Archive for the 'pictorialism' Category

24
Oct
15

Text / Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney Part 2

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 25th October 2015

Curator: Dr Marta Weiss

 

 

The road less travelled

It was a flying visit to Sydney to see the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The trip was so very worthwhile, for I had never seen JMC’s large contact photographs “in the flesh” before, let alone over 100 vintage prints from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. They did not disappoint. This exhibition is one of the photographic highlights of the year.

When you think about it, here is one the world’s top ten photographers of all time – a woman, taking photographs within the first twenty five years of the birth of commercial photography, using rudimentary technology and chemicals – whose photographs are still up there with the greatest ever taken. Still recognisable as her own and no one else’s after all these years. That is a staggering achievement – and tells you something about the talent, tenacity and perspicacity of the women… that she possessed and illuminated such a penetrating discernment – a clarity of vision and intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight into the human condition.

Annie; ‘My first success’ (1864, below) points the way to the later development of her mature style. Although not entirely successful, the signature low depth of field and wonderful use of light are already present in this image. Compare this to Lady Adelaide Talbot (1865, below), only a year later, and you can see that her development as an artist is phenomenal. JMC pushes and pulls the face of the sitter within the image plane. In a sequence from the exhibition (enlarge the installation image, below) we have (from left to right), female in profile facing right with light from right Sappho (1865); female lower 2/3rds right with light from front above Christabel (1866); female looking at camera, soft, dark moody lighting hitting only one the side of the face and embroidered cap Zoe / Maid of Athens (1866); now a different tilt of the jaw, lighter print Beatrice (1866, below); a frontal portrait with dark background, pin sharp face and hair to the front and back of the face out of focus Julia Jackson (1867, below), then female portraits facing left, the head filling the upper left corner; looking down in three-quarter profile with light from the right, filling the frame; and then upper right, small face, with the rest falling off into darkness.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (detail)

 

There is something so magical about how JMC can frame a face, emerging from darkness, side profile, filling the frame, top lit. Soft out of focus hair with one point of focus in the image. Beautiful light. Just the most sensitive capturing of a human being, I don’t know what it is… a glimpse into another world, a ghostly world of the spirit, the soul of the living seen now before they are dead.

While it is very interesting to see her failures, or what she perceived as her failures – not so much a failure of vision but mainly a failure of technique: cracking of the plates, under development, defective unmounted impressions – presented in the exhibition, plus all her techniques for developing and amending the photograph – double printing, reverse printing, scratching onto the negative and painting on the print (all techniques later used by the Pictorialists) – it is the low depth of field, wonderful tones and the quality of the light that so impresses with her work. Her portraits have a real but very fluid and ethereal presence. Material, maternal, touch, sublime, religious, allegorical, mythological, and beautiful. She would focus her lens until she thought is was beautiful “instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

She has, of course, been seen as a precursor to Pictorialism, but personally I do not get that feeling from her photographs, even though the artists are using many of the same techniques. Her work is based on the reality of seeing beauty, whereas the Pictorialists were trying to make photography into art by emulating the techniques of etching and painting. While the form of her images owes a lot to the history of classical sculpture and painting, to Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelites, she thought her’s was already art of the highest order. She did not have to mask its content in order to imitate another medium. Others, such as the curator of the exhibition Marta Weiss, see her as a proto-modernist, precursor to the photographs of Stieglitz and Sander and I would agree. There is certainly a fundamental presence to JMC’s photographs, so that when you are looking at them, they tend to touch your soul, the eyes of some of the portraits burning right through you; while others, others have this ambiguity of meaning, of feeling, as if removed from the everyday life.

Unfortunately, her legacy and her baton has not been taken up in contemporary photography, other than through her love child Sally Mann. One of the main problems with contemporary portrait photography, perhaps any type of contemporary photography, is that anything goes. And what goes is usually linked to the photographer’s desire. It is not about the reality of the subject, but just a refraction of the desires of the photographer reflected in the subject. Many photographers today are not real photographers at all… they are just a pimp to their own ideas. There is a 100% co-relation between their vision and their work which leaves no room for ambiguity. There is no longer the interesting and lovely space between what is attempted and how the photographer would like it to be, as in JMC. Where the shortcomings are welcomed (she embraced flaws, cracks, thumb prints) and it all seems a marvellous activity. She was dedicated to the task of extracting the beauty of this ambiguity, through taking hours preparing plates, through sitting, developing and washing. She took her shortcomings and folded them back into her work so that there seems to be a type of perfection to it. Of course, there isn’t. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture. By contrast, the surface in contemporary “topographic” photography is just a paper thin reflection of the photographer themselves, nothing more.

The road to spirituality is the road less travelled. It is full of uncertainty and confusion, but only through exploring this enigma can we begin to approach some type of inner reality. Julia Margaret Cameron, in her experiments, in her dogged perseverance, was on a spiritual journey of self discovery. In Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost, he suggests Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs as the ideal music for a scene his character has written:

“Four Last Songs. For the profundity that is achieved not by complexity but by clarity and simplicity. For the purity of the sentiment about death and parting and loss. For the long melodic line spinning out and the female voice soaring and soaring. For the repose and composure and gracefulness and the intense beauty of the soaring. For the ways one is drawn into the tremendous arc of heartbreak. The composer drops all masks and, at the age of eighty-two, stands before you naked. And you dissolve.”

These words are an appropriate epithet for the effect of the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron in this year 2015, the 200th anniversary of her birth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,336

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Many thankx to the AGNSW and the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

NB: it would have been great to see more of the later work as this exhibition mainly focuses on the period 1864-1869 (probably the bulk of what is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection). Also, in the expansive, open galleries, some colour on the walls would have been good. When JMC exhibited her work it would have been on coloured walls, probably with multiple mounts of different colours as well. It would also have been nice to see some of the signatures on the work, as some of them reveal intimate facts about the sitter/theme.

 

 

When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron 1867

 

‘When … coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Mrs. Herbert Duckworth' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Mrs. Herbert Duckworth
1872
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze. Cameron’s niece, here given her married name, once again regards the camera directly, but with an air of sadness rather than confidence. Her husband had died after just three years of marriage. Cameron inscribed one version of this photograph ‘My own cherished Niece and God Child / Julia Duckworth / a widow at 24’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Annie' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annie; ‘My first success’
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 when she received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest. Cameron made this portrait of Annie Philpot, the daughter of a local family, within a month of receiving her first camera. She inscribed some prints of it ‘My first success’ and later wrote of her excitement, ‘I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture.’

Cameron’s mentor and friend, the artist G.F. Watts wrote to Cameron, ‘Please do not send me valuable mounted copies … send me any … defective unmounted impressions, I shall be able to judge just as well & shall be just as much charmed with success & shall not feel that I am taking money from you.’ This is one of approximately 67 in the V&A’s collection that was recently discovered to have belonged to him. Many are unique, which suggests that Cameron was not fully satisfied with them. Some may seem ‘defective’ but others are enhanced by their flaws. All of them contribute to our understanding of Cameron’s working process and the photographs that did meet her standards.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 28 & 31 July 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this close-up profile, Lady Talbot gazes out of the frame with determination. Instead of a tangle of branches and leaves, the background is neutral. The focus is soft and the light coming from the right traces the sitter’s profile. This photograph looks more distinctively like the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and shows the development of her signature style.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Here Lady Adelaide Talbot appears not as herself, but as Melancholy, the personification of pensive sadness, that John Milton evoked in his poem Il Penseroso (about 1631). Draped in a shawl that hides her everyday clothing, her hands form a V on her chest, in a theatrical gesture. Cameron inscribed this print with two lines from the poem, ‘Come pensive Nun, devout and pure, / Sober, stedfast, and demure’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Christiana Fraser-Tytler' c. 1864-1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christiana Fraser-Tytler
c. 1864-1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Christiana Fraser-Tytler modelled for other Julia Margaret Cameron photographs together with her sisters. One of them, Mary, an artist and designer, later married the artist G.F. Watts. This print originally belonged to either Watts or his wife. It came from the Watts estate, which was sold after Mary’s death in 1938.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Sappho' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sappho
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In late 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron began using a larger camera, which held a 15 x 12-inch glass negative. Early the next year she wrote to Henry Cole with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work. Cameron initiated a series of large-scale, close-up heads. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture.

This striking version of Sappho is in keeping with Cameron’s growing confidence as an artist. Mary Hillier’s classical features stand out clearly in profile while her dark hair merges with the background. The decorative blouse balances the simplicity of the upper half of the picture. Cameron was clearly pleased with the image since she printed multiple copies, despite having cracked the negative.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Christabel' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christabel
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

The title refers to a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a virtuous maiden who is put under a spell by an evil sorceress. Cameron wrote of photographs such as this, ‘when … coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Beatrice' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Beatrice
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Cameron based the pose, drapery, and sad expression of her model on a painting attributed to Guido Reni. The subject is the 16th-century Italian noblewoman Beatrice Cenci who was executed for arranging the murder of her abusive father. One review admired Cameron’s soft rendering of ‘the pensive sweetness of the expression of the original picture’ while another mocked her for claiming to have photographed a historical figure ‘from the life’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Julia Jackson' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Jackson
1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze.

Cameron’s good friend Anne Thackeray Ritchie recalled in 1893, ‘Sitting to her was a serious affair, and not to be lightly entered upon. We came at her summons, we trembled (or we should have trembled had we dared to do so) when the round black eye of the camera was turned upon us, we felt the consequences, what a disastrous waste of time and money and effort, might ensue from any passing quiver of emotion.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Hosanna
1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son' about 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son
about 1870
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' (detail) 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (detail)
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

Installation views of the exhibition Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron’s photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s earliest photographic subjects were family and friends, many of whom were eminent literary figures. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style. In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there centred around the artist George Frederic Watts, who lived with them. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers and collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

Cameron clothed Lady Elcho in flowing draperies to suggest a character out of Dante, author of the 14th-century poem the Divine Comedy. Cameron wears the same large, paisley-edged shawl in the portrait by her son. The fragmented female figure at the far left of the frame may have been assisting Cameron.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Many of the photographs purchased by the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) from Julia Margaret Cameron were ‘Madonna Groups’ depicting the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. Her housemaid Mary Hillier posed as the Virgin Mary so often she became known locally as ‘Mary Madonna’.  Like many of her contemporaries, Cameron was a devout Christian. As a mother of six, the motif of the Madonna and child held particular significance for her. In aspiring to make ‘High Art’, Cameron aimed to make photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive.

As in many of Cameron’s depictions of the subject, the Madonna is holding a sleeping child. This had practical advantages as the infant was less likely to move during the long exposure. It was also suggestive of death, a grim reality for many Victorian families and a reference to the Pietà, a subject in Christian art in which the Virgin Mary cradles the dead Christ.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Shadow of the Cross' August 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Shadow of the Cross
August 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

With the addition of a small wooden cross and female model in drapery, Cameron transformed a portrait of her sleeping grandson into an image of the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. The mother leaning over the child prefigures Mary mourning over the body of her son, who had died on the cross. The framed pictures and curtain in the background reveal the setting as a domestic interior.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Devotion' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Devotion
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this unusual horizontal composition, the close-up figures of the sleeping Christ child and the Madonna nearly fill the frame. The title suggests both Christian concepts and the theme of motherhood. Next to the title Cameron wrote: ‘From Life My Grand child age 2 years & 3 months’, making the image simultaneously a religious study and a family portrait.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'St. Agnes' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
St. Agnes
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

This image may have been inspired by poems by Alfred Tennyson and John Keats based on the legend that virgins dream of their future husbands on St Agnes Eve (20 January). To suggest the night, Julia Margaret Cameron printed the photograph dark and added a moon by hand. The sitter is Mary Hillier, Cameron’s housemaid and one of her ‘most beautiful and constant’ models.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Dream' 1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Dream
1869
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In 1869, Julia Margaret Cameron wrote to Sir Henry Cole, the founding director of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) of the ‘cruel calamity … which has over taken 45 of my Gems – a honey comb crack extending over the picture appearing at any moment and beyond any power to arrest.’ Cameron blamed her ‘fatally perishable’ photographic chemicals, while members of the Photographic Society suspected the damp climate of the Isle of Wight. Today’s theory is that failure to sufficiently wash the negatives after fixing them caused the problem.

