Archive for the 'photographic series' Category

14
May
19

Exhibition: ‘The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day’ at ONE Gallery, West Hollywood, California

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 17th May 2019

Curator: David J. Getsy

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“Varble’s total irreverence is no more evident than in his willingness to “cross party lines,” as he did when he wore his Suit of Armor, constructed with gold VO labels from Seagram’s boxes, to both the 1975 Easter Parade and to West Village leather bars! He was an equal opportunity offender, rubbing up against conformity in all forms.”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Confusing queen reigns, on parade

In an era of reactionary religious and right wing hypocrisy – Christian sleaze and paedophilia anyone, anti-Muslim and gay Facebook posts in the Australian election, murderous right wing rampage in New Zealand – now more than ever, we need artists like Stephen Varble.

I love doing these posts on artists that certainly I, and I suspect a lot of the readers of this website, would have never have heard of. Artists full of spunk, full of daring-do, artists who rise to challenge the patrons of patriarchy, and the colluders of capitalism (Varble became ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism). Artists who declaim the value of the individual, who shine a light on the plight of the downtrodden and discriminated against. Can you not once bring yourself to utter the word “AIDS” you bigoted president?

“Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances… [He] sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both.” Australian artists such as Leigh Bowery and Brenton Heath-Kerr have a lot to thank Varble for.

He might have risen from the gutter, but his intentions were full of stars.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Varble’s work wasn’t drag in the conventional cross-dressing sense, or “gay art,” which was often defined from a predominantly masculine perspective in the immediate post-Stonewall years. His intention was to stretch and break down the very idea of binary identities, confuse the concept of gender, leave it optional. And this goal puts him well in the framework of queer and transgender thinking now. …

For a series of mid-1970s performances he called “Gutter Art,” he would arrive, elaborately dressed, by limousine (paid for by a Japanese patron, Miyazaki Morihiro) in front of luxury stores on the Upper East Side. Once parked, he unloaded old kitchen utensils from the trunk and started washing them with black ink, as if referring to the domestic life of sweatshop labor. He soon gained notoriety as a kind of cultural terrorist. (Tiffany’s hired guards to keep him out.) He turned up, uninvited, at red carpet events – film premieres, the Met’s Costume Institute gala – to dazzle and deride the guests.

.
Holland Cotter. “Stephen Varble: The Street Was His Stage, the Dress Was His Weapon,” on The New York Times website January 10, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)' 22 March 1976, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)
22 March 1976, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“A chauffeured Rolls Royce glides glacially to the curb in front of the Chemical Bank at New York’s Sheridan Square. The uniformed driver, out in an instant, holds open the passenger door. Rather than a well-heeled person to which such a car would belong, a more hallucinatory sight will emerge, equally glamorous and ridiculous. Two legs appear, only one of which has a shoe. The full length of the body gradually appears, improbably covered in netting and not much else, the entwined nets adorned with crumpled bills. What seem to be bare breasts droop from the chest of a figure of otherwise unidentifiable gender, further confused by a toy fighter jet, poised for takeoff, at crotch level. While no words are spoken, a cartoon speech bubble overhead proclaims, cheerily but with a disgruntled undertow: Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

The Chemical Bank Protest was Varble’s most notorious and widely reported disruption, and it encapsulated his disdain for commerce, capitalism, and propriety. To contest a forgery against him, Varble went to the Sheridan Square bank to demand his money returned. He created his Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe from Christmas tree packaging, gold leaf wrappers, and fake money. His costumes often combined different signs of gender, and here he wore tow condoms filled with cow’s blood for breasts and a toy jet fighter as a codpiece. The toy referenced the plane ticket the forger purchase with the money, and one shoe was missing to “symbolise his economic loss.” Hovering over his head, a speech bubble touted, “Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Varble’s performances often affected an ironic enthusiasms for his targets (be it a bank, a boutique, a gallery, or a presidential candidate), and his insincere flattery was meant to provide cover for his disruption of business as usual.

Arriving in a borrowed limousine, Varble boldly entered to make his demands as the line of customers at the teller window gawked. On being told by the manager that he could not be helped, Varble punctured the blood-filled condoms and dipped a pen in the spilled blood to write checks (for “none-million dollars”) in his dramatic, mime-like movements before sweeping out to the sound of applause from the customers.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

“Varble began to truly set himself apart from other gender-focused 1970s performance artists with his outré 1976 performance at Chemical Bank in Sheridan Square. After hearing that someone had forged his signature and emptied out his bank account, Varble walked into the bank dressed in fake money, with breasts made out of condoms and filled with cow’s blood. He demanded his money back. When the bank teller could not comply, Varble punctured his condom-breasts, spilling blood all over the floor, and wrote checks in blood for “none-million dollars,” which he addressed to his companion at the bank, Peter Hujar. The exhibition includes a photograph Hujar took that day, evoking a time when the lax security in banks allowed artists to perform and express themselves, however outrageously (although Varble was then escorted out of the cow’s blood-filled bank by security).”

Extract from Michael Valinsky. “A Forgotten Precursor of Genderqueer Performance Art,” in Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 14/05/219

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left top, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble with the Enormous Pink Satin and baby Doll (1975); left below Stephen Varble Performing in a Garbage Can at his Loft on Franklin Street (1975); and at centre, Closing Party with Varble’s Enormous Pink Satin Skirt (1975)

 

 

Franklin Street Exhibition and Party Performance

in 1976, Varble organised an exhibition of his own work in the loft her share with Jim McWilliams on Franklin Street. He painted the interiors pink, built large decorations, and displayed all his costumes on cut-out mannequins mounted on the walls. The largest piece in the exhibition was a new work the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, some fifteen feet in length. The object played a central role in the “Gala Ending” party that closed the exhibition, as can be seen in the photograph (main above). For this major event Varble enlisted the help of established gender non-conforming performers such as Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, and Taylor Mead to act as living mannequins for his most iconic costumes. Modelling Varble’s art they paraded with his satin silhouette dolls through the crowd and did impromptu performances – such as when Agusta Machado enacted a campy drama of claustrophobia in Varble’s refrigerator. Day was there to capture the wild party, managing to take individual portraits of some of the major performers in attendance…

In the midst of the playful chaos, Varble gathered these Warhol stars and others (such as Paul Ambrose and New York drag personality Ruth Truth) inside the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, and at a designated time they al burst forth dancing. As the exhibition gave attendees a retrospective view of his output the performance provided a testament to Varble’s place in the queer performance culture of New York. As the art critic Gregory Battock remarked, “It was the kind of event only Stephen Varble could have planned: chaotic, meandering, spurious and very New York […] Even though invitations were hard to come by, everybody was there.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery with, from left, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble Destroying his Blue and Green Corrugated Paper Dress from the Camera (October 1975); Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale; and Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

'Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer' [recto] 1975

 

Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer [recto]
1975
Xerographic print on paper
Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum
Photo: Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day, 2019

 

 

In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (1946-1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art.” With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (b. 1944) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble builds upon the 2018 retrospective exhibition of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019. The new ONE Gallery exhibition, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerrilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s photographs by Greg Day is curated by David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the  School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble is organised by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. Generous support is provided by the City of West Hollywood.

About the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc.

The ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) dedicated to telling the accurate and authentic stories of LGBTQ people, history and culture through public exhibitions, educational projects and trainings, and community outreach programs. Our exhibitions, school programs, and community outreach programs are free. We depend entirely on members of the public and private foundations for support.

Press release from the ONE Gallery [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left, a still from Stephen Varble’s video Journey to the Sun (1978-1983); and at right Greg Day’s Stephen Varble in the Piggy Bank Dress (1975)

 

Stephen Varble (American, 1946-1984)
Journey to the Sun
1978-1983
U-matic video transferred to digital, 2018
Courtesy David J. Getsy

 

 

Varble receded from the art world and from street performance around 1977, becoming ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism. As he told an interviewer that year, “This is the age of pornography and contempt. The dollar is good. […] The end of capitalism is coming.” Varble instead began to develop private performances and videos about his private mythologies and messianic dreams. His last five years were consumed with working on an epic, operatic work of video art: Journey to the Sun. It started in 1978 as a performance about the mythology of Greta Garbo, and Varble invited friends to his Riverside Drive apartment to view his monologues accompanied by project slides. His ambitions soon outgrew this format, and he turned to video for its ability to combine text, image and performance. He considered these videos to be revivals of illuminated Medieval manuscripts with their rich visual play between words and pictures, and he called his group of collaborators in the video the “Happy Arts School of Manuscript Illumination.” The aim of the “school” was to promote Varble’s vision of societal transformation through the making of modern fables in the form of videos, books, and prints. His “video books,” as he called the tapes, offered an “antidote to nature’s ruin on this heavenly globe.”

Journey to the Sun tells the story of a musician, the Grey Crowned Warbler, who undergoes tribulation and metamorphosis on a journey to transcendence. The tale is a loosely autobiographical fable of an artist who encounters a stern mystical teacher, Sage Purple Pythagoras (played by his partner, Daniel Cahill) who tests the Warbler. Many of Varble’s iconic costumes feature in the video, and he combined elements of his own history with references to literature, religion, and popular culture (notably, Garbo). Combining heavily scripted monologues with improvised performances. Journey to the Sun does not offer a tidy or easily understood narrative. Rather, it sketches a fantastic and surreal visual world in which dreams are realised through the transformations of everyday objects, popular imagery, and rubbish.

To make this “rodeo-paced” video, Varble filled his apartment with drawings and writings on the walls, blacked out the windows, and began filming scenes both scripted and improvised with collaborators. Journey to the Sun is remarkable for its time due to the complexity and density of the video editing – all of which was done by Varble in his apartment. He only completed about thirty percent of his planned work before his death from AIDS-related complications in January 1984. This screening copy presents a continuous segment of around 80 minutes that has been selected from the three surviving U-matic master tapes, but no changes have been made other than the choice of where to begin and end this combined excerpt. This is but a fragment of the much longer video epic Varble hoped would be his major contribution.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing Stephen Varble’s Blue Boy

 

 

“One afternoon, Stephen invited me to accompany him to a performance in midtown Manhattan. He bought Blue Boy with him. We took the F train uptown from Washington Square. Sitting on the subway car bench and wearing his Chemical Bank Protest attire. Stephen hugged, kissed, fondled and poked Blue Boy. He spoke to him in an affectionate and sometimes argumentative language of moans, “ohs” and clicks. I sat across from him and watched as people entered the car. They stared, laughed, gasped, and made disparaging remarks about his sanity before moving to another part of the subway car. Even riding the train was an opportunity for Stephen to shock.”

Greg Day
Wall text from the exhibition

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy from Leslie-Lohman Museum on Vimeo.

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival' 1975

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival
1975
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

ONE Gallery, West Hollywood
626 N. Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Opening hours:
Thursday – Sunday: 11.00 am – 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Closed Monday – Wednesday

ONE Archives website

ONE Gallery, West Hollywood website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

10
May
19

Exhibition: ‘Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 19th January – 12th May 2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Desierto de Sonora, México' 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Desierto de Sonora, México
1979
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 35.4 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

From a different world

There’s something consistently awesome about Mexican photography that is so grounded, so essential, and yet at the same time so spiritual.

One of my favourite photographic artists of all time is Manuel Alvarez Bravo, he of the lyrical narrative, the sensual body, the assassinated worker. Iturbide seems to be cut from the same cloth – she was his assistant for two years; he her teacher about photography and life – and his influence is telling in Iturbide’s imaginative and sometimes incongruous images, such as the skull in Mexico… I want to get to know you! (1975, below) or Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico (1979, below).

Life, death, violence, sacrifice, beauty, identity and place, mixed with daubs of Surrealism, are constant themes of Mexican photography and this symbology can be seen in Iturbide’s unusual urban geometries and her eye for the unexpected. She is a visionary ethnographer who paints in black and white a story of magical literary realism… seeing through her camera something different than she sees with her eyes directly. She sees, and then feels, a different world.

Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet, writing about the great Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, said that, “Reality exists, but it is more real in black and white.” And so here. Iturbide feels that black and white is more real than colour – and that reality is in black and white. It is in this tonal space that Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico pictures a place of beauty and contradiction, a place of transformations and interstitial spaces (intermediate, indeterminate spaces), an amalgamation of Indigenous and Spanish traditions. “I always shoot what surprises me,” she says. “My eyes see them, and my heart shoots them.”

Gracia Graciela, oh Graceful Beauty, for your gift to us.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Photography is also like life, right? … I think in my case, taking photos as therapy has a lot to do with death with everything I do, with Frida Kahlo, because I like to photograph things in therapy, things that are healing, which is powerful, right?”

.
Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Hear from the Artist | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Mexico City' 1969

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Mexico City
1969
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Chalma' 1974

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Chalma
1974
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Casa de la Muerte, Ciudad de México' 1975

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Casa de la Muerte, Ciudad de México
1975
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Volantín, San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico' (Merry-Go-Round, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico) 1976

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Volantín, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico (Merry-Go-Round, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Mujer ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México' (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Pedro Meyer. 'Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, Coyoacán (Mexico)' 1983

 

Pedro Meyer 
Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, Coyoacán (Mexico)
1983
Gelatin silver print

 

When I went to study at the university he was teaching at the university as well and I attended one of his courses; that’s how I got to know him. Then, after a couple of weeks I became his assistant. At that time he was not that famous in Mexico, he was very famous in Europe and the United States. He was known in Mexico but he was not really a big star. So, what I really need to make clear is that he was not just a teacher of photography; he was a teacher about life for me. Because he taught me about everything, he talked about literature, cinematography…so he was more of a teacher of life… he never said this picture is good or this picture is bad, he would never say that flat out. Instead, he would always say something to guide you in the right direction. Yet he would never say, “This is good or this is bad”.

With Álvarez I went to certain little towns but I was only his assistant for two years. After that I made the decision to cut the umbilical cord and make my own way.

Extract from Munem Wasif. “An Interview with Graciela Iturbide,” on the Chobi Mela website, November 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 06/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Festival del Lagarto' 1985

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Festival del Lagarto (Lizard Festival)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Dance, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Dance, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Pajaros en el poste, carretera a Guanajuato, Mexico' 1990

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Pajaros en el poste, carretera a Guanajuato, Mexico (Birds on a post, road to Guanajuato, Mexico)
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cayó del Cielo, Chalma, México' 1989

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cayó del Cielo, Chalma, México
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'La danza de la cabrita, antes de la matanza, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico' (The Little Goat's Dance, Before the Slaughter, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico) 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
La danza de la cabrita, antes de la matanza, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico (The Little Goat’s Dance, Before the Slaughter, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico)
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

A way of life, a way of seeing

The photographs of Graciela Iturbide not only bear witness to Mexican society but express an intense personal and poetic lyricism about her native country. One of the most influential photographers active in Latin America today, Iturbide captures everyday life and its cultures, rituals, and religions, while also raising questions about paradoxes and social injustice in Mexican society. Her photographs tell a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s – a country in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and modern as a result of the culture’s rich amalgamation of cultures. For Iturbide, photography is a way of life and a way of seeing and understanding Mexico and its beauty, challenges, and contradictions.

This is the first major East Coast presentation of Iturbide’s work, featuring approximately 125 photographs that span her five-decade-long career. Organised into nine sections, the exhibition opens with early photographs, followed by three series focused on three of Mexico’s many indigenous cultures: Juchitán captures the essential role of women in Zapotec culture; Los que viven en la arena (Those Who Live in the Sand) concentrates on the Seri people living in the Sonoran Desert; and La Mixteca documents elaborate goat-slaughtering rituals in Oaxaca, serving as critical commentary on the exploitation of workers. Thematic groupings highlight Iturbide’s explorations of various aspects of Mexican culture, including fiestas, death and mortality, and birds and their symbolism. Her more recent work is presented in two series related to Mexico’s cultural and artistic heritage, featuring plants – mainly cacti – in “intensive care” at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Gardens, as well as El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom), depicting personal belongings in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom at the Casa Azul that had been locked away for 50 years after the artist’s death.

