Archive for the 'quotation' Category

15
Nov
20

Exhibition: ‘Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 30th November 2020

Curator: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary' 1917

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary
1917
Gelatin silver print
1 1/2 in. × 2 in. (3.8 × 5.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

 

This tiny but iconic masterpiece of twentieth-century photography is the second earliest work in the exhibition, and a gem in the Tenenbaum and Lee collection. Made while André Kertész was convalescing from a gunshot wound received while serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, it prefigures by some fifteen years his renowned mirror distortions produced in Paris. Displaying both Cubist and Surrealist influences, the photograph reveals the artist’s commitment to the spontaneous yet analytic observation of fleeting commonplace occurrences – one of the essential and most idiosyncratic qualities of the medium.

 

 

It’s a mystery

There are some eclectic photographs in this posting, many of which have remained un/seen to me before.

I have never seen the above version of Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary (1917), with wall, decoration and water flowing into the pool at left. The usual image crops these features out, focusing on the distortion of the body in the water, and the lengthening of the figure diagonally across the picture frame. That both images are from the same negative can be affirmed if one looks at the patterning of the water. Even as the exhibition of Kertész’s work at Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours that I saw last year stated that their version was a contact original… this is not possible unless the image has been cropped.

Other images by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Outerbridge Jr., Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Pierre Dubreuil, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Dora Maar, Joseph Cornell, Nan Goldin, Laurie Simmons, Robert Gober, Rachel Whiteread, Zanele Muholi have eluded my consciousness until now.

What I can say after viewing them is this.

I am forever amazed at how deep the spirit, and the medium, of photography is… if you give the photograph a chance. A friend asked me the other day whether photographs had any meaning anymore, as people glance for a nano-second at images on Instagram, and pass on. We live in a world of instant gratification was my answer to him. But the choice is yours if you take / time with a photograph, if it possesses the POSSIBILITY of a meditation from its being. If it intrigues or excites, or stimulates, makes you reflect, cry – that is when the photographs pre/essence, its embedded spirit, can make us attest to the experience of its will, its language, its desire. In our presence.

The more I learn about photography, the less I find I know. The lake (archive) is deep – full of serendipity, full of memories, stagings, concepts and realities. Full of nuances and light, crevices and dark passages. To understand photography is a life-long study. To an inquiring mind, even then, you may only – scratch the surface to reveal – a sort of epiphany, a revelation, unknown to others. Every viewing is unique, every interpretation different, every context unknowable (possible).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

PS. When Minor White was asked, what about photography when he dies? When he is no longer there to influence it? And he simply says – photography will do what it wants to do. This is a magnificent statement, and it shows an egoless freedom on Minor White’s part. It is profound knowledge about photography, about its freedom to change.

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

 

 

This exhibition will celebrate the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last century, and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee’s magnificent promised gift of over sixty extraordinary photographs in honour of The Met’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will include masterpieces by the medium’s greatest practitioners, including works by Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy; Edward Weston, Walker Evans, and Joseph Cornell; Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman.

The collection is particularly notable for its breadth and depth of works by women artists, its sustained interest in the nude, and its focus on artists’ beginnings. Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of twenty-two.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1918
Platinum print
9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (24.1 × 19.1cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This photograph marks the beginning of the romantic relationship between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, which transformed each of their lives and the story of American art. The two met when Stieglitz included O’Keeffe, a then-unknown painter, in her first group show at his gallery 291 in May 1916. A year later, O’Keeffe had her first solo show at the gallery and exhibited her abstract charcoal No. 15 Special, seen in the background here. In the coming months and years, O’Keeffe collaborated with Stieglitz on some three hundred portrait studies. In its physical scope, primal sensuality, and psychological power, Stieglitz’s serial portrait of O’Keeffe has no equal in American art.

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958) 'Telephone' 1922

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958)
Telephone
1922
Platinum print
4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in. (11.4 × 8.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A well-paid advertising photographer working in New York in the 1930s, Paul Outerbridge Jr. was trained as a painter and set designer. Highly influenced by Cubism, he was a devoted advocate of the platinum-print process, which he used to create nearly abstract still lifes of commonplace subjects such as cracker boxes, wine glasses, and men’s collars. With their extended mid-tones and velvety blacks, platinum papers were relatively expensive and primarily used by fine-art photographers like Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. This modernist study of a Western Electric “candlestick” telephone attests to Outerbridge’s talent for transforming banal, utilitarian objects into small, but powerful sculptures with formal rigour and startling beauty.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1925, printed 1930s
Gelatin silver print
8 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (21.6 × 19cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Edward Weston moved from Los Angeles to Mexico City in 1923 with Tina Modotti, an Italian actress and nascent photographer. They were each influenced by, and in turn helped shape, the larger community of artists among whom they lived and worked, which included Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and many other members of the Mexican Renaissance. In fall 1925 Weston made a remarkable series of nudes of the art critic, journalist, and historian Anita Brenner. Depicting her body as a pear-like shape floating in a dark void, the photographs evoke the hermetic simplicity of a sculpture by Constantin Brancusi. Brenner’s form becomes elemental, female and male, embryonic, tightly furled but ready to blossom.

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1926

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1926
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 in. × 7 in. (22.5 × 17.8 cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Eugène Atget became the darling of the French Surrealists in the mid-1920s courtesy of Man Ray, his neighbour in Paris, who admired the older artist’s seemingly straight forward documentation of the city. Another American photographer, Walker Evans, also credited Atget with inspiring his earliest experiments with the camera. A talented writer, Evans penned a famous critique of his progenitor in 1930: “[Atget’s] general note is a lyrical understanding of the street, trained observation of it, special feeling for patina, eye for revealing detail, over all of which is thrown a poetry which is not ‘the poetry of the street’ or ‘the poetry of Paris,’ but the projection of Atget’s person.”

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Film negative
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944) 'The Woman Driver' 1928

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944)
The Woman Driver
1928
Bromoil print
9 7/16 × 7 5/8 in. (24 × 19.3cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Like many other European and American photographers, Pierre Dubreuil was indifferent to the industrialisation of photography that followed the invention and immediate global success of the Kodak camera in the late 1880s. A wealthy member of an international community of photographers loosely known as Pictorialists, he spurned most aspects of modernism. Instead, he advocated painterly effects such as those offered by the bromoil printing process seen here. What makes this photograph exceptional, however, is the modern subject and the work’s title, The Woman Driver. Dubreuil’s wife, Josephine Vanassche, grasps the steering wheel of their open-air car and stares straight ahead, ignoring the attention of her conservative husband and his intrusive camera.

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982) 'Windows' 1929

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982)
Windows
1929
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 × 10 1/4 in. (36.8 × 26cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A peripatetic French American painter and photographer, Florence Henri studied with László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in Germany in summer 1927. Impressed by her natural talent, he wrote a glowing commentary on the artist for a small Amsterdam journal: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase, the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today… Reflections and spatial relationships, superposition and intersections are just some of the areas explored from a totally new perspective and viewpoint.” Despite the high regard for her paintings and photographs in the 1920s, Henri remains largely under appreciated.

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998) '[Rue de Valois, Paris]' 1932

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
[Rue de Valois, Paris]
1932
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/4 in. (28.3 × 22.2cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Estate of Ilse Bing

 

 

Ilse Bing trained as an art historian in Germany and learned photography in 1928 to make illustrations for her dissertation on neoclassical architecture. In 1930 she moved to Paris, supporting herself as a freelance photographer for French and German newspapers and fashion magazines. Known in the early 1930s as the “Queen of the Leica” due to her mastery of the handheld 35 mm camera, Bing found the old cobblestone streets of Paris a rich subject to explore, often from eccentric perspectives as seen here. She moved to New York in 1941 after the German occupation of Paris and remained here until her death at age ninety-eight.

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983) 'Soho Bedroom' 1932

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983)
Soho Bedroom
1932
Gelatin silver print
8 7/16 × 7 5/16 in. (21.4 × 18.5cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Bill Brandt challenged the standard tenets of documentary practice by frequently staging scenes for the camera and recruiting family and friends as models. In this intimate study of a couple embracing, the male figure is believed to be either a friend or the artist’s younger brother; the female figure is an acquaintance, “Bird,” known for her beautiful hands. The photograph appears with a different title, Top Floor, along with sixty-three others in Brandt’s second book, A Night in London (1938). After the book’s publication, Brandt changed the work’s title to Soho Bedroom to reference London’s notorious Red Light district and add a hint of salaciousness to the kiss.

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) '[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]' 1932-34

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]
1932-34
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/8 in. (28.2 × 21.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

When Dora Maar first traveled to Barcelona in 1932 to record the effects of the global economic crisis, she was twenty-five and still finding her footing as a photographer. To sustain her practice, she opened a joint studio with the film designer Pierre Kéfer. Working out of his parents’ villa in a Parisian suburb, he and Maar produced mostly commercial photographs for fashion and advertising – projects that funded Maar’s travel to Spain. With an empathetic eye, she documents a mother and her child peering out of a makeshift shelter. Adapting an avant-garde strategy, she chose a lateral angle to monumentalise her subjects.

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Nude' 1934

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1934
Gelatin silver print
3 5/8 in. (9.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

The nude as a subject for the camera would occupy Edward Weston’s attention for four decades, and it is a defining characteristic of his achievement and legacy. This physically small but forceful, closely cropped photograph is a study of the writer Charis Wilson. Although presented headless and legless, Wilson tightly crosses her arms in a bold power pose. Weston was so stunned by Wilson when they first met that he ceased writing in his diary the day after he made this photograph: “April 22 [1934], a day to always remember. I knew now what was coming; eyes don’t lie and she wore no mask… I was lost and have been ever since.” Wilson and Weston immediately moved in together and married five years later.

 

 

The exhibition Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last hundred years through the magnificent promised gift to The Met of more than 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum and her husband, Thomas H. Lee, in honour of the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by a wide range of the medium’s greatest practitioners, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Ilse Bing, Joseph Cornell, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Helen Levitt, Dora Maar, László Moholy-Nagy, Jack Pierson, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Laurie Simmons, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Edward Weston, and Rachel Whiteread.

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel and the Alfred Stieglitz Society.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said, “Ann Tenenbaum brilliantly assembled an outstanding and very personal collection of 20th-century photographs, and this extraordinary gift will bring a hugely important group of works to The Met’s holdings and to the public’s eye. From works by celebrated masters to lesser-known artists, this collection encourages a deeper understanding of the formative years of photography, and significantly enhances our holdings of key works by women, broadening the stories we can tell in our galleries and allowing us to celebrate a whole range of crucial artists at The Met. We are extremely grateful to Ann and Tom for their generosity in making this promised gift to The Met, especially as we celebrate the Museum’s 150th anniversary. It will be an honour to share these remarkable works with our visitors.”

“Early on, Ann recognised the camera as one of the most creative and democratic instruments of contemporary human expression,” said Jeff Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs. “Her collecting journey through the last century of picture-making has been guided by her versatility and open-mindedness, and the result is a collection that is both personal and dynamic.”

The Tenenbaum Collection is particularly notable for its focus on artists’ beginnings, for a sustained interest in the nude, and for the breadth and depth of works by women artists. Paul Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of 22.

Ms. Tenenbaum commented, “Photographs are mirrors and windows not only onto the world but also into deeply personal experience. Tom and I are proud to support the Museum’s Department of Photographs and thrilled to be able to share our collection with the public.”

The exhibition will feature a diverse range of styles and photographic practices, combining small-scale and large-format works in both black and white and colour. The presentation will integrate early modernist photographs, including superb examples by avant-garde American and European artists, together with work from the postwar period, the 1960s, and the medium’s boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and extend up to the present moment.

