Posts Tagged ‘Luminous Lint’

Stanley Wolfson  (NY World Telegram & Sun ) Bullet Holes in back of stage where Malcolm X was shot

Stanley Wolfson (NY World Telegram & Sun ) Bullet Holes in  back of stage where Malcolm X was shot

I wrote  here several months back about coincidence, those strange moments of synchronicity.  You know, those times when someone who you haven’t spoken with in quite some time suddenly calls you just as you about to pick up the phone to call them.  Or an old song comes into your head and you flip on the radio and there it is.  There seems to never be a reason and the coincidences are seldom  remarkable enough to wonder about for more than a moment.

I had one of those this morning when I was looking for a photo on one of my favorite sites, Luminous Lint.  While scanning through a page of  many small, unrelated images, the photo above caught my eye.    Looking quickly at the small image on my screen it reminded me for a moment of one of my Red Chair paintings.  It was an overturned chair set against a landscape.  There was an immediate sense of loss, of someone having died in my quick reading of the shapes in the photo.   It wasn’t until I looked at the larger image that I could see that the landscape was theatrical backdrop and the chair was on a stage.

The caption said that the circles on the backdrop were bullets holes and this was where Malcolm X was shot at Harlem’s Audobon Ballroom.  I immediately wondered, for some unknown reason, when exactly that was.  I knew it was around 1964 or 65 but wasn’t sure.  I looked it up and there the date– February 21, 1965.  Today’s date, forty nine years ago.

I am sure there was nothing in this. No deeper meaning.  No connection or synchronicity with the movements of the universe.  Just coincidence.  But it makes one wonder why this photo and this date coincided this morning.  I will try to keep my own chair upright today.

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I was going to write about last week’s election here, about the runup to the election and the aftermath, particularly the awful spinning by Karl Rove and his ilk who try to justify their deceitful tactics and the ridiculous expense of these campaigns (from which they profit very nicely) with a continuance of their takers versus makers argument, one that drives me mad.  But I’m too fatigued by the whole thing.  So I set out to seek something that might catch my eye and, as I often do, headed over to Luminous Lint where I came across this striking image, a blaze of color and shape that filled the frame  like a Pop Art vision.  Indeed, in the thumbnail as it was shown I thought that it was a painting.

It wasn’t until I clicked on it to see the larger image that I realized that this was actually a person in costume.  Titled Junkanoo #1, it was an image taken by photographer Edward Yanowitz around  1979 in the Bahamas.  This image was actually used as a postage stamp for the Bahamas in 1979.  Junkanoos are street parades, much like a Mummers-type event,  that are common in the Bahamas and about which Yanowitz wrote when describing this image:

“It takes place once a year on two nights, Boxing day (26 Dec.) and New Years morning. It starts at 3 or 4 in the morning until about 8am. Groups called “gangs” compete against each other for the best costume designs and rhythm sounds, there are hundreds of people dancing around, playing on goat skin drums, beating cow bells together, whistles and various instruments. It’s a very powerful sound. When I photographed it during the seventies there were very few street lights so it was in complete darkness. I had to wait for the slides to come back just to see if I got anything, and if you discovered something in your work, you had to wait another year before you could utilize it the next time.”

I immediately thought Pop Art at first but the more I looked at this the more I realized that this really reminded me of some pieces by one of my favorite Modernist painters, Marsden Hartley.  His Portrait from around 1914 is shown here.  He did several of these colorful pieces with strong shapes and lines that are juxtaposed on dark backgrounds.  As I was searching for my own voice, these pieces were deeply influential.  The darkness underneath  both gave the color a boost and created a different subtext for how the viewer might take in these colors,  not simply as being bright and joyous.  This was one of the things I wanted so much in my own work.

Maybe that’s why this image of the Junkanoo parader stopped me in my tracks.  I don’t know for sure.  But it is definitely a great image.

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While trying to find something to divert my attention away from the last few anxiety-filled days of the current political campaign (there’s a lot I would like to say about this but I have pledged to keep my politics out of this– for now), I turned to one of my favorites sites, Luminous Lint,  once more.  It has a treasure trove of incredible photography of all sorts and I always quickly find something there that captures my imagination.  One of my favorite things there is to see  images of people from from the earliest days of photography, the 1840’s and 1850’s, just to study them a bit, to see  how these people who lived in a time so unlike the time in which we currently dwell might be similar to us.  It puts a face on history for me, much more so than formal  or even folk portraiture.

The  photo above on the right  is good example of this.  Found in a section that was a collection of early occupational daguerreotypes (click here to see the whole group) that depicted people of the time with the tools and dress of their trade, it is an image of a General Thomas Jesup from around 1847.   Shown with his sabre and the uniform and hat of his rank, the photo tells me so much more than this official portrait shown here on the left.  He is so much more rounded as a  human.  His eyeglasses and the his gaze toward the camera give him a more shrewd and studious look making me think that while he was a man of action, he was also a thinker, a planner.  And indeed he was.  He was the Quartermaster General for 42 years until his death in 1860 at the age of 72, making arrangements for the acquisition and delivery of supplies to our troops over the quickly expanding nation.

