life magazine

Bike Girls

growing up my older brothers had motorbikes, and i thought it was soooooo cool. sometimes they would pick me up from school on one of these tanks and i would feel like like such a bad ass. granted i was not the one steering the motorbike, and i never have had the guts to actually ride one. so whenever i see a woman on a motorbike i think damn, girl. that’s what i thought when i saw these pics of women motorcyclists from 1949, taken by Loomis Dean for Life Magazine. and in an age when it might have been strange to see woman in pants – let alone riding motorbikes – they are pretty bad ass in my book.

images c/o Life Magazine photographed by Loomis Dean.

Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls Bike Girls

 

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Aspen Girls

poking around the life archives i discovered this marvelous photoset of young women working on ski resorts in Aspen in the 70s, photographed by John Dominis. after some more digging i managed to find the original article in the March 1971 edition of Life, which is called, wait for it, “A Very Nice Kind of Ski Bum“.

Most people’s notion of ski bum is a shiftless young male who spends most of his time searching for good powder, but the ski bums of Aspen, Colo. aren’t like that at all. They are prettier, for one thing, and many of them have lived in the resort town for more than two years. They consider the skier’s life not a parenthetical experience but a real alternative to urban existence, one free from pollution, noise and the frustration of having to choose between marriage a a less than satisfying job. The only problem they have in Aspen is finding a way to survive. With 900 newcomers arriving every year, there is a sharp shortage of both jobs and housing. But the air is fresh and clean and the longer the women stay, the prettier they seem to look.

















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Blackie

Blackie was the cat of photographer Gjon Mili, who was best known for his work for Life magazine. you can see a beautiful series he did with Picasso that i previously blogged about here. i was digging more into his work when i noticed that Blackie appears in a lot of his shoots – it seems that his feline friend accompanied him to the studio (and really enjoyed it).

all photos by Gjon Mili











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Colby College Mountain Day

one thing i can never resist when i am visiting someone’s home, even if it’s a stranger, is to flip through any photo albums that might be lying around. usually they’re of old photos – because, let’s face it, people don’t really put together physical photo albums anymore. everything is online, on facebook or in your instagram or flickr feed. that’s cool, i’m like that too. but i still revel in looking through photos, which i suppose is why i gravitate towards vintage photography.

this photo story taken by Yale Joel for Life Magazine in 1950 shows the ladies of Colby College on their annual Mountain Day hike – a tradition that started in the 1850s and continues to this day. the college is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire, and the mountain they climb is Mount Kearsarge. the ladies look pretty grand in their 50s denim, flannel shirts and jaunty neck-ties.

edit: Colby College is now called Colby-Sawyer College, the name was changed in 1975. i have, however kept the name of the original Life Magazine article.

















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1890 Spindrift Drive

i was digging around in the Life Magazine archives (as i often do) when i came across these photos of a beautiful modern beach house in the La Jolla shores area of San Diego. after doing a bit of research i learned that it was designed by american architect William Kesling for Walton MacConnell in 1946-47. amazingly the original address is actually listed, so i looked it up on google maps – and it seems like some of the original part of the house might still be in existence! though it looks to have been extended on a massive scale.

i find that so unfortunate about beach properties these days, i know that it’s prime real estate and only super rich people can really afford them – and they have all the money to build super huge mansions – but it’s a shame to me that you don’t often see the small, charming beach cottages that were built back in the 40s, 50s, 60s… there are still a handful of them in Cape Town, you can spot a few original bungalows on the shores of Clifton and Camps Bay beaches. i hope that their owners never turn them into monstrous mansions.

anyhoo! these are nice pics to look at anyway. they were taken in 1947 by Peter Stackpole and featured in the November 3 issue of Life Magazine, pages 154-160. it all sounds pretty amazing… except maybe for that Cuban houseboy. here are some of my favourite bits:

With a Cuban houseboy, a barbeque pit, a fishing rod and a telescope, retired bachelor Walton MacConnell has settled down in the elegant, sunny little town of La Jolla, California to a pleasant, lounging existence. As a setting for this life he has built himself a dramatic, glossy, $40,000 home which hugs the edge of a 50-foot seaside cliff. Here the Pacific swishes around under the living-room floor and occasionally splashes up soothingly over the huge windows.

In the living room his guests loll around, waiting until nightfall when they usually dress formally for a dance in the cliff-enclosed patio.

At night, when there is no reflection, the living room window is invisible and MacConnell worries constantly lest unsuspecting guests walk right through it. So far several have hit it but none has been hurt.

On the bedroom roof guest Nancy Chase snoozes. Roofing of asphalt and crushed ceramics reflects extra sun for an even tan.

you can read the original article at the bottom of the post.















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Miami Beach, 1940

ok first of all, i have to draw your attention to the magnificent platform shoes that these ladies are wearing – in 1940. 1940! i always seem to mistake it for a bit of a fuddy duddy decade (well maybe it was for the majority of the population), but i’m continuously amazed by how fashion-forward some women were, especially when it came to wearing beautiful tailored suits (something that seemed to go out of fashion for most of the 50s and 60s? vintage lovers will have to chime in here, i don’t know much about vintage fashion besides watching a whole lot of Mad Men). you obviously won’t miss their fabulous glasses in this shoot, either. maybe Miami just does something to people.

photos taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Miami Beach, 1940 for Life Magazine. graphic by me.















