Read: Warlock

milnor_warlock_oakley_hall_

Okay, so I’ve come to the conclusion that every single Western I’ve ever seen is based on this book. All of them. Even the ones that came out before this book. Warlock by Oakley Hall is a classic. Good guys, bad guys, silver, border issues, Indian issues, gambling, violence and a few women thrown in for good measure. The Old West was a place of little compromise, and conflict came in the form of molten lead from gold handled Colts. If you love The West, or maybe you like lever action .30-30’s, shotguns and ambushes then get it, read it.

This was my first book of the year. I think I read somewhere around 70 books last year. I’ve decided this year to fixate on non-fiction in an attempt to learn as much as humanly possibly. A few weeks ago I was confronted by one of those awkward holiday moments of being faced with playing a trivia game. I was asked seven different questions. I nailed all seven answers. The person asking the questions looked at me in total bewilderment then asked “How do you know this stuff?” “I read,” I answered.(One question was about women’s hair products and I KNEW the answer. Scary shit.)

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Antony Armstrong-Jones

Anthony Armstrong-Jones, society photographer and royal paramour, is dead, aged 86. 

poltimore-tiara-as-cream-rinse

As royal portraits went, it didn’t get more intimate than this. In 1962, Anthony Armstrong-Jones sat on a toilet and took a photo of his wife Princess Margaret soaking in the bathtub in full makeup and tiara. His feet and hand were reflected in the mirror in the photo.

The couple was then just two years into their marriage. Theirs was the first royal wedding ceremony to be broadcast on television, and Armstrong-Jones became the first commoner in four centuries to marry a British princess. But he could never shake the perceptions that he had been Margaret’s second choice — her earlier romance with a divorcee was stopped by the establishment — and the couple separated in 1976.

This sensational divorce was also record-breaking: it was the first royal divorce in England since Henry VIII. It would set the tone for later royal break-ups of Princes Charles and Andrew. Yet Armstrong-Jones maintained close personal relationships with the British royal family post-divorce, and remained a favorite photographer of the Queen long after his marriage to her sister had ended.

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Already a society photographer before his marriage, the royal connections opened doors. He took photos of Ian McKellen, Serge Gainsbourg, Salvador Dali, Vita Sackville-West, Laurence Olivier, David Bowie, Barbara Cartland, and Marlene Dietrich among others; his portraits of J.R.R.Tolkien, previously featured at Iconic Photos here, and Agatha Christie were iconic. For Vanity Fair in November 1995, Snowdon put together a photoessay on British Theatre, photographing Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, Julie Christie, and others, in a 56-page spread—the biggest photoessay Vanity Fair had ever ran. (In a spread from that essay above, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole share tea and private moment at the Dorchester).

An Excellent obituary from The Globe and Mail here.

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‘Flying Dogs’ Have the Time of Their Lives

Amy © Julia Christe

Scotch © Julia Christe

It all started with a dog named Flinn and his frisbee. His owner, photographer Julia Christe, set out to capture in an instant the unbridled joy of playing dogs like Flinn, and after quite a lot of shenanigans with dozens of canines, Flying Dogs was born.

Christe met her flying dogs all over the place: she posted calls in veterinary offices and searched training classes. Some she stopped on the street and invited into her studio. Big dog or small dog, the only requirement was that they be healthy and willing.

Throughout the levitation process, each dog was kept safe and secure. The dog was usually lifted by his or her human. Once in the air, he or she would fall a very short distance onto a padded foam mat. A wind machine heightened the drama.

If any dog was at all upset by any part of the process, Christe put a stop to it, but most of them quite enjoyed it. You can see exactly what happened in Christe’s Making-Of video.

The flying dogs were rewarded with plenty of treats and toys, but there was one dog in particular who seemed to be in it purely for the fun of the jumping. Even after Christe had gotten the perfect shot, he continued to leap back up into his owner’s lap again and again, hoping to go flying once more onto the soft mat.

As it happens, the first or second frame was usually the winner. Christe was looking for that moment wonder and astonishment before the dog fully grasped what was happening. After a few jumps, the dogs quickly understood the process as a kind of game, and although they were happy to keep playing, they no longer pulled silly faces.

Flying Dogs is the work of a true dog-lover, one who understands that a dog’s life is not only about walking on a leash. It’s about being free to roam, free to smell, free to explore. Flinn was a puppy when the book began. Now he’s ten years old, technically a senior, but he still loves to chase his frisbee.

Flying Dogs can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. Visit the Flying Dogs website for books, posters, and other goodies.

