Enough is enough?

Walker Evans, Penny Pictures Display, Savannah, 1936 (50.1981.g)

Leon Levinstein, Wall of photographs, ca. 1957 (2011.53.17)

Leon Levinstein, [Untitled], ca. 1980, (139.1999)

Weegee, Weegee in his Hollywood Studio, ca. 1950 (20282.1993)

Bob Parent, [Weegee and Mel Harris with Weegee's photographs for his Naked Hollywood book], ca. 1953 (2213.1993)

Are there too many photographs?

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Looking back to Mid-Century Downtown New York

After re-reading Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil’s book Please Kill Me: The Oral History of Punk, I’ve been curious to learn more about the New York City that Richard Hell and Patti Smith were inspired by. I’ve been told horror stories about living Downtown in the 1970s and 1980s, but I suppose one’s hero’s can make a dump on The Bowery seem romantic.

Mellon Tytell
William S Burroughs and Gregory Corso standing in front of the West End Bar, 1973, 124.1994

Of course, we have to start with one of the fathers of punk-rock, William S. Burroughs and one of the youngest of the beat poets, Gregory Corso. Although the West End Bar was over one hundred blocks from the downtown scene it was a popular meeting place for students at Columbia University. Patrons included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1940’s and continued to be a meeting place for students and intellectuals until it closed in 2006.


Ken Heyman, Greenwich Village, 1980, 2009.93.23

Leon Levinstein
, St. Marks Place, 1968, 2011.53.5

Robert Frank  is said to have walked into CBGB‘s one night and made the observation “It looks like the way people dress is very important.” This is true, the “look” was  intentional and the author of the next book on my list, Richard Hell would intentionally cut his clothes to achieve his desired look. Malcolm McLaren even stated: “Richard Hell was a definite, 100 percent inspiration, and, in fact, I remember telling the Sex Pistols, “Write a song like Blank Generation, but write your own bloody version.” Their own version was Pretty Vacant.

McNeil, Legs, and Gillian McCain. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. New York: Grove, 1996. Print.

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The Stories of Standard Oil

Gordon Parks
, [Portrait of the Owner of the General Store], 1943-50 (149.1983)

 Sol Libsohn, U.S. 22, Pennsylvania, 1945 (153.1983)

After a rather abrupt ending of funding for the photographic project of the Farm Security Administration, Roy Stryker accepted another challenge: he would lead a documenting project that would improve the public image of the New Jersey based company Standard Oil. Stryker worked with a group of dedicated, now legendary, photographers who documented the operations in the field of Standard Oil Company and visualized a wide variety of topics that related to the oil industry. Photographers such as Gordon Parks, Sol Libsohn, Todd Webb, Esther Bubley and among others, documented countless subjects, voices and angles to tell the stories of all the people and places involved in or affected by the oil industry in the United States.

Esther Bubley, Oilfield Family in Their Tent, Andrews, 1945 (136.1983)

Although Stryker insisted his photographers to be well-informed before they started their work, they were free to pursue their own individual approaches and tell their stories according to each photographer’s unique visual style: with intimate and lively images of families and communities Esther Bubley would illustrate daily life in small towns in the American South; Sol Libsohn documented truck driver’s arduous work in stark, black and white images, where other photographs he took throughout the country show his keen eye for strong, abstracted compositions and the sensitivity to document human interaction; Gordon Parks’ images of farmhouses, miners and the use of portraiture reveal his talent to grasp the different environments affecting each of the individual lives; typical for the photographic style of Todd Webb, the scenes in his photographs are composed in such a way they are being elevated from the general story and become individual icons of a place and era in the United States of the 1940s.

Todd Webb
, Houses from the Bloomfield Bridge, Pittsburgh, 1943-50 (191.1983)

The Standard Oil Company photography project started in 1943. By the time it ended, in 1950, roughly 67,000 photographs had been taken. The International Center of Photography holds approximately 190 photographs in its Collection.

 Sol Libsohn, Laying Pipeline Across the Mississippi River, 1944 (239.1983)

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Re-reading Edwardian fashion tintypes


Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Woman at "Beach"],  ca. 1880, 2009.3.1

Some interpretations of early tintypes of women with their backs to the camera, believe the women are showing off their (lovely) long hairstyles. While very long hair was fashionable at the time, I like to think part of the popularity of this pose was a cheeky act of subversion.


