Thursday, May 28, 2015

REVIEW: Margaret Bourke-White: Pioneering Photographer


Fort Peck Dam, Fort Peck, MT, 1936 (Cover for first issue of LIFE magazine)
Margaret Bourke-White, Fort Peck Dam, Fort Peck, MT, silver gelatin photograph, 14” x 11”, 1936
THE Magazine
June, 2015

IMAGINE, IF YOU CAN, A WORLD IN WHICH PHOTOGRAPHS WERE A RARE FORM

 of artistic documentation whose workings few understood. Imagine the United States in the first third of the twentieth century, with illiteracy and poverty key defining characteristics of the pitiable lives led by you and most everyone you knew. Images had nearly the power and drama, then, that they did during the Counter-Reformation in Europe, when the Catholic Church fought back against dull Protestantism with paintings as theatrical as opera sets, their shadowy depths filled with depictions of gruesome martyrdom—lit only at the moment of a would-be saint’s transmutation from agonizingly human into gloriously divine. Radiant sculptural forms of gold and silver reflected not merely the material wealth but the spiritual wealth of a religion that had dominated that part of the world for roughly a millennium. Bring yourself back now, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century and from Europe to the United States, populated by the shell-shocked heroes of the Great War dancing with pretty little flappers, their bobbed hairdos gleaming, and the gangsters, with their molls, who kept the country’s beak wet during Prohibition; imagine, finally, on a late fall day in 1929, stock-market millions vanishing within hours, heartlessly slamming shut the doors to the anything-goes twenties. (While you’re at it, imagine the unthinkable: Wall Street investors with such an overwhelming sense of responsibility that they jumped out of skyscrapers rather than face their own— and their clients’—financial ruin. Incomprehensible!) Meanwhile, the Great Depression loomed in the drought-stricken plains of America’s heartland. In the mind’s eye, these times could only have existed in grayed-out shades of black and white. Color, it seems, had been forgotten.
 
Unlike now, when anybody with a cell phone can, and unfortunately does, take pictures of everything from their breakfast to their genitalia—and makes them available to an unwitting public—only a very few of those initiated into the science of the lens and the alchemy of the darkroom were able to make photographs in the 1930s. Margaret Bourke-White was one of the few, and she led a charge of firsts: the first woman to photograph for LIFE magazine (for you post-Millennials, sort of the Internet of its time), the first accredited female war photographer (in World War II), and the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union to record the proletariat’s triumph of mega-industry over the ease and comfort of privileged individuals.
 
In that heyday of pioneering photographers whom Bourke-White epitomized, black-and-white photography equaled photojournalism, which equaled truth with a capital T. This Truth was on a par with the same truth Americans revered in Norman Rockwell’s “real-life” scenes lifted straight out of a Mayberry without the laugh track, long before there was a Sheriff Taylor, Opie, Deputy Fife, or Aunt Bee. Or even television, for that matter. When images were few and far between, they had a credibility that is lost today in a thick overlay of irony and sheer disbelief. In the 1930s, if it appeared in LIFE magazine, or the Saturday Evening Post, or the newspaper, it was flat-out real.
Viewers lacked the objectivity to read meaning into a photograph as social commentary, for example, any more than the illiterate could read the black marks scratched into the white page.
The always-excellent Monroe Gallery presented their exhibition of silver gelatin photographs by Margaret Bourke-White as art, finding that, for her “as an artist,” photography served “as an instrument to examine social issues from a humanitarian perspective. She witnessed and documented some of the twentieth century’s most notable moments, including the liberation of German concentration camps by General Patton in 1945...” Bourke-White’s picture, “German civilians made to look at instruments of torture and execution at Buchenwald concentration camp, 1945,” is hardly an icon of objectivity. Nor should it be; some truths are beyond apprehension. Not to quibble with our dearly held ideals of photojournalism as an act of witnessing and documenting, but black-and-white imagery exists, among other reasons, when color cannot hold the entirety of its content. We demand this state of in-between-ness from art when what it depicts is too awful for mere reproduction.
While today you can find images of gore online anytime you choose to search for them, that they are not generally reproduced ad infinitum speaks to our understanding of the power of imagery. What Warhol repeated in a nightmarish grid (Jackie’s grief-stricken face on Air Force One en route from Dallas), and Picasso abstracted in his Guernica, Bourke-White reflected in the faces of her “German civilians” at Buchenwald.
Finally, when her country needed shoring up in 1936, during the height of the Depression, LIFE, a burgeoning publication that would become our society’s pocket mirror for at least a couple of decades, chose for its very first cover Bourke-White’s symbol of capitalism’s ultimate success. Her Fort Peck dam picture, all art-deco curves and fat-cat angles, describes more than the enormous potential for hydroelectric power: It is an image of America rediscovering her own righteous might, an America that, like the photographer “Maggie the Indestructible,” would liberate us from ourselves. There was the evidence, right in front of us in it-must­be-true black and white. —Kathryn M Davis
Margaret Bourke-White, Fort Peck Dam, Fort Peck, MT, silver gelatin photograph, 14” x 11”, 1936 ©Time Inc.
 
