Three from Mabel Rollins Harris (And One from William Fulton Soare)

Mabel Rollins Harris was a pinup/calendar artist whose most popular period was in the 1930s. She specialized in cheesecake-style women, female nudes and little girls. I confess I’m not particularly fond of her work overall. I find it generally uninspired, and I prefer strong lines and darker colors to the soft glowing look of Harris’s work. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of pastels in general. But she did produce a few notable pieces. The curly-top look of some of her little girls was clearly inspired by Shirley Temple, who was enjoying her greatest success during the same period. And the half-dressed toddlers in Look Who’s Here are fairly charming, I think.

Mabel Rollins Harris – Contemplating the Cookie Jar

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime (detail)

Edit: I originally had two versions of the following image posted here, neither of which I was fully satisfied with. I have now replaced them with this superior version sent to me by one of our readers. Thanks, Lester! – Pip

Mabel Rollins Harris – Look Who’s Here

Mutoworld: Mabel Rollins Harris

Compare Harris’s work against this piece  by William Fulton Soare, which, while rendered in the same style and medium, I find to be a much more interesting and accomplished piece. Soare studied under master artist Dean Cornwell, and it shows.

William Fulton Soare – Mother and Child

Pulp Artists: William Fulton Soare

The Art of Artlessness: Motherhood, Warts and All

Photographer and feminist Anna Ogier-Bloomer has spent the last few years documenting her life as the mother of a baby (now toddler) girl, Violet. In keeping with Ogier-Bloomer’s philosophy as a documentarian of the mundanities and biological realities of motherhood, the images are not always pretty, but they are genuinely fascinating.

This image, taken the first night home with the new baby, shows Ogier-Bloomer with her still-bloated body after the recent birth. The photographer’s mother lies behind her.

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - First night home, 2013

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – First night home, 2013

Anna Ogier- Bloomer - Asleep, week one, 2013

Anna Ogier- Bloomer – Asleep, week one, 2013

Anna Ogier- Bloomer - Grandpa had a cold the first time he met my daughter, Cincinnati, Ohio 2014

Anna Ogier- Bloomer – Grandpa had a cold the first time he met my daughter, Cincinnati, Ohio 2014

Several of the images feature Ogier-Bloomer breastfeeding her daughter. Breastfeeding in public has become a battleground for mothers’ rights in the last few years as more and more mothers are choosing to forsake bottled formula for breast milk owing to its many health benefits for the baby. Breastfeeding also helps the baby to bond with its mother.

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Tug, 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Tug, 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Splayed, 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Splayed, 2014

Contrast these images with that of Violet’s father bottle-feeding her, where only his hand is visible. This composition somewhat alienates the father, making him feel more emotionally distant from the baby than the intimate images of mother breastfeeding her.

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Evening feeding with Daddy, 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Evening feeding with Daddy, 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Nursing and peeing, Cincinnati, Ohio

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Nursing and peeing, Cincinnati, Ohio

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Violet hot, removing her pants, Los Angeles, California 2015

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Violet hot, removing her pants, Los Angeles, California 2015

In addition to Ogier-Bloomer’s photos of her own family (largely documented in the two series Letdown and Family Pictures), she also sometimes captures the children of friends and relatives.

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Backyard pool, Los Angeles

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Backyard pool, Los Angeles

Anna Ogier-Bloomer - Alanni and Mia in rashguards, Los Angeles, California 2014

Anna Ogier-Bloomer – Alanni and Mia in rashguards, Los Angeles, California 2014

 

The Child Portraits of Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux is one of Australia’s iconic photographers and is widely considered to be the creator of Australia’s pictorial photography genre. His works appeared in the early twentieth century with cityscape, industrial and landscape photography dominating his portfolio. However, portraiture is also a significant feature and with the addition of the family album images he is a good subject for this website.

Harold Cazneaux - Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Cazneaux – Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878–1953) was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Pierce Mott Cazneaux and Emma Florence Cazneaux. Due to a financial depression that was occurring in New Zealand, the family moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1888. Unfortunately, they found the same problems in Australia. Both parents worked in the photography trade so it would seem inevitable that Cazneaux would become a photographer himself. In 1896 the artist’s father, who was director of Hammer and Company, gave him his first job and he spent his working days as an artist and image retoucher. While employed there the photographer met his future wife, Winifred Hodge, whom he married in 1905 and they had six children.

