MEOW! Artists and Their Cats… (part 2)

Michel Auer, Jane Evelyn Atwood, 1983 (336.1988)

Barbara Morgan (1900-1992), Berenice Abbott [1898-1991] with Cat, 1942 (543.1986)

Unidentified Photographer, [Weegee, 1899-1968, and kitten], ca. 1958 (22649.1993)

Nearly five years ago (about 36 years if you were a dog) I (put the cat among the pigeons and) made this, it was the cat’s whiskers and/or meow, classic blog post: MEOW! Artists and Their Cats…
And now, after five years of careful editing and revising; five years of fishing in and ferreting around The Museum System database, (perhaps the elephant in the room is that every cat photo is a good photo); after five years of afternoon cat naps; after half a decade of monkeying around and being busy as a bee, and thinking that a cat in gloves catches no mice… Since all cats are grey in the dark, I’m (an eager beaver and a sheep in photographer’s clothing) ready (if every dog has its day, then every silly blog post has its day) to let the cat out of the bag and unleash (like casting pearls before swine) another instant classic (like a dog and pony show) blog post: a trio of photos, each featuring a cat and a photographic artist, in alphabetical order…

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Weegee Wednesdays: “Coney Island Revisited”

PM, June 9, 1941, pp. 16-17

74 years ago yesterday:
Coney Island Revisited… Pictures and Words by Weegee

I had been waiting three hours to get a picture of the official first lost child of the new season when a man came over to the Park Department attendant with this boy and said, “Lost child.” Pretty soon his wild-eyed mother came up and took him away, the child was making such a rumpus, and the mother seemed so excited about it all, that I didn’t want to bother them to ask their names and address. PM Photos by Weegee




First aid for ripped slacks. I don’t know how Mama happened to bring along her needle and thread, but I didn’t pose the picture. You don’t have to do that to get amusing pictures at Coney. I go out every summer to photograph the crowds. They’re always the same – and always different. One difference from 1940 and yesterday was the number of soldiers in uniform on boardwalk, looking over the gals on sand below.

PM, July 22, 1940

(Of course the June 9, 1941 page spread is the sequel to the above supernacular spread. Unfortunately, in 1941 we don’t learn what Weegee ate and drank, unlike in 1940: two kosher frankfurters, two beers, five more beers, malted milk, two root beers, three Coca Colas, two glasses of buttermilk, and five cigars. Nevertheless, Weegee made several great photos for the second summer in a row at a scorching Coney Island.)

Weegee’s New York, 1948 (A million peeps on the beach [on] of a summer afternoon, is normal…)

Weegee's New York from ICP on Vimeo.

Weegee’s New York, 1948
(Several summers later Weegee revisited Coney Island with a 16mm camera to film what became the second part of Weegee’s New York.)

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring the life and work of Weegee.

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Strangeness and the ordinary

Toby Old,  Hooker’s Ball, Copacabana, NYC, 1976 (274.1995)

Toby Old,  Xenon Disco, NYC, 1978 (69.1995)

Toby Old,  Body-building Championship, Syracuse, NY, 1980 (64.1995)

Toby Old,  FDR Psychiatric Hospital, Montrose, NY, 1988 (76.1995)

Toby Old,  FDR Psychiatric Hospital, Montrose, NY, 1989 (60.1995)

Toby Old,  Tavern on the Green, NYC, 1994 (270.1995)

Photographer Toby Old was inspired by the wonders of darkroom photography at the age of five, the moment his father magically created an image on a white sheet of paper. However, he didn’t start his professional career as a  photographer until the 1970s, several years after he was drafted in the Army and worked as a dentist in Minnesota. In 1975 he decided to move to New York and become a professional photographer. New York City was a brewing center of art and Old immersed himself in a world of artists, photographers and writers. Over the years he was inspired by and met with people such as Robert Rauschenberg, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Frank and Allan Ginsberg, among many others.

Starting in the late 1970s, Old began a series of photographs that covered the dance scene of New York. For several years he would go to parties and clubs and photograph the people, their splendorous outfits and atmospheres of sex, drugs and steaming dance floors. While the use of flash in Old’s work creates a directness of the subject and scene, the presence of the photographer is very quiet. In his series of dance parties in New York his subjects are absorbed by the electricity of their surroundings; the clenched teeth of a female bodybuilder is gazing upward, past the photographer; and patients of the FDR Psychiatric Hospital sometimes look straight into the camera, and yet it seems they only see themselves. Toby Old has been able to capture the essence of his surroundings which can result in painfully direct as well as hilarious images of people caught in a moment and absorbed by their action or a situation. In a tradition that resembles Weegee, Lisette Model and Diane Arbus, Old magnifies the ordinary and highlights the eccentricity in a career that has spanned over forty years.

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“Patience Is What You Need to Take Cat Pictures”

pm_1941_07_13bsm copy
pm_1941_07_13bsm copy 2
Ralph Steiner, “Patience Is What You Need to Take Cat Pictures,” PM Weekly, July 13, 1941, pp. 48-49 (photos by Thurman Rotan, Torkel Korling, Ruth Bernhard, and R.L. Doty, etc.)

