Archive for the ‘Obituary’ Category
Passing of an Iranian actress was good time as any to reflect on regress of women’s rights in the Middle East.
Forouzan’s death last month was as her last thirty-seven years had been: quiet and unremarked. Before that, however, she was one of the biggest stars of the Persian cinema. For a brief period in the 1970s, voluptuous Forouzan (whose name meant bright light) represented a liberated Arab womanhood, which has all been extinguished since at least in the Middle East.
Her death brought to fore various magazine covers in which she appeared — and other contemporary Persian magazines where Western and local models were frequently portrayed showing a bit of skin. Sophia Loren smiled wearing just a fur coat from one cover. The famed Henry Clarke posed several models at Iranian mosques in 1969 (an activity which could have gotten him into deep trouble just a decade later). One week, Forouzan appeared on the cover of Weekly Ettelaat with the headline: “Forouzan and the latest fashion; Will people of Tehran approve it?” (above).
Iran before the Revolution was hardly a tolerant liberal democracy, but in many ways it was more relaxed socially. A woman cabinet minister was first appointed in 1968, and just before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, women made up a third of university graduates. The Revolution rolled back these small accomplishments: hijab was introduced, and women were removed from the judiciary (Islam posits that women are unqualified to be judges). Because women’s role was to be at home solely, government–run day care centers were shut down, making it difficult for women to lead professional lives. In a telling brutality, the aforementioned first woman to serve in the cabinet was executed. (Only in 2009 and 2015 that Iran appointed its first female cabinet minister and ambassador since the 1979 revolution respectively).
Forouzan herself was banned from acting again — anyway, there wasn’t much need for actresses anymore as all women were covered under hijab, including on the silver screen. Although in reality, Iranian women do not need to be covered under hijab at home, the movie censors force actresses to wear hijabs for both indoor and outdoor scenes. In a crowning absurdity, women in Iranian films wear hijabs even when they sleep in bed.
Alas, Iran was not the only country in the region where women’s rights have regressed since the 1970s. In his grand retelling of the pivotal events 1979 ushered, Strange Rebels, Christian Caryl remembers seeing a postcard of a glamorous Afghani model posing on a grass-lawn in a dress of “1970s psychedelia and ethnic chic”. He writes:
“It was easy to dismiss the cigarette-smoking model as an outlier, a solipsistic stand-in for a superficial program of Westernization with no organic connection to the surrounding society. But this is lazy. The Afghanistan she stood for was real. She may have belonged to a minority, but it was unquestionably a growing minority that many wanted to join… This Westernizing, secular, hedonistic Afghanistan was not a phantom; it represented a genuine dream for many Afghans.”
The same could have been said of Forouzan and her Iran.
Mary Ellen Mark, chronicler of society’s sad underbellies, died last month, aged 75. An ugly world she photographed limps on.
Altamont and Falkland Roads are just a couple of miles away from one another in downtown Bombay. However, they seemed to belong to different worlds. Magnates, celebrities, and ambassadors live in the upscale residential neighborhood around Altamont Road. Less exulted is the area around Falkland Road, known as Kamathipura, one of the largest red-light districts in the world. Frequented by lower classes since the days of British rule, the area remains a brutal epicenter of abuse, exploitation, and sex trafficking even in independent India. Laws and diktats of the authorities stopped outside the so-called Fuckland’s labyrinthine network of brothels, warrens, and cages.
To this world arrived Mary Ellen Mark in 1968. She would go on to become a humanistic portrayer of the society’s harsher corners — street-gangs, runaway children, psychiatric patients — and the scenes she witnessed in Bombay haunted her and she kept returning to document the district in a book that The New York Times called, “intimate but not bawdy, sad but not damning, and more seductive in its passionate mix of colors than in its offerings of flesh”.
Viewed as an interloping foreigner, she was unwelcome and the reception was downright hostile. She remembered: “Each time met with hostility and aggression. The women threw garbage and water and pinched me. Crowds of men would gather around me. Once a pickpocket took my address book; another time I was hit in the face by a drunken man. Needless to say, I never managed to take very good photographs.” But she persevered and during a visit in October 1978, stayed in the district for two months, befriending prostitutes, pimps, madams, and transvestites alike.
