Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
Established in 1936, LIFE was an iconic weekly magazine that specialized in extraordinarily vivid photojournalism. Through America's most dynamic decades – the 40s, 50s and 60s – read by over half the country, the magazine's influence on American people was unparalleled.
No other magazine in the world held the photograph in such high esteem; LIFE allowed the pictures, not the words, to do the talking.
As a result, at LIFE, the photographer was king.
In this film, the UK's leading fashion photographer, Rankin, looks at the work of LIFE's legendary photographers, including distinguished photographers Bill Eppridge, John Shearer, John Loengard, Burk Uzzle and Harry Benson, who between them have shot the biggest moments in American history from the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, the Civil Rights struggle and Vietnam to behind the scenes at the Playboy mansion and the greatest names of Hollywood.
Rankin discovers these photographers pioneered new forms of photojournalism like embedding – living with their subjects for weeks – and the Photo Essay, enabling them reveal intimate and compelling aspects of ordinary American life too; like 'The Small Town' or the life of 'The Country Doctor'. Rankin concludes that LIFE not only tells the story of America in pictures, but also taught America how to be American.
In America On A Plate, writer and broadcaster Stephen Smith re-envisions the story of 20th century American culture through its most iconic institution – the diner.
Whether Edward Hopper's Nighthawks or the infamous encounter between Pacino and de Niro in Heat, these gleaming, gawdy shacks are at the absolute heart of the American vision. Stephen embarks on a girth-busting road journey that takes him to some of America's most iconic diners. He meets the film-makers and singers who have immortalised them, and looks at the role diners have played not only in America's greatest paintings and movies, but also in the fight against racial oppression and the chain restaurants' global takeover.
For Stephen, it's because the diner is the last vestige of a vital part of the American psyche – the frontier. Like the Dodge City saloon it's a place where strangers are thrown together, where normal rules are suspended and anything can happen. And it's this crackle of potentially violent and sexual energy that have drawn so many artists to the diner, and made it not a convenient setting but an engine room of 20th century American culture.
Beneath the America we think we know lies a nation hidden from view, a nomadic nation, living on the roads, the rails and in the wild open spaces.
In its deserts, forests, mountain ranges and on the plains, a huge population of modern nomads pursues its version of the American dream, to live free from the world of careers, mortgages and the white picket fence.
When British writer Richard Grant moved to the USA more than 20 years ago it wasn't just a change of country. He soon found himself in a world of travellers and the culture of roadside America, existing alongside but separate from conventional society.
In American Nomads he takes to the road again, on a journey without destination. In a series of encounters and unplanned meetings, Richard Grant is guided by his own instincts and experiences – and the serendipity of the road. Travelling with loners and groups, he encounters the different 'tribes' of nomads as he journeys across the deserts of America's south-west.
Following the success of Art Of Germany, Andrew Graham-Dixon embarks on his most ambitious journey yet, an exploration of the rich, exciting and diverse art history of the United States of America.
Beginning on the beautiful coastline of Virginia, the Elizabethan gateway to the New World where John White depicted some of the first European encounters with Native Americans, through to Manhattan and the Abstract Expressionists, the first American art movement to lead the world.
Along the way he'll explore the landscape painters who captured a changing America; uncover the story of uniquely American eccentrics such as the frontiersman and artist John James Audubon who attempted to illustrate, and eat, every bird of America; take a road trip through the American West and modern day Los Angeles; and experience the birth of the skyscraper and the prophetic architecture of Louis Sullivan in Chicago.
Andrew will also discover the role America's most famous artists, including Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper and Philip Guston, have had in shaping contemporary America and meet the people who knew them best. Finally, Andrew will meet the most important artists working today, including enfant terrible Jeff Koons and the internationally acclaimed young artist Matthew Day Jackson.
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