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In the Flesh: June Yong Lee’s ‘Torso’ photographs (NSFW)
09:14 am


June Yong Lee

Firstly, no one was injured in the making of these photographs—they’re not a Buffalo Bill “It rubs the lotion on the body” flesh suit kinda thing—nope—though admittedly these images might not look too out of place in Ed Gein‘s front parlor. But still, no. These powerful pictures are cleverly created photographs taken by June Yong Lee, an artist, photographer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. Each image was painstakingly spliced together from up to 30 different photos of a single human torso—giving an almost complete 360 degree view of the subject’s upper trunk in two dimensions. Here stretched out in front of us is the human flesh in all its glory—its sagginess, flabbiness, the scars, stretch marks, tattoos, tufts and its incredible vulnerability.

Lee has said people hold very strong opinions about his Torso Series of photographs—but for him the human skin is a major part of our identity. Lee became more aware of this after he left Korea for America—as he explained to Sara Coughlin at Refinery29:

When I was in Korea everyone around me was Korean, and their ethnicity or race wasn’t important at all. But then, when I came over here, I realized I was Asian for the first time, which was kind of strange, but that became part of my identity.

When you look at a person, you look at the shape of the person, but also the surface of their skin — their skin color, what’s written on their skin, [and] those things carry their identities in interesting ways.

Though currently out of print, a volume of Lee’s work Skin is available here, while more of his work can be viewed here.
More of June Yong Lee’s ‘Torso Series,’ after the jump…

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I’m with the Band(s): Intimate photographs of punk legends at CBGBs

Whether it’s the Left Bank, or Bloomsbury, or Sun Records in Memphis, the Cavern Club in Liverpool, or London’s King’s Road, there is always one location that becomes the focus for a new generation of artists, writers and musicians. In New York during the 1970s, this creative hub could be found in a venue called CBGBs where different bands came to play every night spearheading the punk and new wave movement and bringing about a small revolution which changed everything in its wake.

Amongst the musicians, writers and artists who played and hung out at Hilly Kristal’s club at 315 Bowery were conceptual artists Bettie Ringma and Marc H. Miller. Bettie had come from from Holland to the US, where she met Miller—a writer and photographer whose passion was for telling “stories with pictures, with ephemera and with a few carefully chosen words.” Together they started collaborating on various multi-media and conceptual artworks.

In late 1976, Marc and Bettie were drawn to the irresistible pull of creative energy buzzing out of CBGB’s. Most nights they went down to the venue and started documenting the bands and artists who appeared there:

Our first photograph of Bettie with the movers and shakers at CBGB was taken during our very first visit to the club in late 1976. Standing alone by the bar was one of Bettie’s favorite performers, the poet-rocker Patti Smith. At home at CBGB and a wee bit tipsy, Patti was more than happy to oblige our request for a picture with Bettie. Soon we were CBGB regulars, checking out the different bands and slowly adding to our collection of pictures.

Marc and Bettie’s original idea of creating “Paparazzi Self-Portraits” at this Bowery bar developed into the portfolio Bettie Visits CBGB—a documentary record of all the bands, musicians, artists and writers who hung out at the venue, with photographs becoming:

...a reflection of the new aesthetic emerging at CBGB, a contradictory mix of high and low culture energized by fun and humor, the lure of fame and fortune, and a cynical appreciation of the power of a good hype.

More of Marc and Bettie’s work from this punk era can be seen here.

Patti Smith was hanging around at the bar, but no one was taking pictures of her because she was super-shy. She posed with me and then just went away: some musicians are like that, they’re not into socialising. They’re just artists.


Debbie Harry is a really great singer. She had a very different style from what was emerging there at that time. She was not shy, but she was very aloof: you can see that in the picture, hiding half her face behind her hair. It wasn’t something she needed, because she was very pretty, she was the frontwoman. But it gave her safety.


I just love the Ramones. When their music starts I can’t sit still, I just have to start hopping and dancing, and I’m 71 now. We saw them live about 10 times: we would go out of our way to see them perform.