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection is curated by The Met’s Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972) 'Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)' October 1941

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972)
Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)
October 1941
Construction with photomechanical reproduction, mirror, rhinestones or sequins, and tinted glass in artist’s frame
Dimensions: 5 1/8 × 4 3/16 in. (13 × 10.6 cm)
Frame: 9 3/4 × 8 3/4 × 1 7/8 in. (24.8 × 22.2 × 4.8 cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Joseph Cornell is celebrated for his meticulously constructed, magical shadow boxes that teem with celestial charts, ballet stars, parrots, mirrors, and marbles. Into these tiny theaters he decanted his dreams, obsessions, and unfulfilled desires. Here, his subject is the Russian prima ballerina Tamara Toumanova. Known for her virtuosity and beauty, the dancer captivated Cornell, who met her backstage at the Metropolitan Opera and thereafter saw her as his personal Snow Queen and muse.

 

Tamara Toumanova (Georgian 2 March 1919 – 29 May 1996) was a Georgian-American prima ballerina and actress. A child of exiles in Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917, she made her debut at the age of 10 at the children’s ballet of the Paris Opera.

She became known internationally as one of the Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo after being discovered by her fellow émigré, balletmaster and choreographer George Balanchine. She was featured in numerous ballets in Europe. Balanchine featured her in his productions at Ballet Theatre, New York, making her the star of his performances in the United States. While most of Toumanova’s career was dedicated to ballet, she appeared as a ballet dancer in several films, beginning in 1944. She became a naturalised United States citizen in 1943 in Los Angeles, California.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004) 'Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947' September 5, 1947

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947
September 5, 1947
Gelatin silver print
6 × 6 in. (15.2 × 15.2 cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Richard Avedon believed this early street portrait of a young boy in Sicily was the genesis of his long fashion and portrait career. On the occasion of The Met’s groundbreaking 2002 exhibition on the artist, curators Maria Morris Hambourg and Mia Fineman described the work as “a kind of projected self-portrait” in which “a boy stands there, pushing forward to the front of the picture. … He is smiling wildly, ready to race into the future. And there, hovering behind him like a mushroom cloud, is the past in the form of a single, strange tree – a reminder of the horror that split the century into a before and after, a symbol of destruction but also of regeneration.”

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934) 'Philadelphia' 1961

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Philadelphia
1961
Gelatin silver print
12 1/16 × 17 15/16 in. (30.7 × 45.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Philadelphia is the earliest dated photograph from a celebrated series of television sets beaming images into seemingly empty rooms that Lee Friedlander made between 1961 and 1970. The pictures provided a prophetic commentary on the new medium to which Americans had quickly become addicted. Walker Evans published a suite of Friedlander’s TV photographs in Harper’s Bazaar in 1963 and noted: “The pictures on these pages are in effect deft, witty, spanking little poems of hate… Taken out of context as they are here, that baby might be selling skin rash, the careful, good-looking woman might be categorically unselling marriage and the home and total daintiness. Here, then, from an expert-hand, is a pictorial account of what TV-screen light does to rooms and to the things in them.”

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937) 'Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico' 1962

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico
1962
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 × 4 11/16 in. (11.9 × 11.9cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Ed Ruscha

 

 

This intentionally mundane work by the Los Angeles–based painter and printmaker, Ed Ruscha, appears in Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), the first of sixteen landmark photographic books he published between 1963 and 1978. The volume established the artist’s reputation as a conceptual minimalist with a mastery of typography, an appreciation for seriality and documentary practice, and a deadpan sense of humour. Early on, he was influenced by the photographs of Walker Evans. “What I was after,” said Ruscha, “was no-style or a non-statement with a no-style.”

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back' 1973

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 20 × 16 in. (50.8 × 40.6 cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
© Nan Goldin

 

 

While still in college, Nan Goldin spent two years recording performers at the Other Side, a Boston drag bar that hosted beauty pageants on Monday nights. This black-and-white study of Ivy, Goldin’s friend from the bar, walking alone through the Boston Common is one of the artist’s earliest photographs. The portrait evokes the glamorous world of fashion photography and hints at its loneliness. In all of her photographs, Goldin explores the natural twinning of fantasy and reality; it is the source of their pathos and rhythmic emotional beat. A decade after this elegiac photograph, she conceived the first iteration of her 1985 breakthrough colour series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which was presented as an ever-changing visual diary using a slide projector and synchronised music.

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949) 'Woman/Interior' I 1976

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Woman/Interior I
1976
Gelatin silver print
5 3/4 × 7 1/2 in. (14.6 × 19.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Laurie Simmons
Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

 

Laurie Simmons began her career in 1976 with a series of enchantingly melancholic photographs of toy dolls set up in her apartment. The accessible mix of desire and anxiety in these early photographs resonates with, and provides a useful counterpoint to, Cindy Sherman’s contemporaneous “film stills” such as Untitled Film Still #48 seen nearby. Simmons and Sherman were foundational members of one of the most vibrant and productive communities of artists to emerge in the late twentieth century. Although they did not all see themselves as feminists or even as a unified group of “women artists,” each used the camera to examine the prescribed roles of women, especially in the workplace, and in advertising, politics, literature, and film.

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled Film Still #48' 1979

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #48
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 15/16 × 9 3/8 in. (17.6 × 23.8cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A lone woman on an empty highway peers around the corner of a rocky outcrop. She waits and waits below the dramatic sky. Is it fear or self-reliance that challenges the unnamed traveler? Does she dread the future, the past, or just the present? So thorough and sophisticated is Cindy Sherman’s capacity for filmic detail and nuance that many viewers (encouraged by the titles) mistakenly believe that the photographs in the series are reenactments of films. Rather, they are an unsettling yet deeply satisfying synthesis of film and narrative painting, a shrewdly composed remaking not of the “real” world but of the mediated landscape.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Coral Sea' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Coral Sea
1983
Platinum print
23 1/8 × 19 1/2 in. (58.8 × 49.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This study of a Midway-class aircraft carrier shows a massive warship not actually floating on the ocean’s surface but seemingly sunken beneath it. The rather minimal photograph is among the rarest and least representative works by Robert Mapplethorpe, who is known mostly for his uncompromising sexual portraits and saturated flower studies, as well as for his mastery of the photographic print tradition. Here, he chose platinum materials to explore the subtle beauty of the medium’s extended mid-grey tones. By rendering prints using the more tactile platinum process, Mapplethorpe hoped to transcend the medium; as he said it is “no longer a photograph first, [but] firstly a statement that happens to be a photograph.”

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled' 1988 (detail)

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954)
Untitled (detail)
1988
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 × 9 7/16 in. (16.5 × 24cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Robert Gober, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

 

 

Although Robert Gober is not often thought of as a photographer, his conceptual practice has long depended on a camera. From the time of his first solo show in 1984 Gober has documented temporal projects in hundreds of photographs, and today many of his site-specific installations survive as images. His photography resists classification, seeming to split the difference between archival record and independent artwork. Here, across three frames, flimsy white dresses advance and recede into a deserted wood. Gober sewed the garments from fabric printed by the painter Christopher Wool in the course of a related collaboration. Seen together, Gober’s staged photographs record an ephemeral intervention in an unwelcoming, almost fairy-tale landscape.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) 'Imperial Montreal' 1995

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Imperial Montreal
1995
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A self-taught expert on the history of photography and Zen Buddhism, Hiroshi Sugimoto posed a question to himself in 1976: what would be the effect on a single sheet of film if it was exposed to all 172,800 photographic frames in a feature-length movie? To visualise the answer, he hid a large-format camera in the last row of seats at St. Marks Cinema in Manhattan’s East Village and opened the shutter when the film started; an hour and a half later, when the movie ended, he closed it. The series (now forty years in the making) of ethereal photographs of darkened rooms filled with gleaming white screens presents a perfect example of yin and yang, the classic concept of opposites in ancient Chinese philosophy.

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955) 'Prada II' 1996

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Prada II
1996
Chromogenic print
65 in. × 10 ft. 4 13/16 in. (165.1 × 317cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Andreas Gursky / Courtesy Sprüth Magers / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

To produce this quasi-architectural study of a barren luxury store display, Andreas Gursky used newly available software both to artificially stretch the underlying chemical image and to digitally generate the billboard-size print. At ten feet wide, the work is a Frankensteinian glimpse of what would transform the medium of photography over the next two decades. Gursky seems to have fully understood the Pandora’s box he had opened by using digital tools to manipulate his pictures, which put into question their essential realism: “I have a weakness for paradox. For me… the photogenic allows a picture to develop a life of its own, on a two-dimensional surface, which doesn’t exactly reflect the real object.”

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963) 'Watertower Project' 1998

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963)
Watertower Project
1998
Screenprint with applied acrylic resin and graphite
20 in. × 15 15/16 in. (50.8 × 40.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Rachel Whiteread

 

 

How might one solidify water other than by freezing it? In New York in June 1998, a translucent 12 x 9-foot, 4½-ton sculpture created by Rachel Whiteread landed like a UFO atop a roof at the corner of West Broadway and Grand Street. The artist described the work – a resin cast of the interior of one of the city’s landmark wooden water tanks – as a “jewel in the Manhattan skyline.” This print is a poetic trace of the massive sculpture, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund. The original work of art holds and refracts light just like the acrylic resin applied to the surface of this print.

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962) 'Untitled' 2005

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled
2005
Chromogenic print
57 × 88 in. (144.8 × 223.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Gregory Crewdson describes his highly scripted photographs as single-frame movies; to produce them, he engages teams of riggers, grips, lighting specialists, and actors. The story lines in most of his photographs centre on suburban anxiety, disorientation, fear, loss, and longing, but the final meaning almost always remains elusive, the narrative unfinished. In this photograph something terrible has happened, is happening, and will likely happen again. A woman in a nightgown sits in crisis on the edge of her bed with the remains of a rosebush on the sheets beside her. The journey from the garden was not an easy one, as evidenced by the trail of petals, thorns, and dirt. Even so, the protagonist cradles the plant’s roots with tender regard.

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)' 2007

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)
2007
Chromogenic print
48 × 64 in. (121.9 × 162.6cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

High school football is not a conventional subject for contemporary artists in any medium. Neither are freeways nor surfers, each of which are series by the artist Catherine Opie. A professor of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Opie spent several years traveling across the United States making close-up portraits of adolescent gladiators as well as seductive, large-scale landscape views of the game itself. Poignant studies of group behaviour and American masculinity on the cusp of adulthood, the photographs can be seen as an extension of the artist’s diverse body of work related to gender performance in the queer communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Vukani II (Paris)' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vukani II (Paris)
2014
Gelatin silver print
23 1/2 in. × 13 in. (59.7 × 33cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The South African photographer Zanele Muholi is a self-described visual activist and cultural archivist. In the artist’s hands, the camera is a potent tool of self-representation and self-definition for communities at risk of violence. Muholi has chosen the nearly archaic black-and-white process for most of their portraits “to create a sense of timelessness – a sense that we’ve been here before, but we’re looking at human beings who have never before had an opportunity to be seen.” Challenging the immateriality of our digital age, Muholi has restated the importance of the physical print and connected their work to that of their progenitors. In this recent self-portrait, Muholi sits on a bed, sharing a quiet moment of reflection and self-observation. The title, in the artist’s native Zulu, translates loosely as “wake up.”

 

 

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25
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Ruff’ at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2020 – 7th February 2021

 

Thomas Ruff. 'press++01.38' 2015

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++01.38
2015
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Thomas Ruff is the true Renaissance man of contemporary photography. No greater compliment can be given.

His career in photography, as evidenced through the numerous bodies of work seen in this posting, has been an inquiry into the conceptualisation, status, presence, presentation, and representation of photographs in different contexts and media, through different technologies. A meditation on, and mediation into, the origins and purposes of photography and the interventions human beings enact to affect their outcomes.

His work “explores the most diverse genres and historical varieties of photography…”. For example, in the series press he combines front and back of an image, disrupting the reading of the image with contemporary hieroglyphs. In Zeitungsfotos he investigates the power of press photos and their deconstruction through the dot structure of the image. In Tableaux chinois he examines the use of photographs in political propaganda and looks at the artistic stylisation of the image. In one of my favourite series, jpeg, Ruff focuses on the pixellation and deconstruction of the image in compressed JPEG format photographs where, at a distance, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This reminds me of the technique I witnessed when visiting Monet’s huge canvases of waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris – how when you got up close to the canvases, there were huge daubs and mounds of paint accreted on the surface of the paintings which made no sense at close range. It was only when you stepped back that it all made sense.

