Archive for the 'Josef Sudek' Category

04
Jul
12

Exhibition: ‘Photography in Mexico: Selected Works from the Collections of SFMOMA and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 8th July 2012

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“There is no one ‘Mexican photography,’ but one strand that runs throughout is a synthesis of aesthetics and politics. We see that with Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and we still see it in work made decades later.”

Jessica S. McDonald

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One of my early heroes in photography was Manuel Alvarez Bravo whom I rate as one of the best photographers that has ever lived, up there with Atget and Sudek. His photograph Parabola optica (Optical Parable, 1931, below) lays the foundation for an inherent language of Mexican photography: that of a parable, a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Many Mexican photographs tell such stories based on the mythology of the country: there are elements of the absurd, surrealism, macabre, revolution, political and socio-economic issues, also of death, violence, beauty, youth, sexuality and religion to name but a few – a search for national identity that is balanced in the photographs of Bravo by a sense of inner peace and redemption. This potent mix of issues and emotions is what makes Mexican photography so powerful and substantive. In the “presence” (or present, the awareness of the here and now) of Mexican photography there is a definite calligraphy of the body in space in most of the work. This handwriting is idiosyncratic and emotive; it draws the viewer into an intimate narrative embrace.

Two famous photographs by Bravo illustrate some of these themes (Apollonian/Dionysian; utopian/dystopian). When placed together they seem to have a strange attraction one to the other:

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Obrero en huelga, asesinado (Striking Worker, Assassinated)
1934
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 23.8 cm

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo
La buena fama durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)
1939
20.3 x 25.4 cm

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Unlike most Australian documentary photography where there is an observational distance present in the photographs – a physical space between the camera/photographer and the subject – Mexican documentary photography is imbued with a revolutionary spirit and validated by the investment of the photographer in the subject itself, as though the image is the country is the photographer. There is an essence and energy to the Mexican photographs that seems to turn narrative on its head, unlike the closed loop present in the tradition of Australian story telling. The intimate, swirling narratives of Mexican photography could almost be termed lyrical socio-realist. The halo of the golden child of Yvonne Venegas’ Nirvana (2006, below) menaced by the upturned forks is a perfect example.

Some of the themes mentioned above are evidenced in the photographs in this posting. Not the placid nude or heroic pyramid of Weston but the howl of the masked animal and surrealism of Our Lady of the Iguanas demands our close engagement. I only wish Australian photographers could be as forthright in their investigation of the morals and ethics of this country and our seemingly never ending search for a national identity (other than war, mateship, the beach, sport and the appropriation of Aboriginal painting exported as the Australian art “identity”).

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Many thankx to SFMOMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Pablo Ortiz Monasterio
Y es plata, cemento o brisa
c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
8 9/16 in. x 12 3/4 in. (21.75 cm x 32.39 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

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Oscar Fernando Gómez
Untitled from the series The Windows
2008 – 2010
Inkjet print
17 1/4 in. x 24 in. (43.82 cm x 60.96 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Oscar Fernando Gómez

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Enrique Metinides
Rescate de un ahogado en Xochimilco con público reflejado en el agua (Retrieval of a drowned body from Lake Xochimilco with the public reflected in the water)
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Anonymous Fund purchase
© Enrique Metinides

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Paolo Pellegrin
USA. El Paso, Texas. May 17, 2011. Two men, who illegally attempted to enter the U.S., run across the dry Rio Grande river back to Juarez, Mexico after being spotted by the US Border Patrol
2011
Inkjet print
15 3/16 in. x 22 3/4 in. (38.58 cm x 57.79 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Paolo Pellegrin

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Yvonne Venegas
Nirvana from the series Maria Elvia De Hank
2006
Inkjet print
19 1/2 in. x 24 in. (49.53 cm x 60.96 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Yvonne Venegas

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“From March 10 through July 8, 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the exhibition Photography in Mexico: Selected Works from the Collections of SFMOMA and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. Exploring the distinctively rich and diverse tradition of photography in Mexico from the 1920s to the present, the exhibition showcases works by important Mexican photographers as well as major American and European artists who found Mexico to be a place of great artistic inspiration.

