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Pictures at 11: 11 Photojournalism Classics

1. Into the Jaws of Death by Robert F. Sargent

The photo was taken on June 6, 1944, by Robert F. Sargent. It depicts U.S. Army First Division soldiers disembarking from a LCVP from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase at Omaha Beach during the Normandy Landings in World War II. The phrase "into the jaws of Death" in the photograph's title comes from a refrain in Alfred Tennyson 's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

2. Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

This is the classic image that has come to represent the Great Depression. The woman in the photo is Florence Thompson. The original photo featured Florence's thumb and index finger on the tent pole, but the image was later retouched to hide Florence's thumb. Her index finger was left untouched.

3. Saigon, 1968 by Eddie Adams

Like many on this list, Eddie Adams’ name is well-known and attached to one specific photograph. Often referred to as “Saigon, 1968,” Adams said the image haunted him for the rest of his life.

4. Gandhi at his spinning wheel by Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White is known equally well in both India and Pakistan for her photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel and Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, upright in a chair. She also was called "one of the most effective chroniclers" of the violence that erupted at the independence and partition of India and Pakistan.

5. The Falling Soldier by Robert Capa


Taken by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936 and long thought to depict the death of a Republican, specifically an Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL) soldier during the Spanish Civil War, who was later identified as the anarchist Federico Borrell García. The full title of the photograph is Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936.

6. Iranian Demonstrators by David Burnett

Over the course of the 44 consecutive days that shocked the world in 1979, Burnett photographed the initial uprisings that culminated in mass demonstrations, violence and mourning. He also captured the celebrations of revolutionary Shiites upon the fall of a monarch. At the time, Burnett's photographs were featured extensively in Time magazine.

7. Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville by Robert Doisneau


While Doisneau is renowned for his 1950 image Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), a photo of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris, he, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, is considered one of the main pioneers of photojournalism, period. He spent much of his life shooting "ordinary" street scenes, which was revolutionary at the time. I think the reason people love the Kiss photo so much is because it reminds us how short life is. It says: don't miss opportunities to enjoy your life. It says: Kiss the one you're with. It says: Public displays of affection shouldn't be scoffed at. It says: Just do it! So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this post now and reach out to the ones you care about and tell them as much! Tell them you love them, or at least kove them (a word I just coined: one keystroke away from "love").

8. The Battle For Saigon by Philip Jones Griffiths


U.S. policy in Vietnam was based on the premise that peasants driven into the towns and cities by the carpet-bombing of the countryside would be safe. Furthermore, removed from their traditional value system they could be prepared for imposition of consumerism. This "restructuring" of society suffered a setback when, in 1968, death rained down on the urban enclaves.

9. Behind the Gare St. Lazare by Henri Cartier-Bresson


While this might be the most iconic work by Cartier-Bresson, he never thought the photo was such a big deal. Of it, he said, ”There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare St. Lazare and I was peeking through the space with my camera at my eye. This is what I saw. The space between the planks was not entirely wide enough for my lens, which is the reason the picture is cut off on the left.”

10. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal


Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is one of the most iconic photos in history. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal in 1945 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in the same year. This was not the first time the american flag was raised on Iwo Jima. Earlier that day when this part of the island was originally captured, the first flag was raised, a smaller one, more makeshift in appearance. This scene is actually the replacement of the original flag with a more substantial one.

11. First Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery

Here is the real flag raising shot, raised atop the mountain soon after it was captured early in the morning of February 23, 1945. According to this source, Captain Dave Severance was ordered by 2nd Battalion Commander Chandler Johnson to send a platoon to go take the mountain. "Severance, the commander of Easy Company, ordered First Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier to lead the patrol. Just before Schrier was to head up the mountain, Commander Chandler Johnson handed him a flag saying, 'If you get to the top, put it up.' Johnson's adjutant, second lieutenant Greeley Wells, had taken the 54-by-28-inch (140-by-71-centimeter) American flag from their transport ship, the USS Missoula. The patrol reached the top without incident and the flag was raised, and photographed by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, a photographer with Leatherneck magazine.

For 11-11-11, we'll be posting twenty-four '11 lists' throughout the day. Check back 11 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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Show and Tell
Photograph of Jefferson Davis in Women’s Clothing
International Center for Photography, Gift of Charles Schwartz, 2012

On May 10, 1865, Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederacy, was captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia. Davis’s capture, about a month after Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, was the effective end of the Confederacy and the four-year war that had left hundred of thousands of Americans dead.

Davis, a true believer in the cause of the Confederacy, refused to accept Lee’s surrender, believing that the South could still wage a guerilla war against the Union (clearly, Lee disagreed). With that cause in mind, Davis and his family fled Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, hoping to make it to Texas, where he believed he could continue to fight. But the Davises would only make it as far as south Georgia before they were found by Union troops.

According to a handful of accounts from the period, Davis was captured while wearing women’s clothes. The story, as it’s generally told, depicts a man desperate to escape and so, with the encouragement of his wife, Varina, he donned her overcoat and shawl and slipped into the Georgia swamp with a female servant (other accounts say he grabbed his wife's coat and shawl accidentally). Union troops spotted the two “women” and, on closer look, realized that one was wearing spurred boots. Given away by his footwear, Davis surrendered to the Union troops.

The story of Davis in women’s clothing traveled quickly to the ears of Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. Stanton recognized the story as an opportunity to discredit Davis, who still had numerous sympathizers throughout the country. Historians have noted that the North gendered its victory as masculine and heroic and, in contrast, portrayed the South as feminine and weak. Davis’s flight played into that narrative, portraying the Southern leader as a coward willing to emasculate himself in order to escape. In short, manly martyrs do not wear women’s clothes. (Never mind that numerous eyewitness accounts disputed the story, including two by members of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, one of the units that captured Davis and his party and another by Davis’s coachman.)

Nevertheless, Stanton planned to exploit the account to the Union’s full advantage. But there was a slight hitch in his plan—namely, the look and style of Varina Davis’s overcoat and shawl. Mrs. Davis’s overcoat was essentially unisex, and bore a striking resemblance to the raincoats of Union soldiers. Furthermore, the shawl was also worn by many men in the mid-19th century, including Abraham Lincoln. The original plan foiled, Stanton encouraged the rumor that Davis had been captured wearing women’s petticoats, earning Davis the derogatory nickname “President in Petticoats.”

The rumor proved incredibly popular. Historian Gaines Foster writes, “Northerners delighted in the accounts of how the Confederate chieftain had tried to escape in female disguise.” Indeed, even P.T. Barnum couldn’t resist the spectacle: The circus king exhibited what he claimed to be the very clothes Davis was wearing at the time of his capture.

Boston Public Library via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Numerous prints circulated of Davis in petticoats, and photography—a relatively new medium at the time—took up the theme as well. In this combination photograph (up top) produced by the Slee Brothers of Poughkeepsie, New York, and now owned by the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, Davis is depicted in the petticoats of a woman, his head, taken from a separate photographic portrait, having been imposed on another body. Here, Davis wears bonnet, shawl, and petticoats, a fanciful elaboration on the story of his capture, and the skirts are lifted to reveal his spurred boots. The Slee Brothers were one of many photography studios to use combination printing—the production of a single positive through multiple negatives—to play with the theme of Davis fleeing in women’s clothes.

Other photographs from the period depict Davis’s head superimposed on a body wearing full hoop skirts with large men’s boots also imposed over the body, as well as Davis (again in full women’s dress) sneaking through the Georgia swampland while holding a dagger. In almost all of these photographs, the boots are prominently displayed, noting Davis’s folly and a clear part of the narrative of the North’s victory.

Photography was undoubtedly a powerful tool to disseminate the story of Davis’s and the South’s defeat. Davis himself recognized the importance of the new medium: In 1869, he commissioned a photograph of himself wearing the actual clothes he had worn when captured. But the act was fruitless and, despite his insistence, the “President in Petticoats” is a story that stuck with Davis long after death.

Header image: International Center for Photography

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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