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America from A Few Different ‘Angles’

May 27th, 2013 No Comments

Today’s post is all about America.  Three photographers, and several different angles into ’50s Chicago, last century’s Fort Worth, and today’s twilit backlanes of rural America are on offer.

Wayne F. Miller, R.I.P.

Wayne F. Miller was a Photography giant for both the United States and Magnum for over four decades.  Last week he passed away at a ripe old 94.  The Washington Post ran a tribute cum obit by Matt Schudel yesterday.  Earlier, Magnum had published reminiscences by Miller’s granddaughter.

His work as a photographer was quite eclectic: he photographed World War II, assisted in the curation of The Family of Man exhibition, and shot that lauded series of images of Chicago’s South Side, bringing to the fore that down-at-the-heels locality’s deeply human aspects for the first time.  Then, after he was done with photography, he distinguished himself in forestry as a conservationist.

Miller had also taken some famous images of reactions to FDR’s death; more relevantly, his location shots taken in Australia during filming of the apocalyptic thriller On the Beach may be of special interest.

Several galleries of Miller’s superb body of work are online at Magnum.

Fact-Fantasy America

Hopper and Hitchcock.  Pulp fiction and the seamy side.  Tract housing and trashed cars.  Of such things is the Art Photography of Todd Hido made as he photographs the twilit backlanes of a little-known America.

Hido’s imagery skips along the borderline of fact and fantasy; indeed, in Hido’s photographs fact seems to be fantasy, and fantasy fools you into believing it’s fact.

In a long but very engaging article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Steven Litt tells the story of how Hido’s ‘take’ on America derives from his childhood and the environs that he grew up in.

His highly stylized work is simply indescribable and is valuable on different counts.  Hido photographs the American landscape in a pulp fiction light and even reduces it to neon abstractions.  You also get pulp fiction proper and for those who like a little class and restraint, there’s a vamp reminiscent of Clara Bow from nearly a century ago

Litt says, “By any calculus, Hido is wildly successful. His big prints sell for $15,000 to $30,000 . . . .”  One can see why.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

If you liked Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Sam Peckinpah’s gorefest (if you watch the unedited version) The Wild Bunch, here’s the story for you. 

Remember that faded B&W photo that’s seen in the former film?  Steve Campbell tells the fascinating story behind it on the Star-Telegram.

It is not a story about great photography, but a tale of detective work, personal and family tragedies, American Western history, and a family of hard-luck photographers, the Swartz Brothers.  After you’re done reading the article be sure to click on the ‘Photos’ tab.

You can see historic photographs of a long-gone American West and countless looky-loos (L.A. slang) watching firemen do their thing with a blazing train station.

All said, though, the story is about those notorious outlaws Butch, Sundance, & Co. (who look like regular fops in the photo).  Campbell says that their “vanity photo turned into major misstep” as it led to their ultimate downfall.

Oh, well – maybe the slick pic was worth it.


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