John G. Morris (1916-2017)

Cornell Capa, John G. Morris, 1964 (2011.31.4)

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Strikingly Beautiful Downtown Nocturne: Naked City (annotated)

Weegee (1899-1968), “Naked City,” 1945 (2011.75.2)

Weegee (1899-1968), “Naked City,” 1945 (2011.75.2)

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of the publication of Weegee’s Naked City. The book begins with a bang. The first photo (after a pair of surprising and amusing photos on the end pages of the author at work – putting on boots and typing) is of New York City at night: a dark sky, Brooklyn Bridge, cars on cobblestones, a building with a Central Vermont Terminal sign, round street lights, a cluster of buildings, and a bolt of lightning apparently striking the skyscraper on the far right. A suitable introduction to Weegee’s Naked City. Printed on the upper left of the page spread is lower, or southern and eastern, Manhattan, places of work, after or before work. This photo, foreshadowing the rest of the book, is a view of New York City that most people don’t see, that will be illuminated by a flash of light, might be shocking, and is one of the most noir-ish photos in the book. A well-done rare landscape.

Weegee (1899-1968), “Striking Beauty,” July 27, 1940 (98.1982)

The three skyscrapers are, from left, City Bank Farmers Trust Co., 20 Exchange Place (built 1931); the City Services/AIG Building, 70 Pine Street (1932); and the Bank of Manhtaan Trust Building, 40 Wall Street (1930). In the center foreground is the Central Vermont Terminal, Pier 29, the East River. (The Weegee Guide to New York, pp. 12-13)

Weegee (1899-1968), [Bolt of lightning apparently striking the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, New York], July 27, 1940 (2009.16.1) Perhaps the only known negative is a 4×5 negative of a photograph – a cropped “Striking Beauty.”

New York Daily News, July 29, 1940, p. 18

Strike Two. This remarkable foto shows a brilliant bolt of lightning apparently striking City Bank Farmer’s Trust Co., at 20 Exchange Place, during Saturday night’s storm. The fotog shot foto on South St., near Brooklyn Bridge. (Foto by Arthur Fellig.)New York Daily News, July 29, 1940, p. 18

New York Herald Tribune, August 4, 1940

Heat-Wave Nocturne in Downtown New York. Herald Tribune – Acme.New York Herald Tribune, August 4, 1940

77 years ago today, July 29, 1940, was the first time this image appeared in print in the New York Daily News. There were two titles in different editions, “Striking Beauty” and the more common “Strike Two.” Shortly afterward, it was printed in the Sunday gravure section of the New York Herald Tribune on August 4th, 1940.

This series, Naked City (annotated), of blog posts will attempt to provide context, images, and objects related to the photos in Weegee’s “Naked City.”

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buenos Aires Above and Below Ground

Jim Dow, Main Entrance, Retiro Station, Buenos Aires, 1989 (199.1999.4)

Jim Dow, Telegram Office at Railroad Station, San Luis, Argentina, 1989 (119.1999.8)

Jim Dow, Platform at Peru Station, Subway Line “A,” Buenos Aires, 1898 (199.1999.9)

Jim Dow, Subway Car Interior at Primera Junta Station, Line “A,” Buenos Aires, 1989 (119.1999.1)

As those of us in the New York metropolitan area navigate through a public transportation “Summer of Hell” – it might be a good time to look at photos of subways, buses and trains from around the world. Although initially referring to the repair work in Penn Station and its consequences, complaints about surface and underground transit and the politicians who pull the purse strings are likely to run, like the subways and buses themselves, 24/7.

In these majestic (and largely people-free) photos, mostly made in Buenos Aires, rail travel appears alluring, paradisaical, perhaps timeless, and very well-lit. (The atmosphere is more Antarctic and the pace glacier, a “Winter of Heaven” in the southern hemisphere, compared to our overstuffed, subterranean inferno.) The Subterráneo de Buenos Aires or Subte, began in 1913, the six lines extend for 33.5 miles. (Wikipedia)

This is the premier post of a new Subway Series looking at international subways, trains, and other forms of (mostly) underground public transportation and commuting. Inspired, in part, by the current state of public transportation in the NYC metropolitan area and our “Summer of Hell.”

