Archive for the 'landscape' Category

21
Apr
14

Text / review: ‘A Vocabulary of Printing and the Syntax of the Image’ from the exhibition ‘KHEM’ at Strange Neighbour, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th April – 3rd May 2014

Artists: Jane Brown, Ponch Hawkes, Siri Hayes, Ruth Maddison, Lloyd Stubber, David Tatnall, Claudia Terstappen
Curated By Linsey Gosper

 

A Vocabulary of Printing and the Syntax of the Image

 

“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen.”

“One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.”

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Minor White

 

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As an artist who originally trained in the alchemical, analogue art of photography, the magic of this process will always hold sway in my heart. No matter how many excellent digital photographs I see, there is always a longing for silver – that indescribable feeling of looking at a master printers work, an image that literally takes your breath away. I hardly ever get that in a digital print. For me, it’s the difference between the fidelity of a CD and the aura of an LP, with all its scratches and pops, hisses and, yes, atmosphere.

Minor White, that guru of enlightenment, knew how difficult it was to capture spirit in a photograph. To make a connection between photographer and object, back through a glass lens and a metal box onto a piece of plastic or glass (completing a Zen circle), then printed onto a piece of paper. There are three ways it goes: you see something (you previsualise it) and you don’t capture it in the negative; you don’t see it, and the negative surprises you; but, best of all, you see it and you capture it – the object of your attention reveals itself to you. Then all you have to do is print it – easier said than done. Much testing and assessing, dodging and burning to balance the print knowing that, as MW says, each negative is like a dragon that an image has to be wrenched from.

.
No longer for ears …: sound
which like a deeper ear,
hears us, who only seem
to be hearing. Reversal of spaces.

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Extract from Rainer Maria Rilke Gong 1925

 

Emmet Gowin printing mask for The Hint That Is a Garden: Siena, Italy 1975

 

Emmet Gowin printing mask for The Hint That Is a Garden: Siena, Italy 1975 (below)

 

 

Emmet Gowin (American, born 1941)
The Hint That Is a Garden: Siena, Italy
Dedicated to Frederick Sommer, 1975
Gelatin silver print
19.5 x 24.5 cm. (7 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Saul Reinfeld

 

 

When you do the analogue printing yourself (or when assessing a digital test print at a lab such as CPL Digital), the most important thing is to understand the vocabulary of printing. In both analogue and digital printing it all starts from the negative/file. If you don’t understand your negative or digital file, what hope have you of attaining a good end result? You must study the negative to understand its pushes and pulls, what needs to be held back, what other areas brought forward in the image. You have to feel the balance within the negative/file in the sensibility of the print. Darren from CPL observes that he has a lot of photographers and students come in and say, “I don’t want it to be like that,” but then they can’t explain what they do want it to be like or how they can get there. They have no vocabulary of printing or how to get the “feel” that they want from the print. I believe this is where training in the analogue darkroom can stand digital photographers in good stead.

What photographers need to understand is the syntax of an image, “the system of organization used in putting lines together to form pictures that can stand as representations of particular objects,”1 where they is a clear association between the structure of photographic prints and the linguistic structure that makes verbal communication possible. Photographers are the Keepers of Light and photography broke the boundaries of the visual field that had been delimited by etchings and prints, to allow human beings to see far beyond the physical field of view, to have photographic power over space and time which fundamentally changed the scope of human consciousness.2 Photography makes drawing unnecessary in the physical sense, but through previsualisation photography is predicated on mental drawing (with light) and through the physical form of the photograph, the print, photography has a syntactical basis – which comes from the languages of the photographer inherent in human consciousness and the chemical, optical and mechanical relationships that make photography possible. Both feeling and technology.

I believe that these two things go hand in hand and when photographers have no language, no vocabulary to describe what they want from a photographic print, then they are basically coming up against the limitations of their feelings, technologies and the machine. “Genius is constantly frustrated – and tempered – by the machine.”3 As William Crawford observes, “You simply cannot look at photographs as if they were ends without means. Each is the culmination of a process in which the photographer makes his decisions and discoveries within a technological framework.”4 “Each step in the photographic process plays a syntactical role to the degree that it affects the way the information, the sentiment, the surprises, and the frozen moments found in photographs actually meet the eye.”5 In the case of the photographic print, this means understanding the emotional linguistic vocabulary of printing through the syntax of the image.

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With these thoughts in mind, the two standouts in this delightful group exhibition are Claudia Terstappen and Ponch Hawkes. Terstappen’s Brazilian rainforest photographs are as well seen and exquisitely printed as ever but this time they are slightly let down by the nearness of the frame and the colour of the moulding, both of which seen to limit the breathe of the image. Hawkes’ photographs are sublime (especially the two reproduced below), the best silver gelatin photographs that I have seen by an Australian artist in since Terstappen’s last solo exhibition In the Shadow of Change at Monash Gallery of Art. They have wonderful tonality and presence, and a quietness that really lets you contemplate the image through the beauty of the print – and a snip at only $800 each framed!

Other artists in the exhibition have singular images that are interesting (pictured below), but the major disappointment are the prints of Jane Brown. When I first saw the images of Brown’s Australian Gothic at Edmund Pearce Gallery in 2012 I said that they were, “small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs… surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form.”6 This was again the feeling that I got when I saw the series at a later exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Not this time. The prints shown here are much darker and have become almost ungrammatical; where the syntax of the image has broken down so that the linguistic structure of the image makes communication nearly impossible. It is not enough just to make prints darker and darker, hoping for some mystery to magically appear in the image because it won’t. This is a case of overprinting the negative, forcing the vocabulary of the image through a wish to impart something emphatic, some condition of being from the negative that has been imperfectly understood. Is this because this is Edition 2 out of 7, a different printer and a different size? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but Brown really needs to go back to the negatives and reassess the results, especially as these nearly incomprehensible prints are selling for an overinflated $2,000 each framed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Crawford, William. “Photographic Syntax,” in Crawford, William. The Keepers of Light: A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Morgan and Morgan, 1979, p. 2
2. Ibid., p. 5
3. Ibid., p. 6
4. Ibid., p. 6
5. Ibid., p. 7
6. Bunyan, Marcus. Review: Jane Brown / Australian Gothic at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, 6th May 2012 [Online] Cited 21st April 2014 http://wp.me/pn2J2-2RL

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

 

ps 6

 

William Crawford. “Photographic Syntax,” in William Crawford. The Keepers of Light: A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Morgan and Morgan, 1979, p. 6

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Jungle I (Brazil)' 1991

 

Claudia Terstappen
Jungle I (Brazil)
1991
from the series Ghosts at the Jucurucu
Silver gelatin print
46 x 68 cm

 

Lloyd Stubber. 'Untitled' 2012

 

Lloyd Stubber
Untitled
2012
Fibre-based silver gelatin print
11 x 14 inches

 

David Tatnall. 'Clifton Springs Jetty' 2012

 

David Tatnall
Clifton Springs Jetty
2012
From the series Coastal Pinholes
Silver gelatin contact print
20 x 25 cm

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Bellambi, NSW' 1989

 

Ruth Maddison
Bellambi, NSW
1989
Hand coloured gelatin silver print
19.6 x 49 cm
Vintage print, unique state

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Self-portrait #2' 2004

 

Ruth Maddison
Self-portrait #2
2004
From the series Light touches
Sun print on black and white photographic paper
Vintage print, unique state

 

 

“The process of analogue photography is created through darkness and light. To celebrate the launch of the Strange Neighbour Darkroom this exhibition brings together a group of artists who pursue and extend the practice of analogue and darkroom photography. These artists work across many of the countless possibilities of the medium: 35mm, medium format and large format photography, and their diverse processes include pinhole photography, photograms, sun prints, fibre printing and hand colouring. Contemporary photographers are driving the current resurgence in analogue photography and Strange Neighbour is excited to be able to facilitate this irreplaceable art form. Darkroom practice is unique and magickal, alive and well.”

Press release from the Strange Neighbour website

 

Khem; a possible derivative of the word alchemy, the native name of Egypt, is thought to mean black. Some scholars maintain that Khem is derived from a root meaning wise.1

Alchemy is described as chemistry endowed with magic, and alchemists as those who work with metals and keep these operations secret.2 Apart from the obvious associations of working with metals (silver) and chemistry, there are more subtle and intimate parallels between the art and science of alchemy and darkroom practice.

It is common among darkroom practitioners to consider the process as ‘magic’. When most people encounter printing their first photograph in the darkroom, the simple sight of an image appearing on the paper in the developer tray seems ‘magical’. Even experienced darkroom practitioners never lose this special feeling. Exhibiting artist, Siri Hayes notes, “Watching images come up in developing tray is as mysterious and exciting as any magic show. Perhaps more so as there are no tricks except that the photographic product is the grandest of illusions.”

Distinct from many other forms of photography, darkroom based practice is now specialised, with few people having access to the knowledge, equipment and skills associated with the medium. Like a secret esoteric order, few share this wisdom, and even those willing to teach it may keep special recipes, techniques and discoveries to themselves or within a select dedicated group. Some of this information, although scientific, is not completely understood in rational terms of facts or calculations, but is more related to intuition and perception. It is technical and it is intuitive.

The complex rituals associated with the process allow practitioners to get into a headspace that is conducive to contemplation, bringing forth intuition, allowing space for chance and universal cause and effect. In this art and science there are so many variables with endless possibilities. Ruth Maddison‘s Sun prints are made without camera, film, enlarger or developer. She states, “the tonal range depends on variables like paper stock, length of time in sun or shade, whether the objects are wet or dry…. and an unpredictable magic that happens when light sensitive paper is touched by light.”

In this unpredictable environment often mistakes lead to new ideas and create new methodologies. One of the charms of analogue processes is the discovery of beauty through error. Ponch Hawkes recalls this as disasters and wonderful happenstance. Claudia Terstappen remarks it is the number of variables in the darkroom that leaves the creative process wide open and it is often these inaccuracies caused by chemical reactions that lead to a new meaning. This is what makes analogue processes so valuable and irreplaceable. There are many effects in the analogue process that one can recreate with digital technologies, but not invent.

Imperfections caused by these variables or ‘mistakes’ may imbue the image with a ‘spirit’ and otherworldliness, as if the energy of a place or person has been captured. Black and white photography too has the ability to transcend time, memory and death. Jane Brown says, “I examine this a lot in my work – landscapes seem to have vestiges or traces of past life and memorials become otherworldly.” Claudia Terstappen’s work, “is motivated by the stories, beliefs and histories of the people who live there. Here people spoke about the forest spirits that one should be aware of. B+W images suggest a kind of silence.” At a symbolic level, silence is part of most sacred traditions3, and it is part of darkroom practice.

Using analogue processes and working in the darkroom can be aligned to the slow movement, of valuing quality over quantity and returning to a feeling of connectedness. For the images in this exhibition David Tatnall has used an 8 x 10 inch pinhole camera and made contact prints. He expresses of this technology, “my reasons for using this slow, cumbersome and fickle means to make photographs is because I feel it conveys the interaction of the sky and water, the presence of wind and the pulse of nature. I am particularly interested in how the long exposures and lack of sharpness make these features merge into something else… (The) simplicity: no lens, shutter or batteries, no need to upgrade, no click or buzz, no flashing lights or mega pixels no viewfinder and no distortion.” For Ruth Maddision, “she says of working with hand colouring, the pleasure of it – I love working on the real object again, and away from the screen.”

Clearly there is belief and an element of trust in the medium. Lloyd Stubber‘s images in this exhibition are taken from a one-month round the world trip. On return he processed the 15 rolls of film in his laundry. Perhaps the potential fear of loss is overwhelmed by the sense of anticipation, surprise and the flood of memories that return on seeing the work at a later date, as compared to digital, which is immediate and holds none of the mystery.

Another important distinction of darkroom and analogue practice from other forms of photography is the presence of artist’s hand throughout the entire progression of creation to final outcome. In each step of the process, significant choices are made from the many possibilities, from exposing light sensitive film in the camera, developing the film, to printing and finishing the art object. The artist’s mark is therefore not only discernible but also inherently valuable. To Ponch Hawkes, being the maker is of significance. For Terstappen, The physicality of arriving at the ‘perfect’ Gelatin Silver print – with its deep tonal ranges – is something that I highly value.

Contemporary artists are driving the current resurgence in analogue photography. This is a treasured, magickal4 and irreplaceable art form. It is with great pleasure that I declare the Strange Neighbour Darkroom open, and may it provide the space and opportunity for the love of darkroom practice to be enjoyed, shared and fostered.”

Linsey Gosper, curator, darkroom lover, 2014
1. Francis Melville. The Book of Alchemy. Quarto Publishing plc, 2002, p. 6
2. Kurt Seligman. Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion. Pantheon Books, 1948, p. 84
3. Ami Ronnberg (ed.,). The Book of Symbols. Taschen, 2010, p. 676
4. Magick, in the context of Aleister Crowley’s Thelema, is a term used to differentiate the occult from stage magic and is defined as the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will, including both mundane acts of will as well as ritual magic

 

Jane Brown. 'Decommissioned Art History Library, University of Melbourne' 2012-2013

 

Jane Brown
Decommissioned Art History Library, University of Melbourne
2012-2013
Fibre-based gelatin silver print
44 x 49.5 cm
Edition 2 of 7

 

Jane Brown. 'Lathamstowe' 2011- 2013

 

Jane Brown
Lathamstowe
2011- 2013
Fibre-based, gelatin silver print
46 x 44 cm
Edition 2 of 7

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Silken Seam' 2005

 

Ponch Hawkes
Silken Seam
2005
Silver gelatin print
34 x 34 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Chrysalis Gallery, Melbourne

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Rouleau' 2005

 

Ponch Hawkes
Rouleau
2005
Silver gelatin print
34 x 34cm
Courtesy of the artist and Chrysalis, Melbourne

 

Siri Hayes. 'Aquatic listening device' 2009

 

Siri Hayes
Aquatic listening device
2009
Silver gelatin print
39 x 45 cm
Courtesy of the artist and M.33, Melbourne

 

 

Strange Neighbour
395 Gore St, Fitzroy
Victoria Australia 3065
T: +61 3 9041 8727

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm

Strange Neighbour website

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19
Apr
14

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 4th May 2014

 

This posting continues my fascination with the American Civil War, with new photographs from the exhibition to compliment the posting I did when it was staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April – September 2013.

I have included fascinating close-up details: the collar of African-American Union soldier John Henry flapping in the breeze during the long time exposure (What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia November 1862, below); the pale grey/blue eyes of George Patillo which have been added to the plate afterwards1 (The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John) etc… 1861-63, below); the horrific branding of the slave Wilson Chinn who had the initials of his owner burned into his head (Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks, December 1863, below); and the crumpled coat of Allan Pinkerton, Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, as he poses with his president (President Abraham Lincoln et al, October 4, 1862, below).

Marcus

 

1. “The daguerreotype, like all photographic processes before 1873 [including Ambrotypes], was sensitive to blue light only, so that red dresses registered black and people with blue eyes appeared to have no irises and looked quite strange.”

Davies, Alan. An Eye for Photography: The camera in Australia. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press/State Library of New South Wales, 2002, p. 8.

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

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia' November 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia
November 1862
Albumen photograph from the album Incidents of the War
Photography collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
The New York Public Library Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia' (detail) November 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia (detail)
November 1862
Albumen photograph from the album Incidents of the War
Photography collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
The New York Public Library Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown Artist. 'Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, "Tom Cobb Infantry," Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry' 1861-62

 

Unknown Artist
Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry
1861-62
Quarter-plate ambrotype with applied color
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Photo: Jack Melton

 

The vast majority of war portraits, either cased images or cartes de visite, are of individual soldiers. Group portraits in smaller formats are more rare and challenged the field photographer (as well as the studio gallerist) to conceive and execute an image that would honor the occasion and be desirable – saleable – to multiple sitters. For the patient photographer, this created interesting compositional problems and an excellent opportunity to make memorable group portraits of brothers, friends, and even members of different regiments.

