Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekend Video - It Was 40 Years Ago Today ...

The Beatles set out to make a documentary film of themselves writing songs for their next album - a return to their rock and roll roots. (This was largely inspired by the emergence of The Band, whose straight-
forward, down-home recording style was increasingly influential at the time.)

With a working title of "Get Back" rehearsals began at Twickenham studios on January 2, 1969, but the project quickly ran into trouble. George Harrison walked out after eight days complaining of continual criticism from Paul McCartney, but returned a week later. Yoko's presence was considered disruptive. While initial plans included filming on an ocean liner, eventually the shoot was limited to the controlled atmosphere of the studio.

At the time, there were plans to turn the roof at No 3 Saville Row, Apple headquarters, into a tranquil roof garden, and Ringo Starr and the film's director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, went up to take a look. It seemed perfect for an idea they had to break the film out of the confines of the studio environment.

The Beatles last ever public concert took place around mid-day on Thursday, January 30, and lasted 42 minutes. It may well have gone on longer had it not been for the complaints of their neighbor, Stanley Davis, who was quoted as saying "I want this bloody noise stopped. It's an absolute disgrace". He called the police and the concert was stopped.

For the complete concert click here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Mysteries Unravelled ...

Chances are you haven't thought much about the uncanny connection between Batman star Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog. But the great thing about the web is that someone has. And if you think this is all there is you are gravely mistaken. Click here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dina Vierny. 1920 - 2009. (A Life Well Lived)

Photo: Louis Carre/Getty Images

An incredible story and an incredible life. Here is William Grimes's obituary from today's New York Times:

Dina Vierny, the model whose ample flesh and soft curves inspired the sculptor Aristide Maillol, rejuvenating his career, and who eventually founded a museum dedicated to his work, died on Jan. 20 in Paris. She was 89.

Her death was announced by the Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, which she founded in 1995.

In the same period when she was modeling, Ms. Vierny, who had joined the Resistance early on during World War II, led refugees from Nazism across the Pyrenees into Spain as part of an American organization operating out of Marseille.

Ms. Vierny was a 15-year-old lycée student in Paris when she met Maillol, in the mid-1930s. The architect Jean-Claude Dondel, a friend of her father’s, decided that she would make the perfect model for the artist, who was 73 and in the professional doldrums.

“Mademoiselle, it is said that you look like a Maillol and a Renoir,” Maillol wrote to her. “I’d be satisfied with a Renoir.”

For the next 10 years, until his death in a car accident in 1944, Ms. Vierny was Maillol’s muse, posing for monumental works of sculpture that belied her modest height of 5 feet 2 inches. By mutual agreement, the relationship was strictly artistic.

Maillol threw himself into his sculpture with renewed energy and, at Ms. Vierny’s urging, began painting again. After his death, she worked tirelessly to promote his art and enhance his reputation, eventually creating the Maillol Museum and donating 18 sculptures to the French government on the condition that they be placed in the Jardin des Tuileries. She later added two more.

Ms. Vierny was born in Kishinev, in what is now Moldova, in 1919 and was taken by her parents to France when she was a child. Her father, who played the piano at movie houses, made a modest living while opening his home to an entertaining collection of artists and writers.

Ms. Vierny, who was intent on studying physics and chemistry, took to the role of artist’s muse reluctantly at first, posing during school vacations and glancing sideways at her schoolbooks on a nearby stand. The generous modeling fees and Maillol’s sense of fun won her over.

For the first two years, though, she kept her clothes on, not out of modesty — she and her friends belonged to a nudist club — but because of Maillol’s timidity. She herself later proposed that he try some nude studies. “Since he never asked, I figured he would never have the courage,” she told National Public Radio last year.

Her Rubenesque figure and jet-black hair indeed made her, as Dondel had predicted, “a living Maillol,” memorialized in works like “The Seated Bather,” “The Mountain,” “Air,” “The River,” and “Harmony,” his last, unfinished sculpture. Maillol also turned to her as a subject for drawings and painted portraits, like “Dina With a Scarf,” now in the Maillol Museum.

