Archive for the 'digital archive' Category

12
Nov
18

10th year anniversary of Art Blart

13th November 2008 – 13th November 2018

 

Art Blart 10 year anniversary

 

 

A big effort

Art Blart has a readership of 1,500 a day. It has become a research tool for artists and photographers around the world. It is also an important form of cultural memory, with over 1,300 posts in its archive. The site is itself being archived by Pandora from the National Library of Australia.

What I find most important about the archive is that it gives me the opportunity to promote artists, to promote ideas and thoughts about art and life and, most importantly, to shine a light on different aspects of art, from the under recognised concepts to the disenfranchised and forgotten artists.

Reproduced below is the first ever post on Art Blart with the key tags, life and death. Not a lot has changed in 10 years. My concerns in that first post are still present – what we are doing to the planet and to our culture, how we construct our histories and memories, and how we can embrace diversity and equality the world over. Text and images and powerful tools for promoting such egalitarian ideals.

I must thank all the amazing galleries around the world for suppling text and media images. Your efforts are truly appreciated, for without you the archive would be nothing. Your enthusiasm and willingness to help has been incredible.

And to you, the readers, I must thank you for your for your attention and continued patronage. While the website is a personal form of expression there is also a good dose of altruism amongst its postings. I hope my musings have enlightened your ideas on art and life for the better. I hope you have all enjoyed the ride as much as I have enjoyed making and writing the website.

I will continue to write into history and memory as much as I can in the following years.

Marcus

 

 

First ever post

13th November 2008

 

 

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Newman once told a reporter.

“The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster.”

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Paul Newman

 

 

See the original posting

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12
Nov
13

Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection at Historic New England, Boston, Mass. now available online

Historic New England

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I had never heard of this photographer before, but it is such a joy that these photographs have been digitised and are now available online. How gloriously elegant these yachts were (but still at the cutting edge of technology of their day), when compared with the ugly, contemporary America’s Cup trimarans.

All the photographs in this posting are wonderful for their classical eloquence and framing of the subject. I especially like the first image, George W. Wells (1900, below), as the photographer stands on a tug belching smoke that has gone out to meet the largest schooner in the world at the time. With land in the distance and a rope snaking across the water back to the tug, the lack of sail – along with the darkness of the hull and the attitude of the ship – make it seem as though this were a ghost ship. The other image I particularly like is Start of Schooners (1920, below). The angles of the three ships as they manoeuvre on a seemingly becalmed sea adds a wonderful aura to the photograph.

Can you imagine trying to take these photographs using a large format camera with dry-plate glass negatives on the open sea? While dry-plate photography with its fast exposure time and ease of use had made photography more practical, the difficulty of getting an in focus image on an open, exposed, rocking ship would have been enormous. That the artist achieved such outstanding results says a lot about his previsualisation and his expertise and craftsmanship as a photographer.

Marcus

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © Historic New England

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'George W. Wells' 1900-10-26

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
George W. Wells
1900-10-26
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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The first arrival of the new George W. Wells in Boston, then the world’s largest schooner and its first six masted schooner. The tug Storm King picked her up off Highland Light and N. L. Stebbins probably went on the Storm King to take this photo.

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'George W. Wells' 1900-10-26

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
George W. Wells
1900-10-26
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Gadabout' 1893-10-07

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Gadabout
1893-10-07
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Taken on the day of the first America’s Cup race between Vigilant and Valkyrie, 15 miles to windward and return, starting from Sandy Hook Lightship, Vigilant won.

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Egeria' 1886-07-09

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Egeria
1886-07-09
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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“Historic New England announced that it’s collection of Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographs will be accessible online on August 22, 2013. Stebbins, a celebrated marine photographer, captured the quintessential New England pastimes of yachting and racing, as well as an extraordinary variety of marine vessels. This spectacular photographic collection consists of approximately 6,000 original prints. Dating from the early 1880s to c. 1922, the images depict recreational sailing vessels, steamships, ferries, and police boats, as well as boatyards and other dockside facilities. The images are a record of an important era in maritime history and document commercial and recreational maritime activities that would eventually fade away due to changes in transportation and technology. Architectural views are also part of the collection.

