130,000 Photographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Available Online, Courtesy of Stanford University

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

It’s taken for granted that every brand or rising star must establish and maintain a constant presence on various social networks. Indeed, the social media star—an entity famous solely for collecting followers and posting glamorous photos with themed commentary—may seem like a phenomenon that could only exist in the internet age, though writers like J.G. Ballard saw such things coming decades ago.

But before obsessive photography saturated the digital environment, Andy Warhol grasped the medium’s central importance in the documentation of everyday life. It just so happened that his everyday life was filled with celebrity actors, models, artists, and musicians.




Warhol, writes James D. Ellis at Light Stalking, “was the proto-hipster,” a restless moth always on the hunt for a flame. “Much like our contemporary culture, Warhol found it difficult to sit and do nothing. He had to leave his house or Factory and experience his immediate surroundings.”

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

And he had to photograph every one of those experiences. Warhol used his Polaroids and 35mm the way we use iPhones. A court case in the early nineties once took up the question of whether Warhol’s photographs could be considered fine art, but the artist himself, writes Patina Lee at Widewalls, “was obviously undecided about their value and meaning,” saying “A picture means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary.”

Warhol, Lee writes, “took his camera with him wherever he went, documenting practically everything, the highest high class and the lowest trash (literally, he took photos of trash cans and of what they contained)…. This inclusiveness is what made his photographic undertakings border between art and mere obsessive collecting, or as people like to cynically notice, consuming the life around him.” His consumption, and photographs of trash, comes to us as treasure, an extensive record of Warhol’s New York in the seventies and eighties.

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center and Stanford Libraries have collaborated to make their Warhol photo archives available to the public—photos snapped “at discos, dinner parties, flea markets, and wrestling matches. Friends, boyfriends, business associates, socialites, celebrities, and passersby.” This “trove of 3,600 contact sheets featuring 130,000 photographic exposures” documents Warhol’s daily life from 1976 until his death in 1987 and includes candid photos of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Truman Capote, Bianca Jagger, Jimmy Carter, Martha Graham, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Jackie Kennedy, Liz Minelli, Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor, and more.

The archive, writes Sandra Feder for Stanford News, “is the most complete collection of the artist’s black-and-white photography ever made available to the public.” It was acquired by the Cantor in 2014 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Given that these are all contact sheets, navigating the collecting can be a little bewildering. The Cantor has provided a number of tools to help. Click on Contact Sheets here to explore all 3,600+ contact sheets. Click Negatives to see individual frames, like those of Keith Haring, Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the top, Lou Reed further up, and Annie Leibovitz above. Or start browsing through pictures organized by theme here.

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

Dig deep, and you’ll find the oddest things, like Andy Warhol running in Central Park for charity with Grace Jones and photographer Gordon Parks. Whatever Andy did, whoever he happened to do it with—and a stranger cast of characters you will not find—it’s all in this huge photo archive somewhere.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

In 1900, a Photographer Had to Create an Enormous 1,400-Pound Camera to Take a Picture of an Entire Train

Cameras are small, and getting smaller all the time. This development has helped us all document our lives, sharing the sights we see with an ease difficult to imagine even twenty years ago. 120 years ago, photography faced an entirely different set of challenges, but then as now, much of the motivation to meet them came from commercial interests. Take the case of Chicago photographer George R. Lawrence and his client the Chicago & Alton Railway, who wanted to promote their brand-new Chicago-to-St. Louis express service, the Alton Limited. This product of the golden age of American train travel demanded some respectable photography, a technology then still in its thrilling, possibility-filled emergence.

A truly elegant piece of work, the Alton Limited would, during its 72-year lifespan, boast such features as a post office, a library, a Japanese tea-room, and a striking maroon-and-gold color scheme that earned it the nickname "the Red Train."




Even from a distance, the Alton Limited looked upon its introduction in 1899 like nothing else on the railroads, with its six identical Pullman cars all designed in perfect symmetry — the very aspect that so challenged Lawrence to capture it in a photograph. Simply put, the whole train wouldn't fit in one picture. While he could have shot each car separately and then stitched them together into one big print, he rejected that technique for its inability to "preserve the absolute truthfulness of perspective."

