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At home with Salvador Dali
10.18.2017
10:56 am
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Salvador Dali once appeared as the mystery guest on a long-time-ago TV show called What’s My Line? in the 1950s. You know the show, the one that featured a panel of well-known celebrities guessing the occupations of various members of the public by asking them a series of yes/no questions like “Do you work with your hands?” or “Do you tell jokes for a living?” and so on, until the occupation was revealed.

Every week, the show also featured a mystery guest. The same yes/no rules applied but this time the panel wore a selection of dainty blindfolds to make it more fun.

When Dali appeared he insisted on answering “Yes” to nearly every question he was asked, like “Are you a performer?” “Yes.” “Are you a leading man?” “Yes.” (The show’s host John Daly disagreed with that one and marked it as a “No.”) “Are you a writer?” “Yes.” “Do you draw comic books?” “Yes.” (Again, Daly struggled to agree with this answer but Dali was having none of it.)

I am sure if one the panel had asked, “Do you paint pictures on rockfaces while juggling elephants with your knees and wearing sea otters on your hands?” Dali would have said “Yes.”

But the thing is, despite the anchor’s wearying cavils, Dali was absolutely right—he could do everything because he never lived within other people’s expectations. He was boss of what he did and how he did it and this is why he could do anything.

Though I guess I should add the caveat that there was one thing the great artist could not do—Salvador Dali could never be boring. A bit repetitive yes, but never boring.

Take for example, a simple project like that time Picture Post magazine sent over photographer Charles Hewitt to take some snaps of Dali and his wife Gala, at their home in Portlligat, Spain. The resulting pictures were imaginative works of art worthy of inclusion in the Dalit’s ouevre. The finished spread was published in Picture Post on January 8th, 1955, and it’s still utterly impressive.
 
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Marvel at the wonder of Dali at home, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.18.2017
10:56 am
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That time 100,000 Iranian women protested against mandatory wearing of the hijab, 1979.

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There was once a strong belief among many Iranians that if they wanted something, then they just had to go out onto the street and demand it. This idea was fostered by the role many Iranians had in deposing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and bringing back the radical Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France in 1979. This ended 2,500 years of Persian monarchy, replacing it with an Islamic Republic.

The Shah was seen as an autocratic, brutal, and oppressive dictator, who was attempting to westernize the country against the will of the people. The opposition to the Shah and his alleged evil western ways brought together an odd mix of Marxists, socialists, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the misguided media outlet the BBC. Together this unlikely coalition succeeded by demonstrations, strikes, marches, and news propaganda in forcing the Shah (and his supporters) to flee Iran and to bring in the Ayatollah and his Islamic revolution.

Many Iranians thought they were taking back control of their country for themselves. It wasn’t quite so simple. Political coalitions, no matter how well-meaning, only ever work in favor of those who appear to have the most power. The Ayatollah Khomeini was a figurehead around whom the country could unite. Therefore, Khomeini appeared to have the most power. Rather than working together to curtail the Khomeini’s influence, the socialists and the Marxists and the liberals all tried to win his support. This only confirmed to the Ayatollah Khomeini (and the Muslims who supported him) that he was in control.

An estimated one million people greeted the Ayatollah Khomeini’s arrival in Iran by Air France jet, in February 1979. By the end of March, the people had voted by an overwhelming margin of 99% to make Iran an Islamic Republic.

Though women were credited by the Ayatollah Khomeini for their essential role in bringing about the Iranian revolution, in early March 1979, he paid back their actions by implementing an edict that made it compulsory for all women to wear the hijab (veil) in public. Suddenly, any promise the Ayatollah offered of a new, better, fairer Iran was revealed as nothing more than a chimera. Khomeini was a hardline fundamentalist and he had no time for individual freedom—not when he knew what his invisible friend wanted. And Allah apparently wanted women covered up.

On March 8th, 1979, 100,000 women marched on the streets of Tehran against the mandatory wearing for all women of the hijab. Photographer Hengameh Golestan was present that day and believed it was her responsibility to document the demonstration as she was witnessing “something historic.”

It was a huge demonstration with women – and men – from all professions there, students, doctors, lawyers. We were fighting for freedom: political and religious, but also individual.

~Snip~

“They were demanding the freedom of choice. It wasn’t a protest against religion or beliefs, in fact many religious women joined the protest, this was strictly about women’s rights, it was all about having the option.”