More of Marc and Bettie’s work after the jump…

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Walker IN YOUR FACE: Behind the scenes of iconic 60s crime drama ‘Point Blank’

In the 1960s, Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson starred in two pivotal gangster movies that dragged American crime cinema out of the shadows of film noir and into the harsh technicolor daylight of the nuclear age. The first was Don Siegel’s The Killers in 1964—a reworking of the Ernest Hemingway short story which had been originally filmed in 1946. The film co-starred Ronald Reagan in perhaps his finest role as a vicious underworld mobster. Siegel brought a brutal, calculating violence to his film which was further developed by John Boorman three years later with Point Blank. Where Siegel’s characters merely lived in their ultra-modern landscape, Boorman’s players were left cold and alienated by the clean, bright and colorful modern world.

Loosely based on pulp novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake, Boorman shifted the book’s east coast location to the blue skies and golden beaches of California. He changed the central character from the likeable tough “Parker,” to the hungry, relentless loner “Walker.” In Lee Marvin, Boorman was blessed with the only actor capable of inhabiting this complex role. Boorman has since said that Marvin used his own “brutalizing” experiences as a sniper in the Second World War to bring Walker to life—experiences which had “dehumanized him and left him desperately searching for his humanity.” It is certainly one of Marvin’s greatest performances (his next movie with Boorman Hell in the Pacific is equally as brilliant) and he was superbly supported by Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn and John Vernon.

Boorman’s powerfully iconic and artful direction puts Point Blank above any other crime movie of that era, and though lightly praised at the time, it is fair to say with Point Blank there would have been no Bullitt or Dirty Harry or any of the long list of gritty crime thrillers that dominated the 1970s.
Lee Marvin and John Boorman discuss filming a scene.
Lee Marvin as Walker.
More iconic photos from the filming of ‘Point Blank,’ after the jump…

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The forgotten heroes of ‘Midget Wrestling’: Vintage photos from the 60s and 70s

These are the men who became heroes of the ring as Midget Wrestlers during the 1960s and 1970s. Out of traveling carnivals, circus acts and sheer ambition, these wrestlers started a sport that was followed by hundreds of thousands across America, Canada and England.

The best wrestlers (Sky Low Low, Little Beaver, Lord Littlebrook, Little Tokyo) mixed great physical prowess with acrobatic skills to give their fans edge-of-the-seat thrills and entertainment, with just a hint of comedy. Wrestlers fell in two categories—the goodies and the baddies, who would either seek the cheers or loud disapprobation of the audience by skill or pantomime cheating.

Sadly, many of the biographies and details of these wrestling heroes (and villains) have either been lost or passively excised due to political correctness—which is a shame, for these men (and and a few women) were athletes and acrobats who excelled at the sport.

Thankfully, during a golden age of wrestling, photographer David Maciejewski documented the legends of the ring from 1966 to 1974—from which some these pictures have been culled. More of Maciejewski’s superb photography can be seen (and purchased) here.
Little Bruiser ready for a bout in Chicago, September 1 1972. Born Murray Downs in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Little Bruiser was the only son among four sisters. His father was an alcoholic and his abusive and violent behavior towards his son led the teenage Murray to run away from home. He joined the carnival and started wrestling. His powerhouse antics made him popular and he quickly became a star. He fought as part of a tag team and was often picked to fight 6ft 10in 350lbs wrestler Blackjack Mulligan who would wallop Bruiser onto the canvas. Little Bruiser was a demon in the ring, but a gentleman outside. He later quit because of back pain and died in a auto accident in 1995.
Tag team: Little Bruiser and Billy the Kid, September 23 1972.
More mini wrestling heroes, after the jump…

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On location with Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in ‘The Ladykillers’

Alec Guinness was almost killed during the filming of the classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers in 1955. Guinness starred as “Professor” Marcus, the wily head of a gang of crooks responsible for a security van robbery. The Professor’s comically dysfunctional gang consisted of Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Cecil Parker and Danny Green as various con men and ne’er-do-wells who decided to hide out in a ramshackle lodging house near to King’s Cross Station—scene of the crime. Here they hoodwinked the benign but eccentric landlady, Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce (the wonderful Katie Johnson), into believing they are a string quintet seeking room to practise their music. As to be expected, murder and mayhem ensue.

