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The ‘private’ photographs of Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg: Questioning gender roles circa 1900
11:41 am


Bolette Berg
Marie Høeg

Marie Høeg (1866-1949) had short cropped hair. Bolette Berg (1872-1944) kept hers long. Marie was short. Bolette was taller. They were known to the people of Horten, a busy naval port in Norway, as the two ladies who ran the photography studio called Berg & Høeg. They made their living taking portrait photographs, landscape pictures and the occasional picture of ships. In the late 1800s and early 1900s photography was the latest craze where those who could afford it had their picture taken. There were many such photographic studios in Horten. Berg & Høeg may have been long forgotten had it not been for the discovery some thirty years ago of some 440 of their glass negatives in an old disused barn in Oslo.

Among these glass plates was a box marked “Private.” Inside this box was a set of images featuring Høeg and Berg playing around with traditional gender roles. Høeg dressed as a man with a waxed mustaches, or as a boy with white shirt, cap and cigarette, or in fur pretending to be an Arctic explorer like Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903–06.

Berg & Høeg posed with their women friends indulging in some of the worst kind of vices usually attributed to men—smoking, drinking and playing cards. Høeg also posed as husband to an unknown male friend as wife and in a rowing boat as a bowler-hat-wearing suitor to Berg’s elegant object of desire.

The finished photographs would have been shared among their small coterie of friends in Horten. Their friends no doubt laughed at these daring, subversive images which cocked a snook at the strict conventions surrounding sexuality, gender and identity at a time when women were called the “weaker sex,” and forbidden the vote.

Marie Høeg was the main subject of these “private” photographs. During her life she was best known as a pioneering activist for women’s rights. She founded the Horten Branch of the National Association for Women’s Suffrage, the Horten Women’s Council and the Horten Tuberculosis Association. Bolette Berg worked more behind the camera. The two women are believed to have met while studying photography in Finland during the early 1890s. They moved to Horten where they set up a studio together in 1895.

In 1903, the two women left Horten and set up a new studio in Oslo (then called Kristiania) where they had a career producing scenic and portrait postcards. They bought a farm and at some point stored their glass negatives in the barn where these images remained long after both Berg’s and Høeg’s deaths until their discovery in the 1980s.
More of Høeg and Berg’s cross-dressing pictures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
They Live by Night: Photos of gangsters, prostitutes & drag queens from Tokyo’s red light district

Kabukichō is the red light district in Shinjuku, a commercial and administrative ward in central Tokyo. Apparently Kabukichō took its name from plans to build a kabuki theater in the district sometime in 1940s. This never happened. Instead the area became a busy red light world of nightclubs, hostess clubs and love hotels. It’s estimated there are some 3,000 such enterprises operating in Kabukichō today. At night, the busy neon-lit streets thrive with the curious and the criminal—around a thousand yakuza are said to operate in the area. All this relentless activity gave Kabukichō its nickname as the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街).

Among the curious drawn to Kabukichō was photographer Watanabe Katsumi (1941-2006). During the 1960s and 1970s, this seemingly quiet and unassuming character prowled the streets camera in hand offering to take pictures of the sharp-suited yakuza, the pimps, the prostitutes and the drag queens who lived and worked in and among this red light district’s narrow streets. Watanabe thought of Kabukichō as his theater and the men and women who posed for him as his actors.

He approached each of his subjects and offered to take their picture.  He took the pictures quickly. But whatever he said to make each individual sufficiently relaxed worked. His photographs captured something unguarded and utterly spontaneous about his subjects. The next night he would return, deliver three prints of each photograph for 200 yen—roughly around a dollar back then. This was how he made his living.

In 1973, the first volume of Watanabe Katsumi’s photographs The Gangs of Kabukichō was published. This book was reissued in 2006, details here.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Upside down photographs of faces become intriguing, introspective works of art
07:21 am


Anelia Loubser

A photograph from the series ‘Alienation’ by South African artist, Anelia Loubser.
Anelia Loubser is a photographer from South Africa who has only been working in her chosen medium for fewer than ten years. During that short time period, her photographs have been seen in publications all over the world.