In essence this is what grounds the work of Thomas Ruff: that he digs and unearths the hidden strands, the interweaving, that lies beneath the surface of photographies. He intervenes in the negative, the print, the newspaper photograph, the light, the camera and the physicality of the print. He turns these literally hidden connections into lateral images – side views of the familiar that touch the human and the machine from different points of view.

To think of all these ideas, concepts, and then to develop them and bring them together in holistic bodies of work that the viewer remembers – and there is the rub, for so much contemporary photography is unremarkable, mortal – lifts Ruff’s photographs beyond the realm of time and space. In their distortions, their sublime beauty, their critical thinking, they become i/mortal. They become the complexity that is us.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“To understand how a pictorial genre actually works, I have to produce a series; I want to uncover the secret behind image generation.”

.
Thomas Ruff

 

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student in the class of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography, which continues to determine his handling of the most diverse pictorial genres and historical possibilities of photography to this day.

Thomas Ruff’s contribution to contemporary photography thus consists in a special way in the development of a form of photography created without a camera: He uses images that have already been taken and that have already been distributed and optimised for specific purposes in other, largely non-artistic contexts. Ruff’s image sources for these series range from photographic experiments of the nineteenth century to photographs taken by space probes. He examined the archive processes of large image agencies and the pictorial politics of the People’s Republic of China. But also pornographic and catastrophic images from the Internet form starting points for his own series of works created over the past twenty years that have increasingly been developed on the computer.

They originate from newspapers, magazines, books, archives, and collections or were simply accessible to everyone on the Internet. In each series, Ruff explores the technical conditions of photography in the confrontation with these different pictorial worlds. At the same time, he focuses on the afterlife of images in publications, archives, databases, and on the Internet.

 

Short Biography Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff was born in Zell am Harmersbach in 1958 and studied with Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art from 1977 to 1985. From 2000 to 2005, he was himself Professor of Photography there. He first received international attention in 1987 with his series of larger-than-life portraits of friends and acquaintances who, as in passport photographs, gazed apathetically into the camera. In 1995, he represented Germany at the 46th Venice Biennale, together with Katharina Fritsch and Martin Honert. His works are collected internationally and are represented in numerous institutional collections.

Press release from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

 

Camera-less Photography

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography. His work, which explores the most diverse genres and historical varieties of photography, represents one of the most versatile and surprising positions within contemporary art. The comprehensive exhibition at K20 focuses on series of pictures from two decades in which the artist hardly ever used a camera himself. Instead, he appropriated existing photographic material from a wide variety of sources for his often large-format pictures.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Zeitungsfoto 014' 1990

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zeitungsfoto 014
1990
C-Print
16.8 x 42.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

The Power of Press Photos

Where do we use photos? What happens when photos are printed? How do aesthetics and statements change?

The artist explores these questions in various series, in which he draws on image material from other photographers, processes this, and thematises contexts. For his series Zeitungsfotos, the artist collected and processed newspaper photos to test the familiarity with the motifs and their reliability as carriers of information. In the series press++, he reveals the work traces of newspaper staff in conflict with the photos that were taken especially for use in the newspaper. In his new series, Tableaux chinois, he examines the use of photographs in political propaganda and reveals the artistic stylisation of the photos with reference to the feasibility and time-related aesthetics of the printed products.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Zeitungsfoto 060' 1990

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zeitungsfoto 060
1990
C-Print
17.3 x 13.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Zeitungsfotos

The works in the series Zeitungsfotos (Newspaper Photos) were created between 1990 and 1991 as colour prints framed with passe-partouts. They are based on a collection of images which the artist cut out of German-language daily and weekly newspapers between 1981 and 1991. The selected motifs from politics, business, sports, culture, science, technology, history, or contemporary events reflect in their entirety the collective pictorial world of a particular generation. The artist had the selected images reproduced without the explanatory captions and printed in double column width. In this way, he questions the informational value of the photographs and directs our attention to the rasterisation of newspaper print.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'press++21.11' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++21.11
2016
C-Print, Edition 02/04
260 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

press++

Black-and-white press photographs from the 1930s to the 1980s, which were taken primarily from American newspaper and magazine archives, are the source material for the press++ series. Thomas Ruff has been working on this series since 2015, scanning the front and back sides of the archive images and combining the two sides so that the partially edited photograph of the front side is fused with all the texts, remarks, and traces of use on the back side. When printed in large format, the often disrespectful handling of this type of photography becomes visible.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'press++ 60.10' 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++ 60.10
2017
C-Print
225 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Going Digital

How are pictures made today? How do photos printed on paper differ from photos viewed on the Internet? Where are photos stored?

The investigation into the various pictorial genres leads to the archives and image stores of the past and present. The Internet offers seemingly inexhaustible sources of images by providing fast access to digitised, originally analog image material from older times and digitally created photographic material. As a researching artist, Thomas Ruff also finds here material for his studies, image production, and reflection.

His large-format photos of the series nudes draw on motifs and forms of presentation of thumb nail galleries (compilations of small images as previews) with pornographic images as they can be found on the Internet. By making the coarse pixel structure of the Internet images of the turn of the millennium into a pictorial principle, he thematises the technical conditions of the photographic images in his works. With the series jpeg, he continued these investigations and connected his selection of media images with the question of a collective memory for images and contemporary history. In his latest series of Tableaux chinois, pixel structures create visual tension and irritation alongside the offset screens of the digitised printed products of Chinese propaganda of the Mao era – and suggest the question of the technical conditions of images at the time they were created.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'nudes pea10' 1999

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
nudes pea10
1999
C-Print, Edition 1/2AP
102 x 129cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

nudes

An Internet research into the genre of nudes drew Thomas Ruff’s attention to the field of pornography and the images that were freely available on the World Wide Web at the turn of the millennium. The motifs and the special formal features that characterised the state of the art at that time became the starting points for new works. The found pictures had a rough pixel structure, which had already aroused the artist’s interest before. Thomas Ruff processed the found pictures in such a way that their pixel structure was just barely visible in print. By using motion blur and soft focus, by varying the colours and removing details, he gave the “obscene” pictures a painterly appearance and directed the eye to the pictorial structure and composition. The artist selected his source images according to compositional aspects. The choice of motifs shows a broad spectrum of sexual fantasies and practices.

 

The Internet 20 years ago

Thomas Ruff began working on the series nudes in 1999. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the transmission rates of the World Wide Web were still relatively low. Although dial-up modems had been around since the 1970s, devices with a speed of 56 kBit/s did not come onto the market until 1998. Even dial-up via ISDN, which was available at much higher prices from 1989 onwards, only allowed 64 kBit/s. It was not until July 1999 that Deutsche Telekom switched on the first ADSL connections, enabling transmission rates of up to 768 kBit/s. Although two million households were already connected by the end of 2001, slow Internet remained the general rule, above all outside the metropolitan regions. Until well into the 2000s, website operators thus relied on the offering of highly compressed images.

As a result, photographic images found wide and rapid distribution, but always initially in a highly compressed, reduced form. Thomas Ruff was one of the first to deal artistically with the question of the status of photography in the age of the Internet, with the series nudes from 1999 onwards and the series jpeg from 2004 onwards.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'jpeg ny01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
jpeg ny01
2004
C-Print, Edition 1/1AP
256 x 188 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg msh01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
jpeg msh01
2004
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

jpeg

Images distributed worldwide through the Internet, as well as scanned postcards and illustrations from photobooks, are the visual starting point of the jpeg series, on which Thomas Ruff has been working since 2004. In it, he focuses attention on a feature that determines all images compressed in JPEG format and becomes visible at high magnification. By intensifying the pixel structure and simultaneously enlarging the overall image, he creates a new image that resembles a geometric colour pattern when viewed closely but becomes a photographic image when viewed from a greater distance. Here, Ruff uses ideas from the painting of late Impressionism and combines these with the digital possibilities of the twenty-first century. By using the entire range of images published globally and simultaneously discussed in recent decades, he allows the series to become almost a visual lexicon of media imagery and a reflection of its characteristics determined by the medium.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'jpeg'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: jpeg
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Propaganda Images

What are photos used for? Which reality do photos depict? How do photos affect reality?

In addition to the motifs and the formal as well as technical possibilities of photography, Thomas Ruff examines the possible uses of photos. With his adaptations of images from Chinese propaganda material, he makes the ideological appropriation and manipulative character of the images his theme.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'tableaux chinois'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tableaux chinois
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'tableau chinois_03' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tableau chinois_03
2019
C-Print, Edition 01/04
240 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'tableau chinois_01' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tableau chinois_01
2019
C-Print
240 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Tableaux chinois

For many years, Thomas Ruff has been preoccupied with the subject of propaganda imagery. For Tableaux chinois, the artist scanned images from books on Mao published in China, as well as from the magazine‚ La Chine, published and distributed worldwide by the Chinese Communist Party. He stored them in such a way that the offset raster screen was preserved. He then duplicated the images and converted the offset raster of the duplicates into a large pixel structure. As a result of a long editing process on the computer, a composition is created which brings together the characteristics of the various time-related media and exposes the propaganda image as manipulated.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'tableaux chinois'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tableaux chinois
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'r.phg.07_II' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
r.phg.07_II
2013
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

On Par with the Pioneers

What is a negative? How have photographic techniques changed in the course of history? Does a digital image look different from an analog photo?

The transition from analog to digital photography took place in the 1990s, at a time when Thomas Ruff was already successful on an international level. In addition to the characteristics of digitally processed and circulated photos, he examined the special features of the production and processing of analog photography. The exhibited photo series reveal Ruff’s engagement with nearly 170 years of photographic history and technology.

The series Negative pays tribute to the function and particular aesthetics of the negative, which recorded the image information in the light-sensitive coating of a transparent plate and had to be exposed again on prepared paper. The works in the series Tripe focus on the specific possibilities of working with the variant of paper negatives. Ruff reconstructs and explores the effect of pseudo-solarisation – as the great image magicians and experimenters of the 1920s and 1930s explored and used this – with analog and digital means in the series flower.s.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'r.phg.08_II' 2015

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
r.phg.08_II
2015
C-Print
185 x 281cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'photograms'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: photograms
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

 

Fotogramme

Fascinated by photograms of the 1920s, Thomas Ruff decided to explore the genre and develop a contemporary version of these camera-less photographs. Beyond the limitations of analog photograms, the artist has been developing his versions of photograms since 2012, using a virtual darkroom to simulate a direct exposure of objects on photosensitive paper.

With this, he was able to place objects (lenses, rods, spirals, paper strips, spheres, and other objects) generated with the help of a 3D program on or over a digital paper, correct their position, and in some cases expose them to coloured light. He could thus control the projection of the objects on the background in virtual space and print the image calculated by the computer in the size he wanted. In this way, he succeeded in capturing the concepts and aesthetics of the pioneers of “kameralosen Fotografie” in the 1910s and 1920s, generating images with light and transporting them into the twenty-first century using a technique appropriate to his own time.

Digital photograms with many different coloured light sources and transparent objects could not be produced with the equipment available to Thomas Ruff in 2014. The computing process required such high capacities that Ruff’s computers would have needed over a year for each image. In 2014, he was given the opportunity to have photograms calculated by a mainframe computer at the Supercomputing Centre of the Forschungszentrum Jülich. This required roughly eighteen terabytes of data for each image.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'neg◊lapresmidi_01' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
neg◊lapresmidi_01
2016
C-Print
23.4 x 31.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Negative

In 2014, Thomas Ruff began to work more intensively on the visual appearance of the source material of analog photography, the “negative”. In order to make its photographic reality and pictorial quality visible, he transformed historical photographs into “digital negatives” In the process, not only the light-dark distribution in the image changed; the brownish hue of the photographs printed on albumin paper also became a cool, artificial blue tone.

The aim of the processing was to highlight the photographic “negative”, which, in analog photography, was never the object of observation, but always a means to an end. In this series, it is treated as an “original” worth viewing, from which a photographic print is made, and which is in danger of disappearing completely due to digital photography.

