Evil Can Seem Beautiful if the Uniforms are Just Right

Ulysees S. Grant — Cold Harbor, Va. June 1864

I have a very keen sense of direction except in cities with streets that are named with numbers. After all these years in Vancouver I have yet to figure out which is Number 3 and which is Number 5 Road in Richmond, a suburb ov Vancouver near the airport. I get lost in Richmond. Yet I will be taking some detour to avoid a traffic accident, etc and be driving through some Vancouver side streets when suddenly I will feel the sense that I have been here before. And I am usually right. I might have been on that street to deliver some photograph perhaps 25 years before. I was there once but something in my brain tells me that the coordinates of this street and house are familiar. I believe that migrating birds must have the same sense for place coordinates but in a much more acutely sensitive manner than mine. I have something similar for photographic poses even if the pose in question is not all like the one that it reminds me of. It was last June in Texas that my granddaughter Rebecca snapped this shot (I love it!) of her grandfather on the horse with his friend Michael East standing next to him. When I saw Rebecca’s picture I was nagged by its resemblance to another photograph. That photograph is one of my favourites (by now the photographer is unknown although at one time it was attributed to Mathew Brady). It is of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant standing by a tree in front of a tent at Cold Harbor, Va. June 1864. Those viewing both pictures might not notice the similarity. I do and that is sufficient to make me smile and marvel at my granddaughter’s natural perspicacity to shoot a picture that is just right.

I have written about artists looking into the past for inspiration here. But what I am driving at in today’s blog is that accidental similarity can be just as interesting if noticed. Consider the photograph of Hitler in Paris taken in 1940. Who the photographer was who took it has now been lost even though the initial credit was given to a French image archive, Roger-Viollet which was founded in 1938 and then absorbed by an agency called Rex Features and from there credit and copyright seems to rest with the image thugs, Getty Images. If Getty gets their way someday we may have to pay to download an image of the Mona Lisa and they might even attempt to copyright the Holy Bible. Enough for that little rant!

If you observe the picture you will know the photographer was a competent professional with an eye for glamour and fashion. He or she was in a low position so as to get the Eiffel Tower behind. The photograph almost seems like some stylist was around to make sure all the coats were just right, which they are. In my opinion this image is one of the finest fashion photographs ever taken. As I explained to Rebecca who was much enamoured with Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List, “Evil can seem beautiful if the uniforms are just right.” The picture of Hitler in Paris is evoked (purely by accident in my opinion) by Helmut Newton in his 1981 French Vogue spread. But isn’t it wonderful to see that similarity?

Link to: Evil Can Seem Beautiful If The Uniforms Are Just Right

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.