In this quarter-plate ambrotype, Confederate Captain Charles Hawkins of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on the left, sits for his portrait with his brother John, a sergeant in the same regiment. They address the camera and draw their fighting knives from scabbards. Charles would die on June 13, 1863, in the Shenandoah Valley during General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. John, wounded at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill in June 1862, would survive the war, fighting with his company until its surrender at Appomattox.

 

Unknown '[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861-63

 

Unknown
[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861-63
Ambrotype
Plate: 8.3 x 10.8 cm (3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The four Pattillo boys of Henry County were brothers who all enlisted together in Company K of the 22nd Regiment of the GA Volunteer Infantry on August 31, 1861.

Benjamin, seated on the left holding a Confederate hand-grenade, made a 50-dollar bounty during his tenure from April 5 to June 20, 1862. He was shot in the stomach at 2nd Manassas on August 30, 1862, and died in the General Hospital in Warrenton, VA, the next day.

George, second from the left, was detailed for shoemaking at Augusta, GA in November of 1862 until the close of the war. He was the only Pattillo to make it out of the Civil War without an injury. He made 35 cents per shoe and made 106 shoes in February 29, for $37.10. The pay for a soldier was 3 dollars per day.

James, second from the right, was discharged in March of 1862 but reenlisted afterwards. He was shot in the foot in the Battle of Second Deep Bottom on August 16, 1864. The injury resulted in the amputation of his third toe. Pension records show he was at home on wounded furlough to close of the war.

John, seated on the right, was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital #2 in Richmond on May 31, 1862, because of a case of Dysentery. He returned to duty on June 14, 1862, but was wounded at the Seven Days’ battles near Richmond on June 28,1862. He was admitted to C. S. A. General Hospital at Charlottesville on November 20, 1862, and again on December 16, 1862. He returned to duty on December 17, 1862, but pension records show he was discharged on account of wounds in March of 1863. (Text from the Historynet.com website)

 

Unknown '[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' (detail) 1861-63

 

Unknown
[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry] (detail)
1861-63
Ambrotype
Plate: 8.3 x 10.8 cm (3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s) 'Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks' December 1863

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s)
Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks
December 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s) 'Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks' (detail) December 1863

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s)
Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks (detail)
December 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The slave (at back left) with those letters was Wilson Chinn, who was about 60 years old at the time. When he was 21 years old he was sold to Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter about 45 miles above New Orleans. Marmillion branded his slaves, including Wilson. Those are Marmillion’s initials, horrifically burned into Wilson’s forehead in the image.

Russell Lord, photography curator at NOMA

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
25.6 x 36.5 cm (10 1/16 x 14 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Better known for his later views commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad, A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who was also a soldier. As a photographer-engineer for the U.S. Military Railroad Con struction Corps, Russell’s duty was to make a historical record of both the technical accomplishments of General Herman Haupt’s engineers and the battlefields and camp sites in Virginia. This view of a slave pen in Alexandria guarded, ironically, by Union officers shows Russell at his most insightful; the pen had been converted by the Union Army into a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.

Between 1830 and 1836, at the height of the American cotton market, the District of Columbia, which at that time included Alexandria, Virginia, was considered the seat of the slave trade. The most infamous and successful firm in the capital was Franklin & Armfield, whose slave pen is shown here under a later owner’s name. Three to four hundred slaves were regularly kept on the premises in large, heavily locked cells for sale to Southern plantation owners. According to a note by Alexander Gardner, who published a similar view, “Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.” 

Late in the 1830s Franklin and Armfield, already millionaires from the profits they had made, sold out to George Kephart, one of their former agents. Although slavery was outlawed in the District in 1850, it flourished across the Potomac in Alexandria. In 1859, Kephart joined William Birch, J. C. Cook, and C. M. Price and conducted business under the name of Price, Birch & Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1859, but Kephart continued operating his slave pen until Union troops seized the city in the spring of 1861.

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Ruins of Mrs. Henry's House, Battlefield of Bull Run; Bull Run, Mrs. Henry's House, 21 July 1861' March 1862

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Ruins of Mrs. Henry’s House, Battlefield of Bull Run; Bull Run, Mrs. Henry’s House, 21 July 1861
March 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Civil War Portrait Lockets]' 1860s

 

Maker: Unknown
[Civil War Portrait Lockets]
1860s
Tintypes and albumen silver prints in brass, glass, and shell enclosures
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Civil War Portrait Lockets]' (detail) 1860s

 

Maker: Unknown
[Civil War Portrait Lockets] (detail)
1860s
Tintypes and albumen silver prints in brass, glass, and shell enclosures
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening January 31 at New Orleans Museum of Art. Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.

“This extraordinary exhibition transcends geographic divisions in its intense focus on the participants in the Civil War,” said Susan M. Taylor, Director of New Orleans Museum of Art. “It becomes an exploration of shared human traits: hope, resolution, stoicism, fear, and sadness. We are delighted to share this important statement about American history and identity with the people of New Orleans and the Gulf region.”

 

Exhibition overview

Photography and the American Civil War will include: intimate studio portraits of armed Union and Confederate soldiers preparing to meet their destiny; battlefield landscapes strewn with human remains; rare multi-panel panoramas of the killing fields of Gettysburg and destruction of Richmond; diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles; and portraits of Abraham Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.

Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs – portraits and views – that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorializing the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.

“The massive scope of this exhibition mirrors the tremendous role that photography played in describing, defining, and documenting the Civil War,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photography. “The technical, cultural and even discursive functions of photography during the Civil War are critically traced in this exhibition, as is the powerful human story, a story of the personal hopes and sacrifices and the deep and tragic losses on both sides of the conflict.”

Press release from the New Orleans Museum of Art website

 

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Maker: Unknown
[Presidential Campaign Medals with Portraits of John C. Breckinridge, Stephen A. Douglas and Edward Everett]
1860
Tintype
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) '[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]' October 4, 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]
October 4, 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Copy Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) '[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]' (detail) October 4, 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland] (detail)
October 4, 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Copy Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown, American; Photography Studio: After, Brady & Co., American, active 1840s–1880s '[Mourning Corsage with Portrait of Abraham Lincoln]' (detail) Photograph, corsage April 1865

 

Maker: Unknown, American; Photography Studio: After, Brady & Co., American, active 1840s–1880s
[Mourning Corsage with Portrait of Abraham Lincoln] (detail)
Photograph, corsage
April 1865
Black and white silk with tintype set inside brass button
20 x 9 cm (7 7/8 x 3 9/16 in.) Image: 2 x 2 cm (13/16 x 13/16 in.)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]' 1862

 

Maker: Unknown
[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]
1862
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]' (detail) 1862

 

Maker: Unknown
[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals] (detail)
1862
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown '[Confederate Sergeant in Slouch Hat]' 1861-62

 

Unknown
[Confederate Sergeant in Slouch Hat]
1861-62
Ambrotype
David Wynn Vaughan, Jr. Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Attributed to, Oliver H. Willard (American, active 1850s-70s, died 1875) 'Ordnance, Private' 1866

 

Attributed to, Oliver H. Willard (American, active 1850s-70s, died 1875)
Ordnance, Private
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown '[James A. Holeman, Company A, "Roxboro Grays," Twenty-fourth North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia]' 1861-62

 

Unknown
[James A. Holeman, Company A, "Roxboro Grays," Twenty-fourth North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia]
1861-62
Ambrotype
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Captain James A. Holeman of Person County, Roxboro lost his life during the Civil War

 

Unknown. 'Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance"' 1864

 

 

Unknown
Sojourner Truth, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance”
1864
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves (Wikipedia)

 

Maker: Unknown (American; Alexander Gardner, American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.; Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company, American, active Boston) '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

 

Maker: Unknown (American; Alexander Gardner, American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.; Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company, American, active Boston)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.
The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognized by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.
 Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognized Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

 

The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA 70124
T: (504) 658-4100

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

The New Orleans Museum of Art website

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08
Apr
14

Exhibition and book launch preview: ‘In the Folds of Hills’ by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at The Field Institute, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st – 8th May 2014
Exhibition opening and book launch: Thursday 1st May, 6 – 8.30 pm

To be opened by Robert McFarlane
Stories by Charlotte Laemmle

 

One of my favourite contemporary Australian photographers has a new book and exhibition!

Hopefully a review to follow but having seen a digital copy of the book, the sensitivity of the work feels admirable… unrecalled stories and photographs of people’s lives and the environments in which they live.

The book retails for $60 AUD and will be available in selected book stores nationally and online at www.inthefoldsofhills.com. It is being published by Pearce Press and includes a foreword by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and an essay by Robert McFarlane.

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

 

Foreword

In the Folds of Hills depicts a life in the secluded valleys around Lima, a little over 100 kms from Melbourne, Victoria. Kristian Laemmle-Ruff not only has great technical control of his craft, but translates this skill into truly artistic photographs.

His images of ordinary objects from everyday life invite the viewer to slow down and contemplate. These photos create a narrative that offers us insight into the way these people live.

The portfolio focuses on individuals who have lived most, if not all their lives in this area. They would all be hard-working and modest in their possessions. Their individual characters shine through the photographs with a rugged determination and strength.

In the Folds of Hills will come to have historic significance because it captures aspects of Australian rural life, which in many parts of this country are fast disappearing.

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH

 

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'In the Folds of Hills' book cover 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
In the Folds of Hills book cover
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Barn in the Mist' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Barn in the Mist
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Lima East Valley' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Lima East Valley
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Ralph Pearce' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Ralph Pearce
2014

 

 

Photographer’s Note

This project began with a curiosity to discover something that is quietly going unnoticed. As our cities grow and society increasingly relies on technological advances, there remain those older generations whose lives are still rooted in a past era: the early to mid 20th century. This was an era where small-scale labor-intensive livelihoods could thrive. In the face of changing needs and corporate competition these kinds of livelihoods, such as the family-owned farm, are disappearing.

Susan Sontag wrote in her book On Photography that “a beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists … Photography is a twilight art.” This photo-series also lingers in some kind of twilight zone and has a sense of urgency; indeed one person has passed away since being photographed.

I first intended to capture day-to-day life and work in these secluded rural valleys. With subject matter so steeped in romanticism, I felt a need to explore beyond the ‘countryside’ clichés and idealisation common in the attitudes of city people. After meeting the subjects and gaining their trust, I sensed personal stories that needed to be told. To my surprise these stories were told not so much in the words spoken, but rather in the person’s material surrounds. Domestic interiors scattered with objects became allegories for human experience. These environments were full of memory.

It wasn’t uncommon for someone to still live in the house they were born in. An empty chair, a leaning barn, a clock ticking on the wall: these once mundane objects became potent symbols of their owner’s past, their hopes and their reality. Some objects suggested loss and melancholia, others embodied feelings of pride and even humour.

In the Folds of Hills is an exploration of the wisdom and rich humanity found in the characters living and working on this land. In celebrating and acknowledging them and their stories, the photo-narratives also offer a somewhat poetic insight into their inner worlds.

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'On Mother's Bed' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
On Mother’s Bed
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Old Flowers' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Old Flowers
2014

 

 

Ralph Pearce

Ralph’s knowledge and understanding of this part of the world is humbling. Rainfall patterns, geography and vegetation are things that matter to Ralph. He invites us to climb into his ute and drives to a stand of fabled Lima stringybarks. Few now exist in the valley. Our gentle giant is very much at home amongst the tall timbers that have been his livelihood for so many years.

“I still love mucking about in the bush,” chuckles Ralph with a twinkle in his eye. He shows us his tools, most importantly his axes, and carefully describes their variations and uses. The sheds back at the homestead hold a treasury of farming history and Ralph proudly shows us the old dairy, his shearing shed and a faithful companion, a Honda 110 motorbike. The land continues to give Ralph what he needs. His vegetable patch is impressive and the old gnarled fruit trees bear their gifts seasonally. Once a fortnight Ralph drives to Benalla for groceries and a chat. Every second Tuesday evening he travels to the nearby Moorngag Hall for a round of cards with friends from the district. Charlie Jensen, his childhood mate, collects him.

When next we visit Ralph he shows us around the rest of his house. His mother was clearly a significant influence. She died in 1985 aged ninety-eight and was blind for the last nine years of her life. Ralph cared for her. Her suitcase, packed for hospital, still sits in her room. Little has changed in the house since she died.

ABC Radio keeps Ralph informed. And informed he is. Television has never made an appearance in this house. Ralph speaks to us with the wisdom of someone who has seen many fashions and many politicians come and go. One cannot help but be touched by the simplicity and integrity of this man’s life. Ralph is a quiet gentleman, unassuming, self-reliant and comfortable within his skin. (Extract from stories by Charlotte Laemmle from the book In the Folds of Hills)

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Ralph's oven' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Ralph’s oven
2014

 

 

The Field Institute at The Compound Interest (Centre for the Applied Arts)
15-25 Keele Street, Collingwood, Victoria

Opening hours:
Wed – Fri 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Sat 12 am – 5pm

Field Institute website

The Compound Interest website

In the Folds of Hills website

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04
Apr
14

Exhibition: ‘James Turrell: A Retrospective’ at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 26th May 2013 – 6th April 2014

 

Many thankx to LACMA 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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James Turrell
Breathing Light
2013
LED light into space
Dimensions cariable
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation
© James Turell
Photos: © Florian Holzherr

 

James Turrell. 'Bridget's Bardo' 2009

 

James Turrell. 'Raemar Pink White' 1969

 

James Turrell. 'Key Lime' 1994

 

James Turrell. 'Light Reignfall' 2011

 

'James Turrell: A Retrospective' installation view at LACMA 2014

 

 

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents James Turrell: A Retrospective, the first major U.S. survey of Los Angeles-native James Turrell since 1985. The exhibition features approximately fifty works tracing five decades of the artist’s career. In addition to early light projections, holograms, and an entire section devoted to his masterwork-in-progress, the Roden Crater project, the exhibition features numerous immersive light installations that address our perception and how we see. LACMA’s retrospective is complemented by concurrent, independently curated exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)(June 9 – September 22, 2013); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (June 21 – September 25, 2013). Additional Turrell exhibitions on view this year include the Academy Art Museum, Easton (April 20 – July 7, 2013); and Villa Panza, Varese, Italy (October 24, 2013 – May 4, 2014).

“The theme of light has preoccupied artists for centuries,” says Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA and exhibition co-curator. “No one, however, has so fully considered the ‘thing-ness’ of light itself – as well as how the experience of light reflects the wondrous and complex nature of human perception – as James Turrell has for nearly five decades.” Christine Y. Kim, exhibition co-curator and Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA adds, “There is nothing quite like the experience of a Turrell work, which is truly about and for the viewer and his or her perception. Perception is the medium for Turrell, as his work provokes viewers to see themselves see.”

Turrell’s revolutionary use of light in art makes for an experience that is both physical and optical – requiring visitors to spend anywhere from five to twenty minutes with one artwork, often alone in a gallery or with a limited number of fellow viewers.

 

Exhibition overview

In the mid-1960s, James Turrell was inspired by a beam of light from a slide projector while sitting in the darkened room of an undergraduate art history class at Pomona College. The sight provoked a question: what if light wasn’t the tool that enabled people to see something else but rather became the thing people look at? Thus began an inquiry that has led to a vast, prolific career.

James Turrell: A Retrospective comprises works that range in scale from an intimate watercolor made in 1969 to a 5,000-square-foot “Ganzfeld” installation – designed to entirely eliminate the viewer’s depth perception –  offering visitors multiple entry points into Turrell’s practice. Evident in the array of works is the artist’s interest in perception, psychology, religion, astronomy, meditation, and science. The exhibition also draws connections between the artist’s light installations, architectural projects, and his famous masterwork-in progress at Roden Crater, in the high desert of Arizona. James Turrell: A Retrospective presents the most expansive installation of Roden Crater works shown to date, presented in the form of models, drawings, photographs, holograms, and other documents from the 1980s through the present.

