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Marianne Breslauer’s gorgeous photos of queer, androgynous and butch women of the 1930s


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

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

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Wonderful portraits of 16th century subway riders
06.29.2016
10:17 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
photography
subway
London Underground
Matt Crabtree

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How to pass that time on that dreary journey to-and-from work? Read a book? Check your emails? Browse the Internet? People watch? Or maybe read a newspaper?

Photographer Matt Crabtree has been spending his travel time secretly taking pictures of his fellow commuters with his smart phone. He then retouches these images to make them look like figures from 16th century paintings—and the results are quite beautiful.

Crabtree is a self-taught photographer based in London who “looks for the quietly observed, minimal story.” Such stories can be found in his series of photographs 16th Century Tube Passengers. These photos take a moment out of time and make us see something we often take for granted.

More of Matt Crabtree‘s work can be seen here.
 
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More of Matt Crabtree’s stunning subway portraits, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
At Home, At Work, At Play: Color Autochromes of life before the First World War
06.20.2016
12:16 pm

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
photography
Autochromes
Alfonse Van Besten

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The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

That well-known opening line from L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between sits well with these Autochromes by artist and photographer Alfonse Van Besten (1865-1926) taken in the years leading up to the First World War. Looking at these beautiful idealized portraits of people working and playing in the tranquil Belgian countryside it is hard to imagine the bloody slaughter about to unfold on these “Flanders Fields.” They are like a glimpse of a man-made paradise before the Fall.

Van Besten was an early adopter of the Lumière brothers’ photographic process by which color was replicated through compressed pieces of dyed starch. His portraits are painterly—superbly composed and artfully created—with a sense of spectacle and drama. The majority of pictures show a wealthy middle and upper class at play—but as can be seen Van Besten was equally adept at capturing the working lives of the poor with a fine eye for detail and group composition.
 
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The artist and photographer Alfonse Van Besten painting in his garden circa 1910.
 
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‘Musing’—The photographer’s wife Josephine Arnz circa 1910.
 
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Men in civic and military clothes, ca. 1911.
 
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Children at play ca. 1912.
 
More Autochromes by Alfonse Van Besten, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘A Lover Spurned’: Famed French photographers direct colorful, campy Marc Almond video
06.07.2016
11:24 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
photography
Marc Almond
Pierre et Gilles


 
Famed French photographers Pierre et Gilles (Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard) directed this amazing—and seldom seen—promo video for Marc Almond’s “A Lover Spurned” in 1990. This is as much a work of art as it is a music video.

The clip co-stars the glamorous Marie France, the iconic 80s Parisian transsexual pop singer, as the spurned lover. Although Almond and France have recorded duets together, that is actually not her voice in the perfectly poisonous pissed-off rap in the middle. Interestingly Almond enlisted actress Julie T. Wallace (who played the title character in the BBC cult revenge comedy The Life and Loves of a She-Devil) for that, adding a nice camp dog whistle for listeners who could hear it.
 

 
Pierre et Gilles also shot the covers for the single and 12” releases of “A Lover Spurned” and the Enchanted album the song came from.  “A Lover Spurned,” produced by Stephen Hague, was a top 30 single in the UK in 1990.
 
The music video for “A Lover Spurned” after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Post-mortem photographic portraits from the Victorian era unite the living and the dead
05.27.2016
01:07 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
photography


 
It’s difficult for the modern mind to apprehend the importance of the invention of the daguerrotype in 1839. All of a sudden, people had the capacity to retain a perfect image of a loved one—it must have been mind-blowing.

As the cost of the technology went down, the practice of using photography to execute a proper remembrance of loved ones who had passed on must have been irresistible. Unlike today, when just about anyone you’d be likely to meet has been photographed countless times, in the late 1800s and early 1900s a person might live his or her whole life without leaving behind a photographic portrait.

Enter the practice known as post-mortem photography. In North America and Europe a practice arose of taking pictures of beloved relatives who had recently died—-and often including other family members who were still alive. It was a way to bring together the living and the dead, to establish continuity in the passage of time. We find it creepy today, but we’re happier with our deceased well out of view.
 
