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Friday, 30 January 2015


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I'm 60, and the story was, when everyone in my generation decided they were going to be a photographer, it was because of Blow-Up...but, I became a photographer before I ever saw it, so not true for me...I do remember going ga-ga over Irving Penn and Bert Stern, tho

I'm intrigued and haven't purchased a photobook in a long while, I've placed the 2nd one on order! :)

Thanks for the tip!

Great post, Mike! Blow-Up brings back memories which I just posted on my Instagram feed, but wanted to share here in case any of your readers are not familiar with the movie..."I'm sure we all had certain motivations that prompted us to get into photography. For me the movie Blow-Up had a strong influence on my exploring photography in a more serious manner than the casual Kodak snapshots I had been taking just like my parents. Blow-Up, is a 1966 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni about a fashion photographer, played by David Hemmings, who believes he has unwittingly captured a murder on film. It was Antonioni's first entirely English-language film. The film was scored by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Other interesting notes about the movie by Wiki...the American release of the counterculture-era film with its explicit sexual content (by contemporary standards) by a major Hollywood studio was in direct defiance of the Production Code. Its subsequent outstanding critical and box office success proved to be one of the final events that led to the final abandonment of the code in 1968 in favour of the MPAA film rating system."

Finally the great 'Blow-up' gets mentioned on TOP!
As everybody knows, this movie is about a photographer who gets into a murder case when he finds a corpse in one of his photographs; what most people don't know is that there is a similar story behind Andreas Gursky's 'Rhein II.' It is known that a woman and a dog were cloned out of the picture, but there was a lot more going on: the dog was actually chasing the woman, and there was also a man (presumably the woman's husband) chasing the dog with a baseball bat. On the opposite direction there was another man running, whom some believe was the dog's owner trying to protect his dog from the man with the bat.
Later it was found out that the dog's owner was carrying a gun and shot the batsman, killing him instantly. It was a shame Herr Gursky manipulated 'Rhein II' so hastily: it would have made a nice script for a movie at least as interesting as Michelangelo Antonioni's 'Blow-Up'.
(Sorry this is a tad out of context, but I'm on full silly mode today.)

A big, bold, beautiful book with a premium feel, it's chock full of superb reproductions

Several Amazon review are scathing about the quality of the printing.
Are they wrong ?

To say that Antonioni's "Blow Up" probably did more to "define" fashion photography in the 60's albeit a tad romanticized, would be an understatement. But, "Z" defined photojournalism in much the same way.
But, these books and their film counterparts, more than anything I think, define the 60's and the culture of the era.
My two pesos.

Interesting that you should refer to David Bailey now as "We'll Take Manhattan" was shown on TV down here in Western Australia last week. Well worth watching and also available at Amazon

I saw the Bailey show at the NPG last spring, and can recommend that book. But I agree the East End books may be a better choice, organized more or less chronologically and including some of his iconic images from the Swinging Sixties (like the shot of the Kray twins). Extended delectation, however, may leave one with a case of the Spins (light-headed).

I forget how old I was when I first saw Blow Up, but I do remember thinking what a jerk the photographer was- as opposed to how fascinating the process of uncovering the onion became.

PS- It should be noted that I did see it before I actually met any professional photographers- which only reinforced my initial conclusion for a considerable length of time.

As a guy who is also a sound aficionado, perhaps we should mention "Blow Out," and 80's Brian de Palma film based on "Blow Up," and starring John Travolta as a sound man who detects an assassination (IIRC). Neat stuff there on capturing sound for film. The line between them sort of delineates (in my mind, anyway) the difference between European and American thriller movies, with "Blow Up" the more ambiguous of the two. I liked them both, although "Blow Out" never did very well, as far as I know.

