13
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘August Sander – Masterpieces: Photographs from “People of the 20th century”‘ at Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne

Exhibition dates: 7th September 2018 – 27th January 2019

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Three Generations of the Family' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Three Generations of the Family
1912
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Dauerleihgabe / Permanent Loan, Stadt Herdorf

 

 

A wonderful posting of photographs by this master photographer, including numerous images (Young Mother, Middle-class; Middle-class Children; Peddler; Girl in Fairground Caravan; “Test your Strength” Showman; Workmen in the Ruhr Region) I have never seen before.

What can you say about the work of this legend of photography that has not been said before, by so many people, in so many words. Therefore I will not be verbose but just note a few impressions.

How did Sander get these people to pose for him in this direct, open way? There is no affectation, no histrionics, the sitters (whether outside en plein air or inside against a ubiquitous plain wall / blank canvas) gaze directly, steadfastly, into his camera lens – quite pre/posed, quietly proposed and confident of their own identity and image. The peddler with his box of wares, the café waitress with her tray of tea and milk, the pastry chef with his bowl, or the showman whose gnarled and dirty hand clasps a cigar.

The “presence” and aura of these people is incredible. You can ascribe this presence to modernism and New Objectivity (a sharply focused, documentary quality to the photographic art) that sought to portray the reality of a life but to do so holy to the exclusion of the poetic in Sander’s work would be a mistake. While not self-consciously poetic, Sander’s work still contains elements of the pictorial – for example the painterly quality in his use of depth of field in portrait’s such as that of Painter [Heinrich Hoerle] (where we notice the very small depth of field from the front of the shirt to the back), or the framing of Girl in Fairground Caravan with its notably impressionistic melancholy and longing.

What I am really looking forward to is the book that is being published from this exhibition. As the text on Amazon notes, “A novel feature of this book is that all the reproductions are based on vintage prints produced and authorised by August Sander himself. The croppings and the desired tonal values are authentically rendered here for the first time in the long publication history of Sander’s brilliant portrait work.”

This is as close as you will get in book form to the original printing and tonality of Sander’s work. I am sure the book will become a classic and sell out quickly so get your orders in now for a June 2019 release.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

The portrait photographs by August Sander count among the masterworks of their kind. Ever since acquiring the photographer’s estate, Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur has been busy cataloguing the Sander archive and has already presented these photographs in several theme-based shows. With “People of the 20th Century,” his most famous photographic compendium, Sander aspired to nothing less than to document the society of his day, based on examples of people pursuing different occupations and from various walks of life. The conceptually planned body of work testifies to the photographer’s acuity of perception and consummate skill at the use of the photographic medium. Over the decades, pictures such as “Young Farmers” (1914) and “Pastry Cook” (1928) have become photographic icons. But August Sander’s portraiture in fact harbours a large number of motifs of remarkable quality. These images provide insights, for example, into the population of the rural Westerwald region, the artist communities in Cologne and Berlin, and city life in general during his era.

In the current exhibition, Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur is displaying a representative selection of more then 150 original prints from “People of the 20th Century.” The majority come from the collection’s own holdings, joined by works on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; the Museum Ludwig Cologne/Photography Collection, the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin and private collections. Based on many years of research, the accompanying catalogue traces the genesis of these works in great depth and detail.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Young Mother, Middle-class' 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Young Mother, Middle-class
1926
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Middle-class Children' 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Middle-class Children
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Farm Children' 1913

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Farm Children
1913
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

The current exhibition with over 150 original photographs and numerous showcase material shows a representative cross-section of the project “People of the 20th Century”.

Sanders’ extensive portraiture was aimed at showing a cross-section of the population in which the different occupational and social types, spread over different generations, are reflected – a mirror of the times. In the title Sanders first published book in 1929, Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), this intention finds its echo. Both the indirectly expressed face of time and the individual physiognomies were the subject of the photographer’s unbroken attention for decades.

In order to give shape and form to his growing compendium, Sander created a concept in the mid-1920s in which he extensively named the image groups and folders that he had focused on. The groups are called “The Farmer”, “The Craftsman”, “The Woman”, “The Estates”, “The Artists”, “The Big City” and “The Last Man”. The latter perhaps misleading name stands for a series of pictures that very respectfully shows people on the margins of society. Sander’s concept of that time, which proposes a sequence of groups and folders, is also followed by the current exhibition with the inclusion of individual or several representative portfolio prints from the corresponding picture folders.

For the most part, the photographs are taken from the inventory of the August Sander Archive, which was acquired in 1992, which forms the foundation for the further development of the Photographic Collection / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne. Exclusive loans from originals will be consulted, such as the Berlinische Galerie, Museum of Modern Art, Berlin, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Museum Ludwig Köln, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Pinakothek der Moderne. Munich as well as from important private collections.

At Schirmer / Mosel Verlag, the book “August Sander – Masterpieces” was created at the same time as the exhibition in German and English editions. For the first time in the publication history of the photographer, the original prints are reproduced in authentic tonality, as well as in original cut-out reproduction.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Compère' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Compère
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann [with Hedwig Mankiewitz and Vera Broïdo]' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann [with Hedwig Mankiewitz and Vera Broïdo]
1929
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Peddler' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Peddler
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Young Farmers' 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Young Farmers
1914
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Café Waitress' 1928/29

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Café Waitress
1928/29
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Pastry Cook' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Pastry Cook
1928
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

The current exhibition, featuring over 150 original photographs and numerous documents shown in display cases, presents a representative cross-section of the “People of the 20th Century” project.

The portraits from August Sander’s epochal work are not only of fundamental importance for the history of photography; they are also highly exciting objects of study – masterpieces for anyone who has an unsentimental, unbiased love of people and life; who likes to ask questions about the past and gather experiences for the future; who has a passion for looking, discovering, fantasising, and analysing:

  • How do the people portrayed appear to us today?
  • How did they spend their lives?
  • What delighted or shocked them?
  • What experiences left a mark on their faces, their hands, their physiognomy?
  • What can they share with us from their own bygone world and times?
  • How did Sander manage to meet and talk to so many different people, and to entice them into posing for a picture?
  • What does the photographic material convey to us today – at a time when hardly any photographs are developed in the darkroom and a kind of magic has thus been lost?
  • What does time and manual craft mean for artistic engagement?

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Viewed together, the people August Sander (1876-1964) depicted in such an objective yet dignified and personal manner unfold a whole cosmos that brings history to life. Looking at Sander’s photographs challenges us to search for similarities, differences, and comparable qualities. They summon memories of accounts from the past, render tangible transformations in people’s living conditions and way of life; we see occupations that have changed, which no longer exist or have been replaced; developments or events in society are made more vivid to us, as are changing pictorial styles and artistic aesthetics.

And yet apart from the referential character of Sander’s photographs, their historical relevance and inspirational force, qualities that have been highlighted by renowned authors such as Walter Benjamin, Alfred Döblin, Golo Mann, and Kurt Tucholsky, the pictures depict very concrete moments and display individually a remarkable degree of aesthetic quality. They compellingly demonstrate Sander’s knack at capturing reality and his eye for composing specific details into lifelike documentary photographs. Being able to experience this quality up close based on August Sander’s original handmade prints is a real privilege and something that can only be made possible on this scale in rare cases due to the conservation requirements of these so-called vintage prints.

August Sander first presented his project “People of the 20th Century” in 1927 at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. He had selected more than 110 prints, a group that, as far as can be reconstructed, largely diverges from the current presentation, let alone the fact that several different prints of individual motifs were and are in circulation. Since Sander developed the project or – as he called it – his cultural work “People of the 20th Century” between circa 1925 and 1955, i.e., over the course of three decades, also incorporating motifs he had produced from 1892 onwards, his stock of original prints and portfolios had grown immensely by the end of his life. Within his archive, this group of works forms a kind of cache from which the photographer drew freely for exhibitions and publications. This was a uniquely innovative approach in his day. Sander’s awareness of the exponential effect of image series as opposed to individual images made him a pioneer of conceptual photography, as did his resolute use of an unmanipulated, factual reproduction of his chosen motifs. His portraits were meant to underline his documentary approach and to do without any artistic embellishments while nonetheless manifesting a fine-tuned and restrained design.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]
1928-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018, Courtesy: Privatsammlung / Private Collection, München / Munich

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928-1932 (detail)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle] (detail)
1928-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018, Courtesy: Privatsammlung / Private Collection, München / Munich

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Girl in Fairground Caravan' 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Girl in Fairground Caravan
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Police Officer' 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Police Officer
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) '"Test your Strength" Showman' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
“Test your Strength” Showman
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Workmen in the Ruhr Region' c. 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Workmen in the Ruhr Region
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: Bayerische Staatgemäldesammlungen: Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne, München /nMunich, Sammlung / Collection Lothar Schirmer

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusartisten' (Circus Artists) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusartisten (Circus Artists)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2014

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Circus Worker' 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Circus Worker
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

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50670 Cologne
Phone: 0049-(0)221-88895 300

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06
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image’ at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2018 – 10th February 2019

Curated by Steven Matijcio

 

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image' 2018

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

“As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say”.”

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Akram Zaatari quoted in Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

 

Alternate readings / elisions / a damaged life

This is the first posting of 2019, a new year, a new year of history, memory and life. And what a cracker of an exhibition to post first up!

I have always admired the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari for the ability of his work to critique the inevitable, referential history of photographs. Anyone who can shine a light on forgotten narratives, histories, contexts and memories, who enlightens the fixed gaze of the camera and the viewer to show the Other, and who empowers the disenfranchised and tells their stories… is excellent in my eyes. For this is what Art Blart has sought to do in the last ten years: build an archive that exposes underrepresented artists and forgotten histories to the world.

Photography, and life, is not all that it seems… and Zaatari implicitly understands the conundrums of the taking, viewing and collecting of photographs in archives. He understands the physical quality of the medium (the presence of the negative, the glass slide, the print and their manipulation by the photographer) as well as the truth of the medium, a kind of truth telling – through history, time, the personal and the collective – that obscures as much as it reveals. As his short biography notes, “Akram Zaatari is an artist whose work is tied to collecting and exploring photographic practices in the making of social codes and aesthetic forms. Regarding the present through a wealth of photographic records from the past… Zaatari investigates notions of desire, pursuit, resistance, memory, surveillance, the shifting nature of political borders and the production and circulation of images in times of war.” Indeed, a rich investigative field which Zaatari makes full use of in his work.

Simply put, the project that Zaatari is undertaking is one of archaeological excavation / re-animation of the many aspects of the cultural geography of Lebanon, his role as auteur in this process combining “image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to examine the photographic record, its making, genealogy and the role photography plays in the production and performance of identity.” (Wall text) “I’m really interested in how the personal and the intimate meet history,” Zaatari says. “What I’m doing is to write history, or [fill in] gaps of history, by using photographic documents.”1

Zaatari “deconstructs the archival impunity of photography to cultivate an expanded architecture of interpretation,” (Wall text) exploring the fold as a catalyst, a narrative, a re-organisation, an enduring obfuscation, and the memory of a material. What a photograph missed and what is present; what an archive catalogues and how, and what it misses, elides or denigrates (the classification system of an archive). As Rebecca Close observes, “The question of what an archive of the image fails to commemorate is particularly relevant in a country marred by decades of civil war and invasion.”2

It is also particularly relevant in a country (and a world) where men are in control. Zaatari interrogates (if I may use that pertinent word) the partitioning of history (between Palestine and Israel), the poses of decorum between male and female, the power of men in marriage, the stigma of homosexuality, male normativity, and “Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule…” (Steven Matijcio) The centre cannot hold the weight of these hidden his/stories, as invisible “non-collections” (E. Edwards) in institutions are opened up for critical examination. The damage that accrues through such obfuscation, through such wilful blindness to the stories embedded in photographs is boundless.

What we must remember is that, “photography always lies for the photograph only depicts one version of reality, one version of a truth depending on what the camera is pointed at, what it excludes, who is pointing the camera and for what reasons, the context of the event or person being photographed (which is fluid from moment to moment) and the place and reason for displaying the photograph. In other words all photographs are, by the very nature, transgressive because they have only one visual perspective, only one line of sight – they exclude as much as they document and this exclusion can be seen as a volition (a choice of the photographer) and a violation of a visual ordering of the world (in the sense of the taxonomy of the subject, an upsetting of the normal order or hierarchy of the subject). Of course this line of sight may be interpreted in many ways and photography problematises the notion of a definitive reading of the image due to different contexts and the “possibilities of dislocation in time and space.” As Brian Wallis has observed, “The notion of an autonomous image is a fiction” as the photograph can be displaced from its original context and assimilated into other contexts where they can be exploited to various ends. In a sense this is also a form of autonomy because a photograph can be assimilated into an infinite number of contexts. “This de and re-contextualisation is itself transgressive of any “integrity” the photograph itself may have as a contextualised artefact.” As John Schwartz has insightfully noted, “[Photographs] carry important social consequences and that the facts they transmit in visual form must be understood in social space and real time,” “facts” that are constructions of reality that are interpreted differently by each viewer in each context of viewing.”3

I have no problem with the ethics and politics of the use of photo archives by contemporary artists and the appropriation of archival images as a form of “ironic archivization” to open up new critical insights into culture, and the culture of making, reading and archiving photographs. Zaatari appropriates these images for his own concerns to shine a light on what I call “the space between.” His interdisciplinary practice mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. As he observes of his profound and sensitive work, “Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” With this powerhouse of an artist, these histories will not remain hidden for long.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Venema, Vibeke . “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  2. Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  3. Bunyan, Marcus. “Transgressive Topographies, Subversive Photographies, Cultural Policies,” on Art Blart, October 2013 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

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Many thankx to Akram Zaatari and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Acclaimed Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari combines the roles of image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to explore the role photography plays in both instituting and fabricating identity. He is also co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), an organisation established in Beirut to preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today. Within this endeavour Zaatari discovered the photographs of Hashem El Madani (1928-2017), who recorded the lives of everyday individuals inside and outside his humble studio in the late 1940s and 50s. Zaatari recontextualises this work, along with other archival photos and documents, in an interdisciplinary practice that mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. His work is both for and against photography, and the complex histories it cobbles.

For this exhibition he positions the seemingly simple fold as a narrative form, a reorganisation, an enduring obfuscation and the memory of material. In his words, “a photograph captures space and folds it into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others, covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” The work on display will attempt to uncover and imagine these stories, undertaking a provocative archaeology that peers into the fissures, scratches, erosion and that which archives previously shed.

Presented in partnership with FotoFocus Biennial 2018. Text from the Contemporary Arts Center website

 

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negatives from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Hands at Rest (video stills)
2017
SD Video / Running time: 7:30
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

This film is a meditative study of a  selection of studio photographs culled from Lebanese photographer Hashem el Madani’s archives. In response to Madani’s maxim that “posing one’s hands on a flat surface such as a table, or a shoulder helps to straighten one’s shoulders,” Zaatari looks closely from one hand to the next, creating a portrait of Lebanese society that implicitly questions the politics embedded in poses of propriety and decorum. Fingers fitted with rings and bodies displaying the comfort and composure of a certain class are juxtaposed with others indicative of manual labor and untrained modelling. The slow, but precise inventory of the video, devoted to the most tactile limb in one’s body, also elicits the ever-present sensuality which circulates throughout Madani’s photographs. (Wall text)

 

Akram Zaatari. Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani From Akram Zaatari's 'Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices' 2014

 

Akram Zaatari
Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani
From Akram Zaatari’s Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices
2014
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
© A. Zaatari/Arab Image Foundation
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Zaatari says that was normal in the 1950s. “If you had your picture taken you would seize the opportunity to create something different of yourself,” he says. “They wanted to look at themselves as if they were looking at an actor in a film.” It was fun.

Movies were a great source of inspiration for Madani’s sitters. This included acting out a kiss – but only men kissing men and women kissing women. “In a conservative society such as Saida, people were willing to play the kiss between two people of the same sex, but very rarely between a man and a woman,” Madani told Zaatari. He remembers that happening only once.

“If you look at it today you think – is it gay culture? But in fact it is not,” says Zaatari. Social restrictions were different then. “If you wanted to kiss it had to be a same-sex kiss to be accepted.”

Men showed off their photos, but for women a picture was considered intimate and would only be shared with a trusted few. Madani had purposely found a studio space on the first floor, so that women could visit discreetly – seen entering at street level, their destination would not be obvious. Once inside, they could relax – but it did not always end well.

Extract from Vibeke Venema. “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny

For the first time in its 127-year history, the American Psychological Association has issued guidelines to help psychologists specifically address the issues of men and boys – and the 36-page document features a warning.

“Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behaviour, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health,” the report warns.

The new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” defines “masculinity ideology” as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” The report also links this ideology to homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment.

The new guidelines, highlighted in this month’s issue of Monitor on Psychology, which is published by the APA, linked this ideology to a series of stark statistics: Men commit approximately 90 percent of all homicides in the U.S., they are far more likely than women to be arrested and charged with intimate partner violence in the U.S., and they are four times more likely than women to die of suicide worldwide. …

The report addresses the “power” and “privilege” that males have when compared to their female counterparts, but it notes that this privilege can be a psychological double-edged sword.

“Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege,” the guidelines state. “Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.”

Extract from Tim Fitzsimons. “American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny,” on the NBC News website [Online] Cited 10/01/2019

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948' 2007

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948
2007
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
Ed 5 + 2AP
220 x 145cm
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

The Fold

The fold is the pleat that results from turning or bending part of material against another such as in textile, paper or even earth strata. The fold is the trace that such an action leaves on material, the crease that marks the location of turning and pressing.

Inherent in the action of folding, is that material is turned or moved in three dimensions hence engages with space. Folding is the basic and simplest step in creating form or enclosure. It confines space within folds. It covers parts with other parts. Folding is editing. It is a construction that does not look like its original form.

Unfolding is undoing, deconstructing, turning material back to its initial form. The creases in an unfolded material inscribe its history and in a way save it from amnesia. History inscribes itself on material in creases and in other forms. When unfolded, material testifies that history has already found its way to it, through the fold.

The fold is the memory of material.

When the fold is intentional, it aims to reorganise material to reduce its volume, to create form, or confine space. When accidental or natural such as in geology, or due to ageing organic matter, the fold is a permanent deformation of matter the form of which remains little predictable.

When intentional, the fold is a creative action, like folding a paper sheet into a paper airplane or an origami, like folding several sheets into a book, or a sheet of cardboard into a box or even folding clothes to reduce their volume and store them on a shelf or in a box of specific dimensions.

The fold is a narrative form.

In a way every photograph is an exposure of a field of vision, of something somewhere. Like folding confines space, a photograph captures space and folds into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others. Every photograph reproduces in small what’s much larger in life, or brings close an image of somewhere far and out of sight. The impact of a fold in a photographed space is permanent, in the sense that hidden parts in a picture are irretrievable. What a photograph missed and that was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.

The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds. It is an element through which the initial construction of a photograph, its making, is undone. It is an element that bears the history of a photograph, its memory.

The fold in time is the representation of time shortened, like in literature, in illustration or typically in film. The fold in time is the ellipsis. The fold within a narrative is the jump-cut or the jump in time. The fold acknowledges the existence of hidden narratives covered by others. In a film, the cut is the fold.

Akram Zaatari

 

General installation views

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation views, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Left
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Cairo, Egypt 1940s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Alban
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

A negative for photography is equivalent to an engraved zinc plate for traditional print-making. Not only does it allow for the reproduction of the image or print but it itself carrier traces of the tricks the photographer has used while making a picture. As such, photographers did not want their negatives to be displayed because they often carried details the studio might not want to share with the public. The portrait of a baby was made by the Cairo based photographer Alban in the 1940s. Access to the negative tells us that the baby was held by his mother and that she was later withdrawn from the picture (Wall text)

 

Right
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Tripoli, Lebanon 1980s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Joseph Avedissian
Collection: Joseph Avedissian
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

At at time when going to a photography studio was the only way for people to be photographed for ID or other official purposes, these spaces were shared by a wide spectrum of society. During the Lebanese civil war, they were sometimes employed by opposing militias and certainly by civilians as well. Joseph Avedissian set up his first studio in the late 1950s in al Tell in Tripoli, North Lebanon. Like most inner cities during the civil war in Lebanon, al Tell was the playground of numerous militias ranging from the different Palestinian factions and the Syrian army extending to the Al Tawheed Islamic group in the 1980s. Zaatari visited Avedissian’s with the photographer Randa Saath in 2002. Thousands of negative sheets covered the floor, from where he picked up this sheet that represents one member of the local militia posing with his machine gun. Because of poor preservation, however, a patch of emulsion coming from another exposed negative was accidentally bound to it depicting a woman. The result is an uneasy co-habitation in the shared frame. (Wall text)

 

The End of Love

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari

The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Every photograph hides parts to reveal others…

.
Akram Zaatari

 

 

Desire for the archive as an unassailable repository of documents, testimony and truth seems to escalate despite, or perhaps because of, the more imminent reality that there is no singular history on which all peoples can agree. And while the “post-truth” era feels pandemic in North America, in other parts of the world this is an all too familiar paradigm where the manipulation of the past is a customary practice to administer the present, and influence the future. This is especially true of Lebanon, where fifteen years of malignant civil war from 1975-1990 has produced a knotty, contested history riddled with sectarian animosities, institutionalised amnesia, and ubiquitous uncertainty. And yet when nothing is solid, codified or certain, everything becomes possible. Across the Middle East where formal archives remain partial and at risk, an increasing number of artists employ the fragments as fodder for new forms of historical preservation and production. Akram Zaatari (b. 1966 Sidon, Lebanon) is a pioneer within this amorphous terrain, marrying personal experiences of the war, an abiding interest in the vernacular performance of identity via photo and film and a quasi-archaeological treatment of lens-based documents as artefacts. Beyond his individual practice, one of Zaatari’s greatest, most enduring contributions in this field may be the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) – an archival institution he co-founded with photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mahdad in 1997 to self-declaredly “preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today.” And while the AIF has successfully amassed over 600,000 images from multiple countries and eras, Zaatari adamantly refutes the onset of institutionalisation – shunning the paralysing conservation practices of museums and libraries to double down on a more radical, generative employment of these materials. In his hands, this archive moves beyond a delicate commodity to circulate as a mutable constellation that partakes in an expanded field of histories with cumulative socio-cultural cargo. As such, the archive can be seen as both Zaatari’s medium and subject, and the AIF as both his fuel and foil – collecting and re-presenting photos as “a form,” in his words, “of creative un-making and re-writing that is no less important than the act of taking images.” Ensuing questions of authorship and appropriation yield to more multi-faceted strategies of displacement, where the re-framing of photos and films as living, changing vessels unfurls invigorating new layers and folds to mine and forage.

He does so, not as an iconoclast seeking to condemn archives as cogs in the machine of hegemony, but rather as a revitalising gesture that replaces rhetorical manipulations with emancipated re-assignment. For Zaatari, this frisson happens most intriguingly in the seemingly ordinary and banal, in the snapshots and mistakes archives historically diminish, where he argues, “It is a misconception that photographs testify to the course of history. It is history that inhabits photographs.” As such, Zaatari regularly subverts the canonical treatment of photos as evidentiary relics hidden away in cold storage to slow their inherent/inevitable chemical entropy. He instead treats images as susceptible material objects, and one could argue, as surrogates for the subjects and structures they depict. Much like the wrinkles, scars and repressions that the human body + mind collects, Zaatari reads the folds endemic to photography as a palimpsest of information and suggestion. Whether it be a purposeful edit or crop, an aesthetic gesture to redirect our viewing, or the natural degradation of materials over time, he argues that “The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds.” As fertile superstructures that expand the interpretive constitution of said photos, such folds are less obfuscations than nascent fonts for alternative narratives to percolate. “In these folds lies a history…” according to Zaatari, “many histories.” In this inclusive arena, the micro and macro flow into one another as citizen and state intermingle, and one discovers pockets of collective history in the pictures we have of ourselves and one another. These photos and their attendant folds do not float unattached in clouds, but instead coalesce as archives of their making, and lenses to look backward and forward.

In his position that “the traces that transactions leave on a photographic object become part of it,” Zaatari argues that the physical manufacture and decay of a photograph (or film) is as much a contribution to history as that which it depicts. He calls the ensuing composites “informed objects,” which, while partial or possibly broken, highlight the greater whole “like an exploded view of a machine,” or “a model of the human body used in anatomy class.” As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say.” Zaatari’s poignant 2017 series A Photographer’s Shadow is a case in point, presenting a number of historical photos where the cameraman’s shadow has infiltrated the composition, which was historically reason to throw the picture away. In Zaatari’s revised appraisal, however, such discards are instead accentuated as elucidating nexus points where author and subject meet within the frame. A diptych of found photos Zaatari premieres in the CAC exhibition thickens this premise even further, displaying a malfunction in the camera of Hashem el Madani (1928-2017) that led to an in-frame doubling of men (presumably father and son) standing upon the rocks of a swelling shoreline. Evoking past hallmarks of romantic painting, a multiplicity gathers with equal muster across this pairing as the images coagulate with the residue and implication of generational, production and art historical lineage. The cresting physicality of this informed object is pushed even further in the 2017 work Against Photography, which removes the image from the equation to instead detail the natural patterns of environmental decay upon a series of 12 photo plates. By extracting the traditional focal point of the photographic process, Zaatari instead surveys iterations of deterioration that take on an uncanny beauty in multiple media – turning the archival chimera of folds and fracture into a verdant topography of patterns, avenues, and stories untold.

The continued consideration of the photograph as a physical entity with corresponding history, memory and lifespan connects to Zaatari’s ongoing exploration of the human body as it is performed for, and by the camera. As an index of experience and identity, the body and its photographic proxy find a surrogate-like relationship in the images he provocatively re-frames – where intimate narratives are gleaned from voluminous collections and otherwise numbing aggregates. And while we are only sometimes privy to the background and/or the names of those photographed, Zaatari is a long-standing student of the ways in which gender, sexuality and taboo are concurrently codified and obscured by indigenous photographic practices. By re-contextualising private photos in a public arena, Zaatari “frequently composes works,” according to Professor Mark Westmoreland, “that force the photographic medium to comment upon social aesthetics that it has been deployed to produce at different historical moments.” A compelling example is found in Zaatari’s 2011 re-presentation of Madani’s timeworn photographs of male bodybuilders performing feats of both physical strength and acrobatic agility in a showcase of masculine prowess. Inferences to homo-eroticism within this display were comparatively forbidden; and, while we must resist the temptation to define historical images through the lens of today, the entropic folds highlighted in Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule, male normativity, and the stigma of homosexuality. Like the photographer’s shadow that interrupts the self-contained world of his subjects in Zaatari’s aforementioned work, the humbling eclipse that befalls many an ideology and monument creep over a pantheon of bravado here. The violent exercise of patriarchal custody is on frightening display in Zaatari’s 2012 diptych Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend, where otherwise benign photographs of two young women are marred by a flurry of black scratches. These disturbing scars are the product of a controlling husband who demanded Madani lacerate the negatives of a portrait session initiated by his wife before they were married. Years later, after Mrs. Baqari burned herself to death to escape his control, the widowed husband came back to Madani’s studio asking for enlargements of these photos. Their display decades later under the auspices of this exhibition demonstrates the extraordinary valence of the fold, which in this case manifests a tragic relationship, evokes the history of effigies and iconoclasm, embodies the systematic societal violence against women, and opens up a plethora of readings that could not exist without slashes that span both object and subject.

The social life of the informed objects that Zaatari presents thereby opens a larger sociological discourse which, in the case of Lebanon, speaks to the ways love and sexuality have been regulated – and liberated – via photography and film. He traces the visual trajectory of this contested history largely by way of Madani’s studio photography, which pictured thousands of people over the course of almost half a century in Zaatari’s hometown of Saida. The ensuing photos demonstrate a complex spectrum of desire as people moved across both sides of the state-sanctioned line, performing the love they coveted and that which they concealed. As a site of concurrent fantasy and societal uniformity, what genders, professions, events and relationships were prescribed to “look like” created an orthodoxy of both restrictions and their corresponding transgressions. In The End of Love (2013), Zaatari presents over 100 photos of wedding portraits taken in Madani’s studio that collectively illustrate the codes surrounding this classic trope. Kissing was forbidden for such a photo which, in Lebanon, was taken a week after the ceremony with the bride wearing her wedding dress, supplemented by a bouquet of plastic flowers and white gloves provided by the photographer. And while the ensuing images are stiff, sober and highly formulaic, this End of Love is not a cynical farewell to the romantic aura of marriage, but rather a site where ideals collect in the margins, in aspirations that exceed both the subject and frame. Much like Arthur Danto’s post-historical 1984 essay “The End of Art,” Zaatari’s collection implies the exhaustion of a particular lineage of love and the opening of a chaotic, open-ended eddy where de-regulated desire could be performed. Madani’s studio was the site and catalyst for many of these performances; but, in this exhibition Zaatari pairs The End of Love with the aspiration of his 2010 video Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, in which a proposed reunion of estranged lovers is told in the form of typewritten dialogue. The voices here remain anonymous throughout, much like the many couples in The End of Love, and we gradually learn that these contemporary, same-sex lovers speak in prose drawn from popular cinematic clichés. Their conflicted flirtation culminates in the familiar romantic trope of a sunset at seashore, and more specifically that portrayed in the 1986 film Le Rayon Vert in which a disillusioned woman’s faith in love is restored after she sees a green flash at twilight. And yet, despite the overt homage, the time stamp in the bottom corner of Zaatari’s version implies this is his personal footage. And, that amidst many formulae, clichés and the already said, in the seams between The End of Love and Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, something unique and human can be spoken.

In contrast to the charge that photos are moments plucked out of time – slowly staving off death in the airless preservation of archives – Zaatari re-situates photos entrusted to the AIF in a multiplied field that spans origins and invention. Rather than entrenching images with fixed historical assignments, he performs subtle interventions to uncover and suggest alternate readings that inject life into said objects. As a stirring case in point, Un-Dividing History (2017) merges historical images by Khalil Raad (1854-1957), a Palestinian from Jerusalem, and Yacov Ben Dov (1882-1968), a Zionist-Ukrainian filmmaker and photographer, who dually inhabited Jerusalem from 1907-1948 but “belonged,” in Zaatari’s words, “to completely different universes.” Glass photo plates from each of these men had been acquired into a private collection years later and stored against each other for over a half-century in the same position, slowly and mutually “contaminating” one another with the opposing image. Zaatari’s cyanotypes reveal these beautifully compromised hybrids, depicting “traces of one world inscribed into another,” and symbolically de-partitioning the tragic schisms/folds that have long scarred this population and place. This grid of 8 images is not one of easy, idealistic harmony, but rather a complex, messy, fundamentally human portrait of the way lives intersect and overlap, if only they are allowed. A related moment of extraordinary, stirring empathy is found in the 2013 project Letter to a Refusing Pilot, in which Zaatari realises the rumour of Hagai Tamir, an Israeli fighter pilot, who in 1982, during his country’s invasion of Lebanon, disobeyed the order to drop a bomb on what he knew to be a schoolhouse. The legend, and Zaatari’s ensuing interview with Tamir have taken multiple forms in the translation to art, most notably paper planes that have appeared in both video and physical form, floating across terrain that spans real and virtual, truth and myth. What in theory started as a description, or a document, or a letter, has thereby taken flight via multiple folds – transforming this story into a mutable vessel that lands often, but temporarily – its ultimate destination indeterminate. In this lightness of being and itinerant course, the paper plane embodies Zaatari’s affinity for ephemeral records rather than the weighted gravity of archives. These are images, objects, videos, memories and outtakes that bear creases, evince life, and find renewal in each and every reappraisal.

Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' 2010 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow everything will be alright
2010

 

 

Akram Zaatari was born in 1966, in Sidon, Lebanon and currently lives in Beirut. Zaatari works in photography, video, and performance to explore issues pertinent to the Lebanese postwar condition, specifically the mediation of territorial conflicts and wars though television and media. Zaatari collects and examines a wide range of documents that testify to the cultural and political conditions of Lebanon’s postwar society. His artistic practice involves the study and investigation of the way these documents straddle, conflate, or confuse notions of history and memory. By analysing and recontextualising found audiotapes, video footage, photographs, journals, personal collections, interviews, and recollections, Zaatari explores the dynamics that govern the state of image-making in situations of war. The strength of Zaatari’s work lies in its ability to capture fractured moments in time, even if these sometimes confuse because of their disconnect from the audience and lack of context. Regardless, the stories hold their own as fascinating narratives, managing to reflect on such universal themes as love and lust, and sweet reminiscence, even amidst turbulent political realities. The indie film was nominated for the teddy award for best short film in 2011.

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 1
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 2
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 3
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot4
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 5
2013

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Letter to a Refusing Pilot' (installation view) 2013

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In the summer of 1982, a rumour made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared. As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, as his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. Decades later, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumour. The pilot was real. Pulling together all of the different strands of Zaatari’s practice for the first time in a single work, Letter to a Refusing Pilot reflects on the complexities, ambiguities, and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ four-part epistolary essay “Letters to a German Friend,” the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In an October 2012 interview with anthropologist Mark Westmoreland, Zaatari further probed whether emotions can be preserved with pictures. The difficulty in resolving the matter perhaps motivated the artist’s move into increasingly abstract terrain. The exhibition’s titular work confirms Zaatari’s current reticent position. Against Photography (2017) – 12 aluminium engravings produced from weathered negatives scanned and then put through a 3D scanner that records only surface texture – withdraws from the image entirely, leaving behind only the shine of relief.

Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625. [cited 07 Dec 18]

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari

Against Photography (installation view, right)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image with at left, Un-Dividing History 2017
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

These cyanotypes merge two bodies of work from a collection which is no longer in the Arab Image Foundation’s custody, and which consisted of glass plates of Khalil Raad, a photographer from Jerusalem, and those of Yacov Ben Dov, a Zionist filmmaker and photographer of Ukrainian descent. Raad and Ben Dov shared the same city, Jerusalem, but belonged to completely different universes. Zaatari conceived this series as a statement against partitioning history. As the glass plates were stored against each other for over 50 years in the same position, each plate was contaminated by the plate it was leaning against. The cyanotypes depict traces of a world impressed onto another and speak of the ineluctable shared history of Palestine and Israel, safeguarded by a passionate collector. (Text from the Sfeir-Semler Gallery website)

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (details)
2017

 

Akram Zaatari. 'History' (detail) 2018

 

Akram Zaatari
History (detail)
2018
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

History retraces Zaatari’s pursuit of damaged, erased, withdrawn or scrapped off photographic descriptions from the nineties until the present day. The earliest is a self-portrait he made in 1993, and the most recent are part of Photographic Phenomena, 2018 series.

 

 

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30
Dec
18

Photographs: ‘Australia’ Part 1

December 2018

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales' 1895

 

Anonymous photographer
Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales
1895
Gelatin silver print

 

A German Rönisch piano with a copy of “A Country Girl” above the keyboard (I can’t find any reference online to this song?). To the right, a two-panel screen with Christmas cards, one with the words “Hearty Greetings” and another with the date “1895”.

 

 

The last posting for 2018 features a selection of Australian black and white photographs that belong to a friend of mine, who has kindly allowed me to scan and publish them. The images have been digitally cleaned after scanning. The titles of the photographs are annotated on the back of the images.

The photographs are mainly of pastoral, colonial, outback, station, homestead and mining life, and picture the remoteness of these properties and towns c. 1910s-1950s. They also evidence the nature of white, colonial, patriarchal society much in evidence on pastoral stations during this time period. Hardly a women appears in these photographs, and Indigenous Australians usually only appear as stockmen or trackers.

Of most interest to me are the photographs of Poolamacca Station, c. 1910.

In the first photograph, Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (below) what is going on in the photograph remains a bit of a mystery. A man lies, apparently comatose, on a mattress outside, on the ground, in the strong midday sun (note the short length of the shadows). The man to the right reaches forward to clasp his hand, while other men around clasp each other’s hands to form a circle around the body. Some men look down at the body on the mattress, others stare straight at the camera, smoking cigars. A handsome man with a moustache, on bended knee and wearing a waistcoat, third from left, smiles broadly at the camera. A man at the back of the group rests his head against the stone of the building, eyes closed, as though he is drunk. The length of the exposure can be judged by the several blurred figures, particularly of the man standing and the head of the man at right rear.

Several scenarios are possible: is the man lying on the mattress really ill? Is it some kind of religious play being performed on Christmas Day? Are they all drunk and mucking about? And/or is it some kind of game, a charade? The circle of hands suggests to me it is a type of friendship game for the person lying on the mattress, a bond between them all, a supposition reinforced by the handsome man smiling at the camera. If the situation were serious, he would not be smiling. The second photograph, taken at the same time (before or afterwards?), features the men now accompanied by women, piled high on a cart pulled by four horses. At left behind the front horses can be seen what I believe is the same corrugated iron and building that appears at left in the first image. We can only guess the narrative in the first photograph because we do not have enough clues. Nevertheless, the photograph and its story remain a fascinating mystery.

The third and fourth photographs also tell an enigmatic story. Again, they have both been taken at the same time, as can be seen by the same riveted water tank behind each group in the photographs. The same fair-haired child also appears at right in the first photograph and sitting in his mother’s lap in the second photograph. From the length of his white apron, the white man in the photograph is possibly a cook or butcher at Poolamacca Station. The photographs also put lie to George Dutton’s claim that “in 1910 there was only two boys left” at Poolamacca Station (see extract from The Mutawintji research project report below).

What we have here is, possibly, an interracial marriage or partnership, a frontier marriage? whose Australian

“… boundary-crossing lovers are still omitted from the historical memory of the nation. Despite their long-term, cross-generational legacies, these unions virtually became a secret of state. …

These lovers generated families at the core of the cultural and historical interface that became the Australian nation. However, the young coloniser state did not like it.

From the coming of Federation until the 1960s, love affairs between Aboriginal people and others were severely restricted across all of northern Australia. Queensland moved rapidly to curb courtship and marriage between white Australian men and Aboriginal women. Western Australia and the Northern Territory followed. That didn’t mean that relationships stopped. Love often prevailed. …

Police and missionary enforcers placed white working class men living with Aboriginal women under sexual surveillance, forcing them to either apply for permits or be arrested. Many were fined or jailed. The Chief Protectors, who had the power to decide who could marry whom, regularly refused their written requests to marry.

Although largely untouched by the new laws, magistrates, pastoralists, police and missionaries also fell in love with Aboriginal women. It was not uncommon for cattle station owners and managers to practice a form of cross-frontier polygamy, sustaining relationships with both a white wife and an Aboriginal woman. …

Australian lovers who were willing to cross these punitive marriage bars showed an uncommon courage. Out of this “illicit love” came new generations who carry on the battles for their ancestors and their communities. Some are the very same people who are required today to justify their Aboriginality because of mixed descent. They have to keep explaining who they are and why they are speaking out.1

.
What these rare photographs speak of is a love, an intimacy, and affection within a family unit. Just look at the gentleness as the man holds the child’s hands and the smile on the mother’s face. It is just a gorgeous photograph of love and happiness between white and black, of a smiling women with her children. Passed down through time, it is a privilege to be able to look, to understand, to feel the power of this relationship all of these years later.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All of these photographs have been digitally cleaned. Many thankx to my friend Daniel for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Professor Ann McGrath. “Celebrating white men and their black lovers,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website [Online] Cited 30/12/2018

 

 

1910s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Poolamacca Station

It is situated about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Broken Hill and 174 kilometres (108 mi) north east of Mannahill at the eastern end of the Barrier Range adjoining Sturts Meadows. The station currently occupies an area of 40,000 acres (16,187 ha). The abandoned township of Tarrawingee is situated within the boundaries of the station.

The property was established in the 1860s with the first owners of the run being Messrs Jones and Goode. In 1867 a shepherd staged a hoax with a white quartz gold find that lead to an aborted gold rush to the area. The first property in the area was Mount Gipps Station In 1865 with Corona, Mundi Mundi and Poolamacca being established shortly afterward. Sidney Kidman worked at Poolamacca during the 1870s as a boundary rider and stockman.

In 1877 the property was put up for auction by the trustees of the estate of Messrs E. M. Bagot and G. Bennett. At this stage the property was approximately 900 square miles (2,331 km2) in size along with a flock of 34,906 sheep. The property comprised ten separate runs including the 64,000 acre Bijerkerno run to the 25,000 acre Torrowangee run.

John Brougham acquired a half share in Poolamacca in 1889 and later secured the lease outright. Brougham remained at Poolamacca until 1915 when he moved to Adelaide. In 1892 approximately 50 Aboriginal people, were moved to Poolamacca station which under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas.

The lease was later split into two properties: Poolamacca and Wilangee in the 1920s. Moss Smith sold the property in 1927 to the Pastoral company of Adelaide following the death of his daughter whose body was found buried in a warren in Poolamacca late the year before after she had gone missing for four months.

In 2002 the property was acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation with the title holders being the Wilyakali Aboriginal Corporation when the property occupied an area of 507 square kilometres (196 sq mi).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sydney Poolamacca map

 

Sydney to Poolamacca map, New South Wales, Australia

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Extracts from The Mutawintji research project

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, the owner of Poolamacca (and brother of John Brougham Jnr of Gnalta station, now part of Mutawintji National Park), describes how the first pastoralists mapped out their original station boundaries by including the best waterholes:

The wild aborigines were a help by following their tracks, as they knew of any existing water away from the river… One old aborigine who claims to be from one of the wild tribes told me the walkabout was a good sign to watch for – at that time a mob were having a hunt for a new hunting ground and had camped about midday. While they were stopped a pregnant woman had a baby there. Next day they were off again, mother and child and went straight to a waterhole, which the white people found by following their tracks (Brougham, K.W.C. 1920, West of the Darling, MS, State Library of South Australia, p. 14)

.
… In 1862, the area north-west of Mt Murchison on the Darling River near present day Wilcannia was still frontier country. Mt Gipps station7, set up in 1865 (Kearns 1982), was the first station in the Broken Hill area. It included the country to the north of Broken Hill and the hill that was to become the Broken Hill mine and city. Mt Gipps was followed soon after by Poolamacca, Corona and Mundi Mundi.

No actual descriptions of the annexation of Mutawintji by pastoralists have been found so far, but as permanent waterholes are few to the north-west of the Darling River, descriptions of the annexure of other important water sources such as Yancannia in the mid 1860s suggest that there was likely to have been conflict. Yancannia station, to the north of Mutawintji, had been established by 1865 and contemporary accounts describe conflict with the local Aboriginal people. By 1872 the Aboriginal people of Yancannia gave the owners “very little trouble” and “a few of them [were] very useful” (Reid in Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 104).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 9-10.

 

It is clear from the Bonney records that people moved backwards and forwards between Yancannia, Momba, Tarella, Wonnaminta, Poolamacca and Gnalta/Mootwingee stations from the 1860s and through the 1880s. Bonney lists about 44 people as living at Momba and Tarella around 1881; some of the people from Momba have been traced and the descendents of some of the people Bonney described are Aboriginal owners of Mutawintji National Park. …

In 1892 about 50 Aboriginal people, including Outalpa George, were camped near Olary. At about this time they moved to Poolamacca station which “under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas” (Mawson, D. and Hossfeld, P.S. 1926, ‘Relics of Aboriginal Occupation in the Olary District’, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 50, pp. 17-25).

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, writes about the 1890s:

[in] 1892 [at] Poolamacca … we were amazed by the number of Aboriginals that were there…. I had a boy mate staying with me and about two hundred blacks were camped in a sort of inlet in the hills of Silverton Hill, as it was called west of the homestead … The Aboriginals were practically in their wild state and did not speak our language (Brougham MS n.d, p.1)

… cotton dresses, high coloured and a great favourite of the [women] went as soon as they were landed, and olive oil for the [women’s] hair, always in demand (Brougham MS n.d, p.2).

[the Aboriginal people] were very handy in the woolshed at shearing time. The [women] did all the piece picking and men on the tables and picking up. The pickers were excellent at their job and all had a good eye, male and female (Brougham MS n.d, p.3)

… At Poolamacca my mother … employed a … girl who was neat and tidy, an extra good worker, and in 1896 she was really good (Brougham MS n.d, p.12)

… [at] Euriowie we had a lot of aboriginals working in the creeks surrounding this country picking up slugs of pure tin and bagging it (Brougham MS n.d, p.23).

.
The APB [Aboriginal Protection Board] minutes recorded between 1890 and 1901 seldom mention the Mutawintji area. The only stations in the far north-west that received help from the APB were Poolamacca, occasionally Sturts Meadows, and the fringe camps at Milparinka, Tibooburra, Wanaaring and Wilcannia. The only station that consistently received rations throughout 1890-1901 was Poolamacca. Sturts Meadows (just to the west of Mutawintji) received rations in 1893, 1897 and 1898. Most stations either managed to fully employ the Aboriginal people living there or provided food and clothing of some sort without asking for compensation. …

During John Brougham’s time at Poolamacca during the 1890s and early 1900s, the station was something of a sanctuary for Aboriginal people but many had moved on by the time the Brougham family left. Some followed the Broughams to Gnalta station (now part of Mutawintji National Park) while others went to stations like Yancannia, where a large number of Aboriginal people lived and worked (Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne). …

According to George Dutton, who was born on Yancannia station, there was a sizeable Aboriginal population at Poolamacca until about 1910, but almost none thereafter. George Dutton told Jeremy Beckett:

“At Poolamacca in 1901 there was a big mob of blackfellas, two hundred men without the women and kids. When I went back in 1910 there was only two boys left and graves all round” (Beckett, J. 1978, ‘George Dutton’s Country: Portrait of an Aboriginal Drover’, Aboriginal History, vol. 2 (1), pp. 19).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 14-16.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Largs Pier Hotel

Largs Pier Hotel is located on the corner of The Esplanade and Jetty Road in Largs Bay, South Australia.

The Largs Pier Hotel opened in 1882 on the same day as the Largs Bay Railway and Pier. Believed to be 23rd of December according to The Port Adelaide Historical Society. From 1882 till around 1892 the Largs Pier was the primary port of call for New Australians travelling from Europe. Many of these immigrants spent their first nights in Australia at the hotel. (Wikipedia)

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia today

 

 

1930s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the Aboriginal police tracker second from left. This could be in the Northern Territory.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

This photograph is possibly from around the Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory of Australia. You can make out the word “gold” on the truck behind the men.

Gold was discovered in the Tanami Desert by Alan Davidson. He arrived in the area in 1898 prospecting until 1901. He took the name Tanami for the region from local Aboriginal people who visited his camp. “On inquiry [he] learned that the native name of the rockholes (from [which the party obtained water] was Tanami, and that they “never died,” he said. Davidson showed the gold specimens to these Aboriginal people, who recognised it and described “mobs of similar stone to the east, together with a large creek containing plenty of water and fish. This they said was “two days’ sleep to the south of east”. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the man crouching at left holding a Kodak box camera, and the folding camera (most probably a Kodak as well) at the feet of the man third from right.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

1950s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Roy Hill Homestead

Statement of significance

Roy Hill Station has strong heritage significance as it has aesthetic, historical, scientific, and social values. It represents more than a hundred years of life on a Pilbara station, and its buildings and structures, reflect an evolutionary pattern of development. Roy Hill Station was the home of Alexander Langdon (Alex) Spring who made an enormous contribution to local government in the region between 1940-70. He was a Councillor for 31 years, and was the first President of the East Pilbara Shire in 1972. He was made a Freeman of the Shire of East Pilbara in 1973. becoming the 13th Freeman in Western Australia.
Roy Hill continues to have significance as a large pastoral station, representing some of the other stations which owners did not want included in the Shire of East Pilbara Heritage Inventory.

 

History

Physical description

Roy Hill Homestead is situated 1km off the main road halfway between Newman and Nullagine. Roy Hill Station consists of a large number of buildings which demonstrate the dynamic process of running a pastoral station over a period of more than a century. There are a number of corrugated iron sheds built at different times for mechanical work and storage of station equipment. Close by is the aircraft directional beacon available for the nearby airstrip if a plane was lost. The original airstrip was approx. 6 miles from the homestead. Part of the very old cattle stockyards still stand next to a disused cattle killing hoist, reflecting a time when pastoralists regularly butchered cattle for their home consumption. The yards were the main trucking yards and general handling yards.

The large main house is one of a number of buildings that have been erected on the station since the turn of the century. It has cement block walls with a corrugated iron roof. Surrounding the large and once gracious home is a wide verandah. The house originally consisted of three bedrooms, a living room, guest room, dining room and school room. Nearby the house is a cluster of older buildings including a ‘Nissan hut’ shaped kitchen and dining room for workers and the old Post Office. Office and General Store.

The Post Office, Office and General Store has corrugated iron walls and a gabled tin roof. Inside the Post Office are the pigeon holes and other associated post office fittings. The service hatch for the Post Office is still visible from the outside. The General Store (to the rear of the Post Office) still has its shelves in place and much of the old equipment that has been collected there over the years gives a feeling of stepping back into another time. In the immediate vicinity of the homestead property are other remnants from the past.

Concrete pads found amongst the grass are the remains of Aboriginal stockmens quarters and the many rainwater tanks are reminders of the need to collect and store all water needed for consumption. A light aircraft parked near the airstrip is an important vehicle for transport and for mustering.
Today the house stands unoccupied and the owner and any employees live in transportable homes near the old house.

Text from the State Heritage Office, Government of Western Australia website

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Mundiwindi

Mundiwindi just off the Jigalong Mission Road in Western Australia is a locality about 1000km north-northeast of Perth. Mundiwindi is at an altitude of about 575m above sea level. The nearest ocean is the Indian Ocean about 410km north-northwest of Mundiwindi. The nearest more populous place is the town of Newman which is 71km away with a population of around 3,500.

Mundiwindi is a ghost town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The town is around 1,150 kilometres (710 mi) north east of Perth and 124 kilometres (77 mi) south east of Newman, along the Jigalong Mission road. The town was established in 1914 as a telegraph station. The station was closed in 1977. The telegraph station was a link on the Australian Overland Telegraph Line linking the settled regions of Australia to the submarine cable at Broome. A weather station operated at the site between 1915 and 1981. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Stockman (Australia)

In Australia a stockman (plural stockmen) is a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station, which is owned by a grazier or a grazing company. A stockman may also be employed at an abattoir, feedlot, on a livestock export ship, or with a stock and station agency. …

 

History

The role of the mounted stockmen came into being early in the 19th century, when in 1813 the Blue Mountains separating the coastal plain of the Sydney region from the interior of the continent was crossed. The town of Bathurst was founded shortly after, and potential farmers moved westward, and settled on the land, many of them as squatters. The rolling country, ideal for sheep and the large, often unfenced, properties necessitated the role of the shepherd to tend the flocks.

Early stockmen were specially selected, highly regarded men owing to the high value and importance of early livestock. All stockmen need to be interested in animals, able to handle them with confidence and patience, able to make accurate observations about them and enjoy working outdoors.

Australian Aborigines were good stockmen who played a large part in the successful running of many stations. With their intimate bonds to their tribal places, and local knowledge they also took considerable pride in their work. After the gold rushes white labour was expensive and difficult to retain. Aboriginal women also worked with cattle on the northern stations after this practice developed in northern Queensland during the 1880s. A Native administration Act later stopped the employment of women in the cattle camps. Aborigines and their families received the regular provision of food and clothing to retain their labour, but were paid only a small wage.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

For more information on the role and conditions of Aboriginal stockmen, please see the book Aborigines in the Northern Territory Cattle Industry by Dr Frank Stevens, Australian National University Press, 1974.

“Perhaps nowhere in Australia have working and living conditions for Aborigines been so bad as on Northern Territory cattle stations. Though the Aborigines’ skill in handling cattle is acknowledged by their white employers, rarely have they gained recognition in any material way. None were paid full wages, many were fortunate if they received any cash wages at all, almost all lived in appalling conditions, and many were subjected to physical violence.

These facts emerge clearly from Dr Stevens’s thorough research into the conditions obtaining on Territory pastoral properties in the 1960s. During surveys in 1965 followed up in 1967, Dr Stevens questioned employers and both black and white workers in the industry, eliciting some revealing replies. It was apparent that the Aboriginal workers were fully aware of their degraded position and the way in which they were exploited.

Where possible Dr Stevens visited the Aboriginal station ‘camps’, though he met with opposition from some station owners, reluctant to allow him free access. In almost all of them the living conditions were primitive, the best of accommodation being little more than a corrugated iron hut. Few camps had running water or cooking facilities.

In the growing awareness of the Aborigines’ plight in Australia, this book is an important testimony of the conditions in which many lived and worked, conditions that must no longer be allowed to exist.” (Book jacket)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Austin, Western Australia

Austin is an abandoned town in the Murchison region of Western Australia. The town is located south of Cue on an island in Lake Austin and for this reason was also known as Lake Austin and The Island Lake Austin.

The lake and the town are both named after surveyor Robert Austin, who was the first European to explore and chart the area. Austin initially named the lake the Great Inland Marsh but the name was later changed to Lake Austin. The townsite was gazetted in 1895. When Austin travelled through the area he described it as very indifferent but also added the geological features indicate rich goldfields. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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23
Dec
18

Exhibition: ‘Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins’ at The New York Public Library, New York

Exhibition dates: 28th September 2018 – 6th January 2019

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799–1871), Snowden - from the Inn Garden at Capel Curig from an album of watercolors, 1835-63

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Snowden – from the Inn Garden at Capel Curig from an album of watercolours
1835-63

 

 

Anna Atkins photographs are remarkable when you consider that

  1. Some sources claim that Atkins was the first female photographer
  2. She learnt directly from William Henry Fox Talbot about two of his inventions relating to photography: the “photogenic drawing” technique (in which an object is placed on light-sensitised paper which is exposed to the sun to produce an image) and calotypes
  3. She learnt the cyanotype process a year after its invention by Sir John Herschel, a friend of the Atkins family, and then applied the process to algae (specifically, seaweed) by making cyanotype photograms that were contact printed “by placing the unmounted dried-algae original directly on the cyanotype paper”
  4. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images: the self-published book of her cyanotype photograms in the first instalment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843 (Wikipedia)

.
The date is incredibly early, eight months before June 1844, when the first fascicle of William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature was released; that book being the “first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published” or “the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs.” (Wikipedia)

What is interesting to me is not just Atkins choice of the new medium of photography to describe, both scientifically and aesthetically, the beauty and detail of her collection of seaweeds; but within that new medium of photography, she chose not the photogenic or calotype process, but the graphic cyanotype process with its vivid use of the colour blue, a ‘means of reproducing notes and diagrams, as in blueprints’.

Here we have a process that reproduces reality as in a diagram, a diagrammatic process that is then doubly reinforced when Atkins places her specimens directly on the cyanotype paper producing a photogram, a photographic image made without a camera. The resultant negative shadow image shows variations in tone that are dependent upon the transparency of the objects used. (Wikipedia)

Atkins photographs, produced “with great daring, creativity, and technical skill” are “a groundbreaking achievement in the history of photography and book publishing.” While Atkins’ books can be seen as the first systematic application of photography to science, each photograph used for scientific study or display of its species or type, there is a much more holistic creative project going on here.

Can you imagine the amount of work required to learn the calotype process, gather your thoughts, photograph the specimens, make the prints, write the text to accompany the images, and prepare the number of volumes to self-publish the book, all within a year? For any artist, this amount of concentrated, focused work requires an inordinate amount of time and energy and, above all, a clear visualisation of the outcome that you want to achieve.

That this was achieved by a woman in 1843, “in contrast to the constraints experienced by women in Victorian England,” makes Atkins achievement of scientific accuracy, ethereal beauty and sublime transcendence in her photographs truly breathtaking.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The New York Public Library for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) came of age in Victorian England, a fertile environment for learning and discovery. Guided by her father, a prominent scientist, Atkins was inspired to take up photography, and in 1843 began making cyanotypes – a photographic process invented just the year before – in an effort to visualise and distribute information about her collection of seaweeds. With great daring, creativity, and technical skill, she produced Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the first book to be illustrated with photographs, and the first substantial application of photography to science. Ethereal, deeply hued, and astonishingly detailed, the resulting images led her and her friend Anne Dixon to expand their visual inquiry to flowering plants, feathers, and other subjects. This exhibition draws upon more than a decade of careful research and sets Atkins and her much-admired work in context, shedding new light on her productions and showcasing the distinctive beauty of the cyanotype process, which is still used by artists today.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins' at The New York Public Library

 

Installation view of the exhibition Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins at The New York Public Library

 

 

British Algae

Intended as a reference guide to native seaweeds, Anna Atkins Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions was the first book in any field – and in any country – to be printed using photography to replace typesetting and conventional means of illustration. The graphic appeal of British Algae makes it tempting to view its contents as a form of decorative yet austere botanical art. Beauty, however, was not the only aim of its author, who sought to apply a new technology to circulate precise descriptions of her collection of seaweeds. Created at the height of the natural history mania that swept England, British Algae remains an enduring union of the expressive potential of photography and the pursuit to fathom the mysteries of the natural world. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins' at The New York Public Library

Installation view of the exhibition 'Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins' at The New York Public Library

Installation view of the exhibition 'Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins' at The New York Public Library

Installation view of the exhibition 'Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins' at The New York Public Library

 

Installation view of the exhibition Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins at The New York Public Library

 

 

The Legacy of Pioneering Victorian Photographer Anna Atkins Celebrated in Dual Exhibitions at The New York Public Library

Anna Atkins’s influential photographs to be shown concurrently with an installation of works by contemporary artists guided by Atkins’s cyanotype imagery and process.

The work of Anna Atkins, one of the earliest woman photographers, is the impetus behind two complementary exhibitions opening this fall at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Celebrating the 175th anniversary of the debut of her landmark book, Photographs of British Algae, the exhibitions examine Atkins’s life and work, as well as her ongoing legacy. Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins – the first full survey of Atkins’s major projects to be assembled – examines Atkins’s achievements, situating them within the context of her time; Anna Atkins Refracted: Contemporary Works testifies to the resonance of her photographs for artists today.

In contrast to the constraints experienced by women in Victorian England, Atkins conceived, printed, and published Photographs of British Algae, a groundbreaking achievement in the history of photography and book publishing. Carried out between 1843 and 1853, British Algae was the first book illustrated solely by the nascent medium of photography, and the first systematic application of photography to science. Each page of the seminal volume was hand-printed exclusively using the cyanotype, or blueprint, process. Nearly a century later, the timeless appeal of her cyanotypes – known for their deep blue colour – was rediscovered by historians and artists who have recognised her contributions in the field of photography.

Blue Prints explores Atkins’s training, her artistic and scientific pursuits, and her timely embrace of the new medium of photography. Featuring seldom-seen letters, artefacts from family and museum archives, and rare cyanotype volumes depicting various species of seaweeds, and later, ferns, flowering plants, and feathers – the exhibition also highlights the key roles played by Atkins’s scientist father as well as by Sir John Herschel and William Henry Fox Talbot, pivotal figures in the invention of photography, in cultivating her ambitions.

Opening October 19 in the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery, Blue Prints includes items such as:

  • Comparative copies of her book Photographs of British Algae, including Atkins’s presentation copy to Sir John Herschel, the inventor of the cyanotype process
  • The only three known portraits of Anna Atkins
  • A rare album of watercolours, a gift from Atkins to her husband
  • An album presented by Anne Dixon, a collaborator of Atkins’s, to her nephew Henry Dixon in 1861, the only cyanotype album known to depict subjects other than algae or ferns

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In addition to the Library’s exhibition dedicated to the work of Atkins, the Schwarzman Building will also display recent photographs and video by current artists reflecting the spirit of Atkins’s cyanotype images, her methodical approach, and her preoccupation with nature. This exhibition includes pieces from the mid-1990s through the present by a diverse group of international artists, several of whom have created installations expressly for this exhibition. These contemporary works range from experimental cyanotypes and photograms to time-based digital media. Anna Atkins Refracted opens on September 28 in the Rayner Special Collections Wing and Print Gallery on the third floor. Visitors can access audio commentary from select artists about their works and Atkins’ influence on their art through the Library’s website.

Exhibited artists include: Roy Arden, Erica Baum, Eric William Carroll, Susan Derges, Liz Deschenes, Kathleen Herbert, Katherine Hubbard, Mona Kuhn, Owen Kydd, María Martínez-Cañas, Meghann Riepenhoff, Alison Rossiter, Ulf Saupe, Lindy Smith, Kunié Sugiura, Penelope Umbrico, Mike Ware, Letha Wilson, Ellen Ziegler

Coinciding with these exhibitions, the Library will be publishing two books that attest to Atkins’s photographic achievements. One is an expanded edition of Larry J. Schaaf’s Sun Gardens, an in-depth study of Atkins’s work that first established her historical and artistic significance. The other is a facsimile of the Library’s copy of Photographs of British Algae, which is being produced by Steidl Verlag.

Blue Prints is co-organized by Joshua Chuang, The Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Associate Director for Art, Prints and Photographs, and The Robert B. Menschel Senior Curator of Photography and Larry J. Schaaf, independent scholar, with Emily Walz, Librarian, Art and Architecture

Anna Atkins Refracted is co-curated by Joshua Chuang, The Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Associate Director for Art, Prints and Photographs, and The Robert B. Menschel Senior Curator of Photography and Elizabeth Cronin, Assistant Curator of Photography.

Press release from The New York Public Library

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Laminaria phyllitis', from Part V of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1844-1845

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Laminaria phyllitis, from Part V of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1844-1845
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799–1871), 'Furcellaria fastigiata', from Part IV, version 2 of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1846

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Furcellaria fastigiata, from Part IV, version 2 of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1846 or later
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Alaria esculenta', from Part XII of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1849-1850

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Alaria esculenta, from Part XII of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1849-1850
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state & in fruit', from Part XI of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1849-1850

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state & in fruit, from Part XI of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1849-1850
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Nitophyllum gmeleni', from Part XI of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1849-1850

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Nitophyllum gmeleni, from Part XI of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1849-1850
Cyanotype
New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, Spencer Collection

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Grateloupia filicina', from Part IX of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1848-1849

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Grateloupia filicina, from Part IX of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1848-1849
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Halyseris polypodioides', from Part XII of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1849-1850

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Halyseris polypodioides, from Part XII of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1849-1850
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 'Ulva latissima', from Volume III of 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' 1853

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Ulva latissima, from Volume III of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
1853
Cyanotype
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and Anne Dixon (1799-1864) 'Papaver rhoeas', from a presentation album to Henry Dixon 1861

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and Anne Dixon (1799-1864)
Papaver rhoeas, from a presentation album to Henry Dixon
1861
Cyanotype
Private collection, courtesy of Hans P. Kraus Jr., New York

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and Anne Dixon (1799-1864) 'Peacock', from a presentation album to Henry Dixon 1861

 

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and Anne Dixon (1799-1864)
Peacock, from a presentation album to Henry Dixon
1861
Cyanotype
Private collection, courtesy of Hans P. Kraus Jr., New York

 

Unknown artist. 'Anna Children' c. 1820

 

Unknown artist
Anna Children
c. 1820
Pencil
From the Nurstead Court Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of Anna Atkins' c. 1862

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of Anna Atkins
c. 1862
Albumen print
From the Nurstead Court Archives

 

 

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Season’s greetings from Art Blart 2018

December 2018

 

Art Blart Christmas 2018

 

 

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Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at Jeu de Paume, Concorde, Paris

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2018 – 27th January 2019

Curators: Drew Heath Johnson, Oakland Museum of California, Alona Pardo and Jilke Golbach, Barbican Art Gallery, Pia Viewing, Jeu de Paume.

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

A further posting on this exhibition, now showing at Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Eleven new media images, two videos, a selection of quotes from Dorothea Lange, and text from the exhibition curator Pia Viewing.

The most interesting of the images is the wide shot Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936, above), part of a series of six that Lange took of Florence Owens Thompson and her children, the last image of which was to become the iconic image (see text below). The story of that image is fascinating and is told in detail in text from Wikipedia and other sources below.

It would seem that Lange was mistaken or made up the story to fill in the blanks; and that the image was at first a curse (ashamed that the world could see how poor they were) and now a source of pride, to the Thompson family. As the text pertinently notes, “The photograph’s fame caused distress for Thompson and her children and raised ethical concerns about turning individuals into symbols.”

Marcus

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

 

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California [with thumb at bottom right removed]
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Destitute pea pickers in California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California [original title, thumb removed; digital file, post-conservation]
1936
Library of Congress

 

Digital file was made from the original nitrate negative for “Migrant Mother” (LC-USF34-009058-C). The negative was retouched in the 1930s to erase the thumb holding a tent pole in lower right hand corner.

The file print made before the thumb was retouched can be seen at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.12883

Title from caption card for negative. Title on print: “Destitute pea pickers in California. A 32 year old mother of seven children.”

 

 

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. In the 1930s, the FSA employed several photographers to document the effects of the Great Depression on Americans. Many of the photographs can also be seen as propaganda images to support the U.S. government’s policy distributing support to the worst affected, poorer areas of the country. Dorothea Lange’s image of a migrant pea picker, Florence Owens Thompson, and her family has become an icon of resilience in the face of adversity. Lange actually took six images that day, the last being the famous “Migrant Mother”. This is a montage of the other five pictures. Persons in picture (left to right) are: Viola (Pete) in rocker, age 14, standing inside tent; Ruby, age 5; Katherine, age 4, seated on box; Florence, age 32, and infant Norma, age 1 year, being held by Florence. Pete has moved inside the tent, and away from Lange, in hopes her photo can not be taken. Katherine stands next to her mother. Florence is talking to Ruby, who is hiding behind her mother, as Lange took the picture. Florence is nursing Norma. Katherine has moved back from her mother as Lange approached to take this shot. Ruby is still hiding behind her mother. Left to right are Florence, Ruby and baby Norma. Florence stopped nursing Norma and Ruby has come out from behind her. This photograph was the one used by the newspapers the following day to report the story of the migrants. Portrait shows Florence Owens Thompson with several of her children in a photograph known as “Migrant Mother”.

  1. Persons in picture (left to right) are: Viola (Pete) in rocker, age 14; standing inside tent, Ruby, age 5; Katherine, age 4; seated on box, Florence, age 32, and infant Norma, age 1 year, being held by Florence
  2. Viola has moved inside the tent. Katherine stands next to her mother. Florence is talking to Ruby, who is behind her mother
  3. Florence is nursing Norma. Katherine has moved back from her mother. Ruby is still behind her mother
  4. Left to right are Florence, Ruby and baby Norma
  5. Florence stopped nursing Norma. Ruby is still next to her mother. This photograph was the one used by the newspapers the following day to report the story of the starving migrants

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California' 1936

 

“We do not know the order in which these photographs were taken, since they are 4″ x 5” individual negatives rather than 35mm film strips, which provide a record of the sequence of continuous exposures. However, Lange indicates in the above statement she moved closer as she continued to photograph. If that is true, then we have a good idea of the general order. We do know that one was selected, likely as a joint decision between Lange and representatives of the Resettlement Administration.

While “Migrant Mother” is well known, what is far less known is that Lange took six or seven pictures, five of which still exist. Lange posed Ms. Florence Thompson in different positions and used some of her seven children to create a series of compelling images. She asked Thompson to shift the position of the child in her arms to get the greatest emotional effect. Linda Gordon’s biography of Lange describes this as follows:

Lange asked the mother and children to move into several different positions. She began with a mid-distance shot. Then she backed up for one shot, then came closer for others. She moved aside a pile of dirty clothes (she would never embarrass her subjects). She then moved closer yet, focusing on three younger children and sidelining the teenage daughter out of the later pictures altogether… she offered the photographs to the press. The San Francisco News published two of them on March 10, 1936. In response, contributions of $200,000 poured in for the destitute farmworkers stuck in Nipomo. (Gordon, 2009, p. 237)

One was eventually selected to represent this scene to the nation.”

Anonymous. “The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the New Deal,” on the Annenberg Learner website [Online] Cited 16/12/2018

 

 

Iconic photo

In March 1936, after picking beets in the Imperial Valley, Florence and her family were traveling on U.S. Highway 101 towards Watsonville “where they had hoped to find work in the lettuce fields of the Pajaro Valley.” On the road, the car’s timing chain snapped and they coasted to a stop just inside a pea-pickers‘ camp on Nipomo Mesa. They were shocked to find so many people camping there – as many as 2,500 to 3,500. A notice had been sent out for pickers, but the crops had been destroyed by freezing rain, leaving them without work or pay. Years later Florence told an interviewer that when she cooked food for her children that day little children appeared from the pea pickers’ camp asking, “Can I have a bite?”

While Jim Hill, her husband, and two of Florence’s sons went into town to get the car’s damaged radiator repaired, Florence and some of the children set up a temporary camp. As Florence waited, photographer Dorothea Lange, working for the Resettlement Administration, drove up and started taking photos of Florence and her family. She took six images in the course of ten minutes.

Lange’s field notes of the images read:

Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food.

Lange later wrote of the encounter with Thompson:

I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food.

Thompson claimed that Lange never asked her any questions and got many of the details incorrect. Troy Owens recounted:

There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell. The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have.

In many ways, Migrant Mother is not typical of Lange’s careful method of interacting with her subject. Exhausted after a long road-trip, she did not talk much to the migrant woman, Florence Thompson, and didn’t record her information accurately. Although Thompson became a famous symbol of White motherhood, her heritage is Native American. The photograph’s fame caused distress for Thompson and her children and raised ethical concerns about turning individuals into symbols.

According to Thompson, Lange promised the photos would never be published, but Lange sent them to the San Francisco News as well as to the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C. The News ran the pictures almost immediately and reported that 2,500 to 3,500 migrant workers were starving in Nipomo, California. Within days, the pea-picker camp received 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) of food from the federal government. Thompson and her family had moved on by the time the food arrived and were working near Watsonville, California.

While Thompson’s identity was not known for over 40 years after the photos were taken, the images became famous. The sixth image, especially, which later became known as Migrant Mother, “has achieved near mythical status, symbolising, if not defining, an entire era in United States history.” Roy Stryker called Migrant Mother the “ultimate” photo of the Depression Era: “[Lange] never surpassed it. To me, it was the picture … . The others were marvellous, but that was special … . She is immortal.” As a whole, the photographs taken for the Resettlement Administration “have been widely heralded as the epitome of documentary photography.” Edward Steichen described them as “the most remarkable human documents ever rendered in pictures.”

Thompson’s identity was discovered in the late 1970s. In 1978, acting on a tip, Modesto Bee reporter Emmett Corrigan located Thompson at her mobile home in Space 24 of the Modesto Mobile Village and recognised her from the 40-year-old photograph. A letter Thompson wrote was published in The Modesto Bee and the Associated Press distributed a story headlined “Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo.” Florence was quoted as saying “I wish she [Lange] hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it. She didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did.”

Lange was funded by the federal government when she took the picture, so the image was in the public domain and Lange never directly received any royalties. However, the picture did help make Lange a celebrity and earned her “respect from her colleagues.”

In a 2008 interview with CNN, Thompson’s daughter Katherine McIntosh recalled how her mother was a “very strong lady”, and “the backbone of our family”. She said: “We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. She didn’t eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate. That’s one thing she did do.”

 

Later life, death, and aftermath

Though Thompson’s 10 children bought her a house in Modesto, California, in the 1970s, Thompson found she preferred living in a mobile home and moved back into one.

Thompson was hospitalised and her family appealed for financial help in late August 1983. By September, the family had collected $35,000 in donations to pay for her medical care. Florence died of “stroke, cancer and heart problems” at Scotts Valley, California, on September 16, 1983. She was buried in Lakewood Memorial Park, in Hughson, California, and her gravestone reads: “FLORENCE LEONA THOMPSON Migrant Mother – A Legend of the Strength of American Motherhood.”

Daughter Katherine McIntosh told CNN that the photo’s fame had made the family feel both ashamed and determined never to be as poor again. Son Troy Owens said that more than 2,000 letters received along with donations for his mother’s medical fund led to a re-appraisal of the photo: “For Mama and us, the photo had always been a bit of [a] curse. After all those letters came in, I think it gave us a sense of pride.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Cars on the Road' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Cars on the Road
1936
Library of Congress
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Near Eutah, Alabama' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Near Eutah, Alabama
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Ditched, stalled and stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California' 1935, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Ditched, Stalled, and Stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Quotes from Dorothea Lange

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable, but when the great photographs are produced, it will be down that road. I have only touched it, just touched it.”

“On the Bowery I knew how to step over drunken men … I knew how to keep an expression of face that would draw no attention, so no one would look at me. I have used that my whole life in photographing.”

Interview with Lange, in Dorothea Lange, Part II : The Closer For Me, film produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET), USA, 1965

 

“I never steal a photograph. Never. All photographs are made in collaboration, as part of their thinking as well as mine.”

“Often it’s just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swopping in and swopping out in a cloud of dust; sitting down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you’re very apt to receive it.”

Anne Whiston, Spirn, Daring to Look, p. 23-24

 

“My own approach is based upon three considerations. First – hands off! Whatever I photograph I do not molest or tamper with or arrange. Second – a sense of place. Whatever I photograph, I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third – a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present.”

Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Masters Of Photography, New York Castle Books, 1958, p. 140

 

“The good photograph is not the object, the consequences of the photograph are the objects.”

“I believe that the camera is a powerful medium for communication and I believe that the camera is a valuable tool for social research which has not been developed to its capacity.”

Dorothea Lange, quoted in Karen Tsujimoto, Dorothea Lange : Archive of an Artist, Oakland, Oakland Museum, 1995, p. 23

 

“Everything is propaganda for what you believe in, actually, isn’t it? … I don’t see that it could be otherwise. The harder and the more deeply you believe in anything, the more in a sense you’re a propagandist. Conviction, propaganda, faith. I don’t know, I never have been able to come to the conclusion that that’s a bad word […] But at any rate, that’s what the Office of War Information work was.”

“There is a sharp difference, a gulf. The woman’s position is immeasurably more complicated. There are not very many first class woman producers, not many. That is, producers of outside things. They produce in other ways. Where they can do both, it’s a conflict. I would like to try. I would like to have one year. I’d like to take one year, almost ask it of myself, ‘Could I have one year?’ Just one, when I would not have to take into account anything but my own inner demands. Maybe everybody would like that … but I can’t.”

Suzanne Riess, “Dorothea Lange: The Making of a documentary Photographer,” October 1960-August 1961, p. 181; 219-220

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Drought-abandoned house on the edge of the Great Plains near Hollis, Oklahoma' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Drought-abandoned house on the edge of the Great Plains near Hollis, Oklahoma
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Towards Los Angeles, California' 1936, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Toward Los Angeles, California
1937
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Family on the road, Oklahoma' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Family on the road, Oklahoma
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Ancienne esclave à la longue mémoire, Alabama' 'Former slave with a long memory, Alabama' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Ancienne esclave à la longue mémoire, Alabama
Former slave with a long memory, Alabama
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

The Politics of Seeing features major works by the world famous American photographer Dorothea Lange (1895, Hoboken, New Jersey-1966, San Francisco, California), some of which have never before been exhibited in France. The exhibition focuses on the extraordinary emotional power of Dorothea Lange’s work and on the context of her documentary practice. It features five specific series: the Depression period (1933-1934), a selection of works from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1939), the Japanese American internment (1942), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944) and a series on a Public defender (1955-1957). Over one hundred splendid vintage prints taken between 1933 and 1957 are enhanced by the presence of documents and screenings broadening the scope of an oeuvre often familiar to the public through images such as White Angel Breadline (1933) and Migrant Mother (1936), which are icons of photographic history. The majority of prints in this exhibition belong to the Oakland Museum of California, where Lange’s considerable archive, donated to the museum after her death by her husband Paul Shuster Taylor, is conserved.

Like John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of Wrath, Dorothea Lange’s oeuvre has helped shape our conception of the interwar years in America and contributed to our knowledge of this period. However, this exhibition also introduces other aspects of Dorothea Lange’s practice, which she herself considered archival. By placing the photographic work in the context of her anthropological approach, it enables viewers to appreciate how its power also lies in her capacity to interact with her subjects, evident in her captions to the images. She thereby considerably enriched the informative quality of the visual archive and produced a form of oral history for future generations.

In 1932, during the Great Depression that began in 1929, Lange observed the unemployed homeless people in the streets of San Francisco and decided to drop her studio portrait work because she felt that it was no longer adequate. During a two-year period that marked a turning point in her life, she took photographs of urban situations that portrayed the social impact of the recession. This new work became known in artistic circles and attracted the attention of Paul Schuster Taylor, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Taylor was a specialist in agricultural conflicts of the 1930s, and in particular Mexican migrant workers. He began using Lange’s photographs to illustrate his articles and in 1935 they started working together for the government agencies of the New Deal. Their collaboration lasted for over thirty years.

During the Second World War, Lange continued to practise photography and to document the major issues of the day, including the internment of Japanese-American families during the war; the economic and social development due to industries engaged in the war effort; and the criminal justice system through the work of a county public defence lawyer.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic images of the Great Depression are well known, but her photographs of Japanese-Americans interned during the Second World War were only published in 2006. Shown here for the first time in France, they illustrate perfectly how Dorothea Lange created intimate and poignant images throughout her career in order to denounce injustices and change public opinion. In addition to the prints, a selection of personal items, including contact sheets, field notes and publications allow the public to situate her work within the context of this troubled period.

The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume offers a new perspective on the work of this renowned American artist, whose legacy continues to be felt today. Highlighting the artistic qualities and the strength of the artist’s political convictions, this exhibition encourages the public to rediscover the importance of Dorothea Lange’s work as a landmark in the history of documentary photography.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note social security number tattooed on his arm, Oregon' 1939

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note social security number tattooed on his arm, Oregon
1939
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California
1942
© Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Japanese Children with Tags, Hayward, California, May 8 1942'

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Japanese Children with Tags, Hayward, California, May 8 1942
1942
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Jour de lessive, quarante-huit heures avant l’évacuation des personnes d’ascendance japonaise de ce village agricole du comté de Santa Clara, San Lorenzo, Californie' 'Laundry day, forty-eight hours before the evacuation of people of Japanese descent from this farming village of Santa Clara County, San Lorenzo, California' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Jour de lessive, quarante-huit heures avant l’évacuation des personnes d’ascendance japonaise de ce village agricole du comté de Santa Clara, San Lorenzo, Californie
Laundry day, forty-eight hours before the evacuation of people of Japanese descent from this farming village of Santa Clara County, San Lorenzo, California
1942
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Oakland, California, March 1942' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Oakland, California, March 1942
1942
Library of Congress
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

A large sign reading “I am an American” placed in the window of a store, at 401-403 Eight and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, will be housed with hundreds of evacuees in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Shipyard Worker, Richmond California' c. 1943

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Shipyard Worker, Richmond California
c. 1943
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing

Dorothea Nutzhorn (1895–1965), who took up photography at the age of eighteen, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. The daughter of second-generation German immigrants, she adopted her mother’s maiden name, Lange, when she opened a portrait studio in San Francisco in 1918. In 1932, during the Great Depression, Lange shifted her focus from studio portraits to scenes showing the impact of the recession and the social unrest in the streets of San Francisco. This two-year period marked a turning point in her life. Paul Schuster Taylor, professor of economics at the University of California, and a specialist in agricultural conflicts, who later became her second husband, began using her photographs to illustrate his articles in 1934. They worked together for over thirty years. Co-authors of the famous book An American Exodus (1939), they were active in circulating images about social conditions in rural states.

Lange created some of the iconic images of the Great Depression, but this exhibition presents other aspects of her practice, which she herself considered archival. By placing her photographic work in the context of her anthropological approach, it reveals how her images were also rooted in her ability to connect with her subjects, evident in her captions to the images. She thus considerably enriched the informative quality of the visual archive and produced a form of oral history for future generations. Her work for government institutions and the publication of her images in the illustrated press enabled her to denounce injustice and change public opinion.

Her efforts to connect with her subjects can be seen in the five specific series featured in this exhibition: the Depression period (1932–1934), a selection of works from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1941), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944), the Japanese American internment (1942) and a series on a public defender (1955-1957). By introducing contextual information and important archive material, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing endeavours to situate her majestic works within the social documentary context specific to the 1930s and 1940s, highlighting the artistic qualities of her work and the strength of her political convictions.

 

1. “The people that my life touched”, 1932-1934

In 1929 America’s urban and rural populations were hard hit by the Great Depression. Leading up to the stock market crash there had been a boom in agricultural production. However, by the late 1920s production was exceeding consumption, causing a drop in prices that had severe consequences for farmers. The textile and coal industries suffered sharp declines in wages and employment. In the 1930s, the oil, transportation and construction sectors declined at an even faster rate than agriculture, causing urban unemployment to rise above that of the rural states. In March 1933, in the midst of this crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president.

This context of considerable social unrest prompted a change in direction in Lange’s engagement with photography. From 1932 to 1934, she captured demonstrations and homeless people in the streets of San Francisco. Urban portraits like White Angel Breadline (1933) later became iconic images of the period. Her work from this period was recognised in artistic circles and Paul Shuster Taylor used one of her photographs of the May Day demonstrations to illustrate his article about the longest, largest maritime strike in the history of the USA, which was published in the progressive social welfare journal Survey Graphic in September 1934.

 

2. The documentary survey – the narration of migration, 1935-1941

In 1935, Lange accompanied Taylor on several field trips to study people migrating to rural California from the Midwest. Taylor used Lange’s images to illustrate the articles as well as his federal reports. Such was the impact of Lange’s powerful images that the authorities built the first migrant camps for agricultural workers as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal policy. The latter consisted of numerous programmes intended to combat the devastating effects of the Depression in all areas of life across the country. One such programme was the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which led to the creation of the largest American photographic archive ever, containing over 130,000 negatives documenting how the New Deal helped to relieve poverty in rural areas.

Lange, who worked in twenty-two different states, was given two contracts, one running from 1935 to 1937 and the other from 1938 to the closure of the programme in January 1941. Her photographs highlighted the plight of people who were caught up in the complex economic web of industrial farming, victims of the failure of the American dream. The images and the transcriptions of oral testimonies that Lange made were personal and intimate recollections of a history that became a cause of significant public concern in the late 1930s.
3. “A two-ocean war” – Kaiser Shipyards, Richmond, 1942-1944

During the early 1940s, Lange was interested in a new form of internal migration caused by the rapid expansion of industries, naval training programmes and military defence organisations in the Bay Area, California. Here part of the once scorned and rejected “Okie” population (migrant farm workers) moved to urban districts, where they proudly contributed to the war effort. In 1944, Lange was commissioned by Fortune magazine to photograph the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond. This young corporation, established to help with the war effort, employed nearly 100,000 unskilled workers thanks to new techniques of manufacture and assembly. Lange captured the changing of shifts and the intensity of the shipyard’s activity, the diversity of the workforce, intimate details of their living conditions, and the isolation and loneliness of the newcomers, and in particular African Americans, who were excluded from the local community. She was also interested in the unions’ unsuccessful efforts to cope with this large, diverse workforce and in women’s new status in the industrial sector.

 

4. The internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, 1942

Lange’s various series reflect many aspects of America’s cultural geography. Her desire to portray the dignity of people enduring hardship and the complexity of their situations, coupled with the need to produce a historical document, enabled Lange to produce work of universal scope.

In March 1942, in the wake of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, the US government ordered the internment of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast military zones, crowning a century of racism against Asian immigrants. Executive Order 9066 targeted three generations of Japanese Americans, who were “relocated” to ten remote and intemperate camps in California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Arkansas and Wyoming.

Lange was commissioned by the War Relocation Authority to cover the procedure from March to July 1942. Her sensitivity to the identity of cultural minorities was already evident in her photographs for the FSA commission. A decade later she captured the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, which lasted for over 18 months. These images belonged to a “military record” and were only released for publication in 2006.

 

5. The public defender, 1955-1957

A system of public defence for persons in need of legal support in court cases began in California in 1914 and by the 1950s had been introduced in many states throughout the country. Lange supported the idea of justice for all and was given an assignment by Life magazine to cover the subject at the Alameda County Court house, Oakland, to be published in May 1956 to mark Law Day. Lange was given permission to photograph in prison cells, as well as in and around the law court, taking over 450 images. She worked in conjunction with Martin Pulich, an American lawyer of Yugoslav descent, who recognised in Lange’s approach a social and political stance that mirrored his own commitment as a public defender. In this photographic essay she was able to pinpoint issues concerning racial prejudice that were omnipresent in the Bay Area at the time. The assignment did not appear in Life, but it was published in many newspapers, even internationally, and was also used by the national Legal Aid Society of New York to develop public services in the legal system.

Pia Viewing
Curator of the exhibition

 

Paul S. Taylor. 'Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains' c. 1935

 

Paul S. Taylor
Dorothea Lange on the Plains of Texas
c. 1935
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
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09
Dec
18

Photographs: Germaine Krull ‘MÉTAL’ 1928

December 2018

 

Germaine Krull (photographer) Cover design by M. Tchimoukow. 'MÉTAL' cover 1928

 

Germaine Krull (photographer)
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow (Louis Bonin)
MÉTAL cover
1928
Librairie des Arts décoratifs
A. Calavas, Editeur

Portfolio comprising a title page, a preface by Florent Fels and sixty four (64) loose photogravures, each mentioning the photographer’s name, titled ‘MÉTAL’, plate number and publisher’s name. Original dust jacket.

folio 30 x 23.5 cm; 11 ¾ x 9 ¼ in.
plate 29.2 x 22,5 cm; 11 ½ x 8 ¾ in.
image 23.6 x 17.1 cm; 9 ¼ x 6 ½ in.