Cats are like children in that most people like them. Many people photograph them. They both are easy to photograph: they aren’t camera shy, and they assume an infinity of expressions and positions. There should be a wealth of good pictures of cats and children, yet there isn’t. It has taken a long time and a lot of searching to assemble the few good cat pictures you see here.

To make good photographs of cats the photographer does not have to be a great mind, a deep thinker, or a super-sensitive artist. He (or she) just has to be patient enough to wait until his (or her) subject is most expressive of some cat quality that appeals to him (or her). Cats can be wise, foolish, elegant, awkward, playful, serious, tame, wild, social, independent, active and passive. They can react like humans to a situation, and some of their expressions can resemble ours.

Cat photographers should use their own observation to add to this catalog of cat facets. They should then use it as a guide to more interesting and more cat-like pictures.

(Patience is what I need to make blog posts, this post was started about six years ago… More importantly, PM was typically prescient and helpful…)

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Weegee Wednesday: “The opera shot got the most laughs”

PM, June 2, 1944, p. 12

PM, June 2, 1944, pp. 12-13

71 years ago yesterday:

A Weegee Gets Attention At Museum of Modern Art
The big picture at the lower right is the center of attraction in Weegee’s section of the Art in Progress photo exhibition now on view at the Museum of Modern Art. It shows Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh and Lady Decies outside of the Metropolitan Opera House – and the eloquent facial reaction of another woman. The other pictures on this page were snapped by Weegee as visitors to the photo exhibition looked at his pictures. Four out of his five exhibits have appeared in PM. The opera shot got the most laughs, Weegee reports. PM, June 2, 1944, pp. 12

Weegee, [Installation view of Weegee’s exhibition in “Art in Progress” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York], 1944 (19988.1993)

Weegee, Weegee by Weegee, 1961

Another Weegee-eye-view of the “Art in Progress” exhibition reveals why it’s not surprising that “the opera shot got the most laughs,” four out of five photos were not amusing. Almost all of the photos feature “eloquent facial reactions of women.” Only 60%, 3 out of 5, were stereotypical crime and fire shots. Just to mansplain this, speaking of stereotypes, if we look closely at the five shots, with the exception of “Their First Murder,” seven out of nine adults are female, the pair of men are a police officer and a wounded sailor. A pair of people are wealthy, upper class, or one percenters, and the rest are middle and/or working class. Of the five shots, one was made in 1939, a pair in 1941, and a pair in 1943. Three out of five were published on PM as news stories. Of course “The Critic” didn’t appear in PM when it was a news story in November 1943. (To give a Weegee attention on three of the five prints are on MoMA’s website: My Man, 95.1943, Tenement Fire, 96.1943, Woman Shot from Canon, New York, 696.1943.) It’s remarkable that an entire page in a daily newspaper was devoted to Weegee’s photographic review of his own photographs, of people enjoying his own contribution to what was at the time the largest exhibition in the history of the Museum of Modern Art.
To summarize and quote from a press release: The “Art in Progress” exhibition at MoMA, May 24 – October 8, 1944, was the fifteenth anniversary show and was the first time that all the departments (including photography, film, posters, industrial design, art for young people, etc.) of the museum were represented. “Art in Progress,” planned and directed by Monroe Wheeler, was the museum’s 258th exhibition. The photography section was on the first floor and directed by Nancy Newhall.

The museum has drawn upon its own collection of more than two thousand examples to present a brief survey of a century’s achievement. Creative photography has been divided into three categories: the abstract image, the lyric image, the objective image… The dominant intention of a man’s [or woman’s] lifework has generally been the basis for placing him [or her] in one category or another, although the chief twentieth-century photographers have contributed powerfully to all three… The Collection is already the most important and representative owned by any American museum. Although its first item was acquired eleven years ago… The photographers whose work is shown include Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Eugene Atget, Mathew Brady, Dr. Harold Edgerton, Walker Evans, David Octavius Hill, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Barbara Morgan, Eadweard Muybridge, Dr. Eliot Porter, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Ralph Steiner, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, William Henry Fox Talbot, William Vandivert, Weegee, and Edward Weston. MoMA, Art in Progress, press release, May 24, 1944.

“Four out of his five exhibits have appeared in PM.” What would those be? Perhaps a pair at the Photo League and a pair at MoMA. (Not a bad start for a “high-school” dropout; crime and seamy-side-of-life photojournalist.) What was the fifth exhibit?
1. Murder is My Business, August 13 – September 6, 1941, Photo League
2. Murder is My Business 2nd Edition, September 6 – September 27, 1941, Photo League
3. Action Photography, August 18 – September 19, 1943, MoMA
4. Art in Progress, May 24 – October 8, 1944, MoMA

