The Child Portraits of Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux is one of Australia’s iconic photographers and is widely considered to be the creator of Australia’s pictorial photography genre. His works appeared in the early twentieth century with cityscape, industrial and landscape photography dominating his portfolio. However, portraiture is also a significant feature and with the addition of the family album images he is a good subject for this website.

Harold Cazneaux - Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Cazneaux – Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878–1953) was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Pierce Mott Cazneaux and Emma Florence Cazneaux. Due to a financial depression that was occurring in New Zealand, the family moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1888. Unfortunately, they found the same problems in Australia. Both parents worked in the photography trade so it would seem inevitable that Cazneaux would become a photographer himself. In 1896 the artist’s father, who was director of Hammer and Company, gave him his first job and he spent his working days as an artist and image retoucher. While employed there the photographer met his future wife, Winifred Hodge, whom he married in 1905 and they had six children.

Harold Cazneaux - Rainy day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainy Day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux - The quest (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – The Quest (1910)

The photographer was first inspired to shoot pictures after visiting an exhibition entitled ‘Pictorial Photographs’, which featured the work of Jack Kauffmann among others. In order to pursue his career, he moved to Sydney in 1905 where the art society was larger and more established. While in Sydney he worked as an artist and image retoucher for Freeman and Company. The artist bought his first camera in the same year and started to take portrait photographs of friends and relations he was living with. At this time he was also photographing the harbour and city of Sydney, as well as documenting the lives of the people who inhabited the city. Cazneaux could do this as he travelled to work by ferry then walked to the office, thus allowing him to wander the streets, find the right subject and wait for the right moment to create a photo. As he created his art, he photographed local history and because of this the images are treasured today.

Harold Cazneaux - Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux – Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux - Albion street (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Albion Street (1911)

As a way of escaping conventional studio work and giving himself the ability to experiment with photography, Cazneaux joined the Photographic Society of New South Wales in 1907. There he gained access to their darkroom and could increase the number of images he was creating.  He also spent time lecturing and demonstrating photography to other members. The photographer would become director of the Society in 1917. Two years later the Society invited him to mount a one man exhibition. When talking about the exhibition in the book The Story of the Camera in Australia, Jack Cato wrote,

This was Australia’s first one man show… one of the milestones in the history of photography in Australia… It lifted photography to a new plane. The press, the critics and the artists acclaimed it. There for the first time they wrote of “the art of the camera” … “the great artistic possibilities of photography”

For the artist this acceptance of photography as a distinct art genre was more important than personal recognition. The exhibition also gave him international recognition, which resulted in his first overseas show held two years later at the London Salon of Photography. There he received more accolades and recognition with one reviewer making a direct comparison to Alfred Steiglitz’s photographs of New York City. By 1914 the artist had four daughters, who were featured in many of his pictures. One such image, Waiting Up for Daddy, was entered into The Kodak National Photography Competition and ended up winning first prize. The image has also come to be one of the photographer’s most recognised.

Harold Cazneaux - Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Harold Cazneaux – Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Cazneaux did not like the direction or ideas that the Australian art scene had at this time, so in 1915 he set up the Sydney Camera Circle. The camera circle wanted to embrace the Australian light and landscape rather than the darker, staged and European-inspired imagery that dominated Australian photography at the time.

The year 1918 was a year of change in the photographer’s life. For nearly twenty years he had been trying to balance the demands of commercial photographic work with the freedoms of his own personal work, which caused him much distress. The situation got worse when his employers attempted to legally bind him to the studio, preventing him from doing work outside of the business. As a result, he had a nervous breakdown and left Freeman and Company. The breakdown lasted almost a year until a friend, Cecil Bostock, lent him his studio; he was in Europe documenting the war. The artist could now create the images he wanted and he advertised his artistic photography and natural portrait services, which continued throughout the rest of his life.

