Archive for the 'intimacy' Category

17
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘William Wegman: Being Human’ at Fotomuseum den Haag, the Netherlands

Exhibition dates: 5th September 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Untitled (Three Legged Dog)' 1974

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Untitled (Three Legged Dog)
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collectie Kunstmuseum Den Haag
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Concept

Pathos

Portrait
Polaroid
Performance

History
Humour
Humanity

Master / artist

Human / being

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

People like us / People we like

I didn’t always dress up the dogs. My first dog Man Ray was spared anthropomorphic adornment. That was left for Fay Ray. Fay and I came to a mutual realisation that she had a desire to be observed. Anyway, I found myself looking at her for long periods of time. Then one day, after some looking, I made her tall. Before long I was blurring the pedestal with fabric and creating the illusion of the anthropomorphic vertical. With the birth of Fay’s puppies, my cast of characters grew. Fay’s puppies – Chundo, Battina and Crooky – grew up watching their famous mother, and when it came their turn they were not taken by surprise. They knew what to do.

 

Colour fields

I began by ignoring colour, using the colour Polaroid film as though it were black and white. I distrusted colour. Sensuous, romantic, elusive colour. Colour was … well … colourful. In fact, the first few days with the Polaroid camera I made only black-on-black pictures. Man Ray under a black cloth against a black background. Polaroid film is very beautiful within a limited range. Man Ray was too dark for this film but Fay was perfect. With Fay I began to explore colour and light.

 

Weimaraners

No other breed that I am aware of is as conducive to the illusion of transformation as Weimaraners. Weimaraners are called ‘grey ghosts’. Their fur gives off an almost iridescent glow. They inhabit their forms in a strange way, never appearing to solidify into themselves as, say, a lab, a collie or a bulldog does. When you photograph a collie, you get a collie.

 

Tales

One day my assistant Andrea stood behind Fay to adjust her dress and she gestured out to me with her hand. Her long human arm appeared as Fay’s. The illusion startled me. A miracle. Kind of creepy. Fay was part human. I thought of cartoons and mythology, superheroes and Egyptian gods. Next thing you know, Batty’s son Chip was playing the flute.

 

Sit! / Stay!

The dogs have an obvious pride in what they do. They can sense the feeling in the room when they are working. If it’s a great picture or a difficult picture, they can feel what happens because everyone stops and goes ‘Wow!’ Fay was particularly agile and for her I concocted a series of anatomically challenging poses. I came to understand her balance and points of physical tension. Fay liked the challenge of a difficult pose. I think she liked to impress me.

 

Vogue / Style

I have a very awkward relationship with fashion. I’m a little bit timid about it. This isn’t the attitude of the typical fashion photographer. Fortunately, my Weimaraners are the perfect fashion models. Their slinky elegant forms are covered in grey, and grey, as everyone knows, goes with anything.

 

Nudes / Physique

Up close, unadorned, standing, sitting or lying before the eye of the big camera, the dogs become landscapes, a forest of trees, a topography of hills and valleys, earth and boulders, in a shoreline of endless interconnectivity.

 

Cubists

Since 1972 I have had a habit of keeping a white box in the studio. If I can’t think of anything to do, the box is a good place to start. The original work I made with this box alluded to Sol LeWitt’s minimal sculptures of the 1960s, but this is now a fading memory. I use a box the way a philosopher uses a chair, as a physical object representing hypothetical questions: ‘How many ways can a dog fit on a box?’, ‘How many dogs can fit in a box?’, ‘Around a box?’ And on and on. On these square wheels, round questions keep rolling.

.
William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum – William Wegman from Kunstmuseum Den Haag on Vimeo.

 

 

Many artists have a muse. Movie directors perfect their craft working repeatedly with their favourite actors, while choreographers create some of their best works for a specific dancer. In some cases, the muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s intense and obsessive gaze; in others the work emerges from a partnership so close that it is unclear which is the artist and which is the muse. For the American artist William Wegman (b. 1943), his muses have been generations of the Weimaraner breed. The inspiration came in 1970 when his first dog, Man Ray – named after Wegman’s favourite artist – sat himself in front of the camera. Instead of sending his faithful companion to his bed, Wegman seized the moment, and the rest is history. Wegman was already a well-known artist, but it is his numerous, human-like portraits of his ever-expanding cast of Weimaraners that have brought him worldwide fame. In partnership with renowned guest curator William A. Ewing and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Fotomuseum Den Haag presents a major survey of no fewer than four decades of Wegman’s wide-ranging collaboration with Man Ray, Fay Wray, Candy and their descendants.

Press release from the Fotomuseum den Haag

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Constructivism' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Constructivism
2014
Pigment print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Dog Walker' 1990

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Dog Walker
1990
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Farm Boy' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Farm Boy
1996
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Tamino with magic flute' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Tamino with magic flute
1996
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro; instead, he learns the high ideals of Sarastro’s community and seeks to join it. Separately, then together, Tamino and Pamina undergo severe trials of initiation, which end in triumph, with the Queen and her cohorts vanquished. The earthy Papageno, who accompanies Tamino on his quest, fails the trials completely but is rewarded anyway with the hand of his ideal female companion, Papagena.

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'George' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
George
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Wall' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Wall
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cut to Reveal' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cut to Reveal
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Feathered Footwear' 1999

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Feathered Footwear
1999
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Casual' 2002

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Casual
2002
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

William Wegman: Being Human

Many great artists have a muse. Sometimes this muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s obsessive gaze. At other times the relationship is a deeply collaborative act.
The history of photography has its own celebrated cases: Jacques-Henri Lartigue and Renée Perle, for example, or Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. For William Wegman, whose muses have been all these things and more, inspiration arrived almost half a century ago, when a Weimaraner who had joined the family showed both aptitude and passion for performing before the camera. In honour of one of Wegman’s most admired modern artists, he was named Man Ray, the first in a line of highly spirited performers.

William Wegman is a renowned and versatile American artist who resists an easy classification as he moves adroitly between painting, drawing, photography, film, video, books and performances. Although his famed Weimaraners are not featured in all these media, they reside at the core of his art. In the late 1970s Wegman found, in the large-format Polaroid print, his ideal means of expression – the perfect print size, exquisite colour and an ‘instantaneity’ which allowed for spontaneity and beneficial ‘accidents’. When his Polaroid chapter finally came to an end, the artist shifted to working digitally, rediscovering in this new medium what was essential to him about the Polaroid process: the print size, expressive colour and the studio set-ups.

Wegman’s world may revolve around his dogs, but his choice of sets, costumes and props betray a fascination with art history – Cubism, colour field painting, Abstract Expressionism, Constructivism, Conceptualism and the like. The diverse fields of photography also intrigue the artist, and we find in his work landscapes, nudes, portraits, reportage and fashion.

And yet, is it all really about dogs? Being Human suggests otherwise: these performers are us and we are them: housewife, astronaut, lawyer, priest, farm worker, even a dog walker! Some pose proudly and with confidence, others express doubts or vulnerabilities. It’s all about being human.

William A. Ewing. Exhibition curator

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Upside Downward' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Upside Downward
2006
Color Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'From the spirit world' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
From the spirit world
2006
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'On base' 2007

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
On base
2007
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cursive Display' 2013

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cursive Display
2013
Pigment Print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Contact' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Contact
2014
pigment print
111.7 x 86.4cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'V' 2017

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
V
2017
Colour polaroid photograph
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 43
2517 HV Den Haag

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 17.00
The museum is closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Den Haag website

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13
Oct
20

Photographs: ‘Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941’ and other WW2 Australian photographs

October 2020

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

These photographs were given to me in an envelope titled “Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941”. I have carefully digitally scanned and cleaned them. The attribution seems correct for the first group of photographs in the posting, Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore, but not for the rest. I have located Rumann’s POW record and found several pictures of the ship he would have taken to travel to Singapore.

The other photographs in the posting show Australian armed services personnel (none are American), but there are several anomalies that enable me to say that these are later photographs. Four Australian women personnel stand in front of an American Red Cross sign, and the ARC (or Amcross) did not arrive in Australia until 1942. And in the photograph Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23, the men an women are standing on a US Army transportation barge, unlikely to have been in Australian waters before 1942. Behind them Carley floats hang from their tethers.

As always, what interests me most about these photographs are the details contained within: the casualness of the men waiting at Post Exchange No. 2, with their sandals, singlets and slough hats; the man caught mid-clamber, climbing up into the truck in Taking out the rubbish; the women in dark glasses and hat sheltering her eyes from the sun in BKC*23; the men peering out of the portholes in the same photograph, one with a fag in his mouth.

We can feel the heat emanating from these photographs (it must be summer). All the men are in shorts and topless. In photographs such as Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23 and Embarkation we can admire their lithe bodies, and observe the ubiquitous 1940s mop of curly hair with short back and sides. They were already athletic before departure, but imagine fighting in the stinking hot forests of Burma on Army rations, or ending up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with so little meat on the bone to start with. You would be a skeleton before long. Finally, there is one personal sign that you can make out in the crowd seeing off the troops to Singapore from Circular Quay in 1941. “Jim Carr” it reads. Did he survive the war? Who knows.

More than 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured at the fall of Singapore. Of these, more than 7000 would die as prisoners of war, some in transport ships on their way to Japan, sadly torpedoed by Allied submarines. Andrew Rumann survived his trip to Japan as a POW and returned to Australia after the war. He died in 1974 aged 68 years old.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs have been digitally scanned and cleaned by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann

Headquarters, Royal Australian Artillery, 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Service Number – NX26452
Date of birth – 13 Sep 1905
Place of birth – Hungary
Place of enlistment – Paddington NSW
Next of Kin – Rumann, Rena

Malaya, captured at Singapore

Camp: Osaka, Japan

Andrew died in 1974 in Toor, Australia at 68 years old

 

In January 1941 a large component of the Australian Army’s recently raised 8th Division was posted to Malaya. An element of some 6000 men departed Sydney in the liner Queen Mary as part of Convoy US9 on 4 February 1941, arriving in Singapore two weeks later on 18 February. A further 5000 troops in Convoy US11B arrived at Keppel Harbour on 15 August 1941. Under the command of Major General Gordon Bennett, the force initially established its headquarters at Kuala Lumpur. Bennett had urged for specific territorial responsibility for his Division, and this resulted in an area which included Johore and Malacca, coming within his responsibility.

The Australian Army 8th Division in Malaya eventually reached about 15,000 men. An apt description of the commander, Major General Henry (Gordon) Bennett, found in a Veterans’ Affairs publication, (Moremon & Reid 2002) reads:

“A prominent citizen soldier, he had proven himself in World War I to be a fierce fighter and leader, but he was well known for his prickly temperament, argumentative nature and proneness to quarrel. His relations with senior British commanders and staff in Malaya were, at times, strained, as he grappled to maintain control of the Australian troops.”

Bennett’s independent spirit did not fit into the Allied command structure, however his Division generally acquitted themselves well against a seasoned enemy.

Walter Burroughs. “The Naval Evacuation of Singapore – February 1942,” on the Naval Historical Society of Australia website. June 2019 edition of the Naval Historical Review  [Online] Cited 04/09/2020.

 

Convoy US11B

Convoy US11B

Departed Sydney 29/7/1941 – Arrived Fremantle 6/8/1941
Departed Fremantle 8/8/1941 – Arrived Singapore 15/8/1941

Ships: Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, Katoomba, HMAS Sydney, Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, HMAS Canberra, Sibajak.

In late July 1941 a convoy was organised to transport 8th Division troops to Singapore. The convoy included three Dutch passenger ships, and escort ships from the Royal Australian Navy.

 

Summary of Embarkation for Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (HMT FF)

The following troops embarked Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt at Woolloomooloo, Sydney on 29/7/1941 for the voyage to Singapore.

61524 – 8 Division Artillery

29 men arrived including 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, 3 sergeants, 22 corporals and privates.

(Source: Australian Army War Diary 1/15/14 – District Records Office Eastern Command May – July 1941)

 

Troopship 32 – Voyage 4

She [JVO] departed Sydney on July 17 and headed for Auckland New Zealand where she arrived on July 21 and departed again on the 22nd. She returned to Sydney arriving on July 25 and departed again on the 29th, sailing via Fremantle to Singapore arriving on August 15. End of Troop voyage 4.

 

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941
Aerial Starboard side view of the Dutch liner Johan van Oldenbarnevelt transporting Australian troops to the Middle East as part of convoy US11B. Note the 4.7 pound gun and 12 pounder AA gun aft
1st August 1941
Australian War Memorial Naval Historical Collection
Public domain

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941 – Note the guns up on the aft section!

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Trust building at left in the background. The spire is the CQ Fire Station No. 3.

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941 (detail)

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore] (detail)
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

NX26452 Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Encampment]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Encampment]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

The American Red Cross (ARC or Amcross) in Australia during WW2 became the largest hotel and restaurant chain in Australia at the time. Amcross was headed by Norman H. Davis with its headquarters in Sydney, NSW. …

Four American women led by Miss Helen Hall arrived in Australia in about late August 1942 to take charge of American Red Cross Service Personnel and to establish new American Red Cross centres and to extend existing centres. Miss Hall was the administrative assistant to the delegate in charge of American Red Cross Service Clubs and Leave Areas in Australia. The other three women were Miss Hannah More Frazer, who was appointed Director of the American Red Cross Service Club in Melbourne in about September 1942; Miss Florice Langley who opened an ARC Service Club in Cairns, in far north Queensland; and Mrs. Anita Woodworth who opened an ARC Service Club in Charters Towers in north Queensland.

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Mike Peel. 'Carley float' 2018

 

Mike Peel
Carley float
2018
CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

Carley float

The Carley float (sometimes Carley raft) was a form of invertible liferaft designed by American inventor Horace Carley (1838-1918). Supplied mainly to warships, it saw widespread use in a number of navies during peacetime and both World Wars until superseded by more modern rigid or inflatable designs. Carley was awarded a patent in 1903 after establishing the Carley Life Float Company of Philadelphia. …

Simply by casting it over the side, the lightweight Carley float could be launched more rapidly than traditional rigid lifeboat designs, and without the need for specialised hoists. It could be mounted on any convenient surface and survive the battering against the ship’s sides during heavy seas. Unlike the rubber inflatable rafts of the period, it was relatively immune to compromise of its buoyant chambers. Seafarers in it were however completely exposed to the elements, and would suffer accordingly. An inquiry of 1946 reported that many sailors who had succeeded in getting to the safety of Carley floats had nevertheless succumbed to exposure before rescue could be made. The crew of the Canadian minesweeper HMCS Esquimalt, sunk offshore of Nova Scotia in April 1945, lost at least 16 to hypothermia during the six hours in which they awaited rescue. Few of the survivors could still walk.

