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Portraits of inmates from a ‘Lunatic Asylum,’ 1869
03.17.2015
11:46 am
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In 1796, Quaker businessman and philanthropist William Tuke opened the Retreat in York, England, for the care of the mentally ill. Prior to this, those with mental health or behavioral issues were treated worse than the most heinous criminal—they were usually locked-up in bedlams, imprisoned in cells or chained to walls in workhouses. As a Quaker Tuke believed in the sanctity of life and of behaving kindly and morally to all humanity. This led him to build a hospital for the care of those suffering from mental health problems. At first, the Retreat was only open to fellow Quakers, but it soon opened its doors to all.

The Retreat changed the way mental health was treated in England, and in 1818 the first of four hospitals, the Stanley Royd Hospital in Wakefield, was built under the aegis of the West Riding General Asylums Committee. A further three hospitals were built between 1872 and 1904—the South Yorkshire Asylum built in Sheffield, the High Royds Hospital in Menston and the Storthes Hall built in Kirkburton—which became villages for patients and all four hospital together formed the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

Inspired by the Retreat, the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum pioneered the care and treatment of the mentally ill during the Victorian and Edwardian era. Gone were days of brutality and fear. Patients were cared for as best as was then able and according to the available medical advice. It may seem strange and harsh to us today—especially the use of confinement cells to hold some violent, paranoid and delusional patients—but in relative terms, our treatment of the mentally ill will no doubt be seen as harsh by future generations.

These hospitals were open to all who needed treatment, and by the late 1800s, the demand for support from the impoverished and mentally ill outstripped the number of places available, leading to more hospitals built. By the turn of the 1900s, with the rise of psychiatry and the “tendency to herding and regimentation” asylums “lost much of their early high ideal of individual concern and care.” Standards basically fell, as the patients greatly outnumbered staff, leading to inadequate care, which didn’t change until later in the 20th century and the beginning of the National Health Service.

This selection of portraits show patients of varying ages from the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 1869. Some of the pictures detail the patient’s illness—“organic dementia,” “general paralysis of the insane,” “imbecility,” “simple mania,” “consecutive dementia,” “mono-mania of pride,” “mania of suspicion,” “chronic mania,” “mono-mania of pride,” “acute melancholia” and “senile dementia”—but each photograph tells its own sad tale.
 
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More inmate portraits, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.17.2015
11:46 am
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New York City squatters from the 1990s
03.17.2015
09:53 am
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It’s strange to think of the 1990s as a bygone era, but artist and photographer Ash Thayer’s new book Kill City: Lower East Side Squatters 1992-2000 shows a New York that simply no longer exists. Thayer began living in a Lower East Side squat in 1992 after being kicked out of her Brooklyn apartment. As a young art student, she recorded the (mostly young and white) inhabitants of these crumbling buildings with a keen photographer’s eye and an unflinching focus on the decidedly unglamorous wreckage.

There is an optimism to the collection though; so many squatters looked at absolutely unlivable conditions and saw renovation potential—the picture of the pregnant women installing windows is particularly striking. Living in these buildings wasn’t even legal—they rarely had water or electricity, and were often infested with rats or roaches—so Thayer’s record of the LES squatters of the 90s is particularly precious, considering how covert many of these squatters had to be to evade eviction.
 

“Famous Pregnant and Building Windows”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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03.17.2015
09:53 am
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Off with their heads: Gruesomely comic headless portraits from the 19th century
03.11.2015
09:29 am
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Tales of headless ghosts or headless horsemen that haunted the night—most famously described in Washington Irving’s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”—and the horrors of the guillotine were a source of inspiration for these gruesomely comic portraits from the 1800s to early 1900s. These portraits show a flipside to the orthodox notions of Victorians as no nonsense, straight-backed, straight-laced individuals, who would no more crack a smile than waste a nickel.

It also shows how keenly many Victorians (or at least those who were rich enough to have their portraits taken) were to embrace the advances in (novelty) photography—a practice that is still continued today by “paranormal street photographer” Krocky Meshkin and Edward Allan of the site Haunted Memories, who famously produced the “Buckley Family Portrait,” which proves we moderns can be just as gullible when it comes to headless hoaxes.
 
