Posts Tagged ‘American landscape photography

16
Feb
19

Exhibition: ‘Ansel Adams in Our Time’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 13th December 2018 – 24th February 2019

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'The Golden Gate Before the Bridge, San Francisco' 1932

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
The Golden Gate Before the Bridge, San Francisco
1932
Gelatin silver print
49.5 x 69.9 cm (19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Ansel Adams is a wonderful classical, (clinical?), formal photographer… but a photographer of people, Native Indians, Indian dances and the urban landscape, he ain’t. Simply put, he’s not much good at these subjects. In this posting, best stick with what he’s really good at – beautifully balanced art and environmental activist photographs. Oh, the light and form! Images that teeter towards the sublime held in check by F64, perspective and objectivity.

Interesting to have the historical work to riff off, and “contemporary artists whose modern-day concerns centred on the environment, land rights, and the use and misuse of natural resources point directly to Adams’ legacy” … but as with so many exhibitions that try to place an artist within a historical and contemporary context, their work is not necessary. In fact, it probably diminishes the utopian vision of one of the world’s best known photographers.

Marcus

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

 

Ansel Adams in Our Time traces the iconic visual legacy of Ansel Adams (1902-1984), presenting some of his most celebrated prints, from a symphonic view of snow-dusted peaks in The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (1942) to an aerial shot of a knotted roadway in Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles (1967). The exhibition looks both backward and forward in time: his black-and-white photographs are displayed alongside prints by several of the 19th-century government survey photographers who greatly influenced Adams, as well as work by contemporary artists whose modern-day concerns centred on the environment, land rights, and the use and misuse of natural resources point directly to Adams’ legacy.

While crafting his own modernist vision, Adams was inspired by precursors in government survey and expedition photography such as Carleton Watkins (1829-1916), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) and Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921), who worked with large bulky cameras and glass-plate negatives and set off into the wilderness carrying their equipment on mules. In some cases, Adams replicated their exact views of the Yosemite Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Yellowstone, producing images that would become emblematic of the country’s national parks. In Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park (about 1937), the granite crags of the Yosemite Valley are wreathed in clouds after a sudden storm. Executed with unrivalled sensitivity and rigorous exactitude, the artist’s photographs popularised the notion that the American West was a pristine, and largely uninhabited, wilderness.

Ansel Adams in Our Time also brings Adams forward in time, juxtaposing his work with that of contemporary artists such as Mark Klett (born 1962), Trevor Paglen (born 1974), Catherine Opie (born 1961), Abelardo Morell (born 1948), Victoria Sambunaris (born 1964), and Binh Danh (born 1977). The more than 20 present-day photographers in the exhibition have not only been drawn to some of the same locations, but also engaged with many of the themes central to Adams’ legacy: desert and wilderness spaces, Native Americans and the Southwest, and broader issues affecting the environment: logging, mining, drought and fire, booms and busts, development, and urban sprawl.

Adams’ stunning images were last on view at the MFA in a major exhibition in 2005; this new, even larger presentation places his work in the context of the 21st century, with all that implies about the role photography has played – and continues to play – in our changing perceptions of the land. The Adams photographs in the exhibition are drawn from the Lane Collection, one of the largest and most significant gifts in MFA history.

Text from the MFA website

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Lone Pine Peak, Sierra Nevada, California' 1948

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Lone Pine Peak, Sierra Nevada, California
1948
Gelatin silver print
38.8 x 49.1 cm (15 1/4 x 19 5/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Marion Lake, Kings River Canyon, California' c. 1925

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Marion Lake, Kings River Canyon, California (from Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras)
c. 1925; print date: 1927
Gelatin silver print
14.6 x 19.8 cm (5 3/4 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Early Morning, Merced River Canyon, Yosemite National Park' c. 1950

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Early Morning, Merced River Canyon, Yosemite National Park
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 39.4 x 49.7 cm (15 1/2 x 19 9/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 19.1 x 23.8 cm (7 1/2 x 9 3/8 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Thunderstorm, Ghost Ranch, Chama River Valley, Northern New Mexico' 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Thunderstorm, Ghost Ranch, Chama River Valley, Northern New Mexico
1937; print date: about 1948
Gelatin silver print
16.6 x 22.9 cm (6 9/16 x 9 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park' c. 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles' 1967

