Unidentified Photographer, [Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin looking out window of USS Hornet], July 24, 1969 (2012.99.12)


Krisanne Johnson, A young HIV-positive woman who works in the garment industry laughs with friends at her rented one-room home, Matsapha, Swaziland, February 2012 (2013.59.2)

leroy_catherine_2011_73_1Catherine Leroy, A Marine is hit by North Vietnamese fire during Battle of Hue, February 1, 1968 (2011.73.1)

lyon_danny_2010_3_20Danny Lyon, Renegade’s funeral, Detroit, 1966 (2010.3.20)


Yoshito Matsushige, [Dazed survivors huddle together in the street ten minutes after the atomic bomb was dropped on their city, Hiroshima], August 6, 1945 (1464.2005)

We often seem to place great importance on individuals. There are people remembered long after they have faded from this earth because of some act of heroism or ingenuity. It could be claimed, however, that there are no men who truly operate alone, that no successes or discoveries are the result of one person. These remarkable individuals are able to be so because their work, their bravery is achieved in part by standing on the shoulders of giants, on the accomplishments of those before and around them. There is a multitude of persons, the quiet participant, the off-stage support, and the forgotten chorus that rose to the occasion.

As Aristotle said in Politics, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” When we, these social creatures, are put into situations of particular stress, excitement or intensity, a great sense of camaraderie can develop. Whether it is on an expedition to the Poles, in a laboratory, on the battlefront, or in a community besieged by difficulties, camaraderie is the enhancement of bonds that give us strength, sometimes in quantities so great it is astounding.

Kathy Akey, ICP-Bard 2014

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Sugar, Fish, and Fortresses: Life in a Colonial Stronghold as seen by Charles W. Blackburne

Charles W. Blackburne [Cooper’s Photo Studio and Belgrave’s Curiosity Shop, Bridgetown, Barbados] , 1897-1912

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Charles W. Blackburne [Shell fishers, St. Thomas] 1897-1912

During the span of his career as an importer of goods to the United States from the West Indies (1897-1912), Charles W. Blackburne (1860-1936 ) prolifically pursued his interest in photography, methodically setting up his large format camera to expose on glass plates the world in which he traveled. This included Antigua, Barbados, Demerara (a region of present day Guyana), Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martins, St. Thomas, Suriname, and Trinidad, as well as the many ocean liners he sailed upon to arrive at these distant places.

The surviving collection of approximately 450 glass plate negatives and a smaller selection of film negatives (fewer than 100) document in considerable detail the physical and cultural landscape of these very small Islands at a time when Colonial powers were inspired by the discovery of new markets, new places to settle Europe’s poor migrants, and the desire to “civilize the barbarians”.

What could have been just a simple collection of travel images is fortunately elucidated upon by Blackburne himself, transforming them into a narrative with much greater insight. In elegant red script he briefly describes the subject in each image on each of the corresponding negative sleeves; noting sometimes on location, or an activity, and in the case of a portrait, often identifying the individuals. This has revealed elements within the image that may otherwise not be identified due to locations long since having been restructured, or in the case of one city, no longer existing because of a volcanic eruption. The notations also tell us what Blackburne found most relevant in the image, and often clarifying the focal point of his intent. In some cases, the notations tie many of the images together that would otherwise be visually unconnected – such as identifying a family of children in one image, the family home in another, and then identifying the same family’s mill in yet another image.

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Charles W. Blackburne [Yearwood Mill, St. Kitts], 1897‑1912

Charles W. Blackburne [Penny divers, Martinique], 1897-1902

Although complicit in this force that continued to assault the Caribbean, Blackburne took some startling and insightful images that serve as observation or even documentation, although not necessarily sympathetic, of the impact of Colonial powers on the Islands. He was after all a broker by trade and many of his friends that he photographed were photographed in leisure activities and assumed positions of power in their respective townships. The writings on the negative sleeves reveal his interest in the specific, such as the names of stores, their owners, government buildings, Lodges, the landscape, and recreational activities. But he also turned the lens of his camera towards the poor indigenous population and recorded, with similar curiosity and specificity, activities such as washing clothes, fishing, the transportation of lumber, collecting shell fish, and selling produce at the local markets, as well as more intimate portraits such as one of a street barber and some, where the entire family is posed in front of their home.

Individually some of the images are remarkable in their beauty – Blackburne’s interest in the aesthetic is clearly underscored by the attention he paid to composition as much as by the discrimination he displayed in selecting what he chose to photograph. Collectively, there is a much richer story being told – one that fifteen years visiting the Caribbean as a trader,  and passive observer of a Colonial stronghold, has revealed within the context of one man’s desire to record his experiences in photographs.

Charles W. Blackburne [Swan Street, Brigdetown, Barbados], 1897-1912

Last year, the heavy boxes containing 486 glass negatives were donated to ICP by John Noll, in honor of his father-in-law, Richard Waldmann, who had originally recognized the value of these wonderful images and preserved them for posterity.

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Charles W. Blackburne [Children wearing sailor’s hats from the HMS Superb, Christiansted, St. Croix], 1897-1912

Charles W. Blackburne [Dr. Doty and friends in park, Roseau, Dominica], 1897-1912

Charles W. Blackburne [Barber, Suriname] 1897-1912

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callahan_harry_304_1985Harry Callahan, Eleanor, Port Huron, 1954 (304.1985)

Harry Callahan only had eyes for one woman—her name was Eleanor Knapp. They met in 1933 when she saw a picture of him and proposed a date; two years later they were married. For the next six decades she would be his mistress and his muse. Photographed “an endless number of ways,” Eleanor was Callahan’s primary subject from 1947 to 1960.


Harry Callahan, Eleanor, Chicago, 1948 (2012.42.1)

Mainly self-taught, Callahan began photographing in 1938 with the Chrysler Camera Club in Detroit, Michigan. After seeing a lecture by Ansel Adams in 1941, Callahan was inspired to concentrate on his photography more seriously. He would shoot all morning and spend the afternoons printing the day’s best negatives. Photography became a ritualistic affair—a deeply personal one.

While living with Eleanor in Chicago, he invented the 8×10 view camera snapshot. His was casual, yet meticulous. Harry Callahan was like the Atget of Chicago in the 1950s—only it wasn’t the city that captivated him, it was his wife. In their home, on the street, and in nature, Callahan photographed Eleanor in order to possess her. She is ever-present in the photographs—in every form, in every ray of light, there is Eleanor.


Harry Callahan, Chicago, 1958 (3416.1992)


Harry Callahan, [Flower against sky], ca. 1950 (281.1981)

Callahan had a unique vision that combined the experimentation of the European Modernism with the grace of the Americans. The photographs selected were made in the couple’s first years in Chicago, before their daughter Barbara was born. With grace, Harry Callahan documents their most intimate moments alone together. He never exhausted of photographing her, and even in his landscapes and abstracted forms, it seems to be Eleanor his loving eye is searching for.

Kory Trolio, ICP-Bard 2014


Harry Callahan, Chicago, 1950 (602.1994)

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Smart, Witty, Clever: Rare, Early Street Photography by Ansel Adams

At the Zoo, Manhattan, 1953 (372.1984)

Sculpture, St. Vartan’s Armenian Church, New York City, 1966 (380.1984)

New York World’s Fair, 1964 (375.1984)

We recently found several examples of very rare, previously unseen examples of Ansel Adams’ early street photography…
Kidding! Of course they’re great, funny photos by Alfred Gescheidt (born 1926).
To hear a very funny and enlightening talk (with references to both Weegee and Roman Vishniac) by Alfred Gescheidt at ICP on December 15, 1982, please click here.

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Making a Funny Face


Jill FreedmanGoofy Kids, Dublin, 1984 (33.1988)

weegee_2139_1993Weegee, [Women with children making silly faces],  ca. 1950 (2139.1993)

burkhard_hans_jurgen_137_2003Hans-Jurgen Burkard, Ulon Uda, Siberia, 1989 (137.2003)

Studies have shown that smiling can make you feel happier and less stressed. Try it!

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The Uncanny Indecisive Body


Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935 (207.1987)


Legs as extension of the body.

Legs as the choreographers of movement.

Legs as navigators.

Legs as present moment.

Legs as independence.

Legs as control.

Legs as power.

Legs as balance.

Legs as decision makers.

Legs as duality.

Legs as surreality.

Legs as sexuality.

Legs as the protectors of the vagina.

Legs as the indecisive body.


The surreal leg images made by the German photographer Hans Bellmer (1902-1975) in the mid-1930s combine the physical interior with the psychic interior while reflecting on Bellmer’s idea of a physical unconscious. The body becomes the place on which identity can be explored in a way that blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy.


Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935 (205.1987)

While looking at these images, the haze of distinction between imagination and reality appears to distort the lines between pleasure and anxiety. The viewer also has a childish fantasy that this doll is an actual autonomous being.

Bellmer said of his motives in making his dolls: “I shall construct an artificial girl whose anatomy will make it possible physically to re-create the dizzying heights of passion and to do so to the extent of inventing new desires.”

bellmer_hans_206_1987Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935 (206.1987)

These growing female body parts deny any straightforward reading of subjecthood or desire also carry a question of sexuality. But these bodies do not rely on binaries of homosexuality or heterosexuality but more of a hermaphroditic–or even a homogeneous–untouchable inanimate being.

The doubling of the legs and the doubling of self and other, animate and inanimate, creates a skewed eroticism that keep us trying to make couples and links that make sense together. The legs of the doll are both Bellmer’s in terms of a voyeuristic possession or control.

bellmer_hans_202_1987Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935 (202.1987)

The tensions between Bellmer as the photographer-voyeur, the doll as a construction of Bellmer himself, and the doll as a completed object onto which fantasies can be projected  are very compelling; it seems that Bellmer becomes the courtier of this strange character. The photographs reveal the two modes of aggressive voyeurism and uncertain identification, resulting in this indecisiveness.

bellmer_hans_211_1987Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935 (2011.1987)

Bellmer’s adolescent-looking doll models function in an uncanny space that places them between child and adult, real and fake; present, past, or future. This makes the work the perfect example of Freud’s definition of the uncanny: “an uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes.”.

Nina Mendez Marti, ICP-Bard 2014

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Storyville Portrait


E. J. Bellocq, Storyville Portrait, New Orleans, 1912 (33.2004)

E. J. Bellocq was a wealthy French-Creole man living in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. He was known professionally as a photographer of landmarks, ships, and commercial machinery, but upon his death in 1949, a seedier side of the hunchbacked, dwarf-like photographer was discovered. Among Bellocq’s effects were eighty-nine haunting glass-plate negatives taken around 1912 of prostitutes in New Orleans’ legalized red-light district, Storyville. While most of his work was destroyed in 1949, the Storyville Portraits were found later by Bellocq’s brother, a Jesuit priest, and eventually sold in 1966 to a young photographer named Lee Friedlander. Friedlander began making printing-out paper prints, or sun-exposed contact prints, of the glass plate negatives, and in 1970 they were exhibited by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art. On many of the plates the faces of the prostitutes have been crossed out, believed to have been done by Bellocq himself while the emulsion was still wet, and two others, including this one, showed the prostitutes wearing masks. However, Bellocq’s images from the brothels of Storyville were not taken as objects offered up to the male gaze, but instead the women are willing subjects of Bellocq’s 8×10 view camera.

Kory Trolio, ICP-Bard 2014

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