The photographer’s website can be found here.

Jim Dow, Gallery at Once Railroad Station, Buenos Aires, 1989 (121.1999.6)

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Century of Photography: 1890

Baumgartner’s Art Studio, (Minna Baumgartner), [Unidentified Man], 1889-90 (1121.1990)

James Walker, Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s House, 1890 (482.2000)

James Walker, Stratford-upon-Avon. Memorial theatre built by American gold, 1890 (483.2000)

James Walker, Stratford-upon-Avon. The Church where Shakespeare is entombed, 1890 (484.2000)

James Walker, Milk Cart, Konstanz, Germany, (498.2000)

A Century of Photography: 1890

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nelson Mandela

Jürgen Schadeberg, Nelson Mandela, Treason Trial, 1958 (2012.84.1)

Jürgen Schadeberg, [ANC President JS Moroka, leader of the ANC Youth League, Nelson Mandela, and Yusuf Dadoo President of the South African Indian Congress, meeting outside Johannesburg Courtroom during the Defiance Campaign Trial, Johannesburg], 1952 (2014.32.1)

Jürgen Schadeberg, [Nelson Mandela with Ruth First at the ANC Congress, Bloemfontein, South Africa], December 1951 (2014.32.2)

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), born on this day, 99 years ago, in 1918.

An early leader in the nonviolent protest movement was Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), who was imprisoned for 27 years and in 1994 became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. In this rare photograph from December 1951, the 33-year-old lawyer Mandela is shown meeting with journalist and activist Ruth First (1925–1982) at the first convention of the African National Congress (ANC), where the anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign was originally conceived and planned. The historic press image was taken by German-born photojournalist Jürgen Schadeberg (b. 1931) for the South African cultural magazine Drum, where, as picture editor, he covered the apartheid years and employed outlawed black photographers like Ernest Cole and Peter Magubane. For his distinguished 60-year career in photography, much of it documenting the life of Nelson Mandela and the modern cultural history of South Africa, in 2014 Schadeberg was awarded ICP’s highest honor, the Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award. Source: Fansinaflashbulb

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Clumsy boxes with huge horns under the name ‘Singing Cupid.'”

Before the revolution, strictly speaking, the bicycle had no significance for practical purposes. It existed entirely as an amusement but not as a means of travel. The frightful roads, the cobblestone streets of the towns, simply made the bicycle into a burden. It was the privilege of the few who could seek out and choose a place to ride.
The material basis founded by the growing socialist system of our country made it possible to replace the cobble stones of the towns by gleaming asphalt. In place of the muddy village paths there are now many miles of excellent tarred road. Roads and the growing cultural demands of the toilers of the USSR determined the fate of the bicycle.

The bicycle has come to the masses.
In place of foreign makes, there are now soviet makes: “Kharkov”, “Penza”, “Moscow” bicycle factories. in the USSR bicycles can now be seen everywhere, and the vast majority of them are of soviet manufacture.
The bicycle is no longer something for the town alone. It has made its way into the collective farm villages and into parts of the vast Soviet Union where the very existence of such things was previously unknown.

One of the automatic lathe shops, fitted up according to the most modern technique.

The “M.V.Z.” (Moscow Bicycle Factory). it is one of the most popular makes among cyclists.

Clocks are instruments for calculation.

In many big cities of the Soviet Union, clocks have been set up in all the squares and at busy crossings.