Only a much bigger camera, Lawrence knew, could capture the whole train. And so, in the words of Atlas Obscura's Anika Burgess, he "quickly went to work designing a camera that could hold a glass plate measuring 8 feet by 4 1/2 feet. It was constructed by the camera manufacturer J.A. Anderson from natural cherry wood, with bespoke Carl Zeiss lenses (also the largest ever made). The camera alone weighed 900 pounds. With the plate holder, it reached 1,400 pounds. According to an August 1901 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the bellows was big enough to hold six men, and the whole camera took a total of 15 workers to operate." Transporting the camera to Brighton Park, "an ideal vantage point from which to shoot the waiting train," required another team of men, and developing the eight-foot long photo took ten gallons of chemicals.

The advertisements in which Lawrence's photograph appeared practically glowed with pride in the Alton Limited, billing it as "a train for two cities," as "the only way between Chicago and St. Louis," as "the handsomest train in the world." The whole-train picture beggared belief: though it went on to win Lawrence the Grand Prize for World Photographic Excellence at the 1900 Paris Exposition, Burgess notes, it looked so impossible that both the photographer and Chicago & Alton "had to submit affidavits to verify that the photograph had been made on one plate." We in the 21st century, of course, have no reason to doubt its authenticity, or even to marvel at its ingenuity until we know the story of the immense custom camera with which Lawrence shot it. Today, what awes us are all those smaller shots of the Alton Limited's interior, exuding a luxuriousness that has long vanished from America's railroads. If we were to find ourselves on such a train today, we'd surely start Instagramming it right away.

via Atlas Obscura

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Behold Mystical Photographs Taken Inside a Cello, Double Bass & Other Instruments

“If God had designed the orchestra,” remarks a character in Rick Moody’s Hotels of North America, “then the cello was His greatest accomplishment.” I couldn’t agree more. The cello sounds sublime, looks stately… even the word cello evokes regal poise and grace. If orchestral instruments were chess pieces, the cello would be queen: shapely and dignified, prime mover on the board, majestic in symphonies, quartets, chamber pop ensembles, post rock bands….

With all its many sonic and aesthetic charms, I didn’t imagine it was possible to love the cello more. Then I saw Romanian artist Adrian Borda’s magnificent photos taken from inside one. The photo above, Borda tells us at his Deviant Art page, was taken from inside “a very old French cello made in Napoleon's times.” It looks like the belly of the HMS Victory mated with the nave of Chartres Cathedral. The light descending through the f-holes seems of some divine origin.

Borda has also taken photos from inside an old double bass (above), as well as a guitar, sax, and piano. The stringed orchestral instruments, he says, yielded the best results. He was first inspired by a 2009 ad campaign for the Berliner Philharmoniker that “captured the insides of instruments,” writes Twisted Sifter, “revealing the hidden landscapes within.” Without any sense of how the art director created the images, Borda set about experimenting with methods of his own.

He was lucky enough to have a luthier friend who had a contrabass open for repairs. Later he traveled to Amiens, where he found the French cello, also open. “To achieve these shots,” Twisted Sifter notes, “Borda fit a Sony NEX-6 camera equipped with a Samyang 8mm fisheye lens inside the instrument and then used a smart remote so he could preview the workflow on his phone.” Depending on the angle and the play of light within the instrument, the photos can look eerie, somber, ominous, or angelic—mirroring the cello’s expressive range.

Borda gives the cello interior shot above the perfect title “A Long, Lonely Time….” Its play of smoke and light is ghostly noir. His photo below, of the inside of a saxophone, pulls us into a haunted, alien tunnel. If you want to know what’s on the other side, consider the strange surrealist worlds of Borda’s main gig as a surrealist painter of warped fantasies and nightmares. Unlike these photos, his paintings are full of lurid, violent color, but they are also filled with mysterious musical motifs. See more of Borda's interior instrument photos at Deviant Art and Twister Sifter.

via Twisted Sifter

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Filmmaker Wim Wenders Explains How Mobile Phones Have Killed Photography

Smartphones have made us all photographers — or maybe they've made it so that none of us is a photographer. A century ago, merely possessing and knowing how to use a camera counted as a fairly notable accomplishment; today, nearly all of us carry one at all times whether we want to or not, and its operation demands no skill whatsoever. "I do believe that everybody's a photographer," says celebrated filmmaker Wim Wenders, director of movies like The American FriendParis, Texas and Wings of Desire, in the BBC clip above. "We're all taking billions of pictures, so photography is more alive than ever, and at the same time, it's more dead than ever."

Wenders made this claim at an exhibition of his Polaroid photographs, which we've previously featured here on Open Culture. In a sense, the Polaroid camera — easy to use, near-instant results, and highly portable by the standards of its era — was the smartphone camera of the 20th century, but Wenders doesn't draw the same kind of inspiration from phone shots as he did from Polaroids. "The trouble with iPhone pictures is that nobody sees them," he says, and one glance at the speed with which Instagram users scroll will confirm it. "Even the people who take them don't look at them anymore, and they certainly don't make prints."




Having worked in cinema for around half a century now (and for a time with the late cinematographer Robby Müller, one of the most respected and idiosyncratic in the industry), Wenders has seen firsthand how our relationship to the image has changed in that time. "I know from experience that the less you have, the more creative you have to become," he says, asked about the preponderance of photographic filters and apps. "Maybe it's not necessarily a sign of creativity that you can turn every picture into its opposite." Still, he has no objection to camera-phone culture itself, and even admits to taking selfies himself — with the caveat that "looking into the mirror is not an act of photography."

If selfie-taking and everything else we do with the cameras in our smartphones (to say nothing of the image manipulations we perform) isn't photography, what is it? "I'm in search of a new word for this new activity that looks so much like photography, but isn't photography anymore," Wenders says. "Please, let me know if you have a word for it." Some commenters have put forth "fauxtography," an amusing enough suggestion but not one likely to satisfy a creator like Wenders who, in work as in life, seldom makes the obvious choice.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Rare Photos of Frida Kahlo, Age 13-23

“Before they were famous” photos are a clickbait staple, especially if they reveal a heretofore unseen side of someone whose image is tightly controlled:

The smoldering activist-actress-director as a gawky, open-faced sophomore, her hair moussed to the very limits of her modeling school test shots?

The rising political star, pimple-faced and center-parted, posing with the other three members of his high school’s Dungeons and Dragons Club?

What about evergreen art star Frida Kahlo?

Though her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, was the one who urged her to adopt the traditional Tehuana dress of their native Mexico as a uniform of sorts, Frida engineered her image by placing herself center stage in dozens of allegorical, intimate self-portraits.

Much of her work alludes to the horrific accident she suffered at 18, and the tortuous treatments and surgeries she underwent as a result for the rest of her life.




It shaped the way she saw herself, and, in turn, the way we see her. Her enduring appeal is such that even those who aren’t overly familiar with her work feel they have a pretty good handle on her, thanks to her ubiquity on totebags, apparel, and various gift related items—even Frida Kahlo action figures and paper dolls.

We know this lady, right?

What a pleasure to get to know her better. A collection of photos that has recently come to light introduces us to a younger, more candid Frida—both before and after the accident, when she returned to her studies at National Preparatory School.

Taken together with the portraits made by her photographer father, they show early evidence of the forceful personality that would dominate and define her public image, Mary Jane-style pumps with socks, a middy blouse, and a variety of blunt bobs aside.

Some of the later photos in this batch speak to her increasing interest in distinguishing herself from her female peers. Her experiments in cross dressing ensured she would stand out in every group photo, a dashing figure in suit, tie, and slicked back hair.

Though this period of her life is less a matter of public record, it gets its due in the 2017 graphic novel Frida: The Story of Her Life by Vanna Vinci. Some of the others in these photos, including her sisters and her first boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias, appear as characters, as does Death in the form of printmaker José Guadalupe Posada’s La Calavera Catrina—perhaps the only image formidable enough to hold its own against the fabulous Frida.

Frida Kahlo The Story of Her Life p. 22-23

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

French Bookstore Blends Real People’s Faces with Book Cover Art

You can lead the I-generation to a bookstore, but can you make them read?

Perhaps, especially if the volume has an eye-catching cover image that bleeds off the edge.

If nothing else, they can be enlisted to provide some stunning free publicity for the titles that appeal to their highly visual sense of creative play. (An author’s dream!)

France's first indie bookstore, Bordeaux’s Librairie Mollat, is reeling ‘em in with Book Face, an irresistible selfie challenge that harkens back to DJ Carl MorrisSleeveface project, in which one or more people are photographed “obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s), causing an illusion.”




The results are proliferating on the store’s Instagram, as fetching young things (and others) apply themselves to finding the best angles and costumes for their lit-based Trompe-l’œil masterstrokes.

…even the ones that don’t quite pass the forced perspective test have the capacity to charm.

…and not every shot requires intense pre-production and precision placement.

Hopefully, we’ll see more kids getting into the act soon. In fact, if some youngsters of your acquaintance are expressing a bit of boredom with their vacances d’été, try turning them loose in your local bookstore to identify a likely candidate for a Book Face of their own.

(Remember to support the bookseller with a purchase!)

Back stateside, some librarians shared their pro tips for achieving Book Face success in this 2015 New York Times article. The New York Public Library’s Morgan Holzer also cites Sleeveface as the inspiration behind #BookfaceFriday, the hashtag she coined in hopes that other libraries would follow suit.

With over 50,000 tagged posts on Instagram, looks like it’s caught on!

See Librairie Mollats patrons’ gallery of Book Faces here.

Readers, if you’ve Book Faced anywhere in the world, please share the link to your efforts in the comments section.

via This is Colossal/Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. In honor of her son’s 18th birthday, she invites you to Book Face your baby using The Big Rumpus, her first book, for which he served as cover model. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Color Film Was Designed to Take Pictures of White People, Not People of Color: The Unfortunate History of Racial Bias in Photography (1940-1990)

In the history of photography and film, getting the right image meant getting the one which conformed to prevalent ideas of humanity. This included ideas of whiteness, of what colour — what range of hue — white people wanted white people to be. 

- Richard Dyer, White: Essays on Race and Culture

As the bride in the 2014 Interracial Wedding Photographer skit (see below) on her titular sketch comedy TV show, comedian Amy Schumer cast herself in a small but essential background role. She is for all practical purposes a living Shirley card, an image of a young white woman that was for years the standard photography techs used to determine “normal” skin-color balance when developing film in the lab.

The Shirley card—named for its original model, Kodak employee Shirley Page--featured a succession of young women over the years, but skin tone-wise, the resemblance was striking.




As described by Syreeta McFadden in a Buzzfeed essay that also touches on Carrie Mae Weems' 1988 four-panel portrait, Peaches, Liz, Tamika, Elaine, a color wheel meme featuring actress Lupita Nyong'o, and artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's 2013 project that trained an apartheid-era Polaroid ID2 camera and nearly 40-year-old film stock on dark-skinned South African subjects as a lens for examining racism:

She is wearing a white dress with long black gloves. A pearl bracelet adorns one of her wrists. She has auburn hair that drapes her exposed shoulders. Her eyes are blue. The background is grayish, and she is surrounded by three pillows, each in one of the primary colors we're taught in school. She wears a white dress because it reads high contrast against the gray background with her black gloves. "Color girl" is the technicians' term for her. The image is used as a metric for skin-color balance, which technicians use to render an image as close as possible to what the human eye recognizes as normal. But there's the rub: With a white body as a light meter, all other skin tones become deviations from the norm.

This explains why the portrait session McFadden’s mom set up in a shopping mall studio chain yielded results so disastrous that McFadden instinctively gravitated toward black-and-white when she started taking pictures. Grayscale did a much better job of suggesting the wide variety of multicultural skin tones than existing color film.

In her 2009 paper "Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm: Colour Balance, Image Technologies and Cognitive Equity," Concordia University media and communication studies professor Lorna Roth went into the chemistry of inherent, if unconscious, racial bias. The potential to recognize a spectrum of yellow, brown and reddish skin tones was there, but the film companies went with emulsions that catered to the perceived needs of their target consumers, whose hides were noticeably lighter than those of black shutterbugs also seeking to document their family vacations, milestones, and celebrations.

Industry progress can be chalked up to pressure from vendors of wood furniture and chocolate, who felt their dark products could look better on film.

Oprah Winfrey and Black Entertainment Television were early adopters of cameras equipped with two computer chips, thus enabling them to accurately portray a variety of individual tones simultaneously.

Who knew that Amy Schumer sketch, below, would turn out to have such historic significance? Once you know about the Shirley card, the comedy becomes even darker. Generations of real brides and grooms, whose skin tones fell to either side of Schumer’s TV groom, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest fame, failed to show up in their own wedding photos, through no fault of their own.

via Vox

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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