Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Latest Version of Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton

Here are a few film stills and movie posters from Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland out now!

                                        Mia Wasikowska as Alice

Anne Hathaway as White Queen

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Note: The images from movie stills, posters and trailers are all listed under Creative Commons for use.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or Lewis Carroll

I've decided to do a little investigating into the world of the most curious and intiguing Mr. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson! You know him. Everyone knows him. He is a revered children's book author who also wrote for adults as well, also a mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer. You know him under his pen name or pseudonym of Lewis Carroll, of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reknown. Alice is having a resurgence of popularity right now, but here I wish to share with you something beyond his life, that is his marvelous and extraordinary photographs of children.

Charles L. Dodgson was born on January 27, 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England. The Dodgson family males for generations were either army officers or Church of England clergymen. His father, also Charles, went to Christ Church, Oxford where he exhibited brilliance in mathematics which could have led to a promising academic career, but instead he chose to take holy orders and became a country parson. He perservered to instill his religious views in his children, of which there were eleven. Young Charles, in spite of his father's highly conservative influence developed an ambiguous relationship with his father and the Anglican church.

In January 1851, Charles went on to Oxford to attend his father's alma mater of Christ Church. He was only there two days when he was summoned back home because of his mother's death. He was exceptionally gifted and although he was often distracted from applying himself well, achievement came easily to him. His superb gifts won him a coveted Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship which he held for the next twenty-six years. The income was good but the work bored him. Inspite of that, he remained at Christ Church in various capacities until his death in 1898 at the age of 65.

From a young age, Charles wrote poetry and short stories which were published in various magazines of the day achieving him moderate success. Between 1854 and 1856 his work appeared in national publications and smaller magazines. In 1856 he published a romantic poem called "Solitude" for the first time under his pseudonym of Lewis Carroll.

Also in 1856, the new dean for Christ Church, Henry Liddell, arrived with his young family. The family, especially Henry's wife Lorina, and her three daughters, Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell, became very important to Charles and extremely influencial to his writing career. Many have speculated that Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, but Charles later denied the correlation. It was very apparent that Charles's friendship with the Liddell family was a crucial part of his life in the late 1850's. He was fond of taking the children on rowing trips to nearby spots where he entertained them with stories he would make up for their enjoyment. It was in July 1862 that Charles invented the outline for his Alice adventures. Alice Liddell begged him to write it down for her which he did in 1864. It wasn't long before the manuscript hit the desk of the publisher Macmillan, and the rest is history. The book quickly became an overwhelming commercial success and Charles was soon famous around the world, but kept his post at Christ Church regardless. He continued to teach there until 1881 and then remained in residence until his death.

Charles had been groomed for the ordained ministry in the Anglican Church and was expected as a condition of his residency at Christ Church to take holy orders within four years of his earning his Master's Degree. However he delayed the process for some time but did finally take Deacon's orders in 1861. But one year later when he was to progress to Priestly orders Charles appealed to Dean Liddell for permission not to proceed. Normally that would have resulted in immediate expulsion but for unknown reasons the Dean allowed Charles to remain at Christ Church. It is not known why he rejected taking his Priestly orders.

In 1856 Charles took up the new art form of photography of which he soon excelled. He became a well known gentleman photographer finding the new art form presented him with entree into higher social circles. He photographed many notable and famous people of his era. Over 24 years Charles completely mastered the medium creating about 3,000 images of which fewer than 1,000 have survived to the present. Then in 1880 he abruptly discontinued photography without explanation.

                  Hallam Tennyson, son of Alfred Lord Tennyson

During his life Charles kept diaries. Of the total 13 diaries in his collection at least four volumes of text are missing covering the years 1853 until 1863 when he was 22 to 32 years of age. The pages were deliberately removed possibly by family members in the interest of preserving the family name. But this is just scholarly speculation. Dodgson did experience a break with the Liddell family in 1863 and much gossip has been passed down as to possible explanations. Charles did seem to have an obsessive fascination with the young Alice Liddell, photographing her many times, but to say anything more would be pure speculation. That has not stopped numerous scholars and writers of today from partaking in it.

                                Three photos of Alice Liddell

In modern interpretations of his life, Charles Dodgson is perceived as a possible pedophile. Biographers cite Charles's friendships with young girls, his seeming lack of interest in adult women and his photographs as evidence. They mostly assume although a pedophile, he was probably a repressed, celibate one. Charles insisted his fondness for photographing nude children was entirely aesthetic. I can say personally after looking at thousands of photographs of children of that time period in assembling my photo library, it was indeed the fashion of the time to photograph young children in the nude. Victorian  morals perceived child nudity as essentially an expression of innocence and most photographers of the period made them as a matter of course. The practice was entirely mainstream. One cannot apply today's morals and fashion standards necessarily to 100 years ago when there were very different social and aesthetic tastes. I have many times found it necessary to exclude certain and numerous Victorian photos and even Christmas cards from my work and collection not just because they presented nude children, but were also extremely suggestive to the point that would not be acceptable by today's standards. Rather than no interest in adult women, some experts insist his diaries show a definite interest in women both married and unmarried. I think it is unfortunate that so much rampant speculation has tarnished the reputation of a beloved children's writer.

To me Dodgson's photographs are easy to identify. His subjects are presented in a mostly unadorned simple manner and appear to be more natural and un-staged. In many instances there is almost a gothic sensibility and mood. His work is unlike any other photographer of the period that I have seen.  I hope you enjoy these examples of his as much as I do!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Life is But a Dream by Lewis Carroll

      A boat, beneath a sunny sky
      Lingering onward dreamily
      In an evening of July--
      Children three that nestle near,
      Eager eye and willing ear,
      Pleased a simple tale to hear--
      Long has paled that sunny sky;
      Echoes fade and memories die;
      Autumn frosts have slain July.
      Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
      Alice moving under skies
      Never seen by waking eyes.
      Children yet, the tale to hear,
      Eager eye and willing ear,
      Lovingly shall nestle near.
      In a Wonderland they lie,
      Dreaming as the days go by,
      Dreaming as the summers die;
      Ever drifting down the stream--
      Lingering in the golden gleam--
      Life, what is it but a dream?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who was she and who was the photographer?

Anyone know who this little girl is? And who the famous photographer was? The answers will be revealed as soon as I finish my next piece for my blog!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Enough - a mindfulness poem by David Whyte

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
Until now.

Until now.

                 ~  by David Whyte

Monday, April 12, 2010

Girl by Lisa Zaran

She said she collects pieces of sky,
cuts holes out of it with silver scissors,
bits of heaven she calls them.
Every day a bevy of birds flies rings
around her fingers, my chorus of wives,
she calls them. Every day she reads poetry
from dusty books she borrows from the library,
sitting in the park, she smiles at passing strangers,
yet can not seem to shake her own sad feelings.
She said that night reminds her of a cool hand
placed gently across her fevered brow, said
she likes to fall asleep beneath the stars,
that their streaks of light make her believe
that she too is going somewhere. Infinity,
she whispers as she closes her eyes,
descending into thin air, where no arms
outstretch to catch her. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Evelyn Nesbit, Supermodel of le Belle Epoque

Who was Evelyn Nesbit? If you lived at the turn of the century you wouldn't have asked that question. Everyone knew who she was! Some call her the world's first supermodel. She was a chorus girl and artist's model in New York City who was swept up in one of the era's most infamous murder cases.

Evelyn was born Florence Evelyn Nesbit on Christmas day in 1884 in a small village near Pittsburgh. Her father was a struggling lawyer who died when Evelyn was just 8 years old. He left behind substantial debts and a widow with two children who were nearly destitute. By the time Evelyn reached puberty she was noted to be a breathtaking beauty which was not lost on a number of local artists. She soon found employment as an artist's model. When she was sixteen, she and her mother moved to New York City where Evelyn was introduced to several New York artists and was soon a sought after model and also worked on Broadway as a chorus girl.

Evelyn, at the age of 16, was quickly noticed on Broadway by New York architect and millionaire, Stanford White who, even though he was married, was determined to seduce her. White was 47 years old at the time and seducing young girls was not unfamiliar to him. He invited Evelyn to his luxurious apartment located above FAO Schwarz toy store under the guise of wanting to photograph her. After a few visits Evelyn was no longer a virgin and Stanford White was no longer interested.

Stanford White 

Soon Evelyn became involved with Harry Kendall Thaw, the Pittsburgh son of a coal and railroad baron. He became increasingly possessive of her. Thaw was jealous of her previous affairs with John Barrymore the actor, Robert J. Collier a young magazine publisher, and James Waterbury a well known polo player; but mostly Thaw was incensed by Stanford White who he said ruined Evelyn. Thaw was  reportedly a cocaine addict who liked to sadistically whip women, including Evelyn, and occasionally young boys. But in-spite of that, Evelyn married Thaw in 1905 when she was twenty years old.

                                             Harry K. Thaw

On the evening of June 25, 1906, Nesbit and Thaw ran into Stanford White in the audience of the Madison Square Garden's rooftop theatre. During the song "I Could Love a Million Girls", Thaw shot White three times at close range in the face. Needless to say, White died. Harry Thaw was tried twice for the murder of Stanford White. The first trial ended in a deadlock, and with the second trial Thaw pleaded temporary insanity.  Harry Thaw's mother purportedly promised Nesbit a quiet divorce and one million dollars if she would testify in her son's behalf telling the jury that Stanford White had raped her (Evelyn) and that Thaw was just avenging her honor. Evelyn testified, got the divorce but never saw a penny, in fact, she was immediately cut off financially by Thaw's mother. Thaw was found insane and was incarcerated in a hospital for the criminally insane where he enjoyed almost total freedom. Nevertheless, he did escape several times but was caught, and in 1915 he was released after being judged sane.

After the second trial, Evelyn had modest success in vaudeville and silent movies. There was one more short marriage, alcoholism and cocaine addiction and multiple suicide attempts before her life turned around. She published two memoirs, and in her later years taught classes in ceramics. She died in 1967 at the age of 82.

She was reportedly the inspiration for Charles Dana Gibson's many illustrations of the "Gibson Girl"     (see top of story - the Question Mark Girl) and also the inspiration for the model for the heroine in Anne of Green Gables by author Lucy Maud Montgomery. She was technical advisor and inspiration for the 1955 movie, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. There were ten non-fiction accounts of her life and five fictional accounts based on her life.

Evelyn Nesbit is probably the most infamous artist's model of le Belle Epoque and certainly stunningly beautiful, but in coming weeks I will be introducing you to a few more of her contemporaries who although not as infamous, personally, I find them to be even more beautiful!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

La Belle Epoque Divas - a new blog series introducing some famous turn of the century actresses and artist models

My followers should know by now that I have a passion for vintage images, especially those from the turn of the 19th century. I have always believed that I enjoyed a happy former lifetime during that
period of history. It was a period of elegance and gaiety that overlapped the end of the Victorian Age and the start of the Edwardian Age in Great Britain and was dubbed the Gilded Age in the United States. In European social history that period encompassing the late 19th century up until the start of WWI is called le Belle Epoque, French for "Beautiful Era" and was considered the golden age for the upper classes for whom Paris became the fashion center of the world.

During this time period, actresses found the ability to voice their emotions on stage in ways no other women of their time had. This lifestyle and these women spurred the beginning of women's financial and societal independence. Actresses symbolized individuality and a break from male domination, something many women could only dream about. However, there was a lot of societal hostility toward actresses for abandoning a life of homemaking in favor of choosing a career on the stage and refusing to follow the social standards of their day.

One of my plans for the future of this blog is to feature a number of my favorite actresses and artist's models of this period. Many actresses did turn to modeling for painters, sculptors and photographers of the era, many of whom became famous in their own rite, to increase both their income and their notoriety. Some of these women's images will look familiar to many of you who use vintage photos in your art and now you will have a name to identify them. I hope you enjoy discovering these one time famous beauties frozen in time as much as I have enjoyed collecting their images.

In my first profile coming soon, I will be introducing you to the beautiful and infamous Evelyn Nesbit, actress, chorus girl and famous artist's model at the turn of the century! Yes indeed, she certainly was infamous! So watch for her story!

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Blogs in my Future

As I have mentioned previously, I am a member of the mixed media Melange Team on ETSY ( and our team is in the process of a reorg. In that context, I have committed myself to writing for our Melange team blog on a regular basis.
Sometimes I will share my features from this blog with the Melange blog and I may possibly bring some of those blogs I do for Melange over here. So I will be busier but loving it all I'm sure!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Break the Cycle of Abuse

"She would lay in the darkness afraid to close her eyes. She would, like many nights before, stare at the slit of light of the nearly closed door waiting for her nightmare to burst in until finally exhausted, she could watch no more. On kinder nights, she would make up stories of fair maidens being rescued by handsome knights on horseback until sleep came." MaureenKavaneyTillman

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

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