10 April, 2009

Bert Hardy

Bert Hardy was a documentary and press photographer known for his work published in the Picture Post magazine between 1941 and 1957.

Bert Hardy rose from humble working class origins in Blackfriars, the eldest of seven children he left school at age 14 to work for a chemist who also processed photos. His first big sale came when he photographed King George V and Queen Mary in a passing carriage, and sold 200 small prints of his best view of the King. Hardy freelanced for The Bicycle magazine, and bought his first small-format Leica 35 mm. He signed on with the General Photographic Agency as a photographer, then found his own freelance firm Criterion.

In 1941 Hardy was recruited by the editor Tom Hopkinson of the leading picture publication of the 1930s and 1940s, Picture Post. Hardy was self-taught and used a Leica - unconventional for press photographers at that time - but went on to become the Post's Chief Photographer, after he earned its first photographer credit for his 1 February 1941 photo-essay about Blitz-stressed fire-fighters.

Hardy served as a war photographer in the Royal Army Photographic Unit from 1942 until 1946: he took part in the D-Day landings in June 1944; covered the liberation of Paris; the allied advance across the Rhine; and was one of the first photographers to enter the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to record the suffering there. He also saved some Russian slaves from a fire set by German police in the city of Osnabruck, before photographing the aftermath.

Near the end of WWII, Hardy went to Asia, where he became Lord Mountbatten's personal photographer. He later went on the cover the Korean War along with journalist James Cameron for Picture Post, reporting on United Nations atrocities at Pusan in 1950 and on that war's turning point, the Battle of Inchon, for which he won the Missouri Pictures of the Year Award.

Three of Hardy's photos were used in Edward Steichen's famous "Family of Man" exhibition and book, though not his favorite photo - which shows two street urchins off on a lark in Gorbals - it nevertheless has come to represent Hardy's documentary skill. Hardy himself was photographed many times, including in war-time; but three very good photo-portraits of him are currently in the Photographs Collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

Having written an article for amateur photographers suggesting you didn't need an expensive camera to take good pictures, Hardy staged a carefully posed photograph of two young women sitting on railings above a breezy Blackpool promenade using a Box Brownie.

Just before Picture Post closed, Hardy took 15 photos of Queen Elizabeth II's entrance at the Paris Opera on 8 April 1957, which were assembled as a photo-montage by the magazine's technicians. It was one of the most challenging photo-montages ever created, because there were a sizeable live crowd, guards, and other dignitaries, in front of his camera. After leaving Picture Post Hardy became one of the most successful advertising photographers until his retirement in 1964 to his farm in Oxted.

His second wife, Sheila, was a photo researcher for Picture Post and still holds the copyright to his private collection of photos; Getty Images holds the copyright to his Picture Post works.

A memorial plaque honouring him is in the Church of Journalists, St. Bride's, Fleet Street, London.

Georges Brassens

Georges Brassens was a French singer-songwriter.

Georges Brassens was born in Sète (then called Cette), a town in southern France near Montpellier. Now an iconic figure in France, he achieved fame through his simple, elegant songs and articulate, diverse lyrics; indeed, he is considered one of France's most accomplished postwar poets. He has also set to music poems by both well-known and relatively obscure poets, including Louis Aragon, Victor Hugo, Jean Richepin, François Villon, and Guillaume Apollinaire.

During World War II, he was forced by the Germans to work in a labor camp at a BMW aircraft engine plant in Basdorf near Berlin in Germany (March 1943). Here Brassens met some of his future friends, such as Pierre Onténiente, whom he called Gibraltar because he was "steady as a rock." They would later become close friends.

After being given ten days' leave in France, he decided not to return to the labour camp. Brassens took refuge in a slum called "Impasse Florimont" where he lived for several years with its owner, Jeanne Planche, a friend of his aunt. Planche lived with her husband Marcel in relative poverty: without gas, running water, or electricity. Brassens remained hidden there until the end of the war five months later, but ended up staying for 22 years. Planche was the inspiration for Brassens's song Jeanne.

Brassens grew up in the family home in Sète with his mother, Elvira Dagrosa, father, Jean-Louis, half-sister, Simone (daughter of Elvira and her first husband, who was killed in the war), and paternal grandfather, Jules. His mother, who came from a Neapolitan family, was a devout Roman Catholic, while his father was an easy-going, generous, openminded, anticlerical man. Brassens grew up between these two starkly contrasting personalities, who nonetheless shared a love for music. His mother—whom Brassens labelled a "missionary for songs" (militante de la chanson), Simone and Jules, were always singing. This environment imparted to Brassens a passion for singing that would come to define his life. At the time he listened constantly to his early idols: Charles Trenet, Tino Rossi, and Ray Ventura. He was said to love music above all else: it was his first passion and the path that led him to his career. He told his friend André Sève, "[It is] a kind of internal vibration, something intense, a pleasure that has something of the sensual to it." He hoped to enroll at a music conservatory, but his mother insisted that he could only do so if his grades improved. Consequently, he never learned to read music. A poor student, Brassens performed badly in school.

Alphonse Bonnafé, Brassens' ninth-grade teacher, strongly encouraged his apparent gift for poetry and creativity. Brassens had already been experimenting with songwriting and poetry. Bonnafé aided his attempts at poetry and pushed him to spend more time on his schoolwork, suggesting he begin to study classical poetry. Brassens developed an interest in versification and rhyme. By Brassens' admission, Bonnafé's influence on his work is enormous: "We were thugs, at fourteen, fifteen, and we started to like poets. That is quite a transformation. Thanks to this teacher, I opened my mind to something bigger. Later on, every time I wrote a song, I asked myself the question: would Bonnafé like it?" By this point, music had taken a slight backstage to poetry for Brassens, who now dreamed of being a writer.

Nonetheless, personal friendships and adolescence still defined Brassens in his teens. At age seventeen, he was implicated in a crime that would prove to be a turning point in his life. In order to make a little money, Georges and his gang decided to turn to small thefts whose principal victims were their respective families. Georges stole a ring and a bracelet from his sister. The police found and caught him, which caused a minor scandal. The young men were publicly characterized as "high school mobsters" or "scum". Some of the perpetrators, unsupported by their families, spent time in prison. While Brassen's father was more forgiving and immediately picked up his son, Brassens was expelled from school. He decided to move to Paris in February 1940, following a short trial as an apprentice mason in his father's business after World War II had already broken out.

Brassens lived with his aunt Antoinette in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, where he taught himself to play piano. He began working at a Renault car factory. In May 1940 the factory was bombed, and France invaded by Germany. Brassens returned to the family home in Sète. He spent the summer in his home town, but soon returned to Paris, feeling that this was where his future lay. He did not work, since employment would serve only to profit the occupying enemy. Saddened by the lack of poetic culture, Brassens spent most of his days in the library. It was then that he set a pattern of arising at five in the morning, and going to bed at sunset - a pattern he maintained the greater part of his life. He meticulously studied the great masters: Villon, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Hugo. His approach to poetry was almost scientific. Reading, for instance, a poem by Verlaine, he dissected it image by image, attentive to the slightest change in rhythm, analysing the rhymes and the way they alternated. He drew on this enormous literary culture as wrote his first collection of poems, Des coups d’épée dans l’eau, whose conclusion foreshadowed the anarchism of his future songs:

His friends who heard and liked his songs urged him to go and try them out in a cabaret, café or concert hall. He was shy and had difficulty performing in front of people. At first, he wanted to sell his songs to most-known singers such as "les frères Jacques". The owner of a cafe told him that his songs were not the type he was looking for. But at one point he met the singer Patachou in a very well-known cafe, Les Trois Baudets, and she brought him into the music scene. Several famous singers came into the music industry this way, including Jacques Brel and Léo Ferré.

He rarely performed outside his own country, and his lyrics are difficult to translate, though attempts have been made. He performed with an acoustic guitar; most of the time, his only accompanying musician was his friend Pierre Nicolas with a double bass, and sometimes a second guitar (Barthélémy Rosso, Joël

Brassens died of cancer in 1981, in Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, having suffered health problems for many years, and rests at the Cimetière le Py in Sète.

Evan Hunter

Evan Hunter was a prolific American author and screenwriter. Though he was a successful and well-known writer using the Evan Hunter name (a name he legally adopted in 1952), he was perhaps even better known as Ed McBain, a name he used for most of his crime fiction, beginning in 1956.

