If Tears Could Build a Stairway

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

 
 

If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane.
I would walk right up to Heaven
and bring you back again.

No farewell words were spoken,
No time to say “Goodbye”.
You were gone before I knew it,
and only God knows why.

My heart still aches with sadness,
and secret tears still flow.
What it meant to love you –
No one can ever know.

But now I know you want me
to mourn for you no more;
To remember all the happy times
life still has much in store.

Since you’ll never be forgotten,
I pledge to you today~
A hollowed place within my heart
is where you’ll always stay.

Author: Unknown

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As I Was Going Down

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Abruzzo (Italy), 1951

 
 

ON THE STAIRS

“As I was going down the infamous stairway,
you were coming through the door, and for a moment
I saw your unfamiliar face and you saw me.
Then I hid so you would not see me again, and you
passed by quickly hiding your face,
and you dove into the infamous house
where you couldn’t have found pleasure, as I didn’t find it.

And yet, the love you wanted, I had it to give you;
the love I wanted–your eyes told it to me
your tired and distrustful eyes–you had it to give me.
Our bodies senses and sought each other;
our blood and our skin understood.

But the two of us hid disturbed.”

Constantine P. Cavafy

 
 

*The Latin phrase “Ora pro nobis” (“pray for us”) is a sentence from The Hail Mary

Life Is a Journey Up a Spiral Staircase

“Life is a journey up a spiral staircase; as we grow older we cover the ground covered we have covered before, only higher up; as we look down the winding stair below us we measure our progress by the number of places where we were but no longer are. The journey is both repetitious and progressive; we go both round and upward.”

William Butler Yeats

 
 

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Display of Brilliant Friends

Self-portraits

 
 

George Platt Lynes was an American fashion and commercial photographer. Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide (Sparkman) and Joseph Russell Lynes he spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts. He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there. Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and those that he met through them opened an entirely new world to the young artist.

He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year.

By 1946, he grew disillusioned with New York and left for Hollywood, where he became chief photographer for the Vogue studios. He photographed Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles, from the film industry, as well as others in the arts among them Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky, and Thomas Mann. While a success artistically, it was a financial failure.

By May of 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died in December 1955. He was just 48.

 
 

Dorothy Parker

 
 

Jean Cocteau

 
 

Gloria Swanson

 
 

Christopher Isherwood

 
 

Yul Brynner

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Paul Cadmus

 
 

Henri Cartier-Bresson

 
 

Alfred Kinsey

 
 

Salvador Dalí

Passion for Birds

Henri Matisse planning with a bird in his flat, 132, boulevard du Montparnasse, circa 1934, by Brassaï

 
 

Portrait of Henri Matisse, Nice, 1943 by Roger Schall

 
 

Henri Matisse’s studio at villa Le Rêve, Vence, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, February 1944

 
 

Henri Matisse’s passion for birds (and especially doves) began during the summer of 1936. Back in Paris and strolling along the banks of the river Seine, his attention was drawn to the merchants selling a variety of caged song birds and doves. He’d returned home with five or six birds at a time and delighted in their shapes and colors, plumage and singing. His love of birds lasted the rest of his life. Nearing the end of his day, Matisse gave Pablo Picasso, who loved birds and had canaries and pigeons of his own, the last of his fancy pigeons. Picasso drew its portrait on the famous poster, Dove of Peace.

In a Not So Distant Past

Henri Matisse by Dmitri Kessel, Nice (France), 1951

 
 

Matisse photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1951

 
 

‘Are you amber?’ a wise man

asked a piece of rough clay

lying at the edge of the fountain.

‘You must be, for your aroma

bears an infinite sweetness

and seductive fragrance.’

 
 

Vase with Flowers, Henri Matisse, 1911

 
 

‘I am mud,’ said the clay

with all the humility of riff raff.

‘I am mud, insignificant mud,

but in a not so distant past,

I, as a crude vase, held

a bouquet of flowers!’

