Friday, August 29, 2008

Weekend Video - Lucky

It's taken a while for me to find a favorite summer song this summer, but it finally arrived in the form of "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. I was just introduced to Jason Mraz's music (by my daughter, Josie) and it's fun, melodic, and relaxing, but it's the catchy tune and harmonies and the richness of Colbie Caillat's voice in particular that make this rather sweet song about your true love being your best friend (or vice versa) such a winner.

Apologies for the rather pedestrian video up top, but for some reason the official video of the song has not made it to YouTube. Needless to say, with such a wonderfully romantic theme there are plenty of tribute versions where you can just feel the pleasure of expression, such as with the duo of AJ Rafael & Cathy Nguyen, seen here performing in a bathroom!

Bigboymigoy and proud2bmorena did an equally good job:

As did Jessica Roscoe and Brent Rice:

And Llex and Andrea had particularly promising visuals for a summer video, but perhaps needed just a little more practice:

As always, I'd love to hear your vote for best tribute. And have a Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Peace 4 Sale!

I was going to comment yesterday on how the peace symbol had become as much a pop-cultural and fashion accessory as anything meaningful but decided to resist the cynical thought. That was until I went into Blockbuster minutes after writing yesterday's post and saw the above display - a day after noticing the peace symbol hoodies at Target! Sadly for Gerald Holtom the peace symbol was never copyrighted.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sign of the Times

British anti-nuclear protesters in 1958. Uncredited photo from Corbis

Ironically, one of the most notable anniversaries of the year seems to be slipping by almost unnoticed. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the peace symbol. The iconic sign was developed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer, artist, and conscientious objector in Great Britain.

 It was originally designed for Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. (In fact, the symbol is a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D" - standing for Nuclear Disarmament.) However, it quickly spread worldwide, and has since become universally known to represent peace rather than simply nuclear disarmament. After 50 years, though, the sign is as much a symbol of hope as any kind of realistic eventuality. Still, it's the hope that keeps us going.

I’ve been looking for great or iconic pictures featuring the peace sign and have so far come up pretty much empty handed. So any suggestions are welcome.

A skywritten peace sign above folk singer Arlo Guthrie during a 1969 show at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Uncredited photo from Corbis

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend Video - Tom Waits

At something of a loss as to what to post this weekend I went to the "recommended for you" section of my YouTube page where I discovered this gem of a 1979 rotoscope animated film featuring Tom Waits (and Donna Gordon) and directed by John Lamb. (Rotoscope is the process that takes live film and traces in back frame by frame into animation.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Update

I've been scouting around for what I consider original and artful (as opposed to arty) Olympic photographs and here's my selection to date. Above - Dan Chung and an effective use of tilt shift photography to record Usain Bolt's victory celebration after breaking the 100 meter world record to win gold.

John Giles caught this unusual landscape of two British boxers training on a beach outside of Beijing.

Another photograph by Dan Chung as Michael Phelps makes his way to Mama after winning his 8th gold medal.

Vincent Laforet shooting for Newsweek caught this amazing Edgerton like moment in women's Judo as Ange Mercie Jean Baptiste's blood hit the mat.

Adrian Dennis shoots as Italy's Giovanna Trillini hits Korea's Nam Hyunhee during the Women's individual Foil semi-final.

Perhaps the most unusual image so far. Andrea Leighton's overhead shot of weightlifter Arsen Kasabiev pinned under 222kg. (He had to wait for helpers to lift off the weight.)

Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco out of uniform....

.... and in uniform. Sadly she failed to qualify for the finals, but not before becoming one of the internet's newest celebrities.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Like many of my fellow bloggers, it seems, I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, but I will try to keep posting and amuse you with various tales, recollections, observations, etc.. (I’ve just noticed, for example, that Microsoft Word does not recognize the words “blog” or “blogger” and urges you to check your spelling!)

