Archive for April, 2020

30
Apr
20

Photographs: ‘T. Schneider & Sons (1847-1921): A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes’ c. 1860

April 2020

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

 

How rare, how exquisite.

Just look at the light and especially the perspective of these photographs. Probably due to the focal length of the lens which compacts space (like a zoom lens today), it seems as though we can see forever, to infinity, in these images.

The scale of relationship between things in the foreground and background is absolutely pleasing.

Just imagine looking at them as stereoscopes, and visualise the 3D effect in your minds eye, and how that would affect your senses.

They sold today at auction. How I wish I’d had £21000 to buy them!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860, 10 examples, plate size, 88mm x 116mm, Mounted under a gilt brass mat, embossed in the lower margin ‘STEREOSCOP VON T. SCHNEIDER UND SOEHNE’, the portfolio housed in contemporary maker’s fitted wooden Daguerreotype box, illustrating the interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces. (88mm x 116mm)

Sold on the Invaluable website for £21000 April 30th 2020

 

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

 

Invaluable website

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26
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China’ at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 14th June 2020

The Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Actors]' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Actors]
1870s
Albumen print
Collection of Stephan Loewentheil, Cornell JD 1975

 

 

Such a rare commodity (and I use the word deliberately) – an Indigenous photographer – in a world educated “in the colonial view of photography’s history that has privileged Western travel photographers.” And yet, Lai Fong buys into the photographic conventions of the day, based on Western ideals of ethnographic portraiture and documentary landscape photography, to sell his impressive product range. In a photograph such as [Group portrait near Fangguangyan Monastery, Fujian] (c. 1869, below) the positioning of the European figures could have come straight out of an Édouard Manet painting, complete with their air of posed insouciance. Even in the photograph of a brothel, a Canton boat which served only wealthy Chinese clients [Flower boat, Guangzhou] (1870s, below), the West encroaches, as can be seen by the funnels and sails of a ship that lurks behind the traditional floating pleasure den.

Only rarely do we glimpse Lai Fong’s individuality as an artist… the low camera position, long vanishing point and panoramic landscape of the two magnificent images [Ming Tombs, Beijing] (1879, below); or the sublime construction of the image in photographs such as [Piled Stone Peaks in Mount Wuyi] (c. 1869, below) with its reference to Chinese brush-and-ink landscape painting known as Shan shui.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Installation image of the exhibition 'Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China' at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

Installation image of the exhibition 'Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China' at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

Installation image of the exhibition 'Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China' at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

Installation image of the exhibition 'Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China' at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

 

Installation images of the exhibition Lai Fong (ca. 1839-1890): Photographer of China at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Credit: David O. Brown, Johnson Museum

 

 

This exhibition introduces viewers to the work of Lai Fong, arguably the most ambitious and successful photographer of nineteenth-century China. He began practicing under the name Afong in Hong Kong in the 1860s, and over the next twenty years built a towering reputation on his illustrious clientele, his impressive product range, and a catalogue of views of China “larger, choicer, and more complete… than any other in the Empire,” according to his advertisements. His photographs of Chinese cities, monuments, people, and land – however shaped by the desires of his cosmopolitan clientele – stand as records of places that have changed often beyond recognition, and of his own artistry, exuberance, and entrepreneurial brilliance. Managed by his son and daughter-in-law after his death, his studio persisted into the 1940s, an instance of remarkable longevity in a famously difficult field.

“Despite the historical fame of Lai’s studio and the reach of his photographs, which exist today in collections worldwide, Lai remains little known outside of specialist circles,” said Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at the Johnson Museum. “His work is understudied and rarely exhibited, the result in part of a colonial view of photography’s history that has privileged Western travel photographers over indigenous practitioners. Lai Fong: Photographer of China is not only the first exhibition dedicated to Lai, but to any Chinese photographer working in the initial decades of photography’s global proliferation.”

The exhibition brings together almost fifty images, many of which have never been previously published or exhibited, suggesting them as emblematic of one of the nineteenth century’s most significant, and significantly overlooked, photographic careers. They are drawn primarily from the singular collection of Stephan Loewentheil, JD ’75, who over three decades has assembled one of the world’s foremost collections of early photographs of China. Other lenders to the exhibition include the Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Getty Research Institute.

Of special note is the Ming Tombs album from Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. This album of ninety-five photographs of Beijing has been in the collection of the Cornell Library since 1940. In 2019, the photographs were attributed to Lai by Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at the Johnson, as part of ongoing research on the university’s collections of Asian photographs. The album is a remarkable compendium, the most complete collection of Lai’s images of the Chinese capital yet discovered. At least nineteen of them may have been entirely unknown previously; they do not appear in the only catalogue of Lai’s photographs reconstructed to date, by the historian Terry Bennett.

This exhibition was curated by Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at the Johnson, and Stacey Lambrow, curator of the Loewentheil Photography of China Collection, with the assistance of Yuhua Ding, curatorial assistant for Asian art at the Johnson. It is supported in part by the Helen and Robert J. Appel Exhibition Endowment.

Press release from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Itinerant barber]' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Itinerant barber]
1870s
Albumen print
Collection of Stephan Loewentheil, Cornell JD 1975

 

 

Genre images like these, along with views of monuments, cities, and natural scenery, were central to the Chinese photography market. Lai created them both at home and on expedition, setting up makeshift studios where necessary. The photographs feature people who may or may not have actually inhabited the traditional roles they play for the camera: Lai had a talent for summoning natural postures and expressions from subjects he had costumed and arranged.

Lai’s photographs certainly appealed to Chinese buyers but, like most nineteenth-century photographs of China, they were largely produced for export. They left Hong Kong as souvenirs with the international officials, merchants, missionaries, and tourists who began to enter Chinese cities in great numbers in the 1860s, after successive incursions by the British military forced the Qing dynasty to expand foreigners’ access to the country.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Flower boat, Guangzhou]' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Flower boat, Guangzhou]
1870s
Albumen print
Collection of Stephan Loewentheil, Cornell JD 1975

 

 

For hundreds of years, floating brothels existed on the Pearl River Delta, part of a river scene that grew alongside maritime trade between China and Europe in the eighteenth century. The boats in most harbours were open to men from any nation, but the Canton boats served only Chinese clients, primarily the wealthy elite. Called flower boats, they were places of lavish entertainment. They could be exquisitely constructed and outfitted, and were often romantically depicted in souvenir paintings.

Despite the boats’ glamorous reputation, the industry turned on slavery. The women and girls working aboard were the property of the boats’ owners, purchased as children and trained in appealing to men of high society. When age or disease rendered them no longer lucrative, they were sold or discarded. Such cruelty was increasingly reviled as the century wore on. The last boats disappeared in the 1930s.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Beijing]' 1879

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Beijing]
1879
Albumen print
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Ming Tombs, Beijing]' 1879

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Ming Tombs, Beijing]
1879
From an album of albumen prints
Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Ming Tombs, Beijing]' 1879

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Ming Tombs, Beijing]
1879
From an album of albumen prints
Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

 

 

This album of ninety-five photographs of Beijing has been in the collection of the Cornell Library since 1940. In 2019, the photographs were attributed to Lai by Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at the Johnson Museum, as part of ongoing research on the university’s collections of Asian photographs. The album is a remarkable compendium, the most complete collection of Lai’s images of the Chinese capital yet discovered. At least nineteen of them may have been entirely unknown previously; they do not appear in the only catalogue of Lai’s photographs reconstructed to date, by the historian Terry Bennett.

Lai traveled to what was then Peking in 1879, possibly on the invitation of the foreign diplomats whose portraits are included in the album. Alongside these portraits are views of the monuments of the ancient city, including temples, pagodas, the observatory, the Summer Palace, and the Ming Tombs. As here, many of these monuments are pictured from a distance. Lai makes the approach to the subject as central to the picture as the subject itself.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) 'Part of the Bund, Shanghai' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
Part of the Bund, Shanghai
1870s
From an album of albumen prints
Getty Research Institute, Clark Worswick collection of photographs of China and Southeast Asia

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) 'Part of the Bund, Shanghai' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
Part of the Bund, Shanghai
1870s
From an album of albumen prints
Getty Research Institute, Clark Worswick collection of photographs of China and Southeast Asia

 

 

Contrary to accounts first propagated by its early European and American inhabitants, Shanghai had not been an inconsequential place – a “fishing village on a mudflat,” as one famous city guide put it – before it was opened to foreign settlement and trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. In fact, for centuries it had been an important point along trade routes between China and Southeast Asia, and by the 1830s it had a quarter of a million inhabitants. Nonetheless, its growth after 1842 was explosive. By the start of the new century its physical size had more than doubled, its population quadrupled, and it had become a global commercial capital.

The landmarks of the early decades of this era – the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Shanghai Club, many of the important mercantile hongs, or trading houses – were clustered along the Shanghai Bund. This waterfront embankment district reached the International Settlement at one end and the French Concession at the other.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Group portrait near Fangguangyan Monastery, Fujian]' c. 1869

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Group portrait near Fangguangyan Monastery, Fujian]
c. 1869
Albumen print
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Robert Rosenkranz Gift, 2005

 

 

Around 1869, Lai was invited by foreign residents of Fuzhou to record a private excursion by boat to the Fangguangyan Monastery, a “hanging temple” known for its spectacular location and design. Lai posed the group for photographs at several spots along the route.

