Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” 

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1818 

Born in Dudley, a town in the county of Worcestershire, in July of 1889, James Whale was an English actor and film and theater director, best remembered by many for his classic horror films. Known for his use of camera movement, he is credited with being the first director to use a 360-degree panning shot in a feature film.

James Whale was the sixth of seven children born to William Whale, a blast-furnace worker, and his wife Sarah, a nurse. He attended public education until his teenage years. Because the cost of his further education was prohibitive and his labor was needed to support his family, Whale took work as a cobbler. He used his early artistic ability to earn extra money by lettering signs for his neighbors; this additional income paid for classes at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts located in the West Midlands.

In August of 1914, Whale enlisted into the Inns of Court Regiment of the British Army at the outbreak of the first world war; in July of 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment. Taken prisoner of war in August of 1917 at the battle in  Flanders, Whale was held at the Holzminden Officers’ Camp in Germany and later repatriated at the war’s end to England in December of 1918. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work as a cartoonist in Birmingham, he embarked on a professional stage career in 1919. 

James Whale worked as an actor, set designer, stage manager, and director under the tutelage of director and actor Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theater in Hammersmith. In 1922, he met stage and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen; they were considered a couple for a period of two years despite Whale’s living as an openly gay man. In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct two private performances of writer Robert Cedric Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”, a play that gave a glimpse of British infantry officers’ experiences in the trenches of France during 1918. The two lead roles were given to actors Laurence Olivier and Maurice Evans. 

The initial two performances of “Journey’s End” were well received; and the play opened in January of 1929, with actor Colin Clive now in the lead, at the Savoy Theater in London’s West End. Critically acclaimed, the play after its three-week run was then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theater in Coventry Street, where it ran for the next two years. The rights to a New York production of “Journey’s End” were acquired by Broadway producer Gilbert Miller who chose James Whale, already experienced with the play, for its director. This production of the play premiered at Henry Miller’s Theater at Broadway and West 43rd Street and ran for over a year. 

Brought to the attention of movie producers by the Broadway success of “Journey’s End”, James Whale traveled to Hollywood in 1929 and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to be the dialogue director for the 1929 film “The Love Doctor”. After the completion of the film, Whale met David Lewis, who became his longtime romantic partner; they lived together until 1952. David Lewis would later become a prominent film producer in the 1940s and 1950s, known for producing such films as the 1939 “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the 1957  “Raintree County” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  

In 1931, James Whale began what is probably the best known part of his career as a producer. He signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios and received his first project, the 1931 drama-war romance film “Waterloo Bridge”, which starred actress Mae Clarke, who is remembered by many for playing Jame Cagney’s girl in “The Public Enemy”. Later in 1931, Carl Laemmie, Jr, the twenty-five year old head of Universal Studios, gave Whale his choice of which studio-owned property he wanted for his next shoot; Whale chose the script for “Frankenstein”. He casted Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Frankenstein, Henry’s wife, and chose the little known Boris Karloff for the role of the Monster. Shooting ran from August 24th of 1931 to October 3rd. After premieres on October 29th of 1931, “Frankenstein” had a wide release beginning on November 21st and instantly became a hit with critics and the public.

In 1932, Whale directed two films: the drama “The Impatient Maiden” and a thriller film with Karloff and Charles Laughton entitled “The Old Dark House”, which has been credited with reinventing the “old house” genre of horror films. Whale’s 1933 film, “The Kiss Before the Mirror”, a pre-Code mystery film, received little notice and was a box-office failure. With a script approved by author H. G. Wells, Whale returned to the horror genre and produced the 1933 “The Invisible Man” which the New York Times placed in their list of best films for that year. This adaption of Well’s book, whose special effects were done in utmost secrecy, broke box-office records in cities across America.

James Whale’s next major project was the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, a sequel to the original movie which he was initially reluctant to do for fear of being typecast as a horror director. The film, however, was a critical and commercial success; today it is regarded as the finest of all gothic horror movies and considered Whale’s masterpiece. Whale worked next on a comedy-mystery film entitled “Remember Last Night?” which resulted in divided reviews. After its completion, Whale started immediately on the project that had been in his mind for a long time, a film version of the stage production “Show Boat”. 

For the film version of this long-running romantic musical, Whale gathered as many members of the original show as he could; these included Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Sammy White, Irene Dunne, and conductor Victor Baravalle and orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Great care was taken by Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for this film. Faithfully adapted from the original stage production, the 1936 “Show Boat” is considered the definitive film version of the musical by many critics. This film was the last of Whale’s films produced with the Laemmie family.

Jame Whale eventually retired from the film industry in 1941. Encouraged by his partner David Lewis to resume his artwork, he rediscovered his love of painting and built a studio for himself. In 1942, Whale made training films for the United States Army and created, in collaboration with actress Claire DuBrey, the theater group Brentwood Service Players. He returned to Broadway to direct the 1940 thriller “Hand in Glove” and directed his final film, a short subject entitled “Hello Out There”. Whale’s last professional engagement was the comedy play “Pagan in the Parlour”, which was forced to close early due to contract difficulties that happened during its opening tour in Europe.

While in Europe, Whale met and became infatuated with the twenty-five year old bartender Pierre Foegel. He made the decision to bring Foegel back to the United States as his chauffeur. In November of 1952 when David Lewis heard this, he ended their twenty-three year relationship, separated but still maintained a friendship. Foegel moved in with Whale in early 1953, returned for several months to France, and then in 1954  moved back permanently with Whale. In the spring of 1956, Whale suffered a small stroke, and was hospitalized several months later after suffering a second and more severe stroke. As his mental faculties were diminishing, he began to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

James Whale committed suicide, at the age of sixty-seven, by drowning himself in his Pacific Palisades swimming pool on the 29th of May in 1957. He left a suicide note to David Lewis, who withheld it from the public until his own death. Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. When David Lewis died in 1987, James Curtis, as his executor, had Lewis’s  ashes interred in a niche across from Whale’s internment site. James Curtis would later write the definitive biography of Whale, “James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters”, published in 2003.

Note: James Whale lived as an openly gay man throughout his career in the British theater and in Hollywood, which was virtually unheard of in that era. While he did not go out of his way to publicize his homosexuality, he made no effort to conceal it either.

Insert Images:
A— Photographer Unknown, “James Whale” (Profile), circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
B—”Frankenstein”, Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, 1931, Universal Pictures
C—”The Invisible Man”, Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, 1933, Universal Pictures
D—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, Date Unknown
E—”Show Boat”, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, 1936, Universal Pictures
F—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Carl Phillips: “To Sing a Song of Water”

 

Photographers Unknown, To Sing a Song of Water

Archery

           was still a thing, then. To have timed your arrow
perfectly meant watching the air for a moment
seem stitched throughout with a kind of
timelessness. To have straddled at last, correctly,
the storm of falling in love (and staying there) meant
the smell of apples, victory, tangerines, and smoke
all mixed together on the breath

of a stranger, half asleep still, just beginning to remember a bit,
as he stirs beside you. I dreamed we were young again,
he’s mumbling, as if to someone whose name he’s known
long enough to have called it out more than once in anger
and sex and fear equally. Somewhere happiness too,

right? All those hours spent trying to outstare the distance
of what the days must come to,

and pretending a choice to it: now the shadow-script
that willows and hazel trees mark the barn’s western
face with; now the wind-rippled field, like a lesser version—tamer,
tameable—of the sea, for movement (same infinite
pattern, and variation; randomness and intention; release;
restraint—that kind of movement) …

                                                         Dear saddle
of gentleness. Dear moss, sweet moss that only
the dark and wet and patience make possible. To sing a song
of  water, and not drown in it. And some calling that
a good trick. And some calling it

mastery. That last flickering before nightfall. From beneath
the low branches. I dreamed we were new again. Stars. Just a little
past dusk.

Carl Phillips, Archery, 2020

Born in Everett, Washington, in July of 1959, Carl Phillips is an American poet and writer. The child of a military family which changed residences year to year, he spent his teenage years in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Phillips earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. He next earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Massachusetts, and his Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University. 

Phillips first began to write poetry in his teenage years, a time during which he constructed a world of his own that he could rely on. After entering Harvard University, he did not write any poetry for a long time; however, in 1990 after coming to terms with his identity as a gay man, Phiilips rediscovered his voice as a poet. A classicist by his formal training, he draws allusions to classical art, music and literature in his poems through the use of metaphors and associative words. His poems are often presented in a narrative form which is emphasized through the use of spaced pauses, italics, hyphens, ellipsis, and parentheses. 

Phillips published his first collection of poems, “In the Blood”, in 1992. This collection of love poems and poems based on Greek mythology and Christian iconography won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. His second book, the 1995 “Cortège”, a collection which explores desire and the various points at which spirit and flesh intersect, was nominated tor the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Gay Men’s Poetry Award.

Carl Phillips’s collections, the 2000 “Pastoral” and the 2001 “The Tether”, winner of the Kingsley Tuft Poetry Award, were both well received by the critics. His seventh book, the 2005 “The Rest of Love”, examined the conflict between belief and disbelief and our ability to face up to hard truths. This collection won the 2005 Thom Gunn Award. Phillips’s recent work includes “Speak Low”, a 2009 work that was a finalist for the National Book Award; the 2011 “Double Shadow” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry; and the 2013 “Silverchest” which was nominated for the Griffin Prize. His thirteenth collection of poems, the 2015 “Reconnaissance”, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Best Poetry and won the Lambda Literary Award and the PEN Center USA Award.

Carl Phillips has also published works of criticism; two collections of essays puvlished by Graywolf Press include the 2004 “Coin of the Realm”Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry” and the 2014 “The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination”. 

Carl Phillips previously taught Latin in public schools for eight years before becoming Professor of English at St. Louis’s Washington University, where he also teaches creative writing. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006 and has served as the judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets since 2011. Phillips received an Award in Literature form the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets Prize and a Pushcart Prize. 