 

 

“Dans toute sa force” (In full force)

For my new body of work I have been researching the concept of The Oblique Function which was first developed in the 1960’s by Architecture Principe (Claude Parent and Paul Virilio). “The idea was to tilt the ground in order to revolutionise the old paradigm of the vertical wall. In fact, being inclined, the wall becomes experiencable and so are the cities imagined by the two French architects. The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space. The slope implies an effort to climb up and a speed to climb down; this way the body cannot abstract itself from the space and feel the degrees of inclination.”1

The key to the concept is: The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space.

Perhaps we can transfer this concept to the portfolio MÉTAL by Germaine Krull, one of the most important photobooks every produced … and ask how does Krull, her camera, and by extension the viewer, inhabit the spaces she creates.

In this portfolio Krull, through “extreme angles, producing dizzying compositions of overlapping and intersecting details”, one upside down image and two multiple exposures, “one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion”2 – produces and directs (Krull was also an avant-garde filmmaker) the creation of a molecular structure – both grand and intimate, macro and micro at one and the same time. Probing further, we can link her filmic structure, this oblique mass of machines and images, to Eisenstein’s dynamic comprehension of a work of art, that is, “The logic of organic form vs. the logic of rational form [which] yields, in collision, the dialectic of the art-form.”3

This dialectic (the tension that exists between two conflicting or interacting forces, elements, or ideas; and, the process, in Hegelian and Marxist thought, in which two apparently opposed ideas, the thesis and antithesis, become combined in a unified whole, the synthesis) rests on Eisenstein’s definition of the organic form as “the passive principle of being”, defining its limit to be nature, and his definition of the rational form as “the active principle of production”, defining its limit to be industry, with art falling where nature and industry intersects.4 How these two forces interact “produces and determines Dynamism”, in which:

The spatial form of this dynamism is expression.
The phases of its tension: rhythm.5

.
These new concepts and viewpoints are the result of a constantly dynamic evolution from old perceptions to new perceptions which produce contradictions within the spectator’s mind. Eisenstein observes, “That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity – that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”6 “And Baudelaire wrote in his journal: That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity-that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty. Upon closer examination of the particular beauty of irregularity as employed in painting, whether by Grünewald or by Renoir, it will be seen that it is a disproportion in the relation of a detail in one dimension to another detail in a different dimension. The spatial development of the relative size of one detail in correspondence with another, and the consequent collision between the proportions designed by the artist for that purpose, result in a characterization – a definition of the represented matter.”7

What could me appropriate for Krull’s multi-layered, distorted, scaled, twisted representations of the new temples of industry than this definition of represented matter – a symbiosis between nature and industry, acknowledging, through emotion, beauty in the nature of industry, and landscapes of plenty in a people-less world?

An anonymous author on the Cinema Confessions blog comments, “Any art form ought to be understood as a communicative medium in which the thing being communicated is not an idea, but an emotion. Language communicates intellect, whereas art communicates sensation. The two are certainly compatible, as in poetry, but also just as certainly inimitably unique. And as communication requires the process of a message being sent and received, we must acknowledge that distinct communication is impossible without the process of time. Thus, as words in a sentence are given meaning through context of contiguous words in the same sentence, and sentences are given sub-textual meaning through context of other sentences within a conversation, given shots within a scene will conform to an over-tonal meaning intrinsically contextualized by other shots within the same scene, and in a broader sense, other scenes throughout the film.”

They continue: “In the essay The Filmic Fourth Dimension, Eisenstein compares film to music thusly, “There, along with the vibration of a basic dominant tone, comes a whole series of similar vibrations … Their impacts against each other … envelop the basic tone in a whole host of secondary vibrations … We find the same thing in optics, as well. All sorts of aberrations, distortions, and other defects, which can be remedied by systems of lenses, can also be taken into account compositionally, providing a whole series of definite compositional effects.” To simplify, he is describing the methods by which musicians and filmmakers are capable of manipulating audience emotion.”8

Thus, through Krull’s definitive compositional effects, her tonal montages capture more than just linear time, construct more than the spectator’s eye directed along the lines of some immobile object … for her holistic movement of the piece is perceived in a wider sense: where the “montage is based on the characteristic emotional sound of the piece – of its dominant. The general tone of the piece… I do not mean to say that the emotional sound of the piece is to be measured “impressionistically.” The piece’s characteristics in this respect can be measured with as much exactitude as in the most elementary case of “by the ruler” measurement in metrical montage. But the units of measurement differ. And the amounts to be measured are different.”9

This is the key to the effective nature of Krull’s portfolio, the power of the emotional sound of the piece: her understanding of the compositional effects of tonal montage as a piece of theatre measured in a different unit – through rhythm, through the interruption of sequences, through the distortion of spaces – to create a single unit of sensory and emotional experience. As Eisenstein notes, “In the Kabuki … a single monistic sensation of theatrical “provocation” takes place. The Japanese regards each theatrical element, not as an incommensurable unit among the various categories of affect (on the various sense-organs), but as a single unit of theatre . . .. Directing himself to the various organs of sensation, he builds his summation [of individual “pieces”] to a grand total provocation of the human brain, without taking any notice which of these several paths he is following.”10

Pace Krull. Her holistic compositions are intertextual and multi-faceted at a time when “straight” photography and even avant-garde photography could not string an adequate sentence together, let alone a multi-dimensional visual, sensual and emotional narrative. This is why Krull’s portfolio is so revolutionary for its time. And just to reinforce this shock of the new, of surprise and astonishment, Krull gets the writer Florent Fels – a traditionalist who by this time (1928) did not like contemporary art – to write a romantic eulogy of an introduction to the new gods of the sky, an introduction which gives the reader a sense of the soaring romanticism which is ascribed to these machinic megaliths. Citing Dostoyevsky, Rousseau and Cocteau, Fels’ florid fornications are, just like Krull’s stunning images, a joy for the senses:

“The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.”11

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,438

.
All of the photographs in this posting are published under “fair use” conditions for the purpose of educational research and academic comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. “# Great Speculations /// The Oblique Functon by Claude Parent and Pau Virilio” on The Funambulist website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  2. Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  3. Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 46
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Ibid., p. 47
  6. Charles Baudelaire, Intimate Journals (13 May 1 856), translated by Christopher Isherwood. New York, Random House, 1930, quoted in Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 51
  7. Anonymous. “Film as Language: The Method and Form of Sergei Eisenstein,” on the Cinema Confessions blog 05/05/2011 [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  8. Eisenstein op. cit., p. 51
  9. Ibid., p. 75
  10. Ibid., p. 64
  11. Extract of the Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL. Librairie des Arts décoratifs, A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928

 

 

I did not have a special intention or design when I took the Iron photographs. I wanted to show what I see, exactly as the eye sees it.
‘MÉTAL’ is a collection of photographs from the time. ‘MÉTAL’ initiated a new visual era and open the way or a new concept of photography.
‘MÉTAL’ was the starting point which allowed photography to become an artisanal trade and which made an artist of the photographer, because it was part of this new movement, of this new era which touched all art.

.
Germaine Krull. Extract from the Preface to the 1976 edition of ‘MÉTAL’

 

Roland Barthes was skeptical of Krull’s experimental photographs. In his famous 1980 meditation on photography, ‘Camera Lucida’, he wrote: “There are moments when I detest Photographs: what have I to do with Atget’s old tree trunks, with Pierre Boucher’s nudes, with Germaine Krull’s double exposures (to cite only the old names).”3 Barthes discounts what he calls photographic “contortions of technique: superimpressions, anamorphoses, deliberate exploitation of certain defects (blurring, deceptive perspectives, trick framing),” and comments that “great photographers (Germaine Krull, Kertész, William Klein) have played on these surprises, without convincing me, if I understand their subversive bearing.”4 But while such photographs are sometimes subversive, to be sure, they are often celebratory in tone. Krull and her colleagues carried out their “contortions of technique” to produce metaphors for the swirling, confusing, exhilarating urban life in their post-World War I decade.

.
Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida, p. 33 quoted in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Krull’s most renowned photographs are not street scenes but abstracted views of the Eiffel Tower, and three of these images, accompanied by a short text by Florent Fels and laid out in overlapping fashion, appeared in a ‘Vu’ article titled “Dans toute sa force” (In full force) published in May 1928, just before the tower’s fortieth birthday (fig. 8).19 According to Krull’s memoirs, Vogel told her, “Go and photograph the Eiffel Tower, Germaine. Photograph it as you really see it, and make sure that you don’t bring me a postcard view.”20 As Krull wrote, she did not see much in the “dead old form” until she began climbing the staircases and experiencing the tower from various vantage points. Some of the resultant images  – vertiginous views of the wrought iron structure - appeared in the German magazine UHU and Philippe Lamour’s journal ‘Grand’route’ as well as in ‘Vu’, and others (eleven in all) grace the pages of ‘Métal’.21

.
“Protest gegen ein unmögliches Bauwerk,” ‘UHU’ 4 (December 1927): 106-11; Eric Hurel, “La Confusion des arts,” ‘Grand’route’ 1, no. 3 (May 1930): 71-74; and Krull, ‘Métal’, cover and pls. 2, 11, 19, 26, 28, 33, 37, 50, 54, 57. Footnote 21 in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

 

Although a portfolio, rather than a book, MÉTAL is widely considered to be among the most important photographic publications of the 1920s. Not only was Krull able to create work that stood the test of time, but she managed it in a profession dominated by men. It is interesting that with MÉTAL, she embraces a clearly masculine theme.

Krull’s photographs, whether of bridges, cranes, or the Eiffel Tower, tend towards the unconventional. It seems as if her initial approach is quite conservative, but then she questions common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways her subjects would have been photographed at the time. Krull consequently avoids implementing a strict visual language. Instead of striving for a “realistic” documentation of her subject in her photographs she chooses her angles instinctively, cropping the images tightly, or even reversing them. It is exactly this unexpected approach that makes MÉTAL stand out. …

The photographs were taken in Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo.

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover. There appear to have been at least two versions of the portfolio. One with a black spine and band, and one with a brown spine and band. The brown cloth version (shown below) seems to be the rarer of the two. The portfolio consists of 64 plates with images printed on one side, and two folded sheets unbound resulting in 8 pages which include a two and a half page text by Florent Fels in French and a short explanatory text by Germaine Krull.

Text from the achtung.photography website

 

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
In the port of Amsterdam
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Museum of Technology, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Antwerp
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL

The industrial activity of our times spreads a spectacle before our eyes, to which they have not yet become accustomed. Its newness captures and frightens us like that of a large natural phenomenon. In turn it expresses an attitude of mind, to which painters and poets are among those who devote themselves.

Europe’s cities appear to us as outdated and anachronistic. The provincial towns with their promenades, pleasant fountains and music pavilion suddenly become somewhat old fashioned, whilst the lyricism of our time succeeds in writing itself in concrete and steel cathedrals. Yet we are witness to the paradoxical fact, that the largest enterprises serve as forms of progress with exception of those who can contribute to an improvement in human dwellings. Except for a privileged few the accommodation of our contemporaries shows a similarity with that of our forebears at the time of Richelieu and Cromwell. The people of the cities succumb to the push of commercial practises. We demand houses with windows, which give a free view of the garden. Modern housing for modern people in which the sun and the fresh air find an unhindered inlet. Concrete and steel are their most important constituents: Ten years after the end of the war steel will at last serve a noble purpose, it will perhaps be rehabilitated.

Steel changes our landscape. Forests of masts replacing trees centuries old. Blast furnaces replacing hills.

From this new expression of the world some aspects have no been captured by beautiful photographs representative of a new romanticism.

Germaine Krull is the Marceline Desbores-Valmore of this lyricism and her photographs are sonnets of shining, piercing verse. Like an orchid is the driving force of Farcot and like frightening insects are the cogs.

Double exposure lends to the finest mechanisms a fantastic appearance and in considering a milling machine covered in muddy oil and detritus and from water dripping, one thinks of Dostoyevsky. In the halo that surrounds them the powerful, noiseless and quietly working dynamos seem to radiate luminous vibrations, and whose chimneys ring out whose fanfare tones to the heavens, these new godly concepts laid out before us. The bridges penetrate into the space. The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.

The Tower is and remains the highest symbol of the modern age. As he left New York and its vapour crowned palaces it was the Eiffel Tower, this beacon of the air, which Lindbergh envisaged, in order to reach Paris in the sentimental heart of the modern world.

Florent Fels.

 

The Eiffel Tower, the cranes and bridges of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo provided me with the material for a number of plates which form this album. I am indebted to others for the extreme kindness with which I was welcomed, by the Director of the Conservatoire des Arts-et-Métiers to his museum, by the Director of the CPDE at the Saint-Quen Power Station, and by M. André Citroën in his factories.
The cover of the book is a composition by M. Tchimoukow.

Germaine Krull
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow

Librairie des Arts décoratifs,
A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928
Portfolio

23.5 x 29.9cm (Portfolio)
22.5 x 29cm (Plates)

64 plates and 2 leaves

 

Marceline Desbores-Valmore

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (20 June 1786 – 23 July 1859) was a French poet and novelist…

She published Élégies et Romances, her first poetic work, in 1819. Her melancholy, elegiacal poems are admired for their grace and profound emotion. In 1821 she published the narrative work Veillées des Antilles. It includes the novella Sarah, an important contribution to the genre of slave stories in France…

The publication of her innovative volume of elegies in 1819 marks her as one of the founders of French romantic poetry. Her poetry is also known for taking on dark and depressing themes, which reflects her troubled life. She is the only female writer included in the famous Les Poètes maudits anthology published by Paul Verlaine in 1884. A volume of her poetry was among the books in Friedrich Nietzsche’s library. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Factory in Rotterdam
1923
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Florent Fels

Ferdinand Florent Fels (1891-1977) was a French journalist, publisher and author prominent in discussing art in France. He often used the pseudonym Felsenberg. Fels launched the art magazine Action: Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art in 1919. Here he expressed his individualist anarchist philosophy. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Fels as an art critic before 1925

I now feel the need to make a step back on Fels. Born in 1891, he was recruited as a soldier-interpreter in the First World War thanks to his knowledge of English, and here became an anti-militaristic minded person. His experience at the front was quite parallel to that of Georg Grosz, the only German artist in his anthology, whose sad pages on the role of artists and critics during World War I corresponded largely to the thoughts of the French author. The experience of war convinced the young Fels of the need to overcome the traditional aesthetic models, linked to symbolism, but also of the emptiness of contemporary art, which had propagated or somehow supported the war effort. It is no coincidence that his friend de Vlaminck – in the Propos dedicated to him – used disdainful words on the role of Cubism in the years leading up to the war. According to Fels, the only art that, after the slaughter at the front, could still be trusted was the Dada movement, born in Zurich in 1916 and spread rapidly in Europe (it is also what can be read in the pages of Grosz, an artist about whom Fels published – in addition to the pages in the anthology – several other articles in the French world [14]).