Born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Stebbins developed a love of ships at a young age, and made an ocean voyage to South America as a young man. He published several books on marine and naval topics, including The New Navy of the United States (1912), The Illustrated Coast Pilot, with Sailing Directions (1891), and The Yachtsman’s Album (1896). Stebbins took roughly 25,000 photographs before his death in 1922. The digitization of the Stebbins collection is an important step in Historic New England’s ongoing Collections Access Project, which launched in 2010. The Northeast Document Conservation Center and the Boston Public Library in conjunction with the Digital Commonwealth participated in the effort.”

Text from the Art Daily website

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Puritan' 1885-08-03

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Puritan
1885-08-03
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Goelet Cup, Newport 

“Mr. N. L. Stebbins, the marine photographer, succeeded in getting a large number of views of the Puritan, Priscilla and other yachts in the race for the Goelet cups Monday [1885-08-03].” (Source: Anon. “Yachting Spray.” Boston Globe, August 9, 1885, p. 6)

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Mayflower' 1886-09-07

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Mayflower
1886-09-07
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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First race for the America’s Cup 1886, Mayflower won against Galatea

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'America's Cup Race: Start, Vigilant and Valkyrie' 1893-10-07

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
America’s Cup Race: Start, Vigilant and Valkyrie
1893-10-07
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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First America’s Cup race, 15 miles to windward and return, starting from Sandy Hook Lightship, Vigilant won

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins (January 9, 1847 – July 10, 1922) was a noted American marine photographer, whose surviving photographs document an important era in the development of American maritime activities, as sweeping technological and social changed revolutionized activity on the water, in military, commercial and leisure spheres… He became interested in photography in about 1882, shortly after the introduction of dry-plate photography, with its fast exposure time and ease of use, made photography more practical. With an interest in the sea, and little competition in that area, it was natural that he should specialize in maritime photography.

Over his working career as a commercial photographer (from 1884 to 1922), he took approximately 25,000 images. Of these, about 60% were of marine subjects (the majority of those being of leisure activities, but many are of military and commercial scenes, a valuable record for historians). The remainder include a wide variety of commercial work, including the theatre, railroads, home interiors, etc. His collection at his death included about 20,000 negatives, almost all on glass plates (the usual medium for high-resolution negatives in his time); it was bought by another photographer, and on his death, many of Stebbins’ plates were sold for scrap (tradition holds that they were used in greenhouses).

A few plates found their way to the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and another small group eventually wound up at the Mariners’ Museum, but the bulk of the remaining collection (about 5,000 images total, of which a little over 2,500 are the original glass negatives) were rescued for Historic New England by William Appleton, the founder of the Society. Almost all are of maritime subjects; very little of his non-maritime work survives.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'America's Cup Race: Two minutes after start, Valkyrie & Vigilant' 1893-10-09

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
America’s Cup Race: Two minutes after start, Valkyrie & Vigilant
1893-10-09
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Second America’s Cup race between Vigilant and Valkyrie, equilateral triangle, starting from Sandy Hook Lightship, Vigilant won

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'America's Cup Race: Vigilant at the mark' 1893-10-05

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
America’s Cup Race: Vigilant at the mark
1893-10-05
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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First America’s Cup race, 15 miles to windward and return, starting from Sandy Hook Lightship, Vigilant won.

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Colonia, Vigilant & Jubilee' 1893-08-11

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Colonia, Vigilant & Jubilee
1893-08-11
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Defender

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Defender
1895-07-20
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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First trial race between Defender and Vigilant, 30 miles windward and leeward from Scotland lightship. Defender’s first race and win. Defender, designed and built in 1895 by N. G. Herreshoff to defend the America’s Cup against Valkyrie III. Her bottom was polished bronze, but her topsides, deck beams, and some of her deck framing were aluminum (making her a giant battery with electrolysis).

