Archive for the 'documentary photography' Category

20
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘Brassaï’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 13th May 2018

Curator: Mr. Peter Galassi

 

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino [View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino]' c. 1933

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino
View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino

c. 1933
[Nuit / Night 53]
40.1 x 51 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

For those who know how to look

Not everyone can see. It takes a great eye and a great mind, and the liberation of that mind, to be able to transform the mundane, the everyday, the vernacular – into art. Brassaï’s folklore, his mythology of life, suggests that the life of others (those living on the edge) is as valuable and essential to the formation of culture as any other part of existence.

Brassaï’s work comes alive at night and, as Alejandra Uribe Ríos observes, “The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration.” While he got some of his friends to stage scenes for his book Paris by night – acting as prostitutes and customers hanging around in back alleys – it matters not one bit. The artist was embedded in this world and represents what he knows, what he has seen in his mind’s eye.

The density of his photographs is incredible – their atmosphere thick and heavy; revealing and beautiful. “In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.” The first and last, a circular compaction of time and space into the eternal present, objects as they are in themselves and will always be.

That fascinating presence can be felt even today, for that is what the time freeze of photography does: it “look backwards and forwards in the same instance.”

Brassaï saw something clearly, so that we might see it now. Look at the seemingly mundane space portrayed in Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (1933, below) from his book Paris de jour / Paris by Day. The photograph could be taken at night, but it is day! The small amount of sunlight falls on the tied-back curtain in the doorway; the crumpled mat lies outside the door; the two doors compete for our visual attention – one the solid presence that holds up the left hand side of the image, the other the vanishing point in the distance; and the eye is led down to this door by the pavement and the gutter with a band of water emphasising the form. The verticality of the worn and ancient stone work is emphasised by the modern metal box in front of it, leading the eye up to the Concierge sign only, mind you, for numbers 5 & 7. But then the mystery… what is going on above the ancient door at the rear – the sky, a ceiling, another wall lit by the last rays of the sun? Such a dense, complex image that requires an intimate knowledge of the mystery of place, in both the artist and the viewer.

Here we see Brassaï in Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème, standing in the snow at night, heavy overcoat, hat, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, squinting through his camera to previsualise not just the photograph he is taking, but it’s final, physical embodiment, the print. In our world today of Insta-photos, millions and millions of photographs that mean basically nothing, and where anyone without training can pick up a camera and think of themselves a photographer, there is something to be said for taking the time to train and educate your eye and your mind. Only then might you reveal something about the world and, possibly, yourself as well.

Marcus

@mapfrefcultura #expo_brassai

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

 

 

“I was eager to penetrate this other world, this fringe world, the secret, sinister world of mobsters, outcasts, toughs, pimps, whores, addicts, inverts. Rightly or wrongly, I felt at the time that this underground world represented Paris at its least cosmopolitan, its most alive, its most authentic, that in these colourful faces of its underworld there had been preserved from age to age, almost without alteration, the folklore of its most remote past.”

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Brassaï, 1976

 

“In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.”

.
Brassaï, undated note

 

“To oblige the model to behave as if the photographer isn’t there really is to stage a comic performance. What’s natural is precisely not to dodge the photographer’s presence. The natural thing in that situation is for the model to pose honestly.”

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Brassaï, undated note

 

“The night suggests, he does not teach. The night finds us and surprises us by its strangeness; it liberates in us the forces that, during the day, are dominated by reason.”

“Night does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbes and surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces within us which are dominated by our reason during the daytime.”

.
Brassaï

 

“The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration. The train tracks, the lovers, the fog, the posters, the ballet and the cabarets. Everything is worthy of portraying for those who know how to look and that is undoubtedly one of Brassai’s merits: embodying the everyday, rescuing the magical, the lyrical, the mystery of common life, and doing it with elegance, converting the seemingly trivial into a artwork.”

.
Alejandra Uribe Ríos

 

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Porteria, París [Concierge's Lodge, Paris]' 1933

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Porteria, París
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris

1933
[Paris de jour / Paris by Day 686]
29.3 x 22.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro' 1930-32

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
La Torre Eiffel vista a través del reixat del Trocadéro
La torre Eiffel vista a través de la reja del Trocadero
The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro

1930-32
[Nuit / Night 1; variant of Paris de nuit / Paris by Night, plate 57]
30 x 23.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Apagant un fanal, Rue Émile Richard
Apagando una farola, rue Émile Richard
Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard

c. 1932
[Nuit / Night 267]
22.9 x 28.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire' 1934

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire
1934
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 30.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie' 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Meuca, a prop de la Place d’Italie
Prostituta, cerca de la Place d’Italie
Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie
1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 333]
29.9 x 22.9 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

Introduction

Fundación MAPFRE is launching its 2018 exhibition programme in Barcelona with the exhibition Brassaï, a comprehensive survey of the career of this celebrated Hungarian-born French photographer whose work helped to define the spirit of Paris in the 1930s. Brassaï was one of the most important of the group of European and American photographers whose work in the inter-war years greatly enriched photography’s potential as a form of artistic expression.

The artist began to take photographs in 1929 or 1930, maintaining an intense level of activity throughout the 1930s. Brassaï’s principal subject was Paris, where he settled in 1924, intending to become a painter. Around the end of World War I the artistic centre of the city had shifted from Montmartre to Montparnasse where most of the artists, constituting a major international community, lived like a large family. Brassï was fascinated by the French capital and later said that he started to take photographs in order to express his passion for the city at night. Soon, however, he also began to take portraits, nudes, still life, images of everyday life and depictions of picturesque corners of the city and moments captured during the day.

Brassaï’s confidence in the power of blunt, straightforward photography to transform what it describes, as well as his talent for extracting from ordinary life iconic images of lasting force, won him an important place among the pioneers of modern photography.

This exhibition offers a survey of the artist’s career through more than 200 works (vintage photographs, a number of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material) grouped into twelve thematic sections, of which the two devoted to Paris in the 1930s are the most important. Produced by Fundación MAPFRE and curated by Peter Galassi, chief curator of the Department of Photography at the MoMA, New York, from 1991 to 2011, this is the first retrospective exhibition on Brassaï to be organised since 2000 (Centre Pompidou) and the first to be held in Spain since 1993.

The exhibition benefits from the exceptional loan of the Estate Brassaï Succession (Paris) and other loans from some of the most important institutions and private collections in Europe and the United States, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou (París), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, David Dechman and Michel Mercure, ISelf Collection (London) and Nicholas and Susan Pritzker.

 

The Photographer – Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)

Brassaï (the pseudonym of Gyulá Halász) was born in 1899 in Brassó, Transylvania (present-day Braşov in Rumania), from where he subsequently took his name for signing his photographs (Brassaï means “from Brassó”).

After studying art in Budapest and Berlin, he moved to Paris and very soon began to earn occasional money and establish a reputation by selling articles and caricatures to German and Hungarian magazines. Photographs were rapidly replacing traditional magazine illustrations and Brassaï also functioned as a one-man photo-agency. Eventually he started making photographs himself, abandoning painting and sculpting, disciplines for which he nevertheless retained great interest and to which he returned during his career. Around 1900, an aesthetic movement had justified its claim that photography was as a fine art by imitating the appearance of the traditional arts. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that a new generation rejected that approach and began exploring the artistic potential of plain, ordinary photographs. When the tradition that they launched began to achieve widespread recognition in the 1970s, Brassaï would be recognised as one of its leading figures.

During the German occupation of Paris, Brassaï was obliged to stop taking photographs and he thus returned to drawing and writing. In 1949 he obtained French nationality. After the war he once again devoted part of his time to photography and traveled regularly to undertake commissions for the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar. He died in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (France) in 1984 without ever returning to his native Brassó.

 

The sections of the exhibition

Paris by Night

Paris by Night was in fact the result of a commission which the publisher Charles Peignot gave to the young and still unknown Brassaï. The book, of which a copy is presented in the exhibition, was published in December 1932 and was extremely successful thanks in part to its modern design, pages without margins and richly toned photogravures. Brassaï continued to explore nocturnal Paris throughout the 1930s, developing a personal vision that is embodied in numerous prints in the exhibition.

They evoke the city’s dynamic, vibrant mood: the close-up image of a gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral rather than a conventional view of that building, or the Pont Royal seen from the water rather than from above. These are almost always silent images in which time seems to stand still.

Pleasures

When Brassaï reorganised his archive just after World War II, gathered under the rubric Plaisirs he included his pictures of small-time criminals and prostitutes and other figures of Parisian low life together with images of Parisian entertainments, including cheap dance halls to local street fairs to the annual entertainments designed to flout bourgeois conventions. Brassaï obtained permission to work backstage at the famous Folies Bergère, which allowed him to observe everything that was happening from a high viewpoint. His images of Parisian low life transpose to the vivid new medium of photography a vital mythology that had been elaborated in literature and the traditional visual arts.

No one photographed Paris by night as skilfully as Brassaï but he also built up a considerable collection of images of the city by day. Its famous monuments, picturesque corners and details of everyday life are the subject of many of these photographs. Some of his images of the early 1930s reveal his interest in daring geometrical forms and abrupt truncation, for example his famous images of the city’s cobblestones. But even his boldest graphic experiments reflect his abiding fascination with the continuities of an enduring human civilisation.

Paris by day

Nobody photographed Paris at night as accurately as Brassaï, but also accumulated a considerable collection of images of the city in daylight. Monuments, picturesque corners or details of everyday life play a large part in these scenes.

Some of his photographs from the thirties also reflect his interest in geometric styles or abrupt cuts, as shown by the famous cobblestone images of city streets. But even these bolder graphic experiments reflect, like the rest of his images of the city, his permanent fascination with what for him was presented as a remote and inexhaustible tradition, in constant development.

Graffiti

The notion of graffiti as a powerful art form first emerged in the 20th century. Like African tribal objects, children’s art or that of the mentally ill, graffiti was considered more expressive and vital than the refined forms of traditional western art.

Brassaï was in fact one of the first to focus on this subject matter. He was an inveterate hoarder who throughout his life collected all types of cast-off objects and from almost the moment he began to take photographs he used the medium to record the graffiti he saw on the walls of Paris. He preferred examples of graffiti that had been incised or scratched to drawn or painted ones, as well as those in which the irregularity of the wall itself played an important role in aesthetic terms. He took hundreds of images of this type of which only a small selection is on display here.

Minotaure

Between the time of his arrival in Paris in early 1924 and his first steps in photography taken six years later, Brassaï built up a large circle of friends within the international community of artists and writers in Montparnasse. They included Les deux aveugles [The two blind men], as the art critics Maurice Raynal and the Greek-born E. Tériade referred to themselves. In December 1932, the same month that Paris de nuit was published, Tériade invited Brassaï to photograph Picasso and his studios to illustrate the first issue of Minotaure, the deluxe art magazine that would be published in 1933 by the Swiss publisher Albert Skira. Copies of various different issues are on display in this section. This collaboration marked the starting point of Brassaï’s friendship with Picasso, one of the most important of his entire life. Over the following years Brassaï would play an important role in the life of the magazine, particularly with the projects for which he collaborated with Salvador Dalí and as an illustrator to texts by André Breton, although in some cases as an artist in his own right. The first number of the magazine included a series of nudes by Brassaï and his growing graffiti series, while number 7 devoted several pages to Brassaï’s nocturnal visions. All these evoke the artist’s modernity and his relationship with the most important circles of the Parisian avant-garde.

