Friday, June 17, 2005
Irving Penn, poet with a camera
A new exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, showcases late works by the photographer Irving Penn, whose long career encompassed fashion photography, portraits of the famous and the obscure, and still life. Among the memorable images in this show are portraits of Picasso, Colette, and David Smith; innovative fashion shots for Vogue; and ethnic studies such as the portrait of two Cuzco Indian children, solemn and dignified in their native dress.
Penn was a member of the Guiding Faculty of Famous Photographers School, a sister organization of Famous Artists School. The manuals for the Famous Photographers School, full of illustrative images made by Penn and the other Guiding Faculty members such as Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Philippe Halsman, are a true inspiration for any photography buff.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Franklin McMahon draws history
Franklin McMahon, one of Famous Artists School’s guilding faculty, has been in the news recently. Both WGN TV and Fox Chicago featured stories about McMahon’s coverage of one of the most important trials in the history of the civil rights movement.
In 1955, “Franklin McMahon was working as a free lance artist when he landed the assignment that changed his life and the course of history” reported Robert Jorden of WGN TV. McMahon was hired to cover the Mississippi trial for the murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till for Life magazine. Emmett Till was a black Chicago teenager visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was dragged from his Uncle’s home by two white men and lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. His body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River, with a gin-mill fan barbwired around his neck. He had been brutally beaten and shot to death. The two white defendants were acquitted by an all-white jury. A year after the trial, in a paid magazine article, they confessed their guilt and described how they had killed Till.
McMahon’s pencil sketches of the trial appeared in the October 1955 issue of Life magazine. Outrage over the murder and the trial helped launch the civil rights movement in the United States. After the trial McMahon dedicated much of his work to covering the civil rights movement.
Now many of McMahon’s original drawings are a part of the Chicago Historical Society’s exhibition on lynching called Without Sanctuary which opened June 4th. This exhibition is especially timely. Last year the attorney general reopened the case of Emmett Till and his body was recently exhumed by the FBI in a quest for clues. On June 13th, the United States Senate issued an apology for its past failures to pass anti-lynching legislation.
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