Railway station clocks.
The clock in the workshop helps to judge the intensity of the work.
The factory clock hangs at the entrance where the workers clock in to the factory.
The dispatcher on the metro underground railway regulates traffic by the clock.
Time and space are measured simultaneously on automobiles.
At the sport stadiums, not only are minutes precious, but seconds and fractions of seconds.
The street clocks dispel every doubt as to the actual time.
The doctor measures the pulse of a patient by his watch.
The first aid wagon reckons its time by minutes and seconds.
The fire brigades count minutes.
Schoolchildren go to school by their watches.

Dubinushka (Russian Laborers’ Song), by Feodor Chaliapin, 1925, from

A portable gramophone manufactured by the Leningrad factory.

The gramophone industry that came to us after the October revolution was a handicraft industry, in a semi-ruined condition. It was only in 1924-1925 that the organization of the production began in the USSR. In 1928–1929 only about 1,500 gramophones were made, the number rising in 1931 to 15,000 and in 1932 to 25,000. During the first five year plan about 6,000,000 records were made. But both gramophones and the records were of poor quality. Their number was also utterly inadequate to cope with the growing demand. On September 23, 1933 the central committee of the CPSU decided on measures to improve and develop the gramophone industry. A special gramophone trust was organized under the commissariat of heavy industry. On the decision of the central committee the old factory in Leningrad was re-equipped and a new one built at Kolomensk, and in 1935 the output will be 140,00 gramophones. In 1937 A new factory will be ready in Vladimir. After it starts to work the manufacture of gramophones will reach 1,5000,000 annually.

Portable gramophones are very popular. in the course of a few years they have penetrated everywhere.

The people of Uzbekistan love to listen to the gramophone.

Portable gramophones are pleasant on boating trips.

Crews who are wintering in the Arctic like them.

The traditional concertina and the portable gramophone.

The collective farmers of the Kalmykov farm, North Caucasus, listen to the music of a portable gramophone in the dinner interval.

“The Hobo”, by Lilia Chernova; B. Poliakoff; N. Shishko, from

The main conveyor at the Leningrad factory. Assembling electric gramophones.

The mechanism of the portable gramophone, assembled in a metal case, is carefully tested.

Every part of the works is tested with the same care.

Gramophone factory, now being built at Vladimir.

“Down The Petersky (Moscow Street Song)”, by Feodor Chaliapin, from

The new gramophone works in Kolomensk. The automatic lathe shop.
Assembling the reproducer and fixing he arm.

“Red Army Nurse’s Song”, by Z. Fedorova; B. Shebalin, from

Registering the sound is one of the most complicated processes in the reproduction of sound by a gramophone. It was only recently that a sound recording chamber was equipped in accordance with modern technique at the Aprelov factory. Every sound has its own “handwriting,” which the apparatus writes on the record. A metallic matrix is made which is a negative of the voice. The sound is preserved for ever in this metal matrix. A thousand years hence, our descendants will hear the voice of Lenin, or Stalin.

Comrade Lenin at the sound recording apparatus delivering a speech on the “Work of the Transport System.” [This recording can be heard here.]

Record of Lenin’s speech.
[Almost ten of Lenin’s speeches, from gramophone records, can be heard here]

View of the sound recording centre which is being built in Moscow. This centre will be ready in 1938 and will register over 2,000 records per year.

“Gypsy Wine Song”, by Lilia Chernova; B. Poliakoff, from

USSR in Construction, No. 7, July 1935 (2012.13.24)

Records have to be made to satisfy the most varied demands and tastes of Soviet users. Some people like opera and classical music, others prefer concert solos, others again demand dance music. Collective farmers from the Ukraine will seek Novi Viter Na Ukrainu, while the Caucasian mountaineers want the music of the Naur Lesginka dance.
Records have not only to suit all tastes, but to suit the needs of the numerous races and nationalities of the country.

In the sound recording cabinet. (1) The Negress singer Anderson; (2) I. Kozlovsky, tenor from the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow; (3) People’s artist [Antonina Vasilievna] Nezhdandova, accompanied by orchestra conducted by Golovanov; (4) David Oistrakh, the violinist who took second prize at the international violin contest in Warsaw.
Everything these masters of art perform is imprinted on the metal and remains forever for future generations.

