Photographer Puts Her Archive of Photos Documenting the 1970s New York Punk Scene on Instagram: Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Tom Verlaine, and Even Jean Michel Basquiat

Just when you think the fabled downtown New York 70s punk scene centered around CBGBs has no more secrets to offer, another homegrown documentarian appears to show us photographs (on Instagram) we’ve never seen and tell some pretty nifty stories to go along with them. Julia Gorton came to New York from her native Delaware in 1976 and used a Polaroid camera to capture her firsthand encounters with legends like Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Tom Verlaine, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks’ Lydia Lunch (below), “a natural for the glamorous black-and-white photos I liked to make,” she says, and a “a real partner” in Gorton’s enterprise and her most-photographed subject.

In Christina Cacouris’ interview with Gorton at Garage, we learn that the photographer “ended up meeting Tom’s mom [Television singer and guitarist Tom Verlaine] at the flea market in Wilmington [Delaware]. She was a proud mom who played her son’s single on a cassette player in the back of her station wagon while she sold things on a folding table.”

Exactly this kind of intimacy and family atmosphere pervades Gorton’s work in the punk clubs, downtown streets, and record stores. Like most of the performers onstage, Gorton was a relative amateur, learning her craft alongside the musicians and artists she photographed. “You didn’t need to be perfect before you started,” she says.

Although she found her lack of technical ability frustrating, in hindsight, Gorton says, “images that I perceived at the time as failures actually represent the true character of the time period more honestly and powerfully than the images I thought were ‘successful.’” In many cases, however, it has taken 21st century digital technology to unearth some of her most revealing shots.

The cost of film prohibited her from taking multiple exposures, and the darkness of CBGBs left many prints too murky. Using Photoshop, Gorton has been able to revisit many of these seemingly failed attempts, like the moody portrait above of Tom Verlaine. “I was able to scan and finally pull him out of the shadows of decades past,” she muses.

Along with the glamour of her portraits, Gorton’s candid shots of the period capture downtown legends in rare moments and poses. (Check out John Cale above at CBGBs, for example, or Jean Michel Basquiat, then known as SAMO, dancing on the right, below.) Shot while she was a student at the Parsons School of Design, Gorton’s photos of the punk, New Wave, and No Wave scene were the beginning of her long career as a photographer, illustrator, and graphic designer.

On her Instagram feed, 70s and 80s images mix in with her current projects, and the juxtaposition of contemporary musicians and artists with their counterparts from 40 years ago gives a sense of the long continuity reflected in Gorton’s engagement with street art and underground rock culture. Explore her photo collection here.

via Vice

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

Wim Wenders Explains How Polaroid Photos Ignite His Creative Process and Help Him Capture a Deeper Kind of Truth

Wim Wenders began his prolific feature filmmaking career in 1970, and nearly half a century later — having directed such cinephile favorites as Alice in the CitiesThe American FriendParis, Texas, and Wings of Desire along the way — he shows no signs of slowing down. Known for his collaboration with cinematographers, and with Robby Müller in particular, Wenders has worked in everything from black-and-white 16-millimeter film, when he first started out, to digital 3D, which he's spent recent years putting to a variety of cinematic ends. But we can trace all of his visions back, in one way or another, to the humble Polaroid instant camera.

"Every movie starts with a certain idea," says Wenders in the short "Photographers in Focus" video above, and the Polaroid was just a collection of constant ideas." The auteur speaks over images of some of the Polaroids he's taken throughout his life, relating his history with the medium.

"My very first Polaroid camera was a very simple one. Mid-sixties. I was 20, and I used Polaroid cameras exclusively until I was about 35 or so. Most of them I gave away, because when you took Polaroids, people were always greedy and wanted them because it was an object, it was a singular thing."

Wenders describes his Polaroids as "very insightful into the process of my first six, seven movies, all the movies I did through the seventies," the era in which he mastered the form of the road movie first in his native Germany, then in the much-mythologized United States. He not only shot Polaroids in preparation, but during production, snapping them casually, much as one would on a genuine road trip. "Polaroids were never so exact about the framing. You didn't really care about that. It was about the immediacy of it. It's almost a subconscious act, and then it became something real. That makes it such a window into your soul as well." Polaroid photographs, as Wenders sees them, capture a deeper kind of truth. It's no surprise, then, even in age of the 3D digital camera, to see them making a comeback.

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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.