The series covers the entire spectrum of historical black-and-white photography and is divided into different subgroups. On display are the series neg◊lapresmidi and neg◊marey.

 

L’Après-midi d’un faune

For more than ten years, Stephane Mallarmé worked on his poem‚ L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), which was published in 1876. This complex Symbolist poem tells of the encounter of a faun with a group of nymphs. In the end, the nymphs disappear. What remains is their shadow in the form of writing: the poem itself.

The work inspired the composer Claude Debussy to write his radical symphonic poem‚ Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune in 1894. Debussy did not want to illustrate the poem, but rather to evoke an enraptured mood that corresponds to the drowsiness of Mallarmé’s faun. At the same time, he referred structurally to the 110-line poem: Debussy’s‚ Prélude also has 110 bars.

1912 saw the premiere of‚ L’Après-midi d’un faune, the first scandalous choreography by the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. The dancers moved to Debussy’s music almost continuously in profile and along particular planes. The movements were consciously intended to be reminiscent of the linear concept of Greek vase painting.

For the series neg◊lapresmidi, Thomas Ruff used photographs taken by Adolphe de Meyer during a performance of the ballet in 1912. In a sense, three turning points of the avant-garde culminate in Adolphe de Meyer’s photographs: the Symbolist poetry of Mallarmé, on which the ballet was based, the music of Debussy, and the choreography of Nijinski. Ruff’s inversions of Adolphe de Meyer’s photographs enrapture and alienate this moment and at the same time allow it to shine with particular intensity.

 

Capturing time

The series neg◊marey focuses on photographs taken by the physician Étienne-Jules Marey in the 1870s. At the time, he tried to take pictures of moving people and animals in order to better understand their movements. Almost simultaneously, the British-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge was working on similar experiments. While Muybridge devised elaborate constructions with which he captured individual moments of movement with several cameras connected in series, Marey developed a process in which movements from a single camera with interrupted exposure could be brought onto a single plate. By placing reflective dots on the test subject or animal, the movements could be captured precisely and in the same proportion as the interrupted exposure. This approach was reminiscent of the graphic method previously invented by Marey, which allowed the first continuous recordings of the pulse and the assignment of individual sections of the pulse curve to the respective heart activities.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'neg◊marey_02' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
neg◊marey_02
2016
C-Print
22.4 x 31.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'flowers'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: flower.s
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

“Actually from time to time I try to take a photograph of a flower or several flowers but it just looks boring, it doesn’t work, so it seems that I cannot take photographs of flowers.”

~ Thomas Ruff

 

flower.s

Flower photograms by Lou Landauer (1897-1991), which Thomas Ruff had acquired, as well as the work on the photograms, gave him the idea of working with another photographic technique that has been used since the mid-nineteenth century: pseudo-solarisation (also called the Sabattier effect). This is a technique discovered by chance, in which the negative / positive is subjected to a diffuse second exposure during exposure in the darkroom, resulting in a partial reversal of light and shadow areas in the photographic image. For his series flower.s, which he has been working on since 2018, Ruff first photographs flowers or leaves with a digital camera, which he had arranged on a light table. During the subsequent processing on the computer, he applies the Sabattier effect.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'flower.s_10' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
flower.s_10
2019
C-Print
139 x 119cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'tripe_12 Seeringham. Munduppum inside gateway' 2018

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tripe_12 Seeringham. Munduppum inside gateway
2018
C-Print, Edition 02/06
123.5 x 159.5cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Tripe

Paper negatives, which Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) had produced on behalf of the British government in Burma and Madras between 1856 and 1862 and that are now in the archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, were the starting point for the series Tripe.

Thomas Ruff was able to view the existing negatives and selected several of these for his own work. All of them showed clear signs of ageing or damage. Ruff had the negatives digitally reproduced and then converted them into a positive, inverting the brownish hue of the negative into cyan blue.

He duplicated these positives and altered the coloration of the duplicate to the brown tone of the negative. He superimposed the two positive images as digital layers and removed parts of the layer of the brownish image, so that the coloration of the bluish image partially shines through. In a second step, he enlarged the images so that the texture of the paper, as well as all edits, damages, and changes become visible.

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'tripe'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tripe
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'tripe_15 Madura. The Blackburn Testimonial' 2018

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tripe_15 Madura. The Blackburn Testimonial
2018
C-Print
123.5 x 159.5 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. '3D_m.a.r.s 16' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
3D_m.a.r.s 16
2013
C-Print
255 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

A Different Dimension

How do scientists use photographs? Does the tradition of travel photography still exist? Who invents new pictorial landscapes?

Photographs are used in many different areas. In space research, satellite photos are a basis for scientific knowledge about places that were previously inaccessible to humans. In the processing by the artist Thomas Ruff, these photographs become images of never-seen worlds and studies of the imagination, feasibility, and credibility of images.

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'ma.r.s'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: ma.r.s
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

ma.r.s.

During his research on photographs from outer space, Thomas Ruff came across photographs of Mars. These were taken by a camera within a probe sent into outer space by NASA in August 2005 and has been sending detailed images of the surface of the planet Mars to Earth since March 2006. The images are intended to enable scientists to obtain more precise knowledge of the surface, atmosphere, and water distribution of Mars.

For his series, created between 2010 and 2014, the artist processed these very naturalistic yet strange images in several steps; among other things, he transformed the black-and-white transmitted images, which were photographed vertically top-down, into an oblique view and then coloured them so that the surface of the distant planet appears accessible and almost familiar. The works of the subgroup “3D-ma.r.s.” illustrated here are photographs of the surface of Mars which were produced using the so-called anaglyph process. When viewed with red-green glasses, a spatial, three-dimensional image is created in the brain.

The raw material for Thomas Ruff’s series ma.r.s. is derived from HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), a high-performance camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe that has been transmitting images from the surface of Mars to Earth since 2006.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Retusche 01-09' 1995

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Retusche 01-09
1995
C-Print
14.7 x 10cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Retouching and Colour

How do photos become colourful? Why did photographers in the nineteenth century retouch their photos?

Since the early days of photography, monochrome and multicolour retouching has been used or images have been coloured. Thomas Ruff explores one possibility in his series Retusche (Retouching) as a form of embellishment and an approach to an ideal. His machines are heightened and isolated by colouring the motifs with typical colours of industrial production. For the work groups m.n.o.p. and w.g.l., the artist partially coloured photos of exhibition situations in order to highlight forms of presentation in museums and design intentions in exhibition practice.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Retusche 03' 1995

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Retusche 03
1995
C-Print, handkoloriert mit pigmentfreier Retuschierfarbe, Edition 01/01
14.7 x 10cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Retusche (Retouching)

A colour photograph of Sophia Loren, which Thomas Ruff had seen at an exhibition in Venice in 1995, drew his attention to a practice of representation as old as photography itself: the colouring of photographs. Whereas in the photograph of Sophia Loren, a star was “embellished”, by the additional colour, Ruff decided in 1995 to apply this practice to ten portraits he had seen in the medical textbook‚ Das Gesicht des Herzkranken (The Face of the Cardiac Patient) by Jörgen Schmidt-Voigt from the 1950s. He applied “make up” to the faces with a brush and protein glaze paint, applying eye shadow, rouge, and lipstick.

 

Thomas Ruff. '0946' 2003

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
0946
2003
C-Print
150 x 195cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Maschinen (Machinery)

Around 2000, Thomas Ruff acquired roughly 2,000 photographs on glass negatives from the 1930s. These comprise the image archive of the former Rohde & Dörrenberg company from Düsseldorf-Oberkassel, which produced machines and machine parts. The photographs were originally taken for the production of the company catalog and reflect the company’s entire product range. To facilitate the manual cropping of the illustrated object at that time, the respective products were often photographed individually against a white background; the print was then retouched and further processed for final printing. Ruff emphasised this extremely elaborate preparation and image processing – the analog counterpart of digital processing by Photoshop – by colouring individual areas of the digitised images by means of deliberately set colours, similar to retouching, for the works in his series created between 2003 and 2005.

 

Catalog Illustrations

In the 1930s, the Rohde & Dörrenberg company from Düsseldorf Oberkassel published a catalog of its drills and milling machines. It also offered machines with which the customer could service the tools, such as sharpening apparatus, grinding machines, and the tip-tapering machine illustrated here. The images in the product catalog are hardly recognisable as photographs. The processing steps of cropping, retouching, and re-photographing resulted in an image that is more reminiscent of a technical drawing than a photograph of a machine in a workshop. Thomas Ruff’s series of pictures of machines thematise this elaborate path from photography to illustration in the product catalog and draws attention to the possibilities of staging and stylising objects in photography.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'm.n.o.p.01' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
m.n.o.p.01
2013
C-Print, Edition 01/06
47.3 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

m.n.o.p.
w.g.l.

Two series by Thomas Ruff are based on black-and-white photographs from famous museum presentations of the 1940s and 1950s in New York and London. Thomas Ruff partially coloured the installation photographs digitally with a colour scheme reminiscent of the 1950s and enlarged them. While the artworks were left untouched – out of respect for the artists and their works – he coloured the carpets, the walls covered with fabric, and the ceilings. Through this treatment, he underscored the exhibition aesthetic of the 1940s to the 1960s and, with the resulting abstract coloured surface compositions, emphasised the design work of the exhibition organisers.

All of this emphasises the contrast to today’s widespread notion of the exhibition space as a “white cube”. m.n.o.p. (2013) presents processed installation views of the presentation of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York (now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) with works by Wassily Kandinsky, Rudolf Bauer, and other artists from the collection, which took place in the first museum building on 24 East 54th Street in 1948. The motifs from w.g.l. (2017) were taken from the exhibition‚ Jackson Pollock 1912-1956, one of the most important exhibitions in terms of the mediation of contemporary art, which was presented at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1958.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

 

With the exhibition Thomas Ruff, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen presents a comprehensive overview of one of the most important representatives of the Düsseldorf School of Photography. The exhibition ranges from series from the 1990s, which document Ruff’s unique conceptual approach to photography, to a new series that is now being shown for the first time at K20: For Tableaux chinois, Ruff drew on Chinese propaganda photographs. Parallel to Thomas Ruff’s exhibition, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is also presenting highlights from the collection at K20 under the title Technology Transformation. Photography and Video in the Kunstsammlung, which also deals with artistic photography and technical imaging processes in art.

“With his manipulations of photographs from many different sources, Thomas Ruff comments in an incredibly clever way on how we see images in a digitalised world. Through his virtuoso handling of digital image processing, he confronts us with a critical examination of the image material he uses and its historical, political, and epistemological significance. Some of his most important series are represented in our collection, and we are very proud to dedicate a large-scale exhibition at K20 to this prominent representative of the Düsseldorf School of Photography,” states Susanne Gaensheimer, Director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student in the class of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography which is evident in all the workgroups within his multifaceted oeuvre and determines his approach to the most diverse pictorial genres and historical possibilities of photography. In order not to tie his investigations in the field of photography to the individual image found by chance, but rather to examine these in terms of image types and genres, Thomas Ruff works in series: “A photograph,” Ruff explains, “is not only a photograph, but an assertion. In order to verify the correctness of this assertion, one photo is not enough; I have to verify it on several photos.” The exhibition at K20 focuses on series of pictures from two decades in which the artist hardly ever used a camera himself. Instead, he appropriated existing photographic material from a wide variety of sources for his often large-format pictures.

Thomas Ruff’s contribution to contemporary photography thus consists in a special way in the development of a form of photography created without a camera. He uses images that have already been taken and that have already been disseminated in other, largely non-artistic contexts and optimised for specific purposes. The modus operandi and the origin of the material first became the subject of Ruff’s own work in the series of newspaper photographs, which were produced as early as 1990. The exhibition focuses precisely on this central aspect of his work. The pictorial sources that Ruff has tapped for these series range from photographic experiments of the nineteenth century to photo taken by space probes. He has questioned the archive processes of large picture agencies and the pictorial politics of the People’s Republic of China. Documentations of museum exhibitions, as well as pornographic and catastrophic images from the Internet, are starting points for his own series of works, as are the product photographs of a Düsseldorf-based machine factory from the 1930s. They originate from newspapers, magazines, books, archives, and collections or were simply available to everyone on the Internet. In each series, Ruff explores the technical conditions of photography in the confrontation with these different pictorial worlds: the negative, digital image compression, and even rasterisation in offset printing. At the same time, he also takes a look at the afterlife of images in publications, archives, databases, and on the Internet.