Personages / Characters

In 1949 in his prologue to Camera in Paris, a monograph on contemporary photographers, Brassaï paraphrased Baudelaire in The Painter of modern Life and established a line of continuity between the art of the photographer and that of some of the great artists of the past such as Rembrandt, Goya and Toulouse-Lautrec. In this sense he explained how, like them, photography could elevate ordinary subjects to the level of the universal. The people depicted in this gallery reflect that idea as not only do we see a worker at Les Halles market, a transvestite or a penitent in Seville, but through the dignity given to them by the image all of them exceed their individuality and come to represent a collective.

Places and things

One of Brassaï’s earliest projects, which was never produced, was a book of photographs of cacti. Many years later, in 1957, he made a short film on animals. Most of his photographs of objects or places, however, focus on human creations, reflecting his boundless curiosity about the people that made them, used them or lived in them.

During his trips Brassaï took numerous photographs of which a small selection are on display here: a view of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia from a high viewpoint, a painted wall in Sacromonte, Granada, and a shop window in New Orleans. In some of these images, such as Vineyard, Château Mouton-Rothschild (June 1953), the viewpoint jumps sharply from the foreground to the background, splitting the image in half along its horizontal axis – a pictorial device invented by Brassaï.

Society

During the mid-1930s and just after World War II, Brassaï photographed at more than two dozen gatherings of Parisian high society – costume balls, fancy soirées, and other events both at private homes and such elegant venues as the Ritz – as well as the famous Nuit de Longchamp (the race course just outside of Paris) every summer from 1936 to 1939. At these events he had much less opportunity to intervene in the action than in Parisian dance halls and bars, but he nonetheless was able to create lasting images of a distinct social reality. Perhaps the most extraordinary of them is his photograph of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Art Nouveau interior of the swank restaurant Maxim’s (completed just a few years before the Casa Garriga Nogués). Although that image has been famous since it was made in 1949, Brassaï’s series on Parisian high society is poorly known, and several of the photographs are presented for the first time in this exhibition.

Body of a woman

During the occupation of Paris (1940-1944), Brassaï declined to work for the Germans and so was unable to photograph openly. His only income seems to have come from a clandestine commission from Picasso to photograph the master’s sculptures. Partly at Picasso’s urging, Brassaï returned to drawing. Most of the drawings that he made in 1943-45, like most of the drawings that survive from his time as an art student in Berlin in 1921-22, are female nudes. The same is the case with many of the sculptures that he started to produce after the war, often made from stones worn by the effect of water.

It would be foolish to attempt to disguise the intensity of Brassaï’s male gaze behind the curtain of a purely aesthetic pursuit of “form.” What is distinctive and powerful in his images of the female body is their unembarrassed carnal urgency.

Portraits: artists, writers, friends

Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henry Miller (who gave Brassaï the sobriquet “The eye of Paris”), Pierre Reverdy, Jacques Prévert, Henri Matisse and Léon-Paul Fargue are just a few of the subjects of the portraits on display in this section of the exhibition.

Most of Brassaï’s portraits are of people that he knew and perhaps as a result of that closeness they convey a powerful spirit of frankness, unencumbered by posturing. It is also true; however, that Brassaï regularly achieved that spirit even when he did not know the subject.

Sleep

Broadly speaking, the hallmark of advance European photography in the 1920s and 1930s was a new sense of mobility and spontaneity. But spontaneity was alien to Brassaï’s sensibility, which instead sought clarity and stability. Instead of the popular, hand-held camera, a 35mm Leica, Brassaï chose a camera that used glass plates and often stood on a tripod. As if to declare his independence from the aesthetic of mobility, he chose sleeping in public as a recurrent motif.

The street

Brassaï’s work for Harper’s Bazaar led him to travel in France and in numerous other places, from Spain to Sweden, the United States and Brazil. While the roots of his talent lay in Paris he thus produced an extensive body of photographs taken in places that were unfamiliar to him. The exhibition includes a number of these works, three of them depicting Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Chez Suzy' 1931-32

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Chez Suzy
1931-32
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 352]
30 x 23.8 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Nude in the Bathtub' 1938

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Nu a la banyera
Desnudo en la bañera
Nude in the Bathtub
1938
[Nu / Naked 199]
23.5 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 2]
49.8 x 40.4 cm
Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris © Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'At Magic City' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Al Magic City
En Magic City
At Magic City
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 439]
23.2 x 16.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare' 1937

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Amants a l’estació de Saint-Lazare
Amantes en la Gare Saint-Lazare
Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare
c. 1937
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 143]
23.6 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Haute Couture Soirée' 1935

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vetllada d’alta costura
Velada de alta costura
Haute Couture Soirée
1935
[Soirées 85 (image reversed)]
17.6 x 21.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lobster Seller, Seville' 1951

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Venedor de marisc, Sevilla
Vendedor de marisco, Sevilla
Lobster Seller, Seville
1951
[Étranger / Foreign 401]
49.3 x 37 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'New Orleans' 1957

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
New Orleans
1957
[Amérique / America 451]
35.9 x 29.4 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Montmartre' 1930-31

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Montmartre
1930-31
[Paris de jour / Paris by day 472.C]
29.8 x 39.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Jean Genet, Paris' 1948

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Jean Genet, Paris
1948
[Arts 787.E]
39.7 x 30.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures' 1939

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Picasso Tenant Une De Les Sculptures
Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures

1939
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris' 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris
1932
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris

 

23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème' c. 1931-1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème
c. 1931-1932
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250
Barcelona

Opening hours:
Mondays from 2 pm to 8 pm
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 8 pm
Sundays/holidays from 11 am to 7 pm

Fundación MAPFRE website

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15
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs’ at the Portland Art Museum Phase 1, Part 1

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2017 – 6th May 2018

Curated by Julia Dolan PhD, the Minor White Curator of Photography

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Union Station Loading Platform)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Union Station Loading Platform)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

Phase 1 of this exhibition, over two postings on Art Blart, features one of the greatest collections of early photographs by Minor White!

In this posting it’s so nice to see the great man metaphorically getting his hands dirty – feet in the water, hand cupped to the eye looking through it to gauge the composition (his previsualisation), before getting under the black cloth to make final adjustments to his 4×5 view camera.

Other things to note in the Minor White During a Workshop photographs of MW using his camera are this:

  • MW has tilted forward the front of the camera to extend the depth of field that recedes away from him, for example the sand or the surface of the water
  • MW has also raised the front of the camera slightly
  • MW is using a large Majestic tripod
  • MW is possibly using a Weston light meter, for which he gave specific instructions in the first edition of his Zone System manual. The light meter can be seen still in it’s leather case with hanging strap in various images, with MW’s thumb on the dial in two images. In one image you can see him calculating his light meter exposure
  • His glasses case is in his top shirt pocket, and he is wearing a well used hat (so important when taking photographs) with sweat stains on its brim

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In these valuable pictures, the 51 year-old Minor White is making tiny adjustments to the camera movements to control the depth of field.

Paul Caponigro, a student of Minor White, observed that watching MW use the view camera was more than instructive, it was a joy. The very last sentence in the Fourth Sequence colophon reinforces the notion that the camera’s strongest point was its photographic authenticity, that is, a faithful camera technique leads to an authentic photograph, or to authenticity.1

“For technical data – the camera was faithfully used.” ~ MW

Further comment on the photographs in Part 2 of the posting.

Marcus

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

  1. Andrew E. Hershberger. “White’s Theory of Sequential Photography, ” in Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (ed.,). Analecta Husserliana: The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research Vol. LXXXVII. Human Creation Between Reality and Illusion. Springer, 2005, p.212.

 

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

 

Long before co-founding Aperture magazine or establishing the groundbreaking photography program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, renowned modernist photographer Minor White (American, 1908-1976) moved to Portland, where he sowed the seeds of what would become a forceful artistic vision. This exhibition of White’s rarely exhibited early works celebrates the artist’s influence on the region, and honours the Portland Art Museum’s dedication to acquiring and exhibiting photography as the institution enters its 125th year.

In 1937, after traveling to Portland from Minnesota and taking up residence at the downtown YMCA, White joined the Oregon Camera Club, using its darkroom and library to hone his photography skills. He instituted a darkroom, education, and exhibition program at the YMCA, and in 1938 was hired as a “creative photographer” for the Oregon Art Project, a division of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration. Charged with documenting the Front Avenue buildings slated for demolition as well as the waterfront factories, he captured the beauty of iron-front facades, the distinct forms of industrial architecture, and the cultural undercurrents of a city under transition. These photographs, much more than straightforward government documents, mark a critical period in Portland’s history and hold clues to White’s mature modernist approach.

In 1942, after touring the nation, White’s WPA images returned to Portland and became the first photographs to be accessioned into the Museum’s permanent collection. That same year, the Museum gave White his first solo exhibition and commissioned him to photograph two historic Portland homes. White was drafted into the Army later that spring, and although he never returned to live in the city, his bonds to the community remained strong, resulting in multiple Oregon-based workshops in the 1950s and 1960s. To this day he remains a significant influence on photographic practice in the Northwest and beyond.

The first phase of In the Beginning (on view December 9, 2017, through May 6, 2018) presents approximately 60 photographs of waterfront industrial buildings, Portland Civic Theatre portraits, night scenes, and images of Minor White teaching workshops in Oregon during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The second phase of the exhibition (on view May 6 through October 21, 2018) will feature downtown and Front Street scenes, photographs of Eastern Oregon, and images of two historic houses that White photographed for the Museum in 1942.

Text from the Portland Art Museum website

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Plane Study' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Plane Study
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Plane Study' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Plane Study
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Grain Elevators)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Grain Elevators)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Grain Tanks' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Grain Tanks
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Grain Loading Depot' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Grain Loading Depot
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Elevator, Tree, Car)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Elevator, Tree, Car)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Grain Elevator from the Water)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Grain Elevator from the Water)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Ship and Grain Elevator)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Ship and Grain Elevator)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Dagmar Salen)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Dagmar Salen)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Water Street, Portland' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Water Street, Portland
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'After the Fire Architecture (1211 Southwest First Avenue at Madison)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
After the Fire Architecture (1211 Southwest First Avenue at Madison)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (House at 27th Southwest Hall Street)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (House at 27th Southwest Hall Street)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Houses at Hall and First Street)' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Houses at Hall and First Street)
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Jacobs House (Jacobs-Dolph House, Southwest Park and Montgomery)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Jacobs House (Jacobs-Dolph House, Southwest Park and Montgomery)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (St. Mary's Academy, Third Avenue Entrance)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (St. Mary’s Academy, Third Avenue Entrance)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Beach and Pilings)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Beach and Pilings)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Portland' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Portland
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Hand Forge' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Hand Forge
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Sawdust)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Sawdust)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Municipal Market, from a Barge on East Side of the River)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Municipal Market, from a Barge on East Side of the River)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Pier B Municipal Terminal No. 1)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Pier B Municipal Terminal No. 1)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design (Portland Dry Docks)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design (Portland Dry Docks)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 1/2 in x 10 3/8 in; sheet: 13 1/2 in x 10 3/8 in
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration. Commissioned through the New Deal art projects

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design (Cable and Chain)' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design (Cable and Chain)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205

Opening hours:
Tues – Wed, Sat – Sun 10am – 5pm
Thurs – Fri 10am – 8pm
Closed Monday

Portland Art Museum website

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11
Apr
18

Vale Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)

April 2018

 

My god, what a loss.

