Archive for the 'book' Category

09
Jan
22

Exhibition: ‘Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 3rd October, 2021 – 23rd January, 2022

Curator: Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center

Field Galleries and Honickman Galleries 154-157

 

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Barbara Benson' 1968

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Barbara Benson
1968
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 1/2 × 9 1/2 inches
Mount: 9 1/8 × 11 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

Welcome to the first posting on Art Blart for 2022 and a Happy New Year to you all.

We start with an exhibition by highly regarded photographic printer (including prints for Paul Strand and Walker Evans and books for Lee Friedlander and about Eugène Atget) and teacher Richard Benson. A master of the craft of photography, “Benson became devoted to the technical aspects of printing and reproducing photographs” … “thoroughly imbued with the tradition, science and artistry of photography.” Benson was also an artist and the exhibition includes prints from the late 1960s until shortly before Benson’s death in 2017, the exhibition tracing his quest for the perfect print.

And therein lies the rub. It feels to me as though Benson’s work is more about the aesthetic of the print than about a good photograph and here I am going to call it as I see it. It might be a little controversial or even sacrilegious to one held in so high esteem for his printing, but I don’t particularly like his photographic work. Why?

Benson’s subject matter (“ageing farm machinery, austerely utilitarian boats, derelict factories, and the frequent intersections of history, nature, and our built environments”) can be found throughout the history of American photography. In that sense he offers few new insights on the environment in which he operates. Further, his “unsentimental specificity” – “or what his friend and fellow photographer Garry Winogrand referred to as the mystery of “a fact clearly described” – leaves me feeling … well, nothing really. To me his photographs are emotionally dead photographic experiments become artefacts. What is the story that he is telling, what was his vision?

Benson went to extraordinary lengths to make the print look how the world looked, because he wanted things to look in a print the way things looked when he saw them. But, as Paul Turounet comments, “Craft and technical execution function to support the photographers’ vision and curiosity with visual engagement, and clarity of intention and purpose. It becomes a tremendous opportunity for the photographer to experience how all of photography’s materials and processes, analog, digital or an alternative / hybrid system, can be used to reveal a personal photographic vision and what pictures are going to be about.”1

A personal photographic vision! What was that for Benson, for he has no signature style, his photographs being a mishmash of influences. As Arthur Lubow has observed, “In some of Benson’s black-and-white photographs of building interiors, like “65 Kenyon Street, Hartford, Connecticut” (1974), I thought of Walker Evans. Edward Weston floated into my consciousness as I looked at the organic semi-abstraction of “Agave” (c. 1975-85). And it was hard to avoid recalling Eggleston in viewing the color jolts of the vintage red truck in “Wyoming” (2008), or the lime-green rowboat in “Newfoundland” (2006-8).”2 Quite so.

So we are left with what exactly. Beautiful but emotionally stilted representations of the world that offer small insight into the condition of its becoming.

Benson’s two statements, “Go out into the world with the camera and photograph and find out that the world is smarter than you are” and “When I make the picture, I’m seeing how I could make the print” are instructive here. Firstly, the world is not smarter than you are, it’s just more confusing. Nothing is ever as neat and tidy, as perfect as Benson would have us believe in his perfect prints. This is when the mystery of the fact clearly described is just that – a description and not a feeling. Secondly, when he’s taking a photograph he thinking about the print! He’s not thinking about resonances, vibrations of energy, time and space in the place itself but only what he sees as its perfect outcome. But Richard, there are many ways to make a print! You can print a mid-grey Zone V and as near black Zone 2, or use digital manipulation to intensive the feeling of an image. There is no single way to print a photographic image that is “correct” for there are many interpretations of a constructed reality. In my humble opinion Benson has his equation arse about tit. As Minor White in one of his Three Canons (1955) would say,

When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over

.
Minor White elaborates further,

“To get from the tangible to the intangible (which mature artists in any medium claim as part of their task) a paradox of some kind has frequently been helpful. For the photographer to free himself of the tyranny of the visual facts upon which he is utterly dependent, a paradox is the only possible tool. And the talisman paradox for unique photography is to work “the mirror with a memory” as if it were a mirage, and the camera as a metamorphosing machine, and the photograph as if it were a metaphor… Once freed of the tyranny of surfaces and textures, substance and form [the photographer] can use the same to pursue poetic truth.”3

.
The critical observation is that craft and technical execution function to support the photographers’ vision and curiosity with visual engagement.

My friend and mentor IL keeps saying to me, “the really good stuff is there, I KNOW its there” – but you have to dig really deep to find it. Perhaps p. 25 in the preview of Benson’s book North South East West gets as close as I have felt (a sense of mystery and subtle spirit) … but I remain a skeptic with regard not to Benson’s craft but to his artistic vision, for he seems to have never freed himself of the tyranny of visual facts bound to their reproduction in the perfect print.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Paul Turounet. “Well-Executed, Poorly Conceived Photographs,” on A Photo Teacher website Nd [Online] Cited 18/12/2021
  2. Arthur Lubow. “When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera,” on The New York Times website December 30, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/01/2022
  3. Minor White quoted in Beaumont Newhall (ed.,). The History of Photography. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1982, p. 281

.
Many thankx to the Philadelphia 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.

 

 

The fundamental problem any artist faces in regard to craft is that it must be largely ignored. This seems to be an extreme statement, but it is surely true. Today we are experiencing a revival of sorts of non-silver, or alternative, systems for photographic printing, and the field is littered with well-executed, poorly conceived photographs. It seems to me that this has happened because all these photographers, or printers, are more interested in how they print their pictures than in what these pictures might be about.

.
Excerpt from the essay “Print Making” by Richard Benson in the book Paul Strand: Essays on His Life and Work. Aperture, 1991

 

“Isn’t that what we do as artists… don’t we try to create a surrogate that gives to the viewer something that was given to us when we saw the thing.

We get an inkling that there is something extraordinary there, we’ve stumbled on something extraordinary and the picture is our mechanism for understanding it.

When I make the picture, I’m seeing how I could make the print.”

.
Excerpts from a conversation with Richard Benson and Jay Maisel by George Jardine for Adobe Lightroom

 

“In black-and-white and color, in film and digital, in platinum prints, offset lithographs and inkjet prints, Benson mastered the procedures and, when he found them inadequate, invented his own. Like those sonically stunning LPs that were recorded to demonstrate the range of the first generation of stereos, Benson’s photographs often seem designed to mark the outer limits of what photography can practically achieve. …

Walking through the show, I saw the work of someone thoroughly imbued with the tradition, science and artistry of photography. But I was also reminded of a remark by Henry James, in a letter from 1888, about John Singer Sargent, who, similarly, could achieve with a brush anything he asked of it. “Yes, I have always thought Sargent a great painter,” James remarked. “He would be greater still if he had one or two little things he hasn’t – but he will do.””

.
Arthur Lubow. “When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera,” on The New York Times website December 30, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/01/2022

 

 

 

 

Curators’ Talk on Richard Benson

Curator Peter Barberie and Sarah Meister of Aperture discuss the life and work of photographer Richard Benson.

Speakers

Peter Barberie is Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Sarah Meister is Executive Director of Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, multi-platform publisher, and center for the photo community.

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Barbara Benson (Young, Skinny, and Pissed Off)' 1970 (negative); 2005-2014 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Barbara Benson (Young, Skinny, and Pissed Off)
1970 (negative); 2005-2014 (print)
Inkjet print
Image: 17 3/16 × 13 3/8 inches (43.6 × 33.9cm)
Sheet: 19 1/16 × 15 5/16 inches (48.4 × 38.9cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Sarah Benson' 1974

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Sarah Benson
1974
Palladium print
Image: 6 1/2 × 4 5/8 inches
Sheet: 6 3/4 × 4 3/4 inches
Mount: 7 7/8 × 6 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Christopher Benson' 1981-1982 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Christopher Benson
1981-1982 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)
Offset lithograph
Image: 16 1/4 × 12 7/8 inches (41.2 × 32.7cm)
Sheet: 24 15/16 × 19 inches (63.4 × 48.2cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Barbara and Daniel Benson' 1978-79

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Barbara and Daniel Benson
1978-79 (negative), 1985–95 (print)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

It’s worth mentioning that this was the late 1980s, when everywhere you looked it appeared as if “art photography” needed big ideas more than it needed great photographs. Benson would shoot down our art-speak while sympathising with our ambitions and the obstacles we faced in wanting to break new ground. He reminded us that “an artist is a person who tends to be really good at one thing but spends most of their time trying to do something else.” For him, the revelations and the ideas in photographs were in the details, in the unsentimental specificity, or what his friend and fellow photographer Garry Winogrand referred to as the mystery of “a fact clearly described.”

Many of the subjects Benson photographed across decades will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever crossed the US by car or run a few errands via bicycle in coastal New England: ageing farm machinery, austerely utilitarian boats, derelict factories, and the frequent intersections of history, nature, and our built environments. Benson’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Industrial Revolution only partly accounts for the complete absence of nostalgia in photographs that regularly describe remnants and artefacts sharing present-tense place and time within a single frame.

At certain moments in his work, Benson chose black-and-white film and inkjet printers. In others he found it necessary – and appropriate – to hack a twenty-first-century desktop printer with nineteenth-century brass registration pins. Or, frustrated with pre-Photoshop colour gamut limitations, he needed to invent a technique combining multiple halftone separations and layers upon layers of hand-applied house paint. It was the only way to produce colour prints from his large-format colour negatives that finally met his exacting standards.

If asked why he had gone to such lengths while others remained content with the latest readymade printer options from Kodak or Epson, Richard would simply offer: “Because that’s the way the world looks … and I want things to look in a print the way things looked when I saw them.”

As fascinating and impressive as many of Benson’s technical innovations may have been, none were intended to be more interesting than the photographs they made possible.

The building blocks of the medium (optics, resolution, inherent qualities of various printing methods) often served as dowsing rods to suggest where, what, or whom to photograph. For example, many of Benson’s photographs of his family are produced with and informed by the unique properties of the 8 x 10-inch view camera and black-and-white negative film. Photographing this way requires a mixture of emphatic care and authoritarian control. But in the course of Benson’s work, photographs of family and other closest-to-home subjects are entirely natural extensions of a larger inquiry into our designs, arrangements, purpose-driven work, civic progress, and looming fragilities written across a landscape without end.

Although Richard Benson’s working life ranged across disciplines (hand-tooled mechanical clockworks, steam and combustion-engine design and restoration, hand-ground lenses, and custom-built telescopes), the exhibition at the museum limits its scope to Benson’s photographs. For Benson, neither capital-A “Art” nor rigorous craft were virtues unto themselves. Yet the world described in these photographs, with their “just-the-facts” titles – places and dates without backstory or anecdote – tell us all we need to know about Benson’s omnivorous curiosity and his belief in the nature and purpose of photographic seeing.

Extract from John Pilson. “Richard Benson’s All-Seeing Eye,” on the Philadelphia Museum of Art website November 15, 2021 [Online] Cited 18/12/2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Luquillo Woman, Puerto Rico' c. 1980

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Luquillo Woman, Puerto Rico
c. 1980
Inkjet print
Image: 13 5/8 × 17 1/8 inches
Sheet: 15 1/2 × 18 7/8 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'John Bull's Great Stone, Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rhode Island' 1973-1978

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
John Bull’s Great Stone, Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rhode Island
1973-1978
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

One of his early pictures, “John Bull’s Great Stone, Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rhode Island” (1973-78), was made with a large-format view camera and composed of two contact prints mounted side by side. It depicts a series of six headstones for babies in one family, each marker incised with the face of an angel. Benson descended from a family of Newport stone carvers that dated to Colonial times. This composition, framed with perfect symmetry and sharp as a scalpel, is almost palpable, an appreciative flourish across the centuries from one consummate craftsman to another.

Arthur Lubow. “When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera,” on The New York Times website December 30, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/01/2022

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'John Bull's Great Stone, Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rhode Island' 1973-1978 (detail)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
John Bull’s Great Stone, Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rhode Island (detail)
1973-1978
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) '53 Tilden Avenue Porch' Date unknown

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
53 Tilden Avenue Porch
Date unknown
Offset lithograph
Image: 16 3/16 × 12 13/16 inches (41.1 × 32.5cm)
Sheet: 24 15/16 × 19 inches (63.3 × 48.2cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Harford, Connecticut' c. 1974 (negative); c. 2005-2011 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Harford, Connecticut
c. 1974 (negative); c. 2005-2011 (print)
Inkjet print
Image: 13 9/16 × 17 3/16 inches (34.5 × 43.6cm)
Sheet: 15 7/8 × 19 3/16 inches (40.4 × 48.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) '65 Kenyon Street, Hartford, Connecticut' 1974

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
65 Kenyon Street, Hartford, Connecticut
1974
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Billy Goode's, Newport, Rhode Island' 1976-1978

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Billy Goode’s, Newport, Rhode Island
1976-1978
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 7 7/16 × 9 7/16 inches (18.9 × 24cm)
Sheet: 8 7/16 × 10 7/8 inches (21.4 × 27.6cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'The Dark House (49 Tilden Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island)' c. 1975-1980

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
The Dark House (49 Tilden Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island)
c. 1975-1980
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 9 7/16 × 7 7/16 inches (24 × 18.9cm)
Sheet: 9 13/16 × 7 13/16 inches (24.9 × 19.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Puerto Rico' 1977-1985

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Puerto Rico
1977-1985
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 7 3/8 × 9 3/8 inches (18.7 × 23.8cm)
Sheet: 8 × 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Sugar Mill at Aguirre, Puerto Rico' c. 1978-1985 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Sugar Mill at Aguirre, Puerto Rico
c. 1978-1985 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)
Offset lithograph
Image: 12 3/16 × 15 5/16 inches (31 × 38.9cm)
Sheet: 19 1/8 × 25 inches (48.5 × 63.5cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

“Go out into the world with the camera and photograph and find out that the world is smarter than you are.”

With this exhortation, Richard Benson encouraged his students to explore one of photography’s core functions: recording things and events in the world. He wanted them to step out of their own mindsets and grapple with the many challenges – material, physical, and conceptual – encountered when making anything. It is precisely how Benson approached his own art. This exhibition surveys nearly fifty years of his photography, a wide-ranging body of work that reflects his humility and boundless curiosity about the world.

Renowned in photography circles for his acumen and inventiveness at printing and his far-ranging impact as a teacher and dean at the Yale University School of Art, Benson is best known today for the remarkable photography books he helped produce and the prints he made of other artists’ work. This exhibition puts his photography at the centre of these other achievements. It follows his continuous investigation of photographic processes and technologies and explores the dialogue between his pictures and other projects.

 

Benson’s subjects

Benson viewed human knowledge – particularly technology – as a cumulative, almost organic process, more a matter of continual adaptation and adjustment than of individual genius. This outlook is reflected in his photographic subjects. He recorded products of human ingenuity from stone carvings to steam engines and complex constructions of every sort. He also made straightforward and sensitive portraits of people and things he loved. And his subjects include the diverse spaces people create for themselves, which Benson viewed as “living rooms” that help us recover from the continuous disruptions of our technological age.

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island' 1975 (negative); 1975 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island
1975 (negative); 1975 (print)
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 7 7/8 × 9 5/8 inches (20 × 24.4cm)
Sheet: 8 1/16 × 10 1/8 inches (20.5 × 25.7cm)
Mount: 8 7/8 × 11 inches (22.5 × 27.9cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Fall River Boiler' 1978 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Fall River Boiler
1978 (negative); 1985-1995 (print)
Offset lithograph
Image: 16 3/8 × 13 1/16 inches (41.6 × 33.1cm)
Sheet: 24 15/16 × 18 15/16 inches (63.3 × 48.1cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

For reproducing photographs in a 1985 book devoted to the extraordinary Gilman Paper Company Collection (later acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art), he amplified the duotone process, where ink is passed through a fine mesh screen to impart subtle shades of black, gray and even, for older photographs, purple and sepia. The technique also allowed him to enlarge a negative without sacrificing detail. “Fall River Boiler,” a black-and-white image that he photographed in 1978 and printed a decade or so later, is a nocturne of texture and tone: feathery asbestos, gloppy encrustations, circular black holes.

Arthur Lubow. “When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera,” on The New York Times website December 30, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/01/2022

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Hector Morales's Horse, Don Pedro, San Juan, Puerto Rico' 1977-1982

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Hector Morales’s Horse, Don Pedro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
1977-1982
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 7 5/8 × 9 1/2 inches (19.4 × 24.1cm)
Sheet: 8 × 10 1/8 inches (20.3 × 25.7cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Poplar Street Driftway, Newport, Rhode Island' 1975-1985

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Poplar Street Driftway, Newport, Rhode Island
1975-1985
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 1/2 × 9 1/2 inches (19.1 × 24.1cm)
Mount: 18 × 14 inches (45.7 × 35.6cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Agave plant' 1975-1985

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Agave plant
1975-1985
Collection of Barbara Benson

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'New Orleans Tugboat' Mid-1980s (negative); 1985-1995 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
New Orleans Tugboat
Mid-1980s (negative); 1985-1995 (print)
Offset lithograph
Image: 12 15/16 × 16 1/4 inches (32.9 × 41.3cm)
Sheet: 19 1/16 × 25 inches (48.4 × 63.5cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Puerto Rico Landscape' c. 1980

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Puerto Rico Landscape
c. 1980
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 1/2 × 9 1/2 inches
Mount: 18 × 14 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Memphis, TN' 1987

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Memphis, TN
1987
Offset lithograph
Image: 12 7/8 × 16 3/4 inches
Sheet: 16 × 19 3/8 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Scottish Engine, Puerto Rico' c. 1980

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Scottish Engine, Puerto Rico
c. 1980
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 1/2 × 9 1/2 inches
Mount: 18 × 14 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Scottish Engine, Puerto Rico' c. 1980

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Scottish Engine, Puerto Rico
c. 1980; 2005-2014 (print)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 9/16 × 17 3/16 inches
Sheet: 15 7/16 × 18 7/8 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

Steam engines were among Richard Benson’s many enthusiasms. He was particularly excited to come across this one in a field in Puerto Rico, recognising it as a version of the engine invented by Scottish engineer James Watt in 1776. Watt’s engine was one of the key developments of the Industrial Revolution. Benson surmised this example was a relic from one of the sugar plantations that existed on the island in the 1800s.

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'The Beaubourg, Paris, France' 1976

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
The Beaubourg, Paris, France
1976
Platinum/palladium print
Image: 7 1/2 × 9 1/2 inches (19.1 × 24.1cm)
Sheet: 8 1/2 × 11 inches (21.6 × 27.9cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Wildwood, New Jersey' Date unknown

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Wildwood, New Jersey
Date unknown
Offset lithograph
Image: 16 3/8 × 13 1/16 inches
Sheet: 24 15/16 × 19 1/16 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

In October, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition dedicated to the late Richard Benson, who is most often celebrated as a virtuoso printer and gifted teacher and is perhaps best known for helping produce some of the most significant photography books of the past fifty years. The World Is Smarter Than You Are is the first in-depth survey of Benson’s own photography. This exhibition includes around 100 works that convey his pathfinding exploration of photographic processes, his embrace of technologies old and new, and his deep empathy for his human subjects and the objects and environments they have built. It celebrates an important promised gift of Benson’s art, assembled by the artist and offered to the museum by his close friends, collectors William H. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane. It is accompanied by a major publication of the same title.

Including prints from the late 1960s until shortly before Benson’s death in 2017, the exhibition traces his quest for the perfect print. This reflects both his abiding interest in improving traditional photo-making methods as well as his gradual embrace of digital photography and experiments in printing that yielded new directions for his artistic craft. It also explores his philosophical musings and writings, teaching materials and work as a printer, underscoring the deep connections between his intellectual, technical, and creative pursuits.

Benson’s interest in photography began with utilising this medium to document examples of fine craftsmanship and technological innovation, ranging from stone carving and antique buildings to machines such as steam engines or contemporary feats of engineering in steel and other modern materials. This breadth of interests can be seen in work from visits he made to France in the 1970s, when he recorded such sites as the Château de Maintenon and the recently completed Centre Pompidou. In another project of the 1970s, Benson photographed grave markers in the Common Burying Ground in his hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. He was the son and brother of celebrated stone carvers, and these pictures reflect his desire to document not only this antique art form, but also his developing ideas about the continual evolution of human technology which, in his thinking, comprised everything from language to microchips.

During this same decade Benson also made sensitive portraits of friends and family members – most notably his wife, Barbara Benson – and views of interiors and townscapes that often stand as indirect portraits of anonymous subjects. Numerous family portraits are presented throughout the exhibition and a concentrated grouping appears in the first galleries.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Benson made several trips to Puerto Rico. Included in the exhibition are his records of an antique steam engine he discovered on an old sugar plantation, Scottish Engine, Puerto Rico, c. 1980, and a variety of portraits and landscapes that represent the unique characteristics of the island. Luquillo Woman, Puerto Rico (c. 1980), is representative of the candid pictures he captured during these visits.