My big summer project at the gallery has been taking every book down from our library in order to re-organize the shelves – no small feat given the 100 + linear feet of books I have. But it’s a job I don’t mind doing because no-one ever looks at all their books and so it was like visiting old friends.

There was also the pleasure and surprise of uncovering forgotten ephemera picked up over the years and tucked in-between the various books. Here are three examples and the stories behind them. The first (above) the cover of Peter Beard’s book “Zara’s Tales”. I got it at a book signing at my daughter’s school – an annual event where any parent who has published a book that year is seated at a table and decorously signs their new tome to another parent nice enough to come to yet another fund-raising event. About a dozen authors were each seated at their own tables and you would move through the various novels, cookbooks, history books etc., until you found a book or books you wanted.

I was delighted to see Peter Beard, whose work I’ve always admired, but let’s face it - the guy is out there! (This is a man who spends half the year in Africa, sups with the Masai, and has been mauled by more species than you’ve had hot dinners.) Anyway I stopped to say “hi” and buy his book and after a brief chat Peter pulls out a large ink pad, dips half his hand it, impresses his fingers across the top of the cover, and proceeds to embellish the remaining white space with little flies and writing until he has not just signed the book, but created a veritable work of art and performance piece!

The next thing I found was the original issue of The Face magazine from July 1990, the one that featured a then totally unknown Kate Moss in Corinne Day’s “Indian Summer” story. So we’re talking 18 years ago! I think this issue is probably worth hundreds if not thousands by now. I’ve always had a thing for Kate so this was a great re-find. I also had the chance to work with her on an exhibition I did a dozen years ago in conjunction with the release of her book “Kate” and she’s just a delight. A quick story. At the time my wife had literally just given birth to our second child, Josie, and when Kate met my wife, Lucy, she looked her up and down and said approvingly “You can’t have had a baby – you’re too skinny.” So from then on Lucy had the distinction of being called “too skinny” by Kate Moss.

Lastly, I found the proof of an invitation for an event I did combining Don James’s California surfing pictures from the 1930s with the then current Roxy Quiksilver campaign. (The photo at the bottom, by Jeff Hornbaker, has always been one of my favorites. These are champion surfers and I just love their skill, nonchalance, and style.) Anyway, the design for the invitation was by my good friend Tom Adler, who I’ve blogged about before, but he is basically responsible for the whole revival of interest in surfing visuals; he creates, designs, and publishes the most amazing books and is better at putting pictures together than anyone I know. But this piece of graphic design, so seemingly simple but in reality so skillful, is one of my favorite examples of great design. At the time, Roxy made a handful of T shirts just for the show and modeling this rare collectors’ item is none other than Josie Danziger, who turns 13 on Friday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Weekend Video - "Willin' "

With the new film “Pineapple Express” set to be the talking point of the weekend and the term “stoner” movie entering the critical vocabulary, here’s a smokin’ tune from the 70s.

Written in 1970, "Willin'" was a signature song for Little Feat and their lead singer and co-founder Lowell George. George died in 1979, but the song quickly became a favorite among America’s truck drivers, many of who continue to regard it as the unofficial anthem of their profession.

In George's lifetime, "Willin'" was recorded in three different versions. On the band’s debut album, Little Feat (1971), with only George’s raspy voice and guitar and the sparse accompaniment of Ry Cooder’s steel guitar. On Sailin’ Shoes (1972), where the song was done by the whole band with the chorus harmonized by four voices. And finally on the live double album, Waiting for Columbus (1978), where, "Willin’" segues straight into "Don’t Bogart That Joint" (which George helped compose when he was briefly a member of the band Fraternity of Man).

While Little Feat never made it to the peak, and in fact never even had a single on the charts, Britain’s Melody Maker magazine proclaimed in 1977, "Little Feat is the best U.S. band of the decade." Their 1976/77 tour became a minor legend and was captured on the live double album, Waiting for Columbus, now a cult classic and considered by many to be the greatest live record in the history of rock music.