~Snip~

I was walking beside this group of women, who were talking and joking. Everyone was happy for me to take their picture. You can see in their faces they felt joyful and powerful. The Iranian revolution had taught us that if we wanted something, we should go out into the street and demand it. People were so happy – I remember a group of nurses stopping some men in a car and telling them: “We want equality, so put on some scarves, too!” Everyone laughed.

I wanted to join in all the protests during the revolution, but I knew I had to go as a photographer. My first thought was: “It’s my responsibility to document this.” I’m rather small, so I was ducking in and out of the crowd, constantly taking photos. I took about 20 rolls of film. When the day was over, I ran home to develop them in my darkroom. I knew I had witnessed something historic. I was so proud of all the women. I wanted to show the best of us.

This turned out to be the last day women walked the streets of Tehran uncovered. It was our first disappointment with the new post-revolution rulers of Iran. We didn’t get the effect we had wanted. But when I look at this photo, I don’t just see the hijab looming over it. I see the women, the solidarity, the joy – and the strength we felt.

The women lost. The demonstration ended with the women being attacked and some even stabbed on the streets of Tehran. The men and their sexist, superstitious beliefs won. It’s a way of having power over women that continues to this day in many different forms.

Pioneering photographer Hengameh Golestan has been documenting life in Iran for 28 years, see more of her work here.
 
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See more photos, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.17.2017
09:40 am
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They Were There: Composite photos of Queen, Jagger, Beatles and Floyd on London streets then and now

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I’m reliably told that photographs are polysemous—that is they have multiple meanings which can change depending on mood or understanding of what the image represents. Seems legit.

So let’s take, for example, the picture posted above of three long-haired guys hanging around some city street in the 1970s. It kinda looks like a regular snap of buddies hanging together. But, as soon as we realize its a pic of John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and a rather cool-looking Freddie Mercury of Queen, this picture takes on a whole new meaning.

Now that we know who it is, we probably want to know where this picture of Freddie and co. was taken. The trio was photographed standing outside 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, in 1974. Next, I suppose we might ask, What were they doing here? Well, from what I can gather, it was taken during a break in the recording of the band’s second album, Queen II at Trident Studios directly opposite. Then we might inspect the image to glean what feelings these young nascent superstars are showing.

Photographer Watal Asanuma beautifully captured the personalities of these three very different individuals (and to an extent their hopes and ambitions) in a seemingly unguarded moment. Queen was on the cusp of their chart success with the “Seven Seas of Rhye” and the imminent release of “Killer Queen.” This photo now has a historical importance because of what we know this trio (and Brian May) went on to achieve.

I guess some of us might even want to go and visit the location to see where exactly Freddie or Roger or John stood and maybe even recreate the photo for the LOLs. It’s a way of paying homage and drawing history into our lives.

For those who can’t make it all the way to London, Music History, the Twitter presence of Rock Walk London, has been compiling selections of such pictures and making composites of the original image with a photo of what the location looks like today. Okay, so it saves the airfare but more importantly It’s a fun and simple way of bringing to life London’s rich history of pop culture in a single image.

If you like this kinda thing and want to see more, then follow Music History here.
 
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More then and now pix of Jagger, Clash, Floyd, and more, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.16.2017
11:34 am
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Teenage Vics: Prim and proper young ladies of the 19th century
09.29.2017
08:02 am
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Witness, if you will, these photographs of young teenage girls from the mid-19th-century.

Some of the girls look happy. Some look troubled and apprehensive as only teenagers can. These youngsters will grow up into a world where women have limited rights. Where they have no vote. Where a man is always head of the household. Where, in some instances, they will not be allowed to own property or even keep their own money.

These girls will be expected to marry and have sex with only their husband. If they have sex with other men, they will be ostracized from their society and quietly described as “fallen women.”

Witness too, their limited range of pastimes. Reading, embroidery, and music. Sporting activities were generally frowned upon as damaging to a woman’s health. For example, riding a bicycle was thought to cause orgasms which could inspire an unhealthy interest in sex.

It’s a strange, distant world, but one that is still closer than we think. Yet, each of these portraits is filled with a sense of hope. Each of these young girls (and millions of others like them throughout the years), made a difference just by existing. They were part of a progression, a slowly changing (r)evolution, that furthered the reach and ambition, and eventually lead to the world we live in today.
 