 

Exhibition 0rganization

The work of James Turrell requires a vast amount of exhibition space. James Turrell: A Retrospective presents nearly fifty works exhibited in 33,000 square feet populating two venues across LACMA’s campus: the 2nd floor of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) and the east galleries of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion (Resnick Pavilion). BCAM’s east galleries begin with works that Turrell completed at his Mendota Studio in Santa Monica from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, followed by a succession of full-room installations that feature projections, holograms, a “Shallow Space” – a large room designed to challenge a viewer’s depth perception – and a “Cross Corner Projection,” in which light is projected in a way that suggests weight and mass. A subsequent gallery contains information and media highlighting a selection of site-specific projects and commissions around the world. BCAM’s west wing is populated with a “Magnatron” work – consisting of an aperture in the shape of an old television screen – followed by three full-scale installations: Key Lime, a “Wedgework” in which the illusion of walls are created through light and architecture; a “Wide Glass,” a type of work that adds a temporal element to Turrell’s light-based installations; and St. Elmo’s Breath, a “Space Division Construction,” which appears to be a flat surface but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be light emitted from a seemingly bottomless cavity in the wall.

Upon entering the Resnick Pavilion, visitors first encounter work thatresulted from Turrell’s collaboration with artist Robert Irwin and Dr. Ed Wortz as part of the Art and Technology program at LACMA in 1969, namely a “Perceptual Cell” called Light Reignfall; Dark Matters, a “Dark Space” that presents a seemingly blacked-out room with only a minimally perceivable trace of light; and Breathing Light, a “Ganzfeld.” The Resnick Pavilion also holds an expansive gallery dedicated to the Roden Crater project, including large-scale mixed media drawings and a model contoured with actual cinder from the crater, as well as other models for autonomous spaces.”

Press release from the LACMA website

 

James Turrell. 'Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site)' 1987

 

James Turrell. 'Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site)' 1987

 

James Turrell. 'Roden Crater Project, view toward northeast' 1987

 

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater Project at sunset, October 2001

 

James Turrell. 'Twilight Epiphany' 2012

 

James Turrell. 'Twilight Epiphany' 2012

 

James Turrell. 'Twilight Epiphany' 2012

 

James Turrell. 'Afrum (White)' 1966

 

James Turrell. 'Raethro II (Blue)' 1971

 

James Turrell. 'Bullwinkle' 2001

 

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
T: 323 857-6000

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: noon – 8 pm
Friday: noon – 9 pm
Saturday, Sunday: 11am – 8 pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA website

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30
Mar
14

Photographic archive: ‘The Gibson archive’ at the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG)

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“Other men have taken fine shipwreck photographs, but nowhere else in the world can one family have produced such a consistently high and poetic standard of work.”

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John Fowles

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“This is the greatest archive of the drama and mechanics of shipwreck we will ever see – a thousand images stretching over 130 years, of such power, insight and nostalgia that even the most passive observer cannot fail to feel the excitement or pathos of the events they depict.”

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Rex Cowan

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Dear readers, this gem of a posting will have to last you all of this week as it took such a long time to research, clean the images and assemble the post. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labour.

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These are superb photographs obtained in the most trying of conditions, forming an artistic practice that spans generations and epochs.

As the text below notes, “At the very forefront of early photojournalism, John Gibson and his descendants were determined to be first on the scene when these shipwrecks struck. Each and every wreck had its own story to tell with unfolding drama, heroics, tragedies and triumphs to be photographed and recorded – the news of which the Gibsons would disseminate to the British mainland and beyond.”

This is the most glorious archive of shipwreck photographs that the world has even known and this posting brings together the largest selection of these photographs available on the Internet at the moment, in one place. I have to send a big thank you to the Press Office of the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) for sending me all these photographs and allowing me to post them on Art Blart. Unfortunately, because they had just been purchased from the auction house Sotheby’s, there was no information about each image, just the title of the ship. So I have spent hours researching the ships in this posting and cleaning up the scans that were sent to me, some of which were in a poor state. All the text comes from the Internet and if I have forgotten to credit someone I apologise in advance. I have included detailed close-ups of certain images to emphasise the drama, the calamity and the presence and inherent curiosity of onlookers.

The hours spent researching has all be worthwhile because the photographs are magnificent. Atmospheric, ghostly, tinged with loss, tragedy, heroism and the “presence” of these (mostly) sailing ships, these photographs are both memorials and romantic photographic ruins to the age of steam and sail. My favourite has to be the ghostly Flying Dutchman-esque The Glenbervie (1902, below), but for tragedy and poignancy you can’t go past the recumbent body of The Jeanne Gougy (1962, below), framed so beautifully by the artist in the horizontal, by just seen rocks.

But how can you pick just one or two? Each photograph has its own mystery, its own fiction, for as Susan Sontag observes, “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation and fantasy.” In the case of these photographs we can only speculate as to the specific circumstances that led to the occurrence of each wreck (decisions made, or not), the set of circumstances and actions which are evidenced by the time freeze of these photographs, one end product of the performative act. Although they deny interconnectedness and continuity in the actual (conferring on each moment the character of a mystery), they enable interconnectedness and continuity in the imagination of the viewer for we can vividly imagine being on these ships as they are wrecked at sea.

What was interesting with this posting is that the images did not come with captions, just the name of the ship. My imagination was left free to roam, to scour the image for clues, to make up stories about what had happened until I did the research and the text based, “real” story emerged – the words becoming a means by which the viewer can decode the photographic evidence before them. Even though they were rushed to newspapers and magazines to impart news of the accident, I still prefer the fantasy of the image over the informational addendum, for this is what gives these images their power. Here, technology and the mistakes of man yield to the power of nature and you can only imagine how it would have been.

While the back story may add context of time, place, loss and heroism it is the beautiful isolation of these wrecked ships of the sea and their paradoxical nestling close in to the bosom of the earth, holding them fast, that will forever provide intimate fascination.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) 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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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Aksai' 1875

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Aksai
1875

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2 November 1875 – steamer Aksai (Russia) sailed into White Island, St Martin’s in thick fog while bound for Odessa from Cardiff with coal. The captain and crew of thirty-nine were saved by the Lady of the Isles. Citation: Larn, Richard (1992). Shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly. Nairn: Thomas & Lochar.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Bay of Panama' 1891

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Bay of Panama
1891

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SV Bay of Panama (British): The sailing ship was wrecked under Nare Head, near St Keverne, Cornwall, United Kingdom, during a great blizzard. The ship carried jute from Calcutta; 18 of those on board died but 19 were saved. Noall, C. (1969?) Cornish Shipwrecks Illustrated. Truro: Tor Mark Press; p. 15

Barque, built in 1883, 4 masts (equipped with floors and lower deck beams of iron. The forecastle was 37 ft long and the poop 54 ft. Rigged with double top- and top gallant sails and royal sails)

Built by the Belfast shipping firm of Hartland and Wolff in 1883, the Bay of Panama was described by everyone who saw her as probably the finest sailing ship afloat. With her steel hull, and four square-rigged masts, she was a very fast and beautiful ship of 2282 tons. But strength and good looks are no guarantee, and during March 1891 the Bay of Panama met up with the worst blizzard Cornwall had suffered for over two hundred years. It was to prove no contest. Because of her speed, the Bay of Panama was used on the Calcutta run, and on November 18th 1890 she left that port bound for Dundee loaded with a cargo of 13000 bales of jute.

For four months she sailed swiftly towards England until one morning during the early part of March 1891, she approached the Cornish coast in rapidly deteriorating weather. The Captain knew all about the dangers of a lee shore, but because of the bad visibility he was uncertain as to his exact position. He could see that the weather was unlikely to get any better, and he even thought that there might be some snow. After weighing up all the risks he decided to heave to, take some depth soundings, and generally take stock of his position. It was a decision that was to cost him his ship, and his life. Only a few hours later, in the early afternoon, a blizzard, the worst for over two centuries, swept into the West Country and engulfed the Bay of Panama.

Bay of Panama
Posted on July 4, 2007 Peter Mitchell

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS Blue Jacket' 1898

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS Blue Jacket
1898

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SS Blue Jacket (United Kingdom) November 1898: She was unaccountably wrecked on a clear night a few yards from the Longships lighthouse, Lands End, Cornwall. The crew were saved by the Sennen lifeboat. Noall, C. (1969?) Cornish Shipwrecks Illustrated. Truro: Tor Mark Press; p. 21

Stuck fast – and surely a classic example of the expression – on the 
Longships lighthouse rocks off Land’s End, December 9th, 1898. This 
tramp was in ballast from Plymouth to Cardiff. The captain went below 
to his cabin – and his wife – at 9.30 p.m., leaving the mate on watch. 
He was woken near midnight by a tremendous crash, and came on deck 
to find his listing ship brilliantly illuminated by the lighthouse only a few yards away. Captain, wife and crew took to their boats and were picked 
up by the Sennen lifeboat. How the mate managed to play moth to this
 gigantic candle – the weather was poor, but provided at least two miles’ 
visibility – has remained a mystery. The Blue Jacket sat perched in this
ludicrous position for over a year.

John Fowles. Shipwreck. 1975

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Minnehaha' 1874

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Minnehaha
1874

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Minnehaha' 1874

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Minnehaha
1874

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The Minnehaha was shipwrecked in 1874 as it travelled from Peru to Dublin. It was carrying guano to be used as fertiliser and struck Peninnis Head rocks when the captain lost his way. The ship sank so quickly that some men were drowned in their berths, ten died in total including the captain.

On 18 January 1874, while travelling from Callao, Peru to Dublin, the 845-ton four-masted barque Minnehaha carrying guano was wrecked off Peninnis Head, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. Her pilot mistook the St Agnes light for the Wolf Rock and thought they were passing between the Isles of Scilly and the Wolf. Shortly after she struck a rock off Peninnis Head  and the vessel sunk at once with some of the crew being drowned in their berths. Those on deck climbed into the rigging, and as the tide rose the ship was driven closer to land, and some managed to climb onto the shore over the jib boom. The master, pilot and eight crew drowned.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Mohegan'
 1898

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Mohegan

1898

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The Mohegan struck the Manacles, October 14th, 1898. One of the most dreaded of all reefs, 
the Manacles (from the Cornish ‘maen eglos’, rocks of the church, a reference 
to the landmark of St Keverne’s tower) stand east of the Lizard promontory, 
in a perfect position to catch shipping on the way into Falmouth – and before
Marconi ‘Falmouth for orders’ (as to final North European destination) was
 the commonest of all instructions to masters abroad. But the Mohegan was
 outward bound, and hers is one of the most mysterious of all Victorian sea-disasters.
 She was a luxury liner on only her second voyage, from Tilbury to New York.
 Somewhere off Plymouth a wrong course was given. A number of people on shore 
realized the ship was sailing full speed (13 knots) for catastrophe; a coastguard
 even fired a warning rocket, but it came too late. The great ship struck just as 
the passengers were sitting down to dinner. She sank in less than ten minutes,
 and 106 people were drowned, including the captain and every single deck officer,
 so we shall never know how the extraordinary mistake, in good visibility, was made.
 The captain’s body was washed up headless in Caernarvon Bay three months later.
 Most of the dead were buried in a mass grave at St. Keverne.

John Fowles. Shipwreck. 1975

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'MV Poleire' 1970

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The Gibsons of Scilly
MV Poleire
1970

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The MV Poleire was a Cypriot motor vessel of some 2300 tons. In April 1970 she was on a voyage from Ireland to Gdynia in Poland carrying a cargo of zinc ore when she struck the Little Kettle Rock, which lies just north west of Tresco. There was a thick fog when she struck, and although less than a mile from the Round Island light house, her master failed to hear the fog signal. The sea was flat calm so all the crew managed to get off safely. Within a week the Poleire broke in two and sank.

MV Poleire
Posted on July 4, 2007 Peter Mitchell

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Jeanne Gougy' 1962

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Jeanne Gougy
1962

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The Jeanne Gougy, a French fishing trawler (built 1948) ran aground on the 3rd November 1962. Several crew were rescued by Sergeant Eric Smith from a Whirlwind Mk 10 helicopter when he was winched down to the wheelhouse despite it being submerged by breaking waves. He was awarded a George Medal for his rescues.

“The dramatic but tragic shipwreck in which eleven men died and the rescue of the rest of the crew of the Jean Gougy, occurred on November 3rd 1962. The French trawler out of Dieppe, was bound for the fishing grounds of the southern Irish coast when it went aground on the north side of Lands End. At 05.20h, the Sennen Coxswain was contacted by the coastguard who informed him of the trawler’s situation. The firing of the maroons at Sennen Cove awoke two young Royal Marines from their deep sleep, bivouacking as they were, on the flat concrete platform that then existed not far from the lifeboat station at Sennen Cove. The reserve lifeboat on temporary duty at the station was launched as the two marines slowly dozed off back to sleep.

The lifeboat took approximately one hour to reach the scene at Lands End. A parachute flare was fired and the trawler could be seen lying on her side on rocks at the foot of the cliff. A very heavy swell prevailed after the storm. It was impossible for the lifeboat to get any closer than a hundred yards. An L.S.A team at the top of the cliff had fired several lines over the trawler, but the crew could not secure them as the trawler was completely submerged by the heavy swell. Several men were washed out of the wheelhouse. At 8.15h a helicopter from Chivener arrived and, together with the lifeboat, carried out a search of the area. The lifeboat found two seamen and the helicopter one. They were all dead. At 9.00h the helicopter left for Penzance to land a body and to then refuel at Culdrose Naval Air Base near Helston.
I had awoken with a start at the explosions around me, mistakenly in my stupor believing it was already bonfire night, which of course was two days away. I went back to sleep. Waking sometime later my climbing partner and I packed our equipment and proceeded to walk from Sennen Cove where we had been climbing the previous day, over to Lands End for another days climbing. As we approached Lands End, we noticed people standing on the northern headland. On arriving at approximately midday, we walked over to the zawn beneath us, into which a policeman was peering. There on it’s side was a trawler and looking up at us and waving were many trapped people in the wheelhouse.

Turning to the policeman I said “If my mate and I rope down this side of the zawn (there is a tidal platform, a ledge there), we can set up a belay station, throw our other rope in through the broken wheelhouse window and one by one pull those guys to the cliff below us” (the tide was going out). “Go away” was his curt reply. And so we walked away. In the next four hours, eight more fisherman lost their lives. The outcome could have been so very different.

As there appeared to be no one left alive on the Jean Gougy the lifeboat had made for Newlyn to land two bodies, it being impossible to return to Sennen Cove due to the tide. At noon however a woman watching from the top of the cliff top saw a man’s hand waving inside the wheelhouse and heard him calling. The coastguards fired a line over the trawler and a man, clinging to the edge of the wheelhouse as the vessel was now completely on her side, struggled to grasp it. He was prevented by heavy waves. Eventually he secured the line and was hauled to safety in the breeches buoy. Three others being rescued afterwards by the same means. The helicopter, on being recalled, hovered over the ship and lowered a crewman who saved two more seamen. These six had survived by breathing trapped air in pockets at the wheelhouse and forecastle. On learning of these developments, the Penlee lifeboat Soloman Browne launched at 12.45h and arrived threequarters of an hour later. The Sennen lifeboat also returned to the scene at 15.45h. With the helicopter they again searched the area but with no success. It was later learned that the trawler carried a crew of 18, 11 of whom lost their lives, including the skipper.

Sergeant E.C. Smith of the R.A.F who was lowered to the trawler to save the two injured men received the George Medal and also the Silver Medal of the Societe Nationale des Hospitaliers Sauveteurs Bretons. The stirring events connected with this shipwreck, which received extensive press and television coverage, provided an excellent illustration for the public of the manner of work the three principle sea rescue services provided in this country, and of the cooperation existing between them.”

Millenium Moments – The Jean Gougy – A personal recollection by Dennis Morrod

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'Jeune Hortense' 1888

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The Gibsons of Scilly
Jeune Hortense
1888

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The French brigantine Jeune Hortense was swept on to the beach when she came into Mount’s Bay to land the body of a Fowey man who had died in France.
The schooner wrecked at Long Rock, Cornwall. The Penzance lifeboat, having been brought by carriage to the beach near Marazion, rescued four crew.

