Archive for January, 2018

26
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Photography in Argentina, 1850-2010: Contradiction and Continuity’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 16th September 2017 – 28th January 2018

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852 (detail)

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards (detail)
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

 

I knew very little about Argentinian photography before researching for this posting.

Such a rich historical photographic archive – Indigenous, political, activist, performative – engaged in the dissection of national identity construction. Lots of German émigrés, lots of strong women photographers eg. Grete Stern, Annemarie Heinrich, Julio Pantoja and Graciela Sacco.

There is a deep probing in Argentinian photography. There is the irony of the not quite right and an investigation of the dark side, of danger, fear and violence, of loss, grief, rage and resignation. As one of the sections of the exhibition is titled, of Civilisation and Barbarism. A quotation in the posting observes, “One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.” Drop dead fear.

The bloodlines of the collective consciousness of the Argentinian people run very deep. The dead ones are still there…

Apologies for the lack of photographs in The Aesthetic Gesture section, there were just no good images available.

Marcus

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

 

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas I' / 'Malambo Dancers I' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Malambistas I / Malambo Dancers I
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50 cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Carnaval' Negative 2005, printed 2015

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Carnaval
Negative 2005, printed 2015
Chromogenic print
50 x 63.1 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

From its independence in 1810 until the economic crisis of 2001, Argentina was perceived as a modern country with a powerful economic system, a strong middle class, a large European-immigrant population, and an almost nonexistent indigenous culture. This perception differs greatly from the way that other Latin American countries have been viewed, and underlines the difference between Argentina’s colonial and postcolonial process and those of its neighbours. Comprising three hundred works by sixty artists, this exhibition examines crucial periods and aesthetic movements in which photography had a critical role, producing – and, at times, dismantling – national constructions, utopian visions, and avant-garde artistic trends.

This exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Contradiction and Continuity examines the complexities of Argentina’s history over 160 years, stressing the creation of contradictory narratives and the role of photography in constructing them. The exhibition concentrates on photographs that are fabricated rather than found, such as narrative tableaux and performances staged for the camera. However, it also includes examples of what has been considered documentary photography but can be interpreted as imagery intended as political propaganda or expressions of personal ideology.

The exhibition comprises seven sections: Civilization and Barbarism; National Myths: The Indigenous People; National Myths: The Gaucho; National Myths: Evita and the Modern City; The Aesthetic Gesture; The Political Gesture; and Fissures. These themes were chosen to emphasise crucial historical moments and aesthetic movements in Argentina in which photography played a critical role.

 

Civilisation and Barbarism

In 1845 Domingo Sarmiento (1811-1888), a prominent Argentine intellectual, published the novel Facundo, subtitled Civilization and Barbarism. Sarmiento, who would later be elected president, presented his political ideas in terms of an opposition between civilization, represented by the capital city of Buenos Aires and European culture, and barbarism, represented by colonial customs, the gauchos, and the indigenous peoples. This section of the exhibition employs these antagonistic themes to introduce some of the complexities of Argentina’s history and culture. Nineteenth-century albums show the growth and advancement of the country through views of Buenos Aires and images that refer to progressive strategies initiated during this period, including railroad construction and the development of the educational system. In contrast, the work of several contemporary artists embodies the lifestyle and popular culture of the vast interior provinces of Argentina.

Like Sarmiento, Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884), another influential intellectual, viewed immigration as a definitive measure for modernizing the country. In Bases, published in 1853, he addressed the necessity of implementing policies to encourage immigration. The studio photographs in this section depict the growing presence of immigrant communities. Immigration is a key component to understanding Argentine society that continues to inspire contemporary artists.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres' / 'Memories of Beunos Aires' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres / Memories of Beunos Aires
1864
Page opening: La pirámide / The Pyramid
Albumen print

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896) 'Monument to General San Martín' c. 1860-1869

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896)
Monument to General San Martín
c. 1860-1869
Albumen print

 

 

National Myths: The Gaucho

The National Myths section of the exhibition focuses on the construction of specific state symbols, including indigenous people, the gaucho, First Lady Eva Perón, and the city of Buenos Aires. Around 1880, coinciding with increasing waves of immigration and efforts at modernization, an avid debate on national identity arose among Argentine intellectuals and politicians.

By 1910, when the Centennial of Independence was celebrated, the gaucho emerged as an emblematic figure in the national iconography. The gaucho was already a common theme in Costumbrista (customs and character types) paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Criollismo (native culture), a movement of the late nineteenth century, stimulated a wider interest in gaucho-themed art, fiction, theatre, and photographs.

José Hernández’s epic narrative poem Martín Fierro (1872) and Eduardo Gutiérrez’s novel Juan Moreira (1879) were major influences. About 1890, amateur photographer Francisco Ayerza staged a series of romanticised photographs meant to illustrate a later edition of Fierro. Commercial studios accommodated women and children who wanted to be pictured as gauchos. More than a national symbol, the gaucho embodied the idealised masculinity of the virile Argentine man; the contemporary fashion photographs of Gustavo Di Mario present a queer interpretation of the gauchesque.

 

Francisco Ayerza Estudio para la edición de "Martín Fierro," gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse c. 1890, print about 1900 - 1905

 

Francisco Ayerza (1860-1901)
Estudio para la edición de “Martín Fierro,” gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse
c. 1890, print about 1900 – 1905
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of a private collection

 

 

One aspect of the immediate reality that seduced Francisco Ayerza and his friends for its picturesque appearance was the Pampa, whose geography began to be altered by machinism and immigration, as documented by some prints. From this interest in the Argentine countryside and its customs was born the idea of ​​photographically illustrating the Martín Fierro and, although they made many shots, it could not be finished, despite the efforts made by the authors in such an exhausting task, and although the selected field to photograph was the Estancia San Juan de Pereyra, very close to Buenos Aires. (Google Translate from the Spanish Wikipedia entry)

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas IV' / 'Malambo Dancers IV' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Malambistas IV / Malambo Dancers IV
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50 cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

Malambo was born in the Pampas around the 1600. Malambo is a peculiar native dance that is executed by men only. Its music has no lyrics and it is based entirely on rythm. The malambo dancer is a master of tap dancing wearing gaucho’s boots. Among the most important malambo moves are: “la cepillada” (the foot sole brushes the ground), “el repique” (a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot) and the “floreos”. Malambo dancers’ feet barely touch the ground but all moves are energetic and complex. Together with tap dancing, malambo dancers use ” boleadoras” and other aids such as “lazos”. Like “Payadas” for gauchos (improve singing), malambo was *the* competition among gaucho dancers.

Read more about the Malambo dance

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentine, born 1964) 'Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt' / 'Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt' 2010

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentine, born 1964)
Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt / Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt
2010
Inkjet print
173 x 135 cm
Courtesy of Nicola Constantino
© Nicola Constantino

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe' (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province) 1997

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958)
Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province)
1997, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
50 × 70 cm (19 11/16 × 27 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Rolf Art, Buenos Aires
© Marcos López

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires' 2009, print 2017

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958)
Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires
2009, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
144 × 100 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Marcos López
© Marcos López

 

 

National Myths: The Indigenous People

While the gaucho became a national myth, “official” images rarely addressed the existence of indigenous peoples. The practice of recording their presence in photography, however, was well established by the late nineteenth century. It began in the portrait studios of Buenos Aires when native caciques (chiefs) visited the capital for peaceful negotiations, or when they were brought in as prisoners and made to pose in traditional garb. Later, photographers would travel by train or wagon to Native American settlements or plantations where indigenous people worked.

These staged compositions, as in the rest of Latin America, portrayed indigenous people as exotic and passive, objectifying them and emphasising their “otherness.” Sitters were always isolated from signs of the “civilized” or “Christian” world. The iconography found in these nineteenth- and early twentieth century photographs corresponds to a nostalgic image of a backward and subjugated group ignored by progress. Modernist and contemporary artists, such as Grete Stern and Guadalupe Miles, presented a different and more accurate view of these people. Both Stern and Miles immersed themselves in indigenous communities, portraying their subjects as individuals rather than stereotypes.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá' / 'Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá / Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá
1864
Albumen print
14.1 x 9.7 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

 

Born in Grenoble, France, Esteban Gonnet moved to Argentina from Newcastle, England, in 1857. Gonnet became a photographer after arriving in Buenos Aires in 1857. He was a surveyor, working with his cousin Hippolyte Gaillard, also a surveyor.

Gonnet’s work reflected the rural lifetime and customs, showing the life and customs of Aboriginal people and paisanos of that era, although Gonnet also took photographies in urban places. In most of his photography he tried to show the typical image of the creole, stereotyping Argentine customs, and using objects as symbols that would create iconic images of the era. His photos were then sold abroad (mostly in Europe), when photography of travels or distant places where gaining in popularity. Gonnet’s innovative style of work consisted of the use of negative system rather than daguerreotype (that was the most common technique by then). Furthermore, Gonnet usually chose to take pictures outdoors instead of working at a studio, which was also his hallmark. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) 1878

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
1878
Printed by Samuel Rimathé, Swiss, born Italy, 1863-unknown
Albumen print
20.2 x 14 cm (7 15/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Collection of Diran Sirinian

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) negative 1878; print c. 1900

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
negative 1878; print c. 1900
Unknown printer, active Argentina, c. 1900
Hand-coloured halftone postcard
13.7 x 8.7 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926) 'India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta' / 'Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket' c. 1890s

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926)
India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta / Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket
c. 1890s
Printing-out paper
21 x 17 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentine, 1855-1938) 'Esperando el ataque' / 'Waiting for the Attack' 1902

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentine, 1855-1938)
Esperando el ataque / Waiting for the Attack
1902
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 22 cm
Courtesy of the Diran Sirinian
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa' / 'Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa' 1964

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa / Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa
1964
From the series Aborígenes del gran Chaco argentine / Indigenous People from the Argentine Gran Chaco
Gelatin silver print
30 x 38 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Estate of Grete Stern courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2016

 

 

Grete Stern (9 May 1904 – 24 December 1999) was a German-Argentinian photographer.[2] Like her husband Horacio Coppola, she helped modernise the visual arts in Argentina, and in fact presented the first exhibition of modern photographic art in Buenos Aires, in 1935. (Wikipedia)

In Berlin in 1927, Stern began taking private classes with Walter Peterhans, who was soon to become head of photography at the Bauhaus. A year later, in Peterhans’s studio, she met Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach, with whom she opened a pioneering studio specializing in portraiture and advertising. Named after their childhood nicknames, the studio ringl + pit embraced both commercial and avant-garde loyalties, creating proto-feminist works. In Buenos Aires during the same period, Coppola initiated his photographic experimentations, exploring his surroundings and contributing to the discourse on modernist practices across media in local cultural magazines. In 1929 he founded the Buenos Aires Film Club to introduce the most innovative foreign films to Argentine audiences. His early works show the burgeoning interest in new modes of photographic expression that led him to the Bauhaus in 1932, where he met Stern and they began their joint history.

Following the close of the Bauhaus and amid the rising threat of the Nazi powers in 1933, Stern and Coppola fled Germany. Stern arrived first in London, where her friends included activists affiliated with leftist circles and where she made her now iconic portraits of German exiles, including those of Bertolt Brecht and Karl Korsch. After traveling through Europe, camera in hand, Coppola joined Stern in London, where he pursued a modernist idiom in his photographs of the fabric of the city, tinged alternately with social concern and surrealist strangeness.

In the summer of 1935, Stern and Coppola embarked for Buenos Aires [the had married in the same year, divorcing in 1943], where they mounted an exhibition in the offices of the avant-garde magazine Sur, announcing the arrival of modern photography in Argentina. The unique character of Buenos Aires was captured in Coppola’s photographic encounters from the city’s center to its outskirts, and in Stern’s numerous portraits of the city’s intelligentsia, from feminist playwright Amparo Alvajar to essayist Jorge Luis Borges to poet-politician Pablo Neruda.

Text from the MoMA website

 

Leonel Luna. 'El rapto de Guinnard' / 'The Kidnap of Guinnard' 2002; print, 2017

 

Leonel Luna (Argentine, born 1965)
El rapto de Guinnard / The Kidnap of Guinnard
2002; print, 2017
Inkjet print on vinyl
112 x 72 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Leonel Luna

 

 

National Myths: Evita and the Modern City

Photography contributed substantially to the construction of the myths of Buenos Aires as the “Modern City” and Evita as the symbol of Peronism. From the 1930s into the 1950s, the capital, like other advanced cosmopolitan metropolises, continued to expand. Some of the emblematic streets and monuments of the city, such as the Obelisk (1936), Avenida 9 de Julio (begun 1935), and Avenida Corrientes (1936), were built or renovated during this period. Buenos Aires became a model of progress for photographers like Horacio Coppola and Sameer Makarius, who produced series reinforcing this view.

Photography was among the propagandistic strategies deployed by the populist Perón administration (1946-55). Eva Duarte de Perón (1919-1952), known as Evita, had an important role during the first presidency of her husband, Juan Perón (1895-1974), and became the most enduring image of Peronist ideology. Numerous photographers contributed to building an image of Evita as both an elegant celebrity and a compassionate politician. While Juan Di Sandro, considered the father of photojournalism in Argentina, made her political life accessible through views of official events, Annemarie Heinrich helped create her “new” femininity in glamorous studio portraits. Jaime Davidovich’s installation Evita, Then and Now: A Video Scrapbook (1984) and Santiago Porter’s Evita (2008) offer contrasting – critical as well as multidimensional – views of this complex figure.

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Eva Perón' Negative 1944, print 1995

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005)
Eva Perón
Negative 1944, print 1995
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 27 cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

 

Annemarie Heinrich (9 January 1912 – 22 September 2005) was a German-born naturalised Argentine photographer, who specialised in portraits and nudity. She is known for having photographed various celebrities of Argentine cinema, such as Tita Merello, Carmen Miranda, Zully Moreno and Mirtha Legrand; as well as other cultural personalities like Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Eva Perón.

Heinrich was born in Darmstadt and moved to Larroque, Entre Ríos Province, with her family in 1926, her father having been injured during the First World War. In 1930 she opened her first studio in Buenos Aires. Two years later she moved to a larger studio, and began photographing actors from the Teatro Colón. Her photos were also the cover of magazines such as El Hogar, Sintonía, Alta Sociedad, Radiolandia and Antena for forty years.

Heinrich’s work was shown in New York for the first time in 2016 at Nailya Alexander Gallery in the show “Annemarie Heinrich: Glamour and Modernity in Buenos Aires.” Heinrich is considered one of Argentina’s most important photographers. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentine, born Italy, 1898-1988) 'Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica' / 'Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View' 1956

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentine, born Italy, 1898-1988)
Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica / Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View
1956
Gelatin silver print
29 x 42 cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Familia Di Sandro

 

Sameer Makarius. 'Obelisco' / 'Obelisk' 1957

 

Sameer Makarius
Obelisco / Obelisk
1957
gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Diran Sirinian. Photo: Javier Agustin Rojas
© Throckmorton Fine Arts

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Veraneando en la ciudad' / 'Spending the Summer in the City' 1959

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005)
Veraneando en la ciudad / Spending the Summer in the City
1959
Gelatin silver print
18 x 18 cm
Courtesy of the Guillermo Navone Collection
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

Santiago Porter (Argentine, born 1971) 'Evita' 2008

 

Santiago Porter (Argentine, born 1971)
Evita
2008
From the series Bruma II / Mist II
Inkjet print
154 x 123.5 cm
Courtesy of the Collection Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
© Santiago Porter

 

 

The Political Gesture

The gesture of “pointing out” had its origin in conceptual Argentine photography of the 1960s and 1970s. The artistic act evolved into radical actions as the sociopolitical situation in Argentina deteriorated. This section of the exhibition investigates photographs of political gestures provoked by the last dictatorship of 1976-83, in relation to the earlier conceptual practice presented in the adjacent gallery, “The Aesthetic Gesture.”

The action of showing a photograph of a person who was kidnapped or “disappeared” during the dictatorship was employed by the activist group Madres de Plaza de Mayo. In their weekly marches, the Mothers always wore white head scarves and carried photographs of their children on homemade signs demanding they “Return Alive.” With the arrival of democracy and Nunca Más (Never Again), the official 1984 report of crimes against humanity, trials of the military leaders began. However, over the next fifteen years, many of those who were culpable operated with impunity due to such regulations as the Full Stop Law (1986), the Law of Due Obedience (1987), and the Pardons Act (1990). During this time, activist artist groups, such as Grupo Etcétera… and Escombros, emerged to remind the public of crimes and atrocities, pointing out those assassins who had hoped to remain anonymous.

 

Nicolás García Uriburu. 'Le Geste - Coloration Du Grand Canale - Venise 1968-1970' / 'The Gesture - Colouring the Grand Canal - Venice 1968-70' 1968-70

 

Nicolás García Uriburu
Le Geste – Coloration Du Grand Canale – Venise 1970 / The Gesture – Colouring the Grand Canal – Venice 1970
1968-70
Chromogenic print, stencil and ink
67 x 101 cm
Courtesy of Rubén and Agustina Esposito
© Nicolás García Uriburu

 

 

Born in Buenos Aires in 1937, García Uriburu began painting at an early age and, in 1954, secured his first exhibition at the local Müller Gallery. He enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires, where he received a degree in architecture, and relocated to Paris with his wife, Blanca Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, in 1965. He would later father a child named “Azul” with Blanca. His Three Graces, a sculpture in the pop art style, earned him a Grand Prize at the National Sculpture Salon in 1968. Venturing into conceptual art, he mounted an acrylic display at the Iris Clert Gallery, creating an artificial garden that set a new direction for García Uriburu’s work towards environmental activism.