As Meghan of Cvlt Nation writes,
 

one hundred years ago in America and the UK, seeing portraits of dead relatives or children on people’s walls was totally normal, and in fact expected. While today, we prefer to remember our ancestors as they lived, the Victorians felt that capturing their dead flesh was a way to pay respect to their passing.

 
If you are interested in this subject, the aptly named Jack Mord (“Mord” is actually German for “murder”) provided the definitive account in his 2014 book Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photography.

Here are a few of Meghan’s bone-chilling finds, with, as she writes, “with a minimum of dead babies, they are by far the creepiest!”
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Peep Shows, Pimps and Prostitutes: A Walk on the Wild Side of New York in the 1970s

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Leland Bobbé started his career as a photographer in the mid-1970s shooting street scenes around Times Square and the Bowery in New York City. Bobbé was living downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. He played drums with a band on the CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City scene.

Because I didn’t write music, I eventually realized through taking pictures I was able to make more of a personal statement than playing rock n’ roll written by others.

At night Bobbé drove a taxi. He scouted the streets in different neighborhoods. During the day, he returned to these neighborhoods to take photographs of the people who hung around the sidewalks, peep shows, bars, and flop houses.

Hard as it is to remember now, at that moment New York was kind of on its ass. Crime was at a high. Destitution and poverty were spreading like plague. Drugs and vice seemed to be the only booming enterprises. The Son of Sam slayings terrorized New Yorkers. The city was virtually bankrupt—President Gerald Ford told New York to “drop dead,” as the New York Daily News famously had it. He eventually relented and stumped up a loan to save the Big Apple. Bobbé‘s photos captured the city long before its gentrification as a rich hipster’s playground.

Bobbé often shot from the hip using a 28mm to avoid detection. Others were shot with a telephoto lens. The resulting photographs are stunning, gritty and powerful—filled with character and atmosphere that captured the city at an unforgettable point in its history.
 
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More of Leland Bobbé‘s gritty photographs of New York in the 1970s, after the jump…..
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Early color Autochromes of New York City, 1900-1930

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The lowly potato changed color photography forever.

In 1903, two French inventors and photographers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, used the potato as the basis for their patented process in creating color photographs, or Autochromes as they were called. It was a simple but ingenious technique—crush potatoes into tiny particles; separate these minuscule starch particles into three; add red, violet and green dye; mix onto a glass plate; brush off the excess; flatten the dyed particles onto the plate between two rollers—thus creating microscopic color filters; fill in any gaps with carbon; brush with light sensitive silver bromide. Now you have a photographic plate ready to take color pictures.

By 1907, the Lumières’ technique had infected the photographic world with “color fever.” Many early color photographers claimed painting was dead. The future was the Autochrome. (Apparently someone forgot to tell Picasso.)

Unlike many of the European or Russian Autochromes from the turn of the twentieth century—which are usually filled with citizens at work or idly posing in narrow streets—these early Autochromes of New York are often empty of people as if the monumental nature of the city’s buildings made humans seem irrelevant, Lillputian, or simply unnecessary. When the city’s residents do appear they’re often blurred, frenetically charged, crammed into market scenes, or watching the camera from the seashore.
 
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Mulberry Street market, circa 1900s.
 
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Balcony overlooking Mulberry Street, ca. 1900s.
 
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Lower East Side, ca. 1900s.
 
More early color Autochromes of New York, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Classical paintings by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rembrandt recreated with auto mechanics

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‘The Last Supper of Auto Mechanics.’
 
Though I don’t drive, have never owned a car, and take no interest in horsepower engines or miles to the gallon, I still find these photographs by Freddy Fabris of auto mechanics recreating classical paintings quite good.

Fabris first had the idea to create these pictures on a visit to his local garage. Taking his inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and a selection of the Dutch master’s portraits—Fabris has crafted beautiful, modern and amusing portraits with the kind of blue collar workers, the types these classical artists would have perhaps used themselves.
 
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After Michelangelo—‘The Creation of an Auto Mechanic.’
 
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After Rembrandt—‘The Anatomy of a Car Lesson.’
 