Benson embarked on his most ambitious book project in 1981, dedicated to the Gilman Paper Company Collection. It was considered to be one of the most important private photography collections ever assembled and included rare nineteenth-century prints in diverse processes as well as works by noted twentieth-century photographers such as Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Stieglitz, among others. Benson’s efforts to make the reproductions in this book by using offset lithography, printing each sheet up to six times in order to achieve specific print tonalities, remain unmatched. Spreads from the book, Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company, will be on view in the exhibition. Displayed in cases are other notable books on which he worked including Lay This Laurel (Benson and Lincoln Kirstein); The American Monument (Lee Friedlander); The Face of Lincoln (James Mellon); O, Write My Name (a portfolio of Benson photogravures from Carl Van Vechten photographs); Paul Strand prints of Wall Street and Wild Iris, Maine; and three later Benson books, A Maritime Album, The Printed Picture, and North South East West.

As his reputation as an innovator in printing processes grew, so too did his influence. In 1986, following the success of the Gilman Paper Company Collection project, Benson was awarded both his second Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. Seven years earlier, in 1979, Benson had begun teaching at Yale University, where he would become a professor and later Dean of the Art School. His idiosyncratic teaching style is described by the noted artist An-My Lê, who reflects in her essay: “His lectures were dazzling with information, but we were chided for taking notes. This was in line with this wanting us to think for ourselves and not passively absorb information that was thrown at us. As I have progressed in my work over the years, I have come to realise that one of Richard’s most important lessons was about humility.”

Another section of the exhibition will be devoted to his work in colour photography. Benson had avoided colour photography through much of his career, in part because of the unreliability of colour processes. But with the emergence of digital photography in the 1990s, he embraced working in colour, leading to the creation of an extraordinary body of pictures. Three works known as “photographs in paint” will be shown with two chromogenic prints from the 1990s to demonstrate his shift from offset lithography to inkjet printing. Moving into the early 2000s, Benson would fully deploy colour into his photographic practice. This shift can be seen in the examples of his pictures taken on the road in Georgia (2007), Texas (2008), Ohio (2009), and even Apples for John (2007).

The exhibition is organised by Peter Barberie, the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, who also edited the book that accompanies the exhibition. Barberie said: “In the photography world, Benson is highly regarded as a printer and teacher, but never before has there been an in-depth survey to explore his own photographs, which are challenging, difficult, and beautiful representations of everyday life. His free-thinking blend of traditional craftsmanship, cutting-edge technology, and human empathy resulted in a unique and powerful body of work, and I am gratified to bring his important contributions to photography to audiences in Philadelphia and beyond.”

 

Related publication

The first major survey of Benson’s photography, this volume features works from the gift complemented by important prints from other collections and comparative illustrations from several of the photography books Benson helped produce in his career. It includes a critical and historical essay about Benson’s photography by Peter Barberie. Artist An-My Lê has written an essay about her memories of her teacher and friend. Publication date: September 2021 (160 pages; $45.00).

 

About Richard Benson (1943-2017)

Richard Benson spent much of his life in Newport, Rhode Island, where he grew up. His father, John Howard Benson (1901-1956), was a noted stone carver and calligrapher who in 1927 acquired the John Stevens Shop, which had been in operation since 1705. It became under the elder Benson’s direction a nationally celebrated firm for monumental lettering. Known by his nickname “Chip,” Richard occupied a workshop at the back of their house, where he pursued his craft and tinkered with a variety of creative pursuits including antique vehicles.

In 1961 he enrolled at Brown University but left after one semester before serving for three years in the Navy, studying at its Optical Repair School. He also took courses at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1966, after marrying Barbara Murray, he obtained a job at Meriden Gravure, a printing company in Connecticut that would expose him to the highest levels of craft in printing and set the course for his career in books and photography.

Benson became devoted to the technical aspects of printing and reproducing photographs. He made fine prints for other artists, including Paul Strand and Walker Evans and helped produce many of the finest photography books of his generation, including Lee Friedlander’s American Monument (1976); The Work of Atget (4 vols., 1981-84); and Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company (1985). During these years, he quietly pursued his own photography, working with a large camera and producing black-and-white prints in various processes.

In 1979 Benson began teaching at Yale University School of Art, where he eventually served as dean from 1996 to 2006. He mentored younger colleagues and a generation of art students, many of whom recall his teaching as a formative experience. The unique quality of his teaching is reflected in his book The Printed Picture (2008), a survey of the entire history of printing as seen in the teaching materials he assembled over forty years. …

In the 1990s Benson embraced digital photography and dove into colour. He experimented with inkjet printing and traveled broadly to make photographs, many of which were published in North South East West (2011), a collection of his pictures from the previous six years.

Benson’s work is represented in the collections of the Eakins Press Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Yale University Art Gallery.

 

About the Promised Gift

In 2015, William H. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane, collectors and close friends of Richard Benson, pledged a promised gift of 180 of Benson’s works to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which fulfilled a commitment they had made to the artist to keep a significant body of his work intact as a single collection. The exhibition and the publication have been six years in the making.

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Manhattan Waterfront Project' c. 1992

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Manhattan Waterfront Project
c. 1992
Chromogenic print
Image: 8 3/8 × 12 5/8 inches (21.3 × 32.1cm)
Sheet: 10 7/8 × 14 inches (27.6 × 35.6 cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Manhattan Waterfront Project' c. 1992

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Manhattan Waterfront Project
c. 1992
Chromogenic print
Image: 8 3/8 × 12 5/8 inches (21.2 × 32cm)
Sheet: 10 15/16 × 13 15/16 inches (27.8 × 35.4cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'New Mexico' 2006

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
New Mexico
2006
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 1/16 inches (34 × 51cm)
Sheet: 16 × 21 15/16 inches (40.7 × 55.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Newfoundland (Green Boat)' c. 2006

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Newfoundland (Green Boat)
c. 2006
Multiple impression pigment print
Image: 11 9/16 × 17 3/8 inches
Sheet: 12 15/16 × 19 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Collection of Barbara Benson
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Georgia' 2007

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Georgia
2007
Pigment print
Image: 20 × 13 3/8 inches (50.8 × 34cm)
Sheet: 22 × 16 inches (55.9 × 40.6cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

“Georgia” (2007), which portrays a vertical array of four signs – two red octagonal stop signs, two circular railroad crossings, in yellow and orange – makes a visual counterpoint to three storage silos in the background that are painted red, blue and yellow-embellished silver. But the most virtuosic turn is the rendition of the sky, which is bleached out to a pale blue-gray at the horizon and gradually darkens to a full-throated cerulean at the top. If, as Willem de Kooning once remarked, flesh was the reason oil paint was created, Benson in his many crepuscular photographs makes the case that twilight skies were the reason color film was invented.

Arthur Lubow. “When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera,” on The New York Times website December 30, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/01/2022

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Apples for John' 2007

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Apples for John
2007
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches
Sheet: 15 7/8 × 22 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Selma, Alabama' 2007

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Selma, Alabama
2007
Pigment print
Image: 11 5/8 × 17 3/8 inches (29.5 × 44.1cm)
Sheet: 13 × 19 inches (33 × 48.3cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Kentucky' 2007

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Kentucky
2007
Pigment print
Image: 11 5/8 × 17 3/8 inches (29.5 × 44.2cm)
Sheet: 12 15/16 × 19 inches (32.8 × 48.2cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Okeechobee, Florida' 2007

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Okeechobee, Florida
2007
Pigment print
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Wyoming (Reinke Sprinkler)' 2008

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Wyoming (Reinke Sprinkler)
2008
Multiple impression pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 1/8 inches
Sheet: 16 1/8 × 22 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Collection of Barbara Benson
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Untitled (Cotton Farm)' 2008

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Untitled (Cotton Farm)
2008
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches (34 × 50.8cm)
Sheet: 14 15/16 × 21 15/16 inches (38 × 55.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Louisiana' 2008

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Louisiana
2008
Pigment print
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Texas' 2008

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Texas
2008
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches
Sheet: 15 9/16 × 22 inches
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Arizona' 2008

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Arizona
2008
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches (34 × 50.8cm)
Sheet: 14 15/16 × 21 15/16 inches (38 × 55.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Ohio' 2009

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Ohio
2009
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches (34 × 50.8cm)
Sheet: 16 × 22 inches (40.6 × 55.9cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017) 'Untitled (Celeryville field)' 2009 (negative); 2009 (print)

 

Richard Benson (American, 1943-2017)
Untitled (Celeryville field)
2009 (negative); 2009 (print)
Pigment print
Image: 13 3/8 × 20 inches (34 × 50.8cm)
Sheet: 14 15/16 × 21 15/16 inches (38 × 55.8cm)
© Estate of Richard M. A. Benson. Promised gift of William M. and Elizabeth Ann Kahane
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021

 

 

Publication

A wide-ranging retrospective that reveals a master printer’s own photographs to be technically brilliant work of remarkable breadth and complexity.

This book presents the first in-depth survey of photographs by Richard Benson (1943-2017), who approached photography as a thrilling set of technical challenges and used the medium to craft profound depictions of people, the spaces of their lives and work, and the products of their labor. An essay by curator Peter Barberie interweaves examination of Benson’s photographic practices with the story of his ideas, writing, and reproductive printing, while photographer An-My Lê, Benson’s former student, offers her perspective on his teaching, family life, and art. The book begins with his stunning darkroom prints in silver and platinum and follows his trajectory toward extraordinary digital photography, culminating in later colour prints that are at once elegant and garish, representing the contemporary world in vivid detail. Benson’s democratic eye also extended to human subjects: he photographed loved ones and strangers with extraordinary attention, and directed the same gaze to the buildings and landscapes entwined with individual lives.

  • Author: Peter Barberie
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 2021
  • 152 pages, 11 3/4 x 9 3/4
  • 134 color illustrations
  • ISBN: 9780876332016

 

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are

 

Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are publication

 

 

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04
Dec
21

Exhibition: ‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 1

Exhibition dates: 31st October, 2021 – 30th January, 2022

Curator: The exhibition is curated by Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

 

Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (American, 1905-2002) 'Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky' 1937

 

Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (American, 1905-2002)
Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky
1937
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 24.2 x 18.8cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Marvin Breckinridge Patterson

 

 

The first of a humungous three-part posting on this archaeological exhibition.

Combined with the posting I did on this exhibition when it was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this three-part posting will include over 160 new images from the exhibition… meaning a combined total over the four postings of over 200 images with biographical information.

This has been a mammoth effort to construct these postings but so worthwhile!

I will make comment on the exhibition in part 3 of the posting.

Marcus

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

 

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) 'New York' c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 18.6 x 24.8cm (7 5/16 x 9 3/4 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 45.72cm (14 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 38.1 x 48.26cm (15 x 19 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of William H. Levitt
© Helen Levitt Film Documents LLC. All rights reserved
Courtesy of Thomas Zander Gallery

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992) 'Karnevalslichter' (Carnival Lights) 1920s-1930s

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992)
Karnevalslichter (Carnival Lights)
1920s-1930s
Gelatin silver print sheet (trimmed to image): 23.8 x 17.8cm (9 3/8 x 7 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 55.25 x 45.09cm (21 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992) was trained as a fashion designer at Christoph Drecoll’s in Berlin, and afterwards ran her own successful fashion studio in Bremen. She started taking photographs in 1929, but had been experimenting with and assisting her close friend and future husband Werner Rohde before. Her photographs were featured in the international exhibition Das Lichtbild in Munich in 1930. In 1937 she married Werner Rohde and subsequently was called Renata Bracksieck-Rohde. After he returned from a POW camp in 1945, they moved to the artist colony Worpswede near the city of Bremen, where they continued to live until their deaths.

Text from the Kicken Berlin website

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990) 'Lieselotte Felger, die Wespentaille in dem Tanz, der Kreisel, Berlin' (Lieselotte Felger as "Die Wespentaille" in the Dance "Der Kreisel," Berlin) 1931

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990)
Lieselotte Felger, die Wespentaille in dem Tanz, der Kreisel, Berlin (Lieselotte Felger as “Die Wespentaille” in the Dance “Der Kreisel,” Berlin)
1931
Gelatin silver print sheet (trimmed to image): 25.2 x 20.2cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Lotte Jacobi (August 17, 1896 – May 6, 1990) was a leading American portrait photographer and photojournalist, known for her high-contrast black-and-white portrait photography, characterised by intimate, sometimes dramatic, sometimes idiosyncratic and often definitive humanist depictions of both ordinary people in the United States and Europe and some of the most important artists, thinkers and activists of the 20th century.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944) 'Ohne Titel (Schmuck)' (Untitled (Jewellery)) c. 1930

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944)
Ohne Titel (Schmuck) (Untitled (Jewellery))
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 22.7 x 16.2 cm (8 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56 cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 50.17 x 40.01 cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Yva (26 January 1900 – 31 December 1944) was the professional pseudonym of Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon who was a German Jewish photographer renowned for her dreamlike, multiple exposed images. She became a leading photographer in Berlin during the Weimar Republic.

When the Nazi Party came to power, she was forced into working as a radiographer. She was deported by the Gestapo in 1942 and murdered, probably in the Majdanek concentration camp during World War II.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944) 'Ohne Titel (Schmuck)' (Untitled (Jewellery)) c. 1930

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944)
Ohne Titel (Schmuck) (Untitled (Jewellery))
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.05 x 15.24cm (7 1/2 x 6 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 50.17 x 40.01cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection
Gift of the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Brenda and Robert Edelson Collection

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998) 'Study for "Salut de Schiaparelli" (Lily Perfume), Paris' 1934

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Study for “Salut de Schiaparelli” (Lily Perfume), Paris
1934
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 28.2 x 22.3cm (11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ilse Bing Wolff

 

 

During the 1920s, the iconic New Woman was splashed across the pages of magazines and projected on the silver screen. As a global phenomenon, she embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Featuring more than 120 photographers from over 20 countries, the groundbreaking exhibition, The New Woman Behind the Camera, explores the diverse “new” women who embraced photography as a mode of professional and personal expression from the 1920s to the 1950s. The first exhibition to take an international approach to the subject, it examines how women brought their own perspectives to artistic experimentation, studio portraiture, fashion and advertising work, scenes of urban life, ethnography, and photojournalism, profoundly shaping the medium during a time of tremendous social and political change. Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, this landmark exhibition will be on view from October 31, 2021 through January 30, 2022, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It was previously on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from July 2 through October 3, 2021.

In an era when traditional definitions of womanhood were being questioned, women’s lives were a mix of emancipating and confining experiences that varied by country. Many women around the world found the camera to be a means of independence as they sought to redefine their positions in society and expand their rights. This exhibition presents a geographically, culturally, and artistically diverse range of practitioners to advance new conversations about the history of modern photography and the continual struggle of women to gain creative agency and self-representation.

“This innovative exhibition reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the New Woman, a feminist ideal that emerged at the end of the 19th century and spread globally during the first half of the 20th century,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. “The transnational realities of modernism visualised in photography by women such as Lola Álvarez Bravo, Berenice Abbott, Claude Cahun, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Niu Weiyu, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla offer us an opportunity to better understand the present by becoming more fully informed of the past.”

 

About the exhibition

This landmark exhibition critically examines the extraordinary impact women had on the practice of photography worldwide from the 1920s to the 1950s. It presents the work of over 120 international photographers who took part in a dramatic expansion of the medium propelled by artistic creativity, technological innovation, and the rise of the printed press. Photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Ilse Bing, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Madame d’Ora, Florence Henri, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Dora Maar, Niu Weiyu, Eslanda Goode Robeson, Tsuneko Sasamoto, Gerda Taro, and Homai Vyarawalla, among many others, emerged at a tumultuous moment in history that was profoundly shaped by two world wars, a global economic depression, struggles for decolonisation, and the rise of fascism and communism. Against the odds, these women were at the forefront of experimentation with the camera and produced invaluable visual testimony that reflects both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the era.

Organised thematically in eight galleries, The New Woman Behind the Camera illustrates women’s groundbreaking work in modern photography, exploring their innovations in the fields of social documentary, avant-garde experimentation, commercial studio practice, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion. By evoking the global phenomenon of the New Woman, the exhibition seeks to reevaluate the history of photography and advance new and more inclusive conversations on the contributions of female photographers.

Known by different names, from nouvelle femme and neue Frau to modan gāru and xin nüxing, the New Woman was easy to recognise but hard to define. Fashionably dressed with her hair bobbed, the self-assured cosmopolitan New Woman was arguably more than a marketable image. She was a contested symbol of liberation from traditional gender roles. Revealing how women photographers from around the world gave rise to and embodied the quintessential New Woman even as they critiqued the popular construction of the role, the exhibition opens with a group of compelling portraits and self-portraits. In these works, women defined their positions as professionals and artists during a time when they were seeking greater personal rights and freedoms.

For many women, the camera became an effective tool for self-determination as well as a source of income. With better access to education and a newfound independence, female photographers emerged as a major force in studio photography. From running successful businesses in Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, and Vienna, to earning recognition as one of the first professional female photographers in their home country, women around the world, including Karimeh Abbud, Steffi Brandl, Trude Fleischmann, Annemarie Heinrich, Eiko Yamazawa, and Madame Yevonde, reinvigorated studio practice. A collaborative space where both sitters and photographers negotiated gender, race, and cultural difference, the portrait studio was also vitally important to African American communities which sought to represent and define themselves within a society that continued to be plagued by racism. Photography studios run by Black women, such as Florestine Perrault Collins and Winifred Hall Allen, thrived throughout the United States, and not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to the stereotyping images that circulated in the mass media.

With the invention of smaller lightweight cameras, a growing number of women photographers found that the camera’s portability created new avenues of discovery outside the studio. In stunning photographs of the city, photographers such as Alice Brill, Rebecca Lepkoff, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Genevieve Naylor, and Tazue Satō Matsunaga used their artistic vision to capture the exhilarating modern world around them. They depicted everyday life, spontaneous encounters on the street, and soaring architectural views in places like Bombay (now Mumbai), New York, Paris, São Paulo, and Tokyo, revealing the multiplicity of urban experience. Many incorporated the newest photographic techniques to convey the energy of the city, and the exhibition continues with a gallery focused on those radical formal approaches that came to define modern photography. Through techniques like photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, extreme cropping, and dizzying camera angles, women including Aenne Biermann, Imogen Cunningham, Dora Maar, Tina Modotti, Lucia Moholy, and Cami Stone pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Women also produced dynamic pictures of the modern body, including innovative nude studies as well as sport and dance photography. Around the world, participation in spectator and team sports increased along with membership in fitness and hygiene reform movements. New concepts concerning health and sexuality along with new attitudes in movement and dress emphasised the body as a central site of experiencing modernity. On view are luminous works by photographers Laure Albin Guillot, Yvonne Chevalier, Florence Henri, and Jeanne Mandello who reimagined the traditional genre of the nude. Photographs by Irene Bayer-Hecht and Liselotte Grschebina highlight joyous play and gymnastic exercise, while Charlotte Rudolph, Ilse Bing, Trude Fleischmann, and Lotte Jacobi made breathtaking images of dancers in motion, revealing the body as artistic medium.

During the modern period, a growing number of women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled widely for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad and interactions with other cultures as they engaged in formal and informal ethnographic projects. The exhibition continues with a selection of photographs and photobooks by women, mainly from Europe and the United States, that reveal a diversity of perspectives and approaches. Gender provided some of these photographers with unusual access and the drive to challenge discriminatory practices, while others were not exempt from portraying stereotypical views. Publications by Jette Bang, Hélène Hoppenot, Ella Maillart, Anna Riwkin, Eslanda Goode Robeson, and Ellen Thorbecke exemplify how photographically illustrated books and magazines were an influential form of communication about travel and ethnography during the modern period. Other works on display include those by Denise Bellon and Ré Soupault, who traveled to foreign countries on assignment for magazines and photo agencies seeking ethnographic and newsworthy photographs, and those by Marjorie Content and Laura Gilpin, who worked on their own in the southwestern United States.

The New Woman – both as a mass-circulating image and as a social phenomenon – was confirmed by the explosion of photographs found in popular fashion and lifestyle magazines. Fashion and advertising photography allowed many women to gain unprecedented access to the public sphere, establish relative economic independence, and attain autonomous professional success. Producing a rich visual language where events and ideas were expressed directly in pictures, illustrated fashion magazines such as Die DameHarper’s Bazaar, and Vogue became an important venue for photographic experimentation by women for a female readership. Photographers producing original views of women’s modernity include Lillian Bassman, Ilse Bing, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Toni Frissell, Toni von Horn, Frances McLaughlin-Gill, ringl + pit, Margaret Watkins, Caroline Whiting Fellows, and Yva.