In 1939, Maillol took refuge at his home in Banyuls-sur-Mer, at the foot of the eastern Pyrenees. There, Ms. Vierny, who had already begun working for a Resistance group in Paris, was approached by the Harvard-educated classicist Varian Fry, whose organization in Marseille helped smuggle refugees from occupied France into Spain. Unbeknownst to Maillol, she began working as a guide, identifiable to her fleeing charges by her red dress. The work was doubly dangerous because she was Jewish.

Ms. Vierny soon began dozing off at her posing sessions. The story came out, and Maillol, a native of the region, showed her secret shortcuts, smugglers’ routes and goat paths to use. After several months of working for the Comité Fry, Ms. Vierny was arrested by the French police, who seized her correspondence with her friends in the Surrealist movement but failed to notice stacks of forged passports in her room.

A lawyer hired by Maillol won her acquittal at trial, and to keep her out of harm’s way the artist sent her to pose for Matisse in Nice. “I am sending you the subject of my work,” Maillol told Matisse, “whom you will reduce to a line.”

Matisse did several drawings and proposed an ambitious painting that he called a “Matisse Olympia,” after the famous painting by Manet. When Maillol heard that the project would take at least six months, he hastily recalled her to Banyuls.

She also posed for Dufy and for Bonnard, who used her as the model for “Somber Nude.”

In 1943, Ms. Vierny was again arrested, this time by the Gestapo, in Paris. She was released after six months in prison when Maillol appealed to Arno Breker, Hitler’s favorite sculptor.

After the war, Ms. Vierny opened an art gallery in Paris, where she exhibited Maillol’s work, as well as that of others. After traveling to the Soviet Union in the 1960s, she began collecting and showing work by dissident artists like Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov.

A passionate and unpredictable collector, Ms. Vierny accumulated no fewer than 90 antique carriages, including the omnibus that Toulouse-Lautrec used to pick up his friends and the carriage used by Chateaubriand when he was ambassador to Italy.

In the early 1970s, Ms. Vierny decided to start a Maillol museum. She began buying up apartments on the Rue de Grenelle in Paris, selling off her collection of 654 dolls along the way. In 1995 she opened the Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, whose permanent collection also includes work by Degas, Kandinsky, Picasso, Duchamp and assorted naïve artists, yet another of Ms. Vierny’s enthusiasms.

It was at the museum that Ms. Vierny lived the rest of her life. She is survived by her two sons, Olivier Lorquin, the director of the Maillol Museum, and the art historian Bertrand Lorquin, its curator. The Maillol connection continues after her death. It may even have preceded her birth.

“One day, I was climbing up an almond tree and Maillol turned to my father,” Ms. Vierny told The Independent of London in 1996. “He said to him, ‘You made her, but it was I who invented her.’ And he really did believe that he had invented me. He said that he had been drawing my features for 20 years before my birth.”

Courtesy Dina Vierny

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Kate!

Last week was not just a big week for Barack Obama. It was also Kate Moss’s 35th birthday and the 20th anniversary of her modeling debut! How do I know this? A post on Fashionologie which included an image gallery with the picture above titled “1998 Kate Moss photo exhibit.”

As I'm now becoming a well-known picture sleuth, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that in actuality it was 1995 and the location was the Danziger Gallery where we had a blowout exhibition to celebrate the publication of the first and to date only book of photographs of her. If you haven’t seen it, it’s still the best book of its kind and now goes for $300 to $600 on Amazon. The book and my show were designed by the talented art director Phil Bicker (formerly of The FACE) who covered one wall entirely with tabloid press clippings about Kate. (Which is what you see a fragment of in the picture.)

The other publication worth mentioning, although it’s currently unavailable on Amazon, is the Gianni Versace Couture Fall/Winter 1996/1997 catalog featuring Kate photographed by Richard Avedon.
It’s a trip back to his late 60s psychedelia and I’m just sorry the pictures never got printed. However as a tribute to both Kate and the late great Richard Avedon, here’s a selection of images from the catalog. I’m not quite sure where the Versace clothes went!