Virginia Woolf’s Personal Photo Album Digitized & Put Online by Harvard: See Candid Snapshots of Woolf, Her Family, and Friends from the Bloomsbury Group

Some writers are restless by nature, roaming like Ernest Hemingway or Henry Miller, settling nowhere and everywhere. Others are homebodies, like William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. Their fiction reflects their desire to nest in place. Strolling the grounds of Faulkner’s Rowan Oak one sweltering summer, I swear I saw the author round a corner of the house, lost in thought and wearing riding clothes. Visitors to Virginia Woolf’s home in the village of Rodmell in East Sussex have surely had similar visions.

Woolf’s home contains her writing life within the lush garden grounds and cottage walls of the 17th century Monk’s House—Virginia and Leonard’s retreat, then permanent home, from 1919 until her suicide by drowning in the nearby River Ouse in 1941.

Even in death she belonged to the house; Leonard buried her ashes beneath an elm in the Monk’s House garden. Although Leonard was the gardener, “there are very few entries” in Virginia’s diary “which do not mention the garden.”

But there are many other ways to meet the author of Mrs. Dalloway and Jacob’s Room than traveling to her writer’s lodge, a tidy, tiny house on the Monk’s House grounds that served as her office. Like an avid Instragrammer—or like my mother and probably yours—Woolf kept careful record of her life in photo albums, which now reside at Harvard’s Houghton Library. The Monk’s House albums, numbered 1-6, contain images of Woolf, her family, and her many friends, including such famous members of the Bloomsbury group as E.M. Forster (above, top), John Maynard Keynes, and Lytton Strachey (below, with Woolf and W.B. Yeats, and playing chess with sister Marjorie). Harvard has digitized one album, Monk’s House 4, dated 1939 on the cover. You can view its scanned pages at their library site.

There are vacation photos and family photos; landscapes and photos of pets; clippings from newspapers and magazines; and, of course, the garden. The albums span the period 1890 to 1947 (including additions by Leonard after Virginia’s death). Many of the photos are labeled, many are not. Many of the albums’ pages are left blank. The photographs are arranged in no particular order. The net effect is that of a life recollected in pregnant images laced with lacunae, a psychological theme of so much of Woolf’s writing. Woolf, writes Maggie Humm, “believed that photographs could help her to survive those identity-destroying moments of her own life—her incoherent illnesses.”

But photography was also a means for cultivating relationships. Woolf “skillfully transformed friends and moments into artful tableaux, and she was surrounded by female friends and family who were also energetic photographers,” including her sister, Lady Ottoline Morrell, her friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, and her great aunt Julia Margaret Cameron. She “frequently invited friends to share her reflections. The letters and diaries describe a constant exchange of photographs, in which the photographs become a meeting-place, a conversation, aide-mémoires, and sometimes mechanisms of survival and enticement.”

Unlike Monk’s House, a world built and shared with her husband, Woolf’s albums represent her own personal network of relationships. They serve as memorials and meditations after the deaths of those close to her. “Photographs of friends were important memento mori,” such as the portrait of poet Julian Bell, above, her nephew, who was killed in the Spanish Civil War. The photos document gatherings and important life events among her social circle. They perform all the tasks of ordinary photo albums, and more—showing us the “chain of perceptions” of which personal identity is made in Woolf’s modernist vision, with repetitions and sequences centered around familiar objects like her favorite chair.

For fans, avid readers, critics, and literary historians, the photographs provide a visual record of a life we come to know so well through the letters, diaries, and romans à clef. Writing to her sister, Woolf once described painting a portrait “using dozens of snapshots in the paint.” Visit her photo album here at the Harvard Library site, and flip through the pages of her life in snapshots.

via @HarvardTheatre

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

Google’s Free App Analyzes Your Selfie and Then Finds Your Doppelganger in Museum Portraits

Having the ability to virtually explore the history, back stories, and cultural significance of artworks from over a thousand museums generates nowhere near the excitement as a feature allowing users to upload selfies in hopes of locating an Instagram-worthy doppelgänger somewhere in this vast digital collection.

On the other hand, if this low-brow innovation leads great hordes of millennials and iGen-ers to cross the thresholds of museums in over 70 countries, who are we to criticize?

So what if their primary motivation is snapping another selfie with their Flemish Renaissance twin? As long as one or two develop a passion for art, or a particular museum, artist, or period, we’re good.

Alas, some disgruntled users (probably Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers) are giving the Google Arts & Culture app (iPhone-Android) one-star reviews, based on their inability to find the only feature for which they downloaded it.

Allow us to walk you through.

After installing the app (iPhone-Android) on your phone or tablet, scroll down the homepage to the question “Is your portrait in a museum?”

The sampling of artworks framing this question suggest that the answer may be yes, regardless of your race, though one need not be a Guerilla Girl to wonder if Caucasian users are drawing their matches from a far larger pool than users of color…

Click “get started.” (You’ll have to allow the app to access your device’s camera.)

Take a selfie. (I suppose you could hedge your bets by switching the camera to front-facing orientation and aiming it at a pleasing pre-existing headshot.)

The app will immediately analyze the selfie, and within seconds, boom! Say hello to your five closest matches.

In the name of science, I subjected myself to this process, grinning as if I was sitting for my fourth grade school picture. I and received the following results, none of them higher than 47%:

Victorio C. Edades’ Mother and Daughter (flatteringly, I was pegged as the daughter, though at 52, the resemblance to the mother is a far truer match.)

Gustave Courbet’s Jo, la Belle Irlandaise (Say what? She’s got long red hair and skin like Snow White!)

Henry Inman’s portrait of President Martin Van Buren’s daughter-in-law and defacto White House hostess, Angelica Singleton Van Buren (Well, she looks ….congenial. I do enjoy parties…)

 and Sir Anthony van Dyck’s post-mortem painting of Venetia, Lady Digby, on her Deathbed (Um…)

Hoping that a different pose might yield a higher match I channeled artist Nina Katchadourian, and adopted a more painterly pose, unsmiling, head cocked, one hand lyrically resting on my breastbone… for good measure, I moved away from the window. This time I got:

Joseph Stella’s Boy with a Bagpipe (Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea with regard to my self-image?)

Cipriano Efsio Oppo Portrait of Isabella (See above.)

Adolph Tidemand’s Portrait of Guro Silversdatter Travendal (Is this universe telling me it’s Babushka Time?)

Johannes Christiann Janson’s A Woman Cutting Bread (aka Renounce All Vanity Time?)

and Anders Zorn’s Madonna (This is where the mean cheerleader leaps out of the bathroom stall and calls me the horse from Guernica, right?)

Mercifully, none of these results topped the 50% mark, nor did any of the experiments I conducted using selfies of my teenage son (whose 4th closest match had a long white beard).

Perhaps there are still a few bugs to work out?

If you’re tempted to give Google Arts and Culture’s experimental portrait feature a go, please let us know how it worked out by posting a comment below. Maybe we're twins, I mean, triplets!

If such folderol is beneath you, please avail yourself of the app’s original features:

  • Zoom Views - Experience every detail of the world’s greatest treasures
  • Virtual Reality - Grab your Google Cardboard viewer and immerse yourself in arts and culture
  • Browse by time and color - Explore artworks by filtering them by color or time period
  • Virtual tours - Step inside the most famous museums in the world and visit iconic landmarks
  • Personal collection - Save your favorite artworks and share your collections with friends
  • Nearby - Find museums and cultural events around you
  • Exhibits - Take guided tours curated by experts
  • Daily digest - Learn something new every time you open the app
  • Art Recognizer - Learn more about artworks at select museums by pointing your device camera at them, even when offline
  • Notifications - subscribe to receive updates on the top arts & culture stories

Download Google Arts and Culture or update to Version 6.0.17 here (for Mac) or here (for Android).

Note: We're getting reports that the app doesn't seem to be available in every geographical location. If it's not available where you live, we apologize in advance.

via Good Housekeeping

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

19-Year-Old Student Uses Early Spy Camera to Take Candid Street Photos (Circa 1895)

We are generally accustomed to thinking of 19th century photography as quite static and rigid, and for much of its early history, technical limitations ensured that it was. Portraiture especially presented a challenge to early photographers, since it involved subjects who wanted, or needed, to move, while long exposure times called for maximum stillness. Thus, we have the stiff, unsmiling poses of people trying to make like trees and stay planted in place.

One striking exception, from 1843, shows us a jovial grouping of three men in the first known picture of merry-making at the pub. Though staged, and including one of the duo of photographers responsible for the portrait, the image has all the vitality of an off-the-cuff snapshot. We might be surprised to learn that it would only be a few decades later, before the turn of the century, when truly candid shots of people in action could be made with relative ease.

Not only were many of these photos candid, but many were also secretive, the product of the C.P. Stirn Concealed Vest Spy Camera. The images here come from one such camera hidden in the buttonhole of Carl Størmer, a Norwegian mathematician and physicist who was at the time a 19-year-old student at the Royal Frederick University. Størmer strolled the streets of Oslo, greeting passersby and, unbeknownst to them, taking the portraits you see here, which show us people from the period in relaxed, active poses, going about their daily lives, “often smiling,” writes This is Colossal, “and perhaps caught off guard from the young student angling for the shot.”

The Concealed Vest Camera was invented by Robert D. Gray, notes Camerapedia. In 1886, C.P. Stirn bought the rights to the device, and his brother Rudolf manufactured them in Berlin. The camera came in two sizes, “one for making four 6cm wide round exposures… the other with a smaller lens funnel, for making six 4cm wide round exposures.” Marketed by Stirn & Lyon in New York, the cameras sold by the tens of thousands (as the ad above informs us).

Størmer’s own camera was the smaller version, as we learn from his comments to the St. Hallvard Journal in 1942: “I strolled down Carl Johan, found me a victim, greeted, got a gentle smile and pulled. Six images at a time and then I went home to switch [the] plate.” The future scientist, soon to be known for his work on number theory and his status as an authority on polar aurora, took around 500 such secret photographs. (See 484 of them at the Norwegian Folkemuseum site.) He even managed to get a shot of Henrik Ibsen, just above.

The Stirn Vest Camera joins a number of other early clandestine imaging devices, including a telescopic watch camera made in 1886 and book camera from 1888. Spy cameras were refined over the years, becoming essential to espionage during two World Wars and the ensuing contest for global supremacy during the Cold War. But Størmer’s photographic interests became more germane to his scientific work. “Together with O.A. Krognes,” writes the Norwegian Northern Lights site Nordlys, he “built the first auroral cameras” and took “more than 40,000 pictures” of the phenomena (learn more about such work here).

Størmer’s Northern Lights photos are much harder to find online than the charming buttonhole camera portraits from his student days. But just above, see an image from eBay purporting to show the scientist and photography enthusiast bundled up behind a camera, photographing the aurora.

via Bored Panda/This is Colossal

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

5,000+ Photographs by Minor White, One of the 20th Century’s Most Important Photographers, Now Digitized and Available Online

Barn + Corn (Vicinity of Dansville, New York), 1955. From The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art.

When the photographer Minor White died in 1976, after a prolific career and an epic journey of a life, he left his archives to Princeton University. But it took about forty years before that institution could make the collection truly available to the world in the form of the Minor White Archive online. He became "one of the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century" and "a key figure in shaping a distinctly modern American photographic style," as the archive's "About" page puts it, by capturing the images of humans, landscapes urban and rural, and even abstract subjects, all the while pursuing new and ever more personal ways to capture them.

In his endless search for inspirations with which to refine his photographic practice, White seemed to turn down no potential source. Not only did he put in time with such colossal predecessors in American photography as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Ansel Adams (who taught him, among other things, his reliable "visualization" technique), he also drew deeply from less conventional wells: the I Ching, Zen meditation, mythology, astrology, Gestalt psychology, and the mystic philosophy of G. I. Gurdjieff (who also had an influence on the comic persona of Bill Murray).

"To some in the 1960s and ‘70s," remembers onetime associate John Weiss, "Minor White was a deity. Every word was an invocation. To others he was a self-promoter, a fraud, talking nonsense."

Chinatown 1953. From The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art.

Either way, White was above all a photographer. Princeton's digital archive features more than 5,000 of his photographs (and other materials like proof cards, contact sheets, and even journals) free to view online.  It offers "a comprehensive survey of White’s career," as Hyperallergic's Claire Voon writes, "from his early captures of Portland, Oregon in 1938 to his latest work in 1974 of portraits and landscapes taken around the US." Have a look through the archive, starting at its search page and, once there, either entering search terms or browsing by subject or location, and you'll see why, when it comes to American photographic art, Minor was very much major.

via Hyperallergic

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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.

1,600 Rare Color Photographs Depict Life in the U.S During the Great Depression & World War II

The title of Walker Evans and James Agee’s extraordinary work of literary photojournalism, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, may have lost some of its ironic edge with subsequent acclaim and the fame of its writer and photographer. First begun in 1936 as a project documenting the largely invisible lives of white sharecropping families in rural Alabama, when the book appeared in print in 1941 it only sold about 600 copies. But over time, writes Malcolm Jones at Daily Beast, “it has established itself as a unique and enduring mashup of reporting, confession, and oracular prose.” As essential as Agee’s documentary prose poetics is to the book's appeal, Evans' photographs, like those of his many Depression-era contemporaries, have served as models for generations of photographers in decades hence.

Evans "photographs are not illustrative,” wrote Agee in the Preface. “They, and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative.” If “the text was written with reading aloud in mind,” and Agee wanted us to hear, not simply see the language, perhaps we are also meant to see the individuals Evans captured, rather than just gaze at weathered faces and battered clothing, and view their bearers collectively as forlorn objects of pity.

Moreover, we shouldn’t look at these individuals only as members of a particular national group. In the book’s first paragraph, Agee writes:

The world is our home. It is also the home of many, many other children, some of whom live in far-away lands. They are our world brothers and sisters….

We are meant to see the subjects of Evans’ photographs and Agee’s exquisite descriptions as distinctive parts who make up the whole of humanity—or, more precisely, the world's laboring people. Agee opens with a famous epigraph from The Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite and fight. You have nothing to lose but your chains, and a world to win.” (With a canny qualifying footnote explaining these words and their author as potentially “the property of any political party, faith, or faction”).

Several photographers employed, like Evans, by the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression shared these sensibilities. The sympathies of Dorothea Lange, for example, lay with working people, not with the noblesse oblige of middle-class audiences who might support relief efforts but who had little desire to mingle with the great American unwashed. Many viewers—disconnected from rural life—stared at the photographs, writes Carrie Melissa Jones, “in issues of the now-defunct Life magazine, Time, Fortune, Forbes, and more,” and “took a paternalistic view of the south, asking: ‘How do we save them from themselves?’”

Can viewers of Depression-era photographs today put aside their implicit or explicit sense of moral superiority? Perhaps seeing photos of the era in color brings their subjects more immediacy and vividness, and you can see them by the hundreds at the Library of Congress’s online collection of work commissioned by the federal government during the Depression and World War II. Evans himself may have thought color photography “garish” and “vulgar,” Jordan G. Teicher notes at Slate (though Evans began taking his own color images in 1946). But contemporaries like Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, and John Vachon proved him wrong.

At the top of the post, see two photos from Lee—of two homesteaders in New Mexico (1940) and a shepherd with his horse and dog in Montana (1942). Beneath that, we have Wolcott’s striking photo of a rural cabin somewhere “in Southern U.S.,” circa 1940. Further up, see Delano’s image of sharecroppers chopping cotton in White Plains, Georgia (1941), which resembles the heroic figures in a Diego Rivera mural. And just above we have John Vachon’s image of rural school children in San Augustine County, Texas (1943). As we scan these faces and places, we might consider again Agee’s preface: “The governing instrument—which is also one of the centers of the subject—is individual, anti-authoritative human consciousness.” His instructions invite us to both empathy for each person we see and to broad human sympathy for all of them.

Once the U.S. entered the war, many Farm Security Administration photographers were reassigned to make propaganda for the Office of War Information (and a few, like Lange, also received commissions to photograph the Japanese Internment Camps). The nature of documentary photography began to change, largely reflecting small town American industriousness and civic pride, rather than rural desperation and struggle. Images like Fenno Jacobs’ patriotic demonstration in Southington Connecticut (1942) above, are typical. Quaint rows of houses and storefronts dominate during the war years. We also find interesting images like that of the woman below working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber in Tennessee, taken by Alfred T. Palmer in 1943. Aside from the dated clothing and machinery, her photograph seems as fresh and compelling as the day it first appeared.

“In color,” writes Emory University’s Jesse Karlsberg, “these images present themselves as relevant to the present, rather than consigned to the past. By displaying the problems they depict—such as segregation, poverty, and environmental degradation—in a contemporary form, the images imply that such problems may continue to be critical today.” They are indeed critical today. And may become even more so. And one hopes that writers, photographers, and artists, though they will not do so under the aegis of New Deal agencies, can find ways to document what is happening as they did decades ago. Such work carries global significance. And, as a recent Taschen book that collects New Deal photography from 1935 to 1943 describes it, photographs like those you see here “introduced America to Americans.” They also introduced Americans—who have been as divided in the past as they are today—to each other.

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

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