Guinness’s brush with death came towards the end of filming, as Piers Paul Read explains in his excellent biography of the actor:

...for the final scene of The Ladykillers, when Alec, as the Professor, is killed by [a] railway signal falling onto his head, the production crew made sure that this would not in fact happen by placing a metal pin half an inch above the level of Alec’s head. Lines were drawn in chalk to mark where he should stand for the shot. When it came to the take, however, the signal sheared the metal pin and tore the back of Alec’s jacket. He had been standing an inch or two in front of the chalk mark—a mistake that saved his life.

It wasn’t the first time Guinness had been nearly killed filming an Ealing comedy. During Kind Hearts and Coronets when Guinness played Admiral Lord d’Ascoyne, he was to nobly salute as he went “down with the ship,” the water swirling around him until utterly submerged leaving only his navy cap to float to the surface. Guinness had told director Robert Hamer that he could hold his breath for four minutes, so filming the scene should prove no problem. Guinness was wired by his feet to the bottom of the tank and the scene shot, but he was then unfortunately forgotten about as the crew wrapped for the day:

Only well into the four minutes was it remembered that Alec was still tethered underwater and one of the crew had to dive into the tank with wire-cutters to set him free.

During Kind Hearts and Coronets Guinness refused to film a scene in which another of his characters, Lady Agatha d’Ascoyne, drifts off in a hot air balloon.

Alec was mocked by the production team for insisting upon a double: sure enough, the balloon drifted away and the double was lucky to return alive.

Another incident occurred during the filming of The Man in the White Suit when a wire supposed to carry Guinness snapped and sent him head first to the ground. Only his swift reflexes and very good luck saved the actor from possible death. Such near fatal mishaps may in part account for Guinness’ later scornful dismissal of his time at Ealing—indeed, the playwright Alan Bennett later recalled how Alec was “scathing about Ealing comedies.”

According to Read what perhaps Alec feared most was that his association with light comic roles meant he “could not master a major role.” This was just his own insecurity giving in to the petty asides of his contemporaries—John Gielgud in particular who snidely suggested Guinness was “good” at “those little parts you do so well.”

Personally, I consider Alec Guinness as nothing but perfection in all of his Ealing roles. He stole Kind Hearts and Coronets from its star Dennis Price, when he played eight different roles—giving each character their own distinct personality. He was seemingly benign but scheming and duplicitous in The Lavender Hill Mob and a naive but brilliant scientist in The Man With The White Suit, while in The Ladykillers Guinness steals virtually every scene he is in and his performance is so credible that you forget this is an actor playing a role.

Sixty years after its release (December 1955) The Ladykillers is still considered one of the greatest comedies ever made (number five in the Guardian’s Top 100 Comedies of All Time), and apart from the misguided remake with Tom Hanks, little has happened over the intervening decades to darken the movie’s great comic brilliance or Alec Guinness’ superb performance.
The man himself.
The cast: Back row L-R—Alec Guinness (‘Professor’ Marcus), Danny Green (‘One Round’), Cecil Parker (‘Major’ Claude Courtney). Front row L-R—Herbert Lom (Louis Harvey), Katie Johnson (Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce) and Peter Sellers (Harry Robinson).
Alec Guinness as ‘Professor’ Marcus.
Herbert Lom and Guinness playing cards during filming.

