3/17/23 to 3/20/23
Ep 25: Jamel Shabazz (Photographer) featuring Karim Brown
At a time when they are trying to erase black history education in this country, I have the honor of sharing a podcast episode of one of the greatest living photographers of the past 100 years, Jamel Shabazz. We will be focusing on his new book (among others things) "Albums" which if you haven’t gotten it, please do. It’s $50 and well worth it. No matter what they do in terms of trying to erase black stories and black history, they’ll never be able to erase the work and important archive of Jamel Shabazz! His book "Albums" is literally a Black History Textbook in a huge sense. This book features selections from over a dozen albums, many previously unseen, and includes his earliest photographs as well as images taken inside Rikers Island, all accompanied by essays that situate Shabazz’s work within the broader history of photography. Last thing I’ll say is that Jamel is honestly one of the most compassionate, spiritual, intelligent, authentic, kind, and passionate human beings I have ever met. Please get this book and all his past books. I want to thank Daniel Power and Sophie Nunnally for helping arrange this interview through Powerhouse Books who had put out Jamel’s books. Please support them if you buy his books, and in general. They put out such amazing and diverse books.
Please also get Leonard Freed’s “Black and White in America 1963-1965” at $28 dollars as a re-issue. Leonard's book and work has ben the main influence of Jamel's work and career.
I also want to thank Karim Brown for being part of this episode. His work was being shown in the African American History museum in Philadelphia where Jamel did a lecture called “Love is The Message” a couple of months ago, and I got to see his amazing work. He is a younger photographer, and as a tribute to Jamel, who mentors and supports so many younger photographers, I wanted to include the amazing work, insight, and work. Karim's work has also been greatly influenced by Jamel, they both work in the same spirit of documenting their communities, and creating a historical archive for future generations to enjoy. Karim is also a teacher and archivist, and we talk with him about that, and his connection to Jamel! Lastly I have to say that getting to talk to Jamel has definitely been one of the highlights of my life, so I offer this as a gift to others to experiece it. Hope you enjoy it!
We start with Karim's (30 min.) then into Jamel's. Please listen to both episodes if you can.
Images from these articles
Incredibly Stylish Mugshots From The 1920s
These mugshot portraits - we'd call them pictures but their style demands more - are part of 2500 "special photographs" taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930
. These people frequented the cells of the Central Police Station, Sydney, Australia.
Their posture, styling and the tableau suggest an interesting modelling assignment. But their crimes, such as they were, ran the gamut from petty to heinous. We’ve included a few of their crimes to remind us that what we are looking are felons who have done people harm.
The Beauty of Misbehavior: 26 Vintage Mugshots of Bad Girls From Between the 1940s and 1960sFrom murderers, thieves and hookers, these are the faces of the many who were captured on camera at the lowest points of their lives. And while many people would say mugshots of the past hold a certain curiosity, one man confesses what started as an initial fascination turned into an obsession.
Mark Michaelson has collected more than 10,000 photographs of men and women of all races and ages, taken after their run-ins with the law. The New York-based art director and graphic designer said he has always been drawn to ‘Wanted’ posters, but noted when he came across his first mugshot, “it was love at first sight,” according to Collectors Weekly.
Shedding a light on the psyche of war: Zippo lighters from U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam give a unique insight into life under fire
Some show the fear of death and regret of leaving loved ones behind to fight on foreign soil, others hint at the hatred for both the enemy and the government that put them in harm's way... others still show a remarkable sense of humour.
A unique collection of 282 Zippo lighters from the Vietnam War era were recently put up as a single lot at Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The lot was the culmination of years of painstaking research by American artist Bradford Edwards, who picked up many of the distinctive lighters on site in the former war zone during the Nineties.
While Zippos had been a valuable companion to U.S. servicemen since World War II, it became popular in the notorious and long-running Vietnam conflict to have the lighters engraved with personal messages - sometimes for loved ones they left behind, and sometimes for the individual who might find their body.
Book Link $30
Though adults tend to look back on youth as a time of innocence, childhood is actually terrifying. Kids are always privy to more of the world’s horrors than we realize, and those glimpses of war on the evening news or the mutilation on display in anti-drunk-driving films leave permanent scars on their permeable little minds.
“I often couldn’t distinguish between what was real and what had been a vivid nightmare.”
Richard Littler had a frightening childhood, too, but as a designer and screenwriter, he turned his memories of life in suburban Britain during the 1970s into a haunting and hilarious blog and book about the fictional dystopian town of Scarfolk. Littler mined the dark side of his childhood to create pamphlets, posters, book covers, album art, audio clips, and television shorts—remnants of life in a paranoid, totalitarian 1970s community, where even babies are not to be trusted.
What started as a handful of faux-vintage images for friends’ birthday cards grew into this universe of fake memorabilia, so complete that the Scarfolk concept was recently optioned for a British TV series. Littler borrows liberally from authentic designs of the era to craft his artfully decaying images, which are so familiar at first glance that many have been mistaken for authentic found objects rather than re-creations.
We recently spoke with Littler about the real-world inspiration for Scarfolk and what we can learn from its language of fear.
Sleepless Nights in Paris' Red Light District: 34 Intimate Photographs Document the Lives of Parisian Transsexual Prostitutes in the 1950s and 1960s
Christer Strömholm (1918–-2002) was one of the great photographers of the 20th century, but he is little known outside of his native Sweden.
Arriving in Paris in 1959, Strömholm settled in Place Blanche in the heart of the city's red-light district. There, he befriended and photographed young transsexuals struggling to live as women and to raise money for sex-change operations.
“These are images of people whose lives I shared and whom I think I understood. These are images of women—biologically born as men—that we call ‘transsexuals,’” Strömholm wrote in his book of the series, Les Amies de Place Blanche, published in 1983.
His surprisingly intimate portraits and lush Brassaï-like night scenes form a magnificent, dark, and at times quite moving photo album, a vibrant tribute to these girls, the "girlfriends of Place Blanche."
Fun With Newspaper Clippings
CVLT Nation Salutes
The Best Goth Magazine Ever Made
If I had to pick one magazine that covered the Goth movement the best, it would be PROPAGANDA by Fred H. Berger. As a teenager in Venice, California I would go to my local magazine store and read every issue. What always got my attention were the covers, because the photos were always striking! This publication covered the underground from the perspective of someone that was a part of the community. Magazines like PROPAGANDA gave hope to youth who were in the middle of nowhere and felt isolated and lonely. I loved reading this magazine because it had so much style and conviction! Today CVLT Nation celebrates PROPAGANDA & Fred H. Berger for shining the the right kind of light on the dark side!
Rare Photos of '70s Black Beauty Pageants Celebrate Women Defying Beauty Standards
When Raphael Albert was photographing West London in the '60s and '70s, racist, anti-immigrant tensions ran high. Albert, from the Caribbean island of Granada himself, gravitated toward the West Indian community thriving at the time amidst discrimination, and used his lens to capture celebrations of black communities.
One assignment he had as a freelance photographer was to cover a local Miss Jamaica pageant for the West Indian World. That sparked three decades of photographing London's black beauty pageants and eventually led to him organizing them himself. Now, his work is being displayed in an Autograph ABP exhibit called "Miss Black and Beautiful," launching today.
"Not only did the pageants offer the opportunity to create a distinct space for Afro-Caribbean self-articulation—a wager against invisibility, if you will—they also responded to contemporaneous mainstream fashion and lifestyle platforms where black women were largely absent, or at best, marginal," Mussai, who has been working on Albert's archive since 2011, told Artsy.
She continued, "It is absolutely crucial to see these pageants as 'of their time'—it was about 'owning' the idea of beauty, about occupying a space that has historically negated black women an existence within its terrains."
Sex usually comes with its own soundtrack, natural or synthesized, but the music of gay bathhouses, saunas and sex clubs in the 1970s has had an uncommon pull on contemporary dance music. Dropping its little terrycloth towel at the intersection of classic disco, extended funk jams, smooth vocal R&B, spacey jazz and early electronic experimentation, and now streaked with the nostalgic gleam of outlaw sexual liberation, the cruising culture of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS gay era has become a free-floating metaphor of sorts for unfettered physical communion, subcultural freedom and wild, wild nights. When gay men steamed up, society’s shackles slid off.
The free-spirited transcendence and sexually charged imagery of retro homo sex clubs and dancefloors have penetrated the world of straight dance music producers, popping up recently in DJ Hell’s muscle-bulging “I Want U” video, a collaboration with the Tom of Finland Foundation, and director Pete Fowler’s ecstacy-engulfed clip for Joe Goddard’s “Home.” Before he died, George Michael was working with Australian bathhouse DJ duo Stereogamous on bringing that spirit to a new record. And gay bathhouse-themed parties like DJ Bus Station John’s The Tubesteak Connection party in San Francisco and the intrepid musical archeology of gay DJ collectives like Honey Soundsystemhave helped keep original bathhouse music from slipping into obscurity.
Although it was decimated by AIDS and sexphobic politics, an actual bathhouse scene still exists in America. One bathhouse chain, Steamworks, with locations in Chicago, Berkeley, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto, has been actively working to reconnect the bathhouse experience with its nightlife roots, through adventurous programming and regular DJs like Harry Cross, of Chicago party crew Men’s Room, who can easily slip from bathhouse booth to underground techno club.
In their 1970s heyday, bathhouses were spots for gay men to hook up, dally around communal hot tubs or saunas and rent small rooms if they felt like some privacy. Dimly lit and with a convivial atmosphere, many were open 24 hours and featured live DJs at peak time. Almost every major city in America and Europe had them, meaning gay men could rely on meeting others during their travels. But not all bathhouses were alike. The legendary Continental Baths in New York City, for instance, was considered grand, and hosted live, well-produced cabaret acts, including Patti LaBelle, Melba Moore and Bette Midler with Barry Manilow on piano. The Baths also launched the careers of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan, and were frequented by future disco legends like Nicky Siano of the Gallery, creating the musical mixing grounds that gave rise to New York’s disco and house scenes. (On their first visit together in 1973, Knuckles and Levan reportedly spent two weeks there.) San Francisco’s Ritch Street Health Club modeled itself more after ancient Greek baths, keeping things classical and casual. Others went for Orientalist or all-American fitness club themes, while many more were simply anonymous, wet hole-in-the-walls.
“The bathhouses were definitely part of a bigger scene back then that included the sex clubs and the dance clubs,” said Steve Fabus, a longtime San Francisco DJ who often played and partied at all three types of venues in marathon weekend sessions. “But in the bathhouses, you could get a lot more experimental with the music, it was much more free-format and relaxed. People were in a state where they were literally open to anything, if you know what I mean,” Fabus laughed.
‘Sometimes pictures happen as you’re leaving a shoot,’ Mark says. She had been photographing a family for a story on violent children and was about to leave when the girl pulled out a cigarette and began to smoke it. ‘The mother was there, and didn’t mind.’ – Mark
Swamped as we are with a flood of images, films and products from the United States, it would seem that the American legend has been affecting us for a long time.
Each of us carries within them, however laughably or shamefully, their very own American dream.
An omen of the insidious fascination that America exercises upon us can be found in the Declaration of Independence: “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
The New World against the Old. Happiness as a right. One that everyone here seems to demand. Mary Ellen Mark has been crisscrossing the United States for more than 30 years, and everywhere we sense the same quest, be it latent or manifest, for legitimate happiness–at any price it would seem. Often, in her images, while the quest is palpable, actually acceding to the “American way of life” is something else entirely. The photographer transcribes little Tiny’s comments, “I want to be rich, very rich… to live on a ranch with lots of horses, my favorite animal… I’ll have at least three yachts… diamonds and jewelry, and lots of stuff like that”. Eighteen years later: five children by as many fathers, welfare… and she hasn’t stopped hoping. She still has the right to search, to repeat the offense, to make another attempt.
While Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs don’t probe the imposture of the American dream, they do expose it by unveiling the other side of the picture.
The American dream borders on the pathetic here. Poverty and distress mingle with the glitter. Like this little black girl, a carnival mermaid, whose illusions seem to be hopelessly confined to a flea-bitten bathroom, between a broomstick and a roll of toilet paper.
The abandoned, the prostitutes, the alienated, the gigolos, the bodybuilders are strewn throughout photographs that paint a fascinating composite portrait of a limping, disenchanted America. An obese woman in a ball-gown with a miniature dog licking her nose. Family photos proudly displayed in slum apartments. A provocative, overly made-up little girl in a bikini, smoking, while her feet dangle in a pool…
This American odyssey is more of a human adventure than an expedition.
When Mary Ellen Mark’s gaze rests upon someone, it obviously carries the respect that she manifests towards those who cross her path. Her images make no concessions, yet it is most certainly in their very crudeness that their delicacy lies. Pitiless (for all that, she never succumbs to gratuitous cynicism), this photographer is not without compassion. The time that she dedicated to little Tiny, to the prostitutes in Bombay, as to most of her subjects, betrays the profound humanity that animates her. Mary Ellen Mark is, without a doubt, a woman of images. As she herself says, it is because she is a woman that she can achieve this consent, this abandonment of self, this abdication of modesty, that would, incontestably, be refused to a man’s gaze. It is, too, through her capacity to blend in, integrate into and be accepted by the different milieus that she shoots. Neither moralist, nor partial, she knows how to create an effect without being overly sentimental.
Ladies and Robots
Portraits of Punk Rockers in the Late 1970s
Punk rock music and fashion blew out of New York City, exploded in London, and caught like wildfire in San Francisco, Los Angeles and the world over. It developed concurrently everywhere, and every region had it’s own identity. But it was in San Francisco and L.A. where the most radical behavior in stateside punk rock style and attitude was exhibited. It was anti-hippie, anti-disco, anti-parent and anti-“nice”. And it was shockingly new. These photos are ground zero of punk rock style—delirious innovation and a snarling takeover of youth culture still resonating more than 20 years hence. Jim Jocoy, traveling between S.F. and L.A., shot portraits of every interesting punk rock personality who caught his eye—with each subject posed amidst the scene’s ruinous and chaotic environment. Some were musicians and some were artists. All were fans and enthusiasts. And they were the original creators of what is regarded as the most potent subculture of the late 20th century. Some of the more celebrated individuals of punk legend featured in this book are Darby Crash, Iggy Pop, Lydia Lunch, Sid Vicious, John Waters, Bruce Connor and members of X, The Cramps, The Avengers, Flipper, The Screamers, The Nuns, and many others.
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