Off Topic Messages

Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:31 pm

Somebody here at FECC recently mentioned something to the effect that it would be nice to see other Wertheimer works, not just the wonderful Elvis images we are used to.

Here's a photo of Nina Simone taken by him in December 1964, I recently found in a blog. Accompanying the photo is a brief text I'm also including :

641200 - Nina Simone - AW.jpg


Photographer Alfred Wertheimer was hired by Anne Fulchino, the person who hired him already for the famous photo series of young Elvis Presley, in the mid 60ies to photograph Nina Simone, the beautiful and uncompromising singer from North Carolina.

By photographing Nina Simone, Wertheimer employed his famously characterized “available darkness” instead of “available light” approach to photography, a way to approach and create contrast in an image. It is probably an interesting way to capture the soul of the subject, in this case Nina Simone, and a variation of what one learns in photography courses, yet its part of the same, the relation of light and darkness.

Nina Simone would turn 80 this year. Unfortunately she passed away already in 2003 in the south of France, but her songs are just as great as in the 60ies and the photographs tell a story of a special woman.

Often a photographer’s life and work story gets connected with other artist’s lives and work, like Wertheimer with Elvis Presley and Nina Simone, and Annie Leibovitz with the Rolling Stones.

One never knows for what purpose one is called to photograph somebody. The person might be the next superstar

Happy snapping
.


http://www.rohoyachui.com/blog/files/category-photography-0026-art.html
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Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:21 pm

He did some lovely photos of Simone, and as with his photos of Elvis, Wertheimer was capturing the singer at a pivotal point in her career. 1964 saw her first album for a bigger label (Philips), the first real signs on record that she was getting heavily involved with the civil rights movement (Mississippi Goddam), and also, if one listens closely, the first signs that Simone was plagued by inner demons. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, which she recorded in 1964, could almost be an anthem for bipolar disorder, which Simone had (although my understanding is that it wasn't diagnosed until much later). As a result of her illness, her live shows would become more and more erratic. The Montreux concert from 1976 available on DVD, is in many ways as difficult to watch as Elvis in Concert.

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:11 pm

poormadpeter wrote:He did some lovely photos of Simone, and as with his photos of Elvis, Wertheimer was capturing the singer at a pivotal point in her career. 1964 saw her first album for a bigger label (Philips), the first real signs on record that she was getting heavily involved with the civil rights movement (Mississippi Goddam), and also, if one listens closely, the first signs that Simone was plagued by inner demons. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, which she recorded in 1964, could almost be an anthem for bipolar disorder, which Simone had (although my understanding is that it wasn't diagnosed until much later). As a result of her illness, her live shows would become more and more erratic. The Montreux concert from 1976 available on DVD, is in many ways as difficult to watch as Elvis in Concert.


Thanks for the post, poormadpeter.

What I find confusing is, according to Wikipedia, Simone's first album for RCA was released in 1967. How does this match Anne Fulchino's alleged involvement with Wertheimer shooting Simone images as early as 1964 ? Did Fulchino work for other record labels too ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Simone#Discography

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:11 pm

That's something I can't answer, sadly. Simone moved from Colpix to Philips in 1964 and, yes, she then switched to RCA in 1966 or 1967. I thought Anne Fulchino was a press agent, which I guess would mean she could represent more than one label or person at a time?

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:19 am

poormadpeter wrote:I thought Anne Fulchino was a press agent, which I guess would mean she could represent more than one label or person at a time?


Thanks for your post. As it turns out, that was more or less the case.

Here's more :

Alfred Wertheimer’s pictures of the fierce, regal, beautiful Nina Simone don’t merely capture the spirit of an artist — although, if that’s all they did, they would still be extraordinary. Instead, Wertheimer’s portraits of the singer, songwriter and civil rights activist place us directly in the path of a force of nature.

Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina in 1933) was a creative rebel, uncompromising in her craft and utterly uninterested in appeasing her audience. Her songs, and especially her singular, throaty vocals — which borrowed from gospel, jazz, blues and classical music — were challenging, even confrontational. Few musicians could be as unsettling and as uplifting as Simone sometimes was in the very same song — as when she touched the outer poles of defiance and despair in her 1968 single, “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life.” (At the time Wertheimer was shooting the portraits in this gallery, in the mid-1960s, Simone’s big song was “Mississippi Goddam” — a caustic, unsettlingly uptempo protest tune banned in several Southern states.)

Wertheimer, meanwhile, hardly shied away from chronicling what could occasionally seem like disdain in the face that Simone showed to the world. Employing what he famously characterized as “available darkness” — rather than available light — in making his photographs, Wertheimer rendered Simone as a woman both formidable and vulnerable, bolstering his assertion that one could more authentically capture a person’s true nature by shooting, as it were, in the dark.

That he was able to so sympathetically depict a figure as chimerical as Nina Simone is perhaps all the more remarkable considering that, before this, the two did not know one another. This was, in one sense, just another gig for the photographer, one for which he was hired by Anne Fulchino, Simone’s personal rep. Almost a decade earlier, in her previous position as head of PR for RCA Victor records, Fulchino had commissioned Wertheimer to make what would rightly become his best-known images: breathtaking portraits of a young Elvis Presley on the cusp of superstardom.

Here, on Nina Simone’s 80th birthday, LightBox celebrates her life and her legacy with a series of Wertheimer’s magnificent, intimate portraits. Her life was hardly an easy one. She was, it seemed, incapable of not speaking her mind — and we all know where that will get you. Her native country’s innate racism was an enduring, searing affront. (She died far from the U.S., in the south of France, in 2003). But her presence — her talent, creativity and courage — brought joy and solace to millions across the decades. We will not see, or hear, her like again.


http://lightbox.time.com/2013/02/21/happy-80th-birthday-nina-simone-photographs-by-alfred-wertheimer/#1

And more photos from December 1964 :

Nina Simone AW1.jpg


Nina Simone AW2.jpg


Nina Simone AW3.jpg

http://curate.tumblr.com/post/65898089241/nina-simone-photos-alfred-wertheimer-december
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Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:00 am

Nice one :) She was a remarkable woman, and a remarkable performer and artist.

The RCA 9CD boxed set collects together everything she recorded for the label at a very cheap price, and is well worth it for the bonus tracks on each album. The Philips years were probably more consistent, but she took huge risks artistically while at RCA - although they often butchered her efforts (which is why the box restores her intentions for the most part). Why? (The King of Love Is Dead) has the missing eight minutes restored, for example. But who else would attempt a 17 minute rendition of My Sweet Lord and manage to turn it into a song attacking God? While the gospel chorus sing "hallelujah" at the end, she announces "God, you are a killer". It's stunning stuff, and RCA had the guts back in the early 70s to release it uncut as one side of an album (Emergency Ward) - quite daring for the early 70s as she's using it as an attack on the Vietnam war. It's a stunning album, in fact. Side two contains just two songs - Poppies, and a 12 minute rendition of Isn't It a Pity (the George Harrison song, not the Gershwin). It's so moving. There were moments like that where she managed to elucidate exactly what it's like to have bipolar - it's something most people don't realise if they don't have it. But I'm sure that's what she was trying to do with that second Harrison number. And it chokes me up every time I hear it.

I had tickets to see her in 2002, but she cancelled the concert and then died the next year. I'm not sure if her cancellation was good or bad. Her health was bad and her voice almost gone, and her stage performances increasingly erratic - a friend of mine saw her the year before and said she constantly swore at the audience and told them they weren't worthy of being in the presence of a reincarned Egyptian queen. So, sometimes I feel I'm glad not to have seen her and been disappointed, at others I just wish I got into jazz at a younger age when I would have had the chance to see the greats perform before their final curtain.

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:49 pm

Fascinating.

One thing I've always liked about Nina Simone is that in photos and on album covers you never saw her smiling like an idiot all the time. Her expression was serious, her eyeline intense, and that made very interesting to photograph.

You know, with his sense of composition, his gift for portraiture, his ability to capture emotional expression on faces, and his understanding of light and darkness Alfred Wertheimer would have made a fine cinematographer. Perhaps even a director.

Mister Moon wrote:... By photographing Nina Simone, Wertheimer employed his famously characterized “available darkness” instead of “available light” approach to photography, a way to approach and create contrast in an image. It is probably an interesting way to capture the soul of the subject, in this case Nina Simone, and a variation of what one learns in photography courses, yet its part of the same, the relation of light and darkness. ...[/b].


Where does Wertheimer discuss his approach to photography? Did he write something? aside from the book on Elvis.

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:33 pm

Richard--W wrote:Where does Wertheimer discuss his approach to photography? Did he write something? aside from the book on Elvis.


Here's a couple of YouTube links and also a link to his website :

phpBB [video]



phpBB [video]



http://www.alfredwertheimer.com/contribute.htm

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:01 pm

Richard--W wrote:Fascinating.

One thing I've always liked about Nina Simone is that in photos and on album covers you never saw her smiling like an idiot all the time. Her expression was serious, her eyeline intense, and that made very interesting to photograph.

You know, with his sense of composition, his gift for portraiture, his ability to capture emotional expression on faces, and his understanding of light and darkness Alfred Wertheimer would have made a fine cinematographer. Perhaps even a director.

Mister Moon wrote:... By photographing Nina Simone, Wertheimer employed his famously characterized “available darkness” instead of “available light” approach to photography, a way to approach and create contrast in an image. It is probably an interesting way to capture the soul of the subject, in this case Nina Simone, and a variation of what one learns in photography courses, yet its part of the same, the relation of light and darkness. ...[/b].


Where does Wertheimer discuss his approach to photography? Did he write something? aside from the book on Elvis.


I don't think she smiled a great deal - although the cover of the 1977 Baltimore album does feature her looking very happy. It's a lovely picture. Conversely, It Is Finished has her very glum sitting on top of a pile of what I think are vegetables!

While we're talking about Simone, it might be worth adding that there's a review on my blog of what has become her "forgotten" album, Fodder on my Wings. It can be found here: http://silentmovieblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/nina-simone-fodder-on-my-wings-1982/

1290334885_folder.jpg


nina.jpg
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Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Fri Jan 10, 2014 7:01 am

Thank you, Mister Moon.

poormadpeter wrote:
nina.jpg


Looks like she's sitting on a stack of alien pods from Invasion Of the Body Snatchers. Alien imposters of Nina are about to start popping out any moment.

So what's your favorite of her live albums?

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:52 pm

I would go for Nuff Said, recorded for RCA in 1968, just a few days after Martin Luther King was shot. Simone is in brilliant form.

phpBB [video]

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:01 pm

Richard--W wrote:Thank you, Mister Moon.


You're welcome, Richard.

Richard--W wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
nina.jpg


Looks like she's sitting on a stack of alien pods from Invasion Of the Body Snatchers. Alien imposters of Nina are about to start popping out any moment.


Good one! I thought the same thing when I saw poormadpeter's post.

"Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" is one of my all-time favorite movies. And it has, at least, two Elvis connections : Don Siegel and Carolyn Jones.

Years ago, I purchased this film in VHS format, and the sticker in the cassette claimed the title was "Invasion Of The Body Snatches" !!!

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:37 pm

Mister Moon wrote:
Richard--W wrote:Thank you, Mister Moon.


You're welcome, Richard.

Richard--W wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
nina.jpg


Looks like she's sitting on a stack of alien pods from Invasion Of the Body Snatchers. Alien imposters of Nina are about to start popping out any moment.


Good one! I thought the same thing when I saw poormadpeter's post.

"Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" is one of my all-time favorite movies. And it has, at least, two Elvis connections : Don Siegel and Carolyn Jones.

Years ago, I purchased this film in VHS format, and the sticker in the cassette claimed the title was "Invasion Of The Body Snatches" !!!


It must have been a Sony product!

There's a Duke Ellington/Ella Fitzgerald CD called "Live at the Greek" that is mistyped on the spine as "live at the geek!"

Re: Nina Simone photo by Alfred Wertheimer

Sat Jan 11, 2014 11:41 am

Not having seen his other photos of her, I can only go by those posted. And I notice great similarities to some of the poses he captured in several noted Elvis photos.

You get the feeling he knew what he was looking for, and waited out the moment to click the shutter when he got it.

Aside from some unique Elvis moments, he seemed to want to catch artists looking inward. Toward a Muse, I suppose.

rjm

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