John Milton’s poem On his deceased Wife (about 1658) tells of a fleeting vision of his beloved returning to life in a dream. On this mount she included G.F. Watts’ assessment: ‘quite divine’. Cameron was particularly distraught by the crackling that befell this negative. She seemed not to be bothered, however, by the two smudged fingerprints in the lower right, which form a kind of inadvertent signature.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Henry Taylor' October 10, 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Henry Taylor
October 10, 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

When Julia Margaret Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’ Another motive was to earn money from prints of the photographs, since her family’s finances were precarious. Within her first year as a photographer she began exhibiting and selling through the London gallery Colnaghi’s. She used autographs to increase the value of some portraits.

For this portrait of her close friend, the playwright and poet Taylor, Cameron broke from her practice of photographing male heads emerging from darkness. As with some of her female heads, the sitter’s face fills the frame, while his sleeve and beard flow beyond its confines.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Charles Darwin' 1868; printed 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Charles Darwin
1868; printed 1875
Carbon print from copy negative
Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

The naturalist Charles Darwin and his family rented a cottage in Freshwater from the Camerons in the summer of 1868. By 27 July, Colnaghi’s was advertising, ‘we are glad to observe her gallery of great men enriched by a very fine portrait of Charles Darwin’. Due to the sitter’s celebrity, Cameron later had this portrait reprinted as a more stable carbon print. When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Herschel' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Herschel
April 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Herschel was an eminent scientist who made important contributions to astronomy and photography. Cameron wrote of this sitting, ‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.’

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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18
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney Part 1

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 25th October 2015

Curator: Dr Marta Weiss

 

I’m heading up to Sydney on Thursday night, especially to see this exhibition on Friday at the Art Gallery of New South Wales = excitement. I’ll limit my words here until I have seen the exhibition and give you some fuller thoughts next weekend. Suffice it to say, that I consider JMC to be one of the top ten photographers of all time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Kept in the Heart/La Madonna della Ricordanza' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Kept in the Heart/La Madonna della Ricordanza
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Whisper of the Muse' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Whisper of the Muse
1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“The Art Gallery of New South Wales is delighted to bring to Sydney a superb exhibition of works by one of the most influential and innovative photographers of the nineteenth century – Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79). Drawn from the extensive collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the exhibition features over 100 photographs that trace Cameron’s early ambition and mastery of the medium. A series of letters will also be on display, along with select photographs sourced from Australian institutions.

Judy Annear, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Art Gallery of NSW, said it was a privilege to be able to bring such a fine selection of Cameron’s photographs to Australia. “Using the camera to convey both tenderness and strength, Cameron introduced an emotive sensibility to early photographic portraiture. At the time, her work was controversial and her unconventional techniques attracted both praise and criticism,” Annear said. “It is timely to reflect upon Cameron’s significant contribution to art photography, with this year marking the bicentenary of her birth and 150 years since her first exhibition was held at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum,” Annear added.

Across her brief but prolific career, Cameron produced penetrating character studies that memorialised the intellectual and artistic elite of Victorian England, including the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, scientists Charles Darwin and Sir John Herschel, and Julia Jackson, Cameron’s niece and the mother of Virginia Woolf. To this pantheon of intellectuals Cameron added housemaids and local children who were enlisted as cherubs, Madonnas and Christ figures in photographic tableaux that re-staged allegorical scenes derived from literary and biblical narratives.

Embracing imperfection, Cameron would leave fingerprints, streak marks and swirls of collodion on her negatives. Her use of soft focus and shallow depth of field defined the painterly tone of her aesthetic signature. Cameron took up photography at the age of 48 after she was given a camera by her daughter Julia in December 1863. She transformed her house into her workspace, converting a henhouse into a studio and a coalhouse into a darkroom. While Cameron had no interest in establishing a commercial studio, concentrating instead on elevating photography as high art, she nonetheless operated as an astute businesswoman, fastidiously marketing, publishing and exhibiting her work.

Within two years of taking up photography, she had both donated and sold work to the South Kensington Museum, London. She corresponded frequently with the museum’s founding director Henry Cole. Cameron’s self-promotion was not restricted to England. In 1874, 20 of her photographs were displayed in the Drawing Room of NSW Government House. Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 14 August – 25 October 2015 after touring from Moscow and Ghent. The exhibition is organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Dr Marta Weiss, Cameron expert and curator of the exhibition, will be visiting Sydney for the exhibition’s opening and will give a public lecture at the Gallery on Saturday 15 August 2015. The exhibition is accompanied by the book Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world, by Marta Weiss. Published by Mack in partnership with V&A Publishing.”

Press release from the AGNSW website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Paul and Virginia' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Paul and Virginia
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Paul and Virginia' (detail) 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Paul and Virginia (detail)
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Herschel' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Herschel
1867
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

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16
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘When we share more than ever’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 19th June – 20th September 2015

A project for the Triennial of Photography Hamburg 2015

Curators: Dr des. Esther Ruelfs and Teresa Gruber

Invited artists: Laia Abril, Ai Weiwei, Regula Bochsler, Natalie Bookchin, Heman Chong, Aurélien Froment, David Horvitz, Trevor Paglen, Doug Rickard, Taryn Simon, Jens Sundheim, Penelope Umbrico | From the Photography and New Media Collection of the MKG: Fratelli Alinari, Hanns-Jörg Anders, Nobuyoshi Araki, Francis Bedford, Félix Bonfils, Adolphe Braun, Natascha A. Brunswick, Atelier d’Ora / Benda, Minya Diez-Dührkoop, Rudolf Dührkoop, Harold E. Edgerton, Tsuneo Enari, Andreas Feininger, Lotte Genzsch, Johann Hamann, Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister, Thomas Höpker, Lotte Jacobi, Gertrude Käsebier, Kaku Kurita, Atelier Manassé, Hansi Müller-Schorp, Eardweard Muybridge, Arnold Newman, Terry Richardson, Max Scheler, Hildi Schmidt-Heins, Hiromi Tsuchida, Carl Strüwe, Léon Vidal, and more

 

 

A fascinating exhibition about the processes of archiving and transferring images and the associated interaction, combining historic and contemporary images to illuminate various chapters: “Sharing a Portrait,” “Sharing a Group,” “Sharing Memories,” “Sharing a Product,” “Sharing Lust,” “Sharing Evidence,” “Sharing Knowledge,” “Sharing the World,” “Sharing a Collection,” and “Sharing Photographs”.

“The chapters juxtapose historical and contemporary works in order to illuminate how the use and function of photographic images have changed and which aspects have remained the same despite the digital revolution. The exhibition begins with photography used in the service of people: to record a life, create a sense of community, or share memories. The following chapters deal with applied contexts, such as advertising photographs, erotic photography, photojournalism, scientific photography, and travel photos.”

“Conceived in archive format, the exhibition explores the archive’s possible forms and uses. The featured works from the collection were selected from the MKG’s holdings of some 75,000 photographs to show how different photographic practices have been assimilated over the years. The springboard for our reflections was the question of how the digital era of picture sharing has changed the function of a museum collection of photography, seeing as today digital image collections are just a mouse click away on online archives such as Google Images.”

But it could have been so much more, especially with 75,000 photographs to choose from. Looking at the plan for the exhibition and viewing the checklist would suggest that the small amount of work in each of the ten chapters leaves little room for any of the themes to be investigated in depth. Any one of these chapters would have made an excellent exhibition in its own right. What an opportunity missed for a series of major exhibitions that examined each important theme.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Text in the posting is from the booklet When We Share More Than Ever:

Editors: Sabine Schulze, Esther Ruelfs, Teresa Gruber
Text editors: Esther Ruelfs, Teresa Gruber
Authors: Teresa Gruber (TG), Beate Pittnauer (BP), Esther Ruelfs (ER), Sven Schumacher (SS), Annika Sellmann (AS), Taryn Simon, Johan Simonsen (JS), Emma Stenger (ES) Grafikdesign Graphic design exhibition and booklet: Studio Mahr
Translation German-English: Jennifer Taylor

 

 

Sharing memories

Creating mementoes is one of the central functions of photography. In David Horvitz’s case, it is the mobile phone camera that gives two people a feeling of togetherness. The bond is created through an action. On two different continents, both people stand at the seaside at the same time, recording and sending images of the sunrise and sunset with their iPhones.

Photography connects us with the subject or the person depicted – even beyond the bounds of the time. The photo is an imprint; it transmits to us something that was once really there. Like a fingerprint or a footprint, it remains closely related to what it captures. This special quality of photography predestined it from the start to be a medium of memory. The daguerreotype of a little girl presented in the exhibition is framed by a braid of the child’s hair. The idea of carrying part of a loved one with us and thus generating a special feeling of closeness is reflected in the practice of making friendship or mourning jewelry out of hair – and in the way we treasure portrait photographs as keepsakes of those we love.

Emotional relationships can also be expressed by a certain photographic motif or by the body language of the sitters. The arms of the sisters in the photo by Gertrude Käsebier are closely intertwined, as are the hands of the couple in the daguerreotype by Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. The relationship between photographer and subject may also be the focus of the work. Natascha Brunswick as well as Rudolf Dührkoop and Käsebier use the camera, for example, to capture and hold onto intimate moments with their own families. ER

 

David Horvitz. 'The Distance of a Day' 2013

 

David Horvitz
The Distance of a Day
2013
Digital video on two iPhones, 12 min.
Courtesy Chert, Berlin
© David Horvitz

 

 

David Horvitz

With artworks in the form of books, photographs, installations, and actions, David Horvitz often explores varying conceptions of time and space, as well as interpersonal relationships and the dissemination of images via the internet. His work The Distance of a Day brings together all of these topics. With reference to the linguistic origin of the word “journey,” which defined the distance a traveler could cover in a day, Horvitz looks for two places located at opposite ends of the globe that are exactly one day apart. While his mother watches the sun set on a beach in his native California, the artist observes the sun rising over a Maldives island. Both document their simultaneous impressions with an iPhone, a device that today serves both for temporal and spatial orientation and which, as a communication medium, enables us to overcome the limits of space and time. Because it is a conceptual part of the performance, the iPhone is also used in the exhibition as a playback device. TG

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. 'Unknown couple' 1830-1880

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner
Unknown couple
1830-1880
Framed daguerrotype
15.2 x 17.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. 'Unknown couple' 1830-1880 (detail)

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner
Unknown couple (detail)
1830-1880
Framed daguerrotype
15.2 x 17.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Sharing a portrait

“Maxime carried portraits of actresses in every pocket. He even had one in his cigarette case. From time to time he cleared them all out and moved the ladies into an album (…) which already contained the portraits of Renee’s friends.”

This scene from Émile Zola’s The Kill testifies to the fad that started in the 1860s for mass-produced photographic calling cards, or “cartes de visite.” Contemporaries spoke of “cartomania” – long before anyone could imagine an artist like Ai Weiwei, who has posted 7,142 photographs on his Instagram profile since 2014. With the “invasion of the new calling card pictures,” photo-graphy left the private sphere of the middle-class family and fostered new social relationships. The demand for images of celebrities from politics, art, and literature grew as well.

“Galleries of contemporaries” and artist portraits like those produced by Lotte Jacobi and Arnold Newman responded to an avid interest in the physical and physiognomic appearance of well-known people. The photographers tried to capture not only the person’s likeness but also his character, whether inclose-ups that zero in on individual facial expressions or in staged portraits in which the surroundings give clues to the sitter’s personality.