Despite these shortcomings many seamen did owe their lives to the Carley float. Chinese sailor Poon Lim survived for a record 133 days adrift in the South Atlantic aboard a Carley float after his freighter SS Benlomond was sunk on 23 November 1942. He fashioned fishing gear from components of the raft. He was close to death when discovered off the coast of Brazil on 5 April 1943, but was able to walk ashore unaided.

Though its occupant did not survive, a shrapnel-ridden Carley float carried the body of an unknown man to land on Christmas Island in February 1942. The sun-bleached corpse had evidently spent a lengthy period at sea, though to this day it remains unknown from where the sailor had come. It has long been suspected that the body was that of a sailor from HMAS Sydney, which was lost with all hands under mysterious circumstances off the coast of Australia on 19 November 1941. A second Carley float, more confidently believed to be from Sydney, was recovered drifting 300 km off the Australian coast one week after the ship sank. It had been badly damaged by shellfire, but was empty. The float is now displayed at the HMAS Sydney exhibit of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

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09
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank – Memories’ at the Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zürich

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2020 – 10th January 2021

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'White Tower, New York' 1948

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
White Tower, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

An interesting selection of media images, including some early Swiss and American photographs, which are rarely seen.

Frank’s perceptiveness of human beings and their context of being and becoming is incredible. Look at the faces in Landsgemeinde, Hundwil (1949, below), Paris (1952, below) and the attitude of the bodies, surmounted by the sun (top left), in London (1951, below).

“It is important to see what is invisible to others.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

The recently deceased Robert Frank is widely regarded as one of the most important photographers of our time. His book The Americans, first published in Paris in 1958 and then in New York the following year, is quite possibly the most influential photo book of the 20th century. As a kind of photographic road movie, it sketches a gloomy social portrait that served as a wake-up call to all of America at the time. And his personal style, alternating between documentary and subjective expression, radically changed post-war photography. But The Americans wasn’t merely a spontaneous stroke of genius. Frank’s early works already feature back stories and side plots that are closely connected to the themes and images of his legendary book. The Fotostiftung Schweiz holds a collection of lesser-known works – many of which were donated by the artist – which illustrate the consolidation of Frank’s subjective style. In addition to essays from Switzerland and Europe, it also includes works from early 1950s America that are on par with the well-known classics, but remained unpublished for editorial reasons. At the heart of the exhibition Robert Frank – Memories is the narrative force of Frank’s visual language, which developed in opposition to all conventions and only received international recognition when Frank had already abandoned photography and turned to the medium of film.

The exhibition is accompanied by a presentation of the books that publisher Gerhard Steidl produced with Robert Frank over a period of more than 15 years.

 

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'New York City' 1948

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
New York City
1948
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Landsgemeinde, Hundwil' 1949

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Landsgemeinde, Hundwil
1949
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Landsgemeinde, Hundwil' 1949

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Landsgemeinde, Hundwil
1949
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Landsgemeinde, Hundwil' 1949 (detail)

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Landsgemeinde, Hundwil (detail)
1949
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Landsgemeinde, Hundwil' 1949 (detail)

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Landsgemeinde, Hundwil (detail)
1949
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'London' 1951

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
London
1951
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Paris' 1952

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Paris
1952
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'New York City' early 1950s

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
New York City
early 1950s
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Robert Frank, who was born in Zurich in 1924 and died last year in Canada, is widely regarded as one of the most important photographers of our time. Over the course of decades, he has expanded the boundaries of photography and explored its narrative potential like no other. Robert Frank travelled thousands of miles between the American East and West Coasts in the mid-1950s, going through nearly 700 films in the process. A selection of 83 black-and-white images from this blend of diary, sombre social portrait and photographic road movie would leave its mark on generations of photographers to come. The photobook The Americans was first published in Paris, followed by the US in 1959 – with an introduction by Beat writer Jack Kerouac, no less. Off-kilter compositions, cut-off figures and blurred motion marked a new photographic style teetering between documentation and narration that would have a profound impact on postwar photography.

It is quite possibly the single most influential book in the history of photography; however, rather than being a spontaneous stroke of genius, Frank had worked on his subjective visual language for years. Many of his photographs from Switzerland, Europe and South America, as well as his rarely shown works from the USA in the early 1950s, are on a par with the famous classics from The Americans. The photographer’s early work, which remained unpublished for editorial reasons and is therefore little known to this day, reveals connections to those iconic pictures that still define our image of America, even today.

At the heart of the exhibition Robert Frank – Memories is the narrative force of Robert Frank’s visual language, which developed in opposition to all conventions and only received international recognition after Frank had already abandoned photography and turned to the medium of film. The exhibition mainly features vintage silver gelatin prints from the collection of the Fotostiftung Schweiz, which either come from the former collection of Robert Frank’s long-time friend Werner Zryd (now owned by the Swiss Confederation) or were donated to the Fotostiftung Schweiz by the artist himself. They are complemented by a number of loans from the Fotomuseum Winterthur. A presentation of the books and films that publisher Gerhard Steidl released with Robert Frank over a period of more than 15 years accompanies the exhibition (in the corridor leading to the library and in the seminar room).

 

Early Work

In March 1947, Robert Frank arrived in New York following an adventurous journey on a cargo ship. The young, ambitious photographer had found Switzerland too stifling and he hoped to gain new freedom in America liberated from social and family obligations. The photographer carried a 6×6 Rolleiflex and a small spiral-bound book of 40 photographs taken during his apprentice years from 1941 to 1946. This portfolio included landscapes, portraits, personal photojournalistic works, and meticulously executed still lifes, all of which reveal that the 22-year old was a highly skilled photographer. It is therefore unsurprising that influential Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch swiftly hired Frank as an assistant photographer after seeing his portfolio and first test photos.

In the magazine’s in-house photo studio, Frank photographed fashion industry products from clinical shots of women’s shoes and every imaginable accessory to laboriously staged fashion shoots and occasionally even photojournalistic assignments offering a little more freedom. Frank was successful and rose through the ranks, but quickly realised that this industry cared only about money, an attitude to which he couldn’t reconcile himself. Only a few months later, he quit his job in order to be able to work wholly free of constraints. He traveled to Peru and Bolivia the following year and often used his 35 mm Leica. Later he recalled: “I was making a kind of diary. I was very free with the camera. I didn’t think of what would be the correct thing to do; I did what I felt good doing. I was like an action painter.”

Frank returned to Europe in spring 1949. He photographed the yearly cantonal assembly in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, during which citizens (exclusively men back then) voted by a show of hands. However, he was unsuccessful in placing this story with a major periodical, even though he circulated the images via the acclaimed agency Magnum. Evidently, Frank had focused too little on the actual events. He was more interested in the bystanders’ stances than in the pomp of government officials wearing tailcoats and top hats. His photographs of this assembly prefigure the penetrating and critical gaze he would later level on America’s societal and political landscape. Here as there, his was an outsider’s subjective and inward looking perspective.

 

Black White and Things

In late 1949, the international magazine Camera published a first selection of Robert Frank’s work. The accompanying text described him as a photographer who loved “truth and unvarnished reality”, as someone “whose thirst for experience compelled him to get out and capture life with his camera”. Indeed, Frank worked chiefly in Paris, London, and Spain between 1949 and 1953, frequently traveling between Europe and the US. He reported on a bullfighter in Spain and observed life in London’s financial district. In Paris he took pictures of objects – mostly chairs and flowers – photographs he assembled in an album dedicated to his future wife. In subsequent years, he shook off any sentimental tendencies.

Frank continued his attempts to publish both smaller and more substantial stories and photo essays in glossy magazines such as Life, but with limited success. His reportage on Welsh coal miner Ben James, which appeared in U.S. Camera 1955 annual, was a rare exception. But Frank found himself less and less able to reconcile himself with the conventional view of photography as a universal language accessible to all. Instead, he increasingly distanced himself from print media’s expectations and developed a strong aversion to what he once termed stereotypical “Life stories”, “those goddamned stories with a beginning and an end”.

In autumn 1952, Frank created Black White and Things with his Zurich-based friend Werner Zryd. This handmade book comprising 34 photographs was an attempt to counter these expectations with something new: an intuitively ordered series of photos with neither text nor linear narrative structure, introduced simply by Saint-Exupéry’s famed lines from The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Accordingly, Black White and Things is a kind of three-part visual poem: “Black” evokes death, materialism, loneliness, and anonymity; “White” evokes home, love, religion, and camaraderie; and “Things” engages with diametrical oppositions such as friendship and cruelty, and affection and solitude. The order and pairing of the images sparks thoughts, associations, and feelings. Yet Frank’s evocative arrangement is intentionally ambiguous and open: “Something must be left for the onlooker, he must have something to see. It is not all said for him.”

 

America, America

After a further trip to New York – which he assured his mother would be his last – Robert Frank applied for a Guggenheim fellowship in October 1954. His project proposal was for an “observation and record of what one naturalised American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilisation born here and spreading elsewhere”. The result was to be a book, for which he had already won support from Arnold Kübler, the long-standing editor of the Zurich-based culture magazine Du, and Robert Delpire, a young publisher in Paris. Thanks to help from Alexey Brodovitch, Walker Evans, Edward Steichen and others, Frank was the first European photographer to be awarded this generous fellowship. The award made it possible for him to set off on his now-legendary road trips across the US in spring 1955.

Over almost two years, Frank took more than 20,000 photographs on his travels. He made roughly 1,000 work prints in the autumn and winter of 1956-57, which he pinned to the walls and laid on the floor of his apartment. At the time his home was East Village, New York, where artists including Alfred Leslie and Willem de Kooning also lived. Over many months Frank made countless passes through his photographs, eliminating those images he was unsure of and focusing on specific themes. He constantly rearranged the selection that was gradually coming together until he had a first mocked-up book with just under 90 images and the provisional title America, America. Frank took this book with him when he traveled to Europe in summer 1957, showing it to Delpire and his Swiss photographer friend Gotthard Schuh.

Over the years, the America photographs not included in his final selection disappeared into archives and collections or even got lost altogether. Only recently has it been possible to ascertain that many of the rejected and unpublished photographs were of the same caliber as the 83 book images Frank and Delpire agreed on. Frank’s contact sheets show that these photos were often taken directly before or after the images that have become icons of photographic history. Rather than putting forth a single message, Frank’s dark take on 1950s America contains impressive variations, facets, and excursuses that made a powerful impression on many, including his early supporter, Schuh. Schuh wrote to his young friend: “I don’t know America, but your photographs frighten me because in them you show, with visionary alertness, things that affect us all.”

 

The Americans

Following the first French edition of Les Américains, Robert Frank’s book was published as The Americans in New York in 1959. The English edition dropped the cover illustration and the selection of texts on America (which Delpire had insisted on over Frank’s protests), and added an introduction by Jack Kerouac. Frank had much in common with the Beat poets, though he only met them after his Guggenheim-funded travels. Like Kerouac’s main character in On the Road, Frank crisscrossed the country with apparent aimlessness, working spontaneously. Moreover, his work shares a stylistic consonance with Beat literature: Frank had abandoned all technical conventions and photographed intuitively instead. Many of his photographs are underexposed and grainy; they frame a scene and omit key details; their horizons are slanting and the lighting is often murky. Frank’s focus was the everyday, the fleeting, and the marginal. People are shown turning away from the camera, and his landscapes are desolate and bleak, “really more like Russia”, as Frank once remarked to Kerouac. He flouted the rules he had learned during his early training as a photographer in Switzerland in order to be as true as possible to his subjective experience and to capture unvarnished reality.

Kerouac’s introduction begins with the words: “That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and music comes out of the jukeboxes or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship) and with the agility, mystery, genius, sadness and strange secrecy of a shadow photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film …” The Americans is a long, poetic image arc with cross-references, digressions, and associations, but also mental leaps and ambiguities, which provoked many critics. Although most acknowledged that Frank’s photographs were highly powerful, they read his take on Americans as a malicious attack on the country. Frank, a Jewish foreigner, was resented for picking up on the racism, hollow patriotism, commodified cheer, and political corruption lurking behind the façade of American society. Even before his groundbreaking book was published, Robert Frank wrote: “Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others.”

Martin Gasser, Curator

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) "Los Angeles" 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
“Los Angeles”
1955
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'City fathers – Hoboken, New Jersey' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
City fathers – Hoboken, New Jersey
1955
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Bus-Stop, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Bus-Stop, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Bar – Gallup, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Bar – Gallup, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Charity Ball – New York' 1954

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Charity Ball – New York
1954
© Andrea Frank Foundation; courtesy Pace / MacGill Gallery, New York
Collection of the Swiss Photo Foundation

 

Müller + Hess, Wendelin Hess and Jesse Wyss, Basel / Zurich

 

Müller + Hess, Wendelin Hess and Jesse Wyss, Basel / Zurich

 

 

Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Phone: +41 52 234 10 30

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

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

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04
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 1st November 2020

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT. '[Taking in the view]' c. 1880

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT
[Taking in the view]
c. 1880
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

While the premise for this exhibition is interesting – that cabinet cards acted as a “primer” for coaxing “Americans into thinking about portraiture as an informal act, forging the way for the snapshot and social media with its contemporary “selfie” culture – in reality, the notion is far fetched.

Of the many millions of cabinet cards produced during their period of proliferation (1880s-1910s), only a small percentage, perhaps as low as 3%, would ever fit the performative type illustrated in this posting. Most were of the “solemn records of likeness and stature type”, typically full-length, half-length or a head and shoulders portrait, usually of a single person, sometimes a couple or family. Even then, the performative type of cabinet card would have a limited distribution, either within the family or commercially.

The four sections of the exhibition – Caught in the Act (actors, orators and other public figures); The Trade (commercial advertising); Sharing Life: Family and Friends (family albums); and Acting Out (people at play; reality and truth) – are logical partitions of these certain types of cabinet card. But what interests me more are the psychological aspects of having ones photograph taken. Why is the person’s photograph being taken, at whose direction (the photographers, the sitters)… who is posing the individual, what do they intend to convey through the image, who decides what that message is and, of course, how does the viewer decipher the message. “The interpretation of a person’s acting out and an observer’s response varies considerably, with context and subject usually setting audience expectations.” (Wikipedia)

Here we must acknowledge that the acting out is not singular but plural, for it is as much an act on the part of the photographer as it is the sitter. How much the outcome is dependent on the “director” or the subject is an act of constant negotiation (and, of course, it is also an outcome of the ritual of production).