Iturbide’s powerful and provocative photographs are anti-picturesque, anti-folkloric. Her work embodies her empathetic approach to photography and her deep connection with her subjects, asking questions through its capacity for imaginary associations. Drawn primarily from Iturbide’s own collection, “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico” also includes the Museum’s recent acquisition of 37 works by the artist, as well as loans from museums and private collections throughout the US and Mexico. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 05/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cementerio de Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México' 1978

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cementerio de Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México (Cemetery of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México)
1978
Gelatin silver print
11.3 x 11.3 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Jardín Botánico, Oaxaca, México' 1998-1999

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Jardín Botánico, Oaxaca, México
1998-1999
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Jardín Botánico de Oaxaca, México' 2002

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Jardín Botánico de Oaxaca, México
2002
Gelatin silver print
35.7 x 32.8 cm
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (Frida's Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City) 2005

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2005
Gelatin silver print
35.7 x 35.5 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (prosthetic leg against wall) 2006

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Prosthetic leg against wall, Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2006
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (Frida's Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City) 2006

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2006
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Nearly 140 Images in Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico Portray Photographer’s Native Country through Her Eyes

Throughout a five-decade-long career, photographer Graciela Iturbide (born 1942) has focused on capturing and understanding the beauty, rituals, challenges and contradictions of her native Mexico. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is the first major East Coast presentation of the artist’s work, featuring nearly 140 photographs that tell the visual story of her country since the late 1970s. Going beyond documentary photography, Iturbide’s work reveals Mexico’s complexities through her personal explorations. Focused on the tensions between urban and rural life, human presence and nature, and indigenous and Spanish cultures, her photographs have contributed to Mexico’s visual identity while calling attention to the rich syncretism, diversity and inequalities of Mexican society. The exhibition is drawn primarily from Iturbide’s own collection and also highlights a recent acquisition of her photographs, the first major group of works by the artist to enter the Museum’s collection – 35 purchased by the MFA and two donated by Iturbide. Loans from museums and private collections throughout the U.S., Mexico and France are also included. On view from January 19 through May 12, 2019 in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery, the exhibition features interpretation in English and Spanish, as well as a documentary video of the artist, produced by the Museum and shot at Iturbide’s studio in Mexico City. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications, which features more than 100 striking tritone reproductions of evocative photographs alongside essays that invite readers to share in Iturbide’s personal artistic journey. This beautiful volume with a three-piece cloth and printed binding with foil stamping teases out key ideas and visual relationships across different moments in the photographer’s storied career. The exhibition is supported by the Leigh and Stephen Braude Fund for Latin American Art, The Bruce and Laura Monrad Fund for Exhibitions, and the Diane Krane Family and Jonathan and Gina Krane Family Fund. Generous support for the publication was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Publications Fund.

“I am thrilled to present Graciela’s groundbreaking images to our global audiences, and it has been a pleasure and honour to work closely with her in preparation for this exhibition,” said Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Curator of Photographs. “Her work has successfully and beautifully brought to the forefront the many untold stories of Mexican culture and history – from the eyes of an insider.”

The exhibition is organised thematically into nine sections and opens with early photographs. One of her first works, Zihuatanejo, México (1969, Collection of Les and Sandy Nanberg), is a pensive portrait of a young girl that marks the beginning of Iturbide’s forays into photographing the diverse peoples of Mexico. Shot during the same year, Mexico City (1969, Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser) portrays a sex worker in what appears to be a cantina or pulquería. In fact, the subject is a figure in a wax museum. The photograph’s graphic background – a mural of a large skull painted on a wall – alludes to both Mexico’s long history of muralism and the country’s fascination with death. Works such as Little Bull / Torito (1982, Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga) and Juchitán (1975, MFA) reveal Iturbide’s attraction to unusual urban geometries and her eye for the unexpected. Together, these early images attest to the photographer’s keen observation of Mexican contemporary culture in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The next three sections of the exhibition focus on Iturbide’s deep commitment to photographing different populations throughout Mexico. One of her early projects was to document the way of life of the Seri Indians, a formerly nomadic group of fisherfolk living in the Sonoran Desert in northwestern Mexico. In 1978, Iturbide and anthropologist Luis Barjau immersed themselves within the community, staying for a month and a half on their first trip and another month on the second. The result of their collaboration was the 1981 book Los que viven en la arena ( Those Who Live in the Sand) and a selection of additional photographs that Iturbide printed and exhibited years later. The exhibition features two prints of one of Iturbide’s most well-known works, Angel Woman / Mujer ángel (1979, Collection of Elizabeth and Michael Marcus and Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga ), an ethereal image that captures a woman in traditional dress carrying a boom box as she heads down to the empty desert plain. The photograph exemplifies a theme running through the series: the impact of capitalism on the Seri people’s otherwise minimalist culture. This early project confirmed Iturbide’s interests in working thematically, raising her awareness of Mexico’s diversity and building close relationships with her subjects.

Over the course of a decade beginning in 1979, Iturbide traveled regularly to Juchitán, a city in southern Oaxaca. Juchitán is home to the Zapotec culture, in which women are known for their economic, political and sexual independence. Iturbide’s iconic photograph Our Lady of the Iguanas / Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (1979, Brooklyn Museum) portrays a woman, Zobeida Diaz, wearing a wreath of iguanas on her head as she makes her way to sell them at the market. The iguana has historical importance in Zapotec society, both as a gastronomic delicacy and as an animal believed to have healing properties. Our Lady of the Iguanas, reproduced today on everything from municipal offices to highway signs and murals, has become a symbol for the community of Juchitán and for Zapotec womanhood. Original contact sheets displayed alongside the photograph show a cinematic sequence of Diaz interacting with Iturbide as she poses for the camera. She appears to be overtaken by laughter at certain points – an indication of the artist’s empathetic way of connecting with her subjects. Yellow grease-pencil marks also reveal Iturbide’s working method and creative process, highlighting the image she had chosen to print and how she envisioned cropping it. In her final selection, the iguanas themselves appear to be posing for the camera – an idea that corresponds to Iturbide’s search for the unexpected and the symbolic.

In addition to highlighting the importance of women in Juchitán, Iturbide also captured the society’s openness to muxes – men who dress as women, sometimes referred to as a Zapotec third gender. Her photographs of a muxe named Magnolia – Magnolia with Mirror / Magnolia con espejo (1986, J. Paul Getty Museum) and Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero (1986, MFA) – demonstrate her ability to connect intimately with the community. Immersing herself in Zapotec culture, Iturbide also recorded the enduring legacy of native traditions – from an annual two-day festival and pilgrimage celebrating an alligator deity to el rapto, a premarital ritual practiced by those in lower and middle classes. Her strong and poetic images of Juchitán not only gained her international recognition, but also became a point of departure for a new vision of Juchitec society that has since been integrated into Mexico’s identity.

Following the Juchitán section are Iturbide’s photographs of the annual goat-slaughtering ritual in the Oaxacan region of La Mixteca, in south-central Mexico. The tradition dates back to colonial times, when Spanish landowners contracted Mixtec workers to butcher animals for sale, and carries on today. Tens of thousands of goats are killed during the month-long festival, which involves ritualistic aspects such as saving a lone animal every year as an act of repentance before the slaughter. Iturbide’s photographs from this series also highlight the exploitation of workers in one of Mexico’s poorest regions, who have created a ritual out of their harsh working conditions as a way of coping with the violence and pain. This experience had a tremendous impact on Iturbide, marking a personal turning point. Her wrenching experience in La Mixteca became the last time she spent extended amounts of time with an indigenous community.

The next three sections focus on themes that recur throughout Iturbide’s oeuvre: fiestas, death and birds. Since the mid-1970s, Iturbide has traveled throughout the country, including Chalma, Oaxaca and Tlaxcala, to observe and record a variety of fiestas – lavish and visually stimulating celebrations, which often include elaborate costumes or disguises. Death is another dominant element of Mexican culture, and Iturbide’s photographs related to the subject reflect both a personal experience and larger cultural manifestations. Her works range from depictions of signs of mortality in everyday life, as seen in the early photograph Mexico…I want to get to know you! / México…Quiero Conocerte! (1975, MFA), to representations of surreal-like funerary rituals and celebrations like the annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Iturbide’s fascination with birds is intimately linked to her own emotional journey toward overcoming a personal loss. Her photographs of the subject – ranging from spectacular and sublime skies full of birds to close-up portraits of birds in trees and even self-portraits with birds – show her interest in the rites and cycles of the natural world, while also evoking the spiritual world.

In 1998, Iturbide was invited by Francisco Toledo to photograph the newly opened Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca. By design, the garden tells the story of the relationship between the people of Oaxaca and their native plants, which are arranged by ecological and cultural themes. The next section of the exhibition presents these photographs, particularly of cacti undergoing therapeutic treatment. The images, published in her 2004 book Naturata, reflect the caretaking aspect of the garden. A startling view of the tops of several columnar cacti in Botanical Garden / Jardín Botánico (1998-99) shows them with bundles of newspaper padding and wooden boards as splints, all bound around the plants with rope. In another photograph, Botanical Garden / Jardín Botánico (2002) a thorny treelike plant receives an intravenous treatment as two bags of a cream-coloured liquid drip into lines connected to its limbs.

The final section features the most recent series in the exhibition, El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom), which will be on view from February 27, 2019 through June 16, 2019 in the Museum’s Art of the Americas Wing, alongside another MFA exhibition, Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular. In 2005, Iturbide was commissioned to photograph personal belongings in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom at the Casa Azul, which had been locked away for 50 years following the artist’s death. Iturbide’s stark images provide an emotional narrative about the intimate space within the “Blue House,” where Kahlo was born and died, and the mystery of the objects. Iturbide’s photographs focus primarily on objects related to Kahlo’s pain – from a box of Demerol, an opioid pain medication, to a prosthetic leg. In one photograph, a hospital gown – stained by blood or paint – hangs ominously against the tiled wall, serving as a reminder of Kahlo’s many operations. In another, a self-portrait that depicts Iturbide’s bare feet in Kahlo’s bathtub, the photographer puts herself in the artist’s place and evokes one of Kahlo’s famous paintings, What the Water Gave Me (1938). Iturbide’s images reveal a side of Kahlo that is dramatically different from the colourful magical realist portrayed by her clothes and paintings. In photographing Kahlo’s private space, Iturbide grapples not only with the cultural and symbolic legacy of the painter, but with her own legacy as well. The series reveals a silent dialogue between the two women, two artists of Mexico, who have seen their art as a form of therapy and escape from everyday life.

 

About Graciela Iturbide

Iturbide was born in 1942 in Mexico City. In 1969, at the age of 27, she enrolled at the film school Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to become a film director. However, she was soon drawn to the art of still photography as practiced by the Mexican modernist master Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who was teaching at the University. From 1970 to 1971 she worked as Bravo’s assistant, accompanying him on various photographic journeys throughout Mexico. In the early half of the 1970s, Iturbide traveled widely across Latin America – in particular to Cuba and Panama. In 1978, she was commissioned by the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico to photograph Mexico’s indigenous population. Iturbide decided to document and record the way of life of the Seri people along the country’s border with Arizona. In 1979, she was invited by the artist Francisco Toledo to photograph the Juchitán people who form part of the Zapotec culture native to Oaxaca in southern Mexico. This series resulted in the publication of her book Juchitán de las Mujeres in 1989. Between 1980 and 2000, Iturbide was invited to work in Cuba, Germany, India, Madagascar, Hungary, France and the U.S., producing a number of important projects. She has enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou (1982), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1990), J. Paul Getty Museum (2007), MAPFRE Foudation, Madrid (2009), Photography Museum Winterthur (2009) and Barbican Art Gallery (2012), among others. Iturbide is the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Foundation Award (1987); the Grand Prize Mois de la Photo, Paris (1988); a Guggenheim Fellowship for the project Fiesta y Muerte (1988); the Hugo Erfurth Award, Leverkusen, Germany (1989); the International Grand Prize, Hokkaido, Japan (1990); the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie Award, Arles (1991); the Hasselblad Award (2008); the National Prize of Sciences and Arts in Mexico City (2008); an Honorary Degree in photography from Columbia College Chicago (2008); and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute (2009).

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 05/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Señor Enmarcado, Ciudad de México' (Framed Man, Mexico City) 1970

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Señor Enmarcado, Ciudad de México, (Framed Man, Mexico City)
1970
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) '¡Mexico, Quiero Conocerte!, Chiapas, Mexico' (Mexico... I want to get to know you!) 1975

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
¡Mexico, Quiero Conocerte!, Chiapas, Mexico (Mexico… I want to get to know you!)
1975
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Los Pollos, Juchitán, México' (Chickens, Juchitán, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Los Pollos, Juchitán, México (Chickens, Juchitán, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

“For her, the camera is an instrument of sharing, making visible what, to many, is invisible,” Ms. Gresh said. Ms. Iturbide’s photos, she added, provide “a poetic vision of contemporary culture informed by a sense of life’s surprises and mysteries.”

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México' (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Iguanas, Juchitán, México' 1984

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Iguanas, Juchitán, México
1984
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Serafina, Juchitán, México' 1984

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Serafina, Juchitán, México
1984
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Magnolia with Mirror, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Magnolia with Mirror, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Magnolia (2), Juchitán, México' (Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero) 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Magnolia (2), Juchitán, México (Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero)
1986
Gelatin silver print
30 x 47.2 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

“The dark ballast of Iturbide’s photography is a deep knowledge of predation: how humans prey on animals; how multinational corporations subsume developing economies; how modern industry exploits a largely indigenous underclass; how artists wrangle life from their subjects in the name of creation. In one haunting early photograph, a young Cuna woman walks through an open field in Panama, Pepsi-Cola’s logo embroidered on her shirt. The pernicious creep of capitalism, yes, but also its corollary: a vivid reminder that indigenous people, often relegated to an imagined antiquity, are full participants in contemporary life. …

In 1979, the painter Francisco Toledo invited Iturbide to visit his native Juchitán, in southeastern Oaxaca, a town known for its fierce independence and long-standing leftist sympathies. She returned frequently over the next decade, chronicling the public and private life of its largely Zapotec population. As a perpetual guest, Iturbide became a master of the threshold, of doorways and frames, storefront windows and cemeteries, masks and carnival, of the moments preceding and following transformation.

Contact sheets enclosed in glass vitrines accompany select images, often annotated with grease pencil. According to Iturbide, there are – pace Cartier-Bresson – two “decisive moments” in photography: “One, when you take the photo; and two, when you discover it in the contact sheet, because you often think you took one photo, and another comes out.” In the sheet for Magnolia with Mirror (1986, above), a livewire thread of intimacy is palpable in the sense of giddy experimentation between artist and subject. In the proofs for Our Lady of the Iguanas, Zobeida Díaz shakes the hand of a passerby, adjusts her crown of iguanas, suppresses laughter. The sheets underscore the contingency and providence of any image’s origins, how a slightly upturned lip or shifted frame catapults one into the pantheon while another slips into obscurity.”

Extract from Christopher Alessandrini, “Graciela Iturbide, Visionary Ethnographer,” on The New York Review of Books website [Online] Cited 06/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Novia Muerte, Chalma, Mexico' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Novia Muerte, Chalma, Mexico
1986
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 20.5 cm (12 x 8 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cuatro Pescaditos, Juchitán, México' (Four Little Fishes, Juchitán, Mexico) 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cuatro Pescaditos, Juchitán, México (Four Little Fishes, Juchitán, Mexico)
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El gallo, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El gallo, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
32 x 47.8 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El sacrificio, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, México' 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El sacrificio, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, México
1992
Gelatin silver print
35.9 x 64.3 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Torito' (Little Bull) 1982

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Torito (Little Bull)
1982
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Iturbide studied photography at universities in Mexico, where she met her mentor, the teacher, cinematographer, and photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Inspired by Bravo, she developed her particular interest in the daily life of Mexico’s indigenous cultures. Iturbide has photographed things and people found in Mexico City, in her native Juchitán, in Oaxaca, and on the Mexico-U.S. border. Her camera lens often traces Mexico’s rich life of religion and rituals. Torito represents an assemblage of a bicycle frame and a cow’s skull and horn, found in Mexico City, and shows the photographer’s exploration of the relationship between the individual and the broader culture.

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

05
May
19

Exhibition: ‘Erwin Olaf’ at the Gemeentemuseum den Haag and Fotomuseum Den Haag / the Hague Museum of Photography

Exhibition dates: 16th February – 16th June 2019

Curators: Wim van Sinderen with the assistance of Hanneke Mantel (both of Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and The Hague Museum of Photography)

 

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Joy' 1985

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Squares, Joy
1985
Gelatin silver print

 

 

As a storyteller, Erwin Olaf is a contemporary photographer whose work addresses most current concerns of the world – discrimination, gender, sexuality, taboo, climate change, reality, equality, power, racism, freedom of expression and democracy – through staged studio and outdoor photographs of incredible technical and visual skill.

The key to his work is the twist that he gives his cinematic, perfect worlds – the hidden crack in the facade, the unhinging of the link between reality and representation. These not so perfect worlds are often inspired by stories of the past, whether those stories may be present in the works of Vermeer, the still lives of the Dutch painters of the 16th and 17th century, Caravaggio, the Olympic Games of 1936, Norman Rockwell paintings, film noir, or clothes of the 1950s and 1960s.

The stillness and silence of the photographs subjects let the viewer examine the details of the mise en scène… the perfectly placed Coke bottle and apple, the shredded American flag in Palm Springs, The Kite (2018); the bandaged knee, the dripping ice cream in Rain, The Ice Cream Parlour (2004); and also admire the beautiful textures and lighting of the finished “product”, for Olaf’s aesthetic riffs on subverting theatrical performances and magazine fashion shoots.

Olaf let’s the viewer’s eye move without restraint across the terrain of the photographs, letting them soak up the atmosphere of his hyperreal tableau vivant. Both seductive and disturbing, his photographs challenge us to interrogate our own story – who are we, what do we really believe in, and what can we do to change prejudice and bigotry in a hostile world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

“What I want to show most of all is a perfect world with a crack in it. I want to make the picture seductive enough to draw people into the narrative, and then deal the blow.”

.
Erwin Olaf

 

“In 1982, I saw an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe in Amsterdam that blew me off the socks. I just had a Hasselblad, I was inspired by his craftsmanship and the beautiful prints, and I thought: this is what I want too. In the series ‘Squares’ (1983-93) you clearly see his influence. I started asking people that I knew from the nightlife if they wanted to pose for me in my studio, which I had decorated in a squat of a friend. For example, the boy with the champagne bottle worked in the wardrobe of my favourite disco.”

.
Erwin Olaf (excerpt from the book ‘Erwin Olaf – I am’)

 

“My earliest work reflects my life in that time. I was a moth – I really loved the nightlife. In the late seventies, the early eighties was a hedonistic period: Disco and the beginning of the punk, the sexual revolution. I loved watching people play with gender, the theatrical of the nightlife, all the roles they could take.”

.
Erwin Olaf

 

“The camera offered me a possibility to enter a world that was not mine. I was able to hide behind the camera, but also be part of what I saw. As a photographer, you can look at people. You’re observing. I wanted to focus my gaze on groups that were outside the ‘normal’ society. One of my first photography assignments for school had as a theme ‘what’s normal?’. I still ask myself that.”

.
Erwin Olaf (excerpt from the book ‘Erwin Olaf – I am’)

 

 

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and The Hague Museum of Photography are to honour one of the Netherlands’ most famous photographers, Erwin Olaf (b. 1959), with a double exhibition. Olaf, whose recent portraits of the royal family drew widespread admiration, will turn sixty this year – a good moment to stage a major retrospective. The Hague Museum of Photography will focus on Olaf’s love of his craft and his transition from analogue photojournalist to digital image-maker and storyteller. Olaf will himself bring together some twenty photographs by famous photographers of the past who have been a vital source of inspiration to him. Gemeente Museum Den Haag will show non-commissioned work by Olaf from 2000 to his most recent series, including the work he produced in Shanghai and his most recent series Palm Springs, on display for the first time. Olaf will be showing his photography in the form of installations, in combination with film, sound and sculpture.

 

Erwin Olaf – Palm Springs: behind the scenes

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'First Aids Benefit Club Flora Palace Amsterdam, I' 1983

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
First Aids Benefit Club Flora Palace Amsterdam, I
1983
Gelatin silver print

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'First Aids Benefit Club Flora Palace Amsterdam, II' 1983

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
First Aids Benefit Club Flora Palace Amsterdam, II
1983
Gelatin silver print

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Squares, Pearls' 1986

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Squares, Pearls
1986
Gelatin silver print

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Chessmen, XVII' 1988

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Chessmen, XVII
1988
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

“Chessmen was inspired by a chance meeting with my former photography teacher at the School for Journalism. A few years after I graduated there, I met him on the street. When I showed him my work in my studio, he said, “Say, would you like to publish a book?” He had recently taken over a publishing house for a pittance. The only problem was that I didn’t have enough work for a book. “Oh,” he said, “you only need sixty-four pages. And if you leave a page white next to each photo, you will need thirty-two photos. “At home I thought about it while listening to the radio – a chess program was just going on. At one point the presenter said: “This is an attacking game with thirty-two pieces. A war game. “I knew immediately: I’m going to make chess pieces. Those few words on the radio were all I needed; I had a clear picture in mind. Earlier I had been thinking about how I could do something with the theme of power. Power is something weird. Why do people abuse their power? Or why do you want it? Why do some people allow others to exercise power over them? From those questions came the idea of ​​a power game and the people who play it. ”

Erwin Olaf (excerpt from the book Erwin Olaf – I Am)

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Chessmen, XXIV' 1988

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Chessmen, XXIV
1988
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Blacks, Esmeralda' 1990

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Blacks, Esmeralda
1990
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

“The Blacks series is largely inspired by Janet Jackson’s album Rhythm Nation 1814. In one song, she sings: “In complete darkness we are all the same / It is only our knowledge and wisdom that separates us / Don’t let your eyes deceive you.” A few years earlier I had been hitchhiking to Paris and southern France, together with a friend with an Indonesian background. I was admitted without problems in all kinds of clubs, but they refused him at the door. At that time I became much more aware of the fact that the amount of pigment in your skin can have serious consequences. So when I heard Janet Jackson sing, I thought: this is my theme. I can create a group of people where everyone is equal.”

Erwin Olaf (excerpt from the book Erwin Olaf – I Am)

 

 

Journalistic training

Erwin Olaf was studying journalism in Utrecht in the 1980s when, having noticed that he was unhappy, one of his lecturers pressed a camera into his hands. ‘I loved the thing right from the word go,’ says Olaf, ‘the weight, the cool metal in my hand. It felt so natural. And when I took my first photographs, I knew I had found my calling.’ Olaf began taking journalistic photographs of theatre performances, worked for progressive magazines and volunteered for COC Nederland (which represents LGBTI interests). In his early work Olaf often depicted the human body quite graphically, breaching the restrictions on sexuality, the body and gender. He describes himself at that time as an angry adolescent, though his taboo-breaking work was highly significant in terms of visual freedom in the Netherlands.

 

Early work at The Hague Museum of Photography

The exhibition at The Hague Museum of Photography will start with his early work. Chessmen (1987-88) was one of Olaf’s first non-commissioned series, which came about when he was given the opportunity to produce a photobook. He had to fill 32 pages and he wanted to focus on the theme of power. He had heard an item on the radio about chess, a game of war consisting of 32 pieces. Olaf portrayed the game in a series of provocative images, featuring visible genitals, small half-naked people with kinky attributes, and extremely fat women in bondage outfits. The series did not go unnoticed. He received criticism for it, but also the Young European Photographers Prize.

 

Skill

Another early series shows the engagement that has remained important throughout Olaf’s career. Blacks (1990) is based on a song by Janet Jackson with the line, ‘In complete darkness we are all the same. It is only our knowledge and wisdom that separates us’. The series reflects Olaf’s battle for equality, and also his technical skill. In these baroque portraits, literally everything is black as coal, yet Olaf managed to give the images a rich tonality, both with his camera and in the developing process. A self-taught photographer, he has shown himself to be a master, not only of old-fashioned darkroom processes, but also of new techniques that have emerged in rapid succession since the digital revolution. He did pioneering work with Photoshop in the famous series Royal Blood (2000). Thanks to this new technique, he is even better able to experiment to his heart’s delight in his staged photography.

 

Sources of inspiration

Besides his own work, at The Hague Museum of Photography Erwin Olaf will be bringing together some twenty photographs by photographers who are his most important sources of inspiration, ranging from a vintage still life with roses by the late nineteenth-century photographer Bernard Eilers to self-portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe and Rineke Dijkstra. The work of these photographers inspired him, made him look in a different way at his own artistic practice, or pushed his photography in a new direction. By showing these pictures alongside his early work, which is imbued with his love of his craft, Olaf will give visitors to the Museum of Photography an idea of what has shaped him as a photographer.

 

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will begin, even before the entrance to the galleries, with the life-sized installation Keyhole (2012). The exterior has two long walls with panelling above which framed photographs hang, as in a classic interior. But visitors can watch two films through the keyhole in the doors on either side of the installation. It will be immediately apparent that the Gemeentemuseum is highlighting a new development in the work of Erwin Olaf. Here, he is going one step further, presenting his photography in exciting combinations of film, sound and sculpture.

 

Social engagement

Erwin Olaf’s work has always been highly personal and socially engaged. The clearest influence on the development of his work has been the events surrounding 9/11. Since then, the bombastic, baroque staging of his previous work has made way for more vulnerability and serenity. This has produced images that are very popular with the public: highly stylised film scenes staged perfectly down to the smallest detail, often bathed in light as if they were paintings, with an uncomfortable underlying message. As in the series Rain (2004), which appears to capture the moment between action and reaction after a shocking event. The series Grief (2007), shot in a 1960s setting, is about the first moment of response, the first tear.

Recent events are also reflected in Olaf’s work. He made the Tamed & Anger self-portraits (2015) in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. In other works he addresses issues like the position of the individual in a globalising world, the exclusion and stereotyping of certain groups of people, and taboos associated with gender and nudity. The exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will thus afford a glimpse inside Olaf’s turbulent and sometimes dark mind. A visit to the exhibition will be like wandering through his head.

 

Palm Springs: final part of a triptych

Erwin Olaf’s most recent series, Palm Springs (2018), will premiere at the exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum. It is part of a triptych about cities undergoing change, the other two parts being Berlin (2012) and Shanghai (2017). The Berlin series was produced in a period when dark clouds were gathering above Europe. It highlights Olaf’s concerns about freedom of expression and democracy, and the transfer of power from an older to a new generation. Shanghai is a hypermodern metropolis in China with a population of 24 million. The series made in this city explores what happens to the individual in an environment like this. In Palm Springs, Olaf again focuses on topical issues. One of the key themes is climate change, though at the same time the images also recall the America of the 1960s. In a beautiful series of portraits, landscapes – this was the first time Olaf had photographed landscapes – still lifes and filmic scenes he refers to issues like teenage pregnancy, discrimination, religious abuses and polarisation. The series tells the story of people withdrawing into gated communities as reality invades their paradise.

 

Photographs of royal family

A very special addition to the double exhibition will be Erwin Olaf’s photographs of the Dutch royal family. As part of the exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum he will bring together many of the photographs that the Government Information Service commissioned him to take of the royal family. He also took the picture that the family used as a Christmas greeting last December. ‘I’m proud of the royal family,’ says Olaf, ‘because they are a binding factor in a democracy that is sometimes very divided. I’m happy to be able to contribute to that.’

 

Successful artist

The double exhibition will show how Erwin Olaf has developed from angry provocateur to one of the Netherland’s most famous and popular photographers. His work now features in the collections and exhibitions of museums the world over, including China, Russia, The United States of America and Brazil. In 2008 The Hague Museum of Photography showed his Rain, Hope, Grief and Fall series. In 2011 he won the prestigious Johannes Vermeer Prize, and in 2018 the Rijksmuseum purchased almost 500 photographs and videos by Erwin Olaf.

 

Biggest retrospective to date

Together, the exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum and the Museum of Photography will constitute the biggest retrospective of Olaf’s work ever staged, spanning the period from the early 1980s to his most recent work. In the words of Erwin Olaf: celebrating 40 years of visual freedom.

The double exhibition has been curated by Wim van Sinderen with the assistance of Hanneke Mantel (both of Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and The Hague Museum of Photography), and has come about in close collaboration with Erwin Olaf and his studio.

Press release from the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag [Online] Cited 04/05/2019

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Royal Blood, Di, †1997' 2000

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Royal Blood, Di, †1997
2000
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

“I made the Royal Blood series to celebrate Photoshop as the new craft. I wanted to make something that was clearly fiction and would be impossible without Photoshop. A theme that was in the air at the time was that violence was suddenly identified with glamor. I never understood why criminals, even murderers, have fans. People worship them! And every cinema is chock full of people watching violence every week. I wanted to expose the attraction of blood, violence and celebrity – that live fast, that young ideal. Now I could no longer do this type of work. The emotion behind it has disappeared – I have already told that story. But it remains an important part of my legacy.”

Erwin Olaf (excerpt from the book Erwin Olaf – I am)

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Rain, The Ice Cream Parlour' 2004

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Rain, The Ice Cream Parlour
2004
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Hope, The Hallway' 2005

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Hope, The Hallway
2005
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Berlin, Freimaurer Loge Dahlem, 22nd of April, 2012' 2012

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Berlin, Freimaurer Loge Dahlem, 22nd of April, 2012 [Masonic Lodge Dahlem]
2012
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Keyhole #6' 2012

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Keyhole #6
2012
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Shanghai, Huai Hai 116, Portrait #2' 2017

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Shanghai, Huai Hai 116, Portrait #2
2017
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Palm Springs, The Kite' 2018

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Palm Springs, The Kite
2018
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Erwin Olaf

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959) 'Palm Springs, The Family Visit - Portrait I' 2018

 

Erwin Olaf (Netherlands, b. 1959)
Palm Springs, The Family Visit – Portrait I
2018
© Erwin Olaf
Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London / Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41, 2517 HV Den Haag

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 17:00

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag website

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

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

27
Apr
19

Review: ‘Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 12th May 2019

part of the CLIMARTE Festival: ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania' 1980

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania
1980
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

A little too perfect

A few ideas that struck me at this exhibition.

1/ The large format 4 x 5″ colour transparencies must be near absolute perfect exposures…. everything is there in the exposure. It’s as though the transparency is the finished print. Everything that Dombrovskis wanted to capture, he did. He was a perfectionist.

His previsualisation of the scene was exceptional. He knew what he wanted to capture, he was so focused on it. The beauty is there, but how do you make it sing? Only in a few images was I swept off my feet.

2/ His use of ‘near far’ is noticeable, taken from Ansel Adams most likely. In photographs like Morning light on Little Horn (1995), Cushion plants, Mount Anne (1984) and Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth (1986) your eye is led from the detailed foreground to the magnificent vista beyond.

3/ In photographs such as Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon (1979) and Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness (1995) the subject seems to dissolve into Abstract Expressionist compositions.

4/ The wall colours of the exhibition utterly failed the work, especially with the line colour change running through the image.

5/ I never really felt the “sublime” nature of the Tasmanian wilderness in these photographs. I wanted to be transported to the place that was pictured but it never happened.

6/ I suspect this has to do with a/ the perfection of the transparency b/ the size at which these contemporary photographs were printed, and c/ the almost scientific, analytical nature of the contemporary printing.

 

I had no sense or feeling for place or “atmosphere” that emanates from a truly great photograph. These large prints were wholly disappointing in that regard. They were nearly all printed at the same size, too big, with the same monotonous clarity of composition and balancing of print, one to the other. Almost a clinical printing with too much colour saturation with no room for chaos or vibration of energy.

When printing, I was taught to rack the enlarger up and down to find when the print becomes like a jewel. This is a felt response to the negative, and an image can have several positions or print sizes when this may occur. To print the bulk of these digital images at the same size goes against this very intuitive response to the work.

There are so many moves that can be justified by an objective argument when making a fine art print – but which still don’t add up when you view the whole. Oh! to see five vintage prints in this exhibition, to see how Dombrovsksi would have printed them himself.

I really wanted to like these photographs but when you try and force something, it ain’t ever going to happen.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

 

‘When you go out there, you don’t get away from it all. You get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself.’