What has changed since then is above all how we handle such images. The photographs that Minya Diez-Dührkoop took of the upper-class daughter Renate Scholz trace her growth and development in pleasingly composed studio portraits. In today’s Internet communities and on smartphones by contrast we encounter the portrait as a profile picture. This signature image, changeable at any time, may be a selfie or selected from a steadily growing pool of snapshots shared among friends. ER

 

Ai Weiwei. '16 June, 2014'

 

Ai Weiwei
16 June, 2014
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

Ai Weiwei 'March 9, 2015'

 

Ai Weiwei
March 9, 2015
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portraits of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939 (detail)

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portrait of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939 (detail)

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portrait of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Ai Weiwei. 'January 30, 2015'

 

Ai Weiwei
January 30, 2015
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Sharing a group

The photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) notes in his serialized book The Pencil of Nature, published in six parts between 1844 and 1846: “Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures would require, since the camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be.” For groups such as the middle-class family, colleagues in a profession or company, or leisure-time clubs – all of which took on renewed importance in the 19th century – the new technology provided an affordable way to preserve their feeling of community for posterity. The professional photographer was able to stage for the camera a picture designed to convey the self-image of the group. The Hamburg-based photographer Johann Hamann and the Studio Scholz were active around the turn of the 19th century, when the demand for professional group and family portraits reached a high point.

The classic commissioned group portrait still persists today in the form of class photos. These document each individual’s curriculum vitae while serving both as nostalgic souvenirs and as a basis for building a relationship network that can be maintained via websites such as stayfriends.com. On the Internet and especially on Facebook, new types of groups are being generated whose members share specific interests or traits. The artist Natalie Bookchin delves into the phenomenon of the virtual group in her work Mass Ornament, for which she collected amateur videos from YouTube showing people dancing alone and arranged them into an ensemble. She thus examines the possibilities offered by the World Wide Web to bring together crowds of people who are in reality each alone in front of their own screen. TG

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009 (detail)

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament (detail)
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009 (detail)

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament (detail)
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

 

Natalie Bookchin

Natalie Bookchin borrowed the title for her video from the prominent sociologist and film theorist Siegfried Kracauer. In his 1927 essay The Mass Ornament, Kracauer described the American dance troupe known as the Tiller Girls as the embodiment of capitalist production conditions after the First World War. He equated the automatonlike movements of the anonymous, interchangeable dancers with the assembly-line work in the factories. Bookchin’s work can likewise be understood as social commentary. She collects video clips of people dancing in front of webcams set up in their homes, which are posted on YouTube for all the world to see. The montage of such clips into a group choreography with almost synchronous dance moves paints a picture of individuals who share favorite songs, idols, and yearnings.

Instead of using today’s pop songs as soundtrack, Bookchin revives the movie music from Busby Berkeley’s Gold Diggers and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (both from 1935). She thus generates an alienating effect while also reflecting on both the positive and negative connotations of movement in a group and of mass media. TG

 

Johann Hamann. 'The Women’s Department Forms an Artful Pyramid' 1903

 

Johann Hamann
The Women’s Department Forms an Artful Pyramid
1903
Albumen print
8.6 x 11.4 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Johann Hamann

The Hamburg photographer Johann Hamann opened his first daylight studio in 1889 in Hamburg’s Gängeviertel but is better known for his work outside the studio. By using a magnesium powder flash, he succeeded in portraying individuals and especially groups in a natural environment even in poor lighting conditions. Butchers, cobblers, and gymnasts posed with their props and wearing their specific “uniforms” before his camera. From 1899 to 1906, Hamann produced a complete set of photos of ship captains working for the Hamburg-based shipping line HAPAG, on behalf of which he also photographed the emigration halls on Veddel Island in the Elbe River. His group photographs provide insights into the working life and club activities in the Hanseatic city around the turn of the century, and are often characterized by situational humor. TG

 

 

Sharing knowledge

A droplet whirling off a rotating oil can, the impact of a falling drop of milk, or a bullet in flight are phenomena whose speed makes them imperceptible to the naked eye. With the help of a telescope or microscope, we can look into the distance and observe things that are too far away, or enlarge things that are too small to see, and with the aid of photography these things can then be captured in images that can be shared.

The objects of artist Trevor Paglen’s interest are military spy satellites, which he locates based on information on amateur websites and then captures using elaborate special cameras. His work draws on the aesthetics of scientific photography, inquiring into our faith in the objectivity of such images – a credibility that runs through the entire history of photography.

With the positivist mood pervading the 19th century, photography was associated much more closely with science than with art. Surveying and recording were central functions assigned to the new medium. The photographic work of Eadweard J. Muybrigde, Harold E. Edgerton, and Impulsphysik GmbH Hamburg-Rissen is associated with this applied context.

Already during the 19th century, however, the confidence invested in photography as a medium for capturing reality was being challenged by the exploration of borderline areas verging on the irrational and by metaphysical speculations. Myth and science overlapped here, especially when it came to recording invisible phenomena such as ultraviolet light, heat rays, and X-rays. These trends are evident in Carl Strüwe’s photomicrographs, which in his proclaimed “New Order” combine the aesthetics of scientific photography with esoteric notions of the archetype. ER

 

Doug Rickard. '95zLs' 2012

 

Doug Rickard
95zLs
2012
From the series N.A., 2011-2014
Archival Pigment Print
Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Doug Rickard

 

Unknown photographer. 'Full Moon' 1850-1900

 

Unknown photographer
Griffith & Griffith (publisher)
Full Moon
1850-1900
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Unknown photographer. 'Full Moon' 1850-1900 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Griffith & Griffith (publisher)
Full Moon (detail)
1850-1900
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

One year after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, a photographic image was already made of the moon. The first stereographic photographs were presented by the chemist and amateur astronomer Warren de la Rue in 1858. Stereo images, which enjoyed great popularity in the latter half of the 19th century, consist of two photographs, which display a scene from slightly different perspectives, thus imitating the viewing angle of the human eyes and generating a spatial impression of the subject when viewed through a stereoscope.

Because the moon is too far from the earth to be able to photograph it from two different angles at once, a stereo photograph is only possible by taking into account optical libration, or the apparent “oscillation” of the moon. Due to the earth’s elliptical orbit, the half of the moon visible from earth is not always exactly the same. For a stereo photograph like the one the publisher Griffith & Griffith offered – certainly not as a scientific document – the shots that were combined were taken at an interval of several months.TG

 

Trevor Paglen. 'MISTY 2/DECOY near Altair (Decoy Stealth Satellite; USA 144db)' 2010

 

Trevor Paglen
MISTY 2/DECOY near Altair (Decoy Stealth Satellite; USA 144db)
2010
C-Print
101.6 x 127 cm
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

“More pictures are being taken and digitized than ever before, innumerable snapshots pile up on hard disks and in clouds, are shared via the Internet and commented on. But portals such as Facebook and Flickr as well as professional databases only supersede older forms of archiving, transferring material, and interaction. For the Triennial of Photography Hamburg 2015, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is examining these new collections and forms of usage. The MKG sees the future-oriented motto of the Triennial, “The Day Will Come,” as an opportunity to reflect on the sharing of images, under the title: When We Share More Than Ever. The exhibition shows how today’s rampant exchange of digital photos links in with the history of the analogue medium. In fact, photography has been a means of capturing, storing, and communicating visual impressions ever since its early days in the 19th century. In ten chapters, selected contexts are examined in which collecting and sharing images has played – and still plays – a role. More than 200 historical works from the MKG’s collection are set in counterpoint against twelve contemporary artistic projects. The present-day artists reflect in their works on the ways digital photography is used as well as on the mechanisms and implications of new media. They focus on the Internet as a new picture archive, with collections of images such as Apple Maps or photos on eBay, and on images such as those exchanged via mobile phones. Important aspects are the digital image collection as a research resource and inspiration for contemporary art, and the relevance of the classic analogue collection in relation to today’s often-invoked image overkill.

The exhibition is conceived as a kind of archive in order to explore the archive’s possible forms and uses. The featured works from the collection were selected from the MKG’s holdings of some 75,000 photographs to show how different photographic practices have been assimilated over the years. Rather than being a collection of only art photography, the MKG archive reflects the everyday uses of the medium. It gathers together various photographic applications, whether the scientific photos taken at an institute for impulse physics, the fashion spread created by Terry Richardson for Sisley, or Max Scheler’s report on Liverpool’s club scene for Stern magazine.

The chapters “Sharing a Portrait,” “Sharing a Group,” “Sharing Memories,” “Sharing a Product,” “Sharing Lust,” “Sharing Evidence,” “Sharing Knowledge,” “Sharing the World,” “Sharing a Collection,” and “Sharing Photographs” juxtapose historical and contemporary works in order to illuminate how the use and function of photographic images have changed and which aspects have remained the same despite the digital revolution. The exhibition begins with photography used in the service of people: to record a life, create a sense of community, or share memories. The following chapters deal with applied contexts, such as advertising photographs, erotic photography, photojournalism, scientific photography, and travel photos.

We share memories: While in the old days a manageable number of photographs found their way into albums, which were then taken out and perused on special family occasions, on today’s sharing platforms thousands of images are constantly being shared and “liked” around the clock. The works on view include pictures of Renate Scholz, whose affluent parents had the studio photographer Minya Diez-Dührkoop record each stage of her growth and development for fifteen years in annual portrait sessions. Studio portraits have been replaced today by snapshots, while the family photo album is complemented by the Internet portal Instagram. Ai Weiwei began in 2006 to post his diary photos in a text/image blog, which was taken offline by the Chinese authorities in 2009. Since 2014 he has been publishing daily picture messages on Instagram which are readable across language barriers.

We share the world: Starting in 1860, the Fratelli Alinari produced photographs that brought the art treasures of Italy to living rooms everywhere. As an armchair traveler, the 19th-century burgher could feel like a conqueror of far-off lands. Today, the same kind of cultural appropriation takes place instead on computer screens. Regula Bochsler and Jens Sundheim explore landscapes and cities via webcams and Apple Maps. And instead of traveling like a photojournalist to real-world hotbeds of social ferment, Doug Rickard journeys to the dark reaches of the YouTube universe. He shows us ostensibly private scenes not meant for public consumption – drug abuse, racial and sexual violence. The low-resolution, heavily pixelated stills excerpted from mobile phone videos suggest authenticity and turn us into silent witnesses and voyeurs.

We share knowledge: From its earliest days, photography has been indispensable for storing and sharing the results of scientific research and military expeditions. Trevor Paglen uses powerful precision astronomical telescopes to make “invisible” things visible, for example the American “Misty 2” stealth satellites used for reconnaissance, or a dummy put in place by the military intelligence service. In order to locate these satellites, Paglen actively participates in various networks set up by amateur satellite observers.

We share image collections: Before the invention of Google Image Search, analogue photo collections provided an opportunity to compare images. Museum archive cabinets can be seen as a precursor to today’s digital image databases. The Internet is increasingly taking on the function of a picture library, opening up new possibilities for classification and research. Artists like Taryn Simon investigate image collections to ascertain their ordering systems and their implications. Who controls what images we get to see and which ones vanish in the depths of the archives? Part of this chapter is the project “Sharing Blogs“.

The exhibition is dedicated to the broader question of how the function of a museum collection of photography has changed in the digital era, when vast digital image archives are only a mouse click away thanks to Google Image Search. The exhibits are arranged on a horizontal axis, in keeping with modern notions of how a database is set up. Everything is thus presented on a “neutral” plane, and the visitors are tasked with placing the images in context with the help of a “search aid” in the form of a booklet.”