Organized by SFMOMA Assistant Curator of Photography Jessica S. McDonald, the selection of more than 150 works draws from SFMOMA’s world-class photography holdings and highlights recent major gifts and loans from collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. The presentation reflects the collections’ particular strengths, featuring photographs made in Mexico by Tina Modotti, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston, along with works by key Mexican photographers including Lola Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Héctor Garcia, Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Enrique Metinides, Pedro Meyer, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, and Mariana Yampolsky.

The exhibition begins with the first artistic flowering of photography in Mexico after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and goes on to look at the explosion of the illustrated press at midcentury; the documentary investigations of cultural traditions and urban politics that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s; and more recent considerations of urban life, globalization, and issues particular to the U.S.-Mexico border region. Rather than attempting to define a national style, the exhibition considers the range of approaches and concerns that photographers in Mexico have pursued over time. As McDonald notes, “There is no one ‘Mexican photography,’ but one strand that runs throughout is a synthesis of aesthetics and politics. We see that with Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and we still see it in work made decades later.”

As arts and culture flourished in Mexico after the Revolution, many European and American artists were drawn to the country. Among them were Edward Weston and Tina Modotti, who arrived in Mexico in 1923. Inspired by what they saw there, Weston and Modotti in turn motivated Mexican photographers to pursue the medium’s artistic possibilities; their influence helped “give Mexican photographers confidence that art photography was a viable path,” says McDonald. Hence, the exhibition opens with a selection of works made in Mexico by Modotti, Weston, his son Brett Weston, and Paul Strand during the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the Mexican photographers encouraged by Modotti and Weston was Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who went on to become one of the most influential photographers and teachers in the country’s history as well as a key figure in the broader international history of the medium. The exhibition features a substantial number of major works by the photographer, many of them donated or loaned to SFMOMA by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. In considering Alvarez Bravo’s career, the exhibition illuminates the birth and development of a tradition of art photography in Mexico. The presentation also includes a selection of works by Alvarez Bravo’s first wife, Lola Alvarez Bravo, an important photographer in her own right who established a successful commercial and artistic practice.

In mid-20th-century Mexico, as in the United States and Europe, earning an adequate income as an art photographer was an unlikely proposition. Instead, many photographers made a living through photojournalism, contributing to the numerous illustrated publications in circulation during this period. In the decades following the Revolution, there was great interest in traditional ways of life and in defining what it meant to be Mexican. Some photographers, such as Manuel Carrillo, created images documenting the nation’s traditions and celebrating its common people. Others, like Hector Garcia and Rodrigo Moya, rejected this sentimental approach, focusing instead on contemporary concerns and the political and social turbulence that continued to influence post-revolutionary Mexican life.

The late 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of critical theory and a new interest in investigating the nature of photography as a medium; in Mexico as elsewhere, there were more opportunities to study photography and to pursue noncommercial projects. A number of Mexican photographers, such as Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Pedro Meyer, and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, created extended documentary series. Iturbide lived among indigenous people and recorded the details of their daily lives; Grobet focused on wrestling and the cultural concept of the mask; Ortiz Monasterio captured gritty, dystopian views of Mexico City. The exhibition draws extensively on gifts from Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser to represent directions in Mexican photography of the 1970s and 1980s.

Since the 1990s, the attention of many Mexican photographers has turned away from cultural traditions and rural landscapes and toward the cities and suburbs where many Mexicans now live. Works by Katya Brailovsky, Alejandro Cartagena, Pablo Lopez Luz, Daniela Rossell, and Yvonne Venegas reflect this interest in the changing social landscape, looking at issues of wealth and class, urbanization and land use, and the effects of the globalized economy. The exhibition closes with contemporary international photographers’ perspectives on U.S.-Mexico border issues. Images by Mark Klett, Victoria Sambunaris, and Alec Soth consider the border as landscape, while works by Elsa Medina, Susan Meiselas, and Paolo Pellegrin document the experiences of migrant workers and people trying, successfully or unsuccessfully, to cross into the United States.