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles
1967
Gelatin silver print
37.2 x 34.8 cm (14 5/8 x 13 11/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Self‑Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah' 1958

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
SelfPortrait, Monument Valley, Utah
1958
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is the rare artist whose works have helped to define a genre. Over the last half-century, his black-and-white photographs have become, for many viewers, visual embodiments of the sites he captured: Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, the Sierra Nevada, the American Southwest and more. These images constitute an iconic visual legacy – one that continues to inspire and provoke. Organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), Ansel Adams in Our Time offers a new perspective on one of the best-known and most beloved American photographers by placing him into a dual conversation with his predecessors and contemporary artists. While crafting his own modernist vision, Adams followed in the footsteps of 19th-century forerunners in government survey and expedition photography such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, Timothy O’Sullivan and Frank Jay Haynes. Today, photographers including Mark Klett, Trevor Paglen, Catherine Opie, Abelardo Morell, Victoria Sambunaris and Binh Danh are engaging anew with the sites and subjects that occupied Adams, as well as broader environmental issues such as drought and fire, mining and energy, economic booms and busts, protected places and urban sprawl. Approximately half of the nearly 200 works in the exhibition are photographs by Adams, drawn from the Lane Collection – one of the largest and most significant gifts in the MFA’s history, which made the Museum one of the major holders of the artist’s work. The photographs by 19th-century and contemporary artists are on loan from public institutions, galleries and private collectors. Ansel Adams in Our Time is on view in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery from December 13, 2018 through February 24, 2019. Visitors are encouraged to use #AnselAdamsInOurTime to share their exhibition experiences on social media, as well as submit Adams-inspired landscape photos on Instagram for a chance to win an MFA membership, Ansel Adams publication and a private curatorial tour. Ansel Adams in Our Time is presented with proud recognition of The Wilderness Society and the League of Conservation Voters, made possible by Scott Nathan and Laura DeBonis. Sponsored by Northern Trust. Additional support from the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, and Peter and Catherine Creighton. With gratitude to the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Charitable Trust for its generous support of Photography at the MFA.

“Ansel Adams is a larger-than-life figure in the field of photography, and the generous gift of more than 450 of his prints from the Lane Collection has inspired me to revisit his work. With this exhibition, I hope to open up new conversations around this seminal artist, by looking both backward and forward in time,” said Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs. “I invite our visitors to explore the role that photography has historically played in our changing perceptions of the American West, as well as to consider Adams’ legacy of environmental activism – one that still speaks to us today.”

 

Exhibition overview

Capturing the View

Organised both thematically and chronologically into eight sections, the exhibition begins where Adams’ own photographic life began. Perhaps no place had a more lasting influence on him than Yosemite National Park, in his native California. Adams first visited Yosemite at age 14, bringing along a Kodak Box Brownie camera given to him by his father, and returned almost every year for the rest of his life. It was not only where he honed his skills, but also where he came to recognise the power of photographs to express emotion and meaning. Showcasing its spectacular granite peaks, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, Adams’ photographs of Yosemite have become virtually synonymous with the park itself. Adams, however, was not the first to take a camera into the mountains of California. He acknowledged his debt to the earliest photographers to arrive in the Yosemite Valley, including Carleton Watkins, who in the 1860s began to record scenic views with a cumbersome large-format camera and fragile glass plate negatives processed in the field. Watkins’ 19th-century photographs helped to introduce Americans “back east” to the nation’s dramatic western landscapes, while Adams’ 20th-century images made famous the notion of their “untouched wilderness.” Today, photographers such as Mark Klett are grappling with these legacies. Klett and his longtime collaborator Byron Wolfe have studied canonical views of Yosemite Valley by Adams and Watkins, using the latest technology to produce composite panoramas that document changes made to the landscape over more than a century, as well as the ever-growing presence of human activity.