Harold Cazneaux - Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux – Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux - Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux – Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux - Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

The first commission he received, since his independence, came in the same year. The contract required him to produce a portfolio of images documenting the Prince of Wales’ visit. Soon after he had to vacate the studio and reestablished it at his home. When Sydney Ure Smith was developing a new magazine, The Home, he remembered Cazneaux’s work and approached him to become the official photographer. He accepted and his pictures dominated the magazine from its inception in 1920 till its closure in 1942. The work was multifaceted, from making portraits of the interviewees to photographing the interior and exterior of homes. Additionally, he supplied art prints for the magazine, one such print was The Bamboo Blind that was the frontispiece for the first edition. With six children, the photographer could also provide the clothing advertisements for the magazine; an example is displayed below.

Harold Cazneaux - Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux – Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux - Bamboo Blind (1915)

Harold Cazneaux – Bamboo Blind (1915)

Cazneaux’s work for The Home magazine was well known and this brought in many other commissions. He travelled across Australia photographing properties for Australian Home Beautiful magazine, with many of these images reappearing in the book Domestic Architecture in Australia. The artist contributed images to six other books during his lifetime: Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931) and The Australian Native Bear Book (1930). The book with subjects most relevant to this site is The Frensham Book (1934), which details the lives of the girls residing at the Frensham Girls School. There is also In the Persian Garden, an album which details the characters from the matinee ‘In a Persian Garden’, held at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, July 1922, in aid of the Children’s Hospital.

Harold Cazneaux - The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux - The Holt (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Holt (1934)

in a persian garden

Harold Cazneaux – Untitled image (1922)

These activities kept Cazneaux active for the rest of his life and provided ample photographs for overseas group exhibitions. He supplied at least one image per year for the London Salon of Photography from 1911 to 1952 and was elected a member of the Salon in 1921. The photographer also supplied images to the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain from 1908 to 1952 and was given an honorary fellowship in 1937—the first Australian to receive this honour. Due to his age, the artist reduced his work load back to strict portraiture in the 1940s and during the war years, the artist would focus on photographing soldiers and their families.

Cazneaux’s images of cityscapes and landscapes, including his iconic image The Spirit of Endurance can be seen at the State Gallery of New South Wales. If you have a spare day available, there are 1200 digitised images at the Trove website to look through, roughly 10% are his children’s portraits.

Random Image: John Philip Wagner

A reader just shared this sensuous image of fairies.  For some reason there is a transposed version and I am told this one has the correct orientation.

John Philip Wagner - Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner – Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner was born in Philadelphia in 1943, got his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the Philadelphia College of Art and his Masters at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also studied with David Hare and Dennis Leon. As a child, he plastered the walls of his elementary school with paintings of Egyptian pyramids and Roman ships and later studied the theater arts, painting, sculpture and printmaking. He resides in the American Southwest, having lived in New Mexico and then southern Colorado, adding Native American and Southwestern Art to his repertoire. While in Santa Fe, he created the first version of the puppet theater known as “Wagner Marionettes”. Since then, he spent much time entertaining children with his little players on string. In 2005, he was charged with sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, claiming that he touched her buttocks. Found on his computer were nude photos of the girl the artist says were used for reference. The mother denies giving her consent for these photographs. There is no information about a hearing or trial but, presumably, he agreed to a plea bargain as he was required to register as a sex offender. He no longer has his own website and sells his beautiful art through CafePress. Categories of interest include Fairy Art and Angel Art.

Delphine Blais

After Alexandre Lamotte, I will present another painter from Carré d’artistes.

Delphine Blais was born on February 15th, 1971 in Rouen (Northwestern France). She soon developed a taste for drawing, painting and sculpture. In 1993 she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Bordeaux (Southwestern France). Her art career was interspersed with raising two children in the early 2000s and then animating art workshops for children as well as adults.

Her technique mixes collage with acrylic painting. She glues on a support little pieces of various old material, in particular found in flea markets: wallpaper, handwritten letters, vintage photographs, fabric or lace. Then she paints over them figures of women made of successive layers of colour. In her Carré d’artistes webpage, they have been compared to stalagmites (although I tend to think rather of a kebab). On top of their elongated body stands a tiny minimalist head. Thus all emotions are conveyed by the colours and by the posture and movement of the body.

