Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Monument Valley, Josef Muench

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Largely forgotten now, there was a time when the name Josef Muench was as much associated with Monument Valley as Ansel Adams was with Yosemite. Born in Germany in 1908, Muench was later to be celebrated for making the picture-heavy Arizona Highways one of the premier photo magazines in the country. Bulk of his work, however, documented the harsh landscape surrounding 30,000 acres of Navajo tribal park starting in 1935.

Also present around the park were the Gouldings who purchased 640 acres of land next to the valley and began trading with the Navajo in the preceding decade. The times were bad for both the Gouldings and the Navajo – the effects of the Great Depression were particularly harsh on this stretch of Arizona-Utah border – but Harry Goulding had an idea. He had heard that United Artists was looking to film a Western nearby.

Goulding commissioned from Muench an album of 8-by-10 scenes of the Valley. Legend had it that he drove off to Hollywood, and insisted on camping out in United Artists’ reception area until he ran into the location manager of the film. The manager was suitably impressed by Muench’s pictures – as was the director, John Ford.

The film they were to make together in the valley was Stagecoach, one of the most influential Westerns ever made – the movie that turned westerns from cheap cinematic fares into sprawling epics; the movie that made a star out of John Wayne. Essential to the movie was the Monument Valley’s mythic landscape — “its prehistoric rock pillars framing the smallness of men” in the words of critic Roger Ebert – a place to which Ford was to return for no less than nine subsequent movies. The film transformed the Monument Valley into a tourist attraction – further movie crews came to the Goulding’s homestead, which grew and grew into a ranch, a lodge, and eventually a hotel. By the time Harry Goulding retired in 1962, the valley had been a protected area for four years.

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A word about Patreon, a fundraising platform. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.”  I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos. But that research does come with a price tag — in web hosting, books, library subscriptions, and copious coffee. So this Patreon is just to fray some of those costs.

As you may notice in last few years, I have been posting very infrequently. But I want IP to go on for a long time and be sustainable. Linking a monetary value to a new post (not a ‘monthly salary’ — which is another way of doing Patreon) give me a marginal incentive to create more compelling and educational content. Readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request this topic or that topic; or to participate in some polls. Currently there is a public poll running on whether you might want to see non-photo related posts, so go and vote!

Here is the link: https://www.patreon.com/iconicphotos 

Also, many protected areas in the United States are currently under review and might become unprotected due to the ongoing National Monuments review. The American West has always been at the forefront of the struggle between development and conservation, so please do make your voice heard during the public comment period, here.

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 19, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Fairchildern

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Most people would not recognize anyone in the photo above. They have no reasons to. Yet, the eight sitting darksuited computer scientists who posed together for Wayne Miller of Magnum were responsible for fundamentally reshaping the modern life.

There was a happier photo four years earlier when some of them were toasting their then-boss William Shockley for the Nobel prize. But that was 1956. Merely a year later, they would have a fallout with Shockley — a brilliant scientist but paranoid and domineering boss (who would later become an eugenicist) — and went on to found Fairchild Semiconductor, named after an East Coast company that provided the initial funding.

In many ways, it was the prototypical start-up, avant l’heure.  There were eight of them (in the photo, from left to right): Gordon Moore, C. Sheldon Roberts, Eugene Kleiner, Robert Noyce, Victor Grinich, Julius Blank, Jean Hoerni and Jay Last.  They were a diverse crew, having majored in everything from metallurgy to optics. Although Miller’s photo suggested otherwise, the dress-code was relaxed, and there were no assigned parking spaces, fixed office hours, or closed office doors.

They ran their start-up out of a 14,000 square foot building at 844 Charleston Road, between Palo Alto and Mountain View, which initially lacked plumbing and electricity. It was located in an area then known as Valley of Heart’s Delight (a place then known for being the largest fruit production region in the world) but their work in semiconductors there was so groundbreaking that they managed to change the place’s toponym into Silicon Valley.

From this ramshackle office, they managed to mass-produce silicon transistors for IBM; Noyce’s design for ‘microchip’ — essentially transforming bulky circuit boards into layers of silicon and germanium — was so transformational that by the mid-1960s, thirty percent of all integrated circuits in America were Fairchild-made. This chip made NASA’s manned mission to the Moon possible later in the decade.

By 1969, however, the group — then already dubbed Traitorous Eight by Shockley — had disbanded. In another pioneering tradition of the Valley, they would go on to found their own startups, which included National Semiconductor, Amelco/Teledyne, LSI, and Intel. Moore was immortalized by the computing law that bears his name, and Eugene Kleiner by the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — an early investor in everything from Amazon to Google. Noyce, who co-founded Intel with Moore, mentored Steve Jobs. Other early Fairchild employees included Intel’s Andrew Grove, and Don Valentine, founder of another VC titan, Sequoia Capital, which had invested in Atari, Cisco, and LinkedIn. A 2014 study suggests that 92 public companies could be traced back to Fairchild, totally market capitalization of $2.1 trillion.

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dumdum-patreon

A word about Patreon, a fundraising platform. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.”  I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos. But that research does come with a price tag — in web hosting, books, library subscriptions, and copious coffee. So this Patreon is just to fray some of those costs.

 

As you may notice in last few years, I have been posting very infrequently. But I want IP to go on for a long time and be sustainable. Linking a monetary value to a new post (not a ‘monthly salary’ — which is another way of doing Patreon) give me a marginal incentive to create more compelling and educational content. Readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request this topic or that topic; or to participate in some polls. Currently there is a public poll running on whether you might want to see non-photo related posts, so go and vote!

 

Here is the link: https://www.patreon.com/iconicphotos 

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 13, 2017 at 5:54 am

The Curies

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I was going to write about Patreon as promised, but instead thought what better way to start this new phase of Iconic Photos by talking about one of the first photographers I blogged about — all the way back in 2009: Henri Cartier-Bresson.

HCB occupied an interesting time in history where photography was still not widely appreciated as an art, but mostly considered a medium for communication. From travel to portraiture, his own work straddled both worlds. This was how he recalled the occasion in 1944 when he took the photo above:

When I went to see [Irene and Frederic] Joliot-Curie, there was a plaque by the door which said: ‘Enter without knocking.’ I went in and snapped them before even saying hello. One shouldn’t be too polite. They have a dramatic expression on their faces. They knew too much about the reality of this world. It’s a terrifying portrait – take the position of their hands . . . I can’t bear to look at it for very long.

The Joliot-Curies, the daughter and son-in-law of Pierre and Marie Curie, had a tumultuous war. Frederic, a member of the Communist resistance, used his laboratory to secretly produce molotov cocktails and radio receivers. (He would be credited as the inventor of the “Joliot-Curie” cocktail, made from materials easy to obtain during the war, and particularly effective against tanks). In 1944, when the German cracked down on the resistance activity, he went underground under an assumed name and Irene and her two children fled, first to a country hotel, and eventually to Switzerland.

When the German army finally retreated from Paris in August 1944, Irene returned. Her husband was now the director of the reorganized Centre national de la recherche scientifique, the premier research institute in France. He would soon be appointed the High Commissioner for Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA), the newly formed French nuclear energy agency and go on to oversee to the first French nuclear reactor, the Zoe pile.

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dumdum-patreon

More explanation about Patreon. Patreon is a fundraising platform. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.”

As you may notice in last few years, I have been posting very infrequently. But I want IP to go on for a long time and be sustainable. Linking a monetary value to a new post (not a ‘monthly salary’ — which is another way of doing Patreon) give me a marginal incentive to create more compelling and educational content. As far as this blog here is concerned, nothing will change. No paywalls. Readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request this topic or that topic; or to participate in some experiments I will run (on iconicity of images) once we have the volume to make such experiments scientific.

As I just started on Patreon, this post above on the Curies is not ‘charged’, and also, don’t pay too much attention to rewards yet, as I am still figuring them out. They will change as we progress through this process together. Currently there is a public poll running on whether you might want to see non-photo related posts, so go and vote!  (Even non-patrons can vote for this one).

But beyound these tinkerings, a goal I have is sustainability and bigger outreach. I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos. But that research does come with a price tag — in web hosting, books, library subscriptions, and copious coffee. So this Patreon is just to fray some of those costs, not to be too grabby or anything.