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Ghosts in the machine: Occult fun with trick photography

It must be the season—the darkening days, the icy cold, and the fog drawn—here in Scotland at least—like net curtains that has led me to indulge in reading classic ghost stories by M. R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu and Charles Dickens. Late Fall, early Winter is the best time for such tales, with the best stories coming from that golden era of supernatural fiction during Victorian times—roughly 1860-1900—when readers sought a thrill (or perhaps confirmation) of an weird ethereal world. The 19th century interest in ghosts and hauntings was greatly enhanced by a discovery by American William H. Mumler, who chanced upon the potential to create spectral images by use of the double exposure.

Mumler’s “ghost in the machine” brought the contemporary fiction of the supernatural into sharp focus and more importantly allowed him to con sitters into the belief loved ones were present in their lives. Most (in)famously he photographed President Lincoln’s widow with what appeared to be dead Abe looking over her shoulder. Such spirit photography became very popular during the 1860s, and Mumler made a tidy sum conning innocent customers out of their money.

Mumler was eventually rumbled and tried in court for fraud. Though found not guilty, his career as a spirit photographer was finished and he died penniless in 1884. However, Mumler’s trick photography was quickly adopted by other photographers across the world, most notably by Eugène Thiébault who created a series of entertaining spectral photographs—most famously with illusionist and showman Henri Robin.

As had been the case with Mumler, most of these trick photographs were sought by people wanting some kind of reassurance over departed loved ones—something that became even more popular after the slaughter of the First World War.

Here is a small selection of what I think are some of the best double exposure photographs which show its development from basic con to comforter and theatrical promotion to its use as a means of examining human anatomy.
‘Henri Robin and a Specter’ (1863): The illusionist (and ghost debunker) Henri Robin promotes himself in a photograph by Eugène Thiébault.
William H. Mumler’s famous portrait of Abe Lincoln looking down on his bereaved wife Mary Todd Lincoln.
More ghostly double exposures, after the jump…

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Polaroids of Desire: Architect Carlo Mollino’s secret stash of erotica (NSFW)

The architect and designer Carlo Mollino had a secret life—one that only came to light after his death in 1973.

Born in Turin in 1905, Mollino first established himself as an architect designing a house in Forte dei Marmi–a seaside resort and commune enjoyed by Thomas Mann and Aldous Huxley. By the 1930s, he was acclaimed for his Fascist House in Voghera and the Art Deco concrete and glass Farmers Association Building in Cuneos. His most famous work was the Equestrian Centre in Torinese, which was demolished in 1960.

Mollino was also a designer of furniture—one of his tables sold for $3.8 million in 2005—and described himself as an adventurer, a racing driver, an athlete, a skier (he designed two ski lodges in Aosta Valley and Piedmont), a poet, a writer, a student of the occult, occasional drug addict, professor, artist, photographer and bachelor. Surprisingly for such an enterprising life, Mollino lived nearly all of his days at his father’s house, who considered his son a “fantasist,” a “dangerous erotomaniac” and “feckless.”

In the early 1960s, Mollino bought his first Polaroid camera and developed a secret passion for creating erotic photographs. On certain evenings he would be driven down to Turin’s red light district where his driver negotiated to hire “ladies of the night” for a brief photographic session at his small city apartment—a villa he actually never lived in which was designed to be a “house for the warrior’s rest,” now the Casa Mollino by the Po River. Mollino dressed the women in clothes he had bought, then posed them against specially constructed backdrops filled with his furniture designs. The portraits range from Pirelli calendar titillation through lingerie catalog to the more painterly and artfully contrived. These images were supposed to be his idea of what a “warrior” would appreciate—however, the photographs remained secret until after his death.
More of Mollino’s erotic Polaroids, after the jump…

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Beautiful color photographs of England during the 1920s
09:09 am


Clifton R. Adams

The summers seemed brighter, the weather warmer, the days more leisurely. The First World War—”the war to end all wars”—was long over and the 1920s began as a decade of great prosperity.

But by the 1925, the years of plenty were over. The gap between rich and poor widened, with unemployment rife and beggars—many old soldiers—a common sight on the cities’ streets.

In 1926, a General Strike almost brought the government down when unions showed solidarity with one million mine workers who had been locked out of the mines by owners who wanted them to work more hours for less pay—a drop of 13% of the miners’ wages.

Where farming had once thrived, one in four farms were sold during the 1920s to pay to financial obligations—over 600,000 farmers went bankrupt.

Families were of a smaller size compared to Victorian families, with children educated until the age of fourteen. There was more freedom for middle class and upper class women, with women over 30 given the vote in 1918, which was finally extended to all women over the age of 21 in 1928.

In 1928, photographer Clifton R. Adams was commissioned by the National Geographic to document life in England. Adams’ beautiful Autochromes—a process of producing color images by using potato starch—present images that are seemingly at odds with the historical reality of the time, capturing the last of an England that was on the cusp of an irreversible change during the about the 1930s Depression.
England’s dreaming: More of Clifton R. Adams’ Autochromes, after the jump…

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Frida Kahlo dressed as a boy
12:37 pm


Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is about seventeen in these family photographs taken by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, circa 1924. Each member of the family adopts a pose reflective of their station, but it is Frida who holds our attention—she stares directly at the camera daring us to look away.

There is a game being played. Frida is dressed as a boy in shirt, tie and three-piece suit, she is playing a role, flouting convention. Frida is also challenging the viewer’s notion of gender.

Being used to seeing photographs or paintings of Frida Kahlo in her colorful, theatrical dress, these simple family portraits are beautiful, seductive and potent. Frida had been learning from her father the tricks of photography and how best to use the camera to project an image. With this knowledge, Frida is measuring herself against the camera’s gaze—she is not fazed, has no fear, and seems certain of her own powerful image, even at this age.


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‘Make Life Worth Living’: A look at Scotland’s grim tenement slums, 1969-72
09:53 am

Class War

Nick Hedges

For a large swathe of the UK’s population, life in the swinging sixties was not all miniskirts, psychedelia and Beatle wigs—it was hard dismal work, poverty, unemployment: a life crammed in overcrowded slums, with few amenities or pleasures. This was true for many who lived in the country’s former industrial heartlands—Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Glasgow—the war damaged cities that were being slowly gutted and replaced by equally oppressive concrete tower blocks and uniform housing schemes in new towns.

In 1968, photographer Nick Hedges was hired by housing charity Shelter to document the “the oppressive and abject living conditions being experienced in poor quality housing in the UK” in order to “raise consciousness about the extent of unfit living conditions and to illustrate, in human terms, what the real cost of bad housing was.”

Hedges arrived in Glasgow to find it a “devastating city,” full of grim deprivation and brutality—on his first night he witnessed two youngsters rob a blind beggar of his takings. Hodges began by photographing the tenement slums of the city’s Gorbals area—once the most populated district—before heading north and west to the equally overcrowded Maryhill, where an army garrison had been kept until the 1960s as a force against any possible communist revolution. Hedges then photographed East Kilbride—one of the many new towns built after the Second World War to deal with the slum clearances—the movement of people out of places like Anderston, Gorbals and Maryhill to a better life in specially built towns. Hedges also photographed tenement life in Edinburgh, where many of the poor where decamped in the 1970s to Wester Hailes.

The wrecking ball of the 1960s and 1970s did little to ease poverty and unemployment, but it did start a new decade of house building for those in direst need. Hedges photographs powerfully document the reality of tenement life for many Scots during this era, and the endemic poverty that affected their lives, as Hedges writes:

The thing about people living in slum housing is that there is no drama…it’s about the absolute wearing down of people’s morale in a quiet and undemonstrative way.

An exhibition of Nick Hedges’ photographs for Shelter, Make Life Worth Living, is currently showing in Edinburgh till 31st October.

One day I travelled around Glasgow’s charming, ancient underground railway to Cessnock, and walked down to the Govan shipyards. I found a children’s playground in the shadow of cranes, running down to the edge of the Clyde.

Nick Hedges


Glasgow tenement backs 1970

They are the grimmest environment that I’ve encountered. This has something to do with the size of the stone used in their construction, the entry to them through the cave like entrances, the deep and dark stairwells and the relentless pattern of streets.

Nick Hedges


Father and children Gorbals tenement 1970


Sisters sharing a chair in a Gorbals slum tenement 1970

Mr and Mrs C lived with their large family in what was virtually a derelict flat in one of the last Gorbals Tenements. “There’s nothing now that you can get angry about. You’ve said it all before”. Two of the elder girls in the family. One was unemployed, the other about to leave school with no prospect of a job

Nick Hedges

More of Nick Hedges powerful photographs, after the jump…

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London punks mouth off five years after ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’
12:54 pm


Sex Pistols

“I’ll be looking like this until I’m 22 and then I’ll take up motherhood. I’ll be looking just the same this time next year. This time in five years? I’ll be dead.” 
In December 1981, The Face magazine ran a spread called “Punk Rock: 5 Years On.” What they did was send photographer Virginia Turbett out into the field and photograph/interview any punks she came across. The magazine didn’t specify how to date those “5 years” precisely but it does happen that “Anarchy in the U.K.” was released in late November of 1976, so we can make it that.

It’s interesting to see the relatively uniform roster of bands most of these young punks name: Crass, Exploited, the Psychedelic Furs, plus a few that are mostly forgotten today: Anti Pasti, Theatre of Hate, and Vice Squad. Below are the results of Turbett’s investigations. Clicking on any image in this post will spawn a larger version.

“I wouldn’t class myself as a punk, I’m just an individual. I don’t like being put into categories.”

“Now there’s some great new bands: Exploited, Anti Pasti, Vice Squad, Theatre of Hate, Crass, the Subs. I liked the music at the beginning, but I didn’t start dressing up punk until after the Pistols split up.”
More after the jump…

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Roller Skating in the American South, 1970s
02:28 pm


roller skating
Bill Yates

In the summer of 1972, photographer Bill Yates, having completed a stint in the Navy, took a workshop that lasted one week with the legendary street life photographer Garry Winogrand. (Fun fact: When I want to make note of an upcoming band to catch, cookout to attend, or guest soon to take over my couch, I write the information in my 2015 Metropolitan Museum of Art Garry Winogrand wall calendar.) That session likely was ideal preparation for Yates’ first encounter with the  Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink in a rural section of Hillsborough County known Six Mile Creek, east of downtown Tampa.

“I had just purchased a medium-format, twin-lens camera, and, as usual, I was out riding around looking for something to shoot,” Yates remembers. Having spotted the Sweetheart, Yates approached the proprietor and asked whether he could shoot it, only to receive the following reply: “Sure, but if you want some good ones, come back tonight—this place will be jumpin’.” 

Yates learned soon enough how right that man was. He showed up with his Mamiya C330 and a Honeywell Strobonar flash and shot all eight rolls of the Tri-X 220 black-and-white film he had brought. Later, he stapled them to the wooden walls of the rink, so that his subjects, most of them cocksure teenagers and exuberant children, could see themselves in action. Seeing the pics decreased their innate suspicion that Yates was interested in catching them out, and soon enough the young roller skaters were mugging it up in front of his camera. “All of a sudden, I was their newest best friend,” says Yates.

Curiously, his Sweetheart photographs were enough to gain Yates admission to the Rhode Island School of Design, where—regrettably—he was encouraged to leave such playful documentary shots behind and “start from scratch.” Only recently, as he entered his sixties, did Yates think to return to those old pictures and present them as a show.

The exhibition “Bill Yates: Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink” starts October 3 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. Be sure to read Chuck Reece’s compelling article about the Sweetheart photographs at Bitter Southerner.

Click on the photographs to see a larger version.