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List of Photographers Included

Katya Brailovsky, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Alejandro Cartagena, Eduardo del Valle and Mirta Gomez, Pia Elizondo, Dave Gatley, Oscar Fernando Gomez, Héctor Garcia, Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Geoffrey James, Mark Klett, Pablo Lopez Luz, Elsa Medina, Susan Meiselas, Enrique Metinides, Pedro Meyer, Tina Modotti, Rodrigo Moya, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Paolo Pellegrin, Antonio Reynoso, Daniela Rossell, Mark Ruwedel, Victoria Sambunaris, Alec Soth, Paul Strand, Yvonne Venegas, Brett Weston, Edward Weston, and Mariana Yampolsky.

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About Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

Based in Los Angeles, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser have a deep and longstanding interest in Mexican photography, which they have been collecting since 1995. The photography department at SFMOMA has benefited greatly from their generosity: they have donated more than 175 works to the museum over the last six years. Their recent major gift of Mexican work, including over 50 photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide, and others, has created an ideal opportunity for SFMOMA to present this exhibition exploring photography in Mexico.”

Press release from SFMOMA website

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Edward Weston
Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacán
1923
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 1/2 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern art, gift of Brett Weston
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

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Alejandro Cartagena
Fragmented Cities, Juarez #2 from the series Suburbia Mexicana
2007
Inkjet print
20 x 24 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Alejandro Cartagena

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Lola Álvarez Bravo
Los gorrones
c. 1955, printed later
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 in. x 11 3/4 in. (24.45 cm x 29.85 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© 1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation

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Edward Weston
Tina Modotti, Half-Nude in Kimono
1924
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 x 4 11/16 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Albert M. Bender Collection, Albert M. Bender Bequest Fund purchase
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

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Lourdes Grobet
Ponzoña, Arena Coliseo
c. 1983
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Jane and Larry Reed
© Lourdes Grobet

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Graciela Iturbide
La Nuestra Senora de las Iguanas, Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitan, Oxaca, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
17 5/16 x 14 7/16 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of the artist
© Graciela Iturbide

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Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Parabola optica (Optical Parable)' 1931

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Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Parabola optica (Optical Parable)
1931
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (24.77 cm x 18.42 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Colette Urbajtel / Asociación Manuel Álvarez Bravo

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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)
San Francisco CA 94103

Opening hours:
Monday – Tuesday 11.00 am – 5.45 pm
Wednesday Closed
Thursday 11.00 am – 8.45 pm
Friday – Sunday 11.00 am – 5.45 pm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

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23
Sep
09

Review: ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd September – 26th September 2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #1' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #1′
2009

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation views of ‘Ivy’ by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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This is another outstanding body of photographic work on display in Melbourne. Featuring 10 large and 2 small sepia toned, vignetted pigment prints Burton’s work creates dark enchanted worlds of faceless female figures placed in the built environment that balance (meta)physical light and shade creating ambiguous narratives of innocence tinged with a darker edge.

The eponymous photograph ‘Ivy #1′ (above) is the seminal image of the series: a dark brooding house, hunched down positioned low in the photographic space, covered in ivy with black windows and dark eves has an ominous almost impenetrable presence and sets the tone for the rest of the work.

There are wonderful references to the history of photography if one cares to look (not simply generic references to Victorian daguerreotypes, postcards and family photographs). ‘Ivy #2′ (below) is a powerful photograph where the female figure is blindfolded, unable to see the encroaching tumescence of vegetation that surrounds and is about to engulf her. The placement of the hands is exquisite – unsure, reaching out, doubting her surroundings – with the 3-bladed fan hovering behind ready to devour the unwary. This photograph has resonances of the magical photographs of the garden by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek.

‘Ivy #3′ (below) has echoes of the work of the American photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his placement of masked people within built environments. In Burton’s photograph the broken umbrella becomes like insect wings, the faceless whiteness of the three-legged and three-armed creature cocooned among the overhanging predatory ivy, the luminescent sky offering the possibility of redemption. Other photographs such as ‘Ivy #6′ (below) and ‘Ivy #7′ with their wonderful colours, depth of field, heavy shadows and elegiac romantic feel have references to Eugene Atget and his photographs of the parks of Versailles (see photograph below).