 

Marketing the View

As a member of the Sierra Club, which he joined in 1919 at age 17, Adams regularly embarked on the environmental organisation’s annual, month-long “High Trips” to the Sierra Nevada mountains. He produced albums of photographs from these treks, inviting club members to select and order prints. This precocious ingenuity ultimately led to the Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927) – one of the earliest experiments in custom printing, sequencing and distributing fine photographs. Sixteen of the 18 prints from the portfolio, including the iconic Monolith – The Face of Half Dome, are on view in the second gallery of the exhibition, which connects Adams’ innovations in marketing his views of the western U.S. to those of his predecessors. In the 19th century, an entire industry of mass-marketing and distributing images of “the frontier” emerged, catering to a burgeoning tourist trade. In addition to engravings and halftones published in books, magazines and newspapers, photographs such as Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33 (1872) by Eadweard Muybridge were circulated through stereo cards, which allowed armchair travellers to experience remote places in three dimensions when viewed through a stereoscope. Today, photography remains closely linked with scenic vistas of the American West. Creating works in extended series or grids, artists including Matthew Brandt, Sharon Harper and Mark Rudewel seem to be responding to the earlier tradition of mass-marketing western views, using photography as a medium to call attention to the passage of time and the changing nature of landscapes.

 

San Francisco – Becoming a Modernist

The third section of the exhibition focuses on Adams’ hometown of San Francisco, which has long captured photographers’ imaginations with its rolling hills and dramatic orientation toward the water. The city’s transformation over more than a century – including changes made to the urban landscape following the devastating earthquake and fire in 1906 and the rise of skyscrapers in the later 20th century – can be observed in the juxtaposition of panoramas by Eadweard Muybridge and Mark Klett, taken from the same spot 113 years apart. Adams’ images of San Francisco from the 1920s and 1930s trace his development into a modernist photographer, as he experimented with a large-format camera to produce maximum depth of field and extremely sharp-focused images. During the Great Depression, Adams also took on a wider range of subjects, including the challenging reality of urban life in his hometown. He photographed the demolition of abandoned buildings, toppled cemetery headstones, political signs and the patina of a city struggling during difficult times. One sign of hope for the future at the time was the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, which began in 1933. Adams’ The Golden Gate before the Bridge (1932), taken near his family home five years before the bridge’s opening in 1937, is displayed alongside four contemporary prints from the Golden Gate Bridge project (Private Collection, Cambridge) by Richard Misrach, taken from his own porch in Berkeley Hills. Placing his large-format camera in exactly the same position on each occasion, Misrach recorded hundreds of views of the distant span, at different times of the day and in every season. The series, photographed over three years from 1997 to 2000, was reissued in 2012 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate’s landmark opening. The vast expanses of sky in Misrach’s works echo the focus on the massive cumulus cloud in the earlier photograph by Adams, who was fascinated with changing weather and landscapes with seemingly infinite space.

 

Adams in the American Southwest

Adams produced some of his most memorable images – among them, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941; print date: 1965-75) – during his frequent travels to the American Southwest. He was intrigued by the region’s distinctive landscape, brilliant sunlight and sudden dramatic storms, as well as its rich mix of cultures. Shortly after his first trip to New Mexico in 1927, Adams collaborated with author Mary Hunter Austin on the illustrated book Taos Pueblo (1930, Harvard Art Museums), for which he contributed 12 photographs that reflect his interest in Taos Pueblo’s architecture and activities. Adams shared Austin’s concern that the artistic and religious traditions of the Pueblo peoples were under threat from the increasing numbers of people traveling through or settling in the region. In contrast to the indigenous peoples of Yosemite, who had been forced out of their native lands many years earlier, Pueblo peoples were still living in their ancestral villages. On his return visits to the American Southwest, Adams often photographed the native communities, their dwellings and their ancient ruins. He also photographed Indian dances, which had become popular among tourists who came by train and automobile to be entertained and to buy pottery, jewellery and other souvenirs. Adams’ images of dancers, which emphasise their costumes, postures and expressions, therefore have a complex legacy, as he was one of the onlookers – though he carefully cropped out any evidence of the gathered crowds. Today, indigenous artists including Diné photographer Will Wilson, are creating work that responds to and confronts past depictions of Native Americans by white artists who travelled west to “document” the people who were viewed as a “vanishing race” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Picturing the National Parks