That project, released as Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay, was a haunting chronicle of abject lives. Girls were kidnapped from their families in rural villages. Desperate families who didn’t want female offsprings sold them off to brothels. Pimps preyed on young and attractive beggargirls. Girls as young as thirteen were forced into prostitution, and into cages to prevent them from escaping. Neglect — and worse fates — beckoned children born to prostitutes within the district. Photos, taken in vivid colors in dramatic contrast from Mark’s black-and-white usual, showed filthy mattresses surrounded by filthier walls.
Many others followed Mark’s footsteps to document the district (see a great modern expose here). The area had survived to this day, although many whose lives Mark documented didn’t, as AIDS took its toll in the following decade. Due to increased awareness, international aid organizations were allowed to set up anti-trafficking shelters and children’s homes. There are estimated 20,000 sex workers in Kamathipura today — although down for its dizzying heights (of 50,000) in the 1990s. Now the area is overlooked by gleaming skyscrapers, and the area’s recent redevelopment plans mean Kamathipura’s days might be numbered. However, the unholy network of pimps, madams, and traffickers will simply move somewhere else, with their cages and virgin auctions.
(Most of the photos from the book are on her website here).
(Above photo was taken by Terry O’Neill on the set of the 1983 horror comedy, House of the Long Shadows, the only film which co-starred four great master horror actors: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee.)
Christopher Lee, the world’s most interesting man and the last king of horror, died aged 93.
There was always something rakish about Christopher Lee. His movie career — and late life affectation for death metal — proves it. But Lee’s exciting adventures began when he volunteered to fight for Finland at the beginning of the Second World War. He was soon chosen for elite clandestine outfit called ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’, more commonly known as Churchill’s Secret Service. His work there is still classified (though the ministry was involved in skirmishes such as an assault that destroyed the German top secret nuclear weapons development facility in Norway) but Lee came out of the war as a highly decorated veteran to live a second life as an acclaimed actor.
For Hammer Horror, a British studio which churned out series of thrillers which luxuriated in camp and melodramatic moments, he portrayed an array of accursed protagonists of Georgian and Victorian imaginations: the Mummy; Frankenstein’s monster; Count Dracula; Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; and Fu Manchu. He was cast as Henry Baskerville against Peter Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes, then as Holmes, and even as Holmes’ cerebral brother Mycroft.
Later, filmmakers remember him whenever they needed to portray men of apocalyptic air and larger-than-life ambitions, real or imagined. Thus he was Pakistan’s tormented founder in Jinnah; a debonair assassin with a third nipple against James Bond; an intergalactic aristocrat in Star Wars; a misguided holy fanatic in Rasputin, the Mad Monk; a powerful wizard corrupted by evil in Lord of The Rings; and an icy, pagan-worshiping leader of a windswept Celtic island in The Wicker Man.
His colorful life intertwined with those of whom he played. As a child, he met Rasputin’s killers. One of his stepcousins was Ian Fleming, who partly modeled James Bond on Lee’s wartime experiences and who hoped Lee would play titular villain in Dr. No. Lee also knew Tolkien, and was the sole member of The Lord of Rings’ cast and crew to have met its writer. In playing Saruman’s death, Lee quipped that he knew how dying from being stabbed in the back sounded like, from his classified work during WWII.
He maintained a productive, prolific life to the end: on his last day of filming Lord of The Rings, Lee was 92.
Life delivered a clear summary of the events in New York: “Most shocking of all to the residents of Harlem was the fact that Malcolm X had been killed not by “Whitey” but by members of his own race. The country’s Negro community was suddenly faced with the possibility of a fratricidal war”.
On the very next page was an essay in words and photos by Gordon Parks — credited as “a close observer of the career of Malcolm X” – who gained unprecedented access to the black Muslim community for a photo-essay two years prior. Back then, Malcolm X was a preacher with a black-nationalist religious movement Nation of Islam, which he had a falling out in 1964. From his former movement, he received numerous death threats and finally an assassin on February 21, 1965. The assassin, one Thomas Hagan, was paroled only in 2010, serving 44 years of a life imprisonment.
