Archive for August, 2013

30
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 2nd September 2013

BE WARNED, LIKE “INCIDENTS OF WAR”, THIS POSTING IS DISTURBING AND NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!

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It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ . . . Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

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“Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.” 

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Alexander Gardner

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There are some very poignant and disturbing photographs in this posting. The youth of some of the combatants (Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital). The sheer brutality and pointlessness of war. Bloated and twisted bodies, inflated like balloons. Starved and beaten human beings.

And yet, you look at the photograph “Slave Pen” – the office of those ‘Dealers in Slaves’ now guarded by Union soldiers – or the photograph of Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans and the photograph of the anonymous African American soldier fighting for the Union cause directly below and you understand just one of the reasons that this was such a bloody conflict: it was about the right of all men to be free, to throw off the bonds of servitude.

To be replaced all these years later by another corrupted power – the power of government, the power of government to surveil its people at any and all times. The power of money, the military and the gun.

Praise be the land of the free.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

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Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mills. On April 2, 1865, as the Union army advanced on Richmond, General Robert E. Lee gave the orders to evacuate the city. A massive fire broke out the following day, the result of a Confederate attempt to destroy anything that could be of use to the invading Union army. In addition to consuming twenty square blocks, including nearly every building in Richmond’s commercial district, it destroyed the massive Gallego Flour Mills, situated on the James River and seen here. Alexander Gardner, Mathew B. Brady’s former gallery manager, then his rival, made numerous photographs of the “Burnt District” as well as this dramatic panorama from two glass negatives. The charred remains have become over time an iconic image of the fall of the Confederacy and the utter devastation of war.

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A-display-of-three-photographs-of-American-Civil-War-soldiers-in-the-exhibition-WEB

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A display of three photographs of American Civil War soldiers in the exhibition, “Photography and the American Civil War” April 1, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The three albumen silver prints are all by Gayford & Speidel, “Private Christopher Anderson, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865” (L), “Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (C) and “Private Gid White, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (R).
AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

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Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861

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Unknown Artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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This melancholy young volunteer was a member of the Eleventh New York Infantry, an early war regiment organized in New York City in May 1861. Primarily composed of volunteers from the city’s many fire companies, the men were also known as the First Fire Zouaves. Along with other volunteer units, the Eleventh helped capture Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861, just a day after the state formally seceded from the Union.

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Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861 (detail)

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Unknown Artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves) (detail)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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4.-A-Harvest-of-Death-WEB

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Printer: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Publisher: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
17.8 × 22.5 cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

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This photograph of the rotting dead awaiting burial after the Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the best-known Civil War landscape. It was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), the nation’s first anthology of photographs. The Sketch Book features ten photographic plates of Gettysburg – eight by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, who served as a field operator for Alexander Gardner, and two by Gardner himself. The extended caption that accompanies this photograph is among Gardner’s most poetic: “It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ . . . Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

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Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882) Alexander Gardner, printer. 'Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863' 1863

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
Alexander Gardner, printer
Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863
1863
Plate 37 in Volume 1 of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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This photograph of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg appears in the two-volume opus Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66). Gardner’s publication is egalitarian. Offended by Brady’s habit of obscuring the names of his field operators behind the deceptive credit “Brady,” Gardner specifically identified each of the eleven photographers in the publication; forty-four of the one hundred photographs are credited to Timothy O’Sullivan. Gardner titled the plate Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg. But the photograph, its commemorative title notwithstanding, relates a far more common story: six Union soldiers lie dead, face up, stomachs bloated, their pockets picked and boots stolen. As Gardner described the previous plate, aptly titled The Harvest of Death, this photograph conveys “the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry.”

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

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

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

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

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers' June 21, 1865

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers
June 21, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
5.7 x 9.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 9/16 in.)
Collection Stanley B. Burns, M.D.

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In this remarkable carte de visite, Private Parmenter lies unconscious from anesthesia on an operating table at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. To save his patient’s life, Doctor Bontecou amputated the soldier’s wounded, ulcerous foot. Before the discovery of antibiotics, gangrene was a dreaded and deadly infection that greatly contributed to the high mortality rate of soldiers during the Civil War.

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

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Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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

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

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

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

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Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia (detail)
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady. 'Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin' 1860

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Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady
Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin
1860
Tintypes in stamped brass medallion
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Overbrook Foundation Gift, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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“More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening April 2 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by exceptional loans from public and private collections, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This traveling exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.

At the start of the Civil War, the nation’s photography galleries and image purveyors were overflowing with a variety of photographs of all kinds and sizes, many examples of which will be featured in the exhibition: portraits made on thin sheets of copper (daguerreotypes), glass (ambrotypes), or iron (tintypes), each housed in a small decorative case; and larger, “painting-sized” likenesses on paper, often embellished with India ink, watercolor, and oils. On sale in bookshops and stationers were thousands of photographic portraits on paper of America’s leading statesmen, artists, and actors, as well as stereographs of notable scenery from New York’s Broadway to Niagara Falls to the canals of Venice. Viewed in a stereopticon, the paired images provided the public with seeming three-dimensionality and the charming pleasure of traveling the world in one’s armchair.

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

The exhibition will feature Gardner’s haunting views of the dead at Antietam in September 1862, which are believed to be the first photographs of the Civil War seen in a public exhibition. A reporter for the New York Times wrote on October 20, 1862, about the images shown at Brady’s New York City gallery: “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it… Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and stamp their convictions with their blood – men who have flung themselves into the great gulf of the unknown to teach the world that there are truths dearer than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death.”

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

Among the many highlights of the exhibition will be a superb selection of early wartime portraits of soldiers and officers who sat for their likenesses before leaving their homes for the war front. In these one-of-a-kind images, a picture of American society emerges. The rarest are ambrotypes and tintypes of Confederates, drawn from the renowned collection of David Wynn Vaughan, who has assembled the country’s premier archive of Southern portraits. These seldom-seen photographs, and those by their Northern counterparts, will balance the well-known and often-reproduced views of bloody battlefields, defensive works, and the specialized equipment of 19th-century war.

The show will focus special attention on the remarkable images included in the two great wartime albums of original photographs: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both released in 1866. The former publication includes 100 views commissioned, sequenced, and annotated by Alexander Gardner. This two-volume opus provides an epic documentation of the war seen through the photographs of 11 artists, including Gardner himself. It features 10 plates of Gettysburg, including Timothy O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, and Gardner’s Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, both of which are among the most well-known and important images from the early history of photography. The second publication includes 61 large-format views by a single artist, George N. Barnard, who followed the army campaign of one general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in the final months of the war – the “March to the Sea” from Tennessee to Georgia in 1864 and 1865. The exhibition explores how different Barnard’s photographs are from those in Gardner’s Sketch Book, and how distinctly Barnard used the camera to serve a nation trying to heal itself after four long years of war and brother-versus-brother bitterness.

Among the most extraordinary, if shocking, photographs in the exhibition are the portraits by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou of wounded and sick soldiers from the war’s last battles. Drawn from a private medical teaching album put together by this Civil War surgeon and head of Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C., and on loan from the celebrated Burns Archive, the photographs are notable for their humanity and their aesthetics. They recall Walt Whitman’s words from 1865, that war “was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior history will not only never be written, its practicality, minutia of deeds and passions, will never be suggested.” Bontecou’s medical portraits offer a glimpse of what the poet thought was not possible.

In addition to providing a thorough analysis of the camera’s incisive documentation of military activity and its innovative use as a teaching tool for medical doctors, the exhibition explores other roles that photography played during the war. It investigates the relationship between politics and photography during the tumultuous period and presents exceptional political ephemera from the private collection of Brian Caplan, including: a rare set of campaign buttons from 1860 featuring original tintype portraits of the competing candidates; a carved tagua nut necklace featuring photographic portraits of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and two members of his cabinet; and an extraordinary folding game board composed of photographic likenesses of President Lincoln and his generals. The show also includes an inspiring carte de visite portrait of the abolitionist and human rights activist Sojourner Truth. A former slave from New York State, she sold photographs of herself to raise money to educate emancipated slaves, and to support widows, orphans, and the wounded. And finally the exhibition includes the first photographically illustrated “wanted” poster, a printed broadside with affixed photographic portraits that led to the capture John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators after the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865.”

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Unknown, American. '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

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Unknown, American
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3 cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.) Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Collages
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

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

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Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s) 'The Scourged Back' April 1863

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Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s)
The Scourged Back
April 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.7 x 5.5 cm (3 7/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2003

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Gordon, a runaway slave seen with severe whipping scars in this haunting carte-de-visite portrait, is one of the many African Americans whose lives Sojourner Truth endeavored to better. Perhaps the most famous of all known Civil War-era portraits of slaves, the photograph dates from March or April 1863 and was made in a camp of Union soldiers along the Mississippi River, where the subject took refuge after escaping his bondage on a nearby Mississippi plantation.

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, this portrait and two others of Gordon appeared as wood engravings in a special Independence Day feature in Harper’s Weekly. McPherson & Oliver’s portrait and Gordon’s narrative in the newspaper were extremely popular, and photography studios throughout the North (including Mathew B. Brady’s) duplicated and sold prints of The Scourged Back. Within months, the carte de visite had secured its place as an early example of the wide dissemination of ideologically abolitionist photographs.

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J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s) 'Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison' 1865

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J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s)
Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 9 x 5.5 cm (3 9/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Brian D. Caplan Collection

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Most soldiers who survived Andersonville Prison were marked for life. This portrait of an unidentified former prisoner is one of many that document the intense cruelty of prison life during the Civil War. It would be another eighty years, at the end of World War II, before anyone would see comparable pictures of man’s inhumanity to man.

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George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s) 'Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry' 1863-65

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George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s)
Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
1863-65
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.6 cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg Collection

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Private William Henry Lord, a cavalryman, sits alert and ready for the next ride. A yet unmuddied enlistee from “Bleeding Kansas,” the last state to enter the Union before Fort Sumter, Lord was in the Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry; he was wounded in the shoulder in October 1864 but rejoined his company and was mustered out in September 1865.

