The black-and-white image was shocking to the U.S. and international public alike. There sat a 32-year-old wife and mother, killed for killing. Her blurred figured seemed to evoke her struggle, as one can imagine her last, strained breaths. Never before had the press been able to attain such a startling image—one not made in a faraway war, one not taken of the aftermath of a crime scene, but one capturing the very moment between life and death here at home.
Campbell’s article doesn’t delve any further into the effect of this photograph on death penalty debates. To this day, however, no prisons allow photography during executions. What if things were different? How might the careful documentation of this process — with all our technology for capturing and sharing images — change the debate today? And whose interests are most protected by keeping executions invisible?
I don’t think it’s just shock value. Death is one of those things that we don’t like to think about because it’s unknowable and inevitable. It’s one of those things we’re taught from an early age how to compartmentalize and protect ourselves from addressing.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to talk to my son about so far. Precisely because we don’t know. And he wants answers. To everything. And I can’t give him good ones. I think I’m still looking for those myself. Hence my difficulty in turning away from these photos.
I’m not doing it to titillate anybody’s interests. I want to show off how beautiful my subjects are, whether it’s a cheetah or a live girl or two of them together. That’s more important to me than anything.
—Bunny Yeager, 1929–2014
Yeager always styled her own backdrops, props and costumes—often making objects and bathing suits from materials at hand. Her unique self-portrait techniques certainly foreshadow the work of contemporary artists Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura, known for their own masquerade-based self-portraiture.
Ms. Yeager, who took up her art by accident, was one of the world’s most celebrated photographers of female nudes and near-nudes of the 1950s and ’60s. She is widely credited with helping turn the erotic pinup — long a murky enterprise in every sense of the word — into high photographic art.
We lost one of the stars of Tumblr on Monday. It’s interesting to read the obits and think about how things have changed—both in the what counts as art and what counts as titillating departments. And how so much of both areas today reference these photos still.
It’s also a worthwhile reminder that so much of art now wasn’t art when it was first produced and how fluid those borders and classifications are. Especially in photography.
It’s easy to dismiss these as kitschy pin-ups. Because they are. But they’re so much more too. There’s self-representation. There’s the blurring of the line between photographer and model. There’s the idea of a safe space for the models to work away from any male gaze. There’s the fact that so much of her work appears to have harnessed a genuine sense of fun. There’s the fact that so much of this look (much of which is non-studio in daylight) is the kind of thing people are still trying to copy today.
Deep in East Oakland they’d meet in empty parking lots and spin circles until the police came. The Sideshow, they called it. Elaborate and boisterous stunt driving. Back then it was about the cars more than the skill of the drivers but the goal was still the same. It was about making a statement. A loud and smokey announcement to the status quo. And the message was simple: ‘All eyes on me!’
I’m always sort of a sucker for photography crossed with car culture. I think it’s because both are sort of gearhead hobbies. And the way that one is “look at me” and the other is “I like to watch” results in a good mix.
Also, this is in kukkurovaca’s back yard and makes me (as a South Bay kid) sort of homesick for California.
More than any other continent, Africa’s development has been dictated and perverted by foreign greed, and likewise its image has been defined by the foreign lens. That is the cage of stereotype which the best African photographers have fought to escape for the past 60 years: often rejecting the Western obsession with traditional ceremony and costume, rejecting similarly the associations with violence, poverty and mayhem, sometimes rejecting even the notion of Africa itself—insisting instead on the vast array of identities that have germinated in the continent’s soil.
Photography invites and facilitates the process of appropriation and re-appropriation of identity, in a continent where post-colonial or post-apartheid identity are major themes for artists. It naturally engages with social and political issues that compel many artists; telling stories that need to be told.
As much as the “Africa is a country” thing is an annoying Western ignorant viewpoint, I found that it worked in this case. The commonality of having to deal with resolving cultures after Europe messed with things in the continent makes sense to me. The presentation wasn’t about how all Africa was the same but rather how different African artists dealt with the cultural whiplash of being unleashed from colonialism and set loose in the global economy.
This auction/collection totally fits in with this idea of reappropriating culture in the midst of a post-colonial world. It’s why I fall into the creation side of the “what democratized photography” debate.
This is one Carleton Watkins picture printed four different times. It’s The Domes from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite (1865-66). Different prints of the picture are in about a dozen different collections around the world.
This post also whets my appetite for the giant Watkins show at Stanford. It’s one of the most must-see things on my summer itinerary. Heck, I’ve already acquired the catalog since I know I’ll love this show.