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Posts Tagged ‘photography

“Photography always acknowledged there were cameras before photography”*…

 

Bernardo Bellotto’s “The Demolition of the Ruins of the Kreuzkirche,” 1765

In an era when photographs are the de facto language of record keeping, memories of modern history before the camera can sometimes feel a tad distant. But people and places did exist before 1839. And in 18th century Europe, the need to produce visual accounts of events large and small was becoming increasingly important. Social and technological developments in the early modern era were buttressing a new sense of global connectivity heralded by the rise of mercantilism and early colonial contact with the New World. It was a period defined by travel and trade, and the lords of Europe must have seen their situation as pivotal enough to commemorate with oil on canvas. The urge to self document is a modern one. A contemporary recognition of history as something worth immortalizing on one’s own terms. In keeping with the technological progress of the time, less than a century later a new medium would be invented to supersede painting’s documentary role.

“Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth Century Europe,” now on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, gathers a series of such canvases by Italian-trained artists of the early modern era—painterly predecessors of breaking news photography. As a response to the increasing awareness of time as a commodity—an ephemeral something worth remembering—painters were commissioned to record the day’s most important spectacles and events. From political rallies and papal visits to public festivals and natural disasters, the images offer an expansive view of life at a time when the boundaries of time and space were opening up enormously—a sentiment reflected in their size and scope. Documentary paintings were one way for those in power to formalize the narrative, “making history” on their own terms and based on their own hierarchy of importance.

More at: “These 18th century painters made eyewitness news images at the dawn of globalization“; see the exhibition at the Getty through July 30.

* David Hockney

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As we believe our eyes, we might send sharply-focused birthday greetings to Jennie Boddington; she was born on this date in 1922.  After a successful career as a filmmaker, she became the first full-time curator of photography for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.  She was the first such curator in Australia, and perhaps only the third in the world.

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Written by LW

June 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Observation is a dying art”*…

 

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Jason Shulman captures the entire duration of a movie in a single image with his series Photographs of Films.

There are roughly 130,000 frames in a 90-minute film and every frame of each film is recorded in these photographs.

More examples, and the backstory, at “Final cut: films condensed into a single frame – in pictures” and here. See Shulman’s other work here.

* Stanley Kubrick

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As we enjoy our popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 2002 that the Cannes Film Festival employed a specially-empaneled jury to judge films from 1939, the planned first year of the festival (which was postponed due to World War II).  The retrospective Palme d’Or went to Union Pacific.

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Written by LW

May 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Drive-ins were actually playing a difficult game from the start; the economics of the business were counterintuitively awful”*…

 

Photographer Lindsey Rickert was just seven or eight years old when she went to her first drive-in movie. Looking back now, what she remembers most is magic of the experience itself, “laughing and playing with my friends under the big screen as the cloak of darkness surrounded us and the screen above illuminated our playground.”

Those experiences came flooding back after she chanced upon the 99W Drive-In in Newberg, Oregon, a few years ago. First opened in 1953, the 99W still shows two features a night during the warmer months, and often sells out on weekends. But it has been more fortunate than almost all of America’s other drive-ins. In June 2016, the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association estimated there were just 324 drive-ins still in operation—down from more than 4,000 in the late 1950s.

Rickert’s chance encounter with the 99W sparked the idea to photograph drive-in theaters across the country. She spent a year planning the trip and raising money on Kickstarter before she hit the road: 12,022 miles across 32 states in 65 days. She hit 28 theaters in total—both abandoned and still in operation—and had encounters with former employees, braved bad weather, and learned why it’s important to wear boots in the tall grass. We spoke to Rickert about her ambitious project and resulting book, Drive-In America

More of the back-story, and more photos, at: “A Photographer’s Quest to Find the Last of the Drive-In Theaters.”

* Kerry Segrave, Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933

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As we roll down the window to mount the speaker, we might send cinematic birthday greetings to Roberto Gastone Zeffiro Rossellini; he was born on this date in 1906.  Perhaps most widely known in the U.S. for his then-scandalous relationship with Ingrid Bergman in the 50s, Rossellini was was one of the leading directors of the Italian neorealist cinema.  His 1945 film Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City) and the other two entries in his Neorealist Trilogy (Paisà [1946] and Germany, Year Zero [1948]) are widely considered classics.

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Written by LW

May 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself”*…

 

As the Getty Museum reports

Andy Warhol enjoyed dressing for parties in drag, sometimes in dresses of his own design. He admired “the boys who spend their lives trying to be complete girls,” so in 1981 he and a photographic assistant, Christopher Makos, agreed to collaborate on a session portraying Warhol in drag. In many ways, they modeled the series on Man Ray’s 1920s work with the French artist Marcel Duchamp, in which the two artists created a female alter ego name Rrose Sélavy for Duchamp.