Note: Carl Phillip’s 1995 poem, “Cortège”, was actually my first choice for the poem to be included with his biography; however, the poem in its full form was too lengthy for this posting. For those interested in reading this poem, I offer this link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47856/cortege-56d228a1cf7ae

Frank Bidart: “Night Was the Guide Sweeter Than the Sun Raw at Dawn”

Photographers Unknown, Night Was the Guide

In a dark night, when the light
burning was the burning of love (fortuitous
night, fated, free,—)
as I stole from my dark house, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—

by the staircase that was secret, hidden
safe: disguised by darkness (fortuitous
night, fated, free—)
by darkness and by cunning, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—;

in that sweet night, secret, seen by
no one and seeing
nothing, my only light or
guide
the burning in my burning heart,

night was the guide
sweeter than the sun raw at
dawn, for there the burning bridegroom is
bride
and he who chose at last is chosen.

.

As he lay sleeping on my sleepless
breast, kept from the beginning for him
alone, lying on the gift I gave
as the restless
fragrant cedars moved the restless winds,—

winds from the circling parapet circling
us as I lay there touching and lifting his hair,–
with his sovereign hand, he
wounded my neck=
and my senses, when they touched that, touched nothing. . .

In a dark night (there where I
lost myself, —) as I leaned to rest
in his smooth white breast, everything
ceased
and left me, forgotten in the grave of forgotten lilies.

Frank Bidart, Dark Night

Born in Bakersfield, California, in May of 1939, Frank Bidart is an American academic and a poet, and the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He started his studies in 1957 at the University of California at Riverside where, after reading works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, he decided on a career in poetry. He continued his studies at Harvard, where he became both a student and friend to Robert Lowell, the sixth Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and Elizabeth Bishop, the 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and, after Lowell’s departure, the subsequent Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

Bidart’s work is written in the style of Confessional poetry which emerged in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In this personal form of poetry, the speaker focuses on extreme moments of individual experience, thoughts, and personal traumas, which may include such experiences as mental illness, sexuality, and self-harm. These issues are often set against the broader themes of society. In the 1950s, confessional poets often wrote about the unhappiness in their lives in opposition to the idealization of domestic life which was propagated at the time.

Frank Bidart’s early work often disregarded the formal conventions of poetry. His narrative works are not seamless dramatic monologues but rather snippets of speech, anecdotes, reminiscences, analogies, and notes and letters which are spliced together in a cinematic progression. In his poetry, Bidart uses unusual typography and takes liberties with capitalization and punctuation; this process allows the reader to visualize, spatially, the urgencies, emphases, pauses and fatigue in the poem’s voice.

Frank Bidart gained critical attention with his first two books, the 1973 “Golden State” and the 1977 “The Book of the Body”. However, it was his 1983 “The Sacrifice” that made his reputation as an original, uncompromising poet. These three early works, focused on the origins and consequences of guilt, were later published together in the 1990 collection “In the Western Night: Collected Poems1965-90”.  Among Bidart’s most notable works are monologues spoken by central characters.Two examples of these are “Herbert White” from the “Golden State”collection, a monologue spoken through the voice of a psychopathic child murderer, and “Ellen West” included in “The Book of the Body”, spoken by a woman with an eating disorder.

Bidart’s 1997 collection “Desire” began with thirteen short poems, one of which was a memorial to artist  and writer Joe Brainard, who was associated with the New York School movement of poets, painters, dancers and musicians active during the 1950s and 1960s. A prodigious artist known for his collages and his memoir “I Remember”, Brainard died from AIDS in May of 1994. The second half of the book, “The Second Hour of the Night” was a long poem that questioned the traditional assumptions about love told through a recounting of Ovid’s tale of Myrrha’s incestuous love for her father.This collection, which also included writings by Dante and Marcus Aurelius, received the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and was a finalist for three awards: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Frank Bidart’s sixth book “Star Dust”, also divided in two parts, was nominated for a National Book Award and employed the familiar Bidart typography, including block capitals, italics and blank spaces, and used the techniques of quotations, paraphrases and monologues. His 2008 “Watching the Spring Festival” was his first book of lyric poems. Bidart’s  2013 collection “Metaphysical Dog” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and “Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016” won both the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry and the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. 

Frank Bidart has taught at Brandeis University and, since 1972, at Wellesley College, both located in the state of Massachusetts. Bidart’s poem “Herbert White” became the basis for actor and poet James Franco’s  2010 short film of the same name. Bidart became a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 2001 and, in 2017, won the Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award.

Wilbur Underwood: “Deep as the Void Above Us and Sweet as the Dawn-Star”

Photographers Unknown,  Deep As The Void Above Us

All night long through the starlit air and the stillness,
Through the cool wanness of dawn and the burning of noontide,
Onward we strain with a mighty resounding of hoof-beats.

Heaven and earth are ashake with the terrible trampling;
Wild, straying feet of a vast and hastening army;
Wistful eyes that helplessly seek one another.

Hushed is the dark to hear the plaint of our lowing,
Mournful cry of the dumb-tired hearts within us,
Faint to death with thirst and the gnawing of hunger.

Day by day through the dust and heat have we thirsted;
Day by day through stony ways have we hungered;
Naught but a few bitter herbs that grew by the wayside.

What we flee that is far behind in the darkness,
Where the place of abiding for us, we know not;
Only we hark for the voice of the Master Herdsman.

Many a weary day must pass ere we hear it,
Blown on the winds, now close, now far in the distance,
Deep as the void above us and sweet as the dawn-star.

Wilbur Underwood, The Cattle of His Hand, Excerpt

Born in 1874, Wilbur Underwood was an American poet whose work had strong affiliations with the literary Decadent movement of the late-nineteenth century. This movement was characterized by a rejection of the world’s banal progress and its norms of morality and sexual behavior, a love for extravagant language in literature, and an emphasis on art for its own sake. 

Few prominent writers, however, were connected to the Decadent movement in the United States, one exception being the poet George Sylvester Viereck who wrote the 1907 “Nineveh and Other Poems’, as Americans at that time were reluctant to see value in the movement’s art forms. Although Underwood’s poetry had some affinities with the Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite eras, the vast majority of his work was written in a decadent style.

Wilbur Underwood worked in a clerical-administrative position in the United States State Department until 1933. He was a member of the homosexual underground scene of the period and is best known as the mentor and confidant of poet Hart Crane, whom he met in 1920 in Washington D.C.  Hart Crane’s intimate letters to Underwood have been published, often censored, in several anthologies. 

One of the first poems of Underwood to be published was his “The Cattle of His Hand”, which appeared in poet Edmund Clarence Stedman’s 1900 verse collection, “An American Anthology”.  Underwood published five volumes of poetry in his lifetime; the first of which was the 1907 “A Book of Masks” which was followed two years later by his “Damien of Molokai”. His third collection was the 1927 “The Way: Poems”, which was followed in the following year by “To One In Heaven”. Underwood’s final verse collection was “Fountain of Dark Waters”, published in 1933. 

Wilbur Underwood died in 1935 at the age of sixty-one. A collection of his poems, “Selected Poems”, was published posthumously in 1949. Underwood’s papers, amassed and catalogued by his brother Norman, were given to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. These include journals, sketchbooks and illustrations, poems, photographs, legal records, and other printed material.

Notes: One of the best sources of information on Wilbur Underwood is Olive Fisher’s 2002 biography “Hart Crane: A Life”, published by Yale University. 

The 1980 Spring Issue of The Souther Review magazine contained the article entitled “Wind-Blown Flames: Letters of Hart Crane to Wilbur Underwood”. Unfortunately, it is not archived online.

Wilbur Underwood’s poem “The Cattle of His Hand”, in its entirety, can be found at bartleby.com located at https://www.bartleby.com/248/1676.html

Insert Images: Two hand-written poems from “A Book of Masks”, published 1907.

Samuel Greenberg: “And This Great Human Rebellion”

Photographers Unknown

And this great human rebellion, has it’s scattered laureates – sparks,
That kindle the flame to repeat my brother will cause the perfumed love more clear
And seek heavenly envy. In spite the selfish heart limits perhaps weave the better birth
We then easily blend a lodge, which can pray upon the universe of charm
And share the impulse of progress, this vital grain must plead thousand-fold
Live in us, as the blowing sea breeze! Through an angel gate,
The ecliptic change found me under a leafless Oak.
The cast shadowings of branches like madusa’s skull
There in on looking leveled my talent to flood the mind in abstract ecstasy,
The gallant spurtive land and heaven with the numberless diamond circle, gives joy hither,
Whether the banner contains power to plenty the soul,
This humble chip in our reverence doth limit it’s whole

end.

Samuel Greenberg, And This Great Human Rebellion

Poet and artist Samuel Greenberg, the sixth of eight children born to Jacob and Hannah Greenberg, was born on December 13, 1893, in a Jewish ghetto in Vienna, Austria. The family emigrated to the United States in October of 1900 and settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where his father worked as an embroiderer. With his mother’s death in  1908, Greenberg, at the age of fourteen, was compelled to leave school to support his family and began work at his older brother Adolf’s leather shop, where he likely contracted tuberculosis in 1912. 

Greenberg began writing poems in his notebooks sometime in 1912. In that year, he also began taking piano lessons, often drawing staff lines with musical notes in his notebooks. Greenberg was also a avid reader of British Romantic classics, as well as the works of John Milton, William Blake, and Oscar Wilde. He painted and was a sketch artist; many of his works, often portraying young men seen in Washington Square Park, were done on scraps of paper or in small sketchbooks. 

Samuel Greenberg was fluent in three languages, Yiddish, German and English. His existing poetry, written in a hard-to decipher English scrawl, was composed between 1913 and 1917. Greenberg’s work was raw in form, contained many spelling errors and unclear grammar; his preferred poetic structure, the sonnet, never extended beyond fourteen lines. Due to his fragile health and early death of both parents, Greenberg was deeply aware of his own mortality, a feeling he relayed in his poems.

