Category Archives: Pictures

Thing-a-day 1: Photo shoot

Today I walked out with my sister and her fiancé to do some photos for them to mark their engagement. They are getting married this summer. We walked in Rockefeller Park, which has some nice features and was busy with people and animals on a remarkably mild day after all the weirdy weather we’ve been getting.

How cute are these squirrels? We couldn’t tell whether the chasing squirrel was inflamed with desire for the running squirrel or the cracker it was carrying.

This dog was open. Either squirrel, or both, whatever. Just want.

Tom Otterness has a collection of bronzes in the park called The Real World that has some dark scenes.

My sister did a lot of inadvertent Isotoner advertising today.

My commitment to myself is to post something here every day for the month of February. Feel free to send Disapproval Face my way if I miss a day!

Aqua hurdles

Photo by Bruce Mozert
Photo by Bruce Mozert

Sometimes there really are great moments in advertising.

Central Florida has many clear springs, but in the 19th century, Silver Springs also had location, location, location: connected to the outside world by the Silver, Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers. After the Civil War, steamship-borne tourists including the likes of President Ulysses S. Grant and Harriet Beecher Stowe would flock to the springs to marvel at the sight of aquatic life seemingly suspended in space. Through the first few decades of the 20th century, whether they came by rail or by car, tourists continued to go to Silver Springs. But by the 1930s, the place needed a new image—or images—to keep them coming. For almost half a century, Bruce Mozert supplied those images.

… He likes to say that he “took to photography like a duck takes to water.” But “like a fish” might be closer to the mark. At Silver Springs, Mozert pioneered underwater photography, building waterproof housings that allowed him to go deep with a camera in hand. For some 45 years (except for service with the Army Air Forces during World War II), he created scenes of people—comely young women, for the most part—talking on the phone, playing golf, reading the newspaper…underwater, all the better to show off the wondrous clarity of Silver Springs’ waters. The Life Aquatic with Bruce Mozert, Smithsonian Magazine

He’s still in business down in Florida, too.

See a gallery of these images at the Smithsonian Magazine

On International Women’s Day

It’s been celebrated in a Google doodle, and has triggered articles on everything from how fantastic women are to “why is this still a problem when we supposedly know how fantastic women are?” It’s been observed for over 100 years, with roots in the workers movements of the early 20th century.

This year, International Women’s Day arrives as I’ve been reading about the development of physical culture in the US, particularly how women were addressed and presented. A friend recommended the wonderful Venus with Biceps, a book discussed at length by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

The Braselly Sisters, above, were a pair of strongwomen who specialized in graceful and artistic strength stunts. They were sisters of the even more famous Katie Sandwina. But physical culture and athletics for women were shaped by far more than circus acts.

Helen Wills (1905-1998) achieved international fame as an athlete with a phenomenal string of tennis victories, including 2 Olympic golds, 7 US Open grand slams, and a career streak of 158 wins.

An excellent student, dedicated athlete, and active writer and painter, Wills was described by others as reticent, shy, and awkward. She had a style of play described by competitor Helen Jacobs as “a machine… with implacable concentration and undeniable skill” but (and?) by Charlie Chaplin as the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Her introverted and detached style cost her popularity during her career, and can hardly help but fascinate in a society that is grappling with what it means to be neurotypical. In her own words, “I had one thought and that was to put the ball across the net. I was simply myself, too deeply concentrated on the game for any extraneous thought.”

Kathrine Switzer made athletic history the year I was born, when she ran in the Boston Marathon. Other women had joined the race, but Switzer registered (as KV Switzer) and ran with a bib. What happened next is a startling demonstration of terrible sportsmanship.

Race official Jock Semple attacked Switzer on the course:

A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Then he swiped down my front, trying to rip off my bib number, just as I leapt backward from him.

Her boyfriend intervened (knocking Semple to the ground), and she completed the race, in an era when women were still being told they could damage their reproductive organs by running. I think the thing that disappoints me most about this incident is how appallingly recent it is.

Women running are commonplace now, all over parks and treadmills, occasionally mocked by some in the fitness industry for dogged devotion to high mileage and charity events. Almost every Olympic event now includes women, not just in track and field but into wrestling and boxing and beyond. Women still get told some pretty crazy things about one of the simplest and most basic athletic endeavors, though: weightlifting.

In Venus with Biceps, writer David Chapman notes that even when women were recommended to take up resistance training with free weights, they were started with light, wooden dumbbells – in spite of the fact that at home they were lifting laundry baskets and children that weighed much more. More than a century later, women are still getting the same messages, and hearing scare stories on par with the claim that running makes your uterus fall out. Weightlifting seems to elicit the purest fear about women: that they will “become” men.

Who could ask for a more concise counteragument than the fantastic Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton?

Stockton, who had been heavy as a teenager, took up weight training because her boyfriend brought her some equipment, and she joined him in the heyday of Muscle Beach, where they performed elegant and remarkable acrobatic and gymnastic feats together. A columnist for Strength & Health magazine, Stockton was also a popular media subject, appearing in pictorials and on covers of dozens of magazines, featured alone and with other bodybuilders. She helped to organize the first sanctioned weightlifting competitions for women, and was inducted into the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness Hall of Fame.

If I have just one wish for us as women, it’s to be treated with respect as we pursue what appeals to us most. Humans are social animals, and everyone gets prescriptive messages about some things, but women bear a greater – and more patronizing – burden in this regard. Maybe on a future International Women’s Day, we could enjoy 24 hours during which the presentation of a photograph of a woman actually doing something – like powerlifting or answering questions put to her as Secretary of State – was not immediately greeted by a man judging her sex appeal (probably negatively). A girl can dream.

A Cornish Familiar

They looked as if they were posing, like when a dad picks up a camera and says: OK, I’m going to make a picture. The lamb and the pig were especially brushed up, like perfect little models of what a lamb and a piglet might be, with their own almost self-conscious sense of being alert to the fact they were being photographed. The scratchy, dark bits of hedge in the foreground added a slightly bleak frame to it all. So I just leaned over the wall and took three shots. This is the third.

More about this photo at Jem Southam’s best shot.