The largest section of the exhibition examines the critical role that photography has played in the history of the national parks. In the 19th century, dramatic views captured by Carleton Watkins and other photographers ultimately helped convince government officials to take action to protect Yosemite and Yellowstone from private development. Adams, too, was aware of the power of the image to sway opinions on land preservation. In 1941 Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, hired Adams to make a series of mural-sized photographs of the national parks for the capital’s new Interior Building. Although his government funding was cut short by America’s entry into World War II and the murals were never realised, Adams felt so strongly about the value of the project that he sought financial assistance on his own. He secured Guggenheim Foundation grants in 1946 and 1948, which allowed him to travel to national parks from Alaska to Texas, Hawaii to Maine. Marked by a potent combination of art and environmental activism, the photographs he made spread his belief in the transformative power of the parks to a wide audience. Many contemporary artists working in the national parks acknowledge, as Adams did, the work of the photographers who came before them. But the complicated legacies of these protected lands have led some – including Catherine Opie, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Binh Danh and Abelardo Morell – to take more personal and political approaches to the work they are making in these spaces.

 

The Other Side of the Mountains

Adams made his reputation mainly through spectacular images of “unspoiled” nature. Less well known are the photographs he produced of the more forbidding, arid landscapes in California’s Death Valley and Owens Valley, just southeast of Yosemite. Here, on the other side of the Sierra Nevada, Adams’ work took a dramatic detour. Fellow photographer Edward Weston introduced Adams to Death Valley, where he captured images of sand dunes, salt flats and sandstones canyons. Owens Valley, located to the west, was once verdant farmland, but was suffering by the 1940s, its water siphoned off to supply the growing city of Los Angeles. In 1943, Adams also traveled to nearby Manzanar, where he photographed Japanese Americans forcibly relocated to internment camps shortly after the U.S. entered World War II. Trevor Paglen, Stephen Tourlentes and David Benjamin Sherry are among the contemporary photographers who continue to find compelling subjects in these remote landscapes. Some are drawn to them as “blank slates” upon which to leave their mark, while others explore the raw beauty of the desolate terrain and the many, sometimes unsettling ways it used today – including as a site for maximum-security prisons and clandestine military projects.

 

The Changing Landscape

Adams’ photographs are appreciated for their imagery and formal qualities, but they also carry a message of advocacy. The last two sections of the exhibition examine the continually changing landscapes of the sites once captured by Adams. In his own time, the photographer was well aware of the environmental concerns facing California and the nation – thanks, in part, to his involvement with the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society. As his career progressed, Adams began to move away from symphonic and pristine wilderness landscapes in favour of images that showed a more nuanced vision. He photographed urban sprawl, freeways, graffiti, oil drilling, ghost towns, rural cemeteries and mining towns, as well as quieter, less romantic views of nature, such as the aftermath of forest fires – subjects that resonate in new ways today. For contemporary photographers working in the American West, the spirit of advocacy takes on an ever-increasing urgency, as they confront a terrain continually altered by human activity and global warming. Works by artists including Laura McPhee, Victoria Sambunaris, Mitch Epstein, Meghann Riepenhoff, Bryan Schutmaat and Lucas Foglia bear witness to these changes, countering notions that natural resources are somehow limitless and not in need of attention and protection.

Press release from the MFA

 

Carelton E. Watkins. 'The Yosemite Falls' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Printed by Taber & Co. (American, active in 1850-1860)
The Yosemite Falls
1861, printed 1880-1890
Albumen print
Image/Sheet: 39.8 x 51.2 cm (15 11/16 x 20 3/16 in.)
A. Shuman Collection – Abraham Shuman Fund

 

Catherine Opie (American, born in 1961) 'Untitled #1 (Yosemite Valley)' 2015

 

Catherine Opie (American, born in 1961)
Untitled #1 (Yosemite Valley)
2015
Pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul
© Catherine Opie

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Mount Starr King and Glacier Point, Yosemite, No. 69' 1865-66

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Mount Starr King and Glacier Point, Yosemite, No. 69
1865-66
Mammoth albumen print from wet collodion negative
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, 1830-1904) 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33' 1872

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, 1830-1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33
1872
Albumen print
Image/Sheet: 42.5 x 54.2 cm (16 3/4 x 21 5/16 in.)
Gift of Charles T. and Alma A. Isaacs
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Frank Jay Haynes (American, 1853-1921) 'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Falls' c. 1887

 

Frank Jay Haynes (American, 1853-1921)
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Falls
c. 1887
Albumen print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sophie M. Friedman Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming' 1942

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
1942
Gelatin silver print
47.1 x 61.2 cm (18 9/16 x 24 1/8 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Abelardo Morell (American (born in Cuba, 1948)) 'Tent‑Camera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming' 2011

 

Abelardo Morell (American (born in Cuba, 1948))
TentCamera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
2011
Inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Adam Clark Vroman. 'Four of Hearts (Bashful)' c. 1894

 

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916)
Publisher Lazarus and Melzer (American)
Four of Hearts (Bashful)
c. 1894
Playing card with halftone print
8.9 x 6.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Gift of Lewis A. Shepard
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925) 'Big Navajo' c. 1879-80

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925)
Big Navajo
c. 1879-80
Albumen print
22.9 x 19.1 cm (9 x 7 1/2 in.)
Gift of Jessie H. Wilkinson – Jessie H. Wilkinson Fund
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

John K. Hillers. 'Heaipu, Navaho Woman' c. 1879

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925)
Heaipu, Navaho Woman
c. 1879
Albumen print
Gift of Jessie H. Wilkinson – Jessie H. Wilkinson Fund
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Will Wilson (Diné (Navajo), born in 1969) 'How the West is One' 2014

 

Will Wilson (Diné (Navajo), born in 1969)
How the West is One
2014
Inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Will Wilson

 

Trevor Paglen (American, born in 1974) 'Untitled (Reaper Drone)' 2015

 

Trevor Paglen (American, born in 1974)
Untitled (Reaper Drone)
2015
Pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Monolith - The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park' 1927

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Monolith – The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
1927; print date: 1950-60
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Bryan Schutmaat (American, born in 1983) 'Cemetery, Tonopah, NV' 2012

 

Bryan Schutmaat (American, born in 1983)
Cemetery, Tonopah, NV
2012
Archival inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
1941; print date: 1965-75
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941 (detail)

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (detail)
1941; print date: 1965-75
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park' c. 1932

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Laura McPhee (American, born in 1958) 'Midsummer (Lupine and Fireweed)' 2008

 

Laura McPhee (American, born in 1958)
Midsummer (Lupine and Fireweed)
2008
Archival pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Laura McPhee

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Grass and Burned Stump, Sierra Nevada, California' 1935

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Grass and Burned Stump, Sierra Nevada, California
1935
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California' 1939

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California
1939
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Mitch Epstein (American, born in 1952) 'Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California' 2007

 

Mitch Epstein (American, born in 1952)
Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California
2007
Chromogenic print
Reproduced with permission
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

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21
Sep
18

Photographs: R. B. Talfor. ‘Photographic Views of the Red River Raft’ 1873

September 2018

 

Robert B. Talfor. Nitroglycerine works at station between Raft Nos. 26 and 27. Plate B of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Nitroglycerine works at station between Raft Nos. 26 and 27. Plate B of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

“In May Lieutenant Woodruff’s careful plans for using “tri-nitro-glycerine” to hasten the removal process, were put into operation and proved quite successful. It continued to be used on a half dozen of the rafts the last of May and through the month of June as the main channel of the river was widened.”

