Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Art Vandals 4: A kiss is not just a kiss

Weapon: Spray paint, red

Reason: Political, gender politics

George Mendonsa iconic photo by Alfred Eisenstadt sailor kissing WW2

V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstadt (14th August 1945)

This iconic image marking the end of the Second World War for the USA looks different in the cool light of 2019. From a celebratory V-J Day image adorning a full page of Life magazine it takes on a more problematic dimension in that it is unclear what the kissee feels about the moment.

The sailor caught in the kissing a stranger act in Times Square, New York died on Sunday, aged 95, in Rhode Island. George Mendonsa was 21 when he grabbed the kiss. He was home on leave from the Pacific theatre.

George Mendonsa

George Mendonsa

He was kissing 21-year-old Austrian-born American dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman. She died on 8th September 2016 at the age of 92. The photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt withheld the names of the kissers. Greta Friedman said (unlikely though it seems) she had not been aware of the photo until the 1960s.

Greta Zimmer Friedman - Austrian-born American grabbed kissed

Greta Zimmer Friedman

Interviewed for the Veterans History Project in 2005, Greta Friedman confirmed it wasn’t her choice to be kissed and that the sailor “grabbed” her, but also that the kiss was a “jubilant act” and “just an event of ‘Thank God the war is over’. ”

Eisenstadt said he watched the sailor running along the street, grabbing any girl in sight.

“I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture.”

Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt

A sculpture based on the photo is to be seen in Sarasota, Florida, entitled Unconditional Surrender. The original version was made by J. Seward Johnson II in 2005 – he went on to create a series of them in different locations across the USA and beyond. In 2019 that punning title doesn’t play so well.

Sarasota, Florida Unconditional Surrender by J. Seward Johnson II 2005

Unconditional Surrender by J. Seward Johnson II

On Monday, the day after George Mendonsa’s death, the statue was vandalised with the hashtag #MeToo painted in red on the dental assistant’s bright white leg.

unconditional surrender sculpture statue vandalism metoo

By Tuesday the civic authorities had it back looking ship-shape and Bristol fashion. The cost of the damage was estimated at $1,000 (£765).

unconditional surrender sculpture statue tweet vandalism

Good as new (how good it was new is debatable)

It’s not the first time Unconditional Surrender has succumbed to unwanted assault. It was accidentally hit by a car on 27th April 2012 and removed for repairs.

There have been issues around the possible copyright infringement by the sculpture of the photo. But Seward Johnson claims his source was another simultaneous photograph by a different photographer:

Kissing_the_War_Goodbye photograph by Victor Jorgensen

Kissing the War Goodbye by Victor Jorgensen – same moment as in Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square

Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa in photo taken by a Life Magazine photographer, at Times Square, New York

Greta & George back at Times Square years later

Times Square Unconditional Surrender sculpture at the site of the historic LIFE Magazine cover photograph by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt August 14, 2010 in New York. The sculpture is commemorating the 65th anniversary of V-J Day, DON EMMERT

Unconditional Surrender at the site of Eisenstaedt’s photo in Times Square – 14th August 2010 [Photo: Don Emmert]

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Postcard No. 3

old german religious postcard traut bruckmann munich 1922 johannes st john passionspiele ober ammergauold german religious postcard traut bruckmann munich 1922 johannes st john passionspiele ober ammergau

 

old german religious postcard traut bruckmann munich 1922 johannes st john passionspiele ober ammergauold german religious postcard traut bruckmann munich 1922 johannes st john passionspiele ober ammergau

The third from my random collection of old postcards.

I think I took this as Jesus when I bought it (for 30p) because I’m fond of a good Jesus. My favourite is Jeffrey Hunter in King of Kings (also Captain Pike, original commander of the USS Enterprise in the first ever Star Trek).

