and boulevards invite perambulation and drift. Its arrondissements are filled with hidden beauty that trigger involuntary memory. Marcel Proust—the writer who coined the term “involuntary memory”—lived and worked in Paris. Like one of Proust’s characters, a flâneur wanders a city’s streets open to their “madeleine moment.”

Atget (1857-1927) wandered through Paris dressed in a large dark cloak, his camera and tripod in hand. He strolled, sauntered, until something triggered a response which he stopped to photograph. A chance encounter with a prostitute idling by her front door; a hawker selling wares from a cart; a maitre d‘s face at the door of a restaurant; a shop window filled with mannequins; or the empty cobbled street still fresh with the impression of activity.

Atget’s street photography captured a Paris that was fast changing. Its once golden age of the flâneur was being opened up to the motorcar and a system of signage, roads and roundabouts.

Atget lived in direst poverty throughout his life. For twenty years, it’s said, he lived on a diet of milk, bread and sugar. All other foods, he declared, were a poison. According to the American photographer Berenice Abbott who literally discovered Atget and his voluminous collection of photographs—or documents pour artistes:

In art and hygiene he was absolute. He had very personal ideas on everything which he imposed with extraordinary violence.

He applied this intransigence of taste, of vision, of methods, to the art of photography and miracles resulted.

Prostitute waiting at her front door, 1921.
Soldier with prostitute.
Three prostitutes, rue Asselin.
More of Atget’s Paris street life photography, after the jump…

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The bizarre contents of a dead Ostrich’s stomach

An ostrich by A. Kniesel.
The ostrich is the world’s largest bird. The male of the species can reach over nine feet in height—the female around 5’ 7” to 6’ 7”.

The ostrich is a flightless bird. It has long powerful legs and can travel over forty miles an hour.

It also has the largest eye of any land vertebrate—a whopping great two inches in diameter. This helps it spot any would-be predators trying to sneak up on it—allowing the big bird time to hightail it.

The ostrich has a wingspan of over six-and-a-half feet. It has long legs and and a very long neck with a comparatively small head. It kinda looks like a turkey gone wrong, on steroids. It roams freely across the African savanna. It is farmed for its lean meat, eggs and feathers—which are used in making feather dusters.

They live in nomadic groups of up to 100 under the rule of the chief hen. The ostrich diet generally consists of seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers—from which they also obtain water—and some insects.

And that’s probably what you’d expect to find an ostrich’s stomach if you had to examine one after death.

Well not quite…
An ostrich cart at London Zoo, 1929.
Frederick William Bond was the assistant treasurer and photographer at the Zoological Society of London. He took photographs of the various prized animals kept in captivity at London Zoo.

Around 1930, one of the ostriches at the zoo died unexpectedly. A post mortem examination revealed a staggering array of objects in the big bird’s stomach. It was such a bizarre find that Bond felt compelled to photograph it.
On the back of the photograph Bond listed the contents:

Three odd cotton gloves
Three handkerchiefs
The wooden centre of a silk spool
A piece of lead pencil
Four halfpennies
One franc
One farthing
One coin too worn for identification
Part of a bicycle valve
Part of a metal comb
One piece of wood
Two yards of string
An alarm clock key
Several small metal washers and other pieces of metal
A four-inch nail

The most likely reason this omnivorous ostrich ingested such a bizarre gallimaufry of found objects is less to do with any “sad consequence of the bird’s urban existence” but mainly to do with the fact ostriches swallow their food whole.

Ostriches have no teeth. This together with the fact they have a proportionally small bill, means they have to ingest stones or pebbles to help masticate their food in the gizzard.

They swallow small hard objects like stones to act as “gastroliths” to grind their food. The ostrich fills its gullet with yummy goodies which forms a bolus. This is then ingested into the gizzard where the small stones break it down for digestion.

Most likely this ostrich ingested coins, gloves and alike to help digest its food. Unfortunately swallowing a four-inch nail proved fatal—as it caused its “death by perforation.”
John Lydon vs. the Ostriches, after the jump…

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Photographs of homeless people and their childhood dreams


Tammy is a star on Height Street in San Francisco. If she can’t bring a smile on your face, then nobody will. Her biggest pain is that her grandmother and her first husband took the kids away from her.

No one chooses to be homeless. No one wants to be without a home to call their own. A string of bad luck, a few wrong turns, a few bad choices, and then wham—you’re flat out on your ass. I ended-up that way after the apartment I lived was destroyed by fire. Escaped with my life and little else. No insurance. No income. No nothing. Quickly found there was only so long I could kip on friends’ floors or sofas before there was nowhere left to go. But I was lucky. I got back to where I’d been.