Basko © Julia Christe

Flinn © Julia Christe

Gigan © Julia Christe

Mantao © Julia Christe

Arnie © Julia Christe

Tobi © Julia Christe

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‘Flying Dogs’ Have the Time of Their Lives

Amy © Julia Christe

Scotch © Julia Christe

It all started with a dog named Flinn and his frisbee. His owner, photographer Julia Christe, set out to capture in an instant the unbridled joy of playing dogs like Flinn, and after quite a lot of shenanigans with dozens of canines, Flying Dogs was born.

Christe met her flying dogs all over the place: she posted calls in veterinary offices and searched training classes. Some she stopped on the street and invited into her studio. Big dog or small dog, the only requirement was that they be healthy and willing.

Throughout the levitation process, each dog was kept safe and secure. The dog was usually lifted by his or her human. Once in the air, he or she would fall a very short distance onto a padded foam mat. A wind machine heightened the drama.

If any dog was at all upset by any part of the process, Christe put a stop to it, but most of them quite enjoyed it. You can see exactly what happened in Christe’s Making-Of video.

The flying dogs were rewarded with plenty of treats and toys, but there was one dog in particular who seemed to be in it purely for the fun of the jumping. Even after Christe had gotten the perfect shot, he continued to leap back up into his owner’s lap again and again, hoping to go flying once more onto the soft mat.

As it happens, the first or second frame was usually the winner. Christe was looking for that moment wonder and astonishment before the dog fully grasped what was happening. After a few jumps, the dogs quickly understood the process as a kind of game, and although they were happy to keep playing, they no longer pulled silly faces.

Flying Dogs is the work of a true dog-lover, one who understands that a dog’s life is not only about walking on a leash. It’s about being free to roam, free to smell, free to explore. Flinn was a puppy when the book began. Now he’s ten years old, technically a senior, but he still loves to chase his frisbee.

Flying Dogs can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. Visit the Flying Dogs website for books, posters, and other goodies.

Basko © Julia Christe

Flinn © Julia Christe

Gigan © Julia Christe

Mantao © Julia Christe

Arnie © Julia Christe

Tobi © Julia Christe

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In ‘Children of War’, Photographer Captures Daily Life in Syria

In the center of Aleppo, civilians are being shot at and killed.

Syrian kids playing in a car that was blasted in the war in Zahabiyah, an area in the south of Aleppo.

In Aleppo and Damascus, Iranian photographer Ali Khara has seen bullets, rockets and grenades raining from the sky, but even under the most precarious circumstances, it’s hard for him to stay fixed in the present moment. He’s thinking about the future, and he’s thinking about what will happen to Syria’s children when they grow up.

One doesn’t become a war photographer for the money, especially in Iran, where photo editors are hesitant to fund dangerous projects. Still, despite the risk to his life and the pervasive threat of kidnapping, Khara has returned to Syria more than a dozen times over the past five years.

The photojournalist has been chronicling the war mostly from within the Syrian army, but he isn’t interested in taking pictures of carnage. Looking back on his many days there, Khara experiences waves of sorrow, but he also says, “I have enjoyed capturing moments about how life goes on no matter what.”

Within his large body of Syria photographs, Khara has a smaller project, which for now he is calling Children of War. He’s sat and eaten meals with youngsters in Aleppo, where thin curtains are the only barrier between families and the snipers of the Al-Nusra Front.

He has carried with him the memory of one child he met in 2012, a young lady whose father had been killed in the conflict. “She had beautiful eyes,” he says, “and to this day, I wonder what has happened to her.”

Children, the photojournalists suggests, react differently to his lens than adults do. “I simply love the way they pose in front of my camera,” he explains. In the end, he can’t predict what waits for them in the coming months.

They could be separated from their families; they could be killed; they could survive. In the meantime, he’ll tell their stories.

In conversation with the Christian Science Monitor, Khara discusses the risks involved in the work he does. The dangers are real for Iranians, and he has in some situations posed as an Indian or Tajik photographer as a way to protect himself from harm.

The motivations behind a photojournalist’s difficult work are often ambiguous and elusive, but for Khara, the children are clearly a driving force. “I have had to take high risks at times,” he admits, “I believe that putting yourself on the line becomes easier when it is to achieve your goals.”

Follow Ali Khara on Instagram and Twitter. His photographs are taken with an iPhone.

Daily life in Aleppo, Syria.

Children in Agrabah.

In center of Aleppo, the distance between the opposing forces 50 meters.

Daily life in Damascus, Syria.

Three teenage boys playing billiards in Damascus.