Last month, a link with that frantic America which prospered Malcolm X and his firebrand philosophies was lost when Yuri Kochiyama died, aged 93. Ms Kochiyama, a long-time political activist, famously appeared in the photo above, cradling the dying Malcolm X’s head. The photo was taken by Earl Grant, a close associate of the slain preacher.
We live in the age of compulsive looking; photographs are everywhere, some iconic, many others mundane. Whether they be tweeted from idyllic beaches, from totalitarian pariah-states or from the great unknown, they are so effortlessly delivered onto our papers, tablets, and phones that sometimes it is easy to forget and worthwhile to reflect that there are men and women behind those pictures who dared and died for their art. Just after this post has gone to (word)press, I learnt John Dominis, who photographed the famous black-power salute, has died.
Many greats from the Golden and Silver Age of Photojournalism had been thinning out for years. This year, we lost a few more: Bill Eppridge, the great Life photographer best remembered for his photos of slain RFK and of New York drug addicts; Wayne F. Miller, who covered bombed-out Japan and black America; Hector Oaxaca Acosta, the great Mexican photographer; Fred O. Waters, who covered the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and Enrique Meneses, who introduced the world to Fidel, Che, and their revolution.
We bid adieu to several great portraitists too: Willy Rizzo and Bert Stern, two of the last men to photograph Marilyn Monroe; Lee Tanner, a bard of jazz age; Lewis Morley, the man who immortalized the Profumo Scandal; Jack Mitchell, whose Nov 1980 photo of John and Yoko would have been on their Christmas card, had John Lennon not been shot a week later; and Ozzie Sweet, whose celebrity portraits featured on over 1800 magazine covers.
Many of departing giants are pioneering women photographers. Editta Sherman, better known as the “Duchess of Carnegie Hall,” chronicled that bohemian enclave and celebrities who passed through it from the 1940s until 2010. Deborah Turbeville used her fashion photography to comment on fashion’s distorting hold on women, by manipulating her negatives with scratches, dusts, tears, and distress. Abigail Heyman, one of the first female members of Magnum, was known for her book Growing Up Female which had a self-portrait of her abortion. Equally personal was a photo Helen Brush Jenkins took of her son just moments after she had given birth to him. Sarah Charlesworth of The Pictures Generation was an ardent photographer and commentator of newspaper front-pages.
Also gone are photographers whose names aren’t household but whose works are: Harry Goodwin photographed every single act that entered the Top 30 of the UK Singles Chart (bar two) from 1964-1973. George Hunter was a wildlife photographer who images graced the Canadian five, ten, fifty dollar bills. Officer Alan Wood supplied the flag for the iconic Iwo Jima photograph.
Haitian Thony Belizaire covered the most important stories of his country for three decades. Denis Brodeur was one of hockey’s finest photographers. Robert E. Gilka had a formidable tenure as director of photography for National Geographic for 27 years, overseeing the magazine’s evolution into a photographic powerhouse. Allan Arbus (better known as psychiatrist Maj. Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H) was a close collaborator of his wife, Diane. Balthazar Korab and Keld Helmer-Petersen brought lyrical modernism to architecture photography.
In 2014, there would be no photos courtesy of Benoit Gysembergh, Piero Cristaldi, Allan Sekula, Burhan Doğançay, Kate Barry, Monte Fresco, David Vestal, Saul Leiter, Ron Davies, Robert Häusser, Robert Trotter, Robert R. Taylor, Gunnar Høst Sjøwall, Leif Preus, Jagdish Mali, Deng Wei, Gabriele Basilico, and many others and we will be poorer for it.