The rise of the picture press also established photojournalism and social documentary as dominant forms of visual expression during the modern period. Ignited by the effects of a global economic crisis and growing political and social unrest, numerous women photographers including Lucy Ashjian, Margaret Bourke-White, Kati Horna, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Kata Kálmán, Dorothea Lange, and Hansel Mieth engaged a wide public with gripping images. So-called soft topics such as “women and children,” “the family,” and “the home front” were more often assigned to female photojournalists than to their male counterparts. The exhibition asks viewers to question the effect of having women behind the camera in these settings. Pictures produced during the war, from combat photography by Galina Sanko and Gerda Taro to images of the Blitz in London by Thérèse Bonney and the Tuskegee airmen by Toni Frissell, are also featured. At the war’s end, haunting images by Lee Miller of the opening of Nazi concentration camps and celebratory images of the victory parade of Allied Forces in New Delhi by Homai Vyarawalla made way for the transition to the complexities of the postwar era, including images of daily life in US-occupied Japan by Tsuneko Sasamoto and the newly formed People’s Republic of China by Hou Bo and Niu Weiyu.

The New Woman Behind the Camera acknowledges that women are a diverse group whose identities are defined not exclusively by gender but rather by a host of variable factors. It contends that gender is an important aspect in understanding their lives and work and provides a useful framework for analysis to reveal how photography by women has powerfully shaped our understanding of modern life.

 

Exhibition catalog

Published by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and distributed by DelMonico Books | D.A.P., this groundbreaking, richly illustrated 288-page catalog examines the diverse women whose work profoundly marked the medium of photography from the 1920s to the 1950s. The book – featuring over 120 international photographers, including Lola Álvarez Bravo, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla – reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the iconic New Woman. Inclusive scholarly essays introduce readers to these important photographers and question the past assumptions about gender in the history of photography. Contributors include Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art; Elizabeth Cronin, assistant curator of photography in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs, New York Public Library; Mia Fineman, curator in the department of photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mila Ganeva, professor of German in the department of German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern languages and cultures, Miami University, Ohio; Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Elizabeth Otto, professor of modern and  contemporary art history, University at Buffalo (The State University of New York); and Kim Sichel, associate professor in the department of the history of art and architecture at Boston University; biographies of the photographers by Kara Felt, Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Olga Máté (Hungarian, 1878-1961) 'Horgász-stég' (Fisherman's Dock) c. 1930

 

Olga Máté (Hungarian, 1878-1961)
Horgász-stég (Fisherman’s Dock)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 22.38 x 17.46cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Olga Máté (1878-1961) was one of the first women Hungarian photographers, most known for her portraits. She was known for her lighting techniques and used lighted backgrounds to enhance her portraits and still life compositions. In 1912 she won a gold medal in Stuttgart at an international photography exhibit. Perhaps her best-known images are portraits she took of Mihály Babits and Margit Kaffka. She was also an early suffragist in Hungary and during the Hungarian White Terror assisted several intellectuals in their escapes.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Kata Kálmán (Hungarian, 1909-1978) 'Weisz Ernö 23 éves gyári munkás, Budapest' (Ernö Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest) 1932, printed before 1955

 

Kata Kálmán (Hungarian, 1909-1978)
Weisz Ernö 23 éves gyári munkás, Budapest (Ernö Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest)
1932, printed before 1955
Gelatin silver print image: 24.2 x 17.6cm (9 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Marianne Brandt (German, 1893-1983) 'Ohne Titel' (Untitled) 1930

 

Marianne Brandt (German, 1893-1983)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
1930
Photomontage on paper
Overall: 65 x 50.1cm (25 9/16 x 19 3/4 in.)
Frame: 89.22 x 73.98 x 4.13cm (35 1/8 x 29 1/8 x 1 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, and Thomas Walther

 

 

Marianne Brandt (1 October 1893 – 18 June 1983) was a German painter, sculptor, photographer, metalsmith, and designer who studied at the Bauhaus art school in Weimar and later became head of the Bauhaus Metall-Werkstatt (Metal Workshop) in Dessau in 1927. Today, Brandt’s designs for household objects such as lamps, ashtrays and teapots are considered timeless examples of modern industrial design. She also created photomontages. …

Brandt is also remembered as a pioneering photographer. She created experimental still-life compositions, but it is her series of self-portraits which are particularly striking. These often represent her as a strong and independent New Woman of the Bauhaus; other examples show her face and body distorted across the curved and mirrored surfaces of metal balls, creating a blended image of herself and her primary medium at the Bauhaus. Brandt was one of few women at Bauhaus who distanced herself from the fields considered more feminine at the time such as weaving or pottery.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Rosalie Gwathmey (American, 1908-2001) 'Tobacco Picker, Rocky Mount, North Carolina' 1943

 

Rosalie Gwathmey (American, 1908-2001)
Tobacco Picker, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
1943
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.56 x 34.13cm (10 1/16 x 13 7/16 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Rosalie Gwathmey or Rosalie Hook (September 15, 1908 – February 12, 2001) was an American painter and photographer known for her photos of black southern communities around her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. …

Her photography was known for capturing the lives of residents of Southern African American communities. She focused on black life in her home of Charlotte and Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She photographed many of the black sharecroppers and southern townscapes that became the basis of her husband’s paintings. While Rosalie’s social documentary photographs offer no stylistic revolution, her life and art reflect significant issues relating to politics and race relations in the United States during the 1940s. While in the Photo League, she worked with many radical photographers of the era: Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind, Sid Grossman, Dorothea Lange, Bernice Abbott, Lizette Modell, Walter Rosenblum, Dan Weiner, and Lou Stettner.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marjorie Content (American, 1895-1984) 'Adam Trujillo and His Son Pat, Taos' Summer 1933

 

Marjorie Content (American, 1895-1984)
Adam Trujillo and His Son Pat, Taos
Summer 1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.5 x 14.2cm (4 1/2 x 5 9/16 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 45.72cm (14 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 38.1 x 48.26cm (15 x 19 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of the Gallery Girls
© Estate of Marjorie Content

 

 

Marjorie Content (1895-1984) was an American photographer from New York City active in modernist social and artistic circles. Her photographs were rarely published and never exhibited in her lifetime. Since the late 20th century, collectors and art historians have taken renewed interest in her work. Her photographs have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art; her work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions.

She was married several times, including for a short period to Harold Loeb, a writer and the editor of the avant-garde journal, Broom. Her marriage to writer Jean Toomer in 1934 lasted more than 30 years, to his death. …

 

Photographic years (1926-1935)

Content began serious photography while married to her second husband, the painter Michael Carr. She used a 3+1⁄4 × 4+1⁄4 inch Graflex, and, after 1932, a 5×7 inch Graflex as well. Despite reports that Stieglitz taught her developing techniques, some scholars believe it was her friend Consuelo Kanaga. Content sometimes worked in Kanaga’s darkroom.

Her travels in the West and Southwest with painter Gordon Grant influenced her style toward a more formalist aesthetic. She briefly worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs photographing rural Native American life. She married a third time, to Leon Fleischman.

In the 1930s Content was also close to painter Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1933 she traveled with her to Bermuda to nurse her through a depression. The following year, she drove with her to New Mexico, where O’Keefe had settled. Other close friends of this period included Stieglitz, Ridge, Sherwood Anderson, Paul Rosenfeld, and Margaret Naumburg, at whose Walden School in New York City both of her children were educated.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Madame d'Ora (Austrian, 1881-1963) 'Mariette Pachhofer (later Mariette Lydis)' 1921

 

Madame d’Ora (Austrian, 1881-1963)
Mariette Pachhofer (later Mariette Lydis)
1921
Gelatin silver print image: 21.9 x 13.9cm (8 5/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Mount: 38.7 x 26.4cm (15 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 44.45 x 54.61cm (17 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund and the R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

 

Dora Philippine Kallmus (20 March 1881 – 28 October 1963), also known as Madame D’Ora or Madame d’Ora, was an Austrian fashion and portrait photographer.

Dora Philippine Kallmus was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1881 to a Jewish family. Her father was a lawyer. Her sister, Anna, was born in 1878 and deported in 1941 during the Holocaust. Although her mother, Malvine (née Sonnenberg), died when she was young, her family remained an important source of emotional and financial support throughout her career.

She became interested in the photography field while assisting the son of the painter Hans Makart, and in 1905 she was the first woman to be admitted to theory courses at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt (Graphic Training Institute). That same year she became a member of the Association of Austrian photographers. At that time she was also the first woman allowed to study theory at the Graphischen Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, which in 1908 granted women access to other courses in photography.

In 1907, she established her own studio with Arthur Benda in Vienna called the Atelier d’Ora or Madame D’Ora-Benda. The name was based on the pseudonym “Madame d’Ora”, which she used professionally. D’ora and Benda operated a summer studio from 1921 to 1926 in Karlsbad, Germany, and opened another gallery in Paris in 1925. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal) and it was her intervention that saved the agency’s owner after his arrest by the Nazis, enabling him to flee to Paris from Vienna.

Her subjects included Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Tamara de Lempicka, Alban Berg, Maurice Chevalier, Colette, and other dancers, actors, painters, and writers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alma Lavenson (American, 1897-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Alma Lavenson (American, 1897-1989)
Self-Portrait
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 24.5cm (7 1/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, New Century Fund, and the Eugene L. and Marie-Louise Garbáty Fund
© Alma Lavenson Archives, All Rights Reserved, 2020
Courtesy Susan Ehrens

 

 

Alma Ruth Lavenson (May 20, 1897, in San Francisco – September 19, 1989 in Piedmont, California) was an American photographer of the early 20th century. She worked with and was a close friend of Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and other photographic masters of the period.

 

Rogi André (French born Hungary, 1900-1970) 'Dora Maar' 1941

 

Rogi André (French born Hungary, 1900-1970)
Dora Maar
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17 x 11.9cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.)
Mount: 28 x 20cm (11 x 7 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
rame (outer): 49.53 x 39.37cm (19 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund

 

 

Rogi André (born Rozsa Klein, 10 August 1900, Budapest – 11 April 1970, Paris) was a Hungarian-born French photographer and artist. She was the first wife of André Kertész. …

In 1935, the photographer and theoretician of photography Emmanuel Sougez, writing in the journal Arts et Métiers Graphique compared the photography of Rogi André and that of Laure Albin Guillot, and criticised the former for posing her subjects in their environment. Some critics have noted in her portraits an influence of Cubism, for example in the portrait of Dora Maar (c. 1940) in which she creates a geometric composition using the play of shadows and lights.

What a life she had!

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Anna Barna (Hungarian, 1901-1964) 'Leskelodo' (Onlooker) 1930s

 

Anna Barna (Hungarian, 1901-1964)
Leskelodo (Onlooker)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 16.9cm (8 7/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund

 

 

Behind the Camera

Women actively participated in the development of photography soon after its inception in the 19th century. Yet it was in the 1920s, after the seismic disruptions of World War I, that women entered the field of photography in force. Aided by advances in technology and mass communications, along with growing access to training and acceptance of their presence in the workplace, women around the world made an indelible mark on the growth and diversification of the medium. They brought innovation to a range of photographic disciplines, from avant-garde experimentation and commercial studio practice to social documentary, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion.

 

The New Woman

A global phenomenon, the New Woman of the 1920s embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Her image – a woman with bobbed hair, stylish dress, and a confident stride – was a staple of newspapers and magazines first in Europe and the United States and soon in China, Japan, India, Australia, and elsewhere. A symbol of the pursuit of liberation from traditional gender roles, the New Woman in her many guises represented women who faced a mix of opportunities and obstacles that varied from country to country. The camera became a powerful means for female photographers to assert their self-determination and redefine their position in society. Producing compelling portraits, including self-portraits featuring the artist with her camera, they established their roles as professionals and artists.

 

The Studio

Commercial studio photography was an important pathway for many women to forge a professional career and to earn their own income. Running successful businesses in small towns and major cities from Buenos Aires to Berlin and Istanbul, women reinvigorated the genre of portraiture. In the studio, both sitters and photographers navigated gender, race, and cultural difference; those run by women presented a different dynamic. For example, Black women operated studios in Chicago, New Orleans, and elsewhere in the United States, where they not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to racist images then circulating in the mass media.

 

The City

The availability of smaller, lightweight cameras and the increasing freedom to move about cities on their own spurred a number of women photographers to explore the diversity of the urban experience beyond the studio walls. Using their creative vision to capture the vibrant modern world around them, women living and working in Bombay (now Mumbai), London, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Tokyo, and beyond photographed soaring architecture and spontaneous encounters on the street.

 

Avant-Garde Experiments

Creative formal approaches – photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, unconventional cropping, extreme close-ups, and dizzying camera angles – came to define photography during this period. Women incorporated these cutting-edge techniques to produce works that conveyed the movement and energy of modern life. Although often overshadowed by their male partners and colleagues, women photographers were integral in shaping an avant-garde visual language that promoted new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

 

Modern Bodies

Beginning in the 1920s, new concepts concerning health and sexuality, along with changing attitudes about movement and dress, emphasised the human body as a central site of experiencing modernity. Women photographers produced incisive visions of liberated modern bodies, from pioneering photographs of the nude to exuberant pictures of sport and dance. Photographs of joyous play and gymnastic exercise, as well as images of dancers in motion, celebrate the body as artistic medium.

 

Ethnographic Approaches

During this modern period, numerous women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled extensively for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad in Africa, China, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, while others engaged in more formal ethnographic projects. Some women with access to domains that were off limits to their male counterparts produced intimate portraits of female subjects. While gender may have afforded these photographers special connections to certain communities, it did not exempt some, especially those from Europe and the United States, from producing stereotypical views that reinforced hierarchical concepts of race and ethnocentrism.

 

Fashion and Advertising

Images splashed across the pages of popular fashion and lifestyle magazines vividly defined the New Woman. The unprecedented demand for fashion and advertising photographs between the world wars provided exceptional employment opportunities for fashion reporters, models, and photographers alike, allowing women to emerge as active agents in the profession. Cultivating the tastes of newly empowered female consumers, fashion and advertising photography provided a space where women could experiment with pictures intended for a predominantly female readership.

 

Social Documentary

Galvanised by the effects of a global economic crisis and the growing political and social unrest that began in the 1930s, numerous women photographers produced arresting images of the human condition. Whether working for government agencies or independently, women contributed to the visual record of the Depression and the events leading up to World War II. From images of breadlines and worker demonstrations to forced migration and internment, women photographers helped to expose dire conditions and shaped what would become known as social documentary photography.

 

Reportage

The rise of the picture press established photojournalism as a dominant form of visual expression during a period shaped by two world wars. Women photographers conveyed an inclusive view of worldwide economic depression, struggles for decolonisation in Africa, and the rise of fascism and communism in Europe and the Soviet Union. They often received the “soft assignments” of photographing women and children, families, and the home front, but some women risked their lives close to the front lines. Images of concentration camps and victory parades made way for the complexities of the postwar era, as seen in pictures of daily life in US-occupied Japan and the newly formed People’s Republic of China.

 

The photographers whose works are in The New Woman Behind the Camera represent just some of the many women around the world who were at the forefront of experimenting with the camera. They produced invaluable visual testimony that reflected both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the early 20th century. Together, they changed the history of modern photography.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000) 'Johannesburg Social Center, South Africa' 1948, printed later

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000)
Johannesburg Social Center, South Africa
1948, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 50.8 x 40.48cm (20 x 15 15/16 in.)
Image: 43.18 x 37.94cm (17 x 14 15/16 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 62.23 x 52.07cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase)

 

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (7 August 1914 – 27 July 2000) was an English photographer best known for her images of South Africa and her photo-journalism on Europe during World War II. She was South Africa’s first female war correspondent. …

 

Career

On her return to South Africa in 1936 she established the Constance Stuart Portrait Studio in Pretoria. She became a renowned portraitist, and photographed many of the leading statesmen, generals, artists, writers, society and theatrical personalities of that period. In 1946 she opened a second studio in Johannesburg.

Between 1937 and 1949 Stuart developed her lifelong interest in recording and exhibiting the vanishing ethnic cultures of South Africa: the Ndebele, Bushmen, Lobedu, Zulu, Swazi, Sotho and Transkei peoples. Some of them she took during the visit of the British Royals to South Africa in 1947. Stuart was the official photographer of the royal tour, and while traveling throughout Basutoland (Lesotho), Swaziland and Bechuanaland (Botswana), which were at the time the three British protectorates in South Africa. She photographed tribal people dressed up for the occasion in their native costumes. She exhibited these photographs, and many like them in Preotria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, which led to her appointment as South Africa’s first woman war correspondent for Libertas magazine. Between 1945 and 1955 she served in Egypt, Italy, France and England, attached to the American 7th Army and the South African 6th Division in the Italian Apennines. Although she had only been hired to photograph the South African troops in the army, Stuart went well beyond her assignment. She photographed the American, French, British and Canadian troops as well as her South African countrymen. She also photographed the civilians the soldiers met on the way to Germany, and she photographed the devastated villages, towns and cities in their path. As a female war correspondent Stuart was often held back from the front for days, and as she was billeted separately from her male co-workers the facilities available to her were often uncomfortable. She took all the difficulties in stride, accepting them as part of the war, and quickly gained the respect of the people around her. One co-worker wrote: ‘Constance Stuart… has made a fine art of getting around the fronts. She has seen more of war than any other woman I have met.’

Although she was not permitted to keep a diary on the front, she compiled her photographic notes and letters into a memoir named Jeep Trek, published in 1946.

When she returned to South Africa in 1945 she travelled throughout the country exhibiting many of these photographs, as well as her depictions of South African tribal people. In 1948, the National Party came to power in South Africa and instituted a policy of strict racial segregation. The following year, Stuart left South Africa for America.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000) 'Untitled (Collaborators, St. Tropez, France)' 1944

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000)
Untitled (Collaborators, St. Tropez, France)
1944
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Image: 39.53 x 38.1cm (15 9/16 x 15 in.)
Sheet: 50.32 x 40.48cm (19 13/16 x 15 15/16 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 62.23 x 52.07cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection
Gift of the Artist, Constance Stuart Larrabee WWII Collection

 

Margaret De Patta (American, 1903-1964) 'Untitled' 1939

 

Margaret De Patta (American, 1903-1964)
Untitled
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 21.9cm (7 x 8 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

“I find work problems as set for myself fall into these main directions: space articulation, movement to a purpose, visual explorations with transparencies, reflective surfaces, negative positive relationships, structures and new materials. A single piece may incorporate one or many of these ideas. Problems common to sculpture and architecture are inherent in jewellery design, i.e. – space, form, tension, organic structure, scale, texture, interpenetration, superimposition and economy of means – each necessary element playing its role in a unified entity.”

~ Margaret De Patta (Design Quarterly #33)

 

Cami Stone (Belgian, 1892-1975) 'Ohne Titel (Nachtaufnahme, Berlin)' (Untitled (Night shot, Berlin)) c. 1929

 

Cami Stone (Belgian, 1892-1975)
Ohne Titel (Nachtaufnahme, Berlin) (Untitled (Night shot, Berlin))
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9.5 x 14cm (3 3/4 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 30.48 x 40.64cm (12 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 33.02 x 43.18cm (13 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

ringl + pit (Grete Stern German-Argentine, 1904-1999, Ellen Auerbach American born Germany, 1906-2004) 'Die Ringlpitis' 1931

 

ringl + pit (Grete Stern German-Argentine, 1904-1999, Ellen Auerbach American born Germany, 1906-2004)
Die Ringlpitis
1931
Bound volume of 6 photographs, 12 collages, 8 watercolours, 6 texts, and 1 drawing
Open: 20.32 x 38.1cm (8 x 15 in.)
Closed: 20.32 x 20.32cm (8 x 8 in.)
Fold-out page: 37.5 x 57.2cm (14 3/4 x 22 1/2 in)
Sits: 20.3cm (8 in.)
Tall; plus pop-out element: 10.2cm (4 in.)
Cradle: 10.8 x 39.37 x 20.32cm (4 1/4 x 15 1/2 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© ringl + pit, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

 

 

Ringl and Pit were the childhood nicknames of Grete Stern (Ringl) and Ellen Auerbach (Pit). Together, they established a photography studio in 1930 in Berlin. Both studied privately with Walter Peterhans, a photography instructor at the Bauhaus, whose promulgation of a highly rationalized style of advertising photography–one that signified “machine made” in its emphasis on sleek form and graphic design–was proposed as a solution to the question of art’s role in industrial society. …

In their representation of the “modern woman,” a new social type emerging out of the political upheaval of the Weimar Republic, the duo employed visual strategies subversive to traditional conceptions of woman. Often using mannequins, wigs, and other symbols of femininity, Stern and Auerbach worked to question the artifice and masquerade of feminine identity.

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Ellen Auerbach and Grete Stern met as private students of Bauhaus professor Walter Peterhans. Stern took over Peterhans’s studio in 1929, and the following year Stern and Auerbach formed the studio foto ringl + pit. “Ringl” and “Pit” were their respective childhood nicknames.