He was invited to the prestigious Venice Biennale in June 1968, where García Uriburu dyed Venice’s Grand Canal using fluorescein, a pigment which turns a bright green when synthesized by microorganisms in the water. Between 1968 and 1970, he repeated the feat in New York’s East River, the Seine, in Paris, and at the mouth of Buenos Aires’ polluted southside Riachuelo.

A pioneer in what became known as land art, he created a montage in pastel colours over photographs of the scenes in 1970, allowing the unlimited photographic reproduction of the work for the sake of raising awareness of worsening water pollution, worldwide. In addition to environmental conservation he also produced works of art that showcased humanistic naturalism and an antagonism between society and nature, such as: Unión de Latinoamérica por los ríos [Latin America Union for Rivers], and No a las fronteras políticas [No to Political Borders].

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Eduardo Longoni. 'Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda' / 'Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March' 1981

 

Eduardo Longoni
Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda / Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March
1981
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of and © Eduardo Longoni

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentine, born 1948) 'Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983' / 'Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983' 1983

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentine, born 1948)
Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983 / Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983
1983
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24.5 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Eduardo Gil

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentine, born 1955) 'Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo' / 'Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo' 1982, printed 1984

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentine, born 1955)
Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo / Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo
1982, printed 1984
Gelatin silver image
16.5 x 21.2 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Adriana Lestido
© Adriana Lestido

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988) 'Mariposas' (Butterflies) 1988

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988)
Mariposas (Butterflies)
1988
Pancartas (Signs) series
Chromogenic print (printed in monochrome) mounted on wood
40 × 60 cm (15 ¾ × 23 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artists and WALDEN, Buenos Aires
© Grupo Escombros / WALDEN

 

 

Grupo Escombros was born in 1988, in full hyperinflation, as a group of street art or public art as it is usually defined. In that Argentina where the economic value of things changed hour by hour, everything seemed to collapse, including democracy reconquered at the cost of 30,000 missing and collective wounds that may never close.

When analyzing this social, political and economic situation, the founding artists of the group asked themselves what would be left of the country. The answer was: “the rubble.” That day the group acquired its name. A name that today is more current than ever, because Argentina continues to collapse, relentlessly. Next to the name, and beyond the inevitable changes, there are characteristics that remained intact:

  • Most of the works were made outdoors, one street, a square, a cellar, an urban stream
  • They always express the sociopolitical reality that the country lives at that moment
  • It is expressed through all possible forms of communication: installations, manifestos, murals, objects, posters, poems, prints, talks, visual poems, graffiti, postcards, net art

Its members come from various disciplines: plastic, journalism, design, architecture. Their works are always collective, annulling the individualities that compose it. They do not belong to any political party or religious creed in particular. Despite constantly denouncing the conditions of absolute injustice in which the men, women and children of Argentina and Latin America live, it is a mistaken simplification to say that it is only a protest group.

Text from the Grupo Escombros website

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS - Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón' / 'UNINHIBITING MASKS - Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera (Argentine, active since 1997)
MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS – Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón / UNINHIBITING MASKS – Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)
1998
Chromogenic print
15 c 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

 

Etcétera is a multi-disciplinary collective created in Buenos Aires in 1997. It is made up of artists with a background in poetry, theater, visual arts and music. Its original purpose was to bring artistic expression closer to places of social conflict and shift these problems to cultural production spaces. These experiences take place at contemporary art venues such as museums, galleries and cultural centers, but also in the streets, at festivals, during protests and demonstrations, using different strategies including contextual and ephemeral public interventions. They consider themselves part of the “committed art” movement. In 2005, they created the Fundación del Movimiento Internacional Errorista (International Errorist Movement Foundation) with other artists and activists. This international organization seeks to consolidate error as a life philosophy. The co-founders of the collective, Loreto Garín Guzmán y Federico Zukerfeld, are responsible for coordinating all activities, archives and other initiatives since 2007.

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera… (Argentine, active since 1997)
ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri
1998
Chromogenic print
15 c 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

Escrache: Intimidatory action by citizens against persons in the political, administrative or military sphere, which consists in disseminating information about the abuses committed during their administration to their private homes or to any public place where they are identified.

 

Florencia Blanco (French, born 1971) 'María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires' 2008

 

Florencia Blanco (French, born 1971)
María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires
2008
From the series Donde están los muertos? / Where Are the Dead Ones?
Chromogenic print
70 x 70 cm
Courtesy of Florencia Blanco
© Florencia Blanco

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues' / 'Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later' 1996

 

Julio Pantoja
Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues /
Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later

1996
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura' / 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student' 1999

 

Julio Pantoja
Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura / Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student
1999
From the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentine, born 1956) 'Untitled (#2)' 1993

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentine, born 1956)
Untitled (#2)
1993
From the series Bocanada
Heliography on paper
72.1 x 50.1 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum purchase with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Graciela Sacco

 

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentina, Rosario, 1956 – November 5, 2017) was a visual artist and teacher from Argentina. She worked mainly with photography, video and installation.She received great recognition for the wide participation of his work in individual and collective exhibitions in his country, fairs and international biennials as those in Mexico, Venice and Shanghai , the most important worldwide… She was an artist committed to the problems of her country. …

Through light, shadows, space, time and movement, she captures the themes he addresses, builds, dialogues and discusses in his works; her first technical interest was photography as a visual language to portray time in a certain space, a certain context lived in a fixed image, navigating analogue and digital media, working with techniques such as Heliography , through which she transfers images to the surface of objects chosen for their compositions, which have been previously emulsified with photosensitive substances which allows their printing and thus provide wooden blocks, acrylic sheets, PVC, paintings, windows, suitcases, dishes, spoons, knives of new meanings and meanings that speak beyond their own meaning; how to use an empty spoon with the “reflection” of the mouth that will eat from it to talk about a society that goes hungry and needs, because as she herself has said: “we are individuals different from each other in their personal growth, but with shared or unresolved needs that unite us and relate “. For this reason Bocanada (1993 – 2014) and “Body to Body” (1996 – 2014) become an active work as long as the situation is repeated or is not solved (societies with hunger and ignored basic needs), will remain valid, in force and it can be traced and displayed as many times as necessary.

The first was a set of images reproduced and multiplied, a technique that took from the media and its means to advertise and promote ideas, events, news and products, but through art, taking advantage of the reproducibility of the same product, worth the redundancy, of modernity in the technification and technological evolution of the visual arts. It was born from the urban interventions that Sacco practiced in schools and public squares in Argentina, Brazil and European cities, in which she painted the streets with the image repeated hundreds of times of open mouths, which portray the hunger of the world, the poverty, the need, humility, problems that affect much of the world and that are of human and universal interest, anyone can understand or arouse.

Hence, the work can be reinterpreted anywhere in the world, alluding to the context in which it is presented. As in the second work mentioned in which is not hunger but protests and public demonstrations to claim rights and welfare of student and civil communities, then take advantage of public space as the space of free thought where they can be transformed, evidence and manifest the plurality of ideas and get the support or rejection of their listeners.

Google Translate from the Spanish Wikipedia entry

 

The Aesthetic Gesture

During the 1960s and 1970s, the art scene in Argentina fostered a radical break with traditional forms of art. The opening of new spaces dedicated to experimental art, most notably the Instituto Torcuato di Tella and CAyC (Centro de Arte y Comunicación), gave rise to conceptual art and the engagement of intellectual artists, who began to generate works in unconventional forms, including performances, actions, and installations.

Among these innovations was the “aesthetic gesture,” in which artists used actions and performances to “point out” or signal everyday life events, objects, and people, thus transforming them into works of art. Documented primarily with photographs, these pieces sought to invoke viewers as active participants in artistic actions, erasing the divisions between art and life. In his 1962 Vivo-Dito manifesto, for example, Alberto Greco advocated for “a living art”; and in his Signaling series of 1968, Edgardo Antonio Vigo “pointed out” common objects and events with the intention of producing aesthetic experiences. The difficult political climate of repression in the early 1970s, which culminated in the dictatorship period, provoked artists to undertake increasingly political productions.

 

Jaime Davidovich. 'Tape Project: Sidewalk 1' 1971

 

Jaime Davidovich
Tape Project: Sidewalk 1
1971
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Jaime Davidovich

 

 

Fissures

The democracy restored to Argentina in 1983 followed a neoliberal model, one that favoured free-market capitalism. The implementation of neoliberalism, during the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-99), together with the catastrophic economic collapse of 2001, provoked the questioning of long-held national ideals. The works in this section utilise architecture to highlight aspects of national history in relation to current sociopolitical issues. Santiago Porter’s photographs reflect the prosperity of the past in contrast to the present fiscal situation. Similarly, Nuna Mangiante’s graphite-altered pictures revolve around the 2001 crisis and, specifically, the corralito (when citizens were not allowed to withdraw their money from banks).

The works in this section stress inequality and its consequences in contemporary Argentina. SUB, Photographic Cooperative’s series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates) documents the comfortable life of a wealthy family in a gated neighbourhood outside Buenos Aires, while Gian Paolo Minelli’s photographs focus on people living in Barrio Piedrabuena, an impoverished neighbourhood in the capital city. Ananké Asseff’s portraits of middle-class citizens with their guns attest to rising fear and paranoia in contemporary Argentine society.

 

Santiago Porter. 'Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma' / 'The Mint' Negative, 2007; print, 2015

 

Santiago Porter
Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma / The Mint
Negative, 2007; print, 2015
From the series Mist
inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Santiago Porter

 

Martín Weber. 'El jugador' / 'The Chess Player' 1999

 

Martín Weber
El jugador / The Chess Player
1999
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99 cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

In the mid-nineteenth century, Argentina opened up to several waves of immigration, mostly European, which arrived through the port of Buenos Aires. The country also experienced strong waves of emigration: the first was in the 40s and was followed by two of a more political nature. One during the political persecution at universities under the dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía and the second following the coup in 1976. None however compared with the emigration that took place as from December 2001, when unemployment reached 22%.

 

Martín Weber. 'Barras de colores' / 'Color Bars' 1996

 

Martín Weber
Barras de colores / Color Bars
1996
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99 cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

Black-and-white TV began to be broadcast during Peron’s regime. The inaugural transmission showed Evita’s speaking from Plaza de Mayo. Color TV arrived under the military dictatorship of 1978, in time to broadcast soccer’s World Cup.

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971) 'Sin título' (Untitled) 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100 cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Guadalupe Miles. 'Untitled' 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100 cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7 cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (1968, New York, New York) is an American photographer. Born in New York, Sanguinetti moved to Argentina at the age of two and lived there until 2003. Sanguinetti has stated that she began taking photographs to create a sense of permanence in her life after realising that “everything is transitory.” Currently, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Her most involved project is a documentary photography project about two cousins – Guillermina and Belinda – as they grow up outside of Buenos Aires. The project began in 1999 when Sanguinetti visited her grandmother, Juana, in Argentina. She intended to take pictures of the animals which occupied her grandmother’s rural farm. However, she saw potential in her cousins, whom she had previously disregarded. Sanguinetti recounts this, “I was shooting them without even thinking it was work. My first idea was to just do a single story trying to figure out what they imagined life to be, just so I could get into their world.” Titled The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of their Dreams, the project follows them as they fantasise about becoming adults, early motherhood, and becoming young women while their relationship changes. In this particular collection of photographs, Alessandra makes commentaries about feminine conventions of beauty and behaviour, as well as gender roles and gender identity. She occasionally ridicules social expectations through her images, which are often satirical in nature.  These commentaries are best typified in Petals (2000) and The Couple (1999). Her images focus on the lives of young women and children. Sanguinetti told Vice reporter, Bruno Bayley, “Children are fascinating…As a society, we project so much of our hopes, frustrations, denials, and aspirations on children, and they are so transparent in how they reflect everything that is thrust upon them. How could I not photograph them?”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7 cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentine, born 1973) 'Segurismos #7' c. 2010-11, printed 2016

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentine, born 1973)
Segurismos #7
c. 2010-11, printed 2016
From the series Segurismos
Chromogenic print
59.7 x 80 cm
Courtesy of Sebastián Friedman
© Sebastián Friedman

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004) 'Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth' 2012, printed in 2017

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004)
Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth
2012, printed 2017
From the series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates)
Inkjet print
60 x 80 cm
Courtesy of SUB, Photographic Cooperative
© Sub. Coop Todos los derechos reservados

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentine, born 1971) 'Luis' c. 2005-07, printed 2015

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentine, born 1971)
Luis
c. 2005-07, printed 2015
From the series Potential
198.6 x 129.2 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Ananké Asseff
© Ananké Asseff

 

 

One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.

To talk about one of my projects, in “Potential” I worked on the reaction of contemporary society when facing fear, and I got involved with Argentinian society more directly when I photographed the middle and upper classes with weapons in their houses. In this country, this is not something socially accepted, on the contrary. The embedded image of people carrying weapons is something associated with low-income earners and criminals. I put into question the prototype of the “suspect” that is generated by each society, but this issue, like all the other aspects that make up this project, goes beyond Argentinian society. It is something that involves us on a global level. At the time I made this work, people talked exhaustively about the lack of safety in Argentina and terrorism around the world. At the time I lived in Germany for a while (I got a scholarship from KHM) and the sense of insecurity was evident there as well, the weariness before someone unknown approaching or the presence of a stranger (a feeling that was much stronger if the other person looked like they were from the Middle East). Everything was exacerbated and worsened by the obsession of the mass media which propagated fear and terror in society. How awake we had to be (and still have to be) to avoid succumbing to these manipulations!

As Leonor Arfuch says, “certain registers of contemporary communication, certain topics and media obsessions allow the defining, and building, of tendentious trends and consensus, shared beliefs and feelings that invade our intimate and family structures, thus spreading easily into our personal history.”

Fear is a feeling that’s experienced individually but built within a society.

Ananké Asseff. Text from the Fototazo website

 

Ananké Asseff. 'Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL)' / 'Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)' c. 2005-2007; print, 2015

 

Ananké Asseff
Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL) / Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)
c. 2005-2007; printed 2015
Inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Ananké Asseff

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Milton' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968)
Milton
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66 cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Luciano con tatuaje' / 'Luciano with Tatoo' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968)
Luciano con tatuaje / Luciano with Tatoo
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66 cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

 

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1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

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21
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Jakob Tuggener – Machine time’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2017 – 28th January 2018

Curator: Martin Gasser

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Fabrik' (book cover) 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Fabrik (Factory) (book cover)
1943
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich

 

 

Rare magician, strange alchemist, tells stories through visuals

I am indebted to James McArdle’s blog posting “Work” on his excellent On This Date In Photography website for alerting me to this exhibition, and for reminding me of the work of this outstanding artist, Jakob Tuggener.

The short version: Jakob Tuggener was a draftsman before he became an artist, studying poster design, typography, photography and film. “In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.” (Press release)

Fabrik, subtitled Ein Bildepos der Technik (“Epic of the technological image” or “A picture of technology”) pictures the world of work and industry, and “is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book.” It uses expressive visuals (actions, appearances and behaviours; movements, gestures and details – Tuggener loves the detail) to tell a subjective story, that of the relationship between human and machine. While the book was well ahead of its time, and influenced the early work of that famous Swiss photographer Robert Frank, it did not emerge out of a vacuum and is perhaps not as revolutionary as some people think. Nothing ever appears out of thin air.

“German photographer Paul Wolff, often working in collaboration with Alfred Tritschler, produced a number of exceptional photo books through the 1920s and ’30s, at a time when Constructivism and the Bauhaus influenced many with visions “of an industrialized and socialized society” that placed Germany at “the forefront of European photography” (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 86). Arbeit! (1937) is particularly noted for its architectural framing and lighting of massive machinery, its striking portraits of factory workers, and is frequently aligned with works such as Lewis Hine’s Men at Work (1932) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s Eisen und Stahl (Iron and Steel) (1931).” (Anonymous on Bauman Rare Books website)

François Kollar’s project La France travail (Working France) (1931-1934), E. O. Hoppé’s Deutsche Arbeit (1930), Heinrich Hauser’s Schwarzes Revier (Black Area) (1930) and Germaine Krull’s Metal (1928) all address the profound social and economic tensions that preceded the Second World War, through an avant-garde photography in the style of “New Vision” and “New Objectivity” – that is, through objective photographs that question common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways subjects would have been photographed at the time. Obscure angles and perspectives abound in these striking photobooks, making their clinical, objective fervour “the great persuaders” of the 1930s and 40s, Modernist and propaganda books of their time.