All pictures copyright The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Weekend Video - Airborne Toxic Event

The Airborne Toxic Event is an indie rock band from Los Angeles led
by singer and guitarist Mikel Jollett, The band takes its name from the novel "White Noise" by Don DeLillo where a chemical spill from a railcar releases a poisonous cloud, dubbed by the military as an “airborne toxic event.”.

After an extensive courtship from major labels, The Airborne Toxic Event signed with Majordomo Records in April 2008, and their first self-titled record was released in August, 2008. This December iTunes named the band's song "Sometime Around Midnight" the number one alternative song of 2008.

That's the band's official video, above, and a recent appearance on Letteman, below. And while keyboardist Anna Bulbrook can be a little annoying (you'll see why) I really like their music.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Leibovitz on Lange

As I wrote recently, Annie Leibovitz's new book "At Work" is an engrossing and insightful read. In addition to the stories about her own work, it's always interesting to hear one great photographer talk about another and I was particularly taken with the backstory Leibovitz recounts to Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother" of 1936 - a story I did not know.

Looking for a j-peg to illustrate the post with, I found this one which struck me as as a particularly sharp and well-rendered scan. While I've seen literally dozens of original prints of the image, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite as succinct.

Anyway, here is the passage about the picture from "At Work":

After spending a month on the road in southern California she (Lange) was finally heading home. It was raining and she was exhausted and she had a long drive ahead of her. She had been working up to fourteen hours a day for weeks and was bringing back hundreds of pictures of destitute farm workers. Somewhere south of San Luis Obispo she saw out of the corner of her eye a sign that said “Pea-Pickers Camp.” She tried to put it out of her mind. She had plenty of pictures of migrant farmers already. She was worried about her equipment, and thought about what might happen to her camera in the rain. She drove for about twenty miles past the sign and made a U-turn. She went back to the sign and turned down a muddy road. A woman was sitting with her children on the edge of a huge camp of makeshift tents. There were maybe three thousand migrant workers living there. Lange took out her Graflex and shot six frames, one of them of the woman staring distractedly off to the side while two of her children buried their faces in her shoulders.

The image of the woman and her children became the most important photograph of Dorothea Lange’s life and the iconic picture of the Depression.

When I’m asked about my work, I try to explain that there is no mystery involved. It is work. But things happen all the time that are unexpected, uncontrolled, unexplainable, even magical. The work prepares you for that moment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fantastic Space for Rent!

In March, I am moving my gallery, Danziger Projects, two blocks away to a new space directly on the street. (The big reveal will come later!)

In the meantime I still have my current space through June, so it occurred to me that it might be an opportunity for any interested person or company to rent it and put up their own exhibition, pop-up shop, whatever. I’m not trying to profit, just to cover my cost.

If anyone is interested in a rear ground floor showcase in Chelsea where all they have to do is open the door and turn on the lights, it’s $1,300 a week – minimum two weeks. You can contact me through the blog or at

Mystery Solved - Again!

It's Manny Garcia - a freelance photojournalist based in Washington D.C.. I think!

This is a separate frame of the photograph from which Fairey's Obama image was taken. Who knew George Clooney would figure in the story! (In April 2006, Clooney was joined by then Senator Obama as he was addressing the National Press Club on his recent visit to Darfur.)

The credit for this discovery goes to Philadelphia Inquirer photographer Tom Gralish. Here's his account.

I just spoke to Garcia who is currently on White House duty, but by next week expect to see Garcia's print in my exhibition CAN & DID. GRAPHICS, ART, AND PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN.

What would we do without the internet!

The Mystery Deepens

Oh dear. After my scoop "identifying" the source photograph and photographer of Shepard Fairey's iconic HOPE poster, Purchase College digital photography teacher Nathan Lunstrum came up with a different image that appears to be a better and less convoluted match. Click here.