Stranded near St Michael’s Mount, May lyth, 1888. The foreground
 carriage is for the Penzance lifeboat

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Mildred' 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Mildred
1912

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The Mildred was traveling from Newport to London when it got stuck in dense fog and hit rocks at Gurnards Head at midnight on the 6th April 1912. Captain Larcombe and his crew of two Irishmen, one Welshman and a Mexican rowed into St. Ives as their ship was destroyed by the waves.

“The British barquentine Mildred, Newport for London with basic slag, struck under Gurnards Head at midnight on the 6th April 1912, whilst in dense fog. She swung broadside and was pounding heavily when Captain Larcombe, the mate, two Irishmen, one Welshman and a Mexican from Vera Cruz rowed into St. Ives at 6am. They later returned in a pilot gig but the Mildred was already going to pieces. The Mildred, Cornish built and owned, was launched in 1889.”

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS Tripolitania' 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS Tripolitania
1912

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SS Tripolitania Italian cargo ship (built 1897) ran aground on the 26th December 1912. Driven ashore in a Westerly gale, she beached and attempts were made to refloat her over the coming months on a spring tide. This was unsuccessful and she was eventually scrapped.

“Boxing Day 1912 was remembered by the advent of a south westerly gale, the full force of which was experienced at the Loe Bar, the stretch of shingle and sand separating the Loe Pool from the sea near Porthleven. This Italian Steamer Tripolitania was 2,297 tons. She became firmly embedded and despite strenuous efforts to release her from this perilous position, she was broken up and shipped as scrap from local Porthleven. It has been stated that about £8,000 had been expended on trying to save her. Many tons of sand and shingle were removed in an attempt to free the Tripolitania in the Loe Bar Sands and a great expense was incurred to try and salvage the ship. Tugs stood by for the attempt on the full tide on the morrow, but a storm arose during the night and embedded the vessel even firmer than before. After this incident hopes for refloating her were abandoned and she was broken up for scrap iron. One man was drowned and his body was never recovered.”

Anon. “Tripolitania,” on the Helston History website Nd

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“Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) today acquired a world renowned and nationally significant collection of photographic and archive material. The Gibson archive presents one of the most graphic and emotive depictions of shipwrecks, lifesaving and its aftermath produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The material was acquired at the Sotheby’s Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History Sale.

The archive of dramatic and often haunting images, assembled over 125 years (1872 to 1997) by four generations of the Gibson family, records over 200 wrecks – the ships, heroic rescues, survivors, burials and salvage scenes – off the treacherous coastline of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The acquisition of this collection comprising of over 1360 glass and film negatives, complements the Museum’s existing, extensive historic photography collection, and creates an unprecedented opportunity for the Museum to further examine and explore the story of life at sea and the dangers experienced by seafarers through research, education and display projects.

John Gibson (1827-1920) founded the family photographic business in the 1860s and took his first photograph of a wreck in 1869. He apprenticed his two sons Alexander (1857-1944) and Herbert (1861-1937), who perfected the art of photographing wrecks, creating perhaps some of the most remarkable and evocative images of misadventure at sea. Among the items included in the collection is the ledger the Gibson brothers kept when taking the photographs, which contains records of the telegraph messages sent from Scilly and is full of human stories of disaster, courage and survival. Having secured the archive RMG will initially conserve, research and digitize the collection, leading to a number of exhibitions to tour regional museums and galleries, especially those in the South West of England.

Lord Sterling of Plaistow, Chairman of the Royal Museums Greenwich, said: “The acquisition of this remarkable archive will enable us to create a series of exhibitions that will travel across the country, starting with the South West. I am very pleased that the National Maritime Museum has been able to secure this wonderful collection for the nation, and I know that the Gibson family are delighted that their family archive will remain and be displayed in this country.”

Items acquired today at auction:

  • 585 Glass plate negatives (214: 12 x 10in: 8 x 6in) housed in 16 original wooden boxes and one cardboard box
  • 407 Glass plate copy negatives (6½ x 4¾ in) in 4 cardboard boxes
  • 179 Glass plate negatives (4¼ x 3¼in)
  • 198 film negatives (5 x 4in) in three boxes
  • 335 cut film negatives (various sizes) and 39 (35mm) film negatives
  • 97 original photographs of shipwrecks (silver prints, 12 x 10in)
  • Manuscript ledger by Alexander and Herbert Gibson on the shipwrecks of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • A collection of books by John Fowles, John Arlott, John Le Carré, and Rex Cowan on the Gibsons of Scilly, together with newspaper and magazine articles

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Text from the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) website

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Founder John Gibson bought his first camera 150 years ago

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Founder John Gibson bought his first camera 150 years ago

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Alexander Gibson was invited by his father John into the business in 1865

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Alexander Gibson was invited by his father John into the business in 1865

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Herbert Gibson was taken on by his father as an apprentice and went on to run the business

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Apprentice: Herbert Gibson was taken on by his father as an apprentice and went on to run the business

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James Gibson took over the business after the death of his father Herbert

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James Gibson took over the business after the death of his father Herbert

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Frank Gibson spent time learning about new technology and techniques to help advance the family business

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Frank Gibson spent time learning about new technology and techniques to help advance the family business

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“The Gibson family originated from the Isle of Scilly and have 300 years of family history. John Gibson acquired his first camera whilst abroad around 150 years ago when photography was still mainly reserved for the wealthiest members of society. He had to go to sea from a young age to supplement the income from a small shop on St Mary’s run by his widowed mother. Making ends meet on St Mary’s was a constant struggle and he learned to use the camera and set up a photography studio in Penzance.

Around 1866 he returned to St Mary’s with his family and he was assisted in his photography by his sons Alexander and Herbert in the studio shed in the back garden of their home. Both Herbert and Alexander learned the art of photography at their father’s knee and Alexander was to become one of the most remarkable characters in Scilly. He had a passion for archaeology, architecture and folk history. He took endless pictures of ruins, prehistoric remains, and artifacts not just in Scilly but all over Cornwall.

Herbert by contrast was a quiet man, a competent photographer and a sound businessman. There can be no doubt that without his steadying influence, the business aspect of their photography might not have survived Alexander’s more flamboyant approach. Frank spent some time working for photographers in Cornwall learning about new technology. But Frank returned to Scilly in 1957 and worked in partnership with his father for two years.

After this time it was apparent that they could not work together and James retired to Cornwall and sold the business to Frank. Under Frank’s stewardship the business expanded. He produced postcards and sold souvenirs to supplement the photography, and opened another shop. Scilly is always in the news and there is always demand for pictures by the press.

James Gibson was, in fact, the most qualified of all the photographers. He was an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and won various medals and awards through his lifetime. He was an adventurous photojournalist as well as a jobbing photographer. Today, the family runs a souvenir shop which sells books and postcards and they are currently digitising 150 years of photographs.”

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“The family’s famous shipwreck photography began in 1869, on the historic occasion of the arrival of the first Telegraph on the Isles of Scilly. At a time when it could take a week for word to reach the mainland from the islands, the Telegraph transformed the pace at which news could travel. At the forefront of early photojournalism, John became the islands’ local news correspondent, and Alexander the telegraphist – and it is little surprise that the shipwrecks were often major news.

On the occasion of the wreck of the 3500-ton German steamer, Schiller in 1876 when over 300 people died, the two worked together for days – John preparing newspaper reports, and Alexander transmitting them across the world, until he collapsed with exhaustion. Although they often worked in the harshest conditions, travelling with hand carts to reach the shipwrecks – scrambling over treacherous coastline with a portable dark room, carrying glass plates and heavy equipment – they produced some of the most arresting and emotive photographic works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

Text from Wills Robinson. “Gibson family’s photos chart a century of Cornish shipwrecks,” on the Mail Online website 21/10/2013

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James Gibson at work

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James Gibson at work

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS City of Cardiff' 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS City of Cardiff
1912

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21 March – City of Cardiff (United Kingdom) wrecked at Nanjizal, two miles south of Land’s End. The Sennen Life-Saving Apparatus Team took the crew off by breeches buoy. Citation: Corin, J.; Farr, G. (1983). Penlee Lifeboat. Penzance: Penlee & Penzance Branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. p. 120.

The steamer City of Cardiff pictured trapped on rocks with steam still coming out of the chimney, it was washed ashore by a strong gale in March 1912 at Nanjizel. The Captain, his wife and son, and the crew were all rescued but the vessel was left a total wreck. British ship built 1906, the City of Cardiff was en route from Le Havre, France, to Wales in 1912 when it was wrecked in Mill Bay near Land’s End. All of the crew were rescued.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS City of Cardiff' 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS City of Cardiff
1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS City of Cardiff' (detail) 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS City of Cardiff
1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS City of Cardiff' (detail) 1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS City of Cardiff (detail)
1912

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'Brinkburn' 1898

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The Gibsons of Scilly
Brinkburn
1898

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“The steamer Brinkburn, belonging to Messrs. Harris and Dixon, of London, from Galverton for Havre, with cotton, ran ashore on the Maiden Bower, Isles of Scilly, on Thursday at midnight during dense fog.  The crew of 30 took to their lifeboats and landed in safety. The Brinkburn is a total wreck.” 15/12/1898

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SS Schiller' 1875

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SS Schiller
1875

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SS Schiller was a 3,421 ton German ocean liner, one of the largest vessels of her time. Launched in 1873 she plied her trade across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying passengers between New York and Hamburg for the German Transatlantic Steam Navigation Line. She became notorious on 7 May 1875, when while operating on her normal route she hit the Retarrier Ledges in the Isles of Scilly, causing her to sink with the loss of most of her crew and passengers, totalling 335 fatalities.

Captain Thomas needed to slow due to poor visibility in thick sea fog as she entered the English Channel, and was able to calculate that his ship was in the region of the Isles of Scilly, and thus within range of the Bishop Rock lighthouse which would provide him with information about his position. To facilitate finding the islands and the reefs which surround them, volunteers from the passengers were brought on deck to try to find the light. These lookouts unfortunately failed to see the light, which they were expecting on the starboard quarter, when in fact it was well to port (nautical). This meant that the Schiller was sailing straight between the islands on the inside of the lighthouse, leaving the ship heading towards the Retarrier Ledges.

The Schiller grounded on the reef at 10pm, sustained significant damage, but not enough in itself to sink the large ship. The captain attempted to reverse off the rocks, pulling the ship free but exposing it to the heavy seas which were brewing, which flung the liner onto the rocks by its broadside three times, stoving in the hull and making the ship list dangerously as the lights died and pandemonium broke out on deck as passengers fought to get into the lifeboats.

It was at these boats that the real disaster began, as several were not seaworthy due to poor maintenance and others were destroyed, crushed by the ship’s funnels which fell amongst the panicked passengers. The captain attempted to restore order with his pistol and sword, but as he did so, the only two serviceable lifeboats were launched, carrying 27 people, far less than their full capacity. These boats eventually made it to shore, carrying 26 men and one woman.

On board the ship the situation only became worse, as breakers washed completely over the wreck. All the women and children on board, over 50 people, were hurried into the deck house to escape the worst of the storm. It was there that the greatest tragedy happened, when before the eyes of the horrified crew and male passengers, a huge wave ripped off the deck house roof and swept the occupants into the sea, killing all inside. The wreck continued to be pounded all night, and gradually those remaining on board were swept away or died from exposure to cold seas, wind and resulting hypothermia, until the morning light brought rescue for a handful of survivors.

The recognized manner of signaling disaster at sea was by the firing of minute guns, carried on all ships for signalling purposes. Unfortunately, it had become the custom in the islands to fire a minute gun as your ship passed safely through the area, and so the firing of the Schiller’s guns failed to produce hoped for rescue. Such an operation at night and in the dark would have been near impossible anyway with such high seas, and thus it was not until the first light that rescue craft began arriving.
St Agnes pilot gig, the O and M, was summoned to investigate multiple cannon shots. Her crew discovered the mast of the sinking Schiller. The O and M rowed to pick up five survivors before returning to St Agnes for assistance. Steamers and ferries from as far away as Newlyn, Cornwall, assisted the rescue operation.

Of her original 254 passengers and 118 crew, there were 37 survivors. The death toll, 335, made the disaster one of the worst in British history. (Wikipedia)

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“An exceptional collection of shipwreck photographs taken by four generations of the Gibson family was bought at a Sotheby’s auction yesterday by the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) for £122,500 ($195,645) including buyer’s premium. The archive contains more than 1,100 glass plate negatives, more than 500 film negatives and 97 original print photographs of shipwrecks off the coasts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. They make the perfect complement to the RMG’s pre-existing collection of historic maritime photography.

For 125 years, starting with patriarch John Gibson, a seaman who became a professional photographer in 1860, the Gibson family braved shoals, waves and sand to capture haunting scenes of shredded ships, dramatic rescues, cargo salvage and burials of people who fell victim to the treacherous coastal waters of southwest England. John’s sons Herbert and Alexander joined the business in 1865 and their talents would come to define the Gibson archive and its exceptional high quality. The first wreck they photographed was in 1869 when the telegraph had just arrived on the Isles of Scilly.

These were not simple point and shoot operations. It was dangerous, highly physical labour. On the occasion of the wreck of the 3500-ton German steamer, Schiller, in 1876 when over 300 people died, the two brothers worked together for days – [Herbert] preparing newspaper reports, and Alexander transmitting them across the world, until he collapsed with exhaustion. Although they were working in difficult conditions, travelling with a cart or boat to reach the shipwrecks – and scrambling over rocky crags and sand dunes with a portable dark room, carrying fragile glass plates and heavy equipment – they produced some of the most arresting and emotive photographic images of shipwrecks produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

They were pioneers. This was at a time when most photography was still firmly wedded to the studio portrait. The equipment was so bulky and fragile that climbing over crags hauling not just the camera and plates but a freaking dark room would be inconceivable to most people. That the Gibsons pulled it off is amazing in and of itself; that they also created images of such beauty and emotional resonance makes the archive little short of miraculous.

The Gibson family business is still going strong on the Isles of Scilly, although they’ve added souvenir and wholesale postcard sales to the professional photography. Sandra Gibson, John’s great-great granddaughter, runs it now with her husband Pete. The family decided it was time to sell the archive rather than let it continue to languish in boxes.”

Author John Le Carré, who used some Gibson photographs in his books, visited the business, then run by Frank, Sandra’s father, in 1997. I love his description of the archive:

“We are standing in an Aladdin’s cave where the Gibson treasure is stored, and Frank is its keeper. It is half shed, half amateur laboratory, a litter of cluttered shelves, ancient equipment, boxes, printer’s blocks and books. Many hundreds of plates and thousands of photographs are still waiting an inventory. Most have never seen the light of day. Any agent, publisher or accountant would go into free fall at the very sight of them.”

Now that National Maritime Museum has the pictures, we can all go into free fall at the very sight of them, and the family can be sure it will be archived properly and shared with the world. The museum plans to use the archive to study the dangers of the seafaring life and to display this invaluable record as widely as possible.”

Press release from the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG)

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'River Lune' 1879

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The Gibsons of Scilly
River Lune
1879

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River Lune struck in fog and at night just south of Annet (Scillies), July 27th, 1879 – the same day as the Maipu. The master later blamed a faulty
 chronometer, since he had believed himself fifteen miles to the west.
 The ship heeled and sunk aft in the first ten minutes. The crew took 
to their boats, but returned in daylight to collect their belongings. 
This barque was only eleven years old. She broke up soon afterwards.

John Fowles. Shipwreck. 1975

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Punta' 1955

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Punta
1955

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SV Seine' 1900

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SV Seine
1900

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SV Seine' (detail) 1900

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SV Seine (detail)
1900

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The French ship, the barque SV Seine (built in 1899) was on her way to Falmouth with a cargo of nitrate when she ran into a gale off Scilly on Decermber 28, 1900. She ran ashore in Perran Bay, Perranporth, Cornwall, but thankfully all crew members were rescued with Captain Guimper reported as the last man to leave the ship before she was broken up in the next flood tide.

