“I am glad that you are with me on the full moon night. I want to whisper to you that Happy Mid-Autumn Day my dearest.”


Unidentified Photographer, [Advertisement for mooncakes for Autumn Moon Festival featuring Apollo 11 astronauts, Hong Kong], September 1969 (2012.99.14)

A Chinese celebration dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), the Mid-Autumn Festival is second only to the Spring Festival, which celebrates the beginning of the New Year. Essential to the Mid-Autumn festival is the mooncake, a small round cake, available in a variety of flavors and shaped to reflect the full harvest moon (closest full moon to the autumnal equinox) the festival lands on. Mooncakes are eaten to celebrate the beginning of the harvest, to extend the wishes of longevity and happiness to family and friends, or to extend a romantic gesture. Clever marketing on this Hong Kong billboard in 1969 shows lunar fairies sharing the mooncakes with the first astronauts to step on the moon: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. of the Apollo 11 space mission.

The 2013 Harvest Moon occurs in New York City on Thursday, September 19 at 7:12 am.

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Vitaly Butyrin’s Poetic Photomontages

butyrin_vitaly_1096_1986 Vitaly Butyrin, Legend, 1976 (1096.1986)

The Lithuanian photographer Vitaly Butyrin (b. 1947) is considered one of the world’s leading science-fiction photographers. His works are graphic transformations of reality with montage. He creates a composite photograph by cutting—frequently joining ten or more other photographs—and photographing it again so that the final image is converted back into a seamless print. Butyrin’s pictures will inevitably attract your eye, by being so uncommon and thought-provoking and because of their striking imagery. Dozens of fragments, noticed in real life, have been intermingled in quite an unexpected pattern, and thus a unified photographic image has emerged, powerful in its imaginative reality—or realistic fantasy.

butyrin_vitaly_1092_1986_lVitaly Butyrin, Bewitched World, 1983 (1092.1986.l)

Photography fixes reality, i.e. the photographic image is often a strongly resembled copy of an object or situation as it was once physically present. This means that the photograph refers to an existing reality, and is supposed to give a realistic view on the referent that is being represented. But suddenly here, in Butyrin’s photo collages, another world is assembled from fragments of the conventional one–surprising, extraordinary, and full of new sense. Although there are a lot of images and paintings in which it is a mystery what we are looking at, it is significant that a photograph can affect our perception of the depicted scene in a much more estranged way. Whereas a painter can paint whatever he wants, a photographer, according to Roland Barthes, must depict “what is there.” But how can one make a camera lens, which is able to only see what the eye can see, convey the same that can be written or painted?

butyrin_vitaly_1092_1986_iVitaly Butyrin, Contact, 1983 (1092.1986.i)

Butyrin’s photographs are not only created by the camera’s lens and the author’s vision but also by his thought and emotion. We tend to see through a photograph, negating the surface, as if we are looking through a window to life. But while looking at Butyrin’s prints, we are not only communicating with reality, but also–and rather–with the artist himself and his inner world. Although the photographer uses an objective considered medium, he is able to show subjectivity. Like a painter, who can reinvent the referent with his pencil, Butyrin is, in a sculptor-like way, recreating a fantasy world that cannot be represented through an objective approach to reality. While the photographer is working with a transparent medium, he is still free to use and show his own concept within the frame of the image, and thereby alienate the content of the photographs, and confuse the spectator. His work inscribes into its meaning precisely the play between internal and external worlds, so the combination of certain elements occur different associations in the viewer and a poetic resonance. Contemplation of his images becomes therefore philosophical, since we disclose deep and serious meaning in the unconventional shapes created by Butyrin.

butyrin_vitaly_1089_1986Vitaly Butyrin, Requiem. In Memoriam of V.S., 1983 (1084.1986)

butyrin_vitaly_1092_1986_eVitaly Butyrin, Eternal Call, 1983 (1092.1986.e)

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Happy Birthday, Lucien Aigner!

Born in Hungary on September 14, Lucien Aigner (1901-1999) was a pioneer of photojournalism, and his works have been the focus of two ICP exhibitions. Best known for his coverage of pre-World War II Europe, including political events, personalities, and daily life, Aigner was one of the first photographers to use the newly invented 35mm Leica. This small, unobtrusive camera allowed the user to more easily capture spontaneous moments.  Together with his contemporaries Alfred Eisenstaedt and Robert Capa, Aigner helped lay the foundation for modern photojournalism.

aigner_lucien_286_1982Lucien Aigner, “Aeroplage” in Le Touquet, ca. 1933 (286.1982)

aigner_lucien_340_1982Lucien Aigner, Ballet Practice at the Grand Opera, Paris, 1934 (340.1982)

aigner_lucien_313_1982Lucien Aigner, The Ballet of the Photographers at a Windswept Mountain Top in Hawaii, 1954 (313.1982)

According to photo historian Andrew Eskind, Aigner “delighted in the candid–the quick grab.” Indeed, Aigner’s photographs of famous people are not posed, but natural and snapshot-like, catching the subject in an unguarded moment. Perhaps the most famous examples of Aigner’s candid style are his photographs of Albert Einstein.  In order to make Einstein feel relaxed around the camera, Aigner spent the day with the scientist, trying his best to blend into the background.  The result was Einstein’s favorite photo of himself, Einstein Facing the Universe.

aigner_lucien_310_1982Lucien Aigner, Winston Churchill learning abut his re-election to Parliament, 1935 (310.1982)

aigner_lucien_342_1982Lucien Aigner, Albert Einstein at work, Princeton, 1940 (342.1982)

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September 11

September 11, 2001, archiveSteven Siegel, Oz #2, 1975 (2006.30.43)

Browse ICP’s complete September 11 Archive here. See a selection of Jeff Mermelstein‘s powerful September 11 images here.

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Wash Your Hands!


Margaret Bourke‑White, [Nurse Clara Stull prepares typhoid inoculation for flood victims at refugee aid station at Hikes Grade School, Louisville], 1937 (1648.2005)


W. Eugene Smith, [Nurse‑midwife Maude Callen giving inoculation to little boy], 1951 (993.2005)


John Vachon, Irwinville Farms, Georgia. Inoculation for typhoid in the clinic, 1938 (2009.59.14)



Burton A. Beal, [Letter from Burton Beal in Waterford, Virginia, to Albert Beal in Augusta, Maine], December 2, 1866 (2010.15.8)

In a letter to his father dated December 2, 1866, Burton A. Beal writes about his lengthy sickness and slow recovery from typhoid fever in the small town of Waterford, Virginia, where an outbreak had already claimed more than a dozen lives. He laments the loss of a lucrative job and complains bitterly of a medical bill for $79.50, by which he implies that he is being gouged.

The disease can leave one bedridden anywhere from three to six weeks depending on availability and method of treatment. Early symptoms include fever and abdominal pain. A high fever (typically over 103) and severe and “green” diarrhea occur as the disease gets worse. Some people develop a rash called “rose spots,” which are small red spots on the abdomen and chest. Other symptoms that occur include: abdominal tenderness; agitation; bloody stools; chills; confusion; difficulty paying attention; delirium; fluctuating mood; hallucinations; nosebleeds; severe fatigue; slow, sluggish, lethargic feeling; weakness.

Typhoid fever had a mortality rate of 31.3 per 100,000 up and into the beginning of the 1900s was nearly annihilated by the mid-twentieth century. Increase in medical knowledge, improvements in environmental sanitation, and the implementation of public health programs all contributed to this dramatic shift. Although vaccines against the disease are available and recommended for visitors to developing countries, the most effective prevention method in North America is proper hygiene and sanitation. In other words, wash your hands.

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Robert Doisneau’s Pictures of Women

Perhaps best known for his iconic Parisian image The Kiss by the Town Hall, Robert Doisneau left a photographic legacy filled with warm, humorous, and poetic black-and-white impressions of everyday life in the French capital. The Doisneau photographs in the permanent collection of ICP are largely focused on women. Women in fashion, women on the street, the beauty of women, the hardship of women, but most of all, working women. The collection includes over sixty photographs, a bulk of them covering World War II and its aftermath. Around the world, throughout history, women in the workforce have gone largely undocumented, and these Doisneau images therefore provide valuable insight into war and post-war Paris reality.

There are everyday wartime images like this one of a peaceful session at the hairdresser’s. It suggests that the days pass and that life, despite the occupation and its horrors, continues.

donisneau_robert_242_2003Robert Doisneau, [Hairdresser], ca. 1944 (242.2003)

Then there are the women facing the reality and brutality of the war. The women in this photo have a responsibility on their shoulders: to alleviate the suffering of women in their respective countries. Their expressions showcase this harsh reality. This photograph was taken in 1945 during the meeting of the Congress of the Union of French Women. Most likely it was shot at the founding congress of The Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) on November 26-30, 1945, where some 850 women from forty countries met.

doisneau_robert_1425_2005Robert Doisneau, [Mme Popova, chief of Soviet delegation; La Pasionaria, representing women of Republican Spain; Mlle Riabov, bombardier of Soviet night command fighters, Congress of Union of French Women], 1945 (1425.2005)

The difficult aftermath of the war was sometimes lost in the joy and celebration of liberation. There was no clearer example of the horrors of war than the survivors from Hitler’s concentration camps. In this tender yet confrontational portrait, Germain Pican’s arm speaks volumes.

doisneau_robert_1424_2005Robert Doisneau, [Germain Pican displaying number tattoo received at Auschwitz, Congress of Union of French Women], 1945 (1424.2005)

This photograph was taken in 1972, a year that in many ways proved to be the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. The four helicopters in formation over Aristide Maillol’s sculpture of the Three Graces at once demonstrates the vulnerability and the harshness of human kind. It is not stated in the photographic records if Doisneau really had the Vietnam War in mind shooting this image, but I for one, would like to think so.

doisneau_robert_169_1981Robert Doisneau, Les Helicopteres, 1972 (169.1981)

To end on a lighter note: Doisneau takes a keen interest in the photographer and the photograph. In the ICP collection there are a number of images of noted fashion photographer Louse Dahl-Wolfe working with Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. In some, they are working with a model on fashion shoot sets in studios or on the street, and then there is this unique and intimate photo: three professional women working on reviewing contact sheets at the editor’s bedside. A rare glimpse into the Parisian magazine world of the 1950s. And one truly has to admire Doisneau’s ability to gain access!

doisneau_robert_1137_2005Robert Doisneau, [Photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe at bedside of Harper's Bazaar editor Carmel Snow reviewing contact sheets of fashion shoots], 1953 (1137.2005)

Kirsti Svenning, ICP Summer Intern
Kirsti is the Communications Advisor at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo

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L’Shana Tova!

vishniac_roman_8_008_001Roman Vishniac, [Three women, Mukacevo], ca. 1935-38

© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

Wishing you a sweet, happy, and healthy new year!

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