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Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

To those of you blaming tryptophan for your Monday morning lag,

Tomorrow, December 1, marks World AIDS Day, which seems like a good moment to point to some online resources about the history of the illness, its impact, and the art and activisim it inspired.

The Carpenter Center here at Harvard has organized an extraordinary exhibit on the art of ACT UP (that’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) that runs until December 23. For those outside the Cambridge area, you can see many of the powerfully confrontational posters, stickers, and postcards designed by ACT UP artist group Gran Fury online at the New York Public Library.

The Carpenter Center exhibit also includes hours and hours of testimonies from the ACT UP Oral History Project, but you can also visit their site to view excerpts and complete transcripts. Interviewees include ACT UP founder Larry Kramer, journalist Michelangelo Signorile, filmmaker Tom Kalin, and NYC artist Peter Cramer.

For a sense of how AIDS was covered by the mainstream press, check out this 1983 cover story from New York magazine, and this 1985 Time article, which hit the stands shortly after Rock Hudson’s death.

For a more visceral sense of how the queer community itself experienced the frightening and devastating spread of AIDS, I recommend watching Bill Sherwood’s astonishing and unsentimental 1986 film Parting Glances, starring a young Steve Buscemi, available for instant viewing on Netflix.

Even in the 1980s, of course, AIDS was on its way to becoming a worldwide epidemic. UCLA’s AIDS Posters collection includes health advisories from Japan (on the left) to Uganda (on the right).

For the record, at last count, the World Health Organization estimates that 33.4 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen

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Dear lethargic readers,

It’s one of the regrets of my life thus far that I’ve never been to a county or state fair—to my knowledge, there weren’t many (or any) on Long Island where I grew up. Thanks to the Digital Library of Georgia, however, I can at least enjoy the “idea” of the state fair from my home computer. Their wonderful State Fair collection includes a short history of the annual Macon event along with dozens of photographs, like the one on the left from 1955 of a young boy at a chicken show, and the one on the right from 1935 of the ominously named Buddy Bloodworth Chicken Grill (click on images for more details).

Only one thing absent from all these photos: African Americans, who couldn’t take part in the fair until the end of segregation.

The Georgia website also includes some great links to more digital State Fair archives, including the Wisconsin State Fair Gallery from the Wisconsin Historical Society. I particularly love the photographs from the annual “Alice in Dairyland” competition. Check out, on the left, a photograph of 1962’s Alice with Miss Wisconsin and a milk-loving gentleman, and on the right, Alice of Dairyland 1951 buttering the kernels of Miss Sweet Corn Queen. Make of that what you will.

Suggestively yours,

Stephen

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Dear manic Monday dreaders,

Think your week is tough? Imagine digging for gold in the heat and hills of California! (Or maybe that sounds like fun to some of you writing dissertations.) Calisphere (from the University of California) offers a remarkable window into the history of California, including the highs and lows of the Gold Rush. With useful teaching guides, the website’s beautiful photographs and daguerreotypes bring alive personalities fit for a John Ford Western, or a profanity-laden HBO series. Take a look at these haunting portraits, clockwise from top left: Joseph Sharp, the widow Nellie Mayhood, and a pair of pickpockets, Dolly Mickey and Jennie Hastings (click the images for more info).

handsome man with a pickgold rush widowJennie HastingsDolly Mickey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to also check out their California Cultures exhibit, which offers a look at the histories of African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. The cartoon below, from Harper’s Weekly, “Difficult Problems Solving Themselves,” seems to view the countermigrations of freedmen and Chinese immigrants with ironic ambivalence at best.

Difficult Problems Solving Themselves

Wishing you many happy prospects,

Stephen

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Dear idling experts,

I’ve lived in Massachusetts for three Halloweens now, counting tomorrow, but I’ve yet  to trek to Salem for their ghoulish festivities. From what I hear, they’re a real hoot—if by hoot, you mean a gross misappropriation of the past. Why worry about Puritans persecuting each other when you can visit  a psychic fair?

For a more historical Halloween experience, check out Cornell’s Witchcraft Collection. Sure, you know the story of John Proctor—but what about the Salem dogs that were put to death, for afflicting people with their stares? Or read Increase Mather’s account too, whether the original manuscript or transcribed.

If that’s not spooky enough, take a look at these adorable/terrifying trick-or-treaters in 1965 Greenville, from East Carolina U’s Daily Reflector collection.

legendofsleepyhollowBut the best way to get into the Hollow’s Eve spirit for the die-hard Americanist: watching Disney’s still charming adaptation of Washington Irving’s”Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” with tunes sung by Bing Crosby himself. Tim Burton has nothing on this! Watch one of the highlights, “The Headless Horseman,” here.