For Tableaux chinois, the latest series, which is being shown for the first time at K20, Ruff drew on Chinese propaganda photographs: products of the Mao era driven to perfection, which he digitally processed. In his artistic treatment of this historical material, the analog and digital spheres overlap; and in this visible overlap, Ruff combines the image of today’s highly digitalised China with the Chinese understanding of the state in the 1960s and its manipulative pictorial politics.

From the ma.r.s. series created between 2010 and 2014, there are eight works on view that have never been shown before, for which Ruff used images of a NASA Mars probe. Viewed through 3D glasses, the rugged surface of the red planet folds into the space in front of and behind the surface of the large-format images. Moving through the exhibition space and comprehending how the illusion is broken and tilted, one is introduced to Ruff’s concern to understand photography as a construction of reality that first and foremost represents a surface – a surface that is, however, set in a historical framework of technology, processing, optimisation, transmission, and distribution.

His hitherto oldest image sources are the paper negatives of Captain Linnaeus Tripe. When Tripe began taking photographs in South India and Burma, today’s Myanmar, for the British East India Company in 1854, he provided the first images of a world that was, for the British public, both far away and unknown. Since then, the world has become a world that has always been photographed. It is this already photographed world that interests the artist Thomas Ruff and for which he has also been called a ‘historian of the photographic’ (Herta Wolf). The exhibition therefore not only provides an overview of Ruff’s work over the past decades, but also highlights nearly 170 years of photographic history. In each series, Ruff formulates highly complex perspectives on the photographic medium and the world that has always been photographed.

Further series in the exhibition are the two groups of works referring to press photography, Zeitungsfotos (1990/91) and press++ (since 2015), the series nudes (since 1999) and jpeg (since 2004), which refer to the distribution of photographs on the Internet, as well as Fotogramme (since 2012), Negatives (since 2014), Flower.s (since 2019), Maschinen (2003/04), m.n.o.p. (2013), and w.g.l. (2017) – and, with Retouching (1995), a rarely shown series of unique pieces.

Text from the press kit from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

 

Thomas Ruff. 'm.n.o.p.08' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
m.n.o.p.08
2013
C-Print
47.3 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'w.g.l.01' 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
w.g.l.01
2017
C-Print
42.6 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
K20, Grabbeplatz 5
40213 Düsseldorf

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday, Sunday, public holiday 11am – 6pm
The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is closed on December 24, 25 and 31

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen website

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04
Oct
20

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

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 1st November 2020

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Acting

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

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

 

Acting Out

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interpretation

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

 

Alternatives

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

The Strand Magazine

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Benjamin J. Falk

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

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

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

 

Specialty

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Napoleon Sarony

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

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

 

 

Fanny Lily Gipsey Davenport

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

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

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. '[Two girls]' 1864

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A.M. Nikodem

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Unknown photographer. '[Painter]' 1890s

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Louise and Caroline Bergman

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

'Cabinets' c. 1880s

 

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

 

 

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

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

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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27
Sep
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘L’equilibriste, André Kertész’ at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours Part 2

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

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing

 

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nageur sous l’eau, Esztergom
Underwater swimmer, Esztergom
1918
Contact original

 

 

“”… especially haptic qualities are demanded of the deconstructionist performer, spectator, and reader; not to follow optically the ‘line of ideas’ in the text or in a picture and see only the representation proper, the surface, but to probe with the eyes the pictorial texture and even to enter the texture.”69 Such “touching” with the eye did not lead to a secure tactile experience of being firmly planted on the ground, for all grounds, all foundations, were suspect, however construed. We are, as Nietzsche knew, swimming in an endless sea, rather than standing on dry land. To “touch” a trace, groping blindly in the dark, is no more the guarantee of certainty than to see its residues.”

.
Gandelman, Claude. ‘Reading Pictures, Viewing Texts’. Bloomington, Indiana, 1991, p. 140 quoted in Martin Jay. ‘Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought’. Berkley: University of California Press, 1993, p. 512.

 

 

Touching with the eye

Part 2 of a large posting on the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours, which I saw in Tours in September 2019.

This posting contains photographs from his famous series “Distortions” (fascinating to see the original plates for the book of the same name, complete with cropping marks and red lead pencil annotations); American works from 1936 onwards, when Kertész moved to the United States to avoid the persecution of the Jews and the threat of World War II; and the late work colour Polaroids.

I admit that Kertész is not my favourite photographer. While I admire some of his photographs, I feel emotionally distant from most of them. Edward Clay observes in the quotation below that Kertész was “one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century… [His photographs] often convey a quiet mood of melancholy … He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal.”

Personally, I don’t find his photographs emotional nor lyrical, only a few poetic. Not melancholic, but geometric. In later works, he simplifies, simplifies, simplifies much like his friend Mondrian did. For me, the balance between sacred / geometry, the sacred geometry of the mystery of things, is often unbalanced in these images (particularly relevant, given the title of this exhibition). Is it enough just to turn the mundane into the surreal? Where does that lead the viewer? Is it enough to just observe, represent, without digging deeper.

At his best, in images such as Underwater swimmer, Esztergom (1918, above), Arm and Fan, New York (1937, below) and Washington Square, New York (1954, below) there is a structured, avant-garde mystery about the reality of the world, as re/presented through the object of the photograph, it’s physical presence. In Underwater swimmer, the body is stretched and distorted by an element, water, not a man-made mirror. His photographs from Hungary, Italy and early Paris possess a sensitivity of spirit that seems to have been excised from his life, the older he got. Far too often in later images, there is a “brittleness” to his photography, in which the object of reflection sits at the surface of the image, all sparkling in unflinching light. The single cloud oh so lonely in the sterile city; the man looking at the broken bench; the “buy, buy, buy” of consumer culture. You consumer Kertész’s later images, you do not reflect on them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. View Part 1 of the posting.

 

 

“André Kertész, one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century, whose work advocated for spontaneity over technical precision, has left a distinctive legacy of poetic images which form a bridge between the avant-garde and geometrical precision. A roamer for much of his life, his feelings of rootlessness manifest in his work and often convey a quiet mood of melancholy. …

Claiming “I am an amateur and I intend to stay that way for the rest of my life”, Kertesz was a great source of inspiration to photographic legends such as Cartier-Bresson.

He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal. Nothing was too plain or ordinary for his eye, since he had a special ability to breathe life into even the most ‘unremarkable’ subjects.”

.
Edward Clay. “André Kertész: between poetry and geometry,” on ‘The Independent Photographer’ website, May 19th 2020 [Online] Cited 26/08/2020

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #34' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #34 
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #40' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #40
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

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

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

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

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

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing photographs from the series Distortions, the bottom image showing at left, the photograph Underwater swimmer, Esztergom 1918
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Planches originales de la maquette du livre ‘Distortions’ (installation view)
Original plates of the model of the book ‘Distortions’ 
1975-76
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

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

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #60' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #60 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #109' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #109 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #6' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #6 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #159' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #159 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #128' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #128 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #80' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #80 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris' 1927 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Portrait déformé (Visage de femme), Paris (installation view)
Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris
1927
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

One of the twentieth century’s great photographers, André Kertész (Budapest, 1894 – New York, 1985) left a prolific body of work spanning more than seventy years (1912-1984), a blend of the poetic and the intimate with its wellspring in his Hungarian culture. The Art of Poise: André Kertész traces this singular career, showcasing compositions that bear the stamp of Europe’s avant-garde art movements, from the artist’s earliest Hungarian photographs to the blossoming of his talent in France, and from his New York years to ultimate international recognition.

Kertész arrived in Paris in October 1925. Moving in avant-garde literary and artistic circles, he photographed his Hungarian friends, artists’ studios, street life and the city’s parks and gardens. In 1933 he embarked on his famous Distortions series of nudes deformed by funhouse mirrors, producing anamorphic images similar in spirit to the work of Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp and Henry Moore.

In addition to this profusion of activity, he explored the possibility of disseminating his work in publications. Between 1933 and the end of his life he had designed and published a total of nineteen books.

In 1936 Kertész and his wife Elizabeth left for New York, where he began with a brief assignment for Keystone, the world’s biggest photographic agency. He struggled, though, to carve out a place for himself in a context whose demands were very different from those of his Paris years.

Inspired by the rediscovery of his Hungarian and French negatives, from 1963 onwards he devoted himself solely to personal projects, and was offered retrospectives by the French National Library in Paris and MoMA in New York. This fresh recognition sparked a flurry of books in which he harked back to the high points of his oeuvre. In his last years, armed with a Polaroid, he returned to his earlier practice of everyday photography.

Text from the Jeu de Paume website for the earlier exhibition The Art of Poise: André Kertész

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Tulipe mélancolique, New York
Melancholic Tulip, New York
1939
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris (installation view)
1984
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris
1984
Gelatin silver print

 

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

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

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at top left, Ballet, New York 1938; and at bottom left, Lake Placid 1954
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Lake Placid' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lake Placid (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York
1939
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view) 'Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view)
Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view) 'Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view)
Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '"Buy", Long Island' 1963

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
“Buy”, Long Island
1963
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '6th Avenue, New York' 1973

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
6th Avenue, New York
1973
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Nuage égaré' 'Lost cloud' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nuage égaré
Lost cloud
1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész. 'Lost Cloud' New York, 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nuage égaré
Lost cloud
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Poughkeepsie, New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Poughkeepsie, New York (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Poughkeepsie, New York' 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Poughkeepsie, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '"Buy", New York' 1966 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
“Buy”, New York (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Double page de la maquette originale du livre ‘Of New York…’ (installation view)
Double page of the original model of the book ‘Of New York…’
1975-76
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at second left, New York 1939; and at third left, New York 1936
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1936 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1936

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at second right, Arm and Fan, New York 1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Bras et ventilateur, New York' 'Arm and Fan, New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Bras et ventilateur, New York (installation view)
Arm and Fan, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Arm and Fan, New York' 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Bras et ventilateur, New York
Arm and Fan, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1947 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1947
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Le retour au port, New York' 'Return to port, New York' 1944 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Le retour au port, New York (installation view)
Return to port, New York
1944
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at left, Disappearance, New York 1955
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Disparition, New York' 'Disappearance, New York' 1955 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Disparition, New York (installation view)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Disparition, New York' 'Disappearance, New York' 1955 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Disparition, New York (installation view)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Disappearance, New York' 1955

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1969 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1969
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at left in the bottom image, Broken Bench, New York 1962
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

1985) 'Broken Bench, New York' 1962

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Le Banc cassé, New York
Broken Bench, New York

1962
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

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

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Jour pluvieux, Tokyo' 'Rainy day, Tokyo' 1968 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jour pluvieux, Tokyo (installation view)
Rainy day, Tokyo
1968
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'McDougall Alley, New York' 1965 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
McDougall Alley, New York (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Winter Garden, New York' 1970 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jardin d’hiver, New York (installation view)
Winter Garden, New York
1970
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Martinique' 1972

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Martinique
1972
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

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

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'In the cellar, Williamsburg' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Dans la cave, Williamsburg (installation view)
In the cellar, Williamsburg
1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Nara, Japan' 1968

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nara, Japan
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

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

 

Harold Riley. 'André Kertész' Manchester, The Manchester Collection, 1984  (installation view)

 

Harold Riley
André Kertész (installation view)
Manchester, The Manchester Collection, 1984
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

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

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

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

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing his late Polaroid work
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '12 December 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
12 December 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled (installation view)
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'June 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
June 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '21 June 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
21 June 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled (installation view)
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '13 August 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
13 August 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'July 3, 1979
'

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
July 3, 1979

1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '13 August 1983'

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
13 August
1983
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019

 

 

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

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

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours website

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20
Sep
20

Photographs: ‘Lusannah and Francis Wadsworth Hubbard, Wadsworth Hall, Hiram, Maine; and Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.’