Still further references to the history of photography can be found in the photographs ‘Ivy #9′ and ‘Ivy #10′ (below). In ‘Ivy #9′ the intersection of the two female bodies through double exposure forms a slippage in (photographic) reality and the disappearance of original identity in the layering of the photographs and into the empty non-reflection of the mirror. This non-reflection is confirmed in ‘Ivy #10′ where the faceless nude woman holds a mirror with no reflection. These photographs remind me of the photographs of New Orleans prostitutes in the early years of the 20th century by the photographer Bellocq with their masked faces and the ornamentation of the wallpaper behind the figures (see below).

I feel that in these photographs with their facelessness and the non-reflection of the mirror investigate notions of ‘Theoria’ – a Greek emphasis on the vision or contemplation of God where theoria is the lifting up of the individual out of time and space and created being and through contemplative prayer into the presence of God.1 In fact the whole series of photographs can be understood through this conceptualisation – not just remembrances of past time, not a blind contemplation on existence but a lifting up out of time and space into the an’other’ dark but enlightening presence.

The greatest wonder of this series is that the photographs magically reveal themselves again and again over time. Despite (or because of) the references to other artists, the beauty of Burton’s work is that she has made it her own. The photographs have her signature, her voice as an artist and it is an informed voice; this just makes the resonances, the vibrations of energy within the work all the more potent and absorbing. I loved them.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #2′
2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #3' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #3′
2009

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“Jane Burton’s exhibition, Ivy comprises a series of photographs captured in black and white. The final prints are rendered with a sepia, peach-champagne tone, with many displaying a mottled hand-coloured effect in faded pastels of pink and green. These works hope to suggest an era past, perhaps Victorian. The imagery is evocative of old picture postcards from Europe and old photographs from the pages of family albums.

Central to the series is an image of a house covered with ivy. Depicted as dark and malevolent, the house is ‘haunted’ by the traces and stains of family history, habitation, and the buried secrets of all that occurred within.

Anonymous female figures are seen in garden settings where the foliage is rampant and encroaching and the shadows deep. There is an air of enchantment perceived with unspecified darker edge. The figures are innocent and playful. The viewer is asked to question if the and girls aware of the camera capturing their activity? Are the poses staged or caught spontaneously. In another photograph, a dilapidated male statue stands broken and armless, the texture of stone worn, and bruised with dark lichen and moss.

In the interior photographs, several nudes are depicted in the style of 19th century French daguerreotype photographs. These vignetted images display women against wall-papered backdrops with theatrical props reminiscent of earlier works by Burton such as the series ‘The other side’ (2003). Posed suggestively for the camera and the viewer’s gaze, the subjects themselves are faceless, their own gaze and features hidden behind dark hair. The surface and texture of these particular works suggests the patina of decay and the damage and wear of time.”

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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Bellocq 1912

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Bellocq
1912

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #10' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #10′
2009

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Eugene Atget. 'Versailles, France' 1923

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Eugene Atget
‘Versailles, France’
1923

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #6' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #6′
2009

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1. Theoria entry from Wikipedia

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Jane Burton Survey Exhibition
“Eye of the Beholder”
24th September – 18th October 2009
Glen Eira City Gallery, Caulfield, Vic

Jane Burton website

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Karen Woodbury Gallery
4, Albert Street, Richmond, Vic 3121
Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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14
Apr
09

Josef Sudek: Master of Photography

 

Further to the last post I have collected some images from the Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896 – 1976), one of my favourite photographers. The images of this master photographer are a delight. Like the photographs of Eugene Atget they evince generosity in the understanding of light, space and humanity. Insightful writing on Josef Sudek by Charles Sawyer is included in the post.