More of Freddy Fabris’ classical portraits, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Black holes: Censorship’s handiwork creates eerie photographs

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Under a black sun farmworkers labor in fields. They harvest crops oblivious to the strange eclipse in the skies above them. On closer inspection the sun is perhaps a spot on the lens. Or a camera fault, or perhaps a mistake in printing. There are more photographs, but here the faces of the farmworkers have been devoured by this black spot—eaten like a cancer. It’s now apparent these black dots, these black holes, have been deliberately made.

During the 1930’s Great Depression the US Government set up the Farm Security Administration to help combat the country’s rural poverty. As part of the FSA’s remit was a photography project set up by Roy Stryker to document the lives of the people who lived and worked on the land.

Stryker hired some of the best photographers of the day such as Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Edwin and Louise Rosskam, among many, many others. The photographers were briefed as to what the FSA wanted documented. When the rolls of film were sent back from locations across the USA, Stryker rigorously examined each and every negative. His system for discarding images was brutal—he used a hole punch to pierce any negative he didn’t like—making it unusable.

It is not known on exactly what grounds Stryker rejected an image. Was it aesthetic reasons? Bad teeth, ugly people? Political? Images of farm life that did not coincide with the government’s desires narrative? Whichever—of the 164,000 developed negatives, only around 77,000 were made available for use. That’s a helluva lot of rejected photographs.

Stryker’s vandalism killed many historic and irreplaceable photographs. Of those that remain, Stryker’s hole punch handiwork has created strange yet still compelling images. Some conspiracy theorists suggest the photos were censored because of UFOs, or strange deformities, or odd background figures—and similar flights of fancy. In truth they were probably censored because the reality of human deprivation never sits easy with a government’s self-image.

I think one can safely assume that artist John Baldessari is well aware of these images.
 
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More of striking examples of Stryker’s censorship, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Spellbinding portraits of Native Americans in beautiful, surreal traditional ceremonial costumes

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The person who has the camera and takes the photograph can often influence how we remember things. That’s why it’s always good idea to put on your best face kids, when someone’s taking your picture—you don’t want to be remembered as a sad sack.

Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) had a camera. He took a lot of photographs. Between the late 1800s and the 1930s he took some 40,000 photographs of the many different Native American peoples. Curtis’ first portrait of a Native American was taken in 1895. He photographed Princess Angeline—the daughter of Si’ahl, a powerful American Indian chief for whom the city of Seattle was named. The Princess was down on her luck selling clams to make a living. Curtis paid her a dollar to sit and have her portrait taken. He noted in his journal:

This seemed to please her greatly, and with hands and jargon she indicated that she preferred to spend her time having pictures made than in digging clams.

The son of a clergyman, Curtis was born on his parents’ farm in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1868. He had two brothers and one sister. When the family moved to Seattle, he set up a photography studio with his brother Asahel. The evangelizing influence of his father’s occupation probably set Edward Sheriff Curtis out on his thirty year quest to document the Native Americans. Curtis literally feared the native Americans were on verge of being eradicated.

The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other… consequently the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.

Some have criticized Curtis for creating an overly romantic image of Native Americans. Erasing modern objects (clocks, personal belongings) from photographs. Depicting them in traditional clothing. An image that did little to document the contemporary realities of their lives. Despite the criticisms, his work is a connection to the wealth of history and culture which could have undoubtedly been lost. As Laurie Lawlor has written, at a time when Native American culture was being proscribed by government, Curtis was “far ahead of his contemporaries in sensitivity, tolerance and openness to Native American cultures and ways of thinking.  He sought to observe and understand by going directly into the field.”

Apart from the 40,000 photos of over 80 tribe, he also recorded:

10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Native American language and music. He compiled biographical sketches of different tribal leaders, detailed customs, clothes, food, rituals, and tribal folklore. Many of these documents are the only recorded history–though a strong oral tradition remains.

This small collection captures some of the Native American ceremonial costumes which are by turn beautiful, surreal and haunting.
 
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More of Edward Sheriff Curtis’ photographs, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Super-saturated images of cars, corporate logos and mullets at the Daytona 500
03.04.2016
09:13 am

Topics:
Art
Sports

Tags:
photography
Daytona 500


 
On his website, photographer Chip Litherland recently posted a stunning gallery of photographs taken at an iconic American sporting venue under the title “Expired at the Daytona 500.”

A striking feature of the day’s shooting is that Litherland used no digital gear for the shoot and used the event as an occasion to see what happens when he limited his film stock to a bunch of “super-expired” rolls of 35mm film that he had amassed over the years: “This is film expired with dates like: March 1996. November 1975. April 2004. January 1992. October 2006. Expiration dates that are probably older than some of you reading this.”

His work product from that day represent a triumph for good old-fashioned analog methods.

Litherland describes his guerrilla mindset that day:
 

I’m used to rolling up to a huge sports event with a 400mm on my shoulder a suitcase full of Canon pro bodies, an arsenal of lenses, compact flash cards, and strobes. I didn’t have any of that shit. It was just me, a couple bodies clanking together around my neck and kind of a newbie attitude I hadn’t felt in a while.

 
Even if you hate NASCAR, hate auto racing, hate sports, you should really check out these shots. The ultra-vivid colors seems an utterly perfect visual referent for the ultra-American subject matter of sunshine, fast cars, corporate logos, denim, mullets, palm trees, and so on.

I also like Litherland’s final words on the day’s shoot: “All that being said film is a pain in the ass. We have it so easy now.”
 

 

 
Much, much more after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Kid’s play: 8 decades of Helen Levitt’s stunning New York City street photography

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In 1940, a trio of young photographers Helen Levitt, James Agee and Janice Loeb used hidden cameras to film everyday street life in and around 110th Street and Lexington Avenue of New York’s Spanish Harlem. The footage was then edited together by Levitt and released as a short film In the Street in 1948. The film is now associated more with Levitt’s career as a street photographer than with Agee—who had an award-winning career as a novelist and screenwriter of films like The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955)—or Loeb—who had a career as an artist and was married to Levitt’s brother Bill. Both Agee and Loeb were instrumental in encouraging Helen Levitt’s career as filmmaker and photographer during the 1950s and 1960s.

Born in Brooklyn in 1913 to a Russian-Jewish family who ran a wholesale knitwear distributor, Levitt decided from an early age that the family business was not for her and that she wanted to study photography. She quit school and had an apprenticeship in developing and printing at a local portrait photographer’s studio. At nineteen, Levitt studied with the photographer Walker Evans, a pioneer of documentary photography who was best known for his powerful images of farmers during the Great Depression as published in the book he collaborated on with Agee Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Sometime in 1937, Levitt noticed children drawing with chalk in the streets. She watched them playing unselfconsciously, intensely interested in what they were doing. It was a moment of perspicacity that set Helen Levitt off documenting the children and the street scenes she encountered over the next eight decades—shooting with her eyes for others to see.
 
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More of Helen Levitt’s work plus the film ‘In the Street’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘I’ve got what you want!’: Vintage ads for mail order smut
02.12.2016
10:49 am

Topics:
Advertising
Amusing
Sex

Tags:
photography
porn books
porn ads

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This is how it was back in the sixties and seventies. No Pornhub. No XVideo. No HD stuff. No downloadable porn just a keystroke away. If you wanted to watch a porno flick in Moosefart, Montana, or keep a stash of uncensored 8x10s in your bedroom closet, well you had to check the small ad pages in adult magazines like Follies, Frolic, Nugget, Dude, Rogue, Gent, Knight, Bachelor and Adam. This is how horny young Americans—like your dear old dad and granddad—entertained themselves before the tsunami of free digital pornography starting getting piped into the home like a utility.

Being born, raised and still living in Scotland, my knowledge of yon Americana is informed by what I’ve read in books, histories and what have you. Of course, over here there is obviously a similarity of experience. One man who built his porn empire on mail order adult entertainment is David Sullivan.

Sullivan is an economics graduate who started his adult entertainment empire by selling glossy pix thru the mail. He then moved on to mail order home movies and “marital aids.” Sullivan was so successful that he ended up running 80% of the UK’s adult mail order market. He also owned several sex shops, a line of hardcore magazines (up to 50% of the UK market), successfully produced several pornos and soft core movies—the latter best known for starring the legendary Mary Millington and a host of British comedy talent.  He diversified into newspapers (Sunday Sport) before becoming the largest shareholder in two soccer clubs—first Birmingham, now West Ham.

When working in the adult entertainment business, Sullivan thought of himself as a “freedom fighter.” He was once tried and sentenced to 71 days imprisonment for living off immoral earnings—which is a kind of catchall charge to punish pornographers. He has no “embarrassment” over his time in jail telling the London Evening Standard in 2010:

“I’ve made a lot of people happy,” he says. “If I was an arms manufacturer or a cigarette manufacturer, and my products killed millions of my clients, I’d have a bit of doubt about the whole thing. I was a freedom fighter. I believe in the right of adults to make their own decisions.”

The 1970s were a boom time for adult mail order entertainment. When I was a student at the University of Glasgow back in the 1980s, the campus was split between the men’s union—the Glasgow University Union—and the women’s union—the Queen Margaret Union. While the QMU opened its doors to both male and female students, the men’s union remained until the early eighties, a bastion of male chauvinism. At the time, the “men’s union” was best known for its world champion debaters and for screening something called the “Freds.”

The “Freds” were the Tom and Jerry cartoons produced by Fred Quimby. A couple of these classic animations provided the intermission entertainment between two mail order blue movies screened for the edification and enjoyment of a select band of GUU students. The “Freds” supposedly stopped after the union opened its doors to women, but it was always rumored the “Freds” were still be screening by a group of recalcitrant students somewhere within the walls of this famous baronial building. Fans of the “Freds” went onto become politicians, lawyers, bankers, successful CEOs and apparently even a priest. But with the arrival of video home systems (VHS) the end was nigh for the boom in mail order adult entertainment. And today with the Internet, even magazines like Playboy have stopped bother to publish nude pictures in its pages. So for those too young to remember, and for those who do remember and perhaps did partake, is a small selection of classic adult entertainment ads from the sixties and seventies.
 
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“Privately” printed mags? Oh my, this is not the kinda smut grandpa wanted you to find in that locked box in his basement after he died.
 
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Bernard of Hollywood must have been the place to go for “Authentic, unretouched stags of well known gals before they reached the top. Rare thrillers all.” Sounds like something out of a James Ellroy novel…and the WTF ad with sweaty, wide-eyed hepped-up pervo freak? Looks kinda rapey.
 
More vintage adult ads, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Intimate photographs of post-war Paris
02.11.2016
10:07 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
photography
Paris
1950s
1940s
Robert Doisneau

A young Parisian couple dancing to Bebop in the Bebop Cellar at Vieus Colombier
A young Parisian couple dancing to Bebop in the Bebop Cellar at Vieux Colombier, 1951

“I had fun throughout my lifetime, building my own small theater”
—French photographer Robert Doisneau

 
When he passed away at the age of 81 in 1994, photographer Robert Doisneau had amassed a collection of 450,000 negatives that captured Parisian and French history throughout his 50-some odd years as a photographer.

Tarot card reader and occultist, Madame Arthur, Paris, 1951
Tarot card reader and “occultist”, Madame Arthur, Paris, 1951
 
A female worker at the Ouvrière de Renault, Boulogne Billancourt (the Renault car factory)
A female worker at the “Ouvrière de Renault”, Boulogne Billancourt (the Renault car factory)
 
At the age of nineteen, Doisneau took a job as an assistant to modernist photographer André Vigneau (who spent much of the early 1930s taking photos of fashion models, surely a dream job for a young, aspiring photographer). In 1934 Doisneau accepted a position as a photographer at the Renault car factory. Due to his habitual lateness to his day job, Doisneau was fired—an event that launched his career as a freelance photographer that would last for nearly his entire life.
 