Horia Manolache photographs homeless people in and around San Francisco. He does more than just take their pictures. He creates portraits of each of these homeless men or women as they are today and who they once imagined they would become when they were children.

Horia is an award-winning photographer. His intention in taking these photographs was to make these homeless people’s stories heard. He photographed them in a hotel, garages, building sites and out on the streets. He met “people with guns and people with golden hearts.” He ultimately made a mobile studio, where he could create these unique portraits.

His wife was his helper—cutting hair and beards, applying make-up. Horia spent time getting to know each of his sitters. He listened to their stories, heard about their dreams. Then he sourced the clothes and materials to create a portrait for each person. Imagining them as they once dreamed they would become—a chef, policewoman, clown, parent. Horia plans to make a book of his photographs called The Prince and the Pauper—more details here. In the meantime, here are Horia’s photographs and the stories behind each picture.

Mike was the first to be in this project. He comes from Ohio, he had to run from there because he used to smoke weed and the police caught him so he was arrested. He is now rebuilding his life, he has a place to stay and he started to work, thanks to an organisation from San Francisco.


Honey run away from home because of her violent husband. She had a car in which she slept but it broke and the police took it so she had to sleep in the park. She learned how to play ukulele by herself and she knows how to sing with spoons. She is called Honey because of her sweet voice.

More of Horia’s photographs of the homeless and their childhood dreams, after the jump…

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Teenage Wasteland: Texas teens getting stoned, 1973

Teenagers getting out of their tree.
The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said taking a good photograph is all about luck. The luck of the moment. The luck of the chance encounter. The luck of just being in the right place at the right time.

Marc St. Gil (1924-92) was in the right place at the right time when he met a bunch of teenagers on a day-out to the Frio Canyon River near Leakey, in Texas 1973. Marc was one of seventy freelance photographers hired by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to photograph America.

The EPA had been set up by President Nixon in 1970. One of its first assignments was Documerica a six-year project (1971-77) to document environmental issues, EPA activities and rural life in America during the seventies.

The youngsters Marc met were hanging out—chilling along the riverbank and smoking weed. With their permission, Marc photographed the youths. Two teenage girls sharing a joint. One older male lighting up a pipe. Marc was supposed to be photographing the effects of pollution on the river and landscape. Instead he photographed these carefree youngsters toking up and having fun.

One can’t help but wonder—what happened next? What happened to these carefree youngsters? Where are they now?
‘Teenage Girls Wading the Frio Canyon River near Leakey Texas, While on an Outing with Friends near San Antonio 05/1973.’
More of Marc St. Gil ‘s photographs of dope-smoking teens, after the jump…

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The astonishingly beautiful three color photography of Bernard Eilers

In some parallel universe where we’re all smarter, richer and better looking, Bernard F. Eilers would be as well known as, say George Eastman and the vast Kodak empire.

For Eilers (1878-1951) was a Dutch photographer, inventor, businessman and chemist who among his many other career highs devised (over several years) an astonishing three-color process of photography called foto-chroma eilers in 1935. This was a simple yet effective separation technique which delivered (as it was described at the time) near perfect color reproduction. In this parallel universe it is foto-chroma eilers that became the dominant photographic process and not Kodak.

Eilers demonstrated his foto-chroma eilers in a series of photographs. He snapped day and night street scenes of his home city of Amsterdam. Portraits of his friends. Still lifes and extraordinarily beautiful pictures of flowers.

The use of the three-color separation technique in these incredible photographs made Eilers (briefly) world famous. It lasted until Kodak dominated the market with Kodachrome and made foto-chroma eilers redundant and Eilers almost forgotten.

Which was all sadly inevitable yet still rather interesting as this narrative has a parallel subtext of American domination of the global market.

Eilers photographic style may be a tad more painterly than many of his contemporaries—his work reminiscent of those great artists from the 1800s. But Eilers had an uncanny knack for capturing the very essence of what he photographed—whether this was a sense of space or the rich character of his friends. He was understandably a highly respected photographer—who won awards for his work and exhibited widely and he really really should be better known outside of the Netherlands and Europe and any parallel universe.

The following photographs were created by digitizing 927 glass negatives from the Amsterdam Municipal Archives in 2004.

To achieve first-class picture quality, sets of three practically matching black-and-white negatives had to be selected from a far more sizeable total collection. Assembling these sets was an arduous task: they had not always been filed neatly together and could be found among several glass negative formats, particularly among the 4.5 x 6 cm size. In the end, it appeared that the selection of some sets did not lead to a satisfactory result, but the whole operation nevertheless yielded 309 beautiful prints.