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More headless portraits, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.11.2015
09:29 am
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Brutal, intimate photos depict the 1980s ‘heroin epidemic’ of the East Village
03.03.2015
06:21 pm
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Boy on East 5th Street (4th of July), 1984
 
Anyone who’s hung out on Rivington Street the last few years might be surprised to learn that the East Village was one of the scariest parts of New York just a few decades ago. Not for nothing did one police officer in the 1980s label Avenue D “the world’s largest retail drug market.”

Photographer Ken Schles, who lived in the East Village in the 1980s, once said that it was “like a war zone.” Schles witnessed firsthand the heroin epidemic and the AIDS crisis happening all around him. His photographs, many taken from his bedroom window, depict the urgency and hopelessness of a neighborhood in crisis. 

Schles’ building, where he also had his darkroom, was in disrepair from the moment he moved in in 1978; just a few years later, the landlord abandoned the building, leaving tenants to their own devices. Schles led a rent strike and worked to improve the living conditions, as drug gangs moved in on the space.

Unlike the romanticized imagery produced by some, Schles’ frank pictures offer no illusion as to what is being depicted. Schles himslf is disgusted by such idealized portraits and offers a refreshingly honest and pragmatic take on the era—as he says, “I don’t pine for the days when I’d drive down the Bowery and have to lock the doors, or having to step over the junkies or finding the door bashed in because heroin dealers decided they wanted to set up a shooting gallery. ... A lot of dysfunction has been romanticized.”

Schles’ shots, many taken from his bedroom window, provide blurred and grainy fragments, stories to which we do not know the beginning, even if we can guess at the grim ending. Eventually Schles’ fellow artists and gallery owners banded together to rebuild the neighborhood.

In 1988 Schles published Invisible City, which has recently been reissued, and late last year he came out with a follow-up, Night Walk. Together they add up to an intimate study of a neighborhood that is no longer recognizable.

Invisible City and Night Walk are on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery on 57th Street until March 14, 2015.
 

Couple Fucking, 1985
 

Embrace, 1984
 

Landscape with Garbage Bag, 1984
 

Drowned in Sorrow, 1984
 

Scene at a Stag Party, May 1985
 

Claudia Lights Cigarette, 1985
 
More after the jump…..
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.03.2015
06:21 pm
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Hideous beauty: The ghoulish ‘post-mortem fairy tales’ of Mothmeister
03.03.2015
09:15 am
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You’ll need to sleep with one eye open after looking at Wounderland, the “post-mortem fairy tales” portrait series of ghastly creatures by the Belgian duo Mothmeister.

Nearly all the hideous characters in the dark series are holding stiff, mounted animals, as the couple behind these unsettling photos are both taxidermists. “We reincarnate these dead critters into fairy tale figures by dressing them up like the Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter did.”

They state the “anonymous, ugly masked creatures” highlighted in their work are “a reaction against the dominant exhibitionism of the selfie culture and beauty standards marketed by the mass media.”

Put down that selfie stick and take a look at Wounderland for yourself.

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More after the jump…

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Posted by Rusty Blazenhoff
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03.03.2015
09:15 am
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The stunning ‘otherworldly personas’ of NYC club kid Ryan Burke
02.19.2015
11:04 am
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by Ryan Burke
 

True artistry that truly pushes creative boundaries is a rare thing. Known best for his ongoing series of self-portraits which showcase his visually stunning makeup achievements, New York City artist and photographer Ryan Burke has proven that he’s in a boundary-pushing artistic class to himself.

According to a 2013 interview with Burke in Huffpost Gay Voices, he shoots these dramatic photos of himself as a way to document his life. He says, “I started photographing my looks before going out as as way of preserving my work. When you spend three to eight hours putting together your face and outfit, an iPhone picture just doesn’t seem like enough.” After capturing the photos, he can be found flaunting his artistic creations in the New York City nightlife scene much like the early Club Kids who influenced him.