Ran ashore in Perran Bay (Perranporth), December 28th, 1900. This beautiful ship was a French ‘bounty clipper’ – so called because a government subsidy to French ship-owners allowed them to build for elegance rather than more mundane qualities. The crew got off in heavy seas. By dawn the next day she was dismasted and on her beam-ends, and broke up on the next flood-tide. Two weeks later the hulk of this celebrated barque was bought for only £42.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SV Albert Wilhelm' 1886

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SV Albert Wilhelm
1886

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SV Albert Wilhelm 1886, a German brig was lost 16 October 1886 Lelant.
The Albert Wilhelm, Lelant, 1886, a 202 ton German Brig travelling from the Isle of Man to Fowey.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'MV Cita' 1997

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The Gibsons of Scilly
MV Cita
1997

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The German owned 300ft merchant vessel the Cita, sunk after it pierced its hull and ran aground in gale-force winds en route from Southampton to Belfast in March 1997. The mainly Polish crew of the stricken vessel were rescued a few hours after the incident by the RNLI and the wreck remained on the rock ledge for several days before slipping off into deeper water.

On 26 March 1997, the 300-ft merchant vessel MV Cita pierced its hull when running aground on rocks off the south coast of the Isles of Scilly in gale-force winds en route from Southampton to Belfast. The incident happened just after 3 am when the German-owned, Antiguan-registered 3,000 tonne vessel hit Newfoundland Point, St Mary’s. The mainly Polish crew of the stricken vessel were rescued a few hours after the incident by St Mary’s Lifeboat, RNLB Robert Edgar with the support of a H-3 Sea King rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose. They sailed to the UK mainland on board the Scillonian III later that afternoon. Many containers were washed up on the rocks and beaches of the Isles of Scilly, and many were found in the Celtic Sea, travelling as far as Cornwall. (Wikipedia)

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'The Glenbervie' 1902

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Glenbervie
1902

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The Glenbervie, which was carrying a consignment of pianos and high quality spirits crashed into rocks Lowland Point near Coverack, Cornwall, in January 1902 after losing her way in bad weather. The British owned barque was laden with 600 barrels of whisky, 400 barrels of brandy and barrels of rum. All 16 crewmen were saved by lifeboat.

The Glenbervie, The Lizard, 1902, travelling from the Thames to West Africa spirits and pianos. Struck on the Manacles and went aground near Lowland Point, December 1901. The crew were saved in heavy seas by the Coverack lifeboat. The old wreckers must have groaned in their uneasy graves when they heard that this cargo was officially salvaged, since it contained over a thousand cases and barrels of spirits. There was also a valuable consignment of grand pianos on board, which were all ruined. The Glenbervie was launched in 1866; she was first a tea-clipper, then had many years in the Canada trade. She normally made three trips a year, between the thawing and the freezing of the St Lawrence, on this latter run.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SV Granite State / Slate' 1895

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SV Granite State / Slate
1895

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American three-masted sailing ship built in 1877 ran aground near Porthcurno 4th November 1895

On 3rd November 1895 this American sailing ship arrived in Falmouth with a cargo of wheat from the River Plate. Given orders to discharge in Swansea she sailed on the 4th November and whilst attempting to round Lands End, struck the Lee Ore rock of the Runnel Stone. Taken in tow by the Cardiff tug Elliot and Jeffrey she was beached in the shallows of Porthcurno. She rapidly settled, and when the wheat began to swell and the hatches burst under the pressure, she was abandoned. She broke up soon afterwards in a winter gale.

Struck on the Runnel Stone, three miles south-east of Land’s End, November 4, 1895. This fine Yankee windjammer was making for Swansea from Falmouth. A navigation error by the mate seems to have been the cause of disaster. She was hauled off by a tug, but had to be towed to the nearest sandy bay, Porthcurno. She settled rapidly, and when the cargo of wheat began to swell the crew took to boats. The Granite Slate was soon afterwards destroyed completely by a gale.

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The Gibsons of Scilly. 'SV Granite State / Slate' (detail) 1895

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The Gibsons of Scilly
SV Granite State / Slate (detail)
1895

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The-Hansy-1911-WEB

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The Gibsons of Scilly
The Hansy
1911

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Wreck of the Norwegian full-rigger Hansy, Housel Bay, The Lizard, Cornwall, November 1911.

3 November – 1497 ton sailing ship Hansy (Norway) of Fredrikstad was wrecked at Housel Bay on the eastern side of the Lizard. Three men were saved by the Lizard lifeboat (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and the rest along with the Captain’s family were taken off by rocket apparatus. She was bound for Sydney with building material and her cargo of steel and timber was washed up for weeks afterwards and used in many of the local cottages. One in Church Cove now bears her name. (Wikipedia)

“Wrecked in Housel Bay near the Lizard Point, November 13th, 1911. 
Sailing from Sweden to Melbourne with timber and pig-iron, she missed stays 
while trying to come about in a gale. The crew were brought ashore by 
breeches-buoy. Two days later a salvage party boarded – to find a pair of
goats lying happily in a seaman’s bunk. Local fishermen did a thriving trade 
in timber for weeks afterwards; and the iron pigs are fished up for ballast 
to this day. The Scottish-built Hansy (formerly Aberfoyle) had had an 
unhappy history. In 1890 the bulk of the crew jumped ship in Australia,
 after a bad voyage out – only to be returned on board following a fortnight 
in jail. Jail must have been more agreeable, for eight men jumped ship again 
at the next port of call. In 1896 a steamer found the Aberfoyle drifting helplessly
 off Tasmania. The captain had been swept overboard, the first mate had
 committed suicide by leaping into the sea and the rest had given up hope.
 Similar stories of low morale – and often of insane bitterness between
 officers and crew – are manifold.”

John Fowles. Shipwreck. 1975

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Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG)

The National Maritime MuseumQueen’s HouseRoyal Observatory and Cutty Sark are normally open 10.00-17.00 seven days a week.

Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) website

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22
Mar
14

Exhibition: ‘Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs Of Ansel Adams’ at the Jundt Art Gallery, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

Exhibition dates: 4th January – 29th March 2014

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Just a small celebration = this is the 900th posting on Art Blart since it started…

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I sifted through all the photographs of the “war relocation center” (euphemism for concentration camp) named Manzanar that Ansel Adams took – over 220 photographs on the Library of Congress website – to bring you these, the best of the bunch. Adams wasn’t a particularly good documentary photographer and it was a struggle to come up with these images, but sprinkled in with the prosaic are some absolutely stunning landscape and still life images.

What is noteworthy however, is Adams moral stance towards the unlawful incarceration of Japanese Americans, something that went against everything American citizenship is supposed to stand for. In 1944 he published a book called Born Free and Equal which protests the treatment of these American citizens. Through photography and text he showed how they suffered under a great injustice – by portraying “Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens.”

As curator Robert Flynn Johnson notes, “Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book… In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…”

Can you imagine what courage it must have taken to publish a book in the middle of the Second World War – with all that was going on with America and the war in the Pacific against Japan – titled Born Free and Equal, a book that lays bare the hypocrisy of democracy as only contingent on those in power. This man and his supporters have my utmost admiration. In Australia it’s a pity – no, it’s shameful – that those elected people on both sides of major politics do not possess similar fortitude. The guts to stand up for justice and freedom against the evils of incarceration and oppression when they see it staring them in the face.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

PS. What is also interesting is how Adams laid out this work for exhibition in the camp itself. The size of the prints, how they are displayed both vertically and horizontally, and how they move up and down and are not hung ‘on the line’ – plus the artefacts they are also displayed with. Fascinating stuff.

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These photographs were sourced from the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog of the Library of Congress. The online archive contains all of Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center to download in high resolution, with no known restrictions on publication. Please note: publication of these images in the posting does NOT mean that these images are in the exhibition.

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Foreword to Born Free and Equal

“Moved by the human story unfolding in the encirclement of desert and mountains, and by the wish to identify my photography in some creative way with the tragic momentum of the times, I came to Manzanar with my cameras in the fall of 1943. For many years, I have photographed the Sierra Nevada, striving to reveal by the clear statement of the lens those qualities of the natural scene which claim the emotional and spiritual response of the people. In these years of strain and sorrow, the grandeur, beauty, and quietness of the mountains are more important to us than ever before. I have tried to record the influence of the tremendous landscape of Inyo on the life and spirit of thousands of people living by force of circumstance in the Relocation Center of Manzanar. …

I believe that the acrid splendor of the desert, ringed with towering mountains, has strengthened the spirit of the people of Manzanar. I do not say all are conscious of this influence, but I am sure most have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment. From the harsh soil they have extracted fine crops; they have made gardens glow in the firebreaks and between the barracks. Out of the jostling, dusty confusion of the first bleak days in raw barracks they have modulated to a democratic internal society and a praiseworthy personal adjustment to conditions beyond their control. The huge vistas and the stern realities of sun and wind and space symbolize the immensity and opportunity of America – perhaps a vital reassurance following the experience of enforced exodus. …

I trust the content and message of this book will suggest that the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come.”

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Ansel Adams, Foreword to Born Free and Equal, 1944

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Library of Congress text

Well-known fine art and landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, took on several war-related assignments. When offering the Manzanar photos to the Library in 1965, Adams wrote in an accompanying letter, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice … had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”

Summary: Photographs document the lives of Japanese Americans interned during World War II at the Manzanar Relocation Center, in Inyo County, California. There are numerous close-up and occupational portraits of individuals, including Roy Takeno, editor of the Manzanar Free Press, and photographer Tōyō Miyatake. Group portraits include families, women and children. Other photographs show people posed in their living quarters and engaged in indoor daily life such as shopping, religious services, health care, and education; more informal views portray outdoor agricultural scenes and sports and leisure activities. Landscape views feature the background mountains and desert as well as camp facilities and buildings.

Text from the Library of Congress website

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“… that all Japanese, whether citizens or not, be placed in inland concentration camps. As justification for this, I submit that if an American born Japanese, who is a citizen, is really patriotic and wishes to make his contribution to the safety and welfare of this country, right here is his opportunity to do so, namely, by permitting himself to be placed in a concentration camp, he would be making his sacrifice. … Millions of other native-born citizens are willing to lay down their lives, which is a far greater sacrifice, of course, than being placed in a concentration camp.”

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Secretary of War Henry Stinson, January 16, 1942

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“The Jundt Art Museum will display Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams in the Jundt Galleries Jan. 4 through March 29. The exhibition features 50 of the renowned photographer’s images of the Japanese-American relocation camp in Manzanar, Calif. during World War II. The photographs are included in the controversial book Born Free and Equal, which protests the treatment of these American citizens. The book was published in 1944 while the war was in progress. Also included in the exhibition are various photographs, documents and other works of art that further contextualize the images. Robert Flynn Johnson, curator emeritus for the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, curated the exhibition.

Born in San Francisco, Adams was a visionary in nature photography and wilderness preservation. He has become an environmental folk hero for his work in conservation as well as a symbol of the American West, particularly for his photographs of Yosemite National Park. Adams’ Manzanar work is a departure from his signature style of landscape photography. Most of the Manzanar photographs are portraits, views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities. The Ansel Adams photographs taken between 1943-1944 are prints made from the original negatives in the Library of Congress. They were previously exhibited in the exhibition, Born Free and Equal: An Exhibition of Ansel Adams Photographs, organized by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, History and Science in 1984.

Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in his essay for the exhibition writes, “This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John hersey referred to as ‘a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.’ It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.” Johnson continues, “This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood. It also should serve as a warning as to what can occur when emotion and fear overwhelm clarity and courage.”

Also included in the exhibition is a first edition copy of Adams’s 1944 book, Born Free and Equal; a vintage gelatin silver print by Adams titled A Photograph of Yosemite, c. 1938; three reproductions of Dorothea Lange photographing Japanese-Americans being evacuated; a watercolor painting of a camp by an internee; an original 1942 poster of the Civilian Exclusion Order that announced that Japanese-Americans were to be rounded up for imprisonment; seven original magazine covers and a poster that documents the virulent anti-Japanese attitudes present at the time; a watercolor by Henry Minakata of one of the Relocation Camps; and three original drawings by the famous artist Chiura Obata, who was imprisoned in the Topaz Camp. The exhibition, which will tour museums in the United States over the next few years, was organized by Photographic Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles.”

Press release from the Jundt Art Gallery website

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“The first morning in Manzanar when I woke up and saw what Manzanar looked like, I just cried. And then I saw the high Sierra mountain, just like my native country’s mountain, and I just cried, that’s all.” Haruko Niwa, interned at Manzanar from 1942 until 1945.

Ten war relocation centers were built in remote deserts, plains, and swamps of seven states; Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Manzanar, located in the Owens Valley of California between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Inyo mountains on the east, was typical in many ways of the 10 camps. About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. The remainder were aliens, many of whom had lived in the United States for decades, but who, by law, were denied citizenship.

The first Japanese Americans to arrive at Manzanar, in March 1942, were men and women who volunteered to help build the camp. On June 1 the War Relocation Authority (WRA) took over operation of Manzanar from the U.S. Army. The 500-acre housing section was surrounded by barbed wire and eight guard towers with searchlights and patrolled by military police. Outside the fence, military police housing, a reservoir, a sewage treatment plant, and agricultural fields occupied the remaining 5,500 acres. By September 1942 more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were crowded into 504 barracks organized into 36 blocks. There was little or no privacy in the barracks – and not much outside. The 200 to 400 people living in each block, consisting of 14 barracks each divided into four rooms, shared men’s and women’s toilets and showers, a laundry room, and a mess hall. Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.

Coming from Los Angeles and other communities in California and Washington, Manzanar’s internees were unaccustomed to the harsh desert environment. Summer temperatures soared as high as 110ºF. In winter, temperatures frequently plunged below freezing. Throughout the year strong winds swept through the valley, often blanketing the camp with dust and sand. Internees covered knotholes in the floors with tin can lids, but dust continued to blow in between the floorboards until linoleum was installed in late 1942…

Two thirds of the Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were under the age of 18. 541 babies were born at Manzanar. A total of 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. From a peak of 10,046 in September 1942, the population dwindled to 6,000 by 1944. The last few hundred internees left in November 1945, three months after the war ended. Many of them had spent three-and-a-half years at Manzanar.”

Anon. “Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” on the Manzanar National Historic Site (U. S. National Park Service) website [Online] Cited 08/03/2014

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John Hersey referred to as “a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.”1 It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but it is also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.

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Background

In the aftermath of the Japanese surprise attack on pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States, a wave of fear and paranoia swept the western United States and the Hawaiian Islands. Anxiety over possible invasion by Japanese forces or sabotage by fifth columnist Japanese and Japanese Americans living amongst the general American population overrode common sense in Government circles. Despite the protestations of Attorney General Francis Biddle, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, and even F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the most unfortunate act of an otherwise admirable presidency, allowed public opinion and biased, racist attitudes of elements within the U.S. Army to induce him into issuing on February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066: the forced evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This evacuation was done despite the fact that the F.B.I. had, within three days of pearl Harbor, rounded up and arrested 857 Germans, 147 Italians, and 1,291 Japanese (367 in Hawaii and 924 on the mainland) for subversive activities. The government did not inter Germans, Italians, nor, with few exceptions, Japanese residing in Hawaii. Instead they rounded up Japanese and Japanese Americans residing in the western United States. In the end, these individuals were interred in ten camps spread over underpopulated areas of the West and in Arkansas in the Midwest…

The act of rounding up civilians and imprisoning them in camps had occurred in earlier centuries. The term “concentration camp” was first used to describe the actions of the British against the Boers during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), but today it is indistinguishable from the horrors of the extermination camps perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews, Russians, and other victims of the Reich in World War II. American authorities euphemistically labeled the Japanese internments as “war relocation centers,” but given the harsh conditions Japanese Americans suffered, a more appropriate term might be war relocation “camps.”