I also feel what I wrote was worth sharing. So I wanted to run a few facebook ad campaigns to gain a slightly wider audience. A book as I mocked up in an April Fool prank a while back, might be years away (mostly because of printing rights), but text-only e-book version (with links to photos online) might be possible.

So let’s see how Patreon goes! Patreon is definitely more useful for YouTubers and podcasters who have more engagement than us writers who are a bit reclusive in general, but here is the link: https://www.patreon.com/iconicphotos 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 30, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Society, War

J.R. Eyerman at Drive-In

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If you own any photography books, chances are that you have seen the photo above.

Charlton Heston as Moses in Ten Commandments, towering over a neat assemblage of cars.  Taken by J.R. Eyerman at a drive-in theatre in Utah, this photo was published in Life magazine’s special issue on U.S. Entertainment.

According to Eyerman’s family [on Reddit], he sat down with Cecil B. deMille, the director of Ten Commandments to choose the best single frame from the movie. He decided to take the photo in Utah — after all the film was previewed here before its national release, and was helped by the Mormon Church making it a required viewing. (This boon was not because the film was particularly theological, but because deMille enjoyed close friendships with the church elders, and even spoke at Brigham Young University’s commencement the preceding year).

After Eyerman found a drive-in with scenic background, he enticed college students from Brigham Young University with a free movie showing. It was a double exposure shot: he took the first exposure at the sunset, and the second (of the frame deMille chose) after the students had left. (Ten Commandments wasn’t screened for the students; the risque Roger Vadim film “And God Created Woman” featuring Brigitte Bardot was).

Beyond Eyerman’s technical prowess, the photo marked a subtle commentary on America of 1958 when it was published in Life magazine towards the end of the year. Suddenly, it was looking back at the year the post-war baby boom ended, the year Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to West Coast; the year Alaska was granted statehood; the year Nabokov published his controversial Lolita; the year hula-hoop craze swept the nation. But no fad proved as enduring as America’s infatuation with automobile; by 1958 there were more than 50 million cars in America, and the year marked the 2nd anniversary of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, a massive infrastructure project that was reshaping the way Americans traveled.

Suburbs flourished. Gasoline was cheap. This was the decade of motels and carhops; if places and businesses weren’t drive-ins, they were drive-thrus — banks, restaurants, grocery stores. Even Charlton Heston seemingly proselytizing to “a congregation of rapt, immobile automobiles at prayer” as Time magazine put it, didn’t seem too far-fetched. Starting in 1949, a Lutheran priest in North Hollywood just did that with the first drive-in church service.

But even in times of such excitement, drive-in theatres proved to be a foolhardy exercise. Kerry Segrave reflects in Drive-in Theaters that television wasn’t a factor, but it didn’t help either. Even as the number of drive-in theatres grew to over 4,000 in 1958 (up from around 1,000 in 1950), television was becoming more and more prevalent.  By 1958, 83% of American households had a television set in their homes, up from 9% in 1950. Segrave instead blames the decline of drive-in theatres on quality issues — poor equipment, sound, and maintenance. Economically, they were constrained by space and time of the day. With post-war baby boom ending, there were fewer and fewer needs for movie theatres where a family could bring a infant. By 1963, the number of drive-in theatres was down to 3,500 — a decline that would prove to be irreversible.

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dumdum-patreon

I am doing something crassly commercial here: I just signed up for Patreon. Patreon is a fundraising platform. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.”

As you may notice in last few years, I have been posting very infrequently. But I want IP to go on for a long time and be sustainable. Linking a monetary value to a new post (not a ‘monthly salary’ — which is another way of doing Patreon) should give me a marginal incentive to write more. As far as the blog is concerned, nothing will change. No paywalls.

I will write a longer post about Patreon next week. A goal I have is bigger outreach. I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos. I also feel what I wrote was worth sharing. So I wanted to run a few facebook ad campaigns, and eventually a short book — educating people history using photographs. This will be similar to this book I mocked up for an April Fool a few years ago. I am hoping Patreon can help. Patreon is more useful for YouTubers and podcasters, but let’s see how it goes for me:

https://www.patreon.com/iconicphotos 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 20, 2017 at 12:41 am

Syria. 2017.

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How do you publish the pictures of a chemical attack? For French left-wing daily, Libération, the choice was clear. It put an image on its front pages.