September 2020

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print
Image: 22.5 x 17cm

 

 

These special images are a bit of a mystery. I purchased them as a lot from an op shop (charity shop) here in Melbourne, Australia.

How such quintessential, historic American photographs come to be in Australia is beyond me.

With their links to the American Revolution, Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth of the Revolution, Wadsworth Hall, Wadsworth-Longfellow house, General Peleg Wadsworth Jr., and the daughters and granddaughters of the Republic, they could turn out to be very important images.

After research I can find no birth and death dates for George Wadsworth Davis, and no information on the photographers “Lawson” or “Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H.”

I believe the photograph Spinning Days to be earlier than the text on the back of the photograph which is dated Dec. 26th 1927, mainly because Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth died in 1829, and taking 30 years per generation, the photograph of the granddaughter would place the image c. 1890-1900 (her dates are 1830-1908). The type of frame and the silver, patterned paper on the rear of the frame would support this supposition. I also believe that the beautiful photograph Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H. dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century due to the nature of its original frame. This looks to be a platinum palladium print as well.

The poem by the son George Wadsworth Davis about his mother Francis Wadsworth Davis is just delightful: his feelings for his ageing mother captured in a picture of her – tender, romantic, loving.

If anyone has more information on these images, please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au. Thank you!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print
Image: 22.5 x 17cm

 

 

The subject of this picture was Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine – the granddaughter of Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth of the Revolution – and daughter of General Peleg Wadsworth of the ? Militia.

Mrs Hubbard posed for this picture – in the hall of the Wadsworth Home – to please our artist-friend who was with the family for the summer.

The braided rug on the floor was made by her mother many years before the picture was painted.

The spinning wheel is one hundred and twenty five years old, and always in the Wadsworth family.

Presented by her mother – Mrs Francis(?) W. Davis – W her daughter – Mrs. D. Davis Skinner

Dec. 26th 1927

.
Text from the verso of the framed photograph

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (verso detail)

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine) (verso detail)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (detail)

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (detail)

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine) (details)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (verso)

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine) (verso)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print

 

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (verso detail)

Lawson (American) 'Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine)' 1927 (verso detail)

 

Lawson (American)
Spinning Days (Mrs. Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard of Hiram, Maine) (verso details)
Nd, presented 1927
Tipped in silver gelatin print

 

 

LUSANNAH W. HUBBARD (Osgood) (American, b. March 28, 1830 – died April 14, 1908)

Many will learn with deep regret the death at Hiram, Me., of Mrs Lusannah Wadsworth Hubbard on Wednesday, April 15, at the old Wadsworth homestead where she has made it her home since 1867. She was 78 years of age or nearly so. Many who have partake of her hospitality at Wadsworth hall will remember her with much pleasure. She had all the graces of her gently blood and was one who had the esteem and respect of all who knew her. She was a woman among women.

Mrs. Hubbard was the daughter of Gen. Peleg Jr., [1793-1875] and Lusannah (Wadsworth) Wadsworth [1797-1879] [Mrs. Hubbard died 1908 – ? of Francis Wadsworth – Rounds(?) mother of Francis Wadsworth Davis, mother of Dora Davis Skinner(?)] and their home was that in which she died. Her father and mother were cousins. The mother was the daughter of ?ura and Lydia (Bradford) Wadsworth of Hiram. Her father was the youngest of the 11 children of Peleg Wadsworth, who built the Wadsworth-Longfellow house and where he was born in 1792. He also had 11 children. Mrs Hubbard’s grandfather, Gen. Peleg Wadsworth [1748-1829], was one of the most prominent men in the State in his time. He was a major general in the Revolution, member of Congress 14 years and the founder of the town of Hiram, with all that implies. He built the house at Hiram in 1800 and moved there six years later. Many with recall the enjoyable centennial celebration at Wadsworth hall in 1900, when Mrs. Hubbard was the hostess, assisted by her sister, Mrs. Louisa Rounds of Minneapolis. The father was a major general in the militia and a very prominent citizen in his time. Mrs. Hubbard was a descendant of eleven Mayflower Pilgrims and a cousin of Henry W. Longfellow [1807-1882]. Lieut. Henry Wadsworth, who as on the Constitution and perished at Tripoli in 1804, and Commodore Alexander Scammel Wadsworth [1790-1851], who was a mid-shipman at Tripoli, with his brother and a lieutenant with Hull, when he fought the Guerriere in 1812 with the Constitution, were he uncles. She was a Wadsworth of the Wadsworths.

Mrs. Hubbard married in 1849 J. E. Osgood and in 1853 John P. Hubbard. She survived Mr. Hubbard. They had children and with her during the later years has been her daughter, Mrs. J. B. Pike, and her children. She was buried with her kindred at Hiram on Friday afternoon.

Mrs. Hubbard was proud of her ancestry and she had sufficient reasons for it. She was much interested in the preservation of the birthplace of her father, built by her grandfather in 1783 and 1786, now the precious possession of Portland, the Wadsworth-Longfellow house. She was a generous contributor of family relics to the collection and visited the house every season. Her gratitude to the people of Portland for what they have done for the old house seemed without limit and she often referred to the world of the ladies. The Elizabeth Wadsworth chapter, D. A. R., was named for her grandmother. The epitaph of this grandmother could well be hers:

“A woman of eminent piety.
Blessed are the dead
Who died in the Lord.”

N.G.

.
Text from the verso of the framed photograph, no attribution or source.

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American) 'Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine' Nd

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American)
Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine
Nd
Toned silver gelatin print(?)
Image: 36 x 25.7cm

 

Francis Wadsworth Davis (1852-1940), Photo taken by her son George Wadsworth Davis in Hiram, Maine.

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American) 'Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine' Nd (detail)

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American)
Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine (detail)
Nd
Toned silver gelatin print(?)
Image: 36 x 25.7cm

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American) 'Francis Wadsworth Davis [1852-1940], Hiram, Maine' Nd (verso)

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American)
Francis Wadsworth Davis [1852-1940], Hiram, Maine (verso)
Nd
Toned silver gelatin print(?)
Image: 36 x 25.7cm

 

 

Tho her hair is streaked with silver
and she has stouter grown

I fair would fancy her thoughts
have backward turned
in the flight of time

To tho days of forty years ago,
when her dark-haired southern love
came up the winding road.

And today her son comes up the shaded pathway
And sees his mother here at the bar, standing
With the wistful eyes, the tender smile
of girlhood days.

As the sun sends its level rays around the
fragrant earth to light her silvered hair
with the golden sheen of youth again

It is this view of mother
Taken as I saw it that afternoon
that I have tried to picture here.

GHD

.
Text from the verso of the framed photograph

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American) 'Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine' Nd (verso detail)

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American)
Francis Wadsworth Davis [1852-1940], Hiram, Maine (verso detail)
Nd
Toned silver gelatin print(?)
Image: 36 x 25.7cm

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American) 'Francis Wadsworth Davis, Hiram, Maine' Nd (verso detail)

 

George Wadsworth Davis (American)
Francis Wadsworth Davis [1852-1940], Hiram, Maine (verso detail)
Nd
Toned silver gelatin print(?)
Image: 36 x 25.7cm

 

 

Francis Wadsworth Rounds Davis (American, 1852-1940)

Born Peoria, Peoria, Illinois, United States June 24, 1852
Died Bridgton, Cumberland, Maine, United States November 23, 1940 aged 88)

George Wadsworth Davis (b. 1870?)

 

Frances Wadsworth Rounds Davis, Wadsworth Cemetery Hiram, Oxford County, Maine, USA

Wadsworth Cemetery Hiram, Oxford County, Maine, USA

 

Frances Wadsworth Rounds Davis and the Wadsworth memorial
Wadsworth Cemetery
Hiram, Oxford County, Maine, USA

 

From Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H. 'Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.' Nd

 

From Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H.
Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.
Nd
Platinum palladium print(?)
Image: 27.5 x 36cm

 

Photograph in it’s original 1890-1920 frame.

 

 

From Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H.
Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.
Nd
Platinum palladium print(?)
Image: 27.5 x 36cm

 

From Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H. 'Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.' Nd (verso)

 

From Huntings Studio, North Conway N.H.
Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H. (verso)
Nd
Platinum palladium print(?)
Image: 27.5 x 36cm

 

From Hunting's Studio, North Conway N.H. 'Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H.' Nd (verso detail)

 

From Hunting’s Studio, North Conway N.H.
Moat Mt and Saco River, North Conway N.H. (verso detail)
Nd
Platinum palladium print(?)
Image: 27.5 x 36cm

 

 

Label

From Hunting’s Studio
North Conway N.H.
Moat Mt and Saco River
North Conway N.H.

I cannot find any information about this photographic studio online.

 

W. Woods. 'North Moat Mountain, looking southwest from Intervale. Cathedral Ledge cliff is in right middle ground' 2006

 

W. Woods
North Moat Mountain, looking southwest from Intervale. Cathedral Ledge cliff is in right middle ground
2006
CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

North Moat Mountain

North Moat Mountain is a mountain located in Carroll County, New Hampshire. North Moat is flanked to the south by Middle Moat Mountain, and to the west by Big Attitash Mountain.

North Moat Mountain stands within the watershed of the upper Saco River, which drains into the Gulf of Maine at Saco, Maine. The northwest side of North Moat Mtn. drains into Lucy Brook, thence into the Saco River. The east side of North Moat drains into Moat Brook, thence into the Saco. The southwest side of North Moat drains into Deer Brook, thence into the Swift River, a tributary of the Saco.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ken Gallager. 'The Saco River in Conway, New Hampshire' 2006

 

Ken Gallager
The Saco River in Conway, New Hampshire
2006
Public domain

 

 

Saco River

The Saco River is a river in northeastern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine in the United States. It drains a rural area of 1,703 square miles (4,410 km2) of forests and farmlands west and southwest of Portland, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco Bay, 136 miles (219 km) from its source. It supplies drinking water to roughly 250,000 people in thirty-five towns; and historically provided transportation and water power encouraging development of the cities of Biddeford and Saco and the towns of Fryeburg and Hiram. The name “Saco” comes from the Eastern Abenaki word [sɑkohki], meaning “land where the river comes out”. The Jesuit Relations, ethnographic documents from the 17th century, refer to the river as Chouacoet.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

North Moat Mountain map

 

North Moat Mountain map showing Portland and Boston

 

 

Map of Hiram, Maine showing North Moat Mountain and Saco River

 

Wadsworth Hall, Hiram, Maine

 

Wadsworth Hall, Hiram, Maine
CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

Wadsworth Hall

Wadsworth Hall, also known as the Peleg Wadsworth House, is a historic house at the end of Douglas Road in Hiram, Maine, United States. A massive structure for a rural setting, it was built for General Peleg Wadsworth between 1800 and 1807 on a large tract of land granted to him for his service in the American Revolutionary War. Wadsworth was the leading citizen of Hiram, and important town meetings took place at the house. He was also the grandfather of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who visited the estate as a youth. The house remains in the hands of Wadsworth descendants. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The main block of the house is a rectangular 2-1/2 story wood frame structure set on a massive granite foundation, with a gabled roof. Its main facade is seven bays wide, notably larger than the five more typically found in rural settings. The main entrance is centred on this face, sheltered by a 19th-century portico. A pair of small windows are above the doorway, with larger paired windows on either side on the second level. The left side of the house has three windows on each of three levels, and a doorway leading to the cellar. The right side has two windows on each of three levels. A two-story ell extends to the rear of the house, with a later two-story addition extending it further. There are a number of farm-related outbuildings, including 19th-century barns, behind the house.

The interior of the house is rustic and relatively simple. Its main feature on the first floor is a large chamber with a high ceiling, which was used by General Wadsworth for public meetings. The house is finished in plain pine boards, with modest Federal styling.

