Solarisation

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The Man Ray Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, brings together some of Man Ray’s finest photographs. It includes examples of his work published in French photo-magazine Vu, as well as his work for Conde Nast, particularly Harper’s Bazaar, an avenue of his work I had previously not known of. 

The exhibition includes portraits from when Man Ray first turned to photography in 1916, all the way through to his colour portraits from his Hollywood years in the 1950s and 60s. These colour portraits are like jewels at the end of the exhibition, they are small in size and from a far  soft blocks of colour seem to make up the composition rather than the sitter of the photograph. I found them particularly intriguing and can safely say Man ray mastered colour photography as much as he did with the other photographic techniques he is now famous for experimenting with,  such as solaristation ( evident in two of the portraits above) and photograms. 

The only aspect the exhibition fell short on was its image labels, as the text to accompany the photographs focussed heavily on details of the sitter of the portrait.  Whilst in some cases this proved fruitful, it would have been great to see the curators explain and contextualise Man Ray’s use of solarisation and why he was seen as so experimental and innovative in the 1920s. 

That aside, the exhibition confirmed why Man Ray has a strong place in photographic history and that photography exhibitions prove to be an alluring genre and will one day be a prominent, respected and steady exhibition type. 

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hello bi+ches! after much procrastination, i’m doing my first follow forever list. i’ll probably do another later but for now, this is it. some of these are mutuals, others aren’t but who cares? i just wanna say thanks for all being so fucking cool and having quality blogs that give me life! happy holidays, love you all, hope 2016 slays hard <3  xpams

ma babies: @americanprophet @wolfqangs @sanikre 

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~ Hi everyone. it hasn’t been that long since I did my 1st follow forever but I thought it’s time to let you all know again how much I love and appreciate all of you, and that’s why i’m doing my second follow forever :). Thank you all for being so nice, I love you all. I know i’ve only followed some of you recently but I love your blogs so I’m including you here. 

Keep reading

This is my Bowie piece for the current edition of Rolling Stone magazine (the German edition).

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David Bowie: the man who made our world

It’s the end of a man, but there are still so many beginnings, so many entrances to the treasure trove, the corpus that David Bowie — for me, the most important cultural figure of our era — left behind. It’s heartbreaking that the most beautiful and elegant person I ever saw no longer shares the planet with us, but heartwarming that his great body of work is still very much alive. Like a warren of tunnels in a burial mound full of treasure, it connects to and preserves so much other culture, and will keep inspiring new creation for decades and centuries to come.

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Let’s choose one of those concealed entrances and see where it leads. Bowie’s final album is called Blackstar, properly expressed on a computer keyboard with the Unicode character “black star”: ★. The record is many things, notably a series of meditations on a death the artist knew was imminent. But what I didn’t realise until a friend pointed it out to me yesterday is that it’s also a dialogue with Elvis Presley.



In 1960 Elvis made a Western called Flaming Star. The film was originally going to be called Black Star, and there’s an early demo of Elvis singing the title song (written by Sherman Edwards and Sid Wayne) when it was still called Black Star. The lyric lays out a powerful metaphor: every man has a black star over his shoulder, and when he sees it — when it swings in front of him — he knows his time has come. “Keep behind me, black star, give me time to make a few dreams come true,” runs the chorus. The black star is death.

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There are already so many connections between Bowie and Elvis. They shared a birthday (January 8th) and a record label (RCA). They both attempted movie careers, with greater or lesser degrees of success (when Bowie made his first “cack” movie, Just A Gigolo, he described it to the New Musical Express as “my thirty-two Elvis movies rolled into one”). One of Bowie’s last spoken messages to his fans — released at Christmas in 2013 — was a humorous Elvis impression. And there’s Elvis choreography in the Blackstar video, when the jittery backing dancers do a gibbering corpse version of the “dirty rat” gesture Elvis borrowed from Jimmy Cagney.

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As someone born in the 1960s I’m somewhat ignorant of 1950s pop music, but Bowie has been an education, introducing me to the outrageously sexual flamboyance of Little Richard, or alerting me to obscure posthumous releases from Buddy Holly, like Peggy Sue Got Married (1959). Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes borrows entire lines and phrases from the Holly song, replacing Peggy Sue with Major Tom, the astronaut from Bowie’s breakthrough 1969 hit Space Oddity.

