vintage photos

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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Forest History Society

the Forest History Society is probably exactly what you think it is – an archive dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating forest and conservation history. they have an extensive collection of photographs that have been digitised, that you can search through here, as well as an online gallery sorted by subject. i found some of their best photographs over at their flickr page. makes you want to go camping, doesn’t it?

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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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Man’s Best Friend

i am still as broody for pets as i always have been. we are waiting for the right time (or rather, home) to finally get a dog – and my yearning for one has gotten to the point where i am already naming them. the big dog will be called Coach Taylor, that much i’m sure of. but for now i am resigned to enjoying other people’s pets and looking at pics of animals on the internet. i spent quite a bit of time looking through the vintage photos of owners and their sweet dogs over at Shorpy, so i thought i’d share some of the more interesting shots with you.














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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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Exploring Shorpy

i haven’t visited Shorpy in a long time, but since i’ve been enjoying the latest seasons of period dramas like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire lately i thought it was time for a deep browsing session. it’s remarkable to see how rapidly things changed at the turn of the century (this is all i kept thinking when watching the season finale of Downton Abbey – how weird to see the characters in the context of a roaring twenties dance club). these photos are in chronological order and range from 1900 through to 1977, and though they are by no means comprehensive or representative of all those decades it’s still pretty cool to see how time goes by. it’s also interesting to see how photos changed when cameras became a staple of every home – a lot of vacation pics and posing in front of cars.

all images courtesy of Shorpy.

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New York in the 80s

i still haven’t been to new york. right now it’s a matter of saving saving saving so i can get there one day. every time i’m tempted by a beautiful piece of furniture or a new jacket i think, must save for new york. in the meantime i’m living vicariously through other people’s new york related stories, photos, films… which is why i so enjoyed browsing through New York In the 80s, a collection of photographs by Steven Siegel.

I’ve been photographing the streets and subways of New York for the past 30 years. When young people today look at my shots from the 1980’s, they are aghast. To them, New York of the 1980’s is almost unrecognizable. And they are right.

that’s just an excerpt from Steven’s thoughts about this moment in time that he captured and so generously shared – read the rest here and check out the his other sets for more NY related photography.

“with a flourish the waitress leaves behind rearrange smears”

all photographs by Steven Siegel.

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