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ICP Exhibitions Flaunt the Grittier Side of Glamour

If you happen to venture into New York City this summer, make a point to visit the ICP (The International Center of Photography). You’ll be enthralled, amused and surprised by the ICP’s current  exhibits. For those who are true fashionistas, the museum has three de facto fashion exhibitions on view: Christer Strömholm, Weegee, and President in Petticoats. And we were excited to see that among the photographs on display, more than a few had lovely fur touches; confirming — once again — fur’s integral role in fashion through the years.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Weegee, Man arrested for cross-dressing, New York, ca. 1939

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Christer Strömholm, Nana, 1959. © Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Unidentified Photographer, Jeff Davis in disguise, as he appeared at the time of his capture, 1865. International Center of Photography.

If you love TMZ, then you’ll be enthralled with the work presented in Weegee: Murder is my Business, which displays some of Weegee’s iconic tabloid photography taken from 1935 to 1946. Seriously, Weegee is the godfather of tabloid journalism, having singlehandedly developed and perfected the genre; in fact, he’s the man behind the Hollywood film noir, Naked City.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Weegee, Hold up man killed, November 24, 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Weegee, Man arrested for cross-dressing, New York, ca. 1939

On the fashion front, some of his subjects — more than a few murderers, cop-killers, drunks, cross-dressers and onlookers — look as though they walked out of a magazine fashion editorial. It might be the time lapse, the more formal style of dressing, the sharpness of the coats’ cuts, or the men’s sleeked-back hair, but with today’s standards in mind, they look like models ‘mugging’ for the camera.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Weegee, Anthony Esposito, booked on suspicion of killing a policeman, New York, January 16, 1941

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Weegee, Man arrested for cross-dressing, New York, ca. 1939

Weegee, Line-Up for Night Court, ca. 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Weegee, Line-Up for Night Court, ca. 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Which brings to mind another, one of the more interesting museum shows we have seen in a long time, Christer Strömholm: Les Amies de Place Blanche [the friends of Place Blanche]. This little gem of a show turns a new leaf on an otherwise hidden world, the grittier side of glamour as lived on the streets of Pigalle (Paris’ cabaret and “red light” district).

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Christer Strömholm, Jacky, 1961. © Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Christer Strömholm, Gina, 1963. © Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate.

Strömholm, one of Sweden’s most cherished photographers, began photographing and chronicling a group of “ladies” he befriended from the late 1950s throughout the 1960s. The twist in this tale, this grittier side of glamour, was that all of them were ‘pre-op’ transsexuals working to raise funds for their surgery.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Christer Strömholm, Soraya and Sonia, 1962. © Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate.

This exhibit shows, with respect and nonchalance, both the strength and the vulnerability of human beings awaiting their rightful place in society regardless of public opinion or acceptance.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Christer Strömholm, Belinda, 1967. © Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate.

On that note, this year being an election year, why not throw a bone of contention to the political system… 1865 style? President in Petticoats! Civil War Propaganda in Photographs, another of the recently mounted exhibits at the ICP, shows us that a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words; and when it comes to politics or celebrity, the candid shot taken out of context can lead to the kind of misinterpretations that can send a very damaging and untrue message through the  media. Case in point:  Soon after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, became a political fugitive.

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

Unidentified Photographer, “Jeff Davis and His Last Ditch,” 1865. International Center of Photography.

While trying to flee arrest, he accidently grabbed his wife’s coat and the rest became photomontage history… the precursor to today’s Photoshop mania. Slews of newspapers reported he had dressed as a woman to escape capture. Diffusing made-up stories about politicians by the media? How classic!

ICP Exhibitions - Christer Strömholm, Weegee, President in Petticoats

P. T. Sherlock, Jefferson Davis in a Dress, Holding a Bowie Knife, 1865

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