Press release from Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Sharing the World

Google Earth and the 3D Flyover feature of the Apple Maps software make the world accessible to all of us through images. The idea of a comprehensive photographic world archive that would be available to the general public began to spread soon after the invention of photography. In parallel with the expansion of the railway network in the mid-19th century, photographic societies were founded in France and the United Kingdom with plans to make, archive, and preserve pictures of cities, cultural heritage, and landscapes. Governments organized expeditions to photograph their dominions, and photographers and companies began specializing in producing picturesque scenes echoing the tradition of painted landscapes and engraved vedutes, developing a successful business model with international sales channels. Views of popular tourist attractions – for example famous buildings in Italy – were offered as an early form of souvenir. At the same time, such pictures allowed the Biedermeier burgher back home in his living room to become an armchair traveler without taking on the exertions and expense of visiting far-off places – just as the Internet surfer is able to do today.

Artistic works such as those by Regula Bochsler confront representations of reality on the World Wide Web that are ostensibly democratic and yet are in fact controlled by corporations. Bochsler has culled subjective images from the liquefied, constantly updated parallel universe and given them a lasting material form. TG

 

Jens Sundheim From the series '100100 Views of Mount Fuji' 2008-2010

 

Jens Sundheim
From the series 100100 Views of Mount Fuji
2008-2010
Digital C-type prints
100 x 130 cm
© Jens Sundheim

 

Regula Bochsler. 'Downtown # 1' 2013

 

Regula Bochsler
Downtown # 1
2013
From the series The Rendering Eye, 2013
Inkjet print
80 x 100 cm
© Regula Bochsler
Images based on Apple Maps

 

 

Regula Bochsler

For her project The Rendering Eye, the historian Regula Bochsler has been traveling through a virtual parallel universe since 2013 using the 3D flyover feature in Apple Maps. Unlike Google Streetview, Apple Maps gives the viewer a volumetric impression of cities and landscapes. In order to create these views, the mapped zones are scanned from an airplane using several cameras aligned at different angles. With the help of vector graphics as well as actual maps and satellite images, the software then automatically merges the countless overlapping photographs into a realistic view. The program was developed for the purpose of steering military rockets by the Swedish defense company Saab, which sold it to Apple in 2011 for around 240 million dollars. Under the pressure of competition from Google, Apple released its app before some major development bugs could be fixed. In her surreal-looking, carefully composed views of American cities, Bochsler preserves for posterity the image errors ( so-called “glitches”) in the program, which are gradually being corrected and disappearing, as well as the still-visible areas where photographs taken at different times are patched together. The result is an apocalyptic vision of a world of technoid artificiality and absolute control. TG

 

Unknown photographer. 'Wissower Klinken, Photochrom Zürich' 1890

 

Unknown photographer
Wissower Klinken, Photochrom Zürich
1890
Photochromic print
16.5 x 22.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Trevor Paglen. 'Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2 Groom Lake, NV/ Distance ~ 26 Miles' 2008

 

Trevor Paglen
Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2 Groom Lake, NV/ Distance ~ 26 Miles
2008
C-Print
101.6 x 127 cm
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

Sharing evidence

Catastrophes and events are documented today by eyewitnesses at close range and communicated over the Internet. Mobile phone cameras even enable images to be transmitted directly: people involved in the incidents can share their perspective with a wide audience, the poor quality of the pixelated images often being perceived as a guarantee of their authenticity and credibility. The artist Doug Rickard also relies on this effect when he provides inside glimpses of marginal areas of American society on YouTube, assembling them to create picture stories that can be compared to classic photo reportage. By the early 1900s, photographic images were already established as evidence and information material that could be printed in newspapers. During World War II, the suitability of the medium as a means for objective documentation was then fundamentally called into question as photos were exploited for political propaganda purposes. Nevertheless, photojournalism experienced a heyday in the 1960s and 70s, before serious competition in the form of television posed a threat to print media and many magazines discontinued publication. Photographers such as Thomas Hoepker and Max Scheler supplied personal picture essays to Stern magazine in Hamburg that gave readers a look at different countries and told of the destinies of various individuals. With today’s citizen journalism, the evidential value of the photographic image seems to have once again regained its importance. TG

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders. 'Riots in Northern Ireland' 1969

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders
Riots in Northern Ireland
1969
Silver gelatine print
25.8 x 38.8 cm
© Hanns-Jörg Anders – Red. STERN

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders. 'We want peace, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' May 1969

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders
We want peace, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
May 1969
Silver gelatine print
25.8 x 38.8 cm
© Hanns-Jörg Anders – Red. STERN

 

 

Sharing lust

In 1859, Charles Baudelaire derided the “thousands of greedy eyes” indulging in the shameless enjoyment of “obscene” photographs. He was referring in particular to stereoscopic images, which convey a realistic corporeal impression of piquant subjects when seen through a special optical device. In parallel with the spread of the photographic medium, the sales of erotic and pornographic pictures grew into a lucrative business. European production centers for such material were located around 1900 in the cities of Paris, Vienna, and Budapest. Illegal pictures could be had from vendors operating near train stations or through discreet mail-order. Two daguerreotypes in the Photography and New Media Collection bear witness to the early days of this pictorial tradition.

Starting in the 1910s, the new vogue for magazines and pin-ups coming out of the USA served to democratize and popularize erotic imagery. Studio Manassé in Vienna, for example, supplied numerous magazines with such photographs. While erotic imagery was increasingly co-opted by advertising, a new industry arose: the pornographic film, which increasingly competed with print media. Today, the spread of pornographic imagery on the Internet has taken on immense proportions, while digital technology has led to a boom in the sharing of amateur photos and films, as well as their commercialization. Laia Abril shows by-products of this online marketing of private sex in her video work Tediousphilia. TG

 

William H. Rau. 'An Intruder' 1897

 

William H. Rau
An Intruder
1897
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Nobuyoshi Araki From the series 'Kimbaku' 1983

 

Nobuyoshi Araki
From the series Kimbaku
1983
Silver gelatine print
26 x 33.4 cm
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Fragmented through artfully knotted ropes, the nude bodies of young women in Nobuyoshi Araki’s photographs are turned into objects of voyeuristic curiosity. Critical opinions in the literature are divided, with some emphasizing the pictorial character of the images and others accusing the photographer of a sexist point of view catering to the exotic tastes of the European public. Araki’s photographs have thus set off a discussion on where to draw the line between pornography and art.

Araki’s photos were exhibited in the West for the first time in 1992. The show featured views of Tokyo, still lifes, and female nudes that dealt with love, loss, and sexuality – all intertwined into a very personal narration. From that point forward, the perception of Araki’s images became very selective, and at the latest with Tokyo Lucky Hole (1997) the obscene aspect came to the fore. In the 1980s, the photographer explored the escalating sex and entertainment boom in Tokyo. Araki himself insists on varied applications for his photographs. He displays them in a wide range of exhibition venues, from soup kitchens to museums, and publishes his images in art books as well as in porn magazines, S&M periodicals, and popular calendars. The images in the collection of the MKG were acquired in the mid-1980s, at a time when Araki was still unknown in Europe. The choices made already anticipate the selective perception of his work in the 1990s. ER

 

Laia Abril. 'Tediousphilia' 2014

 

Laia Abril
Tediousphilia
2014
Video, c. 4 min.
© Laia Abril/INSTITUTE

 

 

Laia Abril

Laia Abril’s series Tediousphilia shows young couples who set up a webcam in their bedroom in order to earn money by giving customers an intimate peek at their ostensibly private sex lives. This online peepshow concept is a phenomenon of the commercialization of private sex on the internet. Abril is interested in the moments before the sexual act, taking a look behind the scenes, as it were, where the couples succumb to the lethargy of waiting while the camera is already rolling. The title is thus composed of the word tedious and the Greek term philia, indicating a preference or inclination, referring to the embracing of boredom before the impending performance. These “pre-intimate” moments seem almost more real and personal than what we imagine the pseudoprivate performances must be like. The images of the waiting lovers illuminate the voyeuristic relationship between audience and performer, between private and public, focusing, as in other works by Abril, on themes such as sexuality, intimacy, and the media representation of human bodies. ES

 

 

Sharing products

Since the 1920s, consumer products have been advertised primarily through photographic images. Fueled by the rapidly developing field of advertising and by advances in printing techniques, advertising photos began to proliferate in newspapers and magazines and on billboards. Advertisers increasingly relied on the suggestive power of the photographic images rather than on text or drawings as before.

Johannes Grubenbecher had his students take pictures of objects of daily use as a way of preparing them for work in the advertising field. The arrangement of object shots demonstrates the form and materiality of the items and reflect the image language of the 1920s, which focused on functionality and faithfulness to materials. By contrast, the commercial photographs by Hildi Schmidt-Heins and Arthur Benda from the 1930s stylize the objects as consumer fetishes. Benda has draped a silk nightgown as though it had just slipped off a woman’s shoulders and onto the floor in order to whet the observer’s desires, which he should then transfer onto the goods.

Today, nothing has changed in the fetishization of merchandise through professional product photography. New, however, are the non-professional snapshots on consumer-to-consumer platforms such as eBay. Household items that are no longer needed are photographed by the owners themselves for sale to others. Penelope Umbrico uses this imagery in her work. She has collected photographs of tube televisions – an outdated techique – and presents them as a comment on the changes in our use of images brought about by inexpensive and ubiquitous digital photography, making pictures easy to upload to the appropriate platforms. ER

 

Hildi Schmidt-Heins. 'Gartmann Schokolade' 1937

 

Hildi Schmidt-Heins
Gartmann Schokolade
1937
Tempera on silver gelatine print
17.3 x 23 cm
© Archiv Schmidt Heins

 

 

The sandwich boards created by Hildi Schmidt-Heins for the Stuhr Coffee Roastery and the Gartmann Chocolate Factory appeared as still images on Hamburg’s movie screens in 1937. She used open packaging so that potential customers could see the food product inside and also recognize it easily in the store. Her few commissions for advertisements came from her photography lecturer Johannes Grubenbecher during her studies at the Hansa Academy for Visual Arts. Schmidt-Heins focused in her studies on typeface design, attending the class conducted by the graphic designer Hugo Meier-Thur. Her silver gelatin prints with tempera lettering present a method of visual communication that fuses typography with product photography. Later, the photographer dedicated herself to the documentation of workspaces, taking pictures of workshops. AS

 

Penelope Umbrico. 'Signals Still' 2011

 

Penelope Umbrico
Signals Still
2011
C-Prints
23 x 30 cm
Courtesy Mark Moore Gallery, USA, and XPO Gallery, Paris
© Penelope Umbrico

 

 

In her tableau Signals Still, Penelope Umbrico presents a collection of six sets of eleven photographs each of illuminated, imageless screens. The product photos were taken by the owners of the devices in order to provide proof of their working order to potential buyers. Umbrico scours consumer-to-consumer marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist for such images and groups them into individual types. By transforming the intangible pixel images into C-prints on Kodak paper, Umbrico then distances them from their original function as digital communication media. The artist appropriates the found material and imposes on it a shift in meaning. Minimal deviations in the angle of the shot and variations in the forms and colors of the monochromatic snowy light surfaces combine to form a collective template. The promise of modern technology – progress and mass availability – is juxtaposed with its somber flipside of obsolescence and superfluity. Umbrico’s use of contemporary digital media unites the tired flicker of the television screens into a chorus singing the requiem of an era. AS

 

 

Sharing collections

“According to which criteria should a collection be organized? Perhaps by individual lectures, by masters, chronologically, topographically, or by material?” asked the curator Wilhelm Weimar in 1917. His query was prompted by the production of a slide cabinet holding 7,600 slides. His solution was to furnish each image carrier with a numerical code, so that they could be cross-referenced with a card catalogue in which the objects were filed under various keywords. His search aid was an early form of database.

Like this slide collection, the photographic reproductions created by Léon Vidal and Adolphe Braun to record and disseminate art treasures can also be understood as precursors to digital databases. Today, search engines such as Google Images are available to anyone with an Internet connection, presenting with their infinite number of comparison pictures a plethora of new possibilities for ordering and research, and supplanting the function of the photographic collection as image database. Photographs are no longer bound as physical media to a single storage location but have become immaterial and thus available anytime, anywhere. Images that once slumbered in archives, organized by strict criteria for ease of retrieval, become in Aurélien Froment’s film weightless ephemera. A magician moves them through space with a sweep of his hand, just as the modern user swipes his pictures across the digital interface.

Taryn Simon is also interested in such image ordering systems and how the images in them are accessed. By entering identical search terms in various national image search engines in her Image Atlas and then examining the standardized search results, she inquires into what the new archives remember and what they forget. ER

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG
Nd
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG (detail)
Nd
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

In the late 1890s, photography’s triumphant advance also had an impact on the everyday work of the MKG. Under Justus Brinckmann, the museum’s first director, the objects in the collection were regularly recorded for the files with the help of a camera. The self-taught photographer Wilhelm Weimar, initially employed by the museum as a draftsman, thus managed in the course of fifteen years to produce some 1,700 shots of pieces in the collection. The prints were mounted on cardboard and filed according to functional groups. In case of theft or suspected counterfeiting, the object photos also served Brinckmann as evidence hat could be sent by post within a network of museums.

Art history as an academic discipline worked from the outset with photographic reproductions, which made it possible to compare far-flung works and to bring them together in a shared historical context. In his essay Le Musée imaginaire, author André Malraux even makes the claim that the history of art has been tantamount since the 19th century to the “history of the photographable.” The over 7,000 slides the museum has preserved of its own holdings and other objects, together with architectural images and exhibition photographs, were assembled for use in slide presentations, compellingly illustrating this idea of a museum without walls which can be rearranged at will according to prevailing contemporary thinking. AS

 

Aurélien Froment. 'Théâtre de poche' 2007

 

Aurélien Froment
Théâtre de poche
2007
with Stéphane Corréas
HD video with sound, c. 12 min.
Courtesy of the artist and Marcelle Alix, Paris
© Aurélien Mole

 

 

Aurélien Froment

The work Théâtre de Poche (2007) showcases in a seemingly infinite black space a contemporary form of magic with images. A magician in a trance-like state pushes photographs across an invisible surface like an iPhone user swiping through information on his touch screen. His sweeping motions pass through thin air, like those of a player at a Wii station. Froment thus connects these gestures, obviously influenced by contemporary electronic user interfaces, with a centuriesold magic technique. The images, consisting of family photos, playing cards, found film stills, reproductions of non-European art, and arts and crafts items, are rearranged in new juxtapositions. They are resorted, lined up, and rethought, recalling Aby Warburg’s panels for his Mnemosyne Atlas. The artist is interested here in the discrepancy between sign and meaning, exploring how it shifts when the images are placed in new contexts and new, weightless archives. ER

 

 

Sharing photographs

At the end of the 19th century, more and more amateur and professional photographers came together in the major cities of Europe to form groups. They shared the conviction that photography should be seen as an independent artistic medium, and they sought a forum in which to present their works. Magazines such as Camera Work, which was distributed internationally, as well as joint exhibitions, encouraged lively exchanges about stylistic developments and technical procedures while serving to expand and strengthen the network. The Pictorialists saw their pictures not as a mere medium for communicating information or as illustrations: they instead shared the photographs themselves as pictures in their own right, with a focus on their composition and the details of their execution.

The Hofmeister brothers put their artworks into circulation as photo postcards. The artist Heman Chong picks up on this popular tradition of collecting and sharing images by reproducing his numerous photographs as cards, taking recourse to the “old” medium of the postcard to highlight the fact that photographs are today mainly immaterial images shared via the Internet.

Platforms like Instagram and Flickr define themselves as global “photo communities” with millions of users and thousands of uploads per second. Image data is archived there, groups founded, albums curated, and an interactive space created through keywording with tags and comment functions. For the exhibition When We Share More Than Ever, examples of such virtual galleries are presented with commentary on the blog http://sharingmorethanever.tumblr.com/. TG

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister
Postcards
1910s and 1920s
Silver gelatine prints
14.8 x 10.6 cm
3 Intaglio prints
14 x 8.9 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister
Postcards
1910s and 1920s
Silver gelatine prints
14.8 x 10.6 cm
3 Intaglio prints
14 x 8.9 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister

Theodor and Oscar Hofmeister, one a merchant and the other a judicial employee, discovered their passion for photography in the 1890s. Upon viewing international photography exhibitions at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, they became acquainted with the Viennese Pictorialists and were inspired to adopt similarly picturesque imagery coupled with advanced technical implementation. Starting in 1895, they began to exhibit their work and were soon recognized internationally as specialists in the multicolor gum bichromate printing process. Some of their large-format one-off images are found in the collection of the MKG.

A good idea of the brothers’ prodigious productivity and clever marketing is however supplied by their landscape scenes, which Munich publisher Hermann A. Wiechmann reproduced using the rotogravure process. He published these scenes taken on rambles through the countryside, meant to reflect the “characteristic effect” of various parts of the country and hence the “German soul,” in over twenty “homeland books,” combining them with poems by German authors, as well as in portfolios and as “Hofmeister picture postcards.” The Hofmeister brothers themselves amassed an extensive collection of postcards of their own making – addressed in some cases to family members – as well as copies of postcards by other photographers. TG

 

Heman Chong. 'God Bless Diana' 2000-2004

 

Heman Chong
God Bless Diana
2000-2004
Installation with postcards
© Heman Chong

 

Heman Chong. 'God Bless Diana' 2000-2004 (detail)

 

Heman Chong
God Bless Diana (detail)
2000-2004
Installation with postcards
© Heman Chong

 

 

Heman Chong

In his conceptual works, the artist, writer, and curator Heman Chong often deals with social practices and different kinds of archives. The installation God Bless Diana presents 550 postcards as if in a museum shop display. The artist is alluding here to the contemporary flood of commercial and private photographs, inviting the viewer to respond and make his own selections. Chong offers viewers scenes evoking ephemeral traces and grotesque situations he has filtered out of the daily big-city jungle in Beijing, London, New York, and Singapore and captured on analogue 35mm film. In contrast to the data in an Internet image archive, the postcards are actual material objects: for one euro, as symbolic antipode to the exorbitant art market prices, the exhibition visitor can purchase his favorites among these works, take them home with him, and use them to curate his own “show” or as the bearer of a written message, thus sharing them with friends. TG

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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29
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Andrea Nelson, assistant curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art

 

I am too sick at the moment to really say anything constructive about platinum prints except one word: wow. You only have to look at the tonality and the sensuality of the prints to understand their appeal. Driftwood, Maine, 1928 by Paul Strand is my favourite in this posting.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National 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.

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'The Last Joke - Bellagio' 1887

 

Alfred Stieglitz
The Last Joke – Bellagio
1887
Platinum print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 11.7 x 14.7 cm (4 5/8 x 5 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Laura Gilpin. 'Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs' 1919

 

Laura Gilpin
Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs
1919
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund

 

Renowned for her landscape photographs of the American Southwest, Gilpin was mentored by Gertrude Käsebier and trained at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York. This luminous photograph exemplifies Gilpin’s skill in producing expressive works with a wide spectrum of tonal values.

 

Frederick H. Evans. '
York Minster, North Transept: "In Sure and Certain Hope",' 1902

 

Frederick H. Evans
York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope”
1902
Platinum print
27.46 x 19.69 cm (10 13/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Carolyn Brody Fund and Pepita Milmore Memorial

 

Evans was known as the master of the unmanipulated platinum print. For him, a perfect photograph was one that “gives its beholder the same order of joy that the original would.” In this work, light, more than architecture, is his subject. As light fills the space of York Minster Cathedral it dissolves the weight of the massive stone, creating a reverential, timeless mood. Evans also took great care in the presentation of his photographs, often embellishing his mounts with hand-ruled borders and watercolor washes. (NGA)

Evans was described by Alfred Stieglitz as ‘the greatest exponent of architectural photography’. Evans aimed to create a mood with his photography; he recommended that the amateur ‘try for a record of emotion rather than a piece of topography’. He would spend weeks in a cathedral before exposing any film, exploring different camera angles for effects of light and means of emotional expression. He always tried to keep the camera as far as possible from the subject and to fill the frame with the image completely, and he used a small aperture and very long exposure for maximum definition. Equally important to the effect of his photographs were his printing methods; he rejected the fashion for painterly effects achieved by smudging, blowing or brushing over the surface of the gum paper print. His doctrine of pure photography, ‘plain prints from plain negatives’, prohibited retouching. (Text from MoMA)

 

Karl Struss. 'Columbia University, Night' 1910

 

Karl Struss
Columbia University, Night
1910
Gum dichromate over platinum print processed with mercury
24 x 19.4 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'From the Back-Window - 291' 1915

 

Alfred Stieglitz
From the Back-Window – 291
1915
Platinum print
24.1 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Influenced by Peter Henry Emerson’s understanding of photography as an independent art form, Stieglitz became the driving force behind the development of art photography at the turn of the century. He founded the Photo-Secession group in 1902 with the aim to “advance photography as applied to pictorial expression.” This view of the buildings in New York behind Stieglitz’s famed Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue is an exceptional example of a platinum print with rich, neutral gray and black tones. The diffuse glow of the lights is enhanced by Stieglitz’s choice of a smooth printing paper with a subtle surface sheen. (NGA)

Around 1915, Stieglitz began photographing the view out of the window of his gallery, a practice he continued through two relocations of his business. In this photograph made from the window of Stieglitz’s first gallery (known as “291” for its address on Fifth Avenue), the legacy of Pictorialism hovers in the rich, evocative atmosphere he coaxes from the nighttime scene, even as the play of angular forms declares the modernist impulse for the exposure. (Text from Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Paul Strand. 'Driftwood, Maine' 1928

 

Paul Strand
Driftwood, Maine
1928
Platinum print
24.3 x 19.2 cm (9 9/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Southwestern Bell Corporation Paul Strand Collection

 

Strand was a committed advocate of the platinum process and made platinum photographs well into the 1920s and early 1930s. Driftwood, Maine is printed on Japine paper, a photographic paper with a chemically altered surface, which resembles parchment. First introduced by William Willis’ Platinotype Company in 1906, Japine platinum paper provided deep blacks and a lustrous surface sheen that Strand found ideal for his modernist abstractions.

 

 

“Rare platinum photographs that played a pivotal role in establishing photography as a fine art will be presented at the National Gallery of Art. On view in the West Building from October 5, 2014 through January 4, 2015, A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection will include two dozen works from the Gallery’s renowned collection of photographs. Presented in conjunction with a symposium organized by the National Gallery of Art and sponsored by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, this exhibition features compelling prints by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), and other prominent pictorialist photographers.

“Photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were captivated by the lush appearance and rich atmospheric effects they were able to create through the platinum print process,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “With their extraordinary tonal range – capable of capturing the deepest blacks, warmest sepias, and creamiest of whites – platinum prints quickly became the preferred process of the era.”

Exhibition highlights

Featuring 24 outstanding photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s, this exhibition reveals the artistic qualities and subtle nuances of the platinum process. Major artists such as Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936), Frederick H. Evans (18531943), Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), and Clarence H. White (1871-1925), revered platinum prints for their permanence, delicate image quality, and surface textures that could range from a velvety matte to a lustrous sheen.

Focused on the aesthetic and technical aspects of platinum photographs, highlights include Stieglitz’s From the Back-Window – 291 (1915), an exceptional print with neutral gray and black tones capturing the diffuse glow of lights in the buildings behind the artist’s galleries at 291 Fifth Avenue; Evans’ superb York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope” (1902), an affective work whose subject is light more than architecture; and Steichen’s evocative Rodin (1907),  combining platinum with gum dichromate to create a painterly, multilayered portrait.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Clarence H. White. 'Mrs. White - In the Studio' 1907

 

Clarence H. White
Mrs. White – In the Studio
1907
Palladium print, printed later
24.4 x 19.3 cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel and R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Clarence H. White' c. 1905

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn
Clarence H. White
c. 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.4 cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Coburn presents fellow photographer Clarence H. White holding a tube of platinum paper in much the same manner as a painter would hold a palette. Because the paper support contributed greatly to the overall appearance of the platinum print, photographers experimented with a range of handmade and mass-produced papers that varied in texture and color.

 

Clarence H. White. 'George Borup' 1909

 

Clarence H. White
George Borup
1909
Platinum print
25 x 20 cm (9 13/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

A self-taught photographer from Ohio, White became an important leader of the pictorialist movement. A member of the Photo-Secession, he exhibited widely and later founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York in 1914, a school that helped define and establish pictorialist ideals. White took this portrait of geologist and explorer George Borup the year he returned from an expedition to the North Pole.

 

Frederick H. Evans. 'Aubrey Beardsley' 1894

 

Frederick H. Evans
Aubrey Beardsley
1894
Platinum print
13 x 90.2 cm (5 1/8 x 35 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund

 

A major figure in British Pictorialism and a driving force of its influential society The Linked Ring, Frederick Evans is best known for his moving interpretations of medieval cathedrals rendered with unmatched subtlety in platinum prints. Until 1898, Evans owned a bookshop in London where, according to George Bernard Shaw, he was the ideal bookseller, chatting his customers into buying what he thought was right for them. In 1889, Evans befriended the seventeen-year-old Aubrey Beardsley, a clerk in an insurance company who, too poor to make purchases, browsed in the bookshop during lunch hours. Eventually, Evans recommended Beardsley to the publisher John M. Dent as the illustrator for a new edition of Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” It was to be Beardsley’s first commission and the beginning of his meteoric rise to fame.

Evans probably made this portrait of Beardsley (1872-1898) in 1894, at the time the young artist was achieving notoriety for his scandalous illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” and “The Yellow Book,” two publications that captured the irreverent, decadent mood of the European fin de siècle. A lanky, stooped youth who suffered from tuberculosis and would die of the disease at the age of twenty-five, Beardsley, conscious of his awkward physique, cultivated the image of the dandy. Evans is reported to have spent hours studying Beardsley, wondering how best to approach his subject, when the artist, growing tired, finally relaxed into more natural poses. In the platinum print, Evans captured the inward-looking artist lost in the contemplation of his imaginary world, his beaked profile cupped in the long fingers of his sensitive hands. (Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1902

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Alfred Stieglitz
1902
Platinum print
30.5 x 21.2 cm (12 x 8 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, and Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Featured in the 1903 inaugural issue of Alfred Stieglitz’s seminal journal Camera Work, Gertrude Käsebier was hailed by him as “the leading portrait photographer in the country.” To manipulate the tones of this print, Käsebier masked sections of the negative and then used a brush to selectively apply the developing solution to the printing paper. The final result resembles a beautifully hand-worked watercolor.

 

Heinrich Kühn. 'Walther Kühn' 1911

 

Heinrich Kühn
Walther Kühn
1911
Gum dichromate over platinum print
29.7 x 23.7 cm (11 11/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

A photographer, writer, and scientist, Heinrich Kühn was a central figure in the international development of pictorialist photography. Known for his intimate portraits, scenes of rural life, and still-life photographs, he was actively involved in groups – both in Great Britain and Austria – that espoused an alternative to a purely technical view of photography.

 

Edward Steichen. 'Rodin' 1907

 

Edward Steichen
Rodin
1907
Gum dichromate over platinum print
37.94 x 26.67 cm (14 15/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund

 

Steichen positioned Auguste Rodin in a contemplative pose reminiscent of the sculptor’s most recognized work, The Thinker. By adding gum dichromate (a mixture of light-sensitive salts, pigment and a gum arabic binder) over a platinum print, Steichen enhanced the soft- focus appearance and tonality of his portrait.

Steichen was an important link between European and American artistic circles during the first decade of the twentieth century. A member of the Photo-Secession, Steichen encouraged the group’s founder, Alfred Stieglitz, to open a gallery in New York to promote the club’s work. The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (later known as “291” from its address at 291 Fifth Avenue) opened in 1905. Soon, the gallery’s scope extended beyond photography to include other currents in modern art, such as the exhibition of Rodin’s watercolors and drawings that Steichen organized in 1908.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Hodge Kirnon' 1917

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Hodge Kirnon
1917
Satista print
Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

One of the least well known and most beautiful of Stieglitz’s portraits, this photograph depicts Hodge Kirnon, a man Stieglitz saw in passing every day. When preparing to close his historic gallery “291” in 1917 as a result of World War I, Stieglitz assessed his work and life and saw that Kirnon – who operated the elevator that transported the gallery’s visitors, its critics, and its provocative modern art – had been a true fellow passenger on the momentous trip.

Satista prints refer to a print that is a composed of a mixture of silver and platinum. This is a very old process, invented by William Willis published in Senstive Photographic Paper and Process of Making. The process was intended to be more economical then platinum printing, but being able to produce results that looked like pure platinum prints and being as permanent.

 

Edith R. Wilson. 'Portrait of a Family' 1922

 

Edith R. Wilson (American, 1864-1924)
Portrait of a Family
1922
Palladium print
R.K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

With the onset of World War I, platinum metal was needed for military purposes, raising its price and severely limiting its use in commercial applications. This led to the advancement of new photographic products that relied on the more readily available and less expensive precious metals of silver and palladium. Wilson made this portrait on palladium paper during a summer course offered by the Clarence H. White School of Photography. Intended to replicate the look of platinum prints, palladium papers came in various surface textures and tonal values; however, they were never fully embraced by photographers, who questioned both their quality and permanence.

 

Harry C. Rubincam. 'The Circus' 1905

 

Harry C. Rubincam (American, 1871-1940)
The Circus
1905
Platinum print
The Sarah and William L Walton Fund

 

After years of working for insurance and wholesale grocery companies in New York City, Rubincam moved to Denver, Colorado, where he learned photography from a retired professional. His participation in several exhibitions brought his work to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, who invited Rubincam in 1903 to be a member of the Photo-Secession, an elite group of photographers whose aim was to advance photography as a fine art. This photograph of a circus performance is unusual among art photographs from this time for its spontaneity.

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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04
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘RealSurreal. Masterpieces of Avant-Garde Photography Das Neue Sehen 1920-1950. Siegert Collection’ at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Exhibition dates: 15th November 2014 – 6th April 2015

The artists
Eugène Atget – Herbert Bayer – Hans Bellmer – Aenne Biermann – Brassaï – František Drtikol – Jaromír Funke – Florence Henri – André Kertész – Germaine Krull – Herbert List – Man Ray – László Moholy-Nagy – Albert Renger-Patzsch – August Sander – Josef Sudek – Maurice Tabard – Raoul Ubac – Umbo – Wols – and others

 

Thought photography

Here are some names to conjure with (above). And what an appropriate word “conjure” is to illuminate these images:

: to charge or entreat earnestly or solemnly

: to summon by or as if by invocation or incantation

: to affect or effect by or as if by magic

: to practice magical arts

: to use a conjurer’s tricks

: to make you think of (something)

: to create or imagine (something)

 

For what is photography, if not magic?

These images are conjured from both the imagination of the artist… and reality itself. One cannot live, be magical, without the other. “Beneath the surface of visible things the irrational, the magical, and the contradictory could be discovered and explored.”

Still waters run deep.

 

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Watch a 6 minute video about the exhibition on Vimeo (in German).

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch. 'Self-Portrait' 1926/27

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Self-Portrait
1926/27
Gelatin silver paper, 16.9 x 22.8 cm
photo: Christian P. Schmider, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann and Jürgen Wilde / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Brassaï. 'Occasional Magic (Sprouting Potato)' 1931

 

Brassaï
Occasional Magic (Sprouting Potato)
1931
Gelatin silver paper
28.8 x 23 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmider, Munich
© ESTATE BRASSAÏ – RMN

 

František Drtikol. 'Circular Segment (Arc)' 1928

 

František Drtikol
Circular Segment (Arc)
1928
Carbon print
21.3 x 28.7 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© František Drtikol – heirs, 2014

 

Hans Bellmer. 'The Doll' 1935

 

Hans Bellmer
The Doll
1935
Gelatin silver paper
17.4 x 17.9 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Grete Stern. 'The Eternal Eye' c. 1950

 

Grete Stern
The Eternal Eye
c. 1950
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
39.5 x 39.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Estate of Grete Stern courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2014

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

 

Installation views of the exhibition RealSurreal at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

 

 

“Is a photograph a true-to-life reproduction of reality, or is it merely a staged image? This year – the 175th anniversary of the invention of photography – the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg responds to this question with a comprehensive survey of avant-garde photography between 1920 and 1950. The exhibition RealSurreal presents around 200 masterpieces from the eminent Siegert Collection in Munich. This collection, which has never been shown in its entirety, contains photographs from the Neues Sehen (New Vision) movement, covering everything from New Objectivity to Surrealism in Germany, France, and Czechoslovakia.

Das Neue Sehen (New Vision)

Notions about photography’s visual veracity are as old as the art itself. As early as the nineteenth century there were arguments as to whether or not photography – with its mechanical ability to record ‘reality’ – was better suited to portray life more comprehensively and truthfully than other visual arts of the period. An inevitable reaction to what were considered photography’s shortcomings was Pictorialism, which approached photography according to the conventions of painting, in an attempt to lend it more artistic credibility. But around 1920 a new generation of international photographers began reconsidering the specific characteristics of photography as tools for developing it into a more modern method of appropriating reality. Rapid progress in technologising modern society affected the adoption of and attitudes toward photography: convenient cameras that used rolls of film came onto the market in greater numbers, making it easy for even the greenest of amateurs to take photographs. Photographs were increasingly used as illustrations in mass media, and in advertising, leading to a rising demand for accomplished images and professional image makers. These developments also changed the public’s visual habits, so that the New Vision arose as an expression of the perception of this new media-fabricated reality. Positions ranged from the precise recordings of what was seen in portrait and industrial photography, via the use of new framings and perspectives at the Bauhaus, all the way to the photomontage and technical experiments such as the photogram and solarisation, as well as Surrealism’s staged images.

The Mechanical Eye

Photographers of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement wanted to show the world as it was. For Albert Renger-Patzsch, photography was the “most dependable tool” for objectively reproducing the visible things of this world, especially the results of modern technology, and in this respect, it was superior to the subjective perception of the human eye. László Moholy-Nagy went a step further, with his famous verdict that “the illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” To the camera he attributed the crucial function of technically expanding human perception. Whilst adequately depicting machines, mass society, and modern metropolitan life: “the photographic apparatus can perfect or supplement our Photographs were increasingly used as illustrations in mass media.” Unusual aspects and viewpoints led to striking images. From a bird’s-eye perspective, buildings and streets became compositions made up of lines and planes, while a low-angle shot could create an unforeseen dynamic and greatly enlarging an object resulted in magical dissociations.