Many more pics of the fun at the Sweetheart after the jump…

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‘Hustlers’: Magnetic portrait series of NYC and LA male prostitutes
09:18 am


Eve Fowler

Eve Fowler‘s captivating series, Hustlers, is not your average coffee table book of photography. Between 1993 and 1998, Fowler photographed young gay men selling sex in the West Village and on Santa Monica Boulevard, to startlingly familiar effect. The project coincided with Fowler’s own coming out; her subjects are—in a way—an extension of her own identity.

The men themselves remain anonymous, and the viewer is left to wonder about their lives and personal stories. Street hustling has never been the safest way to make a living, and deaths from AIDS only stopped climbing after 1995—it could be tempting for a less humane photographer to portray her subjects as little more than gritty icongraphy, but Fowler doesn’t seem to direct these men at all. Some of them pose, others pout, and some simply smile, as if for a family snapshot. 



Continues after the jump…

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Documenting madness: Female patients of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum

Among the early pioneers of photography in the 1800s was a middle-aged English doctor called Hugh Welch Diamond, who believed photography could be used in the diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill. Diamond first established his medical career with a private practice in Soho, London, before specializing in psychiatry and becoming Resident Superintendent of the Female Department at the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in 1848—a position he held until 1858. Diamond was an early adopter of photography, taking his first portraits just three months after Henry Fox Talbot licensed his “salt print” process for producing “photogenic drawings.” As a follower of “physiognomics”—a popular science based on the theory that disease (and character) could be discerned from an individual’s features or physiognomy—Diamond believed photography could be used as a curative therapy.

In documenting madness, Diamond was following on from his predecessor at Surrey County, Sir Alexander Morison who had produced a book of illustrations by various artists depicting patients at the asylum called The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases in 1838. Diamond believed the book was not scientific as the drawings were mainly illustrative interpretations of what the artist saw and could therefore veer towards caricature. He believed that the camera was the only way in which doctors could document illness without taint of prejudice:

The Metaphysician and Moralist, the Physician and Physiologist will approach such an inquiry with their peculiar views, definitions and classifications—The Photographer needs in many cases no aid from any language of his own, but prefers to listen, with the picture before him, to the silent but telling language of nature.

Between 1848-58, Diamond photographed the women patients at Surrey County, taking their portraits against a curtained wall or canvas screen. He became convinced he was able to diagnose a patient’s mental illness from their photographic portrait and then use the image as a therapeutic cure to sanity—the idea being the patient would be able to recognize the sickness in their features. As evidence of this, he cited his success with one patient who he had used the process on:

Her subsequent amusement in seeing the portraits and her frequent conversation about them was the first decided step in her gradual improvement, and about four months ago she was discharged perfectly cured, and laughed heartily at her former imaginations…

Convinced he had found a possible cure to mental illness, Diamond presented a paper “On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomic and Mental Phenomena of Insanity” to the Royal Society of Medicine in May 1856, in which he explained his theories. While many scientists and doctors saw the merit in Diamond’s propositions, they were eventually dismissed as “pseudo-science,” “snake oil” and “quackery.” However, the belief in physiognomy as a form of scientific empiricism was developed by police detective, biometrics researcher and inventor of the mugshot, Alphonse Bertillon, who devised a system of anthropometry for classifying criminals. This was later dropped in favor of fingerprinting and later DNA.

Diamond’s ideas on the diagnostic and curative nature of photography have long been discredited, however, he is now best remembered as a pioneer of psychiatric photography.

During his time at Surrey County, Diamond was able to document most of the female patients as the asylum was a public institution, which meant the patients had no rights to privacy. It’s interesting to note that when he left Surrey for a privately run asylum in Twickenham, Diamond was not permitted to take patients’ portraits. The following is a selection of Diamond’s portraits of the patients at Surrey County Asylum, more can be seen here. Alas, I was unable to find details to the identities of the sitters or their illnesses.
More portraits after the jump…

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Relics of Russia’s near future: When progress comes to an end
09:07 am


Cold War
Danila Tkachenko

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….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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