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Saturday, 30 April 2011


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I remember thinking it's not that great a shot when reading the Guardian article- somehow not realizing the version they posted was so highly cropped.

Whoa! That's a serious and not-too-subtle dodge there. You're a darkroom guy, Mike. Is that OK with you? I know Davidson is a master and everything, but I'm pretty sure my photo instructors would have frowned on that.

Looks like it could be Frodo Baggin's mom.

IMO it's one of the few really "great" photographs. It says for the '60s what "Migrant Mother" said for the '30s.

Dear Michael,

It is a bad idea to try to judge tonality or color from an online illustration. You have no idea if it is faithful to the original.

That said, if your instructors would have frowned on that, it demonstrates they no a great deal about technique and s#^t about art.

Pax / Ctein

P.S. Aughh. I HATE auto-spell correction!!!

Mike - I think that this may be Stephen Edgar's new site, with sixteen of the "Mystery Woman" photographs - http://stephenedgarphoto.com/p507898660#h3355d339

Speaking of dodging and burning, I've seen some shockingly blatant examples in famous images, especially obvious if you see a print in person. One that surprised me the most was Rene Burri's "San Paolo, Brazil," where the detail of the buildings in shadow was brought out, though that may not have been a typical print. http://photojho.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post.html

I'm not saying you're wrong, but sometimes it's really tough to judge photojournalists' prints because there were so many made by so many people for so many different purposes. The original of that one might have been made for newspaper repro, for example. I'm not saying it was, just that it might have been. And it's hard to know.


Steve Pyke talked yesterday evening about how he'd gone back to a place where he'd shot a photo and pinned images up in the bars and shops with requests for the subjects of his image to call him. It actually seemed to work for him. (Though I don't think he left it more than a couple of years.) That picture of Bruce's always looked very American to me, by the way — probably that, by some quirk, the cars appear to be driving on the right hand side of the road. (Narrow street and parked cars, I guess.)

By pure good luck, I was part of a party being guided around the Bruce Davidson exhibition by Bruce himself on Thursday. The photographer himself was quiet and gentlemanly, Leica around his neck, and didn't bat an eyelid at the bevy of cameras pointed his way (everything from iPhones to pro DSLRs). Really terrific prints on show — I'll be back tomorrow for a second look. I was a little distracted last time. :-)

Radio show "the World" also did a piece on this and interviewed BD.
He concluded interview with his hope that subject now wasn't " fat and stupid". So much for the school of Concerned Photography.

Yeah, fifty years isn't kind to very many people. I'm guessing Bruce looked better back then himself.


I don't know who she is. And quit calling me Shirley.

Just asking a question, Ctein. No value judgment intended. I was sincerely wondering what the boundaries are. And obviously instructors are paid to teach technique, not art.

After a lifetime of making pictures of people without their permission, it is no wonder that Mr. Davidson does not know the name of one of his most compelling subjects. Perhaps this is just kharma catching up...

Speaking of Frank, just putting this out there in case anybody hasn't seen it yet:


Stan B.: click the "Guardian" pic and you will see the uncropped image (or buy Davidson's "England/Scotland 1960" and look at the cover...)
Michael Farrell: I am not convinced that the tone in the face and the bright area in the (wet?) road behind her are the result of clumsy dodging. I think the light was just like that, i.e. there was a light source illuminating her face. 1) There are catchlights from a small size source in both eyes (can see in the full size Guardian pic) and 2) the previous image in my copy of "England/Scotland 1960" shows her face much the same but with no possible "dodging halo" behind her.
The "dodging halo" apperance is probably from the headlights of the car top left.
Having said all that I would agree with the gist of Ctein's post that it doesn't matter; to me it remains a haunting, complex and enigmatic image.
Thank you for giving me reason to look closely at it again.

Mike - I failed to make myself clear. BD was hoping that
when/if he found the woman he hoped SHE wasn't fat and stupid.
Heroes have feet of clay.

Mike, here's your link unbroken. Stephen Edgar Photography circa Feb '07, via the Internet Archive:


Mike — True — even looking for that image online, I see what appears to be wildly different quality in prints.

Grinning about that 'not-too-subtle dodge'. It is/was a sign of the times. Probably along the lines of future critics going on about the 'mostly un-sharp pictures' that get taken in at the present era (we call it bokeh). During the 60 and 70, this type of dodging and burning was looked upon as underlining or bold in writing.

Greetings, Janneman

The story reminded me about this picture by the great Danish cartoonist Herluf Bidstrup called "The Girl of My Dream": http://www.bidstrup.ru/images/comicses/0515.gif

Here's a link to a similar story about a Robert Frank photograph from The Americans. It's of a young woman who worked as an 'elevator girl' in a Miami hotel. The woman in the photograph saw it an exhibition more than 40 years after it was taken. Which is especially cool because in the original intro to The Americans, Jack Kerouac wrote, "That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what's her name & address?"

Something related to this phenomenon happened to me a few years ago when I saw on a blog post somewhere a picture of me, on a pier in NYC viewing 4th of July fireworks. Except I hadn't been in NYC that summer (or ever, at July 4). The person in the photo was such the doppelganger to me that I had to examine the photo for minutes to convince myself it was a photo of someone else. Quite a strange experience, and I can't understand why I didn't bookmark the page. Now I can't revisit it.

It is bad enough knowing there is someone on the PGA tour with my name, now there is someone who looks exactly like me.


Incidentally, I'm suprised that nobody suggested the young woman in the BD photo was Carrie Mulligan: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_O6xLvXpZlOU/TTH-DatqOJI/AAAAAAAAKfo/nUMHk1nN6oI/s1600/never-let-me-go-4-6e05f.jpg


Dear Patrick,

As JBS Haldane put it, the world is not just queerer than we imagine, it's queerer than we can imagine.

I've got some close friends who can describe in detail having dinner with me in New Orleans about 20 years ago.

I've never been to New Orleans.

pax / cloned Ctein

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