Returning from the war front, in 1919, the twenty-eighty year old Fels launched with Robert Mortier (painter and poet) and Marcel Sauvage (poet) the journal Action. Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art (Action. Individualist Notebooks on Philosophy and Art), which would have a short life (the last issue was 1922). The editors were young ex-soldiers who invested the money they had got from the state at the time they left the army, to launch the new journal. The founders of Action attempted to both awake and open the French culture. In the field of literature, Action hosted a series of poets, writers and literary critics such as Andre Malraux, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau and Antonin Artaud; in the area of art, the journal liaised with all contemporary avant-garde movements (dada, fauves, cubists), discussed and exalted the production of the greatest artists (Claude Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Henri Rousseau Le Douanier) and gave great emphasis to African art. Looking at the journal’s issues, all available on the Internet [15], it is also easy to find that Action also housed reproductions of paintings and prints by many of the painters who later on were included in Propos d’Artistes: Derain, Kisling, Léger, Lhote, Pascin, Utrillo, Vlaminck. There were also art criticism articles of Duret and poems by Vlaminck.

Within Dadaism, Action preached a ‘subjectivist’, or individualist, version of vanguard aesthetics. It did not propagate revolutions, but proclaimed the need for the absolute freedom of the artists. Fels’ points of reference were in fact the individualistic anarchist movements inspired by Rousseau and Proudhon; in March 1920, he held a conference on “Les Classiques de l’Esprit nouveau” and published the text in the journal L’un [16]: he rejected the traditional Dadaist attitude of total destruction of the past and identified the new classics (Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh) that were due to be the basis of the new art. Fels took distance from the anti-social attitudes typical of Dadaism, and animated a controversy over the direction of new art movements: for him, everyone should make his personal revolution, without destroying any social foundations. At the root of Fels’s aesthetic theory there was “the enhancement of individual psychologies, the free but orderly expression of the heart, the sense of art, inspiration, and individuality” [17].

In 1922, Action‘s experience ended: money was over and the attempt to counter the revolutionary drift within Dadaism had failed. Starting with 1924, André Breton imposed surrealism, inspired by a much more corrosive aesthetic and social criticism. Fels condemned it.

 

Florent Fels between 1923 and 1925

Once the experience of Action was concluded in 1922, Fels joined in 1923 the editorial staff of Les Nouvelles Littéraires. There he dealt not only with contemporary art, but with reviews of exhibitions of all kinds (from Renaissance to Art of Polynesia). Often, his articles updated the public on the developments of decorative arts (in those years, he published his already mentioned essay on French tapestries and carpets).

I already mentioned that Fels stated in the postscript of the anthology: “I wanted to produce a document dated 1925” [18]. The idea was therefore to offer the reader almost an instant book. In fact, as we have already said, the book gave readers a real-time image of the art discussion in 1923-1924. 1925 was however a very important year for Fels. In addition to the anthology, he published a monograph on Claude Monet with Gallimard and became chief editor of the new art journal “L’Art Vivant“, founded by Jacques Guenne (1896-1945) and Maurice Martin du Gard (1896-1970), i.e. the two directors of “Les Nouvelles Littéraires“. The new publication was in fact presented as the artistic attachment (complément artistique) to the literary weekly. Art Vivant. It was published by the house Larousse since January 1925.

As previously mentioned, Fels’s aesthetic taste (think again that only a few years before he had been forced to finance his own publication with the liquidation of the time spent in war as a simple soldier) was becoming closer to those of the great French progressive publishing companies (Gallimard, Larousse). In other words, he was taking on more and more classic aesthetic orientations. The Art Vivant magazine (which will have long life: Fels was his chief editor until 1939, when the magazine closed its doors in the wake of the war) became therefore one of the favourite targets of the communist intellectual and surrealist leader Louis Aragon (1897-1982), who called Fels “Paysan de Paris“, the peasant of Paris. From Aragon’s perspective, the only veritable surrealist anthology of art literature with a Marxist orientation will be published twenty years later by Paul Éluard.

Extract from Review by Francesco Mazzaferro of Florent Fels, Propos d’Artistes [The Propositions of the Artists], 1925. Part One 22 May 2017 [Online] Cited 30/11/2018

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Electricity France, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Negative collotype print

 

Detail of a centrifugal speed governor?

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Motor industry Citreon, Paris
1926-27
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Her book MÉTAL contains only two multiple exposures, one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Luise Krull (20 November 1897 – 31 July 1985) was a photographer, political activist, and hotel owner. Her nationality has been categorized as German, French, and Dutch, but she spent years in Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and India. Described as “an especially outspoken example” of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who “could lead lives free from convention”, she is best known for photographically-illustrated books such as her 1928 portfolio MÉTAL.

Krull was born in Posen-Wilda, a district of Posen (then in Germany; now Poznań, Poland), of an affluent German family. In her early years, the family moved around Europe frequently; she did not receive a formal education, but instead received homeschooling from her father, an accomplished engineer and a free thinker (whom some characterised as a “ne’er-do-well”). Her father let her dress as a boy when she was young, which may have contributed to her ideas about women’s roles later in her life.[6] In addition, her father’s views on social justice “seem to have predisposed her to involvement with radical politics.”

Between 1915 and 1917 or 1918 she attended the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, a photography school in Munich, Germany, at which Frank Eugene’s teaching of pictorialism in 1907-1913 had been influential. She opened a studio in Munich in approximately 1918, took portraits of Kurt Eisner and others, and befriended prominent people such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Pollock, and Max Horkheimer.

Krull was politically active between 1918 and 1921. In 1919 she switched from the Independent Socialist Party of Bavaria to the Communist Party of Germany, and was arrested and imprisoned for assisting a Bolshevik emissary’s attempted escape to Austria. She was expelled from Bavaria in 1920 for her Communist activities, and traveled to Russia with lover Samuel Levit. After Levit abandoned her in 1921, Krull was imprisoned as an “anti-Bolshevik” and expelled from Russia.

She lived in Berlin between 1922 and 1925 where she resumed her photographic career. She and Kurt Hübschmann (later to be known as Kurt Hutton) worked together in a Berlin studio between 1922 and 1924. Among other photographs Krull produced in Berlin were a series of nudes (recently disparaged by an unimpressed 21st-century critic as “almost like satires of lesbian pornography”).

Having met Dutch filmmaker and communist Joris Ivens in 1923, she moved to Amsterdam in 1925. After Krull returned to Paris in 1926, Ivens and Krull entered into a marriage of convenience between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a “veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy.”

In Paris between 1926 and 1928, Krull became friends with Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Eli Lotar, André Malraux, Colette, Jean Cocteau, André Gide and others; her commercial work consisted of fashion photography, nudes, and portraits. During this period she published the portfolio MÉTAL (1928) which concerned “the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape.” Krull shot the portfolio’s 64 black-and-white photographs in Paris, Marseille, and Holland during approximately the same period as Ivens was creating his film De Brug (“The Bridge”) in Rotterdam, and the two artists may have influenced each other. The portfolio’s subjects range from bridges, buildings (e.g., the Eiffel Tower), and ships to bicycle wheels; it can be read as either a celebration of machines or a criticism of them. Many of the photographs were taken from dramatic angles, and overall the work has been compared to that of László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko. In 1999-2004 the portfolio was selected as one of the most important photobooks in history.

By 1928 Krull was considered one of the best photographers in Paris, along with André Kertész and Man Ray. Between 1928 and 1933, her photographic work consisted primarily of photojournalism, such as her photographs for Vu, a French magazine. Also in the early 1930s, she also made a pioneering study of employment black spots in Britain for Weekly Illustrated (most of her ground-breaking reportage work from this period remains immured in press archives and she has never received the credit which is her due for this work). Her book Études de Nu (“Studies of Nudes”) published in 1930 is still well-known today. Between 1930 and 1935 she contributed photographs for a number of travel and detective fiction books.

In 1935-1940, Krull lived in Monte Carlo where she had a photographic studio. Among her subjects during this period were buildings (such as casinos and palaces), automobiles, celebrities, and common people. She may have been a member of the Black Star photojournalism agency which had been founded in 1935, but “no trace of her work appears in the press with that label.”

In World War II, she became disenchanted with the Vichy France government, and sought to join the Free French Forces in Africa. Due to her Dutch passport and her need to obtain proper visas, her journey to Africa included over a year (1941-1942) in Brazil where she photographed the city of Ouro Preto. Between 1942 and 1944 she was in Brazzaville in French Equatorial Africa, after which she spent several months in Algiers and then returned to France.

After World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia as a war correspondent, but by 1946 had become a co-owner of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, a role that she undertook until 1966. She published three books with photographs during this period, and also collaborated with Malraux on a project concerning the sculpture and architecture of Southeast Asia.

After retiring from the hotel business in 1966, she briefly lived near Paris, then moved to Northern India and converted to the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. Her final major photographic project was the publication of a 1968 book Tibetans in India that included a portrait of the Dalai Lama. After a stroke, she moved to a nursing home in Wetzlar, Germany, where she died in 1985.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Krull was a pioneer in the fields of avant-garde photomontage, the photographic book, and photojournalism, and she embraced both commercial and artistic loyalties. Born in Wilda-Poznań, East Prussia, in 1897, Krull lived an extraordinary life lasting nine decades on four continents – she was the prototype of the edgy, sexually liberated Neue Frau (New Woman), considered an icon of modernity and a close cousin of the French garçonne and the American flapper. She had a peripatetic childhood before her family settled in Munich in 1912. She studied photography from 1916 to 1918 at Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen (Instructional and Research Institute for Photography), and in 1919 opened her own portrait studio. Her early engagement with left-wing political activism led to her expulsion from Munich. Then, on a visit to Russia in 1921, she was incarcerated for her counterrevolutionary support of the Free French cause against Hitler. In 1926, she settled in Paris, where she became friends with artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay and intellectuals André Malraux, Jean Cocteau, Colette, and André Gide, who were also subjects of her photographic portraits.

Krull’s artistic breakthrough began in 1928, when she was hired by the nascent VU magazine,the first major French illustrated weekly. Along with photographers André Kertész and Éli Lotar, she developed a new form of reportage rooted in a freedom of expression and closeness to her subjects that resulted in intimate close-ups, all facilitated by her small-format Icarette, a portable, folding bed camera. During this period, she published the portfolio, Metal (MÉTAL)(1928), a collection of 64 pictures of modernist iron giants, including cranes, railways, power generators, the Rotterdam transporter bridge, and the Eiffel Tower, shot in muscular close-ups and from vertiginous angles. Krull participated in the influential Film und Foto, or Fifo, exhibition (1929-30), which was accompanied by two books, Franz Roh’s and Jan Tschichold’s Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye) and Werner Gräff’s Es kommt der neue Fotograf! (Here Comes the New Photographer!)Fifo marked the emergence of a new critical theory of photography that placed Krull at the forefront of Neues Sehen or Neue Optik (New Vision) photography, a new direction rooted in exploring fully the technical possibilities of the photographic medium through a profusion of unconventional lens-based and darkroom techniques. After the end of World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia, and then moved to India, where, after a lifetime dedicated to recording some of the major upheavals of the twentieth century, she decided to live as a recluse among Tibetan monks.

Introduction by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, Department of Photography, 2016 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Métal and Filmic Montage

For Krull, metal was the most powerful metaphor for the modern world, and her book Métal includes many of the industrial forms she saw in Europe. It features both multiple exposures and straight images, and the entire volume is structured according to the principles of film montage. As noted earlier, Krull was a member of the Dutch avant-garde film collective Filmliga, which was cofounded by Joris Ivens, who in 1927 became her husband. Both of them published work in Arthur Lehning’s related avant-garde journal i10.

They saw screenings of Soviet avant-garde films by Vsevolod Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein, and Krull made a portrait of Eisenstein when he visited Paris in 1930. Eisenstein’s theories of montage were particularly important to the couple, and Krull’s Métal serves to demonstrate them. She actively adopted the Soviet filmmaker’s ideas of rupture and “visual counterpoint,” involving graphic, planar, volumetric, and spatial conflicts.26

The book is technically an album, with sixty-four numbered but unbound collotype reproductions that can ostensibly be rearranged at will. There are no captions and no identifying markers, and the images include both vertical and horizontal compositions. In a brief note beneath an introductory text by Florent Fels, Krull tells us that these photographs include a lifting bridge over the Meuse River in Rotterdam (also the subject of Ivens’s renowned avant-garde montage film, The Bridge [De Brug], from that same year); the cranes in the Amsterdam port; the Eiffel Tower; Marseille’s transporter bridge; and other industrial forms she found.27 But it would be difficult to decipher these subjects from the photographs themselves. Although there are eleven Eiffel Tower images in the book, for example, they are often so abstracted that the subject is unidentifiable, and none are on contiguous pages. …

Scholars have often read Métal as a purely formal experiment, but Krull used it as a commentary on contemporary life, producing the kind of montage that her friend Walter Benjamin championed, in which “the superimposed element disrupts the context in which it is inserted. … The discovery is accomplished by means of the interruption of sequences. Only interruption here has not the character of a stimulant but an energizing function.”29 The quality of interruption, according to Benjamin, differentiates truly revolutionary work from the mere aping of the modern world, an approach that he scornfully attributes to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch.30 For Krull, interruption could occur in a multiple exposure, as in the aforementioned Métal image depicting overlapping views of bicycle parts. Or interruption can be found while turning a book’s pages, moving from a drive-belt detail to ominously large-scale cargo cranes, or from the Rotterdam Bridge over the Meuse to a detail of a centrifugal speed governor. Whether portraying a roller coaster, documenting the Eiffel Tower, or creating her book of industrial fragments, Krull engaged the decade’s cacophony and used provocative experimental techniques to capture its allure.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” p. 7 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” in Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg, eds. Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

27. Sergei Eisenstein, “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form” (1929), in Jay Leyda, ed., Film Form: Essays in Film Theory (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), pp. 52-54
29. Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer” (1934), in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), pp. 234-35
30. Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” p. 230

 

 

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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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