--The exhibition continues through June 28, 2015
 

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"I take my responsibility as a photographer much more seriously"


Spc. Robert Acosta, 20, photographed at his home in Santa Ana, Calif., April 13, 2004. Acosta is an ammunition specialist with the 1st Battalion, 501st Regiment, 1st Armored Division. He was a passenger in a Humvee outside Baghdad on July 13, 2003, when an Iraqi teenager threw a grenade into the vehicle. The blast permanently mangled his left leg and ripped off his right arm.
My Most Important Photograph: Spc. Robert Acosta, 20, photographed at his home
 in Santa Ana, Calif., April 13, 2004
©Nina Berman-NOOR
 


Via TIME Lightbox

Best known for documenting the aftermath of the Iraq War and the militarization of American life, Nina Berman tells us about the most important photograph she's ever made.

"I thought I could add some complexity into the narrative by investigating what it meant to be wounded, who these troops were, what it meant to return home at such a young age and make the transition to disabled veteran."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eddie Adams exhibition of photographs opens at the Dublin Arts Council

Street Execution of a Viet Cong Prisoner, Saigon, 1968


Eddie Adams' Pulitzer-prize winning shot of a man being executed on the streets of Saigon.


Via the Dublin Villager
By JENNIFER NOBLIT
Wednesday May 20, 2015


The exhibition of photographs set to open at the Dublin Arts Council Monday, May 25, is likely to bring conflicting emotions.


Eddie Adams: Vietnam is set to run through Sept. 11 at the Dublin Arts Council, 7125 Riverside Drive, and will show 50 photographs from Adams' time covering the Vietnam War, including his Pulitzer-prize winning shot of a man being executed on the streets of Saigon.


A group of veterans working with the Arts Council on the exhibition got a preview of some of the photos and it brought back memories for Vietnam veteran Jeff Noble.


"It was representative of my time," Noble said of the exhibition.


Noble spent one year in Vietnam as a pilot, supporting troops with firepower on a UH1C helicopter.


"Believe it or not there were some good times," he said.


Humor and camaraderie among troops number among the good times, as well as a job well done.


"There were times when we knew we had helped the troops on the ground and that was a good thing," he said.


Noble also saw some amazing things, including two soldiers walk away from a bad situation.


Noble was called into support troops under siege and after hitting the target twice he was told to cease fire because two U.S. soldiers were in the area.


"I couldn't believe after all this ordinance those guys were still alive," he said.
But Noble also remembered bad times, especially the third day after he arrived in Vietnam.


"We heard noise on the charlie pad from a team getting ready to go," he said.
The team was on the ground, waiting for a storm to pass, Noble said.
"Lightening hit the fox mike (of the helicopter) and sent electricity through the whole ship," he said.


The electricity launched rockets and one went into the lead helicopter, killing the pilot and injuring others.


"It was a rude awakening to life in the war zone," Noble said.


More bad news hit Noble within weeks of arriving in the war zone: "A good friend of mine from flight school went to a different unit and on his second mission in country, his helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire and he died."


Noble and fellow veteran Leroy Clendenen have provided the Arts Council with stories of their time in the Vietnam War for the exhibit and a booth will be set up to take other stories and recollections.


The public will also be invited to write letters to service members and veterans. Workshops on Tim O'Brien's book "The Things They Carried" are slated for August and will discuss the physical and emotional weight of war.


Counselors will also be available at peak times during the exhibit to offer guidance.
The photos could bring mixed reactions, and Noble offered advice for talking to Vietnam Veterans there: "Walk up and say 'Welcome home and thank you for your service.' "



Review Santa Fe Photo Festival


Via Center


Review Santa Fe Photo Festival
June 11-14, 2015

Review Santa Fe Photo Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and this professional development conference has expanded to include an exhibition and presentation series. The conference hosts 100 photographers from around the world showing their projects to leading professionals seeking out new talent. These top-notch reviewers including curators from The Library of Congress, J.Paul Getty Museum as well as editors from The New Yorker, TIME Magazine, MSNBC and 40 others.

An array of free and open to the public programs and exhibitions will be offered,
The Curve Exhibitions, CENTER Artist Talks, a night of the Review Santa Fe 100 Portfolio Viewing, a very special event honoring photographic luminary Anne Wilkes Tucker and more.
 
For more information visit: http://visitcenter.org/

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sonny Liston landed on canvas below Muhammad Ali’s feet on May 25, 1965, and Neil Leifer snapped a photo


Muhammad Ali Knocks Out Sonny Liston, Lewiston, Maine, May 25, 1965

Via Slate

The photo languished unlauded—before it was (much later) recognized as one of the greatest sports photos of all time; Ali became the most hated figure in American sports—before he was (much later) named “The Sportsman of the Century”; and Liston was subjected to intense scrutiny—before (not much later) he fizzled into a mostly forgotten footnote.

Like many sports fans, I’d glimpsed this picture for years—in random Ali articles, atop “best of” lists, even on T-shirts—but it wasn’t until doing my own research, excavating layers, that I discovered its most astounding attribute:
 
Everything you’d initially imagine about the image is wrong.
 
But first, just look at that photo! It instantly hits your eyes haloed in a corona of potency—structured so soundly as to seem staged, this forceful frieze of physical dominance. The Victor yells, the Loser displays himself vanquished, and the Watchers are all caught in that moment. The kinetic poetry of moving bodies, momentarily frozen, such is the stuff of the best sports photos—this has that.
There are also the incongruities! The Victor, appearing to proclaim dominance, is in fact pleading for the bested man to rise; and, for that matter, there is secretly a second bested rival below Ali; and though this looks like the moment after a vicious put-down punch, the photo was actually preceded by the puniest of blows, a “phantom punch,” as it would later be known—a wispy, theoretical mini-hook that none in attendance even observed. That Crowd so multitudinous that it stretches beyond the horizon line? They were actually the smallest assembled crowd in heavyweight championship history—there to witness a bumbling conclusion, filled with calls that the fix was in. This bout: still boxing’s biggest unsolved mystery. This image: still iconic, even (especially) with the controversy, for a sport as mythologized as it is crooked. Click for full article.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cassius Clay couldn’t sleep in Miami Beach after beating Sonny Liston there in the legendary 1964 bout

Black Muslim leader Malcolm X photographing Cassius Clay, Miami, 1964
Until recently, Bob Gomel remembered his photograph of Malcolm X and Cassius and Cassius  Clay as " It was February 26, 1964 in a Miami restaurant after Clay won the heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. Howard Bingham, Ali's personal photographer is seen at the far right above Ali. Clay's brother Rahaman is seated to Cassius's left (only a fist is visible in the famous frame.) The name and exact location of the restaurant are paled into insignificance.” But now the location has been identified.



Via Miami Herald
May 8, 2015


When the rescue of Hampton House began six years ago, vagrants and drug addicts slept in the motel where Malcolm X once stayed. A tree grew out of the swimming pool where Martin Luther King Jr. swam. The walls were crumbling around the courtyard where Ebony magazine had photographed Muhammad Ali and his new wife and baby.

Amid the ruin, there was no hint of Hampton House’s heyday in the 1960s as the premier getaway for black Americans visiting segregated Miami, where beachfront icons like the Fontainebleau were off limits even to celebrities of color.

On Friday, the decay of Hampton House officially lifted as local leaders celebrated a $6 million rehab of the historic 1953 motel — a largely county-funded effort that’s been in the works for about 15 years.

“We got it done,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson told a crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the motel at the corner of Northwest 27th Avenue and 42nd Street.
Facing demolition in 2000, the Hampton House is being relaunched as a community hub, with a museum, space for a restaurant and motel rooms being converted into office space for community groups, recording studios and rehearsal space for musicians.

Organizers hope to revive the Hampton House’s legacy of live entertainment, too. Its jazz club once drew evening crowds from throughout Miami, making Hampton a night-life hub for local African Americans. Traveling celebrities gave it star power.

Segregation meant Miami’s famous crop of luxury oceanfront hotels weren’t available for black people, so Cassius Clay couldn’t sleep in Miami Beach after beating Sonny Liston there in the legendary 1964 bout. The boxer went back to the Hampton House for a bowl of ice cream, and to celebrate with Malcolm X. A month later, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
“This was an oasis in a sea of racism,” Khalilah Camacho Ali said from the Hampton House’s new event space, an open-ceiling hall created out of the old jazz club and some motel rooms above.
On the wall hangs a photo of her leaning over Muhammad Ali as he cradles their infant daughter on a Hampton House pool chair. Ebony took the photo, and included it in a 1969 cover spread featuring the couple.

King stayed at the Hampton House often enough that one ground-floor room came to be known as his suite. A photographer snapped King in swim trunks from the pool. And he is said to have delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech during an event at Hampton House before it made history on the National Mall in 1963.

Historic Hampton House Motel reopens in Miami

The historic Hampton House Motel in Miami reopened Friday, May 8, 2015, with a ceremony to mark the occasion. The motel was frequented by black celebrities and civil rights activists such as Cassius Clay, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the middle part of the last century.

A white Jewish couple presided over the Hampton House’s golden years. Harry and Florence Markowitz owned land and apartment buildings in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, including what would later become the Hampton House location. In 1954, they leased the land to the Booker Terrace Motel and Apartments.
 
That venture floundered, and the Markowitzes decided to make it a more upscale destination and renamed it the Hampton House after a neigborhood naming contest. They brought in the jazz club to the 50-room motel, started a popular restaurant with late-night fare, and began pursuing black conventions and church groups to boost business. Baseball great Jackie Robinson used Hampton House for a golf tournament he held each year in the Miami area, and the two-story motel marketed itself as the “Social Center of the South.”

The motel closed in the 1970s, and the Markowitzes sold it before the building slipped into disrepair through the 1980s and ’90s. Sons Bob, 74, and Jerry, 66, attended Friday’s ceremony. Bob was asked how his parents would have reacted to seeing Hampton House restored. “I’m getting choked up to even say it,” he replied. “They would be overwhelmed.”

Integration is mostly blamed for the motel’s decline: With black residents and visitors able to frequent beach hotels, the Hampton House lost its edge.


Hampton House had thrived as a gathering spot for local African Americans in the 1960s. At the time, Overtown was fading as the heart of black Miami’s middle class, with more families moving into the new Liberty Square housing complex that sits about 35 blocks from Hampton House.