After the death of his father in 1913, Samuel Greenberg spent the rest of his life living with one sibling or another. In his final years, he was in and out of charity hospitals in the boroughs of Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens, where he did most of his writing. Samuel Greenberg died of tuberculosis, at the age of twenty-three, in the Manhattan State Hospital on Wards Island on August 16, 1917.

Samuel Greenberg’s work, consisting of over six hundred poems and fifteen notebooks, was never published in his lifetime.His literary immortality is due to the praise and discovery of him by the well-known poet and critic Alan Tate. It was also due, in a large sense, to poet Hart Crane, an admirer of Greenberg’s work who excerpted material from the poems and, either verbatim or slightly modified, included it in his own work. An example of this is Crane’s “Emblems of Conduct”, where he took actual lines of Greenberg’s poem “Conduct”,  slightly altered, and included it in his own published work.

Samuel Greenberg’s work has appeared in several publications, including James Laughlin’s “Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts”, published in 1939,  and “Self Charm: Selected Sonnets and Other Poems”, published in 2005. His papers are now housed in the Fales Collection at New York University.

Top Insert Image: Samuel Greenberg, Musical Staffs and Hands, Sketchbook Page

Bottom Insert Image: Samuel Greenberg, “Self Portrait”, 1916, Pencil on Paper

Note: A very interesting article by Jacob Silverman, entitled “Rimbaud in Embryo”, on the work and the tragically short life of Samuel Greenberg, including opinions of his poetic peers, can be found at the Poetry Foundation located at:  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69896/rimbaud-in-embryo

There is also a reading of Samuel Greenberg’s “The Tusks of Blood” and a commentary by former Poet Laureate of New Jersey Gerald Stern at the Library of Congress’s Poetry and Literature Program: https://www.loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/audio-recordings/poetry-of-america/item/poetry-00001018/gerald-stern-samuel-greenberg/

Joseph Hansen: “Wider Than a Man’s Two Stretched Arms”

Photographers Unknown, An Assemblage of Hands

“The waterwheel was twice a man’s height, wider than a man’s two stretched arms. The timbers, braced and bolted with rusty iron, were heavy, hand-hewn, swollen with a century of wet. Moss bearded the paddles, which dripped as they rose. The sounds were good. Wooden stutter like children running down a hall at the end of school. Grudging axle thud like the heartbeat of a strong old man.”

Joseph Hansen, Death Claims, 1973

Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota in July of 1923, Joseph Hansen was a poet and American crime novelist, best know for his series of novels featuring the gay private detective Dave Brandstetter. After his family settled in Altadena, California, Hansen attended the Pasadena Community College, where he focused on literature. Inspired by the ease with which Walt Whitman viewed his own sexual identity and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call to be true to one’s self, Hansen made the decision to embrace his gay identity at an early age.

Beginning his writing career in the genre of poetry, Hansen’s  first published work was a poem submitted in 1952 to The New Yorker magazine. While employed part-time at bookstores, he continued writing poetry for various magazines, including the Los Angeles-based ONE, the first pro-gay publication in the United States. Hansen’s early fiction efforts, under various pseudonyms,  were also first published by ONE  He also used pseudonyms for his early pulp writings of gay erotica. A total of six early fictional works, including his first novel “Strange Marriage”, published in 1965, were under the names of either James Colton or Rose Brock. 

In 1970, Joseph Hansen published “Fadeout”, the first novel under his own name, which became the introductory novel for his Dave Brandstetter series. Similar in style to a Raymond Chandler character, Hansen’s protagonist was an openly gay insurance investigator, who embodied the tough, stoic, and no-nonsense personality of the classic, private detective. Published two years before the Stonewall riots, a heroic, central literary character, who was a homosexual and not a one-dimensional figure, was revolutionary for that period in history. The importance of the detective’s personal life, his dealing with the death of his partner, his aging and his loneliness, expanded the psychological dimension of the hardboiled genre and, at the same time, offered the genre’s enthusiasts a gay man’s point of view.

Cited now as a groundbreaker in both crime and gay fiction, the gay character of Brandstetter was originally rejected by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1973 because the editor thought that subscribers were not ready for homosexuality in their novels , especially not presented as a part of ordinary social life. Just as the mystery novels of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall can be read collectively as a long discussion of Swedish society, the twelve-volume series of “Brandstetter” can be read as a chronicle of gay lives in California during the 1960s and 1970s. Hansen  showed the heterosexual world through this series that being gay is no more homogenizing than any other social category.

Joseph Hansen won the 1992 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. For his 1991 “A Country of Old Men”, the final novel in the Brandstetter series, he won a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Mystery. Hansen created a second investigative series, the 1988 “Bohannon’s Book”, which consisted of five novellas, centered on the character of a former deputy sheriff. This was followed in 1993 by the five novella sequel “Bohannon’s Country”. Hansen won a second Lambda Literary Award in 1993 for his novel “Living Upstairs”, the story of a young gay man coming of age.

Jospeh Hansen was active in the Gay Rights Movement and was a co-founder in 1965 of the influential gay publication “Tangents”. He produced a radio program on Los Angeles’s KPFX in 1969 entitled “Homosexuality Today” and helped with the planning for the first Gay Pride Parade in Hollywood, held in 1970. Since his first publications in early gay tabloids, Hansen strove for an inclusive civil society without  divisions in regards to race or sexual orientation. 

Described in the American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers anthology as the father of the gay mystery novel, Joseph Hansen died on November 24th of 2004 of heart failure at his Laguna Beach home in California. He was predeceased by his wife of fifty-one years, artist and educator Jane Bancroft, a lesbian with whom he shared an arrangement to have same-sex lovers, and a daughter who later transitioned and changed her name. According to friends, Hansen also had two long-term male lovers.

”Of all the writers who contributed to the LA poetry renaissance in the second half of the 20th century, Joseph Hansen probably gave the most and got the least in return. Most significantly, Hansen was one of the co-founders of the Beyond Baroque poetry workshop (now the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center), a free and open-to-the-public gathering that has met on Wednesday evenings in Venice for 45 years. Along with John Harris, Hansen established an accessible public workshop with serious standards of literary excellence. The fact that Hansen won a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for his fiction a couple of years after starting the workshop only reinforced his stature as the workshop’s standard-bearer.”

—Bill Mohr

Eliot Elisofon

Eliot Elisofon,“Marcel Duchamp Descending a Staircase”, 1952, Gelatin Silver Print, Image Size 33.5 x 26.8 cm, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College

Born in New York City in April of 1911 to immigrant parents, Eliot Elisofon, born Meyer Eliot Elicofon, was a photojournalist and a documentary photographer. His humble upbringing and childhood struggles inspired his career as a photographer; the human condition with all its struggles became the central focus of his work. 

Elisofon graduated from Fordham University in 1933 and first produced advertising photographs for Vogue and Mademoiselle magazines. By 1937, he was regularly contributing work to Life magazine on a variety of subjects, including theater, military exercises, coal miners, and elite society events. In 1936, Elisofon became a founding member of the Photo League, a cooperative of New York photographers who covered creative and social causes. One of its more active members, he gave lectures, collaborated with sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine on the “Men at Work” project, and taught courses on flash photography and photojournalism. 

In 1937, Eliot Elisofon became associated with filmmaker Willard Van Dyke, Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch, Beaumont Newhall, the photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and Tom Maloney, the editior of U.S. Camera magazine. His first exhibition of his New York street photography was shown at the Pennsylvania Museum of Art and New York’s avant-garde Julien Levy Gallery, In 1938, Elisofon’s “Playgrounds of Manhattan” was shown at the New School, a progressive arts college in New York City. 

Elisofon was hired in 1939 as a photographer in the Federal Writers’ Project, a WPA New Deal Program, for its series “These Are Our Lives”, which contained thirty-seven life histories of both black and white farm laborers, factory and mill workers, and workers in service occupations or on relief. Beginning in 1942, Elisofon was a war correspondent and a photographer for Life magazine; he was the only photographer to accompany General Patton throughout the North African Campaign. These photographs taken during the campaign became part of the exhibition “The Tunisian Triumph”, which opened in June of 1943 at MOMA and later traveled to twenty cities. Elisofon continued to be associated with Life and other magazines until 1972. 

Over the years, Eliot Elisofon traveled to six continents and nineteen books of his work were published during his lifetime. During his photographic journeys around the African continent, Elisofon assembled a collection of African art and took over eighty thousand images; the art and photographs are now part of the collection of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. 

Eliot Elisofon’s photograph “Marcel Duchamp Descending a Staircase” was shot for a ten-page article written by Winthrop Sargeant on Marcel Duchamp, a key member of the Dada movement, for the April 28, 1952, issue of Life magazine. One of Duchamp’s most significant works was his early 1912 painting “Nude Descending a Staircase”, a cubist image in the manner of the chronophotography work of Eadweard Muybridge, who was a pioneer in the study of movement and measurement through multiple image photography. Elison’s 1952 time-lapse photograph of Duchamp descending a flight of stairs was done as a tribute to Duchamp’s famous painting; the image above is one of the two staged shots that Elisofon produced in the photo shoot.

Top Insert Image: Eliot Elisofon, “Self Portrait with Speed Graphic Camera, New York City”, 1936, Gelatin Silver Print

Bottom Insert Image: Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)”, 1912, Oil on Canvas, 151.8 x 93.3 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Francesc Català-Roca

Photography by Francesc Català-Roca

Born in  in Valls, Tarragona, in March of 1922, Francesc Català-Roca was a Spanish photographer, the first of a brilliant generation of photographers to emerge in the post-civil war era of 1950s Spain.