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Elsemarie' 1895-08-02

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Elsemarie
1895-08-02
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Goelet Cup, Newport

N. L. Stebbins took photos from the Amadis (Boston Globe, Aug. 3, 1895, p. 1-2). Volunteer won the slop class (after Defender had been disabled by a broken gaff); Emerald the schooner class.

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Gitana' 1888-06-10

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Gitana
1888-06-10
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Jubilee' 1893-09-07

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Jubilee
1893-09-07
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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First trial race to choose an America’s Cup defender

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Start of Schooners' 1920-07-10

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Start of Schooners
1920-07-10
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer) 'Troubadour' 1888-08-14

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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins 1847-1922 (Photographer)
Troubadour
1888-08-14
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
© Historic New England

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Historic New England website

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20
Jun
13

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: South Yarra and surrounds, 1994

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I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

All images © Marcus Bunyan but can be used freely anywhere with the proper acknowledgement. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Stained glass, cracked' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Stained glass, cracked
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'White door 1' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
White door 1
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Damien, 1994' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Damien, 1994
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Night repair' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Night repair
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Jerry holding a brush, South Yarra' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Jerry holding a brush, South Yarra
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Jerry behind safety screen, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Jerry behind safety screen, Punt Road, South Yarra
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Presence' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Presence
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Nautilus shell in cup' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Nautilus shell in cup
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Jerry with shaved head' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Jerry with shaved head
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Undergrowth' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Undergrowth
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'White door 2' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
White door 2
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Damien sitting outside his flat, South Yarra, 1994' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Damien sitting outside his flat, South Yarra, 1994
1994
Silver gelatin photograph
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Marcus Bunyan. 'Trees, capstone, shadows' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Trees, capstone, shadows
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Damien with snake' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Damien with snake
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Glass bird, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Glass bird, Punt Road, South Yarra
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Easter Sunday' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Easter Sunday
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Capstone, night, Windsor train station' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Capstone, night, Windsor train station
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Paul, cock on anvil' 1994

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Marcus Bunyan
Paul, cock on anvil
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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19
Jan
12

marcus bunyan black and white archive: self-portraits and nudes, 1991/2

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I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

All images © Marcus Bunyan but can be used freely anywhere with the proper acknowledgement. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

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Marcus Bunyan
Self-portrait in Punk Jacket
1991/2

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Marcus Bunyan
Marcus Sucking His Thumb
1991/2

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Marcus Bunyan
Marcus in his Punk Jacket, Punt Road, South Yarra
1991/2

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Marcus Bunyan
Marcus as The Fool (posing for the sculptor Fredrick White)
1991/2

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Marcus Bunyan
Nude, in the Flat, Rear of Derelict House, 455, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992

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Marcus Bunyan
Nude on Floor (with Clifford Last)
1992

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Marcus Bunyan
Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992

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Marcus Bunyan
Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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16
Jul
11

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘At Newport’ series 1991

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I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

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1991

‘At Newport’ series

This series of photographs was taken in Melbourne at the old Victorian Railway’s Newport Workshops and formed the second part of my first solo exhibition, ‘Of Myth, Magic and Music’ held in 1991. Some of the titles e.g. ‘Fords are a Joke, GMH are shit’ (1991, below) are taken from the graffiti scrawled on various surfaces. All are silver gelatin photographs on fibre-based paper.

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Fords are a Joke, GMH are shit’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Harrys got a…’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Screened figure’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Heavy springs’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Untitled’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘I, Robot’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Large Anvil’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Spring, Turrets, Keep and Ladder’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Big Cogs’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Coronation’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Frank’s Apron’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hand is fucked, Farm is flooded, Caravan drifted away I’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hand is fucked, Farm is flooded, Caravan drifted away II’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Untitled’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hoe with Surging Rainwater’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms I’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms II’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms III’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms IV’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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28
Apr
09

The Donora Digital Collection

April 2009

 

A shot of the Wire Works Acid Plant from across the Monongahela River nd

 

Unknown photographer
A shot of the Wire Works Acid Plant from across the Monongahela River
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

I stumbled across this digital collection quite by accident when researching something entirely different and was amazed by some of the powerful images that reflect life in a Pennsylvanian industrial town. Sadly, the The Donora Digital Collection website is now no longer online.

