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Frank Kunert’s darkly surreal and humorous miniature worlds
04.05.2018
09:28 am
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‘Climbing Holiday’ (2017).
 
Welcome to the miniature world of Frank Kunert, where everything is a little topsy-turvy and nothing is ever quite as it seems like a stairlift that can fire its unlucky occupant out of a window like Mrs Deagle in Gremlins or a funeral plot disguised as a bedroom for two eternal lovers.

Kunert’s handcrafted miniature models are inspired by the history found in the “decayed facades of suburban houses” of his hometown of Frankfurt.

[S]ometimes when I’m out walking and looking at these houses it sets off a train of thoughts in my head, and then later something comes out of it which reveals itself as an idea which I can perhaps use in a picture.

This can often lead to a play-on-words which suggest to Kunert another reality like the hotel on a concrete pillar in “Climbing Holiday” or the cramped accommodation of “One Bedroom Apartment.”

[S]ince houses play such an important part in my pictures it seems obvious to me that I should occasionally refer to the way words are used in property advertisements. For it is precisely when they’re writing advertisements that people try their hardest to make language excite great expectations. The question is always: what would the writer or the speaker like to say, and what does the reader or the listener actually hear? And that’s where my play on meanings begins. And though the titles of my pictures don’t actually lie, they can nevertheless be somewhat misleading.

Though darkly humorous and surreal, Kunert’s miniature worlds contain a recurring motif: “our deep human desire for security and our fear of loss, as well as our anxiety regarding the transitory nature of life.” He spends days painstakingly creating his miniature worlds preferring a handcrafted “analog” approach rather than the hi-gloss of digital effects.

Born in Frankfurt in 1963, Kunert became a photographer’s assistant after leaving high school. He then worked for various photographic studios before becoming a freelance photographer and artist in 1992. Since then, he has mainly focussed his attention on the creation of his miniature worlds.

More of Kunert’s work can be seen here, while prints of his work can be ordered here.
 
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‘Eternal Love’ (2014).
 
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‘Flying High’ (2017).
 
More small worlds, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.05.2018
09:28 am
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Dead Babies: The Island of the Dolls
03.21.2018
11:13 am
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There are many stories about the Island of the Dolls. There is the story of the man who lived on the island who hung hundreds of dolls from the trees. Some said he hung the dolls because he thought they were alive. Others said he did it to appease the spirit of a dead girl who he had found drowned in waters near the island. Then there were those who said the dolls were possessed by evil spirits, whose voices could be heard at night calling for the living to join them.

The man was called Don Julian Santana. He moved to the island some sixty years ago. The island is a small area of land located in the canals of Xochimilco, to the south of Mexico City. One day Santana found the body of a young girl who had drowned in one of the canals. This grim discovery obsessed Santana. Whenever he returned to the canal where he had found the body he discovered discarded dolls in the water. He began to hang these dolls from the trees. It was said the girl’s ghost haunted the island and Santana offered up these dolls as a way to appease the girl’s troubled spirit and to protect the island from evil. But no one really knows why he did it.

Over the next five decades, Santana covered the trees with hundreds of dolls—dirty, broken, discarded—that hung like corpses from the branches. The place was called Isla de Las Muñecas—Island of the Dolls.

In 2001, Santana was found drowned at the very spot of the same canal where he had found the girl’s body. Now Santana’s family look after Santana’s eerie shrine which is open to the public—details here.
 
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More gruesome things, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.21.2018
11:13 am
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The ‘Facekini’: What the fashionable Chinese wear on the beach
03.05.2018
08:27 am
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In his series of award-winning photographs documenting swimmers on the beach just outside the city Qingdao, China, photographer and movie producer Philipp Engelhorn captured an unusual (but sensible) trend for the fashionable young Chinese wear on the beach—a protective mask or facekini (脸基尼).

The facekini looks like the kind of beachwear Leigh Bowery might have designed. It is a full-head covering that protects the wearer from the damaging effects of the sun and from being stung by those giant jellyfish that lurk in the sea. The mask also stops other irritants like insects and wind-blown sand. The facekini is made of lycra or rubber and has holes for the wearer’s eyes, nose, and mouth.

German-born Engelhorn, who is the founder of independent movie company Cinereach, described the facekini as “sorta like Mexican wrestling” in the sense it’s reminiscent of those masks worn by lucha libre wrestlers. The Chinese take sun-protection very seriously and prefer not to tan when visiting the beach. These masks cost a couple of dollars though many young beach bums prefer to make their own headgear and matching bodysuit. As Engelhorn describes it:

Posing proudly in the early morning light, the swimmers at Qingdao Beach show off their protective gear. The outfits consist of bright hoods that cover their entire faces like balaclavas, while the rest of their bodies are also clad in colorful swim gear. From a full bodysuit of scarlet polka dots, à la Yayoi Kusama, to smart swim-dresses that wouldn’t look out of place at a dinner party, each swimmer displays a unique expression of their personality and fashion sense.

Zhang Shifan, a former accountant who owns a swimwear store in Qingdao, invented the “face-kini” in 2004. Since then, the facekini’s popularity with beachgoers has grown year-on-year even getting the seal of approval from glossy fashion mags and the Skin Cancer Foundation. You can buy your own funky facekini here and see more of Philipp Engelhorn’s work here.
 
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More facekinis, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.05.2018
08:27 am
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Medicine Women: Photographs of the pioneering students at the world’s first medical school for women
02.26.2018
08:42 am
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Though many women worked as nurses in hospitals and within the medical profession, it was deemed “inappropriate” for a woman to become a doctor. This changed when Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in America and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council.

Born and raised in England, Blackwell traveled to America to fulfill her ambition to become a doctor, where she privately studied anatomy under the tutelage of Dr. Jonathan M. Allen. As a woman, Blackwell faced tremendous obstacles in achieving her ambitions. It was suggested she disguise herself as a man to gain admittance to medical school or move to France where she could possibly train as a doctor. Blackwell’s mind was made up and she was determined to go through with her studies despite enormous opposition.

The horrors and disgusts I have no doubt of vanquishing. I have overcome stronger distastes than any that now remain, and feel fully equal to the contest. As to the opinion of people, I don’t care one straw personally; though I take so much pains, as a matter of policy, to propitiate it, and shall always strive to do so; for I see continually how the highest good is eclipsed by the violent or disagreeable forms which contain it.

The argument against Blackwell’s hope of a medical career was double-edged. Firstly, it was claimed women were inferior and therefore not up to the work. Secondly, if women were capable of becoming doctors then this would be troublesome and unnecessary competition for male doctors.

Blackwell applied to twelve different schools. In October 1847, she enrolled as a student at the Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College). Her admittance was decided upon by the male students who were told if one student objected to Blackwell’s admission she would be barred. The 150 male students voted unanimously in her favor.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. Her actions opened a door to which there was no way of closing.

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was established in 1850 as a school solely for the training of women in medicine. The college was the second medical school for women opened in America but the very first medical school in the world authorized to award women the title of Medical Doctor or M.D. It would go on to become one of the most pioneering and inclusive medical schools in the country, accepting students from every ethnicity, creed, and nation. Students traveled from as far afield as India to study at the school.

The college was originally set up by Quakers who believed in a woman’s fundamental right to education. They also firmly supported full equality between the sexes and were understandably flummoxed by those men who vehemently argued against it. The idea for a women’s medical college had long been considered a necessity. Dr. Bartholomew Fussell argued the case in 1846, two years before Dr. Samuel Gregory opened the Boston Female Medical College, in 1848. Fussell was inspired by his dead sister, who he claimed would have made a brilliant doctor.

Originally called The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the school was situated at 229 Arch Street, Philadelphia. The college offered women the very rare opportunity to “teach, perform research, manage a medical school” within a hospital setting. This led to the establishment of the Woman’s Hospital in 1861. These were hard-won achievements. Rival men-only medical schools refused to accept many of the women students and doctors—on one occasion “cat-calling” and “jeering” women students in attendance at the Pennsylvania Hospital where they were to receive clinical instruction. But the blow had been struck and the forces of reaction inevitably crumbled.

The following selection of photographs show what life was like at the Woman’s Medical College for these young heroic women who fought and won the right to become doctors. The school went onto become active in the Feminist movement of the 19th and early-20th centuries. The college and hospital merged with Hahnemann Medical School in 1983, before joining Drexel University College of Medicine in 2003.
 
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Students came from all over the world: Anandabai Joshee, Kei Okami, and Tabat Islambooly, photographed at the Dean’s Reception on October 10, 1885.
 
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Inside the packed operating room, North College Avenue, circa 1890.
 
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Student life 1890.
 
More photographs of America’s first women doctors, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.26.2018
08:42 am
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A lonely planet full of isolated unhappy souls: One man’s potent takedown of ‘antisocial’ media
02.20.2018
11:05 am
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When Facebook switched on just over a decade ago, a friend described the shiny, newly minted social media platform as being like a great big cocktail party where one could drift in and out of conversations (drink in hand no doubt) meet new people, renew old acquaintances, and share ideas and information. It didn’t take too long before I started thinking Facebook was more like Sid Caesar’s writers’ room where the writers screamed out their material in the hope of getting picked every time the old comedy kingpin Caesar popped his head in the room to see what was cooking. The big difference being these writers’ scripts were gold, whereas Facebook was mainly filled with dross like the endless loops of viral videos featuring pandas sneezing, men with bulging eyes, and cats getting all surprised when they’re tickled. Even our means of responding to this “wonderful content” was limited to just a “Like” button. There were no laughing/crying faces or other emojis back then.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s noble dream of meaningful interaction bringing people together was now but a cold caller’s White Pages. Then came Twitter which soon fell into a moronic inferno of abusive trolls who seemed to think the platform was solely invented to help them deal with ther anger management issues. Next was the empty hall of mirrors better known as Instagram and the utterly pointless connectivity of Linkedin which merely confirmed the deep nagging suspicion that being part of this group was like sending your resume to the mad cat lady down the road.

Now I’m sure for many many people social media’s a groove and a gas and has helped them successfully navigate their world and given them the belief they are somehow relevant to whatever it is that’s going on. Good. That’s fair. That’s really nice to hear. Still, let me hazard a guess that maybe for some—maybe just a disgruntled few—social media ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s very disappointing. And if all those reports that are always wheeled out every time some old school media outlet wants to score a point are true then social media platforms like Facebook, like Twitter, like whatever, haven’t made people happier, sunnier, calmer, more fun-loving peeps but more frustrated and lonely.

Now before y’all jump in and say but…but…but… etc. If one can see faults in Heaven then it ain’t perfect and maybe we can do something about it to make it better—but can that ever happen if we haven’t the means, the tools, to correct what is wrong?

But that’s just my two cents, you can keep the change.

Digital artist Mike Campau has also been wondering about our social media world and its effects. Campau is a highly respected and very successful digital artist who’s worked with a list of names more impressive than an award ceremony guest list. One of his recent projects is ANTISOCIAL which uses photography and CGI to ask questions about our social media world as he sez in his pitch:

Social Media is starting to get some pullback, and rightfully so. Each platform has its own problems, but all have had a large impact on society as a whole, both good and bad.  Each image takes place in an empty parking lot which is a symbol of our singularly isolated posts but placed in a location where it can be easily seen by many.

See more of ANTISOCIAL and Campau’s work here.
 
More lonely planet, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.20.2018
11:05 am
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Send in the Clones: Photographs of extreme Cure, Motörhead, Bjork, Sex Pistols, & Dolly Parton fans
02.05.2018
07:35 am
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Cure fans.
 
The first time I saw someone dressed-up to like one of their cultural idols it was a young lad, no more than fifteen, wearing white denim, white shirt, red braces, a bowler hat, with a natty black umbrella parading with a swagger and a menace outside the ABC Cinema, Lothian Road, in Edinburgh, where they were screening A Clockwork Orange. He was obviously a fan of Alex, or maybe one of his droogs. Within a few months of this, and on the same stretch of road, came a gaggle of female Bay City Rollers fans stomping in their six-inch platforms decked out in white half-mast bags with tartan trim and white short-sleeved shirts with similar plaid detail, holding scarves above their heads while singing “Shang-A-Lang.” It was almost religious. Young girls out evangelizing the heathens about their mighty gods.

Then came the long-haired trench-coated prog rockers, the punks, and button-downed mods and new wave rockers. If you stood long enough on any high street you would see the fashions come-and-go just like Rod Taylor did in The Time Machine when he watched the window display of a shop opposite his laboratory change year-by-year as he hurtled into the distant future. According to ye old fictional textbook Pop Psychology for Beginners, dressing-up like your pop idols is about expressing your individuality and a way for youngsters to find like-minded people to share their interests and experiences or a favorite band/singer/pop group/artist/dictator.

Between 2004 and 2011, photographer James Mollison documented many of the different pop music subcultures and their fans. He traveled across Europe and the U.S.A. with a mobile photographic studio which he parked outside various music venues and then invited an assortment of fans to come and have their picture taken. When he had enough, he put all these different portraits into one composite picture. He called the finished series of photographs The Disciples. These pictures capture fascinating moments of pop culture history and something of how our search for individuality inevitably leads to conformity. See more of James Molison’s work here.
 
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Fans of Bjork.
 
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Motörhead fans.
 
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Missy Elliot fans.
 
More fab pix of the usual fan suspects, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.05.2018
07:35 am
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Cosmic Flesh: The sensual neon photography of Local Preacher (NSFW-ish)
01.29.2018
01:11 pm
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Slava Semeniuta is a Russian artist and photographer based in Sochi who works under the name Local Preacher. He says he has a “love [for] everything that looks cosmic,” in particular the bright garish neon colors because “neon colors are colors that are rarely found in nature.” 

Semeniuta uses these neon colors in his pictures, for example, his series of street puddles Wet Neon where he photographed and digitally altered the mirror surface of water to reflect vibrant neon colors or his series The Velvet Mountain in which Semeniuta used a “minimalist” palette of neon colors, mainly reds and blues, to create vibrant, textured images of a mountain peak.

Some of his work will bring comparisons with other neon photographers like Greg Girard’s neon streets—in particular his image of a waterlogged gutter reflecting all the colors of the night, or the erotic neon photography of Robert Babylon.

With his figurative work, Semeniuta focuses on the human body and its relationship to sensation. A bellybutton looks like a whirlpool in a gently undulating sea. A body is mapped by its circuitry of pleasure. He explores its sculptural form in highly stylized, supersaturated, and sensual images using bodypaint and digital techniques. See more of Local Preacher’s work here.
 
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See more of Local Preacher’s neon bible, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.29.2018
01:11 pm
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Shed your skin: The provocative and very NSFW photography of Nicole Tran Ba Vang
01.04.2018
11:55 am
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A photo by Paris-based artist Nicole Tran Ba Vang.
 
Artist Nicole Tran Ba Vang‘s specialty revolves around her clever manipulation of photographic imagery. In a thematic series of photographs, Ba Vang’s subjects appear to be removing an outer layer of their skin to reveal another one underneath. And the results are as beautiful as they are reflective and unsettling.

For Ba Vang, the artistic exercise was a way for her to walk a line between what is real and the imaginary. It also proposes that our skin is now as interchangeable as the clothes we cover ourselves with every day—touching on societies collective quest for physical perfection, whether it be for ourselves or projected onto another who perhaps does not meet the unattainable standards that have become the new normal. For now, I’m going to let Ba Vang’s perplexing, thought-provoking photographs speak for themselves.

Very NSFW.
 

A French advertisement for Remington featuring a photo by Ba Vang.
 

 

 
More of her work, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.04.2018
11:55 am
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‘Bureaucratics’: An international gallery of functionaries
12.06.2017
10:36 am
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Laurence Maillard, town clerk, Ambrief, France. Monthly salary: $657 (part-time work).
 
If you seek out the great quotations on the subject of bureaucracy, you will find that few people have anything positive to say on the subject. Mary McCarthy calls it “the modern form of despotism,” while Edna O’Brien, writing in the New York Times Book Review, asserts that “the fate of the universe will come to depend more and more on individuals as the bungling of bureaucracy permeates every corner of our existence.” A contrary note is struck by James H. Boren, author of the marvelously titled 1972 book When in Doubt, Mumble: A Bureaucrat’s Handbook, who notes that “bureaucracy is the epoxy that greases the wheels of progress.” Surprisingly, Ambrose Bierce’s legendary Devil’s Dictionary has nothing to say on the subject.

Some years ago a Dutch photographer named Jan Banning undertook an ambitious project to shoot a large number of bureaucrats all over the world in their natural setting—their own offices. He selected eight countries to work in, namely China, France, India, Bolivia, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen, and very importantly, he gave no advance notice that he would be paying a visit, so none of the offices had been tidied up to impress any foreign onlookers. Banning had a writer accompanying him on the project, who was tasked with conversing with the bureaucrat so that he or she would not be able to make the place look spiffy. Banning was intent on showing “what a local citizen would be confronted with when entering.”

Of his project, Banning says that he came to his subjects with “an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye.” Furthermore,
 

The photography has a conceptual, typological approach reminding of August Sander’s ‘Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts’ (‘People of the Twentieth Century’). Each subject is posed behind his or her desk. The photos all have a square format (fitting the subject), are shot from the same height (that of the client), with the desk – its front or side photographed parallel to the horizontal edges of the frame – serving as a bulwark protecting the representative of rule and regulation against the individual citizen, the warm-blooded exception. They are full of telling details that sometimes reveal the way the state proclaims its power or the bureaucrat’s rank and function, sometimes of a more private character and are accompanied by information such as name, age, function and salary. Though there is a high degree of humour and absurdity in these photos, they also show compassion with the inhabitants of the state’s paper labyrinth.

 
Banning is surely expressing his opinion of these people in these wonderful photographs—all in all, I find that the faces of these (mostly) humble men and women undercut the negative judgment that bureaucracy invariably gets. Bureaucracy is a means to let the state assist the people, for the most part, and it is also incidentally a primary means of funding the populace. Without these specific jobs, many of these people would have no hope of earning even the paltry sums some of them are obliged to receive.

In 2011 Banning published a book of his bureaucratic portraits under the title Bureaucratics. The print run was apparently not generous enough, as the volume is sold out through regular channels. Used copies will run you $200 and up.
 

Josué Galarza Mendez, police officer, Betanzos, Bolivia. Monthly salary: $122.
 

Roger Vacher, narcotics agent, Clermont-Ferrand, France. Monthly salary: $2,893.
 
Many more kindly drudges after the jump….....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.06.2017
10:36 am
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Alfred Stieglitz’s artfully intimate portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe (NSFW)
11.20.2017
09:22 am
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Georgia O’Keeffe was going to give up painting ‘cause she couldn’t stand the smell of turpentine. She started teaching instead and doing commercial art and making charcoal drawings that she occasionally showed to friends. In January 1916, one friend passed a bunch of these drawings on to photographer Alfred Stieglitz who thought they were the best things he’d seen. Stieglitz included O’Keeffe’s work in an exhibition at his 291 Gallery in New York. O’Keeffe knew nothing about it until the show was opened and the reviews were in. The reviews were great. O’Keeffe turned up at the gallery to tell Stieglitz off. It was the start of a relationship that lasted thirty years until Stieglitz’s death in 1946.

Stieglitz was a pioneer of photography. He has been described as “perhaps the most important figure in the history of visual arts in America,” which is one helluva reputation. He described taking photographs as a method of seeing straight. It was a way to create “a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” His body of work includes some 2,500 mounted photographs. These, of course, are only the photographs he wanted to be seen. His photographs tended to be artfully constructed and the product of multiple takes. He was a control freak. He was also a hypochondriac.

Old Stieglitz was a 52-year-old married man with a family when he first met young 29-year-old O’Keeffe. She was smitten by another, which made Stieglitz more determined to win her over. He organized an apartment for O’Keeffe to live and work in and paid the rent. He started taking photographs of the young artist. He took pictures of O’Keeffe at work, outside her studio, in close-up, her hands at play, throughout her strong natural iconic beauty. By the 1920s, O’Keeffe was the most recognizable female artist in America. Stieglitz also shot a series of seemingly “intimate” photographs of a naked O’Keeffe which he exhibited in 1921.

These photographs were considered shocking and deeply intimate but they were actually carefully staged and the result of dozens of shots. O’Keeffe said she posed for hours to get the image Stieglitz wanted. These pictures suggested the pair were having an affair. O’Keeffe was apparently mortified that anyone should ever think she was the photographer’s mistress.

Eventually, Stieglitz’s wife caught the pair together. A divorce followed. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz married. Soon, O’Keeffe found Stieglitz’s demands for her time and energy left little for own life and career. She quit New York. Moved to New Mexico and set up her own studio. O’Keeffe spent around six months a year doing her thing. Other lovers came and went. Paintings and photographs were produced, but still, the pair remained married, and O’Keeffe was always ready to be photographed by her husband.
 
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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.20.2017
09:22 am
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Ghosts, monstrous faces & strange creatures: The eerie beauty of bad vintage photographs
11.15.2017
08:30 am
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I spent my teens living in Edinburgh. At weekends, I avoided people, spent my time wandering around the city taking photographs of the expected fare: historic buildings, monuments, and the always busy streets. I guess I was trying to fix, as much in my head as in black & white and color, how I fitted into all of this—other than by a mere accident of birth.

When a roll was finished, I waited the obligatory three days to a week for the magic to be done and a slim paper wallet filled with photographs to be returned. The finished pictures offered something I thought I could call my own. But a lot of the time, I wondered why the hell I’d bothered. The pictures were all too often backdrops—little more than mere representations of what already existed. That’s possibly why I always liked the pictures that came back with a quality control label attached. The ones that stated the image was blurred, or out of focus, or the subject was too close to the camera or camera shake. These poorly-taken pictures were far more appealing to me as they were a starting point for imagination rather than biography.

“Bad” photographs are sometimes like the best illustrations to weird tales of horror and nightmare. The woman who happily sat in her garden waiting for her picture to be taken oblivious of the small approaching beast, its flash of teeth and claws, ready to pounce and eat. Or, the family of monstrous shapeshifters captured unraveling in front of an unsuspecting tourist. Or, the demon held proudly aloft in its mother’s arms burning with the flames of Hell. Or, that strange Lovecraftian light moving purposefully across the creased waters of a lake.
 
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More weirdly wonderful photographs, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.15.2017
08:30 am
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Berenice Abbott, the woman who shot ‘the greatest collection of photographs of New York City’
11.13.2017
01:17 pm
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‘Columbus Circle, Manhattan.’
 
Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio, the “Home City” then best known for its Masonic Lodges and farming equipment, in July 1898. Her parents split when Berenice was young, leaving her mother Lilly to raise her daughter on her own.

Abbott grew up wanting to be an artist. She figured she’d be a sculptor and signed-on for classes at Ohio State but dropped out after two semesters in 1918. Ohio was dullsville compared to the exciting lights and freedoms of Paris with its freedoms and long list of bohemian artists, writers, and dancers who’d made the city their home. Abbott skipped town. Moved to Europe. Spent a couple of years studying art and sculpture in Paris and Berlin.

She arrived in Paris at the right time. With the end of the First World War, a whole new generation of tyro artists and writers moved in to stake their claim on immortality. The cobbled boulevards were bordered with scrums of “creative types” expounding their revolutionary thoughts and ideas between gasps of Gitanes and vin rouge.

Abbott hooked up with a band of men and women who were in the process of making history. One introduction led to another and led to another and so on. She hung out with Djuna Barnes—who herself had arrived in Paris with an introductory letter to James Joyce. It was Barnes who told Abbott to change her birth name Bernice to the more exotic Berenice. Abbott met Man Ray, Sylvia Beach (the American owner of the famed bookshop Shakespeare and Co.), Jean Cocteau, and photographer Eugène Atget, among many others.

Abbott began her career as Man Ray’s photographic assistance in 1923. She took to photography like “a duck to water,” she later said, and never looked back. Man Ray was impressed by her flair and skill in the darkroom. Abbott was taking portraits and soon had a series of small exhibitions of her own work. But after looking at flâneur photographer Atget’s work, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to her.

Atget was a highly eccentric individual with weird notions about food and cleanliness. He lived off a diet of milk, bread, and sugar most of his life. Abbott essentially “discovered” Atget and realized he was a brilliant photographer. After his death, she snapped up as much of his work as she could, fearing it would be lost to the public forever. Atget took photographs that triggered memory. He wandered the streets of Paris with his camera and tripod and snapped those seemingly odd, inconsequential moments that when captured resonated with a potent tension and hidden drama.

When Abbott traveled to New York in 1929, she instantly saw the potential of photographing the city as Atget had captured Paris—but through her own personality and obsessions. She started documenting New York as it changed from an old 19th-century city to the high-rise, skyscraper city of the future. The buildings changing from statements of individual wealth and success to the collective growth and worth of the thousands of people who lived and worked together in the city.

Abbott called her project Changing New York. She supported herself during for six years while she walked the streets of Manhattan carrying her Century Universal camera taking pictures of the “fantastic” contrasts between the old buildings falling into ruin and the modern blocks rising like a New Jerusalem. Abbott’s photographs of New York during the 1930s was described by pioneering documentarian and filmmaker Ralph Steiner as “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.” Her photographs redefined the city and influenced generations of photographers and filmmakers on how they represented New York.

Berenice Abbott was one of the handful of brilliant photographs whose work not only captured life in the twentieth century but changed our aesthetic appreciation of it.
 
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‘Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, looking south-west, Brooklyn.’
 
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‘Manhattan Bridge.’
 
See more of Berenice Abbott’s New York, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.13.2017
01:17 pm
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Meet the woman who photographed Frida Kahlo, the Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, fashion & war

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Fashion of a woman, wearing a long gown, floating in water, Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, 1947.
 
Toni Frissell (1907-88) was one of the greatest photographers of the 20th-century. During her lifetime, Frissell produced a staggering amount of diverse work including fashion photography, photojournalism, and portraiture.

In 1971, she donated her entire photographic collection of some 340,000 items to the Library of Congress. This included “270,000 black-and-white negatives, 42,000 color transparencies, and 25,000 enlargement prints, as well as many proof sheets.” Some of her work has yet to be processed for public use.

Frissell came from a well-established and fairly affluent family. Her grandfather was the founder and head of the Fifth Avenue Bank in New York. Having the stability of a wealthy family allowed Frissell to pick and choose what she wanted to do. She originally trained as an actress then worked in advertising before taking up her career as a photographer. Her brother Varick, a documentarian and filmmaker, taught Frissell the basics in photography. After Varick was killed in a freak explosion (along with 26 others) during the making of his feature film The Viking in 1931, Frissell started her career as a photographer in earnest. She apprenticed herself to Cecil Beaton (whose influence can be seen in her early photos) and began working as a fashion photographer for Vogue.

It was more than obvious from the outset Frissell was a natural photographic talent. Her fashion work pioneered the use of outside locations, often photographing models in a highly cinematic style against famous monuments or exotic locations. She claimed she preferred working outside as she didn’t “know how to photograph in a studio.” Whether this was her being disingenuous or not, Frissell did shoot the majority of her work outdoors using natural light.

When America entered the Second World War in 1941, Frissell volunteered her services as a photographer to the American Red Cross. She worked with the US Airforce then became the official photographer for the Women’s Army Corps. After the war, Frissell still continued with her fashion work but mainly concentrated on photojournalism and portraiture—capturing some of the most famous names of the day from politicians like Winston Churchill and the Kennedys, to artists like Frida Kahlo, and Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison.

Unlike many other photographers who find one style and keep reproducing it time and again, Frissell developed, changed, and pioneered many different styles throughout her career. Her work is now rightly regarded as among the most influential and iconic imagery of the 20th-century.
 
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Fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives poses with an English bobby in background on a railway station for Harper’s Bazaar in 1951.
 
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Fashion shoot, Washington DC, 1949.
 
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Back view of fashion models in swim suits for Harper’s Bazaar, 1950.
 
More iconic photographs, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.24.2017
09:06 am
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At home with Salvador Dali
10.18.2017
10:56 am
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Salvador Dali once appeared as the mystery guest on a long-time-ago TV show called What’s My Line? in the 1950s. You know the show, the one that featured a panel of well-known celebrities guessing the occupations of various members of the public by asking them a series of yes/no questions like “Do you work with your hands?” or “Do you tell jokes for a living?” and so on, until the occupation was revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Snip~

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

~Snip~

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.17.2017
09:40 am
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