I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Polixeni Papapetrou. Sadness indeed…

Poli was a wonderful spirit and an incredibly gifted artist. Condolences to Robert Nelson and all of the family.

A selection of some of my favourite Papapetrou images are posted below – but really, there are so many memorable images, she leaves behind an indelible and lasting legacy.

From an earlier posting:

 

“What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating so many memorable images over the years, for following her passion and her heart with courage and conviction. For the rest of my life I will always remember the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables of her work. Images of drag queens and Dreamkeepers, Ghillies and goblins are etched in my memory. I will always remember them. You can’t ask much more from the work of an artist than that.”

 

You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.

Marcus

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Drag queen wearing cut out dress' 1993

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
From the series Drag Queens 1988-1999
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne' 1990

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne
1990
From the series Elvis Immortal 1987-2002
Selenium toned gelatin silver photograph
40.7 x 40.7 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Mr Wrestling' 1992

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Mr Wrestling
1992
From the series Wrestlers 1992
Pigment ink print
100 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Indian Brave' 2002

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Indian Brave
2002
From the series Phantomwise 2002-03
Pigment ink print
85 x 85 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Lost' 2005

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Lost
2005
From the series Fairy Tales 2004-2014
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'In the Wimmera 1864 #1' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
In the Wimmera 1864 #1
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105cm
Geelong Gallery Collection

 

 

In the Wimmera 1864 #1 from the Haunted country series is amongst the earliest works by the artist to have been staged in the Australian landscape and is one in which she explores the narrative of the ‘lost child’. The work references the story of three children lost in Mallee scrub near their home outside Horsham in the Wimmera District and is reminiscent, as the artist intends, of Frederick McCubbin’s late 19th century paintings of children lost or at least wandering absent-mindedly through the Australia bush. (Text from the Culture Victoria website)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Hanging Rock 1900 #3' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Hanging Rock 1900 #3
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Provider' 2009

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Provider
2009
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Mourner' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Mourner
2012
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Joy Pedlars' 2011 from 'The Dreamkeepers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Joy Pedlars
2011
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wanderer No. 3', 2012 from 'The Dreamkeepers'

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Wanderer No. 3
2012
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018) 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou. 'Scrub Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Scrub Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Review of the exhibition Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche at Stills Gallery, 2014

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organize data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles…  They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
2. 
Ibid., p. 48
3. Ibid., p. 49
4. Ibid., p. 59
5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
Benjamin
, Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Immigrant
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Storyteller
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou website

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30
Mar
18

Review: ‘Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855’ at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2018 – 28th April 2019

PLEASE NOTE: I GOT THIS COMPLETELY WRONG – THE EXHIBITION STARTS 9 NOVEMBER 2018!

 

This portrait (below) shows Captain Alexander Leslie-Melville (1831-57), known as Lord Balgonie. He was the eldest son of the 8th Earl of Leven, a Scottish peer. Lord Balgonie served in the Grenadier Guards during the war, and died only a couple of years after returning to Britain. At the time, his death was attributed to the hardships of the war. Fenton has photographed him standing in front of a sheet, which serves as a make-shift studio and he looks unkempt and shaken, as if he has recently stepped off the battlefield. In recent years, this photograph has been described as the first photographic portrait of shell-shock. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lord Balgonie' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lord Balgonie
1855
Albumen print
17.7 x 11.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500273

 

 

The Crimean photographs of Roger Fenton represent the beginning of war photography. These staged photographs, documented for the edification of a viewing public back home in England and for the purpose of making money for the photographer, set the trend for the genre for the next 80 years. Staging photographs of war, and altering reality to suit the commercial, political or moral aspirations of photographer or institution, continues to this day.

For most of the images, “research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection).” Fenton was fulfilling his commission and earning a living by taking photographs for a painter. But Fenton’s photographs are most successful when he has a personal connection to the subject matter, whether it be portrait or landscape. In other words, when he is not constructing or documenting as representation, but attempting to capture the spirit of person/place.

In portraiture, this personal connection can be seen in the photographs, Lord Balgonie (1855, above), Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855) (4 Jun 1855, below), Omar Pacha (1806-1871) (1855, below) and General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855) (1855, below), a man deep in thought or, perhaps, melancholy. These are psychological portraits that attempt to get under the skin of the sitter, not mere representations for use as a template for painting.

The portraits of Baron Raglan and Omar Pacha are taken in the same location, probably at the same sitting. In the portrait of Baron Raglan, this man (soon to die) is relatively small in proportion to the overall framing of the photograph, his dark shadow falling on the wall behind, his hat and white plume pulled forward and out of focus in the image, incredibly large in comparison with the size of the body. In three-quarter profile he gazes out of the image, while the right and top of the image falls into soft, velvet darkness. By comparison, the portrait of Omar Pacha presents to us a much more self possessed and confident man. Fenton has moved the camera closer to his subject. No shadow falls on the wall behind and the light frames the head of the sitter perfectly. His bearing is upright but relaxed; his hands gently rest in his lap; and his gaze stares directly out of the image but not directly into the camera lens as though her is in deep thought somewhere beyond the photographer’s left shoulder. Both are magnificent portraits.

With regard to his landscapes of the Crimea the same feelings can be observed. One is the representational urge, the other the artistic. The first problem is the barrenness of the landscape and what to do with the inevitable horizon line. When photographing people in the landscape Fenton makes use of low depth of field either pulling the figures towards the front of the image (Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900) 1855, and General Scarlett and Colonel Low Apr 1855, below) or the mid-distance (such as Captain and Mrs Duberly Apr 1855 and Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons 1855, below) whilst allowing the horizon line to float in the distance, either placed through the figures or floating above them. This low depth of field allows the horizon line to soften and the solid space around the figures to become ambiguous and fluid. It also allows the light in this vast expanse of country to do its duty, to illuminate the isolation of these figures “in the field.” A similar technique was used by Edward S. Curtis when photographing the Native American Indians against the vastness of country – low depth of field, letting the light and composition do the work as subject is located – or vanishes – into the landscape.

For the shear complexity of their visualisation, Fenton’s photographs of Balaklava are among my favourites. The placement of camera, the line of composition (ship masts, hills, horizon line, stacking of cannonball), the flattening of perspective (The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava Mar 1855, below) and the tonality of the images are exemplary.

Taken a mere 15 years after the birth year of practical photography, Fenton’s “subtle and poetic interpretations” still resonate today. That he captured such acclaimed images using a heavy land camera, the photographs taken sometimes under fire, the glass plates prepared and developed in a ‘travelling darkroom’ – his horse drawn photographic van – make Fenton’s achievement all the more remarkable. The shadow of war that he captured, the presence of the men, women and landscapes of that time and place, are made alive to us today.

Note this

There is the date a photograph is made, and the date it is viewed. There is something about the different way a photograph exists in time, different from the date a poem is written and the date it is read, different from the date a painting is finished and the date it is viewed.

And then

Photographs remind us
of people, passing
They distill an essence
which
in turn
Instills in us
memory of time, place, spirit

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

This is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Roger Fenton’s pioneering photographs of the Crimean War, taken in 1855. Fenton was already an accomplished and respected photographer when he was sent by the publishers Agnew’s to photograph a war that pitched Britain, France and Turkey as allies against Russia. Arriving several months after the major battles were fought in 1854, Fenton focused on creating moving portraits of the troops, as well as capturing the stark, empty battlefields on which so many lost their lives.

Published in contemporary newspaper reports, Fenton’s photographs showed the impact of war to the general public for the first time. Through his often subtle and poetic interpretations Fenton created the genre of war photography, showing his extraordinary genius in capturing the futility of war.

 

 

Half a league,
half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

.
Lord Tennyson. The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

 

John Gilbert. 'The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855' 1856

 

John Gilbert
The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855
1856
Watercolour
138.0 x 214.5 x 13.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 451958

 

 

This painting depicts the second meeting with Guardsmen which took place at Buckingham Palace. The first meeting had been with the Grenadier Guards on 20 February 1855. The artist John Gilbert prepared a sketch of the event for the newspaper the Illustrated London News, published on 10 March 1855. He went on to create this painting using photographs of the soldiers for accuracy. Prince Albert supplied photographs of himself and the royal children. Gilbert was also given permission by the Queen to visit the Marble Hall in Buckingham Palace to recreate the scene. The scale of the watercolour caused a sensation when it was exhibited in 1856. Probably acquired by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Queen Victoria and Prince Albert' 1854

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
1854
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'A Zouave' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
A Zouave [Self-portrait as a Zouave]
1855
Salted paper print
18.2 x 14.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500562

 

 

The title of this work gives no indication that this is a self-portrait. Fenton has dressed himself in the uniform of a Zouave, a type of Algerian soldier who fought with the French army during the Crimean War. The Zouaves were admired both for their bravery and for their colourful dress. In 1855, when this photograph was exhibited for the first time, Fenton was Britain’s leading photographer but only a handful of fellow artists would have known that this was Fenton and not a Zouave soldier from the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)
1855
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

The exhibition

Roger Fenton (1819-69) was the first photographer to document a war for public consumption. From March 1855, Fenton spent four months photographing the people and the terrain affected by the Crimean War, fought between the allied nations of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire against Russia.

Fenton’s time in the Crimea was relatively short given the war lasted over two years (October 1853 – March 1856) but his photographs captured, for the first time, the chaos and disorder of a war zone, and showed the Victorian public portraits of soldiers in the field, directly affected by battle. Although Fenton was fulfilling a commercial commission, he allowed himself to respond emotionally in his work and this is perhaps why his photographs continue to represent the Crimean War more effectively than any other visual record of the conflict.

This exhibition presents Fenton’s work within the wider context of the war, alongside other contemporary artists, photographers and writers also in the Crimea at that time. We begin with two sections which, through Fenton’s portraits, introduce some of the key individuals and events that occurred prior to Fenton’s arrival in the Crimea.

Subsequently we examine Fenton’s work in more detail, before considering the significant role played by the royal family in focusing the attention of the British public on the impact of war and the returning wounded veterans.

 

The Crimean War, 1853-6

The Crimean War, also known as the Russian War, pitched the allied nations of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia against the Russian Empire. At its simplest, the war was fought to prevent Russia gaining territorial control of various regions in eastern Europe, then under Ottoman control, and of routes into British India. These regions included the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus region and the Danubian provinces of modern-day Romania. Other more complex reasons included disputes over the control of religious sites and the protection of Christians in the Middle East, as well as concern over the declining influence of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of nationalism in various regions.

War with Russia had been publicly discussed for several years before Russian incursions into Romania, then under Ottoman control, led to a declaration of war from Constantinople in October 1853. Britain and France, fearing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of Russian power, followed with their support for the Ottomans by declaring war on Russia at the end of March 1854.