Willin’ by Lowell George

I was warped by the rain
Driven by the snow
I'm drunk and dirty, don't you know
But I'm still, oh I'm still,... willin'

Out on a road, late last night
I saw my pretty Alice, in every headlight
Alice... Dallas Alice


And I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
I've driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
I've driven down the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites, and wine
And show me a sign, I'll be willin' to be movin'

Now I smuggled some smoke, some folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico, and I'm still

And I've been kicked by the wind
Robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in but I'm still on my feet
And I'm willin'... oh I'm willin'

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Breakfast of Champions (+ lunch & dinner)

Photo by David J. Phillips

There’s no question at this point in the Olympics that Michael Phelps is the big story and the great visual moment has to be his primal scream as Jason Lezak unbelievably caught the Frenchman Alain Bernard in the home stretch of the 4 x 100 relay to win the gold for America.

Yet perhaps equally amazing along with what is being called the greatest race ever is the daily caloric intake Phelps revealed to NBC.
In a recent interview, Phelps listed his average daily meals:

3 fried-egg sandwiches topped with cheese and mayonnaise
1 five-egg omelet
1 bowl of grits
3 slices of french toast
3 chocolate-chip pancakes

1 pound of pasta
2 large ham-and-cheese sandwiches covered with mayo
1,000 calories worth of energy drinks

Another pound of pasta
1 whole pizza
Another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks

So, in the course of an average day, Michael Phelps consumes over 12,000 calories. (The average male should be eating around 2,000 calories a day.)

A few more screams:

Photo by Itsuo Inouye

Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale. Photo by Itsuo Inouye

Photo by Thomas Klenzie

And one more nice picture:

Photo by David Gray

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wouldn't You Just Know It...

So no sooner do I post about Bill Cunningham never exhibiting his work than The New York Times hustles up a show just to prove me wrong. This press release came out today:

NEW YORK, Aug 13, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The New York Times and Bergdorf Goodman announced today that they will kick off New York Fashion Week in September with special window displays and an in-store exhibit of Bill Cunningham's photography from his long-running "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" columns. Both columns appear weekly in the Sunday Styles section of The Times and online at The windows will be on view from Sept. 5 - 16, along with an exhibition on the third floor at Bergdorf Goodman, which is located in New York at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Mr. Cunningham is a familiar face on this very corner, where he can often be spotted snapping away at the city's most fashionable citizens, capturing within the keen eye of his camera's lens many of the glamorous personalities and colorful characters that populate his New York Times columns. The Bergdorf Goodman windows and exhibit will offer a unique retrospective of Mr. Cunningham's work. The images - candid photographs of everyday New Yorkers taken on the street as they sport their fashion know-how, and of equally stylish guests at glittering evening events - have never before been collected and shown in this way.

In addition, Mr. Cunningham will be honored at a private V.I.P. event at Bergdorf Goodman co-hosted by The Times, Bergdorf Goodman and - in tribute to Mr. Cunningham's preferred, low-emission mode of transportation around the city, his bicycle - the New York City Department of Transportation.

"New Yorkers have their own distinct take on fashion, and no one chronicles that style better than Bill Cunningham," said Jim Gold, president and CEO, Bergdorf Goodman. "We're delighted that our Fashion Week windows will pay tribute to Bill and the countless stylish moments his images have captured over the years."

"There is no better way for The Times and Bergdorf Goodman to celebrate style in New York City than by honoring Bill Cunningham's legendary work and great contributions during Fashion Week," said Denise Warren, senior vice president, chief advertising officer, The New York Times Media Group. "Bill's Sunday Styles columns excite and influence tastemakers around the world and exemplify how fashion is translated from the runway to the street."

Mr. Cunningham has been a photographer for The Times since December 1978. He also narrates a slide show of "On the Street" posted each week on, with additional comments and background on his photographs.