And lastly, there were those who fell in combat; 2013 was the second deadliest year in living memory for reporters. Over a dozen photographers were killed in action, some chasing pop stars, others chasing bigger stores. Olivier Voisin died of shrapnel wounds in Syria. Two amateurs killed in Syria — Abu Shuja, 26, and Molhelm Barakat, 17 or 19 — sums up a war that devours its own youth. More blood will be spilt in 2014; the war in Syria will rage on for its fourth year. Already two new sectarian and tribal conflicts are unfolding in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. They will a claim a few more fearless reporters and photographers — and countless more innocent civilians.
Tributes last week remembered him as the photographer who took the last photos of Robert F. Kennedy as the senator lay dying on the floor of a Californian hotel. But Bill Eppridge, who died on October 3rd, was a photographic icon long before that fateful night in 1968. Throughout the 60s, Eppridge documented for Life magazine the fast-changing America — he was there when the Beatles first came to New York; he photographed Barbara Streisand washing her clothes in a tub; he saw an emotional fraught funeral for a Civil Rights leader murdered by the Klan.
But for this author at least his most powerful work was the photoessay on heroin addicts in New York City which appeared in Life magazine in February 1965. Eppridge and James Mills, associate editor at Life who wrote the accompanying article, spent months trailing and living with two addicts who described themselves as “animals in a world no one knows.” That touching photo essay, gritty and raw well before the words became overused in photographic context, won the 1964 Headliner Award. That story later inspired the motion picture, ‘Panic in Needle Park’ starring Al Pacino and Kitty Winn as John and Karen, “two lives lost to heroin,” in LIFE’s powerful words. [Further photos on Life website].
Here is Eppridge, remembering the assignment:
The writer, Jim Mills, and I started doing research on the heroin culture that had crossed over from subcultures and was quite seriously affecting the white middle classes. We spent three months learning everything we could about it. It took us that long to find a couple, after contacting every agency we could. When we found them, we had to persuade them to do it for free; we couldn’t have paid them – it would just support their habit. I went and lived with them for three months, and tried to be invisible. I’ve been skinny and gaunt all my life, so I fitted in with that society. It got to the point when they just ignored me and didn’t care whether I was there or not. As a matter of fact, I got stopped by the cops more than they did. They wanted to know where I got the cameras.
Often we would lead a story with a question rather than a statement. There is a statement here, but it asks a question… ‘We are animals in a world no one knows’: What is the world? How are the people like animals, they look like a normal couple, crossing the street? It brings the reader in. In the next spread you see who they are: heroin addicts. We did not show the needle very often; we had to be aware of our readership, so we didn’t want to show a lot of gore.
Karen came from a very fine family, on Long Island, but to make money to support her habit, she wasa prostitute. She was a beautiful woman. The police referred to her as the actress. She could change her looks at a whim, but when she did too many drugs, she started to look bad. John came from a very fine family in New Jersey, but to make money, he stole, boosted from cabs – he was a petty thief. Karen found that she couldn’t support her habit anymore, so she checked herself into a hospital, and was able to cut back to a habit that was affordable. I don’t think that’s possible today. I went in with them and photographed things as they happened. None of this was ever set up, I just lived with them and I waited until things happened.
They were on the street looking for a dealer; I looked over their shoulder and there was a gentleman standing there who looked like he didn’t belong. It was a cop, an undercover narc. He and his buddy came along, they spotted Karen and John were addicts, and they proceeded to search them. John was put in jail. I went to the judge and asked if we could photograph him in jail. I don’t know if it’s possible to have that access today. So, John’s in jail and Karen’s got to go and get drugs. She goes to see a dealer.
I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for her to come down, and I got a phone call. It was Karen, she said, “You’d better come up here, we got a problem”. Her dealer had overdosed. The guy could have died. It was a big dilemma; should I call the police or should I photograph it? I asked Karen how she felt about it and she said she could bring him round. So I took her word for it and didn’t call 911. And she brought him around. I constantly faced situations that bordered on illegal. It was hard having to make these kinds of decisions, but I think I made the right ones most of the time.
One of the things we highlighted was that this was not a physical addiction as much as a psychological problem. We also said that it was difficult, if not perhaps impossible, to totally deal with this problem. Those addicts still exist in one form or another.
Neil Armstrong, a modern explorer and (more importantly for us at IP) the first photographer on the Moon, is dead, aged 82.
