The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

Shanghai 1962

August 18, 2016 | by

How my mother’s accordion led to a chance encounter in Mao’s China.

wei-tchou

For years my parents have told me about a photograph that shows my mother shaking hands with Zhou Enlai, the first premier of China under Mao Zedong. The photograph was taken in 1962, four years before the Cultural Revolution began, but it was lost until a few weeks ago, when a barrage of Instagram notifications, texts, e-mails, and WeChat messages alerted me that the picture had been found. It had turned up on Facebook, of all places, in a post detailing the history of my mother’s grade school in Shanghai. (A point of recent pride: Yao Ming, the basketball player, was a student at the same school, albeit decades later). An aunt of mine who lives in Hong Kong forwarded the picture to my father, who then distributed it across the Internet.

In the picture, my mother is fourteen. Her hair is in a low ponytail and she has an accordion strapped over her shoulders. She wears a checked knee-length skirt, a white blouse, white ankle socks, and Mary Janes. Several rows of Chinese flags fly in the background; in front of these stand many smiling girls holding bouquets of flowers. All eyes in the picture are on Zhou Enlai as he grips my mother’s hand. He’s tall and handsome, in a Mao suit and strappy sandals. Her smile is easy and uncalculated, bordering on surprise.Read More »

Orlando Bloom in the Nude

August 11, 2016 | by

In Brushes with Greatness, Naomi Fry writes about relatively marginal encounters with celebrities.

Frédéric Bazille, Fisherman with a Net, 1868.

It’s a funny thing about celebrity nudity. You would think, in this day and age, that American adults are inured to the essential facts of the unclothed body, thanks not just to their own workaday experiences but to their broader sense of the world. All anyone ever talks about, after all, is how skin-centric popular culture has become—with its Victoria’s Secret campaigns, its premium-cable fuckfests, its red carpet nip slips. And so, it stands to reason, we should have only a limited interest in celebrities baring all, whether of their own initiative or not.

A fascination, however, persists. And how! A big celebrity gossip story last week hinged on the public excitement generated by the actor Orlando Bloom’s uncircumcised penis, revealed in paparazzi shots taken during a Sardinian beach vacation he went on with his girlfriend, the singer Katy Perry. In one set of pictures, Bloom and Perry were seen paddleboarding, Bloom on his knees at the back of the board, fully naked save for a baseball cap and sunglasses, Perry cross-legged in a bikini and sunglasses at the front. In another set of pictures, Bloom was captured alone on dry land, still naked, still wearing only a baseball cap and sunglasses—not unlike one of those 1980s Playmates with nothing on but a man’s tie or fingerless lace gloves, drawing yet greater attention to their otherwise exposed body. Read More »

The Language of Dogs

August 11, 2016 | by

poodle

Now that dogs have acquired the ability to speak, what are we to make of their discourse? Previously we might have expected them to be simple in both their desires and their expressions, limiting themselves to requests for food and play. While those concerns certainly loom large in their conversation, it is clear that all along we had been underestimating their perspicacity, their nuance, their humor, their judgment, and most surprisingly their pedantry.

The subject shown above, known as Pierre, was the first recorded example of a speaking dog. Last April he startled his host family, the Van Munchings of Bedburg, New York, by pointing out, apropos of nothing, that it was high time they cleaned the filter in their dehumidifier, adding for good measure that the tires on their Armada were badly in need of rotation. Pierre broached the subject in the mild and apologetic fashion that would come to be known as his hallmark, but that did not prevent Ethel Van Munching from dropping the dishes she was carrying to the kitchen table. Pierre, naturally, gobbled the eggs and bacon the instant they hit the floor, so that the family briefly thought they had simply experienced a collective hallucination. Moments later, however, Pierre was reminding them that their quarterly homeowner insurance payment was past due. It has still not been determined whether Pierre can actually read. Read More »

O Death

July 12, 2016 | by

sante-spirit

Judging by its austere style, this picture might have been taken by a member of the Crewe Circle, a group of British spirit photographers active in the early twentieth century. It could possibly be the work of Ada Emma Deane (1864–1957), who was in her late fifties when she first started taking photographs that included the faces of the dead. Her career was tumultuous and brief. Although she apparently managed some two thousand sessions, fame and consequent downfall came to her in 1922, when she photographed the annual Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. The resulting picture shows the scene blanketed by a sea of faces, purportedly those of the war dead, hovering in vapor. The Daily Sketch, however, matched many of the faces with those of living athletes, including some as famous as the Senegal-born boxing champion Battling Siki. Despite her insistences and the support of the consistently credulous Arthur Conan Doyle, she became an object of public ridicule and retreated to her suburban faithful, whom she photographed with their “extras” for a few more years before fading into complete obscurity. Read More »

Extraordinary Rendition

June 17, 2016 | by

Edmund Clark, The building at Antaviliai, erected on the site of the paddock of the former riding school. © Edmund Clark, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

In 1968, the CIA set out to recover a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine from the bottom of the Pacific. For the sake of discretion, the work was subcontracted to Global Marine (Glomar), a private company that specialized in ocean-floor drilling. When the journalist Harriet Ann Phillippi tried to find out more under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA would “neither confirm nor deny” that there were documents about the ship used, the Glomar Explorer, or documents about their censorship. No information passed into the public sphere, but a new term did: “The Glomar Response.” It lives on, underpinning everything in Crofton Black and Edmund Clark’s book on more recent CIA activities, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary RenditionRead More »

I Saw the Figure 5 in Steel

June 14, 2016 | by

On the appeal of junk shops.

number five

This summer we’re introducing a series of new columnists. Today: Luc Sante, who is reviving his blog on pictures, Pinakothek. Luc was interviewed in our Spring issue. (He contributed the portfolio, too.) 

Junk shops are disappearing, victims of rent increases and online auctions, as well as human aging. Most of my remaining standbys have gone to glory in the past few years, and even if rents should somehow fall, it’s unlikely that replacements will come along anytime soon. For one thing, an important attribute of a great junk shop is longevity. It should accrue layers, like an archeological site.

A junk shop is not an antique shop, where the focus is on merchandising and the display favors popular and expensive items. A junk shop, by contrast, will often give the impression that commerce is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Some junk shops are a roiling chaos, down to being underlit and perhaps smelly, while others are highly and even compulsively organized—but generally not in a way that makes any sort of mercantile sense. The items in a junk shop may seem like components of a conceptual artwork or a vast personal shrine or an extraterrestrial museum of human culture. Read More »