The rather illustrious expedition party included Charles Sinclair, the British Consult of Fuzhou, who sits on the stool at left; Sinclair’s wife, who leans against the rock wall; Baron de Méritens, an Imperial Maritime Customs Service commissioner, who perches on a rock at center; Prosper Giquel, Director of the Fuzhou Arsenal, who stands by Sinclair’s wife; and Francis Temple, an accountant at the Shanghai branch of the Oriental Bank, who is stretched out informally in the foreground. The man adopting a similar pose in the background remains unidentified.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890) '[Piled Stone Peaks in Mount Wuyi]' c. 1869

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, c. 1839-1890)
[Piled Stone Peaks in Mount Wuyi]
c. 1869
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Robert Rosenkranz Gift, 2005

 

 

Shan shui was a traditional form of Chinese brush-and-ink landscape painting that followed a complex set of compositional and conceptual rules. Lai refers to it in his images of magnificent natural forms, but photography grounded his representations in the observed, external world – a key difference from the idealism of shan shui pictures.

In his picture of Mount Wuyi, Lai monumentalises the Danxia landform that characterises the mountain, located in the southern suburb of Wuyishan, Fujian. Danxia comprise isolated hills and steep layered rocks of red sandstone that have been shaped by eons of weathering and fluvial erosion. Lai was among the first Chinese photographers to photograph Mount Wuyi’s marvellous stone peaks.

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Bridal Carriage' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Bridal Carriage
1870s
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Courtesy of the Loewentheil Collection

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Chinese Junks, Hong Kong' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Chinese Junks, Hong Kong
1870s
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Courtesy of the Loewentheil Collection

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Dragon Boat Race, Guangzhou' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Dragon Boat Race, Guangzhou
1870s
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Courtesy of the Loewentheil Collection

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Waterfall in the Dinghu Mountains' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Waterfall in the Dinghu Mountains
1870s
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Courtesy of the Loewentheil Collection

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Portrait of an Official' 1870s

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Portrait of an Official
1870s
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Courtesy of the Loewentheil Collection

 

Attributed to Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Culling Tea' c. 1869

 

Attributed to Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Culling Tea
c. 1869
Albumen silver print from glass negative
6 15/16 × 9 3/8 in. (17.6 × 23.8 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Robert Rosenkranz Gift, 2005
CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890) 'Portrait of a Merchant' c. 1870

 

Lai Fong (Chinese, 1839-1890)
Portrait of a Merchant
c. 1870
Albumen print
29 cm x 22 cm
Loewentheil Photography of China Collection

 

 

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
114 Central Avenue, Ithaca, NY 14853

Opening hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 7.30 pm
Friday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art website

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23
Apr
20

Video: Albert Camus ‘La Peste’ (The Plague) 1947

April 2020

 

There is no more important book to understand our times than Albert Camus’s The Plague, a novel about a virus that spreads uncontrollably from animals to humans and ends up destroying half the population of a representative modern town. Camus speaks to us now not because he was a magical seer, but because he correctly sized up human nature. As he wrote: ‘Everyone has inside it himself this plague, because no one in the world, no one, can ever be immune.’

Text from the YouTube website

 

 

 

Albert Camus
La Peste (The Plague)
1947

 

 

What does plague mean for humanity – in his philosophy… we are all, unbeknownst to us, already living through a plague. That is, a widespread, silent invisible disease that may kill any of us at any time and destroy the lives we assumed were solid [death].

The actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, they are dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that we are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated, by a bacillus, an accident or the actions of our fellow humans. Our exposure to plague is at the heart of Camus’s view that our lives are fundamentally on the edge of what he termed ‘the absurd’.

For Camus, when it comes to dying, there is no progress in history, there is no escape from our frailty; being alive always was and will always remain an emergency, as one might put it, truly an inescapable ‘underlying condition’.

Plague or no plague, there is always – as it were – the plague, if what we mean by this is a susceptibility to sudden death, an event that can render our lives instantaneously meaningless. 

Life is a hospice, never a hospital.

Camus writes: ‘Pestilence is so common, there have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared.’

In one of the most central lines of the book, Camus writes: ‘This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.’

In the words of one of his characters, Camus knew, as we do not, that ‘everyone has inside it himself this plague, because no one in the world, no one, can ever be immune.’

Full text of the video can be found on The School of Life website [Online] Cited 23/03/2020

 

 

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19
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Platinum Photographs’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 21st January – 31st May 2020

Curator: Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Peter Henry Emerson (British, born Cuba, 1856-1936) 'Coming Home from the Marshes' 1886

 

Peter Henry Emerson (British, born Cuba, 1856-1936)
Coming Home from the Marshes
1886
Platinum print
Image: 19.8 × 28.9 cm (7 13/16 × 11 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Glorious. adjective: having a striking beauty or splendour.

I have seen quite a few vintage platinum prints over the years, from Paul Strand to Robert Mapplethorpe (even though he didn’t print them himself). And there has always struck me about them a lusciousness, a pleasingly rich “atmosphere” which appeals strongly to the senses, through an almost erotic charge of intensity.

Contrary to the contemporary mania for pure blacks and whites in an image, platinum prints, with their wide gamut, can have an innumerable number of greys in their tonal range which form a holistic whole in the rendition of the subject. For example, Frederick H. Evans’ Kelmscott Manor: In the Attics (2) (1896, below) has a delicacy of description and a glowing aura seemingly emanating from the very depths of the image, which fetishises the photographic object, itself.

As in a drizzle of light rain – and emerging from Pictorialist conventions of sfumato – there is a liquidity to the tonality of platinum prints, as though there is mercury flowing under the surface of the paper. Glorious.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

Admired for their velvety matte surface, wide tonal range, and neutral palette, platinum prints helped establish photography as a fine art. Introduced in 1873, the process was championed by prominent photographers until platinum’s use was restricted in World War I and manufacturers were forced to introduce alternatives. The process attracted renewed interest in the mid-twentieth century from a relatively small but dedicated community of practitioners. This exhibition draws from the Museum’s collection to showcase some of the most striking prints made with platinum and the closely related palladium processes.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

 

Eveleen W. H. Myers (British, 1856-1937) 'Leopold Hamilton Myers as 'The Compassionate Cherub'' about 1888-1891

 

Eveleen W. H. Myers (British, 1856-1937)
Leopold Hamilton Myers as ‘The Compassionate Cherub’
about 1888-1891
Platinum print
Image: 24.4 × 29 cm (9 5/8 × 11 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935) 'Helen Sears' 1895

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935)
Helen Sears
1895
Platinum print
Image: 22.8 × 18.7 cm (9 × 7 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Sarah Choate Sears (1858-1935) was an American art collector, art patron, cultural entrepreneur, artist and photographer

About 1890 she began exploring photography, and soon she was participating in local salons. She joined the Boston Camera Club in 1892, and her beautiful portraits and still life attracted the attention of fellow Boston photographer F. Holland Day. Soon her work was gaining international attention.

At the same time she was pursuing her photography interest, she and her husband were hosting some of the most elegant cultural and artistic parties in Boston. They often featured private symphonic performances and included many international composers and performers, including Ignacy Paderewski, Serge Koussevitsky and Dame Nellie Melba.

In 1899 she was given a one-woman show at the Boston Camera Club, and in 1900 she had several prints in Frances Benjamin Johnson’s famous exhibition in Paris. In early 1900 she met American Impressionist Mary Cassatt, and the two continued to be friends for the remainder of their lives. During this same period she was elected as a member of the prestigious photographic associations: the Linked Ring in London and Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession in New York…

In 1907, two of her photographs were published in Camera Work, but by that time she had lost much of her interest in photography.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Kelmscott Manor: In the Attics (2)' 1896

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Kelmscott Manor: In the Attics (2)
1896
Platinum print
Image: 19.9 × 14.9 cm (7 7/8 × 5 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) '[Gertrude O'Malley and son Charles]' 1900

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
[Gertrude O’Malley and son Charles]
1900
Platinum print
Image: 20.2 × 15.6 cm (7 15/16 × 6 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'La Cigale' (The cicada) Negative 1901; print 1908

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
La Cigale (The cicada)
Negative 1901; print 1908
Waxed gum bichromate over platinum print
Image: 31.4 × 27 cm (12 3/8 × 10 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Platinum Photographs, featuring more than two dozen striking prints made with platinum and the closely related palladium photographic process.

Drawn from the museum’s collection, the exhibition explores the wide variety of visual characteristics that have come to define the allure and beauty of this medium, which include a velvety matte surface, wide tonal range, and neutral palette. Introduced in 1873 by scientist William Willis Jr. (British, 1841-1923), the use of platinum was quickly embraced by both professional and amateur photographers alike and helped to establish photography as a fine art.

The visual qualities of each print could be individualised by changing the temperature of the developer or adding chemicals such as mercury or uranium. Photographers further enhanced their works by using an array of commercially available papers with rich textures and by employing inventive techniques such as the application of pigments and layered coatings to mimic effects associated with painting and drawing.