The photograph, released by the Associated Press, shows the lifeless bodies of at least children minutes after a chemical weapon attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in Syria. They were stripped half-naked, immediately after the chemical attack, not to leave their skin in contact with contaminated clothing. It was a screenshot from video shot by a group of citizen journalists, Edlib Media Center (EMC). America’s ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley showed a version of the image to the Security Council.

In Time magazine, Lionel Charrier, Libération’s director of photography, defends his controversial decision:

Our job, as photographers, as photo editors, is to see what we don’t want to see. We don’t take pleasure from it. These images are unbearable, but if we do it sparingly, sometimes we have to break the rules.

This is not gratuitous. This is not done to sell copies. It’s a photograph that we found on the Associated Press’ wire. We’ve captured, in the past, screenshots of videos, but the fact that the wires had authenticated the photograph was important for us. We watched as improvised first responders were carrying these children and putting them in trucks and pickups.

This photograph reminds us of James Nachtwey’s images in Zaire. When you do a front page like this one, you want to disturb people. We can’t hide behind it. It’s the image with a capital I; the one we will remember this year.”

Time asked whether he would have published a photograph of French victims of a terror attack. Charrier noted, “In those cases, publishing these images would be playing in the hands of ISIS, which wants to create terror. In this case, the Syrian regime denies these events ever happened. They don’t want people to see. This pushes us to say: ‘See, here it is.’ That’s an important part of our job.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

April 19, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Politics

Klarsfeld slaps Kiesinger

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It was a dramatic slap.

In November 1968, as the Christian Democrats met at their party congress in West Berlin, 29-year-old Beate Klarsfeld walked up to the podium and slapped Chancellor Kiesinger. As she was dragged out of the room, she shouted, “Kiesinger! Nazi! Abtreten!” (“Kiesinger! Nazi! Resign!”), alluding to his 12-year membership of the Nazi Party, and employment at broadcasting and propaganda ministries during the war.

For the slap, Klarsfeld was vilified in the local news, but for her, it was a symbolic slap to the face for the West German establishment. Statute of limitations on Nazi crimes were about to expire in little over a year – on December 31st 1969 – but the political class had not make serious effort to persecute former Nazis. Kurt Lischka, the head of Paris Gestapo, was still employing his comfortable retirement in Cologne, though he had been sentenced in absentia by a Paris court. For ten years, Hans Globke, who previously wrote laws restricting rights of German Jews, served as Chief of Staff and close advisor to Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war Chancellor of West Germany. Kiesinger himself was advised by another prominent jurist of the Third Reich, Carl Schmitt and was succeeded as the minister president of Baden-Württemberg by Hans Filbinger, another Nazi era judge.

But the most egregious of all, at least for appearances’ sake, was Heinrich Lubke, the seventy-three-year-old president of West Germany, who was accused of helping to build concentration camps. The East Germans made the accusations in 1966, but these claims were largely ignored as false, until Stern, a West German magazine, hired a handwriting expert to verify that it had been Lubke’s signatures on concentration camp plans. By February 1968, things were getting out of hand: two students were expelled from University of Bonn for breaking into the rector’s office and writing “Concentration Camp Builder” next to Lubke’s name on the university honor roll. Lubke meekly responded, “Naturally, after nearly a quarter of a century has gone by, I cannot remember every paper I signed. It was not part of my duties to sign blueprints for wooden barracks. Nor do I recall ever having given such signatures.” He clanged onto power for ten more months before forced to resign.

Kiesinger too was on his way out. He was called as a witness to the war crimes trial of Fritz Gebhard von Hahn, accused of murdering thirty thousand Greek and Bulgarian Jews in 1942-43, and the media was keen on putting him on trial instead; he failed to get re-elected the following year.

As for wider West Germany, the reckoning was still a few years away. A slow but dramatic revelations of Filbinger’s Nazi crimes was to occupy German media in the following decade. Kiesinger’s successor as chancellor, Willy Brandt would drop to his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto memorial. This, combined with the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the German telecast of the ‘Holocaust’ mini-series in January 1979, finally placed the Jewish suffering firmly at the heart of the German consciousness. Even then, some myths endured.