I bought one of her works, which shows a painted woman beside a vintage photograph of a little girl. It is a painted collage on a 13cm×13cm cardboard, itself glued to a larger white support that I surrounded by a black frame. Here is the photograph I took from it; I cropped it slightly outside the collage, so that one can see its irregular border and its relief above the support.

Delphine Blais - Angèle (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Angèle (c2016)

I show next reproductions of two other of her painted collages, from her Carré d’artistes webpage; I chose them because they also mix painted women with vintage photographs of little girls. The first one is 13cm×13cm, the second one is 19cm×19cm.

Delphine Blais - Félicie (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Félicie (c2016)

Delphine Blais - Suzanne (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Suzanne (c2016)

Finally I show a picture of the artist at work, from the information leaflet about her made by Carré d’artistes:

(Unknown photographer) – Delphine Blais at work

(Unknown photographer) – Delphine Blais at work


A Little Girl’s Guide to Personality: Avril Podmore

Among the items in Stuart’s extensive private collection are items that were never published, but are nonetheless interesting. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to publish things like this that would ordinarily never see the light of day.

This little book of drawings was made by a little girl from the ages of 8 to 10. There were a total of 30 images in the book, but these were a few of the interesting examples sent to me. It is so touching to see a young person putting so much effort into something like this.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920--1922)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920–1922)

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (1)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (1)

It is remarkable how easily a child assimilates the stereotypes of her culture. This would be considered politically incorrect today and there is some speculation that this particular stereotype was, in part, devised to keep Black people “in their place”.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (2)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (2)

Another personality type that I’m sure many girls can relate to is this compulsively proper type. Sure, she seems to miss out on all the fun but what’s worse: she tends to grow up and make life miserable for everyone else.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (3)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (3)

And even in the dreary winter, a girl can use fantasy to make things more cheery.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (4)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (4)

If a more suitable dance partner is not available, Teddy will do.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (5)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (5)

A Fairy Tale Subverted: Victoria Ying’s ‘Il Lupo’

One thing I love is stories, illustrations, films or what have you where the paradigm of the little girl in distress is turned on its head. These can be taken as feminist parables, or simply as a recognition of the fact that human beings often do not conform to expectations. Ying’s Il Lupo offers up a complete subversion of the familiar ‘little girl lost in the woods’ trope, and it does so in a rather surprising way. I am posting the first two pages here; to read the rest of it (it’s only ten pages long and a quick read), you must go here. Don’t miss this one—I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, and Ying really deserves the traffic at her site. Do yourself a favor and read this comic!

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 2)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 2)


The Way to a Man’s Heart: Du Sel sur la Peau

The problem with tracking down obscure films is that they are often neglected. In this case, those who run the company (Belga Films) that owns the rights to Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (Belgian-French, Salt on the Skin), know nothing about it. If a master of the film does exist in a vault somewhere, it will probably stay there deteriorating. Even the director, Jean-Marie Degèsves, cannot be appealed to because he died in 1999. In 1986, the movie was released in VHS (with hard-coded French subtitles) and that is the only version available. A reader in France graciously summarized the plot since there are no English subtitles available.

The story revolves around three characters. Julien (Richard Bohringer) is a well-to-do bachelor with a number of expensive hobbies like photography and collecting and building model trains, helicopters and boats. His mother seems to have the run of the house—cooking and doing the laundry for him—and eager for him to settle down and have a family. Charlotte (Catherine Frot) and her 9-year-old daughter Juliette (Anne Clignet) break down near his house. Being free-spirited individuals, they decide to cool off in Julien’s above ground pool.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (1)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (1)

He is irritated by this and confronts them. But despite this, he invites them in to dry off and make arrangements to repair their vehicle.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (2)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (2)

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (3)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (3)

Juliette has a refreshing childlike frankness and Julien seems quite charmed by her. So even though it has been an imposition, he decides to lend them 3000 Belgian francs to pay the repair bill. That night he gets a call from Charlotte telling him that Juliette is upset because she left her teddy bear in the car and could he retrieve it for her. Finding the bear, he looks at the ratty old thing with disdain and tosses it into the trash. The next day, he purchases a brand new one and goes to give it to her. At first she is upset with him because that bear had sentimental value but she forgives him.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (4)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (4)