Platinum printing became widely associated with Pictorialism, an international movement and aesthetic style popular at the end of the 19th century. Advocates of Pictorialism favoured visible marks of the artist’s hand that might be achieved by manipulating either the negative or the print, or both. These hand-crafted prints differentiated themselves from the crisp images produced by commercial photographers and snapshots made with hand-held cameras recently introduced by Kodak.

Among the works on view is a triptych of a mother and child by Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934), one of the most technically innovative photographers associated with Pictorialism, an atmospheric nude by Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973), and a view of Venice by Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, born United States, 1882-1966). Other images by Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) and Karl Struss (American, 1886-1981) incorporate geometric forms or unusual vantage points to introduce abstraction into their compositions.

The popularity of platinum paper declined in the years leading up to the First World War. The soaring price of the metal forced manufacturers to introduce alternatives, including papers made with palladium and a platinum-and-silver hybrid. As platinum became crucial in the manufacture of explosives, governments prohibited its use for any purpose outside the defence industry. The scarcity of materials and eventual shifting aesthetic preferences led many photographers to abandon the process in favour of gelatin silver prints.

Interest in the process was renewed in the mid-20th century, and a relatively small but dedicated number of photographers continue to use the process today. The fashion photographer Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) began hand coating papers with platinum in the 1960s and created prints that simultaneously emphasise intense and detailed shadows and subtle luminous highlights. More recent examples include a double portrait by artist Madoka Takagi (American, born Japan, 1956-2015) featuring herself, arms crossed and a shirtless man covered in tattoos, both gazing stoically into the camera’s lens; a suburban night scene by Scott B. Davis (American, born 1971); and an experiment in abstraction by James Welling (American, born 1951).

In Focus: Platinum Photographs is on view January 21-May 31, 2020 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the museum.

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Gertrude and Charles O'Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Gertrude and Charles O’Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903
1903
Platinum print
Image: 19.4 × 15.2 cm (7 5/8 × 6 in.)
Later overmat and mount -irregular: 58.3 × 71.1 cm (22 15/16 × 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Gertrude and Charles O'Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Gertrude and Charles O’Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903
1903
Platinum print
Image: 18.7 × 14.9 cm (7 3/8 × 5 7/8 in.)
Later overmat and mount -irregular: 58.3 × 71.1 cm (22 15/16 × 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Gertrude and Charles O'Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Gertrude and Charles O’Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903
1903
Platinum print
Image: 20 × 14.8 cm (7 7/8 × 5 13/16 in.)
Later overmat and mount -irregular: 58.3 × 71.1 cm (22 15/16 × 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Gertrude and Charles O'Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Gertrude and Charles O’Malley: A Triptych, summer 1903
1903
Platinum print
Image: 19.4 × 15.2 cm (7 5/8 × 6 in.)
Later overmat and mount -irregular: 58.3 × 71.1 cm (22 15/16 × 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Joseph Turner Keiley (American, 1869-1914) 'Untitled' 1900-1905

 

Joseph Turner Keiley (American, 1869-1914)
Untitled
1900-1905
Platinum print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Joseph Turner Keiley (26 July 1869 – 21 January 1914) was an early 20th-century photographer, writer and art critic. He was a close associate of photographer Alfred Stieglitz and was one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession. Over the course of his life Keiley’s photographs were exhibited in more than two dozen international exhibitions, and he achieved international acclaim for both his artistic style and his writing.

He began photographing in the mid-1890s and met fellow New York photographer Gertrude Käsebier, who at that time was engaged in photographing American Indians who were performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Keiley also photographed some of the same subjects, and in 1898 nine of his prints were exhibited in the Philadelphia Photographic Salon. One of the judges for the Salon was Stieglitz, who also wrote a glowing review of Keiley’s work.

Due to his success in Philadelphia the next year Keiley became the fourth American elected to the Linked Ring, which at that time was the most prominent photographic society in the world promoting pictorialism.

In 1900 he joined the Camera Club of New York and had a one-person exhibition in the Club’s gallery. At that time Stieglitz was serving as the Vice President of the Club and editor of the Club’s journal Camera Notes, and Keiley soon became his closest ally. Stieglitz asked him to become Associate Editor of the journal, and over the next few years Keiley was one of its most prolific writers, contributing articles on aesthetics, exhibition reviews and technical articles. He also had several of his photographs published in the journal.

While working with Stieglitz the two began experimenting with a new printing technique for glycerine-developed platinum prints, and they co-authored an article on the subject that was later published in Camera Notes.

In 1902 Stieglitz included Keiley as one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession, and he had fifteen of his prints (one more than Edward Steichen) included in the inaugural exhibition of the Photo-Secession at the National Arts Club.

When Stieglitz started Camera Work in 1903 he asked Keiley to become Associate Editor, and for the next eleven years he was second only to Stieglitz in the details of publishing the journal. He contributed dozens of essays, reviews and technical articles, and he advised Stieglitz about promising new photographers from Europe.

Keiley had seven gravures published in Camera Work, one in 1903 and six in 1907.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, born United States, 1882-1966) 'Grand Canal, Venice' 1908

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, born United States, 1882-1966)
Grand Canal, Venice
1908
Platinum print
40.8 × 21.3 cm (16 1/16 × 8 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe - Hands' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands
1918
Palladium print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Doris Ulmann (American, 1882-1934) 'Landscape with Pump and Barn' about 1920-1934

 

Doris Ulmann (American, 1882-1934)
Landscape with Pump and Barn
about 1920-1934
Platinum print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Doris Ulmann (May 29, 1882 – August 28, 1934) was an American photographer, best known for her portraits of the people of Appalachia, particularly craftsmen and musicians, made between 1928 and 1934.

 

Tina Modotti (American, born Italy, 1896-1942) 'Hands Resting on Tool' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (American, born Italy, 1896-1942)
Hands Resting on Tool
1927
Palladium print
Image: 19.7 × 21.6 cm (7 3/4 × 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) '[Wounded Agaves]' Negative 1950; print late 1970s - early 1980s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
[Wounded Agaves]
Negative 1950; print late 1970s – early 1980s
Platinum print
Image: 16.7 × 21.2 cm (6 9/16 × 8 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C.

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Breton Onion Seller, London' Negative 1950; print 1967

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Breton Onion Seller, London
Negative 1950; print 1967
Platinum and palladium print
Image: 41 × 30.6 cm (16 1/8 × 12 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Partial gift of Irving Penn
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Coral Sea' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 – 1989)
Coral Sea
1983
Platinum print
Image: 58.8 × 49.7 cm (23 1/8 × 19 9/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Madoka Takagi (American, born Japan, 1956-2015) 'Untitled [Self-portrait with Bare-chested, Tattooed Latino Man]' 1986

 

Madoka Takagi (American, born Japan, 1956-2015)
Untitled [Self-portrait with Bare-chested, Tattooed Latino Man]
1986
Platinum and palladium print
Image: 24.3 × 19.4 cm (9 9/16 × 7 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Madoka Takagi

 

Scott B. Davis (American, b. 1971) 'Dana Point, California' Negative April 15, 2006; print April 25, 2010

 

Scott B. Davis (American, b. 1971)
Dana Point, California
Negative April 15, 2006; print April 25, 2010
Platinum and palladium print
Image: 40.6 × 50.3 cm (16 × 19 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the artist
© Scott B. Davis

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951) 'Untitled' 2013-2014

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951)
Untitled
2013-2014
Platinum print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the artist
© James Welling

 

 

James Welling (born 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a postmodern artist. He earned both a BFA and an MFA at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he studied with, among others, Dan Graham. He emerged in the 1970s as a post-conceptual artist for whom photographic norms and the representational field itself were and remain contested and problematised. Welling lives and works in Los Angeles.

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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14
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus’ at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 29th February – 24th May 2020

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur.

The Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

 

“Moments even of beauty. “Well I speak of ‘the lust of the eye’ – a biblical phrase – because much of the appeal of battle is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange… but, there is of course an element of beauty in this. And I must say that this, is, surely from ancient times one of the most enduring appeals of battle.””

.
Anonymous. From Episode 26 of ‘The World Art War’, 1973-74

 

 

The lust of the eye

While “there has been a long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones”, and this exhibition “explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men,” how do war photographs taken by women differ from their male counterparts? What does being a woman bring to the table of war photography that is different, in terms of engagement with people, feeling, context, and time and place? Do they have to differ?

The press release states that, “Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them.” In other words they defy the patriarchal structures that define contemporary society, because they operate outside what is expected of them. But does that make their photographs any different to that of men? Or, while defying hegemonic structures, do they still buy into a systematic photographic representation of war that has existed for decades?

While the press release offers a sop to difference – positing that, “in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population” – this nuancing is not greatly evident in the photographs in this posting.

Personally what I am looking for is a more empathetic way photography can portray the effects of war through storytelling, not just the physical evidence – I was there, I captured this – but the feelings that war evokes. I, for one, never get this from the war photography of the photojournalists. The images they make are made for the fast-moving world of news reportage, and they are always working to find the one image, the one instance, that bears “witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers.” Rarely does this strategy work.