Friedrich Schiller

Notes on The City That Care Forgot

Truman Capote, Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1946

 
 

In the summer of 1946 Henri Cartier-Bresson  was sent by Harper’s Bazaar on an assignment to New Orleans along with the 22-year-old Truman Capote, who described him at work, ‘dancing along the pavement like an agile dragonfly, three Leicas swinging from straps around his neck, a fourth one hugged to his eye… clicking away with a joyous intensity, a religious absorption.’

Capote wrote about the notes on his hometown in a letter (published in a collection of his letters called Too Brief a Treat) to his good friend, fellow author and also his fiction editor at Harper’s Bazaar, Mary Louise Aswell.

 
 

Obsessive Cropping Brought to Layouts

Alexei Brodovitch‘s signature use of white space, his innovation of Bazaar‘s iconic Didot logo, and the cinematic quality that his obsessive cropping brought to layouts (not even the work of Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson was safe from his busy scissors) compelled Truman Capote to write, “What Dom Pérignon was to champagne … so [Brodovitch] has been to … photographic design and editorial layout.”

 
 

The game-changing cover of “Harper’s Bazaar”, featuring Machado as first non caucasian cover model, February 1959. Photo: Richard Avedon. Art direction by Alexey Brodovitch

 
 

Harper’s Bazaar UK. February 2013. Cover star: Anne Hathaway. Photography: David Slijper

Photo Essays in Black and White

Self-portrait, 1959

 
 

Bruce Davidson Bruce Davidson was born on born September 5, 1933 in Oak Park, Illinois. At age 10, his mother built him a darkroom in their basement and Davidson began taking photographs. Soon after, he approached a local photographer who taught him the technical nuances of photography, in addition to lighting and printing skills. His artistic influences included Robert Frank, Eugene Smith, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

At 16, Davidson won his first major photography award, the Kodak National High School snapshot contest, with a picture of an owl at a nature preserve. After he graduated from high school, Davidson attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, where one of his teachers was artist Josef Albers. Davidson showed Albers a box of prints of alcoholics on Skid Row; Albers told him to throw out his “sentimental” work and join his class in drawing and color. For his college thesis, Davidson created a photo essay that was published in LIFE in 1955, documenting the emotions of football players behind the scenes of the game.

Following college, Davidson was drafted into the US Army, where he served in the Signal Corps at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, attached to the post’s photo pool. Initially, he was given routine photo assignments. Undaunted, Davidson created out of seemingly mundane material unique photo studies. An editor of the post’s newspaper, recognizing his unique talents, asked that he be permanently assigned to the post newspaper. There, given a certain degree of autonomy, he was allowed to further hone his talents. Later, stationed in Paris, he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, a later colleague with the Magnum photo agency, sharing his portfolio and receiving advice from Cartier-Bresson. While in France, Davidson produced a photo essay on the Widow of Montmartre, an old Parisian woman who was married with an impressionist painter.

 
 

Widow of Montmartre, Paris, 1956

 
 

The Dwarf, 1958

 
 

Couple necking on pole at basement party while girl looks on, from Brooklyn Gang, 1957

 
 

Brooklyn Gang and the American writer Norman Mailer, 1959

 
 

Brooklyn Gang. Bengie and friends at Bay Twenty-two, Coney Island. Clockwise from left: Bengie, Junior, Bryan, Lefty, 1959

 
 

Brooklyn Gang, 1959

 
 

A group of civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King Jr. marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., during the civil rights movement

 
 

Martin Luther King Jr. at a press conference declaring the Freedom Rides will continue. John Lewis (left) was beaten by KKK earlier in Montgomery, Alabama, 1961

 
 

A Freedom Rider sits in the bus during a rain storm, with National Guardsmen outside, 1961

 
 

National Guardsmen protect the Freedom Riders during their ride from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi.