The last photograph is one of the most painful and emotive I have seen in a long time. Man in suit underneath train

Sitting in a suit under a train this photograph says nothing but everything about this man’s life. He sits in the dirt, crumpled suit, dirty shirt, filthy hands, head bowed, one armed with his left suit sleeve hanging limply at his side, eyes daubed with dark rings staring straight at the camera under glowering lids. This is me this is who I am! he declares. Sitting in the dirt in a suit under a train.

Perhaps he was a odd job worker in the town, but he doesn’t wear a labourers clothes and the suit is incongruous with his dirty hand. Perhaps he was a hobo (A hobo is a migrant worker or homeless vagrant, especially one who is impoverished) hopping from town to town on the railcars hoping not to get caught. From the photograph it looks like the 1920s. The dark shadow of the train looms menacingly over him and two steel poles lay abandoned by the tracks. I can’t make out what the writing says directly above him and I am unsure whether it is written on the side of the train or on the photograph itself.

But it is his text… the marking an anonymous epitaph for his life: “I was here, I lived.”

And I thank God he did.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image

 

 

Looking toward the Zinc Works in Donora, PA from Webster, PA, 1948

 

Unknown photographer
Looking toward the Zinc Works in Donora, PA from Webster, PA
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Open Hearth and Rod Yard nd

 

Unknown photographer
Open Hearth and Rod Yard
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Wire workers in mill near large cables, August, 29, 1925

 

Unknown photographer
Wire workers in mill near large cables, August, 29, 1925
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Acid storage area nd

 

Unknown photographer
Acid storage area
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“The month of October, 2008 marks the 60th Anniversary of a 1948 Donora smog incident that claimed the lives of at least 21 people and sickened thousands. All signs pointed towards the emissions from the world’s largest zinc mill and a weather inversion that encompassed the geographical horseshoe of the Mon Valley. Sixty years later a museum opened on McKean Avenue to preserve and share the unique history of Donora, PA and to celebrate the clean air movement that followed. This Digital Collection is the site of a special exhibit devoted to the arduous process of digitally preserving and cataloging hundreds of the primary source materials that have survived the test of time. These materials provide special insight into industrial and social aspects of American life in southwestern Pennsylvania and date from the beginning of Donora at the turn of the 20th century up to the current period.”

Text from the The Donora Digital Collection website [Online] Cited 24/04/2009 no longer available online

 

Workers among huge gear mechanisms nd

 

Unknown photographer
Workers among huge gear mechanisms
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Workers and crane inside the Wire Works, July 14, 1925

 

Unknown photographer
Workers and crane inside the Wire Works, July 14, 1925
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Man in suit underneath train nd

 

Unknown photographer
Man in suit underneath train
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Donora Digital Collection
Donora, PA: From its Origins to the Nationwide Case for Clean Air

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28
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Plant Studies by Karl Blossfeldt and Related Works’ at Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne

Exhibition dates: March 13th – 17th June 2009

 

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

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Acanthus - Bear's breech' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Acanthus – Bear’s breech
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

 

Die Photographische Sammlung presents Plant Studies by Karl Blossfeldt and Related Works, an exhibition presented by Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne in co-operation with the Berlin University of the Arts, compiled by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Rajka Knipper and Claudia Schubert. The exhibition will present for the first time in this volume the famous and influential plant studies by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) from the collection of the Berlin University of the Arts as original prints. Blossfeldt’s photographs will be accompanied by the artist’s herbaria and sculptures based on plants, the latter produced in cooperation with his teacher Moritz Meurer.

The amalgamation and presentation of the various groups of work from the Berlin Blossfeldt collection provides detailed insight into the working style of the artist, who taught the study of natural forms in Berlin for over thirty years. His plant photographs were used primarily as reference aids during lessons in his classes. It was only towards the end of his working life that his photographs became known to the larger public through an exhibition at the Galerie Nierendorf in Berlin in 1926.The publication of the book Art Forms in Nature in 1928 led to an ongoing appreciation of his photographs. Karl Blossfeldt developed in year-long concentration on one theme a highly aesthetic picture language which up until today still fascinates the viewer with its clarity and focus on the object.

