Disfarmer may not have known a widespread notoriety in his days, but he certainly knew how to take pictures that could define a generation. Rumored toDisfarmer may not have known a widespread notoriety in his days, but he certainly knew how to take pictures that could define a generation. Rumored to have sometimes forced his sitters to wait an hour for him to get the light just so, I think it's safe to say, he aspired for his work to not be merely acceptable or mediocre, possessing a practiced precision, and exceptional understanding light. The portraits he took have a strong gravitational pull, magnetic, stark, haunting, (and a good accompaniment to Dorthea Lange, I might add), these are people who bore a hard beating and weathering from life. Then there's Disfarmer himself, who like another posthumously herald photographer, Vivian Maier, was a fascinating, tightly woven enigma; eccentrics, oddballs, misunderstood perhaps most of all by their families and the people around them. I've been captivated by mysteries since I was a young girl, which makes me wish I could know more about Disfarmer, hear from him himself, but I'm grateful his photos remain, and perhaps that was the only trace of himself he intended to leave behind. ...more
Scrapbooks today, are like scrapbooking on steroids. Not that people should stop scrapbooking the way they do, if they like it, but I walk into a MichScrapbooks today, are like scrapbooking on steroids. Not that people should stop scrapbooking the way they do, if they like it, but I walk into a Michael's and I'm overwhelmed by the thousands of scrapbooking bits and bobs, the racks and racks of eye-popping, overwhelming papers, the gazillion stickers, ornate borders, rubber stamps, perforated, punch out frames, cutesy, kitschy, color explosions...You know what I love? Scrapbooks with black paper. Scrapbooks where the photographs speak loudest on the page, and are only garnished by handwritten captions and notes, and in a nut shell, that's what this book is: a scrapbook harkening back to yesteryear, except that Lartigue happened to be an exceptional photographer, and these aren't just any old snapshots. I'd heard of Lartigue before, but wasn't, in any way, intimately familiar with his work, when I blindly grabbed this book off the shelf in the fine arts department at the library (about the dozenth book I'd glanced at in the succession of a few minutes), it fell open to a pair of photographs of a young boy, sweetly sleeping (faking it or not) that had an immensely charming and nostalgic quality about them, and I didn't need to see anymore to know that I wanted to see more, and in it went into my trusty tote bag (which says "I like big books and I cannot lie" and most certainly does not lie).
This is probably a most unhelpful review, but even if you're not familiar with Lartigue, if you like antique scrapbooks, if you want something more intimate, a breather from photography presented in uniform plates, one per page, and having to reference the index for captions, this one is a treat. ...more
A strange juxtaposition of beauty and despair, Sailboats and Swans confronts one's preconceived notions about prison, and what we think criminals, eveA strange juxtaposition of beauty and despair, Sailboats and Swans confronts one's preconceived notions about prison, and what we think criminals, even murderers, look like. Photographed mostly in Ukraine, as well as one in Russia, the prison walls are often papered in florals or decorated with hand painted murals depicting idyllic scenes, that are deceptive in not revealing the pain, the tedium, and perhaps, even violence, whose presence ghosts between the plates in this book.
With the exception of a few harder glares and more grisly portrait sitters, many of the faces we are presented with are young, attractive, sometimes angelic even. There is a softness especially amongst the women and girls, that makes the mind question if they're really capable of the crimes they're said to have committed. We'd feel more comfortable, as a society, if all criminals fit neatly into the palm of our illusions of a thief, a drug dealer, a murderer, as if there was a universal face, or obvious markings for such crimes. These prisoners look all too much like us, like anybody, and so you begin see yourselves as them, and them as human beings, the dividing lines becoming blurred and indistinguishable. You forget that you're seeing fragments of lives ruined, uprooted, dreams interrupted, by their own evil doing, or perhaps, by unfortunate events, by a simple mistake, human desperation, a need for survival, the latter of which is played out all over again in these prisons.
There's no dust jacket description, and if you unwittingly picked up this book, you may not even know at first, that you're looking at prisoners (especially if you're American, like myself and expecting gray walls, metal bars, and electrifyingly orange jumpsuits, to signal prison life), and much like Chelbin who did not ask about their crimes until after she finished photographing the individual, we too, are forced to meet all of their gazes, before ever knowing of their sentences. The brief essay and interview at the end, were the perfect accompaniment, insightful, intriguing, without overwhelming or taking away from the photos, a series to haunt and revisit again....more