Harold Cazneaux - Rainy day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainy Day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux - The quest (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – The Quest (1910)

The photographer was first inspired to shoot pictures after visiting an exhibition entitled ‘Pictorial Photographs’, which featured the work of Jack Kauffmann among others. In order to pursue his career, he moved to Sydney in 1905 where the art society was larger and more established. While in Sydney he worked as an artist and image retoucher for Freeman and Company. The artist bought his first camera in the same year and started to take portrait photographs of friends and relations he was living with. At this time he was also photographing the harbour and city of Sydney, as well as documenting the lives of the people who inhabited the city. Cazneaux could do this as he travelled to work by ferry then walked to the office, thus allowing him to wander the streets, find the right subject and wait for the right moment to create a photo. As he created his art, he photographed local history and because of this the images are treasured today.

Harold Cazneaux - Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux – Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux - Albion street (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Albion Street (1911)

As a way of escaping conventional studio work and giving himself the ability to experiment with photography, Cazneaux joined the Photographic Society of New South Wales in 1907. There he gained access to their darkroom and could increase the number of images he was creating.  He also spent time lecturing and demonstrating photography to other members. The photographer would become director of the Society in 1917. Two years later the Society invited him to mount a one man exhibition. When talking about the exhibition in the book The Story of the Camera in Australia, Jack Cato wrote,

This was Australia’s first one man show… one of the milestones in the history of photography in Australia… It lifted photography to a new plane. The press, the critics and the artists acclaimed it. There for the first time they wrote of “the art of the camera” … “the great artistic possibilities of photography”

For the artist this acceptance of photography as a distinct art genre was more important than personal recognition. The exhibition also gave him international recognition, which resulted in his first overseas show held two years later at the London Salon of Photography. There he received more accolades and recognition with one reviewer making a direct comparison to Alfred Steiglitz’s photographs of New York City. By 1914 the artist had four daughters, who were featured in many of his pictures. One such image, Waiting Up for Daddy, was entered into The Kodak National Photography Competition and ended up winning first prize. The image has also come to be one of the photographer’s most recognised.

Harold Cazneaux - Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Harold Cazneaux – Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Cazneaux did not like the direction or ideas that the Australian art scene had at this time, so in 1915 he set up the Sydney Camera Circle. The camera circle wanted to embrace the Australian light and landscape rather than the darker, staged and European-inspired imagery that dominated Australian photography at the time.

The year 1918 was a year of change in the photographer’s life. For nearly twenty years he had been trying to balance the demands of commercial photographic work with the freedoms of his own personal work, which caused him much distress. The situation got worse when his employers attempted to legally bind him to the studio, preventing him from doing work outside of the business. As a result, he had a nervous breakdown and left Freeman and Company. The breakdown lasted almost a year until a friend, Cecil Bostock, lent him his studio; he was in Europe documenting the war. The artist could now create the images he wanted and he advertised his artistic photography and natural portrait services, which continued throughout the rest of his life.

Harold Cazneaux - Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux – Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux - Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux – Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux - Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

The first commission he received, since his independence, came in the same year. The contract required him to produce a portfolio of images documenting the Prince of Wales’ visit. Soon after he had to vacate the studio and reestablished it at his home. When Sydney Ure Smith was developing a new magazine, The Home, he remembered Cazneaux’s work and approached him to become the official photographer. He accepted and his pictures dominated the magazine from its inception in 1920 till its closure in 1942. The work was multifaceted, from making portraits of the interviewees to photographing the interior and exterior of homes. Additionally, he supplied art prints for the magazine, one such print was The Bamboo Blind that was the frontispiece for the first edition. With six children, the photographer could also provide the clothing advertisements for the magazine; an example is displayed below.

Harold Cazneaux - Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux – Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux - Bamboo Blind (1915)

Harold Cazneaux – Bamboo Blind (1915)

Cazneaux’s work for The Home magazine was well known and this brought in many other commissions. He travelled across Australia photographing properties for Australian Home Beautiful magazine, with many of these images reappearing in the book Domestic Architecture in Australia. The artist contributed images to six other books during his lifetime: Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931) and The Australian Native Bear Book (1930). The book with subjects most relevant to this site is The Frensham Book (1934), which details the lives of the girls residing at the Frensham Girls School. There is also In the Persian Garden, an album which details the characters from the matinee ‘In a Persian Garden’, held at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, July 1922, in aid of the Children’s Hospital.