Evan Hunter was born and raised as Salvatore Lombino in New York City, living in East Harlem until the age of 12, at which point his family moved to the Bronx. He attended Olinville Junior High School, then Evander Childs High School, before winning an Art Students League scholarship. Later, he was admitted as an art student at Cooper Union.

Lombino served in the Navy in World War II, writing several short stories while serving aboard a destroyer in the Pacific. However, none of these stories were published until after he had established himself as an author in the 1950s.

After the war, Lombino returned to New York and studied at Hunter College, majoring in English, with minors in dramatics and education. He published a weekly column in the Hunter College newspaper as "S.A. Lombino".

While looking to start a career as a writer, Lombino took a variety of jobs, including 17 days as a teacher at Bronx Vocational High School in September 1950. This experience would later form the basis for his 1954 novel The Blackboard Jungle.

In 1951, Lombino took a job as an Executive Editor for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, working with authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, P.G. Wodehouse, Lester del Rey, Poul Anderson, and Richard S. Prather, among others. He made his first professional short-story sale that same year, a science-fiction tale entitled "Welcome Martians", credited to S.A. Lombino.

Soon after his initial sale, Lombino sold stories under the pen names "Evan Hunter" and "Hunt Collins". The name "Evan Hunter" is generally believed to have been derived from two schools he attended, Evander Childs High School and Hunter College, although the author himself would never confirm that. (He did confirm that the name "Hunt Collins" was derived from Hunter College.)

Lombino legally changed his name to Evan Hunter in May 1952, after an editor told him that a novel he wrote would sell more copies if credited to "Evan Hunter" than it would if it were credited to "S.A. Lombino". Thereafter, he used the name Evan Hunter both personally and professionally.

As Evan Hunter, he gained fame with his 1954 novel The Blackboard Jungle, which dealt with juvenile crime and the New York City public school system. In 1956, the book was made into a movie.

During this ear, Hunter also wrote a great deal of genre fiction. He was advised by his agents that publishing too much fiction under the Hunter byline, or publishing any crime fiction as Evan Hunter, might weaken his literary reputation. As a consequence, during the 1950s Hunter used the pseudonyms Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, and Richard Marsten for much of his crime fiction. A prolific author in several genres, Hunter also published approximately two dozen science fiction stores and four SF novels bewtween 1951 and 1956 under the names S.A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D.A. Addams and Ted Taine.

His most famous pseudonym, Ed McBain, debuted in 1956, with the first novel in the 87th Precinct crime series. NBC ran a police drama also called 87th Precinct during the 1961–1962 season based on McBain's work.

Hunter himself publicly revealed in 1958 that he was McBain, but he continued to use that pseudonym for several decades, most notably for the 87th Precinct series, and for the Matthew Hope series of detective novels.

By about 1960, Hunter had retired the pen names of Cannon, Marsten, Collins, Addams and Taine. From this point on, crime novels were generally attributed to McBain, and other sorts of fiction to Hunter. Reprints of crime-oriented stories and novels written in the 1950s previously attributed to other psuedonyms were issued under the McBain byline. Hunter stated that the division of names allowed readers to know what to expect: McBain novels had a consistent writing style, while Hunter novels were more varied.

Under the Hunter name, novels steadily appeared throuoght the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, including Come Winter (1973), and Lizzie (1984). Hunter was also active as a screenwriter, penning the screenplay of the 1963 film The Birds for Alfred Hitchcock, very loosely adapted from Daphne du Maurier's short story. He was also set to adapt Winston Graham's novel Marnie for Hitchcock, but he and the director had a disagreement over a crucial scene, and Hunter was let go.

From 1958 until his death, McBain's "87th Precinct" novels appeared at a rate of approximately one or two novels a year. From 1978 to 1998, they were joined by another McBain series about lawyer Matthew Hope; books in this series appeared every year or two. For about a decade, from 1984 to 1994, Hunter published no fiction under his own name.

In 2000, a novel called Candyland appeared that was credited to both Hunter and McBain. The two-part novel opened in Hunter's psychologically-based narrative voice before switching to McBain's customary police procedural style.

Aside from McBain, Hunter used at least two other pseudonyms after 1960. The 1975 novel Doors was originally attributed to Ezra Hannon, before being reissued as a work by McBain, and the 1992 novel Scimitar was credited to John Abbott.

Hunter died of laryngeal cancer in 2005 at the age of 78 in Weston, Connecticut.

Jimmy Swinnerton

James Guilford Swinnerton was an American cartoonist and artist. His nickname was Jimmy. He signed some of his early cartoons Swin, and one ephemeral comic strip Guilford.

He was born in Eureka, California, the son of Judge J. W. Swinnerton. He entered the San Francisco School of Design at age 14, and there studied under Emil Carlsen. In 1892 he became a staff cartoonist for Hearst's San Francisco Examiner. One of his first assignments was to produce a weekly cartoon for the children's section of the paper. The title of this series was successively California Bears, The Little Bears, and Little Bears and Tykes. Some critics have called the bears series the first comic strip, preceding The Yellow Kid by three years. This assertion is debatable, depending on the definition of comic strip, but Swinnerton was certainly drawing multi-panel stories with speech balloons by 1900.

In 1896 he moved to New York by invitation to produce comic strips for the Journal American, another Hearst paper. He drew a few more Little Bears for the paper, followed by some strips with a Noah's Ark setting, referred to as Mount Ararat. He hit upon a durable theme with a series of strips featuring anthropomorphic tigers, which soon took the title Mr. Jack. Mr. Jack, as the character developed, was an inveterate philanderer, to his wife's distress. Some of his misdeeds were considered unsuitable for juvenile readers. The strip had its last appearance in the Sunday color supplement in 1904. In a later revival (1912-1919) it appeared in the editorial pages. Meanwhile, Swinnerton continued to fill his Sunday space with a new character, a scatterbrained boy named Jimmy. He drew Jimmy in various formats, eventually under the title Little Jimmy, until 1958 (with a hiatus from 1941 to 1945). A peculiarity of Swinnerton's comic strips is that speeches appear in quotes within the speech balloons.

Around 1905, a doctor told Swinnerton that he was suffering from tuberculosis and had two weeks to live. Determined to defeat the prognosis, Swinnerton hopped on a train to Arizona, recovered, and stayed there. He alternated between residences in Arizona and California for most of his life.

The spectacular Arizona desertscape began to influence Swinnerton's artistic output. From 1922 to 1941, he produced a series of picture stories titled Canyon Kiddies for Good Housekeeping magazine (a Hearst publication). The Canyon Kiddies stories usually consisted of several lush color illustrations with captions in verse. In 1940, he painted fifty backgrounds for Warner Brothers for a Chuck Jones cartoon featuring the Canyon Kiddies, titled Mighty Hunters. He also painted desert scenes as a fine artist from about 1920 to 1965. His canvases are still in demand.

A natural arch in Monument Valley was named Swinnerton Arch in his honor.

Swinnerton died in Palm Springs at the age of 98.

Edward Seago

Edward Brian (Ted) Seago was an English artist who painted in both oils and watercolours.

The son of a coal merchant, born in Norwich, Seago was a self-taught artist, (although he did receive advice from Sir Alfred Munnings and Bernard Priestman), and enjoyed a wide range of admirers from the British Royal family and The Aga Khan to the common man. His works have been classified as either Impressionist or Post-Impressionist and included landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes, street scenes, his garden and portraits.

Aged fourteen, he won an award from the Royal Drawing Society, and from then on knew what he wanted to do in spite of his parents' initial disapproval. At the age of eighteen, Seago joined Bevin's Travelling Show and subsequently toured with circuses in Britain and throughout Europe.

Heart problems, identified at the age of seven dogged him all of his life, and he had to resort to subterfuge to join the army at the outbreak of the Second World War. He was commissioned as a Major in the Royal Engineers and advised on camouflage techniques for Field Marshall Auchinleck, (with whom he had a life-long friendship).

Such was his popularity that those who wished to buy one of his paintings had to queue at his various annual exhibitions around the world (with the single exception of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother).

"The Queen Mother bought so many that eventually the artist, who died in 1974, gave her two a year – on her birthday and at Christmas. Prince Philip invited him on a tour of the Antarctic in 1956, and his subsequent paintings, considered to be among his best, hang at Balmoral."

