Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

13 OCTOBER, 2011

Rare Images from the Golden Age of Circus, 1870-1950

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From Ancient Egypt to Lady Gaga, or what P. T. Barnum has to do with Stanley Kubrick.

Since ancient times, spectacles and public performances have transfixed, entertained, and socialized audiences. Between the mid-1800s and mid-1900s, the American circus swelled into the largest show-biz industry in the world and Circus Day became the year’s biggest event, captivating imaginations with its marvelous minstrel shows, audacious acrobats, and crazy clowns. What made the circus extraordinary isn’t merely that it was the birth of American pop culture, the Super Bowl, Macy’s Parade, and the Olympics all rolled up into one, it’s that it created a place for outsiders to become the superheroes of their day, for women to showcase their physical strength in ways that would be socially unacceptable elsewhere, and for audiences to experience cultures from around the world long before the age of global citizenship.

The Circus Book: 1870-1950 is a magnificent volume from Taschen () exploring the circus as a living organism and a way of life, from its history and sociology to its glamor and discipline, through 650 stunning images, culled from a collection of 30,000 spanning 40 different sources, including many of the earliest photographs ever taken of the circus, as well as rare images by Stanley Kubrick and Charles and Ray Eames. More than 80% of the images have never been published, and most have never even been seen before.

The images in this book capture the entrepreneurial audacity for which the circus became famous, and also the remarkable personality and energy of its performers.” ~ Noah Daniel

Alongside the images are fascinating micro-essays that frame the photos, illustrations, and other visual ephemera in a sociocultural context, exploring everything from the ancient origins of public spectacles to how the circus paved the way for film and television.

A time-capsule of a bygone era and priceless artifact of cultural anthropology, The Circus Book: 1870-1950 is both a visual treasure for design- and photography-lovers alike, and an essential primer on understanding the evolution of contemporary pop culture.

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07 OCTOBER, 2011

The Disciples: James Mollison’s Portraits of Music Subcultures

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From Madonna to Marilyn Manson, or how to worship at the secular altar of pop culture.

From photographer James Mollison, whom you might remember from his poignant series on where children sleep, comes Disciples — a visual study of musical subcultures, reminiscent of the Exactitudes project. Between 2004 and 2007, Mollison travelled across Europe and the U.S. with a mobile photography studio, which he parked in front of music concerts, taking individual portraits of fans outside the respective band’s gig. He then composited the portraits into lineups of eight to ten fans, creating a single pseudo-panoramic image. Disciples gathers 62 of these fascinating images, featuring more than 500 individual portraits that capture the spirit and tribalism of comtemporary music culture, from death metal to Lady Gaga.

Madonna

The Cure

Bjork

Oasis

Kiss

Dolly Parton

50 Cent

Puff Daddy

Sex Pistols

Spice Girls

Jennifer Lopez

Casualties

George Michael

Rod Stewart

Manson

Missy Elliot

Morrisey

An entertaining study of pop culture and its subcultural micro-cults, Disciples offers a curious look at one of our era’s most pervasive secular religions and one of the last remaining social unifiers of our time.

via Quipsologies; images courtesy of James Mollison via Laboite Verte

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05 OCTOBER, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Turns 50: Celebrating Audrey Hepburn

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One of Old Hollywood’s most charismatic personalities, captured through the affection lens of a dear friend.

Fifty years ago today, Breakfast at Tiffany’s made its debut. The iconic film, based on the Truman Capote novella of the same name, went on to become one of the most beloved romantic comdies of all time, and the Holly Golightly character remained the most memorable role of Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston, better-known as Audrey Hepburn. Throughout her long career, no one has managed to capture Hepburn’s character, charisma, and enigma with more visual eloquence than iconic photographer Bob Willoughby, who met a young Hepburn shortly after she arrived in Hollywood in 1953 and, mesmerized by her extraordinary persona, continued to shoot her for over a decade. Over the years, Willoughby became a trusted friend who helped frame Hepburn’s life and image, both personally and professionally.

From the fine folks at Taschen () comes a formidable volume not for the faint of heart (or wallet) — Bob Willoughby: Audrey Hepburn: Photographs 1953-1966 is a lavish collector’s edition of 1,000 hand-numbered copies that comes at a hefty 14 pounds and even heftier $750 price tag. Though long sold out, you can scour Amazon and Craigslist for some used copies — but don’t expect a bargain. Still, Willoughby’s work is so poetic and enchanted it’s hard to put a price on.

I really didn’t know what to make of Audrey when I first saw her. She certainly was not the typical image of a young starlet, for that was what I had been sent to photograph. I watched her across the room as she was being photographed by Ben Fraker, and she did have something… but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I was finally introduced to her.

Then that radiant smile hit me right between the eyes, warming me inside like a shot of whisky. That amazing instant contact she made, a remarkable gift that everyone who met her felt. She exuded some magic warmth that was hers alone.”

For a more affordable homage, there’s also the excellent Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion — a first-of-its-kind exploration of what makes the iconic movie so enduring and why it still has the same seductive magic today. The only official release published in association with Paramount Pictures and the Audrey Hepburn estate, the volume is full of rare images, candid behind-the-scenes photos, full-color reproductions of poster art, copies of the original shooting script, and other ephemera to make a movie buff’s heart bustle with joy. A foreword by the great French aristocrat and fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who designed much of Hepburn’s wardrobe and famously had her as his muse, adds another layer of affection to what’s already a touching tribute.

Images via Taschen

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