Harold Cazneaux - The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux - The Holt (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Holt (1934)

in a persian garden

Harold Cazneaux – Untitled image (1922)

These activities kept Cazneaux active for the rest of his life and provided ample photographs for overseas group exhibitions. He supplied at least one image per year for the London Salon of Photography from 1911 to 1952 and was elected a member of the Salon in 1921. The photographer also supplied images to the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain from 1908 to 1952 and was given an honorary fellowship in 1937—the first Australian to receive this honour. Due to his age, the artist reduced his work load back to strict portraiture in the 1940s and during the war years, the artist would focus on photographing soldiers and their families.

Cazneaux’s images of cityscapes and landscapes, including his iconic image The Spirit of Endurance can be seen at the State Gallery of New South Wales. If you have a spare day available, there are 1200 digitised images at the Trove website to look through, roughly 10% are his children’s portraits.

Intimate Life in the Public Eye: Nick Waplington

What is remarkable about Nick Waplington’s photographs is the special way in which they make the intimate something public, something that we, who do not know personally the two families photographed, can look at without any sense (or thrill) of intrusion. Countless photographs violate the intimate simply by placing it in the public context of a book, a newspaper, a TV slot. Yet others—like most wedding photographs—make the intimate formal and thus empty it of its content. -John Berger, Living Room, 1991

The first time I saw this artist’s work was in an issue of Aperture Magazine (#121, Fall 1990), a special issue about censorship called “The Body in Question”. The strange thing was that none of the articles referred to it so it was completely out of context. The issue discussed the uproar about photographing naked children and there were naked children in the image, but that was all.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (1)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (1)

There was no indication that ‘Living Room’ was a vivid photographic exhibition about working-class family life or that it was being made into a book (Aperture Press, 1991).

Nick Waplington (born 1965) comes from Nottingham and has a strong connection with the people there but because his father was a scientist in the nuclear industry, he traveled extensively in his childhood. He studied art at West Sussex College of Art & Design in Worthing, Trent Polytechic in Nottingham and the Royal College of Art in London. Starting in 1984, Waplington made regular visits to see his grandfather in Aspley, Nottingham, photographing his immediate surroundings. The friends and neighbors of his family became his subject matter of choice. He continued with this work on and off for 15 years which yielded a number of series including the one that became his first published book.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (2)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (2)

Among the pictures on the school table, I had found a thrilling color photograph by one of the students: three demonic little girls in plaid dresses, Hoovering the lawn. “Whoever made this photograph has found his eyes.” I said, “If he pays attention to the accident of what he’s done he can trust those eyes. There’s an entire body of work charted in this photograph—the life’s work of a completely original and powerful artist.” -Richard Avedon, Living Room, 1991

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (3)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (3)

Avedon was half joking because, like Sally Mann, he knew full well that happy accidents do not occur on a regular schedule; he did not imagine that the rest of the photos in the box would maintain that standard.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (4)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (4)

Living Room covers the lives of two neighboring working-class families in Nottingham over a period of four years and, in studying the images carefully, one can almost share the experience of the children growing up. Most of the shooting took place on Saturdays because that is when the families are at their most dynamic. No one has to go to work and there is a respite for indulging in the pleasures and dramas of family life. John Berger calls this series the photographic equivalent of Peter Paul Rubens’ work, because it is baroque in its composition and subject matter and perhaps a target of ridicule by stodgier members of the art community. There is an intense sense of intimacy; somehow Waplington has managed to put his subjects at ease to get off these shots.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (5)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (5)

The logic behind the title is that the artist is where the action is, the places where family members are gathering and engaging. This could literally be in the living room or any other place where drama is playing out. If someone has a need for some privacy, they can leave the scene and know that Waplington will not follow.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (6)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (6)

The photographer avoids the typical approach of a documentarian. He uses a 6×9 camera designed for panoramic shots, giving the images an epic quality. His low vantage point in the scenes gives the photos a feeling of immediacy as though they were being observed by a child. Waplington’s feet even appear in some of the pictures. By using these techniques, there is an impression of a real organic drama and the viewer is let in on the action.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (7)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (7)

Nick Waplington - Living Room (1990) (8)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (8)

There are many excellent photographs not included in the book. Some were used for other series such as ‘Weddings, Parties, Anything’ and many were recently compiled in the book Living Room Work Prints (2016).  You can see a video which show a quick flipping through the book here.