After the Spanish Civil War, during Franco’s dictatorship, Català-Roca travelled extensively throughout Spain. An eye witness to the changes that slowly transformed the country, he frequented groups of artists and intellectuals, with whom he influenced and exchanged ideas. Having embraced the neorealist photography of the time, Català-Roca is best known for his documentary images of Spain  and for his portraits of contemporary artists and intellectuals. 

Francesc Català-Roca started his apprenticeship at the age of thirteen in the photographic studio of his father, Pere Català Pic , a writer and a representative of Catalan avant-garde movement. At an early age, he established a studio as a portraitist and, in 1948, worked independently as a photojournalist for magazines such as “Destino” and “La Vanguardia”. Executed predominately in a black and white, minimalist style, Català-Roca’s photography dealt with a variety of themes from landscapes to cityscapes, and artistic documentation to ethnography

Català-Roca’s first photographic book, published in 1952, portrayed one of Spain’s most famous creations, the Sagrada Familia designed by Antoni Gaudi, the famous Catalan architect. In 1954 he had his first exhibition of his black and white work. In the same year,  Català-Roca  was commissioned to illustrate books by Luis Romero and Juan Antonio Cabezas on Barcelona and Madrid, respectively. 

These two commissions enabled Francesc Català-Roca to show his vision of these cities. His many images of Barcelona, with which he had a direct connection, reflect a sophisticated city working to modernize itself; while the images of 1950s Madrid are characterized by its post-war poverty. Repeatedly throughout his career, Català-Roca explored not only the busiest city streets but explored the more obscure areas, such as he did with Barcelona’s Barrio Chino and the shantytowns that surrounded the city.

Català-Roca’s oeuvre contains two hundred thirty-one thousand works, published in over one thousand books, of which eighty are photo-albums. In addition to his books, he directed  films of which the best known are the 1952 “Piedras Vivas”, a documentary about the Holy Family which won first prize at Italy’s Festival of Ancona in the same year; the 1958 “Rapsodia de Sangre”, a film of a young pianist whose concert becomes a slogan in the demonstrations against the 1956 invasion of Hungary; the 1966 short film “Tierra de Conquistadores”; and the 1969 “Ditirambo”, a tragic story of an atypical hero whose life changes unexpectedly.

Francesc Català-Roca also made documentaries on such famous artists as painter Joan Miró, abstract painter Josep Guinovart, and monumental public sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Català Roca passed away, after a long and fruitful career full of merits and awards, on March 15, 1998 in Barcelona . In 1998, a homage to his work was presented by Barcelona’s Primavera Fotográfica and, in May of 2000, an extensive retrospective was held in Barcelona’s La Fundación Joan Miró.

Tope Insert Image: Francesc Català-Roca, Title and Date Unknown, (Viewers), Gelatin Silver Print

Middle Insert Image: Francesc Català-Roca, Self-Portrait in Park Güell, 1953, Gelatin Silver Print 

Bottom Insert Image: Francesc Català-Roca, Barcelona, 1950, Gelatin Silver Print

Gerrit Lansing: “Your Kiss Is My Justice”

Photographers Unknown, Your Kiss Is My Justice

Dreamer of purified fury and fabulous habit,
your eyes of deserted white afternoons
target, stiffen, riot with unicorn candor
so I swallow your body like meanings or whisky or as you swallow me.
 
Break rhythm here:      your kiss is my justice:
look then now how orange blooms of jubilation unfold in satisfied air!
This sex is more than sex, under the will of the God of sex,
so I softly invoke transformation of your rueful image of haven
–those frozen rocks, that guilty lighthouse isolate from temptation–
to warm Flemish landscape green and brighteyed with daisies of
     dizzying color
where pilgrims are dancing after gospelling bird who sing of
      new springs, good water.
 
Garret Lansing, A Poem of Love in Eleven Lines, Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth, 2009

Born in Albany, New York in February of 1928, Gerrit Lansing was a poet, editor and critic. After a brief stay in Colorado Springs, his family  moved to the Cleveland area where his father served on Western Reserve University’s board of trustees.  A piano prodigy, Lansing played Bach, Mozart and Scriabin for pleasure and, in his teen-years, played pop songs with a band. In the mid-1940s, he attended Harvard College, where he studied philosophy and  graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949.

Gerrit Lansing’s social set during his college years included the artist Eduard Gorey, poets Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, and his childhood friend, the writer and poet Kenward Elmslie. His poetic origins can be traced back to his time at Harvard, where he studied the works of William Blake and William Butler Yeats, under critic and biographer Richard Ellmann, and attended readings by T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. Upon graduation from Harvard, Lansing relocated to New York City, where he received his Masters Degree in English from Columbia University and worked on the Columbia University Press.

In the early 1950s, Lansing became friends with Harry Smith, the artist, filmmaker, and musicologist best known for his 1952 “Anthology of American Folk Music”. Both interested in jazz and bebop music, they also studied magic together under Count Stefan Walewski, owner of New York City’s Esoterica curio shop. It was through his association with lyricist John LaTouche that Lansing was introduced to the world of theater, ballet and opera and to a network of writers. Known in his circles as a thinker and conversationalist, he associated with writers Christopher Isherwood, Paul and Jane Bowles, Alan Ginsberg, and Jack Karouac; painters Larry Rivers and Jane Freilicher; and poets Robert Kelly and Jonathan Williams.

Lansing’s poetry first began to appear in New York School periodicals such as “A New Folder”, “Semi-Colon”. and later in a small offset literary journal entitled “Set” which he edited.  By the time the first of Set’s two issues appeared in 1961, Lansing had grown weary of New York City and accepted an invitation by his acquaintance John Hays Hammond Jr., the pioneer of the electronic remote control, to stay at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The invitation to Lansing came through Harry Martin, who was LaTouche’s lover at that time and also the clandestine lover of John Hammond.

In Gloucester, Gerrit Lansing met two men who would greatly shape his life; the first was Charles Olson, an innovative poet and essayist who was previously rector at Black Mountain College. Lansing surprised Olson with an unannounced visit to the poet’s Fort Square apartment and soon became a fast friend, drinking companion, and regular correspondent with him. He also made arrangements for Olson’s first public reading of his work. Lansing was the understated expert for Olson on the role of tarot, astrology, and the esoteric; his knowledge would have an impact on Olson’s 1952 collection, “The Maximus Poems”. The second man to shape Lansing’s life was Deryk Burton, a sailor born in Wallasey, England, who skippered private yachts. They met at the Studio Restaurant on Rocky Neck in Gloucester and soon became lifelong partners.  Together they set up house in Gloucester and sailed private yachts to their winter berths in Florida and the Caribbean.

The deaths of close friends, Charles Olson and Boston poet Stephen Jonas, both within a month of each other in early 1970, greatly affected Lansing. In 1972, he and Burton left Massachusetts on a period of wandering which led to Annapolis, Maryland, due to Burton’s nautical career. There, Lansing co-founded the antiquarian bookstore, Circle West, which specialized in rare occult books. He was also hospitalized successfully for alcoholism, a result of his earlier drinking bouts with friends and gay bar cruising.

In 1982, Lansing and Burton returned to Gloucester. Intrigued by the occult since high school, Gerrit had become an encyclopedic resource on the topic and opened in Gloucester a second bookstore, Abraxas, which specialized in magic, philosophy, and rare esoteric volumes. Lansing operated the Abraxas bookstore until his and Burton’s retirements in 1992. They then purchased a sea captain’s house overlooking Gloucester Bay where they spent the remainder of their lives.

A careful reader and interpreter of Emerson’s works, Gerrit Lansing used a range of forms in his poetry to explore spiritual, social, and natural engagements with the world. His books of poetry include the 1995 “Heavenly Tree/Soluble Forest”, a cross-genre collection entitled “A February Sheaf” published in 2003 by Pressed Wafer, and the 2009 “Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth”. He collaborated, along with conceptual-installation artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, on the 2002 art book “Turning Leaves of Mind”.

Predeceased by his partner Deryk Burton, who died in 1997, Gerrit Lansing died peacefully at his Gloucester home on the evening of February 11th in 2018, at the age of ninety years.

Note: An interesting read on Gerrit Lansing’s work is an article, entitled “ The Metaphysics of Gerrit Lansing”,  written by Robert Baker for the online literary magazine, Rain Taxi. It can be found at: https://www.raintaxi.com/the-metaphysics-of-gerrit-lansing/

Also, the online publication, Wonderland, had a memorial article on Gerrit Lansing in which personal remembrances by three close friends of Lansing are included. That article can be found at: https://gregcookland.com/wonderland/2018/03/02/gerrit-lansing-3/

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg, “Self Portrait, Black Mountain (1)”, 1952, Gelatin Silver Print, 14.3 x 8.3 cm, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

While studying at Black Mountain College in North Carolina between 1948 and 1952, Robert Rauschenberg focused his attention on mid-century experimental and abstract photography. His exploration of this medium was influenced by the works of photographer Aaron Siskind, whose detailed images created an innovation in abstract photography; Harry Callahan, a prolific photographer who rigorously curated his work; and educator and photographer Hazel Larson Archer, whose work captured life at Black Mountain.

Rauschenberg used a bold mixture of abstraction, double exposures, experiments with light and shadow, and used blueprint paper to produce photographs with a camera. Many of his earliest photographic experiments were portraits of close companions and people he met in conversations; these include artists such as choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham and painter Cy Twombly.

A recurring subject of his experimental work was the self portrait, of which the double-exposure image above, “Self Portrait, Black Mountain (1)”, is an example. Shot in 1952, it features Rauschenberg seated on a wooden chair with his hands folded. Ghostly images of weeds and chairs are superimposed over his body.This photograph is a singular work in a portfolio edition of seven related photographs taken during the summer of 1952 at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina.

Digby Mackworth Dolben: “For Should He Ever Pass. . .”