Seago also created the solid silver sculpture of St George slaying the Dragon, which serves as an automobile mascot for any state limousine in which Queen Elizabeth II is travelling. The mascot or "hood ornament", as it would be referred to in the United States, can be transferred from car to car. When the monarch is not aboard, it is substituted for the symbol of the manufacturer, such as the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy or the Bentley "B".

Seago died of a brain tumour in London on 19 January 1974.

Guy Debord

Guy Ernest Debord was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International (SI). He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.

Guy Debord was born in Paris. His father died early, and he was raised by his grandmother in a series of Mediterranean towns. He was a headstrong youth, and after graduating high school he dropped out of the University of Paris where he had been studying law. He became a revolutionary poet, writer and film-maker founding the Lettrist International schism with Gil J. Wolman. In the 1960s he led the Situationist International group, which influenced the Paris Uprising of 1968. His book Society of the Spectacle (1967) is considered a major catalyst for the uprising. In the 1970s Debord disbanded the Situationist International, and resumed filmmaking with financial backing from the movie mogul and publisher Gerard Lebovici. His two best films date from this period: a film version of Society of the Spectacle (1973) and the autobiographical "In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni" (1978). After the dissolution of the Situationist International, Debord spent his time reading, and occasionally writing, in relative isolation, although he continued to correspond on political and other issues, notably with Lebovici and the Italian situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti and designed a war game.

His lifelong steady alcohol consumption began to take a toll on his health. Apparently to end the suffering from a form of polyneuritis brought on by his excessive drinking, he committed suicide, shooting himself in the heart at his property (called Champot) in Bellevue-la-Montagne, Haute-Loire, on November 30, 1994.

Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun, born Knud Pedersen was a Norwegian author. He was considered by Isaac Bashevis Singer to be the "father of modern literature", and by King Haakon to be Norway's soul. In 1920, the Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil". He insisted that the intricacies of the human mind ought to be the main object of modern literature, to describe the "whisper of the blood, and the pleading of the bone marrow". Hamsun pursued his literary program, debuting in 1890 with the psychological novel Hunger.

Knut Hamsun was born as Knud Pedersen in Vågå, Gudbrandsdal, Norway. He was the fourth son of Peder Pedersen and Tora Olsdatter (Garmostrædet). He grew up in poverty in Hamarøy in Nordland. At 17, he became an apprentice to a ropemaker, and at about the same time he started to write. He spent several years in America, traveling and working at various jobs, and published his impressions under the title Fra det moderne Amerikas Aandsliv (1889).

In 1898, Hamsun married Bergljot Goepfert, but the marriage ended in 1906. Hamsun then married Marie Andersen in 1909 and she would be his companion until the end of his life. She wrote about their life together in her two memoirs. Marie was a young and promising actress when she met Hamsun, but she ended her career and traveled with him to Hamarøy. They bought a farm, the idea being "to earn their living as farmers, with his writing providing some additional income".

However, after a few years, they decided to move south, to Larvik. In 1918, the couple bought Nørholm, an old and somewhat dilapidated manor house between Lillesand and Grimstad. The main residence was restored and redecorated. Here Hamsun could occupy himself writing undisturbed, although he often travelled to write in other cities and places (preferably in spartan housing).

Knut Hamsun died in his home at Nørholm, aged 92 in 1952.

Hamsun first received wide acclaim with his 1890 novel Hunger (Sult). The semi-autobiographical work described a young writer's descent into near madness as a result of hunger and poverty in the Norwegian capital of Kristiania. To many, the novel presaged the writings of Franz Kafka and other twentieth-century novelists with its internal monologue and bizarre logic.

A theme to which Hamsun often returned is that of the perpetual wanderer, an itinerant stranger (often the narrator) who shows up and insinuates himself into the life of small rural communities. This wanderer theme is central to the novels Mysteries, Pan, Under the Autumn Star, The Last Joy, Vagabonds, and others.

Hamsun’s prose often contains rapturous depictions of the natural world, with intimate reflections on the Norwegian woodlands and coastline. For this reason, he has been linked with the spiritual movement known as pantheism. Hamsun saw mankind and nature united in a strong, sometimes mystical bond. This connection between the characters and their natural environment is exemplified in the novels Pan, A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings, and the epic Growth of the Soil, the novel which is credited with securing the Nobel Prize in literature in 1920 for Hamsun.

A fifteen-volume edition of his complete works was published in 1954.