Nick Waplington - Living Room (Supplemental) (1990)

Nick Waplington – Living Room (1990) (9)

A subsequent book, Other Edens (1994) focused on more global environmental concerns in contrast to the intimate portrayal of the Nottingham residents. He continued his pseudo-documentary work with a bleak study of the Ecstasy drug culture in the mid-1990s and made a global road trip where the journey itself became the art. Another interesting project was a pictorial game illustrating the history of photography using the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (named after the famous game show) as a backdrop. A 2002 work called Learn How to Die the Easy Way expressed his yearning for the artistic and commercial freedom that the web might offer.

If, as I suspect, the Internet has broken the stranglehold of governments and large media corporations on mass communication, then we could be in for a very exciting period of development on a number of different levels. Would a breakdown of current modes of social, moral and political cohesion be too much for a man to ask for? -Nick Waplington, 2002

One can only hope. You Love Life (2005) is a pictorial taken over a 20-year period and made into an autobiographical narrative. Waplington collaborated with Miguel Calderon to produce graphic novels and fashion designer Alexander McQueen for a work illustrating the processes of both designers and artists. The artist also experimented with a print-on-demand service to test alternatives to the increasing costs of producing photobooks.

Nick Waplington’s Blog

Thanks go to the Academy of Art University Library for generously sharing their copy of Living Room, without which, this post would have required an expensive purchase.

The Art of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

I don’t post much on Pigtails anymore, but in light of the fact that we lost author Harper Lee yesterday, I felt compelled to make a post on To Kill a Mockingbird, which has inspired not only the wonderful 1962 film but many artists who’ve interpreted the work visually. Here are some of the best I have encountered.

First, let’s look at just a few of the many lovely book cover designs that have been created over the years since the book’s initial publication. Some of these are actually in use; others are just practice designs done by assorted artists.

Aky-Aky - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Aky-Aky – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Tumblr: Aky-Aky

Kristiina Seppä - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

Kristiina Seppä – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

Kristiina Seppä (official site)

Sarah J. Coleman (Inkymole) - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Sarah J. Coleman (Inkymole) – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Inkymole (official site)

Hugh D’Andrade - To Kill a Mockingbird (front)

Hugh D’Andrade – To Kill a Mockingbird (front)

Hugh D’Andrade - To Kill a Mockingbird (back)

Hugh D’Andrade – To Kill a Mockingbird (back)

Hugh Illustration (official site)

TaraGraphic - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

TaraGraphic – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

DeviantArt: TaraGraphic

And here is an assortment of illustrations inspired by the book and/or the movie:

T.S. Rogers (Teaessare) - To Kill a Mockingbird

T.S. Rogers (Teaessare) – To Kill a Mockingbird

DeviantArt: Teaessare

Jeremy Osborne - Scout Finch on the Porch Swing

Jeremy Osborne – Scout Finch on the Porch Swing

Etsy: Jeremy Osborne

Kelley McMorris - To Kill a Mockingbird

Kelley McMorris – To Kill a Mockingbird

Kelley McMorris Illustration (official site)

Knighthead - Mockingbird

Knighthead – Mockingbird

DeviantArt: Knighthead

And now, some art and photography related to the film, which of course starred Mary Badham as Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch, the book’s narrator. Badham was nine when she was cast as Scout, and though it was her first acting gig, she proved to be a natural, earning an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress at age ten, the youngest person ever to get such a nomination up until that point and for a decade after (she would eventually be supplanted by Tatum O’Neal, who actually won Best Supporting Actress in 1973 for her role in Paper Moon; O’Neal remains the youngest person ever to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, or anything else).

Although not the prettiest child, there is something undeniably charming and compelling about little Mary Badham that renders her absolutely disarming and lovable. Unfortunately, she didn’t do much else as a child actress: a couple of TV guest spots, one on Dr. Kildare playing a victim of child abuse at the hands of her mother, and one in The Twilight Zone episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool” playing a pretty obvious Scout Finch analogue named Sport Sharewood, who escapes (along with her brother) from her bickering, negligent parents into a magical world by means of the titular pool. “The Bewitchin’ Pool” is also notable for being the very last episode of the original Twilight Zone series. After a couple of teen roles in the 1966 films This Property Is Condemned and Let’s Kill Uncle, Badham retired from acting for nearly forty years, only coming out of retirement at the urging of Cameron Watson, who would settle for no one else to play the part of Mrs. Nutbush in his film Our Very Own.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Harper Lee