The progress of art: In Weegee by Weegee (1961) Weegee writes about the significance of MoMA and 1944 in the genesis of Naked City (1945): “In the Spring of 1944, the Museum of Modern Art invited me to give a lecture. I accepted. After the lecture, a lot of people came over to tell me that I should have a book. I thought that this was a good idea. It had never occurred to me, but it was a good idea.” Weegee by Weegee, p. 81. Although as Anthony Lee writes in Weegee and Naked City, this was not accurate: “But in fact, the idea of collecting and publishing his pictures was raised three years earlier by Louis Stettner at Murder is my Business. ‘I suggest that he should write a book illustrated with his photographs,’ Stettner had written in Weegee’s comment book for that show.” (Anthony Lee, and Richard Meyer, Weegee and Naked City, p. 98.) In Weegee and Naked City, both Anthony Lee and Richard Meyer write compellingly about the significance of the two MoMA exhibitions in the evolution of Weegee’s photos from large, lurid halftones in tabloids (disposable and/or recyclable) to alluring, mounted and framed gelatin silver photographs (valuable) in cultural institutions…

Oh, almost forgot, like a great B-Side of a 45, or Staten Island salad days, the story on page 13 of PM, June 2, 1944 is: Staten Island Girl Scouts Turn Farmettes, with photos by the wondrous Arthur Leipzig. The photo captions: “Under the leadership of Mrs. Herman A. Meyer (right center), wife of the Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Staten Island, these Girl Scouts of Troop 5-41 are helping Uncle Sam win the war by raising crops. The land was donated to them by a farmer who couldn’t get sufficient help to care for all his acreage.”
“Lucielle Woelle and May Leadley pull the marker which makes rows for the planting of seeds. The gardens have been scientifically planned and they will raise three crops during the summer. Each girl is responsible for a plot 20 by 20 feet. They’ll grow beans, beets, cabbage, onions, carrots, spinach, tomatoes and lettuce.”
The big picture at the middle of the twentieth century was that this story was published four days before D-Day…

Weegee Wednesday is an occasional series exploring the life and work of Weegee.

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Picasso, 1981

Lucien ClerguePablo Picasso in his studio “La Californie”, Cannes, 1955 (638.1983a)

Lucien Clergue, Picasso and “Le Moustre de Matisse”, an object of the Nouvelle Hebrides, which the French master [Matisse] gave to Don Pablo. It is now part of collection of the Picasso Museum in Paris, 1956 (638.1983c)

Lucien Clergue, During the Feria de Nîmes festival, Picasso dressed up as a musician of Peña de Logroño, a town close to Guernica, at the bullfight, May 1958 (638.1983d)

Lucien Clergue, Before the bullfight of September 1959 Picasso stepped into in an antique shop and bought a musical instrument which is found in a series of canvases painted in Vauvenargues. With two friends they recreated the famous painting The Three Musicians, 1959 (638.1983e)

Lucien Clergue, The workshop sculptures, present-absent, Notre Dame de Vie, 1970 (638.1983o)

Lucien Clergue, Picasso will soon be 90 years, Notre Dame de Vie, 24 mars, 1971 (638.1983n)

This portfolio of the centenary of the birth of Pablo Picasso has been designed and produced by Lucien Clergue. He photographed Pablo Picasso with his consent in the Provence from 1955 to 1971. The 15 prints the portfolio consists of were printed on Ilford paper and mounted on cardboard Van Gelder.

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The Children of Raquira

Alirio Casas, A drunk friend sleeping, 1982-1983 (3810.1992)

Libia Murcia Esperanza, My parents on Good Friday, 1982-1983 (3803.1992)

Carlos Torres, Procession of the Saints, 1982-1983 (3808.1992)

Alirio Casas, My mother drinking coffee in the kitchen after she made dinner, 1982-1983 (3806.1992)

Dalida Reyes, My first Communion dress hanging on the wall, 1982-1983 (3811.1992)

Carlos Andres Villanueva, The chickens run behind my mother, 1982-1983 (3812.1992)

Born in Detroit in 1951, the photographer Wendy Ewald had been inspired by the Depression-era work of Walker Evans. After graduating high school in 1969, the 17-year-old Ewald taught a photography class to Naskapi and Mimac Indian children in Canada. With the help of a grant from the Polaroid Foundation, the young Ewald gave cameras to her young students to document their daily lives and surroundings. Ewald later described the honesty and directness the children were able to capture in their pictures:

The chief, drunk, trying to saw a board; a young couple fighting; a teapot on the windowsill; a great-aunt in her white Sunday dress sitting on the rocks by the shore.” Their photographs, she writes, ”were more complicated and disturbing than mine, and closer, I realized, to what their life was like.

After receiving a Fullbright grant in 1982, Ewald traveled to Raquira, Colombia where she lived and taught photography to children for almost two years. The pictures taken by the children show a colorful, moving and sometimes vulnerable image of the subjects and scenes from their everyday lives: a procession photographed by Carlos Torres; a line of chickens eagerly running after Carlos Andres Villanueva’s mother for food and Alirio Casas’ mother crouched down on a small stool in the kitchen, drinking coffee. For over forty years, Wendy Ewald has been an outstanding and inspirational teacher for hundreds of children all over the world.


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