The Real and the Surreal

Ultimately, the Surrealists identified in the “realistic” recording tool of photography yet another artistic means of “écriture automatique,” which André Breton also described as “thought photography.” Beneath the surface of visible things the irrational, the magical, and the contradictory could be discovered and explored. Documentary photographers such as Eugène Atget and Karl Blossfeldt became inspirational figures in this movement. Their work was printed in the Surrealist magazines, because a plant, staged and isolated in a photograph, could trigger all kinds of magical associations beyond its botanical context. Meanwhile manipulated and staged photographs benefitted from the truthfulness of “this is the way it was,” since they could only reinforce their mysterious statements. One of Surrealism’s most important artistic means – the combinatory creation (including, of course, the photomontage) – was particularly effective because heterogeneous visual elements were joined to form new, surprising contexts of meaning. Like Brassaï’s photographs of a nocturnal Paris, Karel Teige’s collages have a surreal quality which can also be found in a different form in Man Ray’s dreamlike photograms. Both staged photography and – with many experiments with photographic techniques, such as multiple exposures, negative printing, and solarisation – strove to achieve the melding of dream and reality, a goal postulated by Breton in his first Surrealist manifesto. In New Vision photography this could generally result in images that could “go either way,” depending on the viewpoint of the real/surreal photographer and observer; they could be seen as sober, objective reproductions of the visible world, or as imaginary, subjective reflections of reality.

The exhibition RealSurreal leads the visitor through Neues Sehen in Germany, Surrealism in Paris, and the avant-garde in Prague, alongside themes such as portraits, nudes, objects, architecture, and experimental. Opening with a prologue of exemplary nineteenth-century photographs which are compared and contrasted with Neues Sehen, one can literally experience the Neues Sehen in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg via rare original prints by notable photographers, while rediscovering the broad spectrum and complexity of photographs from real to surreal. Besides approximately 200 photographs, the exhibition contains historical photography books and magazines, as well as rare artists’ books and examples of avant-garde cover design, making it possible to experience this new view of the world.

RealSurreal also features several famous clips from key films by Luis Buñuel, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, and others, shown continuously in a 45-minute loop, which highlight the fruitful interplay between avant-garde photography and the-then contemporary cinema. Important photographs and photo installations by Nobuyoshi Araki, Gilbert & George, Paul Graham, Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, and James Welling, from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg’s collection, will also demonstrate that the artistic questions posed by Neues Sehen are still relevant today.”

Press release from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg website

 

Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Skull' 1932/33

 

Erwin Blumenfeld
Skull
1932/33
Solarisation on gelatin silver paper
29.6 x 24 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

Josef Sudek. 'Plaster Head' c. 1947

 

Josef Sudek
Plaster Head
c. 1947
Gelatin silver paper
23.5 x 17.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Estate of Josef Sudek

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Lonely Metropolitan' 1932/1969

 

Herbert Bayer
Lonely Metropolitan
1932/1969
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 28 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self-Portrait
1932
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 27.9 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2014

 

Man Ray. 'Electricity' 1931

 

Man Ray
Electricity
1931
Photogravure
26 x 20.6 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Man Ray Trust, Paris/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

May Ray. 'Rayography (spiral)'1923

 

May Ray
Rayography (spiral)
1923
Photogram on gelatin silver paper
26.6. x 21.4 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Man Ray Trust, Paris/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Florence Henri. 'Portrait Composition (Erica Brausen)' 1931

 

Florence Henri
Portrait Composition (Erica Brausen)
1931
Gelatin silver paper
39.9 x 29 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Galleria Martini & Ronchetti, Genova, Italy

 

Atelier Manassé. 'My Little Bird' c. 1928

 

Atelier Manassé
My Little Bird
c. 1928
Gelatin silver paper
21 x 16 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© IMAGNO/Austrian Archives

 

Genia Rubin. 'Lisa Fonssagives. Gown: Alix (Madame Grès)' 1937

 

Genia Rubin
Lisa Fonssagives. Gown: Alix (Madame Grès)
1937
Gelatin silver paper
30.3 x 21.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder / Siegert Collection, Munich
© Sheherazade Ter-Abramoff, Paris

 

 

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Abteilung Kommunikation
Hollerplatz 1 38440
Wolfsburg
T: +49 (0)5361 2669 69

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Tuesday 11 am – 8 pm
Monday closed

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg website

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09
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War 1 and Condé Nast Years’ at The Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 24th June – 13th October 2014

 

Brave man, hanging over the side of a rickety biplane at 15,000 feet taking aerial photographs during World War One but just look at the images he brought back, especially the hellish Untitled (Vaux) (1918-19, below). I’m still not that convinced by his portraiture. The technical proficiency is magnificent (lighting, set, costume) but they are just too styled for me – the cat in the top left corner of Noel Coward (1932, below), the bowler hat of Charles Chaplin (1931, below) and the double shadow of Fred Astaire in Funny Face (1927, below) coupled with bands of light/dark and tons of “atmosphere” (certainly not sharp and clear!) which echo the mannerisms of Pictorialism. I see little modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics in these photographs. They are beautiful but they leave me unengaged. I much prefer the advertising photography in the next posting, much more angular and modern. You will have to wait and see what it is!

Marcus

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

 

“At the start of World War I in 1914, Edward Steichen was a pioneering champion of art photography – catapulting to fame as a leading member of the Photo Secessionists and as cofounder of the trailblazing magazine Camera Work. Yet by the early 1920s, Steichen had rejected the soft focus, dreamy landscapes and portraits of his early years in favor of realist photographs made for informational purposes or popular consumption. This turning point was first marked by his role in World War I as chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919; and was fully realized in his subsequent work as lead photographer at Condé Nast publications from 1923 to 1937.

While on military duty, Steichen helped adapt aerial photography for intelligence purposes, implementing surveillance programs that had a lasting impact on modern warfare. He later reflected: “The wartime problem of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane ten to twenty thousand feet in the air had brought me a new kind of technical interest in photography… Now I wanted to know all that could be expected from photography.” Steichen began to value photography’s capacity to transmit and encode information, and he soon proved his savvy as a collaborator and producer rather than a solitary auteur – new skills that enabled his subsequent groundbreaking career in magazines. Upon his return to New York in 1923, Steichen joined Condé Nast publications, creating iconic fashion photographs and celebrity portraits for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Over a period of nearly 15 years he created images that redefined the field through their clever use of modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics, becoming an influential impresario who promoted photography as a mass-media tool.

Focusing on rarely seen Steichen photographs drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition includes a unique album of over 80 World War I aerial photographs assembled and annotated by Steichen himself as well as a group of iconic glamour portraits and fashion photographs done for Condé Nast, featuring notable figures such as Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, and Gloria Swanson.”

Text from The Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Bomb Dropped From Airplane' 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Bomb Dropped From Airplane
1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces' September 7, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces
September 7, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces' (detail) September 7, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces (detail)
September 7, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,' August 23, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,
August 23, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,' (detail) August 23, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft., (detail)
August 23, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Untitled (Vaux)' 1918/19

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Untitled (Vaux)
1918-19
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Mary Duncan in "Lilly,"' 1931

 

Edward Steichen
Mary Duncan in “Lilly”
1931
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

“Throughout his extensive career, famed photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973) championed photography’s multiple roles – from his earliest efforts to promote American photography as an equal among the modern fine arts, to his groundbreaking work for the magazine industry. A new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years, on view from June 28 – September 28, 2014, in Galleries 1-4, examines a crucial period in Steichen’s career, when he rejected the painterly Pictorialist aesthetic of his early years in favor of a straight, information-based approach. This turning point was first signaled by Steichen’s role in World War I, as chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919, and was fully realized in his work as lead photographer at Condé Nast Publications from 1923 to 1937.

Focusing on rarely seen Steichen photographs drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition includes a unique album of over 80 World War I aerial photographs assembled and annotated by Steichen himself as well as a group of iconic glamour portraits and fashion photographs done for Condé Nast, featuring such early Hollywood royalty as Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, as well as key historical figures like Winston Churchill.

Prior to WWI, Edward Steichen was a pioneering champion of art photography – he had a leading reputation in the Photo Secession movement in New York, and, along with his mentor Alfred  Stieglitz, had cofounded its trail-blazing fine-art journal Camera Work. Together, they opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, later 291, which first presented Picasso, Bråncusi, and a range of progressive photographers to the American public. In 1906, seeking a change, Steichen moved to Voulangis, France, with his family, where he immersed himself in European modern art. They remained there until the outbreak of the war in 1914, when, under the threat of advancing German troops, they fled home to the United States.

In July 1917, Steichen entered active duty with the goal of becoming “a photographic reporter, as Mathew Brady had been in the Civil War,” but he quickly abandoned this romantic notion to help implement the newest weapon of war – aerial photography. While on military duty, Steichen helped adapt aerial photography for intelligence purposes, implementing surveillance programs that had a lasting impact on modern warfare. He later reflected: “The wartime problem of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane ten to twenty thousand feet in the air had brought me a new kind of technical interest in photography… Now I wanted to know all that could be expected from photography.” Steichen began to value photography’s capacity to transmit and encode information, and he soon proved his savvy as a collaborator and producer rather than a solitary auteur – new skills that enabled his subsequent groundbreaking career in magazines.

Following his military discharge in 1919, Steichen returned to Voulangis, where for a period of three years he created work that embraced clear focus, close cropping, and other techniques of modernist photography. Upon his return to New York in 1923, Steichen joined Condé Nast Publications, creating iconic fashion photographs and celebrity portraits for Vogue and Vanity Fair. In undertaking this challenging endeavor, the organizational and technical skills Steichen gained during his time in the military and in Voulangis proved invaluable.

Steichen championed the cultural and economic potential of celebrity, fashion, and advertising photography, creating images that became the foundation for contemporary magazine photography. Over a period of nearly 15 years he created images that redefined the field through their clever use of modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics, becoming an influential impresario who promoted photography as a mass-media tool.”

Press release from The Art Institute of Chicago website

 

Edward Steichen. 'Self-Portrait with Brush and Palette' 1902

 

Edward Steichen
Self-Portrait with Brush and Palette
1902
The Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Mary Pickford' 1924

 

Edward Steichen
Mary Pickford
1924
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Fred Astaire in Funny Face' 1927

 

Edward Steichen
Fred Astaire in Funny Face
1927
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Noel Coward' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Noel Coward
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Charles Chaplin' 1931

 

Edward Steichen
Charles Chaplin
1931
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Lily Pons' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Lily Pons
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Winston Churchill' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Winston Churchill
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Greta Garbo and John Gilbert' 1928

 

Edward Steichen
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
1928
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 5.00
Thursday, 10.30 – 8.00
Friday, 10.30 – 8.00
Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 5.00
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website

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24
Apr
14

Exhibition: ‘Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s-1930s’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 28th January – 4th May 2014

 

If there is one city in the world in which I would really like to live, it would be Paris. I have loved her since first going there as a teenager and she has never foresaken that love: always romantic, beautiful, intriguing, Paris is my kind of city. As a flâneur there is much to observe, much to digest and assimilate through periods of reflection.

Where do you start? Steichen, Stieglitz, Fox Talbot, Marville, Brassaï, Jeanloup Sieff, Cartier-Bresson, Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, Nadar, any photographer of note but above all Atget – all acquiescent to her charms. Strange as it may seem, it is not that the photographer takes photos of Paris (as though possessing an object of desire), but that the city allows these revelations to occur as a kind of benediction, a kind of divine blessing. Am I making any sense here? Perhaps I am just too much in love, but having photographed in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery for example, there is nothing quite like the feeling I get when in the City of Light.

The photographs in this posting are magnificent. The intimacy of the Brassaï, the tonality of the Steichen; the dankness of the Marville and the informality of the Stieglitz. The first two Atget are cracking images. Note how the auteur éditeur uses the darkness of the tree trunks to divide the picture plane, better than anyone has done before or since. It is a pleasure to be able to show you Atget’s Work Room with Contact Printing Frames (c. 1910, below), an image I have never seen before in all the years I have been looking at his work. Make sure you enlarge the image to see all the details including the simplicity of the trestle table: “On the table are the wooden frames the photographer used to contact print his glass negatives; at right are several bins of negatives stacked vertically; below the table are his chemical trays; on the shelves above are stacks of paper albums – a shelf label reads escaliers et grilles (staircases and grills).”

