Tag Archives: Photography

The Americans (1958) – Robert Frank.

0c6e35eb508dfd1c613c55158a7ba1d8

Swiss-born émigré Robert Frank is still alive, now a venerated pioneer at ripe old age of 92. Perhaps it takes an outsider to capture the United States in all its contradictions and peculiarities, how else to explain how his The Americans remains the peak of photojournalist style – a little regarded anachronism upon initial release but now viewed as one of the most enduring photographic works of the last century (no hyperbole, it’s a pantheon piece).

Robert_Frank_The_Americans_2

Frank sees things no other photographer of that time did, such was the head-scratching curiosity behind the lens. In his stills everything is in uneasy transition, demographics colliding, wary-of-each-other generations co-inhabiting within the same evolving social and physical landscape.

Robert_Frank_The_Americans_17

These photos could even be mistaken as present-day portraits of America in the age of Trump, albeit shot in black and white and developed in one of those dark rooms of yesteryear, shoddily framed, apparently without regard for stylistic form and technical mastery. If Frank were to document the effects of so-called Globalism on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I offer the content would be eerily similar to his ’58 magnum opus.

13879f5c-1d45-4e30-b735-7c7702f56319

Further reading/viewing:

https://www.jamesmaherphotography.com/new-york-historical-articles/the-foreigners-road-trip-robert-franks-america/

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-frank-the-americans

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/dec/15/robert-frank-the-americans-auction

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

D-Day – then and now.

UIpDlls

I love these concoctions. What do you call them? I think this is Omaha Beach, 6 June, 1944 (though I could be wrong). It’s stuff like this that gives these historical photos real reverence. The record almost comes alive here.

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/06/d-day-landing-sites-pictures_n_5458026.html

Tagged , , , ,

Iconoclasm and ‘truth’ – challenging the official narrative.

Iconic moments of recent history are inseparable from the defining image which catapults them into popular consciousness – the Moon Landing, ‘Tank Man’ at Tiananmen Square, that famous kiss on VJ Day.

It’s only through viewing other photographic sources that we can escape the prism of these force-fed yarns and experience events three-dimensionally.

 

I see some accompanying images of articles and do wonder why, time and time again, the same stock image is used. It’s as if the rest have been erased and this one is the last Malteser in the box.

Every single piece I’ve ever read about the JFK Assassination is accompanied by stills of the Zapruder film, which has served as the basis for conspiracy theorising and debunking. No one denies its value, but it has to a large extent conveniently encapsulated and simplified the entire discourse (the ‘death’ of the American Dream, the dawn of cynicism) into a singular artefact.

z262

It’s in our nature to seek easy explanations. What happened immediately before and after the event has been sidelined (with the causal factors and consequences), the icon seemingly enough to digest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s the problem. There’s only one picture doing the rounds.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Civil War wacky snappage.

I must confess, I do find many an American Civil War snap to be an absolute hoot. As insensitive as it is considering the carnage of the feud, they, not Union Army general-in-chief George B. McClellan, remain for me the real mystery of the war (see U.S. Grant observation). A combination of obscenely long exposure times and the photographer and subjects’ conscious imitation of the stylistic conventions of painting results in the most otherworldly, seemingly out-of-place actors and scenes ever captured in conflict.

lincoln_and_generals_at_antietam

Lincoln and ‘chums’.

It’s as if smiling would impart a lack of gentlemanly elegance, or worse, a madness recorded for posterity. The classical aesthetic is at total odds with the haphazard, improvised nature of the battles and campaigns that claimed the lives of an estimated 620,000 men.

lincoln_and_mcclellan_1862-10-03

Lincoln and McClellan.

I picture generals halting their chatter of logistics and supplies to stare passively into space in a kind of Victorian ‘Mannequin Challenge’ whilst the bloke with the big fuck-off camera got his photo. Ghostly (or alternatively ghastly) images, they are utterly bizarre to behold.

focus150yearssincecivilwarendscq80mwhpwipl

Ulysses S. Grant, standing (centre).

Further reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/12/why-dont-people-smile-old-photographs-google-answer

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/

https://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war/photos

Tagged , , , , , ,