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Harper Lee

I particularly love the pensive pose Badham affects in the image on the right.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity stills)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity stills)

You can really see her freckles in this next shot.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity still) (1)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity still) (1)

Badham with her charm on full display.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity still) (2)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity still) (2)

You can just tell that Badham was eating up all of the attention and fame she received as a result of being in the film. It must’ve been like a dream come true for this rather plain girl from Alabama. Interestingly, her brother John Badham, thirteen years her senior, would later become a director famous for such films as Saturday Night Fever, WarGames and Short Circuit, among others.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Gregory Peck

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Gregory Peck

Leo Fuchs - Mary Badham (1962)

Leo Fuchs – Mary Badham (1962)

Badham obviously had an easygoing and affectionate relationship with the film’s director Robert Mulligan. In later years she would recount a story about on-set shenanigans involving Mulligan, who was apparently a chain smoker and rarely to be seen without a cigarette. It seems that Phillip Alford, who played Scout’s brother Jem, used to secretly dip the tips of Mulligan’s smokes in water so that they wouldn’t light. When Mulligan finally caught on, he set up Alford, Badham and the other main child actor in the film, John Megna (Dill) by arranging for them to be at particular spot where they met with a bucket full of water. These days that’s something that would make it into the DVD/Blu-Ray extras.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1)

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (2)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (2)

Here are some posters for the film:

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (3)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (3)

A couple of French posters for the film:

Artist Unknown - Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown – Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown - Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown – Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (2)

A poster for a play production of To Kill a Mockingbird:

Artist Unknown - Phoenix Theater Presents 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (poster)

Artist Unknown – Phoenix Theater Presents ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (poster)

And finally, a few stills from the film itself:

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (1)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (1)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (2)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (2)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (3)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (3)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (4)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (4)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (5)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (5)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (6)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (6)

The Devil You Know: The Sugarbowl

Pip wanted to do a piece comparing two short films illustrating different ways children cope with abuse. The first is De Suikerpot (The Sugarbowl, 1997), written and directed by Hilde van Mieghem and the other, a Russian film, will be covered in a future post.

Watching this film, it is clear that van Mieghem (b. 1958) knows her subject matter personally. The film is a blend of a true-to-life account interlaced with artful symbolism resulting in a grim little jewel.

In the beginning of the film, we find little Kristien (Aline Cornelissen) humming while making the morning coffee. One of our first clues to the dynamic about to play out is when she decides whether or not to take a sugar cube for herself and decides, “No, because I am a good girl.” Besides the recurring motif of the good girl, we begin to understand the sugar as symbolic of the girl’s tactic in keeping peace in the household.

The first sign of apprehension is that we hear the dog, Woelfie, in the background barking. Kristien goes out to tell him to stop or he’ll wake up mommy. She goes into the refrigerator to find a leftover steak to shut him up.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (1)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (1)

In the casting process, over 300 girls were auditioned with ten finalists for the director to meet personally. Cornelissen was the first and seemed to understand what van Mieghem wanted exactly. We see our first glimpse of this little actress’ skill when she first enters the bedroom. We can see that there is some kind of tension as she does not have the kind of cheerful expression one would expect.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (2)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (2)

First, we see she has a loving and playful relationship with her father (Dirk Roofthooft) as they horse around a bit before mommy (played by van Mieghem herself) wakes up. The moment she wakes up, she has an accusatory tone. The two go into the kitchen to see that Kristien has made the coffee and there is a moment of joy.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (3)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (3)

She has also made a drawing of “Queen Mommy”. The family have a peculiar custom of calling each other by royal titles: King Daddy, Queen Mommy, Princess, Lady, Your Majesty, etc. However, mommy’s level of control is that of an omniscient. She tells Kristien that she has a pair of special glasses so she can see what she is up to at all times.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (4)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (4)

Suddenly, there is a cut to the boiling kettle and inexplicably mommy explodes, hitting Kristien. Van Mieghem used her own sister as a body double so that the little actress would not be receiving any blows, even make-believe. This time, daddy manages to intervene, sending Kristien to her room.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (5)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (5)

This is a surprising detail since often a man in this kind of relationship is a rather helpless figure. Mommy cries that she cannot take any more of this miserable rat of a child and that Kristien must go. Next, the film cuts to her arrival at a parochial boarding school.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (6)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (6)

It is explained that she will sleep there and Kristien protests that she wants to stay at mommy’s house.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (7)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (7)

This may seem strange since this would be an opportunity for her to escape her abuser, but these relationships are more complex than most people realize. Young children unconsciously assume that all families are pretty much the same until they get older and observe the differences. To Kristien, all women probably have this violent side and men are kind, sometimes playing the knight in shining armor. With mommy at least, there is the idea that she will be loved so long as she can manage to be good—an ethos reinforced by a parallel religious doctrine. And Kristien has a better hope of manipulating someone she is familiar with, not so with the Sisters at the school. When mommy goes in to work out the arrangements, Kristien runs away.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (8)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (8)

Mommy is frantic and disconsolate while looking for her little girl. Kristien comes upon a kind woman (Els Dottermans) and is given a ride home.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (9)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (9)

The woman offers to walk Kristien to the door and is told that mommy will be mad that she was with a stranger and will hit her. Assuring her that she would keep that from happening, Kristien panics and punches the woman in the belly, telling her she cannot always be there to protect her, and runs off.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (10)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (10)

Van Mieghem admits she is a control freak and as such, she stuck strictly to the storyboards, perhaps missing opportunities to make improvements. For example, she did not notice that Dottermans was actually pregnant and could have made much more of it in the story. If this had been more clear in the film, the punch would have made a potent symbol, a way of telling the fetus of the harsh world it will face. In her full-length films to follow, van Mieghem has learned to take advantage of such serendipitous opportunities during shooting.

Kristien does not walk into the house right away but hides until daddy comes home. Then she enters and mommy is overjoyed, lavishing her with affection and promising her special treats.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (11)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (11)

Mommy promises not to send Kristien away any more and daddy goes out to get the promised treats. She begs daddy not to go and he tries to reassure her that he will only be a short while. Meanwhile, mommy has a brainstorm; she will heat up that leftover steak in the refrigerator. I believe this scenario is meant to convey the idea that no matter how much you try to control a situation, the smallest detail will always foil your efforts. Kristien, realizing the danger, tries to cover up the fact that she gave it to Woelfie and tries to surreptitiously dispose of the remains, but she is caught. And the violence begins all over again with daddy unavailable to protect her.

Hilde van Mieghem - De Suikerpot (1997) (12)

Hilde van Mieghem – De Suikerpot (1997) (12)

In the end credits, Kristien is singing the same song we heard in the beginning, but this time we can hear the lyrics:

There’s a fire deep down in me
And that fire is you
I can’t live an hour without you
‘Cause I love you so

In a video interview, van Mieghem says this story is absolutely autobiographical. But an alert viewer will not need to be told this, given the expert execution of this story. She was abused like this and wanted to tell the story in a way that would make an impact on the audience. In her youth, she was a consummate actress, but was too young to pursue her dreams as a director. At 33, she finally attended the LUCA School of Arts in Sint-Lucas to learn this craft. Shot in five days, De Suikerpot was her debut and her only short film, but also the one with the greatest social impact. Her next film, De Kus (The Kiss, 2004), featured her own daughter, Marie Vinck. At first, she wanted complete control of the production process, but the demands of full-length films are formidable, so she has contented herself with just directing.

I would like to thank Dimitri for translating the video interview of Hilde van Mieghem presented by Filmfestival Oostende.

Random Images: Lincoln Clarkes

The first image has an interesting story. For the longest time, all Pip had was a crummy black-and-white censored version. He didn’t know what it was from, only that it was from a festival of some kind. He has a vague memory of the controversy over the image when it happened.  At the time, he managed to scrape up that image somewhere and he held onto it for a long time. He had considered deleting it several times because he didn’t hold out much hope of identifying it and finding a decent version of it.  A couple of days ago on a whim, he decided to Google Lincoln Clarkes’ name and found he finally has a website up. This is a new development because he checked many times over the years and has never found anything.  As it turns out, the image comes from a series of women shot at the 1999 Burning Man festival.  Pip feels he learned a lesson there, “never delete anything cool that you’re trying to find a better version of, because you never know when you might find what you’re looking for.”

Lincoln Clarkes - From series 'Burning Man Women' (1999)

Lincoln Clarkes – From series ‘Burning Man Women’ (1999)

The other Clarkes image is of Canadian entertainer Sheila McCarthy. Although the child isn’t identified, it has to be one of her two daughters, Mackenzie or Drew.

Lincoln Clarkes - Sheila McCarthy at home, Ontario, Canada (1990)

Lincoln Clarkes – Sheila McCarthy at home, Ontario, Canada (1990)

Lincoln Clarkes’ Wikipedia page

Random Images: Giancarlo Botti

In sending me his extensive collection of random images, Pip found certain ones the most memorable and had a few comments. Therefore, I will be posting those first and a few others are important enough to belong to dedicated posts. The images here are of Jane Birkin and her two daughters Kate Barry (by John Barry) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, (by Serge Gainsbourg). Pip was moved by the intimacy expressed in this family.

Giancarlo Botti - Jane Birkin with Kate and Charlotte

Giancarlo Botti – Jane Birkin with Kate and Charlotte

Giancarlo Botti - Jane Birkin with Kate Barry & Charlotte Gainsbourg (c1977)

Giancarlo Botti – Jane Birkin with Kate Barry & Charlotte Gainsbourg (c1977)

Giancarlo Botti - Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin avec Charlotte et Kate, Verneuil, Paris, Septembre 1976

Giancarlo Botti – Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin avec Charlotte et Kate, Verneuil, Paris, Septembre 1976

There are plenty of other images of this charming family as well, some by Botti, some not.  Take a look here, here, here, here, here, here, here and another from Botti.

Jane Birkin official website

William Sergeant Kendall and his Daughters

William Sergeant Kendall (1869–1938) was an American painter and occasional sculptor who is chiefly remembered for painting his wife and three daughters.

After studying art in New York City, he enrolled at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris from 1888 to 1892. He first earned fame for having a work accepted at the Paris Salon and awarded an honorable mention. He returned to New York City in 1892 and taught painting to women at the Cooper Union from 1892 to 1895. Early in 1896 he married Margaret Weston Stickney, one of his students. They had three daughters: Elisabeth (1896), Beatrice (1902) and Alison (1907). Kendall also taught at Yale University, and was head of its School of Fine Arts from 1913 to 1922. In the fall of 1921, the Kendalls were divorced. In 1922 he resigned from Yale and sold his house; then he married his student and occasional model Christine Herter, aged 32, whom he had befriended when she was a teenager. The couple moved to an isolated, mountainous area near Hot Springs, Virginia, where Kendall continued to paint and exhibit until his death.

He used his daughters as models for many of his works, so during about 25 years he produced paintings of young girls. As there are several portraits of his family at different times—for instance The Artist’s Wife and Daughters (1906)—it is often possible to recognize the girls in his more allegorical paintings.

Pigtails in Paint has shown his painting Psyche (1909), which portrays his eldest daughter Elisabeth, aged 13.  At age 5, his second daughter Beatrice was the model for Narcissa (1907) (source of the image: MutualArt.com):

William Sergeant Kendall - Narcissa (1907) - from MutualArt.com

William Sergeant Kendall – Narcissa (1907)

His third daughter Alison appears in two beautiful paintings. According to Brooklyn Museum, A Statuette is dated approximately 1914, but signed 1915 by Kendall; I would tend to agree with 1915, as the girl looks 8 years old rather than 7:

William Sergeant Kendall - A Statuette (1914/1915) - from Brooklyn Museum

William Sergeant Kendall – A Statuette (1914/1915)

The second painting A Child was sold by A.J. Kollar Fine Paintings, LLC; they date it 1918 and say that it portrays Alison; indeed her appearance seems to match her age of 11:

William Sergeant Kendall - A Child (1918) - from A.J. Kollar Fine Paintings, LLC

William Sergeant Kendall – A Child (1918)

There are other girl paintings by Kendall where I do not recognize one of his daughters, for instance Crosslights (1913).

Anne Underwood Enslow, granddaughter of Elisabeth, has made a website on her great-grandfather William Sergeant Kendall. It contains many family paintings, identifying the people portrayed.

Random Images: Leonard Porter

Leonard Porter (b. 1963) is a contemporary artist raised in the Pacific Northwest. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts in 1989.  Porter began exploring Classicism in 1991.  Recent works have included large scale ecclesiastical murals, ceiling designs for residential settings, mythological landscape paintings, and decorative works such as painted furniture and bas-relief designs.  Many of his works can be viewed on his website and the artist accepts commissions, especially from those who desire an approach that harmonizes art and architecture.

Leonard Porter - An Allegory of Familial Love (2005)

Leonard Porter – An Allegory of Familial Love (2005)

For giclées, multiples and lithographs visit: Segnatura Fine Arts.