The conflict began in Europe and could have ended there in July 1854 when Russia began to withdraw but the European allies decided to confront Russia directly by besieging the Russian port of Sevastopol, an important naval base on the Crimean peninsula. The allies landed in the Crimea on 14 September 1854 and made their way towards Sevastopol, encountering the Russians in several major battles en route including Alma (20 September), Balaklava (25 October) and Inkerman (5 November). On 9 September 1855, after numerous other battles and skirmishes, Sevastopol fell to the allies.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)' 4 Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)
4 Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.3 x 14.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500229

 

 

Lord Raglan (1788-1855) was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He lost his right arm during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, whilst he was an aide to the Duke of Wellington. Despite having never commanded in the field, he was named as the expedition Commander-in-Chief in early 1854 when war seemed inevitable. He was to become the focus of heavy public criticism over the apparent poor organisation and logistics during the campaign. This criticism contributed to his declining health, and he died in the Crimea on 28 June 1855. He was succeeded as Commander-in-Chief by General James Simpson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford
1855
Salted paper print | 21.9 x 17.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500553

 

 

John Burgoyne (1782-1871) was a key member of the senior command during the war. After the Battle of Alma on 20 September 1854, Burgoyne proposed that the army march south of Sevastopol and besiege the city, rather than attacking the city from the north. This decision ultimately committed the allies to a siege of almost a year. Burgoyne returned to Britain in the winter of 1854-5 before Fenton arrived in the Crimea. As Fenton sought to photograph all the senior commanders from the war, he arranged this session in his London studio sometime after he returned to Britain in mid-July 1855. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General Scarlett and Colonel Low' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General Scarlett and Colonel Low
Apr 1855
Albumen print
19.5 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500250

 

 

Sir James York Scarlett (1799-1871), here seated on a horse, played a key role in the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854. The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, under Scarlett’s command, was a highly successful attack on the Russian army which has become overshadowed by the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade which occurred later during the same battle. Alexander Low (1817-1904) held the rank of Captain in the 4th Light Dragoons at the time of this photograph. He was a highly skilled cavalryman and served with distinction during the Charge of the Light Brigade. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Officers of the 8th Hussars' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Officers of the 8th Hussars
Apr 1855
Albumen print
16.7 x 16.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500355

 

 

Fenton made a number of group portraits of men from the five Light Cavalry regiments that charged on 25 October. News of the action had caught the public imagination, and the names of the regiments became well-known. Fenton would probably have seen photographs of men who may have fought in the battle as having greater commercial potential. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854

After Balaklava, the allied armies continued to besiege Sevastopol. The Russian army occupied a strong position between the city and the allies, and on 5 November 1854 they attempted to end the siege. The Battle of Inkerman saw fierce fighting hampered by thick fog, resulting in poor communication between the troops. Casualties were disproportionately high. The battle was a victory for the allies but it also committed the troops to a long winter in the Crimea.

Most of the injured soldiers were shipped to Scutari hospitals, near Constantinople. As the Inkerman wounded arrived, so too did Florence Nightingale and her nurses. During October, reports in The Times sent by William Howard Russell had described the poor care for the wounded and the lack of nurses. This led Sidney Herbert, Secretary of State for War, to ask Nightingale to lead a nursing party to Scutari. They arrived on 4 November 1854.

From Scutari, Nightingale made three visits to the Crimea, the first in May 1855 when she caught a serious illness that was to affect her for the rest of her life. By this time, Nightingale was already well-known to the British public and had been depicted in the press as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’. She returned to Britain in July 1856 and devoted much of the rest of her life to hospital and healthcare reform.

Inkerman

Roger Fenton produced this panoramic view of the Inkerman Valley, the scene of a fierce battle on 5 November 1854 that pitched the British and French allies against the Russian army. The battle took place in thick fog, resulting in troops becoming cut off from their commanders and a high number of casualties. Although the battle was an allied success, its impact was such that it extended the war by months, condemning the troops to the harsh winter of 1854–5 in the Crimea. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ruins of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ruins of Inkerman
May 1855
20.2 x 25.8 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Quarries and Aqueduct in the Valley of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)

May 1855
18.5 x 25.4 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Hardships in the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Hardships in the Crimea
1855
Albumen print
17.6 x 16.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500388

 

Fenton took a number of staged photographs of camp life, including this group of the 4th Dragoon Guards. Generally, the titles of his portraits are the name of the sitter or regiment photographed, but this is one of a small number which have been given a more emotive title. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Haunting images that brought the stark reality of war into public consciousness for the first time have gone on display in a new exhibition Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. Roger Fenton (1819-1869) was the first photographer to document conflict in such a substantial way at a time when the medium of photography was still in its infancy and there was no expectation of what ‘war photography’ should be.

Drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, the exhibition explores the impact and legacy of Fenton’s Crimean work, which is shown in Scotland for the first time since 1856. It also tells the story of the historically close relationship between the Royal Family and those who have served their country in battle, with contributions to the exhibition’s multimedia guide by Prince Harry, photojournalist Sir Don McCullin and exhibition curator Sophie Gordon.

One of the leading photographers of the 19th century, Roger Fenton was commissioned by the art dealer and publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph the officers and other people of interest during the Crimean conflict. On 20 February 1855 Fenton set sail for the Crimea on board HMS Hecla, accompanied by 36 chests of cameras, glass plates, chemicals, a stove and other pieces of equipment, and a wine merchant’s van converted into a travelling darkroom and accommodation for the photographer and his two assistants.

Research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection). The painting reproduces some of Fenton’s portraits directly, including those of the Scottish General Sir Colin Campbell and The Times reporter William Howard Russell, as well as his photographs of camp life, such as 8th Hussars Cooking Hut.

Other figures within the painting, such as Barker’s depiction of Florence Nightingale, are clearly inspired by Fenton’s photographs. Although Nightingale was in the Crimea in 1855, she was a reluctant sitter for the camera and appears not to have been photographed by Fenton. Instead Barker’s portrait of her on horseback seems to be inspired by Fenton’s photograph Mr and Mrs Duberly.

In the 19th century there was a thriving market for prints of popular paintings. An engraving of Barker’s work was published in 1859 with a key to help the public identify the figures. The reproduction of the painting in newspapers and exhibitions of Fenton’s photographs raised awareness of the conditions endured by soldiers at a time when the wounded began to arrive home.

The concern and admiration for the veterans displayed by Queen Victoria and members of the royal family helped to highlight the plight of those returning from war. The Queen met groups of soldiers, visited military hospitals and inspected troops of veterans at Buckingham Palace. One such occasion was recorded by John Gilbert in The Queen inspecting wounded Coldstream Guardsmen in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855. This large watercolour, which has hung at Sandringham House since it was acquired by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future King Edward VII, is exhibited for the first time.

Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to meet and support wounded soldiers in public. Today Prince Harry’s work with veterans promotes a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country. On the exhibition’s multimedia guide His Royal Highness speaks about a number of Fenton’s images and how they helped change attitudes towards those affected by their experiences on the battlefield.

Speaking about Fenton’s image Lord Balgonie, the first visual record of someone suffering from ‘shell shock’ Prince Harry says in the multimedia guide: ‘There has always been a fascination about people returning from war, what they’ve been through and what they’ve seen. The psychological impact of being on the battlefield is something that servicemen and women have had to deal with, but have often found it hard to talk about. As a result of photographers like Roger Fenton and those who have followed him, the public have gained a better appreciation of these experiences and consequently, over the years this fascination has turned to appreciation and respect.’

Press release from The Queen’s Gallery

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Photographic Van' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Photographic Van
1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 15.9 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500439

 

 

Fenton’s ‘travelling darkroom’ was the only space he had in which to prepare his glass plates before they were exposed in the camera, and afterwards, to develop the negative image. Beyond a few test prints, however, Fenton would not have done any significant printing of photographs in the Crimea. All the negatives were transported back to Britain and printed there. This photograph was probably taken shortly before Fenton went into the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’. He later wrote in a letter, perhaps half-jokingly, that he feared the van being destroyed by enemy fire in the valley so he felt he should preserve its memory in a photograph. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s Crimean Commission: 8 March – June 1855

Fenton was commissioned to go to the Crimean War by the Manchester-based publishers Thomas Agnew & Sons. Agnew’s was one of the leading publishers, print sellers and dealers at the time, and the firm saw the war as an opportunity to sell new images to a public hungry for information. The war coincided with an increased number of public art exhibitions as the middle classes in particular had more time and money to spend on leisure activities.

At the same time, Agnew’s also commissioned the British historical painter Thomas Barker (1815-82) to produce a large oil painting depicting the expected allied victory at Sevastopol. Fenton’s photographs were to be used as source material by Barker. This enabled the artist to claim absolute truthfulness and accuracy in his portraits.

Barker incorporated versions of at least 50 of Fenton’s photographs into his painting. Some photographs have been copied almost exactly; others have been reversed or combined with other images, with elements from some photographs appearing alongside people from other works. The painting was completed in 1856 and the associated engraving was published by Agnew’s in 1859. A key was also produced, identifying each individual in the work, in which Fenton’s role was explicitly acknowledged.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 23 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
23 Apr 1855
Albumen print
25.7 x 35.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500514

 

 

Perhaps Fenton’s most well-known photograph, ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’, is not in fact the location of the charge of the Light Brigade. When Fenton reached the ravine seen in this photograph, he found himself the target of enemy fire. Even so, Fenton managed to make at least two distinct views: the version seen here, and another in which far fewer cannon balls lie on the ground, indicating that he re-arranged one of the scenes. This photograph, which has become one of Fenton’s most famous compositions, demonstrates the power of the camera at war. The scene is still and almost barren, but the power of the imagination draws the viewer into the landscape and the title, with its reference to Psalm 23, suggests that we walk between the realms of life and sudden death. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

James Robertson (1813-88) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855-1856

 

James Robertson (1813-88)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855-1856
Salted paper print
22.3 x 29.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500723

 

 

Neither Robertson’s photograph nor Simpson’s lithograph show the same location as Fenton’s image, despite all three works having the same title. The full phrase from Psalm 23 from which the title comes is ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. It is reported that the British soldiers gave the ravine its name. The emotive pull of Fenton’s composition is all the more apparent when compared with Robertson’s photograph and Simpson’s lithograph, although the round shot in Simpson’s work links it visually to Fenton’s photograph.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Omar Pacha (1806-1871)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Omar Pacha (1806-1871)
1855
Salted paper print
17.6 x 14.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500341

 

 

Omar Pacha (1806-71) was the commander of the Ottoman army at the beginning of the war, when the Russian incursions into the Balkan regions began. He was later to win a significant victory against the Russians at the Battle of Evpatoria on 17 February 1855 in the Crimea. Omar Pasha was photographed several times by Fenton, both seated and on horseback. A number of commanding officers were photographed in this way. It was probably to give the artist Thomas Barker a variety of poses which could be incorporated into his painting. Omar Pasha does appear on a horse in the final painting, but his head is a copy of this seated portrait. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman
1855
Salted paper print
16.8 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500375

 

 

