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Thursday, 30 August 2007

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Flavia

Van Vechten's portraits are indeed amazing. I once worked in a library that housed a large collection of them, and it was sometimes my task to photocopy them. A kind curator sometimes gave me 8x10 glossies when they'd reproduced more than a scholar needed--I still have one of Zora Neale Hurston and one of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

But the ones that really both fascinated and freaked me out (I was pretty young at the time) were the photos of young men: sometimes black, somtimes white, sometimes both, but always stark naked and often erect, posed among various tribal masks and statuettes.

Jake

His portraitures are easy to spot. They have goofy characters, goofy backgrounds, and a kind of goofy soft-glow to them. Carl Van Vechten basically photographed everyone I would avoid. Vechten was secretly against his subjects, and took mug shots disguised as artfully composed photographs so future generations could damn them, knowing full well the punishment of eternal hate was worse than anything immediate.

Well, that last bit is just a small theory.

JPool

There's something both wonderful and awful in these. Awful in the arbitrary and distracting backgrounds (Jesus Christ, are those marionettes behind Truman Capote?), the poor control over lighting and exposure, the simplistic framing. Wonderful in that, despite the formulaic poses, they capture something about their subjects that usually doesn't show up in portraits. Almost like a vision of what they are thinking as they wait for the photo to be taken.

It's great to see Baldwin looking so young. It made me pull my copy of The Price of the Ticket off the shelf and realize how many of my favorite essays of his are from this period. He looks so much more (understandably) world-weary a decade later, which is how I always visually think of him.

Miriam

The dance photographs are almost always very interesting, although a number of them suffer from the lighting problems JPOOL notes (the Arthur Mitchell photograph, for example).

Tim Lacy

SEK said: "I've sifted through all I can find, but can't identify some common trait."

As one of my advising colleagues says, "You could see in [his/her] eyes that [he/she] wasn't going to be disuaded that poor showing on the [X-Gre-like Test]."

It's all about the eyes! - TL

John B.

Thanks for linking to these. As you and the commenters here imply, Van Vechten is tough to pigeon-hole, and these pictures confirm that for me.

It's striking to me how much Dreiser, in the example here at least, looks like Wallace Stevens.

John B.

Thanks for linking to these. As you and the commenters here imply, Van Vechten is tough to pigeon-hole, and these pictures confirm that for me.

It's striking to me how much Dreiser, in the example here at least, looks like Wallace Stevens.

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