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

April 11, 2017 at 2:47 am

Posted in Politics, Society

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Geronimo Surrenders

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During his last days at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Geronimo became one of the most photographed of all Native Americans. He became a tourist attraction, and once even photographed in a car. It was therefore fitting that his titanic struggle against the United States army created “the only known photographs of American Indians as enemy in the field”.

Born Goyathlay (The-One-Who-Yawns), the Apache Geronimo was among the fiercest opponents of Mexico and the United States. His family was killed by Mexicans, and he waged intermittent warfare in the south-west until the mid-1880s. By the time, even the clairvoyant medicine man himself knew the end was near. He sent word to General George Crook — America’s most aggressive Indian fighter — that he was ready to surrender.

He chose the site: Cañon de los Embudos in the Sierra Madre Mountains, just south of the Mexico-Arizona border. It was a shallow ravine from which he could flee easily at the first sign of trouble. Geronimo came with his remaining troops, now numbering only 115. As demanded, Crook arrived with a small group of officers, scouts, interpreters, and a photographer, Camillus Fly.

During the three days Geronimo and Crook negotiated, Fly walked around the Apache camp and took photos. Finally, Geronimo agreed to Crook’s surrender terms, with historic words: “Once I moved about like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all.”  However, later that night, camp rumours abounded that they would be murdered as they crossed the border back into Arizona, and Geronimo and 40 of his followers slipped away during the night. Five more months of fighting followed. It was the last Indian war the United States was to fight.

As for Fry, he took 15 photos at the camp, including those of Geronimo with his two sons, and of a white boy abducted from his New Mexico home previous September. Fly was just 36 when he took these photos. Seven years earlier, he had moved to silver-boom town of Tombstone, Arizona to open a “portrait-making” shop. In 1881, he was a peripheral eyewitness to a mythic event which took place in the vacant lot by his photography studio (and not in the livery stable six doors away as frequently mis-remembered): The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 31, 2017 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Politics, Society, War

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A Massacre at Pancevo

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An enduring myth about the Second World War is the canard that the Germany Army, the fabled Wehrmacht was an apolitical organization largely innocent of Nazi crimes. In his definitive The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality, Wolfram Wette dismissed this view: while the Wehrmacht treated prisoners of war on the Western front honorably, on the Eastern front, its campaigns were barbaric.

This was a view that the Germans themselves were uncomfortable with, until very recently. When an exhibition “The War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944” opened in Hamburg in 1995 and toured 33 German and Austrian cities in the following two years, it was greeted with protests, denunciations, and even violence in Munich and Bavaria.

At the center of controversy were photos taken by Gerhard Gronefeld, showing an execution in the Yugoslavian town of Pancevo on 22nd April 1941. They showed an ugly, uncomfortable truth: that the ordinary soldiers were just as lethal as the SS in exterminating Jews and civilians. In the photos, executed civilians lie next to a cemetery wall as a Wehrmacht officer pointed his gun at the dying, as a SS-officer looked on. Thirty-six civilians were executed — 18 men were shot, and 17 men and one woman were hanged. The “most terrible scene which I photographed ever,” Gronefeld recalled, and he did not submit the photographs to the army magazine for which he was working. He secreted the photos until 1963, when they were published.

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Controversial though it was, the 1995 Exhibition was a landmark moment. As it toured across Germany and Austria, many veterans, ex-servicemen, and their families donated letters and photos and came forward to recall how the army had been deployed as state executioner. Gronefeld’s photo ran on the cover of Der Spiegel on 19th March 1997. Christian Social Union, the natural party of government in Bavaria, denounced it as an insult to the Wehrmacht, as neo-Nazis marched through Munich to protest the exhibition. An academic at Germany Army’s Bundeswehr University came out defending Pancevo as an act of defense, allowable under the international law*. As for Pancevo, it was once again in the news in the 1990s as the Balkans spiraled once more into a fratricidal war.

* See: Franz Seidler, Crimes Against the Wehrmacht (1997). p.18-19.

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Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 16, 2017 at 6:22 am

Female Genital Mutilation, Stephanie Welsh

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Today is International Women’s Day; to mark this, we should look back at groundbreaking photojournalism done by female photographers, here, here, and here. We should also look at this upsetting body of work by Stephanie Welsh.

In 1995, 21-year old Stephanie Welsh landed in Kenya to begin a yearlong internship (which paid $100 per month) with the Daily Nation, a Nairobi newspaper. On her planeride, she read Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy, where the female protagonist who submits to female circumcision out of tribal loyalty, and decided the pursue the story.

In Kenya, the practice, now commonly called female genital mutilation (FGM), was illegal but still widespread. FGM involves cutting or removing part or all of a female’s external genitalia, usually when she is just a child or entering puberty. Unlike male circumcision, which at least curbs the transmission of HIV, FGM brings no medical benefit whatsoever.

Welsh traveled to rural Kenya, taught herself Swahili, spent two weeks living with the family of a 16-year-old girl about to undergo the ritual, in a hut of cow dung and straw, drinking goat milk laced with cow blood. Her story of the ritual was heartbreaking — the girl shouted out “Why are you trying to kill me?” and  “I’m dying. I’m going to die,” even as blood ran and curdled on the red mud. Although the Nation published only a watered-down version, they were picked up by in 12 U.S. newspapers. Welsh won a second-place prize in the World Press Photo and a Pulitzer.

The photo raised awareness of FGM; the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that genital mutilation is a form of persecution. Yet the practice persisted; annually around two million girls undergo the procedure even today, oftentimes done crudely with a razor or a glass shard. It was linked to honor, chastity and access to favorable marriages and social networks, and widely supported by women. A recent study showed that the daughters of a mother belonging to an ethnic group where FGM is widespread are more likely to undergo the practice it than those of a mother not belonging to such a group.

Welsh’s photos also became the centerpiece of one such debate, with many anthropologists and African commentators denouncing appropriation of women’s bodies as exhibits (the girl in the photo had not given permission for the images to be taken) and Western ‘cultural and ideological colonialism’. Welsh herself hang up her Nikon in 1999 to devote to anti-FGM causes and become a midwife.

(Due to the upsetting nature of the images, we are posting only one photo, which was the most widely published photo because it was the least violent. In the photo, the mutilated girl examines her excised pudenda. The rest, you can see here; in a blog post, Stephanie Welsh remembers that sweltering April day). 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 9, 2017 at 3:21 am

Marcel Duchamp Plays Chess, 1963

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The Smithsonian called it “among the key documentary images of American modern art”. On 18 October 1963, at the Pasadena Art Museum, Time’s Julian Wasser took a photo showing Marcel Duchamp playing chess against a totally naked young woman, Eve Babitz.

It was an iconic juxtaposition, of the nude bride and the bachelor Duchamp (who remained unmarried for most of his life), of black and white pieces, of man and woman. Symmetries and asymmetries abound: of young vs. old, of faced vs. faceless, of Duchamp’s aged body vs. Babitz’s full figure (enhanced by her birth control). Looming over them was Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even — a fitting piece for Eve, who would go on to have affairs with Jim Morrison, Ed and Paul Ruscha, Steve Martin, and Harrison Ford.

By 1963, Duchamp, one of the fathers of Dadaism and conceptual art, was semi-retired and had turned his focus to playing chess. But that year, when the Pasadena Art Museum staged his first retrospective, the elderly artist was having a renaissance. He appeared playing chess in the documentary made to coincide with the retrospective. The avant-garde art world of the 1950s found in him a kindred spirit. His 1917 work, “Fountain” — a piece which he deliberately crafted to offend — ironically became a highly sought-after art piece after the second world war, and Duchamp issued three authorized copies in 1950, 1953 and 1963. The next year, Duchamp was to replicate his important works into 12 replicas.

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[Long Read: Oral History of Julian Wasser’s photo session with Duchamp and Babitz]

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 6, 2017 at 3:46 am

Posted in Politics

David Rubinger (1924-2017)

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It is hard to find a photographer who embodied his nation as perfectly as David Rubinger did with Israel. Born in Vienna in 1924, he emigrated to British Palestine in 1939, and began his career in photography serving in the British army’s Jewish Brigade. By the time he died this week, he had been the official photographer of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament,  where he was the only photographer whose work is on permanent display.