But no-one can identify the photographer and no-one has as yet identified themselves. So again, could the photographer who took this picture or someone who knows who took it please contact me?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Lincoln Photo-Op

Bruce Springsteen performing at “We Are One,” a concert on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Clearly the second big star of the inauguration is old Abraham Lincoln. Not only is he Barack Obama's constant reference, but as these pictures show, he is also the photo-op de jour. I love Sullivan's photo of Bruce Springsteen which ran on the front page of today's New York Times Arts section (while at the same time the paper's business section ran a story highlighting the paper's dire financial situation). It will be a sad day if great papers like The Times fade away.

My favorite Lincoln story of the week, however, involves the Obama family's visit to the Lincoln Memorial, as recounted by the President-elect. After looking at the words of Lincoln's second Inaugural Address and answering some of his family's questions about his own forthcoming speech, the Obamas' daughter Malia turned to her father and said "First African-American President ... Better be good."!

Jim Young/Reuters

Monday, January 19, 2009


An Indonesian photographer who bares a striking resemblance to U.S. President Barack Obama has shot to fame after pictures of him surfaced on the internet. Also of American and Kenyan descent, Ilham Anas is now earning income as an Obama double.

For those unable to afford Mr. Anas, I was a big hit in Palm Beach this Christmas where I was regularly approached by elderly women asking if I knew I looked like the President's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel.

FYI - that's the real President on the left and the real Rahm on the right.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Just In...

People have been talking about how surprising that in this day and age no-one captured the "Miracle on the Hudson" on a camera or cellphone. Well, they did. This just in by Roy Gates (via desertwind).

It's quite beautiful in a cubist/impressionist photo way. Takes a moment to even see what it is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stop the Presses!

It’s been a great week for picture agency Reuters. First the attribution of Jim Young’s Obama photograph. And now their photographer Gary Hershorn took this picture which made the front page of both The New York Times and The New York Post in what is now being called ”The Miracle on The Hudson”.

The miraculous tale of survival came when pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III made an astonishing controlled crash landing into the frigid Hudson River after a flock of birds knocked out both engines 15 minutes after takeoff. By landing the plane at exactly the perfect angle and shutting off all the valves that would let water in, he kept the plane intact and afloat and all 155 people on board were rescued with the most severe injury being a broken leg.

In this picture, airline passengers wait on the wings of the plane to board one of the dozens of boats that sped to the crash within minutes, further saving the passengers from hypothermia in the sub-freezing temperature. As my wife commented, "It looks like a sick puppy being taken care of by its mother!"

Weekend Video - M.I.A. & Slumdog

I can just hear it. First the complaints about too much Obama, next up - complaints about too much "Slumdog Millionaire"! Nevertheless, in addition to calling it as the movie of the year before the Golden Globes, it's got one terrific song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., seen here in its original version (above) and in the more Bollywood style re-mix done for the movie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mystery Solved!

Jim Young / Reuters

I am completely sympathetic to the reader who posted the comment yesterday "Enough with the Obama stories!", but the Shepard Fairey source mystery is quite a story and has eluded photo watchers for quite a while.

After my post yesterday, Mike Webkist (if that's his real name) came forward with a link to a 2007 story in that credited the photo to Jonathan Daniel of Getty Images. He also showed how the picture was flipped which made the source almost unrecognizable. (See below.)

So I managed to contact Jonathan Daniel who responded that the picture was not his.

Then I contacted TIME where I ended up talking to picture editor Mark Rykoff who was extremely helpful in trying to find the correct attribution. After investigating, he called me back and pointed me to Jim Young of Reuters. (FYI – have already corrected the credit.)

Reuters are understandably somewhat put out on their own and Young's behalf, but like it or not, Fairey's use of the picture are well within the parameters of "fair use". His transformative use of the image – both in flipping and re-orienting it, adding jacket and tie and the "O" Obama logo, and converting it to his block print style make it consistent with all legal precedents for use. Of course all of this is not to say that some Solomonic out of court settlement would not be appropriate, but at the end of the day I hope it's a win-win situation for everyone.

Perhaps the strangest proof of the transformative nature of Fairey's work is that Young, a D.C. based Reuters photographer was not even aware that the most ubiquitous image of the entire election campaign was based on his picture!

Anyway, mystery solved. It's extraordinary how many people it takes to get to the answer of a question that has eluded me for several months and how a response to this blog helped finally solve the problem. (Score a big one for truth, justice, and the internet.)

Finally, I'm talking to Reuters about editioning Young's print. Sorry to Anon. of "Enough with the Obama stories", but I think we're in for four (or eight) more years!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will The Photographer Who Took The Image This Ilustration Is Based On Please Stand Up?

An e-mail today from Tom Gralish, staff photographer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, re-kindled my interest in one of the great photographic mysteries of the year. Namely – who is the photographer whose image of Barack Obama was the basis of Shepard Fairey’s iconic HOPE poster (as well as the prior PROGRESS and subsequent YES WE DID and BE THE CHANGE posters)?

Fairey has gone on record saying he found the image from a Google Image search, while his wife, Amanda, told me it was a screen grab. But you would have thought that by now the photographer would have stepped forward to claim credit – either for monetary gain or simply to get his or her authorial credit. As Gralish points out in his blog, there have been no shortage of people claiming to be the subjects of Eisenstadt’s famous VJ Day kiss photograph, and the same thing with Dosineau’s “Kiss”. So what’s the story here?

I do want to go on record as saying this is in no way a criticism of Fairey – who I’m a big fan of. His work is "transformative", the key legal issue where appropriation is concerned, and in most other cases Fairey does credit the source. So I think that ethically and artistically he's in the clear. I also believe it when Fairey says he does not know the source. Google Images often have no credit.

When Fairey began his support of Obama not only was there was no certainty he was backing a winner, but it could be argued that his work was key in helping Obama by reinforcing the message that here, at last, was someone different and whose values (or brand if you want to be cynical) he so skillfully drew attention to. But the particular picture Fairey chose - where the expression is just the right combination of purposeful, enigmatic, and thoughtful - was singularly effective and smart.

So if anyone can shed some light on the identity of the HOPE image photographer – please let me know!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Print Giveaway #3

For my third print giveaway, my friend Leslie Simitch - recently featured in the Top Ten - sent us the original file from which to print up a 13 x 19 inch print of the her wonderful picture (above) taken just last month in Rome. And now a signed print is waiting to be sent to the lucky winner.

As usual just post a comment over the next week and a winner will be randomly selected.

Good luck!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekend Video - Slumdog Trailer

I finally caught up with "Slumdog Millionaire" this week and in spite of all the critical praise being heaped on the film I was unprepared for the incredible originality, vitality, and beauty of the movie.

This is what the experience of going to the movies should be - a gripping story opening up new worlds, great acting, and inspired direction and cinematography. Even the way the (very few) subtitles are handled is fresh.

This trailer is about the only uninspired thing connected to the movie, but there's so much they didn't want to give away that I'll excuse it by saying it's not like one of those trailers like "Bride Wars" where after you've seen it there's no need to see the film.

Happy weekend viewing!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Save The Date - Jan 20

Photo by David Turnley

Perhaps like me, your invitation to the Inaugural Ball got lost in the mail. Not to worry. From 6 to 8 p.m. on Inauguration night (and most likely later) we're having an opening to which all are invited. Bring friends! Celebrate the new President! There will be champagne and door prizes. And meet the photographers, designers, and artists whose work is featured in the show - "Can & Did - Graphics, Art, and Photography from the Obama Campaign".

Danziger Projects. 521 West 26th Street. New York.

Poster by Shepard Fairey after David Turnley

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tierney Gearon

This remarkable image is a double exposure from Tierney Gearon's new exhibition opening tonight at Phillips de Pury & Company in London. One of 40 new works each printed at 40 x 50 inches, the entire series titled "Explosure", is comprised of combined images where the compositions and themes act in counterpoint to each other. It's difficult to follow the image above with anything better, so to see a selection of other images click here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Good Browse

There's nothing like a good browse through a bookstore and this weekend I found myself passing by Rizzoli on West 57th Street where they not only have a terrific photo section on the second floor, but one that's laid out horizontally so you can see a long line of covers rather than spines. First stop, however, was downstairs where Kelly Klein's latest opus, "Horse" was displayed on an impressive pedestal. Yet another oversize book, it is nonetheless admirably edited and printed and full of surprises like the above Herb Ritts picture of Pee-Wee Herman. I'd forgotten how funny Ritts (and Pee-Wee) could be and this picture is a rarity in that it's a set-up that's nevertheless still funny. (I have a thing about how unfunny most set-up pictures of comedians tend to be.) The funniest pictures are usually the most spontaneous accidents imaginable.

If any one has a larger j-peg of the above picture please e-mail it to me at

I'm just going to point out one other book, which upon further investigation seems to be over a year old, a surprise given how good it is. "Books of Nudes" by Alessandro Bertolotti, is a Martin Parr/Gerry Badger style round-up of the best books on nude photography from the earliest days of photobooks to the present. Presented in a completely non-salacious manner, each book is shown with its original cover and a selection of photographs laid out on double-page spreads. Organized both chronologically and by category, the most riveting chapter for me was on Japanese books of the 1960s and 1970s, from which the image above comes. I'm afraid I did not note the photographer, but that should encourage you (and me) to buy the book - now $26 (down from $50) at Amazon.

A quick internet search revealed various quibbles about who was included and who was not, but the point for me is that you have to start somewhere.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top Ten #1 – The Obama Effect

Shepard Fairey

With no great sense of originality, I am pleased to put not just Barack Obama, but “the Obama effect” at the top of my list of the 10 things that culturally enriched my life in 2008. The outpouring of support from the visual and creative community was predictable in all but its intensity and effectiveness, the victory as unpredictable as it was imaginative.

We have become so used to artists raising the banner of protest that it will take an unusual revision of the natural order for art to begin to realign itself with the positive, but what an interesting process that could be! I’m not suggesting artists give up their right to challenge any issues they feel the need to confront, but let’s pull ourselves together and not apart.

A prescient reader suggested Shepard Fairey, who created the lasting visual image of the campaign with his series of graphic exhortations - HOPE, VOTE, PROGRESS, etc. - be the top of the list. I have been thinking about this for a while, and I am a huge fan of Fairey’s work, but as you will see from the link to my next show, the response from the creative community to Obama came from so many quarters that I think it can be shared by more than one. (Shepard Fairey does indeed have a posse!)

So here’s to thoughtfulness, intelligence, courage, inclusiveness, poetry, imagination, and complete sentences. Here’s to America rekindling its creative fire while rejoining the world. Here’s to the first president ever formally endorsed by both Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

Happy New Year! (I’ll be back next week.)

Paula Scher

David Turnley

Sol Sender, Andy Keene, and Amanda Gentry. (Creators of the O logo)

Lance Wyman

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top Ten #2 – Annie Leibovitz: At Work

Annie Leibovitz's new book "At Work" was perhaps the stealth photo event of the year. Primarily a text rather than a picture book, it is nonetheless one of the most interesting photography books of the year, taking us behind the scenes to reveal not so much the technical aspects of a shoot, but the mental and physical preparations before and the psychological and strategic footwork during the taking of many of her most famous images.

Seamlessly interviewed and edited out of Leibovitz by the skilled editor, Sharon Delano, the book is a smooth and engrossing read from start to finish that entertains with all manner of autobiographical stories from Leibovitz's student days to the present, as well as her almost awestruck perspective and stories about other famous photographers.

There is an interesting selection of photographs - a mixture of iconic images and more obscure ones - and it's surprising to see how well they work printed smaller than postcard size. Much credit is obviously also due to the printers.

For anyone looking for lighting tips this isn't necessarily the book (although Leibovitz does provide a technical glossary as well as answers to her ten most frequently asked questions) but for readers looking to understand more about Leibovitz's art as well as what really counts - what's in an artist's head - this book is a treasure.