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Unknown. 'March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia' April 24, 1861

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Unknown 
March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia
April 24, 1861
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.9 x 5.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)
Michael J. McAfee Collection

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The Seventh Regiment, New York Militia was among the first military groups to leave for Washington, D.C., after Lincoln’s call to arms in April 1861. In or near Annapolis, en route to the nation’s capital, Sergeant Major Rathbone posed for his portrait. He annotated his likeness with enough information to suggest that this image might be the first (identifiable) photograph of a soldier made after the fall of Fort Sumter. Representative of thousands of similar portraits, this study of an officer seen against a blank wall with just a hint of a studio column is typical of the simplicity of the earliest war pictures.

Note the stand just visible behind Sergeant Major Rathbone’s feet to brace the sitter for the long exposures necessary.

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Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York) 'General Robert E. Lee' 1865

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Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York)
General Robert E. Lee
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
14 × 9.3 cm (5 1/2 × 3 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

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Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was over. If not whole, the nation was at least reunited, and the slow recovery of Reconstruction could begin. As soon as he heard that Lee had left Appomattox and returned to Richmond, Mathew B. Brady headed there with his camera equipment. The Lees’ Franklin Street residence had survived the fires that had devastated many of the commercial sections of the city. Through the kindness of Mrs. Lee and a Confederate colonel, Brady received permission to photograph the general on April 16, 1865, just two days after President Lincoln’s assassination. Brady’s portrait of General Lee holding his hat, on his own back porch, is one of the most reflective and thoughtful wartime likenesses. The fifty-eight-year-old Confederate hero poses in the uniform he had worn at the surrender. It would be Brady’s last wartime photograph.

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Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s) 'Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans' 1863

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Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s)
Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.3 cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy of William L. Schaeffer

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On January 30, 1864, to fan the anti-slavery cause and promote the sale of abolitionist photographs, Harper’s Weekly published this carte de visite and three others as wood engravings. The newspaper also included stirring bibliographies of the emancipated slaves. The editors noted that Wilson Chinn was about sixty years old. His former master, Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter near New Orleans, “was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters ‘V.B.M.'”

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Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s) 'Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry' January-May 1865

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Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s)
Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry
January-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.8 x 5.4 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/8 in.)
Thomas Harris Collection

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Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874) 'Frances Clalin Clayton' 1864-66

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Samuel Masury (American, 1818–1874)
Frances Clalin Clayton
1864-66
Albumen silver print from glass negative
9.4 x 5.6 cm (3 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Buck Zaidel Collection

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Frances Clayton is an exception – a woman who served in the Union army by disguising herself as a man. In a popular carte de visite collected by soldiers at the end of the war, she poses here as Jack Williams and suggestively holds the handle of a cavalry sword between her crossed legs. The facts of her life story and military service are difficult to confirm, but it is believed that she served in the Missouri cavalry (or infantry) beside her husband, who died at the Battle of Stones River in late December 1862.

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry' April-May 1865

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry
April-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.9 × 13.1 cm (7 7/16 × 5 3/16 in.)
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992

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The last great battle of the Civil War was the siege of Petersburg, Virginia – a brutal campaign that led to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. Samuel Shoop, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company F of the 200th Pennsylvania Volunteers, received a gunshot wound in the thigh at Fort Steadman on the first day of the campaign (March 25) and was evacuated to Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. His leg was amputated by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou, surgeon in charge, who also made this clinical photograph. It was intended, in part, to serve as a tool for teaching fellow army surgeons and is an extremely rare example of the early professional use of photography in America.

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

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George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34 x 26.4 cm (13 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

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

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

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

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Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York) Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888) 'Abraham Lincoln' February 27, 1860

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Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York)
Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888)
Abraham Lincoln
February 27, 1860
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

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Three months before his nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln went East, stopping in New York City on February 27, 1860, to give a speech at the Cooper Institute (now the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art). Many considered Lincoln’s powerful antislavery lecture as his most important to date. The closing words spurred his audience and the country at large: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Earlier in the day he sat for this portrait at Mathew B. Brady’s gallery on Broadway and Tenth Street, just a few blocks from the lecture hall. Although his visit to the studio could not have lasted long, the result of this first of many portrait sessions with Brady was a simple but powerful image that would alter the visual landscape during the upcoming election. In a single exposure on a silver-coated sheet of glass, Brady captured the odd physiognomy of the man who would change the course of American history.

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Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62?

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Unknown
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

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This portrait of a cavalryman is an excellent example of a well-armed Confederate soldier. Private House wears a slouch hat and a checked battle shirt seen through the gaps in a modified woolen shell jacket with tabbed button closures. He brandishes his fighting knife and for quick use has half removed a pocket revolver from its belted holster. Perhaps the most frightening weapons in House’s personal arsenal may be his focused stare and his set jaw.

16th Cavalry Battalion was assembled in May, 1862, at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was composed of six companies. It served in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and took part in the engagements at Blue Springs, Bean’s Station, Cloyd’s Mountain, and Marion. In January, 1865, the battalion merged into the 13th Georgia Cavalry Regiment. Lieutenant Colonels F.M. Nix and Samuel J. Winn, and Major Edward Y. Clarke were its commanding officers.

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Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62? (detail)

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Unknown
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee] (detail)
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

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Unknown, American. 'Union Sergent John Emery' 1861-65

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Unknown, American
Union Sergent John Emery
1861-65
Tintype
Plate: 8.9 x 6.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Case: 10 × 8.9 cm (3 15/16 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2012

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The only details presently known about this handsome, young Union sergeant wearing a striped bowtie and an imported English snake belt buckle derive from a small paper note found behind the portrait inside the thermoplastic case: “Uncle John Emery / brother of / Lucy King / buried at E. Concord / died in 1876 / buried at back in right corner.”

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Unknown. '[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, "Walton Infantry," Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861

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Unknown 
[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, “Walton Infantry,” Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861
Tintype
Plate: 6.4 x 5.1 cm (2 1/2 x 2 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection

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Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital. Wood seems proud of his shell jacket and especially his kepi, which he marked under the brim with his initials. The photographer tipped up the cap to reveal the sitter’s handiwork, but the letters are laterally reversed in the tintype. As a musician, he poses without any prop other than his uniform, the buttons touched with gold.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Friday and Saturday: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm*
Sunday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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29
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Christian Lutz, Trilogy’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 1st September 2013

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Power: it will corrupt you, but if you don’t want it, it will be used against you.

PS. Some, if not all, of these people seem like marionettes!

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Many thankx to The Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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“New York, 2003: spectacular security frenzy around the President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin – a striking image to the eye of the photographer who was present at the scene. Christian Lutz thus invited himself in the suitcases of the ministerial delegation and documented its various official activities during three years. The first volume of what will become a trilogy on the issue of power is published in 2007: Protokoll. Tropical Gift, dealing with the oil and gas trading in Nigeria, is released in 2010. After portraying the rigorously codified and staged political sphere, the photographer’s cutting eye unveils the malodorous traps of a deadly economic power, with troubling visual poetry. In his viewfinder, reality unnoticeably shifts into a heady thriller. The first two parts of his trilogy have been exhibited worldwide, establishing Christian Lutz as an eminent photographer.

The fate of his yet unreleased third series, In Jesus’ Name, is quite different. Christian Lutz spent a year within a Zurich-based evangelical community. Celebrations and rock concerts, summer camps and blood donation rallies, he photographed all the events he was invited to attend. However, a Zurich Court of Justice banned the book immediately upon its release in November 2012 as 21 people appearing in the volume filed complaints to protect their image; complaints that were carefully orchestrated by the Church’s managers. With these provisional measures, the Court nonetheless ruled against the freedoms of expression and information.

The exhibition Trilogy is a three-fold investigation. Tropical Gift will be shown as a projection accompanied by the original score by Franz Treichler of the Young Gods. As for the latest series, In Jesus’ Name, it carries the marks of a new power, with which it is now inseparable: the judiciary. Troubling and destabilizing, this fourth power questions democracy and artistic freedom. But as it pushes art into a corner, it seems to compel it to reconnect itself with its political dimension, to test established systems, by triggering debate.

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Censorship of the book In Jesus’ Name

The photography book In Jesus’ Name, Christian Lutz’s third part of the series on the issue of power, was launched during Paris Photo on 17 November 2012, before disappearing from the bookstore shelves a couple of days later. The legal proceedings that followed this project raise issues about the artistic freedom as well as the freedom of expression.

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The photographical project In Jesus’ Name

The Zurich-based evangelical community ICF (International Christian Fellowship) is one of the most important free churches in Switzerland. Its success and rapid expansion are a matter of public interest. Created according to the American model of mega-churches, it was initiated in Zurich at the end of the 90s, and has now spread throughout Roman Switzerland thanks to a solid establishment in Lausanne and Geneva. It manages a considerable budget and is characterized by the use of sophisticated and performing marketing and communication methods.

Christian Lutz met the pastor and founder of the Evangelical movement ICF, Leo Bigger, in May 2011. He then introduced him to the other church managers to whom the photographer also presented his project, his former books, his approach and the stakes involved in his Trilogy. He was subsequently granted express consent from the managers who welcomed him in the community.

The photographer nonetheless systematically kept on requesting specific authorizations to the organizers for each ICF’s activity which he wished to photograph. He joined several trips and summer camps organized by the church, and took part in all sorts of events: celebrations, baptisms, ladies lounge, blood donation, theater show, workshop on the addiction to pornography, etc. He met members of the church, exchanged constantly with them, and freely discussed his reportage.

As for each of his series, Christian Lutz entirely immerged himself, photographing faces and individuals up close while fully respecting a rigorous deontology. He was given an ICF photo-reporter badge, and affiliates or organizers of activities regularly ordered images from him. He photographed openly, each one being aware of the project and accepting to be part of it.”

Press release from he Musée de l’Elysée website

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Interview of Christian Lutz by Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée

SYS: Protokoll, the first series in the project, started in 2003 when you started photographing the apparatus of federal politics. Ten years later, how would you assess your itinerary?

