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: Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger

b. 1945

Today’s PotD is my gurl, Barbara Kruger. She is one of the main post-modern photo feminists, right up there with my other gurl, Cindy Sherman. Kruger studied visual arts at Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design, and though she is known for her photographic images and bold text, she initially used crochet and sewing to create feminist pieces. A girl after my own heart.

She went into design for a while, and, well, that’s no surprise, considering the work she is known for. Like Heineken, she exploited mass media and consumerism to bring her points home on the subjects of women’s rights (especially reproductive rights,) obsession with consumerism, and desire. What makes her so important is, well, she did it first.

Your Body is a Battleground in one of her most well known pieces on women’s reproductive rights.

Bold text over a red, black, or white background was one of Kruger’s signatures. Kruger noticed how much images and text affect our interpretation of things, and she exploited that to the max. She has created some installations with her bold text covering the walls, floors, and ceilings of a gallery.

https://collabcubed.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/kruger_at_hirshhorn_beliefdoubt_typography_escalator_3_collabcubed.jpg?w=240&h=635Belief + Doubt

Kinda critical of mass media as propaganda, amiright?

Kruger has been quoted as saying, “Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.” Homegurl paid attention, saw what words and pictures do to people, and made that a central part of her art making. You go girl!

One of the other beautiful things she has said? “When I first came on the scene when I was working on magazines, the art world in New York felt like 12 white guys.”

Finger snaps to my gurl Barbara for layin’ down some truths.

Of course, I have to talk about her achievements, like being in the Venice Biennale and was the recipient of the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement. She has taught for places like the Whitney and UCLA, to name a couple.

Kruger didn’t expect herself to become an artist in “the art world.” She’s been working now for decades, and is one of the most important and dynamic artists of our time. So, hey, if you don’t think you’re gonna be an artist, who knows! Never say never! You may one day be one of the most recognized names in the history of art! How’s that for positivity?

That’s all for today’s fierce Photographer of the Day. The next PotD will be Annie Leibovitz. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner

b. 1821, d. 1882

Today, we talk about a legend from the American Civil War period. Gardner was one of the early photographers who made people question photographic “truth”, as the photographs he took of the civil war appear to be staged– because, well, they kinda had to be. Gardner’s process was wet-plate, which was kind of hard to execute (ouch, that pun,) on an active battle field. U feel me?

This image is the one most associated with his work:

Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter was one of many photographs featured in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War, which was presented in two volumes. It is believed that Gardner and his assistants moved the body to this position and propped up the weapon, as a sign of his profession. Talk about morbid. Speaking of morbid: you could get this guy as a stereo image back in the day, y’know, for a realistic 3D viewing of a dead guy while sitting in your parlor room.

Even more morbid: I went to Gettysburg on a middle school trip, and one of my friends laid on the ground, just like the subject of Gardner’s image. Without knowing anything about it, I also posed like I was dead. I’ll have to find the photo of this, uh, charming occurrence, because it is a classic example of why I may  scare small children from time to time.

Gardner is closely associated with the photographer Mathew Brady, who actually inspired Gardner to become a photographer. After listening to Brady’s idea to photograph the war (Brady was blind at this point in his life,) Gardner used some connections to become the chief photographer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Topographical Engineers. He was given the honorary title of captain and he shot (I laughed at this terrible pun,) many important battles of the Civil War, including the Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Gettysburg, and the Siege of Petersburg. A lot of ‘burgs.

Shout out to field photographers who work in dangerous times.

That’s all for my crash course on Alexander Gardner. The next PotD will be a photographer who I just recently learned about, Robert Heinecken. And no, he has nothing to do with the beer.

Happy Shooting (that pun again…)

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.”