Fashion Notes from All Over

While we're in fashion photo mode, a novel gimmick (above). In their September issue, rather than using photoshop to slim down the subject, Harper's Bazaar and photographer Kurt Iswarienko used it (along with some padding) to take uber-stylist Rachel Zoe from a size 0 to a size 8 and an interesting discussion on fashion and body image.

Then not to fixate on GAP, but I forgot to credit photographer Mikael Janssen for his pictures in the current campaign. And this new image from the Fall ad campaign (of model Karlie Kloss) is about as chic as I've seen.

This photograph of a gaggle of French VOGUE assistants is burning up the internet with bloggers choosing, Sex and the City style, which one they would be. Not much choice for men, though.

Lastly, the latest case of plagiarism/homage. On the left, the current cover of W Magazine. Photo of Kate Hudson by Mert and Marcus. On the right, Patrick Demarchelier for Harper's Bazaar, September 1994.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Invisible Man

Bill Cunningham by The Sartorialist. February 2007.

Before the explosion of style photography on the web, before US and People Magazine’s red carpet shots, there was Bill Cunningham.

The original street fashion photographer, Cunningham has for the last few decades recorded the changing style of the world’s fashionable people for the New York Times. But what is truly unique, if not bizarre about Cunningham is his intentional artlessness and his obsessive evasion of the limelight. It’s an odd m├ętier for someone as private as Cunningham to have chosen but in a way it all fits. By refusing to compose his shots, or be interviewed, or exhibit his work, or do anything other than go out and shoot – he is able to possess the rarest and most precious garment of all – the cloak of invisibility.

So little is known about Cunningham – he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry – but here are the few known facts:

Cunningham was born outside of Boston to a Catholic family about 70 years ago. He photographed his first fashion show in 1947, worked as a stock boy in a Boston department store and later at Bonwit's, served in the Army, after which he began making hats and decorative items of feathers.

For a time in the early '60s, Cunningham ran a small hat shop on Job's Lane in Southampton, Long Island, in the window of which he placed a single straw sun hat the size of a beach umbrella.

By 1963, Cunningham had abandoned the hat business and was hired as a reporter for Women's Wear Daily. He was fired after nine months. He freelanced as a fashion correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, where the perks included annual trips to cover European couture. From there he went on to other freelance jobs including a long stint with the pre-Conde Nast Details, a pioneer in its coverage of downtown fashion in the '80s.

There are two versions of how Cunningham first came to pick up a camera. In one, British photographer Harold Chapman, working for the New York Times in Paris, suggested to him that it would be easier to take pictures of fashion than to make his usual elaborate notes. In another, the fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez gave Cunningham the first camera he had owned since a boyhood Brownie.

He is thought to have bought no new clothes in 30 years and is rumored to keep what few garments he owns on the hooks of the numerous file cabinets that line his living space - a studio apartment in Carnegie Hall that has been described as one huge filing cabinet.

When Cunningham covers the European fashion shows, he stays in the most modest lodgings in Les Halles where no one visits him, where the phone is in the lobby, and the bathroom is shared. He has the manager remove the bed from the room so he can sleep in a corner on the floor.

In addition to his regular postings in the New York Times, Bill Cunnningham is now doing quite charming audio-visual slide shows for the paper’s website. Selections from the current story – about how the city’s women magically and simultaneously started wearing summer black – appear below.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Last weekend I was swimming in the ocean and as I looked towards the shore people were arranged in groups and posed in mid-action in ways that struck me from my watery perspective as views I had never seen before. Beaches have long been a favorite shooting spot for numerous photographers – Elliott Erwitt, Eric Fischl, Weegee, Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz, Richard Misrach, and Massimo Vitale are just a few who come to mind – but because of the obvious technical difficulties none of these photographers have ever shot from the water. So I thought, here’s an opening, and decided this would be a fun end of summer project.