CL: Actually, I am the kind of person who prefers to look forward rather than backward. And I’ve come to realize that my work on the issue of power is not quite yet finished. It was initiated in 2003 by coincidence, without any real initial intention; I didn’t tell myself “well, how about working on the notion of power”! It is only with time, as my work asserted itself, that I realized why I was doing it and why I wanted to carry on. Power operates everywhere, in the private sphere, in human relations, between nations, among peoples; it is at the heart of countless processes in society. This is an issue that obsesses me and which is in fact an excuse to talk about our world and the interactions between individuals and systems. I thought I would come to terms with it through this trilogy, but I still have some way to go, as the issue of power opens up new fields of exploration.

SYS: All three components of the Trilogy – political, economic, and religious powers, are exhibited for the first time at the Musée de l’Elysée. What tensions or reflections do you intend to create by juxtaposing the series?

CL: My assumption is that power is always staged, as if power needed some form of theatricality to exist: protocol, representational codes, uniforms and role play, decorum, the forms of power that I have observed in the three series presented today all express themselves through external signs. But they are so obvious that they allow for breaches and give a glimpse of details, urging you to take a closer look, to reach beyond appearances. In all three series, there is this permanent tension between what is being observed and the grey areas, the hidden, the unspoken.

SYS: Several images in the series In Jesus’ Name have been censored. How do you intend to show the void of censorship?

CL: From my point of view, censorship did not create a void, it created a surplus. In other words, I consistently refuse to explain my images or to caption them, in order to avoid imposing a unique interpretation and a manipulation of the imagination. Captions freeze the poetical and suggestive space carried within a photograph; which does not mean that photographs can be made to say anything and everything, especially when we’re talking about a series or a book, as in this case. But an image must breathe, and leave some space to the beholder.

Yet, in order to achieve the ban on the book, the lawyer of the plaintiffs wrote out his own interpretation of my images. In doing so, he kills them in a way. So I had two options: either to let go and admit the defeat, or give a new impetus to the series In Jesus’ Name by foiling the situation, exploiting the new power that is being imposed on me, that is, the power of the judiciary.

SYS: You discovered the judiciary power though your appearance in court. Could this constitute a fourth component to your project?

CL: Yes, but I would not say that it would be a fourth component. It would rather be an outlet project, stemming from a situation I didn’t chose. This sequel will link together the three previous series and will probably shed a different light on them. It is likely to be a narrative rather than a photographic project. To tell the truth, I still don’t really precisely know; the legal proceedings are pending and I still have some difficulties figuring out what I could do with this. But what is certain is that as an artist, I cannot let things happen without finding an artistic outcome to this restriction on the freedom of speech.

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Portrait of Christian Lutz © Frédéric Choffat

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Portrait of Christian Lutz
© Frédéric Choffat

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The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
T: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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27
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Density’ by Andrew Follows, curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 27th August – 21st September 2013

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A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.

Well done to everyone involved with the project. I would particularly like to thank Fiona Cook from Arts Access Victoria for keeping the project on track; the amazing Darren from CPL Digital for his most excellent efforts to print the almost impossible print; Jondi Keane from Deakin University for opening the exhibition; Anna Briers for writing a wonderful catalogue essay; and Anita Traverso for believing in me and giving Andrew an exhibition when many wouldn’t. Many thankx and respect to all.

Now onto the next project!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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The photographs below appear in the order they are in the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

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Andrew Follows. 'Elevation, Doreen' 213

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Andrew Follows
Elevation, Doreen
213
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Number 31, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green, Montsalvat
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Shadowlife' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Shadowlife
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Garland, South Melbourne' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Garland, South Melbourne
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
40 cm x 27 cm

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dark-trees-WEB

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Andrew Follows
Indigo, Edenvale
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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The Mind’s Eye: Density in the Work of Andrew Follows

Anna Briers

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Seeing has never been about the simple act of looking. It can be defined by the parameters of our past experience and cognitive stock, factors which enable, inhibit and shape our perceptive abilities. Ultimately, our ways of seeing are affected by our learnt cultural assumptions about the universe.1

Cultural theorist James Elkins has said, ‘blindness is not the opposite of vision, but it’s constant companion, and even the foundation of seeing itself.’2 In his seminal text The Object Stares Back, Elkins illustrates that we are blind to the limits of our own vision and that this unknowingness about our visual fallibilities is crucial to ordinary seeing. This blindness relates to a hierarchy of vision, defined not only by our psychological limitations but our physiological ones as well – the selection process that we employ to filter the vast proliferating output of information that we are inundated with on a daily basis. Without which, we would probably experience a kind of cerebral meltdown.

If vision is dependent on a certain amount of blindness, then by extension the notion that a photographic image can accurately document the truth is a misconception. The camera is not simply a black box that can correctly capture a quotation of reality, a machine of ‘logic and light’,3 for the act of taking a photograph is reliant on the careful selection and framing of a particular object or subject. The result of this point of view is the depiction of a subjective reality at the exclusion of everything else which is made invisible: eliminated by the perimeters of the frame.

In this context, it is interesting to consider the work of legally blind photographer Andrew Follows. Follows has a degenerative condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) that has rendered one eye completely blind with ever diminishing tunnel vision in the other. Follows can perceive three meters ahead, albeit through an obscuring haze. The clarity of his vision is dependent on lighting and various environmental factors; objects are often more perceptible at night. Whilst form and structure are apparent, he cannot see the intricate tonal details of a stained glass window. He cannot know that the colour of your scarf is royal blue. All this changes however, when Follows observes light flooding through the lens of a camera.

Through the small rectangular viewing panel on the reverse of a digital camera, Follows’ world is revealed. He is able to discern architectural detail and the vibrancy of nature; he is able to know that his favourite shade in the vast tonal spectrum is royal blue. In a realisation of Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the camera as a prosthetic extension,4 Follows’ camera extends his sight, and through it he is able to capture his unique vision, for a moment or for a millennia, a physical expression of the imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, the concept of Density was envisaged as a point of departure to explore the manifold variations and subsequent ruminations on the term as it relates to Follows’ perspective. As a technical descriptive, density explains the degree of optical opacity within a photographic negative. Portions of film that have been exposed to greater amounts of light yield a greater deposit of reduced silver. This is referred to as having a higher density than areas of shadow.5

Density also denotes a thickness of consistency and many of Follows’ works exhibit a complexity of compositional structure and content that elucidates the nature of Follows’ perception. ‘Even in the physicality of my vision, these photographs have a certain feeling that reflects my relationship to the world and how I visualise it.’6 A thematic constant that binds this series together is the shallow depth of field that is combined with a sense of the frame or the foreground being the view. Follows’ images, and therefore our view into his world is a restricted one. As the viewer we must frequently gaze through a kind of haze or obstruction in order to participate.

A pivotal example of this is Elevation, Doreen, 2013, where the composition is segmented by the skeletal structure of the wooden and steel supports of a building. Intersecting diagonals and verticals delineate and contain space across the picture plane, framing the mid-ground and background within its architecture. It is not the vista that is of interest to Follows.

This image cannot escape the requisite art historic parallels with movements such as the Russian Constructivists or De Stijl with its ‘Mondrian-esque’ all over composition. However the image speaks of interiority, its emphasis is on the foreground and by drawing our attention to the mechanics of how the view is framed we are made conscious of the act of seeing. There is a layering or doubling that occurs here: Follows makes us aware of the limitations of our own vision, through the act of looking – by revealing his unique vision, as a result of partial blindness.

Similarly, Void, Eltham, 2013, leaves us grasping for some semblance of illumination and visual clarity within a desolate and dimly lit car park. While our eye is guided across the picture plane by white lines and columns that recede into space, our view is ultimately obstructed by a concrete barrier covered in territorial markings and thus, we are reminded of the limitations of our own vision as we are left to gaze into the dense abyss.

A thematic constant in Follows’ images such as No. 31 Eltham, 2013, is that they resist a singular point of perspective as evidenced by early Renaissance painters where everything was centred on the eye of the beholder; the visible world arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God.7 By contrast, many photos evidence a planar sense of spatiality. Often lacking in a noticeable vanishing point, his images have an immersive potential and we are drawn into the various densities within Follows’ shallow depth of field. This is exemplified by the rich textures of Scarp face, Beechworth, 2013, and the lush grassland depicted in Green, Montsalvat, 2013.

Many of the photographs in Density instill a quiet contemplative mood that is partially evoked by a muted tonal palette. Yet within this visionary series the viewer can also bear witness to the reoccurrence of otherworldly imagery, as well as transient and transformational spaces. This sense is further enhanced by the fact that Follows’ photographs are often shot at times when the light is fleeting, on the interstice of night and day. This is exemplified by Green on Blue, 2013, where Follows captures a train in motion, conveying a temporality and flux that eloquently describes a state of transience: of being between spaces, neither here nor there.

With Judges Chair, Beechworth, 2013, Follows conveys the courtroom where infamous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was committed to stand trial for murder, prior to his eventual hanging in 1880. The image pervades an institutional formality that is intensified by a classically balanced composition, combined with ominous historical undertones. Yet the space depicted is interrupted by the glimmer of an ethereal light that bolts across the far wall, puncturing the image. Alternative possibilities become illuminated and a sense of otherworldliness becomes palpable.

Hillock No’s 1-3, Windsor, conveys the everyday subject matter of a BMX bike park. Photographed at night utilising the urban ambience of streetlights, the mounds of earth are lit by unearthly glow. Under the gaze of Andrew Follows, the site is infused with an eerie quality. No longer a metropolitan playground, it resembles the desertous territories of an alien landscape, perhaps on some other planetary body or far distant moon.

As Elkins said, blindness is not the opposite of sight, but it’s constant companion. It is therefore, not sight that is required to take a great photograph – it is vision. By using the camera as a prosthetic extension through which he is able to perceive and frame the universe, Follows’ photographs expound the limitations and fallibilities of our own ways of seeing. Moreover, he is able to reveal to us the uniqueness of his subjective view – forged from the rich imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Anna Briers independent writer and curator, Melbourne 2013

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Endnotes

1. Berger, John. Ways of seeing: based on the BBC television series. London: British Broadcasting Corporation; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, p. 11.