 
Edmonson, the county commissioner whose district includes the motel, recalls her mother and friends gathering at Hampton House for their regular tea parties. A young Edmonson was occasionally called on for the afternoon’s entertainment, and she was too nervous to look at anyone but her mother while reciting the poem Trees before the ladies decked out in white gloves.

“I remember the Hampton House,” Edmonson told Friday’s crowd assembled on folding chairs in the motel’s parking lot. “I am so proud to say I grew up in this community.”

The Hampton House’s neighborhood in Brownsville now includes some of the poorest stretches of Miami. Miami-Dade wants to raze and rebuild the Liberty Square complex in an effort to root out crime there and revitalize the neighborhood. Census figures from 2010 show Brownsville’s population growing for the first time in 40 years. About 15,000 people live there.

Hampton House organizers hope there will be enough interest in the area that they can generate revenue by renting out the old coffee shop as a restaurant. It’s been restored with a new version of the original mural from somewhere in the Caribbean, and yellow-vinyl stools along the lunch counter. It was the site of perhaps the most famous photo ever taken at Hampton House: Malcolm X, having gotten himself behind the counter, snapping his own photo of Clay after his victory against Liston.

For Enid Pinkney, founding president of the Historic Hampton House Community Trust and long-time champion of the restoration effort, the building’s return offers another chance to link prosperity with Hampton House.

“We’ll have a place in Miami,” she said in a trust video released last year, “where we can go and be proud of the effort that went into bringing that back as an economic engine in the community.”

This article was updated to correct the distance between the Liberty Square housing complex and Hampton House.
 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Margaret Bourke-White: Pioneering Photojournalist



Via Photograph Magazine

Margaret Bourke-White: Pioneering Photojournalist

Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe


Margaret Bourke-White, Buchenwald Prisoners, 1945. Courtesy Monroe Gallery of Photography ©Time In.


Referring to the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet, fellow painter Paul C├ęzanne famously quipped to art dealer Ambroise Vollard: “Monet is only an eye, but my God what an eye!” The same could be said for American photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971). Examining Bourke-White’s work, from the late 1920s through the 1950s, one quickly senses her complete command of the photographic tools at her disposal that resulted in compositions filled with formal elements of design that were part and parcel of narratives that documented times of significant events. Soaring heights of urban construction, extreme poverty in the South, and World War II are only a few of the historic moments captured in photographs by Bourke-White – many of which are iconic in American photography.

In 50 photographs on view at Monroe Gallery of Photography through June 28, Margaret Bourke-White: Pioneering Photojournalist gives a brief, yet fine overview of her prolific career.
 
Margaret Bourke-White, Fort Peck Dam, Fort Peck, MT, 1936. Courtesy Monroe Gallery of Photography  ©Time Inc

 
Included are instantly recognizable images such as At the Time of the Louisville Flood, Louisville, Kentucky, 1937, where people are queued in a bread line below a billboard exuding the good life, as well as Buchenwald Prisoners, Germany, 1945, in which prisoners confined behind barbed-wire await liberation -- the latter taken when Bourke-White was on assignment for Life Magazine traveling with Patton’s army. In one of her most artistic images, Patterns Made by Steel Liners for Diversion Tunnels, Fort Peck Dam, Montana, 1936, geometric patterns fill the frame composed of various machine-hewed disks with radiating spokes. Bourke-White, whose career was cut short by Parkinson’s disease in 1956, once said, “To understand another human being you must gain insight into the conditions which made him what he is.” She was tenacious in her pursuit of photographs that conveyed truths about the human condition, as well as the beauty in things produced by humankind. 
 
 

— By Douglas Fairfield  05/04/2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

World Press Freedom Day May 3





World Press Freedom Day is Sunday, May 3. Join us in remembering journalists who have died while bearing witness. Change your social profile picture to our black press ribbon and post your support using ‪#‎remembering‬ on May 3 between 6 and 9 p.m. (local time).

Learn more at rememberingfallenjournalists.com.

United Nations:  World Press Freedom Day 

UNESCO: World Press Freedom Day