Photographers Unknown, For Should He Ever Pass

My sister Death! I pray thee come to me
 Of thy sweet charity,
And be my nurse but for a little while;
 I will indeed lie still,
And not detain thee long, when once is spread,
 Beneath the yew, my bed:
I will not ask for lilies or for roses;
 But when the evening closes,
Just take from any brook a single knot
 Of pale Forget-me-not,
And lay them in my hand, until I wake,
 For his dear sake;
(For should he ever pass and by me stand,
 He yet might understand—)
Then heal the passion and the fever
 With one cool kiss, for ever.

Digby Macworth Dolben, Sister Death

Born in Guernsey in February of 1848, Digby Augustus Stewart Mackworth Dolben was an English poet. His father, William Harcourt Isham Mackworth, was the younger son of the Third Baronet, Sir Digby Mackworth, and his mother Frances Dolben was the daughter and heiress of Sir John English Dolben, the Fourth Baronet. Digby Dolben was raised, under a strict and uncompromising Protestant discipline, at Finedon Hall, his mother’s family estate in Northamptonshire, England.

Digby Mackworth Dolben was educated at Cheam School, a mixed preparatory school in Hampshire, and, starting in 1862, at Eaton College, where he studied under Headmaster and poet William Johnson Cory. William Cory’s method of teaching and his collection of verses, “Ionica” were sources of inspiration for Dolben in his own poetic writings. While at Eaton in the early 1860s, Dolben met his distant older cousin, Robert Bridges, who became his mentor and introduced him to his circle of high church friends. During his school years, Dolben seemed abstracted and other-worldly to his college friends; by his activities, he appeared to his headmaster as an agitator who was dangerously misguided.

In 1863, Dolben started to cause considerable scandal at Eaton College with his eccentric and exhibitionist behavior. Defying his strict Protestant upbringing, he became a novice in the English Order of Saint Benedict and began to sign his letters ‘Dominic’. By associating with the new ritualistic, religious revival of that time and wearing a monk’s habit, Dolben would cause scandal by walking, often barefoot, through the streets of the city. He also began to mark his romantic attachment to fellow student Martin Le Merchant Gosselin, a year senior, with written love poems. It was during this period that Dolben destroyed by fire all his previous written poetic work.

In July of 1863, Robert Bridges left Eaton to attend Oxford College. Several weeks later on July 30th, Digby Dolben was dismissed from Eaton after engaging in secret meetings with Jesuit priests. He maintained his communication with Bridges through letters sent to Oxford; however, there is no evidence of any poems being written since the destruction of his earlier work. It was not until the Lenten season of 1864 that Dolben resumed his poetry writing. At the age of sixteen, he wrote his first mature poem “Homo Factus Est” and had six poems published in the Union Review.

On his seventeenth birthday in 1865, Digby Dolben was introduced by his cousin Robert Bridges to Gerald Manley Hopkins, a fellow poet who was attending Oxford’s Balliol College. In accounts to his biographer, Hopkins stated that meeting Dolben, who was four years his junior, was the most emotional event of his undergraduate years, and probably his entire life. After Hopkins was forbidden by his High Anglican confessor to have any contact with Dolben, Hopkins and Dolben maintained their communication through letters; Hopkins wrote, during this time, two poems about his love for Dolben, “Where Art Thou Friend” and “The Beginning of the End’.

In 1865, Dolben’s work began to mature as he turned from writing Christian themed poetry to poems portraying a more Greco or pagan ideal of beauty. By 1866, he had moved to the Welsh village of Boughrood and studied there under tutor Henry de Winton for his Oxford entrance exams. Dolben took his entrance exams on May 2nd of 1867; however, he fainted during the exams and received a failing score. Thirteen days later on June 28th, Digby Mackworth Dolben, at the age of nineteen, drowned in the River Welland.

In 1865, Dolben’s work began to mature as he turned from writing Christian themed poetry to poems portraying a more Greco or pagan ideal of beauty. By 1866, he had moved to the Welsh village of Boughrood and studied there under tutor Henry de Winton for his Oxford entrance exams. Dolben took his entrance exams on May 2nd of 1867; however, he fainted during the exams and received a failing score. Thirteen days later on June 28th, Digby Dolben, at the age of nineteen, drowned in the River Welland.

Digby Dolben had taken Walter, the ten year old son of his tutor, Reverend C. E. Pritchard, on his back across the deep river. Upon the return swim, Dolben sank within several yards of the shoreline. Walter Pritchard, only able to float on his back, made it to shore with the assistance of men who came to the rescue. Dolben’s body was found several hours later when it surfaced further down the river. He was buried under the altar at Finedon Estate on July 6th of 1867.

In 1911, Robert Bridges, who would become poet laureate of England two years later, published the poetry of his cousin Digby Dolben, all of which had been written in the last three years of Dolben’s life. Approached by Gerald Manley Hopkins as to whether the Dolben family would publish Dolben’s work, the independently wealthy Bridges decided he would finance the publishing of both Dolben’s and Hopkins’s collectibe poetry. Published in a single volume entitled “Poems”, Digby Dolben’s work is considered to be among the best poetry of the Oxford Movement.

In 1981, “The Poems and Letters of Digby Mackworth Dolben, 1848-1867”, compiled by Martin Cohen, was published by the Avebury press. In 2017, author Simon Edge published his historical fiction novel “The Hopkins Conundrum”, a story about Gerald Hopkins’s infatuation with Dolben.

Note: A journal article on the life of Digby Mackworth Dolben, written by Liam Brophy, can be found at the JSTOR site located at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20513622

An online copy of Robert Bridges’s 1911 “Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben”, published by Oxford University Press, can be found on The Internet Archive located at: https://archive.org/details/poemsofdigbymack00dolb_0/page/n3/mode/2up

John Giorno

 

Photographers Unknown, Thirteen Men Who Traveled Here

An unemployed
machinist
An unemployed machinist
who travelled
here
who travelled here
from Georgia
from Georgia 10 days ago
10 days ago
and could not find
a job
and could not find a job
walked
into a police station
walking into a police station
yesterday and said
yesterday
and said:

“I’m tired
of being scared
I’m tired of being scared.”

—John Giorno, An Unemployed Machinist, Balling Buddha, 1970

Born in New York City in December of 1936, John Giorno was a poet and performance artist. Raised in both Brooklyn and Roslyn Heights, Long Island, he graduated from New York’s Columbia University in 1958. In his early life, Giorno was a muse to and entered into romantic relationships with other artists, among them Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, whom he met in 1963 during Warhol’s first solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York City. Giorno starred in Warhol’s 1963 four-minute film entitled “John Washing” and also appeared in Warhol’s eight-hour 1964 silent film, “Sleep”, the plot of which entailed Giorno sleeping on camera.

Inspired by his associations with Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Jasper Johns, Giorno began to appropriate found textual imagery to his poetry. An example of this can be found in the1964 poem “The American Book of the Dead”. Portions of this poem were used in works contained in Giorno’s first full collection “Poems”, published in 1967. Later meetings with sound poet and performance artist Brion Gysin and writer William S. Burroughs led to Giorno applying cut-up and montage techniques to found texts, and, influenced by the work of Gysin, the recording of his first audio poem pieces.

Established as an active presence in New York’s art scene, John Giorno collaborated with Brion Gysin on “Subway Sound” in 1965, and with Robert Rauschenberg in 1966 on “Nine Evenings of Theater and Engineering”. From 1967 to 1969, John Giorno presented his “Electronic Sensory Poetry Environments”, a series produced in collaboration with synthesizer creator Robert Moog and other artists. These psychedelic happenings and poetry installations were shown at St. Marks Church in Manhattan. In 1965, Giorno founded Giorno Poetry Systems, a non-profit production company that connected new audiences to poetry by the use of new technologies, engaged in political organizing, and created new artworks.

Giorno organized the first Dial-A-Poem event in 1968 at the non-profit Architectural League of New York. This poetic event was repeated at the Museum of Modern Art from 1969 to 1970, and resulted in a series of long-playing records issued by Giorno Poetry Systems. Poets who participated in these events included Patti Smith, William Burroughs, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale. John Giorno was unapologetic in his use of politically-charged and sexually salacious content; he used his work to draw attention to his own status as a gay man, police violence in America, and the countless deaths caused by the war in Vietnam.

In the late 1960s, John Giorno’s work evolved to include the appropriation of entire texts from newspapers, the development of double-column poems, montages of diverse and often radically different texts, and the extensive use of repetition both across and down the page.This use of repetitive words and phrases reproduced textually the echos and distortions which occurred in Giorno’s vocal performances. Several of these poems were included in his 1970 “Balling Buddha”.

After traveling to India in 1971 and meeting His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Giorno became one of the early Western students of Tibetan Buddhism, a practice in which he participated for several decades. His early poetic works occasionally reflect Asian religious themes; but those after the 1970 collection, “Cancer in My Left Ball”, are a mixture of Buddhist and Western practices and poetic techniques seen through Giorno’s original interpretation. For instance in his 1970-72 poem “Guru Rinpoche”, Giorno mixed pop imagery with sacred sutras and portrayed gay eroticism as a form of spiritual devotion.

In 1972, John Giorno began releasing compilation records under the newly incorporated Giorno Poetry Systems media label. Presented through cassettes, long-playing records and compact discs, these audio works included new wave and punk music, and an assortment of vocal artists, musicians, and poets. Giorno Poetry Systems expanded in 1984 with the establishment of the AIDS Treatment Project, an emergency response to the impacts of the epidemic on artists’ lives. This project provided funds for artists living with AIDS through the early 2000s, when it was officially transformed into the Poets and Artists Fund.

Retired from performing in 2017, Giorno spent the last two years of his life in meditation, composing his poetry, and editing his memoir “Great Demon Kings”. John Giorno died of a heart attack at age eighty-two in October of 2019 at his home in Lower Manhattan. At the time of his death, he was married to Swiss-born Ugo Rondinone, a mixed-media artist known for his paintings and large-scale land-art sculptures.