What made Tuggener so different was the uncompromising subjectiveness of his work, “photographing the two worlds, privilege and labour.” His direct, strong images of factories and high society use wonderful form, light, and shadow to convey their message, never loosing sight of the human dimension, for they shift “our angle from the boss’ POV [point of view] to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation,” that of the workers. They are a piece of time and human history, which gets closer to the lived reality of the factory floor, than much of the work of his predecessors. Tuggener portrays the mundanity of the “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire) of the machine, where the human becomes the oil used to grease the cogs of the ever-demanding “mechanical monsters.” (See Evan Calder Williams’ “Rattling Devils” quotations below)

Tuggener then adds to this new way of seeing which recorded the multiplicity of his points of view – “a modern new style of photography showing not just how things looked, but how it felt to be there” – through the sequencing of the images, which can be seen in the wonderfully combined double pages of the Fabrik book layouts below. Take for example, the photograph that is on the dust jacket, a portrait of a middle-aged worker with a grave look on his face that says, “why the hell are you taking my photograph, why don’t you just f… off.” In the book, Tuggener pairs this image with a whistle letting off steam, a metaphor for the man’s state of being. Tuggener creates these most alien worlds from the inside out, worlds which are grounded in actual lived experience – the little screws lying in the palm of a blackened hand; Navy Cut cigarettes amongst steel artefacts; man being consumed by machine; man being dwarfed by machine; man as machine (the girl paired opposite the counting machine); the Frankenstein scenario of the laboratory (man as monster, machine as man); the intense, feverish eyes of the worker in Heater on electric furnace (the machine human as the devil); and the surrealism of a small doll among the serried ranks of mass destruction, facing the opposition, the opposing lined face of an older worker. This is the stuff of alchemy, the place where art challenges life.

“As Arnold Burgaurer cogently states in his introduction, Tuggener is a jack-of-all-trades: he exhibits, ‘the sharp eye of the hunter, the dreamy eye of the painter; he can be a realist, a formalist, romantic, theatrical, surreal.’ Tuggener’s moves effortlessly between large-format lucidity and grainy, blurred impressionism, in a book that is a decade ahead of its time.” Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 144.

James McCardle observes that, “the meaning of Fabrik is left to the viewer to discover between its pictures, its glimpses of an overwhelming industrial whole; it is essentially filmic on a cryptic film-noir level, a revelation to Frank.” Tuggener’s influence on the early work of Robert Frank can be seen in a sequence from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank that was republished by Steidl in 2009 (see below). “Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly. Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life.” Pace Tuggener. At Frank’s suggestion, Tuggener’s work appeared in both Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, The Family of Man, the latter an essentially humanist exhibition which took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience.

McCardle goes onto suggest that Fabrik, as a photo book, was a model for Frank’s Les Américains: The Americans published fifteen years later in Paris by Delpire, 1958. On this point, we disagree. While his early work as seen in Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 may have been heavily influenced by Tuggener’s photo book, by the time Frank came to compose Les Américains (for that is what The Americans is, a composition) his point of view had changed, as had that of his camera. While The Americans has many formal elements that can be seen in the construction of the photographs, they also have an element of jazz that would have been inconceivable to Tuggener at that time. Grainy film, strange angles, lighting flare, street lights, night time photography, jukeboxes and American flags portray the American dream not so much from the vantage point of a knowing insider (as Tuggener was) but as a visitor from another planet. Not so much alienating world (man as machine) as alien world, picturing something that has never been recognised before. These are two different models of being. While both are photo books and both pair images together in sequences, Frank had moved on to another point of view, that of an “invalid” outsider, and his photo book has a completely different nature to that of Tuggener’s Fabrik.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,366

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

 

For Jakob Tuggener, whose works can be seen within the context of social documentary photography, the individual and the industrial boom of the 19th and 20th centuries were central themes. His often somber, black and white photographs seem to confront this new world with a sense of fear as well as admiration. Will technology help relieve us of physically hard labour or replace us altogether? Tuggener owes his renown to his photo book Fabrik (Factory) that was published in 1943. With an aesthetic approach that was unique for his time, Tuggener explores in his photographic essay the relationship between humans and the perceived threat as well as progress of technology. The labourers depicted are grave, their faces worn marked by deep folds, while a factory building in the background stands strong, enveloped in a vaporous cloud. This “Pictorial Epic of Technology,” as Tuggener himself described it, is today considered a milestone in the history of photography books.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Selection from the book 'Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946' by Robert Frank

 

Selection from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank (Steidl, 2009)

 

 

The ‘weightless’ and the ‘grounded’ are two opposing themes that Frank repeatedly uses to move us through this sequence. Three radio transistors in a product shot float into the sky while a music conductor, his band and a church steeple succumb to gravity on the facing page. Even in this image Frank shifts focus to the sky and beyond – the weightless. When he photographs rural life, the farmers heft whole pigs into the air and another carries a huge bale of freshly cut grain which seems featherlight but for the woman trailing behind with hands ready to assist.

Considering this work was made while fascism was on the move through Europe, external politics is felt through metaphor. A painted portrait of men in uniform among a display of pots and pans for sale faces a brightly polished cog from a machine – its teeth sharp and precise. In another pairing, demonstrators waving flags in the streets of Zurich face a street sign covered with snow and frost, a Swiss flag blows in the background. in yet another of a crowd of spectators face the illuminated march of a piece of machinery – its illusory shadow filling in the ranks. These pairings feel under the influence of Jakob Tuggener, whose work Frank certainly knew. Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly.

Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life. One boy struggles to climb a rope while a ski jumper is frozen in flight. Fisherman bask in sunlight while two pedestrians are caught in blinding snowfall.

Text from the SB4 Photography and Books website December 14, 2009

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]' 1927

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]
1927
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Work in the boiler' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Work in the boiler
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1936

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1936
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Nell'ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1937

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Nell’ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1937
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

“Above all, the contrast between the brilliantly lit ballroom and the dark factory hall influenced the perception of his artistic oeuvre,” [curator] Martin Gasser explains. “Tuggener also positioned himself between these two extremes when he stated: ‘Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener’. In reality, he loved both: the wasteful luxury and the dirty work, the enchanting women and the sweaty labourers. For him, they were both of equal value and he resisted being categorised as a social critic who pitted one world against the other. On the contrary, these contrasts belonged to his conception of life and he relished experiencing the extremes – and the shades of tones in between – to the most intense degree.”

 

“Jakob Tuggener’s ‘Fabrik’, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but ‘Fabrik’ found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s ‘Post-War European Photography’ and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, ‘The Family of Man’, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and silent films.”

.
Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO)' [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)] 1940

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO) [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)]
1940
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Pressure pipe, Vernayaz' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Pressure pipe, Vernayaz
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Grande Dixence power station' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Grande Dixence power station
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1941

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1941
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace (detail)
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) '"Amore", Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
“Amore”, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Weaving mill, Glattfelden' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Weaving mill, Glattfelden
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (detail)
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Montpellier magazine. 'Jacob Tuggener at the pavilion popular Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers' portraits' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Jacob Tuggener at the popular pavillion Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers’ portraits
Montpellier magazine
1943
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren' [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory] 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory]
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Untitled (Arms of work)' c. 1947

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Untitled (Arms of work)
c. 1947
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) is one of the exceptional phenomena of Swiss photography. His personal and expressive recordings of glittering celebrations of better society are legendary, and his 1943 book Fabrik (Factory) is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book. At the centre of the exhibition “Machine time” are photographs and films from the world of work and industry. They not only reflect the technical development from the textile industry in the Zurich Oberland to power plant construction in the Alps, but also testify to Tuggener’s lifelong fascination with all sorts of machines: from looms to smelting furnaces and turbines to locomotives, steamers and racing cars. He loved her noise, her dynamic movements and her unruly power, and he artistically transposed them. At the same time, he observed the men and women who keep up the motor of progress with their work – not without hinting that one day machines might dominate people.

 

Machine time

Jakob Tuggener knew the world of factories like no other photographer of his time, having completed an apprenticeship as a draftsman at Maag Zahnräder AG in Zurich and then worked in their design department. Through the photographer Gustav Maag he was also introduced to the technique of photography. However, as a result of the economic crisis in the late 1920s, he was dismissed, after which he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an artist by studying at the Reimannschule in Berlin. For almost a year he dealt intensively with poster design, typography and film and let himself be carried away with his camera by the dynamics of the big city.

After returning to Switzerland in 1932, he began working as a freelancer for the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), especially for their house newspaper with the programmatic title Der Gleichrichter (The Rectifier). Although the company already employed its own photographer, he was entrusted with the task of developing a kind of photographic interior view of the company. This was intended to bridge the gap between workers and office workers on the one hand and management on the other. By the end of the 1930s, in addition to multi-part reports from the production halls, as well as portraits of “members of the MFO family”, one-sided, album-like series of unnoticed scenes from everyday factory life appeared. From 1937 Tuggener also created a series of 16mm short films – always black and white, silent, and representing the tension between fiction and documentation. This includes, for example, the drama about death and transience (Die Seemühle (The Sea mill), 1944), which was influenced by surrealism and staged by Tuggener with amateur actors in a vacant factory on the shores of Lake Zurich. or the cinematic exploration of the subject of man and machine (Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time), 1938-70). This ties in with the earlier book maquette of the same name and transforms it into a moving, immediately perceptible, but also fleeting vision of the Tuggenean machine age.

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.1 Neither his uncompromisingly subjective photography nor his critical attitude matched the threatening situation in which Switzerland was called to unity and strength under the slogan “Spiritual Defense”.

Although the book was not commercially successful, Tuggener’s Fabrik was a great artistic success and continued to explore the issues of work and industry. He produced two more book maquettes: Schwarzes Eisen (Black Iron) (1950) and Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time) (1952). They can be understood as a kind of continuation of the published book, which the journalist Arnold Burgauer described as a “glowing and sparkling factual and accountable report of the world of the machine, of its development, its possibilities and limitations.” In the mid-1950s, on the threshold of the computer age, Tuggener’s classic “machine time” came to an end. On the one hand, the mechanical processes that had so fascinated Tuggener evaded his eyes. On the other hand, he could not or did not want to make friends with the idea that one day even a human heart could be replaced by a machine.

 

Portrayer of opposites

As early as 1930 in Berlin, Tuggener had begun to take pictures of the then famous Reimannschule balls. He was fascinated by the tingling erotic atmosphere of these occasions, and he found photography in sparsely lit rooms a great challenge. Back in Zurich, he immediately plunged into local nightlife to surrender to the splendour and luxury of mask, artist and New Year’s balls. Again and again he let himself be abducted by elegant ladies with their silk dresses, their necklines, bare back or shoulders in a glittering fairytale world, whose mysterious facets he sought to fathom with his Leica. Although Tuggener’s ball recordings were only perceived by a small insider audience for a long time, many quickly saw him as a “masterful portrayer of our world of stark contrasts,” a world torn between a brightly lit ballroom and gloomy factory hall. Tuggener also positioned himself between these extremes when he stated, “Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener.” Because he loved both the lavish luxury and the dirty work, the jewelled women and the sweaty men. He felt that he was equal and resisted being classified as a social critic.

In whatever world he moved, Jakob Tuggener did it with the elegance of a grand seigneur [a man whose rank or position allows him to command others]. He was an eye man with a casual, loving look for the inconspicuous, the superficial incident; not just a sensitive picture-poet, but the “photographische Dichter römisch I,” as he used to call himself self-confidently. Critic Max Eichenberger wrote of the Fabrik photographs: “Tuggener is able to make factory photographs that reveal not only a painter, but also a poet, and a rare magician and strange alchemist – lead, albeit modestly turned into gold.”

The exhibition Jakob Tuggener – Maschinenzeit includes vintage and later prints from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, which for the most part come from the photographers estate. In an adjoining room the exhibition will also feature a selection of his 16mm short films from the years 1937-70, which revolve around the topic of “man and machine” in various ways. These films were newly digitised specifically for the exhibition (in collaboration with Lichtspiel / Cinematheque Bern).

Press release from Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

  1. The story in silent film is best told through visuals (such as actions, appearances and behaviours). Focus on movements and gestures, and borrow from dance and mime. Large, exaggerated motions translate well to silent films, but balance these also with subtlety (ie. a raised eyebrow, a quivering lip – especially when paired with a close-up shot). (Raindance website)

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layouts from the book Fabrik 1943

 

 

Extracts from Shard Cinema by Evan Calder Williams London: Repeater Books, 2017

“All gestures are perhaps inhuman, because they enact that hinge with the world, forging a bridge and buffer that can’t be navigated by words or by actions that feel like purely one’s own. In Vilém Flusser’s definition, a gesture is “a movement of the body or of a tool connected to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” – that is, it can’t be explained on its own isolated terms.26 The factory will massively extend this tendency, because the “explanation” lies not in the literal circuit of production but in the social abstraction of value driving the entire process yet nowhere immediately visible. We might frame the difficulty of this imagining with the concept of “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire), posed by French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, which designates a “succession of mental operations and technical gestures, in order to satisfy a need (immediate or not), according to a preexisting project.”25

26. Vilém Flusser, Gestures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), p. 2.
27. Catherine Perlès, Les Industries Lithiques Taillées de Franchthi, Argolide: Presentation Generate et Industries Paleolithiques (Terre Haute: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 23.

 

“Which is to say: we build factories. And in those factories, the process of the exteriorization of memory and muscle becomes almost total, as “the hand no longer intervenes except to feed or to stop” what Leroi-Gourhan, like Larcom, will call “mechanical monsters,” “machines without a nervous system of their own, constantly requiring the assistance of a human partner.”30 But along with engendering the panic of becoming caregiver to the inanimate, this also poses the problem of animation in an unprecedented way. Because if a “technical gesture is the producer of forms, deriving them from inert nature and preparing them for animation,” the factory constitutes us in a different network of the animated and animating.31 It’s a network that can be seen in those writings of factory workers, with their distinct sense of not just preparing those materials but becoming the pivot that eases, smooths, and guides the links of an operational sequence. In particular, a worker functions as the point of compression and transformation between tremendous motive force and products made whose regularity must be assured. The human becomes the regulator of this process, the assurance of an abstract standardization.

30 André Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, trans. Anna Bostock Berger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), p. 246
31. Ibid., p. 313

 

“… what I’m sketching here in this passage through scattered materials of the century prior to filmed moving images is something simpler, a small corrective to insist that by the time cinema was becoming a medium that seemed to offer a novel form of mechanical time, motion, and vision, one that historians and theorists will fixate on as the unique province and promise of film, many of its viewers had themselves already been enacting and struggling against that form for decades, day in, day out. The point is to place the human operator back in the frame, to ask after those who tended the machine before it was available as a spectacle, and to listen to how they understood what they were tangled in the midst of. But this is neither a humanist gesture of assuring the centrality of the person in the mesh that holds them nor a historical rejoinder to the forgetting and active dismissal of many of these personal accounts. Rather, it’s an effort to show how only with the operator’s experience made central can we see the real historical destruction of such illusions of centrality and, in their place, the novel construction of the human as tender and mender of a flailing inhuman net, the pivot who forms the connective tissue that enacts the lethal animation around her. In short, to see how the real subsumption of labor to capital is not only a systemic or periodizing concept that marks the historical transformation of discrete activities in accordance with the abstractions of value. It also is the granular description of a lived and bitterly contested process by which those abstractions get corporally and mechanically made and unmade, one which we can understand differently if we shift our angle from the boss’ POV to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation.”

Evan Calder Williams. “Rattling Devils,” on the Viewpoint Magazine website July 13, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2017

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944' 1944

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944
1944
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Carlton hotel, St. Moritz' Nd

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Carlton hotel, St. Moritz
Nd
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Palace hotel, St. Moritz' 1948-49

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, San Silvestro
1948-49
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo Acs, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948' 1948

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo Acs,Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948
1948
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener. 'Ball Nights' 1934-1950

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ball Nights
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

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16
Jan
18

Book review: ‘The Lumen Seed’ by Judith Crispin (2016)

January 2018

Publisher: Daylight Books

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

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Tabra Nakamarra's Puppy' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Tabra Nakamarra’s Puppy
Lajamanu Community NT, June 2015

 

 

Truth and consequence in red dirt country

Australia has a long tradition of social documentary photography, dating back to the late nineteenth century. From Fred Kruger’s photographs of the Aboriginal community at Coranderrk in the 1870-80s through, variously but not exclusively:

Frank Hurley‘s photographs of the First World War, Antarctic exploration, Aboriginal communities and Australian industry

F. Oswald Barnett and his photographs of the slums of Melbourne in the 1930s

Charles P. Mountford (1890-1976) was an ethnographer and photographer, working from the 1930s-1960s who “showed a keen interest in and respect for Aboriginal culture, a fact that is evident in his archive. Although peppered with the vernacular and attitudes of the times, Mountford’s writing, and more tellingly his photographs, are indicative of his belief that Aboriginal life was richer and more complex than most white Australians conceded.” (State Library of South Australia)

Mervyn Bishop (born 1945), followed in 1974, an Australian news and documentary photographer whose work combines journalistic and art photography. Joining The Sydney Morning Herald as a cadet in 1962 or 1963, he was the first Aboriginal Australian to work on a metropolitan daily newspaper and one of the first Aboriginal Australians to become a professional photographer. Focusing on Indigenous self-determination, Bishop’s work “covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, including the historical moment in 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional land owner. This image – representing the Australian government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights – became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography.” (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

Harold Cazneaux and Max Dupain‘s photographs of Australian life from the 1920-1980s

Jim Fitzpatrick and his Drouin series from WW2

Rennie Ellis‘ photographs of celebrity and Melbourne life

William Yang‘s photographs exploring issues of cultural and sexual identity

Female photographers of the 1960s-90s, such as Micky Allan, Sue Ford and Carol Jerrems who all crossed over into art photography

Robert McFarlane (1960s onwards) who specialises in social issues

John F. Williams who photographed Sydney in the 1970s

Jeff Carter who photographed all around Australia from the 1950s onwards

Ian North and Gerrit Fokkema who photographed Canberra in the 1980s

Joyce Evans (1980s onwards) who took important portraits of a diverse cross-section of Australian intelligentsia and personalities and documented Australian country towns and events for the National Library of Australia

Glenn Sloggett who photographed Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy from the 1990s onwards

More recently, the war photographs of °SOUTH members such as Tim Page, Stephen Dupont, David Dare Parker, Jack Picone and Michael Coyne

Trent Parke who is the only Australian member of the Magnum Photo Agency, whose work moves beyond the strictly documentary to sit between fiction and reality, offering an emotional and psychological portrait of family life and Australia that is poetic and often darkly humorous

And Juno Gemes Indigenous social documentary photography, who documents the changing social landscape of Australia

.
Unlike America, where social documentary photographers are well known, hardly a name from the above list (save perhaps Max Dupain and possibly Frank Hurley) would be recognised by a wider Australian public and there is little evidence or acknowledgement of their work in Australia. I believe that this is because social documentary photography has never been heavily promoted in this country and that this type of photography is a slice of many people’s work without becoming the driving force behind their oeuvre.