There’s something extraordinary for me in  looking at a photo like this and seeing the  actual face of someone who fought in the War of 1812 and was a contemporary of someone like the legendary Andrew Jackson.  I feel so much more connected to history in being able to see his actual demeanor before the camera.  It really does take my mind from the present time, letting me live for moments in that bit of history rather than in the history we are currently making. And sometimes that little journey back in time is a relief…

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I came across a group of photos that caught my eye on Luminous Lint, one of my favorite sites to visit and one that I have mentioned here a number of times in the past.  They were by a photographer who I was not familiar with, not that is an unusual thing.  The name was Alvin Langdon Coburn and the photos were scenes of London from the turn of the  twentieth century.  They were quite beautiful and evocative, gray and misty in an artistic way that captured all the preconceptions one might have about London of that time.  The photo shown above, one of Hyde Park from 1905,  was the first one I saw and it immediately struck a chord with me.  I loved the composition with the way the trees jutted into the picture frame and how the ghostly carriage hovered in the background.

Coburn was an American from Boston who had a most impressive biography photographing the great men and places of his time  over the course of his life which ended in 1966 at the age of 84.  He eventually became a British citizen and lived  the last 54 years of his life in Britain.

Here are some of my favorites from his London scenes  as well as a wonderful portrait of sculptor Auguste Rodin, best known, of course, for his  The Thinker sculpture .

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I check one of my favorite sites, Luminous Lint, periodically to see what is new .  It’s a treasure trove of great and historical photography and there is always something interesting in the new images that are seemingly added daily.

The photo shown here immediately caught my eye and made me chuckle.  It’s titled Portrait of Henri Groulx and a Rooster and is from a Parisian photo studio from around 1920.  In these all so politically correct times, it’s kind of refreshing to see this French kid with his cigarette dangling.  That world-weary look on his face and the confidence  of his stance as he sits with legs crossed say that he’s six years old and he’s seen it all.  Probably waiting for the next cockfight with his superchicken.

Another interesting photo is this one from 1847 taken by Boston area photographers Southworth and Hawes.  It documents an operation at Massachusetts General that features one of the earliest uses of ether as an anesthetic.  I’m not sure if the man credited with introducing ether as an anesthetic, William T.G. Morton, is in this photo but he was known to have demonstrated ether in this use in the Boston area at that time.  I just find this photo a remarkable historical image which makes me really appreciate modern medicine, especially modern anesthesia.

With that in mind, I must get to work.  My health insurance won’t pay for itself…

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I was rummaging around in one of my favorite sites, Luminous Lint, looking for something that would somehow sum up the world of Kodak and Kodachrome film on this day when they file for bankruptcy, the end of an era.  As I flipped through the photos this image caught my eye.  There was a blaze of green that lit up the edge of it and flecked through the faded and vague image of a farmhouse giving it an otherworldly glow. It reminded me of the effect I wanted in much of my early work, of the image seeming to be somehow pulled from time and space, leaving it in a rough-edged cell.

Reading below it I discovered that the photographer was Levi L. Hill and that was taken in 1851 in Greene County in the Catskills of New York.  It also said that this may be one of the first color photos taken and that Hall came across the image accidentally and spent the last 15 years of his life trying to recapture the effect.

Levi Hill Portrait

Intriguing.  I decided I wanted to know more and came immediately across an article from the Catskill Mountain Foundation titled Levi L. Hill: Fool or Fake? by writer Carolyn Bennett.  The whole story is a bit more involved and even more interesting.  It seems that Hill began a Quixotic journey to discover color photography after a discussion with famed Hudson River painter Asher Durand who told him that if he could find a way to capture color with photography he would be far ahead of all of the painters of the time.  The public was crazy for photoimages and especially clamored for color.  The man who discovered a color process would gain renown and fortune. 

So Hill started an intensive search even though he had little training in chemistry or science, performing thousands of experiments.  The image above was one of the few, if limited, successes and that was merely by chance.  His grand quest ended with his death in 1865 at the age of 49.  To get a better sense of this little known bit of photo history I suggest reading the article from the Catskill Mountain Foundation mentioned above or an article from Smithsonian curator Michelle Anne Delaney that talks about Hill’s work and the museum efforts to determine if he was indeed a fraud or a genuine trailblazer.

Whatever the case, I still am intrigued by his image.

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Early Snow

We’re winding down the last few days of December and we have yet to have any real snow in this part of New York  where I live and work.  I’ve rhapsodized here before about my particular affection for snow so it should come as no surprise that I am bit depressed by the lack of the white stuff at this point in the year.  That being the case I went looking for some online and came across this image on one of my favorite sites, Luminous Lint, which features a spectacular array of fine art photos from all eras.

This particular one is an 1841 daguerrotype from Frenchman Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey that may be the eraliest known photographic image of snow.  Photography was in its infancy then and nature photography had yet to blossom.  The daguerrotype, named after the man, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, who created the process which created these images, was the main form pf photography at the time.  It was a very dangerous process that involved the heating of mercury which created extremely toxic vapors.

According to the site, there may be other images of snow that predate this but today I’m considering this the first.  Besides I like the was the plate shows its spectrum of color at its edges and the image sort of emerges from it.  It really feels like a moment from a time long ago has been ripped from the continuum and placed on a slide for us to examine. 

And besides, it may be the only snow I see for the rest of this year.

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