.
Peter Dombrovskis

 

‘… we moved in a glittering, sun-splashed world where living assumed a clarity and intensity unknown in ordinary city-bound existence. Our bodies became attuned to rock and rapid, our senses easily absorbed the roar of white-water, the silent greens of the rainforest. My steadily growing skill at negotiating obstacles bolstered my self-confidence and eased the shyness of adolescence.’

.
Peter Dombrovskis in Jane Cadzow, ‘A lasting image’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine, 22 March 1997

 

‘An ethic of the land is needed because the remaining wilderness, that which makes this island truly unique, is threatened by commercial exploitation that will destroy its value to future generations. Machines are already shattering the silence of ages, invading the last forests and damming and drowning the wild rivers and gorges.’

.
Peter Dombrovskis, ‘The quiet land’ (Peter Dombrovskis Pty Ltd., Hobart 1977)

 

‘We must try to retain as much as possible of what still remains of the unique, rare and beautiful. Is there any reason why … the ideal of beauty could not become an accepted goal of national policy? Is there any reason why Tasmania should not be more beautiful on the day we leave it than on the day we came? … if we can accept the role of steward and depart from the role of conqueror; if we can accept the view that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole, then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world.’

.
Olegas Truchanas in Max Angus, ‘The world of Olegas Truchanas’ (Olegas Truchanas Publication Committee, Hobart 1975)

 

 

The photograph (above), Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), is one of the most celebrated landscape photographs in Australian history. Commissioned by Bob Brown (later to become leader of the Greens Party), this image became synonymous with the successful campaign of the 1980s to prevent the damming of the Franklin River for hydro-electric development. It appeared on posters with the memorable yellow, triangular slogan ‘NO DAMS’ and showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead. Using his camera as a tool, Dombrovskis shared with society the riches that they would forgo if the environment was not protected.

The photograph below, Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth Cradle, Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986) is an image that Bob Brown had in his office at a similarly large scale to provide an immediate and memorable talking point with visitors.

Many Australians encountered these images for the first time in prosaic settings: in a newspaper campaign advertisement, a diary used at work, a calendar on the side of the fridge, or a poster in a waiting room. Most of us will never visit the places he photographed, but into our ordinary everyday lives his images bring something of the beauty and the power of the wild places of Tasmania. Seldom in the history of photography has there been such a clear example of visual culture having such a political sway.

Exhibition label

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the opening of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania' 1986

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania
1986
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Coastline north of the Pieman River, Tarkine wilderness, Tasmania (1992); at centre Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, ‘Macrocystis’ and ‘Hormosira’ seaweed, Tasmania (1987); and at right Giant kelp, Hasselborough Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Douglas Gorge, Douglas-Apsley National Park, Tasmania (1989); and at right, Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979); and at right, Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (1945-96) was one of the world’s foremost wilderness photographers. His powerful, reflective and deeply personal images of the unique Tasmanian wilderness had a lasting impact, changing the way Australians think about their environment by making remote nature accessible through images.

Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild draws together a vast sweep of nearly 80 images, shown for the first time in Victoria. The exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia from their comprehensive collection of Dombrovskis’s work.

Through their use in environmental campaigns, Dombrovskis’s images have become shorthand for environmental concerns in Australia. Particularly memorable was the image Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend that Bob Brown (later to become Leader of the Greens Party) used in the ‘No Dams’ campaign to save the Franklin River.

Seldom in the history of photography has there been as clear an example of visual culture bearing such political sway and prompting such passion in communities.

‘Dombrovskis’s ability to capture the sublime beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness led to his work becoming synonymous with the Tasmanian Wilderness conservation movement. Dombrovskis once commented “photography is, quite simply, a means of communicating my concern for the beauty of the Earth.” His work was his voice and it powerfully evoked his passion for the environment which inspired the nation to work for its protection. MGA is thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase Dombrovskis’s practice to Victorian audiences, and to inspire a new generation to embrace his unique vision and celebrate his legacy.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director

This exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia, Canberra. In 2007, the Library acquired over 3000 colour transparencies that make up the Dombrovskis archive. The photographs on display here, which are also part of the Library’s Pictures Collection, were printed by Les Walkling on Canson Platine Fibre Rag paper by an Epson SureColor P20070.

Monash Gallery of Art and the National Library of Australia would like to acknowledge Peter’s widow, Liz Dombrovskis, and thank her for her guidance and support for this project.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website Cited 13/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cushion plant mosaic, Tasmania (1980); at middle, Macquarie Island cabbage at Finch Creek, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right, Web and dew, Waterfall Valley, Tasmania (1985)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Icicles near Big Bend, Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1992); at middle, Ice patterns on the Labyrinth, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986); and at right, Ice patterns, Lake Elysia, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1995)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1995

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow gum on the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania (1988); and at right Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Ancient ‘Nothofagus gunnil’, Cradle Mountain, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at right, Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1982

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1982
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at middle left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis. 'Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, Painted cliffs, Maria Island National Park, Tasmania (1991); and at right, Painted cliffs, Maria Island, Tasmania (1991)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at left, Beach detail with shells, Louisa Bay, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1993); at middle, Abalone shell at New Habour, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Native pigface, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania' 1979

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania
1979
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow on pencil pine, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Fruiting lichen and ice, the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cradle Mountain from Hounslow Heath, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1982); at middle, Snow-encrusted shrubbery, Central Highlands, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Icicles on fire-killed snow gums, south of Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dunes and granite near Interview River, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis

Peter Herbert Dombrovskis was born in a World War II refugee camp in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1945 to Latvian parents. His father, Karl, went missing at the end of the war and in 1950 his mother, Adele, moved the pair of them to Hobart, Tasmania; as far from the war-torn Europe and the war as imaginable. Adele was a keen naturalist and encouraged Peter’s photography, buying him a 35mm Zeiss camera to experiment with when he was just six.

In the early 1970s, Dombrovskis established a working pattern of making five or six two-week journeys into the wilds of Tasmania each year. His first calendar was produced in 1972, his first diary in 1976 and his first book The quiet land in 1977. He set up his own publication company, West Wind Press, in 1977. His second wife Liz, continued to run West Wind Press, producing calendars, books and diaries, until 2009. In 1996, while hiking and photographing near Mount Hayes in south-west Tasmania’s Western Arthur Range, Dombrovskis suffered a heart attack and died. He was 51 years old.

 

The sublime

The photographs of Dombrovskis carry on a rich tradition of depicting the wild places of Tasmania as Romantic landscapes. Romanticism was a cultural movement in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries that emphasised the senses, emotion and spontaneity at the expense of order, rationality and intellect. Particularly influential was the Romantic idea of the sublime. Unlike the picturesque landscape, which was attractive and charming but tame and unthreatening, the sublime landscape dramatises nature’s overwhelming power and grandeur. It shows the natural world untouched and uncompromised by human intervention, provoking feelings of awe, even fear, and reminding the viewer that wilderness is a valuable resource to respect, not exploit. Dombrovskis’s images demonstrate nature’s powerful splendour but they also have a quiet, reflective quality that draws the viewer into an intimate conversation with the natural world. This is, perhaps, achieved through his habit of including the unexpected and sensitive details within a landscape, as well as the marvellous and dramatic vistas. Dombrovskis was passionate about the vast and rugged beauty of his adopted home, but also curious about nature, seeing it as both mysterious and welcoming.

 

Influences

The photographer most often connected with Dombrovskis is Olegas Truchanas. The two men shared backgrounds as refugees from war-torn Central Europe. Together the two would explore Tasmania, marvelling at and photographing the beauty of their natural surroundings. They were adventurers and photographers in equal measures and both died in pursuit of these passions. It was Truchanas who introduced Peter to the political nature of landscape photography. In the 1960s, he would stage slide-shows in the Hobart City Hall, pairing his images with classical music and speaking about society’s responsibility for the natural planet. Many of Truchanas’s slides were lost in a bushfire that took his home in 1967, and it was in 1972, when he was out rebuilding his archive of images of the south-west that he drowned in the Gordon River. It was Peter who found Truchanas’s body in the water after days of searching.

‘I like to think I’m carrying on where Olegas left off, in my own way, finishing the work that he started.’

Dombrovskis’s photographic style was also influenced by the great American landscape photographers:

‘I enjoy Ansel Adams for his finely controlled and logical composition; Edward Weston for his intense identification with subject matter; Brett Weston for his strikingly graphic structural forms; Paul Caponigro for images that intimate the mysterious and the unknowable; and Eliot Porter for compositional subtlety and delicate colour harmony.’

 

Legacy

Dombrovskis’s contribution to the environmental movement is profound but his technical ability and artistry as a photographer are equally celebrated. In February 2003, he was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, an honour afforded to only 76 other innovators in the art form’s history. He is the only Australian to be honoured in this way and sits alongside those who influenced him, such as Ansel Adams and Edward and Brett Weston and Eliot Porter. Dombrovskis’s work has been acquired by several of Australia’s major cultural institutions and is part of the collections of the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Monash Gallery of Art.

 

Equipment

Dombrovskis’s preferred camera was the Linhof Master Technika. Requiring 4 x 5 inch film, almost 16 times larger than that used in a standard 35mm camera, the Linhof was heavy and cumbersome, forcing Dombrovskis to take more care and time in setting up his shots and making each of these images the result of physical and mental endurance, as well as involved decision-making.

‘… because sheet film is expensive and loading it is slow and tedious, I seldom take more than one exposure of each subject. This occasionally leads to bitter regret when I misjudge exposure after spending, perhaps, an hour on a single image.’

Smaller 35mm or contemporary digital cameras would have allowed Dombrovskis ease of use and immediacy, but this would have come at the expense of the extraordinary detail he could achieve with his Linhof. When walking for a week in the wilderness, Dombrovskis carried the required supplies, as well as the camera and around 50 sheets of film; a heavy pack in rugged terrain.

 

Tasmania

‘I took photographs for the simple pleasure of recording objects and places that were important to me, and because the discipline of photography increased my awareness of Tasmania’s beauty and made me appreciate more clearly the value of its wilderness.’

The work of Dombrovskis helped to change perceptions of the Tasmanian wilderness. In 1982 the area that he photographed was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. His photograph Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), which is located at the beginning of this exhibition, was integral to the successful campaign to prevent the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission damming the Gordon and Franklin rivers.

Dombrovskis’s photographs showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead, and many credit this image as helping to sway the Federal election in favour of Bob Hawke’s Australian Labor Party, which promised to save the Franklin River. It is rare and noteworthy that a photograph might carry such social and political sway.

Exhibition label text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at right, Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1981

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1981
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Bark of snow gum, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987); and right, Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1988)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Red phase of deciduous beech, 'Nothofagus gunnii', Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985); and at right, Reflections in mist, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1994)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo' 1985

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo
1985
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Reflection pool, Walls of Jerusalem National Park,Tasmania (1990); and at right, Morning mist in myrtle forest, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1992)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1992

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1992
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

22
Apr
19

Exhibition: ‘Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection’ at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2018 – 28th April 2019

Curators: Joachim Meyer and Peter Wandel

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

There are some beautiful photographs in this posting, mainly by British photographers evidencing the colonial gaze.

This is how the British saw their subjects “Under Indian Skies” not how the Indians would have seen themselves. The only Indian photographer in this posting is Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905). His photograph The Char Minar, Hyderabad (1880s, below) is a much more fluid, street photography representation of Indian life (long time exposure, blurred figures) than the other grandiose representations of Indian palaces and architecture.

The portraits are also instructive, aping as they do the classical aspirations of contemporary European carte de visite and cabinet cards. Even though the photograph Portrait of a young Indian woman by an unknown photographer (1870s, below) portrays her in Indian dress, she is accompanied to the left by a reproduction of a classical Greek statue. Of course, the aspersion is that while she may be beautiful and different, the Orient is always reliant on Europe and Greece as the birthplace of civilisation, for its existence.

I have included extra information about locations and photographers were possible.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The David Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

The invention of photography in 1839 revolutionised the way in which the world was documented and interpreted, not only in Europe, but also in Asia. As early as the beginning of the 1850s, the British authorities in India launched an impressive photographic survey of architecture. Enthusiastic amateur photographers soon followed suit with atmospheric images of life in the period, including that of maharajas, snake charmers, and elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Through a selection of pictures from a private British collection, this photo exhibition focuses on some of the challenges and subjects that preoccupied the earliest European and Indian photographers. It also displays the distinctive beauty of vintage photos created with difficult to handle apparatuses, big glass negatives, long exposure times, and complex chemical processes.

The exhibition consists of over 80 photographs and photo albums from around 1850 to the beginning of the 20th century. The catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The catalogue costs DKK 200 and can be purchased in the museum shop, which also sells the lovely exhibition poster for DKK 40.

Text from The David Collection website [Online] Cited 24/03/2019

 

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane (July 1830 – 2 June 1904) was a Scottish merchant who entered politics and became a Member of Parliament (MP), firstly as a Home Rule League MP in Ireland and then as Liberal and Crofters Party MP in Scotland. Macfarlane was born in Scotland, the youngest son of Allan Macfarlane, J.P., of Caithness and his wife Margaret Horne. He became an East Indies merchant as a tea trader and indigo plantation owner. While in India he was a passionate amateur photographer. He experimented freely and produced semi-abstract images

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862 (detail)

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing (detail)
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of one of the Chattar Manzil [Umbrella Palaces] showing the King’s boat called The Royal Boat of Oude on the Gomti River, Lucknow, India.

The Chattar Manzil (Urdu: چھتر منزل‎, Hindi: छतर मंज़िल), or Umbrella Palace is a building in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which served as a palace for the rulers of Awadh and their wives. It was constructed by order of NawabGhazi Uddin Haider and completed after his death by his successor, Nawab Nasir Uddin Haider.

The Chattar Manzil stand on the banks of the River Gomti. The Chattar Manzil consisted of a Bari (larger) Chattar Manzil and Chhoti (smaller) Chattar Manzil, however only the larger one still exists. These two buildings were examples of the Indo-European-Nawabi architectural style, even though the Bari Chattar Manzil has been altered over the years. The palaces were named after the chattris (umbrella-shaped domes) on the octagonal pavilions, which crown the buildings. The imposing building has large underground rooms and a dome surmounted by a gilt umbrella.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Felice Beato (1832 – 29 January 1909), also known as Felix Beato, was an Italian-British photographer. He was one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, and views and panoramas of the architecture and landscapes of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Beato’s travels gave him the opportunity to create images of countries, people, and events that were unfamiliar and remote to most people in Europe and North America. His work provides images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War, and represents the first substantial body of photojournalism. He influenced other photographers, and his influence in Japan, where he taught and worked with numerous other photographers and artists, was particularly deep and lasting. …

In February 1858 Beato arrived in Calcutta and began travelling throughout Northern India to document the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. During this time he produced possibly the first-ever photographic images of corpses. It is believed that for at least one of his photographs taken at the palace of Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow he had the skeletal remains of Indian rebels disinterred or rearranged to heighten the photograph’s dramatic impact17. He was also in the cities of Delhi, Cawnpore, Meerut, Benares, Amritsar, Agra, Simla, and Lahore. Beato was joined in July 1858 by his brother Antonio, who later left India, probably for health reasons, in December 1859. Antonio ended up in Egypt in 1860, setting up a photographic studio in Thebes in 1862.

Text from the Wikipedia website

17. Gartlan, Luke. “Felix Beato,” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography 2, p. 128.

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow. Albumen silver print, by Felice Beato, 1858. Located on the outskirts of Lucknow, it was the scene of intense fighting in November, 1857. Following the action, the British dead were buried in a deep trench but the Indian corpses were left to rot. Later, the city had to be evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: “A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up.” A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato’s presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858 Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny, Albumen silver print 26.2 x 29.8 cm. The image was taken by Felice Beato, a Corfiote by birth, who visited India during the period of the Indian Mutiny or First War of Indian Independence; possibly on a commissioned by the War Office in London he made documentary photographs showing the damage to the buildings in Lucknow following the two sieges. It is known that he was in Lucknow in March and April of 1858 within a few weeks of the capture of that city by British forces under Sir Colin Campbell. His equipment was a large box camera using 10″ x 12″ plates which needed a long exposure, and he made over 60 photographs of places in the city connected with the military events. Beato also visited Delhi, Cawnpore and other ‘Mutiny’ sites where he took photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912) 'Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi' c. 1864

 

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912)
Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi [Ala-ood-deen’s Gateway]
c. 1864
Albumen silver print
23.7 × 29.8 cm (9 5/16 × 11 3/4 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of the front facade of the Alai Darwaza gatehouse at the Qutb complex in Delhi. The building is almost entirely covered with intricately carved geometric and floral patterns, which also adorn the pierced latticework screens that cover the arched windows flanking the archway over the entrance.

This photograph shows a gateway into the extended Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Known as the Alai Darwaza, it was built in 1311 by the Afgan ruler Alauddin Khalji. He had grand plans to extend the original mosque. Most of them were abandoned after his death in 1315, but this gateway is the most notable addition he made. It is 17.2 metres square.

The mosque and gateway are made out of rubble. It is the first of many Indian Islamic monuments to use a combination of white marble and red sandstone for the façade. Its distinctive features are the use of symmetry and the finely carved calligraphic and arabesque decoration on the southern façade of the gateway. This is also the first monument in which a true arch, using the radiating voussoirs shown here, is fully integrated into the design. The design is influenced by the architectural traditions of the empire of the Saljugs from western Asia.

The British photographer Samuel Bourne lived and worked in India between 1862 and 1869. During this time he toured the Himalayas and travelled through the subcontinent, photographing its landscape, architecture and historical sites. He set up a studio in Simla with Charles Shepherd and sold his prints sold to an eager public both in India and Britain.

Text from the V&A website

 

The Qutb complex are monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. The Qutub Minar in the complex, named after Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty. The Minar was added upon by his successor Iltutmish (a.k.a. Altamash), and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty in 1368 AD. The Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (Dome of Islam), later corrupted into Quwwat-ul Islam, stands next to the Qutb Minar.

Many subsequent rulers, including the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji and the British added structures to the complex. Apart from the Qutb Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, other structures in the complex include the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, the Iron pillar, the ruins of several earlier Jain temples, and the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'View from the entrance gateway of Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
View from the entrance gateway of Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandra
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Akbar’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal emperor, Akbar and an important Mughal architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1604-1613 and is situated in 119 acres of grounds in Sikandra, a sub of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

 

 

The first photographs from India

The David Collection’s new special exhibition provides a hitherto unknown first-hand impression of 19th-century India, primarily – but not exclusively – seen with the eyes of western photographers. Through original vintage photographs, the viewer is taken back to photography’s birth and earliest childhood and up to around 1900.

Photography had made a breakthrough in British-dominated India in the early 1850s. With its magnificent architecture, exotic landscapes, and many different peoples and cultures, India offered fantastic motifs: splendid Islamic palaces, mosques, and sepulchral monuments. Princes, maharajas, ministers, and warriors in all their glory. But also an abundance of life among the common people, with everyone from stonemasons to snake charmers as well as elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Motifs of a completely different type that can be seen in the exhibition are those of the shattered palaces and dead warriors that spoke admonishingly of the rebellion against British rule in 1857-1858. The rebellion broke out after Muslim and Hindu soldiers had been forced by the British to use cartridges supposedly greased with fat from pigs and cows. These are some of history’s earliest war photographs, which in Europe served as the basis for newspaper illustrations.

The photographs were often taken under difficult working conditions. The heavy photo equipment had to be transported to distant regions along impassible roads, and its chemicals dried out in the tropical heat. The exposure time could be very long, and processing the negatives and the positives was often arduous.

Experiments were made with the new media by both visiting and local photo pioneers. The exhibition bears witness to the exchanges and competition between amateurs and the professional photographers whose studios popped up in innumerable places in India in the years up to 1900. The photographs also show how the new medium developed in the tension field between documentation and creative art form.

The over 80 works in the exhibition comprise photographs and photo albums, all of which were lent by the same private collection. The exhibition catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The author is one of the world’s leading specialists in this field and his catalogue provides a detailed and lively account of the photographers’ India in the 19th century and their photographic techniques.

 

Book

Under Indian Skies is the book behind the forthcoming exhibition of the same name, which opens at The David Collection on 23 November 2018. The book – and the exhibition – offer a previously unknown, first-hand impression of 19th-century India, as seen through the eyes of primarily Western photographers. At the beginning of the 1850s photography made its breakthrough in colonial India. With its impressive architecture, exotic landscapes and many different ethnic groups and cultures, the country offered fantastic motifs. The Indian architecture with its magnificent Islamic palaces and mausolea. Princes, maharajas, ministers and soldiers in all of their splendour. But also ordinary people and daily life: stone-cutters and woodcarvers, carpenters and dyers, daily life with the elephants that bathe in the Ganges, cotton harvesters and gardeners, acrobats, snake charmers, dancers, musicians and religious processions.

In the book we are led all the way back to the conception and early years of photography, just before 1850, and right up until around 1900, when the medium was long established. What is more, the book includes what may well be the first examples of war photography – the ruins and corpses left behind after a large, bloody uprising in the end of the 1850s, triggered when the British forced local Hindu and Muslim troops to use cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs.

The photographers travelling to India to undertake ‘reportage’ photography were akin to explorers and their journeys were difficult expeditions, during which with great effort – and an army of helpers – they surveyed the remotest regions. The photographs of the first decades were composed in much the same way as paintings from the same period. The technical challenges were immense and exposure times, for instance, were extremely long, so everything had to be planned to the smallest detail.

Under Indian Skies presents a riveting, kaleidoscopic picture of an India that for the most part has disappeared today. Some monuments are still standing and one might still see similar scenes there, but the present infrastructure and political circumstances are completely different to that time.

In addition to the presentation of eighty-three selected photographs, the book contains two essays, on the history of photography in India and early photographic processes respectively.

 

About the Author

John Falconer is a British historian of photography, who for many years was responsible for the photography collection at the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. He has written many books on early Indian photography and is one of the world’s leading specialists in this area.

Press release from The David Collection Cited 24/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under Indian Skies - 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection' at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Installation view of the exhibition Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler. 'View at the Taj Mahal, Agra' 1858

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler
View at the Taj Mahal, Agra
1858
Calotype negative
510 x 400 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

Although Robert Tytler and his wife Harriet only took up photography after the Uprising of 1857-58, they managed to produce over 500 photographs of the sites of conflict in less than six months. Their use of very large paper negatives such as this, with the associated technical difficulties, was an ambitious choice for photographers new to the medium. The production of negatives of this size needed extremely large and unwieldy cameras, with consequently long exposures: a note on the back of this negative states that it required an exposure of twenty-five minutes. This decision probably owed much to the tuition the Tytlers received from the established photographer John Murray, who used a similar-sized camera and whose processing procedures they also adopted. This view (laterally reversed in the negative), is taken from outside the Taj Mahal complex from a position in front of the west gate (Fatehpuri Darwaza), looking north along the outer western wall towards the tomb of Fatehpuri Begum in the distance.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'The Char Minar, Hyderabad' 1880s

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
The Char Minar, Hyderabad
1880s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal was trained as an engineer but took up photography around 1864. He entered government service in 1866, founded the firm “Lala Deen Dayal & Sons” in 1868, and was commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. In 1886, Dayal retired from government service and became a professional photographer, moving to Hyderabad, India to work for the Nizam of Hyderabad, who conferred the honorary title of “raja” upon him.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

The Charminar (“Four Minarets”), constructed in 1591, is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The landmark has become a global icon of Hyderabad, listed among the most recognised structures of India. Charminar has been a historical place with Mosque on the top floor for over 400 years and also known for its surrounding markets. It is one of the tourist attractions in Hyderabad. It is where many famous festivals are celebrated, such as Eid-ul-adha and Eid-ul-fitr.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
Architecture at Beejapoor, London
1866
Album

 

Architecture at Beejapoor, an ancient Mahometan capital in the Bombay Presidency / photographed from drawings by Capt. P.D. Hart … ; with an historical and descriptive memoir by Captain Meadows Taylor ; and … notes by James Fergusson. 1866.

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866 (detail)

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
“Malik-I-Mydan” – “The Master of the Plain.”
Architecture at Beejapoor, London (detail)
1866
Album

 

This gun was brought back from Ahmadnagar in the 17th century as a trophy of war and is thought to be the largest medieval cannon in the world.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

The title of Sirdar (or Sardar), from the Persian for a commander, could apply to a wide variety of senior positions, either military or administrative. The precise role of this figure in the Maharajah of Gwalior’s administration has not been established: the term was also often used by the British in a more general sense in the nineteenth century to denote a nobleman.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia (detail)
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour
1866
Hand-coloured photograph (probably an albumen print)
214 x 138 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

This delicately hand-coloured image depicts a Rajput ruler wearing an elaborate eighteenth-century armour known as Chahelta Hazah (Coat of a Thousand Nails). The inscription (in a Rajasthani form of Hindi, written in Devanagari script) identifies the sitter as Maharaj Shri Savan (or Sovan) Singhji. While the photographer is not named, it states that ‘Shivlal the painter coloured it’ and supplies a date of late September 1866.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman (detail)
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Johnston and Hoffmann. 'Portrait of a young prince' c. 1900

 

Johnston and Hoffmann (Calcutta, 1882-1950s)
P. Johnston (Great Britain, died 1891)
Theodore Hoffmann (Germany? 1883 /1887 – India? 1921)
Portrait of a young prince
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900 (detail)

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner (detail)
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

The David Collection
Kronprinsessegade 30
1306 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 33 73 49 49

Opening hours
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 17pm
Wednesday until 21.00pm
Monday closed
Also closed December 23, 24, 25, and 31

The David Collection website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

19
Apr
19

Photographs: ‘The Seven Last Words’ 1898 by F. Holland Day (1864-1933)

April 2019

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
The Seven Last Words
1898
Seven platinum prints in original frame
H x W (overall with frame): 8 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (21.6 x 90.2 cm)
Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Frank B. Bemis Fund, Otis Norcross Fund, William E. Nickerson Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, and funds by exchange from a Gift of James Lawrence, Dorothy Mackenzie and John E. Lawrence, and funds donated by Michael and Elizabeth Marcus, Charles W. Millard III, and Scott Nathan and Laura DeBonis Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Where Do We Come From / What Are We / Where Are We Going

I went to see one of my best friends for the last time in hospital today.

Joyce has been like a surrogate mother to me for the last eight years. She has been wise counsel, friend, support, teacher, reconciler, adventurer and philosopher to this sometimes lost man. We had many adventures to exhibitions and openings, to our favourite restaurant Caffe e Cucina to have dinner, or going to see “Our Julia”, an exhibition of her favourite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. It is so sad in this life that we have to loose the wisdom of age only for the mistakes of past generations to be repeated over and over again.

Both Joyce and I do not believe in traditional, dogmatic religion. Both of us cannot stand the hypocrisy, baloney and proselytising that religion undertakes in the name of an “imaginary friend.” Religion is a crutch for the dogmatic who then impose their beliefs, and discrimination, on others.

But we both believe in spirit, that ineffable quality of experience where you obtain communion with the energy of the cosmos. A feeling, an emotional energy of connection to body, spirit and soul. Something noumenal, something that we have knowledge of, but that we can’t completely describe.

Strip away the baggage of religion from these photographs and you are left with a man being tortured and his spirit suffering. I wonder what this man was like when he was a baby? Who did he talk to growing up, what did he say, who did he meet. What was his essential journey to get to this place? Imagine Pontius Pilate not washing his hands of him, but sitting down with him and having a philosophical discussion on the nature of existence and being.

I felt immense love and sadness, hope and sorrow when I saw Joyce for the last time on this earth. I wished her a good journey and told her that I would see her soon.

I will miss her strength, intelligence, and beautiful spirit. But above all I will miss her love.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

If we can find out what we are… that is the artist.

And then, this goes to the core element of your being:

If the core part of your life is the search for the truth then that becomes a core part of your identity for the rest of your life,

and the core element of your enquiry remains the same.

It becomes embedded in your soul.

.
Joyce Evans

 

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

Father forgive them they know not what they do

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

Woman behold thy son: Son thy mother

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

My God my God why hast thou forsaken me

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

I thirst

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

Into thy hands I commend my spirit

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Seven Last Words' 1898

It is finished

 

 

From 1895 to 1898 Day undertook a project that was without precedent: an extended series – some 250 negatives – showing scenes of the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection, in which he played the title role. In 1890 Day had traveled to Oberammergau to see the famous once-a-decade Passion Plays and may well have seen a similar multimedia presentation that toured the East Coast, including Boston, later in the 1890s. For his own production, Day starved himself, let his beard grow long, and imported cloth and a cross from Syria. Just prior to the reenacted Crucifixion, he made this series of close-up self-portraits – the most powerful images in his entire series – which represent Christ’s seven last words:

FATHER FORGIVE THEM; THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.

TODAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.

WOMAN, BEHOLD THY SON; SON, THY MOTHER

MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?

I THIRST.

INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT.

IT IS FINISHED.

.
For many people, Day’s self-portraits as Christ were – and remain – unsettling, as one tries to reconcile their fact and fiction. Day defended the use of photography for sacred subjects as a matter of artistic freedom, and Steichen wrote, “Few paintings contain as much that is spiritual and sacred in them as do the ‘Seven Words’ of Mr. Day. … If we knew not its origin or its medium how different would be the appreciation of some of us, and if we cannot place our range of vision above this prejudice the fault lies wholly with us. If there are limitations to any of the arts, they are technical; but of the motif to be chosen the limitations are dependent on the man – if he is a master he will give us great art and ever exalt himself.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 26/03/2019

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Solitude (Portrait of F. Holland Day)' 1901

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Solitude (Portrait of F. Holland Day)
1901
Platinum print
Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Frank B. Bemis Fund, Otis Norcross Fund, William E. Nickerson Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, and funds by exchange from a Gift of James Lawrence, Dorothy Mackenzie and John E. Lawrence, and funds donated by Michael and Elizabeth Marcus, Charles W. Millard III, and Scott Nathan and Laura DeBonis
Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Widely considered one of the masterpieces of photographic history, the monumental self portrait depicts Day as Christ in a series of seven platinum prints set in a frame designed by the artist. The work is a high point of Pictorialism – the turn-of-the-century movement advocating the artistic merit of photography. With few prints ever made by the artist and a tragic fire destroying his studio, Day’s photographs are tremendously rare. The Museum also acquired the crown of thorns worn by Day in The Seven Last Words and three important portraits of Day taken by photographers Edward Steichen, James Craig Annan and Clarence H. White. They were kept by the artist as part of his personal archive.

“The Seven Last Words is one of the most significant images in the history of photography, a work that reverberates with iconic importance and one that influenced subsequent artists significantly,” said Anne E. Havinga, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs at the MFA.

Born into an affluent family in Norwood, F. Holland Day was a turn-of-the-century Bostonian with an ultra-refined aesthetic sensibility and a multitude of interests, particularly in art and literature. He was a member of the “Boston Bohemians,” a circle of friends with whom he shared a love for the Arts and Crafts movement, sophisticated wit and Symbolist literature and art. He was also an admirer of old master painting and classical sculpture, and collected Japanese decorative arts and drawings. His interests led him into a career as a fine book publisher and photographer.

Day became interested in photography in the mid 1880s, joining the Pictorialist crusade to prove that photography could be a fine art, and within a decade he had become one of the most important figures in the international movement. While Day championed the same goals promoted by fellow photographers, he also defended religious imagery and the male nude – subjects that had previously been the domain of painting and sculpture. The seriousness of Day’s approach to artistic photography and his heightened sense of symbolism, enhanced by the subtle, low-keyed tonalities of his prints, were an inspiration to other photographers of the time.

In 1898, Day began exploring religious themes in his photographs. His “Sacred Studies,” as he called them, were widely acclaimed for their high-art aspirations – as seen in their relation to old master religious painting – and their unquestionable daring. The Seven Last Words was one of Day’s most expressive and best-known pieces and continues to be admired by many contemporary artists, especially those who explore identity, role play and staged photography in their work. Each of the seven photographs in the work, set in a frame designed by the artist, represents one of the last phrases spoken by Christ:

Father forgive them they know not what they do.
Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
Woman behold thy son: Son thy mother.
My God my God why hast thou forsaken me.
I thirst.
Into thy hands I commend my spirit.
It is finished.