On his website, he states, “The portraits I create express a perspective on human styling that does not rely on conventional clothing, hair, makeup or accessories but rather an aesthetic derived from the use of unusual materials and makeup to create otherworldly personas.”

‘Otherworldly’ indeed, take a gander.

 
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More looks to look for after the jump…

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Posted by Rusty Blazenhoff
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02.19.2015
11:04 am
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What the Butler saw: Stereoscopic Victorian voyeurism in 3-D
02.17.2015
11:34 am
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You will need your 3-D specs to get the most out of these titillating Victorian era entertainments, which offered both the gentleman and the lady users the illicit thrill of espying an intimate boudoir moment between some delightful uninhibited beauties. Such a stereoscopic vision was an aid to the imagination—inspiring a riot of Bacchanalian fancies over the kind of shenanigans young ladies in the first blush of womanhood could get up to behind closed doors.

As we can see, such shenanigans were really quite innocent—mainly talking, gossiping, singing, dancing, drinking—a typical a night out today. Yet, these photos are far more romantic, delightful and playful than all the gigabytes of exposed flesh available today at just a click away.

Of course, as the century moved on the imagery did become more explicit—especially the “dirty postcards” we Europeans enjoyed. Such saucy images go back to earliest times, but apparently the first record of “obscene pictures” was in 1755, with the publication in England of the book The Pleasures of Love: Containing a Variety of Entertaining Particulars and Curiosities in the Cabinet of Venus, which contained sixteen highly explicit woodcuts for the gentleman’s entertainment. 

Erotic magazines soon followed with the first Covent Garden Magazine, or Amorous Repository, “calculated solely for the entertainment of the polite world,” being published in England in 1774. There then followed a slew of such top shelf lad’s mags with ever increasing titles: the Rambler’s Magazine, or the Annals of Gallantry, Glee, Pleasure and the Bon Ton; “calculated for the entertainment of the polite world; and to furnish the man of pleasure with a most delicious banquet of amorous, Bacchanalian, whimsical, humorous, theatrical and polite entertainment” appeared in 1783; and in 1795 came the granddaddy of all magazine titles the Ranger’s magazine, or the Man of Fashion’s Companion; “being the whim of the month and general assemblage of love, gallantry, wit, pleasure, harmony, mirth, glee and fancy. Containing a monthly list of the Covent Garden Cyprians; or a man of pleasure’s vade mecum. The annals of gallantry, Essence of trials for adultery. Crim. Con. Seduction. Double entendres. Choice anecdotes. Warm narratives, Curious fragments. Animating histories of Tête-à-têtes, and wanton frolicks. To which is added the fashionable chit-chat and scandal of the month, from the Pharaoh Table to the Fan warehouse.”

These magazines certainly told you what was inside, and are far more entertaining than our modern one-word mags like Playboy or Hustler and alike. Also, note the wording—the use of terms such as “gallantry” and “harmony” and “love,” hardly the kind of sentiments to be associated with say… Shaven Ravens.

Understandably, such gentlemen’s magazines were expensive and were mainly focussed on erotic stories with some handy illustrations. Of particular interest to readers was the reports of “Criminal Conversation”—details of adultery trials, which soon became a source of erotic entertainment for the working class and the “meat and potatoes” to many a tabloid newspaper.

When photography took off in the late 1800s, the “doyen of Victorian pornography” was Henry Hayler, who began producing his own nude photographs from life. Hayler’s work became so popular that he started selling his rude nudes worldwide—a prototype of Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt, perhaps. However, his homegrown industry wasn’t to last, as the police raided Hayler’s studio in March 1874 and impounded more than 5,000 plates and 130,248 erotic photographs. Hayler and his family fled to Berlin, but had they ever appeared in court they could scarcely plead not guilty as a considerable number of the photos contained Hayler, his wife and two sons engaged in incriminating activities.
 