“I frivoled and she was serious,” Auerbach recalled of their personalities in the partnership. ringl + pit specialised in advertising photography, and their photographs redefined the image of women in advertising. Their work came to define the “new women” that emerged in the 1910s and 20s, as women gained the right to vote and entered the work force in increasing numbers. Their partnership ended when they both emigrated in 1933.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Márta Aczél (Hungarian, 1909-1997) 'Cím nélkül (Tál)' (Untitled (Bowl)) 1935

 

Márta Aczél (Hungarian, 1909-1997)
Cím nélkül (Tál) (Untitled (Bowl))
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.3 x 17.2cm (9 3/16 x 6 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 23.8 x 17.5cm (9 3/8 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1 cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

Born in Budapest in 1909. Educated in a private school Receives a degree in history of arts and German literature at the University of Frankfurt. Returns to Hungary in 1935. Jzsef Pcsi invites her to his private school. Although she did photography prior to that time, Pcsi’s school is a turning point in her life. Not only does the famous photographer teach her the technique but also influences her intellectually. At that time a substantial part of her advertising work and object photographs are made; she also she starts to exhibit her photographs. In 1936 she meets her future husband, György Kreilisheim. Magazines publish articles about their travels illustrated with her photos. After an apprenticeship exam Márta Aczél works for two years as an assistant to Elemérn Marsovszky (Fot Ada). She passes her master exam at Angelo’s. In 1950 starts working for Iparterv, and subsequently deals with industrial photography. At that time she travels widely across the whole country.

Anonymous text from the Luminous-Lint website [Online] Cited 25/11/2021

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Domestic Symphony' 1919

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Domestic Symphony
1919
Gelatin silver print, printed 1920s
Image: 21.59 x 16.51cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
Mount: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 54.61 x 44.45cm (21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

 

 

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

 

Career

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

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

Watkins died in Glasgow, Scotland in 1969, largely forgotten as a photographer.

 

Legacy

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Woodbury Soap' 1924

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Woodbury Soap
1924
Palladium print
Image: 15.4 x 20.4cm (6 1/16 x 8 1/16 in.)
Mount: 24 x 31.2cm (9 7/16 x 12 5/16 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 44.45 x 54.61 cm (17 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933) 'Ohne Titel (Anthurium)' (Untitled (Anthurium)) 1927

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Ohne Titel (Anthurium) (Untitled (Anthurium))
1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.7 x 48.6cm (14 13/16 x 19 1/8 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 66.04cm (22 x 26 in.)
Frame (outer): 60.33 x 70.49cm (23 3/4 x 27 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

Aenne Biermann (March 8, 1898 – January 14, 1933), born Anna Sibilla Sternfeld, was a German photographer of Ashkenazi origin. She was one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, a significant art movement that developed in Germany in the 1920s.

 

Career

Biermann was a self-taught photographer. Her first subjects were her two children, Helga and Gershon. The majority of Biermann’s photographs were shot between 1925 and 1933. Gradually she became one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, an important art movement in the Weimar Republic. Her work became internationally known in the late 1920s, when it was part of every major exhibition of German photography.

Major exhibitions of her work include the Munich Kunstkabinett, the Deutscher Werkbund and the exhibition of Folkwang Museum in 1929. Other important exhibitions include the exhibition entitled Das Lichtbild held in Munich in 1930 and the 1931 exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts (French: Palais des Beaux Arts) in Brussels. Since 1992 the Museum of Gera has held an annual contest for the Aenne Biermann Prize for Contemporary German Photography, which is one of the most important events of its kind in Germany.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (American, 1895-1989) 'Model outside the Rose Pauson House' 1942

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (American, 1895-1989)
Model outside the Rose Pauson House
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.25 x 19.7cm (8 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (November 19, 1895 – December 11, 1989) was an American photographer. She is known primarily for her work for Harper’s Bazaar, in association with fashion editor Diana Vreeland. …

 

Style

Among the celebrated fashion photographers of the 20th century, Louise Dahl-Wolfe was an innovator and influencer who significantly contributed to the fashion world. She was most widely known for her work with Harper’s Bazaar. Dahl-Wolfe was considered a pioneer of the ‘female gaze’ in the fashion industry. Dahl-Wolfe created the new image of American women during the World War II. They were strong and independent. Dahl-Wolfe often shot on location and outdoors, bringing her models out of the studio and to exotic locales such as Tunisia, Cuba and South America. Her models pose candidly, almost as if Dahl-Wolfe had just walked in on them. Dahl-Wolf innovatively used colour in photography and mainly concerned with the qualities of natural lighting, composition, and balance. Her methodology in using natural sunlight and shooting outdoors became the industry standard even now. …

“She is the most important woman, fashion photographer of the first half of the 20th century,” according to photographic expert Terrence Pepper and for Valerie Steele, the vitality and dynamism in Dahl-Wolfe’s work “were a big part of the rise of the American look.”

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Genevieve Naylor (American, 1915-1989) 'Models wearing suits by Carolyn Schnurer' 1945-1946

 

Genevieve Naylor (American, 1915-1989)
Models wearing suits by Carolyn Schnurer
1945-1946
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.4 x 25.2cm (10 13/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Mount: 50.5 x 25.2cm (19 7/8 x 9 15/16 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 40.64cm (22 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 58.42 x 43.18cm (23 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Peter Rezniko

 

 

Genevieve Naylor (February 2, 1915 – July 21, 1989) was an American photographer and photojournalist, best known for her photographs of Brazil and as Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal photographer.

 

Career

At the age of 22, in 1937, Naylor was chosen by Holger Cahill of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a photographer for the Harlem Arts Center. She also worked for the WPA in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and New York. She then worked for the Associated press and was one of the first women photojournalists to be hired by any American news wire services.

In 1940, Genevieve Naylor was assigned by the U.S. State department as part of a team to travel to Brazil. In an effort to further and strengthen the anti-Nazi relationship between the United States and Brazil and to promote mutual cultural awareness, the U.S. Office of Inter-American Affairs, under the leadership of Nelson Rockefeller, created a team of notable Americans that included Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, and Walt Disney. Genevieve Naylor and her partner (and later husband) Misha Reznikoff arrived in Brazil in October, 1940, where he showed his paintings while Miss Naylor took photographs. Naylor’s assignment was to document Brazil’s progress toward becoming a modern nation, capture images that would boost war-time morale, foster cultural interchange, and promote the Allied cause. But Naylor, with her energetic and outgoing personality, soon ventured into other milieus, taking photographs of Brazilian workers jammed into trams, school children, religious and street festivals, and various aspects of everyday lives. Because it was war time, film was rationed, and Naylor’s equipment was modest. She had neither flash nor studio lights and had to carefully choose her shots, balancing spontaneity with careful composition. Of her work, nearly 1,350 photos survived and were preserved. After her return to the states in 1943, Naylor become only the second woman photographer to be given a one-woman show when her work was exhibited by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Naylor later spent 15 years as a photographer with Harper’s Bazaar and from 1944 to 1980 was a freelance photographer for Vogue, McCall’s, Town and Country, Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, Women’s Home Companion, Cosmopolitan, Fortune, Collier’s, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Elle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, House Beautiful, Holiday, Mademoiselle, American Home, Seventeen, Better Homes and Gardens, Charm, Bride’s, amongst others. She was a war time photographer, covering parts of the Korean War for Look magazine.

Naylor’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in the United States, the UK, and Europe. The most recent, The New Women Behind the Camera 2021-2022, opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the summer of 2021, and will continue into 2022 at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Her historic alliance with Brazil continues in 2022 with the SESC 24 de Maio, Sao Paulo, exhibition, Raio-Que-O-Parta: Modern Fictions in Brazil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003) 'Teacup Ballet' 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
Teacup Ballet
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 40.64 x 30.48cm (16 x 12 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 45.72 x 4.45cm (21 x 18 x 1 3/4 in.)
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

Olive Cotton (11 July 1911 – 27 September 2003) was a pioneering Australian modernist female photographer of the 1930s and 1940s working in Sydney. Cotton became a national “name” with a retrospective and touring exhibition 50 years later in 1985. A book of her life and work, published by the National Library of Australia, came out in 1995. Cotton captured her childhood friend Max Dupain from the sidelines at photoshoots, e.g. “Fashion shot, Cronulla Sandhills, circa 1937” and made several portraits of him. Dupain was Cotton’s first husband. …

 

Style

During the 1930s Cotton developed mastery using the ‘Pictorial’ style of photography popular at the time and also incorporated a very modern style approach. Cotton’s photography was personal in feeling with an appreciation of certain qualities of light in the surroundings. From mid-1934 until 1940 she worked as Max Dupain’s assistant in his largely commercial studio in Bond Street, Sydney, where she developed a very personal approach which concentrated on capturing the play of light on inanimate objects and in nature. She would often use her Rolleiflex camera to secure unposed reactions while Max set up the lighting for a portrait. Her style soon became distinguishable from that of other modernist photographers’ of her time.

 

Signature photographs

Tea cup ballet (1935) was photographed in the studio after Cotton had bought some inexpensive china from Woolworth’s to replace the old chipped studio crockery. In it she used a technique of back of the lighting to cast bold shadows towards the viewer to express a dance theme between the shapes of the tea cups, their saucers and their shadows. It was exhibited locally at the time and in the London Salon of Photography in 1935. It has become Cotton’s signature image and was acknowledged on a stamp commemorating 150 years of photography in Australia in 1991. Tea cup ballet features on the cover of the book Olive Cotton: Photographer published by the National Library of Australia in 1995.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Caroline Whiting Fellows (American, 1905-1989) 'Untitled (Vermouth and rye)' 1930s

 

Caroline Whiting Fellows (American, 1905-1989)
Untitled (Vermouth and rye)
1930s
Dye imbibition print
Image: 21.6 x 17cm (8 1/2 x 6 11/16 in.)
Mount: 27 x 22.2cm (10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Isabell VanMerlin

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990) 'Toni Birkmeyer-Ballett in "Cancan," Wien' (Toni Birkmeyer Ballet Company in "Cancan," Vienna) c. 1930

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990)
Toni Birkmeyer-Ballett in “Cancan,” Wien (Toni Birkmeyer Ballet Company in “Cancan,” Vienna)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.05 x 17.46cm (7 1/2 x 6 7/8 in.)
Mat: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

 

 

Trude Fleischmann (22 December 1895 – 21 January 1990) was an Austrian-born American photographer. After becoming a notable society photographer in Vienna in the 1920s, she re-established her business in New York in 1940. …

 

Early life

Born in Vienna in December 1895, Fleischmann was the second of three children in a well-to-do Jewish family. After matriculating from high school, she spent a semester studying art history in Paris followed by three years of photography at the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie und Reproduktionsverfahren in Vienna. She then worked for a short period as an apprentice in Dora Kallmus’ fashionable Atelier d’Ora and for a longer period for photographer Hermann Schieberth. In 1919, she joined the Photographische Gesellschaft in Wien (Vienna Photographic Society).

 

Career

In 1920, at the age of 25, Fleischmann opened her own studio close to Vienna’s city hall. Her glass plates benefitted from her careful use of diffuse artificial light. Photographing music and theatre celebrities, her work was published in journals such as Die Bühne, Moderne Welt, ‘Welt und Mode and Uhu. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal). In addition to portraits of Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos, in 1925 she took a nude series of the dancer Claire Bauroff which the police confiscated when the images were displayed at a Berlin theatre, bringing her international fame. Fleischmann also did much to encourage other women to become professional photographers.

With the Anschluss in 1938, Fleischmann was forced to leave the country. She moved first to Paris, then to London and finally, together with her former student and companion Helen Post, in April 1939 to New York. In 1940, she opened a studio on West 56th Street next to Carnegie Hall which she ran with Frank Elmer who had also emigrated from Vienna. In addition to scenes of New York City, she photographed celebrities and notable immigrants including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oskar Kokoschka, Lotte Lehmann, Otto von Habsburg, Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi and Arturo Toscanini. She also worked as a fashion photographer, contributing to magazines such as Vogue. She established a close friendship with the photographer Lisette Model.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990) 'Katharine Cornell' 1939

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990)
Katharine Cornell
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.43 x 25.4cm (12 3/8 x 10 in.)
Mat: 33.5 x 35.56cm (13 3/16 x 14 in.)
Mount: 31.4 x 25.4cm (12 3/8 x 10 in.)
Frame (outer): 52.7 x 42.4 cm (20 3/4 x 16 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Herbert F. and Teruko S. Neuwalder, 1991
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

 

Wynn Richards (American, 1888-1960) 'Preparing Yarn for Weaving' 1948

 

Wynn Richards (American, 1888-1960)
Preparing Yarn for Weaving
1948
Collage of gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 24 x 20.9cm (9 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
Mount: 34.8 x 25.7cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.88cm (18 x 14 1/8 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.74cm (19 x 15 1/8 in.)
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Richards trained as a Pictorialist in 1918 and 1919 at the Clarence White School of Photography in New York City, and then operated a portrait studio in her hometown of Greenville, Mississippi. After centuries of looking to Europe for cultural leadership, America was developing its own forms of creative expression and New York City was emerging as the centre of that movement. In 1922 Richards relocated there and soon found work at Vogue magazine.

After World War I, people showed little interest in the quality of illusion characteristic of the Pictorialist aesthetic. Sharp-focus and artificial lighting were replacing the soft-focus, available-light style she learned initially. With course work in advertising photography at the White School in 1924, Richards broke ground as one of the very first women in a newly emerging area of fashion photography. Richards not only successfully bridged the Pictorialist and Modernist movements but rose to the top of her field and remained there for more than 25 years. …

Richards’s established a career when few professional photography opportunities existed for women. She entered her profession just as formal education and institutional frameworks for fashion photographers began to operate in New York. Even so, she felt forced to choose between being a wife, mother, and social leader or a woman with a career. Richards made a lifelong commitment to photography – not just as a career, but as an art form.

Through her work with schools and professional organisations, Richards helped advance the concept of careers for women. Although she dropped from popular view in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Richards’ photographs are being rediscovered through exhibitions and the art photography market.

Beverly W. Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division. “Wynn Richards (1888-1960),” on the Library of Congress website 2013 updated 2015 [Online] Cited 26/11/2021

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled' 1940s

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 19.5cm (9 7/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Mount: 38.2 x 29.5cm (15 1/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation
© The Estate of Frances McLaughlin-Gill, 2018

 

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (1919-2014) was an American photographer and the first female fashion photographer under contract with Vogue. After two decades in the fashion industry, she worked as an independent film producer for a decade making commercials and films. One of her films won the Gold Medal at the 1969 International Films and TV Festival of New York. In her later career, she published several collections both with her sister and in collaboration with other authors.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled' 1946

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled
1946
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 25.4 x 26.67cm (10 x 10 1/2 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation
© The Estate of Frances McLaughlin-Gill, 2018

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled (Toni Frissell photographing three models at a fashion shoot with her husband and daughter in the foreground)' c. 1940

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled (Toni Frissell photographing three models at a fashion shoot with her husband and daughter in the foreground)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 27.3 x 26cm (10 3/4 x 10 1/4 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Toni Frissell Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

Anna Riwkin (Swedish born Russia, 1908-1970) 'Nomads of the North' 1950

 

Anna Riwkin (Swedish born Russia, 1908-1970)
Nomads of the North
1950
Bound volume
Open:
27.94 x 44.45cm (11 x 17 1/2 in.)
Mount: 3.02 x 43.82 x 28.26cm (1 3/16 x 17 1/4 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of the Department of Photographs

 

 

Anna Riwkin-Brick or just Anna Riwkin (Surazh, Chernigov Governorate, Russia 23 June [O.S. 10 June] 1908 – Tel Aviv 19 December 1970) was a Russian-born Swedish photographer. …

Riwkin-Brick contributed significantly to the growing use of photographs in children’s picture-books, a genre that developed in the second half of the century.

In 1950, with the aim of promoting tolerance by introducing children from different countries to each other’s lives, and international understanding through children’s literature that would also be read by adults, Riwkin-Brick was commissioned by the UNESCO to make a photo book about the Sami people. She persuaded Elly Jannes, a journalist for the journal Vi, to write the text for Vandrande by (‘Wandering Village’, also released as ‘Nomads of the North’), published in 1950. Anna Riwkin-Brick took many photos of a Sami family’s little girl Elle Kari that were not included in the Vandrande by edition, and Elly Jannes suggested they make another photo book about Elle Kari and to aim it at a child audience which was published in 1951.

It was the first Swedish picturebook with photos of everyday life of a child in a continuous story, and the first of many such books that the photographer was to make. It was a success. Translated into eighteen languages in editions with high print runs; 25,000 copies were printed for the first edition released in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Annelise Kretschmer (German, 1903-1987) 'Junges Mädchen' (Young Woman) 1928

 

Annelise Kretschmer (German, 1903-1987)
Junges Mädchen (Young Woman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 46.7 x 39.8cm (18 3/8 x 15 11/16 in.)
Frame: 65 x 50cm (25 9/16 x 19 11/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 67 x 52 x 3cm (26 3/8 x 20 1/2 x 1 3/16 in.)
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Christiane von Königslöw
Photo © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK

 

 

Annelise Kretschmer (1903-1987) was a German portrait photographer. Kretschmer is best known for her depictions of women in Germany in the early 20th century and is credited with helping construct the ‘Neue Frau’ or New Woman image of modern femininity.

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Page from New York Album
1929-1930
Ten gelatin silver prints
Mat: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Mount: 37.1 x 35.7cm (14 5/8 x 14 1/16 in.)
Images: each 5.6 x 8.2cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.) or 8.2 x 5.6 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.)
Reverse album page size: 25.4 x 33.02cm (10 x 13 in.)
Frame (outer): 42.6 x 51.4cm (16 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Emanuel Gerard, 1984
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Art Resource, NY

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Page from New York Album (details)
1929-1930
Ten gelatin silver prints
Mat: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Mount: 37.1 x 35.7cm (14 5/8 x 14 1/16 in.)
Images: each 5.6 x 8.2cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.) or 8.2 x 5.6 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.)
Reverse album page size: 25.4 x 33.02cm (10 x 13 in.)
Frame (outer): 42.6 x 51.4cm (16 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Emanuel Gerard, 1984
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Art Resource, NY

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Vanderbilt Avenue from East 46th Street' October 9, 1935

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Vanderbilt Avenue from East 46th Street
October 9, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 23.7 x 16.5cm (9 5/16 x 6 1/2 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund and Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Janet Flanner' 1927

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Janet Flanner
1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 22.6 x 17.2cm (8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Mat: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 49.53 x 39.37cm (19 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images

 

Louise Barbour Davis (American, 1905-1955) 'Abstraction' 1953

 

Louise Barbour Davis (American, 1905-1955)
Abstraction
1953
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.29 x 27.31cm (13 1/2 x 10 3/4 in.)
Mount: 36.83 x 29.85cm (14 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 45.72cm (22 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 60.33 x 50.17cm (23 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
From the estate of Louise Barbour Davis
© Louise Barbour Davis

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Emmy Eugenie Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) was a Dutch photographer best known for her work with the Underground Camera group (De Ondergedoken Camera [nl]) during World War II. …

 

War years and the ‘Underground Camera’

In June 1941 Andriesse married graphic designer and visual artist Dick Elffers (a gentile with whom she had two sons, one who died young), but as a Jew during the Nazi occupation Andriesse was no longer able to publish and she was forced into hiding. At the end of 1944, with the assistance of the anthropologist Arie de Froe [nl] she forged an identity card and re-engaged in everyday life, joining a group of photographers, including Cas Oorthuys and Charles Breijer, working clandestinely as De Ondergedoken Camera. The photos that Andriesse made under very difficult conditions of famine in Amsterdam, include Boy with pan, The Gravedigger and Kattenburg Children are documents of hunger, poverty and misery during the occupation in the “winter of hunger” of 1944-1945.

 

Post-war

After the war, she became a fashion photographer and was an associate and mentor of Ed van der Elsken. She participated in the group show Photo ’48 and in 1952, together with Carel Blazer [nl], Eva Besnyö and Cas Oorthuys, the exhibition Photographie, both in Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. Edward Steichen chose her 1947 portrait of a staid and elderly Dutch couple for the section ‘we two form a multitude’ in the Museum of Modern Art world-touring The Family of Man that was seen by an audience of 9 million. More recently (October 2006 – January 2007) she was included in a display of Twentieth Century European photography at the Barbican Art Gallery, London.

Andriesse’s last commission, the book The World of Van Gogh – published posthumously in 1953 – was not yet complete when she became ill and after a long battle with cancer, died at the age of 39.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947 (detail)

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) (detail)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Steeds grauwer werd het beeld de steden. Schoeisel en kleding raakten totaal versleten
The image of the cities became increasingly grey. Footwear and clothing became totally worn out

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947 (detail)

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) (detail)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

De etalages waren leeg of toonden alleen vervangingsmiddelen
The shop windows were empty or only showed substitutes

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Art website

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21
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2021 – 23rd January 2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader as a child' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader as a child
August 2, 1935
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

The future Justice Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933. Nicknamed “Kiki,” she grew up in Flatbush, a working-class neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents, Celia and Nathan Bader, rented a small first-floor apartment in a grey stucco row house. Many of her neighbours were immigrants or first- and second-generation Americans whose families had come from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe in search of a better life.