Mine Okubo describes the conditions: “The camps represented a prison: no freedom, no privacy, no America. Internment camps were also guarded by U.S. military personnel and had a barbed wire perimeter.”2

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Manzanar

The brilliant social activist photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was hired by the U.S. government in the spring of 1942 to document this forced relocation. Her assignment included the camp at Manzanar, located in the remote Owens Valley in the northern reaches of Death Valley, California. However, when her photographs were submitted, they were viewed with alarm for showing the government in a bad light; the decision was made to impound (censor) her images until the end of the war.

It was only in 1943 that Ralph Merritt, the enlightened second director at Manzanar, invited his old friend Ansel Adams to come and photograph there. By that time, the internees had settled into their lives there coping as best they could. In 1942 a confrontation with camp guards had led to shots being fired, resulting in the deaths of two internees and the wounding of nine. There were no further incidents. Some historians have criticized Adams’s photographs, comparing them to the more politicized imagery of Lange. Linda Gordon wrote,

“Ansel Adams photographed at Manzanar a year after Lange did, producing work that, by contrast, reveals much about Lange’s perspective. He tried to walk a cramped line, opposing anti-Asian racism, but avoiding identification with the opposition to the internment. Adams’s pictures, primarily portraits – surprisingly for a landscape photographer – emphasized the internees’ stoic, polite, even cheerful making the best of it. His subjects were almost exclusively happy, smiling. His goal was to establish the internees as unthreatening, Americanized, open - scrutable rather than inscrutable. By making mainly individual portraits, he masked collective racial discrimination. The resultant hiding of the internment’s violation of human rights was not an unintended consequence of this goal, but an expression of Adams’s patriotism.”3

There is no question that Lange was the stronger documentary photographer. However, Adams was working out of his comfort zone as a landscape photographer and his point was not to use his images to indict the authorities. Instead, he wished to portray the Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens. Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book, Born Free and Equal, published the following year, 1944.

In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…

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Conclusion

This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood and should serve as a warning against allowing emotion, prejudice and fear to overwhelm clarity and courage. Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, in his 1944 foreword to Born Free and Equal sums up the essence of this human drama,

“It has long been my belief that the greatness of America has arisen in large part out of the diversity of her peoples. Before the war, peoples of Japanese ancestry were a small but valuable element in our population. Their record of law-abiding, industrious citizenship was surpassed by no other group. Their contributions to the arts, agriculture, and science were indisputable evidence that the majority of them believed in America and were growing with America.

Then war came with the nation of their parental origin. The ensuing two and a half years have brought heartaches to many in our population. Among the causalities of war has been America’s Japanese minority. It is my hope that the wounds which it has received in the great uprooting will heal. It is my prayer that other Americans will fully realize that to condone the whittling away of the rights of any one minority group is to pave the way for us all to lose the guarantees of the Constitution.”4

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Robert Flynn Johnson
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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1. John Hersey, “A Mistake of Terrifically Horrible proportions,” in Manzanar, by John Armor and peter Wright (New York Times Books, 1988)
2. Sara Ann McGill, “Internment of Japanese Americans,” http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/ (accessed May 3, 2010)
3. Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro, ed., Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2006), 34
4. Ansel Adams, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans (New York: U.S. Camera, 1944), 7

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top - Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top – Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Roy Takeno's desk, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Roy Takeno’s desk, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Jundt Art Gallery
502 East Boone Avenue
Spokane, WA 99258-0001
This is the main address for Gonzaga University

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm

Jundt Art Gallery website

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16
Mar
14

Review: ‘Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 30th March 2014

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Installation photograph of 'Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation photograph of 'Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck' at the Monash Gallery of Art

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Installation photographs of Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck at the Monash Gallery of Art

1/ stygian gloom
2/large grouping of 14 works by Wesley Stacey

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UNKNOWN_WEB

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Unknown
Untitled
c. 1900
Cyanotype print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2012

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vapid [vap-id]
adjective
lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor

Origin:
1650-60;  Latin vapidus;  akin to va·por [vey-per]
noun
a visible exhalation, as fog, mist, steam, smoke diffused through or suspended in the air; particles of drugs that can be inhaled as a therapeutic agent.

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This is an unexceptional exhibition, one that lacks jouissance in the sense of a transgressive kind of enjoyment, an investigation of the subject that gives pleasure in taking you to unexpected places. At times I felt like a somnambulist walking around this exhibition of photographs from the Monash Gallery of Art collection curated by Bill Henson, pitched into stygian darkness and listening to somewhat monotonous music. It was a not too invidious an exercise but it left me with a VAPID feeling, as though I had inhaled some soporific drug: the motion of the journey apparently not confined by a story, but in reality that story is Henson’s mainly black and white self-portrait. The photographs on the wall, while solid enough, seemed to lack sparkle. There were a couple of knockout prints (such as David Moore’s Himalaya at dusk, Sydney, 1950 below, the Untitled Cyanotype, c. 1900, above and Mark Hinderaker’s delicate portrait of Fiona Hall, 1984, below) and some real bombs (the large Norman Lindsay photographs, modern reproductions printed many times their original size were particularly nauseous) and one has to ask, were the images chosen for how they were balanced on the wall or were they chosen for content?

Henson states that there was no concept or agenda when picking the 88 photographs for this exhibition, simply his INTENSITY of feeling and intuition, his intuitive response to the images when he first saw them – to allow “their aesthetics to determine their presence… our whole bodies to experience these photographs – objects as pictures as photographs.”1 Henson responded as much as possible to the thing which then becomes an iconography (which appeals to his eye) as he asks himself, why is one brush stroke compelling, and not another? The viewer can then go on a journey in which MEANING comes from FEELING, and SENSATIONS are the primary stuff of life.

One of Henson’s preoccupations, “is an interest in the photograph as an object, in the physical presence of the print or whatever kind of technology is being used to make it.”2 He would like us to acknowledge the presence and aura (Walter Benjamin) of the photograph as we stand in front of it, responding with our whole bodies to the experience, not just our eyes. He wants us to have an intensity of feeling towards these works, responding to their presence and how he has hung the works in the exhibition. “There are no themes but rather images that appeal to the eye and, indeed, the whole body. Because photographs are first and foremost objects, their size, shape grouping and texture are as important as the images they’re recording.”3

Henson insists that there was no preconceived conceptual framework for picking these particular photographs but this is being disingenuous. Henson was invited to select images from the MGA collection with the specific idea of holding an exhibition, so this is the conceptual jumping off point; he then selected the images intuitively only to then group and arrange then intuitively/conceptually – by thinking long and hard about how these images would be grouped and hung on the wall of the gallery. I would like to believe that Henson was thinking about MUSIC when he hung this exhibition, not photography. Listen to Henson talk about the pairing of Leonie Reisberg’s Portrait of Peggy Silinski, Tasmania (c. 1976, below) and Beverley Veasey’s Study of a Calf, Bos taurus (2006, below) in this video, and you will get the idea about how he perceives these photographs relate to each other, how they transcend time and space.

This is one of the key elements of the exhibition: how Henson pushes and pulls at time and space itself through the placing of images of different eras together. The other two key elements are how the music rises and falls through the shape of the photographs themselves; and how the figures within the images are pulled towards or pushed away from you. With regard to the rise and fall, Henson manipulates the viewer through the embodiedness of both horizontal and vertical photographs, reminding me of a Japanese artist using a calligraphy brush (see the second installation image above, where the photographs move from the vertical to the square and then onto panoramic landscape). In relation to the content of the images, there seems to be a preoccupation (a story, a theme?) running through the exhibition with the body being consumed by the landscape or the body being isolated from the landscape but with the threat of being consumed by it. Evidence of this can be seen in Wesley Stacey’s Willie near Mallacoota (1979, below) where the body almost melts into the landscape and David Moore’s Newcastle steelworks (1963, below) where the kids on the bicycles are trying to escape the encroaching doom that hovers behind them.

One of the key images in the exhibition for me also reinforces this theme – a tiny Untitled Cyanotype (c. 1900, above) in which two Victorian children are perched on a bank near a stream with the bush beyond – but there are too many of this ilk to mention here: either the figures are pulled towards the front of the frame or pushed back into the encroaching danger, as though Henson is interrogating, evidencing un/occupied space. Overall, there is an element of control and lyrical balance in how he has grouped and hung these works together, the dark hue of the gallery walls allowing the photographs to exist as objects for themselves. Henson puts things next to each other in sequences and series to, allegedly, promote UNEXPECTED conversations and connections through a series of GESTURES.

As Henson notes,

“Maybe it’s the fact that the photographs have the ability to suggest some other thing and that’s what draws you in – that’s that feeling, the thing that slips away from thought. These are really the same things that apply to our meetings with any work of art, whether it’s a piece of music or a sculpture or anything else. There’s something compelling, there’s something there that sort of animates your speculative capacity, causes you to wonder. Other times, or most of the time, that’s not the case. Certainly most of the time that’s not the case with photography.”4

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For me, there was little WONDER in this exhibition, something that you would go ‘oh, wow’ at, some way of looking at the world that is interesting and insightful and fractures the plaisir of cultural enjoyment and identity. While the photographs may have been chosen intuitively and then hung intuitively/conceptually, I simply got very little FEELING, no ICE/FIRE  (as Minor White would say) – no frisson between his pairings, groupings and arrangements. It was all so predictable, so ho-hum. Everything I expected Henson to do… he did!

There were few unexpected gestures, no startling insight into the human and photographic condition. If as he says, “Everything comes to you through your whole body, not just through your eyes and ears,”5 and that photographs are first and foremost objects, their size, shape, grouping and texture as important as the images they’re recording THEN I wanted to be moved, I wanted to feel, to be immersed in a sensate world not a visible exhalation (of thought?), a vapor that this exhibition is. Henson might have painted an open-ended self-portrait but this does not make for a very engaging experience for the viewer. In this case, the sharing of a story has not meant the sharing of an emotion.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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1. 
Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014.
2. Ibid.,
3. Fiona Gruber. “Review of Wildcards, Bill Henson Shuffles the Deck” on the Guardian website, Wednesday 12 February 2014 [Online] Cited 16/03/2014
4. Fehily op. cit.,
5. Fehily op. cit.,

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

WARNING

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should be aware that the following posting may contain images of deceased persons.

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John Eaton. 'Sheep in clearing' c. 1920s

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John Eaton (born United Kingdom 1881; arrived Australia 1889; died 1967)
Sheep in clearing
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
15.6 x 23.8 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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Fred Kruger. 'Queen Mary and King Billy outside their mia mia' c. 1880

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Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831; arrived Australia 1860; died 1888)
Queen Mary and King Billy outside their mia mia
c. 1880
Albumen print
13.4 x 20.8 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2012

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David Moore. 'Himalaya at dusk, Sydney' 1950

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David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Himalaya at dusk, Sydney
1950
Gelatin silver print, printed 2005
24.5 x 34.25 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection donated by the Estate of David Moore 2006
Courtesy of the Estate of David Moore (Sydney)

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Stacey-willie-near-mallacoota

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Wesley Stacey (born Australia 1941)
Willie near Mallacoota
1979
From the series Koorie set
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Christine Godden 2011

Published under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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David MOORE Newcastle steelworks

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David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Newcastle steelworks
1963
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 1981

Published under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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“One of those preoccupations is an interest in the photograph as an object, in the physical presence of the print or whatever kind of technology is being used to make it. Part of the reason for that is that photography, more than any other medium, suffers from a mistake or misunderstanding people have when they’ve seen a reproduction in a magazine or online: they think they’re seeing the original. A certain amount of photography is made with its ultimate intention being to be seen in a magazine or online, but most photography, historically, ended up in its final form as a print – a cyanotype, or a tin type or a daguerreotype or whatever it might be.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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REISBERG-WEB

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Leonie Reisberg (born Australia 1955)
Portrait of Peggy Silinski, Tasmania
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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VEASEY_calf_WEB

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Beverley Veasey (born Australia 1968)
Study of a Calf, Bos taurus
2006
Chromogenic print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2006

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“I think when you look through any collection, you’re often struck by the kind of pointlessness and banality of photography. It doesn’t matter which museum in the world you look at. It’s like, “is there any need for this thing to exist at all?”. It probably comes back to the capacity of the object, the image to suggest things, the suggestive potential rather than the prescriptive, which is a given in photography of course, the evidential authority of the medium preceding any individual reading we have of particular pictures. Maybe it’s the fact that the photographs have the ability to suggest some other thing and that’s what draws you in – that’s that feeling, the thing that slips away from thought. These are really the same things that apply to our meetings with any work of art, whether it’s a piece of music or a sculpture or anything else. There’s something compelling, there’s something there that sort of animates your speculative capacity, causes you to wonder. Other times, or most of the time, that’s not the case. Certainly most of the time that’s not the case with photography.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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POIGNANT-WEB

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Axel Poigant (born United Kingdom 1906; arrived Australia 1926; died 1986)
Jack and his family on the Canning Stock Route
1942
Gelatin silver print, printed 1986
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 1991

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JOHNSON_light-performance_WEB

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Tim Johson (born Australia 1947)
Light performances
1971-72
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2011

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FAHD_alicia_WEB

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Cherine Fahd (born Australia 1974)
Alicia
2003
From the series A woman runs
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2011

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STACEY_friends-WEB

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Wesley Stacey (born Australia 1941)
Untitled
1973
From the series Friends
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Bill Bowness 2013

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“That was one of the things that interested me and continues to interest me about photography: how these things inhabit the world as objects. And indeed we read them not just with our eyes but with how our whole bodies read and encounter and negotiate these objects, which happen to be photographs. And that’s very much a thing that interests me in the way that I work. I feel sometimes that I only happen to make photographs myself and that it’s a means to an end… So there’s a sense in which I’m interested in these objects that happen to be photographs and the way that they inhabit the same space that our bodies inhabit. Everything comes to you through your whole body, not just through your eyes and ears – it’s a vast amount of information. Watching something get bigger as you draw closer to it, not just matters of proximity, but texture or the way objects sit in a space when they’re lit a certain way – all of this is very interesting to me, always has been.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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HINDERAKER_Fiona-Hall_WEB

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Mark Hinderaker (born United States of America 1946; arrived Australia 1970; died 2004)
Fiona Hall
1984
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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LLINDSAY_Norman-and-Rose-WEB

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Lionel Lindsay (Australia 1874–1961)
Norman Lindsay and Rose Soady, Bond Street studio
c. 1909
Gelatin silver print, printed 2000
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Katherine Littlewood 2000

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STRIZIC_BHP_WEB

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Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
BHP steel mill, Port Kembla, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print, printed 1999
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008

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Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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07
Mar
14

Exhibition: ‘Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr’ at Media Space at Science Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 21st September 2013 – 16th March 2014

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“Be more aware of composition

Don’t take boring pictures

Get in closer

Watch camera shake

Don’t shoot too much”

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Tony Ray-Jones from his diaries

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Growing up in the 1960s we used to get taken to Butlins holiday camps (Billy Butlin founded the company, a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom, to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families). It was a great treat to be away from the farm, to be by the sea, even if the beach was made of stones. Looking back on it now you realise how seedy it was, how working class… but as a kid it was oh, so much fun!

Tony Ray-Jones photographed these environments (mainly the British at play by the sea) and their opposites – afternoon tea taken at Glyndebourne opera festival for example (Glyndebourne, 1967, below) - drawing on the tradition of great British social documentary photography by artists such as Bill Brandt. TRJ even pays homage to Brandt in one of his photographs, Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967 (below) which echoes Brandt’s famous photograph Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid Ready to Serve Dinner, 1933 by changing “point of view” from up close, personal, oppressive and interior to distance, isolation, leisure/work and exterior.

Through his photographs Ray-Jones adds his own style and humour, using “a new conception of photography as a means of expression, over and above its accepted role as a recorder.” He does it all as an intimate expression of his own personality, his maverick, outsider, non-conformist self. I feel – and that is the key word with his art – that he had a real empathy with his subject matter. There is a twinkle in his eye that becomes embedded in his photographs. There is an honesty, integrity and respect for the people he is photographing, coupled with a wicked sense of humour and the most amazing photographic eye. What an eye he had!