Jeffrey Hunter in 'King of Kings' (1961) Directed by Nicholas Ray

Jeffrey Hunter in ‘King of Kings’ (1961) Directed by Nicholas Ray

But this turned out to be Johannes or John, presumably John the Baptist. He has a big crook so is clearly also a shepherd of men. I presume he too is an actor as the card is marked (in German) as an ‘Official Postcard’ of the Passionspiele (passion plays) at O. -Ammergau, Oberammergau, a village in Bavaria where a passion play has been performed since 1634. So not mediaeval like Brit passion plays, such as the York Mystery Cycle which dates from the mid-fourteenth century, but a good effort nonetheless. The Oberammergau plays are performed on open-air stages.

This one is dated 1922 and seems to be No. 74 in a series – that’s a lot of characters.

The printer was F. Bruckmann of Munich – Friedrich Bruckmann (died 1898). His older son Alphons and younger son, Hugo (13th October 1863, Munich – 3rd September 1941, Munich) took over F. Bruckmann KAG on his death. Hugo and his wife Elsa were among the early promoters of Hitler, helping him gain access to upper-class circles in the city.

From 1928 the Bruckmanns backed the National Socialist Society for German Culture. And from 1930 Hugo was a board member of the ‘Kampfbund’ (Pressure Group) for German culture, founded by Alfred Rosenberg. He was an NSDAP (Nazi party) member of the Reichstag (German parliament) from 1932 until his death in 1941. In 1933 he became a member of the board for German museums. It is suggested his personal influence on the Fuhrer helped reduce political interference in the cultural sphere. An attempt to ban Jewish books from libraries was successfully opposed by Bruckmann. Because Hugo knew the big man after the outbreak of war his publishing house was declared of special importance for the war effort. He was honoured with a state funeral in 1941.

Also mentioned on the back is ‘the Munich graphic business’ Pick & Co. They seem to have been in book publishing too. Alongside is a reference to “Kupfertiefdruck” which seems to translate as “Rotogravure” (literally Copper Gravure – Gravure is “a printing method in which an image is applied to a printing substrate by use of a metal plate mounted on a cylinder” so the cylinder explains the “‘roto” bit). Whether this is a rotogravure… Jesus (No. 1) knows.

On the front is written “Traut photo.”. Traut seems to be H. Traut of Munich. Here’s one of his from 1906:

three-girls-ladder-postcard H. Traut of Munich

Photographer: H. Traut of Munich (1906)

Atelier Henry Traut was in business from 1857 to 1940. It was based at Herzog-Wilhelm-Straße 32, Munich.

Here’s one of his ‘glamour’ photos:

henry traut photographer photograph glamour

And here’s the gen on him from the reverse of a postcard:

henry traut photographer munchen munich germany

So his speciality was taking portraits in private houses in daylight and artfully lit. There are whole books about him.

I found one other of his 1922 photos online:

ansichtskarte postkarte offizielle postkarte passionsspiele oberammergau 1922 traut postcard photo photograph

I”m not sure which number or character this is.

Other similar images from later years:

ansichtskarte oberammergau, passionsspiele 1930, johannes darsteller- hans lang postcard saint john

Another John from 8 years later (1930) actor Hans Lang

ansichtskarte oberammergau, passionsspiele 1930, jesus und maria mary postcard

Also from 1930, Jesus & Mary

ansichtskarte-oberammergau-passionsspiele-christi-abschied-von-maria-1900

An early one from 1900 – Mary’s farewell to Jesus

ak-oberammergau-passionsspiele-1950-judaskuss-szenenfoto-mit-anton-preisinger-u-hans-schwaighofer judas kiss postcard

A later one (1950) Judas’ kiss featuring actors Anton Preisinger (Jesus) & Hans Schwaighofer (Judas)

ak-ansichtskarte-passionsspiele-oberammergau-christus-anton-preisinger-autogramm-kat-events prob 1950 postcard jesus christ

At last No.1 Anton Preisinger as Jesus, complete with autograph (probably 1950)

ak-ansichtskarte-passionsspiele-oberammergau-christus-preisinger-anton-kat-events prob 1950 postcard jesus christ

Anton Preisinger as Jesus (probably 1950)

I like my one best.

Lost Postcards No.2

old postcard berlin henry ainley

The second recently re-found old postcard from my small, random collection

old postcard berlin henry ainley

This one cost me a massive 20p (pencilled on the back). I think I bought it because it reminded me of Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde.

Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) by Frederick H. Evans (c.1894)

Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) by Frederick H. Evans (c.1894)

The postcard was “Manufactured in Berlin”. Oddly it specifies “For Inland use only” – as it’s written in English I assume it means in Britain not Germany.

The sitter is quite androgynous as you can see.

Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (1870–1945) is best known as Oscar Wilde’s lover, and is often blamed for his downfall.

Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (1870–1945) is best known as Oscar Wilde’s lover, and is often blamed for his downfall.

The name ‘Henry Ainley’ is printed at the bottom.

It turns out Henry Hinchliffe Ainley died the same year as Bosie. His dates are 21st August 1879 – 31st October 1945. He was an English actor of stage and screen, specialising in Shakespeare.

He was born in Leeds and brought up in Morley by father Richard, a cloth finisher, and mother Ada. He moved to London to pursue his career in acting. He made his professional stage debut as a messenger in Macbeth with F.R. Benson’s company.  Later he joined Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s company. He first came to prominence in 1902 as Paolo in Paolo and Francesca.

He played Gloucester in Henry V at the Lyceum in London. Ainley returned to Leeds to appear at the Grand Theatre. Later roles included Oliver Cromwell, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and the lead in Macbeth. In 1912 he portrayed Malvolio and then Leontes under the direction of Harley Granville-Barker. He played Hamlet several times, including a 1930 production which was selected for a Royal Command Performance.

John Gielgud thought highly of Ainley and had a long-standing ambition to perform with him which he eventually fulfilled when he played Iago to Ainley’s Othello in a 1932 BBC Radio broadcast. Gielgud however described Ainley’s Prospero as “disastrous”, recalling it in 1996 (in The Sunday Times).

Ainley played Shakespeare on screen in Henry VIII (1911) and As You Like It (1936), the latter alongside his son Richard and Laurence Olivier.

Among the other roles Ainley played were: Robert Waring in The Shulamite (The Savoy Theatre, London, 1906.); Joseph Quinney in Quinneys (on stage in 1915 and on film in 1919); in A. A. Milne’s The Dover Road opposite Athene Seyler (1922); the Bishop of Chelsea in Bernard Shaw’s Getting Married (The Haymarket Theatre);  James Fraser in St. John Ervine’s The First Mrs. Fraser (1929 on stage, 1932 on film); and he starred in James Elroy Flecker’s Hassan (on stage and on radio). He was an early example of stage-screen crossover.

His films include:
She Stoops to Conquer (1914)
Sweet Lavender (1915)
Sowing the Wind (1916)
The Marriage of William Ashe (1916)
The Manxman (1917) – not to be confused with the second silent adaptation, directed by Hitchcock twelve years alter (1929)
Build Thy House (1920)
The Prince and the Beggarmaid (1921)
The Royal Oak (1923)
The First Mrs. Fraser (1932)

In 1921 Ainley became a member of the council of RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and was its president from 1931 to 1933.

Ainley led his own own theatre company. In 1932 he helped save the debt-laden Sadler’s Wells theatre. Ainley thought Sadler’s Wells regular Samuel Phelps the “greatest actor of all” and Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson “the greatest of Hamlets”.

Ainley was married three times – to Susanne Sheldon, Elaine Fearon and novelist Bettina Riddle (aka Baroness von Hutten zum Stolzenberg). He had several children, including actors Henry T. Ainley, Richard Ainley and Anthony Ainley, as well as non-thesps Sam and Timothy Ainley. Another off-spring was Henrietta Riddle, who was briefly engaged to journalist Alistair Cooke in 1932.

15 letters in the possession of Olivier’s widow, Joan Plowright, suggest that Ainley may have had a sexual relationship with Dear, Dear Larry in the late 30s. The letters suggest that Ainley was infatuated with Olivier.

Ainley died in London and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. I’ll go visit next time I’m over that way.

henry ainley as romeo in romeo and juliet

As Romeo in ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The photo in my postcard seems to have been taken by Lizzie Caswall-Smith.

henry ainley Photo by Lizzie Caswall-Smith

Lizzie Caswall-Smith (1870-1958) (possibly without hyphen) is pretty interesting in her own right. She was a British photographer who specialised in society and celebrity studio portraits. These were often used for postcards.