According to Loubser, she credits her twin sister with providing her with much of the inspiration that enables her to continue to create her art. In 2014 her fledgling photographic series Alienation created quite a stir as it featured unconventional black and white images of people—including members of her own family—taken at close range allowing them to become something other than what they are. Loubser’s composition of her subjects and their faces cut off just before you can see the formation of their noses—creating a powerful, otherworldly way for something as common as a human face to be perceived by the viewer. While the seemingly simple-sounding concept of photographing someone’s face upside down may seem uninvolved, Loubser’s enigmatic results are impossible to ignore. Here’s more from Loubser on the photographs you are about to see from Alienation:

I saw eyes on unfamiliar faces, and in them lies a whole galaxy of tales to tell. In their eyes, I saw happiness, sadness, excitement, pain, love, curiosity, wisdom and wonder - all these familiar human emotions on unearthed faces. This had such a tremendous impact on me because symbolically they summarized how I seldom feel living in a conflicting inner and outer universe with my own being. And it made my madness seem less messy.

A selection of Loubser’s topsy-turvy faces for you to lose yourself in follow.


More after the jump…

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Waterworld: The man who photographed pin-ups… underwater
11:28 am


Bruce Mozert

In 1938, a young photographer named Bruce Mozert was on his way to a shoot in Miami when he got word Johnny Weissmuller was filming his latest Tarzan flick at Silver Springs, Marion County. Mozert took a detour on the off-chance he might get a few good snaps of the former Olympic champion and box office star—or at the very least shake his hand. He managed both. When he shook Weissmuller’s hand, the Tarzan actor lifted the twenty-two year off the ground and straight up into the air. This incredible feat of athleticism wasn’t the only thing which impressed Mozert on his day trip. In Silver Spring he had found a beautiful and idyllic location in which to make his career as an underwater photographer. 

Silver Springs is the site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world. It is said to produce an estimated total of some 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily. The beauty of these waters was the kicker for Mozert. They appeared so perfect, so beautiful, so clear that he knew he had to devise a unique and original way to incorporate the springs into his photographic work.

He moved into nearby city of Ocala where he set about building a box-like waterproof housing for his camera. He then started taking subaquatic pictures of employees from Silver Springs Park, who acted as his underwater models. Mozert photographed his models doing everyday things underwater—frying fish, drinking a champagne cocktail, reading a paper, and so on. He used various homemade special effects to make it all seem almost real. Condensed milk was used to create smoke for barbecuing fish—“The fat in the milk would cause it to rise, creating ‘smoke’ for a long time.” Alka Seltzer provided the bubbles for the champagne. Anything was possible—“All you got to do is use your imagination.”
Dive into the subaquatic life of Bruce Mozert, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Reimagining the American Dream for an alternative facts universe
01:50 pm


Weronika Gęsicka

Now that we’re in a post-truth, alternative facts universe where everything is great, amazing, really really great and yuge ‘cause the President sez so. Hell, who needs facts in this new world anyway? They’re difficult, troublesome and damnably inconvenient. The President ain’t got time for that. No, sir. People want nice. They want cuddly, comforting, fluffy things—not cold hard facts. The Prez knows that and he’s gonna tell us how it’s gonna be. “It’s gonna be great, really great and no one can even imagine how truly great this greatness is gonna be.” Nope.

But you know, I think that maybe we need some art for this truly great post-truth/alt facts universe—something that captures how things can be interpreted to fit a new purpose. Maybe a bit like these photographs by Polish artist Weronika Gęsicka?

There’s something about Gęsicka’s work that seems—well, at least to me—to fit our new alterno-world. Like the way in which Weronika takes old American publicity shots from fifties and sixties archives and manipulates them to create a “new history.” She primarily works with found photographs and images creating art that explores memory and its mechanism, scientific and pseudoscientific theories, mnemonics and the various disorders related to it.

Of course, the big difference between the two is that Weronika makes art that raises important questions about our conceptions of reality, while el Presidente is attempting to enforce his own deluded fantasies on everyone else’s reality. (Quite an artform in its own right, one might argue. It’s only a few days in, let’s see how long it can last.)