The first challenge was to find an appropriate camera and as it turns out, Pentax have just released a new digital underwater camera, the Optio W60, which is billed as a great knock-around little camera. It's waterproof down to 13 feet, sand and scratch-proof, has a 5x zoom, and can be found for under $300. It also uses the standard SD memory card. As I hate the idea of taking my regular camera to the beach for fear of ruining it, this seemed like a sensible addition to my camera collection and therefore a justifiable expense.

So this weekend, and under the most favorable conditions imaginable,
I headed into the water with my new toy. Once immersed I realized there were a few immediate and rather serious challenges. The first was that in the water it’s impossible to hold the camera or frame the picture with any great accuracy as the waves and swell have you in constant motion. Secondly, the W60 has a noticeable time lag between pressing the button and snapping the picture. So clearly luck was also going to be an element (which I guess is always the case with any kind of spontaneous as opposed to controlled photographic situation). Finally, it occurred to me that if you’re a lone male swimmer, you might want to think twice about taking pictures of strangers in bikinis. While this seemed like a promising angle with great commercial potential, for reasons of propriety I demurred.

Anyway, here are the results of my first foray into the water - my best 4 snaps edited from about 30 taken. (Click to enlarge.)

The Pentax Optio W60

Friday, August 8, 2008

Weekend Video - Favorite Songs

From 2005 - GAP's "Favorite Songs" Campaign featuring John Legend, Joss Stone, Alanis Morissette, Michelle Williams, Brandon Boyd, Keith Urban, and Jason Mraz.

Then look out for the new GAP print ads featuring, among others, two of our most blogged about photographers - our very own Danziger Projects artist - The Sartorialist - and Ryan McGinley.

Here's a sneak peek:


Ryan McGinley

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Twins, etc.

Remaining for a moment in the world of celebrity, the birth of Brad and Angelina’s twins and the $15 million paid for first picture rights (and donated to charity) was indeed joyful news. And while it puts the paltry half million auction record price for a print of Diane Arbus’s “Twins” to shame, it serves as a useful reminder of that signature image and how photography chooses and uses its subjects.

I am one of the few people in the business who actually believes the subject should have some rights. That just by being out in a public space does not give a photographer the right to exploit your image for “fine art” purposes – which is pretty much where the law stands today.

Nevertheless, back when the Met had on its Diane Arbus show, David Segal, a resourceful staff writer for the Washington Post, wrote an interesting piece tracking down a few of Arbus’s subjects, starting with the “Twins”:

They remember none of it. Not the lady with the camera, arranging them by a wall at the Knights of Columbus hall in their home town of Roselle, N.J. Not the chocolate cake they had just finished, which is very faintly visible in the picture at the creases of their lips. The Wade sisters, as they were known before they each married, recall nothing about the day they gazed into the lens of Diane Arbus and became part of American photographic history. Unless you count the dresses.

"We still have them," says Colleen. "Our mother made them," says Cathleen. "They look black in the photograph but they're actually green."

They were 7 years old in 1967, when Arbus found the girls at a Christmas party for local twins and triplets. Nobody is quite sure how Arbus heard about the gathering, but a few parents obliged when she asked their children to pose. Which is how the Wade sisters wound up on a sidewalk, standing close enough to seem joined at the shoulder, their expression a kind of spectral blank.

It would become one of the most famous photographs of the era's most compelling photographer. Arbus killed herself in 1971, at the age of 48, leaving behind a gallery of characters -- some of them spooky, some of them bizarre, all of them vaguely tragic -- who won't go away. It's a menagerie of weirdos we seem to have known all our lives: those two men waltzing at a drag ball, that Mexican dwarf, the grimacing kid with a toy grenade.

They've been handed a peculiar kind of celebrity, the kind you don't ask for and certainly don't expect. One day you're minding your business, the next day you're immortalized in perpetuity beside "Nudist lady with swan sunglasses, Pa. 1965," or "Transvestite at a drag ball, N.Y.C. 1970."