Caswall-Smith was associated with the women’s suffrage movement and photographed many suffragettes including Christabel Pankhurst, Flora Drummond and Millicent Fawcett. The other actors she photographed included Camille Clifford, Sydney Valentine, Billie Burke and Maude Fealy. She photographed Florence Nightingale in 1910 (which fetched £5,500 (Nov 2008)). On the back of that particular photograph she had jotted in pencil: “Florence Nightingale taken just before she died, House nr Park Lane (London). The only photograph I ever took out of studio – I shall never forget the experience.”

Caswall-Smith operated the Gainsborough Studio at 309 Oxford Street from 1907 until 1920 when she moved to 90 Great Russell Street. She stayed at that address until her retirement in 1930 (aged 60). She exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in 1902 and 1913. Her portraits of Peter Llewelyn Davies and J. M. Barrie are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

 

 

Square Root of Instagram

In 2006 at Channel 4 (London) I commissioned a mobile-centred website called Big Art Mob. It enabled users to publish photos of Public Art (from sculptures to graffiti) from their mobile phones. In other words, it was basically Instagram 4 years before Instagram was invented. It was created with digital all-rounder Alfie Dennen (father of We Are Not Afraid) using a photo-publishing platform he had developed with partners named Moblog. I had been experimenting with Moblog for 18 months when a TV project about Public Art (The Big Art Project) came over the horizon and it struck me as an ideal place to apply Moblog technology.

The main difference from Instagram is that Big Art Mob’s photos were not in square format.

Today I went to see the Klimt / Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I have been a big admirer of Schiele since I heard about him from David Bowie on a radio programme around the time Lodger was released (1979). At the time the Austrian painter was little known outside cognoscenti circles (eg the Marlborough Gallery in London). I was taught a little by Frank Whitford at Cambridge who wrote the Phaidon monograph on Schiele. And I won a travel scholarship at Girton to go study his work in Vienna around 1984. Last year while working at ORF in Vienna I got to do a bit of a self-shaped Schiele tour to mark the centenary of his death which I wrote about in On The Trail of Egon Schiele. I even had a stab at a Schiele in a painting class I recently attended locally:

adam gee copy of egon schiele painting

The exhibition was excellent, bringing out the contrast between how and why Schiele and his mentor Klimt drew. Along the way it reminded me of Klimt’s distinctive adoption of the square format in his portrait painting. Which got me thinking about which other artists went square.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1903-1907)

Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is 1.38m by 1.38m. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer, husband of Adele. The painting was notoriously stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna, until being returned by the Austrian courts to Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in 2006 at which point it found a new home in New York. It is considered the zenith of Klimt’s golden period. It uses Klimt’s trademark technique of cropping the figure top and bottom to create a pillar through the canvas, here set slightly right to allow the bulk of the patterned dress or aura to balance the composition.

Square and portraits reminded me of the excellent Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year. The square format works particularly well in the double portraits which were the beating heart of that show.

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

My Parents by David Hockney (1977)

The emotionally resonant My Parents is 1.83m by 1.83m, even more epic than the Klimt, yet with the most down-to-earth subjects. Each parent occupies their own half in a very different way – attentive mum, square on, in her own space; pre-occupied dad, at an angle, overlapping the furniture – subtly capturing the difference in parent-child relationship.

Hockney was born on 9th July 1937, eight days before my dad. Nine days later another German Jew, Gerda Taro, died in Spain. She has the tragic distinction of being the first female photojournalist to have been killed while covering war at the frontline. This evening I started watching My Private War for this year’s BAFTA judging, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, a latter day Taro. Recently, also for voting purposes (BAFTA Documentary Film chapter), I watched the feature documentary Under The Wire, likewise about the life and death of Colvin (killed in Homs, Syria by an Assad regime air-strike). Taro was killed during the Spanish Civil War in a tragic accident involving a reversing Republican tank.

republican woman 1936 gerda taro

Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona by Gerda Taro (1936)

Taro was another stand-out squarist. She was partner of Magnum photojournalist Robert Capa. (Capa was introduced to the world by Picture Post in 1938, where my maternal grandfather worked. The Hungarian Jew, who famously lived out of a suitcase for most of his adult life, co-founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.) I saw Tara’s first ever US solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2007. Capa picked up the habit from Taro and there are a number of square photographs attributed to Capa which are widely thought to actually be the work of Taro.