Bewitchingly yours,

Stephen

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To the easily exhausted,

Believe it or not, I was a lazy scholar even in high school. Ah yes, the days of Netscape and dial-up service, I remember them like they were yesterday! Even then you could find me at my family’s computer, scouring online archives for primary sources sooner than I’d touch the dusty tomes of the local library.

One of my first discoveries was the vast and amazing archives of the Library of Congress, which, all these years later, still reward a careful search or casual browse. Among the most evocative of their many collections has to be Voices from the Dust Bowl. The songs, beautiful, haunting, and fascinating, open a unique window into the lives of migrant workers in 1940s California.

Take, for instance, the talented King family playing “The Kickin’ Mule,” with the memorable chorus,

Whoa there mule I tell you
Miss Liza you keep cool
I ain’t got time to kiss you now
I’m busy with that this mule.

You can read the complete lyrics here.

Another of my all-time favorites is Jack Bryant singing “Lonely, I’m So Lonely,” but be advised: it might prove difficult to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.

And who can resist the casual misogyny of “A Woman’s Tongue Will Run Forevermore,” sung by “Mrs. Kitt,” who warns, a woman “will talk a man to death.” You can read one version of the lyrics here.

Well, that’s all the time we have for today, dear listeners. But I’ll leave you with one last track, a six-year-old boy imitating a frog, a freight train, and a chicken. We can only hope he eventually found his way to a Hollywood soundstage.

Audibly yours,

Stephen

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To my fellow followers of Rip Van Winkle,

As some of you may know, Sunday, October 11 marks National Coming Out Day, a day for everyone to show their queer or queer-allied colors—and, in this year’s case, march on Washington for marriage equality. (You can read about the history of Coming Out Day—or COD, if you will—on the Human Rights Campaign website.)

I will confess, I haven’t always been a big fan of COD. I remember my first taste of COD my freshman year of college, where they literally set up a closet door on the grass so people could “come out” of it. Nothing could have felt more terrifying and simultaneously shaming then the demand to step through that flimsy door-frame, as though articulating and accepting one’s sense of difference could ever be accomplished so simply.

Since then, researching the past has definitely helped me to come to terms with the term “coming out.”  So in honor of COD, I point you to one of the periodicals from the early days of Gay Liberation, titled, yes, Come Out. The magazine began publication shortly after the Stonewall Riot in 1969, and has been partly digitized by the useful (though not always easy to navigate) website Outhistory.org (a project of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY).

come out magazine masthead, 1969

Just to give you a sense of its tone, the first lines of the first issue proclaimed, “COME OUT FOR FREEDOM! COME OUT NOW! POWER TO THE PEOPLE! GAY POWER TO GAY PEOPLE! COME OUT OF THE CLOSET BEFORE THE DOOR IS NAILED SHUT!” Before gay liberation (as scholars John D’Emilio and George Chauncey have shown), coming out meant entering into the gay community, but the new metaphor of the closet turned “coming out” into a political act—and demanded a total re-evaluation of the quietly queer lives many gay men and lesbians had lived before.

The New York Public Library also has a wonderful online exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, with some beautiful images culled from their extensive archives, like this one of two members of the Gay Activists Alliance.

Rutgers University Gay Liberation Conference, April 30–May 2, 1971. Photograph by Kay Tobin Lahusen. NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen Gay History Papers and Photographs. Copyright Kay Tobin Lahusen. Digital ID: 1606088

A quick subject search their digital image gallery reveals much, much more, including this photograph by Diana Davies of the 1971 Gay Pride march, almost as exciting for its vintage fashion as the banner “Women’s liberation is a lesbian plot.” Think about that next Women’s History Month.

Christopher Street Liberation Day, June 20, 1971 [22]. Diana Davies, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Manuscripts and Archives Division, NYPL, Copyright Diana Davies, Digital ID: 1066141

That’s all for this week dear readers.

Historically yours,

Stephen

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To my fellow loafers,

Two more collections to bookmark today–both from the University of Washington’s digital archives.

In honor of the Jewish Day of Atonement this coming Monday, there’s the Washington State Jewish Archives, including 569 photographs, documenting the everyday life of the Evergreen state’s Jews from the 1890s to the 1990s. I can’t figure it out, but I kind of love this photograph of young people at Seattle’s Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society House. And for the holiday, take a journey back to Yom Kippur 1957, with this stagey photograph of some well-dressed (and tallis-ed) men of Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, showing off the synagogue’s Torah scrolls.

Little did those gentlemen know what the next decade had in store. Witness the U of W’s superb Vietnam War Era Ephemera Collection. Among the wide range of images are issues of the groovily-illustrated Seattle underground newspaper The Helix, as well as flyers from Seattle’s Young Socialist Alliance, like this one in support of the Black Panthers.

Have a great weekend!

Lazily yours,

Stephen

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