You can read about Eilers and see more of his work here.
More stunning color photographs, after the jump…

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Just a bunch of art holes making an exhibition of themselves

Bruno Zhu / New Scenario.
Finding somewhere to exhibit new artwork can prove difficult. The galleries dictate what is of value and what will be exhibited rather than the artist or the consumer. Artists Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig of New Scenario have devised a radical new concept for exhibiting art work that breaks down the walls of the gallery space.

Their suggestion is quite simple: Imagine if the body was a museum—then there would be seven galleries in which to exhibit artwork.

These galleries are the mouth, the ears, the nostrils, the navel, the anus, the genitalia.

Barsch and Hornig gave themselves and five other artists one orifice or hole in which to exhibit a new piece of miniature art. The resulting images were exhibited online (due to the nature of exhibiting pieces) and at the ninth Berlin Biennale under the title Body Holes.

They chose different body shapes and sizes to help the viewer identify with the images. Their ultimate intention is to “normalize and de-stigmatize the body” freeing people from any “cultural , political and sexual perceptions.”

The images chosen here avoid the more NSFW photographs or artworks posing in genitalia featured in Body Holes—but you can view them here.
Rasmus Hoj Mygind / New Scenario.
Yves Scherer / New Scenario.
More Body Holes, after the jump…

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Strange, Seductive and Surreal Erotica from 1920-30’s Vienna

Atelier Manassé was a highly successful photographic studio established by husband and wife team Adorján von Wlássics (1893 - 1946) and Olga Solarics (1896 - 1969) in Austria in 1924—though some sources cite 1922.

Principally based in Vienna—with a smaller office in Berlin—the studio flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. It was known for producing highly flattering portrait photography of film, theater and cabaret stars. It could be said Adorján and Olga were the airbrush pioneers of their day—artfully painting out any blemishes or wrinkles and reducing the unsightly flab from legs and waists. The resulting photographs were mass produced and sold to fans as much sought after postcards.

But Atelier Manassé did not just specialise in lucrative publicity photographs—it also produced a vast array of erotica. In particular Olga dedicated herself to producing highly original nude photography which is credited with establishing the “pin-up” long before Playboy magazine. But Olga’s work was far superior and far more influential than any cheesecake photography—it drew on many avant garde ideas and cherry-picked styles from Surrealism and Expressionism. More importantly, Olga’s photography presented liberated images of women—relishing their own sexuality, their own bodies and their power of seduction.

There is a dedicated collectors market for Atelier Manassé photographs and even magazines all being sold at auctions and online for a goodly sum.

The following are some of the more Surreal and seductive photographs that typify the best of Atelier Manassé‘s erotica.
More beautiful photographs from Atelier Manassé, after the jump…

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The voyeuristic photography of Miroslav Tichý

Some time ago I read an article in a Sunday supplement magazine about a street photographer in Czechoslovakia who wandered around his hometown of Kyjov taking pictures with a homemade camera. The photographer was an old man, with long unkempt hair and a Santa Claus beard. The article described this photographer as a “master voyeur” and because of his appearance suggested he was a dirty old man—Charles Bukowski with a weird contraption for a camera. The appraisal was perhaps a bit unfair—low class journalism to luridly frame the story of an artist whose work should really have been better known. I clipped the story, one to be filed away for future use, but lost it somewhere in my endlessly peripatetic lifestyle. Indeed, I had almost forgotten all about this strange man and his beautiful photographs until I chanced upon a blog by Rob Baker which thankfully reacquainted me with the life and work of Miroslav Tichý.

Tichý was born in Netice, a village in Moravia, on November 20, 1926. He was one of fourteen children born to the local tailor and his wife. He was a bright kid, excelled in languages and a great talent for art. In his late teens he enrolled for an arts foundation course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He was considered a talented draftsman and was highly popular with his fellow students. This short happy time starting in 1946 changed dramatically with the Communist coup d’état two years later. Roman Buxbaum a young friend of Tichý described what happened next:

After the Communist takeover in February 1948 drastic changes took place at the Academy. Respected professors and assistant professors were quickly thrown out. Instead of drawing women models, the students were forced to draw workers in overalls. Tichý refused to draw them. It seems that the political crisis overlapped with a personal crisis, and the young artist succumbed to both. He stopped working and spent his time walking about Stromovka park in Prague, and avoided his friends. He quit the Academy and had to do his compulsory military service.

Stalin’s brutal dictatorship of the country led to a series of purges that destroyed the lives of anyone who did not submit to Russia’s Communist party rule. This all had a devastating effect on Tichý. He refused to conform which led to his being sent for treatment at the Opava psychiatric clinic.

After Stalin’s death, Russia’s new president Khrushchev denounced much of what his predecessor had done and though there were signs of a “thaw” little changed in the Soviet rule over Czechoslovakia. Tichý returned to live with his parents in Kyjov. He began drawing and painting again and exhibited some work at an exhibition in Brno in 1958.

At the start of the 1960s, Tichý made his opposition to the Communist rule more apparent by growing his hair long and no longer trimming his beard. Every day he dressed in the same worn at the cuffs and torn at the knee black suit looking like a down and out boozehound. His image was the opposite of the hunky, masculine worker of Communist propaganda. His appearance deeply irked the Czechoslovakian authorities. Tichý was repeatedly intimidated and arrested by local police—but he still refused to give over his independence to the state. He was unbowed and described himself as “a samurai” with his sole aim to destroy his enemies.
An older Miroslav Tichý on his hometown streets.
During the 1960s, Tichý started taking street photographs with an old field camera he had inherited from his father. He continued to draw and paint and was still very much a thorn in the local authorities’ side who arrived at his parents’ door the week before May Day every year to take him away so he would not offend the eye of any Communist dignitaries.

The invasion of Russian troops to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 forced Czechoslovakia further under the Communist rule. The country became more authoritarian and oppressive. It meant Tichý became was more isolated and an easier target for the authorities. He lost his studio. Much of his work was tossed during his eviction by the housing cooperative. The eviction traumatized Tichý and he found it difficult to continue painting and drawing.

Instead Tichý concentrated on photography as his means of expression. He wandered around his hometown streets, surreptitiously taking photographs of women with his homemade cameras. His style was the polar opposite to the sharp, clean, overly-idealized propaganda of his Communist overlords. His work was dreamlike, opaque, beautifully composed and realized. His life seemed chaotic. He was “the prophet of decay” as Roman Buxbaum described Tichý in a visit to his home:

Disorder seems to be his agenda, not because of laziness or an inability to tidy up. Rather, it is his intention. When the visitor has finished looking through some book or at a photograph and returns it to Tichý, he or she will probably hear: Throw it on the ground! Other laws apply here. The world of chance and chaos constitutes a ferment in which material matures, immersed in the depths of Tichý’s ocean, to be brought back to the surface, but changed and worn by time.

Tichý is a reactionary in the truest sense of the word. While Yuri Gagarin was conquering outer space, Tichý was making cameras out of wood. He put himself into reverse, moving backwards against the ideology of progress. A genuine reactionary, and a very effective one, because unlike the Five-Year Plans he achieved his aims. The Stone-Age photographer was the embodiment of an insult to the small-town Communist elite. He became the living antithesis of progressive thought, of the Marxist theory of history moving in a straight line.

Technically-speaking, his photographs are deliberately enhanced by “mistakes” and stains from a haphazard processing of his film prints, which were done mostly in bathtubs and buckets (“A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.”) Tichý would shoot up to 90 photographs a day, go home and then develop and print them. Each would be printed only one time, cropped with scissors, drawn and painted upon, perhaps. Some were framed by his hand.

The police continued to harass Tichý. They tried to arrest him for being a voyeur—taking photographs of women walking the sidewalk, working in stores, sunbathing in parks. But the police could find no evidence and no one supported their allegations—so Tichý always walked free.

More on Miroslav Tichý‘s photographs, after the jump…


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Marianne Breslauer’s gorgeous photos of queer, androgynous and butch women of the 1930s

The photography of Marianne Breslauer is striking for both its intimacy and its subjects—women, usually of the sleek, chic and gender-bending variety, posed to optimum androgynous elegance. A bohemian Berliner by birth, Breslauer studied under Man Ray for a time in Paris and achieved some commercial success before returning home to an increasingly volatile Germany. As a Jewish artist working in an obviously queer milieu, Breslauer eventually fled to Switzerland and retired from photography early, eventually marrying a man and becoming an art dealer.

Among the many beautiful faces captured by Breslauer was her dear friend, Swiss writer, journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who she described as “neither a man nor a woman, but an angel, an archangel.” A libertine and rebel, Schwarzenbach defied her wealthy, Nazi-sympathizing family, funding anti-fascist publications and later supporting American unions at the height of the Depression—this is not to mention her adventures hitchhiking across India and Turkey, or the many lesbian affairs. Surviving addiction issues and a suicide attempt, Schwarzenbach nonetheless died at the young age of 34 after a fall from a bicycle, leaving behind a prolific body of work, 170 articles and 50 photo-reports.



More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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