These days I find myself photographing square by default. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram for years as a platform for photography only (none of the Stories bollocks or video). Initially it was an excellent way to syndicate your photos across your social accounts (when it was linked to Flickr – the monopolists must have disconnected on account of Yahoo’s ownership of Flickr I guess). Square poses its own compositional challenges which by and large I enjoy rising to – there are not that many shots I take which can’t be accommodated in the stable, equal-sided space. It encourages the use of diagonals which can be dynamic. Here’s one of my favourite of my square compositions:

statue of george orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London)

Statue of George Orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London) March 2018

The square is stable enough to carry the two dark figures on the right side. Orwell’s statue is characteristically smoking, hence the appeal of the BBC smoker – both are fag in hand. Of course Orwell like Taro was a graduate of the Spanish Civil War but he made it home to the BBC and to die in the relatively civilised surroundings of UCH (University College Hospital, established by two of my distant ancestors on the Picture Post grandfather’s side, and where both my boys were born). Orwell’s house (at 1 South End Road) is along the same road in Hampstead/Parliament Hill where my dad grew up. He was a child of refugees from Nazi Germany.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

To round off these square stories, Taro was given a funeral, attended by thousands, by the Communist Party of France. She was buried at Père Lachaise on 1st August 1937 (what would have been her 27th birthday) in a grave designed by Alberto Giacometti. On the tomb is written, in French and Catalan

So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 – an open-air display of Taro’s Spanish Civil War photos was included in the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. Leipzig is where my dad was born in July 1937 in the shadow of the Nazi fascist regime, a swastika and eagle on his birth certificate. When f/stop ended, it was decided that the display would become permanent. This was partly financed through crowdfunding. On the night of 3rd/4th August 2016 (two days after Taro’s 106th birthday), the display was destroyed by being daubed with black tar-like paint. This dark act of destruction was widely suspected to be motivated by anti-semitism or anti-refugee politics. A further crowdfunding campaign more than raised the €4,000 required to restore the vandalised photos. The equal and opposite forces of creativity and destruction, light and dark, squared up to one another.

Be there and be square.

Back to Becontree (Thurston Hopkins)

This week I did another talk at a secondary school for Robert Peston’s charitySpeakers for Schools‘ – the subject was careers in TV/media, the school was Dagenham Park C of E School in East London (probably the politest school I’ve ever been to). This was off my manor and brought me out to Barking station and then three short tube stops to Dagenham Heath at the eastern end of the District line, where I’d never before ventured. The penultimate stop was Becontree which is where my maternal grandfather came from. A place I’d never visited or even travelled through.

I marked this connection with the locality by putting a photo of my grandfather as my first slide in the talk entitled ‘A Media Career in 21 Pictures’, delivered to 60 energetic and enthusiastic Year 7s (a tough prospect which turned out to be a delight – they particularly picked up on the video game I made, ‘MindGym’). I asked them if they knew what a typewriter was, that machine he’s leaning on – a bright boy with an ear stud near the back explained to his classmates “it’s a keyboard but the writing goes straight onto paper”.

Ian Harris at Picture Post by Thurston Hopkins photographer photograph

Ian Harris at Picture Post by Thurston Hopkins

I keep the photo by my desk (I can reach out and touch it now from where I sit). It was taken when my grandfather, Ian Harris, was working at ‘Picture Post’ magazine as a scientist specialising in printing technology. I decided to Post this Picture (above) because it is not yet on the internet.