The exhibition highlights the topic of plant studies against a background of research into form and structure using selected historical and contemporary works. They mirror the development and technical possibilities of the medium, as well as the artistic reflection into their characteristics and decorative aspects. Thus the scope of the 300 exhibits reaches from detailed analyses of the form of individual botanical structures to the documentation of complex natural and populated areas, up to a symbolic contemplation of plants.
The exhibition is the result of years of cooperation between the Universität der Künste Berlin and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, two institutions committed to the ongoing academic study and extensive public presentation of the Karl Blossfeldt collection in the possession of the Universität der Künste.

The presentation gives Die Photographische Sammlung once again an opportunity to draw attention to its own institutional orientation. In addition to the co-operation on the work by Karl Blossfeldt these include avant-garde objective and conceptual photographic works, which developed in particular in line with the sense of a new era in the 1920s and the 1960s/1970s or are artistically related to them. Works which the Cologne institution purchased during the past years in connection with the botanical subject or were obtained as permanent loans, are now part of the current presentation. They include works by Pietro Guidi, August Kotzsch, Paul Dobe, works from the Folkwang-Auriga Verlag, by Fred Koch, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Else Thalemann, August Sander, Ruth Lauterbach-Baehnisch, Ruth Hallensleben, Dr. Herbert W. Franke and Lawrence Beck. Although works by the younger artists Natascha Borowsky and Simone Nieweg are already part of the collection, in light of their more recent work both artists have made photographs from their own collections available for the show.

The current show is a thematically oriented insight into Die Photographische Sammlung’s collection which ranges from the historical to the contemporary and in the last few years has been extended by a number of corresponding groups of photographic works. In order to provide a comprehensive, but lively background to Karl Blossfeld’s work and to display illuminative positions, which were frequently mentioned in connection with the reception of Blossfeldt’s work, but were rarely, if ever, presented together in exhibitions, and also to permit new assessments and links, important loans have been integrated into the exhibition. They have been borrowed from the Karl-Blossfeldt-Archiv/Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich, which contains the largest collection of original photographs by the artist.

Karl Blossfeldt received essential support from Moritz Meurer (1839-1916) who worked as a graphic artist and painter, and for whom Blossfeldt worked as an assistant in Rome from 1892 to 1895. On the basis of Meurer’s concept, reference aids in the form of sculptures and drawings, as well as photographs, were developed for later use in lessons. Meurer’s idea, to take the basic forms in nature, which could be seen in the composition of a plant, as models for architecture, artistic and craftwork objects or ornaments, was integrated by Blossfeldt into his photographs.

According to the records, attention was drawn to Karl Blossfeldt’s work in particular by the fact that the Berlin gallerist Karl Nierendorf heard about his work and presented the first exhibition of his photographs outside the school context in 1926. The plant photographs, still under the influence of the ornamental art nouveau although more as a reaction to it were highly appreciated in the early days of New Objectivity. These studies seemed to put into practice the newly formed principles contained in the art of the 1920s, in which there was a demand for things to be presented without artistic digression, in a clear, authentic pictorial language, at the same time providing insight into their nature. It is therefore even more surprising that Blossfeldt was able to achieve this so easily, considering that he accomplished it seemingly uninfluenced by questions of artistic or photographic history categories. His motivation stemmed from his didactic and pragmatic aims to depict plant forms with precise accuracy, in order to provide flawless reference aids which would encourage his students to transform them artistically. His straightforward, passionate concentration on one theme, which he almost endlessly varied within a limited field, opened it up for comparative viewing. In particular since the 1970s, in the light of a new-orientation of the medium, his work was highly regarded and gained indirect influence on contemporary art, to the extent that knowledge of his images influences today s viewing perspectives.

