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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 was a lonely teenager who spent too much time wandering around the streets of Edinburgh taking photographs with my old Hanimex Halina camera of the historic buildings, monuments, and busy streets thronged with people busy with some unknown purpose. I was trying to fix in black & white and color how exactly I fitted in to all of this—other than by accident of birth.

When I handed in the roll of film to get developed, I would wait three days to a week for the magic to be done and a slim paper wallet filled photographs returned to me. I wanted the finished results to be a starting point for stories which I could claim as my own. A lot of the time, I wondered why I’d bothered in the first place as the pictures were little more than plain representations of what already existed—the theatrical backdrops against which we all perform. That’s possibly why I often preferred the pictures that came back with a quality control label attached that stated the image was blurred, out of focus, subject to close to camera, camera shake, or were diagnosed with red/yellow overall cast to print, or film exposed under tungsten light or early morning/late afternoon sunlight, or the warning: fluorescent lights give prints a yellow/green cast. These were far more appealing as they offered a starting point to stories that were more to do with imagination than biography.

“Bad” photographs, that is pictures poorly framed, blurred by movement, or over exposed by light, 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 devour. Or, the family of monstrous shapeshifters captured unraveling in front of the camera. Or the demon held proudly aloft in its mother’s arms burning with the flames of Hell. Or, the strange Lovecraftian light moving purposefully across the creased waters of a lake. Perhaps the following selection of bad vintage photographs will inspire your imagination too?
 
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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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They Were There: Composite photos of Queen, Jagger, Beatles and Floyd on London streets then and now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The answer is: probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.24.2017
12:56 pm
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