1946_Picture_Post_Magazine 1946 Picture Post Magazine cover - April 27, 1946

27th April 1946

I’ve always liked the Hopkins picture because I never ever saw my grandfather smoke but in this the saucer is filled with fag-ends while he’s taking a deep drag. My old next-door-neighbour from childhood years, Michelle Haberl, noticed that the headline on the top newspaper in the pile includes the word “tobacco” and says he was just doing some research (which made me laugh). My younger brother posted this photo in response and captured the essence of the man by saying: “best person i ever knew”:

Ian Harris

Ian Harris

I hardly recognise him in this picture because of the hat which places him in a film noir – along with yet another cigarette. I don’t know who took this photograph, perhaps Hopkins or another Picture Post staffer.

‘Picture Post’ ran from just before the war (1938) to 1957 and was the equivalent of ‘Life’ magazine in the USA, a popular magazine centred on excellent photo-journalism and visually led. Its photographers included Bert Hardy, Thurston Hopkins, Grace Robertson, Kurt Hutton, Felix H. Man/Hans Baumann, Francis Reiss, Humphrey Spender, John Chillingworth and Leonard McCombe. Its editorial perspective was liberal and anti-Fascist, campaigning from its launch against the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Thurston Hopkins passed away only four years ago. I regret now not having thought to look him up and go visit. He was born on 16th April 1913 (two years before my grandfather) and lived to 101.

He studied graphic art at Brighton College of Art and was a self-taught photographer. He started out by joining the PhotoPress Agency, reflecting the shift in newspapers from illustration to photography (the kind of printing technology advance which was at the heart of my grandfather’s scientific career).  During the Second World War he served in the RAF Photographic Unit in Italy and the Middle East (my grandfather by contrast served in the Navy, based in Portsmouth, in some kind of secret scientific capacity he never spoke of in any detail). That’s where Hopkins took up his trusty Leica which was his weapon of choice throughout his career (apart from the odd occasional use of a Rolleiflex). It’s also where he saw Picture Post, at military posts everywhere. After the war he worked for new London agency Camera Press.

Hopkins put together a dummy issue of Picture Post made up entirely of his own photos and features to get him the gig as a freelancer. He went onto the staff in 1950, working exclusively for PP.

One of his first stories was centred on stray cats living in London’s many bomb sites and alleys, ‘Cats of London’ (24th Feb 1951).

Thurston Hopkins La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge, London, 1953 photograph

La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge, London, 1953

This was one of his best known and most commercially successful photographs (the driver is a West End chauffeur).

Hopkins did stories about children playing on urban streets to highlight the need for playground provision. In 1956 he photographed a story on the slums of Liverpool which ended up being spiked when city officials complained to the magazine’s proprietor, Edward Hulton, about its negative portrayal of the city. Yesterday afternoon I was helping judge the Popular Factual category of the Broadcast Awards. I noticed that one of the programmes entered, ‘The £1 Houses’ (Channel 4/Topical), set in Liverpool drew similar flack (unconvincing) from the municipal authorities. Photographers as messengers at risk of being on the receiving end of the proverbial shooting.

Hopkins met his wife, a fellow photographer, at Picture Post, marrying in 1955. She was  Grace Robertson. She also published under the name Dick Muir in order to secure work at the Report agency at a time when prejudice against women photographers was still rife in the industry.

photographers Thurston Hopkins and Grace Robertson by harry borden

Thurston Hopkins and Grace Robertson by Harry Borden

After the closure of Picture Post in 1957 Hopkins went into advertising photography, based in his Chiswick studio. He taught on the highly reputed photography course at Guildford School of Art. In his later years he returned to an early love, painting.

thurston hopkins photographer picture post

thurston-hopkins-lipstick-check_thurston hopkins photographer picture post

thurston-hopkins-lipstick-check_thurston hopkins photographer picture post

 

Learning How to See

I went to the Dorothea Lange photography exhibition (Politics of Seeing) at the Barbican Art Gallery for the second time today on the way home from Little Dot Studios. There was a quotation by her I noticed the first time which struck me as strongly the second as it captures my view of Photography:

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera

Hence all my Instagramming over the years (and Moblogging before that).