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More stereoscopic Victorian voyeurism images, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.17.2015
11:34 am
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‘The Last of the Teddy Girls’: Ken Russell’s nearly lost photographs of London’s teenage girl gangs
02.13.2015
11:53 am
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Though Ken Russell wanted to be a ballet dancer, his father wouldn’t hear of it—no son of his would ever be seen in tights—so the young Russell turned his attention to photography, a craft he thought he could make his name with. He attended Walthamstow Technical College in London, where he was taught all about lighting and composition. Russell would later claim that everything he did as a trainee photographer broke the rules—a trend he continued throughout his career as a film director when producing such acclaimed movies as Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils, Tommy, Altered States and Crimes of Passion.

Russell became a photographer for Picture Post and the Illustrated Magazine, and during his time with these publications took some of the most evocative photos of post-war London during the 1950s. He spent his days photographing street scenes and his nights printing his pictures on the kitchen table of his rented one-bed apartment in Notting Hill.
 
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For fifty years, it was believed Russell’s photos had been lost, but in 2005 a box marked “Ken Russell” was discovered in the archives of a photo library. Inside was over 3,000 of Ken’s negatives.

Among his most famous work from this period is “The Last of the Teddy Girls”—a series of photos documenting London’s girl gang subculture and their male counterparts. Russell was attracted to these young women for their sense of independence and style—dressing in suits, land army clothes—while rejecting society’s expectations of more traditional, feminine roles. (Teddy kids of either sex were known for fights breaking out wherever they congregated.) The images show Russell’s innate talent for composition and offer a fascinating look into a rarely documented female subculture.
 
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More of Unkle Ken’s beautiful photos, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.13.2015
11:53 am
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Stanley Kubrick shoots the N.Y.C. subway, 1946
01.29.2015
02:09 pm
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In the summer of 1945, Stanley Kubrick, many years before he was the acclaimed director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, had a series of photographs published in LOOK magazine, a competitor to LIFE. He was just 16 years old. Thus would begin a relationship with the magazine that would last several years, until he began making movies in earnest around the age of 23, in the early 1950s.
 

Kubrick took this self-portrait in 1949 with his Leica III while working as a staff photographer for LOOK Magazine
 
Kubrick was fond of street photography, somewhat like the recent discovery Vivian Maier, and in 1946 he did a series about the New York subway. For more on Kubrick’s photographic career, see the archives of the Museum of the City of New York. Philippe D. Mather recent book Stanley Kubrick at LOOK Magazine: Authorship and Genre in Photojournalism and Film appears to be the only decent one out there on the subject.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
More of Kubrick’s stunning subway pics, after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.29.2015
02:09 pm
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The transgender women of Singapore’s ‘Boogie Street’
01.28.2015
09:59 am
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Singapore’s Bugis Street was renowned as a meeting place for trans women to mix, mingle and have fun during the 1950s-1980s. Each evening, a fabulous parade of glamorous trans women would walk up-and-down the rundown streets at Bugis Junction, flirting with tourists, sailors and G.I.s, often charging them to have their photograph taken, inviting them to a bar for a drink, or taking them to a quiet room (or rooftop) for sex.

Bugis Street was a popular area for touring British servicemen in the 1950s, who became fans/lovers of many of the trans women, and rechristened the area “Boogie Street”—a mispronunciation of the district’s name that stuck in 1970s with the rise of disco.

For thirty years, Bugis Street thrived as a haven for trans women and their admirers, until the government cracked down on what was described as “shameful” and “lewd behavior” in the 1970s. Many servicemen were arrested at gunpoint, tourists were threatened and frightened away, the bars were closed and many trans women were arrested. Eventually the hard-line puritans won and old Bugis Street was demolished in the mid-1980s and replaced by a shopping mall and entertainment outlet.

In December 1980, French photographer Alain Soldeville was on a two-year trip to Asia and Australia when he arrived in Singapore. After a few days sight-seeing, he headed out one evening to Bugis Street.

Within an hour, strange androgynous creatures arrived by taxi. Dressed in sexy, tight-fitting dresses or satiny pants, wearing heavy stage makeup and high heels, they took over the territory. The street seemed to belong to them and their dramatic entrance was followed by scrutinizing eyes. It appeared that most visitors were there to watch the show that had just begun.

I stroked up a conversation with Anita who was of Malaysian background. She was 23 years old, with a clearly outlined masculine face, tall, thin and muscular. She wanted to know where I came from, how long I was going to stay in Singapore. During the following weeks, I became close to Anita and she introduced me to her friends: Amina, Danita, Delphine, Rosa and Susanna. They liked having me photograph them and would strike natural poses.

After five or six weeks in Singapore, short of money, I had to leave for Australia. I would return in 1984 only to learn that Bugis Street was about to be torn down to make way for the subway.

Bugis Street still has its glamorous legend, and a moderately successful film was made about the transgender women of the area in 1996. Soldeville forgot about the photographs he took in 1981 of Anita and her friends for over twenty-five years, until he rediscovered them in storage. Since then, they have been exhibited in France and Thailand.
 
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More pictures of Bugis Street, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.28.2015
09:59 am
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Black Flag producer SPOT’s photos of L.A.
01.06.2015
09:43 am
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To the extent that he’s known at all, SPOT is known for his time as the in-house producer for SST records in the 1980’s. His were the hands on the board for unimpeachable classics like Meat Puppets II, What Makes a Man Start Fires?, Zen Arcade, Milo Goes to College, and the first four Black Flag albums. He eventually retired from producing (and really, not even he could have saved What The…) to focus on performing music.

But all that time, he had another, lesser-known talent as well—as a photographer. The new book Sounds of Two Eyes Opening collects SPOT’s photos of L.A., spanning from the surf/beach scene of the ‘60s to the punk/skate scene of the ‘80s, and he is (was?) a very fine shooter, with a solid eye for composition. From the publisher’s hype-sheet:

Spanning the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening offers an amazing portrait of Southern California coastal life: surfing, bikinis, roller skating and skate boarding’s fledgling days are set in contrast to iconic shots of all the key denizens of hardcore punk rock as it is being invented; candid shots of Black Flag, The Germs, Minutemen abut those of everyday punks, fans, cops, clubs and now-shuttered rehearsal spaces.

 

 

 
Some editions of the book come with an Ed Templeton-designed picture 7” featuring SPOT’s song “Too Wise to Crack.” I scoured the web in vain for a streamable version to play for you, but I turned up squat. I quite like it though, it’s a loose, free, and economical piece of music with spoken vocals that recalls moments from Funambulist, Worldbroken-era Saccharine Trust, or Keith Morris’ Midget Handjob project—and what an idiot I was to search for videos of that band.

Sinecure Books were kind enough to share these images from Sounds of Two Eyes Opening. Enjoy.
 

 

 

 

 
Fun on wheels after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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01.06.2015
09:43 am
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The Streets of New York: Vintage photos of the Big Apple 1940s to 1970s
12.30.2014
11:35 am
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Theater marquees, 1944.
 
When we think of a city we tend to think of it from its representation in films and TV—unless of course we’ve been there. Paris is the Eiffel Tower. London is Big Ben. Russia and it’s the onion domes of Saint Basil’s Cathedral or the red brick spires of the Kremlin. Rome the Colosseum. Los Angeles—Hollywood Blvd., freeways and Rodeo Drive. New York, well it’s Times Squares, the tenements and neon lit restaurants and of its bars as seen from countless detective shows and gritty urban movies. These beautiful color photos of the New York from the forties to the seventies are like backdrops to those feature films, or even better images that capture pages from a Kerouac novel that inspire dreams:

What’s Times Square doing there anyway? Might as well enjoy it. — Greatest city the world has ever seen. — Have they got a Times Square on Mars? What would the Blob do on Times Square? Or St. Francis?

 
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Giant advert for Jane Russell in Howard Hughes’s production of ‘Underwater’.
 
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Broadway 1955.
 
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The RKO Palace and a Planter’s Peanuts advert 7th and Broadway.
 
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Street scene outside McGinnis restaurant, Tango Palace and Cobbs, 1962.
 
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Broadway looking north from 50th, 1962.
 
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Camel advert near Times Square, 1962.
 
More vintage shots of NYC, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.30.2014
11:35 am
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Visible Girls: London’s lost female subcultures
12.01.2014
09:53 am
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Lynne and Penny at home in Kingston, March 1981.
 