 
 

The Feedom Rides – from Selma to Montgomery. Here a rider and a National Guardsman asleep on the bus, 1961

 
 

Diana Ross and another member of the Supremes catch some rest in bunks at the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1965.

 
 

This photo is taken from Davidson’s series East 100th Street, the result of his spending two years documenting the people inhabiting the East Harlem street, 1966

 
 

A couple enjoys a day out in New York City’s Central Park. During the 1990s, Davidson spent four years exploring and documenting the grandeur of the city’s treasured preserve.

Leopard-skin Pillbox Hat

“Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat…”

Bob Dylan

 
 

Photo: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Washington, 1961

 
 

The always stunning Audrey Hepburn. Promotional picture and still from Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963)

 
 

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” is a song by Bob Dylan, from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. The song melodically and lyrically resembles Lightnin’ Hopkins “Automobile Blues” (1962)

Dylan’s lyrics affectionately ridicule a female “fashion victim” who wears a leopard skin pillbox hat. The pillbox hat was a popular, highly fashionable ladies’ hat in the United States in the early to mid-1960s, and was most famously worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Dylan satirically crosses this accessory’s high-fashion image with leopard-skin material, perceived as considerably more “downmarket” and “vulgar”. The song was also written and released long after pillbox hats had been at the height of fashion, something that was very apparent to listeners at the time.

 
 

 
 

The song has been widely speculated to be inspired by Edie Sedgwick, an actress/model known for her association with Andy Warhol. Sedgwick is also often suspected as being an inspiration for other Dylan songs of the time, particularly some from Blonde on Blonde. Beck, Bibbe Hansen Warhol superstar’s son , released a cover on the 2009 charity album War Child Presents Heroes, and also performed the song during the closing credits of the 81st Academy Awards.

Art, Stars and Stripes

Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July 

 
 

Henri Cartier Bresson, Independence Day on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1947
 
 

Robert Mapplethorpe, American Flag, 1977

 
 

Helmut Lang 1998 ad campaign

 
 

Jasper Johns

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Litography by Robert Rauschenberg

 
 

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Steve Schapiro

 
 

Pictures by Robert Frank

 
 

Still from Mr. Freedom (William Klein, 1969)

 
 

Photo by Gordon Parks

 
 

Poster designed by Seymour Chwast

 
 

Photo credit: Art Kane

 
 

Liu Bolin

 
 

America’s Declaration of Independence from Britain on the 4th July, 1776, resulted in the birth of a new national flag in 1777. The first Flag Act, passed by the Continental Congress, resolved that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen alternate red and white stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue field, in order to represent America’s thirteen states and the country’s democratic Government. The colours red, white, and blue, though clearly derived from British sources, are open to interpretation. George Washington declared: “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.” A book published in 1777 by the House of Representatives stated that “the star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.” Although the first Flag Act specifies no particular symbolism to the flag, white is a colour believed to signify purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valour; and blue, vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The first stirring of the flag’s power was documented at the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814. In a poem that would later become the American national anthem, about the banner that survived British bombardment, the poet Francis Scott Key wrote: “…broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight… Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave… and the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave.”

The Kids Are Alright (Still)

“I’ve always considered myself an illustrator, a literate photographer interested in producing images that reflect the essence of an idea…I wanted to interpret the human scene rather than simply record it.”

Art Kane

 
 

 
 

“They were great. They made me think of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Fagin’s gang. Irreverant, lovable. The first to wear clothes made from the British flag. I had the flag made from 2 Union Jacks. I was influenced by a Cartier-Bresson photograph of a vagrant asleep under a statue in Trafalgar Square.”

 
 

Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI, 1937Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI. Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1937

 
 

Photo session and sleeve design by Art Kane

 
 

The Kids Are Alright is a soundtrack album by British rock band The Who, as a companion to the band’s rockumentary film of the same name directed by Jeff Stein. It was originally released as a double album in June 1979 on Polydor Records in the UK and MCA Records in the US.

 
 

 
 

Pepe Jeans advertisement, circa 2002.