2. Elkins, James. The object stares back: on the nature of seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

3. Elkins, James. What photography is. New York: Routledge, 2011

4. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: the extensions of man. London: Routledge, 2001. p. 210.

5. Adams, Ansel. The negative: exposure and development. Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y.: Morgan & Morgan, 1968.

6. Quote drawn from artist’s statement.

7. Berger, Op. cit., p. 16.

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Andrew Follows. 'Green on blue' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green on blue
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
157.3 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Scarp face, Beechworth' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Scarp face, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
30 cm x 30 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Judge's Chair, Beechworth' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Judge’s Chair, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Void, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Void, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.1, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.1, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.2, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.2, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.3, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.3, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Torso, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Torso, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
14 cm x 20 cm

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Density Logos

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Anita Traverso Gallery
7, Albert Street
Richmond, Vic 3121

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 – 5

Anita Traverso Gallery website

Andrew Follow website

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27
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962), The Question of Classicism’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 1st September 2013

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Six new images in this posting that I have not published before in a previous posting on this exhibition, at a different venue. I love her style and sensuality!

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Many thankx to The Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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LAG05_Laure-Albin-Guillot_Louis-Jouvet_WEB

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Louis Jouvet
c. 1925
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Louis Jouvet (24 December 1887 – 16 August 1951) was a renowned French actor, director, and theatre director.

Overcoming speech impediments and sometimes paralyzing stage fright as a young man, Jouvet’s first important association was with Jacques Copeau’s Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, beginning in 1913. Copeau’s training included a varied and demanding schedule, regular exercise for agility and stamina, and pressing his cast and crew to invent theatrical effects in a bare-bones space. It was there Jouvet developed his considerable stagecraft skills, particularly makeup and lighting (he developed a kind of accent light named the jouvet). These years included a successful tour to the United States.

While influential, Copeau’s theater was never lucrative. Jouvet left in October 1922 for the Comédie des Champs-Élysées (the small stage of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées). In December 1923 he staged his single most successful production, the satire Dr. Knock, written by Jules Romains. Jouvet’s meticulous characterization of the manipulative crank doctor was informed by his own experience in pharmacy school. It became his signature and his standby; “Jouvet was to produce it almost every year until the end of his life”.

Jouvet began an ongoing close collaboration with playwright Jean Giraudoux in 1928, with a radical streamlining of Giraudoux’s 1922 Siegfried et le Limousin for the stage. Their work together included the first staging of The Madwoman of Chaillot in 1945, at the Théâtre de l’Athénée, where Jouvet served as director from 1934 through his death in 1951.

Jouvet starred in some 34 films, including two recordings of Dr. Knock, once in 1933 and again in 1951. He was professor at the French National Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had a heart attack while at his beloved Théâtre de l’Athénée and died in his dressing room on August 16, 1951. Jouvet is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. The Athénée theatre now bears his name. (Wikipedia)

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Louis Jouvet in a scene from Entrée des artistes (Marc Allegret, 1938)

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Off-print for the Mayoly-Spindler laboratory, Paris' c. 1940

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Off-print for the Mayoly-Spindler laboratory, Paris
c. 1940
Pivate collection, Paris

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Advertisement for the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre' c. 1940

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Advertisement for the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre
c. 1940
Private collection, Paris

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Jean Cocteau' 1939

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Jean Cocteau
1939
Private collection, Paris
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Trailer for Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau, narrated by Cocteau himself

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Hubert de Givenchy' 1948

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Hubert de Givenchy
1948
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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The Fashion Designer and His Muse – Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy

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“Laure Albin Guillot (Paris, 1879-1962), a “resounding name that should become famous”, one could read just after World War II. Indeed, the French photographic scene in the middle of the century was particularly marked by the signature and aura of this artist, who during her lifetime was certainly the most exhibited and recognised, not only for her talent and virtuosity but also for her professional engagement.

The exhibition presented at the Musée de l’Elysée in collaboration with the Jeu de Paume gathers a significant collection of 200 original prints and books by Laure Albin Guillot, as well as magazines and documents of the period from public and private collections. A large number of the original prints and documents on show come from the collections of the Agence Roger-Viollet, in collab-oration with Parisienne de Photographie, which acquired Laure Albin Guillot’s studio stock in 1964. Made up of 52,000 negatives and 20,000 prints, this source has made it possible to question the oeuvre and the place that the photographer really occupies in history. The photographer’s work could appear as a counter-current to the French artistic scene of the 1920s to 40s, whose modernity and avant-garde production attract our attention and appeal to cur­rent tastes. It is however this photography, incarnating classicism and a certain “French style” that was widely celebrated at the time.

If Laure Albin Guillot’s photography was undeniably in vogue between the wars, her personality remains an enigma.

Paradoxically, very little research has been carried out into the work and career of this artist. Her first works were seen in the salons and publications of the early 1920s, but it was essentially during the 1930s and 40s that Laure Albin Guillot, artist, professional and institutional figure, dominated the photographic arena. As an independent photographer, she practised several genres, including portraiture, the nude, landscape, still life and, to a lesser degree, documentary photography. Technically unrivalled, she raised the practice to a certain elitism. A photographer of her epoch, she used the new means of distribution of the image to provide illustrations and advertising images for the press and publishing industry.

She was notably one of the first in France to consider the deco­rative use of photography through her formal research into the infinitely tiny. With photomicrography, which she renamed “micro­graphie”, Laure Albin Guillot offfered new creative perspectives in the combination of art and science. Finally, as member of the Société des artistes décorateurs, the Société française de photo­graphie, director of photographic archives for the Direction générale des Beaux-Arts (forerunner of the Ministry of Culture) and director of the project for the Cinémathèque nationale, president of the Union féminine des carrières libérales, she emerges as one of the most active personalities and most aware of the photographic and cultural stakes of the period.

Organised in four parts, the exhibition explores the various aspects of Laure Albin Guillot’s work

Portraits

Laure Albin Guillot began her career in the early 1920s with portraits and fashion photography. Already, her trademark was elegance, her method was quite systematic and she used various artifices: pared-back decor, close-ups, limited depth of field, simple lighting. The sought-after effect of interiority and intimacy was accentuated by inspired poses that translate the sitter’s character as is done by painters. She accepted being compared to the pictorialists. At the start she was quite close to them in her form and technique, following an aesthetic whose expression was facilitated by her use of lenses that blur (Opale and Eïdoscope). Her sessions were short (never more than twenty minutes), the lamps were positioned to sup­plement each other and not a detail was left in the shadow thanks to a weaker lighting facing the first; while claiming not to go beyond a certain naturalism, she improved the natural: contours are softened, the diffused light is flattering.

In the exercise of the nude, the photographer privileged the mas­tery of form over inspiration, she sought a poetic purity, a dema­terialisation of the body through the power of the spirit; her nudes are constructed by light, they tend towards the ideal. In complete contrast to the importance of character in the portrait, its reduction to a visual form makes the model into a collection of lines, the face is pushed into the corners, almost rubbed out. Laure Albin Guillot did not practise a fragmented language, she proposed fluid forms that appear simple but in reality are highly worked. The reference to statuary is assumed and provides a wide variety of uses for the photographs, each containing several.

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A Decorative Art

After 1918, Paris rediscovered its artistic vocation and the “French style” triumphed at the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts indus­triels et modernes. Alongside the artists and craftsmen, Laure Albin Guillot exhibited an exceptional series of portraits of decorators. She herself made some kakemonos starting from stylised photographs and, inspired by Japanisation, she had some of her photographs inserted into lacquered wood as screens or fire guards.

In 1931, her book Micrographie décorative won her instant international recognition; the work is a visual curiosity, playing on the ambi­guity between the origins of the photographic subject and the nature of the reproduced image. The twenty plates of diatoms, minerals and plants taken through a microcope are as much aesthetic proposi­tions as the magisterial culmination of a reflection shared with her late husband, himself a collector of microscopic preparations. This much publicised publication triggered a series of glowing articles that enthused on the fusion between science and art. The micrographs were declined in wallpaper, silks, bindings and assorted objects. In the debate between partisans and detractors of photogra­phy as art, she provided her answer: according to her, photography is a decorative art. Micrographie décorative was to be published with a preface by Paul Léon, Director of Fine Art, in homage to Albin Guillot, deceased in 1929.

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Advertising Photography

In 1933, Laure Albin Guillot published Photographie publicitaire (Advertising Photography). This book is one of the rare theoretical works written by a French photographer between the wars. At the time she was known for her portraits, her decorative proposals, her fashion photographs and advertising images. But she was also an institutional figure, director of both the photographic archives of the Beaux-Arts (the future Ministry of Culture) and the Cinémathèque nationale.

Laure Albin Guillot was fully aware of the media and commercial stakes developing around the cinema, radio and the illustrated press. Based on her own experience, she tried with this book to define the role that photography could play in the world of advertising that was taking shape. From the end of the 1920s, she carried out a large number of adver-tising illustrations. She thus elaborated a repertory of simple, effec­tive and easily understandable visual diagrams. A large proportion of her work concerned luxury products such as fine watchmaking, jewellery or fashion. But she also carried out numerous advertise­ments for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, the newest and most dynamic industrial sectors of the time.

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Books and Bibliophile Editions

Laure Albin Guillot’s work was published extensively. The photogra­pher did not work only for the press but also for book publishers, whether it was a matter of portraits of writers for the frontispiece of novels or photographs used here and there in collective works. Between 1934 and 1951, she illustrated no less than eleven books of varying type and subject: novel, school textbook, guide to the Musée du Louvre, prayer book, etc.

In parallel, in collaboration with Paul Valéry, Henry de Montherlant, Marcelle Maurette and Maurice Garçon, she made sumptuous “artist’s books” combining literature and photography. It was with a real strategy of promoting her work that the photographer undertook these works, which were mostly sold by subscription. Their fabrica­tion, luxury and rarity made them true collectors’ pieces at a time when a photography market did not exist (“I made photography an accepted part of bibliophilia,” she would write at the end of her life).