This portrait shows Colonel Brownrigg of the Grenadier Guards, with two Russian boys who were apparently taken prisoner by the British. In a letter from 29 April 1855 to his wife, Fenton described what happened, ‘Tell Annie [Fenton’s daughter] there are two Russian boys here who both would like to come to England which will she have Alma or Inkermann, such are their new names. One is an orphen [sic] the other has or had his parents in the town. They went out nutting last autumn & were taken, cried sadly but now would cry to go back’. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cooking house, 8th Hussars' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cooking house, 8th Hussars
1855
Albumen print
15.3 x 19.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500384

 

 

This beautifully composed group was incorporated almost entirely into Barker’s painting, although the woman standing at the back of the group was omitted. It is easily identifiable on the left-hand side of the painting. Fenton made a handful of photographs which try to capture the camp life of the ordinary soldier. The 8th Hussars were one of the regiments involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade and this association would give the photograph greater interest to the Victorian public. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
17.9 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500327

 

 

Fenton made several portraits of General Pélissier (1794-1864), on horseback and seated. Barker probably used this particular photograph to paint the general, who as the French Commander-in-Chief at the time of the final assault on Sevastopol in Summer 1855, features prominently in his painting. Pélissier had taken command of the French army on 16 May 1855, replacing General François Canrobert. He brought with him the energy and determination required to bring the siege of Sevastopol to a conclusion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Captain and Mrs Duberly' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Captain and Mrs Duberly
Apr 1855
Albumen print
15.2 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500314

 

 

Frances Isabella Duberly (1829-1902), known as Fanny, accompanied her husband Captain Henry Duberly (1822-91), Paymaster of the 8th Hussars, to the war against the orders of Lord Raglan. She kept a journal of her experience, which included witnessing the Battle of Balaklava. She was also one of the first civilians to enter Sevastopol after it fell to the allies. Mrs Duberly attempted to dedicate the published version of her journal to Queen Victoria, titled Journal Kept During the Russian War, but this was refused. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere
5 May 1855
Salted paper print
17.4 x 15.8 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500401

 

 

The vivandières, also known as cantinières, were attached to French regiments to supply the troops with food and drink beyond the standard rations. In a letter to his wife, Fenton described how he photographed this group on 5 May, ‘In the afternoon a Cantiniere was brought up I made first a picture of her by herself & then a group in which she is giving assistance to a wounded soldier. It was great fun the soldiers enjoyed it so much & entered so completely into the spirit of the thing’. This group was incorporated into Barker’s painting, although the composition was reversed. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Vivandière' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Vivandière
5 May 1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 13.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500338

 

 

This striking portrait was taken at the same time as the earlier group photograph with the ‘wounded soldier’. The vivandières usually dressed in a feminised version of the uniform of the regiment to which they were attached. There were women attached to the British regiments, known as sutlers, who helped with food, drink and domestic duties. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons
1855
Salted paper print
14.6 x 19.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500354

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doherty (d. 1866) was the commanding officer of the 13th Light Dragoons on the day of the Battle of Balaklava. His regiment was part of the Light Brigade, and his men participated in the famous charge. However, due to illness, Doherty did not join the battle. Doherty’s replacement that day, Captain John Oldham, was killed in the battle. Fenton probably photographed this group in anticipation of the interest in regiments who formed the Charge of the Light Brigade. Some of the men included in the group were amongst the chargers. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

 

Ismael Pacha (1813-65), also known as György Kmety, fought against the Russians in the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. After its failure and the harsh Russian reprisals, he joined the Ottoman army. Fenton took a series of photographs of Ismael Pacha receiving a pipe from his servants. Both Ismael Pacha and his Nubian servant, seen to the right of this photograph, appear in Barker’s painting The Allied Generals. Presumably acquired by Queen Victoria.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque (detail)
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'View from Cathcart's Hill' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
View from Cathcart’s Hill
1855
Albumen print
24.1 x 33.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500534

 

 

This photograph shows the British camps as seen from Cathcart’s Hill, the main British cemetery in the Crimea. The cemetery took its name from the grave of Sir George Cathcart, a senior military officer who was killed during the Battle of Inkerman. The hill was also used as an observation point as from it commanders could view the progress of the Siege of Sevastopol. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)
1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 15.2 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500239

 

 

General Estcourt was a chief staff officer during the difficult first winter in the Crimea. He was among those most strongly criticised by the public and the press for the suffering of the army, although he was defended by his close friend Lord Raglan. He died of cholera in the Crimea in June 1855. The photograph is hard to interpret. It can be seen as someone taking a break from military concerns but it could also be a portrait of illness and exhaustion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.1 x 15.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500306

 

 

William Howard Russell was a reporter for The Times who rose to fame during the Crimean War for his vivid descriptions of major battles and the conditions faced by British troops. The Crimean War was the first conflict where advances in technology allowed newspapers to quickly print reports from their correspondents in the field. These reports attracted great public interest and influenced both official and public attitudes to the war. Russell’s emotive account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, published in The Times on 13 November 1854, inspired the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir Colin Campbell' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir Colin Campbell
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

Balaklava – the British base

When the British and French armies moved south to besiege Sevastopol, they had to choose a location in which to base themselves. The armies needed to be able to receive both men and supplies without hindrance for what might be many months. The French based themselves at Kamiesch, whilst the British chose Balaklava. The army took over the town, setting up its own infrastructure including a Post Office and constructing a military railway to transport the supplies as close as possible to the front lines.

When Fenton arrived in the Crimea on 8 March 1855, he disembarked at Balaklava. He took his first photographs on 15 March and spent the next two weeks exploring the port. He described the place in a letter as ‘one great pigsty’, noting the chaos and confusion which he managed to convey in his photographs.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava' 15 Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava
15 Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.9 x 26.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500463

 

 

This photograph clearly shows the scale of activity in Balaklava. There are ships in the harbour, and supplies (probably flour bags) are piled high on the water’s edge. In the foreground in ‘Railway Yard’ the new military railway is being constructed. It was paid for by Samuel Morton Peto (1809-89) who had also provided Fenton’s passage to the Crimea. Construction of the railway began in February 1855 and part of the line was in use within weeks, probably around the same time that Fenton arrived at Balaklava. The railway was dismantled in 1856 after the end of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance
1855
Salted paper print
26.1 x 35.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500530

 

 

Towards the end of March, Fenton made a number of views from ‘Guards Hill’ looking down towards the harbour of Balaklava. The ‘church parade’ referred to in the title is the parade of Scots Fusilier Guards seen to the right of the image. Although the group is indistinct, the bearskin hats of the Guards can be clearly distinguished. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cossack Bay Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cossack Bay Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
26.8 x 35.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500498

 

 

Despite the title, Cossack Bay is only slightly visible in the middle distance of this photograph. The main view with the ships, including one bearing the number ’69’, centres around Cattle Pier. The ship with the transport number 69 is the Albatross, which at the time of this photograph had recently arrived from Constantinople after a four-day journey bringing Mary Seacole (1805-81). Mrs Seacole set up a store and ‘hotel’ for British servicemen, supplying food, drink and medical supplies. In 1857 Mrs Seacole published an autobiographical account of her life and experiences in the Crimea, titled Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 25.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500461

 

 

The Ordnance Wharf was the place where military supplies arrived – the British army’s Board of Ordnance was responsible for supplying weapons and ammunition, which can be clearly seen in the foreground of this photograph. The round shot is stacked awaiting transportation on the railway to reach the army camps besieging Sevastopol. The performance of the Board of Ordnance came under heavy criticism during the Crimean War, particularly during the 1854-5 winter. As a result, after a 400 year existence, the Board was abolished and its responsibilities were transferred to the War Office. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

After the war

Fenton left the Crimea on 22 June 1855, so missed the fall of Sevastopol. He arrived back in Britain on 11 July. Queen Victoria saw a selection of his work in August, whilst she was at Osborne House, and Fenton visited France in early September to show his photographs to the Emperor.

Fenton also began preparations for the display of his work at numerous venues across Britain. Hundreds of prints would have been required for the 26 venues identified so far, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Exeter, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin. Fenton also managed to photograph some of the significant individuals he had been unable to capture in the Crimea, in order to complete his commission for Agnew’s.

The photographs were extraordinarily popular with the public. One publication stated that two million visitors had seen the photographs by the end of March 1856. It is unlikely that this translated into financial success for Fenton, however. At the end of 1856 Agnew’s sold the negatives and remaining prints to a rival print seller, who continued to sell the work at a much lower price. Fenton continued his association with the royal family, travelling to Balmoral in September 1856 where he photographed the royal children.

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909) 'The Docks after the Explosion' 1856

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909)
The Docks after the Explosion
1856
Salted paper print
23.7 x 28.7 cm (image)
RCIN 2500683

 

 

James Robertson’s business partner and brother-in-law, Felice Beato, returned to Sevastopol in March or April 1856 to make a further set of photographs. By then the docks had been destroyed. Viewed together, these photographs provide a record of the changing landscape of the city in the aftermath of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s photographic process

Fenton made his photographs by printing from glass negatives, using a process called the wet collodion process. The negatives were then shipped back to Britain where they were used to make prints in two different ways – the salted paper print and the albumen print.

The wet collodion process used a prepared piece of glass which, in the darkroom, would be coated with collodion and then made light-sensitive with further chemicals. Before the plate could dry, it would be placed in the camera and exposed. Then the plate would be returned to the darkroom and developed, rinsed, fixed, washed, dried and varnished. It was then ready for printing.

The salted paper print used paper which had been prepared by coating it in a salted solution. After drying, it would be made light-sensitive in the darkroom and then placed in a frame in contact with the glass negative to be exposed to sunlight. Once the image had appeared satisfactorily on the paper, the print would be processed, washed, fixed and toned.

 

 

The Queen’s Gallery
Buckingham Palace,
London, SW1A 1AA

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 – 17.30

Closures:
13 November – 7 December
24 December last admission 14.45, closes at 16.00
25 – 26 December

Royal Collection Trust website

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22
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Into the Woods: Trees in Photography’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 18th November 2017 – 22nd April 2018

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'In the Forest of Fontainbleau (Bas-Bréau)' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray
In the Forest of Fontainbleau (Bas-Bréau)
1852
Gold-toned albumen print from waxed paper negative
Chauncey Hare Townshend Bequest 1868

 

 

Gustave Le Gray trained as a painter in the 1840s but took up photography soon after. He followed the Barbizon School painters to the French forest of Fontainebleau, where he made enchanting photographic studies. Combining technical knowledge with artistic flair, Le Gray rapidly became one of the most renowned photographers of his day.

 

 

I grew up on a farm for the first thirteen years of my life. I played in the fields and forests of England, and wandered the cart paths with my brother. I saw him for the first time in thirty years last August, after the passing of my father. We went back and walked those very same paths where we grew up and looked at the magnificent trees planted along the edge of the fields. After all that had happened, it was an emotional and healing journey for both of us…

The innocence of being a child growing up on the land returned, the innocence of something that is never really forgotten. I still am a country boy at heart; I still love the land and the trees. I always will.

