Wednesday, March 19, 2008

timeless beauty

I'm a big fan of the art, fashion, and photography of the 1920's. This may have started by looking through my grandma Gam's old suitcase full of photos. In these pictures Gam and her sisters were ivory beauties who had not yet been touched by the rough lives that awaited them. The great depression hadn't happened yet. Here they were in their best clothes, their hair done, their heads turned just so. Such pictures take time to look at. The details seem like important clues - what were they like at that age? What were their lives like? What futures did they envision?

One of the best collections of 1920's era photographs I've encountered is the book Jazz Age Beauties: The Lost Collection of Ziegfield Photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston.

The book showcases portraits and pin-ups of some of the era's most well known it-girls, as well as the secret collection of anonymous nudes discovered on Johnston's estate after his death.

The softness of the female figure is showcased in an almost worshipful manner, draped in cloth and statuesque. Their figures are always second to their faces, whose expressions lead us to wonder about the women themselves, their lives and their stories.

Their figures aren't forgotten, however:

Quite some time ago Amani linked me to a truly enjoyable (and interactive) peek at 1920's pin-ups. I highly suggest you check it out here.

The Czech photographer, Miroslav Tichý, also takes photos of the female figure. Although his photos are more recent, they have a vintage quality to them. His photos reflect the same aesthetic and sensual obsession with the female form that Alfred Johnston's do. Tichy, however, doesn't photograph models in a stately studio. He secretly photographs them as they go about their daily activities, on the street, in parks. He himself is a ragged recluse, in and out of mental institutions since being periodically imprisoned for nonconformity during the communist regime. His photos remained largely unknown until 2005, when he was 79 years old.

What is most interesting is that he makes his own cameras from found objects tin cans, cardboard, and lenses from broken eyeglasses.
Using equally homemade tools, he makes only one print of each negative, sometimes drawing on them or framing them in some way.

Also worth checking out is the very 1920's influenced art of Cynthia Markert. O & C introduced me to her work, and even bought me one of her prints.

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