Tomorrow Night: “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” on PBS

LangeTomorrow night on the PBS American Masters series at 9PM (check local listing for exact time and date in your area), the premiere of a full length feature documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange. According to press releases “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” will feature “newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.” The film is produced, written and directed by Emmy award winning Dyanna Taylor, the granddaughter of Lange and her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor. Continue reading

False Images = Faulty Facts

 

JAMES DEAN ON LOCATION FOR THE FILM "GIANT" IN MARFA, TEXAS. 1955The information highway can and does contain a lot a detours. For researchers it can be a slippery road to travel. In writing this blog, I have done my share of research and have come across much misinformation and even some outright attempts to deceive. You can’t always believe what you read or see.

Richard C. Miller began his career as a photographer when he submitted a photograph of his baby daughter to The Saturday Evening Post and it was not only accepted, but made the cover of the magazine. His met Brett Weston, son of Edward Weston, during the war and they became friends and photographed together. After the war, Miller worked for various magazines and around 1946 photographed a young model named Norma Jean Dougherty, soon to change her named to Marilyn Monroe, selling the photo to True Romance magazine. Miller went on to photograph a wide variety of subjects including some Hollywood work in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. During the making of Giant, Miller shot the above photo of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor in Dallas, relaxing during the making of George Stevens’ epic modern day western. Continue reading

E.J. Bellocq, Storyville and Pretty Baby

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E.J. Bellocq is best known today for his evocative photographs of the prostitutes of Storyville, the notorious section of New Orleans where prostitution became legal in the late 1800’s and lasted through the early years of the 20th century. Bellocq was a native of New Orleans and began his photographic career, first as an amateur photographer then turning professional, shooting mostly ships and machinery for local companies in the area. However, Bellocq did have a private side to his life  few people knew about. He would travel across Basin Street to Storyville where he turned his 8×10 camera on the ladies of the New Orleans night.  It is these photographs Bellocq today is best remembered for.  In many ways, the portraits at first seem standard portraits of the women of the day except that in many pictures the ladies are nude, though not always. Some of the women seem uncomfortable in the photos, not because they are naked, but more likely because they have no idea how to pose in front of the camera. Yet, others come across as very comfortable, relaxed, posing with an innocent grace. Bellocq was no pretencious “artist,” his work is very informal, almost anti-artistic. They have an old world charm, the women are plump, the clothes almost 19th century. The photographs become even more intriguing for the details they reveal about the interior living conditions, what it looked like inside these “specialty” houses. For example, in one of the photos we surprisingly see college banners (Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri) hanging on a wall. Continue reading

A Look at Weegee’s Lovers at the Palace

Arthur "Weegee" Fellig

Arthur “Weegee” Fellig

This article started out as a post on Facebook. I was going to discuss my take on one particular photograph by the photographer Weegee. As I continued to write, the “post” began to grow, in this case, to almost 500 words, which I felt was too much for FB. So the question became what to do with it? I first though about putting it on my photography blog, John Greco Photography – Watching Shadows on the Wall, but decided it would take the blog in a direction I did not want it to go toward. For better or worse, I wanted to keep that blog exclusively for just my work. The solution, I came up with was to add it here. I justified this by the fact that Weegee was not just a photographer but a filmmaker too and that he worked in one capacity or another in the movies for a period of time.  Therefore, here is my take on how I read Weegee’s photograph (below) known as “Lovers at the Palace” (1) along with some background on the photographer. Continue reading

Everlasting Moments (2008) Jan Troell

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Film director Jan Troell is not a well known name in America, though he should be. Only a few of his films have been released in theaters in the U.S. or on home video. His best and best know works, “The Emigrants” and “The New Land,” have not been available on home video since the long ago days of the laser disc (his 1982 film “The Flight of the Eagle” is suppose to be very good but I have not seen it). It’s the kind of situation that drives devoted film lovers up a wall. After the success of those two films, Troell, like many European directors in the early 70’s, was lured to America where he had the misfortune to make a couple of artistic and financial flops (“Zandy’s Bride” and “Hurricane”).  Troell fled back home where he settled into a career making feature films and documentaries. Fortunately, thanks to Criterion, we now have access to his excellent and passionate 2008 work, “Everlasting Moments.” Continue reading

Short Takes: Six Films With Photographers as Main Characters

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Photography and filmmaking are brothers, or sisters, under the skin. Cinema would not exist without the birth of still photography. As a photographer, and someone whose has been drawn to celluloid dreams all his life, I thought I’d list a few of my favorite films that have characters who are photographers in significant roles. All six films are available on DVD.

Rear Window (1954)

Where else to start than with one of my top five favorite films. REAR WINDOW, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, stars James Stewart as a Life magazine photojournalist confined to a wheelchair after an accident during a photo shoot. With one of his legs in a cast, he spends most of his time looking out his window observing his neighbors until one day he comes to suspect one of them (Raymond Burr) has murdered his wife. Hitchcock not only gives us one of the greatest suspense/thrillers of all time, but exposes the essence of photography and a dark side of human nature…voyeurism. Continue reading

Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock

L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a photojournalist for a big time magazine is confined to his Greenwich Village apartment in a leg cast due to an accident during a photo shoot when he got a little too close to the action on a race track. His long period of convalescence is stifling. Use to being on the move, traveling to exotic places around the world, Jeffries is bored and frustrated by his inability to get around. A brutal heat wave with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees only adds to his aggravation. Bored out of his mind, Jeffries spends his days and nights, voyeuristically spying on his neighbors whose apartments are visible from his window facing the courtyard of his housing complex. The tenants are a diverse group of New Yorkers whose lives he becomes fleetingly acquainted with. They include a newlywed couple, a struggling songwriter, a lonely woman, he dubbed Miss Lonely Heart, a young beautiful dancer he nicknamed Miss Torso, and some married couples, one with a dog, another who sleep out on the fire escape, and especially one unhappy couple, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) and his ailing wife.

 Jeffries girlfriend, Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly), a high fashion model, is pushing him to settle down and get married, a concept Jeffries reacts to as if it were allergenic. Jeffries begins to focus on the Thorwald’s when he notices Mrs. Thorwald, who was always in her bedroom, has seemed to have disappeared and Mr. Thorwald, a salesman by trade, began to be going out at odd hours of the night with his sample case in hand.

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