Notes:
The john Giorno Foundation can be found at: https://www.giornofoundation.org/the-foundation
There are two interesting reads for those interested in John Giorno and his work. The first is an interview between journalist and essayist Marcus Boon and John Giorno, which is presented by Bomb Magazine, It can be found at: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/john-giorno-1/

The second is an article, written in 1994, by journalist and author Robert Coe and entitled “Becoming Buddha: John Giorno”. This more extensive biographical piece can be found at The Buddhist Review, Tricycle, located at: https://tricycle.org/magazine/becoming-buddha/

Küçük İskender: “You Should Have a Macedonian Name: Nicola”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Four

you decerebrate the rose, don’t do this
verses, cannot find the poems they deserted
you become a humiliated evening
your hair wet to your waist
your eyes
turned away and fixed on a couple of cracked glasses
left on a claret, velvet coverlet
almost exploded. Soon to blow
before the storm
closely shielding your face, poor and lonely child
storyless, bashful and amicable
you should have a macedonian name: nicola
I sat on your balcony, drank Choπcko beer,
over the way were
grand men wounded by the earth
grand women are sleeping
grand women wounded on account of grand men
turned into tramps by grand men
a pen knife, holds its blade inside like a secret
the pen knife I put on the table on leaving
a perfect portrayal
if it were nicola what would appear
somehow, not far away
was a beautiful graveyard where songs are laid

Küçük İskender, Nicola, Ascaracus Journal of Gay Poetry, February 2016, Translation by Caroline Stockford

Born Derman İskender Över in Istanbul in May of 1964, Küçük İskender was a Turkish critic, actor, and one of Turkey’s few openly gay poets. He studied at Istanbul University’s Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine, where he left in his last year. İskender later studied for three years at the university’s Department of Sociology. After leaving, he pursued his passions: cinema, theater and poetry.

Starting from the 1980s, İskender published poems, essays, and criticisms in various literary magazines, including the National Young Art Magazine where they appeared under the name Alexander Över. His first poem, “Milliyet Genç Sanat (National Young Art)”, was published under the name İskender Över. His poetry began to be published professionally in 1985 when Adam Sanat Magazine accepted his work.

Küçük İskender was one of the top ten poets in Italy’s 2000 European Young Poets Competition, and in the same year, was awarded at the annual poetry, film, and photography competition held in honor of Turkish poet Orhon Murat Ariburnu. Between 2001 and 2002, he was a speaker at poetry performances in Germany and the Netherlands, and at Berlin’s 2003 First Gay Turkish Congress. In 2004,  İskender lectured and read poetry at universities in New York and North Carolina; he also joined panels and workshops at various educational facilities in Turkey.

Reminiscent of the poems of García Lorca and Arthur Rimbaud in their urgency, İskender’s work is close to the clarity of expression found in the works of Spanish poet Luis Cernuda. His poems contain many sensual affirmations of gay life, but they also contain political and cultural commentaries. Many of his poems, written outside the traditional style of Turkish poetry, were polemic and abrasive in their language and spoke of injustice, the arrogance of those who plunder others, and intolerance in regard to sexual identity.

In additional to his poems and poetry collections, İskender wrote three novels: the 1998 “Flu’es”, “Cehenneme Gitmo Yöntemleri (Gitmo: Methods in Hell)” published in 1999, and the 2000 “Zatülcenp”. He also acted in two of director Mustafa Altioklar’s movies, the 1997 “Agir Roman” and the 2002 “O Simdi Asker”. 

Küçük İskender was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2018. His last year was spent in the intensive care unit of the state hospital in Istanbul. He died on July 2nd in 2019 and is buried in Zincirlikuyu Cemetery in Istanbul.

Étienne-Jules Marey

Motion-Analyses by Étienne-Jules Marey

Born in March of 1830 in Beaune, Étienne-Jules Marey was a French scientist, physiologist, and chronophotographer. The results of his work were significant for the development of aviation, cardiology, laboratory photography, cinematography, and instruments for precise measurement.

Étienne-Jules Marey traveled to Paris in 1849 and enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine to study surgery and physiology. After qualifying as a doctor in 1859, he established a small Parisian laboratory in 1864 where he studied the circulation of blood in the human body. From these studies, Marey published the 1868 “Le Mouvement dans les Fonctions de la Vie”. This book discussed the importance of recording devices in biology, Marey’s graphic method, the origin of movement, muscle contractility and elasticity, artificial stimulations of movement, and descriptions of many medical recording devices.

Beginning in 1862, Marey perfected the first elements of his graph methodology, which studied movement using recording instruments and graphs. He succeeded in analyzing through diagrams the walk of man and a horse, and the flight of birds and insects. The published results of this work, the 1873 “La Machine Animals”, led Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford to pursue their own photographic researches into animal movement. 

Although Étienne-Jules Marey admired the results of Muybridge’s work done at the Palo Alto studio, he was dissatisfied with the lack of precision in Muybridge’s bird movement images. Inspired by previous photographic work done by astronomer Jules Janssen, Marey, in 1882, perfected the ‘photographic gun’ with a revolving cylinder containing photographic plates that was capable of taking twelve exposures in one second. Using this instrument, he was able to shoot multiple images of a subject quickly from different angles. Later in the same year, Muray invented the chronophotographic fixed-plate camera which was equipped with a timed shutter. 

Unlike the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge, who depicted movement as a series of discrete moments on separate, sequential negatives, Marey’s analyses of motion, captured by his chronophotographic camera, are characterized by multiple exposures on a single photographic glass plate. He made improvements to his invention in 1888 by replacing the glass plate with a long strip of sensitized paper. Marey’s first multiple-exposure “film” on paper, produced by moving the strip intermittently in the camera by an electromagnet at the speed of twenty images a second, was presented at the Academy des Science on October 29th in 1888. 

Two years later, Étienne-Jules Marey replaced the paper strip with a transparent celluloid film ninety millimeters wide with a length of one meter or more. A pressure-plate immobilized the film; a spring restarted the film when the pressure was released. All following cameras produced were based on the principles first applied by Marey: the intermittent movement of a sensitive film behind an objective lens  and the film’s static moments corresponding with the opening of the shutter. 

Between 1890 and 1900, assisted by inventor and photographer  Georges Demenÿ, and later by photographers Lucien Bull and Pierre Nogues, Marey made a large number of motion analysis filmstrips of high aesthetic and technical quality. These filmstrips were subsequently  processed and archived by the Cinématheque Francaise, the French non-profit film organization founded in 1936, and totaled over four- hundred original negatives, a collection which included the recording of a moving hand, self-portraits of Demenÿ and Marey, and the now-famous falling cat filmstrip, taken in 1894. 

In 1894, Étienne-Jules Marey published his collective research work under the title “Le Mouvement”. Towards the end of his life, he returned to studying the movement of more abstract forms. Marey’s  last great work was the observation and photography of smoke trails, partially funded by American astronomer and inventor Samuel Pierpont Langley under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institute. In 1901 Marey built a smoke machine with fifty-eight smoke trails; this machine became one of the first aerodynamic wind tunnels. 

The founding father of technical cinematic photography, Étienne-Jules Marey died on May 15th of 1904 in Paris. His research was continued by his assistants Lucien Bull and Pierre Nogues at the Marey Institute, built at the request of the International Society of Physiology by Marey to house a commission for the control of graphic instruments dedicated to physiology.  At this institute, Bull and Nogues made microscopic, X-Ray and high-speed analysis films.

Christoper Soden: “Dionysus”

Photographers Unknown, Dionysus

i am wielder of chaos
bearer of cozy poison
hidden son of jupiter
gestated from his thigh
supple strapping boy
follow the crooked
steps of spontaneous
capering i will soothe
your terrified gaze
summon frantic defiant
nymphs to slake
your thumping skull
with tender anarchy
my fierce priestesses
in robes of moonlight
diaphanous cobweb
will sing lilting implacable
spells to wreck
planets in their courses
wine and feral milk spouting
from tap of hyssop branch
i will swaddle you
in mother night caress
you with snake tongue
drizzle silky
secret language
of the rapacious
in your ear nudge
succulent fissure
yearning for arc
of scalding bliss
sap of brief
delectable death

Christopher Soden, Dionysus

Born in Texas, Christopher Soden is a poet, playwright, and a critic of film, literature and theater. He attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts where he received in January of 2005 his Masters of Fine Art in Poetry. Soden has taught classes on the craft and theory of poetry, English literature, and the process of publication; he currently teaches literature in the Continuing Education Program at the Dallas College Richland Campus.

Soden’s first full-length poetry collection, “Closer” was published by Rebel Satori Press in June of 2011. While realizing that one can get only so close to another being, the works in this collection, written mostly in free verse, display the persistent sense of longing that one has for another. Soden’s collection of confessional narratives present an honest look at same-gender sexuality, maleness, loss and regret, and the complexity of the human condition.

Christopher Soden’s “Queer Anarchy”, a collection of short plays, monologues and performance pieces, dealt with gay and lesbian life in America; it received the Best Stage Performance award from The Dallas Voice, the first newspaper to represent Dallas’ LBGTQ community. Two of his plays, “Water” and “A Christmas Wish” were staged at Dallas’ Bishop Arts Theater Center. Other plays written by Soden include “All That Glitters Ain’t Goldie”, “Lizards Need Love Too”, and “Space Cowboy, Aunt Velma and the Macaroon”.

Soden received a Full Fellowship to Lambda Literary’s Retreat for Emerging LBGT Voices. He is a member of the Distinguished Poets of Dallas, the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion Series, and is a Founding Member and President Emeritus of the Dallas Poets Community. Soden’s poetry has appeared in many print and online magazines, including G&L Review and Chelsea Station; he currently writes for the Dallas Art Beat, the Examiner.com, and the online theater review, sharpcritic.com.

