Apr 29 2012: Eighteen Plates from The Art of Macrame: Modern Design in Knotting by Joan Fisher (Hamlyn, 1972)

Despite both pre-dating and surviving the 1970s, the art of macrame is nevertheless almost entirely identified with the post-hippie decade in which handicrafts, self-sufficiency, nascent feminist politics and early ecological consciousness converged around the visual symbolism of the knotted string and woollen construction: whether a poncho, a chess set, a headband or – in one … Continue reading

Apr 27 2012: Twenty-One Modernist Monuments, Buildings and Memorials from a Guide to the former Yugoslavia (Yugoslaviapublic Beograd, 1980)

The volume that these photographs of futuristic monuments, public sculptures and buildings were selected from is a mammoth guide to the whole territory of the former Yugoslavia (now the separate states of Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) packed with historic landscapes, landmarks and artefacts. Published in English around 1980, it’s presumably intended as a … Continue reading

Apr 26 2012: Thirty-One Monochrome Photographs from The Boys’ Book of Radio, Television and Radar (Burke Publishing, 1957)

The Boys’ Book of Radio, Television and Radar was published in 1957 as an accessible schools-level guide to the latest technology in the field mapped by the book’s title, covering everything from missile guidance systems to astronomical installations, the BBC’s outside broadcast equipment to medical imaging techniques and the gigantic installations around the country that … Continue reading

Apr 23 2012: A Postcard from Warsaw to The Secretaries of Sherwood Road (1977)

Mailed in the summer of 1977 and inscribed “to my lovely secretaries from sunny Warsaw”, there’s a wonderful inversion in this small postcard showing an almost generic 1970s scene of towerblocks and flyovers that could just as easily have been sent from Birmingham as from behind the iron curtain. Perhaps this just confirms the generic … Continue reading

Apr 21 2012: Twenty-Nine Monochrome Photographs from a Souvenir Volume Documenting Socialist Czechoslovakia (CSSR, c.1957)

From the same 1957 publication as yesterday’s gallery of colour images, these monochrome plates show life in the then relatively new Communist state of Czechoslovakia as idealised and in the service of State propaganda, as though addressing the outside world from the Ministries of a kind of earthly paradise. Yet as with yesterday’s colour photographs’ … Continue reading

Apr 19 2012: Painting Sunsets by Violet Parkhurst (Walter T Foster Publications, 1960s)

Although it’s something of a cliche to claim the general public neither understands nor likes conceptual art, or contemporary art that doesn’t show evidence of traditional skill, seeing such work as a species of charlatanry, I’m not sure the theory stands up when it’s examined in more detail. The guide to painting sunsets seen above … Continue reading

Apr 18 2012: The “Mr Universe” Magazine Giant Body Beautiful Issue Featuring Clarence Ross (1950s)

American masculinity has always been a curious creature, with its more regressive manifestations generally among the nation’s most blatantly homoerotic cultural forms: perhaps it’s a submerged consciousness of this blurring between extreme machismo and ‘lavender leanings’ that underlies much of the anti-gay discourse that surrounds images like the one above, a 1950s portrait of bodybuilder … Continue reading

Apr 15 2012: Eighteen Monochrome Illustrations From Atomics Magazine (Leonard Hill Technical Publications, 1956)

Back in 1956, the progressive vision of the Festival of Britain had faded somewhat, with most of the South Bank site demolished by the Conservative governments that followed the set up of the 1945 consensus, and in place of that more whimsical and social kind of progressive ideal, a harder, more technocratic and businesslike version … Continue reading

Apr 12 2012: A Portrait of Harry Wheatcroft (Illustration on Celluloid for an Unknown Magazine, 1970s)

A curious item, this image reproduces as best I can the image on a reddish-tinted celluloid sheet containing a photographic transfer of a watercolour portrait of Harry Wheatcroft, the Nottingham-born celebrity horticulturalist and 70s media entrepreneur whose name became synonymous with commercial rose-growing, and whose garden centre, Wheatcrofts, still trades on the edge of the … Continue reading

Apr 7 2012: Nine Hand-Coloured Illustrations From The Astronaut Book (Panther Books, 1969)

Over the next three days we’ll look at the monochrome and colour images featured in the pages of The Astronauts’ Book, an annual-style publication issued by Panther in the UK in 1969, the year of the Lunar landings. Comprising articles written (or, at least, ghostwritten) in the voices of actual astronauts (and the odd Soviet … Continue reading