 

 

Hero

 

The courage of her love, intelligence and convictions.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans. Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles.

 

 

On what makes a meaningful life:

“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community.”

On social change:

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

On being an advocate:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

On relationships:

“Marty was most unusual. He was the first boy I ever met who cared that I had a brain. And he always thought I was better than I thought I really was.”

On speaking out:

“The number of women who have come forward as a result of the #MeToo movement has been astonishing. My hope is not just that it is here to stay, but that it is as effective for the woman who works as a maid in a hotel as it is for Hollywood stars.”

.
~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

 

 

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rare interview: ‘It’s not the best of times’ – BBC Newsnight

In a rare interview, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the US is “not experiencing the best of times” – but the “pendulum” will swing back. For Newsnight, she spoke to filmmaker Olly Lambert at the final dress rehearsal of Dead Man Walking at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Rathbun Visiting Fellow 2017, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, shares her vision for a meaning life while in conversation with The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life, on February 6, 2017 in Stanford Memorial Church. The Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life honours the late Stanford Law School Professor Harry Rathbun.

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Same-Sex Marriage, Women’s Rights, Health

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about efforts to improve women’s rights and the outlook for legalising same-sex marriage. Ginsburg, speaking with Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr and Matthew Winkler in Washington on Wednesday, also discusses the her career, health and relationship with President Barack Obama.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch' Published in 'The Cornellian' 1953

 

Unknown photographer
The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch
Published in The Cornellian, 1953
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

 

“I got the idea that being a lawyer was a pretty good thing because in addition to practicing a profession, you could do something good for your society.” RBG began at Cornell University on a full scholarship in the fall of 1950. There, she began to view lawyers as vanguards against injustice.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth as a bride' June 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth as a bride
June 1954
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

 

Ruth Bader married Martin “Marty” D. Ginsburg (1932-2010) in 1954. Their marriage defied gender expectations of the period and embodied her belief that “men, women, and families are better when both partners share their lives and goals on equal footing.” For nearly 60 years, RBG and her husband worked as equals raising a family and practicing law. Marty was a passionate supporter of his life partner’s legal career and shared in child-rearing and household responsibilities long before men were expected to do so.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane' 1958

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane
1958
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

In 1957, Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The doctor prescribed radical surgery and radiation for six weeks. The prognosis was grim. RBG poured her heart into making sure he remained on track with his studies, staying up all night to type his papers and class notes. When Marty fell asleep around 2 am, RBG would begin her own work. Her hours with their daughter Jane before bed helped leaven the library time.

 

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition this fall. On view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans.

“It is a great honour that we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a native New Yorker whose impact on the lives of contemporary Americans has been extraordinary,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Justice Ginsburg fought hard to achieve justice and equality for all, inspiring us with her courage and tenacity in upholding our fundamental American ideals. A special friend to New-York Historical, in 2018 she presided over a naturalisation ceremony in our auditorium. The exhibition is a memorial tribute to her achievements and legacy.”

Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles as student, wife to Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and internet phenomenon. Highlights include a robe and jabot from RBG’s Supreme Court wardrobe; the official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor – the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court – on loan from the National Portrait Gallery; and QR-code listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases on their own devices.

The exhibition also displays 3D re-imaginations of key places in RBG’s life – such as her childhood Brooklyn apartment; the kitchen in RBG and Marty’s home, with some of Marty’s favourite recipes and cooking utensils; and the Supreme Court bench and the desk in her chambers.

Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life – from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities – to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the Museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalisation ceremony of new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders, a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing. As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.

Press release from the New-York Historical Society

 

About Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.

She received her BA from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LLB from Columbia Law School. Ginsburg served as a law clerk to Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1959 to 1961. She then became associate director of the comparative law project sponsored by Columbia University, where she studied the Swedish legal system and produced the first official English language book on the subject. In 1963 Ginsburg joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. In 1972 she was hired by Columbia Law School, where she taught until 1980. Ginsburg served as a fellow at the Center for Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, from 1977 to 1978. In the 1970s Ginsburg litigated sex discrimination cases from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and was instrumental in launching its Women’s Rights Project in 1973. She served as general counsel of the ACLU from 1973 to 1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974 to 1980. President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals from the District of Colombia Circuit in 1980. On June 14, 1993, Ginsburg accepted President Bill Clinton’s nomination to the Supreme Court and took her seat on August 10, 1993.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School
1972
Courtesy of Columbia Law School

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 is appointed the first female member of the Columbia Law School faculty in 1972. She had taught previously at Columbia in International Civil Procedure with Prof. Hans Smit ’58 LL.B. in 1961. She is the first female candidate to earn tenure at Columbia Law School.

In 1972, RBG become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, which she juggled with her responsibilities at the Women’s Rights Project. Almost immediately, the women at Columbia began contacting RBG for help. Did RBG know that Columbia employees didn’t have pregnancy coverage and that women got lower pension benefits and lower pay? Now that she did, RBG helped file a class-action lawsuit.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook
1972
© Harvard Law School Yearbook Association, Courtesy of Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collections

 

 

RBG strongly preferred the prefix “Ms.” to “Mrs.” However, there is no information about how she felt when this 1972 Harvard Law School yearbook misidentified her as “Mr. Ginsburg.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty taking a break from work' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty taking a break from work
1972
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

With the same fondly amused grin he usually wore, Marty (1932-2010) would portray himself as the lucky guy who came along for the ride of a lifetime, who moved to Washington when his wife got a “good job.” In fact, Marty was a superstar in his own right, whose tax law chops earned him clients like Ross Perot, the adulation of his peers, and millions of dollars. But he was proudest of the accomplishments of his wife, saying, “I think that the most important thing I have done is enable Ruth to do what she has done.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG as a federal appeals court judge' 1980

 

Unknown photographer
RBG as a federal appeals court judge
1980
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

President Jimmy Carter nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 14, 1980. RBG saw the role of an appeals court judge as fundamentally different than her old job at the ACLU; she was to follow precedent, not try to change it. As a judge, she looked for consensus.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty travel to Paris' 1988

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty travel to Paris
1988
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant' 1994

 

Unknown photographer
Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant
February 1994
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

Some liberals found the Scalia-Ginsburg friendship hard to grapple with. Even their clerks were mystified by the relationship. But clerks work at the court for only a year. Justices work there for life. Whatever their disagreements, they stuck together. The two shared a love of opera, and RBG liked people who could make her laugh.

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019) 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg' 1996

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
1996
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Everett Raymond Kinstler
© 1996 Everett Raymond Kinstler

 

 

RBG wasn’t President Bill Clinton’s first choice for the Supreme Court in 1993 – he came close to offering the position to several men. But RBG had the backing of key women in the administration and a tireless lobbying campaign by her husband in her favour. Above all, she dazzled the president in their first meeting. “She got the actual human impact of these decisions,” Clinton later recalled.

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow. 'Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth' 2013

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow
Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth
2013
Poster

 

 

In July 2013, after a flurry of important SCOTUS decisions, along with dissents authored by Justice Ginsburg, Chi and his friend Aminatou Sow created a poster, “Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth,” celebrating Ginsburg. They shared it online, where Shana Knizhnik – who created the blog “The Notorious RBG” (and who would go on to coauthor a New York Times best-selling book of the same title) – saw the poster and wrote about it, and then the internet did its thing. The three artists, who became friends, gifted a print of the poster to Justice Ginsburg in December 2014, when she invited them to the Supreme Court. “The internet brought it together into this meme, initially, and then into something that became a phenomenon,” said Chi. “And, Justice Ginsburg embraced it. If she hadn’t, ‘Notorious RBG’ would’ve been something that was cool on the internet for a few months. That’s what I think is amazing – she had such a long, celebrated career, and she finally got to be the presence she was obviously comfortable being, and the internet allowed that to happen.”

Anonymous text. “More than a Meme,” on the Bowdoin Magazine website, November 17, 2020 [Online] Cited 29/10/2021

 

Art Lien. 'Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg's dissent in Shelby County v. Holder' June 25, 2013

 

Art Lien
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder
June 25, 2013

 

 

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the provision was no longer needed. “Any racial discrimination in voting is too much, but our country has changed in the last 50 years,” he declared. In her dissent, which inspired the nickname Notorious RBG, RBG compared getting rid of the provision to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.”

 

In 2013 RBG wrote a fiery response (officially known as a dissent) disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. This bold dissent (and a few others made around the same time) earned her the nickname “Notorious RBG” in reference to the Brooklyn-born rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as “The Notorious B.I.G.” and “Biggie Smalls.”

With Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decided to end part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This Act prohibited states from having laws that made it harder for Black Americans to vote. The Voting Rights Act also made it harder for states with a history of racial discrimination to make future changes to their voting laws–but Shelby County v. Holder reversed that.

RBG felt strongly that this ruling could lead to more restrictions in voting, negatively impacting Black and minority communities.

 

In her ringing dissent, RBG compared getting rid of pre-clearance to “throwing away your umbrella in a rain storm because you’re not getting wet.” She quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dictum, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and added, “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion. That commitment has been disturbed by today’s decision.” We have seen the destructive swath strewn across our electoral process in almost every election since, which of course was the intent of the decision. Yes, there is election fraud in this country, and it comes directly from the highest court in the land!

Erica A. Gordon. “The glorious, notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a traveling exhibition,” on the Peoplesworld Social Media website, Oct 30, 2018 [Online] Cited 28/10/2021

 

Steve Petteway (American) 'Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg' 2013

 

Steve Petteway (American)
Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg
2013
Courtesy Steve Petteway
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

At the age of 80, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was reborn as the “Notorious RBG.” She earned the admiring, tongue-in-cheek nickname after a series of fiery, record-breaking dissents she gave from the Supreme Court bench in 2013 on voting rights, affirmative action, and workplace discrimination. Behind the nickname was a woman with a lifelong commitment to equality, justice, and the ideals of American law.

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator) 'Notorious RBG' book cover illustration 2015

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator)
‘Notorious RBG’ book cover illustration
2015
Courtesy of HarperCollins
Photos: Crown © by Hurst Photo/Shutterstock; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

RBG became an icon to millions of people around the globe. All this is – to use the court’s language – without precedent, especially in a society that tends to dismiss the contributions of women as they age. Bestselling books about RBG for all age groups – including the 2015 book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that inspired the exhibition – could fill a bookshelf.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #9' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #9
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The signature dissent collar, a glinty Banana Republic affair she got in a Glamour Women of the Year gift bag, came in 2012. She broke the record for dissenting from the bench – the once rare act of making everyone at the opinion announcements listen to your protest – and a thousand memes were born.

Moved by her anger over the 2016 presidential election, Roxana Alger Geffen created a series of imaginative jabots in honour of RBG. Geffen was inspired by RBG’s choice to wear her famous dissent collar the day after the election.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #13' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #13
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Washington National Opera: The Daughter of the Regiment – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s first appearance

RBG was known to be a major opera fan. In 2016 the Washington National Opera surprised its audience by featuring her in a cameo appearance as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment at the Kennedy Center.

At the top of Act 2, the Duchess of Krakenthorp meets with the Marquise of Berkenfield to arrange the marriage of the opera’s heroine Marie with the Duke of Krakenthorp. Ruth Bader Ginsburg plays the non-singing role of the Duchess, and mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is the Marquise.

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983) 'RBG Tattoo II' 2018

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983)
RBG Tattoo II
2018
Pigmented human skin on glass
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

RBG’s life and work have inspired unending creativity, including literally thousands of examples of fan-created RBG memorabilia. You can find RBG’s likeness on T-shirts, nail decals, and even as tattoos.

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015) 'The Four Justices' 2012

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015)
The Four Justices
2012
Oil on canvas
216.0 x 169.2cm
Ian and Annette Cumming Collection, on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

 

 

Counterclockwise from bottom left: Sandra Day O’Connor born 1930; Ruth Bader Ginsburg born 1933; Elena Kagan born 1960; and Sonia Sotomayor born 1954

In 1880, Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. Distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Supreme Court in the 1940s, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination. It was not until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Over ten years later, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton. Today, Ginsburg serves alongside Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who were nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The Cummings commissioned this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. Justice O’Connor’s office arranged their busy schedules so that they could pose at the same time for Nelson Shanks and his camera. The artist drew on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Installation view of Nelson Shanks’ The Four Justices (2012)

 

 

A major step in women’s struggle for equality came on March 3, 1879, when Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. In the 1940s, distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Court, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination.

In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor (born 1930) became the first woman to serve on the Court. O’Connor, a graduate of Stanford Law School, was serving on the Arizona Court of Appeals when President Ronald Reagan nominated her as an associate justice. O’Connor retired from the Court in 2006.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933) graduated from Columbia Law School. She was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia when President Bill Clinton nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1993.

Sonia Sotomayor (born 1954) received her J.D. from Yale Law School. She was serving on the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, when President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice in 2009. She became the first Latino to sit on the Supreme Court.

Elena Kagan (born 1960) graduated from Harvard Law School. She was President Obama’s solicitor general when the president nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.

Nelson Shanks was commissioned to create this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. He has drawn on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture for his composition, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

 

“Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for me and so many other women in my generation. Their pioneering lives have created boundless possibilities for women in the law. I thank them for their inspiration and also for the personal kindnesses they have shown me.”

~ Elana Kagan, June 28, 2010, in her opening statement at her confirmation hearing

 

 

 

 

The Four Justices: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interviewed by Jan Smith, for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Justice Ginsburg is depicted in the “The Four Justices” painting by artist Nelson Shanks, along with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

On October 28, 2013, the National Portrait Gallery celebrated the arrival of Nelson Shanks’s “The Four Justices,” a tribute to the four female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The work is monumental; it measures approximately seven feet by five-and-a-half feet (in its custom-made frame it is almost nine-and-a-half feet by eight feet) and holds the west wall of the National Historic Landmark Building’s second-floor rotunda. Of the work, NPG Chief Curator Brandon Fortune noted, “The National Portrait Gallery is honoured to have such an ambitious group portrait on loan to the museum.”

The work is based on sittings the justices had with Shanks; the two senior justices are seated and the recent appointees standing. Although the logistics of bringing three active and one retired justice into his studio was challenging, Shanks prefers to draw from life, which he feels brings each sitter’s distinct presence into his work. “If you can imagine a painting – no matter how facile – that doesn’t show character, something is missing,” Shanks noted in an interview with NPG. “Representation of character is really what counts to me.”

Only men had sat on the bench of the Supreme Court until President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. After O’Connor, the next woman to receive an appointment was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a nominee of President Bill Clinton in 1993. President Barack Obama appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan are still on the bench; O’Connor retired in 2006.

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly. 'RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan' September 19, 2020

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan
September 19, 2020
Courtesy Reuters/Andrew Kelly/Alamy Photo

 

 

An image of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg is projected onto the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. after she passed away September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t just a titan whose life and career revealed many of the legal and historical developments of the 20th century. She also was a New Yorker. Her hometown viscerally felt her loss upon her death in September 2020.

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan. '50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG' 2020

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan
50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG
2020
Courtesy Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan

 

 

The 50th Street ACE subway station sign in Manhattan was famously altered with a tribute sticker by Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan on the day RBG passed.

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American) 'Fearless Girl with jabot' September 22, 2020

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American)
Fearless Girl with jabot
September 22, 2020
Courtesy Jennifer M. Mason / Shutterstock.com

 

 

The memory of the justice’s life and work fuelled activism during the ensuing presidential election season across the city and beyond.  The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue by Kristen Visbal in front of the New York Stock Exchange wearing a lace collar in tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American) 'RBG memorial outside Columbia University' 2020

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American)
RBG memorial outside Columbia University
2020
Courtesy of Cristian Petru Panaite

 

 

Memorials sprung up spontaneously and organically across the city.

 

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Thursday, Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 5pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Monday – Tuesday: CLOSED

New-York Historical Society website

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29
Aug
21

Exhibition: ‘Michael Schmidt: A new German Perspective’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 29th August 2021

Curators: Thomas Weski and Laura Bielau

 

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Cityscapes)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Dark atmosphere of a grey reality

The contribution of German photographers to the development of photography in the 20th century cannot be underestimated. When we think of quantum leaps in the development of the medium and its languages, we can think of Wilhelm von Gloeden, August Sander, Lisette Model, Germaine Krull, Ilse Bing, Erich Salomon, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Bernd and Hiller Becher, Wolfgang Tillmans, Aenne Biermann, Erwin Blumenfeld, Bill Brandt, Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Demand and many more too numerous to mention. And then we have the (mainly Jewish) photographers of the German diaspora of the 1920s-1940s who emigrated to all parts of Europe, South America, America and Australia and who went on to influence photographers in their adopted countries.

Perhaps there is something inherent in the German psyche which promotes a certain awareness, a certain understanding of the mechanics of photography. Perhaps this is a link between German psychology (such as Urformen: the original, archetypal form1), psychoanalysis (such as Freud’s term Das Unheimliche: “the uncanny” in the sense of something that produces unease and is disturbing) and photography – a relationship which promotes objective seeing, seeing things in new and unexpected ways. Perhaps this ability to perceive in new ways has something to do with Germany’s European roots and that continent’s history of war, destruction and reclamation, where the archetypes are constantly being dissolved and constructed – in a circle which leads us back to the roots of German psychology. These are only thoughts which are slowly forming, nascent thoughts in a long process of research, which could possibly be interesting, or not.

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Added to these many German photographers is another intelligent, inventive artist that I admire – an artist that also redefined the language of photography in the 20th century. His name is Michael Schmidt.

Much as Bill Brandt considered “atmosphere” a term fundamental in his images (“I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange”) in order to capture the very essence of a place, so Schmidt’s inimitable understanding of his environment and its people, namely his beloved Berlin, allowed him to dissect and disseminate the dystopian “atmosphere” and habitus of its inhabitants.

Schmidt (and here I précis a lot of people) perceives and reacts to the world, offering through “fragmentation, condensation, abstraction” a “sense of space distorted in depth”, in which “existence is hollowed out to its extremes” that “take his subjects out of their historical anchorage” to offer a “harsh and completely unique view of the fragility of human existence” – “a subjective, deeply felt work of the life and suffering of people in the shadow of Berlin.”

“This is the strength of Michael Schmidt’s work. An ability to transcend the present – its present – and to fragment it in order to better represent it. Creations with shallow backgrounds, which play with nuances and break free from simple black and white to offer a shade of grey, evoking the rainy sky of Berlin. A true love letter, tortured, raw, deep and complex, to the city where it was born, grew and disappeared.”2

As Joe Lloyd has observed of Schmidt’s masterpiece Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) (1985-87) “It is difficult to imagine a future for these anxious youths, whose lives are encircled by an evil empire on the cusp of dissolution. The Berlin Wall appears on the verge of subsiding. Vegetation grows unbidden, new life to replace the old. Schmidt turns his camera on the city’s insignificant minutiae, a shadowy realm between the sights and, in doing so, captures its liminality.”3

Liminality is one of the key words I associate with the work of Michael Schmidt… the other being language.

Liminality is a term used to describe the psychological process of transitioning across boundaries and borders. The term “limen” comes from the Latin for threshold; it is literally the threshold separating one space from another. It is the place in the wall where people move from one room to another.4

As he probed and prodded the threshold of existence in his photography, Schmidt transited the line between representation and abstraction, photographing the ever mutable spaces of Berlin and the people that were stationed there, under the Wall – even as the subject matter he chose transitioned from dour city to blank officer workers, from women to children, old people and disaffected youths.

Schmidt sought new ways to transition across the boundaries and borders of both the city and his mind in order to create a “new reality” of visual language, not to reproduce real things as he said, but to show how things really are. As the curator Thomas Weski has observed, “”Every time he finished a series, he went through periods of turmoil where he looked for new ways to approach reality…”5

The liminal, interstitial spaces the artist creates, these fragments of time, these “shards of reality” are tough, gritty photographs – of love, desire, work, destitution, despair, loneliness, sadness and fortitude – realities expressed in sombre tones of grey that recite a sense of foreboding. Forty years after the end of the war, the clash of cultures between stoicism and rebellion, between rich and poor, between communism and freedom is still in full flight in a divided Berlin… for here (unlike Brandt’s photographs where the fragments are part of the whole) there is no unity, no ceasefire, no holistic healing, there is only a language of dissolution and despair. Here, there is no way hope can be deployed to distort one’s relationship with reality.