Juliette invites him inside and he learns that she is often left alone in the house when her mother works. She takes him to her room to reveal a cache of stuffed animals.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (5)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (5)

Charlotte works at a hospital that gives long-term care to the elderly and is dating the doctor. One of her co-workers, Mireille,‭ ‬has been posing nude to make extra money on the side. Julien belongs to a photo club for which Mireille has posed and the members admire the photos. The club wants to plan an exhibition and probably at Julien’s prompting, they decide to go with the theme ‭”childhood”.

‭One night, ‬Juliette is left at her grandparents and we see that stuffed animals are regularly given as presents.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (6)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (6)

‭Mother and daughter find ‬Julien in his garden playing with one of his remote control helicopters. He shows Juliette his other models and gives her a ship as a gift. She also learns that he has a photography studio. He asks if he may take photos of Juliette, perhaps as compensation for the outstanding debt. The girl is very excited by the idea and they go into his studio to do the shoot.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (7)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (7)

He promises to send copies. Since they had been planning a trip to the beach, he is given the address of the hotel where they would be staying. Instead of mailing the photos, he checks into the hotel himself. Next we see him taking surreptitious shots of Juliette at the beach with some of her friends.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (8)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (8)

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (9)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (9)

Noticing that there is no postage on the envelope, Charlotte realizes that Julien has checked in and the pair go to the room to thank him for the photos.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (10)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (10)

Charlotte and Juliette are taking a bath together,‭ ‬but they can’t get the tap to turn off.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (11)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (11)

The girl is told to ask the reception desk for help but, instead, Juliette runs naked down to Julien’s room to get his help.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (12)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (12)

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (13)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (13)

Later at the hotel bar, Charlotte is unhappy because the doctor she was seeing did not show up as planned. She complains about how men only do things when they want something, not really respecting women for who they are. They only like women when they are in photos. This was meant to imply that Julien’s motives are far from noble.

When Julien returns home, he find his mother worried about where he has been and had invited one of his old friends by for a visit. Though Julien finds her plain and dull, his mother insists they are a perfect astrological match. To get his mother off his back, he tells her rather facetiously that there is already a new girl in his life and she is 9‭ ‬years old!

Julien has bought ice cream for Juliette‭ ‬and, to better display her books and other treasures, some shelves which he installs in her bedroom. It is not clear when Julien revealed the beach shots, but he must have at this point because one of them can be seen posted on the wall.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (14)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (14)

Charlotte’s doctor friend tries to make amends for his oversight, but she snubs him. Returning home, she confronts Julien about why he is lavishing so much attention on Juliette, assuming it is some kind of statement about her poor parenting. Julien simply evades the issue telling her it is his way of paying for the pictures—perhaps referring to the ones he took secretly.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (15)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (15)

Charlotte’s estranged husband—and Juliette’s father—suddenly shows up in Brussels to visit and tries to convince them to live in Nice with him. While her parents are talking, Juliette sneaks off to pay a call on Julien. On her way, she explains to a bemused woman on the bus that she is visiting her boyfriend. Upon her arrival, she finds him playing with his helicopter.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (16)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (16)

He is startled when she creeps up on him and tickles him and he crashes his helicopter in the pool. Impulsively, he slaps her and she cries that “N‬obody loves me‭!” She ‬jumps into the pool to retrieve his model and he jumps in after her.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (17)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (17)

Julien then brings her into the house to dry her off. His mother arrives just as Juliette emerges with a towel wrapped around her. She starts to think that maybe her son really is having an affair with a 9-year-old. When Juliette explains that he had only been taking pictures of her, the mother storms out telling him he should have his head examined.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (18)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (18)

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (19)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (19)

Juliette calls her mother to come pick her up in the evening. The two spend time together and horse around the house until bedtime.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (20)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (20)