“I remember the first time I heard Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus’ in a writer’s workshop I was taking. Our teacher, Jack, read it aloud, and I was unacquainted with Plath and her poetry. Didn’t even know she was dead. As anyone who knows the poem can tell you, it gathers steam and just continues to escalate by way of rage and audacity. Plath just keeps pushing and pushing until you think she couldn’t possibly go any further, and yet she does. By the time Jack finished with those three lines, ‘Herr God, Herr Lucifer, Beware. Beware. / Out of the ash I rise with my red hair, / and I eat men, like air,’ I could feel deep shudders traveling up my back. My scalp was ablaze. Until that moment I didn’t even know such poetry was possible. That was when I knew I wanted to be a poet.”

– Christopher Soden

Herbert List

Photography by Herbert List

Herbert List was a classically educated artist who combined his fascination with  Surrealism and Classicism with his love for photography. His austere, classically posed black and white compositions, particularly his Greek and Italian homoerotic nudes, became a prominent influence on both fashion and contemporary photography. 

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in October of 1903 to a wealthy business family, Herbert List  studied art and literature between 1921 and 1923 at the University of Heidelberg. In 1923, he began to travel for the family’s coffee business, Kaffee-Import Firma List & Heineken. List made contacts and visited plantations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil and El Salvador; during this four year period, he began to record his travels photographically.  

Through his connections to the European avant-garde, List became associated with  American photographer Andreas Bernhard, known for his dynamic black and white city scenes and natural structures. Bernhard  introduced him to the Rolleiflex camera which allowed for more sophisticated compositions. Beginning in 1930, influenced by the Bauhaus artists and  the emerging surrealist movement, List began photographing still life and portraits of friends, often employing draped fabrics, masks, and double exposures. 

Once the National Socialist Party was in control of Germany, the Gestapo began to pay attention to Herbert List’s openly gay lifestyle and Jewish heritage. In 1936, he left Germany for Paris and decided to begin a professional career as a photographer. During 1937 List maintained a studio in London and held his first solo show at Galerie du Chasseur d’Images, the first Paris gallery dedicated to photography.  Starting in 1936 with a reference from fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene to Harper’s Bazaar magazine, List began a three year period working as a fashion photographer for various magazines, including Verve, Vogue, and Life.

Dissatisfied  with fashion photography, List returned to his still life and portraiture  work. He traveled throughout Greece from 1937 to 1939 where he took photographs of ancient temples, sculptures and landscapes; two hundred of these photographs would be published in his 1953 “Licht Über Hellas: Eine Symphonie in Bildern”. During this time, List supported himself with work for magazines and the press, and by doing portraiture work. 

Working in Athens, Herbert List hoped to escape World War II; however, when troops invaded Greece, he was forced in 1941 to return to Germany, where, due to a grandparent’s Jewish heritage, he was denied the ability to work or publish professionally. Near the end of the war in 1944, despite his Jewish heritage, he was drafted into the German military and served in Norway as a map designer. A trip to Paris during his military service allowed him the opportunity to photograph images of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and other artists.

After the war, List continued to live in Munich until 1960, where he photographed its ruins and produced freelance photo essays for newspapers and magazines such as Look, Picture Post, Heute, and Harper’s Bazaar. List was made art editor in 1948 for the Swiss-German language, daily free newspaper Heute, which was published by the Allied Forces. In 1951 through an invitation by photojournalist Robert Capa, he started contributing photographs to Magnum, an international photographic cooperative. 

Through the next decade Herbert List focused his interest on photographing life in Italy. where he shot photo essays, street scenes, architectural views, and portraits using a 35 mm camera and a telephoto lens. His work became more spontaneous and was influenced by the Italian neorealist film movement and the work of his Magnum colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson. List ’s travels for his photographic work was extensive, including trips to Spain, France, Mexico, and the Caribbean. 

List’s publications include “Rom”, a collection of his work in Rome, published in Munich in 1950:“Caribia”, his Caribbean Island series published in 1958: “Nigeria”, published in 1963; and “Napoli”,  a 1962  collaboration with Italian director Vittorio de Sica. List is best known for his  1988 book “Junge Männer”, a collection of seventy images of young men lounging in the sun, wrestling, or gazing at the camera. The introduction of the book was written by English novelist Stephen Spender, who fictionalized List as Joachim Lenz in his novel “The Temple”. 

Herbert List passed away in Munich on the 4th of April in 1975. His archive of photographs, originally part of the Ratjen Collection, is now housed in the National Gallery in Washington DC. His work is held in many private and public collections, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, Kunsthaus Zürich, Cologne’s Museum Ludwig, Munich;s Stadtmaueum, and the Musée Picasso in Paris.

Insert Images:

Herbert List, “Self Portrait, Herrsching”, 1947, Silver Gelatin Print

Herbert List, “Man and Dog”, 1939, Gelatin Silver Print

Photographer Unknown, “Herbert List and Max Scheler, Venice”, 1952, Silver Gelatin Print, Mas Scheler Estate

Herbert List, “Young Man Under Reed Roof, Torremolinos”, 1951, Gelatin Silver Print

Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander, Photographs from the “The Little Screens” Series

Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in July of 1934, Lee Friedlander is an artist and photographer known for his innovative images depicting America’s city streets. His candid street photography captured the light and content in the country’s urban landscapes.

At the age of eighteen, Friedlander began his formal studies of photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1956, he settled in New York City, where he photographed jazz musicians for record album covers. Friedlander’s early work was influenced by Swiss photographer and documentary film maker Robert Frank, best known for his 1958 book “The Americans”; Walker Evans, known for his Depression Era images taken with a large-format view camera; and the French pioneer of documentary photography Eugène Atget, known for his scenes of Paris’ streets and architecture. 

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960, Lee Friedlander was able to focus on his photography, which is primarily executed with hand-held Leica 35 mm cameras and black and white film. Friedlander’s street photography featured detached images of ordinary urban life, including structures framed by fences, gas stations, parking lots, store fronts, churches and commercial signs and posters. In his work, he cleverly used reflections and shadows, often shooting images at strange angles or through car windshields. Friedlander has also used car mirrors to frame an image within an image. 

Friedlander is constantly aware of the photographer’s relationship to the picture plane; and he places at least as much importance on it as on the image’s apparent subject which could be an empty street, a store window, or an unremarkable piece of town statuary. Friedlander’s photographs often contain his shadow and/or his reflection, a self-portrait which lends an odd edge to his observations.

Friedlander had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the International Museum of Photography located at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Along with photographers Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand, he was a key figure at curator John Szarkowski’s 1967 “New Documents” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, an influential exhibition which generated a new look in documentary photography. 

Lee Friedlander has published books regularly: the 1969 “Work from the Same House”, a collaborative effort with artist Jim Dine; “Self-Portrait” published in 1970; the 1981 “Flowers and Trees”; the 1985 retrospective “Lee Friedlander: Portraits”; “Nudes” published in 1991; and the 1992 “The Jazz People of New Orleans”. Friedlander has received a number of awards for his photography, including three Guggenheim Fellowships, five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a MacArthur Foundation Award. 

Friedlander is also responsible for rescuing and printing the negatives of early twentieth-century New Orleans photographer Ernest Joseph Bellocq, remembered for his haunting photographs taken in Storyville, New Orleans’ legalized red-light district. These photographs were published in the 1996 “Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville”, with an introduction by photographer Susan Sontag.

Note: In the early 1960s, Lee Friedlander’s attention was drawn to television sets, a relatively recent luxury appliance. His series “The Little Screens” first appeared as a 1963 picture essay in Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with a commentary by photographer Walker Evans. Six untitled photographs showed television screens broadcasting glowing images of faces and figures into unoccupied rooms in homes and motels across America. 

Between 1963 and 1969, “The Little Screens” series grew and, in 2001, was exhibited in full at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. The series documented not only iconographic ghostly rooms filled with bland furnishings of the period; it also revealed an emerging future reality of omnipresent television screens, and droning television voices and personalities that filled space in an increasing isolationist culture.

Insert Images: Lee Friedlander, “Self Portraits”, 1960s, Gelatin Silver Prints

John Kingsley Orton

Photographers Unknown, Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Thirteen

Sir — As a playgoer of forty years standing, may I say that I heartily agree with Peter Pinnell in his condemnation of ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’. I myself was nauseated by this endless parade of mental and physical perversion. And to be told that such a disgusting piece of filth now passes for humor! Today’s young playwrights take it upon themselves to flaunt their contempt for ordinary decent people. I hope that the ordinary decent people of this country will shortly strike back! Yours truly, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)

—John Kingsley Orton, Letter Sent for Publication under the Alias of Edna Welthorpe

Born in Leicester, England in January of 1933, John Kingsley Orton, known under the pen name of Joe Orton, was a working-class, gay playwright whose outrageous black comedies shocked, outraged, and amused theatre audiences in the 1960s. 

After attending secretarial classes at Clark’s College in Leicester from 1945 to 1947, Joe Orton worked as a junior clerk for three pounds a week. He began performing in theater productions beginning in 1949 and joined several groups, including the Leicester Dramatic Society. Orton was accepted for a scholarship at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in November of 1950; however, due to appendicitis, his entrance was delayed until May of 1951. It was at the Royal Academy that Orton met the seven-year older Kenneth Leith Halliwell, who also was a struggling actor and writer. After moving into a West Hampstead flat, they quickly formed a strong relationship and became lovers.

After graduation, Orton and Halliwell collaborated on writing several novels, which were unsuccessful at  publishing. Due to a lack of serious work, they began to amuse themselves with pranks and hoaxes. From January 1959 to May of 1962, Orton and Halliwell removed books from several local public libraries and began to modify the blurbs and cover art. One volume of poetry by writer and broadcaster John Betjeman was found with a new dust jacket featuring a photograph of a nearly naked, tattooed middle-aged man. Discovered by the authorities in May of 1962 and later found guilty of five counts of theft and malicious damage to seventy books, the two men served six months in prison. A collection of these altered book covers are now housed in the Islington Local History Center.