Schmidt’s relationship between photography and subject is always about the artist metaphorically “becoming naked” and open, pushing the boundaries of the possible when looking for new ways to approach reality. Schmidt’s language of the fragmentation bomb shows the benefits of working on language to break any self-imposed limits – to picture the ‘deep time’6 so intimately linked with the life of the city.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “The original, archetypal form… the first form of a narrative from which all known variants emerged; the archetype version that provides a model and pattern for all variants (alternatively, Urform). The term comes from the German Urform (plural Urformen), meaning primitive form, original form, or archetype, and is derived from Ur, the mythological first city.
    Randal S. Allison. “Ur-Form,” in Thomas A. Green (ed.,). Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 1997, p. 823.
  2. Lou Tsatsas. “Michael Schmidt décompose Berlin au Jeu de Paume,” on the Fisheye Magazine website June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021
  3. Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021
  4. Larson, P. “Liminality,” in Leeming, D.A. (eds). Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Boston, MA, 2014
  5. Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.
  6. “As the Anangu people of Uluru explain, the land contains proof of a spoken narrative, like a photograph. The land’s markings are the archives, the inscriptions revealing and proving deep history stories.”
    Ann McGrath. “‘All things will outlast us’: how the Indigenous concept of deep time helps us understand environmental destruction,” on The Conversation website, August 19, 2020 [Online] Cited 29/08/2021.

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

 

 

“Realism consists not in reproducing real things, but in showing how things really are.”

“Black and white are always the darkest grey and the lightest grey.”

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Michael Schmidt

 

“His language is a language of precision and his tool is the most simple one: a small, 35mm camera, and a few rolls of films. His pictures look simple at first glance, and their anti-sentimentality, their refusal of all the tricks of the usual seduction, their concision and their clarity, give them great efficiency. They show what they show but they manage to retain an opacity, a mystery, and they become a support for our imagination.”

“Schmidt does not accuse, he simply reveals, and the interpretation is left to the viewer. He can do so because he has confidence in the power of his medium and confidence in the intelligence of the viewer.”

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Luc Delahaye

 

“His photography no longer follows a means of pure documentation, but rather formulates a dystopian attitude towards the life of a generation shortly before the fall of the wall in surprising image contexts. Schmidt develops a world of breaks and gaps that defies any claim to a sovereign overview.”

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Einar Schleef

 

“Amongst the pages of photographer Michael Schmidt’s seminal book, ‘Waffenruhe’ – a fragmented psychological portrait of West Berlin shot between 1985 and 1987 – is an image of an outstretched wrist, the camera’s flash igniting a jagged scar across its milky skin. The space opposite is obscured with a blank pull-out page that expands to reveal a tree in full bloom, bright flowers swelling between branches. The Berlin Wall looms in the background, like a shadow sunshine can’t dispel. In Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, life and death cohabitate – existence is hollowed out to its extremes. Four decades after the end of World War II, Waffenruhe (German for “ceasefire”) captured the gloom of a bisected city as it waited for the smoke to clear.”

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Ashleigh Kane. “Why Michael Schmidt is the perfect photographer for our dystopia,” on the Highsnobiety website February 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

 

 

 

Exposition “Michael Schmidt. Une autre photographie allemande” 

 

Berlin-Wedding 1976-78

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Müller-Ecke Seestrasse, Berlin-Wedding' (Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Müller-Ecke Seestrasse, Berlin-Wedding (Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'City Inspector at the Wedding District Office' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
City Inspector at the Wedding District Office
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
43.4 x 46cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'City Inspector at work in his Wedding District Office' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
City Inspector at work in his Wedding District Office
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
43.4 x 46cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding' (Pupil, elementary school, Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding (Pupil, elementary school, Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding' (CM1 pupil, primary school, Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding (CM1 pupil, primary school, Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Berlin-Wedding' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Berlin-Wedding
1976-78
Silver gelatin print
24 x 30cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Jeu de Paume in Paris is the second venue of the major retrospective of Michael Schmidt’s work. Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography and internationally. Born in Berlin and with no formal training in photography, he discovered the medium as a mode of artistic expression in the mid-1960s. For each of his themes he developed his own approach to reality. His oeuvre owing to continual exploration and innovation has been seminal for a younger generation of photographers. The exhibition, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

After the presentation at Jeu de Paume, Paris (2021) and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwartskunst Berlin (2020), the exhibition will be on view at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (September 22–February 28, 2022) and the Albertina Museum in Vienna (March 24–June 12, 2022).

Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography. Born in Berlin, he was self-taught, adopting photography as his artistic medium in the mid-1960s. For each of his themes, he developed his own approach to reality. The Michael Schmidt retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

“At the end of the 1970s, with the series ‘Berlin-Wedding’, Michael Schmidt imposed a very rigid set of rules on himself in order to achieve a form of neutrality, if such a thing is possible… He later said he felt like he had pushed himself into a corner with these rules, and in the early 1980s he struggled to relax them. He went back to shooting spontaneously, camera in hand and no longer on a tripod. This led to “Waffenruhe (Ceasefire),” where he broke free from those rules. It became less a question of delivering a precise description than of communicating a feeling.”

~ Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

“Every time he finished a series, he went through periods of turmoil where he looked for new ways to approach reality… He described himself as a “dead-end photographer” who would get into one lane and needed a long time to get out of it. ”

~ Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

“Michael Schmidt’s raw, harsh, and fragmented photographs of Waffenruhe are less documents of the existing situation at that time than they are creating a certain dark atmosphere, which echoed the ‘no future’-feeling of my generation.”

~ Thomas Weski

 

“Man is at the centre of the environment. He is shaped by it and he shapes it… As such, I don’t want to show him isolated, but in his environment, I want to show how he lives, where he works, what he does in his free time.”

~ Michael Schmidt quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

 

Berlin nach 1945

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
23.4 x 29.2cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

In 1980 Michael Schmidt photographed his series “Berlin after 1945”. West Berlin already had a reputation as a young and rebellious city. Schmidt portrayed his hometown quite differently: grey on grey, barren, if not dreary. With his approach of portraying the human-shaped living environment instead of untouched nature, Schmidt became a representative of the New Topographics movement, which had recently emerged in the USA: these photographers no longer focused on an ideal conception of landscape, but rather on human intervention.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Berlin-Kreuzberg 1969-1973

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

How Schmidt broke away from the strict image structure of his photographs can be seen in his series “Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder 1981-82”. The camera moves closer to the sitter and no longer locks them in a strict composition.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views) 1982

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1982
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

The bulk of Schmidt’s work in the 70s and early 80s was commissioned by local authorities, and served as a survey of West Berlin’s crumbing Wall-side districts. If they wanted straightforward documentation, they should have turned elsewhere. In Kreuzberg, Schmidt captured two tree trunks rising from the ground as if a pair of legs, and in Wedding an empty phone box, the pages of its directory left open. Schmidt’s Berlin is riddled with holes. We see a row of tenements from behind, naked and exposed by the loss of their adjoining street. A similar – or perhaps the same – row is glimpsed diagonally through a gap in a scaffolding platform. This is a city scrambled, quite unlike the straight-ahead perspectives of Struth’s near-contemporaneous Unconscious Places series. When we see council employees, the walls of their chintzy apartments and spartan offices seem like armour against the bleak outside.

Text from Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg' (Berlin-Kreuzberg) 1969-1973

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg (Berlin-Kreuzberg)
1969-1973
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Foreword

Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography. Born in Berlin, he was self-taught, adopting photography as his artistic medium in the mid- 1960s. For each of his themes, he developed his own approach to reality. The Michael Schmidt retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

Schmidt initially focused on Berlin in his work, receiving commissions in the early 1970s from district offices and from the Berlin Senate on districts such as Kreuzberg and Wedding and on social themes. The Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) book and exhibition project, a visually stunning psychological study of the still divided city, which was shown in Berlin for the first time in 1987, brought Schmidt international renown. With Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, a group of works examining the unification process, he shifted his focus away from the world of his native city.

Schmidt’s oeuvre comprises portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and still lifes. His work highlights the importance of urban space, the continued relevance of history, female identity, the role of the province and the significance of nature. In his last project, he highlighted the contemporary food industry.

In addition to providing a glimpse of sometimes very rich ensembles through original prints, this retrospective also includes work prints, book projects and archive documents. As far as possible, it respects Schmidt’s own approach to presenting and displaying his works. His career was exemplary for the way he endlessly refined his photographic practice and explored new publication formats. The exhibition thus reveals a unique approach to photography in the context of German post-war and contemporary photography, at odds with the Subjective Photography of Otto Steinert and the Düsseldorf School centred around Bernd and Hilla Becher. Schmidt’s oeuvre is now seen as one of the outstanding pillars of photography in the history of German twentieth-century art. As well as celebrating the work he produced in the course of his lifetime, the exhibition seeks to cover the development of photography as a mode of artistic expression since the 1970s.

Thomas Weski, curator of the exhibition

 

Introduction

On the occasion of the reopening, Jeu de Paume offers for the first time in France a large dedicated exhibition to photographer Michael Schmidt, considered one of the major figures of 20th century German art. This large chronological retrospective pays tribute to the artist through original prints, unpublished works and a vast corpus of archives that illustrate the evolution of his work spanning nearly five decades.

A Model

Michael Schmidt wrote a section of the history of photography. Through his work as a photographer and teacher he notably influenced artists like Andreas Gursky, with whom he befriends at the end of the 1970s. He is still a model for a whole generation of young photographers.

West Berlin

Self-taught photographer born in Berlin in 1945, Michael Schmidt devoted most of from his photography to his hometown, more particularly in West Berlin, where he will live until his death in 2014. The districts of Kreuzberg and, more particularly Wedding, were his favourite places. Initially portrayed in a purely documentary style (most often of order), Schmidt will detach himself from traditional visual language and in the 1980s look for a more daring vocabulary.

Postwar

Beginning in the middle of 1960s the postwar work of Michael Schmidt can be considered as a process of the quest for artistic identity, and also as an illustration of the development artistic photography in postwar Germany.

Grey

In the late 1970s, grey becomes the chromatic element central to the photographer’s work, which he considers a full colour. Wishing to describe the world around him, the artist cannot be limited to the use of black and white, who are too Manichean for his taste. The world is undefined, not so neat and clear. Schmidt is looking for more nuance, he has need a wider palette. He draws, then, in these grey tones that we find in the skies of Berlin, the cityscapes and interior views where characters appear weakly illuminated.

 

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Michael Schmidt, Jeu de Paume presents a large retrospective of this artist, considered one of the major pillars of the history of 20th century German art.

A tribute to a great photographer, this exhibition will present originals, unpublished work prints, book projects and other archives illustrating the evolution of his artistic work. The exhibition also highlights the process of recognising photography as a form of artistic expression in Germany and Europe from the 1970s.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher, Michael Schmidt is among the most influential post-war photographers. He tirelessly developed his work for five decades. Through the publication of his work in the form of books and installations, always in dialogue with their place of exhibition, he developed different types of innovative presentation. By the incessant renewal of its formal language and by the choice of its themes, Michael Schmidt wrote a part of the history of photography and is today a role model for a whole generation of young photographers.

Born in Berlin on October 6, 1945, it was in this city that he lived and worked until his death in 2014. This autodidact works as a photographer from the mid-1970s, initially exclusively in his hometown. This is where the series dedicated to Kreuzberg and Wedding saw the light of day, – two districts of West Berlin –, which already go beyond the simple description of a neighbourhood, taking on a broader meaning. It is with the project, book and exhibition developed in collaboration with the director and playwright Einar Schleef, Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), first presented in Berlin in 1987, that Michael Schmidt does undeniably artistic work.

This series is made up of raw images with a loaded atmosphere, which draw a very personal portrait of the city near the end of the cold war – and of its youth – a city still cut in half, shortly before the change of epoch.

Michael Schmidt abandons this focus on the thematic universe of Berlin with the series Ein-heit (Uni-té), in which he explores the visual languages ​​of the different forms of society and different political systems that marked Germany in the 20th century. He uses on this occasion already mediatised images that he mixes with photographs taken by himself, publishing everything in a book without text. The first exhibition of this series is in 1996 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Schmidt was thus the first German photographer for decades to have personal exposure in this place. Subsequently, he devotes other work to the image of the woman, to the role of regions and the importance of nature. His last big series, Lebensmittel (Foodstuffs), in which he explores contemporary food production, has earned him the Pictet Prize just a few days before his death.

 

The exhibition

First photographs, commissioned works and series, 1965-1985

Michael Schmidt discovered an interest in photography when he was working in the West Berlin police force. Although he joined amateur photography clubs, he was chiefly self-taught, working hard to improve his technique. In the mid-1960s, he took the first photographs that he did not reject later on. Although the motifs in these early photographs vary greatly, they all defy the quick readability that is usually associated with the medium.

From his earliest photographic work of the mid-1960s to Germany’s reunification, Schmidt chose his native city of Berlin as his main subject, examining it from various angles. By 1973 he was working as a professional photographer, having been commissioned by the district office in Kreuzberg to do a book on the neighbourhood. It was published in the same year, with a second edition being printed almost immediately. It was followed by commissions from other city districts and Berlin’s Senate. In Die berufstätige Frau in Kreuzberg (The Working Woman in Kreuzberg) he depicted a typical day in the life of two women juggling work and leisure.

In the early 1970s he began teaching photography courses at colleges of further education. In 1976, he founded the Werkstatt für Photographie (Workshop for Photography) at the Volkshochschule Kreuzberg, which continued until 1986. Works by contemporary American photographers were exhibited there that had not previously been accessible to the German public. From 1976 to 1978, he photographed the Berlin-Wedding district and its inhabitants in a strictly documentary style. He made prints in rich shades of grey and published the series in 1978.

Between 1978 and 1980 he photographed Berlin’s Friedrichstadt neighbourhood in the south of the city, which was badly damaged during the Second World War. These photographs capture the mood of post-war West Berlin, a city scarred by gaps between buildings, brownfield sites and fire walls. Dominant motifs include urban wastelands and utility buildings, which he photographed in diffuse light using a large plate camera. In these works, Schmidt found pictorial solutions that straddle the boundary between documentation and abstraction. His Berlin nach 45 (Berlin after 1945) was not published until 2005, twenty-five years after the photographs were taken.

In 1980 in another project funded by the Berlin Senate he documented the everyday lives of four people dealing with chronic illness or disability. This work was published under the title Benachteiligt (Disadvantaged).

With the photo book Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder, published in 1983, he began turning away from the traditional documentary idiom, experimenting with a more subjective approach.

In the mid-1990s, Schmidt identified his archive as a potent new source for reinterpreting earlier work. It assumed growing importance for him and he returned to it with increasing regularity in order to subject his early work to a critical re-examination and to make new prints. In the late 1990s, for example, for his project Menschenbilder (Ausschnitte) (Pictures of People (Excerpts)), he presented re-framed versions of an older series of portraits. Divorced from their previous context, the portraits became emblems of the human condition.

At that time, Schmidt also published Selbst (Self), a series of self-portraits dating from the mid-1980s, in which he appeared directly and unsparingly, in a self-critical attitude.

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1985-1987

Unlike the studiedly sober photos of his earlier series, the portrait of the still divided city that Schmidt created in the mid-1970s in the book and exhibition project Waffenruhe, with its condensed, fragmentary, strongly contrasting black and white photographs, is highly subjective and multifaceted. With this work group, the photographer used a more evocative approach to convey the complex and moribund political situation in Berlin.

Here Schmidt eschewed a documentary approach in favour of unexpected pictorial sequences that express the dystopian attitude of a generation living before the fall of the Wall. Schmidt creates a picture of a world marked by fragmentation and discontinuity which remains open to interpretation. The photographs in the artist’s book are interwoven with a text by theatre director and writer Einar Schleef, which offers a very personal and uncompromising take on the fragility of human existence.

The project, funded with public money as part of the celebrations marking Berlin’s 750th anniversary, was first shown in the Berlinische Galerie at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in the immediate vicinity of the Wall. When the Waffenruhe series was included in a group exhibition at MoMA in New York, in 1988, it brought Schmidt immediate international notoriety.

 

Portraits, 1987-1994
Natur (Nature), 1987-1997
89/90, 1989-1990
Architektur (Architecture), 1989-1991

In between his major series, Michael Schmidt created work of more modest scope, which afforded him more artistic freedom and enabled him to hone his photographic method and pictorial language. The works that followed Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) are characterised by their tight framing, shallow depth of field and formats that were unusually large for the time. In them Schmidt focused increasingly on architecture and portraiture, unrestrained by any concern for intelligibility. Motifs became detached from their urban or personal contexts, functioning as emblems of metropolitan life, history and society. The series Architektur (Architecture) and Portraits are distinguished by the presence and materiality of their objects and the immediacy of encounter.

In 1989, Schmidt turned his attention to his native city for one last time, recording visual traces of German unification. He found many of his motifs in what used to be the border zone between the wall and no man’s land. This work, entitled 89/90, was not published until 2010.

Similarly, the photos he was taking around the same time of the rural landscape near his second home in Lower Saxony were not published until much later, when he assembled them in the artist book Nature shortly before his death. The book testifies to the importance he attached to landscape during this part of his life.

 

Ein-heit (U-ni-ty), 1989-1994

This series, which took shape during reunification, is concerned with history and the universal symbolism of the dominant social systems in Germany since 1933: National Socialism, Socialism and Democracy. This is the context for the photographer’s examination of the individual’s essential role in society and the stand they choose to take.

For Schmidt, a published image was an integral part of objective reality and no less worthy of being photographed than, say, a person or a building. In Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, he took this approach further. His photographs of photographs, which account for roughly one third of this series, comprise severely cropped and occasionally inverted photographs together with straightforward renderings of existing photographic material, which he typically combined with his own photographs. In so doing, Schmidt reformulates the content of the original photographs for his own purposes, depriving them of their unambiguousness and added further layers of possible meaning. He also used the technique of repeating and varying motifs he had deployed in some of his early works. Arranged in this way, the photographs form the grammar of a unique visual idiom, one that is challenging for viewers, but rich in associations. Ein-heit/U-ni-ty premiered in 1996 at MoMA in New York, where it was the first solo exhibition devoted to a German photographer for several decades.

 

Frauen (Women), 1997-1999

In the late 1990s, Michael Schmidt embarked on a series of portraits of young men and women. He eventually focused on women from the younger generation, shooting portraits and photographs of their bodies, both fully dressed and in the nude. In Schmidt’s view, these young women’s own sense of self-worth was increasingly reflected in their relationship to their own bodies. His photographs examined how a sense of individuality was being affected by socially mediated norms and ideals. The phenomenon made itself felt in a wide range of spheres, from the choice of outer garments and underwear to the stylisation of the body, even the private parts. He reveals the traces left by this growing imposition of uniformity on physical appearance in the form of posture and bearing, scars and lesions.

Schmidt interpreted these phenomena as the formative collective experience of an entire generation, as was evident in his exhibitions of the Frauen group of works. He presented the works as a block or tableau, emphasising what this age group had in common instead of the individual. Closer inspection reveals that this group of works added another facet to the photographer’s preoccupation with the role of the individual in society.

In 2000, Schmidt published the Frauen series in an eponymous artist’s book. At the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010, he showed extracts in the form of full-page ads in a national newspaper and as posters in public spaces.

 

Irgendwo (Somewhere), 2001-2004
Lebensmittel (Foodstuff), 2006-2010

Following Germany’s reunification, Michael Schmidt never photographed Berlin again. Instead, he developed an interest in provincial scenes, as these were in his view both interchangeable and conducive to a sense of identity. Having acquired a caravan, he and his wife set off on tours across Germany – sixteen in all. He published the resulting images in an artist’s book entitled Irgendwo (Somewhere). They were exhibited outside Germany’s big cities. The experiences he gained on these trips and his increasing interest in eating and drinking, mirroring that of German society as a whole, led to a series entitled Lebensmittel (Foodstuff). For this, Schmidt carried out research in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Spain, where he visited sausage, pasta and cheese factories, fish farms, fruit and vegetable farms, fattening farms and abattoirs, green houses, olive plantations, insect farms and food processing plants.

In Lebensmittel (Foodstuff), Michael Schmidt used colour for the first time in his work, in addition to his customary black and white. The pictures are untitled and make no reference to location, making it impossible to pin them down geographically. Schmidt developed further the method he first used in Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, creating unsettling works that sometimes fuse two different halves or contain repeated images or shapes, or else variations of motifs. The result undermines belief in the documentary power of photography and the universal validity of the isolated shot.

Often it remains unclear what foodstuff is actually being presented. Both failsafe identification and seasonality have become things of the past, with production now oriented towards standardisation, alienation and globalisation rather than individuality, transparency and regional context. Schmidt critiques the excesses of an economic system that is notorious for its wastefulness. Today’s crises make it clear that we have arrived at the limits of agricultural growth. Schmidt’s photographs reflect this fact and the loss of confidence in the idea of permanent growth.

For this series, he was awarded the prestigious Prix Pictet only a few days before his death in 2014.

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1985-1987

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) (1985-87), inaugurated the second act of Schmidt’s career. It remains his masterpiece, and one of the most intoxicating photographic projects of the late-20th century. Laying aside the realism of his first two decades, Schmidt instead shot voraciously without quarter, before embarking on an intensive process of editing and ordering. The final works were then exhibited like a continuous reel, a sequence whose parts combine in the mind to construct a place, an atmosphere and narratives. …

This is the Berlin of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, except without that film’s passage to hope. Schmidt’s greyscale world never erupts into technicolour. It is difficult to imagine a future for these anxious youths, whose lives are encircled by an evil empire on the cusp of dissolution. The Berlin Wall appears on the verge of subsiding. Vegetation grows unbidden, new life to replace the old. Schmidt turns his camera on the city’s insignificant minutiae, a shadowy realm between the sights and, in doing so, captures its liminality.

Text from Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

“This is the strength of Michael Schmidt’s work. An ability to transcend the present – its present – and to fragment it in order to better represent it. Creations with shallow backgrounds, which play with nuances and break free from simple black and white to offer a shade of grey, evoking the rainy sky of Berlin. A true love letter, tortured, raw, deep and complex, to the city where it was born, grew and disappeared.”

Lou Tsatsas. “Michael Schmidt décompose Berlin au Jeu de Paume,” on the Fisheye Magazine website June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

With “Waffenruhe” from 1985-87, Schmidt moved away from the documentary and found a new photographic language. He blocked the viewer’s view of the subject – here with a black line – and made the visual obstacle itself the motif. Schmidt continued to take photos in Berlin, only that his photographs increasingly irritated the view of the city.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt also revised the imagery of his portraits in the “Ceasefire” series: the surroundings disappear, and the direct expression of the sitter takes its place. The blurring reinforces the impression that this is a spontaneous snapshot.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt increasingly photographed surfaces and materials such as the many graffiti that have long characterised Berlin’s aesthetics. He was interested in how people and time inscribe themselves on it.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

“Through Schmidt’s dramatic perspective and keen eye for telling details and subtle nuances, he creates an air of inconsolable emptiness in his images of the Wall and those affected by it. These photographs will leave you speechless.”

.
Martin Parr. The Photobook: A History Volume 2 2006

 

 

In the following decades, his approach became more impressionistic. He would shoot thousands of frames for each project without thinking too much about the end result, which would emerge later out of rigorous editing. Increasingly, he was drawn to series over single images, atmosphere over documentary representation. The Berlin that emerges out of Waffenruhe is a darkly atmospheric place, where nothing is quite what it seems and everything – a bandaged tree, a bank of earth beneath a wall, a stuffed toy criss-crossed by barbed wire – is loaded with ominous suggestion. The Wall is a looming presence, but there are images that evoke an altogether more intimate kind of dislocation, not least the stark portraits of Schmidt’s sad-looking daughter – in one, she has a bandaged wrist.

Sean O’Hagan. “Michael Schmidt obituary,” on the Guardian website 29 May, 2014 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Waffenruhe swerved any explicit documentation of West Berlin’s political stasis for haunting photographs of its dilapidated buildings, unkempt nature, a defaced Swastika, the inside of a watchtower, cityscapes obscured by shadowy figures, and portraits of disillusioned young people. While the wall is occasionally present, its presence is unwavering. Waffenruhe was a collaboration with Einar Schleef, a playwright and theatre director who left East for West Germany in 1976. For his part, Schleef penned the inner thoughts of a divorced man living with his estranged daughter’s rabbit in the now-empty family house. As historian and fellow photographer Janos Frecot writes in the book’s closing pages: “The text itself does not simply tell a story, but instead narrates a finding, a wounding, a consciousness of a dully nagging pain in an apparent stillness: Berlin 1987.” Structured as one long-running paragraph, Schleef’s text cuts through the book’s centre, like the wall itself. The lack of white space around the text is oppressive, almost suffocating.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Portraits 1987-1994

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Portraits' (Portraits) 1987-1994

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Portraits (Portraits)
1987-1994
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt’s portraits from the 1980s are reminiscent of private photos. Their meaning does not arise from complex picture contexts, but from the direct expression, the presence of the portrayed and the associations of the viewers.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Portraits' (Portraits) 1989

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Portraits (Portraits)
1989
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Architektur 1989-1991

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Architektur' (Architecture) 1989-1991

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Architektur (Architecture)
1989-1991
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Ein-heit (Uni-ty) 1991-94

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit' (Uni-ty) 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

For U-nit-y, made between 1991 and 1994, Schmidt turned his eye on his newly reunited city, this time using found images from newspapers, magazines and propaganda material from Nazi and communist pamphlets alongside his own photographs. The end result is a highly personal evocation of a reborn city still haunted by unresolved issues from the recent past and a collective anxiety about the future. His images evoke both the weight of history and the pulse of the everyday, summoning up a Berlin of the imagination that is both solid and dreamlike.

Sean O’Hagan. “Michael Schmidt obituary,” on the Guardian website 29 May, 2014 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Although unforeseen at the time, two years after Waffenruhe was published, the Berlin Wall was torn down. For Schmidt’s next book, he explored East and West Germany’s reunification in Ein-heit (or U-Ni-Ty) – signalled to in its split title. The country was beginning to heal from its deep and bloody ideological divisions, five decades after the Nazis took power in 1933. Ein-heit, made between 1991 and 1994, surveyed the relationship between the individual and the state, and the grappling of national identity. For the first time in his career, Schmidt moved beyond Berlin and reckoned with Germany’s past and present through found and new photography (around half of the Ein-heit‘s 163 images were repurposed from old newspapers, propaganda materials, and magazine clippings).

Ashleigh Kane. “Why Michael Schmidt is the perfect photographer for our dystopia,” on the Highsnobiety website February 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Biography

1945

Born in Berlin-Kreuzberg on 6 October.

1950

His family moves several times between West Berlin and Erkner, which is near East Berlin.

1963

Joins the West Berlin riot police.

1965

Starts taking photographs.

1969

Teaches a photography course at the Volkshochschule Kreuzberg, a local adult education centre.

1970

Teaches photography courses at adult education centres, with an emphasis on encouraging personal expression in his students.

1973

Leaves the police force and starts working as a freelance photographer while continuing to teach at various adult education centres. His exhibition Kreuzberger Motive is organised by the Berlin Museum and the Bezirksamt Kreuzberg (district office). His book Berlin Kreuzberg is published.

1974

He organises the exhibition Ausländische Mitbürger (Foreign Fellow Citizens in Kreuzberg), which features his own work together with photographs submitted by Kreuzberg residents from migrant backgrounds. Commission for a book on his hometown, which is published in 1978 under the title Berlin. Stadlandschaft und Menschen (Berlin. Urban Landscape and People).

1975

Exhibits his series Senioren in Berlin (Senior Citizens in Berlin), commissioned by the Berlin Senate, in a U-Bahn station. Develops the concept for his Werkstatt für Photographie (Photography Workshop) in West Berlin. He is assigned by the Senate to photograph Die berufstätige Frau in Kreuzberg (The Working Woman in Kreuzberg), which is exhibited at the Rathaus Kreuzberg.

1976

Stops working in the field of applied photography in order to focus on his own photographic projects. Opens the Werkstatt für Photographie at the adult education centre in Kreuzberg, taking over artistic and organisational management. With its intensive programme of exhibitions, workshops and specialised courses, the Werkstatt achieves international renown. It would host the first solo exhibitions in Germany, and in some cases Europe, of American photographers like Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Larry Clark, William Eggleston and John Gossage.

1977

Quits as director of the Werkstatt für Photographie, but continues to teach and give advice there.

1978

His series Berlin-Wedding is shown at the Rathaus Wedding, in conjunction with the release of his book Berlin-Wedding. 1979 Teaches courses in documentary photography at the University of Essen. 1980 He applies to the Senate to photograph people with disabilities and is accepted. The series is published in a small book titled Benachteiligt (Disadvantaged). Photographs post-war architecture in the area around Anhalterbahnhof, West Berlin, which suffered massive destruction in the war. The topic would be the focus of the Internationale Bauausstellung (International Building Exposition) in 1984. Berlin nach 45 would not be published until 2005.

1981

Stops his activities at the Werkstatt für Photographie, which closes in 1986.

1984

Receives the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach – Foundation Grant for Contemporary Photography.

1985-88

Teaches at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts), Berlin.

1987

His book Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), a collaboration with theatre director and writer Einar Schleef, is published and the work group is exhibited at Martin-Gropius-Bau as part of the 750th anniversary celebrations of Berlin.

1988

Waffenruhe is shown as part of the group exhibition New Photography 4 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1989

He starts working on a project, in which he examines the repercussions of reunification and which he later titled Ein-heit/U-ni-ty.

1995

First retrospective of his photographic career at the Museum Folkwang, Essen. He uses the exhibition to go through his archive spanning his life’s work and selecting works that are of particular importance to him. In the future, he returns regularly to his archive in order to generate new works.

1996

Ein-heit/U-ni-ty is exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and published as an artist’s book. It is the first solo exhibition of a German photographer at MoMA for several decades.

1999

Appointed to the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), Berlin. He co-founds the Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive.

2000

Publishes his portrait series Frauen (Women).

2005

Exhibits and publishes Irgendwo (Somewhere), which he photographed on 16 trips across Germany examining the relevance of the provinces.

2006

Takes part in the 5th Berlin Biennale and shows Ein-heit at Kunst-Werke, Berlin.

2010

Is invited to participate in the 6th Berlin Biennale and shows Frauen in public and in the media in the form of placards and full-page advertisements. Major exhibition Grau als Farbe. Fotografien bis 2009 (Grey as colour. Photographs until 2009) at the Haus der Kunst, Munich.

2013

Exhibits Lebensmittel as part of the main exhibition Il Palazzo Enciclopedico at the Venice Biennale. After returning to Berlin, he is diagnosed with cancer. While receiving treatment he edits and designs the artist’s book Natur (Nature).

2014

Wins the Fifth Prix Pictet Award, the prestigious international award for photography and sustainability. Michael Schmidt dies on 24 May in Berlin.

 

 

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22
Jan
21

Photographs: ‘Walker Evans – Subway portraits’ 1938-41

January 2021

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Unguarded moments

“Tell those friends with cameras for eyes”

 

It’s going to be really hot in Melbourne for the next few days so I won’t be able to get into the computer room to work – so a posting today, Friday 22 January, and the next one on Wednesday next week.

These iconic Walker Evans New York subway portraits of anonymous travellers (both physically and mentally) are remarkably unprepossessing. They just are. They exist. Taken with a hidden 35mm camera, they picture human beings in (allegedly) unposed, unguarded moments, unaware that they are being photographed. But un/aware in another sense – un/aware of their surroundings, the person opposite them, or the time, un/aware of their dreams – of past, present and future. Engrossed in reading, staring vacantly into space, deep in thoughtful repose, or possessing a sadness beyond belief, now, they impinge on our consciousness through their very facticity.

You could make up stories about their lives: the boy above in his postal cap(?), gay, nervous, lonely in the big city; the man with the spectacles staring down at his paper, an accountant, or a watchmaker, working all his life to support his family. The black man with his immaculate dress, coat, scarf and Fedora battling for his place in society; and the two woman together, polar opposites, she, clasping her bag, possibly an immigrant arrived through Ellis Island from Eastern Europe, and she, fur edged coat and steepling hat, severe, dour, rich, matronly.

Here they are, this panoply of archetypes, clothed in complete protection for spiritual warfare. Unguarded moments to the photographer they may be, but the mask is definitely not off. In my observation, human beings on public transport are always un/guarded, always protecting themselves from the stranger next to them, the unknown threat, or wandering off in daydreams to another time and place, absenting themselves so that only the shell, the husk, is left. Here and there, present but absent, absent but present, these creatures of the underground still roam the corridors of human consciousness.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research and informed comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Although the setting was public, he found that his subjects, unposed and lost in their thoughts, displayed a constantly shifting medley of moods and expressions-by turns curious, bored, amused, despondent, dreamy, and dyspeptic. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he remarked. “Even more than in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors), people’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.””

Anonymous text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 22/01/2021

 

 

 

The Unguarded Moment  ~ The Church

 

So hard finding inspiration
I knew you’d find me crying
Tell those girls with rifles for minds
That their jokes don’t make me laugh
They only make me feel like dying
In an unguarded moment
So long, long between mirages
I knew you’d find me drinking
Tell those men with horses for hearts
That their jibes don’t make me bleed
They only make me feel like shrinking
In an unguarded moment
So deep, deep without a meaning
I knew you’d find me leaving
Tell those friends with cameras for eyes
That their hands don’t make me hang
They only make me feel like breathing
In an unguarded moment

 

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) '35mm negative strip of Subway Portraits' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
35mm negative strip of Subway Portraits
1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

As photographic technology advanced – cameras became more portable and film more sensitive to light, requiring shorter exposure times – people were no longer required to stay still for pictures. Walker Evans was among the photographers who capitalised on this flexibility. Between 1938 and 1941, he took his camera underground, where he photographed subway riders in New York City. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he wrote, “even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors). People’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.” (Walker Evans, quoted in Belinda Rathbone. Walker Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995, 170-71)

In order to discreetly capture these candid Subway Portraits, Evans came up with an undercover method of taking photographs. He concealed his 35-millimeter Contax camera by painting its shiny chrome parts black and hiding it under his topcoat, with only its lens peeking out between two buttons. He rigged its shutter to a cable release, whose chord snaked down his sleeve and into the palm of his hand, which he kept buried in his pocket. For extra assurance, he asked his friend and fellow photographer Helen Levitt to join him on his subway shoots, believing that his activities would be less noticeable if he was accompanied by someone. With these methods, Evans managed to capture people immersed in conversation, reading, or seemingly lost in their own thoughts and moods. His subjects’ faces display a range of emotions. He also succeeded in accomplishing a difficult challenge in making truly unposed portraits.

Anonymous text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 22/01/2021

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Walker Evans’ book Many Are Called is a three-year photographic study of people on the New York subway. Using a camera hidden in his jacket and a cable release running down his sleeve, Evans snapped unsuspecting passengers while they traveled through the city. Evans said that these photographs were his “idea of what a portrait ought to be,” he wrote, “anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind.” As photographic technology advanced – cameras became more portable and film more sensitive to light, requiring shorter exposure times – people were no longer required to pose for pictures. In an effort to capture candid images of people in public places, Walker Evans affixed a right angle viewfinder to his camera to make it look as if he was pointing it off to the side rather than directly at his subjects. For his Subway Portraits, he went even further and concealed his camera by painting its shiny chrome parts black and hiding it under his topcoat, with only its lens peeking out between two buttons. He rigged its shutter to a cable release, whose chord snaked down his sleeve and into the palm of his hand, which he kept buried in his pocket. As a result, these portraits show people in unguarded moments.

Text from ‘Seeing Through Photographs’ online course, Coursera, 2016.

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

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29
Nov
20

European art research tour exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929’ at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Exhibition dates: 29th August 2019 – 15th September 2019 posted November 2020

Kunstbibliothek

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A small, tight, focused exhibition which was stimulating for anyone interested in graphic design, photography, and typography – Neue Typografie.

Highlights included Covers for the Bauhaus books, 1925-1930, travel posters by A. M. Cassandre, plates from Moholy-Nagy’s 1929 Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung? (Where is typography headed?) and a poster for the 1929 exhibition film und foto.

The inventiveness and creativity with colour, collage and the use of negative and positive space was peerless, elemental.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Many thankx for all other photographs to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?
Where is typography headed?

Installation views of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The best chair models of today's production exhibition 'the Chair' 1929 (installation view)

 

die besten stuhl modelle der heutigen produktion
The best models of today’s production

ausstellung
exhibition

der Stuhl (installation view)
1929
Poster
kunstgewerbemuseum
Arts and Crafts Museum
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation views of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing at left, Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe (Exhibition of European applied arts) 1927; in the centre, Der Stuhl. Neue Typografie (New typography) 1929; and at right, Umschläge zu den Bauhausbüchern, 1925-1930 (Covers for the Bauhaus books, 1925-1930) 1925-1930
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) 'Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe' (Exhibition of European applied arts) 1927 (installation view)

 

Herbert Bayer (1900-1985)
Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe (Exhibition of European applied arts) (installation view)
1927
Poster
Druckerei Ernst Hedrich Nachfolger, Leipzig Buchdruck
Ernst Hedrich printer, Leipzig Letterpress
Lithograph
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) 'Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe' (Exhibition of European applied arts) 1927

 

Herbert Bayer (1900-1985)
Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe (Exhibition of European applied arts)
1927
Poster
Druckerei Ernst Hedrich Nachfolger, Leipzig Buchdruck
Ernst Hedrich printer, Leipzig Letterpress
Lithograph
35 1/4 x 23 3/4″ (89.5 x 60.3cm)
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Der Stuhl. Neue Typografie' (New typography) 1929 (installation view)

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Der Stuhl. Neue Typografie (New typography) (installation view)
1929
Poster
Entwerfer Berek-Druck (Nachweiszeit: 1928-1940), Drucker
Designer Berek-Druck (record time: 1928-1940), printer
Printed in Berlin
Printing ink (black) & paper
Linocut
61.0 x 43.5cm
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Umschläge zu den Bauhausbüchern, 1925-1930' (Covers for the Bauhaus books, 1925-1930) 1925-30 (installation view)

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Umschläge zu den Bauhausbüchern, 1925-1930 (Covers for the Bauhaus books, 1925-1930) (installation view)
1925-1930
Book covers
Druckerei Hesse & Becker, Leipzig
Hesse & Becker printing company, Leipzig
Druckerei Ohlenroth, Erfurt Klischees von Dr. von Löbbeke u. Co., Erfurt Buchdruck
Ohlenroth printing company, Erfurt Letterpress
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Bauhausbücher 8, L. Moholy-Nagy: Malerei, Fotografie, Film' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Bauhausbücher 8, L. Moholy-Nagy: Malerei, Fotografie, Film
1925
Albert Langen Verlag Herstellung, Entwerfer, Mitarbeit, Verleger
Albert Langen Verlag, Manufacture, designer, collaboration, publisher
Offset printing on paper and letterpress
Art Library / Collection of graphic design
Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing at left, Etoile du Nord 1927; and at second left, Chemin de Fer du Nord. Vitesse-Luxe-Confort 1929
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) 'Etoile du Nord' (North Star) 1927 (installation view)

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968)
Etoile du Nord (North Star) (installation view)
1927
Poster
Druckerei Hachard et Cie., Paris
Hachard et Cie. Printing house, Paris
Lithograph
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) 'Etoile du Nord' (North Star) 1927

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968)
Etoile du Nord (North Star)
1927
Poster
Druckerei Hachard et Cie., Paris
Hachard et Cie. Printing house, Paris
Lithograph

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) 'Chemin de Fer du Nord. Vitesse-Luxe-Comfort' (Northern Railway. Speed-Luxury-Comfort) 1929 (installation view)

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968)
Chemin de Fer du Nord. Vitesse-Luxe-Comfort (Northern Railway. Speed-Luxury-Comfort) (installation view)
1929
Poster
Druckerei L. Danel, Lille
L. Danel printing house, Lille
Lithograph
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A. M. Cassandre

Cassandre, pseudonym of Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron (24 January 1901 – 17 June 1968) was a French painter, commercial poster artist, and typeface designer.

He was born Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to French parents. As a young man, Cassandre moved to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian. The popularity of posters as advertising afforded him an opportunity to work for a Parisian printing house. Inspired by cubism as well as surrealism, he earned a reputation with works such as Bûcheron (Woodcutter), a poster created for a cabinetmaker that won first prize at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

Cassandre became successful enough that with the help of partners he was able to set up his own advertising agency called Alliance Graphique, serving a wide variety of clients during the 1930s. He is perhaps best known for his posters advertising travel, for clients such as the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. He was a pioneer on airbrush arts.

His creations for the Dubonnet wine company were among the first posters designed in a manner that allowed them to be seen by occupants in moving vehicles. His posters are memorable for their innovative graphic solutions and their frequent denotations to such painters as Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. In addition, he taught graphic design at the École des Arts Décoratifs and then at the École d’Art Graphique.