Weronika takes one found picture then tries “to erase, as much as [she] can, the difference between an original image and [her] own alteration, [thus] creating a completely new history at the same time.”

Gęsicka chooses:

Family scenes, vacation souvenirs, everyday life, suspended anywhere between truth and fiction. It is hard to figure out whether they are spontaneous or entirely staged.


Then asks:

Who are, or were, these people in the images? Are they actors playing happy families, or real persons whose photos were put up for sale by the image bank?

And when finished:

These photos, modified in various ways, are wrapped in new contexts: our recollections of people and situations are transformed and gradually blur.

These altered pictures are funny, disturbing and strangely unnerving. Weronika’s photographic nostalgia makes the viewer aware something is not quite right and leaves you wondering if ever will be again.

View more of Gęsicka’s work here.
More of Weronika Gęsicka’s work, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Early photos of Boy George, Steve Strange & more at the club that launched the New Romantics

DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.

Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.

It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
A blonde-haired Siobhan Fahey with at friend at Billy’s long before she joined Bananarama and later Shakespeare’s Sister.
Club host Steve Strange (in cap) with an unknown friend.
See more photos of Nicola’s photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Strange, surreal portraits made from found photographs, food, insects and everyday objects
08:12 am


Susana Blasco

For this recipe you’ll need some bean sprouts, one fish-head, a tablespoon of popcorn, one butterfly, some seeds, half-a-dozen seashells, some buttons, a watch and two dozen photographs found in an old flea market.

Susana Blasco admits to having the soul of a sailor . She also owns up to being an artist, graphic designer, illustrator and razor sharpener. Susana has designed book covers, album covers, posters and all the other things graphic designers do. She also makes rather fabulous and imaginative artworks out of found photographs.

Antiheroes is one of Susana’s many photographic projects. It began through trial and error, chance and experimentation where Susana placed everyday objects on top of old photographs to create surreal and slightly disturbing portraits. A slug becomes a woman’s smile, a girl embraces her sister with a crab tentacle, a woman’s head explodes into shoots, and a man’s head is eaten by confetti. I find these pictures quite irresistible, in large part due to Susana’s highly imaginative use of mundane props to create startling portraits from a seemingly unknown world.

Susanna’s series Antiheroes is available as prints.
See more of Susana Blasco’s surreal portraits, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The homeless woman who made photo-booth art
08:46 am


Lee Godie

Lee Godie (1908-1994) was an outsider artist who spent three decades living rough on the streets of Chicago—with the occasional respite in a flophouse when she had cash.

When you read about Godie there’s always the sentence that states she “spent almost 30-years homeless” or “lived on the streets for nearly thirty years.” The “nearly” and “almost” make it sound cosy—make it all sound like an heroic failure—as if she didn’t quite succeed in living rough for the full thirty years—as in the way we say—she nearly came first in the race or she almost won the lottery. One night sleeping rough on the streets is hell enough for anyone—especially in those cold Chicago winters where the temperature can drop to -30 in the windchill and the radio broadcasts give advice on breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose to prevent nosebleeds.

Somehow Godie managed to live and work while she was homeless between the 1960s and 1990s. She made drawings and paintings with whatever materials she had to hand. She then sold them to commuters on their way to work—but only if she liked the look of you. If she didn’t—then Godie rolled up her portfolio of pictures, put them under her arm, bid you “Good day” and moved on to the next potential buyer. That’s an enviable, if bloody-minded determination.

For Godie chose to live on the streets. She had money—enough to keep her dry, warm and snug. But she preferred living rough. Why? No one seems to be quite sure. At night, in sub-zero temperatures Godie slept on “a concrete bench…clutching her large black portfolio” of artworks. How Godie ended up homeless is open to conjecture. What is known she was married twice and had four children. After the deaths of two of her children, Godie began her life living on the streets in the 1960s.
The drawings and paintings were usually done while sitting on a park bench or on the steps of the Arts Institute. But perhaps her biggest and best known artworks was a series of selfies she made using a photo-booth as her studio.

