Tag Archive: history
Photojournalism has a history problem. What was a banner headline and 6-column photo is often forgotten just weeks later. Rarely do we get to see what happened a year or a decade or longer after the main news event. Revolution Revisited does just that. Josh Meltzer, photojournalism instructor at Western Kentucky University, wrote in recently to let us know about this project that he and his classmates finished as part of a Master’s in Multimedia at the University of Miami. It focuses on Kim Komenich‘s 1987 Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Philippine Revolution for the San Francisco Examiner, and pairs that with follow-up photos and interviews with people in the photos and Komenich. The students started the project by working with over 800 contact sheets from Komenich’s original work, and the website makes more than 500 images available online, substantially broadening the tight edit of the work awarded the Pulitzer.
[T]his is a start on a “canon” to which you may contribute a suggestion. I’m looking not just for a list of the “great photographers” nor the most famous or successful. I’m looking for photographers who:
-Produced documentary work reflecting the important standards and ethics of the profession,
-Stood the test of time by repeatedly producing notable work, and
-Innovated in the art or profession by being first to adopt an important style or approach, break a barrier or rise above the limits of the day.
Kevin Moloney, photojournalist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has just finished a series of posts on the canon of photojournalism. It’s a great look through the history of the medium, including many photographers whose names aren’t as readily recognizable to most as Cartier-Bresson or the like. The whole series, linked below, is worth a read.
The posts ask for contributions to the canon, so if there’s a photographer that you feel should be listed, send in a contribution. I could see, for instance, the addition of Richards, Rodchenko, and Goldin.
There’s nothing I like more than vintage photos from Russia. We’ve seen color photos from the very early 1900s Russia before, and now a new trove of images from pre-revolutionary Russia have been unveiled. The photos, reports the Moscow Times, were taken during a visit to the country by Union Carbide founder Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings. Billings was on tour with his prize-winning racehorses, and he brought along journalist Murray Howe, armed with an early Graflex camera, to produce periodic dispatches for The Horse Review magazine. And while Howe’s charge was nominally to report on horses, his pictures prove to be a valuable historical record of daily life in pre-revolutionary Russia. Of the 400 images captured by Howe, 76 have been posted here on flickr.
Make sure to read the anecdotes that appear alongside some of the photos. The story accompanying this photo of the Moscow Thieves Market, for instance, is just wonderful.
In 1969, Haeberle told The Plain Dealer that he had made no effort to photograph actual killings. He evaded the issue during interviews with Army investigators.
Last week, he said something distinctly different. “I shot pictures of the shooting,” he said. “But those photographs were destroyed.”
By the Army?
This story’s a bit old, but it’s the first I’ve encountered it. Ron Haeberle, US Army photographer during the Vietnam War, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2009 that he took photos of soldiers in the act of killing during the My Lai massacre but destroyed the negatives. Haeberle’s photos of the event were the first published evidence of the massacre, but did not show any identifiable soldiers. In the video embedded above (and on the Plain Dealer site) Haeberle states that he destroyed any such photos, not wanting to point fingers at particular soldiers and feeling a shared sense of guilt for being part of the coverup of the incident.
David Quigg’s post on the subject, where I first heard about this, makes an interesting point about the journalistic value of the remaining photos: because photos showing clear evidence of the killing were destroyed, the remaining photos no longer serve to tell the full and true story of the event. As Haeberle says in the interview, the surviving photos “aren’t worth anything unless somebody actually talks about them.” This provides a clear example of how factual and unmanipulated photos can nevertheless deceive the viewer into thinking a full account has been given when the real story, in fact, remains hidden or obscured. I should be careful here to acknowledge that Haeberle’s decision to take any photos and come forward with some remains an important, courageous, and valuable act.
There’s an interesting historical exhibition of Lucien Aigner’s work opening January 29, 2011, at the DeCordova Museum located just outside of Boston. Aigner was a contemporary of Capa, Kertesz, and other early 20th century photojournalists and, like the others, his work covered a broad range of subjects from war to race to celebrity to prisons to portraiture to children. The subject of the exhibition is his style of pairing text with several prints, so-called ‘photo stories.’ The exhibition is curated by Jennifer Uhrhane and aims to shine a spotlight once again on one of the forgotten pioneers of photojournalism. This is the first major museum exhibition of Aigner’s work since the 1980s.
I have incredibly fond memories of watching James Burke‘s late-1970s BBC series Connections late at night on PBS during middle school. It’s a strange show, a meandering narrated documentary series about the history of science that draws well-known and obscure connections between major events in the past and present. The show is borne from a connected worldview of technological progress, “that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g. profit, curiosity, religious) with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries’ actions finally led to.”
Now, the whole series is available to watch on youtube. Give each episode some time…they’re slow at first, but by the end of each episode, you’ll never have expected to have arrived where you ended from where you started.
We’ve seen suspected time travelers in historic photos before. Another purported time traveler was spotted in historical footage, this time an older woman appears to be using a cell phone outside the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.” Nevermind that all the supporting mobile technology wouldn’t have been in place to make mobile phone usage possible, the filmmaker who spotted this believes there is no other explanation for why the woman’s hand would be in this position while walking and talking–portable radios hadn’t been invented yet and an ear trumpet would be too big. Others have suggested the woman is adjusting her hair or hat or scratching her temple.
Just as a museum celebrating his work is about to be opened, it has been uncovered that civil rights photographer Ernest Withers (see his work) was a paid FBI informant in the 60s, collaborating with agents to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. The Memphis Commercial Appeal uncovered the story after a two-year investigation and published the findings this week.
This is beautiful:
The above video is early test footage of Kodachrome color movie film from 1922. Kodak’s blog has more info about the film. It predates the first color feature film by 13 years.
In other Kodachrome news, you probably have already heard about how Steve McCurry was given the last produced roll of Kodachrome and shot it for National Geographic, and that the last place to process Kodachrome will cease processing the film in December 2010.
In other test footage news, here’s some early improvisational camera test footage of Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear.
“In this period there was no electricity. It was before electricity was invented and consequently there was less light. Period movies should have less light. In a period movie the light should come from the windows because that is how people lived.” -Nestor Almendros, on filming Days of Heaven by natural light, as quoted on Wikipedia.
Rachel Hulin has a great post showcasing the cinematography in Days of Heaven. If you haven’t seen the film, you must. Terence Malick and Nestor Almendros, director and cinematographer, wanted to achieve a more natural look to the film, to approximate a look accurate with the period of the movie’s setting.
Hulin’s post reminded me of the technology behind Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon.” Kubrick, a photographer before he made movies, wanted to film scenes in the movie by candlelight. Existing motion picture lenses weren’t fast enough, so he worked with camera technicians and suppliers to develop a 36.5mm f/0.7 lens. The lenses, originally developed for NASA, were retrofitted to work with movie cameras, and allowed the director to film many scenes in “Barry Lyndon” by unaided candlelight, such as in the scene above.
This also reminded how strange movie trailers can be, especially old ones, since they rely on a cultural currency that is recognizable but so far removed from what we are used to; Barry Lyndon‘s is weird, and A Clockwork Orange‘s is brilliant (not safe for work or people suffering from epilepsy).