What's it like to land in this hallowed collection of "freaks," as Arbus once referred to her subjects? It depends on which "freak" you ask, it turns out. The great recurring theme of Arbus's work is a sense of otherness, and if you talk to a few of her subjects you realize that in some cases she discovered that otherness in people and then committed it to film, and in other cases she somehow imposed it.

"We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we'd ever seen," whispers Bob Wade, the girls' father. He and his daughters are visiting the Met exhibit one recent afternoon and at the moment are standing a few feet from "Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967," the image that is clearly the star of this show. It's featured on the publicity photo and there's a bench nearby so visitors can sit and stare.

"I mean it resembles them," Wade continues. "But we've always been baffled that she made them look ghostly. None of the other pictures we have of them looks anything like this."

Tracking down the people Arbus photographed is tricky because the executors of her estate won't disclose the names of her subjects. But the identities of a few are known because they stepped forward at some point and said, "That's me." Others are known because Arbus for years had a lucrative sideline shooting family portraits, and some of those subjects have provided copies of the photos, along with their names, to museums.

That is why it's possible to identify Marcella Matthaei, who as an 11-year-old stood and glowered at Arbus in December of 1969, yielding a memorable study in a brooding adolescence. Marcella's mother had heard about the photographer through a friend who'd curated some high-profile museum shows, one of which included Arbus's work. In need of a professional for an annual family shoot, Gay Matthaei hired Arbus, which seems either bold or insane, depending on your point of view. But the Matthaeis were arty people, uninterested in conventional studio stuff, and Gay had seen the photo of the Wade sisters and thought it was a stunner.

"I really liked it," she says. "I'm an identical twin and I understood the photo she took of those little girls. I'd been posed with my twin my whole life."

Arbus snapped more than 300 photos that weekend, dressed in black and moving so unobtrusively around the house that the Matthaeis often forgot she was there.

"The only recollection I have of her is that I mistakenly thought she was Joan Baez," says Marcella, who lives in Florida now and describes herself as a part-time writer and part-time construction worker. "She was slender and pretty and my father had a Joan Baez album. I thought it was her."

The Matthaeis weren't anticipating Norman Rockwell results, of course, and that's not what they got. Arbus printed 50 of the photos, among them a striking portrait of Marcella, wearing a frilly sundress, her shoulders pulled back, her long bangs nearly shrouding the cryptically intense look in her eyes. It has the immediacy of a mug shot and you can't help but wonder what was going on in her mind at that moment. Is she fighting back tears? Deeply depressed?

Neither. "I was on my way to a party," she says. "I was interested in playing spin the bottle, and being put in a sundress with knee socks and sitting around with a stranger taking pictures of me was the last thing on my mind. What you see on my face is, 'Get this over and done with. My mom and dad told me to do this.' " At least Marcella knew she was being photographed. Other Arbus subjects had no idea. Like the infant in "A very young baby, N.Y.C. 1968," which ran in Harper's Bazaar and is now one of the images stopping the crowd at the Met. The baby's eyes are closed, lips a little drooly. One critic likened it to a death mask.

The weirdest part, it turns out, isn't what the infant looks like. It's who it is. It's Anderson Cooper. Yes, CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper. "I have it in my bedroom," Cooper says by phone. "I think it's great."

The back story here is that Cooper's mom is Gloria Vanderbilt, the socialite turned denim jeans spokeswoman turned memoirist. She was married at the time to author Wyatt Emory Cooper, and she was friends with Arbus, who in 1968 was looking for babies to photograph for a series she was assembling. When Arbus sent the images to Harper's Bazaar, an editor called Vanderbilt with a question: Are you sure it's okay to put your son's name on this photo? "They were worried that my mother might find the picture a little disturbing," says Cooper. "My mother was stunned." Publish his name, she told the magazine.

"I heard that Elton John sold me" -- by this he means a copy of "A very young baby" -- "at auction recently, and I was a little offended by that, frankly," Cooper says, laughing. He realizes why some might find the image unsettling, but he's amused by it and kind of thrilled to be in a museum. His one request: "Just make it really clear to people that I'm not the kid with the grenade."

He's not the kid with the grenade. That would be Colin Wood, who is now 50 years old and an insurance agent living in Glendale, Calif. Wood has no memory of running into Arbus, which he did in Central Park one afternoon when he was 7. But he remembers that H.M.S. Pinafore outfit, and he recalls the type of toy grenade he is clutching so spasmodically in that picture. As fake weapons go, he recalls they were pretty annoying because they'd pop almost as soon as you threw them. "You couldn't throw it somewhere and duck," he says. "It blew up about a foot away."

Look at the other shots of Wood in that roll, which are included in the book version of "Revelations," and he comes across as a fairly typical kid, mugging for the camera. His guess is that he was out with his nanny when Arbus spotted him and after a few shots, he'd had enough. Or perhaps Arbus goaded him to give her something more.

"I'm sure that photo was a collaboration," he says. "I didn't pose like that unless asked. I think I was imitating a face I'd seen in war movies, which I loved watching at the time."

Wood says he was a hyperactive child, and there's a slightly manic pace to his speech today. He talks fast, rarely pausing. He first learned of his notoriety, he explains, when he was 14, after his stepsister spotted the image in a book. His first thought was something close to "Big deal." Then a classmate at his Rhode Island prep school found a copy and, as a practical joke, posted Xeroxes of the picture all over campus. Wood was mortified.

"He hated it, hated the whole thing," recalls Tim Ghriskey, who knew Wood in his prep school days. "We were all teenagers and none of us wanted notoriety, none of us wanted to stick out."

Wood's own feelings about the photo have evolved. He remembers feeling angry at Arbus for "making fun of a skinny kid with a sailor suit." But today he thinks of the image as one of the great conversation pieces of all time. And Arbus clearly fascinates him. He riffs about her for a good 15 minutes.

"She catches me in a moment of exasperation. It's true, I was exasperated. My parents had divorced and there was a general feeling of loneliness, a sense of being abandoned. I was just exploding. She saw that and it's like . . . commiseration. She captured the loneliness of everyone. It's all people who want to connect but don't know how to connect. And I think that's how she felt about herself. She felt damaged and she hoped that by wallowing in that feeling, through photography, she could transcend herself."

Wood remembers that his interest in guns and grenades prompted teachers at his Catholic grade school to suggest he see a shrink. ("They thought I was deranged" is how he puts it.) His father dismissed the idea. Wood ended up working for years with his father, a former professional tennis player who invented, and for a long time installed, a new kind of court surface. Wood tried a few different careers after that and eventually moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. He found the auditioning process humiliating and he quit. Now he sells insurance.

He doesn't talk often about his cameo with Diane Arbus but it's been a long time since he was embarrassed about it. Once he wanted to break into theater, and when he started his own production company he knew what to call it: Grenade Boy Productions.

There's a gift shop near the Arbus show at the Met, and by the time the Wade sisters get there on Saturday afternoon, people have figured out who they are. Maybe it's their eyes, which are still a startling bright blue and appear in the photograph to be glowing. Or maybe it's their lime-green jackets and black slacks, nearly matching outfits that shout their twinness. A cashier notices them first, then others ask them to sign their posters. The most forward want them to pose for a picture.

You can understand the hubbub. Arbus's subjects seem to exist in another dimension, in some unreachable place where they are stranded and will never be seen again. She gave these two an otherworldly aura, as if they'd just stepped out of a fairy tale and are about to start fires with their minds. The director Stanley Kubrick paid homage to this mix of innocence and menace in "The Shining." Twin girls, side by side and in matching dresses, turn up as ghosts in the film, harbingers of a gory finale. It's utterly terrifying.

"I've never seen that movie," says Cathleen. "I've heard it was scary and I don't like scary movies."

The mystery of "Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967" only deepens when you meet the Wade sisters, who are the least creepy people you'll ever know. By their own accounts, they have lived rather conventional lives and today they are both married, both working mothers, still very close and still a little shy. They're amused by this photo, maybe a little proud of it, too. But they have never reflected on it much and, pressed with questions like "Does this capture something about you?" or "Can you remember being this little girl?" they just shrug. "It reminds me of my daughter," says Cathleen.

What Arbus has given us with this photo is ultimately a Sphinx without a riddle. Or maybe there's a riddle here, but it belongs to Arbus. And she isn't telling.

"Somebody called me and told me the twins were on the cover of the Village Voice," their dad says, shaking his head as the troupe heads for the exits. Bob Wade is describing the day he learned about "Identical twins." This was in 1972, to the best of his recollection, as the Museum of Modern Art put together an Arbus exhibit. "I told my wife, 'I didn't sign anything.' She said, 'Uh, I did.' "

Which is a good thing. A copy of "Identical twins" sold last year for nearly $500,000 and when Diane Arbus mailed the Wades that release form, she sent along something else: an original print of the photo. "I've stashed that one away," Wade says, grinning. Then he nods toward his daughters. "That's their 401(k)."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We Interrupt This Blog for an Important Political Announcement ...


Having just received a call from a friend who didn’t understand the context of the above clip, and for any others who may be out of the loop, the above clip is a response to last week’s campaign ad by a McCain support group that criticized Barack Obama by comparing his popularity and fame with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and using images of all three. While neither Spears or Hilton are known for their political involvement (and Hilton’s family have publicly supported McCain), the folks at were smart enough to organize the above Paris response.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Album #2

One of my favorite series of "summer" photographs (although I hate to limit it to that) is Yasuhiro Ishimoto's series of bathers taken from behind as they queued up at a refreshment stand, circa 1950. Yas (as he's known to friends) is one of many great living photographers who are not as well known as they should be.

An interesting case of bi-culturalism, Yas was born in San Francisco in 1921 but raised in Kochi City, Japan. Concerned that he would be drafted in to the Japanese army, he moved back to the States in 1939 to study agriculture. Nine years later, after becoming infatuated with the medium of photography, he enrolled in Chicago's famous Institute of Design where he studied with Harry Callahan. His American work from this period to his permanent return to Tokyo in 1961 is one of the highlights of what is known as the Chicago School. (Hmmm... note to self - interesting idea for a show!)

Next picture up (or down as the case may be) is Paolo Pellegrin's photograph of David Boudia and Thomas Finchum -U.S. Olympic synchronized platform divers. The lead picture from a larger portfolio in last Sunday's Play magazine, the sports supplement of the New York Times, it managed an impressive feat - creating an original and consistent new vision of sports. In this case, photographing a series of athletes from different sports in silhouette at a peak moment. But this image was something extra-special.

One of the great pleasures of blogging is being part of the larger community of bloggers. And inherent in the blogging set-up is that any comment from a fellow blogger is tagged with a link back to their blog. In this way both through my own and other people's blogs, I have been exposed to an ever growing ripple of blogs I normally would never have seen. Most of these are visually oriented and in this way I get to see pictures that are totally fresh to me.

From Mond Melodie - this image of a rollerskater c. 1978. I love the period feel, the color, the clothes, the graceful form, and the way skater is so caught in the moment.

And lastly, these two pictures from Meagan of Love Maegan who had the amazing ability not to have lost her white Ray-Bans from when she was a kid and the generosity to share the pictures of herself 20 years later wearing the very same pair - now very much back in fashion. FYI - Maegan can be a bit racy - so either rush to her blog or be forewarned!

Anyway, with about a month to go, I hope you're all getting the best out of this summer. And feel free to send your favorite pictures of summer to me at:

Maegan c. 1988

Maegan c. 2008