The curator John Rohrbach observes that, “In our current moment of ‘selfie’ culture and social media-centered interaction, understanding the history of self-presentation and portraiture is more prescient than ever…” but this statement, linking cabinet cards and selfies, is a very very long bow to draw. This is because cabinet cards are not “selfies” as we perceive them now – informal snapshots taken by the self – but posed and performed photographic studies that require inherent discipline, structure and form constructed by the photographer and the sitter to achieve their end.

I often wonder about the revelatory process of having one’s portrait taken in the early days of photography. I know from texts that I have read that some people found the process slow and irritating, the results unsatisfactory. On the other hand, imagine being made to stand still for several seconds when you are not used to being completely still. Could there possibly be a moment in time and space, of meditation and reconciliation with oneself, a revelation in the stillness of the seconds of exposure. A revelation more spiritual than performative? *Two girls (1864, below)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Acting

The art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.

Acting serves countless purposes including the following: It reminds us of times past and forgotten, or gives us a glimpse of a possible future. It portrays our raw, unadulterated, vulnerable, emotional, and at times, ugly, horrifying humanity. It provokes emotion, thought, discussion, awareness, or even imagination.

 

Acting Out

A child is “acting out” when they exhibit unrestrained and improper actions. The behaviour is usually caused by suppressed or denied feelings or emotions.

Acting out reduces stress. It’s often a child’s attempt to show otherwise hidden emotions. Acting out may include fighting, throwing fits, or stealing. In severe cases, acting out is associated with antisocial behaviour and other personality disorders in teenagers and younger children. …

Acting Out a) represents in action and b) translates into action, expressing (something, such as an impulse or a fantasy) directly in overt behaviour without modification, not complying with social norms.

In the psychology of defence mechanisms and self-control, acting out is the performance of an action considered bad or anti-social. In general usage, the action performed is destructive to self or to others. The term is used in this way in sexual addiction treatment, psychotherapy, criminology and parenting. In contrast, the opposite attitude or behaviour of bearing and managing the impulse to perform one’s impulse is called acting in.

The performed action may follow impulses of an addiction (e.g. drinking, drug taking or shoplifting)[citation needed]. It may also be a means designed (often unconsciously or semi-consciously) to garner attention (e.g. throwing a tantrum or behaving promiscuously). Acting out may inhibit the development of more constructive responses to the feelings in question. …

 

Interpretation

The interpretation of a person’s acting out and an observer’s response varies considerably, with context and subject usually setting audience expectations.

 

Alternatives

Acting out painful feelings may be contrasted with expressing them in ways more helpful to the sufferer, e.g. by talking out, expressive therapy, psychodrama or mindful awareness of the feelings. Developing the ability to express one’s conflicts safely and constructively is an important part of impulse control, personal development and self-care.

Anonymous. “Acting out,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 04/10/2020

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT. '[Taking in the view]' c. 1880 (detail)

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT
[Taking in the view] (detail)
c. 1880
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Howie, Detroit, MI 'George Moore and Fred Howe' 1890s

 

Howie, Detroit, MI
George Moore and Fred Howe
1890s
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

Fred Howe, the Fatman and George Moore, the living skeleton; they are the most comical boxers in the world. Fred Howe’s father was a carpenter at Alleghany City, Penn., and Fred started to learn the same trade, but soon became too fat. At the age of eighteen he joined the Forepaugh Circus as a “tat boy,” and there met his present sparring partner.

George Moore was born in Helena, Montana, where his father had a little dry goods shop. Until he was twenty-one years of age George worked in his father’s shop. But his greatest desire was to see the world. When the fist big circus came to Helena, the manager offered him an engagement to exhibit himself as the “living skeleton,” and he closed with the offer at once. Fred Howe, they soon became great friends. The doctors advised both to take as much exercise as possible – the one to gain flesh, and the other to get rid of it. These smart Yankee lads then resolved to combine duty with pleasure, so they went in for boxing. For a long time they practised privately. One day, however, the manager was told of the fun by some of his “freaks,” who had been allowed to see a set-to” between the two gladiators. The manager then arranged a round or two, and the moment he saw Howe and Moore face each other, he offered them a long engagement at an increased salary, if only they would do their boxing before the public. Today these funny fellows are not only expert boxers, but also perfect comedians in their “art.” Their boxing is uproariously funny.

Moore is 6ft. 3in. in height, and weighs but 97lb., Howe is only 4ft. 2in. high, and weights exactly 422lb.

The Strand Magazine

 

Howie, Detroit, MI 'George Moore and Fred Howe' 1890s (detail)

 

Howie, Detroit, MI
George Moore and Fred Howe (detail)
1890s
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

Alfred U. Palmquist and Peder T. Jurgens, St. Paul, MN. '[Skater]' 1880s

 

Alfred U. Palmquist (Swedish, 1850-1922) and Peder T. Jurgens, St. Paul, MN
[Skater]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

The Swede Alfred U. Palmquist (1850-1922) immigrated to America in 1872. In 1874, together with the Norwegian Peder T. Jurgens he opened the photo studio Palmquist & Jurgens in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Alfred Palmquist was born in Finland to Swedish parents on June 21, 1850. We know nothing about his childhood and upbringing except that he emigrated to Minnesota in the United States at the age of twenty-two. A year later, he and a colleague started a photo studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which was named Palmquist & Lake.

Ten years later, in 1883, Palmquist entered into a collaboration with Peder T. Jurgens. We only know about his partner Jurgens that he was Norwegian and had previously supported himself as an economist. Peder Jurgens worked in the company between the years 1882 to 1888. The new company was then of course named Palmquist & Jurgens and lived on until the beginning of the 20th century. During the 1870s and 1880s, most photographers worked in their studios… Palmquist & Jurgens was such a typical photography company that preferred people to come to their studio to be photographed. The company had specialised in photographing famous families in Saint Paul.

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s (detail)

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s (detail)

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the saw]' 1880s

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the saw]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography offers the first-ever in-depth examination of the photographic phenomenon of cabinet cards. Cabinet cards were America’s main format for photographic portraiture through the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Inexpensive and sold by the dozen, they transformed getting one’s portrait made from a formal event taken up once or twice in a lifetime into a commonplace practice shared with family and friends.

Building on the museum’s history as a leader in American photography, this exhibition reveals how photography studios and their sitters across the United States introduced immediacy to studio portraiture and transformed their sessions into avenues of fun and personal expression. Sections will trace the cabinet card’s development and evolution, from its beginnings in celebrity culture through the marketing and advertising innovations of practitioners to the diversity of what people brought to their sittings. Not only did Americans embrace photography as a commonplace fact of life during these years, they openly played with the medium’s believability. In short, cabinet cards made photography modern.

This August, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will present Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography, an exhibition offering the first in-depth examination of the nineteenth-century photographic phenomenon of cabinet cards. Charting the proliferation of this under appreciated photographic format, Acting Out reveals that cabinet cards coaxed Americans into thinking about portraiture as an informal act, forging the way for the snapshot and social media with its contemporary “selfie” culture. Acting Out presents hundreds of photographs – many on view publicly for the first time – from collections nationwide, including examples from the Carter’s own extensive photography collection. On view August 18 through November 1, 2020, the exhibition is organised by the Carter and will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, cabinet cards gave birth to the golden age of photographic portraiture in America. Measuring 6 1/2 by 4 1/4 inches, roughly the size of the modern-day smartphone screen, they were three times larger than the period’s leading photographic format. This larger size revealed previously obscured details in the images captured, encouraging action-ready gestures and the introduction of an astonishing array of props. Where photographs had once functioned as solemn records of likeness and stature, cabinet cards offered a new outlet for entertainment and remembering life’s everyday moments.

Acting Out investigates how this new performative medium prompted sitters to become far more comfortable with having their portrait made. By the time Eastman Kodak introduced its new affordable Brownie camera in 1900, cabinet cards had primed Americans to photograph every aspect of their lives. Though produced over 100 years ago, cabinet cards have a familiarity and a levity that resonates with our experience of photography today.

Acting Out exemplifies the Carter’s commitment to organising exhibitions rooted in groundbreaking scholarship, a core tenet of our curatorial philosophy,” stated Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “This exhibition harnesses the resources of our vast photography collection and archive to show visitors the contemporary relevance of the medium’s pre-modern history.”

The exhibition is organised into four sections chronicling the birth and evolution of the cabinet card:

  • Caught in the Act: Actors, orators, and other public figures were among the first to embrace cabinet cards. This section examines how the creative innovations employed by New York photographer Napoleon Sarony and his cohorts built public enthusiasm for a new kind of photographic portraiture founded on a relaxed sense of immediacy that influenced studio photographers across America.
  • The Trade: This section looks at the entertaining and evocative ways that photographers worked to overcome low prices and fierce competition, and to stand out from their peers. Their creative solutions gave rise to the ubiquity of cabinet cards across America by the 1880s.
  • Sharing Life: Family and Friends: Over the last quarter of the nineteenth century, cabinet cards were often the favoured means for recording and celebrating family life. This evocative section reveals the ways in which cabinet cards established a model for family albums as channels for sharing and boasting of the joys and transits of life.
  • Acting Out: If portraiture was the ostensible subject of cabinet cards, play was just as important. This section examines Americans’ acceptance of the camera as a tool for shared amusement as they toyed with photography’s pretence of reality and truth.

“In our current moment of ‘selfie’ culture and social media-centered interaction, understanding the history of self-presentation and portraiture is more prescient than ever,” said John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Carter. “This exhibition reveals how nineteenth-century Americans approached photography far more playfully than ever before, a transformation that forever shifted our relationship to the medium.”

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography was organised by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The exhibition is supported in part by the Alice L. Walton Foundation Temporary Exhibitions Endowment and accompanied by a 232-page catalogue co-published with the University of California Press, Berkeley. The book is the first dedicated to the history of the cabinet card and features colour plates of 100 cards at their actual size. Contributors include Dr. John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Dr. Erin Pauwels, Assistant Professor of American Art at Temple University; Dr. Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Fernanda Valverde, Conservator of Photographs at the Carter.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Unknown photographer. '[Chess against myself]' 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
[Chess against myself]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Chess against myself]' 1880s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Chess against myself] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Hatch and White, Burlington, WI. '[Man in woman's clothing]' c. 1891

 

Hatch and White, Burlington, WI
[Man in woman’s clothing]
c. 1891
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY. 'Helena Luy' 1880s

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY
Helena Luy
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Benjamin J. Falk

When Napoleon Sarony died in 1896, Benjamin J. Falk ascended to the first place in the world of performing arts photography…

Falk’s contemporaries, who spoke primarily of the clarity, verisimilitude, and composure of his images, never recognised his greatest power as a portraitist. Falk was a man of extraordinary erotic engagement with his sitters, and the intensity of his attention becomes visible only when one sees the entirety of his work envisioning one of the several women – Belle Archer, Mrs. James Brown Potter, Cleo De Merode, Cissy Fitzgerald, Amy Busby, the Barrison Sisters – who capture his imagination. He was capable of refracting the sitter’s beauty in a tremendous array of scenes, costumes, and attitudes, doing so without making the images seem artificial.

When asked in 1893 what was most important in creating effective portraits, he replied matter of factly, “I name expression, posing and lighting in the order as they appear to be most important. The technique of the profession being absolutely under the control of the operator since the introduction of the dry plates, there is no excuse now for any but perfect photographic results. I have always made my price high enough, so that I did not have to consider the cost of material while doing my work.” The camera, in the proper hands, is, in many ways, a finer art tool to-day than the chisel or the brush, although, like them, it has its limitations.

 

Specialty

The first strong adherent of artificial light sources in the studio, Benjamin Falk created portraits that were among the most dramatically sculptural looking images of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Possessed of a playful visual wit, he often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. Increasingly indifferent to painted backdrops, he did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900.

Anonymous. “Benjamin J. Falk,” on the Broadway Photographers website [Online] Cited 05/09/2020

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY. 'Helena Luy' 1880s (detail)

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY
Helena Luy (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY. '[Fanny Davenport]' c. 1870

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY
[Fanny Davenport]
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Napoleon Sarony

Napoleon Sarony (March 9, 1821 – November 9, 1896) was an American lithographer and photographer. He was a highly popular portrait photographer, best known for his portraits of the stars of late-19th-century American theatre. His son, Otto Sarony, continued the family business as a theatre and film star photographer.

Sarony was born in 1821 in Quebec, then in the British colony of Lower Canada, and moved to New York City around 1836. He worked as an illustrator for Currier and Ives before joining with James Major and starting his own lithography business, Sarony & Major, in 1843. In 1845, James Major was replaced in Sarony & Major by Henry B. Major, and the firm continued operating under that name until 1853. From 1853 to 1857, the firm was known as Sarony and Company, and from 1857 to 1867, as Sarony, Major & Knapp. Sarony left the firm in 1867 and established a photography studio at 37 Union Square, during a time when celebrity portraiture was a popular fad. Photographers would pay their famous subjects to sit for them, and then retain full rights to sell the pictures. Sarony reportedly paid the internationally famous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt $1,500 to pose for his camera, equivalent to $42,683 in 2019. In 1894, he published a portfolio of prints entitled “Sarony’s Living Pictures”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY. '[Fanny Davenport]' c. 1870 (detail)

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY
[Fanny Davenport] (detail)
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Fanny Lily Gipsey Davenport

Fanny Lily Gipsey Davenport (April 10, 1850 – September 26, 1898) was an English-American stage actress. The eldest child of Edward Loomis Davenport and Fanny Elizabeth (Vining) Gill Davenport, Fanny Lily Gypsey Davenport was born on April 10, 1850 in London.

Most of her siblings were actors, including Harry Davenport. She was brought to the United States in 1854 and educated in the Boston public schools. At age 7, she appeared at Boston’s Howard Athenæum as Metamora’s child, but her real debut occurred in February 1862 when she portrayed King Charles in Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady at Niblo’s Garden.

In February 1862, she appeared in New York City at Niblo’s Garden at the age of 12 as the King of Spain in Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady. From 1869 to 1877, she performed in Augustin Daly’s company; and afterwards, with a company of her own, acted with especial success in Sardou’s Fédora (1883) her leading man being Robert B. Mantell, Cleopatra (1890), and similar plays. She took over emotional Sardou roles that had been originated in Europe by Sarah Bernhardt. Her last appearance was at the Grand Opera House in Chicago on March 25, 1898, shortly before her death.

Her first husband was Edwin B. Price, an actor. They married on July 30, 1879, and divorced on June 8, 1888. On May 18, 1889, she married her leading man, Melbourne MacDowell. Both marriages were childless. Davenport died September 26, 1898, from an enlarged heart, at her summer home in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. '[Two girls]' 1864

 

Unknown photographer
[Two girls]
1864
Albumen silver print (carte de visite)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Two girls]' 1864 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Two girls] (detail)
1864
Albumen silver print (carte de visite)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

A. M. Nikodem, Chicago, IL. '[Cat]' 1880s

 

A. M. Nikodem, Chicago, IL
[Cat]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

A.M. Nikodem

According to Origin, Growth, and Usefulness of the Chicago Board of Trade: Its Leading Members, and Representative Business Men in other Branches of Trade (1885): “Miss A.M. Nikodem, Photographic Artist. No. 701 West Madison Street. – One of the most popular and finely appointed photographic studios in Chicago is that conducted by Miss A.M. Nikodem, who succeeded Mr. M. T. Baldwin one year ago. This lady, who is regarded as one of the most skilful and accomplished photographic artists in the city, occupies an entire two-storied building completely equipped with all modern improvements and appliances and her elegantly furnished parlours are the resort of the élite of Chicago. Miss Nikodem is the only lady in the city who give personal attention to the taking of pictures, etc., and having had an extended practical and theoretical training she has attained a marked perfection in her art. In social circles Miss Nikodem occupies a prominent position both as a skilful artist and estimable lady, while in the business world she is held in high esteem as an enterprising and capable woman.”

Nikodem occupied the studio at this address from 1885-1891, and then moved to another location. 1895 is the last year in which she seems to be listed in Chicago city guides. Despite her prominence, photographs from her studio are exceptionally uncommon. Nikodem’s skill is fully on display in this portrait. The three or four other examples of her work we could find, all in library special collections, are all of women or girls, and they display a uniform artistic excellence and technical photographic skill.

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS. 'My first baby friend Tompie and his pet' 1896

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS
My first baby friend Tompie and his pet
1896
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS. 'My first baby friend Tompie and his pet' 1896 (detail)

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS
My first baby friend Tompie and his pet (detail)
1896
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

W. A. Wilcoxon, Bonaparte, IA. '[Baby]' 1890s

 

W. A. Wilcoxon, Bonaparte, IA
[Baby]
1890s
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Painter]' 1890s

 

Unknown photographer
[Painter]
1890s
Albumen silver print
William L. Schaeffer Collection

 

Unknown photographer. '[Painter]' 1890s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Painter] (detail)
1890s
Albumen silver print
William L. Schaeffer Collection

 

Charles L. Griffin, Scranton, PA. '[Toddler with dog]' c. 1892

 

Charles L. Griffin, Scranton, PA
[Toddler with dog]
c. 1892
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

F. J. Nelson, Anoka, MN. 'Domestic Bread' c. 1890s

 

F. J. Nelson, Anoka, MN
Domestic Bread
c. 1890s
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Gilbert G. Oyloe (American, 1851-1927) Ossian, IA. '[Woman]' 1880s

 

Gilbert G. Oyloe (American, 1851-1927) Ossian, IA
[Woman]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

Oyloe had a studio in Ossian during the 1880’s and 1890’s.

 

James F. Ryder, Cleveland, OH. 'Verso' 1880s

 

James F. Ryder, Cleveland, OH
Verso
1880s
Planographic print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Charles Quartley, Baltimore, MD. '[Church woman]' 1880s

 

Charles Quartley, Baltimore, MD
[Church woman]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson

 

Caroline Bergman, Louisville, KY. 'Untitled [Bergman's Photograph Gallery]' c. 1890

 

Caroline Bergman, Louisville, KY
Untitled [Bergman’s Photograph Gallery]
c. 1890
Relief print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Louise and Caroline Bergman

Louis Bergman opened a Louisville photo studio in 1872 on W Market. After 1885, however, Caroline Bergman (his wife) is listed as the proprietor and photographer, and Louis is listed only as “manager”. This very successful studio was in operation until 1896.

Louis Bergman’s … studio was located at 56 & 58 Market Street, in Louisville, Kentucky. Perusal of Louisville business directories reveals that Bergman began business with a partner. Bergman & Flexner; the firm was listed in the 1868 and 1869 directories. He was reported to be the sole proprietor of a studio from 1872 until 1886. Bergman was listed at a number of different addresses over these years. Using these addresses, it appears that this particular photograph was taken between 1873 and 1881. From 1886 through 1894 the proprietor of the studio became Caroline Bergman. The Photographic Times and American Photographer (1883) reported that Bergman was Vice President of the Photographers Mutual Benefit Society of Louisville. Louis Bergman (c. 1838 -?) was born in Hanover, Germany to Prussian parents. His wife, Carrie (1845 -?) was born in Louisiana to German parents. The couple married  in about 1865. The Bergman’s had a daughter, Lillie, who was 12 years-old at the time of the 1880 census. The census listed Louis as a photographer and Carrie as a homemaker. It is interesting to note that when the couples daughter reached 18 years of age, Carrie became the studio’s proprietor / photographer.

Anonymous. “Man with a Great Beard in Louisville, Kentucky,” on The Cabinet Card Gallery website 03/01/2012 [Online] Cited 05/09/2020

 

R. O. Helsom, Menomonie, WI. 'Verso' 1880s

 

R. O. Helsom, Menomonie, WI
Verso
1880s
Relief print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

'Cabinets' c. 1880s

 

Cabinets
c. 1880s
Celluloid-covered album
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

Amon Carter Museum of American Art
3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2695

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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21
Aug
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘L’equilibriste, André Kertész’ at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours Part 1

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 27th October 2019
Visited September 2019 posted August 2020

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing

 

Entrance to the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Entrance to the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

equilibrist, noun: an acrobat who performs balancing feats, especially a tightrope walker.

Part 1 of a large posting on the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours, which I saw in Tours in September 2019.

This was the most disappointing of the “grand master” exhibitions that I saw on my European photographic research tour, mainly because the photographs were all modern prints, and there seemed to be a lot of “filler” in the exhibition – namely, reproductions of late book layouts scattered generously throughout the rooms (see installation photographs below).

Having said that, it was still a great joy to see Kertész’s photographs, especially some of the photographs which are hard to find online. Here are images such as Görz, Italy 1915 and Abony 1921 which I have never seen before, together with rare Paris images such as Attelage, Paris 1925; Wooden horse, Paris c. 1926; The Quays after the rain, Paris 1963; Behind Notre-Dame, Paris 1925; Paris 1931; Legs, Paris 1928; Study of lines and shadow 1927 and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Savoie 1929 – none of which have been available in a large size online before.

Together with the three intense, brooding, suspended still life (The Fork, Paris 1928; Composition, Paris 1928 and Glasses and Pipe of Mondrian, Paris 1926) and the sublime, modernist Chez Mondrian, Paris 1926, one of the most outstanding photographs in the posting, and one of Kertész’s most famous images, is Burlesque dancer, Paris 1926. The circular tensioning of the image is immaculate. The form of the twisting male torso at left with its upraised right hand leads the eye to the drawing at top centre, which then descends to the framed female form at right which inverts the male form with the right hand of the female now raised. The eye then descends to the reclining dancer, the zig-zag arms and legs perfectly composed, her left hand touching the ground like the Bhumisparsha mudra which symbolises the Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree, when he summoned the earth goddess (quite apt) … while her left leg completes the circle, pointing towards the twisting legs of the male statue. The split of the male legs are reinforced by those in the female print, and complimented by the exquisite folds of the dancers silky dress, unnoticed until you really look at the print.

I will comment more comprehensively in Part 2 of the posting on Kertész’s Leica-ed world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. View Part 2 of the posting.

 

 

 

Exposition “L’équilibriste, André Kertész” au Jeu de Paume, Tours

 

 

Entrance to the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours, with a poster of Rainy Day, Tokyo 1968
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Entrance text to the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Entrance text to the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left top, Friends, Esztergom 1917; at left bottom, Little geese, Esztergom 1918; at second left, Hungarian landscape 1914; at fifth left, Abony 1921; at seventh left, Young Gypsy 1918; at second right, Traveling violinist, Abony 1921 and at far right, Cellist 1916
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Les Amis, Esztergom' 'Friends, Esztergom' 1917 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Les Amis, Esztergom (installation view)
Friends, Esztergom
1917
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Petites oies, Esztergom' 'Little geese, Esztergom' 1918 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Petites oies, Esztergom (installation view)
Little geese, Esztergom
1918
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paysage hongrois' 'Hungarian landscape' 1914 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paysage hongrois (installation view)
Hungarian landscape
1914
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paysage hongrois (installation view)
Hungarian landscape
1914
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Abony' 1921 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Abony (installation view)
1921
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Abony' 1921 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Abony (installation view)
1921
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Jeune Tzigane' 'Young Gypsy' 1918 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jeune Tzigane (installation view)
Young Gypsy
1918
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Violoniste ambulant, Abony' 'Traveling violinist, Abony' 1921

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Violoniste ambulant, Abony 
Traveling violinist, Abony
1921
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Violoncelliste' 'Cellist' 1916 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Violoncelliste (installation view)
Cellist
1916
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, Lovers, Budapest 1915
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Hungarian Memories' 1982 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Hungarian Memories (installation view)
1982
New York, New York Graphic Society / Boston, Little, Brown and Company
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Lovers, Budapest' 1915

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lovers, Budapest
1915
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Garçon endormi, Budapest' 'Sleeping boy, Budapest' 1912 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Garçon endormi, Budapest (installation view)
Sleeping boy, Budapest
1912
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mon frère imitant le "scherzo"' 'My brother as a "Scherzo"' 1919 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mon frère imitant le “scherzo” (installation view)
My brother as a “Scherzo”
1919
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mon frère imitant le "scherzo"' 'My brother as a "Scherzo"' 1919

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mon frère imitant le “scherzo”
My brother as a “Scherzo”
1919
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mon frère tel Icare, Dunaharaszti' 'My brother like Icarus, Dunaharaszti' 1919 André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mon frère tel Icare, Dunaharaszti' 'My brother like Icarus, Dunaharaszti' 1919 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mon frère tel Icare, Dunaharaszti (installation view)
My brother like Icarus, Dunaharaszti
1919
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Mon frère tel Icare, Dunaharaszti' 'My brother like Icarus, Dunaharaszti' 1919 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Mon frère tel Icare, Dunaharaszti (installation view)
My brother like Icarus, Dunaharaszti
1919
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Hungarian Memories' 1982 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Hungarian Memories (installation view)
1982
New York, New York Graphic Society
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at centre bottom, Görz, Italy 1915, and at far right, Forced march towards the front 1915
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Görz, Italy' 1915 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Görz, Italy (installation view)
1915
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Marche forcée vers le front, entre Lonié et Mitulen, Pologne' 'Forced march towards the front, between Lonie and Mitulen, Poland' 1915 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Marche forcée vers le front, entre Lonié et Mitulen, Pologne (installation view)
Forced march towards the front, between Lonie and Mitulen, Poland
1915
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, Meudon 1928 at second right top, Quai d’Orsay, Paris 1926
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Meudon' 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Meudon
1928
Gelatin silver print

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Quai d'Orsay, Paris' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Quai d’Orsay, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, Attelage, Paris 1925; at second left, 60 years of photography 1912-1972; and at fifth left, Trottoir, Paris 1929
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Attelage, Paris' 'Coupling, Paris' 1925 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Attelage, Paris (installation view)
Coupling, Paris
1925
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Soixante ans de photographie' '60 years of photography' 1912-1972 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Soixante ans de photographie (installation view)
60 years of photography
1912-1972
Paris, éditions du Chêne, 1972
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Trottoir, Paris' 'Sidewalk, Paris' 1929

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Trottoir, Paris
Sidewalk, Paris
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at second left, Cheval de bois, Paris c. 1926; and at third left, Colette, Paris 1930. In the display cabinet is Marquette originale du livre non publié ‘Paris Automne’ December 1963
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Maquette originale du livre non publié Paris Automne' December 1963 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Marquette originale du livre non publié ‘Paris Automne’ (installation view)
Original maquette from the unpublished book ‘Paris Automne’
December 1963
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Cheval de bois, Paris' 'Wooden horse, Paris' c. 1926 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Cheval de bois, Paris (installation view)
Wooden horse, Paris
c. 1926
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Colette, Paris' 1930

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Colette, Paris
1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

This summer at the Jeu de Paume Château de Tours, the retrospective exhibition The equilibrist, André Kertész: 1912-1982 is dedicated to the great Hungarian naturalised American photographer (1894-1985). His work was in tune with his life and his feelings: from his beginnings in Hungary to the development of his talent in France, from his years of isolation in New York to his international recognition.

A major player in the Parisian artistic scene during the interwar period, André Kertész, whose career spanned more than seventy years, is today recognised as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. His abundant work, with compositions marked by the European avant-garde – especially from Eastern Europe – finds its source in his Hungarian culture, which combines poetry and intimacy.

His beginnings in his native country are an important step for this autodidact whose realistic approach differs from the pictorial-influenced fine art photography dear to the Hungarian photographers of his generation. Enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War, he depicts the daily life of soldiers and develops a poetry of the moment, far from heroic or dramatic acts of arms. After the war, he tried to make photography his profession.

In October 1925, he landed in Paris where he frequented avant-garde literary and artistic circles and photographed his friends from the Hungarian diaspora, the street scenes and the Parisian gardens. In France as in Germany, the press, in particular the magazine VU, orders reports and illustrations from him. From 1927, he had a personal exhibition at the Au Sacre du Printemps gallery. In 1933, he produced his famous series of Distortions which shows naked bodies reflected in a distorting mirror. This intense activity led him to design his own books; over the course of his life, he published nineteen of them, including Paris vu par André Kertész (1934).

In 1936, Kertész left for New York to honour a contract with the Keystone agency. However, he struggles to find his place in the face of sponsors with requests far removed from his Parisian years. A few exhibitions as well as the publication of Day of Paris (1945) were not enough to establish him as one of the main representatives of avant-garde photography in the United States. From 1963, the largest museums offered him the opportunity to exhibit his images. This recognition is accompanied by the publication of numerous books which allow him to review his work.

Produced from the collection of negatives and contact prints bequeathed by the photographer to France in 1984, The equilibrist, André Kertész is the fruit of the joint work of the Mediatheque of Architecture and Heritage, which preserves these archives today, and the Jeu de Paume. Consisting of around a hundred modern silver prints made in 1995 by Yvon Le Marlec, the shooter with whom Kertész collaborated in Paris, this exhibition revolves around the major books that the latter published during his lifetime. Through prints, original models and reproductions of pages from her works, she traces the close relationship that Kertész has forged throughout her life between her photographic and editorial practices, composing a visual narration that describes the interwar period in Europe and nearly fifty years in the United States.

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Les Quais après la pluie, Paris The' 'Quays after the rain, Paris' 1963 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Les Quais après la pluie, Paris (installation view)
The Quays after the rain, Paris
1963
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Les Quais après la pluie, Paris The' 'Quays after the rain, Paris' 1963 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Les Quais après la pluie, Paris (installation view)
The Quays after the rain, Paris
1963
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Derrière Notre-Dame, Paris' 'Behind Notre-Dame, Paris' 1925 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Derrière Notre-Dame, Paris (installation view)
Behind Notre-Dame, Paris
1925
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Derrière Notre-Dame, Paris' 'Behind Notre-Dame, Paris' 1925 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Derrière Notre-Dame, Paris (installation view)
Behind Notre-Dame, Paris
1925
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Tour Eiffel, Paris' 1929 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Tour Eiffel, Paris (installation view)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1929
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Le pont des arts, Paris' 'The bridge of Arts, Paris' 1932

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Le pont des arts, Paris
The bridge of Arts, Paris
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, Touraine 1930; at right top, Paris 1931; and at right bottom, Carrefour, Blois 1930
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Touraine' 1930 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Touraine (installation view)
1930
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1931 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris
1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Carrefour, Blois' 1930 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Carrefour, Blois (installation view)
1930
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Carrefour, Blois' 1930

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Carrefour, Blois
1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, La Fourchette, Paris 1928; at second left, Composition, Paris 1928; at second right, Les Lunettes et la Pipe de Mondrian, Paris 1926; and at right, Burlesque dancer, Paris 1926
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Fourchette, Paris' 'The Fork, Paris' 1928 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Fourchette, Paris (installation view)
The Fork, Paris
1928
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Fourchette, Paris' 'The Fork, Paris' 1928 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Fourchette, Paris (installation view)
The Fork, Paris
1928
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Composition, Paris' 1928 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Composition, Paris (installation view)
Les Mains de Paul Arma (The Hands of Paul Arma)

1928
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Composition, Paris' 1928 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Composition, Paris (installation view)
Les Mains de Paul Arma (The Hands of Paul Arma)

1928
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Composition, Paris' 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Composition, Paris
Les Mains de Paul Arma (The Hands of Paul Arma)

1928
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Les Lunettes et la Pipe de Mondrian, Paris' 'Glasses and Pipe of Mondrian, Paris' 1926 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Les Lunettes et la Pipe de Mondrian, Paris (installation view)
Glasses and Pipe of Mondrian, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Les Lunettes et la Pipe de Mondrian, Paris' 'Glasses and Pipe of Mondrian, Paris' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Les Lunettes et la Pipe de Mondrian, Paris
Glasses and Pipe of Mondrian, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Danseuse burlesque, Paris' 'Burlesque dancer, Paris' 1926 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Danseuse burlesque, Paris
Burlesque dancer, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Danseuse burlesque, Paris
Burlesque dancer, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at left, Legs, Paris 1928; at third left, Fun fair, Paris 1931; and at right, Latin Quarter, Paris 1926
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Jambes, Paris' 'Legs, Paris' 1928 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jambes, Paris (installation view)
Legs, Paris
1928
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Soixante ans de photographie' 'Sixty years of photography' 1912-1972 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Soixante ans de photographie (installation view)
Sixty years of photography
1912-1972
Paris, éditions du Chêne, 1972

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Fête foraine, Paris' 'Fun fair, Paris' 1931

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Fête foraine, Paris
Fun fair, Paris
1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Quartier Latin, Paris' 'Latin Quarter, Paris' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Quartier Latin, Paris
Latin Quarter, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Chez Mondrian, Paris' 1926 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Chez Mondrian, Paris' 1926 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Chez Mondrian, Paris (installation views)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Chez Mondrian, Paris' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Chez Mondrian, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“I went to [Piet Mondrian’s] studio and instinctively tried to capture in my photographs the spirit of his paintings. He simplified, simplified, simplified. The studio with its symmetry dictated the composition. He has a vase with a flower, but the flower was artificial. It was coloured by him to match the studio.” ~ André Kertész

Decades after this photograph was made, André Kertész recalled the circumstances surrounding its creation. The composition is neatly divided in half: on the left is the intimate interior of the room in which Kertész stood, showing Mondrian’s straw boater on a peg and a table with the flower mentioned above. The vase perches precariously near the edge of the table, as if Kertész moved it to include it in the photographic frame. On the right, seen through a doorway, the curving banister and stairs soften the profusion of right angles and straight lines in the foyer.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 27/09/2020

 

Although Mondrian imposed rigid geometric order on everything in the apartment, Kertész found deviations in the curves of the staircase, vase, and the round boater hat hanging on the rack. (The hat belonged to the photographer’s friend Michel Seuphor, a painter and writer who authored a book on Mondrian, who had accompanied Kertész to the studio.) This photograph has become one of Kertész’s most famous, although it was not published until 1943. It was known previously only through exhibitions, including Kertész’s first exhibition in 1927 at the Parisian gallery Au Sacre du Printemps.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website [Online] Cited 27/09/2020

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours with at second left, Chairs, Champs-Elysées, Paris, 1930; at centre top, Study of lines and shadow 1927; and at right, Peintre d’ombre, Paris 1926
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Chairs, Champs-Élysées, Paris' 1929

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Chairs, Champs-Élysées, Paris
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Étude de lignes et d'ombre' 'Study of lines and shadow' 1927 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Étude de lignes et d’ombre (installation view)
Study of lines and shadow

1927
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Savoie' 1929 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Savoie  (installation view)
1929
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Peintre d'ombre, Paris' 'Shadow painter, Paris' 1926 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Peintre d’ombre, Paris
Shadow painter, Paris
1926
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours
25 avenue André Malraux, 37000 Tours
Phone: 02 47 70 88 46

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 2pm – 6pm.
Closed on Monday

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours website

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07
Aug
20

Text: “Atget’s shadow,” on his Paris photographs

August 2020

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde, Jardin Marco Polo, Paris' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde, Jardin Marco Polo, Paris
1907
Albumen silver print

 

 

Atget’s shadow

A delicious posting on the work of the French photographer Eugène Atget (1857-1927). Atget’s photographs bridge the gap between subjective and objective representation – on the one hand extolling the subjective quality of art as an expression of the artist’s inner self; but on the other, providing a rejection of artistic consciousness, his objective “documents for artists” appealing to the Surrealists who used his images in publications such as Révolution Surréaliste.

In their presence, the photographs of Atget proffer an intimate in/tension (intention) – between representation and abstraction, documentary and modern, ordinary and dream. His photography, “which focussed on seemingly ordinary sights on the streets of Paris – a door knocker, a mannequin, a window rail – is seen as a forerunner of Surrealist and modern approaches to photography.”1

Further, “The critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin famously invoked crime scenes in discussing Atget’s photographs. He was pointing to their emptiness, their clinical attention to details of the urban landscape, their absolute rejection of the sentimental and the grandiose. … In Atget’s Paris, “the city is evacuated, like an apartment that hasn’t yet found its new tenant,” Benjamin wrote.”2

And yet, there is always something of the artist in every photograph, no matter how criminal the raping of time.

Thinking of my latest body of work “A Day in the Tiergarten”, my current research into parks and photographers, and then looking at Atget’s photographs of parks, I believe that the “park” with Atget takes some of its meaning from the ownership of the parks and the royalty / citizen system that was in place at the time AND what that might allow. Here is the photographer bearing his heavy camera like a tramp on the road, wandering in an empty domain owned by a higher power – and using its magnificence to discover more about the self searching vagabond.

Sometimes the question: “is there anyone here” is answered like Cocteau in Beauty and the Beast, and the answer is: “yes there is – yourself” says the (objective) camera. Sometimes, in other ways, the photographer goes nearly crazy with the possibilities of photography: what is the truth about my presence, the presence of a rock, or the sky? Yes, there is you, but in saying that it opens up all these other (subjective) possibilities. The options of inserting ourselves into representation, into what photography can hold, drives us crazy.

As Lee Friedlander observes, “The photographs of these places … are a hint, just a blink at a piece of the real world. At most, an aphrodisiac.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. “Surrealism did not always involve the strange and absurd. For example, the photography of Eugène Atget (1857-1927), which focussed on seemingly ordinary sights on the streets of Paris – a door knocker, a mannequin, a window rail – is seen as a forerunner of Surrealist and modern approaches to photography…Only a year before his death, in 1926, Atget was approached by Man Ray for approval to use his photograph, L’Eclipse – Avril 1912 for the front cover of the publication La Révolution Surréaliste. Despite protestations that, “these are simply documents I make”, Atget’s rejection of artistic self-consciousness combined with his pictures of an old, often hauntingly deserted Paris, appealed to Surrealists.”Anonymous. “Surrealist photography,” on the V&A website [Online] Cited 07/08/2020
  2. Anonymous. “Atget’s Paris, 100 years later,” on the Art Daily website 31/05/2020

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

 

 

“The subject itself,” he wrote of landscape, “is simply perfect, and no matter how well you manage as a photographer, you will only ever give a hint as to how good the real thing is. We photographers don’t really make anything: we peck at the world and try to find something curious or wild or beautiful that might fit into what the medium of photography can hold.”

“The photographs of these places,” he added, “are a hint, just a blink at a piece of the real world. At most, an aphrodisiac.”

.
Lee Friedlander

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ancien Hotel dit de Sartine – 21 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris' 1906

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ancien Hotel dit de Sartine – 21 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris
1906
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ancien Monastère des Bénédictins Anglais, 269 rue Saint-Jacques. Paris 5' 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ancien Monastère des Bénédictins Anglais, 269 rue Saint-Jacques. Paris 5
1900
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget. 'Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives' c. 1898-1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives
c. 1898-1905
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Grille de l'ancien pavillon de chasse de Philippe-Égalité (Hospice Debrousse), 148 rue de Bagnolet. Paris 20' 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Grille de l’ancien pavillon de chasse de Philippe-Égalité (Hospice Debrousse), 148 rue de Bagnolet. Paris 20
1900
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Heurtoir, 19bis Rue Tournefort' 1906

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Heurtoir, 19bis Rue Tournefort
1906
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Heurtoir, St. Étienne du Mont (Cherub Door Knocker)' 1909

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Heurtoir, St. Étienne du Mont (Cherub Door Knocker)
1909
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927) 'Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal' c. 1901-1914

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal
c. 1901-1914
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'L'Oranger (with Shadow of Photographer and His Camera)' 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
L’Oranger (with Shadow of Photographer and His Camera)
1900
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Le Portail de l'église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Le Portail de l’église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)
1921
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Le Portail de l'église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Le Portail de l’église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)
1921
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Le Portail de l'église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Le Portail de l’église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)
1921
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Le Portail de l'église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Le Portail de l’église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)
1921
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Le Portail de l'église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Le Portail de l’église Saint-Éliphe, Rampillon (Seine-et-Marne)
1921
Albumen silver print

 

 

The critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin famously invoked crime scenes in discussing Atget’s photographs. He was pointing to their emptiness, their clinical attention to details of the urban landscape, their absolute rejection of the sentimental and the grandiose.

As Benjamin observed, Atget established a beneficial “distance between man and his environment.” And Lima’s haunting updated recreations confirm the long-dead photographer’s disquieting insight – Paris doesn’t care about your presence. It is indifferent, and will certainly go on without you.

You can feel joy at standing on a Paris street, but the feeling is not reciprocated.

Atget, who was born in 1857, initially tried unsuccessfully at acting and painting. In 1890, he set up shop as a photographer, in order – as a sign over his door said – to provide “Documents for Artists.” He knew that painters needed images as models for their work, and he set about furnishing them.

For nearly three decades, he trudged through the city, bearing his heavy tripod and documenting a Paris of narrow streets and grime-covered low buildings that was already disappearing.

In 1920, Atget wrote: “I can say that I possess all of Old Paris.”

The world was mostly indifferent to Atget’s work until, several years before his death in 1927, he met a young American photographer, Berenice Abbott, who was working as an assistant to the artist Man Ray. She photographed him, wrote about him, acquired many of his prints and promoted him relentlessly for 50 years.

Today, Atget is recognised as a major figure in the history of photography.

The empty Paris of his prints looms out of the half-light of what seems like perpetual fog. His buildings are independent of people. They don’t even need them. Paris, the message seems to be, continues. It does not care about the individual presence. The city is not sentimental about humankind.

True, traces of humanity are ever-present in his pictures – torn advertising posters, artisanal shop signs, bins of vegetables, rows of boots. But these are only reminders that the city might once have been inhabited. And there are few people in the images to confirm this.

In Atget’s Paris, “the city is evacuated, like an apartment that hasn’t yet found its new tenant,” Benjamin wrote.

Compare that with the images from today. The occasional masked figures are incidental to the landscape. That they wear masks, hiding part of their faces, is a further denial of their humanity.

The “picturesque” – which Atget shunned, as Benjamin points out – is more difficult to avoid…”

Anonymous. “Atget’s Paris, 100 years later,” on the Art Daily website 31/05/2020

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Notre Dame (Stalles), Paris' 1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Notre Dame (Stalles), Paris
1905
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Notre Dame, Paris' 1906

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Notre Dame, Paris
1906
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Quai d'Anjou, Paris' 1910

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Quai d’Anjou, Paris
1910
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Saint-Cloud
1926
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Rue des Lombards, Paris' 1910

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue des Lombards, Paris
1910
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Tuileries Gardens' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Tuileries Gardens
1907
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Tuileries Gardens' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Tuileries Gardens
1907
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Tuileries Gardens' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Tuileries Gardens
1907
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Tuileries Gardens' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Tuileries Gardens
1907
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Tuileries Gardens' 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Tuileries Gardens
1907
Albumen silver print

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Vigne (Grape Vine)' 1920

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Vigne (Grape Vine)
1920
Albumen silver print

 

 

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31
Jul
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Brassaï’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 13th September – 4th December 2019
Visited September 2019 posted July 2020

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

These are my thoughts at the time of my seeing the exhibition.

.
I have been blessed this trip by seeing an amazing selection of master photographers… Brassaï being no exception.

Every print in this exhibition is a vintage print. They were made by Brassaï before 1968. If larger than 30 x 40cm they were made after 1945 when he started printing with an enlarger.

As usual, the iPhone camera makes all the images too light and adds too much contrast. Think darker, less contrast in these vintage prints.

Brassaï’s prints are – just like those of Josef Sudek and August Sander that I have seen on this trip – much softer and with a more limited tonal range than I imagined. They are all the more atmospheric and magical because of it.

To walk around the exhibition and then arrive at an alcove (see walk through below)… to stand in front of Le Môme Bijou, the old lady with the jewellery and Billiard Player, is such a privilege. I am surrounded by the presence of these famous images. I peer intently at each of them, observing the details, feeling their eyes stare back at me. No deflection of intent, just these human beings and their spirit presented in a photograph. Brassaï captured their essence before they drifted away, just in that moment.

In the latter print the dark billiard ball was almost indistinguishable from the baize; in the former, the circular light in the woman’s eyes means that Brassaï must have set up a light, or that there was a light source, above and behind the camera. Specular highlights twinkle off jewellery and pearls. Even as she is draped in her bourgeois, bohemian ornamentation this dame of the night possesses a resilient, composed, determined air.

Personally, I think Brassaï’s Graffiti series are far stronger than Lee Friedlander’s series of the same name.

The juxtaposition of the photographs in Paris at Night is something I will always remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All iPhone installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The more scrupulously [the photographer] has respected the independence and autonomy of his subject, and the closer he has gone toward it instead of bringing it nearer to himself, the more completely his own personality has become incorporated into his pictures.

.
Brassaï

 

 

Foam is proud to present the first retrospective of Brassaï in the Netherlands. The French photographer of Hungarian descent is considered a key figure of 20th-century photography.

Brassaï (1899-1984) created countless iconic images of 1930s Parisian life. He was famous for capturing the grittier aspects of the city, but also documented high society, including the ballet, opera, and intellectuals – among them his friends and contemporaries like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse. The exhibition at Foam traces his career with over 170 vintage prints, plus a selection of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material.

Brassaï gathers many of the artistic facets of the photographer, from photos to drawings of female nudes. It is organised in twelve thematic sections: Paris by Day, and by Night, Minotaure, Graffiti, Society, Places and Things, Personages, Sleep, Pleasures, Body of a Woman, Portraits – Artists, Writers, Friends and The Street. Each is very different from the next – reflecting the diversity of Brassaï’s photographic work.

 

 

 

Digital walk through of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam in September 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at second right Brassaï’s Paris 1937, and at right Paris c. 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Foam is proud to announce the first retrospective of Brassaï in the Netherlands. This French photographer of Hungarian descent is considered as one of the key figures of 20th-century photography. Brassaï (1899-1984) created countless iconic images of 1930s Parisian life. He was famous for capturing the grittier aspects of the city, but also documented high society, including the ballet, opera, and intellectuals – among them his friends and contemporaries like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse. The exhibition at Foam traces his career with over 170 vintage prints, plus a selection of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material.

Gyula Halász, Brassaï’s original name, was born in 1899 in Brassó, Transylvania (then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, nowadays Brasov, Romania). He studied at the University of Arts in Berlin before finally settling in Paris in 1924, a city that was to become the main subject of his work. He started as a painter but soon discovered that his strongest and most original talent lay in photography. To keep his real name for his paintings, he signed journalistic work, caricatures and photographs with ‘Brassaï’ (from Brassó). His photos would make this pseudonym more famous than his real name. Brassaï’s work of the 1930s would become a cornerstone of a new tradition as photography was discovered as a medium with aesthetic potential. A generation earlier photographers had merely emulated the established arts. Now photography became an art in itself and the perfect medium to capture modern life.

The nocturnal scenes collected in his book Paris by Night (1933) are complemented by his work that reveals the everyday life of the city by day. The monuments, picturesque spots, scenes from daily life and architectural details are present in his work as a reflection of the irresistible fascination the artist felt for the French capital. In his quest to cover all of the facets of Paris, he also immersed himself in the city’s darker side. For Brassaï the gang members, outcasts, prostitutes and drug addicts all represented the least cosmopolitan aspect of Paris, an aspect that was more alive and more authentic. He compiled a huge collection of images of entertainment venues, ranging from night clubs to popular festivals and featuring the people who frequented them. Brassaï was deeply immersed in a wide circle of friends among the writers and artists of Montparnasse, who also became the subjects for some of his portraits. Most of the portraits taken by Brassaï were of well-known people, putting him into a very comfortable position. He collaborated with the luxury art magazine Minotaure right from its very first issue and enjoyed a prominent role for the publication over the years. After the war, he also travelled regularly on commissioned shoots for the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition at Foam gathers many of the artistic facets of the photographer, from photos to drawings of female nudes. It is organised in twelve thematic sections: Paris by Day, and by Night, Minotaure, Graffiti, Society, Places and Things, Personages, Sleep, Pleasures, Body of a Woman, Portraits – Artists, Writers, Friends and The Street. Each is very different from the next – reflecting the diversity of Brassaï’s photographic work.

Press release from the Foam gallery website

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Staircase, Montmartre' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Staircase, Montmartre (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Escaliers de Montmartre, Paris' 1936

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Escaliers de Montmartre, Paris
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La rue Quincampoix' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La rue Quincampoix (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La rue Quincampoix' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La rue Quincampoix (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Pillar of the Elevated, Metro Glacière' 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Pillar of the Elevated, Metro Glacière (installation view)
1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Near the rue Mouffetard' c. 1945 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Near the rue Mouffetard (installation view)
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdamz

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam with at bottom centre, Brassaï’s Concierge’s Lodge, Paris, 1933
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (installation view)
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (installation view)
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

99-1984) 'Lovers at the gare Saint Lazare' c. 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Lovers at the gare Saint Lazare (installation view)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc' 1946 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc (installation view)
1946
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc' 1946 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc (installation view)
1946
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Annecy' 1936 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Annecy (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Hôtel de la Belle Étoile' 1945 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Hôtel de la Belle Étoile (installation view)
1945
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) A Corpse on the Banks on the Seine 1931 (installation view

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
A Corpse on the Banks on the Seine (installation view)
1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Fétes de Paris: La Nuit Féerique de Longhamp' 1937

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Fétes de Paris: La Nuit Féerique de Longhamp
1937
In L’illustration, no. 4, 923 (July 10, 1937)
13. Rue Saint-Georges, Paris (9°)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Regards, no. 155 (December 31, 1936)

 

Regards, no. 155 (December 31, 1936)
Back cover
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at at left, Brassaï’s Meat Porters, Les Halles c. 1935 and at second left, Au Cochon Limousin 1935
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Meat Porters, Les Halles' c. 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Meat Porters, Les Halles (installation view)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Au Cochon Limousin' 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Au Cochon Limousin (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Halles' 1930-32 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Halles (installation view)
1930-32
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Cesspool cleaners' c. 1931 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Cesspool cleaners (installation view)
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Paris de nuit / Paris at night

Brassaï had been making photographs for barely two years when luck and ambition brought him a contract for a book on nocturnal Paris. When Paris de nuit (Paris at Night) was published to acclaim in December 1932, “Brassaï” became a familiar name in the world of photography. The book’s rich photogravures, marginalises pages, and bold design made it an icon of modernity. Many of Brassaï’s best night picture were made after Paris de nuit appeared, however, and many of his greatest images of Parisian nightlife were not published until 1976.

In the self-portrait here we see Brassaï’s first camera, a Voigtländer Bergheil that used 6.5 x 9 cm glass plates one at a time. The long exposures of night photography – often five minutes or more – required a tripod, which Brassaï frequently used for other pictures as well. While much of the adventurous European photography of the 1920s and 1930s celebrated mobility and speed, spontaneity was alien to Brassaï’s sensibility. He favoured images that are sharp, deliberate, and stable.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) Morris Column, avenue de l'Observatoire 1934 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Morris Column, avenue de l’Observatoire (installation view)
1934
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Morris Column, avenue de l'Observatoire' 1934

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Morris Column, avenue de l’Observatoire
1934
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at right, Brassaï’s Self portrait, On the boulevard Saint-Jacques 1930-32
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Self portrait, On the boulevard Saint-Jacques
1930-32
Gelatin silver print

 

Voigtländer Bergheil Built in 1932

 

Voigtländer
Bergheil
Built in 1932
6.5 x 9cm negative
Green

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at left, Brassaï’s The Tour Saint-Jacques 1932-33, and at third right View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino c. 1933
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'The Tour Saint-Jacques' 1932-33 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
The Tour Saint-Jacques (installation view)
1932-33
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino' c. 1933

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino
c. 1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at right, Brassaï’s Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog c. 1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire in the Fog' c. 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog (installation view)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire in the Fog' c. 1937

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 9-10
1932
Book

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 13-14
1932
Book

 

 

Digital flick through of Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) book 1932
Video: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 19-20 (installation view)
1932
Book
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Minotaure, no. 7 (June 1935)

 

Minotaure, no. 7 (June 1935)
Pages 24-25: Photographs by Brassaï, “Nuits parisiennes” (Parisian Nights)
Pages 26-29: Photographs by Brassaï
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Portraits – artists, writers and friends

In Brassaï’s era, portraits and nudes were bread-and-butter genres for any professional photographer. As a portraitist Brassaï made a speciality of artists and writers, who often were his friends, and in 1982 he collected many of the best pictures in Les artistes de ma vie (The Artists of My Life), for which he also wrote the lively text. He excelled at two distinct types of portraiture: In one, the artist is framed by his environment – the studio. In the other, the subjects confronts the photographer frankly, and the setting hardly matters. In an undated note, Brassaï summed up his approach to the second type: “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.”

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing in the top photograph at right, Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris 1931-32 and in the bottom photograph at third right, Brassaï’s Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily c. 1932
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris' 1931-32

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris (installation view)
1931-32
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing in the bottom photograph at left, Brassaï’s portrait of Jean Genet 1948
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Jean Genet' 1948

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Jean Genet
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Graffiti

The appreciation of graffiti as a powerful if anonymous art form began to blossom in the twentieth century. Like African tribal objects and the art of children, graffiti was admired as more expressive and vital than the refined forms of traditional Western art. Brassaï was among the first to embrace it. He was an inveterate magpie who collected all manner of neglected artefacts and natural specimens throughout his life. Virtually as soon as he began making photographs, he used the medium to collect the graffiti that appeared abundantly on the walls of Paris – predominantly images that had been scratched or gouged rather than drawn or painted and, as he pointed out, in which irregularities of the wall itself played a role. He compiled hundreds of these pictures, a small sample of which is presented here.

 

Minotaure

Between arriving in Paris in early 1924 and taking up photography six years later, Brassaï developed a wide circle of friends among the international community of artists and writers in Montparnasse. Among them were Les deux aveugles (The Two Blind Men), as the art critics Maurice Raynal and E. Tériade called themselves. In December 1932 – the same month Brassaï’s book Paris de unit (Paris at Night) appeared – Tériade invited Brassaï to photograph Pablo Picasso and his studios in and near Paris for the first issue of Minotaure, a lavish art magazine launched in June 1933 by the Swiss published Albert Skira. Thus began one of the key friendships of Brassaï’s life. Over the next few years he played prominent role in Minotaure, notable as a collaborator of Salvador Dalí, as an illustrator of texts by André Breton, and, on a few occasions, as an artist in his own right.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing to the right, photographs from Brassaï’s series Graffiti
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)

 

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)
Pages 6-7: Photographs and text by Brassaï, “Du mur des cavernes au mur d’usine” (From the Wall of the Caves to the Wall of the Factory).
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

This was the first appearance in print of Brassaï’s series Graffiti.

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'The Sun King' 1945-50 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
The Sun King (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1950

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1950
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1945-55

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1945-55

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and in the centre, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33 and Market Porter, Les Halles 1939
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Personages

In the introduction to a book of his photographs that was published in 1949, Brassaï linked the modern arts of photography and film to the work of artists of the past who had depicted everyday life, among them Rembrandt van Rijn, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He praised them for the “desire to get beyond the anecdotal and to promote [their] subjects to the dignity of types.” Brassaï himself had a talent for rendering at the same time a generic social role and a particular individual who inhabited it, as if his attentiveness to the person would elevate him or her into a distinctive personage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left, Festival in Seville 1951; and at right, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left, Festival in Seville 1951; at centre, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and at right, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing a photograph from the section Personages, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre' 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre (installation view)
1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre' 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and at right, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart' 1932-33 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart (installation view)
1932-33
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart' 1932-33

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart
1932-33
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33; and at right, Market Porter, Les Halles 1939
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Market Porter, Les Halles' 1939 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Market Porter, Les Halles (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Chez Suzy
1931-32
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'At the Hôtel des Terrasses' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
At the Hôtel des Terrasses (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from Brassaï’s series Sleep
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sleep

In 1945 Brassaï wrote a brief essay to accompany some of his pictures of sleepers. It reads in part “All things that stand against their inclination – a tree, a column, a tower, a rock – are regarded with a malign eye by gravity … She especially has a grudge against man, that foolhardy being who, in open collusion with the sunlight, alone among his brothers under the spell of gravitation, dares to stand up. For sunlight and gravity fight over living beings, the one turning over what the other has put up. Alas! Sunlight lives a long way away and can never be found when she is needed the most. Thus gravity is suited to have the last word.”

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from Brassaï’s series Sleep with at left, Paris c. 1934; and at centre, Sleeping c. 1935
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' c. 1934 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
c. 1934
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sleeping' c. 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sleeping (installation view)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Montmartre' 1930-31

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Montmartre
1930-31
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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22
Jul
20

Exhibition: ‘2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s-1860s’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd December 2019 – closing date to be announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Antoine-François-Jean Claudet. ‘The Chess Players’ c. 1845 (detail)

 

Likely by Antoine-François-Jean Claudet (French, Lyon 1797 – 1867 London)
Possibly by Nicolaas Henneman (Dutch, Heemskerk 1813 – 1898 London)
The Chess Players (detail)
c. 1845
Salted paper print from paper negative
Sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 11/16 in. (24.5 × 19.6cm)
Image: 7 13/16 × 5 13/16 in. (19.8 × 14.7cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

An excellent selection of photographs in this posting. I particularly like the gender-bending, shape-shifting, age-distorting 1850s-60s Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits by an unknown artist. I’ve never seen anything like it before, especially from such an early date. Someone obviously took a lot of care, had a great sense of humour and definitely had a great deal of fun making the album.

Other fascinating details include the waiting horses and carriages in Fox Talbot’s View of the Boulevards of Paris (1843); the mannequin perched above the awning of the photographic studio in Dowe’s Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois (1860s); and the chthonic underworld erupting from the tilting ground in Carleton E. Watkins’ California Oak, Santa Clara Valley (c. 1863).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

When The Met first opened its doors in 1870, photography was still relatively new. Yet over the preceding three decades it had already developed into a complex pictorial language of documentation, social and scientific inquiry, self-expression, and artistic endeavour.

These initial years of photography’s history are the focus of this exhibition, which features new and recent gifts to the Museum, many offered in celebration of The Met’s 150th anniversary and presented here for the first time. The works on view, from examples of candid portraiture and picturesque landscape to pioneering travel photography and photojournalism, chart the varied interests and innovations of early practitioners.

The exhibition, which reveals photography as a dynamic medium through which to view the world, is the first of a two-part presentation that plays on the association of “2020” with clarity of vision while at the same time honouring farsighted and generous collectors and patrons. The second part will move forward a century, bringing together works from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Antoine-François-Jean Claudet. ‘The Chess Players’ c. 1845

 

Likely by Antoine-François-Jean Claudet (French, Lyon 1797 – 1867 London)
Possibly by Nicolaas Henneman (Dutch, Heemskerk 1813 – 1898 London)
The Chess Players
c. 1845
Salted paper print from paper negative
Sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 11/16 in. (24.5 × 19.6cm)
Image: 7 13/16 × 5 13/16 in. (19.8 × 14.7cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Lewis Carroll (British, Daresbury, Cheshire 1832 - 1898 Guildford) '[Alice Liddell]' June 25, 1870

 

Lewis Carroll (British, Daresbury, Cheshire 1832 – 1898 Guildford)
[Alice Liddell]
June 25, 1870
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Sheet: 6 1/4 × 5 9/16 in. (15.9 × 14.1cm)
Image: 5 7/8 × 4 15/16 in. (15 × 12.6cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Eighteen-year-old Alice Liddell’s slumped pose, clasped hands, and sullen expression invite interpretation. A favoured model of Lewis Carroll, and the namesake of his novel Alice in Wonderland, Liddell had not seen the writer and photographer for seven years when this picture was made; her mother had abruptly ended all contact in 1863. The young woman poses with apparent unease in this portrait intended to announce her eligibility for marriage. The session closed a long and now controversial history with Carroll, whose portraits of children continue to provoke speculation. In what was to be her last sitting with the photographer, Liddell embodies the passing of childhood innocence that Carroll romanticised through the fictional Alice.

 

Unknown photographer (American) '[Surveyor]' c. 1854

 

Unknown photographer (American)
[Surveyor]
c. 1854
Daguerreotype
Case: 1.6 × 9.2 × 7.9cm (5/8 × 3 5/8 × 3 1/8 in.)
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

This portrait of a surveyor from an unknown daguerreotype studio was made during the heyday of the Daguerreian era in the United States, a time that coincided with an increased need for survey data and maps for the construction of railways, bridges, and roads. The unidentified surveyor, seated in a chair, grasps one leg of the tripod supporting his transit, a type of theodolite or surveying instrument that comprised a compass and rotating telescope. The carefully composed scene, in which the angle of the man’s skyward gaze is aligned with the telescope and echoed by one leg of the tripod, conflates its surveyor subject with an astronomer. As a result, the lands of young America are compared to the vast reaches of space, with both territories full of potential discovery.

 

Unknown photographer (American) '[Surveyor]' c. 1854

 

Unknown photographer (American)
[Surveyor]
c. 1854
Daguerreotype
Case: 1.6 × 9.2 × 7.9cm (5/8 × 3 5/8 × 3 1/8 in.)
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Alphonse Delaunay (French, 1827-1906) 'Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra, Granada, Spain' 1854

 

Alphonse Delaunay (French, 1827-1906)
Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
1854
Albumen silver print from paper negative
10 in. × 13 5/8 in. (25.4 × 34.6cm)
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, 2017
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

One of the most talented students of famed French photographer Gustave Le Gray, Delaunay was virtually unknown before a group of his photographs appeared at auction in 2007. Subsequent research led to the identification of several bodies of work, including the documentation of contemporary events through instantaneous views captured on glass negatives. Delaunay also was a particular devotee of the calotype (or paper negative) process, with which he created his best pictures – including this view of the Alhambra. Among a group of pictures he made between 1851 and 1854 in Spain and Algeria, this view of the Patio de los Arrayanes reveals the extent to which Delaunay was able to manipulate the peculiarities of the paper negative. He revels in the graininess of the image, purposefully not masking out the sky before printing the negative, so that the marble tower appears somehow carved out of the very atmosphere that surrounds it. In contrast, the reflecting pool remains almost impossibly limpid, its dark surface offering a cool counterpart to the harsh Spanish sky.

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887) '[Classical Head]' probably 1839

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887)
[Classical Head]
probably 1839
Salted paper print
6 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (16.5 × 15cm)
Purchase, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

This luminous head seems to materialise before our very eyes, as if we are observing the moment in which the latent photographic image becomes visible. Nineteenth-century eyewitnesses to Hippolyte Bayard’s earliest photographs (direct positives on paper) described a similarly enchanting effect, in which hazy outlines coalesced with light and tone to form charmingly faithful, if indistinct, images. These works, which Bayard referred to as essais (tests or trials), often included statues and busts, which he frequently arranged in elaborate tableaux. In this case, he photographed the lone subject (an idealised classical head) from the front and side, as if it were a scientific specimen. The singular object emerges as a relic from photography’s origins and now distant past.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 - 1877 Lacock) 'Group Taking Tea at Lacock Abbey' August 17, 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 – 1877 Lacock)
Group Taking Tea at Lacock Abbey
August 17, 1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
Mount: 9 15/16 in. × 13 in. (25.3 × 33cm)
Sheet: 7 3/8 × 8 15/16 in. (18.7 × 22.7cm)
Image: 5 in. × 7 1/2 in. (12.7 × 19 cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Although Talbot’s groundbreaking calotype (paper negative) process allowed for more instantaneous image making, works such as this one nevertheless reflect the technical limitations of early photography. Here, he adapts painterly conventions to the new medium, staging a genre scene on his family estate. The stilted arrangement of figures – rigidly posed to produce a clear image – belies Talbot’s attempt to show action in progress. To achieve sufficient light exposure, he photographed the domestic tableau outdoors, arranging his subjects before a blank backdrop to create the illusion of interior space.

 

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

 

Unknown artist (American or Canadian)
[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]
1850s-60s
Albumen silver prints
5 15/16 × 5 1/8 × 2 1/16 in. (15.1 × 13 × 5.3cm)
Bequest of Herbert Mitchell, 2008
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Beginning in the late 1850s, cartes de visite, or small photographic portrait cards, were produced on a scale that put photography in the hands of the masses. This unusual collection of collages is ahead of its time in spoofing the rigidity of the format. The images play with scale and gender by juxtaposing cutout heads and mismatched sitters, thereby highlighting the difference between social identity – which was communicated in part through the exchange of calling cards – and individuality.

 

Unknown artist (American) '[Studio Photographer at Work]' c. 1855

 

Unknown artist (American)
[Studio Photographer at Work]
c. 1855
Salted paper print
Image: 5 1/8 × 3 13/16 in. (13 × 9.7cm)
Sheet: 9 1/2 × 5 5/8 in. (24.1 × 14.3cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In this evocative image, picture making takes centre stage. Underneath a canopy of dark cloth, the photographer poses as if to adjust the bellows of a large format camera. The view reflected on its ground glass would appear reversed and upside down. Viewers’ expectations are similarly overturned, because the photographer’s subject remains unseen.

 

Unknown artist (American) '[Boy Holding a Daguerreotype]' 1850s

 

Unknown artist (American)
[Boy Holding a Daguerreotype]
1850s
Daguerreotype with applied colour
Image: 3 1/4 × 2 3/4 in. (8.3 × 7cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The boy in this picture clutches a cased image to his chest, as if to illustrate his affection for the subject depicted within. Daguerreotypes were a novel form of handheld picture, portable enough to slip into a pocket or palm. Portraits exchanged between friends and family could be kept close – a practice often mimed by sitters, who would pose for one daguerreotype while holding another.

 

James Fitzallen Ryder (American, 1826-1904) 'Locomotive James McHenry (58), Atlantic and Great Western Railway' 1862

 

James Fitzallen Ryder (American, 1826-1904)
Locomotive James McHenry (58), Atlantic and Great Western Railway
1862
Albumen silver print
Image: 7 3/8 × 9 1/4 in. (18.7 × 23.5cm)
Mount: 10 × 13 in. (25.4 × 33cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In spring 1862, the chief engineer in charge of building the Atlantic and Great Western Railway – which ran from Salamanca, New York, to Akron, Ohio, and from Meadville to Oil City, Pennsylvania – engaged James Ryder to make photographs that would convince shareholders of the worthiness of the project. Ryder’s assignment was “to photograph all the important points of the work, such as excavations, cuts, bridges, trestles, stations, buildings and general character of the country through which the road ran, the rugged and the picturesque.” In a converted railroad car kitted out with a darkroom, water tank, and developing sink, he processed photographs that make up one of the earliest rail surveys.

 

Attributed to Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808 - 1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire) Winter on the Common, Boston' 1850s

 

Attributed to Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808 – 1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire)
Winter on the Common, Boston
1850s
Salted paper print
Window: 6 15/16 × 8 15/16 in. (17.6 × 22.7cm)
Mat: 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Having originally set his sights on a career as a painter, Josiah Hawes gave up his brushes for a camera upon first seeing a daguerreotype in 1841. Two years later, he joined Albert Sands Southworth in Boston to form the celebrated photographic studio Southworth & Hawes. Turning to paper-based photography in the early 1850s, Hawes frequently depicted local scenery. This surprising picture, which presents Boston Common through a veil of snow-laden branches, shows that Hawes brought his creative ambitions to the nascent art of photography.

 

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
[California Oak, Santa Clara Valley]
c. 1863
Albumen silver print
Image: 12 in. × 9 5/8 in. (30.5 × 24.5cm)
Mount: 21 1/4 in. × 17 5/8 in. (54 × 44.8cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

For viewers today, the crown of this majestic oak tree, with its complex network of branches, might evoke the allover paintings of Abstract Expressionism with their layers of dripped paint. As photographed by Carleton Watkins, the dark, flattened silhouette of the tree feathers out across the camera’s field of view. The sloped horizon line, uncommon in Watkins’s output, both echoes the ridge in the distance and grounds the energy of the tree canopy, ably demonstrating his masterful command of pictorial composition.

 

George Wilson Bridges (British, 1788-1864) 'Garden of Selvia, Syracuse, Sicily' 1846

 

George Wilson Bridges (British, 1788-1864)
Garden of Selvia, Syracuse, Sicily
1846
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 6 15/16 × 8 9/16 in. (17.7 × 21.7cm)
Sheet: 7 5/16 × 8 13/16 in. (18.5 × 22.4cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

The monk’s gesture of prayer in this image by George Wilson Bridges is a touchstone of stillness against the impressive landscape and vegetation that rise up behind him. Bridges was an Anglican reverend and friend of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the calotype (paper negative), who instructed him on the method before it was patented. Bridges was also one of the earliest photographers to embark upon a tour of the Mediterranean region; he wrote to Talbot that he conceived of the excursion both as a technical mission to advance photography and as a pilgrimage to collect imagery of religious sites.

 

Pietro Dovizielli (Italian, 1804-1885) '[Spanish Steps, Rome]' c. 1855

 

Pietro Dovizielli (Italian, 1804-1885)
[Spanish Steps, Rome]
c. 1855
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 14 11/16 × 11 5/16 in. (37.3 × 28.8cm)
Sheet: 24 7/16 × 18 7/8 in. (62 × 48cm)
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Made in late afternoon light, Pietro Dovizielli’s picture shows a long shadow cast onto Rome’s Piazza di Spagna that almost obscures one of the market stalls flanking the base of the famed Spanish Steps. Rising above the sea of stairs is the church of Trinità dei Monti, its facade neatly bisected by the Sallustiano obelisk. In the piazza, a lone figure – the only visible inhabitant of this eerily empty public square – rests against the railing of the Barcaccia fountain. Keenly composed pictures like this led reviewers of Dovizielli’s photographs to proclaim them “the very paragons of architectural photography.”

 

Edouard Baldus (French (born Prussia), 1813-1889) '[Amphitheater, Nîmes]' c. 1853

 

Edouard Baldus (French (born Prussia), 1813-1889)
[Amphitheater, Nîmes]
c. 1853
Salted paper print from paper negative
Overall: 12 3/8 × 15 3/16 in. (31.5 × 38.5cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Instead of photographing the entire arena in Nîmes, as he had two years earlier, Baldus focusses here on a section of the façade, playing the superimposed arches against the vertical, shadowed pylons in the foreground. The resulting composition manages to isolate and monumentalise the architecture, while creating a rhythmic play of light and dark that energises the picture. The photograph was part of a massive, four-year project, Villes de France photographiées, in which the views from the south of France were said to surpass all of the photographer’s previous work in the region.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800-1877 Lacock) 'View of the Boulevards of Paris' 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 – 1877 Lacock)
View of the Boulevards of Paris
1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
Mount: 9 in. × 10 1/16 in. (22.8 × 25.6cm)
Sheet: 7 3/8 × 10 1/8 in. (18.7 × 25.7cm)
Image: 6 5/16 × 8 1/2 in. (16.1 × 21.6cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

In May 1843 Talbot traveled to Paris to negotiate a licensing agreement for the French rights to his patented calotype process. His invention used a negative-positive system and a paper base – not a copper support as in a daguerreotype. Although his negotiations were not fruitful, Talbot’s views of the elegant new boulevards of the French capital were highly successful.

Filled with the incidental details of urban life, architectural ornamentation, and the play of spring light, this photograph appears as the second plate in Talbot’s groundbreaking publication The Pencil of Nature (1844). The chimney posts on the roofline of the rue de la Paix, the waiting horses and carriages, and the characteristically French shuttered windows evoke as vivid a notion of mid-nineteenth-century Paris now as they must have 170 years ago.

 

Lewis Dowe (American, active 1860s-1880s) '[Dowe's Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois]' 1860s

 

Lewis Dowe (American, active 1860s-1880s)
[Dowe’s Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois]
1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 5 7/8 × 7 5/8 in. (14.9 × 19.3cm)
Mount: 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Above a bustling thoroughfare in Sycamore, Illinois, boldface lettering advertises the services of photographer Lewis Dowe, a portraitist who also published postcards and stereoviews. Easier to miss in the image is a mannequin perched above the awning to promote the studio. The flurry of activity below Dowe’s storefront and the prime location of the outfit, poised between a tailor and a saloon, speak to the important role of photography in town life.

 

E. & H. T. Anthony (American) '[Specimens of New York Bill Posting]' 1863

 

E. & H. T. Anthony (American)
[Specimens of New York Bill Posting]
1863
Albumen silver prints
Mount: 3 1/4 in. × 6 3/4 in. (8.3 × 17.1cm)
Image: 2 15/16 in. × 6 in. (7.5 × 15.3cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Benefit concerts, minstrel shows, lectures, and horse races all clamour for attention in this graphic field of broadsides posted in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan. The stereograph format lends added depth and dimensionality to the layered fragments of text, transporting viewers to a hectic city sidewalk. Published for a national market, the scene indexes a precise moment in the summer of 1863, offering armchair tourists an inadvertent trend report on downtown cultural life.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'The Diamond and Wasp, Balaklava Harbour' March, 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Diamond and Wasp, Balaklava Harbour
March, 1855
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 8 in. × 10 1/8 in. (20.3 × 25.7 cm)
Mount: 19 5/16 × 24 3/4 in. (49 × 62.9 cm)
Gift of Thomas Walther Collection, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Fenton’s view of the Black Sea port of Balaklava, which the British used as a landing point for their siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, shows a busy but orderly operation. The British naval ships, HMS Diamond and HMS Wasp, oversaw the management of transports into and out of the harbour, which explains the presence of ships and rowboats, as well as the large stack of crates near the rail track in the foreground. Against claims of “rough-and-tumble” mismanagement of Balaklava in the British press, Fenton (commissioned by a Manchester publisher to record the theatre of war) offers documentation of a well-functioning port.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'The Mamelon and Malakoff from front of Mortar Battery' April, 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Mamelon and Malakoff from front of Mortar Battery
April, 1855
Salted paper print from glass negative
Image: 9 1/8 × 13 1/2 in. (23.1 × 34.3cm)
Sheet: 14 3/4 × 17 13/16 in. (37.5 × 45.3cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Fenton’s extensive documentation of the Crimean War – the first use of photography for that purpose – was a commercial endeavour that did not include pictures of battle, the wounded, or the dead. His unprepossessing view of a vast rocky valley instead discloses, in the distance, a site of crucial strategic importance. Fort Malakoff, the general designation of Russian fortifications on two hills (Mamelon and Malakoff) is just perceptible at the horizon line. Malakoff’s capture by the French in September 1855, five months after Fenton made this photograph, ended the eleven-month siege of Sevastopol and was the final episode of the war.

 

Felice Beato (British (born Italy), Venice 1832-1909 Luxor) and James Robertson (British, 1813-1881) [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem] 1856-57

 

Felice Beato (British (born Italy), Venice 1832-1909 Luxor) and James Robertson (British, 1813-1881)
[Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem]
1856-57
Albumen silver print
Image: 9 in. × 11 1/4 in. (22.9 × 28.6cm)
Mount: 17 5/8 in. × 22 1/2 in. (44.8 × 57.2cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, 2013
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This detailed print showing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem provides a sense of the structure’s natural and architectural surroundings. Felice Beato depicted the religious site from a pilgrim’s point of view – walls and roads are given visual priority and stand between the viewer and the shrine. Holy sites such as this were the earliest and most common subjects of travel photography. Beato made multiple journeys to the Mediterranean and North Africa, and he is perhaps best known for photographing East Asia in the 1880s.

 

R.C. Montgomery (American, active 1850s) '[Self-Portrait (?)]' 1850s

 

R.C. Montgomery (American, active 1850s)
[Self-Portrait (?)]
1850s
Daguerreotype with applied colour
Image: 3 1/4 × 4 1/4 in. (8.3 × 10.8 cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The insouciant subject here may be the daguerreotypist himself, posing in bed for a promotional picture or a private joke. His rumpled suit and haphazard hairstyle affect intimacy, perhaps in an effort to showcase an informal portrait style. Because they required long exposure times, daguerreotypes often captured sitters at their most stilted. With this surprising picture, the maker might have hoped to attract clients who were in search of a more novel or natural likeness.

 

 

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19
Jun
20

Exhibition: ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 17th May 2020? Coronavirus

Participating artists: Bas Jan Ader, Laurie Anderson, Kenneth Anger, Knut Åsdam, Richard Avedon, Aneta Bartos, Richard Billingham, Cassils, Sam Contis, John Coplans, Jeremy Deller, Rienke Dijkstra, George Dureau, Thomas Dworzak, Hans Eijkelboom, Fouad Elkoury, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Hal Fischer, Samuel Fosso, Anna Fox, Masahisa Fukase, Sunil Gupta, Peter Hujar, Liz Johnson Artur, Isaac Julien, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Karen Knorr, Deana Lawson, Hilary Lloyd, Robert Mapplethrope, Peter Marlow, Ana Mendieta, Anenette Messager, Duane Michals, Tracey Moffat, Andrew Moisey, Richard Mosse, Adi Nes, Catherine Opie, Elle Pérez, Herb Ritts, Kalen Na’il Roach, Collier Schorr, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Clarie Strand, Michael Subotzky, Larry Sultan, Hank Willis Thomas, Wolfgang Tillmans, Piotr Uklański, Andy Warhol, Karlheinz Weinberger, Marianne Wex, David Wojnarowicz, Akram Zaatari.

 

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953) 'Untitled #22' 1976

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953)
Untitled #22
1976
From the series Christopher Street
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery
© Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

 

 

As a writer Berger recognised that experience – whether it be personal, historical or aesthetic – will never conform to theories and systems. To read him today is to accept his failures and detours as a unique willingness to take risks.

.
John MacDonald. “John Berger,” in the Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June, 2020

 

 

D-Construction: deliberate masculinities in a discontinuous world

.
Reviewers of this exhibition (see quotations below) have noted the preponderance of images of “traditional masculinity” – defined as “idealised, dominant (and) heterosexual” – and the paucity of images that show men as working, intelligent, sensitive human beings, “that men ever earned a living, cooked a meal or read a book… scarcely anything about the heart or intellect. Men are represented here almost entirely in terms of their bodies, sexuality or supposed type.” I need make no further comment. What I will say is that I believe the title of the exhibition to be a misnomer: a person cannot be “liberated” through photography, for photography is only a tool of a personal liberation. Liberation comes through an internal struggle of acceptance (thence liberation), one that is foremost FELT (for example, the double life one leads before you acknowledge that you are gay; or experiencing discrimination aimed at others and by proxy, yourself) and SEEN (the bashing of a mother as seen by a small child). Photographs picture the outcomes of this struggle for liberation, are a tool of that process not, I would argue, liberation itself.

What I can say is that I believe in masculinities, plural. Fluid, shifting, challenging, loving, working, intimate, spiritual masculinities that challenge normalcy and hegemonic masculinity, which is defined as “a practice that legitimises men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the common male population and women, and other marginalised ways of being a man.”

What I don’t believe in is masculinities, plural, that seek to fit into this [dis]continuous world (for we are born and then die) through the stability of their outward appearance, conforming to theories and systems – personal, historical or aesthetic – without reference to subversion, small intimacies, the toil of work, love and the passion of sexual bodies. In other words, masculinities that are not afraid to push the boundaries of being and becoming. To take risks, to experience, to feel.

While I was overjoyed at the “YES” vote on gay marriage that took place in December 2017 in Australia because I felt it was a victory for love, and equality… another part of me rejected as anathema the concept of a gay person buying into a historically patriarchal, heterosexual and monogamous institution such as marriage – too honour and obey. This is an untenable concept for a person who wants to be liberated. Coming out as I did in 1975, only 6 short years after the Stonewall Riots, the last thing I EVER wanted to be, was to be the same as a “straight” person. I was different. I fought for my difference and still believe in it.

Of course, in 2020 it’s another world. Today we all mix in together. But there is still something about “masculinities”, which in some varieties, have a sense of privilege and entitlement. Of power and control over others; of violence towards women, trans, other men and anyone who threatens their little ego, who leaves them, or jilts them. Their jealousy, their ego, bruised – they are so insecure, so insular, that they can only see their own world, their own minuscule problems (but massive in their eyes), and enforce their will on others.

My advice to “masculinities’, in fact any human being, is to go out, get yourself informed, experience, accept, and be the person that nobody thinks you can be. Be a human being. Examine your inner self, look at your dark side, your other side, your empathetic side, and try and understand the journey that you are on. Then, and only then, you might begin on that great path of personal enlightenment, that golden path on which there is no turning back.

Below I discuss some of these ideas with my good friend Nicholas Henderson, curator and archivist at the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

 

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is a major group exhibition that explores how masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.

Through the medium of film and photography, this major exhibition considers how masculinity has been coded, performed, and socially constructed from the 1960s to the present day. Examining depictions of masculinity from behind the lens, the Barbican brings together the work of over 50 international artists, photographers and filmmakers including Laurie Anderson, Sunil Gupta, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Catherine Opie.

In the wake of #MeToo the image of masculinity has come into sharper focus, with ideas of toxic and fragile masculinity permeating today’s society. This exhibition charts the often complex and sometimes contradictory representations of masculinities, and how they have developed and evolved over time. Touching on themes including power, patriarchy, queer identity, female perceptions of men, hypermasculine stereotypes, tenderness and the family, the exhibition shows how central photography and film have been to the way masculinities are imagined and understood in contemporary culture.

 

 

In fact, while there are a few gender-fluid figures here, they’re vastly outnumbered by manifestations of “traditional masculinity” – defined as “idealised, dominant (and) heterosexual”. Lebanese militiamen (in Fouad Elkoury’s perky full-length portraits from 1980), US marines (in Wolfgang Tillmans’ epic montage Soldiers – The Nineties), Taliban fighters, SS generals, Israel Defence Force grunts, footballers, cowboys and bullfighters fairly spring out of the walls from every direction. And what’s evident from the outset isn’t so much their diversity, as a unifying demeanour: a threatening intentness that comes wherever men are asked to perform their masculinity, but also a childlike vulnerability.  …

Masculinity, the viewer is made to feel, criminalises men (Mikhael Subotzky’s images of South African gangsters on morgue slabs); isolates them (Larry Sultan’s poignant image of his elderly father practising his golf swing in his sitting room); renders them stupid (Richard Billingham’s excruciating, but now classic photo essay on his alcoholic father, ‘Ray’s a Laugh’). To be a man, it seems, is to be condemned to endlessly act out archetypal “masculine” behaviour, whether you’re an elderly drunk in a Birmingham high-rise or the elite American students taking part in the shouting competition staged by Irish photographer Richard Mosse.

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Mark Hudson. “Does the Barbican’s Masculinities exhibition have important things to say about men?” on the Independent website Friday 21 February 2020 [Online] Cited 03/03/2020

 

There is not much here about work – unless you count the wall of Hollywood actors playing Nazis. You would never think, from this show, that men ever earned a living, cooked a meal or read a book (though there is a sententious vitrine of ‘Men Only’ magazines). Beyond the exceptions given, there is scarcely anything about the heart or intellect. Men are represented here almost entirely in terms of their bodies, sexuality or supposed type.

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Laura Cumming. “Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography review – men as types,” on the Guardian website Sun 23 Feb 2020 [Online] Cited 03/03/2020

 

“The body can be taken as a reflection of the self because it can and should be treated as something to be worked upon … in order to produce it as a commodity. Overweight, slovenliness and even unfashionability, for example, are now moral disorders,” notes Don Slater

“The state of the body is seen as a reflection of the state of its owner, who is responsible for it and could refashion it. The body can be taken as a reflection of the self because it can and should be treated as something to be worked upon, and generally worked upon using commodities, for example intensively regulated, self-disciplined, scrutinized through diets, fitness regimes, fashion, self-help books and advice, in order to produce it as a commodity. Overweight, slovenliness, and even unfashionability, for example, are now moral disorders; even acute illnesses such as cancer reflect the inadequacy of the self and indeed of its consumption. One gets ill because one has consumed the wrong (unnatural) things and failed to consume the correct (‘natural’) ones: self, body, goods and environment constitute a system of moral choice.”

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Slater, Don. Consumer Culture and Modernity. London: Polity Press, 1997, p. 92.

 

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing John Coplans’ work Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels 1994
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

John Coplans (British, emigrated America 1960, 1920-2003) 'Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels' 1994

 

John Coplans (British, emigrated America 1960, 1920-2003)
Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels
1994
Tate
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2001
Photograph: © John Coplans Trust

 

 

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography

 

Plan of the 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' exhibition spaces

 

Plan of the Masculinities: Liberation through Photography exhibition spaces

 

 

Introduction

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography explores the diverse ways masculinity has been experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed in photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.

Simone de Beauvoir’s famous declaration that ‘one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one’ provides a helpful springboard for considering what it means to be a male in today’s world, as well as the place of photography and film in shaping masculinity. What we have thought of as ‘masculine’ has changed considerably throughout history and within different cultures. The traditional social dominance of the male has determined a gender hierarchy which continues to underpin societies around the world.

In Europe and North America, the characteristics and power dynamics of the dominant masculine figure – historically defined by physical size and strength, assertiveness and aggression – though still pervasive today, began to be challenged and transformed in the 1960s. Amid a climate of sexual revolution, struggle for civil rights and raised class consciousness, the growth of the gay rights movement, the period’s counterculture and opposition to the Vietnam War, large sections of society argued for a loosening of the straitjacket of narrow gender definitions.

Set against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, when manhood is under increasing scrutiny and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity fill endless column inches, an investigation of this expansive subject is particularly timely, especially given current global politics characterised by male world leaders shaping their image as ‘strong’ men.

Touching on queer identity, race, power and patriarchy, men as seen by women, stereotypes of dominant masculinity as well as the family, the exhibition presents masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradictions and complexities. Embracing the idea of multiple ‘masculinities’ and rejecting the notion of a singular ‘ideal man’, the exhibition argues for an understanding of masculinity liberated from societal expectations and gender norms.

 

Room 1-4

Disrupting the Archetype

Over the last six decades, artists have consistently sought to destabilise the narrow definitions of gender that determine our social structures in order to encourage new ways of thinking about identity, gender and sexuality. ‘Disrupting the Archetype’ explores the representation of conventional and at times clichéd masculine subjects such as soldiers, cowboys, athletes, bullfighters, body builders and wrestlers. By reconfiguring the representation of traditional masculinity – loosely defined as an idealised, dominant heterosexual masculinity – the artists presented here challenge our ideas of these hypermasculine stereotypes.

Across different cultures and spaces, the military has been central to the construction of masculine identities – which has been explored through the work of Wolfgang Tillmans (below) and Adi Nes (below) among others, while Collier Schorr (below) and Sam Contis’s powerful works (below) address the dominant and enduring representation of the lone cowboy. Athleticism, often perceived as a proxy for strength which is associated with masculinity, is called into question by Catherine Opie’s and Rineke Dijkstra’s tender portraits (below). The male body, a cornerstone for artists such as John Coplans (above), Robert Mapplethorpe and Cassils (below), is meanwhile exposed as a fleshy canvas, constantly in flux.

Historically, the non-western male body has undergone a complex process of subjectification through the Western gaze – invariably presented as either warlike or sexually charged. Viewed against this context, the work of Fouad Elkoury and Akram Zaatari, as well as the found photographs of Taliban fighters that Thomas Dworzak discovered in Afghanistan (below), can be read as deconstructing the Orientalist gaz