Seeing the houses left behind in Aleppo is very sad. The identity of these families can be seen in the photos on the wall and the ones laying on the ground.

Syrian Child.

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Powerful Photos of the Body After Death

When photographer Patrik Budenz first requested permission to document the work at Berlin’s Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in 2007, the answer was no. When he wrote a proposal to the head of the institute, he was told to wait two weeks for a response. Twenty minutes later, he got the phone call. He was invited to bring his camera into the autopsy room, labs, and after some time, onto crime scenes.

Before he set foot in the Institute, Budenz had never been around death, with the exception of his grandparents, who passed away when he was too little to process what had happened. He admits to being nervous prior to those first visits, but the professionals calmly walked him through the autopsy process.

Budenz has now been dealing on and off with the forensic aspects of crime, medicine, and death for almost a decade, beginning with his documentary series Search for Evidence. He’s become accustomed to the things that used to frighten him, like the cracking sound the ribs make when they’re opened. His book Post Mortem, now in its second edition, is a step-by-step chronicle of the process that follows after a heart stops beating.

He started directly after the body leaves a hospital or a crime scene, moved forward to the labs and the crematorium, then to the undertakers.

All the bodies in Post Mortem are kept unidentified, though Budenz was able to overhear bits and pieces of their stories, including the age and cause of death of the deceased. The personal details, he says, were often the hardest part.

He struggled most with young people who had been killed by disease or accident. When asked whether he’s mourned for any of the strangers whose bodies he’s photographed, Budenz says “mourning” is too strong a word, but yes, he does get sad.

Though the professionals encouraged the photographer not to take the work home with him, the people he’d seen did sometimes follow.

He confided in his girlfriend without revealing anything confidential. “If you were really alone with this, I can imagine it would be hard,” he admits, “I was lucky to have someone to talk to.”

Still, coming into contact with the technical details of death hasn’t made him more afraid. In some ways, it’s been a comfort to him. In Western culture, he suggests, we keep death hidden from view, and that’s what makes it frightening.

He’s had people tell him they’re afraid of feeling pain when they’re dead. They are worried someone might make a mistake and cremate or bury them alive, but seeing it firsthand, Budenz can assure them this never happens. When you die, you’re left in good hands.

He’s no longer nervous to arrive at an autopsy. He feels safe: “People don’t want to deal with it, but if you get to know it a little bit more, it can be less scary.”

Budenz isn’t a religious person. He thinks that once someone dies, he or she stops existing. “The idea that my soul dies with my body is something that doesn’t scare me,” the photographer says, “Life is over, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. I can sleep knowing that.”

Since the original publication of the images eight years ago, the photographer estimates he receives anywhere from two to five emails from a grieving stranger per year. One of them, from a woman who had lost her grandfather, is included as the only text in the book. She told him that after seeing the pictures, for the first time since the death, she was able to sleep alone.

He responds to every single letter like this one. “If people write something like this, I have to respond. They give me something very personal. I can’t ignore it.”

Occasionally, he flips back through the book when he has free time. “Sometimes, I have the feeling I have to look at them.”

Budenz does understand why people would want to take refuge in the idea of the afterlife, but for him personally, the most meaningful thing to be found in death is what it tells us about being alive. “You see how fast a life can end,” he says, “and you really start to value things a little bit more.”

Post Mortem is available on Amazon and via the photo-eye bookstore.

All images © Patrik Budenz

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Lust, Desire, and Longing Behind-the-Scenes at Japan’s Love Hotels

Belgian photographer Zaza Bertrand doesn’t speak Japanese and was only able to gather bits and pieces of words exchanged between the people she met in the country’s popular rabuhos, or love hotels. The mystery was part of the appeal.

Rabuhos, writer Claire van den Berg explains, are common in Japan, especially with 20 and 30-somethings who still live with their parents or extended family. For one-night stands and married couples alike, the neon lights and campy, themed rooms offer a rare opportunity for privacy and romantic freedom.

The hotels are designed for discretion; guests can purchase tickets on a machine, and when there is an exchange with a human employee, it’s often done through a one-way window to ensure anonymity.

Bertrand began by approaching people as they entered the actual hotels, but over time, she learned she had more success by contacting guests online. She made her intentions clear: she wanted “nothing sexual, just maybe a bit suggestive.” She would not pay them for their time, though she would cover the room fee.

Gaining trust wasn’t difficult; many of Bertrand’s models wanted the photographs as a token of the encounter to take home with them. The rooms themselves were elaborate, ostentatious, and worth remembering.

The photographer didn’t mind not being able to interview her subjects at length; the secrets that stood between Bertrand and the guests mirrors the enigmatical, clandestine quality of the trysts that take place inside these hotels.

When asked about the most meaningful encounter she had inside a rabuho, Bertrand remembers one man who requested he be photographed without a partner. She said no the first time he asked, but she agreed to meet him the second time.

He surprised her. They were both a bit self-conscious, but as it turned out, the man simply wanted a photograph of himself to mark a personal milestone. He had just celebrated his 60th birthday. “It was a great, very intimate shoot,” the photographer explains.

In the end, Bertrand’s book Japanese Whispers is a foray into the gray areas of longing and intimacy. Her photographs are by turns voyeuristic and reticent, melancholic and reassuring, hot and cold.

Japanese Whispers is published by Art Paper Editions. The work is currently on view at RIOT gallery in Ghent until January 14 and was recently exhibited at IBASHO Gallery.

All images © Zaza Bertrand

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When Sex Workers Grow Old, This Is Where They Go

Portrait of Norma Angelica, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal © Bénédicte Desrus

The residents of Casa Xochiquetzal in Mexico City range from the age of fifty-five to eighty-six, and at some point in their lives, they have all been sex workers. It’s a two-story house, with food and medical care provided by the government and public donations.

In exchange for a safe place to live, the women must participate in the daily chores and activities. They attend courses on human rights. Some write poetry; others paint. One does yoga on the patio.

French photographer Bénédicte Desrus has spent nearly eight years documenting life at Casa Xochiquetzal, beginning two years after it was founded by a woman and former sex worker named Carmen Muñoz and a passionate group of intellectuals and activists.

This is the only shelter of its kind Desrus was able to find. There is no similar refuge exclusively for elderly former sex workers in Latin America, and she’s unsure if there’s another in the whole world.

At first, only two or three of the eighteen women who lived there allowed Desrus to take pictures. Before she arrived, a photograph of one of the women had been published, and her history as a sex worker was made public. Her family hadn’t known.

Photojournalists were generally mistrusted amongst the group, and for this reason, Desrus made a point of only taking photographs when she was given permission. When asked, she refused to offer payment in exchange for pictures.

When considering what it was that ultimately won her the confidence of this group of women, the photographer says simply, “They saw that I would return.” She never forget them, and one by one, they came around. She brought them prints of the portraits she’d made.

The women of Casa Xochiquetzal confided in the photographer about their childhoods, their greatest loves, and their greatest traumas. They told her stories of abuse and redemption. Most were no longer in touch with their children, though they wished they were.

“They’re never victimized,” Desrus explains, “they’re totally survivors.” Often, they made her laugh, and she made them laugh too.

The photographer has also said goodbye to some of her protagonists. She vividly remembers the time she saw one of the women die a painful death. She took photographs, though some of the other women asked her not to do so.

She talked frankly with them about it—“Death is a part of life,” she said— and they saw her point of view.

Looking back, Desrus admits, “I think that’s when they really understood my work.”

These women, the photographer explains, have seen their friends die in the streets. When they’re approaching the end, most ask for their families, and the shelter will try to locate them. Even if loved ones are not found, everyone at Casa Xochiquetzal gets a proper funeral. All residents are required to attend.

Because of the shelter, Desrus explains, “They know they’re not going to die alone.”

Desrus, with the help of writer Celia Gómez Ramos, published a book about the women and the shelter called “Las amorosas más bravas” (Tough Love in English). A large portion of proceeds of the sales went to Casa Xochiquetzal, and each woman received a copy to call her own. They were proud.

Only twenty copies of the book remain today. Still, Desrus continues to visit the shelter. The women know her well now. They followed her recent pregnancy, and they look forward to congratulating her on the birth of her child.

“Next time I’m going to Casa Xochiquetzal,” Desrus says, “I will go with the baby.”

To help the shelter, you can make donations here. Readers are also invited to check out their website and Facebook page

The result of six years of in-depth journalism, French Photographer Bénédicte Desrus and Mexican writer Celia Gómez Ramos’ new book, Las amorosas más bravas (“Tough Love”), presents intimate portraits of the women residing at Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City. To receive information or purchase the bilingual book “Tough Love”, please contact the authors at proyecto.xochiquetzal@gmail.com. A portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to the shelter.