General Wadsworth’s primary residence, now known as the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and a National Historic Landmark, is located on Congress Street in Portland, and was built in 1785-86. Wadsworth was granted 7,800 acres (3,200 ha) by the state in 1790 for his war service; this property extended from the Ossipee River to the Saco River in what is now the town of Hiram. The house was built between 1800 and 1807 by Stephen Jewett, a carpenter, and Theophilus Smith, a mason, both of whom were from nearby Cornish. After its completion, Wadsworth gave his Portland home to his daughter Zilpah and her husband Stephen Longfellow, parents of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow is known to have frequently summered at his grandfather’s estate as a child.

Wadsworth, in his role as a leading citizen in Hiram, opened his house for meetings and town functions, and even used the large hall for militia drills during bad weather. The house and surviving property retain a rural setting, accessed via a narrow dirt road.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

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08
Sep
20

Exhibition: ‘Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today’ at George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY

Exhibition dates: 26th July 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Albumen silver print, printed c. 1855
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

From December 1850 to September 1852, John Shaw Smith travelled throughout the Mediterranean with a camera. He used the paper negative process that William Henry Fox Talbot patented in 1841. Shaw Smith masked out uneven tonality or aberrations in the sky with India ink, a common practice at the time, and he introduced clouds into his prints through combination printing. Rather than a cloud negative made from life, however, his second paper negative consisted of clouds hand-drawn with charcoal.

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Completing a triumvirate of postings about aeroplanes, air, and sky … we finish with a posting on a small but perfectly formed exhibition, Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today at George Eastman Museum.

The technical competence of the early photographers, and the sheer beauty of their images, is mesmerising. To overcome the technical deficiencies of early photographic processes – where the dynamic tonal range between shadows and highlights was difficult to capture on one negative – the artists used painted clouds, hand-drawn clouds, and combination prints with cloud negatives made from life. You name it, they could do it to fill a sky!

My particular favourites in this elevated selection, these songs of the earth and sky, are three. Firstly, that most divine of daguerreotypes, a woman by Southworth & Hawes c. 1850 (below). “The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.” Secondly, and always a desire of mine, are the seascapes of Gustave Le Gray. There is something so spatial, so serene about his images. One day I know I will own one. And finally, the surprise that is that most beautiful of images, Marsh at Dawn 1906 (below). You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out it was by that doyen of modernist photography, Imogen Cunningham, a member of the California-based Group f/64, known for its dedication to the sharp-focus rendition of simple subjects. How an artist evolves over the life time of their career.

I have added text to some of the images from the George Eastman Museum virtual tour, and also added further biographical notes on the artists below some of the photographs. I do hope you enjoy the magic of these accumulated – a cumulus related images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Gathering Clouds traces the complex history of photography’s relationship with clouds from the medium’s invention to Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents. The exhibition demonstrates that clouds played a seminal role in the development and subsequent reception of photography in the nineteenth century. At the same time, with Equivalents serving as a connection between past and present, the exhibition features contemporary works that forge new aesthetic paths while responding in various ways to the history of cloud photography.

 

Clouds and the Limitations of Photography

In the nineteenth century, clouds were technically difficult to photograph. As early as the 1830s, the medium’s inventors observe that photographic plates were more sensitive to violet and blue wavelengths of light and less sensitive to warm greens, yellows, oranges and reds. In order to record grass and trees in a landscape, photographers had to expose the plate to light longer, which left the sky overexposed; if they times their exposure to record the sky properly, the grass and trees were underexposed. Furthermore, clouds disappeared from even properly exposed skies because blue and white registered the same tonal value  on the plate. Pink and orange skies created enough contrast for photographers to capture clouds, but the yellow hue of the late-day sun made it a challenge to record the browns and greens of the landscape. Cloudless skies are therefore a common feature of nineteenth-century photographs.

 

 

 

Clouds & Combination Printing

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Around 1850, Southworth & Hawes began adding hand-painted clouds to select portraits of women. This was undoubtedly an aesthetic decision, but the association of women with clouds also corresponds with mid-nineteenth-century views of white women and their role in American society. At the time, piety was seen as a virtue bestowed on women by God – a strength upon which men were to draw. The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman (detail)
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt received praise from his peers for his technical skill and artistic sentiment. The clouds in Baillieu d’Avrincourt’s photographs of the Château de Chambord demonstrate his commitment to both. Perhaps dissatisfied with the relationship of clouds to the tower, he used combination printing to alter the placement of the cloud formation between the two prints.

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“We have the sky always before us, therefore we do not recognise how beautiful it is. It is very rare to see anybody go into raptures over the wonders of the sky, yet of all that goes on in the whole world there is nothing to approach it for variety, beauty, grandeur, and serenity.”

.
H. P. Robinson, ‘The Elements of a Pictorial Photograph’, 1896

 

 

At the end of the nineteenth century, Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901) emphasised the significance of the sky in landscape photography. “The artistic possibilities of clouds,” he further noted, “are infinite.” Robinson’s plea to photographers to attend to the clouds was not new. From photography’s beginnings, clouds had been central to aesthetic and technological debates in photographic circles. Moreover, they featured in discussions about the nature of the medium itself. Gathering Clouds demonstrates that clouds played a key role in the development and reception of photography from the medium’s invention (1839) to World War I (1914-18). Through the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century and contemporary works, the exhibition further considers the longstanding metaphorical relationship between clouds and photography. Conceptions of both are dependent on oppositions, such as transience versus fixity, reflection versus projection, and nature versus culture.

Gathering Clouds includes cloud photographs made by prominent figures such as Anne Brigman (American, 1869-1950), Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, 1882-1966), Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856-1936), Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884), Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830-1904), Henry Peach RobinsonSouthworth & Hawes (American, active 1843-1863), and Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916). Selections from the group of photographs that Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) titled Equivalents (1923-34) serve as a link between past and present. The featured contemporary artists are Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), John Chiara (American, b. 1971), Sharon Harper (American, b. 1966), Nick Marshall (American, b. 1984), Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American, b. 1990), Sean McFarland (American, b. 1976), Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba, 1948), Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961), Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974), Bruno V. Roels (Belgian, b. 1976), Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch, b. 1978), James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori & Australian, b. 1986), Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), Will Wilson (American, Navajo, b. 1969), Byron Wolfe (American, b. 1967), Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), and Daisuke Yokota (Japanese, b. 1983).

Text from the George Eastman House website

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Mediterranean with Mount Agde' 1857

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Mediterranean with Mount Agde
1857
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company, ex-collection Gabriel Cromer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

The seascapes that Gustave Le Gray made between 1856 and 1858 were both praised and panned by his contemporaries. Some faulted the clouds for being too luminous in relation to the sea. One critic maintained that in Le Gray’s photographs, the clouds and the landscape – made on two separate negatives and combined during printing – were untrue to the laws of nature.

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878) 'The Colosseum' c. 1865

 

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878)
The Colosseum
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Gioacchino Altobelli used combination printing to achieve a “moonlight effect,” made by photographing the sun (not the moon) behind clouds. Altobelli likely made such photographs with foreign travellers in mind. Inspired by Romantic poets like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Lord Byron, tourists to Rome often visited the Colosseum by moonlight.

 

At the end of 1865 the two painter-photographers divided and Gioacchino Altobelli moved to a studio at Passeggiata di Ripetta n.16 that had been used by the photographer Michele Petagna. A new company was formed “Photographic Establishment Altobelli & Co.” which leads us to assume that Atobelli was working in conjunction with other photographers probably including Enrico Verzaschi.

In the beginning of 1866 Altobelli asked for a declaration of ownership (a brevet) to the Department of Commerce in Rome for his invention of the application of color to photographic images (a union of photography with chrome-lithography). The manager of the Pontifical Chrome-Lithography strongly opposed his application as they are already using such an invention from his own Company. Few months later Altobelli asked for another brevet that is granted him this time, “to perform in photograph the views of the monuments with effect of sky”. His method, similar if not identical to that of Gustave Le Gray, consisted in taking a first photograph of a monument where the exposure was adjusted to highlight the architectural characteristics sought. Subsequently Altobelli took at another time one or more additional photographs exposed to capture strong sky and cloud contrasts. In the dark room Altobelli captured on photographic paper the double exposure of the two perfectly aligned plates – this resulted in a well illuminated monument contrasted with a strong sky that gave the feeling of “claire de lune”. In November 1866 Altobelli obtained the brevet for 6 years. It is probable that he didn’t know that in Venice the photographers Carlo Ponti and Carlo Naya were already using the “claire de lune” technique – moreover they tinted them with aniline giving their prints a beautiful blue tone as if the water of the lagoon was illuminated at night by the moon. However the brevet allowed the painter-photographer Gioacchino Altobelli to have great notoriety in Rome and this helped him to increase his work as a portraitist.

Text from the Luminous-Lint website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Within one copy of Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign (1866), George N. Barnard sometimes used the same cloud negative to print in cloudscapes to two different scenes, such as in the example shown here. Moreover, between two copies of the album, he is also known to have used different cloud negatives to reproduce the same scene. In reviews of the album, the cloudscapes received particular attention. One reviewer claimed that the pictures’ clouds conveyed “a fine idea of the effects of light and shade in the sunny clime in which the scenes are laid.” In part because of Barnard’s practice of re-using cloud negatives, however, it is impossible to know whether Barnard even photographed the clouds while in the South.

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866 (detail)

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1 (detail)
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

One of the first persons to open a daguerreotype studio in the United States, George Barnard set up shop in Oswego, New York. In 1854 he moved his operation to Syracuse, New York, and began using the collodion process, a negative / positive process that allowed for multiple prints, unlike the unique daguerreotype.

Along with Timothy O’Sullivan, John Reekie, and Alexander Gardner, Barnard worked for the Mathew Brady studio and is best known for his photo-documentation of the American Civil War. In 1864 he was made the official photographer for the United States Army, Chief Engineer’s Office, Division of the Mississippi. He followed Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous march to the sea and in 1866 published an album of sixty-one photographs, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign. After the war he continued primarily as a portrait photographer in Ohio, Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, and Rochester, New York, where he briefly worked with George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

In 1867, Carleton E. Watkins travelled to Oregon for two purposes; to photograph the state’s geological features, and to document the sites and scenes along the Oregon Steam Navigation Company’s steamboat and portage railway route. This photograph was circulated with and without clouds, suggesting a third function for his Oregon views. The introduction of clouds into the prints staked a claim for the photograph’s artistic potential, in addition to its original scientific and commercial goals.

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) 'Clouds' 1868-1872

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Clouds
1868-1872
From the series Great Geyser Springs
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'Mount Fuji' c. 1870

 

Unidentified maker
Mount Fuji
c. 1870
Albumen silver print with applied colour
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Hand-painted Japanese photographs made for Western tourists often played to their prospective consumers’ assumptions and desires. Near the port city of Yokohama, Mount Fuji was readily accessible to foreign travellers, and photographs of the mountain were common. Guidebooks primed visitors to delight in the clouds surrounding the mountain, an expectation to which this photograph – with its hand-painted clouds – caters.

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'Evening on Culverden Down' c. 1870

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
Evening on Culverden Down
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

An influential practitioner of combination printing, H.P. Robinson argued that printing in clouds was essential to the photographer’s endeavour to interpret nature. A “properly selected cloud,” he wrote, allowed the photographer to control the composition, thereby rescuing the “art form from the machine.”

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895) 'Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon' 'Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon' 1874

 

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895)
Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon
Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon

1874
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

Charles Victor Tillot’s instantaneous views were criticised for being to dark. In addition to practicing photography, Tillot was a painter and exhibited with the Impressionists, whose central concerns were the effects of light and the truthfulness to nature. As a photographer, Tillot was attentive to the play of light both on the clouds – the most fleeting aspect of the scene – and in unaltered photographs.

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'Jahaz Mahal' between 1879 and 1881

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
Jahaz Mahal
between 1879 and 1881
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester Library
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल) 1844 – 1905; (also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years) famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Photograph of the Jahaz Mahal at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, taken by [Indian photographer] Lala Deen Dayal in the 1870s. The Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace is part of the Royal Enclave in northern Mandu and dates from the late 15th century. It is a long, narrow, two-storey arcaded range crowned with roof-top pavilions and kiosks, built between two artificial lakes, the Munj Talao and Kapur Sagar. It was so named because from a distance in this setting it resembled a ship. Conceived as a pleasure palace, it housed the harem of Ghiyath Shah Khalji, a Sultan of Malwa who ruled between 1469 and 1500. This is a perspective view of the façade taken from one end, showing a flight of steps ascending to the roof terrace at left and rubble in the foreground. The palace is one of several at Mandu, a historic ruined hill fortress which first came to prominence under the Paramara dynasty at the end of the 10th century. It was state capital of the Sultans of Malwa between 1401 and 1531, who renamed the fort ‘Shadiabad’ (City of Joy) and built palaces, mosques and tombs amid the gardens, lakes and woodland within its walls. Most of the remaining buildings date from this period and were originally decorated with glazed tiles and inlaid coloured stone. They constitute an important provincial style of Islamic architecture characterised by an elegant and powerful simplicity that is believed to have influenced later Mughal architecture at Agra and Delhi.

Text from the British Library website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'The Roman Forum' c. 1885

 

Unidentified maker
The Roman Forum
c. 1885
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of George C. Pratt

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) 'Mt. Hood from Lost Lake' c. 1890

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Harvard University
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Writing in 1883, the poet Joaquin Miller declared that the constantly moving cloud effects around Mount Hood added “most of all to the beauty and sublimity of the mount scenery.” Perhaps Miller’s description of the clouds elucidates William Henry Jackson’s decision to print clouds from drawn – as opposed to photographed – negatives. Jackson might have lacked cloud negatives that communicated motion and vigour and felt compelled to draw them himself.

 

William Henry Jackson (April 4, 1843 – June 30, 1942) was an American painter, Civil War veteran, geological survey photographer and an explorer famous for his images of the American West. He was a great-great nephew of Samuel Wilson, the progenitor of America’s national symbol Uncle Sam. …

The American photographer along with painter Thomas Moran are credited with inspiring the first national park at Yellowstone, thanks to the images they carried back to legislators in Washington, D.C. America’s great, open spaces lured these artists, who delivered proof of the natural jewels that sparkled on the other side of the country.

From 1890 to 1892 Jackson produced photographs for several railroad lines (including the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) and the New York Central) using 18 x 22-inch glass plate negatives. The B&O used his photographs in their exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate V' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate V
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Published in 1896, the International Cloud-Atlas standardised the definitions and descriptions of cloud formations and outlined instructions for cloud observations so that scientists could communicate dependable data across borders. The atlas was illustrated with chromolithographs made after photographs. Photography thus played a central role in overcoming the difficulty of applying language to ever-changing cloud formations. To cloud scientists, photograph was valued not for its perceived objectivity but for its ability to capture minute details in a sea of infinite and transient forms. Photographs helped ensure that cloudspotters everywhere could use a standard vocabulary to describe their observations.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate III' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate III
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate IV' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate IV
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908) 'Day's Awakening' 1896

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908)
Day’s Awakening
1896
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of the 3M Foundation, ex-collection Louis Walton Sipley. Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“In the photographic rendering of clouds, not as atmospheric phenomena, but as vehicles of beautiful thought, we have to-day something of an indication of how much superior the photograph may be wen made and controlled by an artist mind.” ~ A. Horsely Hinton, 1897

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (1863 – 25 February 1908) was an English landscape photographer, best known for his work in the Pictorialist movement in the 1890s and early 1900s. As an original member of the Linked Ring and editor of The Amateur Photographer, he was one of the movement’s staunchest advocates. Hinton wrote nearly a dozen books on photographic technique, and his photographs were exhibited at expositions throughout Europe and North America. …

Hinton’s landscape photographs tend to be characterised by prominent foregrounds and dramatic cloud formations, often in a vertical format. He typically used sepia platinotype and gum bichromate printing processes. Unlike many Pictorialists, Hinton preferred sharp focus to soft focus lenses. He occasionally cropped and mixed cloud scenes and foregrounds from different photographs, and was known to rearrange the foregrounds of his subjects to make them more pleasing. His favourite topic was the English countryside, especially the Essex mud flats and Yorkshire moors.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“Before printing a cloud negative into any view the worked should always ask himself whether those particular clouds are properly appropriate to the scene, or whether they lend expression to the scene.” ~ Osborne I. Yellott, 1901

Yellott distinguished between two branches of cloud photograph: clouds for their own sake and clouds for printing in. The first he identified as a “delightful hobby,” the pursuit of which would lead to a collection of “pleasing or unusual” cloud formations to be viewed as lantern-slide projections or as cyanotypes in an album. The second, practiced by Yellott himself, required more discrimination: the photographer must carefully select their clouds and camera position.

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898 (detail)

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening (detail)
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916) 'Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)' 1899

 

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916)
Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)
1899
Platinum palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“… if fortune favours you, you may find a background of such beautiful clouds as only the light clear air of the south-west can produce. All day long these fleecy rolls of cotton-like vapour have tempted you, until you are in danger of using up all your… plates the first day out. You think there never can be such clouds again – but keep a few for tomorrow, they are a regular thing in this land of surprises.”

.
Vroman, 1901

 

 

Vroman never used combination printing to add cloud effects to his celebrated photographs of the SW landscape. Rather, the Pasadena bookstore owner capture both cloudscapes and landscapes on an orthochromatic plate and made prints from this single negative. By the mid-1880s, orthochromatic plates were available and made the photography of clouds and landscape easier.

 

Adam Clark Vroman (1856-1916), a native of LaSalle, Illinois, moved to Pasadena, California, in 1892. He was an amateur field photographer who worked primarily with glass plate photography and was the founder of Vroman’s Bookstore located in Pasadena. His impressive body of photographic work from the late 1890s and early 1900s documents his multiple expeditions to the pueblos and mesas of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, several of these trips alongside Dr Frederick Webb Hodge with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Vroman’s close friendship with the natives, notably the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo, allowed him to capture intimate images of their daily lives and customs as well as the lands that they inhabited. These photographs provide a stark contrast from common depictions of the time period that portrayed American Indian peoples as either exotic subjects or as savages.

His work during this period also reflects his extreme fondness of the glowing, superior quality of light found in the Southwest region. During these expeditions he worked primarily with a 6 ½” x 8 ½” view camera as well as with 4″ x 5″ and 5″ x 7″ cameras. Between 1895 and 1905, Vroman documented the interiors and exteriors of the Spanish missions in California prior to the restoration of the buildings. He photographed areas in California such as Pasadena, Yosemite National Park, as well as the eastern region of the United States, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Vroman was also an avid art collector with an interest in the crafts of Native Americans and treasures from Japan and the Far East. He spent the last years of his life traveling to the East Coast and Canada, as well as to Japan and to countries in Europe. He died in Altadena, California, in 1916 of intestinal cancer.

Text from the Online Archive of California website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

 

Gertrude Käsebier’s addition of clouds, which are absent from the original negative, gives this photograph a meditative quality that parallels the subject’s contemplative state. As a leading Pictorialist, Käsebier viewed photographs as an art form and drew inspiration from the work of famous painters. Perhaps, then, she was aware of painter Joghn Constable’s belief that the sky as the “chief organ of sentiment” in a picture.

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903 (detail)

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter) (detail)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Marsh at Dawn' 1906

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Marsh at Dawn
1906
Platinum print, printed 1910
George Eastman Museum, purchase
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust. All Right Reserved

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966) 'Clouds in the Canyon' 1911

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966)
Clouds in the Canyon
1911
Gum bichromate over platinum print
George Eastman Museum, bequest of the photographer

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Cumulus' c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Cumulus
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Mer de nuages' (Sea of ​​clouds) c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Mer de nuages (Sea of ​​clouds)
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' 1925

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1925
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' probably 1926

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
probably 1926
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961) 'Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud' 1993

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud
1993
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2020 Vik Muniz / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower’d citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon’t, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air.

Shakespeare, “Antony and Cleopatra”, (IV, xii, 2-7)

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974) 'Untitled (Reaper Drone)' 2013

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974)
Untitled (Reaper Drone)
2013
Chromogenic development print
Courtesy of the Artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

Trevor Paglen’s artwork draws on his long-time interest in investigative journalism and the social sciences, as well as his training as a geographer. His work seeks to show the hidden aesthetics of American surveillance and military systems, touching on espionage, the digital circulation of images, government development of weaponry, and secretly funded military projects. …

Since the 1990s, Paglen has photographed isolated military air bases located in Nevada and Utah using a telescopic camera lens. Untitled (Reaper Drone) reveals a miniature drone mid-flight against a luminous morning skyscape. The drone is nearly imperceptible, suggested only as a small black speck [in] the image. The artist’s photographs are taken at such a distance that they abstract the scene and distort our capacity to make sense of the image. His work both exposes hidden secrets and challenges assumptions about what can be seen and fully understood.

Text from the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948) 'Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1' 2017

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948)
Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1
2017
From After Constable
Inkjet print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Abelardo Morell

 

 

After Constable, [is] a series of unique visions of the landscape of Hamstead Heath by Abelardo Morell.

In June of 2017, the photographer Abelardo Morell took a pilgrimage to England, visiting the landscape of nineteenth-century Romantic painter John Constable. In the hopes of capturing the spirit of Constable’s work, Morell pitched a tent in the middle of London’s Hampstead Heath. This tent, a constructed camera obscura, projected the surrounding landscape onto the earthen ground through a small aperture at the tent’s top. Describing his camera obscura, Morell stated, “I invented a device – part tent, part periscope – to show how the immediacy of the ground we walk on enhances our understanding of the panorama, the larger world it helps to form.”

Photographing the ground below him, Morell captured both the texture of the earth as well as its vast surrounding landscape: both macro- and micro-visions of Constable’s surroundings, caught in harmony on one plane. With this layering, the photographs blend both image and texture. Always drawn to the dimension of a painting’s surface, Morell sought to emulate texture in his own photographs. In Constable’s romantic visions of Hampstead Heath from the early nineteenth century, the painter captured the english landscape in gestures of tactile, thick paint. With the roughness of the ground underneath the projected sky, each photograph’s plane echoes a painting’s surface.

Text from the Rosegallery website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986) 'Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)' 2017

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986)
Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)
2017
Inkjet print with ochre
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© James Tylor

 

 

This series explores my connection with Kaurna yarta (Kaurna land) through learning, researching, documenting and traveling on country. Turalayinthi Yarta* is a Kaurna phrase “to see yourself in the landscape” or “landscape photography”. In a two year period I travelled over 300 km of the southern part of the Hans Heysen trail that runs parallel along the Kaurna nation boundary line in the Mount Lofty ranges. Combining photographs and traditional Nunga** designs to represent my connection with this Kaurna region of South Australia.

*Yarta means Land, Country and Nation in Kaurna language
**Nunga means South Australian Aboriginal people or person (Nunga language)

Text from the James Tylor website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971) 'Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road' 2018

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971)
Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road
2018
Silver dye bleach print
Courtesy of ROSEGALLERY
© John Chiara

 

 

John Chiara is an experimental photographer who makes unique works by directly manipulating photosensitive paper. Chiara always believed that too much was lost in the final photograph because of the enlargement processes in the darkroom. In 1995, he was working primarily with making contact prints with large-format negatives, but in subsequent years he developed equipment and processes that allowed him to make large-scale, colour, positive photographic images without the use of film. The largest of his devices is a field camera that is large enough for Chiara to enter; he attaches the paper to this camera’s back wall and uses his hands and body to burn and dodge the image instinctively. Chiara’s developing process often leaves anomalies in the resulting images, which he embraces.

Text from the Artsy website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

 

George Eastman Museum
900 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607, USA

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

George Eastman House website

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07
Aug
20

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

August 2020

 

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

 

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

 

 

Atget’s shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

.
Lee Friedlander

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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31
Jul
20

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

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

.
Brassaï

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Press release from the Foam gallery website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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