.
Only two other versions of the work exist today: one is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (without the artist-designed frame) and a third is owned by a private collector (with an altered frame). The MFA’s version is in tremendous condition and is in its original, un-altered frame.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website [Online] Cited 26/03/2019

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

13
Apr
19

Exhibition: ‘Carte-o-mania!’ at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia

Exhibition dates: 8th November 2018 – 22nd April 2019

Curator: Jo Gilmour

 

 

The Photographic Society of Victoria, Melbourne. 'Thomas Pearce (age 18 in 1878)' c. 1878

 

The Photographic Society of Victoria, Melbourne
Thomas Pearce (age 18 in 1878)
c. 1878
Albumen paper carte de visite
Support: 10.2 x 6.5 cm
Image: 9.1 x 5.6 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

A friend of mine is really ill at the moment in hospital. At 87 years old, she is a fiercely independent woman, possessing amazing intelligence and insight, a wicked sense of humour, stubborn, opinionated, passionate… and one of the most incredible human beings I have met during my life. If I had not met her, my life would have been so much poorer. It is a privilege to know her.

These Australian cartes des visite and cabinet cards give small insight into now largely forgotten lives, of both photographer and sitter. If only for a brief instant, we can pull back the curtain of time and enquire into their lives and existence. In a small way, we can reanimate their earthly spirit.

“Each photograph is like a miniature world of its own with an incredible story embedded in it. The poses, the props and the fashions throw an intriguing light onto the world of the nineteenth-century studio, while the stories of the photographers and their subjects combine to create a rich and vivid archive of Australian society at a precise moment in time. Rich or poor, male or female, famous or infamous, powerful or anonymous: everyone was captured in these tiny photographs.”

It is such a pity that we have to loose the knowledge that age brings, the powerful sages full of wisdom that could stop the human race repeating the mistakes of the past over and over again.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
PS. What is unsaid in these stories and images, is that most riches are built on the back of oppression, built on the bones of the Indigenous people of Australia. Rich whites, buying up land, pastoralists, sending their children to school in the Old Country… just because they can.

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

 

 

The Photographic Society of Victoria, Melbourne. 'Thomas Pearce (age 18 in 1878)' c. 1878 (detail)

 

The Photographic Society of Victoria, Melbourne
Thomas Pearce (age 18 in 1878) (detail)
c. 1878
Albumen paper carte de visite
Support: 10.2 x 6.5 cm
Image: 9.1 x 5.6 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

Thomas Pearce (c. 1860-1909) was a young apprentice on board the English merchant vessel the Loch Ard, which departed chilly Gravesend, England, for warmer climes in Australia in March 1878. There were 37 crew and sixteen passengers aboard. In stormy weather on 1 June 1878, just days from completing the three-month voyage, the captain of the magnificent iron-hulled clipper mistakenly thought the ship was 50 miles from the coastline when she was dashed by heavy surf onto the rocks of Muttonbird Island. Only two survived the wreckage: eighteen-year-old Pearce and eighteen-year-old Irish emigrant, Eva Carmichael. Supported by the upturned hull of a lifeboat, Pearce was washed ashore in a small cove, now known as Loch Ard Gorge. When he heard Eva Carmichael’s cries and saw her clinging to wreckage, ‘he at once divested himself of his unnecessary clothing, plunged in the sea, swan out to her, and brought her safely to the beach’. Lauded for his brave and gallant act, Pearce was presented with a valuable gold watch and chain by governor George Ferguson Bowen as a ‘slight token of the respect and admiration in which your noble conduct is held by all classes in this colony’. He was also presented with the first gold medal issued by the Royal Humane Society of Victoria. Popular sentiment was for a permanent union; but Eva returned to Ireland having lost her parents and siblings in the wreck. Pearce became a ship’s captain. According to an ‘interview’ published in the Argus in 1934, Carmichael returned Pearce’s favour some years later when, ‘living on the Irish coast’, she and her husband Captain Townsend were called on to help survivors from wrecks and that ‘on one occasion who should fall into her care but Tom Pearce!’.

As sole survivors of the wreck, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael experienced a period of celebrity during which the sensational story of the Loch Ard created much fodder for newspapers. The 6 July issue of the Australasian Sketcher featured wood engravings of the scene of the sinking, an engraved portrait of Eva, ‘drawn from life’, and one of Tom based on this carte de visite, which was captioned as being ‘from a photograph by Mr Burman’. There were four photographers named Burman in Melbourne in 1878: brothers Frederick, William and Arthur Burman, and their father, William Insull Burman, all of whom took photographs of Pearce and Carmichael. The Burmans were among the photographers later contracted to produce photographs relating to Ned Kelly’s activities, and many souvenir photos of him, his gang, his captors and the Glenrowan incident bear the Burman stamp. The Photographic Society of Victoria was formed in 1876 to ‘bring photographers together in a friendly spirit, in order to advance the art and science of photography in the colony’. At the time of the first annual meeting on 9 March 1877 there were 61 members, five whom were ladies. Members included well-known Melbourne photographers Charles Hewitt and Charles Nettleton as well as Joseph Turner of Geelong.

The Photographic Society of Victoria was formed in 1876 to ‘bring photographers together in a friendly spirit, in order to advance the art and science of photography in the colony, without any attempt at binding or dictating to members any special trading rules, such as charges for photographs or hours or days for closing or opening their respective establishments.’ At the time of the first annual meeting on 9 March 1877 there were 61 members, five whom were ladies. Members included well-known Melbourne photographers George William Perry, William Hall, Charles Hewitt, Charles Nettleton, and David Wood as well as Joseph Turner of Geelong.

 

Thomas Pearce (1860-1909)

Thomas Pearce (1860?-1909) was an apprentice on the English merchant vessel the Loch Ard, which embarked for Victoria in March 1878 carrying 37 crew and 16 passengers, many from the Carmichael family. In stormy weather on 1 June 1878, just days from completing the three-month voyage, the Loch Ard wrecked against Muttonbird Island. Supported by an upturned lifeboat, the teenaged Pearce was washed ashore in a small bay, now known as Loch Ard Gorge; but when he spotted eighteen-year-old Eva Carmichael clinging to wreckage in the ocean, he swam out and struggled back to shore with her. As sole survivors of the wreck, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael became celebrities and posed for a number of Melbourne photographers after their recuperation. Pearce was presented with the first gold medal of the Royal Humane Society of Victoria. Popular sentiment was for a permanent union; but Eva returned to Ireland, and Pearce became a ship’s captain. Several drowned members of Eva’s family are buried in a clifftop cemetery above Loch Ard Gorge. A porcelain figure of a peacock, made by English pottery Minton, was washed up from the wreck intact. Now on display at Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum, the ‘Loch Ard Peacock’ is Australia’s most valuable shipwreck artefact, valued at $4 million.

 

Thomas Foster Chuck (Australian, born London 1826-1898) 'The Burke and Wills Monument' 1869

 

Thomas Foster Chuck (Australian, born London 1826-1898)
The Burke and Wills Monument
1869
Albumen paper photograph on carte de visite
Support: 10.1 x 6.4 cm
Image: 9.3 x 6.2 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2001

 

 

From its outset, the Victorian Exploring Expedition (later renamed the Burke and Wills Expedition) provided much material for artists. William Strutt, for example, made portraits of expedition members and depictions of its preparations at Royal Park, while Burke and Wills both sat for the Melbourne photographer Thomas Adams Hill shortly before their departure in August 1860. Their deaths less than a year later, however, generated a plethora of portraits in a variety of formats. Sculptor Charles Summers (1825-1878) created waxworks of Burke and Wills soon after news of their lamentable deaths became known and was subsequently awarded the commission to create their official memorial. The monument was installed at the intersection of Collins and Russell Streets in 1865 and was the largest bronze casting carried out in Australia to that date. Thomas Foster Chuck, photographer and entrepreneur, also sought to cash in on the epic failure of the expedition. In early 1862, he and several others – including artist William Pitt, a scene painter for George Selth Coppin’s Theatre Royal – devised a ‘Grand Moving Diorama’ which toured south-eastern Australia in 1862 and 1863. Based on first-hand accounts and sketches by Strutt and others, the diorama consisted of sixteen painted scenes – one of which featured ‘Novel and Dioramic Automaton Effects’ in the form of mechanical camels ‘ and was billed as ‘the most interesting and superior Entertainment ever exhibited in Australia’.

Thomas Foster Chuck had studios in Melbourne and Daylesford from the mid-1860s and exhibited examples of his work at the Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866. In Melbourne, he traded as the ‘London Portrait Gallery’ from this address on Collins Street and later from the Royal Arcade on Bourke Street. In 1870, he commenced work on his mammoth Historical Picture of The Explorers and Early Colonists of Victoria, a photographic mosaic of over 700 individual portraits. It was completed in 1872 and was something of a money-spinner for Chuck, who sold individual cartes de visite of the sitters as well as prints of the composite image. A selection of Chuck’s portraits received an honourable mention in the photographic section of the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition of 1873, and were awarded a gold medal at the London International Exhibition in 1874. In 1876 he moved to Ballarat where he opened his ‘Gallery of Art’ and continued to produce various types of photographic works, including hand-coloured ‘chromatypes’ (he was one of several photographers who claimed to have invented this process) and his much-admired composite portraits.

 

Thomas Foster Chuck (1826-1898)

Thomas Foster Chuck (1826-1898), photographer and entrepreneur, was born in London and arrived in Victoria in 1861. The following year he produced and toured a ‘Grand Moving Diorama’ of dramatic painted scenes from the Burke and Wills expedition. By 1866 he had established a studio in Daylesford and examples of his work were shown at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition that year. Returning to Melbourne, he occupied a series of studios before opening the ‘London Portrait Gallery’ in rooms in the Royal Arcade on Bourke Street. There, in 1870, he commenced work on his mammoth Historical Picture of The Explorers and Early Colonists of Victoria, a photographic mosaic composed of over 700 individual photographs of prominent citizens. The work was finally completed in 1872 and is said to have been quite a boon for its creator, with Chuck selling individual cartes de visite and enlarged prints of many of the portraits as well as reduced prints of the composite image. Chuck submitted hand-coloured enlargements of his portraits of Justices Redmond Barry and Edward Eyre Williams to the Intercolonial Exhibition; in January 1873, the Argus reported that ‘Photographic portraits, finished in oil, watercolours, and mezzotints’, and an ‘untouched solar enlargement’ by Chuck received an honourable mention in the photographic section of the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition. Chuck forwarded the same works and a selection of smaller plain and coloured photographs to the London International Exhibition in 1874, winning a gold medal there. In 1872, he was awarded a contract to photograph the National Gallery’s collections; this resulted in eighteen photographs which were issued between 1873 and 1874 and published as Photographs of the Pictures in the National Gallery of Melbourne. In 1876 Chuck sold his Melbourne studio and moved to Ballarat where he opened his ‘Gallery of Art’ and continued to produce various types of photographic works, including hand-coloured ‘chromatypes’ (a process he claimed to have invented) and his much-admired composite portraits.

 

W & D Downey (William Downey (1829-1915) and Daniel Downey, British photographers). 'Lillie Langtry (age 32 in 1885)' c. 1885

 

W & D Downey (William Downey (1829-1915) and Daniel Downey, British photographers)
Lillie Langtry (age 32 in 1885)
c. 1885
Albumen silver carte de visite
Support: 103 x 62 mm
Image: 98 x 51 mm
National Portrait Gallery, Ca
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Malcolm Robertson inberran memory of William Thomas Robertson 2018

 

 

Lillie Langtry (1853-1929) was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton in Jersey in 1853. Aged nineteen she married the son of a Belfast shipowner with whom she moved to London. There, she rose to prominence as a professional beauty and style-setter whose acquaintances included various members of the social and cultural elite. She thus came within the orbit of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (known as Bertie to his family), Queen Victoria’s eldest son and heir to the throne, whose dalliance with the Irish actress Nellie Clifden in 1861 had already created scandal. His liaison with Langtry commenced in 1877 and lasted three years. It was an open secret, generating notoriety and cachet for Langtry in equal measure. Around 1880 she began a relationship with Prince Louis of Battenberg (Louis Mountbatten), with whom she had a daughter. This precipitated the deterioration of her marriage which ended in 1881. Being without a conventional means of support she decided to earn a living as an actress and made her professional stage debut in London in December 1881. Capitalising on her beauty and reputation, she then formed her own theatre company with which she toured to the United States several times between 1882 and 1889. That year, having established independent wealth through investments in racehorses and real estate, she returned permanently to England. In 1899 she married the heir to an English baronetcy who was eighteen years her junior. She retired to Monaco after World War One and published her memoir The days I knew in 1925.

Brothers William Downey (1829-1915) and Daniel Downey opened their first photographic studio in 1863 in Newcastle-on-Tyne. In 1872 the business expanded to London, William running the new studio in Belgravia while Daniel maintained the business in Newcastle. The firm became known for carte de visite and cabinet card portraits of celebrities and the aristocracy and is said to have been particularly favoured by Queen Victoria, whom they photographed on many occasions from the late 1860s until the 1890s. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, was also a significant patron. W & D Downey’s 1868 carte-de-visite of his wife the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) piggy-backing her baby daughter Princess Louise was extraordinarily popular, selling some 300,000 copies. William’s son William Edward Downey (1855-1908) also became a photographer.

 

William H. Bardwell. 'Self portrait (age 34 in 1870)' 1870

 

William H. Bardwell (Australian)
Self portrait (age 34 in 1870)
1870
albumen silver carte de visite photograph
Support: 10.6 x 6.3 cm
Image: 9.4 x 6.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2015

 

 

Photographer William H. Bardwell (life dates unknown), worked at various studios in Ballarat from 1858 until 1895. In 1859, he was in partnership with Saul Solomon; they specialised in portraiture and providing photographs of the town from unusual vantage points, some of which were lithographed for The Ballarat Album (1859). Together, he and Solomon exhibited portraits at the 1862 Geelong Industrial Exhibition, where they received special commendation for their ‘sennotype’ process, a process consisting of two albumen prints, one waxed and one hand-coloured, mounted with glass plate. The two also exhibited their portraits in the 1863 Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute Exhibition. The same year, the Argus reported that Bardwell had captured the laying of the foundation stone of the Sturt Street Burke and Wills memorial from the roof of the Post Office. In the late 1860s he photographed a visiting troupe of Japanese gymnasts, and in 1871 he took photographs of Chang the Chinese Giant and his entourage. Bardwell exhibited photographs of Ballarat at the Intercolonial Exhibition in Sydney in 1870, offering prints at the substantial price of £6 each, and had a photographic panorama of Ballarat among his views of its buildings and streets in the Victorian section of the London International Exhibition of 1873. From his studio at 11 Royal Arcade, Melbourne, William Bardwell exhibited photographs at the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition 1888-1889. In this self-portrait we see Bardwell in standing pose, dressed in stately attire, his frock coat with lowered waistline and three-piece suit characteristic of the period. Supported by a chair and his walking cane, Bardwell projects a stately figure with his hat tidily atop his head.

In 1866, William Bardwell established the Royal Photographic Studio independently of Solomon, an advertisement in the Clunes Gazette announcing, ‘The studio is every way replete with suitable accommodation for the preparation of toilet and rooms are provided for both ladies and gentlemen. Mr Bardwell’s long and practical example will entitle him to the claim to the first position in Ballarat as a photographer’. Bardwell took advantage of his studio’s close proximity to the Theatre Royal, producing photographs for visiting theatre groups and operatic companies. Along with actresses and actors coming and going, Bardwell catered for the upper echelons of Ballarat society. Boasting the ‘best appointed Studio in the colonies’, one could imagine Bardwell’s studio was flooded with natural light, his darkroom in complete darkness for the meticulous preparation of plates, paper and photographic chemicals used to render surfaces sensitive to light. Bardwell went into partnership with John Beauchamp at Ballarat for some part of 1878, before relocating to open his studio in Melbourne later that year. Bardwell’s Royal Studios at Ballarat remained active throughout the 1880s under the operation of Mr Williams while William Bardwell remained in Melbourne.

 

Timothy Noble. 'Charles Blondin (age 50 in 1874)' 1874

 

Timothy Noble (active 1871-1888)
Charles Blondin (age 50 in 1874)
1874
Albumen photograph on carte de visite
Support: 10.2 x 6.2 cm
Image: 9.3 x 5.6 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2018

 

 

The famed nineteenth century French tightrope walker and aerial acrobat, Charles Blondin, born Jean Francoix Gravelet (1824-1897), was known for thrilling audiences world-wide with his acrobatic feats. The ‘crazy, bearded little Frenchman’ is said to have crossed Niagara Gorge on over 300 occasions, at first performing simple crossings then amazing onlookers with increasingly bizarre and challenging stunts. Encouraged by Australian entrepreneur and agent Harry (HP) Lyons, ‘The Great Blondin’ followed his North American tour with a visit to Australia in 1874, performing for enthralled onlookers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. On 25 July he made his first appearance in Australia, thrilling over 3,500 onlookers when he crossed the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on a tightrope measuring 76 metres in length and suspended 24 metres above the ground. He first danced across the tightrope in knight’s armour before performing several acrobatic stunts including balancing on his head for ten seconds, cooking an omelette on a stove while drinking a glass of champagne, balancing on two legs of a wooden chair, and carrying his assistant, Mr Niaud, pick-a’-back from one end to the other. Blondin’s performance captivated the audience for one hour and 45 minutes, during which time he would consistently toy with the crowd, pretending to stumble and fall to heighten the drama. The Maryborough Chronicle reported that Blondin’s appearance ‘produced the curious effect known as bringing the heart into the mouth’. Blondin’s popularity in Australia was such that to ‘blond’ on the back of the fence was the ambition of every kiddie. He inspired at least five Australians to emulate his feats, the most famed being the funambulist and aeronautical balloonist, Henri L’Estrange, commonly known as ‘the Australian Blondin’.

Photographer Timothy Noble worked from a number of addresses in Melbourne between 1871 and 1884 before relocating to Sydney. At the time of Charles Blondin’s visit to Melbourne in 1874, Noble’s studio was at 135 Bourke Street, not far from George Selth Coppin’s Theatre Royal. It was there that Blondin made his inaugural Victorian appearance, the Age advising readers on 20 October 1874 that ‘Chevalier Blondin, The Hero of Niagara’ would be visiting the Theatre the following evening, and advising that ‘Early application should be made for seats and tickets’. In early November the paper reported that ‘We have received from Mr. Noble, photographer, of Bourke-street, a very good likeness of M. Blondin, with all his honours. The medals shown in the photograph have quite a history attached to them. Among them is the order of her Catholic Majesty the Queen of Spain’. Blondin’s pose likewise suggests his courageous spirit, while the pair of binoculars at his side is perhaps an allusion to the means by which some witnessed his thrilling and spectacular performances. The State Library of Victoria has 30 of Noble’s photographs, including portraits of actresses Hattie Shepparde and Maggie Moore, and impresario J.C. Williamson.

 

About the exhibition

Drawn from the NPG’s burgeoning collection of cartes de visite, Carte-o-mania! celebrates the wit, style and substance of the pocket-sized portraits that were taken and collected like crazy in post-goldrush Australia.

In May 1860 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children sat for the London photographer John Jabez Edwin Mayall. With Her Majesty’s approval, the resultant photographs were made available to the public as a series of cartes de visite titled ‘The Royal Album’. Sales went crazy, netting Mayall £35,000 and propelling the carte de visite from relative obscurity to fervent, widespread popularity.

The diminutive-format albumen photographs, mounted on cards measuring ten by six centimetres, had been conceived of in Paris in 1854. Yet in the English-speaking world it wasn’t until the Queen saw fit to have herself documented in this way – and in relatable semblances and settings – that the populace began to embrace cartes as a novel, affordable way of collecting images, whether of royals and other luminaries or, increasingly, of themselves.

Cartes enabled people from various strata of society to acquire multiple portraits for a matter of shillings, providing ‘the opportunity of distributing yourself among your friends, and letting them see you in your favourite attitude, and with your favourite expression’.

Occupying a mid-point between the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 and the advent of the Kodak camera in the 1880s, the carte de visite was the first truly democratic form of portraiture. Collections of cartes, and the outputs of their exponents, thus often constitute the most inclusive of portrait galleries and the most comprehensive archives of a nation’s faces.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery [Online] Cited 20/03/2019

 

Unknown artist. 'Thomas Wentworth Wills (age 21 in 1857)' c.1857 or c.1864 (printed c.1905-1910)

 

Unknown artist
Thomas Wentworth Wills (age 21 in 1857)
c.1857 or c.1864 (printed c.1905-1910)
Gelatin silver photograph on grey paper support on card
Support: 11.0 x 9.0 cm
Image: 9.6 x 7.4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of T S Wills Cooke 2014
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Thomas Wentworth (Tom) Wills (1836-1880), is popularly thought of as the ‘inventor’ of Australian Rules football. Born in Sydney and named for his father’s good friend (and lawyer), William Charles Wentworth, Tom was not yet four when he took part in the journey by which his father, Horatio Spencer Wills, relocated from New South Wales to the Port Phillip district in 1839. Tom received some of his schooling in Melbourne before, at fourteen, being sent ‘home’ to be educated at Rugby, where he proved an adept sportsman but not much of a scholar. He then attended Cambridge but did not matriculate, once again earning greater distinction for his on-field prowess, particularly in cricket. He later played for Kent and the Marylebone Cricket Club, continuing his cricket career on returning to Victoria in late 1856. In all, between 1857 and 1876, in addition to playing for Richmond, the Melbourne Cricket Club, and several other teams, he represented Victoria in twelve matches against New South Wales, scoring a total of 319 runs and taking 72 wickets at the impressive average of ten for 23. His significance to Australian sporting history, however, arguably resides primarily in his instigating a local code of football as a means of keeping cricketers fit during winter. In 1858, Wills helped establish the Melbourne Football Club; in 1859, he led the group that set down the code of laws for what became known as Victorian or Australian Rules football – elements of which, some historians have argued, may have their origins in marngrook, a traditional game involving a possum-skin ball played by the Aboriginal people of the Western District, and which Wills may have witnessed and played as a boy.

In 1861, Tom along with at least 25 of his father’s employees (and 10,500 sheep), overlanded from Brisbane to Cullin-la-ringo, a property Horatio Wills had leased near Emerald in Queensland. Sent on an errand to another station soon after the party had arrived, Tom was absent from Cullin-la-ringo when a group of Aboriginal people camped nearby mounted a violent raid on the property, killing nineteen people, his father included. Tom remained at Cullin-la-ringo nevertheless, initially making an attempt to run it while resorting increasingly to alcohol as a method of quelling the demons occasioned by the circumstances of his father’s death. Back in Victoria permanently by 1864, he returned to sport, playing football for both Melbourne and Geelong, representing his state again in inter-colonial cricket, and serving in administrative capacities in both sports. In 1866, he was engaged as the captain-coach of a team of Aboriginal players that subsequently played a number of fixtures in Victoria and New South Wales but which disbanded prior to a planned tour to England in 1867. By the mid-1870s, however, the career of the so-called ‘Grace of Australia’ was unravelling, his performances routinely blighted by drunkenness. In his final years, he lived at Heidelberg with his partner, Sarah Barber (whom his family never recognised). Fearful that he would harm himself, in April 1880 Sarah had Tom admitted to the Melbourne Hospital for restraint. He absconded and died soon afterwards, having stabbed himself with a pair of scissors while in a state of delirium tremens.

 

William Edward Kilburn. 'William Robertson' 1863

 

William Edward Kilburn (British, 1818-1891)
William Robertson
1863
Albumen paper carte de visite
Support: 10.2 x 6.5 cm
Image: 8.6 x 5.5 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Malcolm Robertson in memory of William Thomas Robertson 2018

 

 

William Robertson (1839-1892), lawyer, politician and pastoralist, was the second eldest son and third child of merchant and landowner William Robertson and his wife Margaret. William senior had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1820s, building a successful business in Hobart before relocating to Victoria. William junior was educated in Hobart and then at Wadham College, Oxford. While there ‘he entered with zest into the athletics of the place, and he rowed in the Oxford and Cambridge annual boat race on the Thames in 1861’. He graduated in 1862 and the following year, in Tunbridge Wells, he married Martha Mary Murphy (1844-1909). On returning home William and Martha settled initially in Hobart before William was admitted to the bar in Victoria. He his brothers John, George and James each inherited property on their father’s death in 1874, William acquiring The Hill, ‘a stretch of very rich agricultural and grazing land’ near Colac. As Robertson Brothers the four managed the family’s various pastoral concerns, developing a reputation for their shorthorn cattle. William was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in the 1870s and 1880s, ‘but his interest in politics was not very keen’. ‘He was much better fitted to shine in social life’, his obituary said, ‘being a man of amiable disposition and high private character’. He died while undergoing surgery for cancer in 1892.

William Edward Kilburn (1818-1891) was one of London’s earliest exponents of the daguerreotype. He opened his first studio on Regent Street, London, in 1847 and in 1848 Prince Albert acquired Kilburn’s daguerreotypes showing a large Chartist gathering at Kennington. This led to Kilburn being appointed ‘Her Majesty’s Daguerreotypist’ and began an association with the Royal Family that resulted in a number of portraits over the next several years. Leading members of society admired Kilburn’s work, which was often finely hand-coloured or engraved for publication in illustrated newspapers. Kilburn adapted easily to the waning popularity of the daguerreotype and the advent of paper photographs, his studio becoming a leading London supplier of cartes de visite in the late 1850s, and sitters such as Florence Nightingale and Benjamin Disraeli had cartes de visite taken by him. He is perhaps of especial interest to historians of Australian photography as the brother of Douglas Kilburn, who is considered Melbourne’s first professional photographer. Douglas’s early advertisements state that ‘Mr Kilburn, having just received materials and the latest information from his brother, in London (Photographic Artist to the Queen), will be ready next week to TAKE LIKENESSES by the Daguerreotype Process’.

 

S. Milbourn Jnr (1863-1897) 'Adam Lindsay Gordon' 1890-1894

 

S. Milbourn Jnr (1863-1897)
Adam Lindsay Gordon
1890-1894
Albumen silver photograph on cabinet card
Support: 16.5 x 10.7 cm
Image: 13.1 x 10.6 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2008

 

 

Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870), poet and horseman, arrived in Adelaide in 1853 and joined the South Australian Mounted Police. After two years he resigned and found work as a horse-breaker and also began establishing himself as a steeplechase rider at country race meetings. On his mother’s death in 1859 he came into a £7,000 inheritance, much of which was later squandered in various imprudent investments. Meanwhile, he’d married, served a term in the South Australian parliament, and started writing. Gordon’s poems began appearing in newspapers in 1864 and in 1867 he published his first two volumes of verse. He then moved to Ballarat and joined the Light Horse but suffered a serious horse-riding accident in early 1868 which compounded other misfortunes: the failure of yet another business venture and the death of his infant daughter. He nevertheless built on his reputation for hunting and horsemanship; and continued to publish and garner praise for his poetry, a third volume of which, Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes, appeared in 1870. Very shortly after its publication, however, and having failed to secure another inheritance that would have assuaged some of his financial worries, Gordon committed suicide, shooting himself on the beach at Brighton. ‘The bold resolute man, the accomplished scholar in whose heart burned true poetic fire, and the warm-hearted friend’ was buried in the Brighton cemetery, his grave becoming a site of pilgrimage for his admirers for many years to come.

 

S. Milbourn Jnr (1863-1897)

S. Milbourn Junior is listed as operating as a photographer in Glenelg, South Australia, from 1890 to 1894, though there are scant details of his practice in existing texts on Australian photography. Over the course of the 1890s S. Milbourn Junior wrote various pieces of music, including ‘The Broken Hill Schottische’, ‘Eden-love’, ‘Friends no Longer’, ‘Love’s Guardian’, ‘Love’s Memories’ and the ‘Yacht Club Mazurka’. Milbourn’s music is advertised for sale on the reverse of these photographs, but the music advertised was written many years after the death of the writers depicted. Milbourn is unlikely to have taken the original photographs of Kendall and Gordon, but it is possible that he composed and fabricated the images on offer, using photographs taken many years before.

 

 

About the exhibition

The National Portrait Gallery is bringing the Victorian era back to life in a special exhibition exploring the colour and character of post-goldrush Australia.

Opening on Thursday 8 November, Carte-o-mania! celebrates the cute, quirky, intimate medium of the carte de visite – a diminutive style of studio photograph that took portraiture by storm in the 1860s.

Exhibition Curator Jo Gilmour says the National Portrait Gallery has never had an exhibition like this before. ‘When the Portrait Gallery first began, we had very few carte de visite photographs in the collection – but in recent years our collection of them has grown to over 100.

Each photograph is like a miniature world of its own with an incredible story embedded in it. The poses, the props and the fashions throw an intriguing light onto the world of the nineteenth-century studio, while the stories of the photographers and their subjects combine to create a rich and vivid archive of Australian society at a precise moment in time. Rich or poor, male or female, famous or infamous, powerful or anonymous: everyone was captured in these tiny photographs.

What I love about Carte-o-mania! is its wit and its fun factor. All of the portraits in the show will be displayed in showcases and albums, giving viewers the opportunity to get up close and immerse themselves in the photographs, which became part of a widespread collecting fad’.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery [Online] Cited 20/03/2019

 

Batchelder and O'Neill. 'Lady Anne Maria Barkly (age 25 in 1863)' 1863

 

Batchelder and O’Neill (active 1857-1863)
Lady Anne Maria Barkly (age 25 in 1863)
1863
Albumen silver carte de visite
Support: 10.7 x 6.2 cm
Image: 9.0 x 5.7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2014

 

 

British botanist, Anne Maria Barkly née Pratt (c. 1838-1932) collected and drew plant specimens while accompanying her husband, Sir Henry Barkly, on his governing duties abroad. Following Sir Henry’s time as Governor of Victoria from 1856 to 1863, Lady Barkly accompanied her husband and his daughter by his first wife, Emily, to South Africa to assume the position of Governor of Mauritius (1863-1870). It was here that Lady Barkly corresponded with Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew Gardens about the plants of the island. In 1870, she journeyed to South Africa to join her husband in his newly appointed position as the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. During their seven year stay on the Cape, Lady Barkly along with step daughter Emily Blanche Barkly made drawings of the plants that Sir Henry collected. Copies of their drawings of Stapeliae (odoriferous succulents in which her husband was very interested) were sent with Sir Henry’s descriptions of the living plants to Kew Gardens. Lady Barkly also collected plants herself, mainly pteridophyta. In 1875, she compiled and published A Revised List of the Ferns of South Africa. A set of her ferns was arranged at the Albany Museum in 1890. She is listed in the Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists, as is her step-daughter. In 1860, Nicholas Chevalier designed a fancy-dress costume for the new Lady Barkly, trimmed with sheepskin and gemstone nuggets, appliquéd with fern motifs and accessorised with a lyrebird-inspired fan. In this carte de visite, Lady Barkly is depicted in day dress with double-puff bishop sleeves, her small, elegant hat with frill detail perched on top of her head. The detailing of her fur-trimmed shawl is reflected in the mirror behind, while her hands rest gently on a lace shawl with leaf motif.

The preeminent Melbourne photographic firm Batchelder & O’Neill had its origins in the studio founded on Collins Street in 1854 by the Massachusetts-born photographer Perez Mann Batchelder (1818-1873), who had come to Victoria after several years in California. Batchelder’s brothers Benjamin (1826-1891), Nathaniel (1827-1860) and Freeman (life dates unknown) joined him in Melbourne in February 1856. The firm promised ‘Portraits taken on Glass and Silver Plates by the Collodion and Daguerreotype Process, in the highest perfection of the art’ and ‘in a style surpassed by none in the colonies’. The studio also offered tuition in photography and ‘supplied [the trade] with apparatus and materials of every description’. Perez Batchelder left Victoria in 1857 and another American, Daniel O’Neill, joined the business. By late 1864, Batchelder & O’Neill – with O’Neill as sole partner – had relocated to Swanston Street. O’Neill later moved to Sydney, where in April 1868 he advertised the availability of his carte de visite of the Duke of Edinburgh’s would-be assassin Henry O’Farrell a week before his execution. Meanwhile, Perez Batchelder had returned to Boston, where he died in 1873. By 1866 the old firm no longer existed, but other photographers traded under the names ‘Batchelder’s Portrait Rooms’ and ‘Batchelder & Co.’ from 1866 to 1895.