In the early 1980s, photographer Anita Corbin documented the “informal uniforms” of young women’s subcultures across London. Corbin photographed rude girls, rockabillies, mods, skinheads, and some “less defined” female groups including soul, rasta, punk and futurist, as well as those involved “in and around the women’s liberation movement.”  Her photographs were exhibited in a traveling exhibition organized by the Cockpit Gallery Project called Visible Girls in 1981.

In her introduction to the Visible Girls exhibition, Corbin wrote:

In this project I turned my attention to more personal visual details and I became increasingly interested in the effect appearences have on everybody’s lives.

The way we use dress as a means of communication/identification and how it can both inform and misinform us.

I have chosen to focus on girls, not the boys (where present) were any less stylish, but because girls in “subcultures” have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.

Corbin discovered that for these young women belonging to a subculture was not just a weekend hobby but a whole way of life.

More than thirty years later, Anita Corbin has reconnected with some of the women in her photographs, but would like to contact them all, if possible. If you recognize yourself or any of these women, then you can contact Anita here.
 
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Kath and Em, at home in Putney, October 1980.
 
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Simeon and Simeon, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
 
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Charmine and Janice, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
 
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Rockabilly girls, at Shades, Manor House, February 1981.
 
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Titch and Sylvia at home in Sudbury, March 1981.
 
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At the Marquee club, December 1980.
 
With thanks to Elizabeth Veldon, via Buzzfeed.
 
More of Anita Corbin’s ‘Visible Girls,’ after the jump….
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.01.2014
09:53 am
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Unsettling photo series of animals in their pointedly artificial zoo habitats
11.03.2014
08:43 am
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Zoos are a sort of moral conundrum in the animal rights debates. Some zoos rehabilitate or rescue animals unable to survive in the wild, and nearly any larger zoo is active in conservation efforts. At the same time, there are some sad zoos out there, where whatever pleasure you might derive from the observation of a wild and beautiful beast is mitigated by the distinct impression that this animal looks… depressed?

For his series, In Situ, the Latin for “in its original place,” Parisian photographer Eric Pillot shoots animals in the bleakest of zoo habitats; the effect is incredibly disquieting. From his website, a (rough) translation:

The animals placed in these indoor runs seem to represent something of the “animal in us,” in all their diversity: ones we can cuddle, pamper, fear… those from tales and myths. Colorful, geometric or “pictorial,” it finally seemed that the facilities that I have endeavored to represent, that have been carefully designed to allow us to see the animals they house, could be a reflection of man himself.

The series is certainly unnerving—isolated creatures in poor facsimiles of their native lands—but without expertise on the animals themselves, we’re left in the dark, wondering how happy or sad they really are in such a subective context.
 

 

 

 

 
After the jump, more of these powerful images….

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Posted by Amber Frost
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11.03.2014
08:43 am
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Dead Creepy: Family portraits with deceased relatives
10.30.2014
12:45 pm
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Whenever a relative died when I was a child, we would gather around their body, sometimes laid out on a table, a coffin or slowly cooling under the bed sheets, and say five decades of the rosary for the repose of their soul. I attended at least half a dozen funerals before I was twelve: my father’s side of the family were descended from fertile Irish-Scottish Catholics. The dead always looked more peaceful before they were wheeled off to a funeral home, where make-up was applied, cheeks rouged and lipstick smoothed around mouth. These applications usually gave the deceased the appearance of an eerie ventriloquist’s doll, waiting to yap their mouths and roll their eyes. Death was just a common part of life. But now the relationship between the living and the dying and the dead has become once removed, with the undertakers and funeral homes taking control of those once natural rituals that connected us all together.

In Victorian times, it was common for grieving families to be photographed with the deceased. It was a way of commemorating the dead loved one. With high child mortality rates, most of these portraits were of parents and children. The images are often moving, even heartbreaking, and there are some that may seem bizarre to modern tastes.
 
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More portraits of the living and the dead, after the jump….
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.30.2014
12:45 pm
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