Tag Archives: Black And White

From Photography to Film: Stanley Kubrick Enters the Ring

Stanley Kubricks professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior with a prolific track record of absences wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachievers budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each others extracurricular achievements Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: almost a caricature of what youd imagine a teenage cameraman would look like, as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homers Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walters physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateursa bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howells Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, as convenient to carry as the average size still camera. Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. linkwheel . The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patricks Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubricks subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killers Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of life caught unawares, and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubricks perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubricks production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubricks entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneuran under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly,Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

A Vibrant Past: Colorizing the Archives of History

Technology has given us an incredibly wide-ranging view of modern presidents; chief White House photographer Pete Souza’s images of Barack Obama show him in countless locations and situations, from meetings in the Oval Office to candid shots of the president eating ice cream with his daughters on vacation.

The photo archive of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this week’s cover story, is a much smaller set due to the technological limitations of the time; most of the existing photographs of the 16th president are posed portraits, the majority of which only show Lincoln from the chest up—and all are black-and-white.

But TIME commissioned Sanna Dullaway to create a more vibrant document of Lincoln through a series of colorized photographs produced in Photoshop. After removing spots, dust and scratches from archival Lincoln photographs, Dullaway digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today.

The 22-year-old Swedish artist began colorizing images in January 2011, when she was listening to the debut album by rock band Rage Against the Machine. The self-titled album’s cover art is a black-and-white picture of a self-immolating monk taken by AP photographer Malcolm Browne. “I thought the normally fiery flames looked so dull in black and white, so I…looked for a way to make them come alive,” she says. Dullaway colorized the flames, and eventually, the entire picture. She then posted the image on Reddit, and it instantly went viral.

Since that first experiment, Dullaway has continued to colorize a wide range of historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Che Guevara and Teddy Roosevelt, each of which has generated viral buzz online. She’s also used the approach on a number of iconic photographs, such as Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of a Vietnam police officer the moment before he’s about to execute a Vietcong prisoner. In each of these renderings, Dullaway’s use of color is subtle and sophisticated—yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway’s father is painter.

The images take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours to produce, and for the young artist, it’s a way of bringing a contemporary perspective to older works. “History has always been black and white to me, from the World War I soldiers to the 1800s, when ladies wore grand but colorless dresses,” Dullaway says. “By colorizing, I watch the photos come alive, and suddenly the people feel more real and history becomes more tangible.”

Lincoln is at the heart of her next project, a book of Civil War images rendered in color. “I felt like it was a good place to start because the war is well documented in the Library of Congress and started roughly around the same time the camera was first used commercially,” Dullaway says. “And a war offers to chance to cover many subjects at once, and present the events of that time as our eyes would see it today—in color.”

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden. See more of her work here.

The Abandoned Chocolate Factory by Sebastian Liste

The child peers out a narrow slit of window, his face illuminated in an otherwise dark room. The concrete walls are stained and pockmarked–it looks like a war zone. Hanging  in the background are two objects: a curling paper calendar and a framed black-and-white photograph. The latter, a family portrait, was taken by Sebastian Liste. The same photographer who captured this very scene (slide #3) as part of a long-term documentary of one community in Brazil.

Today, Liste will be awarded the City Of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award, named for the young French photojournalist who was killed on assignment earlier this year in Syria. Liste’s project, Urban Quilombo, is a gritty and intimate look into the lives of dozens of families that occupied an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Fed up with the violence that plagued the beleaguered city, the families bonded together at the factory and formed a community—a community that the Spanish-born photographer immersed him within, beginning in 2009. The resulting photographs tell a chilling story of both courage and despair. In one of the most intense images of the series (slide #5), two men square off, splashing in a pool of water—one brands a huge stick, the other two knives.

The day he took the picture, Liste was inside the factory when two men began to argue. They had been playing Bingo for three straight days, trying to make money to rent a van to pick up their belongings as police were evicting families, when they began fighting viciously. “At the beginning I tried to stop them,” Liste said. “they finished the fight by throwing big stones.” Neither man was seriously wounded in the fight, but Liste’s friends  pulled him away, fearing he would be hurt.

Over the years, Liste said, he has given hundreds of prints back to the people of the chocolate factory. The fact that one of these, the family portrait, appears within another photograph in the project is a visual reminder of the time he has put in.

“On my second trip to Salvador de Bahia, I gave a photo album to everyone there,” he said. “It’s quite an interesting process because they started to build a kind of memory of their lives through the pictures I took there.”

Liste said that he’s even found pictures of himself on the walls as if he was a surrogate family member. In documenting this community, he has become part of it. That kind of dedication is the only way pictures like these can be made.

One of Liste’s favorite images from the project was captured was when a 13-year-old girl named Vanessa was reunited with her mother after seven years apart (slide #4). Liste met Vanessa, who had been abandoned at age 6 and had been living at the factory with an uncle. Feeling for the young girl, Liste asked around, hoping to find Vanessa’s mother in the labyrinthine streets of Salvador de Bahia. After months of searching, Vanessa’s mom turned up in the outskirts of the city and Liste was there with his camera to photograph the reunion. “The hug picture is probably the best image I took there,” Liste said. “Both of them were very happy to be together again.”

In March 2011, the Brazilian government evicted the families from the factory, in an attempt to cleanse the city for upcoming international events, including the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

The families have since moved to a new neighborhood called the “Jardim das Margaridas,” where Liste continues documenting their lives.

Receiving the Rémi Ochlik Award means a lot to Liste, who, despite not knowing Ochlik personally, believed they shared similar experiences and ideas about the role of photography.

“We are almost the same age and we are both fighting to bring light to hard and hidden stories,” said Liste. “It’s a big honor to get this award.”

Sebastian Liste is a Brazil-based photographer. In September 2012, he received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and the City of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik  Award. See more of his work here.

Photo Stroll – My Positive Day photos by Jiří Třeštík in Prague

The Roaming Eye (tRE) is back in the Czech Republic and is on the look out for, and is enjoying coming across, some random photography. With this in mind, the q cafe has a small show downstairs in the cafe on Opatovická 12, Praha 1 until 28 July.
Czech photographer Jiří Třeštík accompanied and documented three men living with HIV in three different European cities Prague, Munich and Zurich.
So here’s a preview for those who may be interested in the small cafe/bar show…

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Filed under: Documentary photography, Photographers, Photography Shows, Uncategorized Tagged: AIDS, black and white, documentary, HIV, Jiří Třeštík, photo show, Prague

Matthew Gamber

One of the best rewards of being in Boston last week was meeting photographers.  I’ve been a fan of Matthew Gamber and his compelling imagery that challenges us to rethink how we see, think about and perceive color, so it was great to finally put a name to a face at the Flash Forward Festival.

Matthew holds a BFA from Bowling Green State University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University.  His star is on the rise as his work seems to be everywhere: included in the 2012 deCordova Biennial, the the Abstract Photography Then and Now exhibition at the deCordova, at the Flash Forward 2011 Exhibition, and last year at the Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York.  He has also been granted numerous awards and fellowships, and just got off the plane from Santa Fe, where he attended Review Santa Fe.

Matthew’s new project, Any Color You Like, is a bit like losing the sense of  taste right as you are about to bite into something you have been looking forward to eating, and the expectation of that enjoyment usually comes from the memory of having eaten it before.  By removing the memory and one of the senses, the experience changes. Matthew’s images look at objects that we have traditionally seen in color and that speak to the idea of color, and force us to see and think about them anew.  It’s a terrific project that challenges our perceptions, pays homage to an era where all objects were captured in black and white, but also creates tension (the bird image particularly) where the mind leads one to wonder about the image in color.  

The photographs in Any Color You Like are an experiment in how photography can confuse our perception of information. These photographs represent objects whose primary function is to simulate our observation of color. When these items are rendered in a traditional black–and–white format, the information that remains is merely an abstraction of its previous form.

Behind the Cover: The Unseen Photos of Lenore and Mitt Romney

When Douglas Gilbert photographed Lenore Romney’s U.S. Senate campaign for Look Magazine in August of 1970, little did he know that one of his unused images would end up on the cover of TIME 42 years later. “At the time I was hoping for LOOK magazine,” he says. “Certainly not TIME! It is a nice surprise.”

Gilbert spent some three days trailing Lenore and Mitt through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the summer Lenore tried to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Phil Hart, for whom the Hart Senate Office building is now named. Many people know that Mitt’s father, three-term Michigan governor George Romney, ran for President and lost in 1968, but few know the story of his mother’s own campaign for high office and how it shaped her son’s presidential run in 2012. Fewer still have ever seen Gilbert’s photos of mother and son—those collected here did not run, except for one (slide #4), in LOOK’s story, and the negatives ended up buried in the Library of Congress archives until TIME discovered them in May. In an ironic turn of history, Gilbert’s portrait of newlywed 23-year-old Mitt and his mother strategizing in her campaign hotel room exactly captures a central theme of Mitt’s current cautious campaign style, the subject of TIME’s cover story this week, “Dreams of His Mother.”

Lenore’s losing run deeply shaped her son, perhaps even more than her husband’s failed presidential bid. Lenore initially called her campaign “a love affair between me and the people of Michigan.” But a month after Gilbert shot these images, her tune had turned. “It’s the most humiliating thing I know of to run for office,” she said. And Mitt, who was at her elbow at every turn that summer, felt the effects.

Nevertheless, Gilbert saw the charismatic Lenore that Mitt championed. “I found her to be very personable and friendly. I never really felt any pushback from her at all,” he remembers. “She attracted people.” On the mama’s boy, Gilbert’s memories are more vague. “I remember mostly Lenore. Mitt was, as far as I knew, the college-aged son who was helping out,” he recalls. “I knew it was a funny name, Mitt, but I didn’t know him beyond that.”

Mitt however was making a name for himself on the campaign trail even then. He traveled to each of Michigan’s 83 counties on his mom’s behalf, and talked openly with reporters about her platform every step of the way. Mitt Romney finds himself in a similar position, more than 40 years later: traveling the country, and this time, convincing voters of his own credentials to become President of the United States. That outcome hinges on voters this November; Lenore’s influence on that journey, though, is indisputable.

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME: How Mitt’s Mom Shaped Him

More photos: The rich history of Mitt Romney

Elizabeth Dias is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau. Follow her on Twitter @elizabethjdias.

Brooklyn Bridge: Historic Photo of a New York Landmark

On April 24, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a digital trove of 870,000 photographs, maps and videos that document more than 150 years of Big Apple history, starting in 1858. Among the highlights is a series of images showcasing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened to the public 129 years ago on Thursday.

The evocative, black-and-white photographs are not only remarkable for the intimate and playful details they capture, including a shot of workers painting the Brooklyn Bridge in 1914—without harness!—but also because they were taken by an amateur photographer named Eugene de Salignac, who was a municipal worker from 1906-1934.

Eugene de Salignac

Under the bridge on the Brooklyn side, 1918.

“He was an extremely talented photographer who was tasked with documenting the building of the city,” says Eileen Flannelly, New York City’s deputy commissioner for the department of records. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get recognition for his images during his lifetime. He was just a civil service employee, really unknown. I don’t think people really understood then that he was showing us how our city was built.”

The push to unveil this digital archive has been in the works for nearly four years, and it’s likely to become a hallmark achievement for Mayor Bloomberg, who has made it a mission to support technological initiatives during his tenure. Other photographs from the archive give viewers an inside look at the city’s grisly crime scenes, old Times Square and various borough presidents’ offices. “I look at the crime scene and it’s like looking at an old gangster movies—they’re fascinating because they don’t look real,” Flannelly says. “Then I look at pictures from the ‘80s and see how much the city has changed. It’s fascinating because you don’t have to go too far back to see how far we’ve come.”

The New York City Municipal Archives Photo Gallery can be browsed online here.

City on Fire: A Look Inside Changsha in China

Rather than see the city of Changsha fall into Japanese hands during World War II, Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek decided to burn the entire city to the ground in 1938. Out of the destruction, Changsha, now a metropolis of six million, has risen from the ashes.

Photographer Rian Dundon spent the last six years creating a gritty black-and-white exploration of people living and making their way in Changsha, as well as Hunan, in a geometrically evolving civilization. A dizzying place, where “bit-players in the unfolding epic of China’s development” deal with forces beyond their control, he says.

Dundon describes Changsha as “Blade Runner meets Brooklyn: a sprawling warren of ad-hoc concrete, grand boulevards and neon dreams laced with an energy that made me dizzy.” After six years living and working in China, the photographer has begun composing a book dummy and is selling advance copies via emphas.is to help fund its publication.

The photographer originally moved to China thinking it was only a yearlong commitment, tagging along with his then-girlfriend who had landed a position teaching English for Princeton University. Living in China subverted Dundon’s imagination, and he found himself surprised by the disparity between what he had envisioned and what he actually found. “I had expected something more exotic, more foreign,” he says. “My notions of China were of a place removed from the rest of the world.”

Dundon began to learn Mandarin in the city’s pool halls, counting balls in Chinese, and practicing his language skills with local billiards sharks and spectators. He befriended a liquor salesman and a bar owner who introduced him to a grittier side of the city’s nightlife. By day, he explored Changsha, soaking in the rhythm and the texture of the place. “I did my best to absorb everything, every bit of local language or news or culinary offering. And I photographed, always photographed. Only now I wasn’t just a visitor or a journalist,” he says. “Without a story to cover or a deadline to meet, I consigned myself to the sensuality of living, engaging with the people I met and staying open to different modes of experience,” Dundon wrote in his project outline.

“After one year I knew I had only scratched the surface. There were so many layers to dig through. And there’s no way to rush this kind of thing,” Dundon says. Despite the fact that his girlfriend left after a year, Dundon ended up staying in China for six.

Rather than take a traditional journalistic approach, Dundon photographed in a more experiential way. In his work, Dundon found himself “trying to maintain a continuous sense of personal narrative in my work—a unifying perspective. In China I was more interested in atmosphere and attitude than a strictly defined subject or story,” Dundon says. “And I had to accept the fact that I knew nothing. That only by staying open to different tracks of experience would I be able to produce something honest. I needed to give up control. Allow myself to be led.”

In Changsha, Dundon befriended a crew of funeral planners, cemetery consultants and speculators. “The death business is booming in China. Most of them were young kids fresh out of college who kept a canny sense of humor despite the somber surroundings,” he says. Despite the growth opportunities in the industry, these ambitious youths were stuck in an odd interstitial area, between the cultures of both ancient and modern China. The power and presence of sprits and ghosts is still respected by many Chinese, and for this group, that meant keeping their work secret—save for a small cadre of family members and friends. “Most people don’t want to get close to someone who spends their days with the dead. And that shared experience of exclusion was the glue that bound their tightly knit group together.”

Dundon took a trip home to rural Liling County with one of his Changsha confederates. “He told me that nobody in his village could know what he really did for a living.” Dundon says. Despite his success in the city, “he was still forced to lie about his job when he went home for holidays. After tasting city life he said he could never move home again.”

Rian Dundon is an American photographer. See more of his work here.