 

Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co. 'Martha M. Robertson (age 22 in 1866)' 1866

 

Johnstone O’Shannessy & Co (Henry James Johnstone and Emily Florence Kate O’Shaughnessy)
Martha M. Robertson (age 22 in 1866)
1866
Albumen photograph on carte de visite
Support: 10.5 x 6.2 cm
Image: 9.7 x 6.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Malcolm Robertson in memory of William Thomas Robertson 2018

 

 

Martha Mary Robertson (née Murphy, 1844-1909) married barrister William Robertson (1839-1892) in England in 1863. Like her husband, Martha was from a fabulously successful colonial family. Her father, John Robert Murphy (1806-1891), was your archetypical self-made man, a brewer by profession, who had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land and then – like William’s father – availed himself of the opportunities presented by expansion to the Port Phillip district in the 1830s. Murphy, according to his obituary, initially took up land at Warrnambool before moving to Melbourne, opening a brewery, and investing ‘in the purchase of city and suburban lands, all of which proved to be investments of the first class’. By 1850 Murphy was in position to take his children to England to be educated, and it was presumably through their Tasmanian/Victorian connections that Martha and William met there, William having graduated from Oxford in 1862. Their first child, a son, was born in England in 1864. Another four children, three girls and one boy, were born after they’d returned to Victoria. In 1874 the family moved to The Hill, near Colac, one of a number of properties William and his brothers inherited on their father’s death and which they managed in partnership until the early 1890s. William was a keen amateur photographer and his images include those of family life at The Hill, where he died in 1892. Martha outlived him by seventeen years, spending the latter part of her life in Armadale.

Henry James Johnstone was born in Birmingham in 1835 and studied at the Birmingham School of Design before joining his father’s photographic firm. He arrived in Victoria in 1853 and spent three years on the goldfields before returning to Melbourne and opening a studio in Bourke Street with Emily Florence Kate O’Shaughnessy in 1862. Initially trading as Johnstone & Co, it became Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co in 1864. They operated in premises next door to the GPO until 1886 and were awarded a medal at the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition. Johnstone meanwhile continued his art studies, taking lessons from Charles Summers and Louis Buvelot, and later under Thomas Clark at the National Gallery School. According to one historian, Johnstone toured Victoria with HRH Prince Alfred The Duke of Edinburgh during his visit in 1867-1868, by which stage Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co. was one of Melbourne’s most fashionable photographic studios. O’Shaughnessy – whose name appears always to have been misspelt – is believed to have left the business around 1870, although the studio continued to trade under the Johnstone O’Shannessy name. From 1872 Johnstone exhibited paintings with the Victorian Academy of Arts. He left Melbourne in the late 1870s and was reported to be living in California when four of his paintings were shown at the Victorian Academy of Arts exhibition in 1879. By 1881 he was in England, exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy until 1900. He died in 1907.

 

Davies & Co. 'Julia Matthews (age 20 in 1862)' c. 1862

 

Davies & Co
Julia Matthews (age 20 in 1862)
c. 1862
Albumen paper carte de visite
Support: 10.5 x 6.4 cm
Image: 9.0 x 5.7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

Legend has it that Julia Matthews (1842–1876) was one of the main reasons why Robert O’Hara Burke signed up for the ill-fated expedition he led to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860-1861. An actress and singer twenty-one years his junior, Matthews first encountered Burke in 1858 when she toured to Beechworth, where Burke was police inspector. He reportedly saw all of her performances there and was so enamoured that he asked her to marry him. She refused. Undeterred – and purportedly thinking that the glory he expected to achieve by the expedition would make him an irresistible prospect – he proposed again on evening of the expedition’s departure from Melbourne in August 1860. She declined to give him a definitive answer, but Burke had sufficient inducement to give her a miniature portrait of himself regardless, having two days earlier made her his sole beneficiary in the event of his death. Matthews is said to have urged a search party once rumours of the expedition’s failure began to circulate in Melbourne, and soon after news of her would-be suitor’s demise was confirmed she placed a notice in the newspapers offering a reward to anyone who recovered the portrait of Burke she claimed to have lost while walking in the Botanic Gardens. Whether this was a publicity stunt or arose out of genuine sadness at losing the memento is unclear. Following the end of a six-year marriage to a faithless drunkard husband, Matthews toured the UK and the United States to support her three children. She died in Missouri in May 1876.

English photographer William Davies had arrived in Melbourne by 1855. He is said to have worked with his friend Walter Woodbury and for the local outpost of the New York firm Meade Brothers before establishing his own business in 1858. By the middle of 1862, ‘Davies & Co’ had rooms at 91 and 94 Bourke Street, from where patrons could procure ‘CARTE de VISITE and ALBUM PORTRAITS, in superior style’. Like several of his contemporaries and competitors, Davies appears to have made the most of his location ‘opposite the Theatre Royal’, subjects of Davies & Co cartes de visite including leading actors such as Barry Sullivan and Gustavus Vaughan Brooke, and comedian Harry Rickards. Examples of the firm’s work – portraits and views – were included in the 1861 Victorian Exhibition and the London International Exhibition of 1862; and at the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition the firm exhibited ‘Portraits, Plain and Coloured, in Oils and Water Colours’ alongside a selection of views for which they received an honourable mention.

 

Arthur William Burman. 'Clara Crosbie' c. 1885

 

Arthur William Burman
Clara Crosbie
c. 1885
Albumen photograph on carte de visite
Support: 10.1 x 6.1 cm
Image: 8.9 x 5.6 cm
Courtesy of John McPhee

 

 

Clara Harriet Crosbie was twelve years old when she went missing in the bush near Yellingbo in the Yarra Valley in May 1885. ‘The child had been sent on a visit to a neighbour about a mile from her mother’s house’, reported the Argus, but ‘as a town-bred girl, of warm affections and quick impulses … she resolved to find her way home, although she did not know the way’. Faced with the perilous wilds, Clara took shelter in the hollow of a tree for three weeks, crawling to a nearby creek to drink and trying to cooee her way to safety. Her cries for help were eventually heard – by chance – by two men named Cowan and Smith while they were in the vicinity searching for horses. A low sound, ‘like a young blackbird’s whistle’, had caught the acute ear of the two experienced bushmen and they followed the ‘wailing note borne softly on the breeze’ to its source. With the return of each low and piercing cooee, the men at last caught sight of the little girl, frail and woebegone. ‘The little creature was tottering towards us, in her ulster, without shoes or stockings on, but quite sensible’, they recounted. Following her convalescence in the Melbourne Hospital, Clara’s father leased her to Maximilian Kreitmayer, the proprietor of the waxworks on Bourke Street. From August to November 1885, ‘The Latest Attraction, CLARA CROSBIE’, performed to hordes of intrigued onlookers, explaining ‘How To Live For Three Weeks in the Bush Without Food’. In December 1885 she proceeded to Sydney to repeat the spectacle.

Throughout the nineteenth century there were several accounts of young children from settlements around Melbourne wandering off into the bewildering bush, never to be found again. Several painters of the period, including Frederick McCubbin, William Strutt and S.T. Gill, were inspired by these dramatic, melancholic tales of lost children. The theme also resonated deeply with the populace and became something of a mainstay of nineteenth-century Australian culture. McCubbin’s depiction of a young girl enveloped by bush in Lost (1886) is said to have been inspired by Clara’s story of survival, which McCubbin may well have heard first-hand at Kreitmayer’s Waxworks. In Arthur William Burman’s portrait of Clara, the studio is set up to simulate forbidding bushland, with the lost little girl’s bewildered eyes peering towards the lens. Burman was one of four siblings who followed their father into the photography profession. The various Burmans, and the several studios they operated either individually or in partnership, often sought to cash in on persons of ephemeral celebrity. Among the numerous other subjects of Burman cartes are Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce, the survivors of the 1878 sinking of the Loch Ard, for example, and Dominick Sonsee, ‘the Smallest Man in the World’, who was exhibiting himself at the Eastern Arcade on Bourke Street in 1880.

 

Arthur William Burman (1851-1915)

Arthur William Burman was one of the nine children of photographer William Insull Burman (1814-1890), who came to Victoria in 1853. Burman senior worked as a painter and decorator before establishing his own photography business in Carlton around 1863. Arthur and his older brother, Frederick, worked in the family business which, by 1869, operated a number of studios around Melbourne. Arthur is listed as operating businesses under his own name from addresses in East Melbourne, Carlton, Windsor, Fitzroy and Richmond between 1878 and his death in 1890.

 

Archibald McDonald. 'Chang the Chinese Giant with his wife Kin Foo and manager Edward Parlett' c. 1871

 

Archibald McDonald (1831-1873)
Chang the Chinese Giant with his wife Kin Foo and manager Edward Parlett
c. 1871
Albumen photograph on carte de visite
Support: 10.2 x 6.2 cm
Image: 9.3 x 5.9 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

Chang Woo Gow (c. 1846-1893), aka ‘Chang the Chinese Giant’, is believed to have been born in either Fuzhou or Beijing and claimed to be from a line of scholarly, similarly proportioned forbears. He first exhibited himself in London in 1865 at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, which functioned as ‘a cluster of speculative showcases for the miscellaneous entertainers who worked the London circuit’. A woman described as his wife, Kin Foo, and a dwarf were part of the spectacle. Hordes of people were reported to have attended Chang’s levées, readily paying for the privilege of looking upon ‘this most splendid specimen of a man’, dressed in his traditional Chinese robes and diverting his audiences with samples of the several languages he spoke fluently. Having fulfilled further engagements in the UK and Paris, Chang travelled to the USA, appearing in New York, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco among other cities before making his way to Melbourne in January 1871. Chang’s inaugural Australian levée was conducted at St. George’s Hall, formerly known as Weston’s Opera House. Like the Egyptian Hall, it was a venue that hosted a diverse assortment of ‘attractions’, such as the mesmerist Madame Sibly, who was ‘manipulating heads’ for packed houses nightly in early March 1871. Chang and his party then proceeded throughout country Victoria. By May they were in Sydney, appearing at the School of Arts with the Australian Tom Thumb, and they subsequently appeared in Maitland, Singleton, Scone, Muswellbrook and Newcastle. In November 1871 Chang married Catherine ‘Kitty’ Santley, a native of Liverpool, England, whom he had met in Geelong. In December it was reported that Chang, his ‘sister’ Kin Foo, and his wife had sailed from Auckland for Shanghai. After a stint with Barnum and Bailey’s ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, Chang retired with his family to Bournemouth, where he opened a tearoom with a sideline in Chinese curios and fabrics.

Portraits had a role to play not just in the marketing but in the performances of those in the live exhibit profession, with accounts of Chang’s receptions indicating that the issuing of cartes de visite was part of the whole experience. In Chang’s case, and in keeping with the civility characterising his ‘levees’, the photographs may have been intended to function equally as a memento of having been in his ‘Celestial presence’ and as a miniature conversation piece or quirky, curious souvenir. Among the St George’s Hall tenants when Chang was appearing there in early 1871 was Archibald McDonald (1831-1873), a Canadian-born photographer who had first come to Australia in the late 1840s, working in Melbourne, Geelong, Tasmania and then Melbourne again, and establishing his gallery and studio in St. George’s Hall around 1864. McDonald was consequently among the various photographers to produce cartes of Chang and his entourage. It seems to have been standard to photograph him in either Chinese or English mode; and alongside those of average or dramatically different proportions so as to throw his own into greater relief. Both methods are in evidence in two photographs of Chang bearing McDonald’s studio stamp: one shows Chang and Kin Foo in traditional robes alongside his manager, Edward Partlett – seated atop a pedestal; and the second sees Chang in European clothes, seated, and flanked by four others including a Chinese boy. In April 1871 the Ballarat photographer William Bardwell created a number of cartes of Chang, one of which depicted him with Partlett tucked comfortably underneath his arm.

 

Batchelder and O'Neill. 'John Pascoe Fawkner (age 75 in 1867)' c. 1867

 

Batchelder and O’Neill (active 1857-1863)
John Pascoe Fawkner (age 75 in 1867)
c. 1867
Albumen silver carte de visite
Support: 10.5 x 6.3 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2008

 

 

John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869), sometimes called the ‘Founder of Melbourne’ was a pioneer and adventurer. The self-educated son of a convict, he spent his early years in Van Diemen’s Land, pursuing a variety of occupations from baker to builder to bush lawyer, often finding himself in trouble with the law largely because of debts but in 1814 for abetting an attempted escape by convicts. He launched the Launceston Advertiser in 1828 and edited it for the next two years, championing the emancipist class and attacking officialdom. In 1835 he organised an expedition to what is now Melbourne. Landing in Hobson’s Bay, Fawkner soon became a man of property and influence, acquired substantial lots of land, running a hotel and establishing the Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser. A member of the Legislative Council from its introduction in 1851 until his death, Fawkner railed in his Port Phillip Patriot against the privileged squattocracy and was known as ‘the tribune of the people’.

 

Batchelder & O’Neill (active 1857-1863)

The American brothers Perez Mann, Benjamin and Nathaniel Batchelder worked in Victoria and New South Wales in the 1850s and 1860s. Perez Batchelder had come to the colony from the Californian goldfields, which he had traversed making daguerreotypes. He and Benjamin Batchelder set up the Melbourne studio of PM Batchelder in 1852; the family also opened short-lived enterprises in Sydney in 1858 and Bendigo in 1866. Perez’s business, Batchelder and O’Neill, not only took photographs, but sold ‘photographic materials of every description’ which were illustrated in their free catalogues. The inaugural meeting of the Photographic Society of Victoria took place in Batchelder and O’Neill’s rooms in 1860.

 

Batchelder & Co. Photo. 'Richard Henry Horne (age 58 in 1860)' mid 1860s

 

Batchelder & Co. Photo
Richard Henry Horne (age 58 in 1860)
mid 1860s
Albumen paper carte de visite
Support: 10.5 x 6.3 cm
Image: 9.4 x 6.2 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by Graham Smith 2009

 

 

Poet Richard Henry Horne (1802-1884) arrived in Melbourne in 1852 hoping to make money on the goldfields but ended up instead in a variety of less remunerative prospects. Initially he was appointed to the command of a private gold escort; in 1853 he became assistant gold commissioner for Heathcote and Waranga but by the end of 1854 had been dismissed. In December that year, in the wake of the Eureka rebellion, he published an article defending miners’ grievances with the licensing system and alleging corruption on the part of some goldfields police, ‘especially in relation with sly-grog tents’. Though not exactly a model of propriety in his own life, Horne saw fit to decry colonial society and ‘social evils’ on a number of other occasions. In Australian Facts and Prospects (1859), for instance, he wrote that ‘with regard to drunkenness and prostitution [Melbourne] is far worse than Sydney, or any other city in the world’, citing the bar at the Theatre Royal as a case in point. ‘Between every act it is the custom of the audience to rush out to the bars for a nobbler of brandy, or other drinks. They all think they need it, whatever the weather may be’. Between 1855 and his return to England, disillusioned, in 1869, Horne stood for election to parliament (unsuccessfully); wrote plays, essays, articles and verse; was a member of the Garrick Club; and helped establish the Tahbilk Winery.

Batchelder & Co. was the last in a series of names applied to a photography business on Collins Street, Melbourne, that had been established in 1854. Its founder, Perez Mann Batchelder, came to Victoria having run a number of studios – including travelling ones – in California with his brother Benjamin. He and another two Batchelder brothers, Nathaniel and Freeman, came to Melbourne in 1856 to work in the business. Nathaniel Batchelder subsequently opened a branch in Sydney. The Melbourne business became Batchelder & O’Neill when Daniel O’Neill became a partner in 1857. By early 1865 John Botterill, Frederick Dunn and John Wilson had acquired the studio along with ‘all the negatives and other portraits, the accumulation of over 11 years of Batchelder and O’Neill’s business’. They traded as ‘Batchelder’s Portrait Rooms’ until 1867, after which it became known as Batchelder & Co. and continued until the mid-1890s.

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
King Edward Terrace
Parkes, Canberra

Opening hours:
Open daily 10 am – 5 pm

National Portrait Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,503 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

May 2019
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Categories