Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Where did you get those teeth?

April 11, 2019

harmsworth-magazine-1898-white-teeth - 1

Shiny teeth, no skin blemishes and clear white eyes. It’s standard practice nowadays that celebrities on magazine covers such as Vogue look perfect. But when did these little white Photoshop lies start?

It’s well known that the publicity photographs in Hollywood were taken by experts in the art of making anyone look good. And that they were then put into the hands of expert retouchers to take out any real-world blemishes.


But this cover image shows the practice goes back before Hollywood even existed, It’s from a 1898 copy of The Harmsworth, a monthly pictorial magazine that competed with the likes of the Strand. The teeth on the girl have clearly been altered to become perfectly white blocks.

Vogue – vague about photography

October 28, 2016
Inside Vogue book by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine's centenary year

Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine’s centenary year

Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year came out this week with editor Alexandra Shulman writing about the magazine’s celebration of 100 years since the first issue of British Vogue – known in the trade as ‘Brogue’. Incredibly, she’s been at the helm for 24 of those years.

She was asked on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about that first issue and came across as a tad vague. She remarked that it was then a society magazine rather than a fashion magazine and that ‘there were no photographs, of course’. Why ‘of course’?

Photography was well established and the Graphic had been reproducing half-tones for 30 years. Its four-page supplement in 1884, ‘An amateur photographer at the zoo’ is one of the first examples of photographic reportage.

Could it be that ‘of course, Vogue is always slow to follow the trends’? Or perhaps ‘of course, Vogue simply didn’t like photographs’. It did not run its first photographic cover until 1932.

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Burtynsky’s photographs deserve a closer look

March 21, 2016
Edward Burtynsky's photographs

At first glance, it’s a line of alien robots, but Edward Burtynsky’s photographs merit a much closer look – this is actually looking down an open cast mine in India

It’s nine years since I mentioned the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose astounding images focus on massive landscapes and objects. The post was prompted by seeing one of his photographs on the front cover of Canadian magazine Walrus. Now, art collecting website Artsy has set up a page devoted to Burtynsky, with 75 of his images.

Walrus put a Burtynsky landscape on its 10th anniversary cover in 2013:

Walrus, October 2013: water by Edward Burtynsky

Walrus, October 2013: water by Edward Burtynsky

Here is the Walrus cover that first attracted my attention:

July 2007 cover of Canadian magazine Walrus with Edward Burtynsky

July 2007 cover of Walrus magazine with Edward Burtynsky warning of development destroying Canada’s wilderness

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Jim Lee’s take on Julia Foster

December 22, 2015
Julia Foster profiled in Look of London (25 November 1967)

Julia Foster profile in Look of London (25 November 1967)

Julia Foster denies being a sex symbol like Julie Christie or Raquel Welch, but she was a big enough actress for a four-page interview and profile in trendy weekly Look of London. She was fresh from a role with Michael Caine in Alfie and was filming Half a Sixpence with Tommy Steele. And the second spread is devoted to a great portrait by photographer Jim Lee.

Jim Lee portrait of Julia Foster in Look of London

Jim Lee portrait of Julia Foster in Look of London

Jim Lee is not remembered in the same way as Bailey, Donovan or Lichfield, but he was up there in the 1960s and 1970s, as a Sarah Hughes profile of the fashion photographer pointed out in the Independent in August. His most famous image is probably ‘Aeroplane’ from 1969, for an Ossie Clark poster shoot with a ‘flying’ model.


Spooky picture of my jet in the clouds

October 4, 2015
Enhanced spooky picture of my jet in clouds

Enhanced spooky picture of my jet in the clouds below

This is a spooky photograph I took out of the window of a jet coming back from a guest lecturing stint at a Swiss university a while back. It’s been cropped and enhanced slightly to show the sun and jet more clearly; the non-enhanced version is below.

What it shows is the shadow of the plane I’m in and the disc of the sun behind it. But the image is taken looking away from the sun, which is above and behind the jet. So, why can the sun be seen rather than just the jet’s shadow? It must be a weird atmospheric effect whereby the sun is reflected in the clouds.

The enhanced version makes it look as if there is a faint rainbow around the sun disc.

The effect was visible for several minutes, certainly long enough to get my camera out and take the photo.

Spooky picture of a jet in clouds - taken from the jet being photographed!

Spooky picture of a jet in clouds – taken from the jet being photographed!


The death of the Summer of Love – and a Brillo happening

October 1, 2015
Where have all the flowers gone - Look of London, 25 November 1967 Hippies

Where have all the flowers gone – hippies in the Look of London magazine, 25 November 1967

Look of London was a weekly events magazine that would have competed with London Life and Time Out. I’ve only seen copies from 1967 and this November 25 issue mourns the death of the the Hippie movement, just months after the Summer of Love.

The opening spread shows Timothy Leary, described as the ‘hippie priest’ for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs, and the 1967 summer ‘Love-in’ in New York’s Central Park. The theme of the article is that the hippie scene was greatly overblown in America and, in London, just a fad:

In England, the movement was mainly sartorial. A Kings Road-Carnaby Street promotion to brighten up the London streets. And very successful it was too. But only a minute percentage of those who attended the Ally-Pally Love-in ever came within sniffing distance of LSD and would, no doubt, stare blankly if instructed to ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ … We never really dropped in.

The article is by Carole Adler, the magazine’s features editor. As well describing ‘plastic hippies’ just in it for a summer of fun, Adler shows a dark side of a ‘mostly middle-class’ movement:

The hippie supporters didn’t like the Nego. They claimed he came into the community to ‘get the white girls’ … They blame the Negroes for the increase in the use of speed (methedrine), an amphetamine drug with terrifying side-effects.

Adler lists a ‘rash of hippie murders’ and what appears to be the revenge killing of a San Francisco drug dealer called Superspade. Time magazine had covered the events in an article, ‘End of the dance’, in its issue of 18 August.

The headline, ‘Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone’, refers to the Pete Seegers folk song, which had been a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962. With a very flowery typeface.

The photographs were by Francine Winham, who became famous as a jazz photographer for her ‘fever’ technique, which involved shaking the camera to create a fuzzy look that became her trademark. In the Central Park image, notice what appears to be a Brillo advert held aloft on the end of a fencing sword by a man with a mask. What’s that about? It looks staged for the photograph. Was it an example of guerilla marketing? Or a happening? Could it be anything to do with celebrity artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’ from the same year?

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

The final page of the article is below with photographs by Minoru Aoki. The top picture shows a hippies and below is Leary with the 1950s Beat poet Alan Ginsberg (left).

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet


In search of the romantic kiss

March 29, 2015
Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood brought to visual life on the cover of Pearson's Magazine (1930) by Joseph Greenup

Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood brought to visual life on the cover of Pearson’s Magazine (1930) by Joseph Greenup

Fiction, in the form of short stories, serials or character-driven series, seems to have been a staple of magazines for as long as they have existed. Dickens, HG Wells, Conan Doyle and Rafael Sabatini are among those who made their name providing the weekly or monthly adventures, Christie and Edgar Wallace the crime, and Ursula Bloom and Ruby M. Ayres the romantic fiction. The Georgian and early Victorian works by the likes of Dickens were not illustrated, but the images of Sidney Paget for The Strand set the tone for the way Holmes has been portrayed, in print or on the screen, since they were first published.

To my eyes, depicting adventure is relatively easy – whether it be the Martian invaders for War of the Worlds or the piratical looks of Sabatini’s Captain Blood by Joseph Greenup – but romantic fiction is harder. Particularly in more prurient times, getting the balance right between love and lust is tricky. Artists, and later photographers, have striven to portray romance – and in particular the kiss. Here are two examples. The first is an illustration from ‘Honesty is the best policy’, a short story by Jane England in Woman’s Friend (22 May 1937). England started writing in the 1920s until about 1970, producing about 60 novels. lists England as the pseudonym of Vera Murdoch Stuart Jervis (1896-1967) and credits her with one serial and five short stories in five magazine titles:

  • ‘End of desire’, The Novel Magazine (May 1937);
  • ‘Knight-errant’, Lovat Dickson’s Magazine (Jun 1934);
  • ‘The last drift’, The Royal Magazine (Nov 1925);
  • ‘Old lamps’, The New Magazine (Oct 1926);
  • ‘Thin ice’, 20-Story Magazine (Feb 1933).

The drawing is signed, but this is not legible.

The youngsters steal a kiss in a short story from Woman's Friend (22 May 1937)

The youngsters steal a kiss in a short story from Woman’s Friend (22 May 1937)

Here is a detail of the painting, with the signature (which someone may be able to identify). Note the corner of the picture frame by the man’s shoulder, which seems to point to the courting couple like an arrow, and the file storage boxes on the shelf leaning into each other.

Detail of Woman's Friend romantic kiss illustration

Detail of Woman’s Friend romantic kiss illustration

Illustration signature

Illustration signature

The drawing was published by Woman’s Friend in 1937, while the photographic spread below dates from three years earlier. It was during the 1930s that the battle for dominance between artist and photographer in magazines reached its peak, and, after the war, it was the latter that came out on top. At least for the next 50 years.

How film stars kiss from London Life 30 June 1934

How film stars kiss from London Life 30 June 1934

The spread is from London Life, which specialised in reproducing risqué film stills. It is a montage of five film stills as the woman swoons in anticipation in the man’s arms. At the top left are Ronald Coleman, with, below him and the unidentified actress, Mexican actress Lupe Vélez in the grip of John Boles in Resurrection (1931); Jean Harlow is in a ‘caveman embrace’ in the centre; and while the oldest still of a couple in a similar embrace is not identified, the bottom right is a more light-hearted Maurice Chevalier and Anne Dvorak in Way to Love (1933). Note, though, that the actual kiss is not shown, possibly because it was very difficult to portray a kiss while still being able to see the faces of both parties in a recognisable way. But then, after all, this was film publicity – and anticipation was everything.

Ace photographer Ken Griffiths dies

September 28, 2014
Ken Griffiths photographer at the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Photographer Ken Griffiths at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, on a shoot for Volvo. Photograph by his assistant,  Lucy Williams-Wynn, from the Guardian website

Sad to hear at the weekend of the death of the photographer Ken Griffiths last month. As well as following his work, he was also a neighbour, living in the Surrey Dispensary until a year ago.

He was on the staff of the Sunday Times Magazine with Don McCullin in the 1970s and then did advertising for the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi as well as editorial work. Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans used his images in Conde Nast Traveller from the first issue.

Ken had no truck with digital cameras, using whole-plate cameras, a century-old colour process called Carbro and printing on platinum that enabled him to achieve incredibly subtle images that were shown to great effect in the series he did of the Three Gorges dam in China. His father’s Welsh roots inspired several personal projects.

He was a fountain of stories, coming from that generation of edgy artists and bon-viveurs with friends such as Bruce Bernard – who chose one of Ken’s images for the V&A as one of 100 to tell the history of photography for the V&A – and Lucien Freud. He could charm the legs off a donkey, holding forth in the local pub, the Roebuck, with his tale of living on Easter Island for a week to photograph the statues and waking up each night under a blanket of cockroaches!

The last project he told me he was working on was to return to his native New Zealand and document the changing seasons – a technique he used for one of his early features, to document an elderly couple growing crops in their ‘English Country Garden’, as Phil Davison describes in his obituary of Ken in the Guardian.

See also a short Telegraph interview from 2011.

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