Exhibitions and artist’s books were intimately linked in her method: their publication was heralded by the presentation at a salon or a gal­lery of sets of prestigious proofs (the large majority pigmented proofs from Ateliers Fresson). Thus, the large-format prints exhibited in this section showing roads or landscapes were probably destinated to appear in albums finally not published.”

Press release from the The Musée de l’Elysée website

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Micrography, Hippuric Acid' c. 1931

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Micrography, Hippuric Acid
c. 1931
Collection société française de photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Untitled' c. 1935-1940

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Untitled
c. 1935-1940
Collection du Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Paris, 2012
Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' c. 1940

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Nude Study
c. 1940
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' 1939

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Nude Study
1939
Bibliothèque nationale de France
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' c. 1938

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Nude Study
c. 1938
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Les tierces alternées', illustration for 'Les préludes de Claude Debussy' 1948

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Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962)
Les tierces alternées, illustration for Les préludes de Claude Debussy
1948
Musée français de la photographie / Conseil général de l’Essonne, Benoît Chain
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

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Claude Debussy – Prelude No.10: La cathedrale engloutie – Krystian Zimerman

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The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
T: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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25
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Lorna Simpson’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 1st September 2013

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Fascinating practice!

Identity, memory, gender, representation, the body, the subject, felt, text, images, video, gesture, reenactment, concept and performance, all woven together seamlessly like a good wig made of human hair…

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.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]
1988
5 gelatin silver prints in a frame, 15 plates engraved plastic
24 ½ x 97 in (62.2 x 246.4 cm) overall
Lillian and Billy Mauer Collection
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]
1988
10 dye-diffusion black-and-white Polaroid prints, 10 engraved plastic plaques
57 ¾ x 125 ¼ x 1 3/8 in (146.7 x 318.1 x 3.5 cm) overall
Collection of Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Wigs II' 1994-2006

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Lorna Simpson
Wigs II
1994-2006
Serigraph on 71 felt panels (images and text)
98 x 265 in (248.9 x 673.1 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson surprised her audiences in 1994 when she began to print her photographs on felt, inspired by its materiality after seeing an exhibition of the sculpture of Joseph Beuys in Paris “where the piano and walls were covered for a beautiful installation.” Simpson questioned whether the medium might be appropriate in a far different way for her work given the perspective afforded her by the passage of time. With the felt pieces, Simpson turned away from photography’s traditional paper support, magnified the already larger-than-life-size of the images within her large photo-text pieces to extremely large-scale multi-part works, and, most critically, absented the figure, in particular, the black woman in a white shift facing away from the camera for which she had received critical acclaim.

Ever-present, nevertheless, were her thematic concerns. The first felts offered surrogates for the body in  a taxonomy of her own photographs of Wigs, with voicings “in and around gender,” and expanded upon the investigation of the role of coiffure in the construction of identity in Simpson’s photo-texts (such as Stereo Styles, Gallery 1). In the mid-1990s, such felts were succeeded by a series of photographs of interior and exterior scenes that were accompanied by long text passages printed on separate small felts. In these works the figure was replaced, as Okwui Enwezor wrote, “by the rumor of the body.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'Please remind me of who I am' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
Please remind me of who I am (detail)
2009
50 found photo booth portraits, 50 ink drawings on paper, 100 bronze elements
Overall installation dimensions variable
Collection of Isabelle and Charles Berkovic
© Lorna Simpson

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For each multi-part photo-booth piece, Simpson sets in bronze frames these small inexpensive shots as well as her drawings of selected details of the photographs. Self-styled and performed, these photographs were used for a variety of purposes by their now anonymous sitters, ranging from sober, formal ID photos to glamorous, often theatrically playful mementos. Encompassing photo booth shots of different sizes from the 1920s to the 1970s (a few in color), Simpson’s constellations of many images for each work offer a collective portrait of self-portraiture (Gather, 2009) and continue her ongoing explorations of identity and memory, explicitly phrased in the title of one of them: Please remind me of who I am (2009).

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Lorna Simpson. 'Waterbearer [Porteuse d'eau]' 1986

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Lorna Simpson
Waterbearer [Porteuse d’eau]
1986
Gelatin silver print, vinyl letters
59 x 80 x 2 ½ in (149.9 x 203.2 x 5.7 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris / Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Waterbearer shows a woman from the back, pouring water from an elegant silvery metallic pitcher in one hand and from an inexpensive plastic jug in the other, echoing art historical renderings of women at wells or in the domestic settings of Dutch still-life paintings. As if balancing the scales of justice, this figure also symbolically offers disjunctions of means and class. In the accompanying text, Simpson explicitly addresses memory and the agency of speakers: “She saw him disappear by the river, they asked her to tell what happened, only to discount her memory.”

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For her first European retrospective, the Jeu de Paume presents thirty years of Lorna Simpson’s work. For this Afro-American artist, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, the synthesis between image and text is profound and intimate. If one were to consider Lorna Simpson as a writer, the textual element of her works could have an autonomous life as prose poems, very short stories or fragments of scripts. And yet, her texts are inseparable from her images; there is a dynamic between the two that is both fragile and energising, which links them unfailingly. Lorna Simpson became known in the 1980s and 90s for her photographs and films that shook up the conventions of gender, identity, culture and memory.

Throughout her work, the artist tackles the complicated representation of the black body, using different media, while her texts add a significance that always remains open to the spectator’s imagination. In her recent work, Lorna Simpson has integrated archive images, which she reinvents by positioning herself in them as subject. As the artist underlines: “The theme I turn to most often is memory. But beyond this subject, the underlying thread is my relationship to text and ideas about representation.” (Lorna Simpson)

This retrospective reveals the continuity in her conceptual and performative research. In her works linking photography and text, as well as in her video installations, she integrates – while continually shaking them up – the genres of fixed and moving images, using them to ask questions about identity, history, reality and fiction. She introduces complexity through her use of photography and film, in her exploitation of found objects, in the processes she develops to take on the challenges she sets herself and to spectators.

The exhibition gathers her large format photo-texts of the mid 1980s, which brought her to the attention of the critics (Gestures / Reenactments, Waterbearer, Stereo Styles), her work in screenprints on felt panels since the 1990s (Wigs, The Car, The Staircase, Day Time, Day Time (gold), Chandelier), a group of drawings (Gold Headed, 2013), and also her “Photo Booths,” ensembles of found photos and drawings (Gather, Please remind me of who I am…). The exhibition is also an opportunity to discover her video installations: multivalent narratives that question the way in which experience is created and perceived more or less falsely (Cloudscape, 2004, Momentum, 2010), among them, Playing Chess, a new video installation made especially for the occasion.

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About the exhibition

by Joan Simon

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In her critically acclaimed body of work spanning more than thirty years, Lorna Simpson questions identity and memory, gender and history, fact and fiction, playing eye and ear in tandem if not in synchrony to prompt consideration of how meaning is constructed. That she has often described herself as an observer and a listener informs an understanding of both her approach and her subjects. In her earliest black-and-white documentary street photographs (1978-80), Simpson isolated gestures that bespoke an intimacy between those framed in her viewfinder, recording what was less a decisive moment than one of coming into relation. Some of these photographs seem to capture crossed glances, pauses in an ongoing conversation. Others are glimpses of occasions, transitional events identifiable by a white confirmation or wedding dress, which convey a sense of palpable silence in exchanges between people just out of earshot.

When Simpson began to stage her own photographs in 1985 and to write accompanying texts, she came in closer. She allowed us to see a carefully framed black body, abstracted in gesture and in white clothing, yet also permitted us to read seemingly overheard comments that redirected and recomplicated the view. While her images captured gestures, her narratives imbued these images frozen in a never-changing present with memory, a past. The title of her first photo-text work, made in 1985, and of the exhibition of that year in which it was first exhibited was Gestures / Reenactments, and one can argue that all Simpson’s work is built on the juxtaposition of gestures and reenactments, creating meaning in the resonant gap between the two. It is a gap that invites the viewer / reader to enter, all the while requiring an active reckoning with some inalienable truths: seeing is not necessarily believing, and what we might see is altered not only by our individual experiences and assumptions but also, critically, by what we might hear.

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The exhibition

Whether for still or moving picture productions, Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) uses her camera as catalyst to question identity and gender, genres and history, race and class, fact and fiction, memory and meanings. Assumptions of photographic “truth” are challenged and qualified – indeed redirected – by the images she creates that are inseparable from the texts she writes to accompany them, by the soundings she chooses  for videos, or by her pairings of vintage photographs with newly made renderings. The Jeu de Paume presents lorna Simpson’s first large-scale exhibition in europe beginning with her earliest photo-text pieces of the 1980s through her newest video installation, Chess, 2013, which makes its debut in Paris.

Works in the exhibition show the artist drawing on traditional photo techniques such as gelatin silver prints in an intimate synthesis with speakerly texts (Gallery 1). They also show Simpson’s creation of new combines, among them serigraphs on felt with writings and images invoking film noir (Gallery 2), a video installation of three projections based on historic photographs and her own prior still photos (Gallery 3), constellations of recuperated photo-booth photos with her drawings isolating details from them as well as vintage photographs together with those re-staged by the artist (Gallery 4), and a video focusing on performance as well as time itself and its reversal (Gallery 5).

The exhibition’s parcours reveals turning points in Simpson’s oeuvre as well as thematic continuities. The earliest pieces in the show are Simpson’s performative proto-cinematic photo-texts, beginning with the 1985 Gestures/ Reeactments, a title literally evocative of the work’s visual/verbal aspect while also paradigmatically descriptive of what would be her conceptual practice for the next three decades. Simpson herself makes a rare appearance in her work in two related pieces in the show: the 2009 epic still photo work 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), for which the artist re-enacted scenes from vintage photos, and Chess, 2013, (Gallery 3), which features re-enactments of some of the same photos.

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Gallery 1 introduces the artist’s signature, indeed iconic early images of the 1980s – a black figure in white clothing, face turned away from the camera or cropped out of the frame – accompanied by precisely crafted, allusive texts that recomplicate what is seen by what is heard in these voicings. The intention to deny a view of a face, as Simpson says, “was related to the idea that the one thing that people gravitate to in photography is the face and reading the expression and what that says about the person pictured, an emotional state, who they are, what they look like, deciphering and measuring. Who is being pictured, what is actually the subject? Photographing from the back was a way to get viewers’ attention as well as to consciously withdraw what they might expect to see.”

The performative photo-text works in Gallery 1 are Gestures/Reenactments, 1985 (created as part of her thesis project for her MFA at the University of California, San Diego), Waterbearer and Twenty Questions (A Sampler) (the first works that Simpson made when she moved to New York in 1986), as well as Five Day Forecast, 1988, and Stereo Styles, 1988. Beginning with Waterbearer, all of these except Gestures/Reenactments (which features a black male) show a black female in a white shift played by artist Alva Rogers, who was often mistaken for Simpson herself.

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Gallery 2 marks important changes the artist made during the ’90s, most notably Simpson’s surprising shift to printing her photographs on felt and absenting the human figure. At first she used surrogates for the body, seen in the many and various wigs she photographed and which she accompanied with texts that continued to address ideas of identity and gender (Wigs, 1994-2006). She used photographs taken during her travels for the next series of felt works, which were interior and exterior scenes (The Car, 1995, The Rock, 1995, The Staircase, 1998) that in both imagery and texts invoked film noir. These works led almost inevitably to the start of Simpson’s film and video work in 1997. (Her earliest photo-texts will be recognized by the viewer as proto-cinematic with their multiple frames and conversational voices.)

This gallery also reveals how Simpson continues to use her felt medium and returns to her own archive of images   as well as found objects. Three related works, though no longer using text, nevertheless “comment” on each other:  a video of a performance (Momentum, 2010) inspired by an early 1970s performance at Lincoln Center generated felt works based on vintage photographs of this famous New York theater – Chandelier, 2011, Daytime, 2011, and Daytime (gold), 2011- as well as the Gold Headed (2013) drawings, based on the dancers costumed head to foot in gold. Drawings are perhaps the least known medium in Simpson’s practice, and while they reveal the fluid gestures of her hand, visitors will recognize in these gold heads turned from the viewer an echo of the position of the figures  in Gallery 1.

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Gallery 3 is devoted to Simpson’s newest video, Chess, 2013, which is based on historic photos as well as her own earlier photographic piece, 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), in which she restaged found vintage photographs. Chess and 1957-2009 mark the rare instances in which Simpson has herself appeared in her work.

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Gallery 4 presents reenactments that use quotidian photographic genres to explore constructions of identity   and that offer a collective portrait of photographic portraiture over time. All of the works in this gallery are based on found photographs Simpson purchased on eBay and each depicts anonymous subjects performing for the camera. 1957-2009 is based on photographs in a vintage album; Gather and Please remind me of who I am are constellations of bronze-framed found photo-booth images (from the 1920s to the 1970s) accompanied by Simpson’s similarly framed drawings of details from the photographs.

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Gallery 5 offers Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape, 2004, which focuses on performance itself and the soundings of a body, that of artist Terry Adkins whistling a hymn. Embodying memory (and the distortions of it) as she did in her earliest photo-works but playing also with the particularities of video, Simpson loops the video to play forward and backward. In this process a new melody is created even as the stationary figure appears same but different.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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“Gestures” and “reenactments” could both be described as the underlying methods of Simpson’s practice for the decades to follow. Whether working with photographs she herself staged, found photographs, or archival film footage, her images captured gestures (as in her earliest documentary photographs of 1978-1980) while her series of multiple images, accompanied by texts, proposed simultaneous (if not synchronous) reenactments. This method also applied to works in which she replicated found images, whether turning images from her films into drawings, or using herself to re-play roles depicted by anonymous figures she had discovered in vintage photographs, either for staged still photographs (as in 1957-2009, 2009), or for moving pictures (as in the video Chess, 2013).

Chess, 2013, Simpson’s video installation made expressly for this exhibition, draws on images from 1957- 2009, her still photograph ensemble of 2009 (on view in Gallery 4). For both, in a departure from her earlier videos and prior staged photographs, Simpson herself performs. In 1957-2009, by reenacting scenes from found vintage prints with which they are shown, Simpson is “mirroring both the male and  the female character, in dress, pose, expression, and setting. When I would mention the idea of working with mirrors [for the Chess video] people would often mention the famous portraits of Picasso and  Picabia taken at a photo studio in New York by an anonymous photographer who placed the subject   at a table in front of two mirrored panels at seventy-degree angles. The result is a five-way portrait that includes views that are not symmetrical and that offer slightly different angles: a surrealist trope of trick photography.”

Though the artist first rejected the idea of working with the mirror device used in these historic portraits, which she had seen many times, she decided to take it on fully and reconstruct it in her studio for this new video project after  art historian and sociologist Sarah Thornton sent her “a beautiful image of an unknown man of African descent in a white straw hat, which had been in an exhibition at MoMA [catalogue page 61]. It was a five-way portrait probably taken by the same photographer who had taken the portraits of Picasso and Picabia. I could no longer resist or dis- miss this idea. I felt that it was demanding my attention.”

Shot in Simpson’s studio over the weekend of December 8, 2012, Chess is comprised of three video projections. For two of them Simpson again plays both female and male chess-players, and with the help of makeup and hair assistants, she now allows her characters to age. The third projection shows pianist Jason Moran performing his improvised score for this project, which was inspired by discussions between artist and composer about “mirroring in music,” especially “in the work of musician Cecil Taylor, who employs mirroring in his compositions.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' (detail) 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car (detail)
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. '1957-2009' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
1957-2009 (detail)
2009
299 gelatin silver prints, framed
5 x 5 in. (12.7 x 12.7 cm) each (image size)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Lorna Simpson

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While collecting photo booth images on eBay, Simpson found the first of the vintage photographs – a woman in a tight sweater-dress leaning on a car – that would generate 19572009 (2009). The artist subsequently bought the entire album and in 2009 restaged these photographs of an anonymous black woman and sometimes a man performing for their camera between June and August 1957 in Los Angeles, which they may have done in the hope of gaining movie work in Hollywood or as an independent project of self-invention. For 1957-2009, Simpson reenacted both female and male roles, and the 299 images are comprised of both the 1957 originals and Simpson’s 2009 remakes. Simpson again reenacted a selection of these vignettes for her video installation Chess, 2013.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]' 2004

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Lorna Simpson
Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]
2004
Video projection, black & white, sound
3:00 minutes (loop)
Centre national des arts plastiques, purchase in 2005
Photo courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson/Centre national des arts plastiques

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Lorna Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape (2004) isolates one man, Simpson’s friend, the artist and musician Terry Adkins, in a dark room, spotlighted as he whistles a hymn and is enveloped in fog. Focusing on the ephemerality of performance, the artist employs a technique afforded by her medium to play with time as well. Simpson runs the video forward and then also backward in a continuous loop, creating new visual and oral/aural permutations of gesture and reenactment. In the reversal of the time sequence, the image remains somewhat familiar while the tune turns into something else, a different melody.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Momentum' 2010

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Lorna Simpson
Momentum
2010
HD video, color, sound
6:56 minutes
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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As Simpson explored new mediums, such as film and video starting in 1997 or found photographs in  the late 1990s, she continued to work in parallel with her felt serigraphs. In this gallery are three related sets of works that, unlike her earlier photo-text pieces, are all based on a personal memory: performing as a youngster, age 12, in gold costume, wig, and body paint in a ballet recital at New York’s Lincoln Center. Simpson re-staged such a performance for her video Momentum (2010).

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

Lorna Simpson website

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24
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Wols’ Photography: Images Regained’ at the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 26th August 2013

 

Another little known photographer (to me at least) that this blog likes promoting. Unfortunately the gallery did not supply many media images and there are few available online.

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

 

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Nicole Bouban, Autumn 1932 - October 1933 / january 1935-1937' 1937

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Nicole Bouban, Autumn 1932 – October 1933 / january 1935-1937
1937
Gelatin silver print
Vintage print, 1937
300 x 240 mm
Cabinet of Prints, Dresden State Art Collections

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Untitled (Still life - wicker and birds)' 1938 - August, 1939

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Untitled (Still life – wicker and birds)
1938 – August, 1939
Gelatin silver paper (Agfa paper)
Modern Print-1970s
200 x 137 / 239 x 178 mm
Cabinet of Prints, Dresden State Art Collections

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Untitled (Still life - Grapefruit)' 1938 - August, 1939

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Untitled (Still life – Grapefruit)
1938 – August, 1939
Gelatin silver paper (Agfa Brovira paper)
Early Modern print without year
174 x 120 / 180 x 131 mm
Cabinet of Prints, Dresden State Art Collections

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Untitled (The Swiss Pavilion - Drahtfigurine)' 1937

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Untitled (The Swiss Pavilion – Drahtfigurine)
1937
Gelatin silver paper (Agfa Brovira paper)
Vintage print 1936/37
242 x 180 mm
Cabinet of Prints Dresden State Art Collections

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Untitled (Paris - Eiffel Tower)' 1937

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Untitled (Paris – Eiffel Tower)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Modern printed 1970s
205 x 139 / 240 x 178 mm
Cabinet of Prints, Dresden State Art Collections

 

 

“On the Occasion of the 100th Birthday of the Epochal Photographer, Painter and Graphic Artist. 
An exhibition by the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
17 May to 26 August 2013

Wols (1913-1951) is a key figure of post-war modernism. However, as this exhibition of his photography demonstrates, there are still aspects of his work which can come as a surprise and which amount to a remarkable discovery. Wols’ Photography: Images Regained, a retrospective marking the centenary of his birth, is the first exhibition to be devoted to a comprehensive exploration of his photographic work. It runs from 17 May to 26 August in the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, and presents around 740 works, including modern prints from original negatives, contact prints and rare vintage prints made by Wols himself. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue look beyond the myths surrounding Wols to focus on his artistic achievements, providing new insights based on recent art-historical reappraisal of works held in the Dresden collection.

