Woman in cell, playing solitaire. ca. 1950. Nickolas Muray. Transparency, chromogenic development (Kodachrome) process. George Eastman House Collection - Accession # 1983:0567:0151

Woman in cell, playing solitaire. ca. 1950. Nickolas Muray. Transparency, chromogenic development (Kodachrome) process. George Eastman House Collection - Accession # 1983:0567:0151

I was blown away last month when the indicommons feed landed Nickolas Muray’s colour commercial photography on my desktop. Muray’s commercial work is fresh, witty, a sock in the eye and an all round feast of fun. The fact I haven’t any knowledge ofi the advertised products makes my enjoyment all the more visuocentric and naive. And that’s okay … every so often.

Pop music sprouted in the fifties, right about when this image was taken. I have Alma Cogan playing in my mind as I browse Muray’s commercial kodachrome prints. Visually, Woman in Cell, Playing Solitaire is an alterworld mash-up of Jehad Nga and Edward Hopper. Don’t you just dig those colours? None of the psychological edge though; the lady, despite being locked up, hardly looks harassed or without hope. Rather, she looks bored.

To continue the fest of technicolour, let me include the image below. Admittedly, it stretches the theoretical parameters of this blog but I would argue the subject is relevant. Depicted is the harsh subjugation of fowl to sites of incarceration – evidenced by the chicken wire and possibly even the girl’s well-disguised, maniacal grasp of the hat!

American Cyanamid Girl with Straw Hat Full of Chicks, 1947. Nickolas Muray. Color print, Assembly (Carbro) Process. George Eastman House. Accession # 1971:0048:0017.

American Cyanamid Girl with Straw Hat Full of Chicks, 1947. Nickolas Muray. Color print, Assembly (Carbro) Process. George Eastman House. Accession # 1971:0048:0017.

To end on a serious note, I knew of the exceptional George Eastman House collection, but was frequently frustrated by the archaic platform of its website. Browsing was not fun. To GEH’s credit they recognised this enfeeblement and avidly committed important works to the Flickr Commons project. Kudos to them. We are all the better for it! I am just happy an image came along with vaguely carceral imagery, providing me an excuse to share.

_________________________________________

Nickolas Muray (American, b. Hungary, 1892-1965) immigrated to the United States in 1913, working first as a printer and then opening a photographic portrait studio in Greenwich Village in 1920. He became well known for his celebrity portraits, publishing them regularly in Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Ladies’ Home Journal, and The New York Times. After 1930, Muray turned away from celebrity and theatrical portraiture, and became a pioneering commercial photographer, famous for establishing many of the conventions of color advertising. He is considered the master of the three-color carbro process. Muray’s portraits of Frida Kahlo are well known and well-loved.

Advertisements