On the occasion of the exhibition Plant Studies by Karl Blossfeldt and Related Works Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur is presenting on its website a directory they have created of all 631 photographs, 39 herbaria and 57 sculptures from the Universität der Künste’s Karl Blossfeldt collection together with documents from the University archive. A distinctive feature of the research is the fact that every photograph is accompanied not only by a concordance of primary and secondary literature but also Blossfeldt negatives and transparencies from the Deutsche Fotothek in Dresden and, in the near future, from the Karl Blossfeldt Archive/Ann and Jürgen Wilde. The website provides a text forum on the topic, which uses selected documents to illustrate Blossfeldt’s teaching work in the context of the history of the University and includes various aspects of his reception in publications and exhibitions.

Press release from Die Photographische Sammlung

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Cucurbita - Pumpkin tendrils' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Cucurbita – Pumpkin tendrils
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Allium ostrowskianum - garlic plant' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Allium ostrowskianum – garlic plant
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

 

“In 1928 Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) published the now legendary photographic book “Art Forms in Nature.” Brought together were a selection of images of plants that this craftsman had photographed only as illustrative material for his students at the college in Berlin. He photographed the plants isolated in front of a neutral background, their blossoms, buds, stems, umbels and seed capsules often greatly magnified to serve as a distinct model for the decorative art forms of the Art Nouveau movement, whose own bloom period was already fading …

It is quite clearly the particular combination of subject matter and photographic style that gives the works a classic timelessness, allowing them to be discovered “afresh” again and again. So the isolating, monumental and formalistic approach to nature not only tied in well with concepts of New Functionalism, but was also successively interpreted as illustrating the relationship between Art and Nature and as a precursor of Conceptual Art.”

Text from the Karl Blossfeldt Archive website

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Chrysanthemum segetum - Feverfew' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Chrysanthemum segetum – Feverfew
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Dipsacus laciniatus - Cutleaf Teasel' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Dipsacus laciniatus – Cutleaf Teasel
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

 

“He photographed plants by the thousands – photographs which feature flowers, buds, branched stems, clusters or seed capsules shot directly from the side, seldom from an overhead view, and rarely from a diagonal perspective. He usually placed the subjects of his photographs against white or grey cardboard, sometimes against a black background. Hardly ever can details of the rooms be detected. The light for his shots was obtained from northern windows, making it diffuse, but it fell from the side, creating volume. The technique and processing conditions were very simple; only the medium size of the negative format was somewhat out of the ordinary. Nothing detracted from the subject. This man produced such pictures for over thirty years.

The man’s name was Karl Blossfeldt, and his life’s achievement occupies a firm place in the history of 20th-century art, although the aims of his undertaking place him firmly within the 19th century. Blossfeldt shares this bridging of two centuries with other great collectors in the history of photography, such as the Parisian Eugene Atget, and it is to this bridging of two centuries that his influence may be attributed today …

The plant photographs were produced by simple means. Legend has it that a relatively straight-forward homemade camera was used, one common in its time and not very large, with a format of 9 X 12 cm. The glass plates which served as negatives were coated with inexpensive but not completely neutral-coloured orthochromatic emulsion, and occasionally – after 1902, as they became more widely available – with panchromatic emulsions, making possible a neutral reproduction of the colour red in halftones. Since the first emulsion was thin and therefore enabled high contrast with extremely sharp edges, it served especially to stress the structural elements. It was thus used primarily for photographs with white or grey backgrounds. The rarer photos with panchromatic emulsions were used to illustrate entire clusters or beds of flowers with a wider variation of chromatic values or halftones.”

Text by Rolf Sachse from the book Karl Blossfeldt Benedikt Taschen Verlag (April 1997) available on Amazon.

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Papaver orientale - Oriental Poppy' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Papaver orientale – Oriental Poppy
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

 

Originally developed from a practice at the Unterrichtsanstalt des Königlichen Kunstgewerbemuseums Berlin [Institute of the Berlin Royal Arts and Crafts Museum] at the end of the 19th century and designed specifically for use as teaching materials, Karl Blossfeldt’s plant photographs rank today among the classic works of art and photography history.