As my friend and curator Nick Henderson observes, “Perhaps the lack of visibility is in part due to many of the social documentary photographers undertaking work for the various state libraries, who regularly commission work documenting place – sometimes external, but also staff photographers – whose work is then not exhibited: many of the institutional galleries haven’t devoted much time to displaying and promoting that work.” While there may have been social documentary photographers in each country town and embedded within federal and state institutions, their work never seems to reach the audience it deserves.

 

And that is the true

Into this amorphous arena comes a brilliant book Sydney based poet, photographer and composer Judith Crispin titled The Lumen Seed (Daylight Books 2016), a book of that addresses the stories of the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu through conversation, poetry, drawings and photographs, a book that should be compulsory reading for all Australians.

This smallish book (in size, 23.5cm wide by 15cm high) of 120 pages has good strong boards, excellent typography, nicely weighted paper and feels solid in the hand. The book is well printed, although some of the highlights of the photographs have gone missing in action. The layout of the images and text is engaging, challenging the reader to comprehend, contemplate and consider what is being shown and spoken to them. Use of negative space, as can be seen in the example pages below, is excellent. The reader does not feel overwhelmed by comatose verbiage, but empowered when listening to the stories, proposed: “This book is about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, not the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.” (Judith Crispin, Introduction, p. 12)

As Crispin states, this book is not a book of photojournalism and is the most subjective it can be, the photographs growing out of her love for this community. The multi-dimensional photo essay, for that is what it is in more traditional terms, represents some of the views and customs of the Warlpiri people and for Crispin, her journey started in the centre of Australia’s Anglophile government, Canberra, and ended at Wolfe Creek Crater, birthplace of the rainbow snakes, the Warnayarra, which underpin all Australian Aboriginal cultures. The peoples of this ancient culture speak to the earth, they tend it and understand it; they believe in the deep magic of the landscape, and strengthen the land through gardening and the trees through song. They speak to the spirits of the waterholes and have a deep respect for the spirit of the animals that inhabit the land. “The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people.” (Juno Gemes, Foreword, p. 9)

I’m British and I have been here in Australia since 1986 and I have never understood the non-relationship Australia has with its Indigenous people. Growing up on a farm for the first twelve years of my life in England gives me some understanding of a life lived well on the land. We were working class poor, my mother having to boil water on a stove so us kids could have a bath in a copper on the kitchen room floor; and we lived on what we could shoot from the land – pigeons, pheasants, rabbits and hares – and we were acutely aware of the providence and blessings of nature for our sustenance. A totally different connection to land than an Aboriginal one, but a connection none the less, as I found out when I visited the old farm on a recent visit to the UK in August. Walking up the cart path where I had played as a kid brought all the magic rushing back… the flowers, the forest, the trees, the animals and the earth.

Therefore, when I read of the white man’s abuse of the traditional lands of the Aboriginal people I am appalled. If you read the extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga printed below, you begin to understand the pain and anguish of these people, killed by the atomic cloud of over 7 major tests and 700 minor trials involving plutonium, uranium, and beryllium at the Maralinga site which occurred between 1956 and 1963, part of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia and about 800 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. “In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned.” (p. 45)

This beautiful, powerful and deeply personal book tells some of their stories. It saddens me beyond belief that these wonderful people have been estranged and displaced from their traditional lands; decimated, killed, and abused; have been exposed to nuclear radiation, poverty, and untold harm and deprivation, both physical and mental. That they endure is a testament to their courage and culture. Juno Gemes observes that, “Crispin’s images are filled with compassion and tenderness. This is not an easy work… The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work in photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories off the Warlpiri at Lajamuna at five minutes to midnight.” (p. 9)

The book needs to be tough to tell the true. But through poetry, love and light a new cosmology emerges that brings hope for a better future. Truth and consequence in red dirt country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Myrtille Beauvert, Daylight Books and the artist for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The Lumen Seed by Judith Crispin (Daylight Books), a cultural dialogue that is taking place before a backdrop of offences against the Australian continent, as well as a history of systematic discrimination against Indigenous peoples on the part of the country’s white population.

 

 

“Yeah, it make me real sad and cry for my country. Because God bin put me there, God put my people there. Why someone could move us, because of his power, because of his idea? Cutting off God’s power, God’s idea here. God’s word, God’s light… and that is the true. Cut off like this electric wire, if you cut him off, like that.”

.
Jerry Jangala, senior Warlpiri elder and Law man from Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert

 

“The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work. In photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories of the Warlpiri at Lajamanu at five minutes to midnight. Who will hear, who will see, who will act?

Judith Crispin’s experience echoes mine 40 years earlier, although I could not always get back to the same teachers. We belong to a long photographic tradition. It is the tradition of Tina Modotti and Josef Koudelka – a generation of documentary photographers who believe fervently that if you show people what is actually happening in the world, they will understand and be moved to demand change. Activist social documentary photography has always been defined by this passionate subjective belief in democracy and action.”

.
Juno Gemes, Introduction to The Lumen Seed, 2016

 

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' cover

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed book cover

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 29

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 29

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 32

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 32

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 46

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 46

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 55

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 55

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 74

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 74

 

 

 

 

Foreword: Five Minutes to Midnight

There is nothing like twilight in red dirt country – the soft crackling of fire warming your billycan as the Seven Sisters begin their dance across the night sky. Or the camaraderie around a campfire as people speak in their indigenous languages – the women making jokes about the day’s goings-on or about mistakes made in the intricate protocols of a Law you are learning, day by day. Everything that lives has meaning here. Upholding knowledge is a lifelong obligation for First Nation Custodians – not only in the present but into the future. How can we Australians know this land or our place in it, if not through relationship with our hosts, the Aboriginal people?

When inviting me to write this foreword, Judith Crispin explained her choice, saying, “You are uniquely positioned, as Australia’s premier and longest-serving photographer who has worked collaboratively with Aboriginal people in communities around the country making their culture and struggle for justice visible.” Truly, in both a professional and a practical way, I know the difficulties and the deep satisfactions of working in community. I understand the privileges of learning about the Law, the reciprocity of gratitude, and the obligation to stay true to the received teaching over a lifetime.

As a photographer of long experience, with friendships in Aboriginal communities, I know how everything depends on one’s openness to experience, on the give and take inside relationships that informs how one sees and feels. Photographers in this tradition work in slow time. You learn to move with the people, move within the rhythm of their days, within their country, their wind and sky. What is learned through these relationships can change how one sees forever. By invitation, we become messengers from the frontier of interpersonal experience, conveying urgent messages from our teachers and hosts.

Into this collaborative tradition of relational interpersonal documentary photography – which began with the work of committed photographers in Australia during the 1970s – now steps Judith Crispin with her important book about magic, knowledge, and history. She relates teachings of the Law men who adopted her, who gave her the skin name Nangala, a name that defines her relationship to everyone in the community. In this way, she is being “growed up,” learning how to see the universe according to Warlpiri Law.

“There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness. . . . Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it.”

.
The Lumen Seed
opens onto an apocalyptic scene. A hardwood mulga tree, reaching for the sky, holds a placard: “The Lord’s Return is Near.” In Coober Pedy, a curved handmade house rendered in warm mid-tones is edged with the sign “Welcome to Nowhere.” Dusty desert roadscapes unfold into the giant sacred stones of Karlu Karlu. An emu wanders nonchalantly into a gas station. We’re in Emu Dreaming Country now, meeting Crispin’s traveling friends.

A UFO mural at the gas station resonates later in the book with stories of Wolfe Creek Crater, where the meteorite landed. In the Jukurrpa we are told two rainbow snakes created that country, way back at the beginning. UFOs “zipping around the trees” form part of our desert lore. Funky and surreal, these images are imbued with humour. The images that follow lead us onward into a country of visual narratives – foretelling beginnings and endings. Intuitions manifest unpredictably. We enter a thousand kilometres of “bull dust and bone-jarring track, into the Tanami Desert,” which is as nothing compared with the howling grief of Crispin’s first poem…

Foreword extract by Juno Gemes, Hawkesbury River, April 11, 2016, pp. 6-7.

 

Introduction

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer. Before then, I’d not understood how five words could change everything. “I’m sorry, Judith,” my doctor told me, “it’s cancer.” It’s a cliché that you only learn to value life when death is walking beside you, but it was absolutely true for me. I remember driving over Clyde Mountain to bring the word cancer to my parents’ home. Every tree on the range seemed invested with vital force. Every leaf was vibrant, iridescent. Gray mountain gums, in headlights, seemed to manifest ancient intelligence – bearing witness to the fleeting existence of human beings. The threat of death reminds you how precious people are – your oldest friends, children, lovers, parents – you wonder how you’ll bear to leave them. There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness.

The interval between diagnosis and surgery is an eternity. The surgeon showed me a chart – “If the cancer falls into this range,” he said, “you’ll live; this range and you’ll die.” I felt like Schrödinger’s cat, neither living nor dying. People who see their own death live in two worlds, one mundane and one miraculous. Later, when the cancer had been removed and my death sentence lifted, I watched that other world diminish day by day. No matter how I clung to that miraculous vision, it faded – just as the certain knowledge of my death faded. But something remained. Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it. …

The earliest photographs in this book were taken in 2013, when I still believed the Warlpiri needed my help – to promote literacy and health, to outline positive pathways toward reconciliation, and so on. The later photographs were taken in December 2015, when I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that I was the drowning woman and the Warlpiri were the lifeboat. Lajamanu’s elders, especially Wanta Jampijinpa, Henry Jackamarra, and Jerry Jangala, were kind to me. They gave me a skin name1 and showed me how to be a “policewoman” for Jdbrille Waterhole. They seemed genuinely delighted by my interest in Warlpiri cosmology, which they illustrated with stories and drawings – some of which are reproduced in this book. The older women took me “hunting” for wattle seed and bush potato. They told me stories of covenants entered into with ancient star-beings and showed me places along the Tanami Track where min-min lights had chased travellers. Fairy tales and mysteries take on new importance when your life feels precarious.

Lajamanu in 2016 is a meeting of two universes. Elders check their Facebook status on iPhones while explaining, in matter-of-fact tones, about a landscape that will hold you or kill you, depending on your scent – where spirit snakes live in the waterways and the dead walk side by side with the living. In Lajamanu I lost my fear of dying, and more importantly, I lost my fear of living. This is a book about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, nor the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.

This is not a book of photojournalism and makes no attempt to be objective. Quite the contrary, in fact, I wanted this book to be as subjective as possible. These photographs, especially the portraits, have grown out of my love for this community – the poetry of these often physically fragile people, whose unshakable belief in the deep magic of the landscape gives them a strength rarely evident in the city. Warlpiri culture is gentle; it leaves no tracks on the earth. The history of Aboriginal Australia is largely a record of gardening – “cleaning up country” with firestick farming and ceremonies to strengthen trees through song. When Warlpiri people move through the landscape, they introduce themselves. They apologise to that country for breaking twigs. They ask permission to take water from the creeks. If humanity ever transcends its selfish and murderous nature, it will be because of people like the Warlpiri.

Introduction extract by Judith Crispin pp. 11-13.

 

 

You shall not trap me in this fish-trap of yours in which you trap the dead,

because I know it, and I know its name,

I know the name in which it came into being.

.
(Coffin Texts)

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lord's Return is Near' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
The Lord’s Return is Near
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

The Stuart Highway is a bisecting line in a thousand kilometres of nothing. The sheer scale of the landscape is overwhelming. I’d driven for two days with only Leonard Cohen and David Bowie for company, and had never felt more isolated. I don’t know why I stopped, leaving the Land Rover idling in the middle of the highway, and walked over to the tree. Perhaps its tallness startled me – its length so exposed above the desert floor. I wanted to lay my palm against its bark. At first I didn’t notice the sign nailed high on its trunk: “The Lord’s Return is Near.”

This stretch of highway lies south of the rocket range at Woomera. There are oceans of blood on this land. The Woomera immigration detention centre continued a legacy of suffering that began years earlier, in the 1950s, when Maralinga’s radioactive clouds blew over Woomera, a military township, and killed all the children.

Between 1952 and 1963, British forces dropped nine nuclear weapons and nine thermonuclear weapons between Woomera and the Western Australian border, within contamination distance of urban centres. The Menzies-led Australian government of that time was wholly complicit and lied about the known dangers of nuclear tests. Between these bombings, Britain conducted continuous “minor trials,” which, according to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, additionally detonated 99.35 kg of beryllium, 23.979 kg of plutonium, and 7968.88 kg of depleted uranium. By contrast, Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 by the United States, contained only 64 kg of uranium-235, and Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 by the United States, contained only 6.4 kg of plutonium. Anyone who wishes to immediately lose faith in the human race should read the short transcript of the Royal Commission, which is freely available online. (pp. 16-18)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Welcome to Nowhere' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Welcome to Nowhere
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

I arrived in Coober Pedy the same week that dust storms tore the roof off the pub. This dugout, borrowed from friends in Alice Springs, was built from a disused shaft. I slept near the door separating their home from the remaining length of shaft, extending far into the rock. Strange sounds echoed behind that door – sounds of wind, or dogs howling. The door was nailed closed. When I first visited Coober Pedy, it was the farthest into the desert that I had ever ventured. Beyond it stretched the expanse of the Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert, Strzelecki Desert, Pedirka Desert, Tirari Desert, and Sturt Stony Desert. I was at the start of a journey that would follow Stuart Highway into nothingness and emerge in the huge Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Leaving the dugout, I stopped to photograph the words painted on its roof: “Welcome to Nowhere.” (pp. 22-23)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Karlu Karlu I' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Karlu Karlu I
Near Ayleparrarntenhe NT, November 2014

 

 

Karlu Karlu, nicknamed “The Devil’s Marbles” by white people, was long considered too spiritually dangerous for anyone but Warumungu elders conducting ceremony. Between these giant stones, on a 48-degree day, the radiant heat is almost unimaginable. Near the skeleton of a burned office chair, I found patches of black glass. A Warumungu friend explained that the heat has, in recent years, become so intense at Karlu Karlu that the air itself ignites, fusing desert sand to glass. In Australia’s deserts the evidence of climate change is irrefutable. (p. 24)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse
Wycliffe Well Roadhouse and Van-park NT, December 2015

 

 

UFO enthusiast Arc Vanderzalm moved to the desert in 2004 to establish a UFO-themed van park. In the van park’s early years, Arc rescued an abandoned emu chick and raised him by hand. He named him Eemie. Travellers stopping for fuel at Wycliffe Well roadhouse are sometimes surprised by an adult emu staring in at them through the window. While a guest of the van park, I once startled Eemie by walking into the ladies’ shower block. He peered out at me through the shower curtain with an air of embarrassment, as though I’d intruded at a delicate moment. Later, as I drove toward Tennant Creek, I spotted Eemie chasing a farm dog down the highway, legs akimbo. (p. 29)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sexy John' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Sexy John
Alice Springs NT, November 2014

 

 

Sexy John was rescued as a small calf after his mother was culled as part of a government program to reduce feral camels. He was raised by artists in a collective on the outskirts of Alice Springs and befriended a wild blond-haired boy. More than 160 thousand camels were culled between 2009 and 2013, approximately one-fifth of the camel population of the central deserts. (p. 35)

 

Extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga

V

At Woomera,
seventy-five identical graves
remember babies lost to the predation
of atomic clouds.

.
Their epitaphs are brief-

Michael Clarke Jones
died 24 August 1952,
aged eight and a half hours.

.
No one has been here for a long time.

.
Weeds struggle.
A military vehicle passes,
heading east toward the rocket range.

.
In the west, Woomera township
is a grid of air force housing.
Land Cruisers fill neat driveways,
lawns are trimmed,
blinds closed.

.
And no one ever steps out for milk,
no one walks a dog.

.
I photograph each headstone,
stooping sometimes to straighten a plastic posy,
a tilted ceramic bear.

.
Wind presses a faded greeting card
to the metal fence.
A matchbox car beside a small boy’s grave
is blue.

.
There are nineteen stones without toys or flowers,
for stillborns named only “baby”-

Baby Spencer,
Baby Dowling,
Baby Stone.

.
Don’t look at me

Baby Gower
Baby Roads

from a soldier’s gunny bag
with your eyes too white, too open
like the eyes of poisoned fish
tumbling
in the Pilbara’s poisoned surf.

 

Judith Crispin. 'Warlpiri Family' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Warlpiri Family
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned. In the 1970s, Gurindji people held a series of unique ceremonies to hand over the area and its Wampana and Spectacled Hare Wallaby Dreaming stories to the residents of Lajamanu. While this gesture brought some relief to Warlpiri people, who viewed their involuntary occupation of Gurindji land as a breach of traditional Law, they continue to struggle with their relationship to the country. (p. 45)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Country [Gurindji country], hills… well, I put country first… hills, tree, don’t like you – even that water – and that is true. If you drink water from that, or if you not talking to that country because you don’t know, you got no songs with that area… and in the night, or during the day too, you got no language for to try to talk to that country.

When God bin put you there, in your country, that’s it. You got a right to live on there. You can get sick alright, but not too much. Yuwayi [yes], you know God? He say, “Yeah you get sick but you’ll be alright,” you know? “I’m with you there,” that God talking. And same thing for our ceremony too. You’re right to use your ceremony. You’re right to sing your own Dreaming song and talking to your country . . . and tell it true – real true.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 50-51)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Without the connection between the land and the person, the individual is lost, empty inside, not connected to anyone or anything or the land. If the connection is lost, they won’t survive and their identity no longer exists. Jukurrpa is our life first. Jukurrpa connects us to our country. It is Law that makes it our right to our country. We can’t be sent away.

This art center [Warnayaka Arts Center] is for the young people to learn their culture and Law. It is important for our youth to learn the knowledge held by the Ngaliya and Warnayaka peoples. The art center is for the survival of culture from the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ country. The children are getting lost, and there are not many old men left, some women but few men. Some of our important Dreaming sites are hundreds of kilometers from Lajamanu. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Lajamanu need to know their Jukurrpa; otherwise they will lose their inheritance to this really important country. They need to know the Warlpiri Ngalia Laws so they can go onto their great-grandfathers’ and ancestors’ land, especially where these important Dreaming sites are, like at Mina Mina, belonging to the Kana-kurlangu clan. This is why the art center is so important to the people of Lajamanu. At any time, children can see the works of the elders telling them the Kurdiji, the Law, and all that is tied into the Jukurrpa paintings.

Warnayaka Art elders, recorded by Arts Center manager Louisa Erglis (p. 55)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #1' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #1
Nd
Muffler painted by Warlpiri artists

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #2' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #2
Nd
Abandoned doll found in Lajamanu Park

 

Judith Crispin. 'Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole
Jdbrille Waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, June 2015

 

 

This area here, no river. It’s the same deal in this country, and so – what do you call it? Soak? [A soakage, or soak, also called a native well, is a source of water in the Australian desert.] You know . . . I’m trying to get that word there. Soak, yeah, you take all right down to find that water, that water make. Sometimes no water, like this time when it’s dry. Look for the water tree. That’s what my father, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, grandmother, they all look for that water tree. Rock holes down. That’s in our country. We can say it today in a Kardiya way, you know? We can say “Lajamanu is my country.” But that not true. It’s not true . . . yuwayi, Nangala. My country is back there . . . my area is back there.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 68-69)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]
near Emu waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, December 2015

 

Henry Jackamarra and Jerry Jangala have known each other since they were small children. More than a decade his senior, Henry treats Jerry like a little brother – still lecturing him on what he eats and wears, although both men are now respected elders. (p. 72)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony
Tanami Desert Outpost NT, November 2014

 

 

The animal is honoured by sprinkling handfuls of dirt over its fur before it is prepared for cooking in the traditional way. Jerry explains that in the old days the punishment for getting this ceremony wrong was death. In modern times, the penalty for making mistakes in this ceremony is exile. Wanta Jampijinpa, Jerry’s son, reassured me that exile did not necessarily mean death in the Tanami desert. A person could earn his or her place back in the community by accomplishing a special task. The exile must find the way to catch a wedge-tailed eagle and bring its soft underbelly feathers back to Lajamanu as proof. Wanta explained to me how such a seemingly impossible task could be accomplished, but I do not have permission to reproduce that here. (p. 78)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Light Trails of Henry Jackamarra Cook

Law is a gray kangaroo dancing
the thin landscape of Henry Cook into being,
somewhere in the Tanami,
where knucklebone winds scrape bare rock
and Henry stands marsupial
in firelight’s weird.

In Lajamanu, tin houses edge the street.
No one is outside,
no one.

In the arts center, old ladies paint seed-dreaming.
Breeze lifts the hem of a curtain,
then stillness.
It is still.

Henry doesn’t paint anymore. He sits alone,
watching ceremony from the 1970s.
Everyone in the videos is dead now, except him.
And the dead are in the desert,
faceless as the desert is,
and as remote.

Ten years ago it seemed nothing to walk
three days to his sacred country,
granite country,
where great salt lakes exhale their thirst
over spinifex and sand,
the rattling sun.

But arthritis and cataracts have caged him.
Inside the arts center,
the lights are switched off.

We drag chairs across a concrete porch
to watch the Tanami darken, shelf clouds
seal the crater at Wolfe Creek.

Rain wakens on his tongue
the angular syllables of displacement.

And home is the desert breathing over itself by night,
erasing tracks of all who walk there –
night’s emu rising savage in the Milky Way,
and eyes, eyes in the granite mines.

One day, he tells me, I’ll walk out
to my country and never come back.

At town’s edge, a kangaroo left by poachers.
Red dust thickens its pelt, as the red dust lies thick
on Henry’s Ray-Bans, stiffening his white hair to wires.

I photograph him disemboweling the buck,
its intestines knotted to ritual marks –
Henry and his flayed brother, backlit
against chained ridges,
and the last sun rearing.

Law is an old man dancing
the gray kangaroo into being,
sewing him back into the desert’s body,
into his own body, ochre and growl,
a hunting boomerang beaten on the ground.

Night erases this landscape –
slow trees, sand,
the saltbush has gone.

Just Henry’s heels rising and falling
along a wind-scored track,
utterances of a language which belongs to him
and to which he belongs.

Tomorrow, the Catfish Waterhole
will stretch his white hair out elastic,
as telephone wires vanishing into the Tanami.

Mud returns to him,
the cool slow memories of country
before the missions, before diabetes and grog
shrank his ancestors down so small
he holds them in a single cupped hand
like fireflies, tiny comets
crossing in the black.

Tomorrow he’ll thread gumleaves
through the hole in his nose,
and say, photo me like this Nangala
I am a beautiful man.

.
Judith Crispin (pp. 81-83)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

I was told Lily, when she was young, was in love with a Karadji man but couldn’t be with him because she didn’t want to leave her community. Her arms reveal the parallel ritual marks of someone on a “sacred path.” Now, despite caring relationships with her family, friends, and fourteen adopted dogs, somehow Lily is always alone. When, together with Molly and Rosie, Lily took me to see Catfish Waterhole, she explained that we were going to see her “mother.” I carried Lily, too frail to descend the bank, to the edge of the water. There she turned water over her palms, the traditional way of greeting the waterhole and avoiding surprising any Warnayarra who might be there. The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people. Here Lily sings quietly to Catfish Waterhole – not for any ceremonial or traditional reason, I’m told, but just because it makes the waterhole feel loved. (p. 95)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly's Flame-Tree Seed-pods' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly’s Flame-Tree Seed-pods
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

Warlpiri people still supplement their diet with bush food. Ground wattleseed is mixed with oil and baked into a kind of flat bread. The older ladies took me out “hunting” for wattleseed and kurrajong seedpods. In a township with only one shop, where a head of broccoli costs more than a takeaway meal for a family, it is vitally important to supplement the community’s diet with “bush food.” White Australians have almost no idea of the variety of native fruits and vegetables that grow in the apparent desert – bush potatoes, bush tomatoes, bush bananas, honey ants, land crabs, wattleseeds, etc., can be gathered throughout the Tanami. (p. 104)

 

 

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10
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Albert Renger-Patzsch: Things’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Curator: Sérgio Mah, Universidade NOVA, Lisboa

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae
1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Experiencing the image

“[Walter Isaacson] describes the photographs, of which 7200 … miraculously survive today, as the greatest record of curiosity, because his “cross-disciplinary brilliance whirls across every page, providing a delightful display of a mind dancing with nature”. Renger-Patzsch delighted in seeing patterns in nature, so he would juxtapose a photograph of the branching arteries of the heart with the roots of a sprouting tree.”1

.
A mind dancing with nature.

Of course, the original quote (which I have altered) was talking about Leonardo da Vinci… but the same enquiring mind, the same display can be seen in the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch. His was a mind entranced by the nature of technology, and the technology, the structure of nature. However, he is ambivalent about the benefits of industrialisation even as he photographed it in ‘New Objectivity’ style – that is, supposedly free from emotion and subjectivity.

No writing about his work can put it better than this quote from when this exhibition was at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid:

“Technical precision and exact representation of the subject; psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism; a keen sense of composition with attention to details, structures and forms; a sharp and clear construction of the image: these were some of the fundamental premises of a tendency that understands photography as a privileged medium to promote an artistic and simultaneously perceptive shift.

Renger-Patzsch’s work amalgamates a great number of photographic subjects, typologies and genres. In a historical period marked by deep political tension and significant social and economic change, his work allows the viewer to envision a unique worldview, a platform of intersections and re-appreciations between the domains of nature and technology.”

.
The only point I would not support in this quotation are these words, “psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism.”

Of course, “through the disconcerting simplicity of the photographs Renger-Patzsch highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image,” but he does so not through a REJECTION of pictorial stylization and expressionism (and all the baggage that those words embody), but through an INTENSIFICATION of a different form of pictorial style which forces? the image to emit a new form of expression. That is, the object is just its surface and is captured, instantly, by the camera in this perceptive shift.

Can you imagine seeing these photographs in the 1920s, having never seen anything like them before? They would have been revolutionary, in their rendering of the surface of the object and nothing more. Placing the camera directly before the object which requires nothing else but itself… the eye of the snake, the darkness of a tree trunk, the ordering of shoemakers’ irons. But then he finishes his ode to life, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], with his version of Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands (c. 1508). I suspect that the idea the Renger-Patzsch was working with is that beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.

In contemporary society, have we lost the ability to see these photographs as he intended, with a child-like innocence? Was he saying, this is objective, do you agree? Or does the poetic intensity in the life of things refuse to be stilled?

For me, these photographs are not e/motion-less, they are the very essence of a reality rendered wonderful in my eyes.

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.

  1. Paraphrase of Tina Allen. “Prophetic Polymath,” on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson in Weekend Australian Review January 6-7 2018, p. 14

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966), who produced a huge body of work spanning four and half decades, was one of the most influential photographers of the New Objectivity movement that emerged in Germany in the mid 1920s. His work helped to establish photography as a unique and important medium within modern art. Renger-Patzsch revived realism in photography, adopting an approach that was characterised by formal and technical rigour and a rejection of expressionism and pictorial stylisation. He had a highly developed sense of composition, and his attention to detail, structure and form resulted in images with sharp, clear compositions. For Renger-Patzsch, photography was a medium that made possible new forms of artistic imagery, while being perfectly in step with a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology. By highlighting the medium’s unique properties and the creative possibilities of documentary photography, Renger-Patzsch forged a unique role for photography within the arts of his time.

His original, simple images combine extraordinary realism and documentary value with poetic and phenomenological resonance, giving them great power. Renger-Patzsch was a highly prolific photographer who explored a wide range of subjects and genres. This exhibition highlights the invaluable legacy of this extraordinary photographer, whose work provides an ideal context for reflecting on the specificities and relevance of photography within the field of contemporary art and culture.

– The Design of Nature
– From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City
– The vision of things
– Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation
– Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series
– The Destiny of Nature

Sérgio Mah

 

 

 

The Design of Nature

During the initial phase of his career, Albert Renger-Patzsch produced a series of photographs depicting plants and flowers for the collection Die Welt der Pflanze [The World of Plants], coordinated by Ernst Fuhrmann as part of his biosophical studies.

The first two volumes in the series, both published in 1924, were Orchideen [Orchids] and Crassula. Renger-Patzsch worked within the general parameters of the book, reproducing fragments of nature with as much objectivity and clarity as possible. He produced a large number of photographs distinguished by their great technical and compositional rigour, including systematic close-ups of plants and flowers. In 1923, Renger-Patzsch wrote his first text, “Pflanzenaufnahmen” [Plant photographs], setting out his views on photography and its extraordinary capacity for capturing nature. Among the images and arguments in the text he outlines some of the key principles that would underpin his photography: attention to detail and emphasis on the formal, structural and material aspects of nature, as well as, correspondingly, a reiterative affirmation of the intrinsic qualities of photography – realism, objectivity, neutrality – and its unique role in expanding our perception of reality.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae' 1922-1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae
1922-1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]
1923
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City

In 1927, Albert Renger-Patzsch published his most ambitious book to date, Die Halligen [The Halligen Islands], with images of the islands in the Wadden Sea, on the northern coast of Germany.

His photographs featured a number of subjects: landscapes, portraits, architectural motifs and everyday activities. These subjects encapsulated the relationship between local ways of life (genuine, deep-rooted, traditional) and the physical and symbolic characteristics of this peculiar area. This vernacular reality contrasted with the rampant industrialisation that was transforming many of the great urban centres in Germany.

Over the ensuing years, Renger-Patzsch published Lübeck (1928) and Hamburg (1930), books that highlight the emerging characteristics of the modern city, the coexistence of different historic periods and the intersection between historical culture and the impact of industrialisation. In these photographs the photographer’s interest in combining documentary objectives with the creative potential of a modern vision is evident in his use of close-cropped, asymmetrical compositions and innovative perspectives, alternating between general shots and a focus on details. He displays sensitivity to the formal and structural aspects of reality, rejecting the atavistic influence of painting in order to embrace the possibilities of a “new vision” governed by photography.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]
1927
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Acquisition en 1979
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

The vision of things

In 1928, Albert Renger-Patzsch’s best-known book was published, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], although the photographer would have preferred the title Die Dinge [Things].

It exemplifies the principles and characteristics of the photographer’s work: a desire to represent the immanent substance of an object/subject while demonstrating photography’s capacity for recording reality. In this respect, representing the unique character of a particular thing was also a way of affirming the unique character of photography.

The book encompasses a wide range of subjects and elements from the photographer’s world. It is an anthology of photographs taken since the beginning of his career, including several images produced for the books Die Welt der Pflanze, Die Halligen and Lübeck. Photographic genres are equally diverse, spanning portrait, landscape, still life and architectural images. The subjects are presented in an evolving thematic and conceptual sequence: first nature, plants, animals, people and landscapes; next, the manmade world of objects, architecture, the city, machines, and industrial structures and spaces. In this way a worldview is organised, a context of intersections and reappraisals, between nature and technology, between the sacred and the profane, between historical heritage and modernity.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch. Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers’ irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Like other artists of his time, Renger-Patzsch was especially keen on exploring the formal analogies between the things of nature and industrial things. Industry led to mass production and the manufacture of standardised objects, exemplified in this image. This contrasts with other images from Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], such as Gebirgsforst im Winter [Mountain forest in winter] (below), which capture repetition in nature.

Renger-Patzsch identifies a coherence, a parity, between nature and culture as non-antagonistic doHands. He suggests a measure of naturalness in technology, and a measure of rationality in nature. For the photographer the emphasis on industrial seriality also allowed him to underscore the seriality of photography itself (as a means of technical reproduction), thus demonstrating the unique, mediating condition of this medium for visual reproduction in the connection between the natural world and the world of modern industry.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)' [Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)] 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)
[Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)]
1926
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Natterkopf [Head of an adder]' 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Natterkopf [Head of an adder]
1925
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Painstaking attention to detail is a central feature of Renger-Patzsch’s photography, as demonstrated by several images in Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. Resorting to pronounced close-ups or subsequent reframing, the photographer breaks down and isolates the vision of certain things, thereby providing a fresh perspective: in this case, the image of a serpent’s head surrounded by a section of its body.

The close-up framing allows him to accentuate the two-dimensionality of the image, the part being more suggestive than the whole. This is a realistic, objective vision, but one aimed at creating a tension between the concrete nature of the motif and its abstract character.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Hände [Hands]' 1926-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Hände [Hands]
1926-1927
Collection Ann und Jürgen Wilde
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

This is the hundredth and last image of Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. It shows a pair of hands joined together, isolated from the rest of the body, rising over a black background in a gesture heavy with symbolic, meditative and spiritual fervour.

Aware that photography was increasingly becoming mundane and banal, and that the experience of attention was crumbling in the face of the accelerating transformation of reality, in Die Welt ist schön Renger-Patzsch offers an imaginary world where modern subjects can be reconnected with the things surrounding them via the mediation of a diffuse and calm temporality, the temporality of tradition and myth. A symptom of this vision is precisely the closing image of the book.

 

 

“To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure, to the lofty gridwork of cranes and bridges, to the dynamism of machines operating at one thousand horsepower – only photography can do that. […] The absolutely correct rendering of form, the subtlety of tonal gradation from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, impart to a technically expert photograph the magic of experience.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Ziele”, Das Deutsche Lichtbild, Berlin, 1927

 

“There is an urgent need to examine old opinions and look at things from a new viewpoint. There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should become fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by this technique.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Die Freude am Gegenstand,” Das Kunstblatt, Berlin, 1928

 

“[…] the eye is subjective; it views with pleasure the essential things and completely overlooks what is unimportant. The camera, on the other hand, has to reproduce the entire image in focus and in a particular size. It will see the essential and the inessential with equal clarity.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

“[…] the eye is not isolated in its perception of the world. Rather its connections to the brain and the support of our senses in experience heat, cold wind, noise, smells and so on create an extraordinarily compact image of the world, whose plasticity and density are perhaps intensified by a particularly appropriate emotional state. Photography reduces this colourful world into a black-and-white rectangle. It is obvious that this most unpretentious of art forms requires the greatest reliability of taste, ability for abstraction, fantasy and concentration.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

 

The aim of this exhibition is to rediscover and pay tribute to the legacy of this unique photographer in the conviction that his work offers a context for encouraging reflection on the nature and artistic and speculative potential of photography within the framework of contemporary art and culture.

Of enormous simplicity and originality, Renger-Patzsch’s photography is notable for being based on a documentary style that prioritised realist sobriety and frankness as fundamental characteristics of photographic representation. In other words, his work offers a rigorous approach in technical and formal terms, in which the camera is only used to intensify our vision and aware of things. For Renger-Patzsch, this not only explained his photographic procedures but above all the potential for an aesthetic and conceptual identity for photography that visibly distanced itself from the Pictorialist legacy and from the hybrid experimentalism characteristic of the early 20th-century avant-gardes.

Both Renger-Patzsch’s photography and the various texts in which he set out his ideas reveal his determination to exploit the qualities inherent in the photographic medium. He stated that his aim was: “to use photographic means to create a photography that could exist through its own photographic nature.” In another text Renger-Patzsch wrote that,

“the eyes are not isolated from their perception of the world.

On the contrary, they are part of our senses and, by being connected to the brain, allow us to experience heat, cold, wind, noise, smell, and to rapidly construct a remarkably compacted image of the world, the plasticity and density of which also depend on our emotional states.

Photography reduces the world in colour to a rectangle in black and white. And logically, given that it is the least pretentious form of art, it requires rigorous taste, a capacity for abstraction, imagination and concentration.”

.
Such statements reveal that the exceptional quality of Renger-Patzsch’s work and thought is also notable for the way it conceives and expands the horizon and scope of the idea of documentary photography. As a result, the descriptive and objective qualities of photography are combined with and articulated by its aesthetic, poetic and phenomenological powers.

This retrospective aims to encompass the principal themes, periods and genres that define Renger-Patzsch’s photographic output through the identification of three moments that are fundamental for an understanding of his career: firstly, his early years, from his photographs of plants taken for Folkwang/Auriga publishers, to the profusion of themes and photographic eclecticism which would be decisive for the creation of his book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful] of 1928. The period that began after his move to Essen was one of intense photographic creation on the Ruhr area, principally involving subjects associated with places, buildings and industrial objects. Finally, the years after World War II reveal a new interest in the themes of nature and landscape particularly trees and rocks.

Including around 154 photographs, this is one of the largest retrospectives on the artist to date and undoubtedly the one to bring together the largest number of works by Renger-Patzsch from institutional and private collections: the Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde/Pinakothek der Moderne München (Munich), the Museum Folkwang (Essen), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Galerie Berinson (Berlin), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Highlights of the exhibition

Author of a monumental oeuvre created over four and a half decades, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) was the leading photographer of the New Objectivity movement that appeared in German art in the mid 1920s.

Renger-Patzsch was a prolific photographer and his oeuvre encompasses a variety of themes, types and genres. This exhibition covers the most important stages in Renger-Patzsch’s career, from his first photographs of plant details, urban scenes and industrial subjects to his later landscape work. In total the exhibition features more than 150 photographs, mostly vintage prints from the most important collections in Germany.

Renger-Patzsch devoted himself to creating a new photographic realism, characterised by an extreme simplicity and originality. He created a modern visual language that was imbued with a poetic resonance and helped to redefine the photographic image.
For Renger-Patzsch, photography was the most appropriate medium for carrying out a change that was simultaneously artistic and perceptual, i.e., the possibility of a new kind of image that reflected the changes of the 1920s and 1930s, a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology.

Albert Renger-Patzsch is the author of one of the seminal books in the history of photography, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], which was published in 1928. This work reveals the full scope of Renger-Patzsch’s approach, which was to capture the unique character of each concrete thing in order to affirm also the unique character of photography.

Renger-Patzsch produced an exceptional body of work on the theme of industrial architecture, which he helped to turn into a genre in itself. He exerted a decisive influence on generations of photographers, not least Bernd and Hilla Becher. This exhibition sets out to highlight the vital legacy of this extraordinary photographer. In so doing, it sheds light on the important role of photography within the context of contemporary art and culture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation

In 1929, Renger-Patzsch relocated to Essen, in the Ruhr, Germany’s leading industrial region and one the photographer was familiar with.

Two years earlier, he had produced the first images in an ambitious project focusing on the landscapes of the Ruhr, which he would work on until 1935. In this realm of contrasts, he became particularly interested in spaces that were between cities, between the urban and the rural, landscapes that displayed the process of change that the region was undergoing due to industrialisation and the development of public infrastructure.

The works reflect a change in Renger-Patzsch’s photographic vision: the compositions are widened, in some cases into large panoramic views. The images now focus on a multiplicity of elements and explore interpretative relationships and associations. His preference for more open images that include the surroundings of objects, rather than just close-ups, reflects a more inclusive objectivity. Some images include people, usually seen from afar. These figures are set in particular socio-spatial contexts and help to highlight the enormous disparity in scale between the human figure and the new industrial complexes. Vertical and horizontal elements, close up and in the distance, are combined and juxtaposed. The relationship between different planes, between foreground and background, is intensified in order to show how industry has shaped the landscape, turning it into a heterogeneous and paradoxical landscape (in historical and social terms).

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche "Rosenblumendelle" [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Victoria Mathias" in Essen [Colliery "Victoria Mathias" in Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Victoria Mathias” in Essen [Colliery “Victoria Mathias” in Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the Ruhr

In the photographs of the Ruhr, the landscape emerges as a genre in which disparate elements are combined and contrasted, a way of exploring the boundaries between the rural and industrial worlds, the city and the periphery.

One of the most extraordinary examples from this period is the 1928 image Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery] (above). This photograph that seems to result from the collage of two layers (two regions, two realities), bringing together the idyllic serenity of the rural world, in the foreground, and the massive and disproportionate character of the new industrial complexes in the background, as the fatal destiny of the modern world.

At the centre is a road, a metaphor for history, mediating two different realities and suggesting the dilemma between tradition and modernity – a dilemma that highlights Renger-Paztsch’s ambivalent and paradoxical stance towards industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series

From the late 1920s onwards, Renger-Patzsch produced numerous works following commissions from architects and industrial companies.

At this time, the expansion of the press and advertising, boosted by industry, was having a big impact on art, providing an abundance of work opportunities for artists and photographers.

Photographs of industrial objects and buildings lent themselves to rigorous, carefully calculated compositions. In many cases, the viewer’s perception is guided by planimetric compositions, which are sometimes orthogonal, sometimes diagonal. His architectural photographs combine structural and formal aspects with a desire to record the functional reality of industrial complexes. His images of objects are characterised by their attention to detail and a desire to give aesthetic meaning to each of the objects photographed through meticulous graphic composition.

However, Renger-Patzsch emphasises the repetitive, standardised nature of the objects – aspects inherent to mass production. For him, the theme of technology was further confirmation of how photography differed from painting and provided the most suitable medium for representing the new reality – technical, material and spatial – of modern industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]
1928
Vintage gelatin silver print
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / VEGAP, Madrid 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Heinrich-Robert", Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]' 1951

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Heinrich-Robert”, Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]
1951
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Graf Moltke", Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]' 1952-1953

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Graf Moltke”, Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]
1952-1953
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Katharina", Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]' 1955-1956

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Katharina”, Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]
1955-1956
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on architecture

Throughout his career, Renger-Patzsch created a huge number of photographs of industrial architecture. Its emergence as an artistic genre owes much to him, and his legacy exerted a decisive influence on generations of future photographers, including Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The perspective and the composition accentuate the geometry of the vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. The photographer seeks to highlight the significance of a building designed according to strict functional and rational principles. In doing so, Renger-Patzsch reveals a correspondence between method and object in the sense that precision, objectivity and the documentary value of photography were in harmony with the rationality, coherence and functionality of the new industrial and modern architecture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]' 1934

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]
1934
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on series

For Renger-Patzsch commercial commissions also provided opportunities for a personal and creative approach to photography. This image is part of a commission from the Jenaer Glaswerke Schott company, for whom he photographed several sets of laboratory objects in glass (recipients, flasks, tubes, jars). In this particular image Renger-Patzsch arranges eight glass beakers, all with the same cylindrical shape but of differing dimensions, on a reflecting surface and photographs them from a slightly elevated angle. The larger items are placed to the rear. The objects overlap with each other. The mirroring effect of the base creates the impression that the glassware is floating, especially at the centre of the image where the smaller cylinder (on which the manufacturer’s logo can be read) is the focal point. In their simple, standardised shape, and their transparency, the objects create a choreography of light, shadows and reflections, an experiment with the possibilities of looking at objects and reconfiguring their shapes.

 

 

The Destiny of Nature

In 1944, a large part of his archives at the Folkwang Museum were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. With his family, Renger-Patzsch moved to the rural area of Wamel, close to Soest. He began to work on a new theme, returning to natural subjects, although now with an emphasis on landscape.

The photographer seemed to find among the trees, forests, rocks and craggy scenes a vital energy. These images suggest a diffuse sense of time contrasting with the linear nature of history and immune to the contingencies of modernity and the devastating consequences of war. In this final phase of his life, Renger-Patzsch published Baüme [Trees] in 1962 and Gestein [Rocks] in 1966, two volumes that exemplify the conceptual and aesthetic bases of this renewed, revitalised view of nature. Both books include essays by the writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger, with whom the photographer maintained an intense and regular correspondence for over twenty years.

The photographs in Baüme and Gestein are the logical corollary to Renger-Patzsch’s extraordinary trajectory. The images are less graphic, in part due to the fact that they depict forms that are apparently disordered, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Nevertheless, through the disconcerting simplicity and sobriety of these photographs, Renger-Patzsch also highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image.

Nature can thus be seen as a subject that allows the viewer to experience a primal gaze. This is the condition for a vision simultaneously concrete, poetic and metaphysical that leads to a rediscovery of nature, its destiny, its silence, its rhythms, forms and forces.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald [Beech forest]' 1936

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Buchenwald [Beech forest]
1936
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Das Bäumchen [The little tree]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Das Bäumchen [The little tree]
1928
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on vertical landscape

This is one of Renger-Patzsch’s best-known and most outstanding photographs. This landscape with a tree in the middle heralds his later work. Because of its links to the history of painting, landscape was not a central theme of New Objectivity. In this image Renger-Patzsch chose a vertical landscape, a less usual format than the horizontal landscape. It is a hybrid image in the sense that it combines the tree as the central motif (leafless and reduced to its branch structure) with a panoramic view of a vast landscape. Of particular note is the way the photographer explores the different planes within the image, playing with depth and distance, with the foreground, where the tree stands and the background of the endless landscape. The differences between near and far are diluted on the two-dimensional surface of the image.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]' 1962

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]
1962
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on geology

Rocks and geological phenomena became of great interest to Renger-Patzsch in the latter phase of his career as a photographer, during which he travelled to France, Norway, Northern Ireland, Italy, Sweden and several parts of Germany to take the photographs published in Gestein [Rocks]. In the book, the images are strategically interspersed with text by geologist and palaeontologist Max Richter and an essay by writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger.

Renger-Patzsch photographed the rocks and layers of rock as evidence of the slower phenomena of nature, but also as metaphors for time and history. This image, taken on the coast of Brittany, shows a series of geological folds, a phenomenon that occurs when different forces cause the planar rock sheets to curve or fold. The photographic precision and objectivity of the image, along with the stunning (peculiar, expressive, pictorial) appearance generated by tectonic forces on the surface of the rock, create a vision that combines figuration and abstraction.

 

 

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04
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925’ at the Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2017 – 7th January 2018

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Bubble' 1898, printed 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Bubble
1898, printed 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.3 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A sense of the beyond

I have waited over nine years to be able to do a posting on this artist. This is the first retrospective of Clarence H. White’s photographs in a generation… and my first posting for 2018. What a beauty the posting is, and what beauty is contained within, his photographs.

White was born in Newark, Ohio (see map below) in 1871. Just to put that into perspective, of the big three Alfred Stieglitz was born in 1871, Edward Steichen in 1879 and Paul Strand in 1890. Soon after marrying his wife in 1893 White took up photography, applying some of his artistic vision, developed earlier through filling sketchbooks with pencil sketches, pen-and-ink drawings and watercolours, to the craft of photography. “He learned how to use light, or the lack of it, to draw attention to his subject. He also learned how to visualise his subjects in his mind.” He was completely self-taught, “in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths… It is important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied.”1

In 1895, he exhibited his first photos in public, at the Camera Club of Fostoria, Ohio, and by 1898 he had met Fred Holland Day and Alfred Stieglitz. His star continued to rise, White having solo exhibitions in 1899 at the Camera Club of New York and at the Boston Camera Club, and he also exhibited in the London Photographic Salon organised by The Linked Ring. In 1900 White was elected to membership in The Linked Ring and in 1901 White and 10 others to become “charter members” of the Photo-Secession, a group founded by Alfred Stieglitz to promote pictorialism and fine art photography. Due to financial constraints during this time, White was only able to create about 8 photographs each month, and he had to photograph either very early in the morning, after he finished work as a bookkeeper, or at the weekend. Some of his most memorable images were created at this time, before his move to New York in 1906. As Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer observe in “The Artistry of Clarence H. White”, “White is most significant in the history of photography because, in his early years, he redefined the nature of picture-making, creating a distinctly modern idiom for his own time…. He reduced his compositions to very simple elements of form, and by experimenting with principles of design derived largely from Whistler and Japanese prints, he created a personal style that was unique for photography.”2

If the photograph consumes light, then Clarence H. White was consumed by photography. Informed by the widespread Japonisme of the period, especially ukiyo-e prints (the term ukiyo-e translates as “picture[s] of the floating world”) with their flat perspective, unmodulated colours and outlined forms – his photographs “sought to capture either the geometry of perceived pattern or the gorgeous effect of shimmering light… qualities of image that the camera, conjoining realism and poetic perception, could render with compelling effect.”3 We now group these kind of photographs under the label “pictorialism,” soft-focus photographs that were more than purely representational, that project “an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”4 Here, an “atmosphere” (formulated, created, conceptualised, captured) is the key to conveying an expressive mood and an emotional response to the viewer “through an emphasis on the atmospheric elements in the picture and by the use of “vague shapes and subdued tonalities … [to convey] a sense of elegiac melancholy.””5

After his move to New York in 1906, White and Stieglitz “jointly created a series of photographs of two models, Mabel Cramer and another known only as Miss Thompson,” in 1907. This was the only time that Stieglitz ever worked with another photographer. “In 1908 Stieglitz continued to show his admiration for White by devoting an entire issue of Camera Work to him and 16 of his photographs. It was only the third time Stieglitz had singled out an individual photographer for this honor (the others were Steichen and Coburn).”6 In 1910, White set up the Seguinland School of Photography, the first independent school of photography in America, while in 1912 he had a terminal falling out with the excessive ego of Stieglitz. “First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.”7

Encouraged by his newfound freedom to act outside of the shadow of Stieglitz, White founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in 1914… an influential school which, over the next decade, “attracted many students who went on to become notable photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Anton Bruehl, Dorothea LangePaul OuterbridgeLaura GilpinRalph SteinerKarl StrussMargaret Watkins and Doris Ulmann.”8 In his class “The Art of Photography” White stressed that the primary thing his students had to learn was “the capacity to see.” White became one of the most important teachers of photography of the age. White died suddenly of a heart attack while on a trip to Mexico with students to take his first photographs in years. He was 54 years old.

After Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946 numerous photographs by White were found in his personal collection. Despite their differences, it is obvious that Stieglitz held White in very high regard, “one of the very few who understand what the Photo-Session means & is.”9 “Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.”10

There is something undeniable in what Stieglitz says. White’s greatest photographs emerge from the Stygian dusk, a dash of melancholy, a lot of beauty, mostly before he moved to New York. It says a lot that Stieglitz still thought that much of him as an artist, a man, and as an emasculated friend, that he kept nearly 50 of his photographs in his personal collection until he died. Stieglitz knew the nature of [his] genius.

 

The value of self-expression and direct engagement with experience

Clarence H. White’s artistic achievements may have been overshadowed by the likes of Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand’s later modernist photographs, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a colossus, a monster in the history of art photography. Simply put, there is no one else like him in the history of photography, for you can always recognise the “signature” of a White photograph.

Peter Bunnell notes, “[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”12 His private epic was a personal mythology which expressed his personality and distinctive sentiments through his photographs of imagined worlds. This is the critical thing that makes him so different from other photographers of the period: he was beholden to no movement, no school, teacher or narrative – but only to himself. In his best photographs it was this private world writ large in light that made him famous.

His “masterful reinterpretation of the possibilities of light and the photographic medium done with artistic intent”11 allowed him to develop this personal mythology. White learned how to visualise his subjects in his imagination, before rendering them by drawing in light. His unique prints, made in a variety of processes (platinum, gum-platinum, palladium, gum-palladium, gum, glycerin developed platinum, cyanotype and hand-coated platinum) with the same image sometimes printed using different processes,13 celebrate “pure photography”, a cerebral, ethereal emanation of pure light and form. They seem not of this earth. Indeed, I would argue that White steps outside strict pictorialism into this “other”, private realm.

There may be, as Peter Bunnell suggests, a luminosity of tone in his prints rarely achieved in the history of photography, but there was also a luminosity in his thinking, in the way he approaches the medium itself. I look at the photograph The Deluge (c. 1902-03, below) and I think of William Blake. I look at the three versions of the photograph Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) and observe how each iteration is different (in colour, tone and inflection), but how they are just as valid as each other. There are personal, domestic quotidian scenes (Blindmans’ Bluff, 1898 or Mother was living in the old home alone, 1902); mythic scenes, such as the glorious photograph The Bubble (1898, above) where the figure seems to hover above the ground (“pictures of the floating world”); and early Modernist inclinations such as Drops of Rain (1903, below) and Newport the Maligned (1907, below). But above all, there is the light which shines from within.

Further, his was a whole art aligned perhaps subconsciously, perhaps not, to that German Art Nouveau movement named after the Munich periodical Die Jugend (‘Youth’) – Jugendstijl. “A decorative art with the mid-century idea of the gesamtkunstwerk; the ‘total work of art’ applied in Wagner’s opera and in Dülfer’s architecture, Jugendstil before 1900 favoured floral motifs and ukiyo-e prints of Japanese art.” Evidence of this ‘total work of art’ (an expression of folk legend as universal humanist fable), can be seen in the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames (see below). The plain dark wood frames with their curved tops serve to further isolate and flatten the pictorial space of the photograph; the dark colour of the wood pushing against the luminosity, line, form and reddish brown colour of the prints. The last version of Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) is particularly illuminating in this respect, the dark wood framing the individual panels fragmenting the field upon which the young woman stands, so that we are no longer in a fairytale landscape (as in the first iteration) but surrounded by writhing tree trunks of sombre hue with a ghost-like presence walking amongst them. And then we see how these photographs were originally exhibited!

In Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899 (below) we observe, we are witness to, a flow of energy from one side of the wall to the other – none of this staid singular hanging “on the line” – but a dynamic narrative that moves the viewer both physically and mentally. How wondrous is this display! An then in William Herman Rau’s photograph Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation (1899, below) we see a networked display, almost a cross-like shape, with portraits surrounding what looks like a central landscape image (although it is difficult to make out exactly what the image is). This is an almost contemporary sequencing of photographic work, still used by the likes of Annette Messager today… a perfect example of gesamtkunstwerk, where White has fully understood concept, narrative, form, function, the physicality of the photograph, it’s frame, and the context and environment of the image display.

To me, the early prints of Clarence H. White give the sense that he has found a metaphor, but he is not sure what that metaphor relates to: a cosmology? / man creating something of wonder (when viewed with imagination)?

He is still working it out… and then he goes to New York.
Does it matter that he didn’t find the answer? A thing that is done as a reaction to a situation.
Not at all. It’s the journey that matters.

The sense of ethereal beauty and the beyond that he captured on his glass plates are enough to make him a genius in my eyes. “Images arising from dreams are the well spring of all our efforts to give enduring form and meaning to the urgencies within,” states Douglas Fowler.14 White’s oneiric photographs, and our prior experiences with dreaming and imagination, help to create a sense of oneness with his photographs. Ultimately, his private epic, his personal mythology brought these aspects of art into photography.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Princeton University Art Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  2. Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer. “The Artistry of Clarence H. White,” in Homer, William Innes (ed.). Symbolism of Light: The Photographs of Clarence H. White. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Art Museum, 1977, p. 34
  3. Richard K. Kent. “Early Twentieth-Century Art Photography in China: Adopting, Domesticating, and Embracing the Foreign,” in Local Culture/Global Photography, Trans Asia Photography Review Vol. 3, Issue 2, Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  4. Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colours other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”
    Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  5. Naomi Rosenblum. A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989, p. 297 quoted in Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  6. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  7. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  8. Lucinda Barnes (ed.) with Constance W. Glenn and Jane L. Bledsoe. A Collective Vision: Clarence H. White and His Students. Long Beach, CA: University Art Museum, 1985 in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  9. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 175 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  10. Weston J. Naef. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. NY: Viking Press, 1978, pp. 482-493 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  11. Peter Bunnell. Clarence H. White: The Reverence for Beauty. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Gallery of Fine Arts, 1986, p. 17 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  12. Anonymous. “A Reevaluation: Clarence H. White,” on the Photoseed blog [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  13. “White sometimes printed the same image using different processes, and as a result there are significant variations in how some of his prints appear. His platinum prints have a deep magenta-brown tone, for example, whereas his gum prints have a distinct reddish hue. Photogravures of his images in Camera Work, which he considered to be true prints, were more neutral, tending toward warm black-and-white tones.”
    Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 68 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  14. Douglas Fowler. The Kingdom of Dreams in Literature and Film: Selected Papers from the Tenth Annual Florida State University Conference on Literature and Film. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1986, p. 10 quoted in Anonymous. “Oneiric (film theory),” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 03/01/2018

 

 

Newark, Ohio

 

Newark, Ohio – where Clarence H. White was born and taught himself photography

 

 

 

Anne McCauley, curator of the exhibition and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art, explores the legacy of one of the early twentieth century’s most gifted photographers and influential teachers. Program took place on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

 

 

 

Collaboration with Yale Reveals Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Photographic Processes

Preparations for the first retrospective exhibition in a generation of pioneer photographer Clarence Hudson White (1871-1925) have inspired an unexpected collaboration between the Princeton University Art Museum and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Immersed in the real-life setting of the Princeton University Art Museum, the project drew students, researchers, and curators from across two universities and from numerous disciplines to analyse the experimental techniques that took place during the “Pictorialism” period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men's Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899
1899

 

Unknown photographer. 'Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon' 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon
1899
Photograph shows, from left: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Clarence H. White, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and Henry Troth

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920) 'Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]' 1899

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920)
Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]
1899

Photograph shows a wall installation of photographs by Clarence H. White at the second exhibition of the Philadelphia Photographic Salon; according to the catalog for the exhibition, the works shown are “Fear”, “Morning”, “A Puritan”, “The Bubble”, “Lady in Black”, “Evening : An Interior”, “On the Old Stair”, “At the Old Canal Lock”, and “Lady with the Venus.” Also includes a portrait, presumably of White, half-length, facing right.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

White was completely self-taught throughout his career, in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths. When a one-man exhibition of his work was held in Newark in 1899, fellow Newark photographer Ema Spencer wrote, “He has been remote from artistic influences and is absolutely untrained in the art of the schools. In consequence, traditional lines have unconsciously been ignored and he has followed his own personal bent because he has been impelled by that elusive and inscrutable force commonly known as genius.” It is also important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied. The most common way a new photographer learned the trade was by working with an experienced photographer, and, other than a few portraitists, there was no one to learn from in Newark.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Girl with the Violin' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Girl with the Violin
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 14.7 x 14 cm (5 13/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 22.9 x 22.4 cm (9 x 8 13/16 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Deluge' c. 1902-03 Gum bichro

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Deluge
c. 1902-03
Gum bichromate print
Image (arched top): 20.2 x 16.2 cm (7 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Just a Line' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Just a Line
1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 19.2 x 13.3 cm (7 9/16 x 5 1/4 in.)
Frame: 28.8 x 22.9 cm (11 5/16 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Climbing the Hill' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Climbing the Hill
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 20 x 16 cm (7 7/8 x 6 5/16 in.)
Frame: 34.5 x 30.5 cm (13 9/16 x 12 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'At the Window' 1896, printed 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
At the Window
1896, printed 1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 20.4 x 14.2 cm (8 1/16 x 5 9/16 in.)
Frame: 29.8 x 22.9 cm (11 3/4 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

“These photographs [above] are among the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames.”

(Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934) 'Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine' c. 1913

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934)
Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine
c. 1913
Clarence H. White School of Photography

 

 

“My photographs were less sharp than others and I do not think it was because of the lens so much as the conditions under which the photographs were made – never in the studio, always in the home or in the open, and when out of doors at a time of day very rarely selected for photography.”

.
Clarence H. White

 

“I think that if I were asked to name the most subtle and refined master photography has produced, that I would name him… To be a true artist in photography one must also be an artist in life, and Clarence H. White was such an artist.”

.
Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

“What he brought to photography was an extraordinary sense of light. ‘The Orchard’ is bathed in light. ‘The Edge of the Woods’ is a tour de force of the absence of light.”

.
Beaumont Newhall

 

“Clarence White’s poetic vision and sensitive intuition produced images that insinuate themselves deeply into one’s consciousness.”

.
Edward Steichen

 

“[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”

“The qualities that make White’s photographs memorable have to do with both form and content. In his finest pictures the disposition of every element, of each line and shape, is elevated to an expressive intensity few photographers managed to attain. … White was able to transform the sensory perception of light into an exposition of the most fundamental aspect of photography – the literal materialisation of form through light itself. His prints, mostly in the platinum medium, display a richness, a subtlety, and a luminosity of tone rarely achieved in the history of photography.”

.
Peter Bunnell

 

 

Innovative American Photographer Clarence H. White Receives First Retrospective in a Generation

The vision and legacy of photographer Clarence H. White (1871-1925), a leader in the early twentieth-century effort to position photography as an art, will be the focus of a major traveling exhibition organised by the Princeton University Art Museum. The first retrospective devoted to the photographer in over a generation, Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 will survey White’s career from his beginnings in 1895 in Ohio to his death in Mexico in 1925.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from October 7, 2017, through January 7, 2018, the exhibition will draw on the Clarence H. White Collection at the Museum and the deep holdings at the Library of Congress as well as loans from other public and private collections. Clarence H. White and His World reasserts White’s place in the American canon and, in the process, reshapes and expands our understanding of early twentieth-century American photography.

White’s career spans the radical shifts in photographic styles and status from the Kodak era of the 1890s; the corresponding fight for art photography primarily associated with his friend and fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz; and the postwar rise of advertising and fashion photography. While living in a small town in Ohio, White received international recognition for his beautiful scenes of quiet domesticity and his sensitivity to harmonious, two-dimensional composition. With his move to New York in 1906, he became renowned as a teacher, first at Teachers College with Arthur Wesley Dow, then in the summer school he established in Maine, and finally with the Clarence H. White School of Photography, founded in 1914. Among his students were some of the most influential artistic and commercial photographers of the early twentieth century: Laura Gilpin, Doris Ulmann, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Watkins, Dorothea Lange, Karl Struss, Anton Bruehl and hundreds more who did not become professional photographers but were shaped by White’s belief that art could enrich the lives of everyday Americans.

“The goal of the exhibition is to locate White’s own diverse and rich body of work within a period of great social and aesthetic change, from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties,” said Anne McCauley, exhibition curator and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton. “Far from staying stuck in the nineteenth century, White embraced new media like cinema and new commercial uses for photography, including fashion and advertising.”

The exhibition will feature photographs by White’s fellow Photo-Secessionists and his students as well as a selection of paintings and prints by other artists whom he knew and admired, and was influenced by or whose work he shaped, including William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, Max Weber, Edmund Tarbell and John Alexander.

Also explored within the exhibition are White’s links to the American Arts and Crafts movement, his embrace of socialism, his radically modern representations of childhood, and his complicated printing and framing processes. Of particular note is his lifelong investment in photographing the nude model, culminating in series that he made with Alfred Stieglitz in 1907 and with Paul Haviland in 1909, brought together here for the first time.

“As an artist and a teacher, White emerges as one of the essential American innovators of the early twentieth century, dedicated to the creation of beauty,” notes James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher – David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Through significant new archival research and bringing together works not seen in one setting since the artist’s lifetime, this exhibition and publication aim to reaffirm White’s astonishing accomplishments.”

After premiering at the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition travels to the Davis Museum, Wellesley College (February 7-June 3, 2018), the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 30-September 16, 2018) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (October 21, 2018-January 21, 2019). The exhibition is accompanied by a sumptuous 400-page catalogue by Anne McCauley, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, with contributions by Peter C. Bunnell, Verna Posever Curtis, Perrin Lathrop, Adrienne Lundgren, Barbara L. Michaels, Ying Sze Pek and Caitlin Ryan.

Press release from the Princeton University Art Museum

 

The Clarence H. White School of Photography

In 1910, to augment his courses in New York City and bring in extra income, White opened a summer school for photography. Named the Seguinland School of Photography, it was housed in a hotel, which was to be part of the new “Seguinland” resort on the mid-coast of Maine near Georgetown and Seguin Island. Pictorialist photographer F. Holland Day, who summered nearby, had earlier invited White and his family to the area for a respite from the city and the opportunity to explore creative photography outdoors. The fellowship between the two photographers and their families was an important factor in White’s decision to start the summer school. Students wore sailor suits, a practice begun by Day and his summer guests, and boarded at the Seguinland Hotel. Day regularly conducted critiques for White’s students, as on occasion did New York photographer Gertrude Käsebier. After 1912, the Pilot House adjacent to the hotel served as the school’s studio and darkroom. Among the students attracted to the idyllic coastal setting was the Pictorialist Anne W. Brigman from Northern California, who made the pilgrimage to Maine during an eight-month visit to the East Coast. White’s summer school in Maine lasted until 1915, when White relocated to northwestern Connecticut’s Berkshire Hills for summers. He reintroduced a summer school there, first in East Canaan, and then in Canaan that lasted until his death.

In the fall of 1914, the Clarence H. White School of Photography opened its doors at 230 E. 11th St. in New York City. This was the first of four locations for the school in the burgeoning art and publishing capital. White’s first instructor for art appreciation and design between 1914 and 1918 was avant-garde painter Max Weber, who often posed for the students. When Weber left, White hired one of his Columbia students, Charles J. Martin.

In 1917 the school occupied the “Washington Irving House” at 122 E. 17th St. at the corner of Irving Place near Union Square and Gramercy Park. Three years later, when that location was no longer available, the Clarence H. White Realty Corp. was formed in order to purchase a building for the school, and the White School resettled again, at 460 W. 144th St., where it remained until 1940. The uptown location provided a meeting place for White’s Columbia classes. From the 1920s on, photographer Edward Steichen was among those who served regularly as guest lecturers. White students paid $150 per semester, a fee that held constant until the school’s closing.

After Clarence White’s unexpected death in 1925, friends urged his widow to carry on despite the fact that his personality had been crucial to the advancement of the school. Though Jane Felix White was not a photographer herself, she took on the challenge and remained the school’s director until her retirement in 1940, when her youngest son, Clarence H. White Jr., took over. Jane and Clarence Jr. recruited more students, raising the enrolment to 106 by 1939. With greater numbers came significant changes: twice as many men as women (a reversal of the previous 2-to-1 ratio of women to men) and new classes. Art integrated with technique – the school’s previous hallmark – was no longer central to the curriculum. Nonetheless, the school continued to prosper, and its reputation surpassed other competitors, such as the New York Institute of Photography, a commercial school established in 1910, and the Studio School of Art Photography, which began in 1920 and continued a strict orientation toward the soft-focus, Pictorialist style. A poorly timed and costly move to larger, more centrally located quarters at 32 West 74th Street in 1940, however, soon helped bring about its closure. The mobilisation for World War II dealt the White School its final blow. After surviving for three decades, it closed its doors in 1942.