Much of the display of the appeal of battle in the history of war photography “is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange…” With much war photography, “there is of course an element of beauty in this.” Consider Carolyn Cole’s ethereally beautiful photograph Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia (2003, below). Who could not agree with the artist that there is not an element of beauty in this – held in opposition to its being “other” than reportage.

But if you read the poem Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) by the British war poet Keith Douglas (below), dead at 24 on the battlefield of Normandy, this poem has more engagement, more heartfelt feeling about war, death, love and loss in its prophetic lines than a thousand images I will never remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) (1943)

Keith Douglas 

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone,
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.

 

Remember the war poet Keith Douglas (English, 1920-44) killed in the Invasion of Normandy on June 9, 1944 at the age of 24.

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain' 1937

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain
1937
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Fall of the citadel' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Fall of the citadel. The black cloud of smoke mounts high after first bombs have been dropped by P38s, Saint-Malo, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau' Germany, 1945

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau
Germany, 1945
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

Lee Miller wrote: ‘Prisoners were prowling these heaps, some of which were burning, in the hope of finding something more presentable than what they were wearing already’

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary' 1946

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary
1946
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' April 1967

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US Navy officer Vernon Wike with a dying US Marine at the Battle of Hill 881, near Khe Sanh
April 1967
Gelatin silver print

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' September 1966

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US bombs pummel Binh Dinh province
September 1966
Gelatin silver print

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon' 1976

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia' 30 May 1991

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia
30 May 1991
Pigment print on baryta paper
42 x 29.7 cm
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

Fall of Addis Ababa. F.D.R.P.E. (Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People). Ethiopia, May 30, 1991

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945) 'Nouenna, Western Sahara' December 1976

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945)
Nouenna, Western Sahara. A woman holds her child and a rifle during training of Polisario soldiers in Western Sahara. The Polisario was an army dedicated to fighting Moroccan and Mauritanian occupation
December 1976
Gelatin silver print
© Christine Spengler

 

 

The exhibition Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus is devoted to photojournalistic coverage of international wars and conflicts. On display are some 140 images shot between 1936 and 2011 by a number of women photojournalists and documentary photographers: Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), Françoise Demulder (1947-2008), Catherine Leroy (1944-2006), Susan Meiselas (b. 1948), Lee Miller (1907-1977), Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014), Christine Spengler (b. 1945) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937). Their pictures provide a fragmentary insight into the complex reality of war, taking in a range of military theatres from the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War to more recent international conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The positions of the eight photographers present different ways of engaging with war and its effects – from traditional war reporting and embedded photojournalism to innovative approaches to social documentary photography. The particular perspectives chosen for the exhibition shift between objective distance and personal emotional involvement.

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur, the exhibition focuses on women’s positions, making clear the long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones. In the process, it explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men. Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them. On the other hand, in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population.

The pictures shown in the exhibition were primarily intended for the fast-moving world of news reportage. Their distribution via mass media has made them a significant force, influencing the discourses being conducted around war and discussions about the controversial impact of images of war. Shot over a period of almost a century, these pictures also bear witness to the evolution of photojournalism as a professional field – especially when seen in the context of a constantly changing media landscape that is once again undergoing radical upheaval as the digital revolution takes its course.

The photographers’ choice of visual and narrative strategies is the product of an ongoing quest, as they seek to bear witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers, to sensitise them to the complex geo- and sociopolitical circumstances in the combat zones, and ultimately to have an effect on people’s attitudes and actions by making these situations visible. In an age when global conflict is a constant, these strategies continue to express the belief that engaging with images of violence can help us to take responsibility and bring about change.

 

The Women behind the Camera

In her pictures of the Spanish Civil War, German Jewish photographer Gerda Taro (1910-1937) sided with the political agenda of the Republicans. With the genre of photo essays still in its infancy, her pictures found their way into magazines like Vu and Regards. Taro was the first woman war photographer to be killed in the field: her tragic death in 1937 at the age of only twenty-six garnered international attention. However, she faded into oblivion soon afterwards, as picture agencies increasingly accredited her photographs to her partner Robert Capa.

In 1944, as a correspondent for the fashion magazine Vogue, American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977) began documenting the Allied push against the German Reich. Initially commissioned to take pictures in a military hospital, Miller found herself on the front line owing to an internal error in military communications. She accompanied the Allied troops as they advanced from Normandy into southern Germany. Miller was one of the group of photojournalists who witnessed the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps at firsthand directly after their liberation.

One of the best-known photojournalists of the Vietnam War is French photographer Catherine Leroy (1944-2006). Her pictures give a clear indication of the freedom of movement she enjoyed on the front lines, where she took photographs of the conflict both from the air and on the ground, often creating short sequences of images showing a particular chain of events. Magazines like Paris Match and Life made use of the narrative potential of these pictures and printed full-page spreads of her work.

Françoise Demulder (1947-2008) likewise began her career in Vietnam, where in 1975, after most foreign journalists had already left the country, she took exclusive pictures of North Vietnamese troops invading Saigon. While working for the Gamma and Sipa Press photo agencies, Demulder also turned her attention to military actions and their impact on the civilian population.

Christine Spengler (b. 1945), who was born in Alsace, took her first photographs of an armed conflict in Chad. Later, in the 1970s, she began documenting a range of conflicts and crises in different parts of the world, including Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Iran, Western Sahara and Lebanon. A particular focus of her photographs are the local women and children and the lives they lead behind the front lines.

As an independent photographer, American Susan Meiselas (b. 1948) documented the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Her photo of the “Molotov Man” went on to become a cult image and is still in circulation today as a symbol of protest used in a wide range of contexts. Meiselas, who would become a Magnum photographer, chose colour as a medium for her documentary work at a time when its use was mainly limited to commercial projects. Her book Nicaragua is one of the earliest colour publications documenting war.

American Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), who has worked for the Los Angeles Times since 1994, also takes pictures in colour. She has worked as a photojournalist in the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, Liberia and Iraq. Her photographs, which are still used today in both print and online media, reveal a contemporary approach to war photography that is a reflection as much as anything of technical changes within the profession.

In the 1990s German photographer Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014) began working in war and crisis zones ranging from the Balkans to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Niedringhaus felt a special sense of connection to the civilian population, whose living conditions she documented. As an “embedded journalist”, she would accompany soldiers on operations, reporting up-close on their deployment in the different combat zones. On 4 April 2014, Niedringhaus was shot and killed inside a base used by security forces in Khost Province during her coverage of the elections in Afghanistan.

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website [Online] Cited 11/03/2020

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter's burned house in Monimbó, asking "Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer", Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter’s burned house in Monimbó, asking “Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer”, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua' July 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua
July 1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall, Managua, Nicaragua' 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall, Managua, Nicaragua
1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes' April 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes, is painted over by Salem Yuel. Symbols of the leader disappeared quickly throughout Baghdad soon after US troops arrived in the city and took control, Baghdad, Iraq
April 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq' 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq
2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia
August 2003
Gelatin silver print
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia' August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia
August 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq' August 2004

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq, where American forces spent weeks bombing and fighting their way to the city’s holy Imam Ali Shrine, before negotiating an end to the fighting, Najaf, Iraq
August 2004
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers with the Royal Canadian Regiment during a patrol in the Panjwaii district, southwest of Kandahar, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'An Afghan boy holds a toy gun' September 2009

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
An Afghan boy holds a toy gun as he enjoys a ride with others on a merry-go-round to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Kabul, Afghanistan
September 2009
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm in his backpack while his unit pushes further into the western part of the city, Fallujah, Iraq
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat. Seconds later, the Canadian patrol comes under attack by militants who toss grenades over the wall, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip' March 2006

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip
March 2006
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book cover

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book cover

 

 

Discover eight remarkable women war photographers who have documented harrowing and unforgettable crises and combat around the world for the past eighty years.

Women have been on the front lines of war photography for more than a century. With access to places men cannot go and with startling empathy in the face of danger, the women who photograph war lend a unique perspective to the consequences of conflict. From intimate glimpses of daily life to the atrocities of conflict, this powerful book reveals the range and depth of eight women photographers’ contributions to wartime photojournalism.

Each photographer is introduced by a brief, informative essay followed by reproductions of a selection of their works. Included here are images by Lee Miller, who documented the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald. The first woman to parachute into Vietnam, Catherine Leroy was on the ground during the Tet Offensive and was captured by the North Vietnamese Army at the age of 22. Susan Meiselas raised international awareness around the Somoza regime’s catastrophic effects in Nicaragua.

German reporter Anja Niedringhaus worked on assignment in nearly every major conflict of the 1990s, from the Balkans to Libya, Iraq to Afghanistan. The work of Carolyn Cole, Francoise Demulder, Christine Spengler, and Gerda Taro round out this collective profile of courage under pressure and of humanity in the face of war.

163 colour photographs

 

About the Authors

Anne-Marie Beckmann is an art historian and curator. She is Director of the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany. She has published several books on photography. Felicity Korn is an art historian, curator, and an advisor to the Director General at the Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was previously a curator at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt.

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book pages

 

 

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

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

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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10
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2019 – 31st May 2020

Curator: Ann Shumard

The National Portrait Gallery, Washington has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Lucy Stone' c. 1855

 

Unidentified Artist
Lucy Stone
c. 1855
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 19.9 × 32.9 × 0.8 cm (7 13/16 × 12 15/16 × 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 18, 1893) was a prominent U.S. orator, abolitionist, and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organiser promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone was known for using her birth name after marriage, the custom being for women to take their husband’s surname.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucy Stone was unequivocal in her opposition to slavery and her support for women’s rights. Yet, when some abolitionists argued that her antislavery efforts should take precedence, she replied, “I was a woman before I was an abolitionist.” Stone helped to organise the first national women’s rights conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850, and lectured widely on the topic of women’s suffrage. When she married Henry Blackwell in 1855, she defied tradition by retaining her maiden name. In 1866, Stone became a founder of the American Equal Rights Association, which sought to secure voting rights for African Americans and women.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

 

Let us celebrate strong, creative, (com)passionate women.

Marcus

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

 

In mid-nineteenth-century America, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography. This exhibition of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes from the 1840s and 1850s features portraits of early feminist icons, women’s rights advocates Margaret Fuller and Lucy Stone, abolitionist Lucretia Mott and best-selling author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

 

Seriousness of their intent and purpose writ large upon their faces. Portraits of the self, as if alone, without decorous engagement for the camera.

.
Elizabeth Gertsakis

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Charlotte Saunders Cushman (July 23, 1816 – February 18, 1876) was an American stage actress. Her voice was noted for its full contralto register, and she was able to play both male and female parts. She lived intermittently in Rome, in an expatriate colony of prominent artists and sculptors, some of whom became part of her tempestuous private life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Charlotte Cushman was the foremost American-born actress of her day and the first to enjoy critical and popular acclaim at home and abroad. Following her 1836 New York City stage debut as Lady Macbeth, she honed her craft there and in Philadelphia, where she managed the Walnut Street Theatre from 1842 to 1844. With a dramatic range and commanding stage presence that more than compensated for her lack of conventional beauty, Cushman boldly developed a repertoire that included male as well as female roles. Taking London by storm in 1845, she returned to universal acclaim in the United States in 1849.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman (detail)
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Harriet Beecher Stowe' 1852

 

Unidentified Artist
Harriet Beecher Stowe
1852
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Image: 3.9cm x 3.4cm (1 9/16″ x 1 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energising anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Harriet Beecher Stowe authored numerous articles, essays, and books during her long career, but it was her dramatic, antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that brought her fame at home and abroad. First serialised in the National Era newspaper, Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in book form in 1852 and sold more than 300,000 copies during its first year in print. Lionised by Northern abolitionists and vilified by Southern slaveholders, Stowe became the subject of intense public interest. When requests for her portrait multiplied, she responded by posing for several daguerreotype likenesses that were soon copied and distributed widely.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld. 'Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York' 1850

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld
Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York
1850
Half-plate copy daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.2 x 24.4 x 1.3 cm (6 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Set Charles Momjian

 

 

Weld daguerreotype taken at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York. The Edmonson sisters are standing wearing bonnets and shawls in the row behind the seated speakers. Frederick Douglass is seated, with Gerrit Smith standing behind him.

Ezra Greenleaf Weld (October 26, 1801 – October 14, 1874), often known simply as “Greenleaf”, was a photographer and an operator of a daguerreotype studio in Cazenovia, New York. He and his family were involved with the abolitionist movement.

Weld opened his first studio in his home in 1845. In 1850, Cazenovia hosted the abolitionist meeting known as the Fugitive Slave Law Convention. This gave Weld the opportunity to photograph the legendary orator Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson sisters, Gerritt Smith and Abby Kelley Foster. This daguerreotype was given to the imprisoned abolitionist William Chaplin who had helped many of the attendees escape to freedom.

Of the six daguerreotypes of Douglass that have survived, only one besides Greenleaf’s image has had its daguerreotypist identified. Greenleaf’s image is unique because it is a group shot at an outdoor meeting rather than a studio portrait. Daguerreotypes were seldom attempted under these circumstances because the long exposure time required made it difficult to get a satisfactory result. Weld’s is the only daguerreotype of Douglass whose date is known with certainty. This daguerreotype is also unique in the paradoxical sense that it is the only one known to have been copied. Two original half-plates exist: One is held by the Madison County Historical Society in Oneida, New York, the other is in a private collection and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Text from the Wikipedia website

The Fugitive Slave Law Convention was held in Cazenovia, New York, August 21-22, 1850. Organised to oppose passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 by the United States Congress, participants included Frederick Douglass, the Edmonson sisters, Gerrit Smith, Samuel Joseph May, and Theodore Dwight Weld, among others. The convention opened at the First Congregational Church of Cazenovia (now Cazenovia College’s theater building), then moved to “the orchard of Grace Wilson’s School, located on Sullivan Street,” to accommodate the estimated 2000 to 3000 participants. It was chaired by Douglass.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c.  February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave. …

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticised Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

Mary Edmonson (1832-1853) and Emily Edmonson (1835-1895), “two respectable young women of light complexion”, were African Americans who became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement after gaining their freedom from slavery. On April 15, 1848, they were among the 77 slaves who tried to escape from Washington, DC on the schooner The Pearl to sail up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in New Jersey.

Although that effort failed, they were freed from slavery by funds raised by the Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York, whose pastor was Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist. After gaining freedom, the Edmonsons were supported to go to school; they also worked. They campaigned with Beecher throughout the North for the end of slavery in the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Gerrit Smith (March 6, 1797 – December 28, 1874), also spelled Gerritt, was a leading American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Spouse to Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, Smith was a candidate for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860, but only served 18 months in the federal government – in Congress as a Free Soil Party Representative, in 1853-4.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1850, as Congress considered passage of a harsh new Fugitive Slave Law, more than 2,000 people heeded the call of abolitionist Gerrit Smith (standing, center) to meet in Cazenovia, New York, and protest the impending legislation. Among the nearly fifty escaped slaves to participate were Emily and Mary Edmonson (in plaid shawls), whose freedom had been purchased by abolitionists in 1848, and Frederick Douglass (seated, center right), who served as the convention’s presiding officer. On the gathering’s second day, the overflowing crowd moved from its initial meeting place in a church to a nearby orchard. There, a local daguerreotypist made this extraordinary record of the convention.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (1808-1888) was a writing teacher and photographer. He was born in Granville, Ohio and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On 20 June 1846, he bought John Jabez Edwin Mayall’s Chestnut Street photography studio that was in the same building as Root’s residence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Root had success as a daguerreotypist working with his brother, Samuel Root. The Root Brothers had a gallery in New York City from 1849 to 1857. Marcus Aurelius Root authored an important book on photography entitled The Camera and the Pencil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women’s rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Her speaking abilities made her an important abolitionist, feminist, and reformer. When slavery was outlawed in 1865, she advocated giving former slaves who had been bound to slavery laws within the boundaries of the United States, whether male or female, the right to vote. She remained a central figure in the abolition and suffrage movement until her death in 1880.

Text from the Wikipedia website

A devout Quaker whose activism proved unsettling to some members of her faith, Lucretia Mott assumed a highly visible role in the abolitionist movement. After joining William Lloyd Garrison at the launch of the American Anti-Slavery Society, she helped to found Philadelphia’s Female Anti-Slavery Society. Her concern for women’s rights was a natural outgrowth of her abolitionist efforts. In 1848, Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organised the convention at Seneca Falls, New York, that galvanised the women’s suffrage movement.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851 (detail)

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott (detail)
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will display photographs of 19th-century activists and professionals in “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits,” a presentation of 10 daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes from the museum’s extensive collection of antebellum portraits. This focused exhibition will explore the increasing visibility of American women in society before the Civil War and the corresponding advent of portrait photography. Organised by Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs, “Women of Progress” is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story,” and is one of seven exhibitions in the Portrait Gallery’s 2019 – 2020 program to highlight women in history. “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits” will be displayed on the museum’s first floor June 14 through May 31, 2020.

The Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will reacquaint visitors with the fascinating lives of 13 memorable Americans. “In the 1840s and 1850s, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography,” Shumard said. “As a result, women who were making their mark in endeavours as varied as journalism, literature, abolitionism and the burgeoning women’s rights movement became sought-after subjects for the camera.”

Those featured in the exhibition will include Dorothea Lynde Dix, activist and educator who sought humane treatment for people with mental illness; Margaret Fuller, editor and women’s rights advocate; Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and co-organiser of the Seneca Falls Convention; Lucy Stone, suffragist and a founder of the American Equal Rights Association; and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Other pioneers are the actress Laura Keene, the first woman manager of a major theatre in New York City and Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to command a sailing ship around Cape Horn. The exhibition will also highlight the abolitionists Emily and Mary Edmonson, who are pictured in a daguerreotype with Frederick Douglass at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention in Cazenovia, New York. Funding for the exhibition was made possible by the National Portrait Gallery’s Women’s Initiative Leadership Committee including Capital One and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery [Online] Cited 03/11/2019

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

 

Rufus Anson (active 1851-1867), American daguerreotypist who operated a studio in New York City.

An accomplished comedic actress, Laura Keene (20 July 1826 – 4 November 1873) rattled New York City’s theatrical establishment in 1855 when she became the first woman manager of a major theatre in that city. After leasing the Metropolitan Theatre, she opened Laura Keene’s Varieties, serving as manager, director, and principal star. Keene faced hostility from New York’s male theatrical managers. Her theatre was vandalised, and she lost her lease. Undeterred, she opened the Laura Keene Theatre in a new building in 1856. Well versed in all aspects of her craft, Keene was a highly successful manager who championed emerging playwrights and attracted the brightest stars to her acting company.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855 (detail)

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene (detail)
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Short on funds and waiting to receive a commission from the United States Congress to survey the route for a transcontinental railroad, an idea which he is credited with originating, civil engineer John Plumbe, Jr., took up photography in 1840 after seeing the work of an itinerant daguerreotypist in Washington, D.C. A Welshman by birth, Plumbe opened a gallery in Boston the following year. He eventually maintained galleries in thirteen cities, making his name recognisable in numerous cities across the country. Plumbe opened his Washington, D.C., gallery in 1844, the first in the nation’s capital. By the time he established the National Plumbeotype Gallery of engraved and lithographic reproductions of his own images in 1846, Plumbe had been dubbed “the American Daguerre” by the press. In 1847 Plumbe found himself in financial trouble and he sold his business to his employees. Two years later he gave up photography and retired to Dubuque, Iowa, where [suffering from the prolonged effects of malaria and from acute depression] he met an untimely end by cutting his own throat [at his brother’s residence in Dubuque on May 28, 1857].

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

After working briefly for the Wisconsin territorial legislature in late 1839, Plumbe went east to continue his campaign for a Pacific railroad. He turned to the newly introduced daguerreotype process of photography as a means of support and excelled in that endeavour. Within six years Plumbe had attained a national reputation through photographic competitions and by establishing a chain of 23 galleries. Plumbe’s Dubuque gallery, opened in 1841 and operated by his brother Richard (1810-1896), was the first photographic establishment west of the Mississippi. Plumbe manufactured and imported photographic materials, gave instruction to the first generation of photographers, and published dozens of lithographic prints of noted Americans based on his daguerreotypes. Among his many achievements are the earliest photographs of the U.S. Capitol and White House (exterior and interior), the earliest photograph of a president in office (James K. Polk), and thousands of portraits of the most noted personalities of the era. Plumbe pioneered brand name recognition, obtained patent rights for colour photography, and published a magazine filled with illustrations based on his photographs. By late 1848, however, Plumbe had experienced severe financial reverses due to competition and mismanagement and was forced to sell his galleries to pay his debts.

Text from The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846 (detail)

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller (detail)
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The only known daguerreotype of Margaret Fuller.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850), commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, editor, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. …

Fuller was an advocate of women’s rights and, in particular, women’s education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women’s rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist. Shortly after Fuller’s death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, censored or altered much of her work before publication.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the spring of 1851, a band of Apache men in present-day Arizona captured thirteen-year-old Olive Oatman and her younger sister. They killed or seriously injured the rest of the family during the attack. At the time, the Oatman family-originally from Illinois-was headed west to California to start their lives anew. Shortly thereafter the Apache sold the two sisters to a Mohave family. While living with this family, Oatman was tattooed on the chin, a custom common among members of the tribe. In 1856, after enduring five years in captivity and the death of her sister, Oatman had her freedom negotiated, and she was given over to authorities at Fort Yuma. Accounts of her release were published widely, and her biography became a best-seller. Though Oatman stated that her Mojave family treated her well, stories such as hers reinforced commonly held assumptions that Native Americans were violent savages.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Olive Ann Oatman (September 7, 1837 – March 21, 1903) was a woman born in Illinois. While traveling from Illinois to California with a company of Mormon Brewsterites, her family was killed in 1851, in present-day Arizona by a Native American tribe. The town of Oatman, Arizona is named after the Oatman family and the massacre which occurred therein. Though she identified her family’s attackers as Apache, they were most likely Tolkepayas (Western Yavapai). This small group of Native Americans clubbed Olive’s family to death. They captured Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, and enslaved them for one year. The girls were traded to the Mohave people. Olive spent four years with the Mohave. During her time with the Mohave tribe her sister, Mary Ann, died from starvation. Olive returned to white society five years after the Oatman Massacre, wearing a blue tattoo on her chin as a reminder of her time with the Mohave people.

Following her repatriation into American society, Olive’s story began to be retold with dramatic license in the press, as well as in her own “memoir” and speeches. Novels, plays, movies, and poetry have been inspired by Olive’s story, which resonated in the media of the time and long afterward. She had become an oddity in 1860s America, partly owing to the prominent blue tattooing of Oatman’s face by the Mohave, making her the first known tattooed American woman on record. Much of what actually occurred during her time with the Native Americans remains unknown.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman (detail)
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the United States, the rise of studio portrait photography during the 1840s and ’50s coincided with a period of heightened visibility for women, who were emerging as prominent players in arenas including activism, literature, journalism and theatre. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, sold 300,000 copies across the nation in the first year following its publication, while in 1855, comedic stage actress Laura Keene became the first female manager of a major New York City theatre. These women, as well as others making their mark in antebellum America, increasingly found themselves in front of the camera, posing for portraits to be shared with the public or exchanged among loved ones as tokens of affection.

“Women of Progress” catalogues the stories of 13 such mid-19th century figures through the lens of ten daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes. Some of these individuals remain household names today – Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott and Dorothea Dix, for example. Others, including Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn; Charlotte Cushman, a popular actress who played both male and female parts; and Mary Ann Meade, a daguerreotypist in her own right – are lesser known. Regardless, the women are united by both their progressive bent and the fact that their camera likenesses survive as a direct result of the burgeoning popularity of photography.

An 1846 photograph of journalist Margaret Fuller falls into the first of these categories: In a letter to her brother, the writer explains that photographer John Plumbe Jr. asked her to pose for a portrait. The resulting image, a sixth-plate daguerreotype, depicts its sitter reading a hefty tome, seemingly so engrossed in the text that she remains unaware of the camera’s presence. The image was later displayed in Plumbe’s studio to attract future clientele.

The circumstances surrounding the production of an 1851 half-plate daguerreotype of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucretia Mott are far hazier. Taken by photographer Marcus Aurelius Root, the portrait served as the basis for a widely circulated lithographic print by Boston-based artist Leopold Grozelier. Unlike daguerreotypes, lithographic prints could be produced in multiple copies. Lithographs also conveyed a greater variety of tones than earlier printing methods, allowing for more accurate copies of original works such as daguerreotypes and paintings.

Shumard says it’s possible Root’s photograph was taken with the direct intention of serving as the basis for Grozelier’s print. Whereas a daguerreotype sitting typically produced just one plate, lithographs could be easily mass-produced for public purchase. …

To make copies of daguerreotypes, photographers placed original plates on specialised copy stands and then reshot the image – a process known as redaguerreotyping. Although these copies often lacked the level of contrast and subtle gradation seen in the original daguerreotypes, they were more accurate than lithographs and could be circulated on a smaller scale. “Women in Progress” features two copies – an 1852 picture of Beecher Stowe and a half-plate depicting sisters Mary and Emily Catherine Edmonson in a group photograph taken at an 1850 gathering of abolitionists protesting the impending passage of the new federal Fugitive Slave Law. The Edmonsons earned their freedom from slavery with the help of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin author’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher.

Shumard notes that the group portrait had previously been exhibited in relation to two of its better-known sitters, abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Gerrit Smith. Now, however, the scene’s female subjects are the ones commanding visitors’ attention. “In this instance,” she says, “it’s really nice to be able to highlight the Edmonson sisters.” The Beecher Stowe copy, Shumard says, stems from one of several studio sittings that yielded multiple plates ready for reproduction and distribution to an eager public.

The majority of daguerreotypes produced in mid-19th century America were designed for private rather than public consumption. “They are very intimate objects, [made] to be held in your hand and looked at,” says Shumard, or perhaps gifted to a loved one as a personal memento.

The medium’s capacity for conveying familiarity is apparent in an 1855 half-plate of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone, who took the then-unheard of step of keeping her maiden name upon marrying husband Henry Blackwell. In the portrait, Stone’s features and clothing – including hand-coloured peach-tinted flesh and a pink pigmented skirt – are accentuated in an attempt to make the keepsake image look more lifelike.

Other notable images not to be missed include an 1850 quarter-plate daguerreotype of poet Sarah T. Bolton, who urged readers to “Battle for the right. / And break the chains that bind / the mighty to the few,” and a sixth-plate ambrotype of Olive Oatman, a young woman who was abducted by Native Americans and spent five years in captivity, first as a slave of the tribe that murdered most of her family and later as an adopted member of the Mohave people.