It’s a pity then, that this seems to be just a “filler” exhibition from the V&A. No press release, two sentences on the website (see below) and no information about the images such as details of process etc… I had to dig into the collection to find the information you read here, including the text descriptions beneath the images. For such a magical and mythical subject that has fascinated human beings since the beginning of time, you might have expected a more in depth investigation.

As an addendum I have included my favourite tree images. You will have your own. The last image in particular has that element of threat and wonder that makes the forest such a rich, fluid and evocative space.

Marcus

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

 

Trees have long been a source of inspiration for artists. This display explores the diverse representation of trees in photography – as botanical subjects and poetic symbols, in the context of the natural and human worlds.

 

 

Royal Engineers. 'Cutting on the 49th Parallel, on the Right Bank of the Mooyie River Looking West' about 1860

 

Royal Engineers
Cutting on the 49th Parallel, on the Right Bank of the Mooyie River Looking West
about 1860
Albumen print from wet collodion-on-glass negative
Photographed by a Royal Engineers photographer on a U.S.-Canada Border Survey
Received from the Foreign Office 1863

 

 

In 1856 the War Department appointed the South Kensington Museum photographer Charles Thurston Thompson to teach photography to the Royal Engineers. On one expedition these soldier-photographers documented the border between the USA and Canada. From the crest of the Rockies westwards along the 49th Parallel to the coast, they painstakingly recorded everything that crossed their path, producing ‘one of the earliest significant bodies of photographs made in the Pacific Northwest’.

 

Samuel Bourne. 'Poplar Avenue, Srinuggur, Kashmir, from the end' 1864

 

Samuel Bourne
Poplar Avenue, Srinuggur, Kashmir, from the end
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion negative

 

 

In 1863 Samuel Bourne (1834-1912) arrived in India. He had left his job as a Nottingham bank clerk in order to develop his new career as a photographer. Bourne undertook three treks to Kashmir and the western Himalayas in 1863, 1864 and 1866, during which he photographed his surroundings extensively.

He began his second trip to India, during which this photograph was taken, in March 1864. It was to be a nine-month expedition through the Kashmir region. Throughout his travels Bourne wrote about his first impressions of the places he visited and these writings were published in the British Journal of Photography. Of his first impressions of the poplar avenues at Srinagar he noted: “The next day was devoted to an ascent of the Takht Hill and a stroll among the poplar avenues, of which, as I before stated, there are several about Srinugger. One of them is known as the “poplar avenue,” and is a mile long and quite straight. This is a fine walk and is almost perfect-hardly a tree is wanting, and the effect on looking down it is very striking. It is carpeted with grassy turf and a level grassy plain stretches on each side of it; at right angles to this are the three or four smaller avenues extending to the river, a walk down which when the grapes are ripe is by no means an enjoyable exercise, if one be a good climber. Running up, and entwining themselves among the poplars to a height of ninety or a hundred feet, are numbers of vines, whose tempting clusters hanging at this elevation only mock the wistful, watery eyes cast up to them.” Bourne, S, Narrative of a Photographic Trip to Kashmir (Cashmere) and the Adjacent Districts, The British Journal of Photography, 23 January 1867, p.38

Towards the end of the 1860s, Bourne established a partnership with fellow photographer and Englishman Charles Shepherd (fl.1858-1878) and in the space of a few years Bourne & Shepherd became the pre-eminent photographic firm in India. By the end of 1870 they had three branches, in Simla, Calcutta and Bombay.

Samuel Bourne’s ability to combine technical skill and artistic vision has led to him being recognised today as one of the most outstanding photographers working in India in the nineteenth century.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Poplars, Lake George' 1932

 

Alfred Stieglitz
Poplars, Lake George
1932
Gelatin silver print
© Alfred Stieglitz, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation

 

 

Lake George was the family estate where Stieglitz spent his summers, often with his wife, the painter Georgia O’Keefe. However, he took this photograph when O’Keefe was away in New Mexico. The loneliness of separation led Stieglitz to contemplate his own mortality, a theme reflected in this representation of poplars. Perhaps he identified with the trees’ dwindling vitality, as he photographed them repeatedly that summer, almost as one might check one’s pulse.

 

Ansel Adams. 'Aspens, Northern New Mexico' 1958

 

Ansel Adams
Aspens, Northern New Mexico
1958
Gelatin silver print
Given by Virginia and Ansel Adams

 

 

Ansel Adams is well-known for his portrayal of the mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and skies of the western United States. Adams was a passionate lover of the vast American wilderness and an active conservationist. He commented, “my approach to photography is based on my belief in the vigour and values of the world of nature – in the aspects of grandeur and of the minutiae all about us.” Having trained as a pianist before turning to photography in 1927, Adams often discussed his process of composition in musical terms.

 

Gerhard Stromberg. 'Coppice (King's Wood)' 1994

 

Gerhard Stromberg
Coppice (King’s Wood)
1994
C-type print
© Gerhard Stromberg

 

 

Gerhard Stromberg is one of the foremost contemporary photographers working with the subject of the British landscape. His images demonstrate how constructed this landscape can be. The subtle, large format prints (5 x 6 ft approx.) allow the viewer to contemplate details that reveal the photographers’ intimacy and familiarity with the subject. This piece is one of the most representative of his works.

A c-type print, such as Ektachrome, is a colour print in which the print material has at least three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitised to a different primary colour – either red, blue or green – and so records different information about the colour make-up of the image. During printing, chemicals are added which form dyes of the appropriate colour in the emulsion layers. It is the most common type of colour photograph.

 

Mark Edwards. 'Rotting Apples' 2004

 

Mark Edwards
Rotting Apples
2004
From the series What Has Been Gathered Will Disperse
C-type print
Purchased through the Cecil Beaton Royalties Fund
© Mark Edwards

 

 

This image of apples lying rotten on a peacock blue carpet was taken in a family garden on a Norfolk nature reserve. The owners use pieces of old carpet, often donated by a neighbouring Buddhist retreat, as weed control. The decorative juxtaposition of the natural with the man-made moved Mark Edwards to record the carpet as it became integrated into the fabric of the garden. The photograph hints at ideas of contemplation and the passage of time.

 

Tokihiro Sato. 'Hakkoda #2' 2009

 

Tokihiro Sato
Hakkoda #2
2009
Gelatin silver print
Purchased with the support of the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tokihiro Sato, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

 

 

This photograph embodies Sato’s ephemeral imagination. It was made in the primeval Hakkoda forest, in northern Honshu on the main island of Japan. The image reveals a long fascination with the sculptural form of the Japanese Beech tree. Sato has said that to him ‘these trees suggest the ancient continental origins of the Japanese people while representing masculine strength and feminine sensitivity’. To make the picture, he exposed large-format film, during which he moved in front of the camera with a mirror reflecting the sun’s rays. The power of the sun momentarily ‘blinds’ the camera, creating an area that registers on film as an intense flare of light. Although we know that Sato is standing somewhere in the scene, we struggle to locate precisely where. While his traces are like pinpoint coordinates on a map, all we can do is estimate his continually moving location and follow the possible connecting trails. In this way, his photographs can be seen as enigmatic sculptural or physical performances. Knowing how Sato makes his images, we recognise there is not a multiplicity of presences indicated by the lights, but instead a multiplicity of one presence: the artist’s. His omnipresence might be a hint of some kind of divinity: the ever-present force of an invisible creator. Or it may simply be a record of the movement of one human force. However it is interpreted, human or divine, the light is a kind of mark that asserts both transcendence and specificity: “I was here,” even if, as in life, it is only momentarily.

 

Tal Shochat. 'Rimon (Pomegranate)' 2011

 

Tal Shochat
Rimon (Pomegranate)
2011
C-type print
© Tal Shochat

 

 

Shochat applies the conventions of studio portraiture to photographing trees. The first stage in her meticulous process is to identify the perfect specimen of a particular type of tree. When the fruit is at the height of maturity, she cleans the dust off the branches, leaves and fruit. Finally, Shochat photographs the tree, artificially lit and isolated against a black cloth background. The photographs present a view of nature that would never actually exist in a natural environment. The work highlights the tensions in photography between reality and artifice.

 

Awoiska van der Molen. '#274-5' 2011

 

Awoiska van der Molen
#274-5
2011
From the series Sequester
Oil based pigment ink on Japanese Gampi paper, presented in a handmade linen box
Purchased with the support of the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Awoiska van der Molen

 

 

Awoiska van der Molen (b.1972, Groningen, Netherlands) is a Dutch photographer based in Amsterdam. She studied architecture and photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Minerva in Groningen. In 2003 she graduated from the St. Joost Academy of Art and Design in the Netherlands with an MFA in Photographic Studies. Her work is borne out of an immersion in nature and is concerned with the untamed landscape and the sense of solitude that can be experienced in isolated locations. She works with analogue technology and explains that her pictures should be ‘understood as a metaphysical quest, a journey to the essence of being.’

For the project Sequester, van der Molen walked alone in the Canary Islands, seeking to ‘gain access to the stoic nature of the landscape’, as she describes it. She made long exposure black-and-white pictures of the dramatic volcanic terrain and dense forests at dawn and dusk. The exposures could be as long as thirty minutes and result in photographs of great intensity and ambiguity.

Van der Molen’s photographs go beyond the long tradition of black and white landscape photography, exemplified by photographers in the V&A collection such as Gustave Le Gray, Samuel Bourne, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston. Rather than emulating the visual approaches of past masters, she seeks to portray the inner condition that uninhabited natural spaces engender.

Her interest in psychological states in relation to landscape can be aligned with that of numerous contemporary practitioners, including Chrystel Lebas and Nicholas Hughes, whose landscape photographs are also created using long exposures and convey a similar atmosphere of primeval power and solitude.

The collotype process is a screenless photomechanical process that allows high-quality prints from continuous-tone photographic negatives. Collotypes are comprised of many layers of ink and have a velvety matte appearance; the process has the power to produce the depth and detail of these works faithfully. Other examples of collotypes in the collection largely date from the 19th century and include works by Eadweard Muybridge and Julia Margaret Cameron. Once a widespread process, today, there are only two professional collotype studios remaining, both of which are in Kyoto.

In 2014, van der Molen received the Japanese Hariban Award, which gave her the opportunity to collaborate with the master printmakers of the Benrido Collotype Atelier in Kyoto to produce this set of 8 collotypes from the Sequester project.

 

Addendum

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Yosemite Valley from the "Best General View"' 1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Yosemite Valley from the “Best General View”
1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

Carleton Watkins had the ability to photograph a subject from the viewpoint that allowed the most information to be revealed about its contents. In this image, he captured what he considered the best features of Yosemite Valley: Bridalveil Falls, Cathedral Rock, Half Dome, and El Capitan. By positioning the camera so that the base of the slender tree appears to grow from the bottom edge of the picture, Watkins composed the photograph so that the canyon rim and the open space beyond it seem to intersect. Although he sacrificed the top of the tree, he was able to place the miniaturised Yosemite Falls at the visual centre of the picture. To alleviate the monotony of an empty sky, he added the clouds from a second negative. This image was taken while Watkins was working for the California Geological Survey. His two thousand pounds of equipment for the expedition, which included enough glass for over a hundred negatives, required a train of six mules. (Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Das Bäumchen [Sapling]' 1928

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Dancing Trees' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Dancing Trees
1922
Photograph, palladium print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams. 'Edward Weston, Carmel Highlands, California' 1945

 

Ansel Adams
Edward Weston, Carmel Highlands, California
1945
Gelatin silver print

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Child on Forest Road' 1958, printed 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
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SW7 2RL
T: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 – 17.30
Friday 10.00 – 21.30

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16
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 4th December 2017 – 18th March 2018

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Water Lilies' c. 1906, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Water Lilies
c. 1906, printed 1912
Platinum print
26.1 x 35.2 cm (10 1/4 x 13 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

The critic Charles H. Caffin described this photograph by de Meyer as “a veritable dream of loveliness.” It is one of several floral still life de Meyer made in London around 1906-9, when he was in close contact with Alvin Langdon Coburn, a fellow photographer and member of the Linked Ring. Both men were inspired by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1906 book The Intelligence of Flowers, a mystical musing on the vitality of plant life. De Meyer exhibited several of his flower studies, including this platinum print, at Stieglitz’s influential Photo-Secession galleries in New York in 1909. The image also appeared as a photogravure in an issue of Stieglitz’s art and photography journal Camera Work.

 

 

While the “facts of Baron Adolf de Meyer’s early life have been obscured by contradictory accounts from various sources (including himself); he was born in Paris or Germany, spent his childhood in both France and Germany, and entered the international photographic community in 1894-1895,” by circa 1897-1900 he had assumed the title of “Baron.”

“In editions dating from 1898 until 1913, Whitaker’s Peerage stated that de Meyer’s title had been granted in 1897 by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, though another source states “the photographer inherited it from his grandfather in the 1890s”. Some sources state that no evidence of this nobiliary creation, however, has been found.” (Wikipedia) He then married Donna Olga Caracciolo in 1899, “reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, who enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch.” The marriage was one of convenience, since he was homosexual and she was bisexual or lesbian, but it was based on a perfect understanding and companionship between two people. As de Meyer observed in an unpublished biography, “Marriage based too much on love and unrestrained passion has rarely a chance to be lasting, whilst perfect understanding and companionship, on the contrary, generally make the most durable union.”

Meyer “gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work.” In the early 20th century, he was famed for his photographic portraits and was the preeminent fashion photographer of the day; he was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913-14 until 1921. In 1922 de Meyer accepted an offer to become the Harper’s Bazaar chief photographer in Paris, spending the next 16 years there until he was forced out, his romantic style out of fashion with the modernist taste of the day.

I state these facts only to illustrate the idea that here was a “gay” of dubious lineage (reportedly born in Paris and educated in Dresden, Adolphus Meyer was the son of a German Jewish father and Scottish mother) who rose to associate with and photograph the upper echelons of society. He made it, and he made it good. His photographs of the well to do, film stars and fashion models are undoubtedly beautiful and his control of light magnificent, but they seem to me to be, well… constructed confections. His photographs of the elite and the fashion that they wore possess an ethereal beauty, de Meyer’s shimmering control of light adding to the photographs sense of enacted fantasy played out in the form of timeless classical elegance.

But there is that lingering doubt that these photographs were both his job and his entré (along with the connections and money of his wife) into high society. Look, for example, at the self-portrait of de Meyer in this posting. In the 1900 self-portrait in India when he was 32 and on his honeymoon, we see a coiffed, almost androgynous man who in his pose is as stiff as a board – his body contorted in the strangest way, the right hand gripping the arm of the cane chair, the left splayed and braced, ramrod straight against the seat and the feet crossed in the most unnatural manner. No matter the beautiful light and attractive setting, this is the image that this man wants to portray to the world, this is a man who thinks he has arrived. It is an affectation. And in the portrait of the aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont (c. 1923, below), this is how he sees himself, as part of that elite. Because in the end, he was. But there is little feeling to any of his portrait work: style, surface, light, form and “the look” reign supreme. Only when he is so overwhelmed by stardust, such as in the brilliant photographs of Josephine Baker and her scintillating personality, does the mask of affection drop away.

Of more interest to me are his early photographs of Japan where you feel he has some personal investment in the work. The “tactile elegance of his early work” was influenced by “Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement.” The photograph View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan (1900, below) is an absolute cracker, as are the Japanese influenced Water Lilies (c. 1906, below) and The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums) (1906, below). In her review of the exhibition on the Collector Daily website, Loring Knoblauch states, “While De Meyer’s scenes from Japan, his travel photos of his wife Olga at the Acropolis and in St. Moritz, and his experiments with autochromes in the early 1900s are also included in this eclectic sampler, these rarities aren’t particularly compelling or noteworthy, aside from their supporting role in filling out a broader picture of the artist and his life.” Aren’t particularly compelling! I beg to differ.

I don’t know how people look at photographs and interpret them so differently to how I see them. Perhaps I just feel the music, I see these photographs as if I were taking them, as a personal investment in their previsualisation. While I get very little from de Meyer’s fashion photographs I get a whole lot of pleasure and delight from his transcendent earlier work. I most certainly feel their energy. You only have to look at the reflection of the water lilies. Need I say more.

Marcus

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

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering photographer, known for creating works that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. Quicksilver Brilliance will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will demonstrate the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the movement and choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

  • 13 platinum prints, 1900, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1917
  • 2 photogravures, 1908, 1912
  • 2 carbon prints, 1900, 1925-1926
  • 1 autochrome in lightbox (facsimile), 1908
  • 4 gelatin silver prints, 1912, 1923, 1925, 1928
  • 1 set of 9 gelatin silver prints (framed together), 1890s-1910
  • 1 trichrome carbro print, 1929
  • 6 collotypes, 1914 (with full collotype book showing 1 image in nearby vitrine, 1914)
  • 4 magazine spreads (in bound volumes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, 1913, 1919, 1927, in vitrine)

 

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

 

Like many Pictorialist photographers, de Meyer became interested in the camera through collecting and making snapshots of family and close friends. Olga de Meyer (née Caracciolo) was his companion and muse until her death in 1931. Rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, she enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch. De Meyer made numerous portraits of Olga throughout their famously chic and eccentric life together (in 1916 the couple changed their names to Gayne and Mharah on the advice of an astrologer).

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India]
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' (detail) 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India] (detail)
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Amida Buddah, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Amida Buddah, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
19.2 x 14.3 cm. (7 9/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan
1900
Platinum print
14.5 x 19.8 cm. (5 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer, Japan
1900
Platinum print
19.3 x 15.1 cm. (7 5/8 x 5 15/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

 

Framed by the gridded panels of a sliding screen door, Olga de Meyer pauses from her reading to look languidly at the camera. De Meyer made this affectionate photograph of his new wife while on their honeymoon to Japan. The composition suggests his interest in Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement. In its rebellion against Victorian morals, the movement sought inspiration from outside the European tradition. De Meyer’s travels in Japan – as well as China, Ceylon, India, North Africa, Turkey, and Spain – nourished Orientalist fictions, and gave rise to the subjects and compositions of many of his photographs.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
13.8 x 20.3 cm. (5 7/16 x 8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)' 1906

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)
1906
Platinum print
34.7 x 26.7 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Focusing his camera not on a still life per se, but on its evanescent trace, de Meyer creates a composition that approaches abstraction. He later applied a similar handling of light and shadow to enhance the drama of his fashion photographs. Here, the shadow of a vase of flowers cast onto the wall has the effect of a Japanese lacquered screen.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Silver Cap' c. 1909, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Silver Cap
c. 1909, printed 1912
Gelatin silver print
45.7 x 27.6 cm. (18 x 10 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Born in Paris, Baron Adolf de Meyer settled in London in 1896. With his wife, Donna Olga Caraciollo, he joined the elegant set surrounding the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, Olga’s godfather. They entertained lavishly, including concerts and small fancy-dress balls, which gave de Meyer a chance to devise marvellous costumes for Olga. Likely inspired by the de Meyers’ involvement with the Ballets Russes and time spent at their villa on the Bosporus, this dress features Ottoman elements such as the full skirt and decorative trimmings yet conforms to the Western fitted waistline – a fine example of the 1910s fashion trend of exoticism.

 

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering art, portrait, and fashion photographer, known for creating images that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. The “quicksilver brilliance” that characterised de Meyer’s art led fellow photographer Cecil Beaton to dub him the “Debussy of the Camera.” Opening December 4 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will reveal the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-Midi d’un Faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

Born in Paris and educated in Germany, de Meyer was of obscure aristocratic German-Jewish and Scottish ancestry. He and his wife, Olga Caracciolo, goddaughter of Edward VII, were at the center of London’s café society.

After starting in photography as an amateur, de Meyer gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work. At the outbreak of World War I, de Meyer settled in the United States and applied his distinctive pictorial style to fashion imagery, helping to define the genre during the interwar period.

The exhibition was organized by Beth Saunders, Assistant Curator in The Met’s Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Tamara Karsavina' c. 1908

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Tamara Karsavina
c. 1908
Autochrome
9 x 11.9 cm (3.5 x 4.6 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

De Meyer enthusiastically embraced the autochrome process at its inception in 1907, writing to Stieglitz the following year that his work in black and white no longer satisfied him. An ardent admirer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, de Meyer created this image of Tamara Karasavina (1885-1978), a leading dancer and partner to Nijinksy, during one of the company’s visits to England. The photographer chose a background of bellflowers and arranged a brocaded shawl to enhance the exotic elegance of the dancer.

The autochrome, which retains in its minuscule prisms the particular luminosity of a misty English day in summer, was thought to represent the Marchioness of Ripon in her garden at Coombe, Surrey. An early patron of de Meyer, Lady Ripon was also a staunch supporter of Diaghilev, bringing the Ballets Russes to London in 1911. She frequently entertained Karasavina and Nijinsky at Coombe, where they danced for Alexandra, the queen consort, and de Meyer dedicated to her his album documenting Nijinsky’s production of L’Après-midi d’un faune. A companion image to this autochrome is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Lady Ottoline Morrell]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Lady Ottoline Morrell]
c. 1912
Platinum print
23.5 x 17.4 cm (9 1/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

Adolph de Meyer’s portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell, eccentric hostess to Bloomsbury, is a stunning summation of the character of this aristocratic lady who aspired to live “on the same plane as poetry and as music.” Rebelling against the narrow values of her class, Lady Ottoline Cavendish Bentinck (1873-1938) married Philip Morrell, a lawyer and liberal Member of Parliament, and surrounded herself in London and on their estate at Garsington with a large circle of friends, including Bertrand Russell, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, and E. M. Forster. Tall, wearing fantastic, scented, vaguely Elizabethan clothes, Lady Ottoline made an unforgettable impression. With her dyed red hair, patrician nose, and jutting jaw, she could look, according to Lord David Cecil, at one and the same moment beautiful and grotesque. Henry James saw her as “some gorgeous heraldic creature – a Gryphon perhaps or a Dragon Volant.”

De Meyer made several portraits of Lady Ottoline. None went as far as this one in conjuring up the sitter’s flamboyant persona, capturing, through dramatic lighting and Pre-Raphaelite design, her untamed, baroque quality. “Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted up, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if a strange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her.” D. H. Lawrence’s inspired description of the character based on Lady Ottoline in “Women in Love” finds a vivid counterpart in the photographer’s art.

 

Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, born France, 1868-1946) 'The Cup' c. 1910

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Cup
c. 1910
Gum bichromate print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer
c. 1912
Platinum print
22.4 x 16.4 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

Renowned for her beauty and style, de Meyer’s spouse was, in a sense, his first fashion model. Here, dramatic backlighting emphasises her sinuous form, enshrouded in shimmering fabric and fur. Her gaze conveys a haughty bemusement that elevates the tableau from costume play to regal sophistication.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Dance Study]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Dance Study]
c. 1912
Platinum print
32.7 x 43.5 cm (12 7/8 x 17 1/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

De Meyer photographed the dancer Nijinsky and other members of Diaghilev’s troupe when “L’Après-midi d’un Faun” was presented in Paris in 1912. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Russian ballet, but if so, it remains mysterious. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Ballets Russes, but the nature of that link remains mysterious. The image vibrates with an uneasy erotic tension, a product of the figure’s exposed torso, startled body language, and disguised identity.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune
1914
Collotypes
Album: 15 1/4 x 11 5/8
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

In 1912 de Meyer made a remarkable series of photographs related to the Ballets Russes production L’après-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun). The avant-garde dance was choreographed by famed Russian performer Vaslav Nijinsky, set to a score by Claude Debussy, and inspired by a poem by Symbolist writer Stéphane Mallarmé. It follows a young faun distracted from his flute-playing by bathing nymphs who seduce and taunt him, leaving behind a scarf with which he allays his desire. When the ballet premiered in Paris on May 29, 1912, the overtly sexual climactic scene and unconventional choreography scandalised audiences. Nijinsky based the angular movements and frieze-like staging on Greek vase paintings, but Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev also likened them to Cubism.

Thirty of de Meyer’s photographs of the ballet were published as collotypes (photomechanical ink prints) in a 1914 edition of one thousand luxurious handcrafted books. Only seven copies are known today. Using alternately complex and fragmentary compositions, de Meyer’s images generate a rhythm of gesture and form. The thin Japanese papers offer a tactile echo of the diaphanous costumes (designed by artist Léon Bakst), and the heavily manipulated negatives enshroud the angular figures in a dreamlike haze. An object of desire, the book itself embodies the spirit of Nijinsky’s ballet.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Image from "Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un faune"]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Image from “Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un faune”]
1914
Platinum print
4 3/16 × 7 1/16 in. (10.6 × 17.9 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mrs. Walter Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Rita de Acosta Lydig' 1917

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Rita de Acosta Lydig
1917
Platinum print
41.5 x 30.9 cm. (16 5/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1952

 

 

De Meyer’s portrait of the socialite, art patron, “shoe queen,” and suffragette Rita de Acosta Lydig is striking in its simplicity of tone and contour. The image, which appeared in Vogue in 1917, resonates with the classical elegance epitomised in the paintings of society portraitists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, who also depicted this so-called alabaster lady.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of the Marchesa Casati' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of the Marchesa Casati
1912
Plate from Camera Work No. XL August 1912

 

 

Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino (23 January 1881 – 1 June 1957), also known as Luisa Casati, was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. …

A celebrity, the Marchesa was famed for eccentricities that dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery. (Wikipedia)

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]' 1918-21

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]
1918-21
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Dolores' 1921

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Dolores
1921
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]' c. 1923

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 18.6 cm (9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

An aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont cuts a dashing figure here, posed in one of the grand salons of his hôtel (grand townhouse) in Paris’s rue Masseran. The count hosted a series of legendary masquerade balls at his residence during the interwar period, attended by avant-garde artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray. De Meyer described these parties, which he and Olga often attended, as “fêtes of unsurpassed magnificence” in a 1923 article for Harper’s Bazaar.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of Josephine Baker' 1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of Josephine Baker
1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Josephine Baker' 1925-26

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Josephine Baker
1925-26
Direct carbon print
45.2 x 29.5 cm (17 13/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

The Saint Louis, Missouri-born Josephine Baker arrived in Paris in 1925 and quickly made a sensation as part of the all-black Revue Nègre, a musical entertainment that capitalised on the French craze for American Jazz. Famously donning a banana skirt for her danse sauvage, Baker crafted performances that astutely deployed the stereotypes white Europeans associated with blackness, recouping them as instruments of her own empowerment and success. Baker shines amid the glittering backdrop and soft focus of de Meyer’s photograph, creating an iconic image of stardom.

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolf de Meyer
1903
Platinum print
13 3/8 x 10″ (34 x 25.5 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Miss Mina Turner

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolph de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)
1903
Platinum photograph
8.5 x 6.5 in.

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935) 'A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]' 1905

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935)
A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]
1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.7 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

With his brow arched beneath a tilted hat and hand elegantly grasping a stark white scarf, de Meyer dons a mysterious alter ego. Like de Meyer, Sears was involved with the two major groups devoted to art photography: the Photo-Secession and the Linked Ring Brotherhood. The two artists may have met through a mutual friend, the photographer F. Holland Day, who included their work in his exhibition “New School of American Photography,” on view in London in 1900 and Paris the following year. The title for this portrait follows a Photo-Secession tradition of withholding the sitter’s name when exhibiting publicly.

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

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

In 1899 she was given a one-woman show at the Boston Camera Club, and in 1900 she had several prints in Frances Benjamin Johnson’s famous exhibition in Paris. … In 1907, two of her photographs were published in Camera Work, but by that time she had lost much of her interest in photography. (Wikipedia)

 

 

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21
Feb
18

American daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes of men

February 2018

 

J[eremiah] Gurney (American) 'Untitled [Cross-eyed man in three-quarter profile]' Nd

J[eremiah] Gurney (American) 'Untitled [Cross-eyed man in three-quarter profile]' Nd

 

J[eremiah] Gurney (American) at 349 Broadway, New York
Untitled [Cross-eyed man in three-quarter profile]
Nd
Half-plate daguerreotype

 

 

All of these photographs came from the Internet, most from an auction site selling them at prices way beyond what I could afford.

As you can see, I have given most of them a digital clean. Even though this might seem too clinical, unethical? or just wrong- you can now see the photographs as they were originally intended, without the grunge and gunk of years of dust and degradation over the top of them.

Just look at the photograph above, and you can immediately get an idea of the unique spatiality of the image, from front to back. A really low depth of field that is focused diagonally across the front of the body and jacket, making the hands, the table and the back of the head out of focus. Because it is occluded with all the scratches and dust on the original, you have little idea of the complexity of the visualisation of this portrait until you observe the image in its pristine state, as it was meant to be seen just after it was taken.

I just love these early portraits and photographic processes for the presence they bring to their subjects. For example the hair, the gaze and the attitude of the right hand in Handsome man with fifth finger ring is just magnificent. I could go on cleaning them for a very long time, and never get bored.

Marcus

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Group of three men]' c. 1850

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Group of three men]
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Unusual period frame of cast thermoplastic

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Man on crutches]' c. 1850-60s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Man on crutches]
c. 1850-60s
Sixth-plate ambrotype
Housed in a moulded leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) Untitled [Man with pistols] c. 1850-60s

Unknown photographer (American) Untitled [Man with pistols] c. 1850-60s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Man with pistols]
c. 1850-60s
Sixth-plate daguerreotype, delicately tinted
Housed in a moulded leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Man, possibly a sailor, wearing hoop earrings]' Nd

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Man, possibly a sailor, wearing hoop earrings]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Man, possibly a sailor, wearing hoop earrings]
Nd
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Housed in a moulded leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [African American]' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [African American]
c. 1850s
Sixth-plate daguerreotype

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [African American]' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [African American]
c. 1850s
Sixth-plate daguerreotype

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Two men in caps, elegantly dressed]' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Two men in caps, elegantly dressed]
c. 1850s
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Housed in a moulded leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Handsome man with fifth finger ring]' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Handsome man with fifth finger ring]
c. 1850s
Sixth-plate daguerreotype

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Portrait of violinist holding instrument]' c. 1855

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Portrait of violinist holding instrument]
c. 1855
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Union case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Two men, one with trug of tools]' c. 1850-60s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Two men, one with trug of tools]
c. 1850-60s
Sixth-plate ambrotype
Housed in a moulded leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Two firemen]' c. 1850-60s

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Two firemen]
c. 1850-60s
Quarter-plate tinted tintype
Leather case

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Man in button braces]' c. 1850

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Man in button braces]' c. 1850

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Man in button braces]
c. 1850
Ninth-plate daguerreotype

 

 

William J. Shew (American, 1820-1903) 'Charles Calistus Burleigh (1810-1878)' c. 1845-1850

 

William J. Shew (American, 1820-1903)
Charles Calistus Burleigh (1810-1878)
c. 1845-1850
Quarter-plate daguerreotype
11.5 x 9.5 cm (cased)
Boston Public Library, Print Department

 

 

Charles Calistus Burleigh (1810-1878)

An ardent abolitionist and journalist, Burleigh was vocal against Connecticut’s “Black Law” and became editor of the Unionist, originally published in defence of Prudence Crandall’s school.

Eccentric in dress and with a flowing beard he vowed not to remove until the end of slavery, Burleigh turned his back on a professional career to become agent and lecturer for the Middlesex Anti-Slavery. He was a regular contributor to the Liberator and one of the editors of the Pennsylvania Freeman.

He was a supportive friend of Abby Kelley. Active in a number of reform movements, Burleigh plunged into the Anti-Sabbatarian campaign after he was arrested in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1847 for selling antislavery literature on Sunday. Abby and Stephen Foster had been arrested in Ohio for the same offence in July 1846.

In 1845 he published a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Death Penalty, condemning capital punishment.

Karen Board Moran

 

William J. Shew (1820-1903)

William Shew (1820-1903) made a name for himself as a Daguerrotype portrait artist in the United States. He maintained a mobile studio in a wagon that he called his “Daguerrotype Saloon.”

William Shew was born on a farm in Waterton, New York on March 1820. At the age of 20 he read an article by the inventor Samuel F.B. Morse about the daguerreotype process and, along with his three brothers, moved to New York City to study with Morse. His brothers Jacob, Myron and Trueman were also photographers, but not attained the stature of William Shew. Morse would become more famous as the inventor of the telegraph.

After completing his studies, Shew worked briefly in upstate New York before becoming the supervisor at John Plumbe’s gallery in Boston. Three years later he opened John Shew and Company in Boston, where he manufactured his own dyes and created daguerrotypes with wooden frames, thin veneer backings and embossed paper coverings. In 1846, Shew married Elizabeth Marie Studley and had a daughter they named Theodora Alice, born in Feb. 1848. He also became and active member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.

In 1851, he sold his business and sailed on the steamer Tennessee to San Francisco, where he joined his brother Jacob who arrived in 1849. It is believed that Shew set up a gallery shortly after arriving in San Francisco, which may have been destroyed by the 1851 fire that swept the city. After the fire he set up “Shew’s Daguerreian Saloon.”

Read more…

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Untitled [Two young men with straw hats, seated beside each other]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Untitled [Two young men with straw hats, seated beside each other]
Nd
Sixth-plate painted tintype
Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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