With typography an important part of poster design, the company created several new typeface styles. Cassandre developed Bifur in 1929, the sans serif Acier Noir in 1935, and in 1937 an all-purpose font called Peignot. In 1936, his works were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City which led to commissions from Harper’s Bazaar to do cover designs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) 'Chemin de Fer du Nord. Vitesse-Luxe-Comfort' (Northern Railway. Speed-Luxury-Comfort) 1929

 

A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968)
Chemin de Fer du Nord. Vitesse-Luxe-Comfort (Northern Railway. Speed-Luxury-Comfort)
1929
Poster
Druckerei L. Danel, Lille
L. Danel printing house, Lille
Lithograph

 

Max Burchartz (1887-1961) Posters 1927

 

Max Burchartz (1887-1961)
Schubertfeier der Städtischen Bühnen Essen (Schubert celebration of the municipal theatres of Essen) (installation view)
1927
Poster
Druckerei F.W. Rohden Essen Buchdruck
F.W. Rohden Essen printing house
Letterpress

Max Burchartz (1887-1961)
Kölner Kammerorchester. Konzert aum Besten des Essener Blindenfürsorge-Vereins (Cologne Chamber Orchestra. Concert for the benefit of the Essen Blind Welfare Association) (installation view)
1927
Poster
Druckerei C.W. Haafeld, Essen Buchdruck
C.W. Haafeld, Essen printing house
Letterpress
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Burchartz (1887-1961) 'Schubertfeier der Städtischen Bühnen Essen' (Schubert celebration of the municipal theatres of Essen) 1927

 

Max Burchartz (1887-1961)
Schubertfeier der Städtischen Bühnen Essen (Schubert celebration of the municipal theatres of Essen)
1927
Poster
Druckerei F.W. Rohden Essen Buchdruck
F.W. Rohden Essen printing house
Letterpress

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing American advertisement 1925 from The Saturday Evening Post
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing at left, Marque PKZ 1923
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Otto Baumberger (1889-1961) 'Marque PKZ' 1923 (installation view)

 

Otto Baumberger (1889-1961)
Marque PKZ (installation view)
1923
Steindruckerei Wolfensberg, Zürich
Wolfensberg lithography, Zurich
Lithograph
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Otto Baumberger (1889-1961) 'Marque PKZ' 1923

 

Otto Baumberger (1889-1961)
Marque PKZ
1923
Steindruckerei Wolfensberg, Zürich
Wolfensberg lithography, Zurich
Lithograph

 

 

Otto Baumberger (21 May 1889 Altstetten, Zurich – 26 December 1961 Weiningen), was a noted Swiss painter and poster artist. Baumberger produced some 200 posters of great quality and style. His realistic rendering of a herringbone tweed coat became a classic of Swiss poster, an example of a Sachplakat (object poster).

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

American advertisement. 'Mallory Straws' 1926

 

American advertisement
Mallory Straws (installation view)
1926
Chicago Sunday Tribune
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

"Boxweltmeister Tunneys Memoiren (Boxing World Champion Tunney's Memoir)" 1927 (installation view)

 

Das Illustrierte Blatt (The Illustrated Sheet) Nr. 35, Page 895
“Boxweltmeister Tunneys Memoiren” (Boxing World Champion Tunney’s Memoir)
1927
First German publication

in

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung? Tafel 55 (installation view)
Where is typography headed? Chart 55
1929
Collage
© Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Herbert Bayer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 58' 1929 (installation view)

 

Herbert Bayer 1928

in

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 58 (installation view)
Where is typography headed? Chart 58
1929
Collage
© Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Herbert Bayer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) 'Die Hose' (The pants) 1927 (installation view)

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974)
Die Hose (The pants) (installation view)
1927
F. Bruckmann printing house, Munich
Letterpress
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) 'Die Hose' (The pants) 1927

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974)
Die Hose (The pants)
1927
F. Bruckmann printing house, Munich
Letterpress

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) 'Die Frau ohne Namen' (The woman without a name) 1927 (installation view)

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974)
Die Frau ohne Namen (The woman without a name) (installation view)
1927
Lithographische Anstalt Gebr. Obpacher AG, Munich
Lithographic Institute Gebr. Obpacher AG, Munich
Letterpress
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold (born Johannes Tzschichhold, also known as Iwan Tschichold, or Ivan Tschichold; 2 April 1902 – 11 August 1974) was a calligrapher, typographer and book designer. He played a significant role in the development of graphic design in the 20th century – first, by developing and promoting principles of typographic modernism, and subsequently (and ironically) idealising conservative typographic structures. His direction of the visual identity of Penguin Books in the decade following World War II served as a model for the burgeoning design practice of planning corporate identity programs. He also designed the much-admired typeface Sabon. …

This artisan background and calligraphic training set him apart from almost all other noted typographers of the time, since they had inevitably trained in architecture or the fine arts. It also may help explain why he never worked with handmade papers and custom fonts as many typographers did, preferring instead to use stock fonts on a careful choice from commercial paper stocks.

Although, up to this moment, he had only worked with historical and traditional typography, he radically changed his approach after his first visit to the Bauhaus exhibition at Weimar. After being introduced to important artists such as László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, Kurt Schwitters and others who were carrying out radical experiments to break the rigid schemes of conventional typography. He became sympathetic to this attempt to find new ways of expression and to reach a much more experimental way of working, but at the same time, felt it was important to find a simple and practical approach.

He became one of the most important representatives of the “new typography” and in a famous special issue of ‘typographic communications’ in 1925 with the title of “Elemental Typography”, he put together the new approaches in the form of a thesis.

After the election of Hitler in Germany, all designers had to register with the Ministry of Culture, and all teaching posts were threatened for anyone who was sympathetic to communism. Soon after Tschichold had taken up a teaching post in Munich at the behest of Paul Renner, they both were denounced as “cultural Bolshevists”. Ten days after the Nazis surged to power in March 1933, Tschichold and his wife were arrested. During the arrest, Soviet posters were found in his flat, casting him under suspicion of collaboration with communists. All copies of Tschichold’s books were seized by the Gestapo “for the protection of the German people”. After six weeks a policeman somehow found him tickets for Switzerland, and he and his family managed to escape Nazi Germany in August 1933.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) 'Die Frau ohne Namen' (The woman without a name) 1927

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974)
Die Frau ohne Namen (The woman without a name)
1927
Lithographische Anstalt Gebr. Obpacher AG, Munich
Lithographic Institute Gebr. Obpacher AG, Munich
Letterpress

 

 

As part of the bauhauswoche berlin 2019 (Bauhaus week Berlin 2019) the Kunstbibliothek is showing an historical exhibition room by the Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy.

This pioneering exhibition room, entitled Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung? (Where is typography headed?), was first shown in May 1929 in the Martin-Gropius-Bau as part of the exhibition Neue Typographie (“New Typography”), organised by the Staatliche Kunstbibliothek. Moholy-Nagy had been invited to design a room presenting the future of typography. He came up with 78 wall charts with photos, texts and pictures, all of which have been preserved. The exhibition room can therefore be shown again, complemented by additional posters, letterheads, and other specimens of New Typography from the Kunstbibliothek collection.

Moreover, well-known posters and advertisements from the Kunstbibliothek collection in the style known as New Typography augment the Moholy-Nagy exhibition. The selection includes works by Willi Baumeister, A. M. Cassandre, Walter Dexel, Johannes Molzahn, Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold. The functional graphic design of New Typography, a style of advertising designed by artists that gained wide acceptance in the 1920s, broke with a long design tradition in the printing trade. Its aim was to create a contemporary design: first by propagating a standardisation of fonts and the industrial DIN norms, and second, by promoting ideals of readability, clarity and directness in keeping with the principles of Constructivist Art.

The exhibition focuses on this large-scale presentation with which artist Moholy-Nagy summed up years of his own teaching work at the Bauhaus and the ideas and visions of New Typography, ranging from Jan Tschichold and Willi Baumeister to Herbert Bayer. The exhibition programme includes evening discussions evaluating Moholy-Nagy’s ideas from a contemporary standpoint. An important part of the programme will be the launch of a new publication on Moholy-Nagy’s historical exhibition, edited in collaboration with Gutenberg Design Lab at Mainz University of Applied Sciences.

Text from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing at right, Paul Schuitema’s 13 Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Beeldhouw 1927
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Paul Schuitema (1897-1973) '13 Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Beeldhouw' (13 Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures) 1927 (installation view)

 

Paul Schuitema (1897-1973)
13 Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Beeldhouw (13 Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures) (installation view)
1927
Kühn & Zoon printing house, Rotterdam
Lithograph
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Paul Schuitema (1897-1973) '13 Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Beeldhouw' (13 Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures) 1927

 

Paul Schuitema (1897-1973)
13 Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Beeldhouw (13 Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures)
1927
Kühn & Zoon printing house, Rotterdam
Lithograph

 

 

Paul Schuitema

Geert Paul Hendrikus Schuitema (February 27, 1897 in Groningen – October 25, 1973 in Wassenaar) was a Dutch graphic artist. He also designed furniture and expositions and worked as photographer, film director, painter and teacher for publicity design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

 

Industrial design

Schuitema studied at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Rotterdam. In the 1920s, he began to work on graphic design, applying the principles of De Stijl and constructivism to commercial advertising. Along with Gerard Kiljan and his famous colleague Piet Zwart, he followed ideas pioneered in the Soviet Union by El Lissitzky and Rodchenko, in Poland by Henryk Berlewi and in Germany by Kurt Schwitters.

During his employment at the NV Maatschappij Van Berkel Patent scale company in Rotterdam, Schuitema gained recognition for his original designs of stationery and publicity material, often using only the colours black, red and white and bold sans serif fonts. From 1926 on, he started working with photomontages, becoming one of the pioneers of this technique in the field of industrial design.

Even though he was a convinced socialist and often designed leftist publications directed at industrial workers, Schuitema also worked for major companies, such as Philips.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 1' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 1
Where is typography headed? Chart 1

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 12' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 12
Where is typography headed? Chart 12

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 22' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 22
Where is typography headed? Chart 22

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 34' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 34
Where is typography headed? Chart 34

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Where is typography headed? Chart 44' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?, Tafel 44
Where is typography headed? Chart 44

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948) 'Merz 11 Pelikan Nummer, Zeitschrift' 1924

 

Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948)
Merz 11 Pelikan Nummer, Zeitschrift (Merz 11 Pelikan number, magazine)
1924
© Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

 

Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Hermann Eduard Karl Julius Schwitters (20 June 1887 – 8 January 1948) was a German artist who was born in Hanover, Germany. Schwitters worked in several genres and media, including dadaism, constructivism, surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography, and what came to be known as installation art. He is most famous for his collages, called Merz Pictures.

 

Internationalism, 1922-1937

Merz (periodical)

As the political climate in Germany became more liberal and stable, Schwitters’ work became less influenced by Cubism and Expressionism. He started to organise and participate in lecture tours with other members of the international avant-garde, such as Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann and Tristan Tzara, touring Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, and Germany with provocative evening recitals and lectures.

Schwitters published a periodical, also called Merz, between 1923 and 1932, in which each issue was devoted to a central theme. Merz 5 1923, for instance, was a portfolio of prints by Hans Arp, Merz 8/9, 1924, was edited and typeset by El Lissitsky, Merz 14/15, 1925, was a typographical children’s story entitled The Scarecrow by Schwitters, Kätte Steinitz and Theo van Doesburg. The last edition, Merz 24, 1932, was a complete transcription of the final draft of the Ursonate, with typography by Jan Tschichold.

His work in this period became increasingly Modernist in spirit, with far less overtly political context and a cleaner style, in keeping with contemporary work by Hans Arp and Piet Mondrian. His friendship around this time with El Lissitzky proved particularly influential, and Merz pictures in this period show the direct influence of Constructivism.

Thanks to Schwitters’ lifelong patron and friend Katherine Dreier, his work was exhibited regularly in the US from 1920 onwards. In the late 1920s he became a well-known typographer; his best-known work was the catalogue for the Dammerstocksiedlung in Karlsruhe. After the demise of Der Sturm Gallery in 1924 he ran an advertising agency called Merzwerbe, which held the accounts for Pelikan inks and Bahlsen biscuits, amongst others, and became the official typographer for Hanover town council between 1929 and 1934. Many of these designs, as well as test prints and proof sheets, were to crop up in contemporary Merz pictures. In a manner similar to the typographic experimentation by Herbert Bayer at the Bauhaus, and Jan Tschichold’s Die neue Typographie, Schwitters experimented with the creation of a new more phonetic alphabet in 1927. Some of his types were cast and used in his work. In the late 1920s Schwitters joined the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation).

 

Exile, 1937-1948

Norway

As the political situation in Germany under the Nazis continued to deteriorate throughout the 1930s, Schwitters’ work began to be included in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) touring exhibition organised by the Nazi party from 1933. He lost his contract with Hanover City Council in 1934 and examples of his work in German museums were confiscated and publicly ridiculed in 1935. By the time his close friends Christof and Luise Spengemann and their son Walter were arrested by the Gestapo in August 1936 the situation had clearly become perilous.

On 2 January 1937 Schwitters, wanted for an “interview” with the Gestapo, fled to Norway to join his son Ernst, who had already left Germany on 26 December 1936. His wife Helma decided to remain in Hanover, to manage their four properties. In the same year, his Merz pictures were included in the Entartete Kunst exhibition titled in Munich, making his return impossible.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Egon Juda (German, b. 1895)
Einladung zur Ausstellung “Neue Typographie” (Invitation to the exhibition “New Typography”)
Berlin 1929
© Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

Installation views of the exhibition László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929 at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin showing at right,
Photos: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Prospekttitelblatt' (Prospectus title page) 1928 and 'film und foto' 1929 (installation view)

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Prospekttitelblatt (Prospectus title page) (installation view)
1928
film und foto
1929

in

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Wohin geht die typographische Entwicklung?
Where is typography headed?

1929
Photograph on card
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) '14 Bauhausbücher' 1928

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
14 Bauhausbücher
1928
Letterpress
5 7/8 x 8 1/4″ (14.9 x 21cm)

 

Johannes Molzahn (1892-1965) Wohung und Werkraum, Werkbundausstellung in Breslau (Apartment and workshop, Werkbund exhibition in Breslau) 1929 (installation view)

 

Johannes Molzahn (1892-1965)
Wohung und Werkraum, Werkbundausstellung in Breslau (Apartment and workshop, Werkbund exhibition in Breslau) (installation view)
1929
Schenkalowsky, Breslau (Wroclaw) printing house
Lithograph
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Johannes Ernst Ludwig Molzahn

Johannes Ernst Ludwig Molzahn was born 21 May 1892 in Duisburg. He learned drawing and photography, but later concentrated on painting. 1908-1914 he stayed in Switzerland. Molzahn became acquainted with Herwarth Walden, Walter Gropius, Theo van Doesburg and El Lissitzky. He was a member of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst. After World War I he worked as a graphic designer and through intervention of Bruno Taut became a graphics teacher in Magdeburg. He was forbidden to work by the Nazis in 1933 and fired.Eight of his works were shown in the exhibition of entartete Kunst in 1937.

He emigrated to the United States in 1938 and returned to Germany 1959, settling in Munich. He died there 31 December 1965.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Johannes Molzahn (1892-1965) 'Wohung und Werkraum, Werkbundausstellung in Breslau' (Apartment and workshop, Werkbund exhibition in Breslau) 1929

 

Johannes Molzahn (1892-1965)
Wohung und Werkraum, Werkbundausstellung in Breslau (Apartment and workshop, Werkbund exhibition in Breslau)
1929
Schenkalowsky, Breslau (Wroclaw) printing house
Lithograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'László Moholy-Nagy and New Typography: A Reconstruction of a Berlin Exhibition from 1929' at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

 

1929 (installation view)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Kunstbibliothek
Matthäikirchplatz
10785 Berlin

Opening hours:
Sunday 11.00 – 18.00
Monday closed
Tuesday 10.00 – 18.00
Wednesday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday 10.00 – 18.00
Saturday 11.00 – 18.00

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin website

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27
Sep
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘L’equilibriste, André Kertész’ at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours Part 2

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 27th October 2019
Visited September 2019 posted September 2020

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing

 

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nageur sous l’eau, Esztergom
Underwater swimmer, Esztergom
1918
Contact original

 

 

“”… especially haptic qualities are demanded of the deconstructionist performer, spectator, and reader; not to follow optically the ‘line of ideas’ in the text or in a picture and see only the representation proper, the surface, but to probe with the eyes the pictorial texture and even to enter the texture.”69 Such “touching” with the eye did not lead to a secure tactile experience of being firmly planted on the ground, for all grounds, all foundations, were suspect, however construed. We are, as Nietzsche knew, swimming in an endless sea, rather than standing on dry land. To “touch” a trace, groping blindly in the dark, is no more the guarantee of certainty than to see its residues.”

.
Gandelman, Claude. ‘Reading Pictures, Viewing Texts’. Bloomington, Indiana, 1991, p. 140 quoted in Martin Jay. ‘Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought’. Berkley: University of California Press, 1993, p. 512.

 

 

Touching with the eye

Part 2 of a large posting on the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours, which I saw in Tours in September 2019.

This posting contains photographs from his famous series “Distortions” (fascinating to see the original plates for the book of the same name, complete with cropping marks and red lead pencil annotations); American works from 1936 onwards, when Kertész moved to the United States to avoid the persecution of the Jews and the threat of World War II; and the late work colour Polaroids.

I admit that Kertész is not my favourite photographer. While I admire some of his photographs, I feel emotionally distant from most of them. Edward Clay observes in the quotation below that Kertész was “one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century… [His photographs] often convey a quiet mood of melancholy … He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal.”

Personally, I don’t find his photographs emotional nor lyrical, only a few poetic. Not melancholic, but geometric. In later works, he simplifies, simplifies, simplifies much like his friend Mondrian did. For me, the balance between sacred / geometry, the sacred geometry of the mystery of things, is often unbalanced in these images (particularly relevant, given the title of this exhibition). Is it enough just to turn the mundane into the surreal? Where does that lead the viewer? Is it enough to just observe, represent, without digging deeper.

At his best, in images such as Underwater swimmer, Esztergom (1918, above), Arm and Fan, New York (1937, below) and Washington Square, New York (1954, below) there is a structured, avant-garde mystery about the reality of the world, as re/presented through the object of the photograph, it’s physical presence. In Underwater swimmer, the body is stretched and distorted by an element, water, not a man-made mirror. His photographs from Hungary, Italy and early Paris possess a sensitivity of spirit that seems to have been excised from his life, the older he got. Far too often in later images, there is a “brittleness” to his photography, in which the object of reflection sits at the surface of the image, all sparkling in unflinching light. The single cloud oh so lonely in the sterile city; the man looking at the broken bench; the “buy, buy, buy” of consumer culture. You consumer Kertész’s later images, you do not reflect on them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. View Part 1 of the posting.

 

 

“André Kertész, one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century, whose work advocated for spontaneity over technical precision, has left a distinctive legacy of poetic images which form a bridge between the avant-garde and geometrical precision. A roamer for much of his life, his feelings of rootlessness manifest in his work and often convey a quiet mood of melancholy. …

Claiming “I am an amateur and I intend to stay that way for the rest of my life”, Kertesz was a great source of inspiration to photographic legends such as Cartier-Bresson.

He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal. Nothing was too plain or ordinary for his eye, since he had a special ability to breathe life into even the most ‘unremarkable’ subjects.”

.
Edward Clay. “André Kertész: between poetry and geometry,” on ‘The Independent Photographer’ website, May 19th 2020 [Online] Cited 26/08/2020

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #34' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #34 
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #40' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #40
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing photographs from the series Distortions, the bottom image showing at left, the photograph Underwater swimmer, Esztergom 1918
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Planches originales de la maquette du livre ‘Distortions’ (installation view)
Original plates of the model of the book ‘Distortions’ 
1975-76
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing photographs from the series Distortions
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #60' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #60 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #109' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #109 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #6' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #6 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #159' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #159 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #128' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #128 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #80' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #80 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris' 1927 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Portrait déformé (Visage de femme), Paris (installation view)
Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris
1927
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

One of the twentieth century’s great photographers, André Kertész (Budapest, 1894 – New York, 1985) left a prolific body of work spanning more than seventy years (1912-1984), a blend of the poetic and the intimate with its wellspring in his Hungarian culture. The Art of Poise: André Kertész traces this singular career, showcasing compositions that bear the stamp of Europe’s avant-garde art movements, from the artist’s earliest Hungarian photographs to the blossoming of his talent in France, and from his New York years to ultimate international recognition.

Kertész arrived in Paris in October 1925. Moving in avant-garde literary and artistic circles, he photographed his Hungarian friends, artists’ studios, street life and the city’s parks and gardens. In 1933 he embarked on his famous Distortions series of nudes deformed by funhouse mirrors, producing anamorphic images similar in spirit to the work of Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp and Henry Moore.

In addition to this profusion of activity, he explored the possibility of disseminating his work in publications. Between 1933 and the end of his life he had designed and published a total of nineteen books.

In 1936 Kertész and his wife Elizabeth left for New York, where he began with a brief assignment for Keystone, the world’s biggest photographic agency. He struggled, though, to carve out a place for himself in a context whose demands were very different from those of his Paris years.

Inspired by the rediscovery of his Hungarian and French negatives, from 1963 onwards he devoted himself solely to personal projects, and was offered retrospectives by the French National Library in Paris and MoMA in New York. This fresh recognition sparked a flurry of books in which he harked back to the high points of his oeuvre. In his last years, armed with a Polaroid, he returned to his earlier practice of everyday photography.

Text from the Jeu de Paume website for the earlier exhibition The Art of Poise: André Kertész

 

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Tulipe mélancolique, New York
Melancholic Tulip, New York
1939
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris (installation view)
1984
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris
1984
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at top left, Ballet, New York 1938; and at bottom left, Lake Placid 1954
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Lake Placid' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lake Placid (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan