© Wanda Wulz, 1932, Io + Gatto (Self-portrait)

Her self-portrait ‘Io + Gatto’ (Me + Cat), where she superimposes a photo of her cat Pippo on top of an image of herself, is one of the most famous double exposures in art history.

Self-Portrait, 1932 / The Cat without Me, 1932

In 1932, Wulz presented the photograph in the ‘Mostra Fotografica Futurista’ in Trieste, where it was hailed as the highlight of the exhibition. Photographs of Wanda Wulz are extremely rare, as in the late 1930s she turned to portrait painting. (+)

Thanks to chagalov for the photos and information!

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Philippe Halsman created this blending of the portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Chairman Mao, as requested by Salvador Dalí. Dalí used it for a modern surreal serigraph on paper titled 'Self-Portrait'.

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In Through A Lens Darkly, a new documentary by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris that traces the history of African American photography, artists Hank Willis Thomas, Lorna Simpson, Anthony Barboza and others discuss James Van Der Zee’s impact on both black photography and, perhaps more importantly, identity. Known mainly for his exquisite studio portraits and unique retouching techniques, James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) not only documented, but articulated, life in Harlem during and beyond the famed Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Another service he provided through his studio was funerary portraits. For those with the financial means, post-mortem photographs were not uncommon at that time. In some cases, especially when it came to very young children, a funerary portrait would be the only photograph ever taken of a person, and the only photograph their families would have to remember them by. For people who had migrated to Harlem, funerary portraits could be sent back to relatives they had left behind who could not attend a loved one’s funeral.

Van Der Zee applied a darkroom technique he used in some of his studio portraits to his funerary photographs, using photo montage to insert poems and spiritual imagery around the subject. In certain instances, he  photographed the deceased both in life and in death, and would montage their original portrait over the funerary one. This was the case with his daughter, Rachel, who died at 15 (photo #3).

Later on in his life, in 1978, these funerary portaits were assembled into a book, The Harlem Book of the Dead, and were accompanied by original poems and text by poet Owen Dodson and artist Camille Billops, as well as an intimate interview with the then-91 year old Van Der Zee. The book is an ode not only to lives past, but to a time past — and to a slice of history that might otherwise be lost. It is a meditation on death and loss, but also on beauty. In the book, and in his work, Van Der Zee was not only a photographer, but a custodian of memory. (read more)

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"A box full of slides which I stumbled upon at a house clearance turned out to be a portray of the self image of a middle class family in the early 1960s. A family at a time of new wealth - enjoying a day out, a fair or a seaside holiday, in peace and harmony.

Taking a closer look at the pictures in the context of this cultural era, it becomes apparent that they precisely represent the mainstream ideology of the 1960s: [Austria] just escaped the perils of the Nazi regime, the reconstruction of the country completed, society was able to enjoy the benefits of an economic boom. A clear notion of right and wrong had developed.

Devout, hard working, prudish and strait-laced, forever prim and proper. I was equally fascinated and disgusted by the sheer amount of uptightness, which caused me to search for an element which would contradict the moral values of this era and therefore reinterpret scenes of homely bliss. Then I found: Myself! Naked!” (Klaus Pichler)

Happy Birthday, Klaus!

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at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. Despite his prolific achievements as a novelist, essayist, spoken word performer and painter, Burroughs’ work as a photographer is rarely acknowledged.

Coinciding with the centenary of Burroughs’ birth, Taking Shots will be the first exhibition worldwide to focus on Burroughs’ vast photographic oeuvre and offers new and important insights into his artistic and creative processes. Burroughs’ photographs, striking in their self-containment, lack any reference to other practitioners or genres.

While they can be gathered into categories of street scenes, still lifes, collage, radio towers, people – his dynamic approach to image making sits outside of any canonical structure. (+)

Exhibition dates:
Jan. 17, 2014 - Mar. 30, 2014

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© Václav Chochola, ca. 1960, Back, Nude (rollage)

Václav Chochola (1923–2005) is an exceptional figure in Czech photography, moving back and forth between art photography, documentary, and straightforward reporting.

He has lived in direct contact with cultural events, and has found many of his motifs in the city, particularly on the outskirts of Prague, where he was born. He was inspired by Surrealism, the artists in ”Group 42" (Czech: Skupina 42), urban life and civilization, and post-war Existentialism.

When first published in the 1960s, Chochola’s nudes became a fundamental part of Czech photography. In his fascinating portraits he has managed in simple shorthand to suggest a definite setting to help him capture the personality of his subject.

A substantial number of his photographs use nontraditional techniques, and he has made photograms, montages, and “rollages.” His approach to his oeuvre, however, has always been purely photographic, from simple snapshots to intuitively staged reality. His friendships with numerous Czech artists, especially in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, introduced him to many of the contemporary ideas, which he then expressed in unique photographic forms. (+)

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© Henry Peach Robinson, 1858, Fading Away

The photograph shows a young girl on her deathbed surrounded by her family. It is an example of combination printing, which Robinson learnt from Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (1813-1875). Five different negatives were used to make one complete print.

'Fading Away' is probably Robinson's most famous photograph, and it was widely exhibited at the time. The photograph depicts a girl dying of consumption, and was controversial when it was exhibited, with many believing it was not a suitable subject for photography. (+)

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© D. Bowie Archive / V&A Images, 1976, David Bowie

David Bowie in his first movie “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

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Unknown Photographer, ca. 1930, Woman’s face with vase

"A curious image, this photo was evidently made as a montage using the reproduction of a woman’s face and the photo of a glass vase. Signed by the photographer (illegible) in pencil."

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© probably Léonard Misonne, ca. 1910, Harvest

The photographic art movement of pictorialism loved the perfect optical arrangement. Cloudy skys, scenic landscapes, dark woods, all of that had to be reflected on the photographic plate in an immaculate balance. The photographers of picorialsm had been masters in postureing these impressionstic settings.

They skillfully used all the photographic tricks to do so: For example by combining different negatives. Just as in this picture of the hay crop. The photographer used three negatives: The picture of a dramatic overcast sky, a photo of a (presumably Belgian or German) estate with the surrounding fields and the image of a hay harvesting farm laborer. With technical sophistication, the transitions are carefully blurred.

Yes, at first glance, one cannot recognize that the picture had been manipulated. The photographers of pictorialism had always been interested in rural themes silimar to the painters Corot and Cézanne. The Belgian photographer Léonard Misonne (1870-1943) had been a true virtuosos of the rural theme. What sets him apart from his former colleagues is his instinctive sensivity for the light: Shadows, reflections, contrast.

Misonne dominated the masterful art of adding artificial light in the darkroom to get a superior optical effect in the picture. At the end of his career, he was asked for the secret of his art and Misonne replied: "It had never been the motives, it’s all about the light."

His strong desire to combine different negatives and his ability to create an almost “supernatural” phenomena of light (as in the clouds against the sun light in above photograph) makes it possible to ascribe this picture to Léonard Misonne. (+)

Note: This picture can be seen as an early application of DRI (Dynamic Range Increase) / Exposure Blending / Exposure Fusion (in case that this is a combination of different exposures of one and the same scene).

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