 

Josef Sudek. 'A Summer Shower in the Magic Garden' 1954-59

 

Josef Sudek
‘A Summer Shower in the Magic Garden’
1954 – 59

 

Joseph Sudek. From the series 'Remembances' 1954

 

Joseph Sudek
From the series ‘Remembances’
1954

 

Joseph Sudek. 'Untitled' 1967

 

Joseph Sudek
‘Untitled’
1967

 

“The systematic approach, and the dogged aesthetic experimentation of Sudek are akin to the working habits of Cezanne. But these alone are insufficient to make great art or even good art. On the contrary, if these are all one sees in a work, then the cumulative burdern of so much plain labor would be unbearable. Sudek’s devotion to work may have integrated his shattered life but it could not have offered him the spiritual redemption he was seeking; only his aesthetic quest could bring this. It is the struggle for spiritual redemption through his aesthectic quest that gives Sudek’s best photographs their true power. Two qualities characterize his best work: a rich diversity of light values in the low end of the tonal scale, and the representation of light as a substance occupying its own space. The former, the diversity of light values, requires very delicate treatment of the materials, especially the negative, but also the paper (Sudek used silver halide papers in the main). The latter, the portrayal of light as substance, is a more original trait than his tonal palette, which one sees in occasional prints of other photographers. Flaubert once expressed an ambition to write a book which would have no subject, “a book dependent on nothing external … held together by the strength of its style.” Photographers have sometimes expressed parallel aspirations to make light itself the subject of their photographs, leaving the banal, material world behind. Both ideals are, of course, unobtainable, but nonetheless they may be worth pursuing. (Artists, in their pursuit of the unobtainable, are not so likely to be called pathological as others, of us, though recent developments in ihe philosophy of science tend to view the scientist’s quest for truth as equally quixotic).

 

Josef Sudek. From the series 'Vanished Statues in Mionsi' 1969

 

Josef Sudek
From the series ‘Vanished Statues in Mionsi’
1969

 

Josef Sudek. 'The Window of My Atelier' 1969

 

Josef Sudek
‘The Window of My Atelier’
1969

 

Sudek has come closer than any other photographer to catching this illusive goal. His devices for this effect are simple and highly poetic: the dust he raised in a frenzy when the light was just right, a gossamer curtain draped over a chair back, the mist from a garden sprinkler, even the ambient moisture in the atmosphere when the air is near dew point. The eye is usually accustomed to seeing not light but the surfaces it defines; when light is reflected from amorphous materials, however, perception of materiality shifts to light itself. Sudek looked for such materials everywhere. And then he usually balanced the ethereal luminescence with the contra-bass of his deep shadow tonalities. The effect is enchanting, and strongly conveys the human element which is the true content of his photographs. For, throughout all his photography, there is one dominant mood, one consistent viewpoint, and one overriding philosophy. The mood is melancholy and the point of view is romanticism. And overriding all this is a philosphic detachment, an attitude he shares with Spinoza. The attitude of detachment that characterizes Sudek’s art accounts for both its strength and weakness: the strength which lies in the ideal of utter tranquility and the weakness which is found in the paucity of human intimacy. Some commentators find Sudek’s photos mysterious but I think this is a mistake: the air of mystery vanishes once we see in Sudek’s photography a person’s private salvation from despair.”

Charles Sawyer 1

 

Josef Sudek. 'Still-life after Caravaggio, Variation No 2 (or a night-time Variation)' 1956

 

Josef Sudek
‘Still-life after Caravaggio, Variation No 2 (or a night-time Variation)’
1956

 

Josef Sudek. 'Stille (Still Life According to Caravaggio)' 1956

 

Josef Sudek
‘Stille (Still Life According to Caravaggio)’
1956

 

Josef Sudek. 'Remembrance of Mr. Magician (the garden of architect Rothmayer)' 1959

 

Josef Sudek
‘Remembrance of Mr. Magician (the garden of architect Rothmayer)’
1959

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinths' 1969

 

Josef Sudek
‘Labyrinths’
1969

 

 

A good collection of Josef Sudek photographs can be found on the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website. Go to the site and enter ‘Josef Sudek’ in the Collection Search box to the right and then click on the arrow.

 

1. Sawyer, Charles. “Josef Sudek” in Creative Camera, April 1980, Number 190 [Online] Cited 14/04/2009 at
www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~sawyer/Sudek.htm

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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