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So already there’s this dizzyingly rich chain of references: the 1959 Holly song about Peggy Sue, released after its author has been killed in a plane crash. Then the callback to Bowie’s own 1969 song, which is about the space program, and a rocket disaster. Then the 1980 update, which imagines Tom as a sort of cosmic junky. Tom makes a final, horrific appearance in the Blackstar video as a jewel-encrusted skull in a space suit.

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Already, some of the most dramatic and exciting things happening in mid- to late-twentieth century Western culture are being collaged together. Ashes to Ashes sandwiches in immaculate early-postmodern style references to 1950s rock’n’roll, funk, the space program, drugs and Dada: the heavily-harmonised piano riff is followed by snatches of garbled speech inspired by Kurt Schwitters’ 1920s sound poem Ursonate.

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But there’s so much more: visual things, technological things, elements choreographic and vampiric. Watch the video (directed by David Mallet and Bowie himself, who storyboarded it based on imagery he’d asked his friend George Underwood to add to the back of his Man of Words, Man of Music album) and you’ll see amazing costume — a clown outfit designed by Natasha Korniloff — and fascinating early video solarisation, colour and Chromakey effects turning the sky black and allowing images to be embedded into other images. 

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You’ll also see — performing signature Bowie choreography, like the “ground touch gesture” Bowie says he learned from Elvis — key players in London’s nightlife scene of the time, picked by Bowie at the Blitz club. Many of them — Boy George, Marilyn, Steve Strange — would go on to be stars of the pop and style scene launched by New Romanticism.

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If there’s a sense that Bowie (33 years old at this point) is a blood-sucking aristocrat vampire swooping down on new scenes in search of fresh blood for his own creations, you have to balance that with the fact that the young generation were also greedy for his blood: when Bowie played, precisely, a vampire in his next film, The Hunger, the movie opened to the strains of Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus, who broke through to the charts with a cover of Bowie’s decade-old song Ziggy Stardust.

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These cultural details, connected to others, start to suggest a better metaphor than vampirism: Bowie was the internet before the internet, an incredibly prolific and attentive link-maker spinning a glittering silken web of cultural connections that — powered by the voltage of his talent and charm — connected arty types to each other and to cultural treasures they wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Although he never went to art school himself, Bowie became a worldwide electronic art school, launching a thousand careers in art, media, acting and performance.

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That’s why, for several generations of creative workers, Bowie has become a sort of god in human form, and why his influence will continue to resonate so powerfully, in much wider circles than merely musical ones. The list of artists and writers he introduced me to is endless — it includes Burroughs, Genet, Little Richard, E.L. Kirchner, Brel, Isherwood, Warhol, the Velvet Underground, Scott Walker, Mishima, Lindsay Kemp —  but he’s also, for me, someone who exemplified and defined what it meant to be a successful artist in the modern world: a protean character familiar with both high and low culture, a brilliant multimedia performance artist using electronics to diffuse imagery — often challenging and disturbing — through the world. Bowie was a Nietzschean figure, someone who influenced our times as Wagner influenced the late 19th century.

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Beyond his artistic influence, David Bowie incarnated in ideal form the modern personality: a volatile and quicksilver, slightly schizoid figure inhabited by all the voices and all the gestures which had most impressed him, in danger at times of falling prey to addictions and malign influences, guilty sometimes of randomness and incoherence, but always returning to humanistic themes and always with the strength of will to pull himself out of trouble, to change, shed a skin, impose self-discipline and start again. His move to Berlin in 1977 inspired me, much later, to make the city my home, and I recognise in Berlin also this quicksilver mutability which, paradoxically, is a way to keep rediscovering from new angles the core themes of one’s identity.

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And so we come back to the idea of a burial mound with multiple entry tunnels. Bowie the man may be dead, but Bowie the cultural treasure house is so vast that it seems indistinguishable from the world we all now inhabit. He’s not the man who sold our world, but the one who made it.