World Aids Day, 2018

ACT UP New York, (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Day One, Job One, 1994 (1313.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, Target Rudy, Fight AIDS, 1994 (1072.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, Rudy Crime of the Week: Death of David B. Feinberg Leaves AIDS Activist Community Without Angry, Essential Voice in Fight to End AIDS Crisis, 1994 (1079.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, Why Are We Here? ca. 1994 (1088.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, We’re Dying, Thanks to Mayor Giuliani…, ca. 1995 (1092.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, Living with AIDS; Dying from Our Mayor, 1995 (1089.2000)

ACT UP City AIDS Actions Committee, 6,500 More Dead, 1995 (1082.2000)

The World AIDS Day global health campaign was established on December 1, 1988, 30 years ago, by the World Health Organization (WHO). The 2018 World AIDS Day theme is “Know Your Status.”

WHO advocacy and communication for World AIDS Day 2018 will aim to achieve the following objectives:

1. Urge people to know their HIV infection status through testing, and to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services;
2. Urge policy-makers to promote a “health for all” agenda for HIV and related health services, such as tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and noncommunicable diseases.

See additional selections from ICP’s AIDS Graphics Archive here.

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Chess (1930s-1940s)

Martin Munkacsi, [People playing chess], 1930s (2007.110.1722)

Robert Capa, [Soldiers playing chess behind the Republican lines, Madrid], November – December 1936 (2622.1992)

Margaret Bourke-White, Foreign refugees living in old factories in Strašnice – part of Prague, 1938 (1659.2005)

Weegee, [Imperial Chess, Checkers and Bridge Club, New York], ca. 1943 (16345.1993)

Robert Capa, [American soldiers playing chess, United States Army Airfield, North Africa], 1943 (2010.90.1772)

Robert Capa, [Two boys playing chess on a park bench with crowd of spectators, Moscow], 1947 (2010.91.309)

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“The Critic” @ 75

Weegee, “The Critic,” November 22, 1943 (Weegee negative 1)

75 Years ago today, November 22, 1943, Weegee made the photograph known as “The Critic.” In preparation for this day, we’ve looked at Weegee’s published work for the proceeding month. Throughout October 1943 Weegee had only seven photos published in PM, yet the subjects of the photos are diverse, almost all are related to World War Two in some way, and the quality was outstanding. We’ve also looked at his photos made at the Metropolitan Opera’s opening nights for the previous three years. Perhaps during these three years there was an evolution (at least in the published photos) from photographing hats and people from behind, to a direct, more confrontational practice, and from looking for things and people that are different to setting up and largely staging a photo. Of all the gazillions of photos made during the Metropolitan Opera’s opening nights, and opening nights through out the world, for over 175 years, perhaps Weegee’s “The Critic” is the only photo still exhibited, looked at, blogged about, and the most memorable. This is in part because the image perfectly reflects (she’s looking at them, they’re looking at us, we’re looking at her) the timeless contrast of economic disparity and inequality present in life in New York and elsewhere…

The Players: Mrs. Marie Muller Kavanaugh (AKA Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh), Elizabeth Wharton Drexel (AKA Lady Decies), and an unidentified woman.

Mrs. Marie Muller Kavanaugh (1867-1954) was born in Washington D.C. She attended around 30 Metropolitan Opera season openings. She lived at 10 East 62nd St. She was well-known, featured in many “society” columns (on May 12, 1939, The New York Times reported that Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh gave a large reception for Lady Decies that featured “masses of roses, gladioluses and other variegated Spring blossoms”), and for many years was photographed at the opening nights of the Metropolitan Opera. Life magazine (January 4, 1937), in an article “Flashlight Night at the Opera,” reported that “No operagoer wore orchids or ermine or diamonds with more verve than Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, shown with her daughter, Mrs. Leonora Warner.” Perhaps inspired by “The Critic,” a December 18, 1944 article in Life, “Life Goes to Opening Night at the Opera with Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh,” (with photos by Marie Hansen and Gjon Mili) we follow Mrs. GWK before, during, and after the opening night. That’s life.