Julien prepares the guest room for her but she wants to sleep with him. He explains that such things are not done. She explains that this is how it is done in the movies and that they must first make love. She pushes him onto the bed and kisses him on the forehead before jumping up to go to bed. At this time he presents her with a large brown teddy bear.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (21)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (21)

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (22)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (22)

Charlotte is confused and upset by the latest developments. When she comes to pick up Juliette, she tries to talk with Julien about it, but he doesn’t really want to. It is 2 a.m. and Juliette is fast asleep. Charlotte agrees to stay the night and Julien sleeps on the sofa. By the time he wakes up in the morning, the two of them are gone. They arrive later in the morning to have breakfast with him. It is clear that Julien and Charlotte are really starting to bond.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (23)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (23)

That day at work, one of Juliette’s photos drops out of a folder.‭ To cover up, he tells h‬is coworkers that it is his daughter. They tease him a bit about having secret affairs and he adds that he is a single father. Returning home, he finds Juliette,‭ ‬Charlotte and his mother together at the door. His mother looks very pleased and says she knows everything now. She adds that the astrological signs are quite auspicious.

Jean-Marie Degèsves - Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (24)

Jean-Marie Degèsves – Du Sel sur la Peau (1984) (24)

Certainly this is no blockbuster; the plot is confused and the whole point seems to be to show how a little girl’s charm can open doors and give us hope for a happy ending. The Juliette character—apart from serving as a sort of anima figure—was an important catalyst, able to say and do things the rules of polite adult society would not allow.

A Slightly Different Take on the Pin-Up: Edward D’Ancona

From roughly the late Victorian era to the early 1960s there was a pop art phenomenon known as pin-up art.  These could be paintings, illustrations or photos.  The images were generally very simple representations of attractive women, often scantily clad or even nude, and posed erotically. Obviously these were aimed at men and adolescent boys and were intended to be pinned up in clubhouses, garages and the like (hence the name). Among the more prominent artists in this field were Alberto Vargas, Art Frahm, Gil Elvgren and George Petty, but a ton of artists produced pin-up art, some of them quite skillful. Among them was one Edward D’Ancona.

Not much is known about D’Ancona.  The bulk of his work as a pin-up artist was produced from the mid ’30s till the end of the ’50s, after which he apparently switched to more family-friendly fare, though not much of this later work seems to exist anymore, at least not on the web.  One piece that was, however, is presented below.  What’s particularly interesting about this painting is that “Miss Me” has the attention of everyone she passes, including the dog.  The policeman, meanwhile, looks to be directing sidewalk traffic, stopping the boy on the bicycle so that the little girl may pass by.

The boy himself is almost stunned by the sight of the girl, who flaunts her beauty as if she were born to it.  We can easily imagine this child growing up to become one of D’Ancona’s pin-up models.  Even at this tender age she recognizes the power that femininity has over males and attempts to assert her own premature version of it, arguably with some success.  One can argue that D’Ancona is presenting this situation as fairly harmless; this was made in the 1950s after all, well before the pedophile panic set in.  The girl may have a certain power over little boys, but the policeman simply finds her funny.  Or does he?  Is that a smirk of simple amusement on his face or something less innocent?  And what of the dog, who literally bows at her feet?  What exactly is D’Ancona attempting to say with this piece?  I wonder.

It raises some interesting questions, I think.  Such as, is there some subconscious level on which every adult recognizes the largely dormant (but by no means nonexistent) sexuality of children, and if so, do they use certain psychological techniques to deny it to themselves?  I think this is, indeed, the case.  One of those techniques is to laugh it off, to present children’s sexuality as ridiculous and inept, and in the hands of another artist (Norman Rockwell, for example) this same scene would’ve presented the girl as more of a caricature.  I’ve never been much of a Rockwell fan, incidentally.  But because D’Ancona’s style is more realistic than Rockwell’s, it may have backfired.  If he intended this scene as satirical, I think he failed.  But maybe he was simply unaware of what this piece might say to a 21st century audience, who is all too aware of, and acutely sensitive to, the sexual exploitation of children.  This seems more likely.  Today we know about the darker aspects of the beauty pageant world, and how our culture, whether deliberately or not, suggests to girls from an early age that their physical attractiveness is their most important asset.  D’Ancona, more than likely, saw nothing untoward in this scene, and I would be hard pressed to argue he was wrong.  But it does go to show how a changing society can recast old art in a new context.

Edward D'Ancona - Miss Me

Edward D’Ancona – Miss Me

You can see plenty of examples of D’Ancona’s pin-up art here (from which this piece was taken) and here.  The second site also has some additional biographical information on the artist.



Alexandre Lamotte: Langoureuse

Last April, I bought at Carré d’artistes a second watercolor painting by Alexandre Lamotte. Its French title Langoureuse means “languorous,” and indeed I find it soft and sensuous. It is one of my loveliest, and it hangs above my bed.

Compared to the previous one, it is slightly smaller (25cm×25cm instead of 36cm×36cm); as in the latter, there is a white cardboard inside the frame surrounding the picture, but given the smaller size of the painting, I have cropped the photograph to remove it. Without professional equipment, it is difficult to reproduce exactly the tones and colors of a watercolor having a weak color contrast. Of all my shots and computerized contrast enhancements, I chose the version that seems to me the most emotional. So the background looks a little bit bluish, while in reality it is beige.

Alexandre Lamotte - Langoureuse (2016)

Alexandre Lamotte – Langoureuse (2016)

At Carré d’artistes, paintings rotate between their various galleries. Indeed, the week after I bought Langoureuse, all unsold works by Lamotte had been removed. But the staff told me that he has now other projects beside painting, so instead of being sent to another gallery, his works were returned to him. And his webpage on their site has been reduced to his biography.  They removed the image of one of his paintings that appeared on it; however I had saved it, so I give it here.

Alexandre Lamotte - Carre-d'artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alexandre Lamotte – Carre-d’artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alphonse Isambert

I’m back! At least for awhile. And here’s a taste of what I have in store for you. This piece is by Alphonse Isambert, a student of the master historical painter Paul Delaroche. Isambert, like many artists of the 19th century, was heavily inspired by ancient Greco-Roman art and culture. The style here is Neoclassical, and this piece exemplifies the tradition of the idyll, with two rustic youths, likely young lovers, playing music in the woods. The title translates to Aulos Players in Arcadia.

Alphonse Isambert - Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)

Alphonse Isambert – Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)


My Personal Kingdom: James Mollison

Occasionally I get leads from a liberal political and social discourse magazine called In These Times. Because it covers the arts, there are sometimes items relevant to Pigtails. This one I found most intriguing and I finally got to see a copy of Where Children Sleep (2010).

James Mollison was born in Kenya in 1973 but grew up in England. He studied Art and Design at Oxford Brookes University and film and photography at Newport School of Art and Design. He later moved to Italy to work at Benetton’s creative lab. Since August 2011, he has been working as a creative editor on Colors Magazine. His work has been published throughout the world including Colors, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Paris Review, GQ, New York Magazine and Le Monde. Five of his projects have been published as books.

His fourth book, Where Children Sleep, was triggered by Mollison’s own memories of his childhood bedroom in Oxford. He slept there from age five to nineteen. The bedroom changed over the years, as his parents allowed him to alter it to reflect his evolving tastes, interests and aspirations. If an outsider were to look at the room at any given point in time, it might seem a jumble. But even a seemingly mundane artifact can represent a vivid memory of personal significance. For example, the red carpet with black and white stripes was his own choice—a point of pride at the time and later an embarrassment as he became a style-conscious teenager.

My bedroom was my personal kingdom. When, in 2004, Fabrica (Benetton’s creative research centre) asked me to come up with an idea for engaging with children’s rights, I found myself thinking about my bedroom: how significant it was during my childhood, and how it reflected what I had and who I was. -James Mollison, Introduction, Where Children Sleep, 2010

He decided to tackle this project by focusing of children’s bedrooms and how they might address some of the complex situations and social issues affecting them. He didn’t simply want his work to be about needy children in the so-called developing world, but something more inclusive and, indeed, he does cover some middle class and well-to-do households. The result is a series of diptychs each comprised of one image of the child with a neutral background and the other of his or her sleeping space. Mollison’s photographs span the ages of 4 to 19, corresponding to the years he spent in his childhood bedroom. Like many courageous photo-journalists, he ventured into areas that were subjected to the effects of severe political strife—whether covering refugees fleeing a military regime in Myanmar (Burma) or oppression from the Chinese government in Tibet or trying to make a living in the West Bank under the looming Isreali military occupation. Remarkably, the photographer refrains from making judgments about the political situation or the way his subjects have conducted themselves under their particular circumstances. Mollison’s stated agenda was simply to document a personal journey of curiosity and engage his readers with the images that moved him and, consequently, help us gain an appreciation for how fortunate many of us are.

The cream you see on 4-year-old Lay Lay’s face is a local concoction used to condition and protect the skin. She is a refugee from Myanmar now living in Thailand and since no one claimed her after her mother’s death, she has been living in an orphanage.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (1a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (1a)

Her sleep area reflects the need for efficient use of space. Only two rooms are used by the 22 children. When the rooms are not used as a classroom and dining room, the furniture is pushed aside so that mats can be placed down for sleep. One drawer is allocated for the personal belongings of each child.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (1b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (1b)

In stark contrast, 4-year-old Kaya lives in Japan. Although space is at a premium, the family live well and Kaya’s mother makes her daughter’s clothes by hand—up to three a month. Among her accessories, she has a number of wigs and the pigtails seen here were fashioned from hairpieces.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (2a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (2a)

Her bedroom is something of a little girl’s dream, piled from floor to ceiling with clothes and dolls.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (2b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (2b)

Seven-year-old Indira’s picture is one that appeared in In These Times. She lives in Nepal and has worked at the local granite quarry since she was three. 150 other children also work there, four or five hours each day.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (3a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (3a)

The family members all live in one room. There is one bed and one mattress and Indira shares the mattress with her brother and sister.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (3b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (3b)

Eight-year-old Syra lives in Senegal. It is reported that she always looks sad because a sorceress put a curse on her and her sister. The mother made an effort to cure the girls, but they have been shunned by the local villagers, making her ineligible for marriage. Under these conditions, the girls will not be able to stay with their mother and Syra’s only hope is to be taken in by her grandmother. Otherwise, she will have to live as an outcast.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (4a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (4a)

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (4b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (4b)

Ten-year-old Douha lives with her parents and 11 siblings in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. She was born in a refugee camp and has always known violence due to the Isreali military presence. She makes the ten-minute walk to school every day and works hard in the hopes of becoming a pediatrician. Her family has been subjected to additional abuse because Douha’s brother made a suicide-bomb attack against an Israeli target.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (5a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (5a)

Douha sleeps in the same room with all of her sisters.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (5b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (5b)

Eleven-year-old Lei lives in the Yunnan province in China with her grandparents, brother and two cousins. Her parents had to find work in the city but they return often to visit their children. Yunnan is the most ethnically diverse region in China and Lei’s grandmother feels it is important to pass on the customs of one’s heritage to the next generation. Lei goes to school and hopes her parents can one day borrow the money to send her to university to become a doctor.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (6a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (6a)

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (6b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (6b)

Eleven-year-old Thais lives in a two-story flat with her parents and sister in Rio de Janeiro. She lives in a dangerous poverty-stricken area which has improved greatly since it got public attention after the release of the film, City of God in 2002. Thais is a fan of popular culture and wants to become a model.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (7a)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (7a)

She shares a bedroom with her sister.

James Mollison - Where Children Sleep (2010) (7b)

James Mollison – Where Children Sleep (2010) (7b)

Mollison’s latest book was also inspired by his childhood, Playgrounds (2015). What struck him the most was how so many of his memories took place in the venue of the playground and, naturally, he wondered what other children’s experiences were like.

Most of the images from the series are composites of moments that happened during a single break time—a kind of time-lapse photography … Although the schools I photographed were very diverse, I was struck by the similarities between children’s behavior and the games they played. -James Mollison,