82 years ago this month, in July 1935, this beautiful and great, really great, edition of USSR in Construction was published in Moscow. The “plan and text” were by J. Belski, art composition by N. Troshin, photos by M. Alpert and A. Shaikhet, diagram by Z. Deineka, and English translation by G.M. Kingston. This volume of “modernist propaganda” highlights the remarkable growth of the production and consumption of three nascent Soviet industries, watches, bicycles and gramophones, that were making the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics great again.

“Red Army Nurses Arrive at The Front,” by Z. Fedorova, from


It is not so long since watches, bicycles, and gramophones were exclusively imported. Watches bore the name “Longines” or “Suta”, bicycles were marked “B.S.A.” or “Royal”, gramophones were “His Master’s Voice” or “Columbia”. There were no Russian trade marks or hardly any, and what is of paramount importance, they had no established reputation on the market.
Nowadays, portable gramophones have names such as “Tizpribor”, Kolomensky factory, Leningrad, Yaroslav, etc., and these names are beginning to sound with the same authority as “His Master’s Voice” and other imported makes, while the “Tochmekh” watches are as strong and accurate as their western confreres. These three young branches of industry had to fight simultaneously for quality and quantity of output to meet the tremendously increased demands of the consumers. The diagram plainly shows how the manufacture of watches, bicycles, and gramophones has developed in the Soviet Union in recent years.

There were no plants producing watches, bicycles or gramophones in Russia. the only bicycle plant was in Riga. it made heavy, clumsy bicycles with the trade mark “Russia”, and they could not compete with foreign makes like “B.S.A.”, “Royal”, “Wanderer”, “Triumph”, etc. in Riga there was also a gramophone factory producing clumsy boxes with huge horns under the name “Singing Cupid”. There were two or three workshops in Leningrad assembling watches from parts bought abroad. that was all. The October revolution caused a tremendous cultural upsurge in the country. The industrialization of the country, the collectivization of agriculture, created a firm and powerful material basis for the development of all forms of industry. As the proletarians of the towns and the collective farmers in the villages received new houses, material security of existence and new conditions of life, they began to make new cultural demands. Millions of workers and collective farmers, now living cultured and well-to-do lives, demand articles of cultural service – watches, gramophones, bicycles, etc. these three young branches of Soviet industry were created very recently. They are still in the period of improvement and experiment. We had to start, practically, at the very beginning in all these spheres, and we can nevertheless point to considerable successes at the present day.
the 1st and 2nd state clock factories are in Moscow. They make 170,000 watches, 3,600,000 kitchen clocks, 440,000 alarm clocks, 75,000 table clocks, 25,000 wall clocks and 1,500 electric street clocks every year. both factories were built only recently. In a brief space, the workers and engineers had to master an absolutely new, very complicated and difficult industry. A watch passes through hundreds of extremely complicated processes in the course of its manufacture. The slightest inaccuracy, the slightest carelessness is impermissible here. The most trifling error on the watch conveyor spells death to the watches. After the reconstruction of the 1st watch factory, it will produce 400,000 watches per year.

USSR in Construction, No. 7, July 1935 (2012.13.24)

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bastille Day, 2017

Lucien Aigner, Entertainment of children on Bastille Day in Paris, 1934 (339.1982)

Lucien Aigner, Boulevard St. Martin on Bastille Day, Paris, 1937 (318.1982)

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bastille Day, Paris, ca. 1936 (336.1994)

Roman Vishniac, [Bastille Day celebrations, rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, Paris], 1939 (2012.80.3)

Voila, July 18, 1936 (2007.71.17)

Regards, “Vive la Nation”, July 13, 1939, (2007.71.133)

Posted in Fans in a Flashbulb | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment