The first commercially successful photobooth was created by Anatol Josepho. It was placed in New York City on Broadway in 1925 and was an instant hit. In the first six months, 280,000 people stood in line to use the coin-operated, ten-minute photo machine. In American Photobooth by Näkki Goranin, the history of the photobooth is recounted with pictures of its creation and use. Can’t get enough? Babbette Hines’s book, Photobooth, displays hundreds of pictures from the 1920′s through the 1980′s. The stylistic variation of the snapshot is continued in Photobooth: The Art of the Automatic Portrait, by Raynal Pellicer, which shows not only the common man but celebrities (like John Lennon, Elvis, Ginsberg, and John F. Kennedy) using photobooths.
Check It Out
“A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery,” said Nelson Algren in Nonconformity: Writing on Writing. Algren spoke of his own experience as an outsider, but many profound works of art have been created with brutal honesty and a process that borders on social callousness. This rang true for Art Shay who regularly photographed subjects on the sly, as exampled in his photo essay (and failed, pitched article to Life Magazine) turned bleak coffee table book, Nelson Algren’s Chicago. Join Algren’s tour of the underbelly of the Second City circa 1949 as Shay captures the deadbeats, the downtrodden and the working poor that became Algren’s deeply loved, literary inspirations.
“While historians have used literary documents to depict Blacks as helpless subjects, photographs allow us to see many of them as confident human beings. Occupation, income, education, and similar variables are important for assessing accomplishments and status…” said social historian Douglas Daniels in the introduction to Deborah Willis’ phenomenal photographic history, Reflections in Black. Willis is a former Guggenheim and MacArthur fellow who curated the exhibition, Reflections in Black, at the Smithsonian Institute. This exhibition, which has now become a book with almost 600 high-quality photos from luminaries such as James Presley Ball, James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks and Carrie Mae Weems, expands cultural awareness and historical consciousness of the African-American experience in the United States.
Weddings are a Big Deal. In today’s photoshopped culture, brides feel like they have to be perfect. TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress have emphasized that, sure, a wedding is all about love and stuff – but really, look at that dress! Did you see what the bride was wearing? Edwina Ehrman’s heavily illustrated coffee table book, The Wedding Dress, explores the evolution of the wedding dress from 1700 until present day. This photographic fashion history is an extension of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Unveiled exhibition. If you can’t make it to the V&A in London, but still want to see bold, beautiful and sometimes extravagantly odd bridal fashions, The Wedding Dress is for you.
Film buffs, meet your eye candy. Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction is a gorgeous new collection of stills and sketches from the history of American films. Linger over the sheer scale of early epics such as The Thief of Baghdad, the shadowy motifs of Hitchcock films, and the ravages of battle depicted in Saving Private Ryan. Opulent sets and careful staging serve both as setting and character, adding to the emotional experience of movies at their best. You’ll learn which roles the art director, production designer, and set decorator each take, but most of all you will be in awe at the worlds they create.
Andrew Moore’s Detroit Disassembled documents Michigan’s crumbled industrial culture from the broken windows and rusted roof of Michigan Central Station to the mold-ridden shag carpeting at the abandoned Ford Motor Headquarters to entire brownstone ruins covered in mounds of vinery. It’s as gorgeous as it is depressing.
A railroad track leaves off into the wide open prairie. A hostler cleans the fires with a cigar stub clamped between his teeth and leather gloves to protect his hands. The depot is wood paneled with hard pew seating and an empty ticket office. David Plowden had an eye for the working world of steam locomotives. He photographed the grunts, the engineers, the slow trail of freight cars across empty Midwestern fields, the brakemen and the grit of the train yards. Plowden’s Requiem for Steam is the result of a man riding the rails, impassioned on capturing a dying industrial culture.
Berthold Steinhilber photographs abandoned buildings and long forgotten locations in the blue world a blink before dark. Twilight is his muse. Lightning strikes the distant night-shadowed mountains as a brick chimney stands sentry over a busted wagon on the prairie. Dusk-splayed bottles and flags collect dust in Gold Point, Nevada. A ramshackle Colorado water mill slowly falls into the river. All are edged in darkness, but painted with light. Some towns died when the train tracks were tore up, others when the gold and silver was gutted and done from the hills. In Ghost Towns of the American West, Steinhilber records the last gasps of settlements founded on industries that have faded away.
Can’t fit Cameroon into your schedule to watch the mandrills? Don’t want to deal with the heat of the Serengeti to safari with the lions? No time machine to hitch a ride to Saratoga, Wyoming to watch the bison crossing the plain? The life-size habitat dioramas of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History peak into the disappearing environments of these animals and many others. Stephen Christopher Quinn features a full-color examination of over forty of the AMNH’s dioramas in Windows on Nature. The genesis of each diorama is presentedwith never-before-seen archived images of the explorers, painters, sculptors, conservationists and eccentrics who made these educational, compelling artworks.
Meryl Streep won all sorts of attention for her ice-queen portrayal of Miranda Priestly, the impossible boss in The Devil Wears Prada. That character is widely believed to be not-so-secretly based on Anna Wintour, one of the most powerful women of fashion. Curious to know how close to real life the caricature is? Check out The September Issue, a film by R.J. Cutler that follows the planning and production of a landmark issue of Vogue magazine. The focus may start on Wintour, but it is soon stolen by Creative Editor Grace Coddington, a genius of imagination and composition who fights for her ideas. Just wait for the scene where she makes the documentary cameraman part of a high-profile fashion spread. Even Wintour cracks a smile.