In 1932 the artistically ambitious young nonconformist Wolfgang Schulze, alias Wols, left Dresden for Paris, where in 1951, at the age of 38, he was to die. Paris, at that time the undisputed metropolis of modernity and the avant-garde, held a magical attraction for young artists from all over the world intent on establishing themselves as photographers. In the brief period between 1932 and 1939 Wols created an impressive body of photographic work, a medium that he abandoned after 1945, when his attention turned to drawing and painting; after his death, this important aspect of his oeuvre was largely forgotten.

This presentation of Wols’ photography in the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett will later also be shown in Berlin, at the Martin-Gropius-Bau (15 March to 22 June 2014), a venue renowned for important photographic exhibitions, and a further showing in Paris is planned for autumn 2014. This means that this previously little-known, but central, body of work can be explored to an unprecedented extent in places which were of great significance at various stages in the artist’s life. Wols was born in Berlin, and briefly returned there as a young man, drawn to the creative force field of the Bauhaus, by then already in the process of dissolution; it was here that he received what was to be artistically crucial advice to move to Paris. In Dresden, in the intellectual circle of Ida Bienert, he had already become acquainted while still in his teens with facets of international modernism. Paris was where he ultimately achieved artistic fulfilment and recognition.

The exhibition draws on the important resources preserved in the estate of the artist’s sister, Elfriede Schulze-Battmann, now held in the Kupferstich-Kabinett. In addition to correspondence, this archive contains more than 1,000 works, most of which are modern prints made in the 1960s and 1970s, and is the world’s most extensive collection of Wols’ photographic work. The importance of Wols as a major figure of post-war modernism is underlined in two further exhibitions marking the 100th anniversary of his birth:
Kunsthalle Bremen: Wols: Die Retrospektive (Wols. The Retrospective) (13 April – 11 August 2013); 
Museum Wiesbaden: Wols: Das große Mysterium (Wols. The Great Mystery) (17 October 2013 – 26 January 2014).

As a photographer (1913-1951) Wols continues to this day to be a discovery. The young, artistically ambitious, non-conformist left Dresden for Paris in 1932, where he began his artistic career as a portrait photographer. At that time, Paris, undisputedly the metropolis of the avant-garde and modern life, attracted free spirits from all over the world to seek their fortune. From 1932 to 1939 Wols created his impressive photographic oeuvre, which after 1945 he abandoned as a result of adverse circumstances and a shift in his interest to drawing and painting. In the years following his early death, the few preserved photos and negatives were nearly forgotten.

Today the Dresdener Kupferstich-Kabinett (Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs) holds the internationally most important collection of his photographic oeuvre, which was preserved in the estate of his sister, Elfriede Schulze-Battmann. It contains rare modern prints, produced from the original negatives in the 1960s and 1970s, and a small number of valuable vintage prints made by Wols himself.”

Press release from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden website

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Plate with soup and conch' 1936-1939

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Plate with soup and conch
1936-1939
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 - 1951 Paris) 'Doll with Robe' 1937

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Doll with Robe
1937
Of the series of studies Exposition Internationale de Paris. Pavillon de l’Elegance
Gelatin silver print on photo paper
26.3 x 17.8 cm

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 - 1951 Paris) 'Jean Sendy (Abelson) with monocle' c. 1930

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Jean Sendy (Abelson) with monocle
c. 1930
Gelatin silver photograph
23.8 x 17.4cm (irreg.)

 

Jean Sendy is a French writer and translator, author of works on esoterica and UFO phenomena. He was also an early proponent of the ancient astronaut hypothesis.

He wrote the 1968 book The moon: The key to the Bible in which he claimed the God mentioned in Genesis of the Bible should be translated in plural as “Gods”, and that the “Gods” were actually space travelers (an alien race of humanoids). Sendy believed that Genesis was factual history of ancient astronauts colonizing earth who became “angels in human memory”. The book contains similar ideas to that of the UFO religion Raëlism.

In his 1969 book Those Gods who made Heaven and Earth, Sendy claimed that space travelers 23,500 years ago arrived in the solar system in a large hollow sphere and seeded humanity. (Wikipedia)

 

Otto Wolf (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 - 1951 Paris) 'Po Pol' 1935

 

Otto Wolf (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Po Pol
1935
Gelatin silver print on photo paper
23 x 17.2 cm

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 - 1951 Paris) Untitled (Paris - Palisade) 'Fall 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 - August 1939' 1930

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Untitled (Paris – Palisade) Fall 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 – August 1939
1930
Gelatin silver print
Vintage print (Contact), 1930
77 x 46 mm
Cabinet of Prints, Dresden State Art Collections

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 - 1951 Paris) 'Self Portrait' c. 1932-33

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Self Portrait
c. 1932-33
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) 'Self-portrait' 1938

 

Otto Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) (Berlin 1913 – 1951 Paris)
Self-portrait
1938

 

 

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Postfach 12 05 51
01006 Dresden
T: +49-351-49 14 2643

Opening hours:
daily 10 am to 6 pm, 
closed on Tuesdays

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden website

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22
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Rodchenko: 
Revolution in Photography’ at WestLicht Gallery, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 11th June – 25th August 2013

 

“The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.”

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“Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view
 […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.”

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“We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

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“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting. Foreshortenings with a strong distortion of the objects, with a crude handling of matter. Moments altogether new, never seen before… compositions whose boldness outstrips the imagination of painters… Then the creation of those instants which do not exist, contrived by means of photomontage. The negative transmits altogether new stimuli to the sentient mind and eye.”

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Alexander Rodchenko

 

What an impression (on the sentient mind) this artist makes!

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

 

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club' 1932

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club
1932
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Levels' 1929

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Levels
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sportsmen on Red Square' 1935

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Sportsmen on Red Square
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Horse racing' 1935

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Horse racing
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sports parade. Girl with towels' 1935

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Sports parade. Girl with towels
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Radio listeners' 1929

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Radio listeners
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

 

“Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a driving force in the Russian avant-garde and is considered one of the great innovators of photography in the first half of the 20th century. In 1924, already well-known as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist, he conquered traditional photography with the slogan “Our duty is to experiment!” Dynamic compositions, stark contrasts, unconventional angles and the use of photomontage are the defining characteristics of his photographic language.

Rodchenko’s visual compositions and constructivist manifestos have been highly influential in the development of modern photography. With more than 200 photographs on display, the exhibition explores Rodchenko’s dynamic vision and the extraordinary range of his work. Alongside renowned, iconic images like Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1924), Steps (1929) or Girl with a Leica (1934) WestLicht presents many rare vintage prints, which are complemented by a selection of Rodchenko’s posters, publications and typographic works.

As a prominent figure of constructivism, Rodchenko significantly shaped the development of Russian art in the early years of the Revolution. He was also a catalyst of a photography movement, similar to the New Objectivity pioneered by Albert Renger-Patzsch in Germany and the Group f/64 in the USA. “New, unexpected foreshortenings, unusual perspectives, bold light and shadow combinations reproduce fragments of the social reality that are as sharp and clear as possible” (Catalogue for Film and Photo Exhibition, Stuttgart, 1929).

The development of this new reality involved a radical departure from traditional perspectives. As Rodchenko pointed out in an essay on Ways of Contemporary Photography, in 1928: “The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.” Central to Rodenchko’s argumentation was the belief that the camera could act as an active eye of contemporaries, destroying the primacy of the normal view – the navel perspective – established by painting. For Rodchenko the camera lens was “the pupil of the educated person in socialist society.”

Just as the revolution created the new socialist man and swept away the old order, photography should overcome the outdated perception and allow a modern outlook. “Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.” According to Rodchenko’s significant and much-quoted claim: “We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

Curated by Olga Sviblova, Director of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.”

Press release from the WestLicht Gallery website

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with Leica
1934
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Balconies. Corner of the house' 1925

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Balconies. Corner of the house
1925
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Guard at the Shukhov Tower' 1929

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Guard at the Shukhov Tower
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pines. Puschkino' 1927

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Pines. Puschkino
1927
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Fire escape' 1925

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Fire escape
1925
Deduction on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Trumpeting pioneer' 1930

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Trumpeting pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'They gathered for the demonstration' 1928

 

Alexander Rodchenko
They gathered for the demonstration
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Varvara Stepanova on a balcony' 1928

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Varvara Stepanova on a balcony
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother' 1924

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pioneer' 1930

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky's poem "Pro eto" (Darüber)' 1923

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem “Pro eto” (Darüber)
1923
Reprint
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster "Knigi"' 1924

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster “Knigi”
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper, cut out and glued on pink paper.
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

 

 

WestLicht Gallery
Westbahnstraße 40,
1070 Vienna
T: +43 (0)1 522 66 36 -60

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun and public holidays 11 am – 7 pm

WestLicht Gallery website

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21
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Lewis Hine – Photography for a Change’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 25th August 2013

 

“While human truth may be ephemeral qualities like justice are not; the struggle is to define justice and to live it. And for artists to display it.”

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Here is one artist who certainly used photography for social good. Hine “represents the beginning of a long tradition of politically engaged, social documentary photography, so called “concerned photography”… He firmly believed that every person, every individual, was worthy of respect, and he believed photography to be the best tool for clearly and visibly expressing this view.” Bravo to him.

Unfortunately, like so many of these visionary and revolutionary artists, Hine died in 1940, completely impoverished. As a society, why is it that we don’t value these brave human beings until years after they have passed? Is it because of petty jealousies, the rush of life, people in positions of power too long or a lack of understanding of the visionary nature of their work? Or is it just that time passes them by. I would like to pose this question.