Oatman’s 1856 return attracted national attention. She was the subject of an exaggerated 1857 account, Life Among the Indians: Captivity of the Oatman Girls, and traveled the country on a publicity lecture circuit. Her likeness, meanwhile, was cemented in the public’s imagination by blue markings tattooed across the length of her chin. This facial tattoo, applied with cactus ink, is just discernible in the exhibition ambrotype, which is among the National Portrait Gallery’s most recent acquisitions.

Referencing the Oatman and Brown Patten ambrotypes, Shumard concludes, “I’m so excited that we have these ambrotypes of [women] who are not household names but… who experienced such trying circumstances and managed to survive.”

Extract from Meilan Solly. “How the Camera Introduced American to their Heroines,” on the Smithsonian.com website July 9, 2019 [Online] Cited 12/11/2019

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In 1841, teacher, humanitarian, and reformer Dorothea Dix launched a vigorous campaign to secure humane treatment for those afflicted with mental illness. At a time when such individuals were more often imprisoned and abused than cared for and treated, Dix became a tireless advocate for their welfare. Personally investigating the “cages, cellars, stalls, [and] pens” where sufferers were confined, she reported her findings in speeches and articles, as well as in the petitions she submitted to lawmakers. Thanks to her efforts, facilities for the mentally ill were greatly expanded and improved.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019. For more information see the large Wikipedia entry.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix (detail)
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

 

A daguerreotypist in her own right, Mary Ann Meade began her career in the successful photography business founded around 1840 by her brothers, Charles and Henry Meade. After Charles’s death in 1858, Mary Ann gained greater visibility in the gallery’s operations. At a time when few women worked behind the camera, she was listed as a photographer in Trow’s New York City Directory (1861-62). In 1861, an article about the Meade Brothers gallery noted, “Mr. [Henry] Meade and his sister attend personally to visitors.” By June 1863, Mary Ann had become the gallery’s director and was billed as “Successor to MEADE BROTHERS.”

Text from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019/

Meade Brothers Studio

The brothers opened their daguerreian gallery in Albany, N.Y., in 1842, and their business later expanded to other cities. They each traveled to Europe and in 1848, Charles Meade became the first American to photograph Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre – the originator of the daguerreotype process. In 1850, the Meade brothers established their flagship American Daguerreotype Gallery on Broadway in New York City, where they photographed such famous subjects as statesman Daniel Webster and entertainer Lola Montez.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade (detail)
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Mary Ann Brown Patten' c. 1857

 

Unidentified Artist
Mary Ann Brown Patten
c. 1857
Ninth-plate ambrotype
Case Open: 7.4 x 12.4 x 0.9 cm (2 15/16 x 4 7/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Dorthy Knouse Koepke

 

 

Mary Ann Brown Patten (April 6, 1837 – March 18, 1861) was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel. She was the wife of Joshua Patten, captain of the merchant clipper ship Neptune’s Car. The ship was bound around Cape Horn from New York towards San Francisco when Joshua Patten collapsed from fatigue in 1856. His wife took command for 56 days, faced down a mutiny, and successfully managed to navigate the clipper ship into San Francisco. At the time she was 19 years old and pregnant with her first child.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1856, Mary Ann Brown Patten became the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn, through the notoriously treacherous waters at the tip of South America. Schooled in navigation by her sea captain husband, she took helm of his ship after he fell seriously ill and the first mate proved untrustworthy. Only nineteen years old and pregnant at the time, Patten captained the San Francisco-bound Neptune’s Car for fifty-one days, during the most hazardous portion of its 15,000-mile voyage. Upon bringing the vessel safely to its destination, she was hailed for her skill as well as her courage.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

 

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
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04
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min’ at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA

Exhibition dates: 1st June 2019 – 17th May 2020

Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'The Island Pagoda' 1873

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
The Island Pagoda
1873
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

Greetings from Australia.

Since we can’t go travelling ourselves at the moment let us travel, virtually, through time – back to the 19th century – and space, to journey with Scottish-born travel photographer up the River Min to the Chinese city of Fuzhou (Foochow). Let us wonder at these European colonial photographs, reflections of pagoda, bucolic landscapes, Eastern temples, Western churches and dangerous rapids. Thomson “portrayed a halcyon land, with romanticised vistas that reference the ethereal atmosphere of Chinese paintings and the sweeping panoramas of European paintings.”

Let us luxuriate, then, in these stunning carbon prints – their rich colour, their stillness – as lasting mementos of a vanished land, as memory objects reanimated in our imagination, so that we can travel beyond our current confinement.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

As far as travel souvenirs go, few can beat John Thomson’s leather-bound photo album Foochow and the River Min. From 1870 to 1871, the Scottish-born photographer traveled 160 miles up the River Min to document the area in and around the city of Fuzhou (Foochow), an important centre of international trade and one of the most picturesque provinces in China. Thomson sold his book by advance subscription to the foreign residents of Fuzhou – tea planters, merchants, missionaries and government officials 0 who wanted a way to share their experiences with friends and family back home.

Fewer than 10 of the original 46 copies of this album survived, and the Peabody Essex Museum is privileged to own two of them. A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min presents this rare collection of photographs for the first time at PEM. The exhibition also features 10 works by contemporary Chinese photographer Luo Dan.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'A Lasting Memento: John Thomson's Photographs Along the River Min' at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA 

 

Installation view of the exhibition A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow and the River Min' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow and the River Min
1870-1871
Leather-bound photo album
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Pagoda Island' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Pagoda Island
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Yuen-Fu Rapid' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Yuen-Fu Rapid
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Yen Ping Rapid' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Yen Ping Rapid
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Rocks in the Rapids' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Rocks in the Rapids
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Reach of the Min' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Reach of the Min
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Rapid Boat' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Rapid Boat
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

Photographic Journeys Past and Present Show China in a New Light

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents a voyage into 19th-century China through one of PEM’s photographic treasures, John Thomson’s rare album Foochow and the River Min. More than forty striking landscapes, city views, and portrait studies will be on view, captured by Thomson as he travelled in the Fujian province in Southeast China from 1870 to 1871. These prints are complemented by a selection of photographs by contemporary artist Luo Dan, who was inspired by Thomson to undertake his own journey in southwestern China in 2010. A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min is on view at PEM from June 1, 2019 through May 17, 2020.

From 1870 to 1871, Scottish-born photographer John Thomson traveled 160 miles up the River Min to document the area in and around the city of Fuzhou (Foochow), one of the most picturesque regions in China. Thomson gathered eighty photographs from this voyage into an album titled Foochow and the River Min which was sold by advance subscription to the foreign residents of Fuzhou – tea planters, merchants, missionaries and government officials – who wanted a way to share their experiences with friends and family back home. Of the 46 copies originally published, fewer than 10 survive today and PEM is privileged to own two of them, both of which are featured in the exhibition.

“Many people have a conception of China as very industrialised and modern, even sterile, but these photographs complicate that notion and reveal the country’s incredible beauty and geographic diversity,” says Sarah Kennel, PEM’s Byrne Family Curator of Photography. “The roots of China’s rapid modernisation go back to the 19th-century and are part of a larger history of maritime culture, trade, and globalisation that are also entwined with PEM’s origin story. This exhibition affirms how photography can bring us back to another place in time and can change the way we see the world.”

Thomson was a renowned photographer, focusing on fine art, landscape, and architectural photos, and was often credited with being one of the first photographers to use pictures in conjunction with journalistic commentary. Foochow and the River Min is accompanied by introductory text, presenting a pictorial journey featuring the character of the growing city of Fuzhou, the beauty of the landscapes surrounding the River Min, as well as Thomson’s studies of the people he encountered there.

 

Documenting Eastern culture

Thomson is considered one of the first photographers to document East and South Asia. Born in Scotland, he learned photography while still in school, working as an apprentice to a maker of optical and scientific instruments. In 1862, he joined his older brother William, also a photographer and watchmaker, in Singapore, where they established a studio. Thomson spent the next several years photographing throughout Asia, including Cambodia, India, and Thailand. By 1866, he had joined the Royal Ethnological Society of London, was elected a Fellow member of the Royal Geographic Society, and styled himself as an expert on Eastern cultures. In 1868, he established a studio in Hong Kong, a burgeoning centre of photography and trade. For the next four years, Thomson traveled and photographed throughout China before returning in 1872 to Britain, where he remained until his death in 1921.

The exhibition follows Thomson’s journey up the River Min, from the city of Fuzhou to Nanping. “Thomson’s extraordinary gifts as a photographer are evident in his compositions, including his famous view of the floating island pagoda,” says Kennel. “You can look at these as merely beautiful pictures, but if you unlock them a little bit they tell the story of an important moment of economic trade, cultural exchange, and political tension.”

Among the works on view are an extraordinary series on the Yuen Fu monastery, tucked high up a steep, rocky ravine. A strain of wistful romanticism is present, particularly in landscape photographs that incorporate a solitary figure.

In order to make his negatives, Thomson used the wet-collodion process. This required him to set up a large camera on a tripod and prepare the photographic plate on the spot by dipping it into light-sensitive chemicals in a makeshift darkroom, putting it in a plate holder and making the exposure within five minutes. He experimented with these processes while traveling by boat or ascending very steep hills and traversing rough terrain with a coterie of Chinese employees who not only hauled his equipment but also sometimes carried Thomson himself. Missionary and business colleagues helped facilitate introductions and provide access to unique locations so that Thomson could make his landscapes and portraits. The albums were printed using the carbon process, which imbues them with a rich, purplish tonality.

 

Inspired by Thomson

Contemporary Chinese photographer Luo Dan’s work focuses on the impact of modernisation and globalisation in China. Inspired by Thomson’s example, Luo traveled to the remote Nu River Valley in southwestern China, where he lived with and photographed the Lisu and Nu Christian ethnic minority communities for nearly two years, using the same hand-made wet-collodion process that Thomson had employed some 150 years earlier. Luo was especially interested in what he perceived as the villagers’ connection to local cultural traditions. A Lasting Memento features 10 works by Luo that reflect on and reverberate with the spirit and enterprise of Thomson’s 19th-century project.

Press release from the Peabody Essex Museum website

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow Church' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow Church
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow and the River Min (Yuen Fu monastery)' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow and the River Min (Yuen Fu monastery)
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Right Shoulder of Cave' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Right Shoulder of Cave (view from the building above looking down to the left)
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Small Temple at Ku-Shan' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Small Temple at Ku-Shan
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Road to the Plantation' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Road to the Plantation
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

“In an eerie parallel to today, the late 1800’s represented an international inflection point, with rampant Western industrialisation spurring expansive global trade, cultural exchange and attendant political tension. The invention of photography in 1839 enabled our earliest photographs of faraway lands and exotic cultures, most often brought back by wealthy amateurs (many of those images are held in the rich archives of the PEM.) Not so with John Thomson, a renowned professional photographer who garnered capital through pre-paid subscriptions to his album “Foochow and the River Min.” Thomson photographed the project on a two-year journey, traveling 160 miles up the River Min, from the city of Fuzhou (Foochow) to Nanping, considered one of the most picturesque regions in China.

In this scenic southeast region of China, a new British tea trade was flourishing. Thomson’s album catered to the interests of foreign tea planters, merchants, missionaries and governmental officials. These ex-patriots clamoured to share with their European family and friends Thomson’s skilfully crafted documentary photographs of the Chinese land and people who shaped their new lives. Interestingly, Thomson did not photograph much industry or commerce. Rather, he portrayed a halcyon land, with romanticised vistas that reference the ethereal atmosphere of Chinese paintings and the sweeping panoramas of European paintings. …

Thomson’s carbon prints are technically awe-inspiring. Utilising the cumbersome wet-plate collodion method of creating negatives on large, delicate glass plates that must be exposed while still wet in a hefty view camera on a tripod, Thomson then created his photographic prints on paper with the tricky but stable carbon method in his studio. I imagine this undertaking bore similarities to Hannibal crossing the Alps and that Thomson must have been a robust and determined 33 year-old. Perhaps he was also a perfectionist, because Thomson’s prints from the 1870’s are impeccably pristine. Come see, it is uncanny.”

Elin Spring. “Images of China, Then & Now” on the What Will You Remember? website [Online] Cited 29/03/2020

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Part of Lower Bridge' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Part of Lower Bridge
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Military Mandarin' (detail) 1873

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Military Mandarin (detail)
1873
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives, 1972

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Hired Labourers' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Hired Labourers
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Mode of Dressing the Hair' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Mode of Dressing the Hair
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

John Thomson

John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 29 September 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer, and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artefacts of eastern cultures. Upon returning home, his work among the street people of London cemented his reputation, and is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism. He went on to become a portrait photographer of High Society in Mayfair, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881. …

 

Travels in China

After a year in Britain, Thomson again felt the desire to return to the Far East. He returned to Singapore in July 1867, before moving to Saigon for three months and finally settling in Hong Kong in 1868. He established a studio in the Commercial Bank building, and spent the next four years photographing the people of China and recording the diversity of Chinese culture.

Thomson traveled extensively throughout China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the cities of Peking and Shanghai, to the Great Wall in the north, and deep into central China. From 1870 to 1871 he visited the Fukien region, travelling up the Min River by boat with the American Protestant missionary Reverend Justus Doolittle, and then visited Amoy and Swatow.

He went on to visit the island of Formosa (modern-day Taiwan) with the missionary Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, landing first in Takao in early April 1871. The pair visited the capital, Taiwanfu (now Tainan), before travelling on to the aboriginal villages on the west plains of the island. After leaving Formosa, Thomson spent the next three months travelling 3,000 miles up the Yangtze River, reaching Hupeh and Szechuan.

Thomson’s travels in China were often perilous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His expeditions were also especially challenging because he had to transport his bulky wooden camera, many large, fragile glass plates, and potentially explosive chemicals. He photographed in a wide variety of conditions and often had to improvise because chemicals were difficult to acquire. His subject matter varied enormously: from humble beggars and street people to Mandarins, Princes and senior government officials; from remote monasteries to Imperial Palaces; from simple rural villages to magnificent landscapes.

Thomson returned to England in 1872

See the full Wikipedia website entry

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 4 (Yang Du Lei and Her Sister Yang Hua Lin, WaWa Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 4 (Yang Du Lei and Her Sister Yang Hua Lin, WaWa Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 7 (Jin Ma Wei, Lao Mu Deng Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 7 (Jin Ma Wei, Lao Mu Deng Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

 

Luo Dan

Luo Dan was born in Chongqing, China, in 1968 and graduated from the Sichuan Fine Art Academy in 1992. He currently lives and works in Chengdu, China.

On another trip, Luo Dan found a remote village, in the Nu River valley in the western part of Yunnan Provence that still remained authentic to a simple agricultural life. This was a predominantly Christian village, the Lisu (a Chinese minority nationality), who were converted to Christianity by missionaries many years before. Luo Dan was attracted to their lifestyle and beliefs.

Luo Dan returned to photograph the villagers with a wooden box camera that he had found in Shandong. The camera was really a museum piece with a lens from 1900 that was slightly soft in its focus. Luo Dan decided to use a wet plate collodion process. This process was first used in the 1850s, using glass plates to make a negative. The process required the photographic material to be coated, sensitised, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, necessitating a portable darkroom for use in the field. Luo Dan converted a minivan to a travelling darkroom.

Luo himself says,

“As photography grew ever more technologically complete, it drifted ever farther from its earliest starting point. External factors entered in, and its purity was gradually lost. …

The collodian process is from the earliest times of photography and although laborious, produces remarkable detail and a sense of timelessness that comes from the historic nature of the process. This area is very remote and has almost been forgotten by the modern world. In his photographs, titled “Simple Song”, Luo Dan wishes to show something of the human condition that goes beyond the preoccupations of modern China; materialism, urban development and economic growth. China’s economic achievements are remarkable but on other levels there are many gaps and voids in human experience due to this rapid development. Luo Dan’s work holds a mirror to show that there is an alternate view, one that may have a more spiritual value.

Luo Dan photographs his subjects with a very clear, steady gaze with an awareness of placement and composition. The collodion process makes very slow exposures and the subject must hold the position for up to a minute depending on the light. Often the images are slightly soft due to the movement of the subject or the surroundings. There is also a limited depth of field at times that selectively isolates the subject in front of the softer focus of the background.

His interest in this place and its people has some reference to anthropology in his scrutiny, however the photographs are so much more than an anthropological or ethnographic study by an outsider. The photographs document the lives of the Lisu people through their daily activities, their possessions and traditional costumes. The people are often posed in their Sunday best. They have a timelessness, a ‘difficult to place’ sense of being from the past but also the present and the future. The villagers could continue with this traditional lifestyle for many years to come. There is some concern however, that China’s demand for power will result in dams for hydropower, forever changing this region. Luo Dan stayed in the villages for about twelve months while making this series and he keeps returning.

The wet-plate process necessitates a very hands-on approach by the photographer. It reaches back to the basic fundamentals of photography; the effect of light on silver halide crystals that results in an image. Luo Dan’s photographs show the collodian process through the peeling and painterly edges of the prints, the marks and imperfections and the incredible detail of the collodion. The final works are the result of scanning the glass plates and printing the works to a larger scale on Ilford gold silk fibre paper. They are incredibly beautiful and capture a moment in time with great sensitivity. For some photographers who use this process it becomes all about the technique, however this is not the case. Luo Dan uses the wet-plate collodion technique as a way to return to a handcrafted skill of the past that mirrors the primitive tools and farming methods of the villagers. He is an alchemist in the way he creates ‘magic’ with his wooden box, glass and chemicals. The immediacy of the technique enables the villages to share this magic in the making of the glass plates. He is an authentic cultural observer.

In his words, “I travelled a long road, saw a lot of things, and in the end realised that all differences are actually similarities. And so I stopped, and looked in a single place for something unchanging, tried to figure out why this place had the power to stand still in time.”

Anonymous text from the China Photo Education website [Online] Cited 31/03/2020

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 28 (Sha Yi Hai with His Crossbow, Shi Di Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 28 (Sha Yi Hai with His Crossbow, Shi Di Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 62 (Door)' 2012

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 62 (Door)
2012
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

 

Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783 USA
Phone: 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

Peabody Essex Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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