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Saugatuck Summer Art School

when i was compiling yesterday’s post about art appreciation i came upon these photos taken by Wallace Kirkland for Life magazine. the photo essay shows scenes from a summer art school in 1948, and after a bit of googling i discovered that the school in question still exists! OxBow is situated in the Saugatuck area of Michigan, and was established over a century ago.

Founded by Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute, artists from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow was to serve as a respite for artists from the industrializing havoc of Chicago. Today, Ox-Bow’s longevity is due to the strength of this mission and the artists who have held true to it.

it all looks like a dream to me – hanging out, drawing and screenprinting and making ceramics and taking boats across the lake to do plein air painting… a dream! and man were these girls in the 40s awesome. i love their rolled up jeans and casual white shirts. saugatuck summer art school looks pretty damn cool.

this last photo was taken by Loomis Dean in 1949. “Nude Model Doris Fischer smoking cigarette as she takes a 5 minute break fr. posing for a half hour for students at Oxbow, The Art Institute of Chicago’s summer school.”

edit: i received an email from Professor Tony Jones, who is the Chancellor & President-emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago telling me a bit more about the school…

Hello Diana in Capetown, South Africa, this is Tony Jones in Chicago, USA, sending to say a big Thank You for the story you posted about the Oxbow Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck, Michigan, USA.

You are most perceptive (as are those who left comments) – Oxbow is indeed an idyllic place, almost a dream-definition of what a summer art camp of the beach would look like in a fantasy. But fantasy not – it’s real, and if you saw it today, the years between 2013 and year when these photographs were taken, 1948, would melt away. Oxbow is a flourishing haven for artists, and is run by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (which is 150 miles away on the other side of Lake Michigan – Oxbow is on the west coast of Michigan – what is called “The Sunset Coast”). In the photograph showing the model atop a dune, being painted by a group of students, it shows the big lake in the background – but the pictures of students in canoes is the Oxbow Lagoon (now, how romantic is that ? – a private freshwater lagoon, with no powerboats, no jet-skis, and partly covered with flowering water-lilies, just like Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Artists mount easels on the canoes and paddle out into the lily-fields to paint directly from nature).

And speaking of models – yes, we still teach a class called The Figure in the Landscape, and you’d find a model posing (wearing only bug-spray) and students painting her … along with classes in sculpture, printmaking, bronze-casting, wrought-iron, ceramics, textiles, papermaking, and glassblowing … in a wonderful open-air hot-glass studio right on the edge of the lagoon.

Oxbow is now over 100 years old and we still run it as it always was – an escape from busy downtown Chicago to a silent, calm, rustic retreat of about 150 acres, set on the lagoon, surrounded by thick woodlands, several herds of deer, with no cars, no streetlights, just studio and very basic cabins for sleeping, beautiful workshops and The Inn, the gathering place where we provide all meals (the belltower chimes and you come back from wherever you are and eat en famille – then go back to your work. At Oxbow you come just to work, there are no distractions, you are there at your own speed to draw or dream). Oxbow is a very special place, deeply loved by all who attended or taught there, and we keep it that way – and the list of alumni is quite extraordinary : imagine the summer when one of the students, short of cash, but with a culinary talent that matched his art ability, agreed to be the paid cook … and returned the following summer from his Art Institute studies in sculpture to work in the Oxbow studios – he is Claes Oldenburg, founder of the Pop Art movement in New York, and one of America’s leading and most influential artists (and Oxbow alumni !).

This article from LIFE is really a joy – and quite a number of the people in the photographs have been identified, some still alive and recalling the period well. I’m contacting LIFE to see of they still have the originals and the out-takes that never made it to the magazine – I am currently writing about the School of the Art Institute and it’s various off-site art-camps (in Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan and even Mexico), so your link came to me with great delight – thanks thanks and thanks again.

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Mark Shaw

you’re probably familiar with the work of fashion & celebrity photographer Mark Shaw, who was especially well known for his collection of photographs of the Kennedys. he shot over 100 stories in his 16 year career with LIFE magazine in the 1950s & 60s, and was one of the first photographers who documented backstage fashion at couture shows like Balmain and Balenciaga. if you’re feeling flush you can buy limited edition original prints of his work from the Andrew Wilder gallery. Here are some of my favourite stories he covered.

Audrey Hepburn

Portraits for LIFE Magazine of Hepburn while filming Sabrina. This entire shoot had lingered forgotten for more than fifty years in a box at the home of Mark’s first wife and were rediscovered in 2008. Initially Audrey Hepburn did all she could to avoid Mark Shaw’s cameras. When she realized they shared intense devotion to their work, she began to treat him like a member of the family.

Jackie Kennedy & family

These images were taken for an assignment from LIFE magazine about Jackie Kennedy which ran in 1959 while JFK was making his White House run. In the late 1950′s and early 1960′s Mark Shaw worked extensively as the “unoffical” family photographer to Jackie and John F. Kennedy.

Coco Chanel

Chanel was quoted at the time as saying that “Shaw had crept as close to her as anyone is likely to get with their LEICA on”. Shaw’s informal, grainy, black and white images of Chanel were captured using an unobtrusive 35 mm camera and film processing methods that enabled him to eliminate all other photographic equipment. The result is a highly personal and intimate look into a day in the life of this iconic woman.

Various artists - PicassoChagall, Fernand Leger & Miro

backstage at Balmain, 1954

various fashion editorials photographed in St. Tropez, Paris, Portofino

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