As the primary photographer of the first successful manned lunar mission, Neil Armstrong appeared very infrequently in the photos he took on the Moon . Yet, he was everywhere on the Sea of Tranquility during that short 2 hour 36 minutes sojourn; a bootprint here, a reflection there, and his larger-than-life shadow intimately looming behind the viewer in many photos.
Two men were equipped with four special Hasselblad 70mm cameras, two 16mm data acquisition cameras and one 35mm close-up stereoscopic camera. Altogether, they took 232 color and 107 black and white photographs on the surface of the moon. The cameras were left on the Moon to make room for lunar samples. The Hasselblads were fitted with a reseau plate — a piece of engraved glass between the lens and the film that add cross-hatches to the photos — in order to help NASA analyze the films later by creating a grid. In that event, many of the frames remained in NASA archives, until a project to digitize them was completed in 2004.
As for Neil Armstrong, I will send him off by paraphrasing Richard Nixon/William Safire:
In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood. Neil Armstrong was one such man.
In his exploration, he stirred the people of the world to feel as one, and bound more tightly the brotherhood of man.
He will be mourned by his family and friends; he will be mourned by his nation; he will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send one of her sons into the unknown.
 Hopefully, I won’t die of heart attack in next couple of days as I fume over news agencies mislabeling Buzz Aldrin as Neil Armstrong in those lunar photos.
Martine Franck, Magnum photographer and the second wife of the late Henri Cartier-Bresson, is dead, aged 74.
In Contact Theory, Ms Franck remembers being en scene to take this memorable image and how she chose this particular frame:
This picture was taken during the summer of 1976. I had just been given a grant by the Fondation Nationale de la Photographie …. to photograph the French on holiday. I was on my way to photograph a pop and rock festival at Le Castellet and decided to stop by and see my friend the architect Alain Capeilleres. I knew that Alain had just completed the swimming pool, he had talked about its conception the previous year and I was really excited to see it. He greeted me by saying that an Italian photographer had just come to take photographs for an architectural review and that I should go down to the pool and have a swim.
I saw a couple of people doing exercises and an empty hammock and and then all of a sudden a young boy got into the hammock, the first thing I noticed was the shadow and I ran. It was all over so quickly. I remember trying to find the best angle and being bothered by a towel on the left of the hammock and a bathing suit on the right, then Alain’s wife Lucie arrived in her sun hat, said hello to the young boy. A few seconds later another boy climbed into the hammock. I changed angles but the picture was gone. I had Tri X in my camera and I distinctly remember being concerned by the glare of the August midday sun on the white tilings. I had closed down to f.16 and was shooting at a 1000th of a second but I still knew I was going to be over exposed, however most important I was convinced I had an image.
The ultimate choice was easy. Frame 18a was discarded because of the towel on the left, the figures in the background were confused and I had framed too close to the shadow of the hammock. Frame 16a was a possibility but I would have had to crop the bathing suit on the right which I preferred not to do and the man doing push ups in the background was in a less interesting position. The image that had the greatest intensity and concision was to my mind frame 17a.
It was not her coinage but Mary Beith, who died last month, provided an memorable photo behind the phrase, “Smoking Beagles”.
In 1970, Dr. Oscar Auerbach revealed that he had trained 86 beagles to smoke and 20 of them developed cancers. It was an experiment that proved for the first time the link between large animals exposed to cigarette smoke and cancer; it caught the tobacco industry unaware and opened the floodgates as both sides frantically rushed to prove or disprove harmful effects of cigarettes via a frenzy of animal testing.
It was amidst this controversy that Mary Beith went to work for Imperial Chemical Industries in the summer of 1974, but she was different from other workers. She had been engaged by The Sunday People in Manchester to work undercover at various animal research laboratories. She chose ICI’s Macclesfield labs for the simple reason that it was close to her home.
She could not produce her insurance cards (which would betray her journalistic background) so she pretended they had been mislaid. It was just perhaps the trusting nature of those days, but the company gave her three days to find them or face dismissal. Inside, she saw beagles forced inhale as many as 30 cigarettes in a day to test ‘safe’ non-nicotine cigarettes, called New Smoking Material.
A darkroom was set up in a van parked near the lab and Beith was given a tiny camera, which she concealed in her bra. But when she took the film back, staff laughed at her efforts, one telling her: “The next time you take pics of those beagles, Mary, please be sure to take your finger off the lens!”
The next day, she smuggled in a larger camera and took the photo above. The paper sat on the story for several months until publishing it on 26th January 1975 on the frontpage. It coincided with Richard Ryder’s powerful book against animal testing, Victims of Science. These incidents provoked strong and violent backlashes from animal rights activists, and with the imprisonment of two such figures from the Animal Liberation Front, a new chapter in animal rights law would soon open.
As for Mary Beith, she won an award as campaigning journalist of that year; ironically for the reporter best remembered for an anti-tobacco story, she was a lifelong smoker and died last month after a long battle with an aggressive form of lung cancer.
Stan Stearns, who took the definitive photograph at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, has died, aged 76.
Many photographers were in front of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on that sombre day, 25th of November 1963, cordoned off from the cathedral and the grief-stricken Kennedys, and many captured the emotive portraits of a family that had captivated the nation’s imagination for the previous four years. But the single most famous image of that poignant occasion — that of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket on his very third birthday — was taken by Stan Stearns for United Press International.
Throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s, before internet made such claims easier to verify, another White House photographer, Joe O’Donnell claimed that he took the photo, a claim that was only disapproved after O’Donnell died in 2007. Back then, Stearns recalled how he came to take the photo:
It was a “world beater” for UPI. I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew’s for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. … I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John’s] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures.
As the caisson was rolling out to Arlington Cemetery I asked every photographer I could if they had the salute. Duh! Nobody saw it. They were concentrating on Jackie and the caisson. At this point I made a decision to walk the film into the bureau. I knew we had photographers along the way and at least four at the cemetery. They could do without me.
When I walked in the office George Gaylin [Washington Newspictures Manager] almost had a heart attack. I have never seen a man that mad. He turned red then white. Yelling and screaming that I did not go to Arlington. I kept telling him I had the picture of the funeral. He was yelling that he had rolls and rolls of film from ump-teen photographers covering the funeral. While Harold Blumenfeld [Executive Editor for News Pictures] and Ted Majeski [Managing Editor for News Pictures] were trying to calm him down, Frank Tremaine [Vice President, General Manager for News Pictures] grabbed me by the collar and said: “You better have the picture of the funeral or you’re fired.”
Knowing it was going to be a big enlargement, and knowing my job was on the line, I went into the darkroom with fine grain developer to develop the film. Unheard of at UPI. It took 17 min. I could hear Gaylin pacing outside the door muttering. When the negative was washed and dried I went to Gaylin’s desk. He looked at it and yelled! “He does have the picture of the funeral.” He quickly showed it to Ted Majeski and Harry Blumenfield on his way to have it enlarged and printed. The rest is history….
When the photo was transmitted the credit was UPI/ by Stan Stearns. Back then that was almost unheard of. Reporters got a byline, photographers got zip. The photo was used worldwide. Full page in some newspapers and magazines. A few with credit to UPI/Stan Stearns. Life [magazine] used it with no credit. I called the Life picture editor about the credit. He said would correct it in the future. He did. Well, in 1999 when JFK, Jr. died, he either had moved on or no one looked at the credit or they got it direct from Corbis. The credit was Corbis-Bettman on the cover of Life and Time.
By this time Mr. Stearns had moved on too. He quit UPI in 1970 and had been shooting weddings and portraits since.
Lillian Bassman, a forgotten doyenne of ethereal black-and-white fashion photography of the 60s, has died, aged 94.
In 1969, when Lillian Bassman decided to give up fashion photography, out of frustration both with the profession and also with herself, she took a familiar road oft-trod by many other world-weary artists: she destroyed most of her work, while storing many more away. Not until the early 1990s were those negatives rediscovered, reappreciated, and republished.
By this time, fashion photography was virtually unrecognizable from the one practiced by Ms. Bassman. Indeed, even in her heyday, Ms. Bassman already seemed like a photographer from another age — that of de Meyers, Munkacsis, and Steichens. Her ethereal black-and-white photographs, where fashion photography was elevated into a fine art with dark strokes and sharp angles, reveals Ms. Bassman’s lifelong fascination with angular artists ranging from Martha Graham and El Greco.
Originally a student of fabric design, and of Ms. Graham, Ms. Bassman took an unconventional route to fashion photography. She was initially an art director at Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked under the great Alexey Brodovitch, and where she was responsible for promoting careers of future photographic stars such as Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Louis Faurer. During her time at the magazine, she developed images for another grand name of fashion photography, George Hoyningen-Huene.
Her first photos — those of a wedding taken in Avedon’s studio — appeared in Junior Bazaar on the magazine’s last issue in May 1948. From then on, her life was that of fashion shoots, lingerie advertisement and svelte muses. When an ad agency demanded that the faces of the models be not shown, Bassman pioneered a genre that would be a reverie about the secret lives of women, as The Guardian put it. Alas, she never let men intrude that inner sanctum, sending her male assistants to coffeebreaks, as she captured the private worlds of such memorable faces of the 50s and 60s such as Barbara Mullen, Dovima, Suzy Parker, and Lisa Fonssagrives.
Antony Barrington-Brown, who captured the first pictures of Watson and Crick with their original model of the DNA double helix, has died.
Watson and Crick, who would come to disagree about pretty much everything concerning their discovery as depicted in Watson’s grandiose bestseller, The Double Helix, also could not agree on exactly when a picture featured in Watson’s book was taken. That picture, of course, was the above photo of two young scientists with their original model.
Watson said the photo was taken in May 1953, shortly after the announcement of their discovery in Nature. Crick recalled that they made the large scale model for the Cavendish Laboratory’s open house in July of that year. But they do not dispute that the photo was taken by another Cambridge student, Antony Barrington-Brown, who recalled:
An undergraduate friend of mine aspiring to be a journalist sought out stories on his own account. One day he gave me a tip-off that someone at the Cavendish Laboratory had made an important discovery, so could I take a picture to go with his story which he wanted to offer to Time magazine? So it was that I set off on my bicycle towing a two-wheeled trolley which carried my tripod and lights. I dragged the trolley up several flights of stairs and knocked at the door of one of dozens of similar rooms where research students worked.
I was affably greeted by a couple of chaps lounging at a desk by the window, drinking coffee. “What’s all this about?” I asked. With an airy wave of the hand one of them, Crick I think, said “we’ve got this model” indicating an array of retort stands holding thin brass rods and balls. Although supposedly a chemist myself it meant absolutely nothing to me and fortunately they did not expose my ignorance by attempting to explain it in terms I might just have comprehended. Anyway, I had only come to get a picture so I set up my lights and camera and said “you’d better stand by it and look portentous” which they lamentably failed to do, treating my efforts as a bit of a joke. I took four frames of them with the model and then three or four back with their coffee.
My ‘snaps’ came out well enough and my friend fired them with his story off to Time, but they never used it and sent me half a guinea (52p) for my pains. Several historians have spent a lot of effort trying to establish when the pictures were first published, but I have never known.”
It is believed that the photos remained unpublished for at least 10 years. Even when Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962, there was no sign of them. But all that changed with the publication of The Double Helix in 1968. Suddenly, Barrington-Brown’s photos was published in many magazines. In the 1970s, they were used to reconstruct the original DNA model which had fallen apart years earlier. For the 40th anniversary of the discovery, the photo was restaged with Watson and Crick in the same poses.
Only in the 1990s that the photographer fully began to realise just how much he was losing in royalties and a deal was struck with the distributors. In a final irony, not only did the photos which Barrington-Brown never considered his best made him more money than all the rest of his pictures put together, but Time magazine also had to pay considerably more for the photos than when they were first offered.
See Science Photo Library for the bigger versions of Barrington-Brown’s photos: