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Love and Affection: Vintage photos of gay and lesbian couples
11:39 am



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 It was briefly repealed, then reinstated by Elizabeth I. However, there were few prosecutions under the act and it was repealed again in 1828—though “buggery” remained a capital offense.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.)
Anna Moor and Elsie Dale, 1900.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Empty Porn Sets
08:51 am


Jo Broughton

Balloons set (2004)

I was once on a porn set. It wasn’t how I had imagined it would be. I was part of a production crew making a documentary about online porn. We were in the upstairs bedroom of a small terraced house in the north of England. Outside all the houses looked the same: red-bricked back-to-backs with cobbled lanes. Quiet streets, half-net curtains hung in windows. In a small bedroom a man who looked like Benny Hill wearing a blonde Beatle wig was directing two young girls in bikinis to cover their bodies with various food products. He was filming their antics for his web channel, telling the girls to squirt more mayonnaise down their cleavage, splatter more beans on their bottoms, get that ice cream all over their chins and so forth. Downstairs Benny’s wife sat by a coal fire patiently knitting, and sipping weak sweet tea.

Behind the fantasy set of latex curtains, paddling pool, ketchup bottles and assorted props was a small dingy room—the kind seen in Britain’s black & white kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s. The smell of congealing food was nauseating but the girls who were smeared with it were laughing and joking and egging each other on to be more outrageous. Their onscreen activities seemed very unsexual. I was seeing the whole absurd scene—the bare floorboards, the peeling wallpaper, the small tripod lights—not the close-up titillation being broadcast to an excited online audience paying by the minute.

This dissociation between the pornographic image and its creation—between location and use—form part of Jo Broughton’s photographs of empty porn sets.

Broughton was studying a foundation art course at Thurrock, Essex, when she was sent for work experience to London, as she explained in an interview with Jean Wainright.

I thought what I was being sent to was a glamorous fashion shoot when in actual fact I walked into a studio in Hoxton to a nurses set being set up and a girl walking out of a changing room wearing suspenders and stockings, the full monty kit. Quite an abrupt Yorkshireman approached me and asked if I’d ever seen a “fanny up front” and I squeaked “No” and he replied “Well today’s your lucky day”.

[Fanny is British slang for “pussy” not rear end—the difference of meaning once disconcerted English jazz singer Cleo Laine when her American doctor said he was going to give her “a jag in the fanny.”]

Jo was supposed to be doing two weeks work, but dropped out of college and stayed with the studio for two years.

For a long time I had quite a problem with what was going on there, I was quite conflicted. I was green as grass; I’d never ever walked into something like that before…

..It was very contradictory in some respects to have this space where I was safe and had a connection to people that were “family” and yet it’s perceived as very unsafe to other people: it’s a safe industry because they work very safely but it isn’t your desired environment, I wouldn’t desire it for my child to work as a pornographic model. My conflicting emotions stayed with me and I hid it very well, where I’d been and what I’d been doing, for a long time.

She worked as a studio assistant. job was to paint the set, make lots and lots of tea and to sweep up. I was just the dogsbody, to put up the lights; always give Steve a “pop”, meaning I’d have to dump the power on the light packs for him to do the light test. I had to put up the poly boards and all the normal stuff you do in a studio with the content of a sexual nature, which actually was very tame and quite tongue in cheek now.

Having left college and finding herself temporarily without a place to stay, Jo started sleeping on the studio sets at night. During the day she was working as a photographic assistant at major Sunday broadsheet the Observer. Because of how people perceived porn, Jo could tell no one what she was doing or where she was staying.

When I was working as an assistant we would get phone calls all day, somehow people had got hold of the studios number and they would scream obscenities down the phone and make threats. People were repelled and absolutely disgusted by the subject of porn; you just didn’t mention that you worked in the porn industry. So in order not to be tainted by that brush, I didn’t dare mention it when I was at The Observer because you just didn’t knew how people would take it, take what you did.

Then Broughton enrolled at Royal College of Art. She also continued visiting the studio every week and began working as a cleaner there.

I’d had these conflicting issues about these models seen as meat and I was doing all this feminist work and then I became Steve’s cleaner every two weeks. I became this… I don’t know how to describe it, this Igor character, cleaning up after someone. But also, I felt more humanistic towards the models, the industry and suddenly I started becoming more comfortable with it myself. I started to see this more human aspect because I’m seeing bodily fluids and I’m washing things and I’m in contact with almost what the untouchable is. You know, washing dildos and whatever, you’re there, at that point. And suddenly I started to laugh and see the funny side of it and going in and putting the radio on and seeing the set week after week after week, it would change. It made me laugh because you see the set, there’s so much work that goes into those sets and yet it’s still the same subject; tits and arse.

Broughton started photographing the sets at night. She was interested in revealing the reality behind the artificial glossy sex of porn mags.

I’m letting the audience in to see what I saw and also to take the power out of it almost. It is to say this is false, which I suppose pornography is, it’s false. I like the fact that there’s a brick holding up the poly-board that reflects the light, the ambiance coming in, the floor boards coming in. For me it’s really important to have those elements, also it shows humanistic elements of imperfections. Because in the magazines that its published in that would all be cut off and straightened and it would all be very glossy, so that was important. Also, I wanted to show the space I had this relationship with, that was important to me as well. This space doesn’t really know what’s going on, a table doesn’t know it’s a table, a porn set doesn’t know it’s a porn set and that’s almost what I was trying to do.

Each of Jo Broughton’s photographs was taken on a porn shoot. The bed sheets are crumpled and stained, stockings and shoes lie on the floor, discarded sex toys and lubricant are visible. The frame is devoid of people, only the evidence of sexual performance and the illusion of passionate intimacy remain.

More of Jo Broughton’s work can be seen here.
Christmas November Set (2003)
Nurses (2002)
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bruce Lee: Intimate photos of the martial arts legend and his young family
10:44 am


Bruce Lee

Maybe it’s because I’ve become so used to seeing images of Bruce Lee from his movies—ripped, sweating and flashing his martial arts skills at some no good bad guy—that I find these photographs of Mr. Lee with his wife Linda and children Brandon and Shannon utterly charming.

Having grown-up with a wall covered in Bruce Lee posters and spent far too much time trying out nifty martial arts moves on anyone fool enough to let me, these pictures show Mr. Lee as just an ordinary Dad—doing what every doting parent does: playing with his kids, posing for that holiday portrait, showing off the newborn, or celebrating birthdays.

Of course, he would never dance like anyone else’s old man—as the mighty master of Jeet Kune Do was also an exquisitely graceful dancer who—in between waiting tables during his youth—gave dance classes. Which makes me think someone out there’s got a damn fine story to tell the grandkids about how Bruce Lee once taught them to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha.
More of Bruce Lee and family, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Punk Under Reagan: Texas in the 80s
12:45 pm


new wave

A scenester named Kevin Johnson (in the white glasses) dancing in the crowd at The Island in Houston, Texas 1982
A scenester named Kevin Johnson (in the white glasses) dancing in the crowd at The Island in Houston, Texas 1982
Houston-based photographer Ben DeSoto has been snapping photos in and around his nativeTexas for four decades. Back in the early 80s, DeSoto ended up interning as a photographer for the Houston Post. One of his favorite assignments was getting to take photos at a new club called The Island in Houston. Or, according to his editor, the place where they play that “new fangled” punk rock music. A place that already become a home away from home for the young DeSoto. The photos he took went on to become part of a documentary series called, Punk Under Reagan.
Female hardcore fans up in front of the stage at a Circle Jerks show in Houston, early 1980s
Female hardcore fans in front of the stage at a Circle Jerks show in Houston, early 1980s
Fans waiting for the Alien Sex Fiend show at Axiom, late 80s
Fans waiting for the Alien Sex Fiend show at The Axiom in Houston, Texas, late 80s
The Axiom in Houston, Texas back in the day
The Axiom in Houston
DeSoto has said that the experience of taking photos for the Post made him feel “uncomfortable in a comfortable way,” and I’m sure a large number of you reading this remember exactly what that felt like. Luckily for us, DeSoto soldiered on and came away with candid images that allow the viewer to step inside long-gone clubs like The Island, The Axiomand Raul’s in Austin, along with other spots whose walls attempted to contain performances by national acts like Fugazi, Black Flag and Nirvana, and the collective beer-soaked enthusiasm of Houston’s hooligan youth.
A punk band on the stage of Raul's in Austin, Texas, 1980
“The Next” onstage at Raul’s in Austin, 1980
Punks getting down at The Island in Houston, Texas 1982
Punks getting down at The Island in Houston, Texas 1982
Devo fans hanging out in Houston, 1980s
DEVO fans hanging out in Houston
More after the jump…

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Stunning vintage portraits of Canada’s First Nation People
11:14 am


Alex Ross
First Nations

Chief Owl—Blackfoot circa 1886.
During the 1880s, Canadian Alex Ross photographed many of the First Nations people who lived around Calgary. In particular, Ross documented many of the men, women and families of the Blackfoot—mainly of the Siksiká Nation—and the Tsuu T’ina—or as they were originally called, Sarcee.

Ross started his photographic career as an assistant in Winnipeg, but decided in his early 30s to relocate to Calgary and establish his own studio. The practicalities of taking pictures in situ—carrying equipment out on location where one was open to the vagaries of the weather—led to a boom in such studios, where backcloths could replicate any South Sea island, summer palace, or traditional suburban drawing room. Add to this the possibility of owning a seemingly permanent portable reminder of a loved one, family member or even deceased relative made photography a very profitable business.

Unlike some of his business rivals, Ross took a growing interest in the local First Nations and between 1884-91 he started photographing as many of the indigenous peoples as possible. He also photographed various of their camps across the Alberta province.

In 1891, Ross unexpectedly closed his business down. He died three years later in 1894 at 43 years of age. The Glenbow Archives own 125 of Ross’ original photographs—from First Nations people to family portraits, country scenes and livestock which they describe as “a brief but important visual record of the last two decades of the 19th century.”

Today there are 634 officially recognized First Nations governments, or bands, spread across Canada, “roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.” The total population is more than 850,000.
Blackfoot children, date unknown ca. 1886-94.
First Nations man and his wife, 1886.
More of Alex Ross’ photographs of First Nations people, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The forgotten mole men of Vienna’s sewers

Long before Orson Welles (as Harry Lime) was chased thru Vienna’s subterranean sewers in The Third Man, the city’s labyrinth of tunnels, waterways and culverts offered a secret refuge to many of the homeless poor.

The story of those who lived amid the squalor and effluence may have been long lost had it not been for the work of journalist Emil Kläger and amateur photographer Hermann Drawe, who in 1904 started documenting this secret world. With a local criminal as their guide, Kläger and Drawe descended into the city’s lower depths. In case of attack, they carried knuckledusters and guns—police could offer no protection here.

Drawe photographed these men huddled together under staircases, piled like stones in culverts, or wandering across the dark waters of the River Wien—lost men who lived, slept, smoked, ate, fought each other and shared dreams of a better future. Sometimes with their help Drawe would reconstruct certain scenes—a robbery, a fight—based on testimonies collected by Kläger. They also visited and documented the lives of the homeless men, women and children who lived in the Christian hostels above ground.

Between 1905 and 1908, Kläger and Drawe presented their work in a series of lectures—the photographs shown as slides to Kläger’s commentary. The authorities tried to stop them. This was not how the they wanted Vienna to be seen—this jewel of the Hapsburg Empire, the city of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, of waltzes, Art Nouveau, Kings, Queens, and Sachertorte.

The public disagreed. The men gave over 300 lectures. It led to the publication of a book of their work, Durch die Wiener Quartiere des Elends und Verbrechens (Journey through the Viennese quarters of crime and despair) in 1908. 
Residents of ‘The Fortress.’
Men sleep on piles of rubble.
Sleeping under a spiral staircase.
More of Drawe’s photographs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Gorgeous color photographs of Paris from over a century ago
01:34 pm


Albert Kahn

In 1909, millionaire banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn traveled to Japan on business. He was accompanied by his chauffeur and the photographer Alfred Dutertre, who he commissioned as his own personal Instagram to document his travels. Upon his return to his home in Paris, Kahn looked through the dozens of photos Duterte had snapped and decided he wanted to create “a photographic record of the entire Earth.” He therefore commissioned four photographers—Leon Gimpel, Stephane Passet, Georges Chevalier, and Auguste Leon—who were despatched, under the stewardship of project manager Jean Brunhes, to the four corners of the world with the simple directive to capture “a unique cinematic and photographic testimony of life of the people of the world.”

Using Autochrome Lumière—an early color photographic process that created color images with dyed potato starch on glass plates—and some early movie cameras, the photographers created an historical record of over 50 different countries between 1909 and 1929—taking 72,000 color photographs and shooting over 600,000 feet of film.

They documented in true colour the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, and the soldiers of the First World War. They took the earliest known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States.

Kahn was an idealist. He believed documenting the world through photographs and movies he could create a cross-cultural understanding between nations and bring global peace. Neat idea. However, with the Wall Street Crash in 1929, Kahn was forced to abandon the project. He died in 1940 leaving behind one of the most important and extensive historical photographic archives.

