I found this old travel brochure of a State Park near Ithaca, N.Y. at a vintage store in Woodstock.
I loved the black and white photographs of nature inside.
It reminded me of my own childhood exploration of the Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River outside of Peru, Illinois.
Every state park seems to have places named after the Devil, and this is a picture of Lucifer Falls in Enfield.
I vaguely recall that Starved Rock had a Devil's Playground, or something like that. It always felt very Nathaniel Hawthorne to me in regards to this view of the satanic nature of the nature surrounding us (and within us)!
I hope we get to visit there one day and compare then to now. Hopefully not much has changed. In the meantime we can enjoy the place vicariously through these vernacular images.
My third and final "find" from the Belgrade flea market was a promotional photo album collecting the work of various Yugo photographers circa 1964.
These three felt particularly cinematic, like lost stills from the unit photogaphy of some classic unnamed Eastern European art film. Antonioni on the Danube.
The high rises of Novi Beograd or new Belgrade felt so modern and promising then, especially in black and white.
In the green market nearby my Belgrade apartment, tucked amongst the tables of red radishes and bulbous mushrooms, there was sometimes a cantankerous dealer in books and other old paper ephemera.
He seemed to greatly resent any effort I made to non-verbally negotiate with him through gesture and proffered Serbian dinars, so I think I paid dearly for these few old vernacular photographs of everyday life in old Serbia.
But it was worth it to bring them home and share them with you here, and preserve these images of a land and time and people far away from most of our modern experience, but eternally human in their joys and social activities.
A rare trip home and an even rarer Easter excursion with the family to the Rose Bowl flea market yielded a few precious vernacular photographs fished out of a plastic bin for their period charm, color palette and otherworldly nostalgia.
Some serious looking military naval hardware looming overhead makes this colorful on deck outing seem like a Cold War cover story. Is that Kevin Spacey hiding behind those shades?
Viola Davis' wardrobe from The Help might have been inspired by this old Kodachrome. I love the double-exposure on the already extra-wide lapels!
These two lettermen look like they could be standing on a movie set from an Irwin Allen-style Land of the Giants television series specially built to perspective to emphasize their size!
Today we visited an old cemetary in Belgrade.
The headstones were mostly pre-war, and were crowded together, and covered with the dust of a recent snowfall. But for every soul that was resting there, it felt like there was at least one corresponding black crow perched in the barren trees overhead, like harbingers or sentinels watching over the dead.
Their loud birdsongs filled the air, and suddenly they took flight, filling the twilight sky with their peregrinations. It felt like there were thousands of them, darkening us with their shade, even as darkness descended.
It was ominous, but also quite beautiful.
Growing up, before I ever traveled there in person, my formative impressions of the New York City of my imagination were shaped by three things:
The gangs, graffiti, drugs and gunplay of movies like West Side Story, and later Superfly or Serpico; novels of the gritty urban experience of '60's ghetto life like "Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas, who passed away just recently; and music by bards of the street like The Last Poets and Gil-Scott Heron who in spoken words and minimal harmonies described the dark core of the Big Apple.
Watching the massive march of a Halloween parade that passed by my apartment on its way up the Avenue of the Americas this Fall, and the lo-fi imagery I was able to capture with my Diana camera of these denizens of the dark, brought back nightmarish memories of this earlier era, when urban legends of LSD-laced candy and razor blades hidden in apples put the trick in trick-or-treat.
Could anything be scarier than....
...a gang of Smurfs?
Enjoy (sort of)!
Diego and I went to an exhibit of local indigenous wildflowers over Memorial Day weekend.
They seemed like appropriately relaxing images to serve up now as I am home recovering and trying to maintain that natural state of mind they say is beneficial to the healing process.
Maybe some of you botanically minded readers out there can identify these particular flora? Margie?
I saw this drawing on a friend's Facebook page, and was immediately arrested by its almost Goya-like power to capture a moment of indelible horror in simple black and white lines on a page.
The executioners and the executed lined up in a row, and so close to each other you almost feel the gun barrels will touch their victims before the bullets do.
What fearful imagination guided this artist's hand to conjure such a timeless vision?
Linked to the drawing was an almost identical image, made by a man we must also consider an artist, using not pen and paper but the documentary tool of a camera to record photographically a real life firing squad in an act of mass execution, perhaps the inspiration for the sketch.
The story behind the photo is quite interesting.
Jahangir Razmi was an Iranian who bore witness to a massacre of Kurdish militants in Iran in 1979. His photo was published locally and then republished around the world, but the identity of the photographer was kept anonymous for fear of reprisal.
The picture went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the only time the award was ever bestowed on an anonymous source. It was not until 2006 that Razmi felt free to come forward and claim credit for the shot.
Think about today and the thousands of anonymous cell phone photographers whose images documented the recent violence in Iran, and the fear of reprisal that continues to drive witnesses underground.
What's past is prologue, and the Tempest still rages.
It is always nice when one of my blog posts opens a door to a connection and a discovery or further elaboration of a topic. Such was the case recently when I was contacted by Adam Randazzo from New York, who had read an old post here about the unusual children's photo books published back in the 1950's by husband-and-wife team Dale and Sally Rooks.
I found your name and blog while Googling for Dale Rooks. There isn't much information I can find about him online, but I have some pretty interesting photos he took during WWII. During that time, my grandfather was a medic in the coast guard. Dale was placed on my grandfather's ship and was a photographer for LOOK magazine at the time. My grandfather was given the duty of basically accompanying him wherever he wanted to go to while he was taking photographs. Their travels took them all over France, Italy, Iceland, and North Africa.
During the process, the two of them became extremely close friends. After the war was over, Dale travelled to my grandparents wedding and photographed it for them. As a wedding gift, he presented my grandfather with a large collection of photos that he had taken during the war. This collection is in a large book and contains over a hundred of photos that he took. My mother received the book after my grandfather passed away at the age of 94 late last year. I am currently in the process of scanning and digitizing the entire collection. When I am done with that, I will be putting up a website with all of the images as its a truly amazing collection.
You are correct that Dale died young. According to my grandfather, he lived fast and was completely fearless. Next time I see my grandmother, I will see if she can tell me more stories about him. I believe Dale died of lung cancer if I remember correctly - but I may be wrong. I will also try to find out what happened of his wife.
Anyways, after reading your blog, I felt that I would share this with you as you sound like someone who may really appreciate the history.
I have attached a couple of photos that Dale took. My grandfather is the medic in the one picture and it was in LOOK magazine.
Thanks again for making the blog post!
Adam Randazzo / Western NY
Adam now has a great new blog up and is posting this collection of Dale Rook's war time photography.
It seems like a strange journey from being a Robert Capa to making books about Cute Bunnies and Puppies, but when you think about the myriad experiences of men at war struggling to come back to civilian life, perhaps not so odd after all.
Check it out!