To be able to sum up a scene in a split second, to previsualise (think), intuitively compose, frame and shoot in that twinkle of an eye, and to balance the images as he does is truly the most incredible gift, the quintessential British “decisive moment”. Look at the structural analysis of Location unknown, possibly Worthing (1967-68, below) that I have presented in a slide show. This will give you a good idea of the visual complexity of Ray-Jones’ images… and yet he makes the sum of all components seem grounded (in this case by the man’s feet) and effortless. Devon Caranicas has observed that TRJ possessed a quick wit and adeptness for reducing a complex narrative into a single frame, the photographed subjects transformed into social actors of supreme stereotypes. The first part is insightful, but social actors of supreme stereotypes? I think not, because these people are not acting, this is their life, their humanity, their time out from the hum-drum of everyday working class life. They do not pose for TRJ, it’s just how they are. Look at the musicality of the first five images in the posting – how the line rises and falls, moves towards you and away from you. Only a great artist can do that, instinctively.

I cannot express to you enough the utmost admiration I have for this man’s art. In my opinion he is one of greatest British photographers that has ever lived (Julia Margaret Cameron, William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Francis Bedford, Frederick H. Evans, Cecil Beaton, Peter Henry Emerson and Herbert Ponting would be but a few others that spring to mind). He photographed British customs and values at a time of change and pictured a real affection for the lives of ordinary working class people. Being one of the them, he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Media Space at Science Museum 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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“Although the entirety of the images from Only in England were shot throughout the politically and socially turbulent late 60′s and early 70′s both artists shy away from depicting the culture clashes that so often visually defined this period. Instead, they each opted to turn their lens onto the quintessential country side, and in doing so, pay homage to a traditional type of English life that was becoming a sort of sub-culture in itself – a way of living that was not yet touched by the encroaching globalisation, or “americanisation,” of the UK.”

September 26th, 2013 by ART WEDNESDAY

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“Ray-Jones printed his black and white pictures small, in a dark register of tonally very dense prints. The National Media Museum has lots of these, and perhaps to devote the cavernous new space only to such small pictures would have been a mistake. Even backed up with a mass of supporting material, including the fascinating pages from Ray-Jones’ diaries, the prints would struggle to fill the space. So only the first section is devoted to about 50 beautiful little Ray-Jones vintage prints. Two whole sections have been added to the exhibition to flesh it out…

[Parr] has unfortunately chosen to print them [Ray-Jones prints] in a way quite alien to anything Ray-Jones ever made: they are printed in Parr’s own way, as larger, paler, more diffuse things in mid-tones that Ray-Jones would never have countenanced. They are printed, inevitably, by digital process…

Sadly, these Ray-Jones by Parr prints add up to an appropriation of the former by the latter: they are Martin Parr pictures taken from Tony-Ray Jones negatives, and it would have been better not to have shown them so. They are fine images, but they should have been seen in some other way: on digital screens, perhaps, or as modern post-cards. Anything to make quite explicit the clear break with Ray-Jones’ own prints. That the images they contain are very fine is not in doubt. But I take leave to question whether they “present a new way of thinking through creative use of the collections”. They are well labelled and for specialists there will be no difficulty in knowing that they are not by Ray-Jones. But for the public I am not so sure. Suddenly two-thirds of the show are in this larger, modern, digitally printed form, either by Parr himself or by Ray-Jones-through-Parr. It looks as if that is the dominant group…”

Extract from Francis Hodgson. “Two Exhibitions of Tony Ray-Jones – Two Ways of Giving Context to Photographs,” on the Photomonitor website, September 2013

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Beachy Head Tripper Boat, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Beachy Head Tripper Boat, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967 
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Brighton Beach, West Sussex, 1966' 1966

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Tony Ray-Jones
Brighton Beach, West Sussex, 1966
1966
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Eastbourne Carnival, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Eastbourne Carnival, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Blackpool, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Blackpool, 1968
1968
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Location unknown, possibly Worthing' 1967-68

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Tony Ray-Jones
Location unknown, possibly Worthing
1967-68
© National Media Museum

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Tony Ray-Jones Location unknown, possibly Worthing (1967-68) picture analysis by Dr Marcus Bunyan

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“Fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life. Humorous yet melancholy, these works had a profound influence on photographer Martin Parr, who has now made a new selection including over 50 previously unseen works from the National Media Museum’s Ray-Jones archive. Shown alongside The Non-Conformists, Parr’s rarely seen work from the 1970s, this selection forms a major new exhibition which demonstrates the close relationships between the work of these two important photographers.

The first ever major London exhibition of work by British Photographer, Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) will open at Media Space on 21 September 2013. The exhibition will feature over 100 works drawn from the Tony Ray-Jones archive at the National Media Museum alongside 50 rarely seen early black and white photographs, The Non-Conformists, by Martin Parr (1952).

Between 1966 and 1969 Tony Ray-Jones created a body of photographic work documenting English customs and identity. Humorous yet melancholy, these photographs were a departure from anything else being produced at the time. They quickly attracted the attention of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London where they were exhibited in 1969. Tragically, in 1972, Ray-Jones died from Leukaemia aged just 30. However, his short but prolific career had a lasting influence on the development of British photography from the 1970s through to the present.

In 1970, Martin Parr, a photography student at Manchester Polytechnic, had been introduced to Ray-Jones. Inspired by him, Parr produced The Non-Conformists, shot in black and white in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding Calder Valley. This project started within two years of Ray-Jones death and demonstrates his legacy and influence.

The exhibition will draw from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, held by the National Media Museum.  Around 50 vintage prints will be on display alongside an equal number of photographs which have never previously been printed. Martin Parr has been invited to select these new works from the 2700 contact sheets and negatives in the archive. Shown alongside these are Parr’s early black and white work, unfamiliar to many, which has only ever previously been exhibited in Hebden Bridge itself and at Camerawork Gallery, London in 1981.

Tony Ray-Jones was born in Somerset in 1941. He studied graphic design at the London School of Printing before leaving the UK in 1961 to study on a scholarship at Yale University in Connecticut, US. He followed this with a year long stay in New York during which he attended classes by the influential art director Alexey Brodovitch, and became friends with photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand. In 1966 he returned to find a Britain still divided by class and tradition. A Day Off – An English Journal, a collection of photographs he took between 1967-1970 was published posthumously in 1974 and in 2004 the National Media Museum held a major exhibition, A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones.

Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surry in 1952. He graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1974 and moved to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, where he established the ‘Albert Street Workshop’, a hub for artistic activity in the town. Fascinated by the variety of non-conformist chapels and the communities he encountered in the town he produced The Non-Conformists. In 1984 Parr began to work in colour and his breakthrough publication The Last Resort was published in 1986. A Magnum photographer, Parr is now an internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker, collector and curator, best-known for his highly saturated colour photographs critiquing modern life.

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr will run at Media Space, Science Museum from 21 September 2013 – 16 March 2014. The exhibition will then be on display at the National Media Museum from 22 March – 29 June 2014. The exhibition is curated by Greg Hobson, curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum, and Martin Parr has been invited to select works from the Tony Ray-Jones archives.

Greg Hobson, curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum says, “The combination of Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones’ work will allow the viewer to trace an important trajectory through the history of British photography, and present new ways of thinking about photographic histories through creative use of our collections.” Martin Parr says, “Tony Ray-Jones’ pictures were about England. They had that contrast, that seedy eccentricity, but they showed it in a very subtle way. They have an ambiguity, a visual anarchy. They showed me what was possible.”

The Tony Ray-Jones archive comprises of approximately 700 photographic prints, 1700 negative sheets, 2700 contact sheets, 600 boxes of Ektachrome/Kodachrome transparencies. It also includes ephemera such as notebooks, diary pages, and a maquette of England by the Sea made by Tony Ray-Jones.

Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum (London) and the National Media Museum (Bradford). Media Space will showcase the National Photography Collection of the National Media Museum through a series of exhibitions. Alongside this, photographers, artists and the creative industries will respond to the wider collections of the Science Museum Group to explore visual media, technology and science.”

Press release from the Science Museum website

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Bacup coconut dancers, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Bacup coconut dancers, 1968
1968
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) 'Bournemouth, 1969' 1969

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972)
Bournemouth, 1969
1969
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
16 x 25 cms (6 x 10 inches)
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967-68' 1967-68

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Tony Ray-Jones
Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967-68
1967-68
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) 'Mablethorpe, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972)
Mablethorpe, 1967
1967
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
14 x 21 cms (6 x 8 inches)
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Ramsgate, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Ramsgate, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Martin Parr. 'Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden' 1975

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Martin Parr
Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden
1975
© Martin Parr/ Magnum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Cruft's Dog Show, London, 1966' 1966

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Tony Ray-Jones
Cruft’s Dog Show, London, 1966
1966
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967' c.1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c. 1967
c. 1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967' c.1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967
c.1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Wormwood Scrubs Fair, London, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Wormwood Scrubs Fair, London, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Untitled' 1960s

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Tony Ray-Jones
Untitled
1960s
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Trooping the Colour, London, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Trooping the Colour, London, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Untitled' 1960s

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Tony Ray-Jones
Untitled
1960s
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Glyndebourne, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Glyndebourne, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Elderly woman eating pie seated in a pier shelter next to a stuffed bear, 1969' 1969

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Tony Ray-Jones
Elderly woman eating pie seated in a pier shelter next to a stuffed bear, 1969
1969
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Blackpool, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Blackpool, 1968
1968
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
21 x 14.5 cms (8.25 x 5.70 ins)

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Martin Parr. 'Tom Greenwood cleaning' 1976

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Martin Parr
Tom Greenwood cleaning
1976
© Martin Parr/ Magnum

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Media Space at Science Museum
Exhibition Road, South Kensington,
London SW7 2DD

Opening hours:
Open seven days a week, 10.00 – 18.00

Media Space at Science Museum website

Only in England Media Space web page

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28
Feb
14

Exhibition: ‘Félix Thiollier (1842-1914), photographs’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 13th November 2013 – 10th March 2014

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“Why is the price of justice so high?”

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Maheude, Germinal

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“Beneath the blazing of the sun, in that morning of new growth, the countryside rang with song, as its belly swelled with a black and avenging army of men, germinating slowly in its furrows, growing upwards in readiness for harvests to come, until one day soon their ripening would burst open the earth itself.”

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Émile Zola. Germinal (1885)

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This is the biggest collection of photographs by the French photographer Félix Thiollier available on the Internet. I spent hours cleaning up the images to a presentable standard (mixing them with appropriate paintings by Corot and Francois-Auguste Ravier), so I hope you enjoy the posting.

While the bucolic photographs of ruins, pastoral landscapes and shepherdess (bucolic - via Latin from Greek boukolikos, from boukolos ‘herdsman’) are relatively straight forward, it is Thiollier’s sensitive portrayal of the “industrial image” – of the mines and factories of Forez – that hold weight here. Thiollier emphasises the theatrical aspects of the landscape (he loved shooting at dusk), finding new subject matter among the photogenic nature of industrial sites “his last images… extolling these new “worthless” locations that included scrapheaps, wasteland and abandoned pitheads, such were the ruins of modern Forez, that met his melancholy and clear-sighted gaze.”

His photographs of the “black city” are atmospheric, vivid and powerful. Post-Romantic lyricism is still present in these images but is now coupled with a unique vision that has more earthy, psychological overtones. The anonymous figures of workers or coal pickers toiling away in oppressive landscapes are never better realised than in the line of figures silhouetted against the dying light in Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne (1895-1910, below); the solitary figure caught in the rising dust on the side of the hill in Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne (1895-1910, below – enlarge the image to see the figure). The desolation of an industrial revolution mining town is also perfectly captured in Mining Landscape, The Chatelus Pit at Saint-Etienne (1907-1912, below).

All three images remind me of the epic film Germinal staring Gerard Depardieu, based on the novel of the same name by Émile Zola. I’m sure that Thiollier would have been familiar with the book, it being a sensation upon original publication (1885). The book may well have appealed to Thiollier because he was a wealthy man, an industrialist who had reinvented himself as a gentleman farmer, who finally leaves the picturesque behind to photograph, “atmospheric phenomena studies, the architectural and mineral landscape created by the hard work of men, and how the human figure related to this.” In all its hope and misery.

Thiollier becomes so much more than an amateur photographer. His impressions of a dark, hidden drama beating at the heart of industrial, fin de siècle France provided him with the opportunity to become a progenitor of modernism, “ten years before the photogenic nature of industrial sites would be elevated into a credo of photographic modernism.” (Fin de siècle has connotations of both the closing and onset of an era, as the end of the 19th century was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning).

Finally, despite his willingness to remain on the sidelines, Thiollier may well be getting the approbation he deserves.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Émile Zola. 'Germinal' Title page of the 1885 edition

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Émile Zola
Germinal
Title page of the 1885 edition

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Emma Thiollier painting on top of one of the towers of Notre Dame, photographed by her father Félix Thiollier' 1907

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Emma Thiollier painting on top of one of the towers of Notre Dame, photographed by her father Félix Thiollier
1907

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Undergrowth in Forez' (Sous-bois en Forez) Nd

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Undergrowth in Forez (Sous-bois en Forez)
Nd
© Félix Thiollier

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Autochrome-EnvironsStEtienne-1907-1912-WEB

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Around Saint-Etienne (Environs Saint-Etienne)
1907-1912
Autochrome

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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875) 'Forest of Fontainebleau' 1834

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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Forest of Fontainebleau
1834
Oil on canvas
69 1/8 x 95 1/2 in. (175.6 x 242.6 cm)

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914). 'Figure contemplating the mountains of Menzenc (Emma Thiollier, daughter of the photographer)' 1895-1905

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Figure contemplant les monts du Menzenc (Emma Thiollier, fille du photographe)
Figure contemplating the mountains of Menzenc (Emma Thiollier, daughter of the photographer)

1895-1905
Collection Julien Laferrière
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN) / Patrice Schmidt

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Landscape with Figure, Forez (Loire)' c. 1880-1882

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Landscape with Figure, Forez (Loire)
c. 1880-1882
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 18.5; W. 22 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
Gift of Mr and Mrs Noël Sénéclauze, 2007
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Landscape with Figure, Forez (Loire)' (detail) c. 1880-1882

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Landscape with Figure, Forez (Loire) (detail)
c. 1880-1882
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 18.5; W. 22 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
Gift of Mr and Mrs Noël Sénéclauze, 2007
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)

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Francois-Auguste Ravier (1814-1895) 'Landscape with Setting Sun' Nd

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Francois-Auguste Ravier (1814-1895)
Landscape with Setting Sun
Nd
Oil on canvas

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne' 1895-1910

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne
1895-1910
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 28; W. 39.5 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)

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Félix Thiollier

“Although the talent of photographer Félix Thiollier was still unrecognised twenty years ago, this is mainly because it never occurred to him to seek recognition as such. When, at the age of 35, he decided to live off his private income, this ribbon manufacturer from Saint-Étienne intended to devote himself to art and archaeology. But feeling restricted in his role as scholar of the local area, Thiollier very quickly started publishing illustrated books. This enterprise, intended to promote both the rich natural environment and cultural heritage of Forez and the work of his artist friends, seemed to take up most of his energy, when he was not otherwise involved with initiatives to protect the local heritage of Saint-Étienne or promote the culture of the area.

It was his activities in these two latter fields that brought him both regional and national recognition, and until recently his reputation was based on these activities alone. Today, his resolute determination to remain on the fringes of the photographic circles of his time seems consistent with Thiollier’s passion for this medium that he would practise continuously for over half a century. In addition to showing the rich variety of subjects that inspired him, this exhibition seeks to give the viewer an appreciation of the originality of an approach based wholly on an inexhaustible passion for the picturesque: guiding his photographical machine, this mechanics of looking would lead him from bucolic landcapes and scenes of rural life to sensitive images of an industrial environment largely ignored by the amateur photographers at the turn of the 20th century.

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“At an age when I deluded myself into believing that it was possible to combine the picturesque and archaeology…”

Thiollier’s intellectual and aesthetic background was typical of that section of the provincial elite in the 19th century who took a keen interest in art and archaeology, and had a great love of books. When, at the end of the 1850s, senior figures encouraged him to take photographs of notable sites and monuments in the Forez area, they already had a project in mind to produce a book about this ancient province which, celebrated by Honoré d’Urfé in L’Astrée (1607-1627), extended right across the department of the Loire into parts of the Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dôme. They were all steeped in the Romantic tradition of the illustrated picturesque book, a tradition that would flourish in the second half of the century through many regional publications, like many local responses in this search for the identity of the regions of France. Illustrated with his early and more recent photographs, Thiollier’s Le Forez pittoresque et monumental, published in 1889, is one of the last and most outstanding examples of these.

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Perpetuating the rustic ideal

In leaving the town and his activities as an industrialist, Thiollier did not just move closer to the monuments and landscapes he had undertaken to describe. Having acquired two modest country estates - a hunting lodge near the ponds around Précivet, and the former commandery of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem at Verrières – he also reinvented himself as a gentleman farmer in the heart of this arcadian Forez countryside, which, in his view, was under threat. Heavily influenced by the example of the Barbizon artists whose paintings he collected along with those of his naturalist painter friends, he never tired of capturing the disappearing traces of traditional skills and ways of life with the eye of a painter. However, it required a certain poetic detachment for photographs to complete this grief. This was usually achieved with the loyal help of his daughter, who appeared in his photographs whenever he wanted to draw attention to the timeless nature of peasant genre scenes.

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“Stylistic Landscapes”

Although Thiollier had nursed an ambition to become a landscape photographer before he met Ravier in 1873, it is essential to recognise the influence of this painter from Morestel – who had been practising photography since the 1850s – in order to understand why Thiollier moved towards a more committed, if unrevealed, artistic approach to the medium. After many sessions spent “photographicking” together, their shared vision is expressed in the resulting images of autumnal and winter landscapes, which, devoid of any human presence, offer many light-filled variations on the handful of motifs chosen by the painter: still pools or the banks of streams, solitary outlines of dead trees, undergrowth and country paths, it is a complete repertoire of images of the Dauphiné region that stimulated Thiollier’s desire to extol the natural beauty of the Forez. Although he had to include riverscapes and mountain panoramas to reflect the true variety of this beautiful area, he almost always concentrate on the sky and studies of clouds, ideally enhanced by reflections playing on the still water.

The range of effects Thiollier developed, although intended in part to transpose the Post-Romantic lyricism which, in Ravier’s work, was conveyed through blazing colours and highly skilful brush- work, nonetheless indicates that his images of the countryside were produced with a perfect understanding of his medium. In pushing for a rapprochement with contemporary artistic photography, the main feature of his style was thus the expressiveness of the contrasts in values. It is this preference for representing nature in monochrome that partly explains his liking for snowscapes, and also prompted him to undertake almost systematic research into contre-jour, the most appropriate effect for both synthesizing his motifs and revealing the theatrical aspects of the landscape. Indeed, the all-revealing clarity of broad daylight was far less of an inspiration to Thiollier than the atmosphere of solitude and silence that came with the dusk. As he often noted in his descriptions, it was when the shadows were at their most dramatic that the countryside cast its strongest spell over him.

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Territories of intimacy

Alongside the search for effects that so often excited this landscape photographer, Thiollier’s solitary wanderings too were a source of more physical, more earthy themes that reveal a personal shift in the sensitive approach towards the territory. Although the traditional picturesque approach, which he had adopted until the 1880s, had been fuelled by Romanticism, it was also partly because it implied a way of considering the environment as a spectacle and thus relied heavily on the subjectivity of the first viewer that chose to depict it.

It was this look at the landscape that Thiollier now seems to stage, finding that this, far more than the self-portrait, offered him a way to incorporate himself into the landscape that he claimed as his own, and in doing so, into his work. Admittedly, the natural world he shows us is always uninhabited, but this makes it now all the better to fill with the presence of the photographer: the bleaker his selected locations, in relation to the accepted picturesque aesthetic, the more personal these choices turn out to be. Swept along by the rapid improvements in photographic techniques, the snap shot practitioner was freed from the pictorial tradition that restricted him to this side of Alberti’s “window”: his images are those of someone taking a stroll into the heart of the countryside, or more precisely, pausing at some point, seized by the desire to capture forever the emotion that had prompted him to set up his equipment right in the middle of the pathway, or, as often happened, in a quiet corner of his garden.

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The picturesque as developer: the photogeneity of the black city

Forty years after having made the first important choices of his life, learning photography at the same time when he renounced a career as a mine engineer, the former ribbon manufacturer discovered a photographic passion for Saint-Étienne, “a lively and animated city (…) to which the local industries brought a special picturesque character”. It was not easy to break away from a code of aesthetic appreciation, which, at a deeper level, was also a way of recognising the world.

The mines and factories in the cradle of the first French industrial revolution were, moreover, particularly appropriate subjects for what came to absorb him more than ever: atmospheric phenomena studies, the architectural and mineral landscape created by the hard work of men, and how the human figure related to this. It was as if the anonymous figures of workers or coal pickers had come just at the right moment, not only to enhance that “impression (…) of a sort of hidden drama” that best reveals the continuing influence of Ravier in his work, but also to fuel his inexhaustible desire for the picturesque. Besides, how could the poor people of this black town have concealed the exotic charm of their poverty from the lens of this bourgeois citizen who, in spite of himself, was still Thiollier?

Although Thiollier’s interest in photography gradually developed until eventually it became much more than the project to promote the natural and archaeological treasures of the area, it was perhaps because this industrialist turned gentleman farmer had realised intuitively that “machine art” (Delacroix) could be the way to resolve, in images, this tension between two worlds that lived side by side – the rural and traditional on one side and the industrial and contemporary on the other – and he belonged to both. The union of the picturesque and photography was sealed and could not be broken until his project as the editor of Le Forez pittoresque et monumental was completed, and this meant the aesthetic appropriation of the mental and identitarian territory of Forez as he saw it, reconciled with itself in the context of the “industrial image”. The choice of medium, precisely because Thiollier officially refused to give it any artistic legitimacy, would not however be made without consequences.

By admitting the creative superiority of the eye over the hand, the mechanised tool for reproducing images would gradually enable him to establish an independent vision, with a boldness that would burst into colour: ten years before the photogenic nature of industrial sites would be elevated into a credo of photographic modernism, his last images were extolling these new “worthless” locations that included scrapheaps, wasteland and abandoned pitheads, such were the ruins of modern Forez, that met his melancholy and clear-sighted gaze.”

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) '4 am Roche-La-Moliere, Forez' c. 1870

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
4 am Roche-La-Moliere, Forez (4H du matin vers Roche-La-Moliere, Forez)
c. 1870

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne' 1895-1910

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Mining Landscape, Saint-Etienne
1895-1910
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Decor for a fete or fair, Saint-Etienne' (Décor de fête ou de foire, Saint-Etienne) 1890-1910

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Decor for a fete or fair, Saint-Etienne (Décor de fête ou de foire, Saint-Etienne)
1890-1910
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Mining Landscape, The Chatelus Pit at Saint-Etienne' 1907-1912

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Mining Landscape, The Chatelus Pit at Saint-Etienne
1907-1912
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 28; W. 40 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)

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Francois-Auguste Ravier. 'A Marsh at Sunset' Nd

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Francois-Auguste Ravier (1814-1895)
A Marsh at Sunset
Nd
Oil on canvas

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Boats on the Seine, Paris' 1903-1905

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Boats on the Seine, Paris (Bateaux sur la Seine, Paris)
1903-1905
Silver gelatin print
29.7 x 39.4 cm

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Shepherdess and Flock' 1890 - 1910

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Shepherdess and Flock
1890-1910
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 29.2; W. 38.4 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN) / Patrice Schmidt

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'The Verpilleux Coking Plant, near Saint-Etienne' 1895-1910

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
The Verpilleux Coking Plant, near Saint-Etienne
1895-1910
Silver gelatin dry plate print on barium paper from a silver gelatin dry plate glass negative
H. 39.3; W. 29.9 cm
Paris, Julien-Laferrière collection
© Musée d’Orsay / Patrice Schmidt

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) 'Landscape with Ruin' c. 1870

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Félix Thiollier (1842-1914)
Landscape with Ruin
c. 1870

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Biography

1842
Maurice Félix Thiollier is born in Saint-Étienne into a wealthy family of ribbon manufacturers who espouse the values of social Catholicism.

1847
The Thiollier family moves to Paris. A French priest, l’abbé Paul Lacuria, is engaged as a tutor for Félix’s older brothers.

1851-52
The Thiollier family returns to Saint-Étienne. Félix Thiollier goes to school at the Collège Saint-Thomas d’Acquin in Oullins near Lyon.

1858
Eligible to take the competitive entrance test for the École des Mines de Saint-Étienne, Félix Thiollier chooses to train at the ribbon factory. He takes up photography, and possibly receives technical advice at this time from Stéphane Geoffray, a photographer from Roanne.

1867
At the age of 25, he sets up his own ribbon factory in Saint-Étienne.

1869
Through the painter Henri Baron, his father’s cousin, he is offered a place in the studio of the painter Louis Français, which he turns down for family reasons.

1870
Marries Cécile Testenoire-Lafayette, daughter of Claude-Philippe Testenoire-Lafayette, a lawyer and local scholar from Saint-Étienne, and president of La Diana – the Historical and Archaeo-logical Society of Forez (1870-1879).

1873
Meets the Dauphinois painter Auguste Ravier and soon gives up hope of becoming a professional painter.

1879
Decides to live off his private income. Becomes a member of La Diana.

1881
Publication of the first book to be illustrated with his photographs, Le Poème de l’âmeby his friend the painter Louis Janmot.

1885
First exhibition of his photographs, presented in the great hall belonging to La Diana in Montbrison, on the occasion of the 52nd congress of the Société Française d’Archéologie. Becomes a member of this society, which awards him its silver medal.

1886
Publication of Château de la Bastie d’Urfé et ses seigneurs.

1889
Publication of Forez pittoresque et monumental. Receives a silver medal for his illustrated books at the universal exhibition in Paris.

1894
Becomes a non-resident member of the Committee for Historic and Scientific Works at the Ministry for Public Instruction.

1895
Receives the Légion d’Honneur for his work as a photographer.

1897
Receives the title of honorary curator of the Saint-Étienne Museum of Art and Industry.

1900
Receives another silver medal for his illustrated books at the universal exhibition in Paris.

1902
Publication of L’Histoire de Saint-Etienne by Claude-Philippe Testenoire Lafayette, illustrated with photographs by Félix Thiollier.

1914
Death of Félix Thiollier on 12 May at Saint-Étienne.

1917
Publication of his biography by Sébastien Mulsant.

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Musée d’Orsay
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris Cedex 07
France

Opening hours:
9.30 am – 6 pm
9.30 am – 9.45 pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays

Musée d’Orsay website

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26
Feb
14

Film: ‘All This Can Happen’

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“The highest and the lowest, the most serious and the most hilarious things are to the walker equally beloved, beautiful and valuable…”

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Dislocation
Displacement
Discontinuity
Death
Dance
Despair
Documentary

Scene
Seen
Single
Multiple
Surreal
Mundane
Storyline

Sound
Subject
Space

Encounters
Engagements
Negotiations

Time
Memory
Location
Voice
Touch

Walking
Flaneur

Body
Soul

Life itself!

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Marcus

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Created by Siobhan Davies and filmmaker David Hinton in 2012, All This Can Happen is a film constructed entirely from archive photographs and footage from the earliest days of cinema.

Based on Robert Walser’s novella The Walk (1917), the film follows the footsteps of the protagonist as series of small adventures and chance encounters take the walker from idiosyncratic observations of ordinary events towards a deeper pondering on the comedy, heartbreak and ceaseless variety of life. A flickering dance of intriguing imagery brings to light the possibilities of ordinary movements from the everyday which appear, evolve and freeze before your eyes. Juxtapositions, different speeds and split frame techniques convey the walker’s state of mind as he encounters a world of hilarity, despair and ceaseless variety.

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“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness. The narrativity of this walking is belied by a simultaneity we know and yet cannot experience. As we turn a corner, our object disappears around the next corner. The sides of the street conspire against us; each attention suppresses a field of possibilities. The discourse of the city is a syncretic discourse, political in its untranslatability. Hence the language of the state elides. Unable to speak all the city’s languages, unable to speak all at once, the state’s language become momunental, the silence of headquarters, the silence of the bank. In this transcendent and anonymous silence is the miming of corporate relations. Between the night workers and the day workers lies the interface of light; in the rotating shift, the disembodiment of lived time. The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine. Hence the barbarism of police on horses, the sudden terror of the risen animal.”

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Stewart
, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 2. Prologue.

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Trailer from All This Can Happen
2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Alice in Wonderland' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Alice in Wonderland
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of BFI National Archive

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Leap Frog' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Leap Frog
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of BFI National Archive

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Cheshire Territorials' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Cheshire Territorials
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of BFI National Archive

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Otto the Giant' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Otto the Giant
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of British Pathé

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“All This Can Happen, a 50-minute film by David Hinton and choreographer Siobhan Davies, opens with images of men who cannot walk. One lies immobile in a hospital bed, his head trembling, eyes vacant with torment. Another, also institutionalised, tries to walk but fails. He falls, scrambles and falls again, his whole body stiff with malfunction.

All this did happen. Every frame of this remarkable film comes from old, mostly black and white archive footage, complete with scratches and fingerprints. It is neither documentary nor constructed reality, but rather a wholly unexpected film adaptation of a short story by Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956), about a man going for a walk.

The story, to which those opening images serve as a prologue, recounts the sights, sounds, encounters and musings of a day’s meandering: children playing in a school, a visit to the tax office, a display of women’s hats, a stroll through a forest, an argument with a tailor. Lovingly voiced by John Heffernan, the narration treats each moment, each thought and perception, with equal consideration, whether it is a gripe about automobiles, a memory of unbearable anguish, the sound of sublime music, or a chat with a dog. “The highest and the lowest, the most serious and the most hilarious things,” he explains, “are to the walker equally beloved, beautiful and valuable…

…the narration establishes a supple continuity, yet though the imagery follows the story devotedly, it has no contituity. It leaps between locations, splices scenes, switches subjects, and roams freely between poetic and literal modes, between the fantastic, the scientific, the surreal and the mundane. It seems able to let the whole world in, and still stay true to a singular storyline.

The imagery is discontinuous in other senses too. The screen is often split into multiple frames so that we notice how highly composed the film is. The frames themselves often freeze fleetingly, arresting the flow of time. Such stops literally give us pause; they let us take a moment. In fact, the whole film could be seen as the encounter between continuity – the story, the voice, time itself – and composition, or indeed choreography: the framing of action, the placement of sound, the arrangement of subjects and space.

But the reason to watch this film is not because it is artful and thoughtful, though it is that. It is because it restores us to our senses, because it touches – gently – both body and soul. To walk, it suggests, is to be in the world. A world that is physical, full of texture and sound and sensation; that is abstract, a matrix of space and time; that is imaginary, teeming with fantasies and terrors, desires, hopes and regrets; that is social, marked by encounters, engagements, negotiations; a world that is human. As a walk of life, All This Can Happen is, quite naturally, also shadowed by death, by not-walking, by not moving in space and time. “Where would I be,” asks the walker, “if I was not here? Here, I have everything. And elsewhere, I would have nothing.” All this it finds equally beloved, beautiful and valuable.

Sanjoy Roy. Excerpt of Review of All This Can Happen, by Siobhan Davies and David Hinton on the Aesthetica Magazine Blog website

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Miniature Writer' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Miniature Writer
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of British Pathé

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Hints and Hobbies' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Hints and Hobbies
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of AP Archive  British Movietone

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Ears' and 'Birth of a Flower' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Ears and Birth of a Flower
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London and AP Archive  British Movietone

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. 'Banff Scotland' and 'I Saw This' 2012

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Siobhan Davies and David Hinton
Banff Scotland and I Saw This
2012
Still from All This Can Happen
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division and Yorkshire Film Archive

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Siobhan Davies Dance website

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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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