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

 

 

Lewis Hine. 'Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge' 1906

 

Lewis Hine
Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge
1906
Gelatin silver print
12 x 17 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Spinner in New England mill' 1913

 

Lewis Hine
Spinner in New England mill
1913
Gelatin silver print
12.6 x 10.1 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Italian family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis Hine
Italian family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island
1905
Gelatin silver print
33.4 x 27.2 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Candy worker, New York' c. 1925

 

Lewis Hine
Candy worker, New York
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 11.8 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

 

“To what extent can images effectively combat injustice and social inequity? The American photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940) offered an early answer to this question through his work. Trained as a teacher and sociologist, he ardently wished that Americans would become conscious of the injustice of American labor laws. He also firmly believed that every person, every individual, was worthy of respect, and he believed photography to be the best tool for clearly and visibly expressing this view.

His work represents the beginning of a long tradition of politically engaged, social documentary photography, so called “concerned photography.” His photographs of immigrants from Ellis Island, child labor in American factories, and the construction of the Empire State Building high above Manhattan have become major icons of the 20th century. Simultaneously, the photographs also point to the fact, that the documented problems have not lost their currency, even one hundred years later. Today, even in Europe, we are experiencing intensive migrations, which will continue to increase in the future. Here we are not confronted with child labor, because we have transferred the kinds of industrial production that used child labor to distant countries. Accidents in non-European factories indicate the risky conditions under which our consumer goods are still produced today. Hine’s photographic eye and his black and white images form a trajectory that leads directly to the present.

Lewis Hine grew up in a family that owned a simple restaurant in the small town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He lost his father at age 18 due to an accident. He provided for himself and his family first as a factory worker in a furniture production company and then as a doorman, salesman, and bookkeeper. After training as a teacher and studying sociology at the University of Chicago, Hine moved to New York, where he first came in contact with photography while teaching at the Ethical Culture School. Using the camera in his lessons, he made portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island in conjunction with a research project. From then on Hine viewed his camera as a weapon for revealing social injustice and effecting change through the power of images. With this motivation he traveled some 75,000 km through the United States for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and photographed children at work in the fields, mines, factories, mills, and on the streets. His photographs played no small part in raising awareness for child labor and instigating initial reforms. They also represented some of the earliest and most significant contributions to the social documentary genre of photography. During the construction of the Empire State Building Hine was commissioned with documenting the phases of construction over the course of six months in 1930/31. In over one thousand photographs he recorded the perspective of the construction workers and their hard work on the ultimately 381 m high building. Despite his early success and the use of his images by many governmental agencies, Hine died in 1940, completely impoverished, after an operation.

Fotomuseum Winterthur presents this comprehensive retrospective including 170 images and extensive documentation material in cooperation with the Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid), the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris) and the Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam). All works come from the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, USA.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

 

Lewis Hine. 'Paris gamin' c. 1918

 

Lewis Hine
Paris gamin
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 19.4 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Jewess at Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis Hine
Jewess at Ellis Island
1905
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.1 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house' 1920

 

Lewis Hine
Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house
1920
Gelatin silver print
16.9 x 11.7 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. '[Man on girders, Empire State Building]' c. 1931

 

Lewis Hine
[Man on girders, Empire State Building]
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
12 x 9.2 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. '[Steelworker touching the tip of the Chrysler Building]' c. 1931

 

Lewis Hine
[Steelworker touching the tip of the Chrysler Building]
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
16.9 x 11.9 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

Lewis Hine. 'Icarus atop Empire State Building' 1931

 

Lewis Hine
Icarus atop Empire State Building
1931
Gelatin silver print
9.3 x 10 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

 

 

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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20
Aug
13

Opening photographs: ‘John Cato Retrospective’ and book launch

Exhibition dates: 17th August – 15th September 2013

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Read the opening speech

Visit the John Cato website

View some of his images

Photographers David Callow and Andrew Chapman’s video tribute to John Cato (18 mins 39 secs) can be viewed on Vimeo (Password is Cato)

Please click on the photographs to see a larger version of the image and to view other photographs from the opening.

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David Simmonds Photographer: Cato Launch &emdash; SIMMONDS__CatoBook-0213

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David Simmonds
Dr Marcus Bunyan at the John Cato Retrospective
2013
© David Simmonds Photographer

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David Simmonds Photographer: Cato Launch &emdash; SIMMONDS__CatoBook-0218

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David Simmonds
Dr Marcus Bunyan at the John Cato Retrospective
2013
© David Simmonds Photographer

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Ballarat International Foto Biennale
Mining Exchange building
8 Lydiard St N
Ballarat VIC 3350
T: (03) 5333 4242

Ballarat International Foto Biennale website

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20
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Globelight ’13 [New Light Art + Design]’ at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th July – 24th August 2013

Curated by James Tapscott and Sam Mitchell-Fin

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Although I could not get to the second part of the exhibition at Abbotsford Convent, what I saw of this exhibition of light-based art and design by Australian and international artists at Anita Traverso Gallery in Richmond was fascinating.  I love interesting concepts and works constructed with light / space / images and this show is certainly exuberant and inventive.

Of particular interest were three artists who use multiple images and objects in boxes to form three-dimensional sculptures, the images inside resembling the spatiality of early stereographs (for- mid- and background). In the work by The Tam Projects the perspex slide at the front of the box with the topographic dots can be removed and replaced with another screen of dots, thus altering the mapping of the image. Catherine Johnstone’s work Grief Keeps Watch 7, 8 + 9 (2012, below) uses collections of bits and pieces, remnants, traces which enable the artist to hold onto the memory of her father who has passed away. Perran Costi’s beautifully made wooden boxes hold Sydney-based scenes in 3D printed on glass and were ravishing in their collective density. Ilan El’s ORA (2011, below) features three black knobs that control the Red, Green and Blue spectrum (RGB), enabling the viewer to create an endless rainbow of colours to match their shifting moods.

My favourite piece in the exhibition was George Angelovski’s light box LUKAS (2012, below), a portrait which cycles through various colours using remote controlled RGB LEDs which lends the portrait different characters such as threatening or placid, depending on the colour of the moment. This feeling of un/ease is increased because the eyes of LUKAS are white as in a supernova (probably red eye from a flash which has printed white in the black and white image), and in the right eye there is a black spot, an inclusion, a dark star that further disturbs the handsome features of the man. I really loved this beautiful, cerebral work.

Both curators (James Tapscott and Sam Mitchell-Fin) and artists are to be congratulated for this New Light Art + Design initiative. It’s a great idea to have a festival that exhibits a such a wide variety of works across both light art and design in Australia. Let’s hope it is even more successful next year.

Marcus

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

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The Tam Projects (Tess Hamilton, Adriana Bernado, Melissa Acker) 'Colour box' 2013

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The Tam Projects (Tess Hamilton, Adriana Bernado, Melissa Acker)
Colour box
2013
Lightbox, A3 print on cotton rag + film slides on acrylic
15 x 14 x 33 cm

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Catherine Johnstone. 'Grief Keeps Watch 7, 8 + 9' 2012

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Catherine Johnstone
Grief Keeps Watch 7, 8 + 9
2012
Pigment on x-ray + found objects on acrylic, light boxes
25.5 x 23 x 17 cm

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Catherine Johnstone. 'Grief Keeps Watch 8' 2012 (detail)

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Catherine Johnstone
Grief Keeps Watch 8 (detail)
2012
Pigment on x-ray + found objects on acrylic, light boxes
25.5 x 23 x 17 cm

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Perran Costi. 'Autumn' (nearest), 'Bird House', 'Sunset on King Street' and 'Oasis' 2012

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Perran Costi
Autumn (nearest), Bird House, Sunset on King Street and Oasis
2012
Glass, hardwood + light
Dimensions variable

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Perran Costi. 'Sunset on King Street' 2012

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Perran Costi
Sunset on King Street
2012
Glass, hardwood + light
16 x 16 x 8.7 cm

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Perran Costi. 'Landgrab' 2012

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Perran Costi
Landgrab
2012
Suitcase, glass, soil, acrylic + light
57 x 50 x 34

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Kent Gration. 'Leviathan 1 + 2' 2013

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Kent Gration
Leviathan 1 + 2
2013
Carbonised + natural bamboo, LED lighting
50 x 50 x 125 cm each

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Globelight ’13 is an exhibition of light-based art and design by Australian and international artists. Curated by James Tapscott and Sam Mitchell-Fin, this is the inaugural event of what is to become an annual festival-style event that aims to grow into a significant part of Victoria’s cultural calendar. An exciting cross-section of Australian and international artists and designers will occupy both spaces at Anita Traverso Gallery and the grounds of the Abbotsford Convent with light-based sculpture, installation, design objects and video art throughout the month of August.

The Festival aims to become an important inclusion on the local and international cultural calendar being the only festival of its kind that exhibits a such a wide variety of works across both light art and design in Australia. The festival has already attracted the attention of the lighting community and related industries, thus confirming the need for such an event that supports the growing number of artists and innovative designers working in this medium.”

Text from the Anita Traverso Gallery and Globelight websites

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Sam Mitchell-Fin. 'Open infinity (blue)' 2013

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Sam Mitchell-Fin
Open infinity (blue)
2013
Neon
Size variable

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Sam Mitchell-Fin. 'I Wish I could tell you, but I can't find the words' 2013

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Sam Mitchell-Fin
I Wish I could tell you, but I can’t find the words
2013
Neon + timber
Size variable

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Ilan El. 'ORA' 2011

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Ilan El
ORA
2011
Zenolite front face, RGB LEDs + powder coated mild steel body
4 x 60 cm (diameter)

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James Tapscott. 'Primaries and Secondaries' 2013

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James Tapscott
Primaries and Secondaries
2013
RGB LEDs, perspex, wood
65 x 65 x 65 cm

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George Angelovski. 'LUKAS' 2012

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George Angelovski
LUKAS
2012
Remote controlled RGB LEDs + mixed media
100 x 130 cm

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Laura Lay
The Established Child Series
2013
Acrylic panels with EL wire threads, 4 inverters + plug in adapters
4 x 30 x 30 cm

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George Angelovski. 'LUKAS' 2012

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George Angelovski
LUKAS
2012
Remote controlled RGB LEDs + mixed media
100 x 130 cm

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Anita Traverso Gallery
7, Albert Street
Richmond, Vic 3121

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 – 5

Anita Traverso Gallery website

Globelight 2103 website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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