In 1959, Joe Orton wrote his only novel, which was  posthumously published as “Head to Toe”, and soon began to have success in his plays’ productions. His first play “Fred and Madge” was written in 1959; and “The Visitors” followed two years later. In 1963 the BBC purchased Orton’s radio play “The Ruffian on the Stair”, which was broadcast on August 31st of 1964 and, later in 1966, adapted as a stage play. 

By the end of August, Orton had also completed his play “Entertaining Mr. Sloane”, which premiered on May 6th of 1964 to reviews which ranged from praise to outrage. Although it lost money on its short run, the play tied for first in the Variety Critics’ Poll for Best New Play, and Orton came second in the category for Most Promising Playwright. By 1965, “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” was being performed in Spain, Israel, Australia, and New York, as well as being adapted into both a film and television play.

Written between June and October of 1964, Joe Orton’s next play was “Loot”, a wild parody of detective fiction, which added the blackest farce and jabs at established ideas on death, the police, religion, and justice. It underwent sweeping rewrites before it was judged fit for the West End. “Loot” was first staged in London on September 27th of 1966 to rave reviews. In November the play moved to the Criterion Theater where it ran for three hundred forty-two performances, won several awards and firmly established Orton’s fame.

Orton, over the next ten months, revised his “The Ruffian on the Stair” and his “The Erpngham Camp” for the stage as a double play entitled “Crimes of Passion”. He also wrote his television play “Funeral Games”, the screenplay entitled “Up Against It” for the Beatles music group, and his final full-length play “What the Butler Saw”, a play of seduction, blackmail, and cross-dressing, which came to the West End stage in 1969, eighteen months after Orton’s death.

On the 9th of August of 1967, John Kingsley Orton was bludgeoned to death by Kenneth Halliwell at their home in Islington, London, killed by nine hammer blows to the head. Halliwell then committed suicide with an overdose of Nembutal. Later evidence showed that Orton had earlier confided to a friend that he wanted to end his relationship with Halliwell; and it also showed that Halliwell had spoken to his psychiatrist three times on the day of the murder. Halliwell had felt increasingly threatened and isolated by Orton’s success, and had come to rely on barbiturates and antidepressants. The bodies, along with Halliwell’s suicide note, were found on the morning of August 10th by a chauffeur who had arrived to transport Orton for a meeting in London. 

The body of Joe Orton was brought into the chapel of London’s Golders Green Crematorium to a recording of the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life”. Playwright and director Harold Pinter read the eulogy. After Orton’s cremation, his ashes and Halliwell’s ashes were mixed together and scattered in a section of the Garden of Remembrance at Golders Green; no marking memorial stone is erected there. A statue of Joe Orton was later installed in the city of Leicester and, in 1987, a film adaption of John Lahr’s 1978 biography of Orton was released under the title “Prick Up Your Ears”.

Note: For those interested in theater and gay history, an interesting article is Greg Buzwell’s 2019 “Homosexuality, Censorship, and British Drama During the 1950s and 1960s” located at the British Library site: https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/homosexuality-censorship-and-british-drama-during-the-1950s-and-1960s

Chris Plytas

Photography by Chris Plytas

Born in 1953 in London, Chris Plytas is an established contemporary visual artist whose work covers the psychology of self-image and identity. His photographic portraiture works have been admired often for their way of unearthing the primal and sensual core of their subjects, and the way they sometimes straddle the borderline between beatific innocence and animal rage.

From 1974 to 1977, Plytas studied fine art, painting and sculpture at St. Martins School of Art in London and earned a BFA with honors. After graduation, he developed his darkroom skills on landscape and portraiture photography.Plytas also  did reportage photography for publications, in which he covered  events such as night clubs, concerts, fashion shows, the Royal Wedding, and the Cannes Film Festival.

During the period form 1977 to 1985, Chris  Plytas did photographic printing, layouts, and personal design realization in London for Vivienne Westwood, the English fashion designer largely responsible for bringing punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream. In 1982, he became Director of Berwick Universal Pictures, Limited, an award-winning documentary film company based in Soho, London.  Starting in 1985, Plytas began concentrating on his own personal, black and white, fine art photography, shot with Hasselblad cameras, for exhibition and personal archives. 

Chris Plytas’ first series, entitled “Australia”, was shot over a six month period mostly in the New South Wales and Victoria provinces of Australia. This large body of work, consisting of landscape and portraiture, was exhibited in 1987 at London’s Photographers Gallery and toured Europe for six years with support from Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, a public collection of France’s contemporary art. 

Starting in 1987, Plytas engaged in a six-year shoot for his series “Hadrian: The Violence and Sexuality of Adolescence” series, a coming of age story shot in real time. His next series “Le Corps Enjeux (The Body)” was shown as part of the Mois de la Photo exhibition, sponsored by Audiovisuel and Kodak,  held in Paris in 1988. Plytas spent a year from 1992 to 1993 in the Xi’an and the Yannan regions of China, where he shot his “China: Voyage to the East” portfolio, a series which he dedicated to Sun Wukong, the trickster Monkey King.

Known for his exhibited photographic series, Chris Plytas began to receive commissions for portraiture work. His “Family Portraits” series was commissioned by the De Ganay Archives and, at present, consists of forty-eight individual portraits of members of the French aristocratic family. He has also received portraiture commissions from various  other European  and American families 

After shooting his “Miami Beach” series in  1994.  Plytas  has continued working, throughout his career, on multiple personal portfolios, some of which have been exhibited and published. These include his “The Burden of Classicism”; “Nature and Nurture”; “Youth: A Retrospective” shot in Italy; “Beach-Scapes” shot in  Italy and Sicily; a series entitled “Allegorical Portraits”; and “Blood Ties”, a portfolio documenting family member connections.

In addition to his participation in numerous group exhibitions, Plytas  has shown his work in solo gallery exhibitions, including  Paris’ Galerie PONS in 1995, Paris’ Galerie Serge Aboukrat in 2000, a 2002 exhibition in Italy entitled “Frascati Doc”, an exhibition project at the Chateau de Courances in France in 2004, and in 2015 a Paris exhibition entitled “What is Erotic?”. 

Chris Plytas’ work is available in limited editions and custom portfolios. Private individual or family portraits can be commissioned. His website is located at: https://www.chrisplytas.com/index

Insert Images:

Chris Plytas,, Title Unknown (Slogan on Wall), 1992-93, China, Voyage to the East Series, Silver Gelatin Print

Chris Plytas,, “Boy and Girl Entwined”, 1986-2003, The Body Series, Silver Gelatin Print

Andreas Fux

Photography by Andreas Fux

Born in East Berlin of the German Democratic Republic in 1964, Andreas Fux is a photographer whose body of work focuses on how the human individual evolves into his own artistic creation. He belongs to the Prenzlauerberg photo artist scene, which documented the last decade of the German Democratic Republic. 

Andreas Fux initially trained from 1980 to 1982 as an electrician. In 1983, he began his own sstudy of  the process and techniques of photographic work. During the years between 1983 and 1988, Fux exhibited his photographs in private gallery spaces. His first published works appeared in a 1988 issue of Das Magazin, a monthly East Berlin magazine that focused on culture and lifestyle. Working as a freelancer, Fux provided the publication with black and white photographs covering Berlin’s punk and youth culture.

 In 1989, Fux worked on photo productions for Deutsche Film-Aldiengesellschaff, the state-owned film studio of East Germany. Since 1990, he has been working as a freelance photographer for various newspapers and magazines, as well as executing his own photographic projects. In 1992, Fux’s first solo photographic book was published entitled “The Russians”; it was a supplement to his solo exhibition, of the same name, at the Janssen Gallery in Berlin, a show which later traveled to Hamburg and Munich. 

Andreas Fux gained a wider audience for his work with the 2005 series “The Sweet Skin”, which covered a decade of works between 1995 and 2005. For this series of portraits which focused on tattoos and skin scarification; he followed the lives of his models, with daily documentation and night shoots in his studio. Against a mostly white background and in the silence of the photo studio, nude photographs of his models were taken, in which the contrast between intimacy of the body and clinical sterility of the room was exaggerated. In another series entitled “At the End of the Night”, whose topic was body culture, the nude, and sexuality, Fux posed his subjects against a black background with a selective light source that modeled and fragmented the models sculpturally. 

Fux’s 2001 series “The Horizonte” is reminiscent in its formality of the 1980s “Seascapes” series done by Japanese photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto, in which Sugimoto bifurcated the landscape images exactly in half by the horizon line. At the beginning of September 2001, Fux travelled across the North Sea on board a Ukrainian training sailboat. For this series, he celebrated the beauty of the horizon as an interaction between sea, clouds and light. The images of “The Horizonte” series were seen by the critics as an expression of calm and innocence. For his 2010 series “Kerberos and Chimaira”, Fux staged his motifs in a wind tunnel at Berlin-Adlershot. Using the strict compositions of expressionism and the aesthetic codes of the latex and fetish scene, his series examined  a dangerous and often not considered proximity between the erotic picture codes of fetishism and the aesthetics of National Socialism.

For his 2016 exhibition “Shame and Beauty”,  Andreas Fux opposed new portraits with a selection of older works, a combination which showed the development of his oeuvre over the years. His new work preserved the almost tender and respectful handling of his subjects found in his early works. The photographic sessions in which he bathed his models in soft light took an entire night, were meticulously planned, and took place in a highly sensitized atmosphere. This Berlin show contextualized the discussion on governmental and social repression and persecution; the works in this show had previously been exhibited by Fux in Moscow in September of 2015 under rather adverse conditions.

Andreas Fux has had solo exhibitions in Germany and abroad, including the Widmer and Theodoris Gallery in Zurich, the Photo Festival in New York, the Esther Woerdehoff Gallery in Paris and the Pasinger Fabrik Gallery in Munich.

A collection of Fux’s photo work from Berlin can be found at: https://andreas-fux.berlin