Unidentified Photographer, [Backs of Eight Unidentified Women with Long Hair],  ca. 1880, 2413.2005

With rapid technological developments in the late 1800s (including photography!) women began to fight for their own social equality. The camera allowed these women to create images of themselves, and they felt empowered enough to challenge the viewer by turning their backs to the camera and keeping their image to themselves.

Or they thought their hair looked great that day!

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Sleep to Dream

“We are such stuff                                                                                                                              As dreams are made on, and our little life                                                                                           Is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare, The Tempest


Elinor Carucci, Sleep Marks, 1997, [3.2004]


Martin Munkacsi, [Woman Sleeping], 1936, [2007.110]


Elinor Carucci, Feet Moving on Bed, 1999, [29.2002]


Jill FreedmanSleeping Child, County Kerry, 1984, [40.1988]


Vikky Alexander, Between Dreaming and Living #5, 1985, [781.2000]

A lucid dream occurs when an individual becomes aware that they are dreaming and can potentially control their actions as well as the content and context of the dream. This phenomenon is understood to happen during REM, the last stage of the sleep cycle when individuals are most likely to dream.

There are a number of techniques one can practice in order to become a lucid dreamer. One of the most basic tips is to simply remind yourself to become aware that you are dreaming right before you fall asleep. Another common technique is to practice various “checks” while awake and repeating them while dreaming. These “checks” can vary from reading the time on a clock, counting your fingers, or checking for your wedding band. By practicing “checks” while awake, you can train your brain to preform the same tasks while dreaming, thus giving you the ability become aware of your dreams in order to ultimately control them. By employing these techniques and training your brain to become aware of your dreams while asleep, lucid dreaming can become possible.



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Sebastião Salgado in Kuwait


Sebastião Salgado, Workers place a new wellhead in an oil well that had been damaged by Iraqi explosives, 1991 (2007.6.9)

Looking through the ICP archive’s library, we discovered a 1991 New York Times Magazine with a profile of Sebastião Salgado photographing workers in Kuwait battling fires in an exploding oil well. The Greater Burgan Oil field is the second largest oil field in the world, and was attacked by retreating Iraqi soldiers and set aflame in 1991. In addition to the fires, oil wells pipes burst and workers struggled to repair them.

The image is captioned in the article “The work is exhausting. It all must be done by hand because a stray spark from power equipment could re-ignite the well. For two days these men have been trying to remove a well head that was blown up by Iraqi explosives.”

Like the firefighters in the pictures, Salgado must have been working while completely soaked in oil. Despite not sharing a language, the men all have respect for the others’ task, “These guys are heroes of out time, They are doing hard, difficult work, That is part of their pride, part of their life, part of their love. It’s very important the pictures can reflect all this.”

If you’re interested in seeing more work by Sebastião Salgado, the exhibition Sebastião Salgado: Genesis, opens September 19th, 2014 at the Museum of the International Center of Photography.


Wald, Matthew L. “The Eye of the Photojournalist, Sebastião Salgado in Kuwait.”The New York Times Magazine, June 9, 1991: p.28

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Historic American Panorama of the Moon’s Surface


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, [Panorama of the Moon's Surface with Shadow of Surveyor I], June 2, 1966. Collection International Center of Photography, Museum Purchase, 2014

With the extraordinary news of China’s successful soft landing of a lunar rover on the surface of the moon on December 14, 2013, suddenly attention turned back to the history and photography of past space exploration. China was only the third country to send back pictures from the moon’s surface and the first to land a capsule there since 1976. The Soviet Union achieved the first soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon in January 1966; four months later, in June 1966, the U.S. successfully landed its own lunar probe. ICP recently acquired from a former NASA executive a spectacular early print of one of the first photographic panoramas of the moon’s surface from that very first unmanned U.S. mission. The sweeping two-by-four foot image shows the American lunar lander, Surveyor I, at the end of its first day of activity, June 2, 1966, casting its own long shadow on the rocky terrain of the so-called Sea of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum). This particular montage was compiled from 52 different television images beamed back to Earth. Surveyor I ended up transmitting over 10,388 pictures during that first day, and an additional 800 over the remaining 14 days before its batteries failed.

Chief Curator Brian Wallis

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