Text from the Library of Congress website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix]
1898
Gum bichromate prints with graphite
Image (1): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Image (2): 20.7 x 9.8 cm (8 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Image (3): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Frame: 34 x 28.5 x .5 cm (13 3/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Arthur Wesley Dow. 'Spring Landscape' 1892

 

Arthur Wesley Dow
Spring Landscape
1892
Oil on canvas
University of Michigan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Orchard' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Orchard
1902
Palladium print
24.3 x 19.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'What shall I say?' 1896, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
What shall I say?
1896, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 14.8 × 17.3 cm (5 13/16 × 6 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Girl with Mirror' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Girl with Mirror
1898
Varnished palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Evening Interior' c. 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Evening Interior
c. 1899
Platinum print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Male academic nude]' c. 1900

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Male academic nude]
c. 1900
Waxed platinum print
Image: 22.7 x 14.7 cm (8 15/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Ring Toss' 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Ring Toss
1899
Palladium print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]
1902
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.8 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]
1902
Cyanotype
Image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]
1898
Platinum print
Sheet: 17.7 x 15.5 cm (6 15/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Blindman's Bluff" 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Blindman’s Bluff”
1898
Platinum print
Library of Congress

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Drops of Rain' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Drops of Rain
1903
Platinum print
Image: 21.1 × 16.2 cm (8 5/16 × 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Winter Landscape' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Winter Landscape
1903
Photogravure

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960) 'Rondout, New York' c. 1907

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960)
Rondout, New York
c. 1907
Oil on canvas
68.6 x 91.4 cm
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of S. O. Buckner
© Estate of Léon Dabo

 

 

Leon Dabo (July 9, 1864 – November 7, 1960) was an American tonalist landscape artist best known for his paintings of New York, particularly the Hudson Valley. His paintings were known for their feeling of spaciousness, with large areas of the canvas that had little but land, sea, or clouds. During his peak, he was considered a master of his art, earning praise from such luminaries as John Spargo, Bliss Carman, Benjamin De Casseres, Edwin Markham, and Anatole Le Braz. His brother, Scott Dabo, was also a noted painter.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Newport the Maligned" 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Unpublished illustration [Beacon Rock with home of E. D. Morgan III] for Gouverneur Morris, “Newport the Maligned”
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.9 x 19.2 cm (9 7/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)' 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)
1909
Platinum print
The Clarence H. White Collection, Princeton University Art Museum

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) "At the Edge of the Woods - Evening" 1901

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“At the Edge of the Woods – Evening” [Letitia Felix]
1901
Chine-collé photogravure
14.4 x 10.1 cm
28.6 x 19.6 cm uncut
Camera Notes, Vol. IV, April 1901

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]' c. 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]
c. 1905
Gum bichromate print
Image: 24.1 x 19 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Mother was living in the old home alone' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mother was living in the old home alone
1902
Photogravure
From the book Eben Holden, John Andrew & Son (Boston) 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]' 1904

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]
1904
Platinum print
Image: 15.6 x 19.6 cm. (6 1/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 36.2 × 43.8 × 3.2 cm (14 1/4 × 17 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
Gift of Edmund T. Weiant

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' 1909, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
1909, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 25.6 x 19.6 cm (10 1/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Morning - The Bathroom' 1906

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning – The Bathroom
1906
Platinum print
22.3 x 18.0 cm. (8 3/4 x 7 1/16 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) "Experiment 28" 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Experiment 28”
1907
Vintage japanese tissue photogravure
20.6 x 15.9 cm
30.2 x 21.1 cm uncut
Published in Camera Work XXVII, 1909

 

 

In 1907, the year after Clarence White arrived in New York City, he collaborated with Photo-Secession founder Alfred Stieglitz on a series of portraits featuring two models. Shown here holding a glass globe, California model Mabel Cramer poses in a portrait later reproduced as a plate in Camera Work. Said to be a friend of the German American photographer Arnold Genthe and possessing a face worthy of Cleopatra, Cramer and a woman known only as a Miss Thompson, posed for a series of photographs intended to promote photography as an equivalent medium to painting. It was the only time Stieglitz would ever work in tandem with another photographer and shows the extent to which the photographers were allied aesthetically and technically.

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Miss Thompson]' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Miss Thompson]
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.7 x 18.4 cm (9 5/16 x 7 1/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Also in 1910, Stieglitz led an effort to create a major exhibition of the Photo-Secession artists at what was then called the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York (now known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). While this effort was announced as a group activity of the Photo-Secession, Stieglitz refused to allow any others to have input or make decision about who would be included in the exhibition and how it would be displayed. Stieglitz, who was already known for his domineering ways and dogmatic approach to photography, took his self-assigned, unilateral authority even beyond his past actions; in this case he proved to have gone too far for several people who had been closely aligned with him. First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.

Stieglitz reacted to these claims and White’s departure in particular with his usual antagonistic manner. Within a short while, he delivered to White most of the negatives and prints he had jointly produced with White in 1907. The split between the two was so deep that Stieglitz wrote to White “One thing I do demand…is that my name not be mentioned by you in connection with either the prints or the negatives…Unfortunately I cannot wipe out the past….” …

Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Torso' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Torso
1907
Platinum print
22.1 x 18.7 cm. (8 11/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In 1907 White and Stieglitz collaborated on a series of nude studies in which they planned to experiment with various lenses and papers. Stieglitz placed the camera and choreographed the poses, much as he would later do in his extensive portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, while White focused the camera and developed the negatives. These three photographs illustrate the range of the imagery and its progression from the most formal and demure image in which the draped Miss Thompson assumes a cool classical pose to the second image which is surprisingly intimate and unaffected. Combining the compositional strength and naturalism of the first two photographs, but exchanging props and interior surroundings for tight framing and expressive chiaroscuro, the third and most accomplished photograph is both modern and sensual. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' c. 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
c. 1909
Platinum print
Image (arched top): 22.5 x 16.5 cm (8 7/8 x 6 1/2 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Morning' 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning
1905
Platinum print
From Camera Work (No. 23, July 1908)

 

 

Morning perfectly embodies the tenets of Pictorialism: expressive, rather than narrative or documentary, content; craftsmanship in the execution of the print; and a carefully constructed composition allied to Impressionist and American Tonalist painting and to popular Japanese prints. His photographs from the period before he moved to New York in 1906 signalled a remove from the modern urban world. Neither genre scene nor narrative tableau, this photograph is a retreat into domesticised nature. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Eugene Debs' c. 1906-08

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Eugene Debs
c. 1906-08
Platinum print
Image: 22.2 x 17.8 cm (8 3/4 x 7 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States. …

Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.63% of the popular vote), 1904 (2.98%), 1908 (2.83%), 1912 (5.99%), and 1920 (3.41%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state Indiana in 1916.

Debs was noted for his oratory, and his speech denouncing American participation in World War I led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium due to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison. He has since been cited as the inspiration for numerous politicians.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alfred Stieglitz
1907
Cyanotype
image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow' 1908

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow
1908
Vintage waxed platinum print
22.1 x 16.6 cm

 

 

“White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s).”

Arthur Wesley Dow (April 6, 1857 – December 13, 1922) was an American painter, printmaker, photographer and influential arts educator.

Dow taught at three major American arts training institutions over the course of his career beginning with the Pratt Institute from 1896-1903 and the New York Art Students League from 1898-1903; then, in 1900, he founded and served as the director of the Ipswich Summer School of Art in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and from 1904 to 1922, he was a professor of fine arts at Columbia University Teachers College.

His ideas were quite revolutionary for the period; he taught that rather than copying nature, art should be created by elements of the composition, like line, mass and colour. He wanted leaders of the public to see art is a living force in everyday life for all, not a sort of traditional ornament for the few. Dow suggested this lack of interest would improve if the way art was presented would permit self-expression and include personal experience in creating art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Clarence H. White' c. 1908-1910

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Clarence H. White
c. 1908-1910
Autochrome
17.5 x 12.5 cm
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

In the decade after the invention of the Kodak point-and-shoot camera in 1888, thousands of men and women began taking their own amateur photographs. Some of them, generally from educated backgrounds and interested in the fine arts, aspired to make aesthetically pleasing images that rivalled paintings and prints in their compositions and tonal effects. These serious photographers, favouring large-format view cameras on tripods, called themselves pictorialists, which merely meant that they were concerned with making artistic “picture” rather than documents.

One of the most successful and influential of these self-taught amateurs was Clarence H. White (1871-1925), who rose from modest origins in Newark, Ohio, to become an internationally known art photographer and teacher. Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 celebrates the short-lived career of this dedicated visionary, which spans the turbulent era from the Gilded Age through the 1913 Armory Show to the Roaring Twenties.

Drawing primarily on the vast collection of prints and archival material acquired by former curator Peter C. Bunnell for the Princeton University Art Museum and from the Library of Congress’s White Family Collection, the exhibition also includes photographs by White’s friends – such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, F. Holland Day, and Gertrude Käsebier – and works by a sampling of the hundreds of students who White trained at Columbia Teachers College, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and the schools he founded in New York, Maine, and Connecticut. Complementing more than 140 rare photographic prints, illustrated books, and albums are paintings and drawings by John White Alexander, Léon Dabo, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Arthur Wesley Dow, Alice Barber Stephens, Edmund Charles Tarbell, Max Weber, and Marius de Zayas that illuminate the artistic milieu in which White’s style evolved.

White’s early career centers on his Midwestern hometown, where he took up the camera in 1894. Squeezing photographic sittings into the spare time he had from his job as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocer, he dressed his wife, her sisters, and his friends in costumes evocative of the colonial or antebellum era and posed them in penumbral interiors or the twilit hills outside Newark. White’s knack for setting up tableaux that were at once naturalistic and yet formally striking won him prizes in regional exhibitions, followed by his acceptance in 1898 in the exclusive group show of art photographs held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His meeting there with Alfred Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and others led to his participation in international exhibitions and his eventual inclusion as a founding member of the group that Stieglitz in 1902 dubbed the “Photo-Secession.” White stood out from his contemporaries for his assimilation of the radical cropping and flattened planes of Japanese prints, his melancholy, introspective women, and his frank, unromanticised portrayals of children.

White’s decision in 1904 to become a full-time photographer and his move in 1906 to New York transformed his life and his subjects. While in Newark, he had already earned extra income from commercial jobs illustrating fiction, primarily stories set in frontier America, such as the bestselling novel by Irving Bacheller, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country. A section of the exhibition reveals the extent to which White, like many Photo-Secessionists, sold portraits, landscapes, and narrative illustrations to magazines – a practice that has received little attention as a result of Alfred Stieglitz’s renowned dismissal of commercial photography.

Another discovery explored in the exhibition is the importance of socialism for White’s aesthetic vision. White’s selection of handmade printing techniques – such as gum prints in which a pigmented gum emulsion is hand applied to drawing paper – and his transformation of each platinum print (made in contact with a negative) into a unique object are indebted to the ideals of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, which valued hand labor over standardised machine production. White’s deep friendship with the family of Stephen M. Reynolds, Eugene Debs’s campaign manager and a leading Indiana socialist, resulted in idealised portraits of a family that embraced the simple life, racial and social equality, and the philosophy that every object in the home should be harmonious. White also went on to celebrate Rose Pastor Stokes and her husband, Graham Stokes, a socialist power couple in the years prior to the American entry into World War I.

Consistent with many socialists’ embrace of Morris and Walt Whitman, White also accepted the undressed human form as natural and free of sin. Throughout his career he made photographs of nude figures, primarily his sons outdoors and young women posed in the studio or in secluded glens. Drawing upon his greater experience with indoor lighting, White joined with Stieglitz in 1907 for a series of soft-focus studies of female models. A sampling of these prints is reunited here for the first time since 1912, when Stieglitz split with White and disavowed this collaborative venture.

The latter part of the exhibition is devoted to White’s innovations as a teacher, which form a major part of his legacy. White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s). At a time when the few American schools that existed to teach photography focused solely on processes and technique, White assigned more open-ended compositional and exposure problems followed by group critiques. Later, at the Clarence H. White School that he founded in New York in 1914, he hired a series of artists (starting with Max Weber) to teach art history and composition. White’s students – represented here by Anton Bruehl, Laura Gilpin, Paul Burty Haviland, Paul Outerbridge, Karl Struss, Doris Ulmann, and Margaret Watkins, among others – mastered abstract principles of framing, cropping, and lighting that prepared them for a wide array of professional careers, including the growing arenas of advertising and fashion photography.

White’s late works include portraits of famous, but now forgotten, actresses and silent film stars, such as Alla Nazimova and Mae Murray, as well as the painter Abbott Thayer and the art director for Condé Nast, Heyworth Campbell. White also tried his hand at fashion photography and welcomed filmmaking into the White School in the months before he led a summer class to Mexico City, where he tragically succumbed to a heart attack at the age of fifty-four.

Far from rejecting modern styles, White accommodated them in his school, although he maintained his preference for matte printing papers and a degree of soft focus for his personal salon prints. What unites his career, and allows his work to speak to us today, is his belief in the transformative power of art and the potential of every individual to craft objects of lasting beauty.

Anne McCauley
David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Untitled [Kitchen still life]' c. 1919-20

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Untitled [Kitchen still life]
c. 1919-20
Gelatin silver print
16 x 18.7 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
Digital image © Museum Associates / LACMA

 

 

Margaret Watkins (1884-1969) was a Canadian photographer who is remembered for her innovative contributions to advertising photography. She lived a life of rebellion, rejection of tradition, and individual heroism; she never married, she was a successful career woman in a time when women stayed at home, and she exhibited eroticism and feminism in her art and writing. …

Watkins opened a studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, and in 1920 became editor of the annual publication Pictorial Photography in America. She worked successfully as an advertising photographer for Macy’s and the J. Walter Thompson Company and Fairfax, becoming one of the first women photographers to contribute to advertising agencies. She also produced landscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes. While teaching at the Clarence White school from 1916 to 1928, her students included Margaret Bourke-White, Laura Gilpin, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner and Doris Ulmann.

One of the earliest art photographers in advertising, her images of everyday objects set new standards of acceptability. From 1928, when she was based in Glasgow, she embarked on street photography in Russia, Germany and France, specialising in store fronts and displays. Watkins died in Glasgow, Scotland in 1969, largely forgotten as a photographer.

Watkins legacy exists in her exemplary work left behind, but also her example as a single, successful woman. According to Queen’s Quarterly, her life is an inspiration for single women, who are fulfilled by their careers, rather than the traditional gender roles women face of fulfilment through marrying and having children.

Before she died, Watkins handed over a sealed box of all her work to her neighbour and executor of her will, Joseph Mulholland. She gave him strict instructions to not open it until after she died. As a result, several solo exhibitions were subsequently held in Britain and North America. When she died in November 1969, she left most of her estate to music charities.

In October 2012, a retrospective exhibition of Margaret Watkins’ work titled “Domestic Symphonies” opened at the National Gallery of Canada. This exhibition showcased 95 of her photographs dating from 1914 – 1939. Of these photos were portraits and landscapes, modern still life, street scenes, advertising work, and commercial designs. Music was a vital inspiration for Watkins, and that can be seen just from the title of this exhibition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine
1917
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 12.1 x 9.8 cm (4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]' 1925

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Printed by Clarence H. White Jr., American, 1907-1978
Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]
1925
Palladium print by Clarence H. White Jr.
Image: 21.9 x 17.1 cm (8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Mae Murray' c. 1919-20

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mae Murray
c. 1919-20
Platinum print with graphite
Image: 24.3 x 14.8 cm (9 9/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Mae Murray (May 10, 1885 – March 23, 1965) was an American actress, dancer, film producer, and screenwriter. Murray rose to fame during the silent film era and was known as “The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips” and “The Gardenia of the Screen”.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Alla Nazimova' 1919

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alla Nazimova
1919
Photogravure
Library of Congress

 

 

Alla Nazimova (Russian: Алла Назимова; born Marem-Ides Leventon; June 3 [O.S. May 22], 1879 – July 13, 1945) was a Russian actress who immigrated to the United States in 1905. On Broadway, she was noted for her work in the classic plays of Ibsen, Chekhov and Turgenev. Her efforts at silent film production were less successful, but a few sound-film performances survive as a record of her art. Nazimova openly conducted relationships with women, and her mansion on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard was believed to be the scene of outlandish parties. She is credited with having originated the phrase “sewing circle” as a discreet code for lesbian or bisexual actresses.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Dancers - Barnard Greek Games' 1922

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Dancers – Barnard Greek Games
1922
Palladium print
Image: 24.5 x 19.6 cm (9 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

The Barnard Greek Games were a tradition at Barnard College pitting the freshman and sophomore classes against one another in a series of competitions. They began in 1903 when the Class of 1905 challenged the Class of 1906 to an informal athletic contest. In later years upperclass students would cheer on their juniors, “odds” cheering for “odds” and “evens” for “evens.” Signature events included a chariot race, with chariots pulled by teams of 4 students, and a torch race. The torch race is captured in the “Spirit of the Greek Games” statue outside Barnard Hall that was given by the Class of 1905 as a gift on the 25th anniversary of the games in 1928. The games, a central part of Barnard campus life, were held annually until 1968, when upheaval on campus caused their cancellation, snuffing out this tradition along with such longstanding features of campus life as the Varsity Show.

After a 22 year absence, the Games were revived in 1989 as part of Barnard’s Centennial celebrations. The games were revived again in 2000, and have been held sporadically since.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Heyworth Campbell' c. 1921

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Heyworth Campbell
c. 1921
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 24 x 18.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 - 1934) 'Portrait of Clarence H. White' c. 1910

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 – 1934)
Portrait of Clarence H. White
c. 1910
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

Note: Digital clean and print balance by Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Princeton University Art Museum
McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ ‎
T: (609) 258-3788

The Museum is located on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, simply follow the lamppost Museum banners.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday 12.00 – 5.00 pm

Princeton University Art Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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