Lady Decies, formerly known as Elizabeth Drexel died on June 13, 1944, in the Hotel Shelton (Lexington and 49th), she was 76. (In 1926 Houdini was submerged in a coffin-like case for 90 minutes in the hotel’s basement pool and Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz lived for several years in the Hotel Shelton.) Lady Decies was the author of two books King Lehr and the Gilded Age (1935) and Turn of the World (1937). She was known for her dinner parties. One of her famous parties was the “golden dinner” – her clothes, the decorations, and table service were gold. Lady Decies outlived her three husbands: John Dahlgren, Harry Lehr, and Lord Decies (John Beresford). She was born in Philadelphia in 1868. (A beautiful portrait of Elizabeth Drexel and small dog by Giovanni Boldini in 1905, from The Elms, a Newport, Rhode Island mansion.) Her funeral service was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (That’s not life.)

In 1943, The Museum of the City of New York in co-operation with the Metropolitan Opera Guild presented an exhibition to celebrate the diamond jubilee of the Metropolitan Opera House (1883-1943). It was an exhibition of costumes, props, memorabilia, photos, and theatrical odds and ends. The exhibition included treasures, such as the original program from the inaugural production, Faust (Charles Gounod, 1859). “From the magic property rooms of the Metropolitan Opera House come treasures long such hidden away in dust and cupboards, such as a dented bronze cup from the first Tristan, a rusted swan’s collar from a Lohengrin, a candelabrum from the first presentation of Tosca, a helmet from Aida, Fidelio’s candlestick, a peacock plumed helmet from L’amore dei tre re and many more fascinating relics… and a board from the stage floor so often trod by Caruso, Farrar and their honored confreres. A lamp used prior to electricity at an exit provides a note of nostalgia.” (Brooklyn Eagle, November 21, 1943, p.36).

To set the scene: November 22, 1943 was a partly cloudy and cold Monday; three days before Thanksgiving. Weegee was 44 years old. Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh was 76 and Lady Decies was 75. “The Critic” was presumably made shortly before 8 PM. It was the opening night of the Met’s 60th season, or “Diamond Jubilee” year. In a salute to Russia the opera was “Boris Godunov,” composed by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). Ezio Pinza sang the role of Boris Godunov; the conductor was George Szell. The line to buy standing-room-only tickets began forming at 4:30 AM.

In the audience was at least one man who has been a subscriber to the Metropolitan during the entire six decades of its existence… Though the music held dominion within the auditorium, outside it in the corridors, foyers and entrances the traditional high and low lights of a Metropolitan Opera opening were in evidence. There was the usual popping of flashlight bulbs as photographers sought to catch on the wing the eminent In the worlds of the arts, business, politics, society and the armed forces…
Also unusual for the Opera House was the increasingly large representation of female photographers. In the past there have been disputes between management and male photographers when the latter invaded the auditorium to take flash-bulb pictures. But the girls plied their trade unmolested; apparently the management is too gallant to throw out a lady. (The New York Times, November 23, 1943)

The Times reviewer was beguiled with the large, white horse: “To put the matter bluntly… the most individual and interesting performer in the cast of “Boris Godunoff” on said opening night of the Metropolitan’s jubilee season was the horse… We repeat: the horse was the principal distinction of the evening.” (The New York Times, November 23, 1943)

“The Critic” was first published in the December 6, 1943 edition of Life. The caption was:
“The fashionable people were laden with jewels. Most bejeweled was Mrs. George W. Kavanaugh and Lady Decies whose entry was viewed with distaste by spectator.”

Life, December 6, 1943, pp. 38-39

The Metropolitan Opens With A Russian Opera
Except for the horse that almost ran away with the tenor in the fourth act, the opening of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on Nov. 22 was like most openings. The Met had proclaimed a Diamond Jubilee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opera house and had broken precedent by starting with a Russian opera as a tribute to the U.S.S.R. But this hardly changed things. There was the same old self-conscious glitter and the same fashionable people arriving too late and spending too much time at the bar. There was the same dispute among newspaperwomen over which there were more of – ladies in mink or ladies in ermine. There was the same old smell of camphor hovering over the fancy furs.
The opera was Modeste Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov [1872], greatest Russian opera, which tells of a Russian czar who was driven mad when the Russian mobs, which had enthroned him, finally turned against him. The solemnity of the occasion, was disrupted by a stage horse that didn’t like the tenor astride him, insisted on turning its back to the audience while the tenor sang bravely on. Nobody worried about the mishap. The Met management viewed the crowded house and its heavy reservations, happily predicted a fine season for itself.” Life, pp. 38-39

Weegee, “The Critic,” November 22, 1943 (146.1982)

Weegee’s account of how the photo was made:

The crime teletype machine was quiet at police headquarters… so I decided to sneak away and go to the opening of the opera. I watched the last minute rehearsal. I had no invitation but my press card was enough. War or no war, the Rolls Royces, big and shiny, kept arriving. Some had two chauffeurs with the usual gas ration sticker in the windshield. I guess if they ran out of gas one would steer while the other one would push.
I took stock of the situation. It was a cold night. Inside the warm lobby about two dozen photographers were lined up Wolf Gang Fashion. If one flashed a bulb all the others did too. It was like a game of “follow the leader.” This is a big night for the cameramen, with the papers and syndicates sending only high class photographers who know society to cover because before a paper will publish a photo of the opening night the subject’s name must be listed in the Social Register.
I like to get different shots and don’t like to make the some shots the other dopes do… so I went outside into the street. I started talking to a cop. On stories I always make friends with cops… gangsters… prostitutes. etc. A nice Rolls Royce pulled up… I waited ’till the occupants got out and snapped the picture. I couldn’t see what I was snapping but could almost smell the smugness. I followed the women into the lobby where the other photographers then snapped their picture too. I knew then that I had photographed real society so I asked the two women their names and made them spell them out too. Reporters gathered around them and asked them, if, in these critical times, it was appropriate to wear so much jewelry. The older woman first apologized for wearing last years jewels and added the reason she did it was to help morale…
P.S.N.W. Ayer & Son, the big advertising agency who has the account of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., that’s the diamond trust, bought this picture for their files. They examined the photograph with a magnifying glass and said the diamonds were real…
The theatre was jammed so I went into the grand tier where the board of directors of the Metropolitan Opera house have their private boxes and picked myself a nice private box. There was another occupant, a director who kept his high silk hat on. I gave him a couple of dirty looks but he paid no attention to me or to the usher, who was evidently afraid to go near him.
During the intermission I went into the packed salon to watch what was going on. Cameramen were shooting fast and furious. Press agents, seeing my camera, pointed out notables to me but I refused to waste film or bulbs as I don’t photograph society unless they have a fight and get arrested or they stand on their heads.
One woman dressed in ermine was pleading with her escort for a ham sandwich. Another couple was saying it was “well done.” I don’t know whether they were talking about their Thanksgiving turkey or the opera. Weegee, Naked City, pp. 124-125

Weegee, Naked City, 1945 pp. 130-131 (2011.75.2)

The definitive account of how the photo was made can be found in the essential Weegee biography Flash: The Making of Weegee The Famous, (Henry Holt), 2018, by Christopher Bonanos, below is an adapted excerpt:

The Chance Encounter That Wasn’t

This picture made Arthur “Weegee” Fellig’s career. Almost nothing in the photo happened by accident.
By Christopher Bonanos

…From his place on the sidewalk, Weegee signaled Liotta, who released the disheveled woman and gave her a little nudge into the frame. Judging by the photograph, she is reeling, barely able to stand. If there was one thing Weegee knew from being in a scrum of press photographers, it was how to make a few shots very quickly, swapping in sheets of film and flashbulbs as fast as he could. Flash: He caught Mrs. Kavanaugh and Lady Decies as the third woman observed them. Flash, again, a moment later, as the two ladies turned, passed him, and stepped into the lobby, facing half a dozen other photographers with the same tight smiles. Much later, Liotta told the journalist Joyce Wadler that there were three or four bulbs set off, almost too fast for him to parse. That was it. No different from shooting outside police headquarters any day of the week.

Although Weegee had staged the sidewalk encounter, he couldn’t have known quite how perfectly the tableau would square up on film. The two ladies in fur are almost pure white, nearly blown out by his flash. Mrs. Kavanaugh’s smile is taut and paper-thin, the essence of fatuousness; Lady Decies looks quizzical, perhaps a little sour, her mouth pursed. They both face the camera square on. The drunken woman, by contrast, is caught in perfect 90-degree profile, giving her features a sharpness against the nearly black background. Because her clothes are darker, she doesn’t pick up the flash as the bejeweled ladies do. Her coat reads dishwater gray, her hair lank, her scowl dark, her eyes rolling. She seems shorter, too. Weegee wanted a contrast; he got more than he could have asked for.