Blossfeldt taught “Modelling from Live Plants” from 1899 to 1930, first at the Unterrichtsanstalt des Königlichen Kunstgewerbemuseums, later at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für Freie und Angewandte Kunst [United State Schools for Fine and Applied Arts] that emerged from the Unterrichtsanstalt’s amalgamation with the Hochschule für Bildende Künste [University of the Visual Arts] – predecessors of the present-day Berlin University of the Arts. A major role in the introduction of that subject was played by Moritz Meurer, for whom Karl Blossfeldt worked as a scholarship-holder in Rome from 1892 to 1895. There, prepared plant specimens, sculptures, castings, drawings and photographs were made as models for classroom use. Blossfeldt took up and systematically developed Meurer’s idea of using the basic natural forms inherent in the structure of a plant for the design of architectural, art or craft objects and ornaments.

A letter written to the director of the Arts and Crafts Museum in 1906 shows that Blossfeldt was already in possession of thousands of photographs, from which he intended gradually to make prints. The plan to enlarge the images came about for a number of reasons:

  • The plants that Blossfeldt collected for his students underwent relatively rapid change, either because they grew or because they wilted and withered. Captured in a photograph, they became a lasting model
  • Photographic enlargements allowed even the tiniest natural forms to be made out
  • Photographic enlargements offered the opportunity to present “unadulterated nature” – in contrast to sketched enlargements, which Blossfeldt contended “always contain a subjective element”
  • Blossfeldt wanted his material seen as a specimen collection that would also be available for future generations of students

.
There is no detailed record showing the technical facilities at Karl Blossfeldt’s disposal. The Karl Blossfeldt Archive/Ann and Jürgen Wilde and the Deutsche Fotothek in Dresden have preserved glass plates and transparencies of various formats (6/6.5 x 9 cm, 9 x 12 cm, 9 x 18 cm and 13 x 18 cm). Blossfeldt’s camera – or cameras, because he may have had several – is known to have been an entirely or partly home-made affair. The work collages in the collection of the Karl Blossfeldt Archive/Ann and Jürgen Wilde give a good idea of his negatives because the images that appear in them are from contact prints made by Blossfeldt.

The fact that Karl Blossfeldt became a major celebrity was due to the fortunate circumstance that his photographs came to the attention of the Berlin gallerist Karl Nierendorf. He staged the first exhibition of Blossfeldt’s work in a non-school context in 1926, presenting it alongside sculptures from Africa and New Guinea and work by the artist Richard Janthur. In 1928, in another Nierendorf initiative, Urformen der Kunst [Art Forms in Nature] was published with 120 plates of plants by Blossfeldt. The book was given such a rapturous reception that the following years saw more editions published and foreign-language editions launched in English, French and Swedish. These studies were very much in tune with the new maxim of 1920s art that called for things to be represented authentically, with no artistic frills, in a clear visual idiom designed to explore and reveal their nature. The fact that Blossfeldt succeeded in this is all the more astonishing since he started out working with no thoughts of pushing forward any boundaries in art or photography. He was primarily motivated by a didactic and pragmatic intention to produce highly accurate plant images which, as models for study, would reveal natural forms to the human eye and inspire students to turn them into art.

With his passionate concentration on a single subject, addressed in close-up in almost infinite variations and thus revealed for comparative examination, Blossfeldt became a highly respected figure, especially after the re-think on photography in the 1970s. As a result, he has had an indirect influence on contemporary art and knowledge of his work helps shape the way we view art today. Karl Blossfeldt did not experience his success for long. He died in December 1932, the year in which his second book Wundergarten der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) was published. The largest collections of his photographs are in the Karl Blossfeldt Archive/Ann and Jürgen Wilde, the Archive of the Berlin University of the Arts and the Deutsche Fotothek Dresden.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Papaver Orientalis - Oriental Poppy capsules' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Papaver Orientalis – Oriental Poppy capsules
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Dryopteris filix mas - Common male fern' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Dryopteris filix mas – Common male fern
before 1928
Gelatin silver print
Karl Blossfeldt Collection at the University of the Arts Berlin

 

 

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur
Im Mediapark 7
50670 Cologne
Phone: 0049-(0)221-88895 300

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Closed Wednesdays

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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