Warhol and Makos made a number of pictures, both black-and-white prints and color Polaroids, of their first attempt. For the second round of pictures, they hired a theater makeup person. This stage professional better understood the challenge of transforming a man’s face into that of a woman. After the makeup, Warhol tried on curled, straight, long, short, dark, and blonde wigs…

More on Warhols collection of polaroid self-portraits– and more selections from it– at “Oh, You Pretty Thing! Polaroid Portraits of Andy Warhol in Drag.”

* Andy Warhol

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As we add “Jean Genie” to our playlists, we might note the irony that today is the birthday of both Soren Kierkegaard (1813), the Danish philosopher who was a fierce critic of Hegelianism, and of Karl Marx (1818), the Prussian philosopher (and “father of Communism”), who was one of Hegel’s strongest– and most concretely active– supporters. Thesis… anithesis…

Kierkegaard and Marx

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Written by LW

May 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Life is not a theme park, and if it is, the theme is death”*…

 

French photographer Romain Veillon documented the after-life of Dreamland, a theme park built in Nara Prefecture in 1961, that was expected to become Japan’s answer to Disneyland.  But its fate was sealed when both Disney and Universal Studios opened up their own parks in nearby Osaka and Tokyo.  Closed in 2006, it lay dormant until it was razed in 2016– just after Veillon’s photos were taken.

Visit the ruins at “Deserted Japanese theme park photographed just before demolition.”

* Russell Brand

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As we contemplate an E Ticket, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway signed a five-year contract with Disney, agreeing to pay $50,000 per year in exchange for Disney’s use  of the name “Santa Fe” and company logo on all Disneyland trains, stations, literature, etc.

Walt Disney (left), with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight (center) and Santa Fe Railway President Fred Gurley (right) on Opening Day at Disneyland

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Written by LW

March 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions”*…

 

The C.B.P. considers rosaries to be potentially lethal, non-essential personal property, and agents dispose of them during intake.

Tom Kiefer was a Customs and Border Protection janitor for almost four years before he took a good look inside the trash. Every day at work—at the C.B.P. processing center in Ajo, Arizona, less than fifty miles from the border with Mexico—he would throw away bags full of items confiscated from undocumented migrants apprehended in the desert. One day in 2007, he was rummaging through these bags looking for packaged food, which he’d received permission to donate to a local pantry. In the process, he also noticed toothbrushes, rosaries, pocket Bibles, water bottles, keys, shoelaces, razors, mix CDs, condoms, contraceptive pills, sunglasses, keys: a vibrant, startling testament to the lives of those who had been detained or deported. Without telling anyone, Kiefer began collecting the items, stashing them in sorted piles in the garages of friends. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he told me recently. “But I knew there was something to be done.”

Kiefer, who is now fifty-eight, had moved to Ajo from Los Angeles, in 2001, hoping to simplify his life, purchase a home, and focus on his passion: taking pictures. (Previously, he’d been a collector and dealer of antique cast-iron bed frames, and, before that, a graphic designer.) He took the C.B.P. job, in 2003, for purely practical reasons: it paid ten dollars and forty-two cents an hour, and it seemed unlikely to steal mental space away from his photography projects. Now he began photographing his C.B.P. collection in his studio, arranging and rearranging items, sometimes putting a single stuffed animal or T-shirt in the frame, more often capturing like with like: dozens of roll-on deodorant sticks, hundreds of nail clippers. Today, he has taken hundreds of photographs of objects he brought home from the processing center. Together they make up “El Sueño Americano” (“The American Dream”), an ongoing project that, thanks to its unconventional perspective on U.S. migrant policies, has launched Kiefer into a photography career he’s dreamed of for decades…

The extraordinary story in full at: “A janitor preserves the seized belongings of migrants.”

* George Washington

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As we put out the mat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority (WRA), a United States government agency established to handle the internment, i.e. forced relocation and detention, of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  The WRA operated 10 camps, mostly on tribal land, that ultimately “housed” 110-120,000 people.

The program was initially headed by Milton Eisenhower, younger brother of Dwight and a New Deal stalwart who had opposed relocation.  Eisenhower did his best to limit the program and to protect the property and rights of those interned.  But his efforts were largely thwarted.  He was replaced after only 6 months on the job by Dillon S. Myer, who ran the WRA until its dissolution at the end of the war.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 (equivalent to $41,000 in 2016) to each camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”  The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion (equivalent to $3,240,000,000 in 2016) in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned and to their heirs.

See: “A ten-year old Japanese-American girl in an internment camp.”

Dust storm at the Manzanar War Relocation Center

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“I have a sweater obsession, I guess”*…

 

More at: “This guy makes sweaters of places and then takes pictures of himself wearing the sweaters at those places.”

* Drake

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As we perl one, knit two, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Francis Picabia; he was born (Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia) on this date in 1879.  A French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist, Picabia experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism before becoming a Cubist. He then became one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France, and was later briefly associated with Surrealism.

See his work at the major retrospective now hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and on their web site.

Francis Picabia, 1919, inside Danse de Saint-Guy

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Written by LW

January 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

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