Adapted from Flash: The Making of Weegee The Famous, (Henry Holt), 2018

Weegee, “The Critic,” November 22, 1943 (Weegee portfolio 25)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Weegee, [Triumphant turkey catcher after turkey truck crash on the Bowery, New York], ca. 1942-43 (16442.1993)

The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, November 28, 1931 (2007.50.20)

Todd Webb, [Turkey seller, Patzcuaro, Mexico], 1969 (2013.99.54)

Martin Munkácsi, [Turkey vendor, England], 1932 (2007.110.55)

Lee Sievan, Turkey Dinner 40¢, 1940s (7.1990)

Weegee, Only a Dream!, 1938 (2438.1993)

“Only a Dream!”
While a 2 alarm fire was raging at Washington and Gansevoort Sts. This derelict slept through all the noise and excitement, must have had a wishful dream about Thanksgiving, turkey, etc…

Thank you!
For reading, following, and much more…
Happy Thanksgiving.

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Happy Birthday Chim

Regards, “Lourdes…” November 1933 (2007.71.102)

Voila, “Avec les Thoniers Bretons,” August 15, 1936 (2007.71.19)

Regards, “Le Messe de Campagne sur le Front Basque,” March 4, 1937 (2007.18.32)

Photo-History 1: War in Spain, “Safeguarding Spanish Art,” April 1937 (2006.46.1)

Regards, “Les coulisses de la Marseillaise,” October 7, 1937 (2010.51.11)

Point de Vue, Images du Monde, “Le Bonheur D’Ingrid Bergman,” October 23, 1952

To commemorate the birth date of Chim, on this day in 1911, a diverse sampling of his many photos in publications.

Chim is the subject of a large retrospective exhibition (October 19, 2018 – March 10, 2019) at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

Chim was one of the most respected photojournalists of the twentieth century. He covered the Spanish Civil War for the European and American picture news magazines of the day with his friends Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, after establishing himself as a sought-after photographer in Paris for Regards magazine for his photo essays on workers and documentation of the Popular Front. In 1947, he founded Magnum Photos with Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Roger, and relaunched his postwar career photographing European postwar stories, from politics to publishing under the byline David Seymour. His 1948 photographic commission for UNESCO on the devastating impact of war on children was widely heralded. He was killed in 1956 while photographing the Suez Crisis. His work is characterized by dynamic and graceful compositions infused with poignant detail of the political stories he covered.

Born Dawid Szymin in 1911 in Warsaw, Chim’s family published Hebrew and Yiddish translations of European and American classic novels as well as contemporary Yiddish writers. He moved to Paris in 1932 to study at the Sorbonne but, to cover his living expenses, he picked up a camera and began photographing. Because “Szymin” was too complicated to pronounce or spell, he proposed “Chim” as a byline and the name stuck. Fansinaflashbulb

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“A ‘Different’ Picture of Opera’s Opening Night”

Weegee, [Opening night, Metropolitan Opera, New York], November 23, 1942 (235.1984)

PM, November 28, 1942, p. 14

Weegee Brings Back a ‘Different’ Picture of Opera’s Opening Night
Weegee, the photographer who lives next door to Police Headquarters and who specializes in covering crime, went up to the opening of the opera last Monday night and took this picture. It shows a meeting in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House, after the performance of Daughter of the Regiment, between one of the patrons and a bearded man who had been standing there alone during the last act. “As they came out,” Weegee told us, “the high-hatted folks had looked at the old man in amazement; some murmured ‘What a character!’ Then this monocled one came through the door and patted him on the shoulder, asking, ‘How are you, my good fellow?'” The camera caught the man’s quick smile, but he hurried away before Weegee could find out his name. The democratic opera-goer is Dr. Bertram Cecil Eskell of the British Consulate. “I bet he must be a Lord,” said Weegee, “and even if he isn’t he surely is an ambassador of good fellowship.” Later Weegee interviewed a traffic cop outside the Met, where the limousines had been parked clear to 5th Ave., two blocks away. “This is their last splurge,” said the cop, “and they must have had to save their gas coupons for it. Some of the cars had two liveried chauffeurs – one to steer and the other to push when they run out of gas, I suppose.” (For other details of opening night at the Opera House, see page 6.)

