Iconic Photos blog

by Chris Bertram on March 9, 2013

One of the ways in which blogging has changed in the past decade is that there are far fewer posts just pointing to recommending stuff. That business has gone elsewhere, to Facebook and Twitter, whilst blogging takes the form of longer (and longer) essays. That’s understandable, but in some ways a pity, and risks turning blogs into sequential slabs of dull but worthy texts (with the occasional gem of course). Anyway, I was just about to plug Iconic Photos to friends on FB, but I think the recommendation deserves a wider (and different) audience. The author (A.A.S. Holmes, whoever he or she is) takes, as the title suggests, an “iconic” photo and supplies fascinating commentary, often focusing on who the protagonists were, how they happened to be there, and what happened next. Particular favourites of mine are his commentary on Robert Capa’s L’Épuration, and Marianne of ’68, where things aren’t what they seemed. Enjoy.



Andrew Burday 03.09.13 at 4:23 pm

What’s interesting about L’Épuration is that it is what it seems: a mob assaulting and humiliating a young woman who is carrying her child. What it’s not is what we were told it was: the worthy free French taking justified vengeance on an exceptional collaborator. One possible answer to that is that I’m wrong to assume that there is a coherent innocent reading of the photo — “the way it seems” — independent of the interpretations it has been assigned.

It’s interesting to read what the blogger has to say about Mclean, Virginia in light of the recent dustup over Pellegrin’s Rochester, NY photo. (Link will take you to a response to the photographer’s response to the original criticism, which contains useful links. You could also google something like “Pellegrin BagNews Crescent”.)

It would be nice if there were a Preview button so I could check that I hadn’t screwed up either of those links.


Barry 03.09.13 at 5:54 pm

Thanks, Chris!


js. 03.09.13 at 7:26 pm

This is brilliant. Thanks. (Hours about to be wasted, I mean well-spent…)


between4walls 03.10.13 at 8:12 am

I was put off his comments on “L’Epuration” by his referring to “Picasso, whose art was officially banned, continued to paint in his Left Bank apartment” as a form of collaboration. That’s really defining the word in a very loose way.


Neither 03.10.13 at 10:30 pm

He also appears to denounce Camus as a collaborator; ignoring the fact that he edited the underground resistance newspaper Combat.


Witt 03.11.13 at 3:00 am

It’s an interesting blog and an interesting idea; I hadn’t run across it before and appreciate the link.

That said, I’m confused as to why you write, “A.A.S. Holmes, whoever he is.” Does the blog disclose that Holmes is a man?


maidhc 03.11.13 at 10:29 am

Interesting. So many photos of so many historic events. It will take me a while to go through it.

So much energy invested in the photographic record of the times. It makes you feel humble.


Chris Bertram 03.11.13 at 1:00 pm

Witt …. mea culpa. Have changed the post.


Witt 03.11.13 at 4:47 pm



LFC 03.12.13 at 2:04 am

This Iconic Photos is an interesting idea. I say this as someone who has been blogging since May ’08 and has never included a visual image of any kind on my blog (though I have occasionally linked to one), partly — but only partly — b.c I have never taken the 2 minutes (or 20 seconds or whatever) to figure out how to do .jpg uploads (or whatever the right word is).

The only photo and commentary here I have looked at is ‘Marianne ’68’. The commentary refers to “the flag of Vietnam.” At the risk of being pedantic or nitpicky or something, I think I wd have preferred that Holmes refer to the flag of the Dem.People’s Rep. of Vietnam, or whatever the formal name of North Vietnam was, since that’s presumably the flag that C. de Bendern (or whatever her name was, I don’t recall the exact spelling) is holding. (Also, per a comment above, anyone who suggests Camus was a collaborator is, to put it politely, confused.) Still, looks like an interesting blog and thanks, C.B., for bringing it to attention here.


LFC 03.12.13 at 2:07 am

On the subject of iconic photos, might also mention this http://www.amazon.com/No-Caption-Needed-Photographs-Democracy/dp/0226316122/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363053957&sr=1-1 — which I have not read.


Donald A. Coffin 03.12.13 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for posting it here. It’s amazing, and I would probably never otherwise have heard of it.

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