I am particularly taken by the feather duster, the parcels wrapped in newspapers and tied with string, and intrigued by the print of a moonrise(?) over a bridge high up, tacked to the wall (see detail image below). Obviously this image meant a lot to him because it is the only one in the room and it would have taken a bit of an effort to put it up there. I wonder whose image it is, and what bridge it is of…

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Metropolitan 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.

 

“Oysters and a glass of wine, a corner café, the Sunday bird market on the Île de la Cité, a lover’s stolen kiss: Paris has loomed large in the imagination of artists, writers, and architects for centuries. For 175 years, it has attracted photographers from around the world who have succumbed to its spell and made it their home for part, if not all, of their lives.

Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s-1930s (January 27 – May 4, 2014) celebrates the first 100 years of photography in Paris and features some 40 photographs, all drawn from the Museum’s collection. Known as the “City of Light” even before the birth of the medium in 1839, Paris has been muse to many of the most celebrated photographers, from Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (one of the field’s inventors) and Nadar to Charles Marville, Eugène Atget, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The show focuses primarily on architectural views, street scenes, and interiors. It explores the physical shape and texture of Paris and how artists have found poetic ways to record its essential qualities using the camera.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris) 'Nôtre Dame' 1922

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Nôtre Dame
1922
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.2 x 22.1 cm (7 1/8 x 8 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005

 

Atget likely avoided Nôtre Dame during his early career as it was already well documented by other photographers. In his old age, however, he worked more for his own pleasure and during the last five years of his life photographed the cathedral regularly. He always viewed it in an eccentric way – either in the distance, as here, or in detail.

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris) 'Quai d'Anjou, 6h du matin' 1924

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Quai d’Anjou, 6h du matin
1924
Albumen silver print from glass negative
17.7 x 22.8 cm (6 15/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, William Talbott Hillman Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris) 'Untitled [Atget's Work Room with Contact Printing Frames]' c. 1910

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Untitled [Atget’s Work Room with Contact Printing Frames]
c. 1910
Albumen silver print from glass negative
20.9 x 17.3 cm. (8 1/4 x 6 13/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990

 

This straightforward study by Atget of his own work room offers a rare glimpse of the inner sanctum of an auteur éditeur, as he described his profession. On the table are the wooden frames the photographer used to contact print his glass negatives; at right are several bins of negatives stacked vertically; below the table are his chemical trays; on the shelves above are stacks of paper albums – a shelf label reads escaliers et grilles (staircases and grills). Atget used these homemade albums to organize his vast picture collection from which he sold views of old Paris to clients.

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris) 'Untitled [Atget's Work Room with Contact Printing Frames]' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Untitled [Atget’s Work Room with Contact Printing Frames] (detail)
c. 1910
Albumen silver print from glass negative
20.9 x 17.3 cm. (8 1/4 x 6 13/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris) 'Marchand de Vin, Rue Boyer, Paris' 1910-11

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Marchand de Vin, Rue Boyer, Paris
1910-11
Albumen silver print from glass negative
21.5 x 17.6 cm (8 7/16 x 6 15/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets, Paris' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets, Paris
1912
Gelatin silver print from glass negative
22.4 x 17.5 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

Atget found his vocation in photography in 1897, at the age of forty, after having been a merchant seaman, a minor actor, and a painter. He became obsessed with making what he termed “documents for artists” of Paris and its environs and compiling a visual compendium of the architecture, landscape, and artifacts that distinguish French culture and history. By the end of his life, Atget had amassed an archive of more than eight thousand negatives, which he organized into such categories as Parisian Interiors, Vehicles in Paris, and Petits Métiers (trades and professions).

In Atget’s inventory of Paris, shop windows figure prominently and the most arresting feature mannequin displays. In the 1920s the Surrealists recognized in Atget a kindred spirit and reproduced a number of his photographs in their journals and reviews. Antiquated mannequins such as the ones depicted here struck them as haunting, dreamlike analogues to the human form.

 

Marie-Charles-Isidore Choiselat (French, 1815-1858) Stanislas Ratel (French, 1824-1904) 'Untitled [The Pavillon de Flore and the Tuileries Gardens]' 1849

 

Marie-Charles-Isidore Choiselat (French, 1815-1858)
Stanislas Ratel (French, 1824-1904)
Untitled [The Pavillon de Flore and the Tuileries Gardens]
1849
Daguerreotype
15.2 x 18.7 cm (6 x 7 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

Taken in September 1849 from a window of the École des Beaux-Arts, this daguerreotype exhibits the dazzling exactitude and presence that characterize these mirrors of reality. True to the daguerreotype’s potential, stationary objects are rendered with remarkable precision; under magnification one can clearly discern minute architectural details on the Pavillon de Flore, features of statuary and potted trees in the Tuileries Gardens, even the chimney pots on the buildings in the background along the rue de Rivoli.

Daguerre himself had chosen a nearly identical vantage point in 1839 for one of his earliest demonstration pieces, and it may well have been with that archetypal image in mind that Choiselat and Ratel made this large daguerreotype a decade later. Choiselat and Ratel, among the earliest practitioners to utilize and improve upon Daguerre’s process, first published their methods for enhancing the sensitivity of the daguerreotype plate in 1840 and had achieved exposure times of under two seconds by 1843. Unlike Daguerre’s long exposure, which failed to record the presence of moving figures, this image includes people (albeit slightly blurred) outside the garden gates, on the Pont Royal, and peering over the quai wall above the floating warm-bath establishment moored in the Seine. Still more striking is the dramatic rendering of the cloud-laden sky, achieved by the innovative technique of masking the upper portion of the plate partway through the exposure.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'The Boulevards at Paris' May-June 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
The Boulevards at Paris
May-June 1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
15.1 x 19.9 cm (5 15/16 x 7 13/16 in. )
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

Talbot traveled to Paris in May 1843 to negotiate a licensing agreement for the French rights to his patented calotype process and, with Henneman, to give first hand instruction in its use to the licensee, the Marquis of Bassano.

No doubt excited to be traveling on the continent with a photographic camera for the first time, Talbot seized upon the chance to fulfill the fantasy he had first imagined on the shores of Lake Como ten years before. Although his business arrangements ultimately yielded no gain, Talbot’s views of the elegant new boulevards of the French capital are highly successful, a lively balance to the studied pictures made at Lacock Abbey. Filled with the incidental details of urban life, architectural ornamentation, and the play of spring light, this photograph, unlike much of the earlier work, is not a demonstration piece but rather a picture of the real world. The animated roofline punctuated with chimney pots, the deep shopfront awning, the line of waiting horse and carriages, the postered kiosks, and the characteristically French shuttered windows all evoke as vivid a notion of mid-nineteenth-century Paris now as they must have when Talbot first showed the photographs to his friends and family in England.

A variant of this scene, taken from a higher floor in Talbot’s Paris hotel, appeared as plate 2 in The Pencil of Nature.

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, Hoboken, New Jersey 1864–1946 New York) 'A Snapshot, Paris' 1911, printed 1912

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, Hoboken, New Jersey 1864–1946 New York)
A Snapshot, Paris
1911, printed 1912
Photogravure
13.8 x 17.4 cm. (5 7/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gift of J. B. Neumann, 1958

 

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Stieglitz trained to be an engineer in Germany and moved to New York in 1890. His lifelong ambition as an artist (and advocate for the arts) was to prove that photography was as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture. As the editor of Camera Notes, the journal of the Camera Club of New York, and then later Camera Work (1902-17), Stieglitz espoused his belief in the aesthetic potential of the medium. He published work by photographers who shared his conviction alongside European modernists such as Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, and Francis Picabia.

 

Michel Seuphor (Belgian, born 1901) 'Paris' 1929

 

Michel Seuphor (Belgian, born 1901)
Paris
1929
Gelatin silver print
11.4 x 16.4 cm. (4 1/2 x 6 7/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1994
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

The Belgian painter, poet, designer, and art critic Seuphor moved to Paris in 1925 and entered the artistic community of such expatriate artists as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Theo van Doesburg. Little is known about his work with the camera except that this photograph was made the year Seuphor founded Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square), a group dedicated to abstraction that would include Kandinsky, Mondrian, Jean Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Le Corbusier.

 

Marie-Charles-Isidore Choiselat (French, 1815-1858) Stanislas Ratel (French, 1824-1904) 'Défilé sur le Pont-Royal' May 1, 1844

 

Marie-Charles-Isidore Choiselat (French, 1815-1858)
Stanislas Ratel (French, 1824-1904)
Défilé sur le Pont-Royal
May 1, 1844
Daguerreotype
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

In January 1839 the Romantic painter and printmaker Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851) showed members of the French Académie des Sciences an invention he believed would forever change visual representation: photography. Each daguerreotype (as Daguerre dubbed his invention) is an image produced on a highly polished, silver-plated sheet of copper.

Using an “accelerating liquid” of their own devising, the daguerreotypists Choiselat and Ratel were able to reduce exposure times from minutes to seconds, which allowed them to capture events as they happened. Here the mounted guards stationed along one of Paris’s most famous bridges registered clearly on the daguerreotype plate, but even with a short exposure time the moving crowds and rolling carriages became a blur of activity.

 

Charles Marville (French, Paris 1813–1879 Paris) 'Rue Traversine (from the Rue d'Arras)' c. 1868

 

Charles Marville (French, Paris 1813–1879 Paris)
Rue Traversine (from the Rue d’Arras)
c. 1868
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34.8 x 27.5 cm (13 11/16 x 10 13/16 in. )
Gift of Howard Stein, 2010

 

Brassaï (French (born Romania), Brașov 1899-1984 Côte d'Azur) 'Street Fair, Boulevard St. Jacques, Paris' 1931

 

Brassaï (French (born Romania), Brașov 1899-1984 Côte d’Azur)
Street Fair, Boulevard St. Jacques, Paris
1931
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 17.1 cm (9 x 6 3/4 in.)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2007
© The Estate of Brassai

 

Born in Transylvania, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture in Hungary and moved to Paris in 1924 to work as a journalist. About 1930 he changed his name to Brassaï and took up photography. The camera became a constant companion on his nightly walks through the city’s seamier quarters, where he aimed his lens at showgirls, prostitutes, ragpickers, transvestites, and other inhabitants of the demimonde. His first and most famous book of photographs, Paris de nuit (Paris by Night), published in 1933, includes a variation of this scene of three masked women tempting men into a sideshow.

 

Edward J. Steichen (American (born Luxembourg), Bivange 1879-1973 West Redding, Connecticut) 'Untitled [Brancusi's Studio]' c. 1920

 

Edward J. Steichen (American (born Luxembourg), Bivange 1879-1973 West Redding, Connecticut)
Untitled [Brancusi’s Studio]
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 19.4 cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
Gift of Grace M. Mayer, 1992
Reprinted with permission of Joanna T. Steichen.

 

Steichen lived in Paris on and off from 1900 to 1924, making paintings and photographs. A cofounder with Alfred Stieglitz of the Photo-Secession, Steichen offered his former New York studio to the fledgling organization as an exhibition space in 1905. Known first as the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and later simply by its address on Fifth Avenue, 291, the gallery introduced modern French art to America through the works of Rodin, Matisse, Cézanne, and, in 1914, Constantin Brancusi.

Steichen and Brancusi, who met at Rodin’s studio, became lifelong friends. This view of a corner of Brancusi’s studio on the impasse Roncin shows several identifiable works, including Cup (1917) and Endless Column (1918). The photograph’s centerpiece is the elegant polished bronze Golden Bird (1919), which soars above the other forms. Distinct from Brancusi’s studio photographs – subjective meditations on his own creations – Steichen’s view is more orchestrated, geometric, and objective. Golden Bird is centered, the light modulated, and the constellation of masses carefully balanced in the space defined by the camera. A respectful acknowledgment of the essential abstraction of the sculpture, the photograph seems decidedly modern and presages the formal studio photographs Steichen made in the service of Vanity Fair and Vogue beginning in 1923.

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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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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