PM, November 28, 1942, p. 6

We get a press-side view of the Met opening
One of he biggest local items this week was the opening of the opera. We’re of the century of the common man [people] ourself, but we wanted to see how the other, or Frank Crowninshield half, lives.
We stationed ourself in the 39th St. lobby through which the carriage trade passes, among the battery of press photographers facing the doors. The fashion and society writers clustered to the right of the entrance…

Just before 9, the REAL, REAL personage arrived. Beekman stood in silent awe. We didn’t have to say anything. Mrs. George Washington Kavavaugh stood there, supporting her diamonds and emeralds. Of course, everybody REAL had worn a few diamonds but this was a display. And Mrs. Kavanaugh just stood there while everybody stared – beaming in simple, unashamed, childlike joy.
The completely unsophisticated pleasure of the crowd at the sight of those jewels astonished us. Up to this time, everyone had been keeping up the show of being as snooty as the next fellow, quite accomplished to this sort of thing, don’t y’know. A woman behind us murmured “disgusting,” but her heart wasn’t in it.
Mrs. Kavanaugh was accompanied by her daughter, Mrs. Leonore Warner, whose jewels were insignificant by any standard and whose news value was completely overshadowed by her mother’s…

Weegee, [Opening night, Metropolitan Opera, New York], November 23, 1942 (7253.1993)

For the third consecutive year Weegee’s strategy: “I wanted to get something different than the usual Society celebrities” was successful. For the second consecutive year Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh was in PM‘s coverage of the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night. Many opera goers wore black and many wore uniforms for the first wartime opera opening since 1917. (The “two chauffeurs” bit might be more of a joke than factual.) Perhaps Mrs. Kavanaugh was (and will be) an obvious and ostentatious target for satire. The opening on Monday, November 23, 1942, sets the scene for the next opening in 1943.

The opera was Gaetano Donizetti, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, and Jean-François Bayard’s La fille du régiment (1839). Lily Pons was Marie. The conductor was Frank St. Leger. Apparently the opera began and ended with the orchestra performing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” At the end of the opera, after Ms. Pons sang the “Marseillaise,” an American flag was brought onstage and “the orchestra began ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ The leading singers and chorus on the stage, supported by the more than 3,000 men and women in the capacity audience, sang it with rousing feeling.” (The New York Times, November 24, 1942.)

Because of the war the bright white lights of the marquees were red and blue to meet the rules of the dim-out. There were large signs that read “This Corridor Is a Shelter Area.” The Times also reported that “some things never change at a Metropolitan Opera opening: The photographers madly plied their trade in the Thirty-ninth Street foyer, where the famous patrons arrived. Flashlights went off, camera men tried to catch last shots inside the corridor, and there was at least one violent squabble between a photographer on the one hand and an opera official and a fireman on the other.” (The New York Times, November 24, 1942.)

Dr. Bertram Cecil Eskell graduated from Oxford and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. At his wedding to Ludmilla Aissa Alihan at a Russian Orthodox church on East 121st St. the actor Raymond Massey was the best man. The Times reported that two mink coats valued at $700 ($10,537 today) and $1,650 ($24,836 today) were stolen from two New Jersey women during the intermission after the first act.

The “Lee” in the “To Lee” inscription is the great New York photographer, friend of Weegee, and ICP librarian Lee Sievan (1907-1990).

Will Weegee return to the Metropolitan Opera for the the opening night festivities in 1943?
If so, will he “get something different than the usual Society celebrities”?
Of course!
Stay tuned for “The Critic at 75.”

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Annegret Soltau

Annegret Soltau, Self, #9, 1975-76 (2018.13.1)

Annegret Soltau is a German visual artist who gained recognition in the mid-1970s with her performances and stitched portraits. In Permanente Demonstration Soltau set up series of performances where she would wrap the faces of individuals and groups of people with black thread. To the artist the string represents the materialization of the drawn line into reality. Simultaneously the impressions of the string leave marks that resemble wrinkles of an aging person. In Selbst (“Self”) she stitches thread in geometrical forms across photographic self-portraits. This work developed from an earlier series of representations where Soltau wrapped herself in dark thread, as if in a cocoon. It is a reflection of the artist’s understanding on how human existence is subject to a continuous metamorphosis throughout life. In her career Soltau continues to reflect on the themes of aging and the changes of the body. The use of needle and thread is a distinctive characteristic of her work.

Annegret Soltau was born in Lüneburg, Germany in 1946. She studied painting and graphic arts at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts) in Hamburg and continued her education at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien (Vienna Academy of Fine Arts). Her work is represented in the collections of the Deutsche Bank collection in Frankfurt, Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among other institutions. Soltau’s work is considered to be fundamental for the development of experimental and performative art of the 70s and 80s.

This year ICP acquired Self, #9 for its permanent collection.

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