In 1914, Paris was one of the cities documented by Kahn’s four photographers. They captured the “City of Lights” on the very brink of the irreversible changes wrought by the First World War.
More incredible color photos of Paris from 1914, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The ‘real’ New York: Gritty scenes of NYC street life, 1970

Avenue C, Lower East Side.
The photographer and documentarian Camilo José Vergara uses photographs as “a means of discovery, as a tool with which to clarify visions and construct knowledge about a particular city or place.” Pictures, for Vergara, are the starting point in asking questions or linking to other images or investigating new territories and ideas.

Born in Santiago, Chile in 1944, Vergara started his career as a photographer after he arrived in New York City during the 1960s. He graduated with a B.A. in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, and went on to study an M.A. in sociology at Columbia University. It was while at Columbia that Vergara saw the potential in using photography to document the changes in the city’s urban environment and its influence on social behavior. This eventually led to Vergara’s work in rephotography—literally then and now photography—where he documents one location over a number of years or decades.

In 1970, Vergara began documenting New York street life capturing the children, families and communities living among the city’s urban decay. Vergara’s photographs showed parts of New York that looked like bombed-out war zones, deprived areas suffering the worst of both city and state indifference.

Since this early work in New York, Vergara has documented poor, minority communities in Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Los Angeles and sixteen other cities across the U.S.A. This work has produced an archive of over 14,000 color slides, numerous books, exhibitions and film documentaries. Vergara intends this enormous back catalog to form a basis for The Visual Encyclopedia of the American Ghetto to “visualize how ghettos change over time, understand the nature and meaning of social and economic inequality in urban America.”

For his photographic work, Vergara’s has won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2002, the Berlin Prize in 2010 and the National Humanities Medal in 2013. The following is just a small selection of his photographs taken on the streets of New York during 1970.
Girls with Barbies, East Harlem.
Fifth Ave at 110th Street, East Harlem.
South Bronx.
South Bronx.
More of Vergara’s powerful photographs from New York 1970, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
California prison photographs from the 1980s
04:51 pm



In 2013 Paris Photo LA purchased a collection of photographs taken in California prisons between 1977 and 1993 for $45,000, a price that startled a good number of observers. In 2011, a collector named Myles Haselhorst had paid “a low four figure sum for the collection—which includes two photo albums and numerous loose snapshots totaling over 400 images.” In the space of two years the collection changed hand several times. Haselhorst “doubled” the money he’d paid for them; Harper’s Books, the final seller of the collection, paid $20,000 for it.

Here is an excerpt of Harper’s description of the collection:

Taken between 1977 and 1993. By far the largest vernacular archive of its kind we’ve seen, valuable for the insight it provides into Los Angeles gang, prison, and rap cultures. The first photo album contains 96 Polaroid photographs, many of which have been tagged (some in ink, others with the tag etched directly into the emulsion) by a wide swath of Los Angeles gang members. Most of the photos are of prisoners, with the majority of subjects flashing gang signs.

The second album has 44 photos and images from car magazines appropriated to make endpapers; the “frontispiece” image is of a late 30s-early 40s African-American woman, apparently the album-creator’s mother, captioned “Moms No. 1. With a Bullet for All Seasons.”

Pete Brook of the blog Prison Photography asks some pertinent questions:

As a quick aside, and for the purposes of thinking out loud, might it be that polaroids that reference Southern California African American prison culture are – in the eyes of collectors and cultural-speculators – as exotic, distant and mysterious as sepia mugshots of last century? How does thirty years differ to one hundred when it comes to mythologising marginalised peoples? Does the elevation of gang ephemera from the gutter to traded high art mean anything? I argue, the market has found a ripe and right time to romanticise the mid-eighties and in particular real-life figures from the era that resemble the stereotypes of popular culture. It is in some ways a distasteful exploitation of people after-the-fact. Perhaps?


If the price tag seems crazy, it’s because it is. But consider this: one of the main guiding factors for valuations of art is previous sales of similar items. However, in the case of prison polaroids, there is no real discernible market. Harper’s is making the market, so they can name their price.

Whether the art market is fetishizing African-American gang members or not, the likely result of the exorbitant price for these photos will be to incentivize owners of similar collections to make them public, which is good news for purchasers of art books and readers of websites like Dangerous Minds.



Continues after the jump…

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


June Yong Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
I’m with the Band(s): Intimate photographs of punk legends at CBGBs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Walker IN YOUR FACE: Behind the scenes of iconic 60s crime drama ‘Point Blank’

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

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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The forgotten heroes of ‘Midget Wrestling’: Vintage photos from the 60s and 70s

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

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

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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
On location with Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in ‘The Ladykillers’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Ghosts in the machine: Occult fun with trick photography

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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