Portrait of Luchita, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal © Bénédicte Desrus

Elia, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, talks to her dolls as a method of coping with her past life in her bedroom at the shelter in Mexico City © Bénédicte Desrus

Juanita, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, conducts her weekly prayer service at the shelter in Mexico City © Bénédicte Desrus

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Mother and Daughter Reconnect Through Photography

Contemplation

When her mother’s health began to deteriorate in 2009, American fine art photographer Sarah C. Butler travelled from Boston to her mother’s Maine home, where they were reunited after a long estrangement. Confronted with a mother she hardly recognized, Butler turned to her camera and began to take photographs which chronicle the turbulent relationship between the two of them, set against the backdrop of her mother’s dilapidated but beautiful home. The project, it turned out, was far more than simply a document of her mother’s life; it became a way to reconnect with her, or in Butler’s words, it opened space for them to have a relationship. The photographs, now compiled into a book called Frozen in Time, manage to capture their relationship in a way that makes them at once universally relatable.

What compelled you to start this project and how does it differ from your other work?
I received a phone call from my mother’s husband that she wasn’t well and could I come to the house to see her. I was living in Boston at the time; I made the four-hour drive the following day. What I saw when I walked into my mother’s home on that March day in 2009, was beyond anything I could have imagined. If I had seen Mom walking down the street I would not have recognized her. I began this work as I thought my mother was going to die. Photographing gave me a reason to show up. She lived on a farm, not a working farm, but a beautiful property with many animals.  The property was my “reason” at the start.

This body of work differs from my other photography because of how I approach it visually, but the drive comes from the same place as with all of my work – a desire to learn and get close to something. The camera gives me the excuse to look at the subject closely, while at the same time enabling me to maintain a distance.

The Dream

10am

Did you set out to make a book of the photos or did the idea come later?
I did not set out with the intention to make a book. The first two years I did not show the work to anyone. It felt so private and I was working through so much internally. As time progressed I had a lot of images and while I knew I wasn’t done, I felt the need to show the work to get a response and see if others connected with it. For me, books are long-term projects. I need observe with my camera over the course of years.

Did you use a 5×7 camera for the whole project? If so, what do you like about working with this format?
Yes, I used a large format 5 X 7 (and on occasion 4 X 5) for the whole project. I love this format for many reasons. One is that it slows me down. Every shot is intentional. In the case of this project, Mom knew every photograph I was taking, so in time it became a collaboration. Also, the time is important to me – the process of shooting the film, developing it, and getting contact sheets back from my lab. I like to sit with the images on the contacts and then send them back to the lab to be scanned. I do all the work on my negative and give the file back to my printer with a match print. If I want to shoot a quick easy image I can do that, but it feels too easy. This goes for anything I am photographing that is a long-term project.

Irrelevance of Time

How did this project help you reconnect with you mother? Was there anything you learned during the time you worked on it? 
That’s a complicated question. The simple answer is I spent a lot of time with my mother. I learned many valuable lessons that I will carry with me through life.  One of the biggest is acceptance. I learned to accept my mother for who she was. Before I began this project, I thought I knew her. Through the process of making the work, I realized what I knew was just an illusion I had created through distance. Showing up day after day, week after week, year after year, seeing the contact sheets, printing the images – this process changed the way I saw. I truly accepted her home, and her. I fell in love with the stark simplicity of her life.  This opened space for us to have a relationship. It took about 3 years for this to happen.  If I had kept my mother in the neat and tidy little box I could maintain with distance, I would have missed out on one of the most kind, wonderful, strong people I have ever met.

In your photographs, your mother appears in glimpses, was there a reason you choose not to photograph her directly and focus mainly on the domestic details of the house? 
This was a conscious choice for the edit of the book and symbolic of my mother. I spent 6 years photographing Mom. I learned so much about her, yet there was so much I didn’t know. I saw her and yet there were always pieces hidden; things she never would reveal to anyone. I did take many images of her directly, but they are not in the book edit. I didn’t include them because the book would have become about something else that was not my intent. It would be too direct and take away the mystery. I wanted the photographs to leave people with questions about their own lives, and remind them of something in their past that would prompt them to ask questions and find their own answers.

To mark the publication of the book, the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library (455 Fifth Avenue, southeast corner of 40th Street, New York, NY 10016) will host a book launch event as part of its Artist Dialogue Series on Wednesday January 11 2017. Butler will be in conversation with renowned photography critic and author Vicki Goldberg, who contributes the book’s foreword. Esteemed photo editor Alison Morley, who writes the book’s afterword, will moderate. The discussion will be followed by a book signing. For more information, please click here.

The book, published by Glitterati Incorporated, can be purchased here.

Bronze Horses

Control

Peppers and Tomatoes

Josephine & Chicks

Stairway

Lunch I October 16, 2010

All images © Sarah C. Butler

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