Here's another photo-related item involving myself and "Blow Up." I was in the Army at the time, undergoing advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. One weekend a bunch of us lonely boys got a pass to go into town, and we'd heard that "Blow-Up" had pubic hair, so we had to go see it. And it did,, indeed. (This was a less inflected time.) After the movie, we went to bar and drank for a while, though I was not much of a drinker. But, bye-and-bye, and a little drunk, I went up to the club's bathroom to pee. There were like three urinals in the bathroom, and nobody else there, but in keeping with universal urinal etiquette, I chose the far one, which would allow a newcomer to use a urinal without standing right next to mine. A few seconds later, a young mann entered the bathroom, said something like "Hey," and selected the other end urinal. I was done, and zipped up and started to walk out, when I saw a bizarre flash of metal over the closed door of a toilet booth. I looked over the top of the booth as I went by, and there, squatting on the floor, was a guy with a Speed Graphic. They were vice-squad guys looking for gays. I went and told my friends, and they all went up to look, which caused some commotion, and a waitress (!) came over and kicked us out.

See the clever way I linked two photographic stories?

The best part of "Blow Up" for me is watching The Yarbirds playing "The Train Kept a Rolling" with Jimmy page playing his psicodelic Telecaster. They changed the lyrics for some copyright clearance not arriving on time!

I also recommend David Bailey's "Trouble and Strife", which features loving photographs of his wife. As many readers will know, the book title is Cockney rhyming slang for "wife". A typical Bailey joke. Goff

Saw a one hour documentary about Bailey lately, made by the BBC. It was fantastic to see them man still perform so nicely with a model today. And in the scenes where he walked the streets he was carrying a Mamiya 6 or 7 (difficult to see, but it was a film camera I'm sure). And he's also a painter and sculptor, making his own art and in some cases, preps for even more photos. Definitely one of my heroes since I was young.

Bailey is also an insiring person. Here is one of his famous quotes:
“I treat the boy down at the post office like the president of Russia, and the president of Russia like the boy down at the post office.”

Here is an interview by The Guardian:

Jerome the Missolz made a great documentary about him: Four Beats to the Bar and No Cheating. Available on dvd, but here is the version that was shown on Dutch tv. Don't worry 95% is in English.

@ John C: OK, now I'll spend part of my Saturday with a vision of a Speed Graphic flash and a grungy fedora crown popping up above a public john stall door. Thank you.

John Camp, few remember that "Blow Out" was credited with giving John Travolta's career a second life, and a more serious and 'adult' direction.

Books aside, be sure to avoid the disappointing TV movie called, "We'll Take Manhattan" that tells the story of the love affair between 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton and photographer David Bailey.

Photographer John Cowan rarely gets a look in when people mention Blow Up but his studio was the one they used as a set for the movie and his style of climbing around and over models, acted out by Hemmings, is the iconic take away from the film. I reference Lenswork #83, Bill Jay, The Best of Endnotes, which is a great read (on my Kindle) that I think I discovered on this site.

David Bailey appeared in a few TV advertisements for Olympus in the late 70s and early 80s:



[Viewers note that the default screen that follows these videos is not workplace/school safe. --Ed.]

In a "South Bank Show" documentary (in the UK) many years ago, Bailey mentioned that he had met with Antonioni prior to the filming of "Blow Up" - ostensibly with a view to actually casting him as the lead, but maybe just to check him out and see what he was like in person.

Bailey also said that, shortly before this, he had done a magazine shoot of Antonioni's wife in exactly the manner shown in the movie and the poster. It seemed that Antonioni was not very happy about this.

I can't help wondering if there was an element of revenge in the movie's unflattering portrayal of the photographer.

This is another interview with David Bailey in 2014, by the BBC's Mark Lawson. David Bailey is forthright and honest, and Mark Lawson asks just the right questions. Well worth an hour of your time. I had meant to watch just a few minutes then bookmark it for later, but just watched it all the way through.

Too bad there's never been an uncut version of "Blow-Up" available since the movie first came out in 1966. Not only the sex scene was cut, but also the opening scene of the photographer secretly taking pictures in a homeless-person flophouse. The uncut version has never been shown on TV and apparently isn't available on DVD, either.

"Not only the sex scene was cut, but also the opening scene of the photographer secretly taking pictures in a homeless-person flophouse."

The homeless shots were taken by the great Don McCullin. Check out his wonderful book Homecoming.

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