One of Robert Doisneau many photographs of the gargoyle statues of Notre-Dame
One of Robert Doisneau’s many photographs of the gargoyle statues of Notre-Dame
 
Le Pendule (The Pendulum), 1945
“Le Pendule” (The Pendulum), 1945
 
Les potins d'Elsa Maxwell (Parisian gossip queen, Elsa Maxwell) 1952
“Les potins d’Elsa Maxwell” (American gossip queen, Elsa Maxwell, pictured in the center), 1952
 
A young Parisian couple dancing at Au Saint Yves, Paris, 1948
A young Parisian couple dancing at “Au Saint Yves”, Paris, 1948
 
While Doisneau’s name may not be familiar to you, his photograph “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall)” is one of the most popular—and romantic—photographic images of the entire 20th century. His famous photos of the gargoyle statues that adorn Notre-Dame (one of which is pictured above) should look familiar, too. Doisneau’s post-war images, taken during the 40s and 50s captured candid moments shared by the collective residents of Paris. From members of high-society at parties, to its vagabond “tramps,” street performers, elegant circus clowns, to passionate Parisian youth dancing to “Bebop” in the clubs of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter.

To say that Doisneau’s photographs are stunning, would be to vastly understate the fact that his images easily rank as one of the greatest contributions to the curation of 20th century French history. Doisneau’s work has been the subject of several books such as, Robert Doisneau, by Jean Claude Gautrand and, Robert Doisneau: A Photographer’s Life, by Peter Hamilton. I’m sure you will enjoy perusing the remarkable images that follow.
 
Les Megots (
“Les Megots” (“Butts). A “tramp” harvesting tobacco from used cigarettes in an alleyway in Paris, 1956
 
Coco Chanel,
Coco Chanel “Aux Miroirs” (The Mirrors), Paris, 1953
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Love and Affection: Vintage photos of gay and lesbian couples
02.09.2016
11:39 am

Topics:
History
Queer

Tags:
photography
lesbians
homosexuality

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A couple’s photographic portrait is an affirmation of their relationship. It states for all to see: “We love each other. We care for each other. We are proud of who we are together.”

During the Victorian era many gay and lesbian couples proudly expressed their love for each other in studio portraits. Unlike the common belief that such relationships were “the love that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde so famously described same sex attraction in his poem “Two Loves,” gays and lesbians often dared to show their love. Indeed, many gay and lesbian couples more or less lived openly together throughout their lives. This was far easier for women than for men as women were expected to live together if they were not married, or to live with the euphemistically termed “female companion.”

Men, no historical surprises here, had their own haunts for meeting like-minded souls. In London these could be found in the “Molly houses” and gentlemen’s clubs or pick-ups haunts at Lincoln’s Inn, or St. James Park or the path on the City’s Moorfields, which was charmingly referred to as “Sodomites Walk.”

Theaters and circuses were also well-known dens of homosexual activity—this can be traced all the way back to Elizabethan England, when male prostitutes plied their trade at theaters.

The armed forces, in particular the Royal Navy was notorious for gay relationships—understandable with all the horny seamen looking for any port in a storm. Apparently word got around.

It is a moot point that the change in public attitude towards homosexuality commenced with the Labouchere Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act in 1885, which “prohibited gross indecency between males.” This was the law under which Wilde was infamously prosecuted and the law that heightened discrimination against gays.

Before that there had been the Buggery Act—against anal penetration and bestiality—which was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII. This led to numerous executions (hangings) and imprisonments. It was briefly repealed, then reinstated by Elizabeth I. However, there were few prosecutions under the act and it was repealed again in 1828—though “buggery” remained a capital offense. James Pratt and John Smith became the last two men to be executed for buggery, in 1835.

The Labouchere Amendment outlawed homosexuality and made it more difficult for gay men to live the lives they desired. Labouchere did not include lesbians in the act as he believed drawing attention to lesbianism would only encourage sapphic desires amongst most Victorian women.

So even when gay relationships were outlawed in England, they still thrived in open secret. In America, the sodomy laws varied from state to state. What one state tolerated or had no opinion about, another state punished. However, as with England in the Victorian era, America gay and lesbian couples would often openly express their love for each other in portrait photographs.

This collection of beautiful, brave people gives us a small visual history of LGBT relationships from the 1860s-1960s. Many of the couples are unidentifiable, but where possible their names have been given. (Editor writes: Mild disclaimer: Of course it’s difficult to say that in all cases these photos are of gay couples.)
 
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Anna Moor and Elsie Dale, 1900.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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