For these self-portraits Godie dressed-up in her thrift store clothes and posed with props bought from Woolworth’s with the money she made selling her paintings. A Godie painting that was sold for $30 bucks back in the 1980s can fetch over $15,000 today. Godie’s photographs show her playing different roles—the child, the muse, the rich sophisticate like those 1920s Daisy Buchanan flappers she seemed so enamored by in her paintings.

When a newspaper story about Godie—the eccentric homeless artist—appeared in 1988—her daughter Bonnie Blank made contact. One day she was seen sitting beside her mother drawing pictures. On one occasion even sleeping rough with her. Eventually the daughter introduced herself to her long lost mother. Not long after this, Godie was admitted to hospital suffering from dementia. On her release, she went to stay with Bonnie where she remained until her death in 1994.
More of the Lee Godie’s photobooth art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Fire Damage: Photographer documents the devastation of Gatlinburg

On November 23, 2016, a series of wildfires spread through the Smoky Mountains devastating Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in Sevier County. The fires were one of the worst natural disasters in Tennessee history—claiming fourteen lives and injuring 134.

When the blaze was first reported along the ridge of Chimney Tops mountain “no suppression activities were initiated.” On November 24, park rangers started containment procedures in a hope to stop the fire’s progression. Four days later the blaze had spread to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Pittman Center, as a result of sparks and downed power lines.

The worst of the inferno—what the fire department called “the apocalypse”—destroyed the majority of wooded areas surrounding the center of Gatlinburg. In total some 1,413 properties were destroyed.

Watching the devastation on television, Nashville-based photographer Jeremy Cowart decided to do something to help the victims of the fire. Together with a volunteer crew, Cowart documented the aftermath of the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires. Using a camera attached to a drone, he photographed many of the families and individuals whose lives had been devastated by the fire as they lay on a white mattress surrounded by the remnants of their homes.

A website Voices of Gatlinburg was set up to share the stories, images and most importantly help with the needs of those worst affected.

I went to work that morning, like I always do. By 9am I knew that something was wrong. I was working on Sevier County Ambulance Service. We did business as usual until later that evening. It was about 10 or 11pm that evening when I first got pulled into Gatlinburg for mutual aid with EMS response. On my way to staging I passed by my residence and it was still there. We continued to run several more calls and about 1–2am I was going to meet up with another GFD EMS unit. That’s when I passed my residence, and that’s when I saw that my house was gone.


It was scary because the smoke was so bad and sirens just kept passing going both directions. We finally got to my sister’s but the sky was bright orange.

More voices from the Gatlinburg fire, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Married to the Mob: Dames and Molls who hung with Mafia Wise Guys
11:54 am


mob molls

Mob molls are tough dames. They gotta put up with a lotta shit and a lotta bad juju. Not every broad has what it takes to hang with the Mob. Take bit-part actress Alice Granville (above) who was shot twice in the arm by her hitman husband Pete Donahue. Apparently she didn’t even wince. Donahue was a trigger-happy lieutenant for mob boss Dutch Schultz. Granville said her mob beau only shot her to prove how much he loved her. Hate to think what he got her for Valentine’s Day.

Or take fifteen-year-old Carmen Martinez (below)—who was willing to kill for her mob bf. That’s her struggling with cops on her way to Felony Court having been charged with the murder of seventeen-year-old Raul Banuchi in 1951. What says “I love you” more than whacking someone?

Being a Mob moll takes a lotta guts, a lotta loyalty and a helluva lotta just plain dumb. Here’s a rogue’s gallery of some hardboiled Mob molls.
Mob moll Smitty White claims the fifth while getting the third degree from New York’s finest after her boyfriend Ralph Prisco was shot and killed during a failed holdup in 1942. The word “moll” comes from “molly” as in the old 17th century English term for prostitute—though like many English words when transposed to America (fanny being an obvious example) the word developed a different meaning—as in the girlfriend or female accomplice of a gangster.
Big Mama Virginia Hill—the so-called ‘Queen of Mob Molls’ looks like butter wouldn’t melt…. when testifying she knew nothing about her boyfriend Bugsy Siegel’s crime record and Mob connections after he was whacked in 1951.
More mob molls, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sex, death & dismemberment: Joel-Peter Witkin’s portraits of outcasts, severed heads & George Bush
05:06 pm


Joel-Peter Witkin

A photograph by Joel-Peter Witkin featuring a real severed arm obtained from a cadaver in Mexico.

Anyone who is a Republican has a spiritual problem.

—Joel-Peter Witkin

When photographer Joel-Peter Witkin got the idea to compose his photograph “The Raft of George W. Bush” in 2006 (which you can see below) he built upon the 1818 painting by French painter Théodore Géricault “The Raft of the Medusa.” To Witkin, Géricault’s masterpiece seemed to distinctly parallel the eight awful years the U.S. spent under the Republican administration of George W. Bush (You miss him right now, don’t you?). “The Raft of George W. Bush” took four weeks to complete and included a Bush lookalike who also worked at a zoo in Miami. Like the other photographs in Witkin’s large portfolio that spans nearly five decades, “The Raft of George W. Bush” though not as grotesque as much of his work, is still rather impossible to look away from.

Originally from Brooklyn, Witkin received his Masters in Fine Art at the University of New Mexico where he has lived and worked for most of his life. His photographs feature a variety of outcasts, circus performers and other humans who often operate on the outskirts of society. Distinctly dark in nature Witkin incorporates a wide variety emotions into his photos that run the gamut from sex to religion. For his more macabre works Witkin goes full-method using real limbs and heads of cadavers—something he is only able to do legally in Mexico. There is much to digest when it comes to Witkin’s work which contain elements of Surrealism, collage and homages to still-life “Vanitas” style paintings from the 1600s that use the symbolism of skulls to remind the viewer that the arrival of death is inevitable. While there are many of Witkin’s photos that I can’t show you here as they feature nudity too explicit for a family publication like DM (you can see them here if you’d like), I have posted what I still believe is a compelling cross-section of his photographs below. I’ve also included an excerpt from the 2013 documentary film on the artist, Joel-Peter Witkin: An Objective Eye.

‘The Raft of George W. Bush,’ 2006.

‘Bad Student,’ 2007.
More Witkin after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Photographer recreates pics he took nearly four decades ago—with the same people
01:34 pm



The most elementary fact of our existence—time passes, implacably and forever—is always the one that surprises us the most. You probably see the note hit several times a week in your social media: “Return to Cookie Mountain came out ten years ago??” “Third Rock from the Sun is twenty years old!! No way!” Well, yes way. Time passes.

Some photographs can have the same effect, but few more forcefully than the series of before/after pictures that have recently been unveiled of British people caught in their everyday lives decades ago—and then recreated much more recently. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in eastern England had a gregarious paramedic who liked to amuse himself by taking pictures of local citizens. HIs name is Chris Porsz, and some took to calling him the “paramedic paparazzo.”

One of the striking things about Porsz’s unfussy and unpretentious pictures is the sheer lack of judgment. Porsz had a knack for capturing people of all types—young lovers, cheerful punks, children at play, women contemplating a makeover, and working people making their way through the day.

Over the last seven years Porsz has dedicated countless hours tracking down his original subjects and persuading them to pose for pictures—in fact, the same pictures that were taken so long ago. The result is almost unbelievably evocative and poignant, a little bit reminiscent of Michael Apted’s landmark Up series of documentaries, which tracked a group of twenty British schoolchildren every seven years until deep into middle age.

Porsz has a new book coming out called Reunions that contains the entire series of before/after photos. As the photographer says, “This book has been nearly forty years in the making, and I believe the project is totally unique. I don’t think anyone else has tracked down so many strangers and recreated photos in this way before.”

Several years ago Porsz came out with a related book called New England: The Culture and People of an English New Town During the 1970s and 1980s.

Porsz became interested in photography shortly after his first child was born in 1978. He was working as a “casualty porter” at Peterborough District Hospital at the time, and took to the streets for inspiration.

“It has been very hard work and I’ve had lots of setbacks along the way, but I always believed this could be something really special and was determined to do at least 100 reunion pictures and it has been a labour of love.” The final product, Reunions, actually has 134 re-created pics in it, so he surpassed his original goal by a considerable margin.


Many more before/after pics after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Kinky erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima

In 1961, a young photographer named Eikoh Hosoe was asked by writer Yukio Mishima to take his portrait picture. It was a humbling yet surprising commission. Mishima was then Japan’s greatest living novelist—the author tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Hosoe was relatively unknown. The commission made Hosoe deeply curious as to why the great Mishima had chosen him.

When they met in the small garden at Mishima’s house, the author anticipated Hosoe’s question:

“I loved your photographs of Tatsumi Hijikata. I want you to photograph me like that, so I asked my editor to call you.”

“Mr. Mishima, do you mean I can photograph you in my own way?” I asked.

“Yes, I am your subject matter. Photograph me however you please, Mr. Hosoe,” he replied.

All my questions and anxiety faded.

The photographs Mishima so greatly admired were the ones Hosoe had taken of the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata. 

Hijikata was an originator of Butoh—an apocalytpic dance form developed in Japan after the Second World War in opposition to western influence. Mishima had similarly broken away from the prevailing western influence that had altered Japan after the war and during the 1950s. Mishima wanted a return of the Emperor and the ancient samurai traditions.

Mishima had been a puny kid. As he matured he changed his body through rigorous exercise and weight-lifting to become toned and highly athletic. His books often deal with the theme of the split between intellectual ambitions and the man of action.

His first novel Confessions of a Mask examined the “reluctant masquerade” between the perceived and actual life. Mishima was bisexual. He was married with two children but had an intense and active gay life. He was a sadomasochist, who believed in the living of a life through force of will. A life that he claimed adhered to the strict codes of the samurai. His books were fixed in this tradition—though his subject matter was preoccupied with sex and death. This led many critics in the west to misunderstand Mishima. One of my collegues here label him as a cross between “Proust and Jeffrey Dahmer.”

That fine day in September 1961, Hosoe quickly realized Mishima did not want a banal author portrait:

In offering himself as the “subject matter” of my photographs, I thought he might have wanted to become a dancer himself. I was still in my twenties then, so I was naïve. I did not make the distinction between an international literary figure and a dancer.

Mishima’s father happened to be watering the garden, so I grabbed his hose, and I wrapped Mishima’s entire body in the hose and kept him standing in the center of the zodiac, where he was planning to erect a statue of Apollo.

I asked him to look up and concentrate on my camera, which I was holding from a ladder above. I shouted, “Keep looking at my lens very intensely, Mr. Mishima! Okay, that’s great, keep going . . .” He never blinked while I shot two rolls of 35mm film. “I am proud of my ability to keep my eyes open for minutes,” said Mishima.

“I have never been photographed like this,” he said. “Why did you do it in this way?”

“This is the destruction of a myth,” I replied.

“You should wrap the hose around Haruo Sato,” he laughed. Haruo Sato was considered to be a literary giant at that time. But what I really meant was that I wanted to destroy the preconceived ideas about Mishima’s image in order to create a new Mishima.

After the shoot, Hosoe thought he may have gone too far. Two days later, Mishima phoned him to say he loved the photographs and wanted to collaborate with Hosoe on some more.

Over a period of six months Hosoe worked with Mishima on a series photographs which he hoped would capture the writer’s soul. These were eventually published as a book—with text by Mishima—called Ba-ra-kei or Ordeal by Roses.

In November 1970, Mishima together with four members of his secret army attempted a military coup. They broke into the eastern headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces taking the commanding officer prisoner. Mishima demanded 800 soldiers gather outside the offices to hear a speech and a list of demands he had written. Mishima hoped this speech would inspire the troops to rebel against the corruption of western influence and join his rebellion. Mishima wanted an end of democracy and a return of the Emperor. His rebellion was a literal union of the artist and man of action changing history.

The troops laughed and jeered as the author spoke. The coup failed. Mishima returned inside where he committed seppuku (self-disembowelment) before one of his soldiers attempted to decapitate him. After several blows failed to remove his head, another of his soldiers eventually managed to decapitate Mishima.

Mishima’s biographer John Nathan suggested this military coup was only a pretext for Mishima’s ritual suicide—something he had long dreamed about. In his short story “Patriotism” Mishima described an idealized seppuku where the central character pulls a blade across his abdomen cutting himself open:

The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. . . . The entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . . A raw smell filled the room.

Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima taken in 1961 and 1962 capture the author’s terrible beauty, eroticism and conflicted sadomasochistic nature.
More of Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Stunning color photographs of the Women of Tsarist Russia 1909-15

Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) was a successful chemist and leading pioneer of color photography in Russia at the turn of the last century. He was financially independent enough to take up the fashionable hobby of photography. His knowledge of chemistry enabled him to master new techniques in color processing.

He decided to use these 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.

Photography was an expensive pastime. As his hyphenated surname suggests,  Prokudin-Gorskii came from a long line of Russian nobility and was closely linked to the Romanov royal family. Tsar Nicholas II gave Prokudin-Gorskii a specially designed railroad carriage with its own specially converted darkroom to help him on his travels documenting Russian life.

Between 1909 and 1915, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled across the country photographing this rich, diverse and multicultural world.

On his travels, Prokudin-Gorskii found Greek women harvesting tea on the shores of the Black Sea, Italian nannies (the woman standing at the open gate below) raising middle class children in St. Petersburg, Muslim families farming on the land, Bashkir (the old woman sitting on the grey wooden steps) or Uzbek women (the woman standing on red rug of full native dress outside a yurt) and peasant girls along the Sheksna River. The wealth and richness of Russian culture surprised and impressed Prokudin-Gorskii. He decided to use his color photographs to teach all children across the land about diversity and tolerance.

Unfortunately, the commencement of the First World War led Tsar Nicholas to believe God had told him to lead his men into battle. The Tsar conscripted the bulk of Russian men off the land. These men were no longer serfs—serfdom having ended in 1861—but they were indebted to their landowners, who had taken the best of the land. This meant when Tsar Nicholas conscripted his troops he denuded farms of their laborers. The land was no longer worked, the rent no longer paid, the families no longer fed. Famine spread across country. This led Russian mothers to march for bread on International Women’s Day March 1917. Their march merged with a workers strike which turned into the first major revolt (or February Revolution) that led to the eventual demise of Nicholas.

Prokudin-Gorskii moved to France after the Revolution. His stunning color photographs beautifully capture a rich diversity of life in pre-revolutionary Russia.
More photos of Russian women from the early 1900s, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Surreal world of Coco Fronsac

Famille heureuse.
In one single day we upload more images onto the Internet than the total number of pictures produced during the whole of 19th century.

In one day—more pictures than a century’s worth of imagery. That’s one heck of a lotta selfies.

Our need for visual stimulus is relentless. We no longer view or experience imagery as previous generations did. The reverence with which some paintings or even photographs were once held is no longer relevant—we view indiscriminately, we consume continuously.

The French artist Coco Fronsac buys old discarded photographs from flea markets and turns them into Surreal works of art. Coco comes from a family of artists. Her grandparents Lucien Neuquelman and Camille Lesné were respected painters. Her parents met at art school. Coco attended art college in Paris before beginning her career as a painter, sculptor and creator of Surreal artworks from found photographs.

Coco takes each photograph—draws on it, paints over it and gives it a new life. If we cannot reclaim our past then we cannot understand our present. These photographs of people long dead, long forgotten have been abandoned, orphaned, thrown to the wind, sent for landfill. We no longer have any interest in them, their subject matter or the lives they lived. By turning these images into art, Coco reconnects the viewer’s relationship with the photo’s subjects. These reinvented images encourage the viewer to take a second look—to enquire about the subject matter and its history. Her intention is to bring people of different backgrounds together and rediscover the connections between us are far greater than the differences.

See more of Coco Fronsac’s work here.
Evidences spectrales.
Holidays on Mars.
More of Coco Fronsac’s work, after the jump…

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