Photographer of the Day: Nadar

Nadar

b. 1820 d. 1910

Today’s Photographer of the Day is Nadar, lesser known as Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, one of the most famous early photographers and an overall outstanding human being. He didn’t just take pictures, but he was also a caricaturist and an aviation enthusiast– perhaps one of the first. He was also homies with Jules Verne, and anyone who is friends with Jules Verne is a friend of mine.

So, let’s begin with the most important thing:

HOMEBOY HAD A HOT AIR BALLOON. HOW HARDCORE IS THAT?

Nadar was well known for taking aerial photographs of Paris from his own personal balloon.

I seriously can’t handle this guy. He took many portraits of people who are considered famous today, and man, he also had a good time doing it.

Photograph of Michel Eugène Chevreul with, I think, Nadar. I know that hair anywhere.

This elegant yet risque portrait of Sarah Bernhardt probz has a good story.

Sarah Bernhardt, Pierrot dans la pantonime– I wonder what conversation preceded this gem. “Hey. Sarah, wanna clown around?”

“Nadar pls.”

“No, really, here’s a clown suit.”

I wonder if this guy, Caran d’Ache, was trying to be serious here. And Nadar was like “Nah, let’s make this ridic because trollin'”

Also, Nadar liked to take self portraits. In his balloon. That was “flying” in his studio.

I would seriously love to be besties with Nadar. Home boy was the coolest. Let me prove how cool he was with a story:

My home boy Nadar loved balloons, so he asked this one guy to build him a hella big balloon. Apparently, Nadar’s homie Jules Verne was inspired by this and wrote Five Weeks in a Balloon. Sadly, the balloon was damaged after the second flight. What’s crazy to me was Nadar was like: “You know the future of flying? Heavier than air machines. Because science.” And, since Verne and Nadar had the greatest bromance of all time, they created “The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines.” That’s a mouthful. I guess it could be TSFTEOALBMOHTAM for short. But I think sneezing would also work.

Nadar was also the first person to use artificial light in photography, since he was bein’ his self, takin’ photos in the catacombs because you only live once, right?

He also lent his studio to the Impressionists for their first ever exhibition. Did I mention home boy was the coolest?

I mean, I’d be friends with him:

Work it, Naddie.

That’s all for Nadar, the original MVP. The next PotD will be Catherine Opie, so keep an eye out for that gem.

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz

b.1949

Today’s PotD is my inspiration, Annie Leibovitz. This is about to be a real fan girl session for today’s lesson, so bear with me. There will be knowledge, I promise.

Annie (I love her so much I’m just gonna go with her first name,) had always been into the arts, but she studied painting during her time at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had been working on her photography all this time though, and when the Rolling Stone magazine was born, Annie was a staff photographer, and eventually the chief photographer. She was a boss, and it is all her fault (in the best way,) for the Rolling Stone‘s aesthetic.

One of the best (and I guess worst,) stories about her decade at the Rolling Stone was when she photographed John Lennon for the cover. You’ve probably seen the iconic image, of him and Yoko Ono, which Annie orchestrated. Can you imagine telling John Lennon to take off his clothes? I sure can’t. Thing is, she photographed him on December 8, 1980– five hours after taking his picture, he was shot and killed.

Lennon’s Last Photo

The biggest reason why I adore Annie so much is the fact her work is very constructed, very beautiful, and very colorful. Very. She was also a boss at lighting, so all of these great things got her a position at Vanity Fair, which is who she primarily works for today. Seriously, this woman is such an inspiration.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

“Hello, my name is Annie Leibovitz, and I just casually photograph the Queen of England.” -Annie, probably.

The Drew Barrymore Beauty and the Beast photograph was used as inspiration for my Home Sweet Home series, believe it or not. Annie’s lighting on point.

I could probably list her images all day long. Her vision and execution of her work is something to work towards.

Another story for you: I met a professional photographer, who takes a lot of celebrity portraits in LA. Well, when he first graduated, his professor set him up with an internship with Annie Leibovitz. So he called them, to see when he needed to relocate to New York, and they said they would get back to him. This happened a few more times, and eventually he found out that they gave his internship to one of the Olsen twins. C’est la vie.

It’s no surprise that Annie is a perfectionist, and her shoots cost a fortune to create. I know the feeling. She is always determined to get “the shot,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger still jokes about flying through a blizzard in a helicopter, then nearly freezing to death for the 1997 Vanity Fair cover image of him on skis on a mountain top in Sun Valley, Idaho. She has already earned her lifetime achievement award at the age of 59 (to her dismay, actually.)

Getting a lifetime achievement award at 59 was a huge deal, but to her, it was as if the community was telling her that the last 40 years of her work were it, that those photos shot then were her best and nothing else would be better.

This is just a conjecture, but Annie’s perfectionism costs her a lot.  I totally and completely empathize, especially after reading what Andrew Eccles, one of her assistants, said: “She could never quite relax, because she was afraid that there was an even better idea… The anxiousness about whether a photograph was going to be good enough was hard to be around. It seemed like a difficult way to live.”

Gurl, I totally understand. And I bet a lot of people who are reading this understand, too. She has a lot of flaws, but she is one of the greatest photographers of our age.

Oh, btw, she had a relationship with Susan Sontag. NBD.

And that’s all for Annie Leibovitz. The next Photographer of the Day will be Man Ray, so keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Belle Johnson

Belle Johnson

b. 1864, d. 1945

We’re skipping out on contemporary photography this time to talk about Belle Johnson, a woman photographer who does not get the attention she deserves. She is famous, but in the kind of way that no one cares. You get me?

Btw, we’re not talking about this Belle

We’re talking about THIS Belle

Just had to clear that up.

I adore this woman. She graduated the top of her class at her college, and went on to teach, but was like “nah man, not for me,” and left that job. SHE LEFT A JOB BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T LIKE IT. How many people go to school for a job that they don’t like, but keep working at it anyway? But yes, homegurl quit being a teacher and went to work at a photography studio. She ended up buying the studio within a year, and taught herself how to take nice photos with photography magazines.

Talk about self-motivation. It took me two hours to finally shower today, and Belle here is buying studios and wrecking expectations. Oh, and get this, her studio burned down. So she got a new one. Say what?

Johnson was one of the founding fathers mothers of the Photographers’ Association in Missouri, traveled around to keep up with the latest photo knowledge, and won countless awards for her photography. She is one of my biggest inspirations, because it seems like she did it all and she did it well. Good job, Belle. I wanna be like you.

But let’s look at the work that made Belle Johnson so important:

Three Women

Kittens

Innocence

Johnson was obviously the first photos-of-cats lady, way before icanhascheezburger got on that. She has a lot of pictures of kitties, so if you’re into that, go ahead and look ’em up.

The thing about her work is that while she was working as a studio photographer, she was also producing her own work. That takes a TON of self-discipline, since a lot of professionals feel like they just don’t have the time to make work they want to make. But, we all know that Belle was not lacking self-discipline, so there ya go.

Her photo Three Women, is one of my all time favorites. I used to have EXTREMELY long hair, so I was like “At least my hair wasn’t THAT long.”

There you have it. Belle Johnson is important and don’t you forget it. There aren’t nearly enough women photographers from her period that are celebrated, so keep her in mind.

The next photographer of the day is another one of my favorite ladies, Barbara Kruger. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Graciela Iturbide

Graciela Iturbide

b. 1942

Today’s PotD, Graciela Iturbide, is a Mexican photographer who said one of the best things ever. She said that “there is always time for the pictures you want.” Keep that in mind, kiddos. Sometimes it’s hard to make work because we’re “too busy,” but remember the wise words of Iturbide, and put your excuses on the shelf and get snappin’.

Anyway.

Iturbide’s work is primarily about feminist causes. In the late 1970s she was asked to photograph the village of Juchitán de Zaragoza, which is a matriarchal community where the women are completely independent in just about every way you can think. It was this body of work that made her interested in feminism and informed the work she would create from then on to today.

But do not be confused: her work is not exclusively about women, as proven with her iconic image, Magnolia.

Magnolia

Iturbide’s work has been recognized internationally, and her image Mujer Ángel was used by the band Rage Against the Machine for one of their single covers. The Mujer Ángel was named after the title of the larger body of work, Mujer Ángel, which was Iturbide’s first series.

Mujer Ángel

Graciela Iturbide still lives and works in Mexico today, and has been a recipient of many prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. Home gurl is hard core, like this iguana lady:

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas

That is the face of a woman who is going to take the world by storm (iguanas optional.)

That’s all for this crash course on Graciela Iturbide. The next PotD will be ____ so keep an eye out.

Happy Shooting!

P.S.- I found this great article with words from Iturbide herself, specifically about Mujer Ángel, so check it out for more information on this amazing photographer.

Photographer of the Day: Robert Heinecken

Robert Heineken

b. 1931, d. 2006

Today’s PotD is Robert Heineken (and no, he has nothing to do with the beer,) a man who barely used a camera. He was a pretty chill guy, but his work was evocative and had a lot of social commentary on the period he worked in, around the 60s-80s. Most, if not all, of his work was out of camera. But how does this make him a photographer?

The guy took magazine pages and put them on a light table. Since magazine paper is so thin, you could see the image on the other side. The combination of the front and back of the page would oftentimes create surreal imagery, which Heinecken would make a contact print of. Photography does always have to have a camera. It’s literal meaning is “light writing.”

He just figured there were enough straight photographs in the world, so he decided to shake it up a little bit.

One of his most iconic series is titled Are You Rea. His process really shows up in the images, which are below.

Heinecken was interested in the politics of female sexuality and the portrayal of them in the media. Y’know, the typical 1960s scene. Another thing this guy did that was baller as hell was he cut up popular magazines like Time and Vogue and put sexual or pornographic images in them… and then put them back on the news stand for someone to buy and get more than what they paid for (if you know what I mean.)

Kudos to Heinecken for being a total troll.

Another thing that makes Heinecken a boss is he founded the photography department at UCLA. WHICH IS ONE OF THE BEST PHOTO PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY. Sorry, got excited there. He was so awesome he even helped found the Society for Photographic Education (and I am a proud member of said organization. Iconic.)

He’s one of those really cool dudes that you’d want to be friends with. From what I understand, he was a chill dude. Sadly, Heiknecken developed Alzheimer’s in 1994, and passed away in 2006. He’s still a boss.

That’s it for Heinecken. The next PotD will be Graciela Iturbide, so keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Bernard Faucon

Bernard Faucon

b. 1950

Today we’re going to have our minds blown by the photographer/writer Bernard Faucon. Or, rather, you’re going to read about just how in love I am with his work. Because, get this, Faucon’s work is about childhood, presented in a dreamlike manner.

Sound Familiar?

Bernard Faucon was born in Provence, France, and studied philosophy (which explains why he’s a writer, since what else can you do with philosophy? I kid, I kid…) He was initially a painter, but like other painters he switched over to photography. His work has won numerous awards (most notably, the Grand Prix Nationale,) and has been in hundreds of exhibitions. So, what’s the big deal about this guy? I’ll let his work speak for itself.

I only chose images from Les Grand Vacances, but call me bias because these are amazing. What draws me to his work is attention to detail, the obvious planning these shots took, the construction of the scene, and the tension between the real child and the mannequins. What is not to like?

Also he set things on fire. Yasssssss.

There are a few interpretations of this work, mainly centering on the play of childhood and the play of adulthood. An interesting thing I found out was Faucon ended his photography career in 1996, and some speculation is due to his work being centered on childhood, and how all childhoods must come to an end. Another speculation is the increased paranoia over children and safety, either imagined or real. For example, Sally Mann’s nude images of her prepubescent children. People have the tendency to make things into things they are not. (This happens frequently in art.)

So, he took up a much more objective career: writing.

I wish I knew of this guy when I was working on my Domestic series, because I had a couple dummies in a shot. It’s one of those things: when you think you came across something brilliant, someone probably has already done it– but as a professor told me, WHATEVER it hasn’t been done before because it hasn’t been done by YOU. How’s that for uplifting?

Well, I’m feeling inspired to go create some tableau images myself, so that’s all for Bernard Faucon. The next PotD will be Alexander Gardner.

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Harold E. Edgerton

Harold E. Edgerton

b. 1903, d. 1990

The combination of the arts and sciences is something that seems relatively new, but, spoiler alert: it’s not. Also, next time someone tells you that we don’t need the arts, I want you to calmly point out Edgerton, and then lock them in an art gallery for a week.

Edgerton was one of those people who made you feel really, really insignificant, because he was so awesome. You know what I’m talking about. Dude was a professor of electrical engineering at MIT. And he did photography– like, c’mon man, what are you? I mean, he grew up in Nebraska, so he must have been bored, so maybe that’s why he’s good at everything.

So, you know those photos of like, water splashing or a bubble popping or an apple being massacred by a bullet? Edgerton and his buddy Gjon Mili (who we will discuss another day,) were the ones responsible for this. Mili used strobes for his work, and so Edgerton was like, “let me try this out, bro.”* These studio flash units could fire 120 flashes per second. Eddie here (just roll with me on the impromptu nickname,) used this to his advantage, because, c’mon of course you have a shot at capturing a bullet at 1/120th of a second (also did you see my pun?)

The apple is my self esteem and the bullet is Eddie’s work.

Something deep? These photos are oftentimes a dialogue about violence against the person. So, let’s drop some science and some tortured artist business in one go.

Eddie received awards from the Royal Photographic Society and Optical Society of America, among many other accolades. But, our friend Eddie here wasn’t done being a flippin’ genius. He and his other genius buddies developed the Rapatronic camera, photographed nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s, and then this dude was responsible for side-scan technology for scanning the ocean floor for stuff, because he was into that sort of thing. He was like, “Yo, Cousteau, I know you like explorin’ the sea and I too like the sea so here have some underwater photography equipment with a super nifty flash and go to town. Do it for me science, bro. For the science.”*

And just when you thought this man couldn’t get any cooler– he also won an Oscar for his short film, Quicker’n a Wink. Because he could.

The nice thing about Eddie is that he was a kind individual who loved teaching. “The trick to education,” he said, “is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they’re learning until it’s too late.” Can I have him as a professor? Because he sounds awesome.

That’s about it for Henry E. Edgerton, Papa Flash, the man who made time stand still (which is what he was dubbed by National Geographic– I’m telling you, this guy was unreal.) The next PotD will be Bernard Faucon.

Happy Shooting!

* These dialogues are totally fictional, but you never know, Eddie might have loved calling people “bro.”