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Humans shellacked in junk food for monstrously sloppy portrait series
05:37 am


James Ostrer
junk food

James Ostrer’s “Wotsit All About” makes use of junk food in the most revolting of ways (even worse than actually eating it!) Models are adorned in hamburgers, cheese puffs, whipped cream and all manner of processed goodies, creating a sort of anthropological fashion spread of the crap we consume. There are full-body photographs of his tribesman, but it’s the faces that stand out, reminiscent of religious or ceremonial masks belonging to some long lost sugar clan.

Ostrer avoids what could have very well been a preachy lesson in healthy eating and instead approaches the modern world’s victual vices with a bit of humor. Like many of us, he dreams of a day when junk food is deemed subversive, saying, “Eventually I could see refined sugar being viewed in the same way as smoking is. The only difference is no one in fashion or film ever regarded being fat as cool.”

Some images may be NSFW, if your work holds an objection to breasts, which may or may not be unadorned in meringue.





More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Ghosts’ photobomb portraits of their loved ones

Con-man and so-called pioneer of “spirit photography” William Hope made a tidy sum with his corny pictures of ghosts photo-bombing loved ones’ portraits.

Hope started his career in England as a carpenter, but in 1905 he quickly wised up to the potential fame and fortune that could be made from passing off double-exposed pictures as “genuine” images of ghosts. His photos achieved considerable acclaim with some notable fans including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned The Case for Spirit Photography in support of Hope’s work. Mind you, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was unfortunately someone who believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Yet, the need of many to be reassured of life after death encouraged Hope to form the Crewe Circle—a group of like-minded spirit photographers, which included Archbishop Thomas Colley—to make money out of bereaved families after the slaughter of World War One.

Thankfully, Hope was eventually exposed as a fraud in 1922 by “psychic investigator” Harry Price, who marked Hope’s photographic plates, which when printed proved Hope was double exposing negatives to achieve his famed spirit portraits. Price wrote in his report:

William Hope has been found guilty of deliberately substituting his own plates for those of a sitter… It implies that the medium brings to the sitting a duplicate slide and faked plates for fraudulent purposes.

It’s easy to think our super-smart minds wouldn’t have been fooled by Hope’s fakes (ahem), but one need only turn on the television to witness a host of TV mediums claiming they can talk to the dead to appreciate we’re just as dumb.

Looking at these photos, it’s not the Scooby-Doo like phantoms that intrigues me, but the faces of the sitters, and their dress—heavy wool and Tweed clothes—which must have made the wearer uncomfortable and no doubt highly odorous.
More ghostly portraits, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beautiful photographs of the shamans of Lima, Peru
08:48 am



Photographer Andrea Frazzetta‘s “Urban Shaman” series captures a strange array of commerce, tradition and mysticism. The faces and rituals of the curanderos are documented with an eye for intense beauty, but the photos still manage to feel educational, and not voyeuristic—the series is very intimate. Frazzetta provides a context for the shamans of Peru on his website:





Writings such as there are ever present, hanging on the streetlights in Lima. Peru’s capital is full of shamans and ”curanderos” who compete with doctors and psychiatrists. The Peruvian parliament even discussed a controversial law proposal that equates curanderos to doctors.

A large percentage of the Peruvian population habitually visits curanderos and shamans to solve a very wide array of issues: health, work, business, travels, etc. Curanderos, on their part, offer a lot of different healing methods.

In Lima, where more than half of the population is the result of migrations, it’s possible to find any type of curanderos. The chaotic and overpopulated capital of Peru assures shamans a very large quantity of patients.

Many, unfortunately, exploit the people’s trust and it is estimated that about three quarters of those so called ”healing masters” are fakes.

But there are others who have inherited a tradition, and a popular knowledge, passed on from father to son for decades.

It’s strange to think of shamans being divided into frauds versus bona fides, but there’s a distinct sense of training and tradition involved that at the very least suggests some kind of “pedigreed” expertise. From Frazetta’s further exposition, we learn that animals are used to absorb illness (then they are killed and their remains are “read” for health indicators), a doll is the artifact of a love ritual, and that one of the most popular curanderos in Lima has his own daily TV show.











Via Feature Shoot

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The disappearing face of New York

During the eight years it took Jim and Karla Murray to photograph these New York storefronts, a third of them had closed down. According to the Murrays:

...the influx of big box retailers and chain stores pose a serious threat to these humble institutions, and neighborhood modernization and the anonymity it brings are replacing the unique appearance and character of what were once incredibly colourful streets.

Taken from their book The Disappearing Face of New York, these beautiful photographs of neon-lit, window-crammed, characterful storefronts document the cultural cost of the malls and online retailers that have taken business from small shopkeepers, in favor of the supposed “choice” offered by corporations. As the general Julius Agricola noted way, way back in the invasion of Britain circa 73 AD, when the invading armies brought bath houses, roads, and alike, the so-called advancement of civilisation can often disguise its inherent servitude.
More disappearing New York stores, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Photographer uses 130-year-old camera to capture present day England
08:30 am


Jonathan Keys

At first, these remarkable photographs by Jonathan Keys appear to have been taken some time in the distant 1800s. But on closer inspection, the presense of cars, neon signs and spray-painted graffiti, reveal these pictures to be photos of present-day England.

To achieve this richly textured, retro aesthetic, Keys uses a 130-year-old Circa camera and a 1920’s lens, with a wet plate collodion process, a photographic technique developed by Frederick Scott Archer in the 1850s, to take the pictures. In a darkroom, Keys pours collodion onto one side of a glass plate, then dips it into silver nitrate making it sensitive to light. This is then loaded into his camera, with which he travels around Newcastle looking for suitable subjects and locations. One an image has been selected, Keys takes off the lens cap and exposes the plate, which is then developed.

As the whole process is so time-consuming, Keys only takes two-to-six photographs a day. However, he finds the whole experience far more satisfying than digital photography.

View more of Jonathan keys work here.
More images after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beautiful color photographs of life in pre-Revolutionary Russia, 1909-1915
09:42 am


Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii

The pioneering color photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii was born in Kirzhachsky District, Vladimir Oblast, Russia in 1863. His parents were of Russian nobility with a long military history. The family moved to St. Petersburg, where Prokudin-Gorskii began his studies in chemistry. He was also interested in the arts, and enrolled for studies in painting.

Prokudin-Gorskii’s interest in chemistry and art fused with the study and practice of photography. By 1905, he had formulated a plan to use the emerging technological advances in color photography to document life in Russia.  Using different techniques, including those first formulated by Scottish pioneer James Clerk Maxwell, Prokudin-Gorskii started taking color pictures of his homeland in 1909.

Tsar Nicholas II supplied Prokudin-Gorskii with a specially designed rail-road carriage which had been converted into a darkroom. Prokudin-Gorskii’s intention in documenting Russian life was to educate children about their country’s rich history and culture. In 1917, the Russian Revolution put an end to Prokudin-Gorskii’s plans, and the photographer left Russia in 1918, eventually settling in France.

These beautiful color photographs were first recorded on glass plates. In 1948 they were purchased by the Library of Congress, who have since scanned the images, through a process called digichromatography, and made them available to the public. 
More beautiful color photos of Imperial Russia, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl’: The androgynous self-portraits of Claude Cahun
06:59 am


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…

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The first kiss ever filmed was between two women, and shot by a murderer
10:01 am



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!






Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Prison Landscapes’ reveals the painted backdrops of commemorative prison portraits
08:25 am



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

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Polaroids from the sets of ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and more
06:20 am



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.
Winona Ryder, Girl Interrupted.
Johnny Depp, Benny and Joon.
Kate Winslet and Jim Carey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Sean Young and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner.
More film set photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Notes From The Niallist #8: Krys Fox and the ‘31 Days Of Halloween’
10:45 am


Horror Films
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?

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
140 years of black gay male couples in photos
07:19 pm



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, 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.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
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.


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
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…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Lewis Carroll’s haunting photographs (1856-1880)
12:05 pm


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Lewis Carroll

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. 
View more photos after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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