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More teenage girls from 19th-century, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.29.2017
08:02 am
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‘Beauty Warriors’: Look at these bizarre devices used by women to seek unreal ‘perfection’
09.26.2017
10:07 am
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Every morning I get up, look in the mirror and say “How the hell did you get to be so handsome?” Well, if I don’t think I’m good looking, then who the hell will? Not that many would ever agree with my unbiased assessment, but what do I care? I know at least with a face like mine I can scare the kids every Halloween with minimal effort.

According to a recent survey, it’s estimated women will spend an average of $300,000 on face products alone during their lifetime. Beauty may be skin deep and in the eye of the beholder but it’s also a very BIG business.

Our strange obsession with attaining some kind of artificial ideal of beauty is the focus of Latvian photographer Evija Laiviņa’s series of portraits Beauty Warriors. With each photograph, Laiviņa presents a portrait of a woman wearing some kind of bizarre beauty product which promises the wearer instant perfection. These gadgets were bought on eBay and range from lip-enhancers and nose straighteners, to devices for measuring just how out of whack our faces are. Which reminds me, I once interviewed a plastic surgeon in LA for a TV show, who offered to straighten my nose (broken in a barroom fight with a cop—long story) and remove the over-stuffed suitcases from under my eyes for some obscene amount of money. I kindly demurred—but in not so many words. He wasn’t too impressed with my reply.

Laiviņa took up photography in 2007. As soon as she got her hands on a camera, she knew this was the thing for her as a camera offered unlimited possibilities for creating art. In 2009, Laiviņa emigrated to Inverness, Scotland where she studied Contemporary Art Practice at the University of Highlands and Islands. She took an interest in identity, psychological problems, and human relationships. She also studied portraiture and staged photography. Which brings us back to Laiviņa’s critically-acclaimed series of portraits Beauty Warriors which questions our relationship with the beauty industry. As Laiviņa explains:

To be successful, you must be perfect and look perfect—these are our society’s rules, which we all follow without even realizing how ridiculous the standards are. We often forget about the importance of inner beauty.


The finished photographs go beyond being just amusing (or sad) to a point where we recognize the real beauty that’s in all of us. See more of Laiviņa’s work here.
 
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See more beauty portraits, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.26.2017
10:07 am
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FART SEXY STYLE: More wildly offensive t-shirts from the streets of Shanghai

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Previously on Dangerous Minds, m’colleague Cherrybomb highlighted the amusing trend in Asia for wearing wildly offensive t-shirts and wondered whether the wearers of such sartorial eloquence knew what their shock tops actually meant?

The answer is: probably not.

These fashion statements are like those unfortunate Chinese tattoos hipsters sport which identify the wearer as being “Ugly,” or “Unclean,” or a “Pimp.” But at least with a t-shirt, the offending words are not so permanent and can be easily replaced with something more suitable.

Certainly, it’s unclear whether all of these fashion faux pas are worn by accident rather than by design. I doubt the children know what they’re broadcasting (“I ♡ Female Orgasm”—but of course you do!), though do think a few of the college students just might (“I may not be Mr. Right but…” etc.). It’s probably just “cool” to wear something written in English. Like when I was a kid, I thought it cool to wear a fashionable dress shirt covered in pictures of Steve McQueen and various quotes from the film Papillon. The text was tiny but on closer examination, discovered it contained a litany of “fucks” and “fuckings” and a paragraph all about masturbation and how it sapped strength. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, nor did my parents—until it was too late. But knowing that this shirt may have caused offense or have people think I was some kind of compulsive masturbator never once stopped me from wearing it. Why would it?

All of these pictures are the work of street photographer Alex Greenberg, who documents every day life, its quirks and fashions, on Shanghai’s busy streets. He shares his pictures via his Shanghai Observed Instagram and Facebook accounts and for amusement purposes alone is well worth following.
 
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More sartorial eloquence, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.21.2017
09:50 am
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When the legendary Hipgnosis did fashion shoots for ‘classy’ porn mag Club International (NSFW)

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It’s a fair bet that a large part of many (most?) record collections includes a good percentage of covers by the legendary London-based graphic designers Hipgnosis.

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell who were the original founders of Hipgnosis turned out a massive array of iconic designs for bands as varied as Pink Floyd (who had been the first band to commission the duo), T.Rex, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, 10CC, Wings, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Genesis, Jon Anderson, Depeche Mode, XTC, ABC, Megadeth, and even England’s former poet laureate John Betjeman.

Apart from album covers, Hipgnosis also designed a series of fashion spreads for the softcore porn mag Club International and its more hardcore American edition Club.

Club International was founded by porn supremo Paul Raymond, who ran the legendary strip club the Raymond Revuebar in London’s seedy Soho district and a series of best-selling porn mags. Under its first editor Tony Power, Club International was intended as a high-quality adult entertainment magazine mixing the best of writers with the finest photographers and designers.

Hipgnosis was hired to add a classy touch to the magazine’s fashion spreads. The gig allowed Thorgerson and Powell to try-out a few ideas which they would later re-use on album covers—the flasher who would reappear on Pink Floyd’s A Nice Pair, for instance, while the water-in-the-face shots would feature on Peter Frampton’s Something’s Happened. See more Hipgnosis glorious work here.
 
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See more of Hipgnosis’ fashion work for Club International, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.20.2017
12:55 pm
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Gritty photographs of a German dive bar
09.19.2017
09:32 am
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Anders Petersen was eighteen when he traveled from his home in Sweden to Hamburg’s red light district the Reeperbahn. He wanted to escape his upbringing, shed his comfortable bourgeois skin and try on another to see how it felt. His parents had separated when he was young and he had been brought up by his grandmother in the quiet of the countryside amid fields and cherry trees and a darkening border of a forest. It was an idyllic fairytale world, but boring.

The Reeperbahn was a chaotic world of excitement, and pleasure, and excess, and danger. He met a green-eyed Finnish woman who worked the main drag. They became lovers and Petersen was introduced to the world of prostitutes, drag queens, drug addicts, drunks, pimps, and thieves. He took courage from his lover, from beer and from amphetamines (Preludin) to finally break free of the rules and manners, the lies and constraints of his bourgeois childhood. He had found himself another family who lived their lives without care, without shame, without judgment or censure. Petersen made friends with these characters who shambled joyously through the night at the local bar like the Café Lehmitz. All too soon it was over. His Finnish girlfriend broke-up their relationship and told Petersen to go home before his life was lost in the bars and lights, in the dirt and the chaos.

Dismayed, Petersen reluctantly returned home. But he knew his life had changed and he needed to find a way to express himself. He considered painting, but this, he found, was too lonely a thing. He was a social animal and wanted to be involved with the lives of others. This led him to photography—something he had been quietly considering for some time. He started studying under the great Swedish photographer Christer Stromholm who told him to find the things that were important to him. Be humble, be personal, work hard, and never be satisfied. It was good, sound advice.

In 1967, Petersen returned to the Reeperbahn and the Café Lehmitz. He discovered some of the friends he had made had died. Now he knew he must document this new family. He sought an in through a friend. One night he arrived at the Café Lehmitz with his camera in hand. He placed it on a table and became so involved with the drinking and talking, the dancing and singing, that he did not notice his camera had been picked up and was being thrown about among the customers like a toy. Some were taking pictures of themselves. Some wanted Petersen to take their picture. Petersen started photographing the people who hung around the bar in a scrum; the couples who argued or flirted with each other over the cheap Formica tabletops; the prostitutes who smiled and wanted you to buy them a drink; the old drunk men who wanted to fight and staggered shirtless shouting at the customers.

Petersen shot with his heart, with his guts, with his instinct. He did it without thinking. It was almost reflexive. Then when the pictures were printed on a contact sheet, he figured out which photograph worked best, which picture asked more questions than it answered, which image best captured an atmosphere, a character, a life, or a feeling. He shot more than he needed. He now has a house and studio crammed with too many photographs.

Over the next three years, Petersen traveled back-and-forth between Sweden and the Café Lehmitz documenting the harsh, brutal, yet tightly knit lives of the people who lived and worked on the Reeperbahn’s cobbled streets. His first exhibition was held at the bar itself with his pictures nailed crudely to the wall and the customers eventually removing their portraits one-by-one until only Petersen’s self-portrait remained.

He published his photobook of the Café Lehmitz in 1978. It established Petersen as one of the greatest living documentary photographers. His style was intimate, unswerving, uncritical, and direct. One of the book’s most famous images—a young tattooed man man named Rose embraced by a laughing older woman called Lily—was featured on the cover of Tom Waits’ album Rain Dogs. The image definitively captured the image Waits was selling of a Beat poet and outsider artist.

In our slowly homogenized world, where nobody smokes and nobody drinks, where all the streets are the same and the shops are the same, and everyone is safe and free to be a consumer, Petersen’s photographs of the Café Lehmitz captured a now seemingly distant world where people shared harsh brutal lives filled with excitement and danger, derangement and excess, love and happiness, always under the always-present shadow of death.
 
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See more of Anders Petersen’s iconic photographs, after the jump..
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.19.2017
09:32 am
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One for the Road: Street photographs of drunk Japanese people
09.18.2017
10:05 am
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Tokyo-based photographer Lee Chapman has been documenting life in Japan for almost two decades. Originally from England, Chapman went to Japan on a one-year work contract to teach English at a language school. He now works as an English teacher at a local high school—which means he has plenty of free time to take photographs.

Chapman finds it easier to wander around Tokyo with a camera compared to say, London, where he says “the authorities are clamping down on photography in the public sphere.” As an outsider he finds himself attracted to subjects that many indigenous photographers might overlook. He has no interest in covering the “fashion girls of Harajuku and Shibuya” or the quirky trends so beloved by western fashion magazines. Instead, Chapman focuses on the areas that a lot of people don’t see—the old, the homeless, the people who live on the periphery of society.

Among the many subjects Chapman has covered is a series of photographs of drunks passed out on the city’s sidewalks, doorways, bars, and train stations. Being passed-out, stone-cold drunk on Tokyo’s streets is a common and accepted sight. Whether through an excess of alcohol or mere tiredness, businessmen in dapper suits can often be found lying spreadeagled next to heavy metal freaks and regular low-rent run-of-the-mill alcoholics.

Check more of Lee Chapman’s superb work here.
 
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More of Lee Chapman’s photographs, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.18.2017
10:05 am
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Dancing with death: Vintage erotica featuring women cavorting with skeletons
09.13.2017
11:14 am
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It may seem a bit early for Halloween but if Selfridges think it wise to open their Christmas department in August then I see no reason why not to share some amusingly ghoulish pictures as prep for our favorite time of year—Allhallows Eve.

So, here for our enjoyment and possible edification are some intriguing pictures of women and skeletons. “What’s going on here?” you may ask. Well, quite a lot actually. These vintage photographs and postcards of women dancing and flirting with skeletons are more than mere momento mori or snapshots of ladies at carnivals having a jolly wheeze in the face of death—they are in some respects quite transgressive.

Some of these pictures were intended as, well, shall we say, “educational erotica” giving the viewer a frisson of arousal while at the same time battering them on the head with the salutary warning that the wrong kind of boner could lead to disease and death. Something those Decadent artists used to bang (ahem) on about in their paintings.

The association of sex and death was something that would not have gone amiss with most women, for although the percentage of mothers dying during childbirth fell dramatically in the 19th-century, there was still a staggering number of perinatal fatalities—500 to 1,000 per 100,000 births.

Then again, a few of these pictures seem to show happy young thanatophiles reveling in the thrill of cavorting with their skeleton chums. Lucky old them!

The last selection comes from a series of photographs taken by Joseph Hall of a vaudeville production called Death and the Lady from 1906, which was loosely based on a 17th-century English ballad.

What I take from all these rather fantastic pictures is that Death comes for us all, so it’s never too early to get your costume ready for Halloween…
 
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More of this skeleton crew, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.13.2017
11:14 am
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Stanley Kubrick shoots ‘Chicago: City of Extremes’
08.24.2017
12:56 pm
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Stanley Kubrick got his first camera off his old man Jacques when he was thirteen. It was a Graflex Pacemaker with a coated lens, body release, and folding infinity stops. Kubrick wore it on a strap around his neck, took it to school, where snapped classmates, teachers, and events for the student paper. School bored Kubrick. He skipped class to take pictures around town. In the afternoons he’d go watch double-features at the local cinema. Some teachers thought he was just a below average student, but Kubrick’s IQ test put him up near the top of the class. He liked chess and read voraciously.

The Kubricks had a neighbor called Marvin Traub who had his own darkroom. Kubrick became friends with Traub and spent hours using his darkroom learning how magic pictures appear on paper.

The experience of taking photographs and watching movies made Kubrick want to become a film director. He started using his camera to make mini-filmic sequences with still photography. He was a big fan of Weegee and studied his work to learn how to capture character and drama in an eight by ten frame.

The big break came when Kubrick snapped a newsvendor looking long-faced, low-down and sad over the headline news “Roosevelt Dead.” The picture looked like Kubrick had captured an unguarded moment which reflected the mood of the nation. In fact, he had coaxed the vendor to look sad. He developed the picture and hawked it to the photographic editor Helen O’Brian at Look magazine. She paid twenty-five bucks on the spot for the image. It was Kubrick’s first sale and the start of his photographic career.

Kubrick started creating his own distinctive style. He became known for his series of photographic essays like the one of a group of patients sitting nursing gum boils and aching teeth at a dentist’s waiting room. Kubrick told the patients just how he wanted them to pose in the shot and then click-clicked away. He always shot more than he needed—but only ever presented the photographs that worked best.

In 1949, Look sent Kubrick to Chicago to document life in the city for a photo-spread called “Chicago—City of Extremes.”  Kubrick photographed morning commuters, traders on the stock exchange floor, kids at school, women at work, tenement familes, and the vibrant nightlife. These high contrast pictures were like an artist’s sketches for a bigger artwork. His pictures of traders looked like a rehearsal for the chaos of the War Room in Dr. Strangelove. The wrestling match with Gorgeous George anticipates the boxing scenes in Killer’s Kiss. And so on. Kubrick was honing his talents to become the director he knew he was always going to be.
 
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More of Kubrick’s Chicago, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.24.2017
12:56 pm
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The Revolution usually starts here: Photographs of Teenagers in their Bedrooms 1960-80s
08.21.2017
11:12 am
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The artist Eduardo Paolozzi once described the artist’s studio as a laboratory where experiments are carried out and chemicals react with each other to produce strange and unsteady alliances. A place where the artist’s personality spreads through the room’s collected detritus like some untreated fungal growth and creativity changes dramatically but generally for the better.

The same observation can be said for the teenager’s bedroom which is a similar site of experimentation and chemical reaction towards a creative sense of self. The teenage bedroom is where the revolution usually first starts between slammed doors and “You don’t understand me,” to music blaring at all hours of the day-and-night and the unrelenting desires of puberty.

These rooms tend to all end up looking the same with only the allegiances to content differing. The walls are usually decorated like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a collage of posters featuring the fashionable pop star, movie actor, and sexy pin-up. While the books and albums which spread across shelf and floor suggest a search for taste and substance. This little selection of photos culled from here and there give a rather personal peek at the typical teenager’s life (and taste in interior design) from the early 1960s to late 1980s.
 
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More ‘imperial’ bedrooms, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.21.2017
11:12 am
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In Dreams: Grete Stern’s powerful feminist surrealism
08.18.2017
11:17 am
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In 1948, the photographer Grete Stern was asked to contribute photographic illustrations for a weekly column on the interpretation of dreams in the Argentinian women’s magazine Idilio. The column entitled “El psicoanálisis le ayudará” (“Psychoanalysis will help you”) was written by Italian sociologist Gino Germani under the novel pseudonym of Richard Rest. Psychoanalysis was then considered the cure-all for everyone’s ills—though goodness knows what strange subconscious thought inspired Germani to choose the name “Dick” Rest….

Anyway…while Rest analyzed one of the many dreams submitted by the mainly working-class female readership, Stern produced a photomontage that recreated some aspect of the reader’s dream. These illustrations usually depicted women struggling to free themselves from the oppressive patriarchy of Argentinian society.

For example, in one image a woman is trying to communicate on a phone without a mouth. In another, a woman is trying to grow in the light which can be turned off on a whim by a giant man’s hand. Or there is the woman whose reflection in a mirror has shattered into fragments, or the woman housed in a birdcage like some exotic bird. And so on. During her tenure with Idilio, Stern produced around 150 photomontages between 1948 and 1951.

Grete Stern was born in Elberfeld, Germany, on May 9th, 1904. Her family were involved in the textile and fabric industry and made frequent visits on business to England, where Stern first attended school. Returning to Germany, Stern studied graphic design and typography at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Stuttgart between 1923-25. After college, she became a freelance graphic designer producing adverts for magazines and papers. However, it was after seeing an exhibition by the American photographer Edward Weston, that Stern decided on a career as a photographer.

Stern moved to Berlin where she became a photographic student under the tutelage of Walter Peterhans. Stern later said that Peterhans taught her that the camera was not just a mechanism for taking pictures but a whole new way of seeing. Peterhans went onto become the leading photographer with the Bauhaus movement. During her studies, Stern became close friends with another pupil Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach. Together they formed the advertising and portrait studio ringl+pit. The company name was concocted from the pair’s nicknames—Ringl for Grete and Pit for Ellen. Their work became highly successful—in particular their mixing of photographic images with text. During this time, Stern met and started a relationship with Argentinian photographer Horacio Coppola.

When Adolf Hitler and his band of Nazi thugs came to power, Stern left ringl+pit and moved with Coppola to England where she formed her own studio in 1934. Here she documented many of the German exiles like Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel. In 1935, Stern and Coppola married. With the threat of war more apparent, Stern and Coppola moved to Buenos Aires, where they set up a graphic, advertizing, and photographic studio and held the first major exhibition of “modern photography” in the city.

Stern was way ahead of the curve. She was a pioneer for women working in a male-dominated and, let’s be honest, primarily sexist industry. Stern became a highly successful and inventive portrait photographer with her work exhibited and published across the world. However, the photomontages she produced for Idilio were long discounted as just hack work until their reassessment labeled them as what they are: powerful, imaginative, feminist artwork.

Stern died at the age of 95 in 1999.
 
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More of Grete Stern’s dream work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.18.2017
11:17 am
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Beautiful hand-colored photographs of Japanese women in the late 19th-century
08.17.2017
10:42 am
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‘Seated Woman.’
 
Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934) was a Japanese photographer who learned his trade as an assistant to Felice Beato, the pioneering photojournalist who came to Japan to document its people and their culture. Japan had just been through a civil war that led to the restoration of imperial rule. The country had also been forced—under the shadow of U.S. Navy battleships—to open trading routes with America. This new trade brought technology, tourism, and for some, the opportunity to turn imposition to advantage. And that’s what Kimbei did.

After learning all that he could from Beato, Kimbei established his own photographic studio in Yokohama in 1881. Kimbei had a natural talent for art and had spent part of his time coloring Beato’s photographs. Hand painting photographs was a way of redefining the medium and adding “an artistic Japanese intervention to Western technology.”

Once he established his studio, Kimbei plied his trade producing souvenir photographs of Japanese culture—samurais, geishas, tea drinking, musicians, everyday workers. These photographs maintained Japanese traditions at a time of great social, political, and cultural change when it seemed the very fabric of the country was being irredeemably changed. Among the many pictures Kimbei produced was a large set of portraits of Japanese women and their daily lives. But there’s an interesting thing going on in these photographs. What at first appears to be a straightforward representation is often an idealized or Western view of Oriental life intended for foreign consumption. Yet, at the same time, Kimbei transcends this view by use of color and composition.

This balancing between Japanese and Western media parallels national tensions concerning the degree that Japan should adopt foreign tools and technology, contrasted with a desire to preserve indigenous traditions and practices.

Kimbei became one of the most famous and respected Japanese photographers of his era, and his work gives a rare insight into Japan of the late 19th-century.
 
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‘Flower Kept Alive by Putting in Water.’
 
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‘Girls Carrying Paper Lantern in Winter Evening.’
 
See more of Kimbei’s work, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.17.2017
10:42 am
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Strange juxtapositions: The funny and unsettling photographs of Ambera Wellmann
08.07.2017
02:41 pm
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It all started out as a bit of fun when artist Ambera Wellmannplunked” an egg into a watermelon. The strangely irrational satisfaction Wellmann felt when combining these two foods started her visual investigation into juxtaposing unlikely objects together. The end results have been described as funny, creepy, and even “gross.” Take, for example, the toilet with a wig which looks like Donald Trump. Or, noodles sprouting from a bikini line making us think about pubic hair. Or what about the close-up of seemingly wrinkled hand with a bra sketched which becomes some grand dame by a pool in Miami?

The best artists make the viewer see the world anew. Ambera Wellmann certainly does this. She takes her photographs quickly using whatever objects she has to hand. This usually means food, clothes, and her own body:

“I enjoy manipulating context and composition to defamiliarize these things and illuminate the conventions that structure our understanding of, or attraction to them. I try to make materials behave like something other than themselves.”

Ambera Wellmann is primarily a painter who also works in porcelain and sculpture. Originally from Nova Scotia, Wellmann won the Joseph Plaskett Award for “her virtuosic painting abilities and her confidence in engaging the grotesque and the uncanny” in 2016. The award allowed the artist to travel to Europe where she based herself in Germany.

Since posting that first egg in a watermelon picture in 2015, Wellmann has been producing and posting an impressive array of her improvised photos which you can see on her Instagram account.
 
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See more of Ambera Wellmann’s fab photos, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.07.2017
02:41 pm
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