In between, he married a concentration camp survivor and took intimate photos of Jewish establishment, often in their private moments. Golda Meir blew smoke into middle distance. David Ben-Gurion and Ariel Sharon surveyed Israeli defense lines. He followed soldier and archeologist Yigael Yadin into caves above the Judean Desert. He was the only photographer to be permitted to enter the Knesset cafeteria.

But Rubinger’s most famous photos were taken in wartime. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he took photos of the Egyptian gunners from a helicopter (carrying the Israeli chief of General Staff) which was hit. Earlier, during the 1967 Six Day War, he took his most famous photo, Paratroopers at the Western Wall (above).

Between 1949 and 1967, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were controlled by Jordan as part of the armistice between two countries. Jordan’s ruling royal family had always wanted to claim the entire Jerusalem to make up for the family’s lost guardianship of Mecca, which was lost to Saudi Arabia, and when Egypt and Syria invaded Israel in 1967, Jordan swiftly moved in to annex the entire Jerusalem. Hand-to-hand fighting between Israeli and Jordanian soldiers ensued on the Temple Mount. Rubinger was there to capture the end of fighting; he recalled heading back from the Sinai front:

“That night I heard some talk on the command radios about something happening in Jerusalem. I didn’t hesitate and just snuck into a helicopter that was evacuating wounded soldiers. When I got to Jerusalem, I heard gunshots, so I ran to the Western Wall, maybe 20 minutes after it was taken. I laid down on the ground and these three soldiers just passed by. I didn’t think much of the photo at the time.”

[The army’s chief rabbi arrived, below]. I thought that would be ‘the shot’. When I developed the photos at home, I told my wife: ‘Rabbi Goren, that’s a great photo, historical.’ But my wife pointed at the image of the soldiers and said: ‘that’s a nice photograph.’ And I told her: ‘What nonsense.’ Part of the face is cut off one the right said, in the middle the nose protrudes, and on the left there’s only half a face… photographically speaking, this isn’t a good photo.”

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But others thought different; the photo was widely reprinted — mostly due to the fact that Rubinger had previously agreed to give his negatives to the government in exchange for front-line access — and eventually, he relented. He put it on the cover of his autobiography, and in 2002, he re-staged it with three women to raise awareness for gender equality. In many ways, it was a fitting photo for Rubinger, whose photo career took off in 1954 after taking the photo of a Catholic nun searching for a hospice patient’s dentures which had fallen out the hospice’s window into Eastern Jerusalem, then Jordanian territory.

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Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 2, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Werner Bischof

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Although he had been dead nine days earlier, the news of Werner Bischof’s death arrived to New York on the same day that it was announced the legendary Robert Capa had been killed in Vietnam. For their employer, Magnum photo-agency, it was a shocking double-blow.

On May 16th 1954, Bischof was travelling in the Andes with a Swiss geologist and a Peruvian driver when their Chevrolet station wagon  slid off the road between Chagual and Parcoy and plunged 1,500 feet into a deep ravine.

Unlike Capa, Bischof chased the tranquility of tradition in his photos, eschewing news events. Trained as a painter, he offered a unique perspective, as he transversed Europe as an independent photographer and a photojournalist for Picture Post, documenting the war’s devastating effects on European culture and life. Orphans looked out forlornly from a train window in Hungary. The Reichstag stood in ruins. In Greece, prefabricated houses were built.

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In 1949, he became the sixth member of Magnum Photos and traveled to India and Far East, working for Life, and Paris Match. In Bihar in India, he documented a famine. His wife, Rosellina, recalled their trip to Japan in a diary entry: “It is snowing today – Tokyo is enchanted – Werner and I visited the Meiji shrine in Tokyo. The mood is magical, the snowfall swallows the noise of the city. Everything appears just in black and white. Suddenly Werner runs away with his camera. I stop, terrified. What happened? He comes back after a little bit. Still out of breath but overjoyed he admits: I just took the picture of Japan!”

But the photo he was mainly remembered for was the last picture taken on that fatal trip to Peru: a little boy  walking between the Andean village of Pisac and the town of Cuzco playing the flute. Posthumously, it became one of the symbols of Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man exhibition, a showcase of commonalities that bind people and cultures around the world.

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 26, 2017 at 5:38 am

Posted in Politics

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