Photographer Dorothea Lange with Graflex camera (1937)

Dorothea Lange with Graflex camera (1937)

Photograph Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother

‘Migrant Mother’ (1936)

Strength

I love this photo from the news this week

 

Saffiyah Khan

Brummie Saffiyah Khan takes on the EDL mentality

Typographical London

On my flannage around London yesterday I decided to play a little photographic game – inspired by the Z (as in Ritz). These were gathered between Moorgate and Piccadilly, via St Paul’s and Temple. Can you recognise where any of these come from?

A to FG to LM to RS to XY to Z

Sinking of the Lakonia

screenshot-2016-12-16-22-32-44

On 22nd December 1963 my grandparents lives changed forever. My grandmother started what she considered her second bite of the cherry of life. My grandfather watched rich men’s possessions float by him in the water and never again put any value on them (though he was always modest materially being from an immigrant working class background). The night of 22nd December 1963 was the night the cruise ship Lakonia went on fire and 128 souls were lost at sea. A Christmas cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands turned into a terrifying brush with death.

Yesterday my brother heard a trail on BBC Radio 5 for a programme about the disaster next Tuesday morning on Five Live hosted by Adrian Chiles. Today I tracked down the production team in Salford to offer some of our family archives. As I start to delve into them I thought it would be fun to share the investigations and discoveries here.

First (above) is the telegram my mother received from my grandfather on Christmas eve confirming her parents were alive and safe. She had just had her first child (yours truly) and was settling in to her first home of her own (it cost them £4,000 if I remember correctly). JFK had been shot 5 weeks earlier.

The sender of that telegram is mentioned in this article from Life magazine (edition of 3rd January 1964)

screenshot-2016-12-16-22-35-42

That’s my grandma looking terrified on the left. Her husband was the “Ian Harris of London” referred to in the copy “the only man known to have taken pictures while on board the doomed Lakonia”. He worked for Picture Post (the British rival of Life with photographers like Bill Brandt and Thurston Hopkins). He was a scientist involved with the technicalities of printing photographs and a keen amateur photographer so his photos featured in the Life picture story were the work of a man in the wrong place at the right time with his omnipresent camera (now you know where I got the bug from).

More to follow as I burrow away…

Update 17/12/16:

“Salta” referred to on the telegram above was an Argentine ship which was heading west to Argentina filled with immigrants from Europe, which picked up my grandparents after dawn of 23rd December from their lifeboat. The passengers were hauled up one by one by rope after a landing stage the Salta crew had dropped was smashed by the lifeboat. My grandfather thought it would make a great shot but my grandmother forbade him as she didn’t want the indignity captured for posterity. He still seemed to regret missing the shot 36 years later when I interviewed him on film. He was wearing, by chance, a grey jumper he had been given in Funchal, Madiera after landing from the Salta in sea-shrunken clothes.

PART 2

Chairman of the Board – Picture of the Month: Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley (1963)

The other day I got to touch this chair…

2006al2237_keeler_chair_290x290

The Keeler chair

The year I was born this chair got to touch the bare bottom of Christine Keeler.

2006al2240_christine_keeler_arno_290x435

photograph by Lewis Morley

It was as the scandal of the Profumo Affair was exploding in Britain, marking the end of the age of austerity and heralding the new age of permissiveness.

I’ve been writing a script over the summer in which Keeler appears as a minor character so have been immersed in the era of which this photograph is an icon.

The photo session was in Lewis Morley’s studio above The Establishment Club in Soho (18 Greek Street) which was the spiritual home of the emerging anti-establishment of the early 60s. It was founded in 1961 and presented among others, on the small stage on the floor below Morley’s studio, Lenny Bruce, Barry Humphries and Dudley Moore. The club was part-owned by Moore’s partner in crime Peter Cook, another defining character of the era.

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Lewis Morley (1925-2013)

Morley was born in Hong Kong to English and Chinese parents, coming to England straight after the war in 1945. He eventually emigrated to Barry Humphries’/Dame Edna Everage’s native Australia in 1971.

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Dame Edna by Lewis Morley (1996)

The Keeler session was set up to produce images for a film that never happened (The Keeler Affair). Present were Morley, his assistant and the producers.

I recently came across another such movie that was never made featuring Keeler’s partner in crime Mandy Rice Davies. Her picture, by contrast in costume, was shot by Terence Donovan (1936 – 1996),  another of the key photographers of the Blow Up generation. His first major retrospective – Speed of Light at the Photographers Gallery, London this summer – brought to light this magazine cover:

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Morley decided to use one of a number of chairs he’d recently bought at (probably) Heals as a prop. They are cheap knock-offs of a classic Arne Jacobsen design, the 3107. The chair is more crudely made than its original and has a hand-hole introduced to get round copyright infringement.

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The actual Keeler chair

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The 3107 v The Keeler knock-off

At the beginning of the session Keeler was dressed in a leather jerkin, covered (just) but still plenty sexy. Morley shot three rolls of film on the day – on the first two he shot her dressed in this way both on and beside the chair.

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Keeler had been a model in her early years in London before getting sucked in to The Scandal. She had also been a showgirl and good-time girl, all these activities and aspirations adjacent in England in the late 50s/early 60s.

The producers then demanded that she pose nude. They insisted that was in her contract. Morley was reluctant and protected Keeler, both with the back of that chair and by clearing everyone but himself out of the studio and averting his eyes while she stripped off and mounted the chair. In this way he protected her dignity whilst fulfilling the terms of the contract.

He then shot the third roll. He tried various angles which you can see on the contact sheet which now lives at the V&A. Morley recounted the end of the session thus:

“I felt that I had shot enough and took a couple of paces back. Looking up I saw what appeared to be a perfect positioning. I released the shutter one more time, in fact, it was the last exposure on the roll of film. Looking at the contact sheet, one can see that this image is smaller than the rest because I had stepped back. It was this pose that became the first published and most used image. The nude session had taken less than five minutes to complete.”

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NPG x38964; Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley

Last shot of the last roll – suitably mythic.

The shot in question can currently be seen in the first room of the You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 exhibition at the V&A. As can the chair.

What’s powerful about the shot is the X-shaped composition made up of her upper arms and thighs, bright in the high contrast, combined with the echo of the top half of that white X (those upper arms joined into a curvaceous triangle by her shoulders) which matches the sensual curved triangle of the chair back. The hands and wrists also make up a mini X, reinforcing the power of the central shape. The dark V of the chair back is a massive amplification of that hidden famous vagina. But topping off the shot is an alluring yet refined face. And a strong one, as challenging as any of the enigmatic eye-to-eye starers of Manet. [see E for Enigma – Manet Picture of the Month]

Morley used the pose again two years later with Joe Orton, the playwright who best captured the essence of the 60s in Britain. I first came across Orton in the Lower 6th (the freest and best year of school) when I was looking for the subject of a project and came across Orton by chance. I’ve loved him since. But I don’t find that the Morley portrait captures him well as it gives no sense of his cheekiness or humour.

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Joe Orton 1965

Morley also used the pose with TV personality David Frost (in the same year as Keeler), but in a less still way, capturing something of the energy which was to land Frost a chair opposite President Nixon in the next decade (in the famous 1977 interviews which did for the leader of the most powerful nation on earth). Frost, The Establishment, Cook, Private Eye were all part of the same Swinging Sixties circles.

NPG x38945; Sir David Paradine Frost by Lewis Morley

David Frost 1963

Circles which overlapped with the establishment with a small e and their interface with Soho, pretty girls, gambling dens, sharp-suited gangsters, swinger parties, all the ingredients in the explosive brew that was Profumo.

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Christine (21) & Mandy (18) at the height of the Profumo Affair

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For a very particular moment – arguably one key frame – Morley managed to transform a 21 year old (who grew up in a converted railway carriage, abandoned by her father), a 21 year old swirling helplessly in a maelstrom of post-war British politics, the Cold War and the breaking down of the class system into a strong and dignified woman, the epitome of Sixties British beauty.

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Under The Chair

127-2004s

Previous Picture of The Month – Georgia O’Keeffe

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