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Strange Days, Dangerous Nights: Photos from the Speed Graphic Era

Overview


Fat men's races and fall-out shelters, murder victims and loose women, cheerleaders and immigrants, celebrities and children in distress were just some of the urban curiosities splashed across the pages of city newspapers during the Speed Graphic era (1930s-1950s). Championed by acclaimed news photographers like Arthur Fellig (a.k.a. Weegee), the Speed Graphic camera produced a new visual style that was as blunt, powerful, and immediate as a left hook. Driven by the desire to fill newspaper pages with ...
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Overview


Fat men's races and fall-out shelters, murder victims and loose women, cheerleaders and immigrants, celebrities and children in distress were just some of the urban curiosities splashed across the pages of city newspapers during the Speed Graphic era (1930s-1950s). Championed by acclaimed news photographers like Arthur Fellig (a.k.a. Weegee), the Speed Graphic camera produced a new visual style that was as blunt, powerful, and immediate as a left hook. Driven by the desire to fill newspaper pages with sensational images, press photographers shot everything, day and night: automobile accidents, fires, murders, all the cop news that fought for a hot spot on the Front Page. And they covered uncounted numbers of social affairs?pictures called "grip-and-grins" in the trade: school events, sports, celebrities, oddities both of nature and humanity. Veteran journalist and mystery writer Larry Millett has unearthed over 200 of the best photos from the archives of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch for Strange Days, Dangerous Nights. Included are the sensational stories behind the photos and biographies of some of the top press photographers of the day. An evocative look at another time, this is a visual history like no other, a feast for fans of photography and photojournalism, crime buffs, and urban historians?and a testament to the craft of those photographers who documented their era one shot at a time. "A collection of vivid and sometimes spectacular photographs that throw new light on the not-so-distant past, a place that is a bit like home, a bit like a movie, and a bit like another planet. It is heartening to find such stuff so well preserved and so expertly annotated.? -- Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence and The Factory of Facts
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Best known for his Shadwell Rafferty/Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Larry Millett is also an award-winning author of pictorials. His Lost Twin Cities and Twin Cities: Then and Now display his passion for the region's history. In Strange Days, Dangerous Nights, this Minneapolis-based crime maven and visual archivist parleys his interests in a nostalgic photographic walk down Minnesota memory lane. Millett spotlights the rough-and-tumble side of life in the Twin Cities region.
From the Publisher

"A collection of vivid and sometimes spectacular photographs that throw new light on the not-so-distant past, a place that is a bit like home, a bit like a movie, and a bit like another planet. It is heartening to find such stuff so well preserved and so expertly annotated.? -- Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts
The New Yorker
The photographs in this collection are taken from the files of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch, and span a period from the nineteen-forties to the mid-sixties. Among the many records of long-forgotten civic functions are shocking crime-scene photographs, a reminder of an era when the country’s newspaper photographers—an army of Weegees, equipped with oversized Speed Graphic flash cameras and radios tuned to the police scanners—regularly provided readers with lurid coverage of violent crimes and spectacular accidents. There is a harsh intimacy to these photographs, which bring us as close as possible to car-crash victims, suicides, and mass murderers confessing their crimes. But the welter of detail in the pictures—the seamed stockings of a murder victim, the huddle of bystanders after a bar shooting—provides a nuanced portrait of a Midwestern city and of American culture at mid-century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780873515047
  • Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2004
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,377,084
  • Product dimensions: 11.25 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Larry Millett worked for three decades as a reporter, editor, and architectural critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press before retiring in 2002. His books include Lost Twin Cities (awarded an AIA International Architecture Book Award), Twin Cities Then and Now and five mysteries including The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes He is currently at work on a comprehensive guide to the architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to be published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. John Sandford is the pen name of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, New York Times bestselling novelist, and amateur photographer John Camp. His books include The Hanged Man's Song, Hidden Prey, and Naked Prey.
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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Introduction 1
Crash and Burn 6
Crazy in Winter 42
Women's World 52
Murder in Broad Daylight 52
Dreamland 76
Animal Instincts 92
Ordinary Strangeness 94
Faces in the News 122
Big Things 146
Dead of Night 148
City of Old 184
The Photographers 212
Acknowledgments & Notes 213
Index 214
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2004

    GRIST FOR THE MILL

    This book is a wonderful compilation of the slightly weird, often exciting photos from an uncommon era at a small market metro newspaper. The photos remind us of the change in direction newspaper photojournalism has gone in the past 45 years--the difference in decades caused by the emergence of the 35 mm camera, yuppified editors and self-styled sophisticated times and mores. The photos are the grist of the newspaper photogs mill from back then. The daily stuff. The work is all well done and intriguing. A great job of photo editing by Millett, fine writing. This book is a better historical monograph than those produced by the NYT archives, LA Times, Chicago--all compilations of great news stories and how the photographers of the era handled them. This book is not the same--it celebrates everyday work from an era when the daily newspaper was of supreme importance and news photos shaped people's view of the world. No great events here, just wonderful photos of times long past, and the stories behind them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    A Feast for the Eyes in B&W

    This book suceeds on a number of levels. Most obviously, the photography is spectatular in an ordinary sort of way. This is not a photography as art kind of book that is typical of today's photography compilations. Rather is is a photographic display of life (and yes, death) as art. The photos are all from Speed Graphic cameras; the kind you see photographers using in all the old Cagney and Bogart movies. Their film negatives were larger than the size of most cameras sold today and their flash was strong enough to completely light a scene on a black moonless night. In the hands of a skilled photographer, they provide detail and nuances hard to match even with today's technology. Indeed, they evoke a strong sense of the time period they were from and a sense of nostalgia from those of us who can remember those times. In addition to being memorable in their own right, the photos and accompanying narrative provide a good history lesson in photojournalism as it was commonly practiced just prior to the days when television became the dominant news force in the country. But the book goes well beyond lessons in photography and journalism. They are a great historical snapshot, if you will excuse the pun, of a period in time not yet forgotten, but definitely getting harder and harder to remember. The Twin Cities was a metropolitan area of probably around a million people from when most of these photos date. As such, not a small town, but not a major metropolis either. The photos present what I believe to be a pretty accurate picture of life as it was lived in cities across the country during the forties, fifties, and early sixties. And if you happen to be a current or ex- resident of Minnesota (particularly St. Paul), these photos are of even more interest. After completing the book, I decided to share it with my now grown children. Born in the mid-40's, my childhood in the 50's, and my youth in the early 60's, I felt that this book would be a great way for them to get a feel of the time period when their Dad grew up. I don't think I've seen anything that would represent the time period better.

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