Hubert Humphreys. “Photographic Views of the Red River Raft, 1873,” p. 107

 

 

One of the great privileges of writing and researching for this website is the ability to pull disparate sources together from all over the world, so that the some of the most valuable information can be stored in one place – a kind of meta-posting, with informed comment, upon the context of place, time, identity and image. This is one such posting.

I had never known of these photographs before, nor of their photographer R.B. Talfor of whom I can find little information. I never knew the story of the Great Raft of the Red River, nor the heroism of Lieutenant Eugene A. Woodruff, in charge of the clearing operations, who sacrificed his life to look after others in the yellow fever epidemic in Shreveport in 1873. These stories deserve to be told, deserve a wider audience, for it is all we have left of this time and place.

The 113 photographic views, hand coloured albumen prints “are remarkable for both their historical narrative and aesthetic integrity.” They document not only the landscape but the lives of the crews working on the river. As Woodruff notes in his report of July 1, 1873, “With the view is a photographic map of the raft region, with location and axis of the camera for each view marked upon it and numbered to correspond with the number on the view. This album full of photographs, affording a complete and truthful panorama of the raft, will give a better idea of the nature of the work performed and of the character of the country than could be obtained form the most elaborate description.”

In other words, the photographs and accompanying map are a scientific and objective ordering of life and nature, “affording a complete and truthful panorama of the raft”, the nature of the work performed and the character of the country. Truth, panorama, nature, character. And yet, when you look at the whole series of photographs, they become something much more than just objective rendition.

Firstly, while Talfor maps out his “points of view” he resists, but for a few occasions, the 19th century axiom of placing a man in the landscape… to give the landscape scale by including a human figure. In their aesthetic integrity he lets the landscape speak for itself. But if you look at the sequencing of the plates in the album you observe that he alternates between photographs of open stretches of river taken in overcast / end of day light, and plates filled with a dark, mysterious, chthonic atmosphere, as though we the viewer are inhabiting a nightmarish underworld. Into this dark romanticism, this American Gothic, he throws great tree stumps being hauled out of the water, wind whipping through the trees (seen in the length of exposure of the images) and men with cable and plunger standing stock still in front of a tent full of NITROGLYCERIN! DANGER! KEEP AWAY!

Secondly, Talfor’s hand colouring of the photographs seems to add to this almost William Blake-esque, melancholy romanticism. While the light of the setting sun and its reflection over water add to the sublime nature of the scene, the clouds, in particular in plates such as XCVL and XXVI (note the tiny man among the logs), seem to roil in the sky, like mysterious wraiths of a shadowy atmosphere. It is as though Talfor was illustrating a poem of extreme complexity, not just an objective, social documentary enterprise of time and place, but a rendition of the light and darkness of nature as seen through the eyes of God. A transcendent liminality inhabits these images, one in which we cross the threshold into a transitional state between one world and the next, where the photographs proffer a ‘releasement toward things’ which, as Heidegger observes, grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way.

Marcus

.
These images are published under fair use on a non-commercial basis for educational and research purposes only. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The whole series can be see on the Swann Auction Galleries website.

 

 

“We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”

.
MartinHeidegger. ‘Discourse on Thinking’. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56

 

 

Photographic Views of the Red River Raft

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operation to remove obstacles from the Red River in Louisiana, 1873

113 hand coloured photographic views of the Red River made in April and May 1873, under the direction of C. W. Howell, U. S. Capt.; Corps of Engineers, and E. A. Woodruff, 1st Lieut. U. S. Corps of Engineers; to accompany the annual report on operations for the removal of the Raft; during the year ending June 30, 1873. The photographer was Robert B. Talfor. The portion of the Red River affected reached from Natchitoches Parish through north Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Hand-coloured albumen prints, the images measuring 7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm), mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border, some with Talfor’s credit and plate number in the negative, and each with his credit again, the series title, and a plate number (I-CVII and A-F) on mount recto.

Only three extant copies are known to exist, with one in the Louisiana State University Libraries (which also, apparently, houses Talfor’s “photographic outfit” and correspondence associated with the Talfor family) and the other at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

An extraordinary photographic record by the British-born Robert B. Talfor, who founded a photography studio in Greenport, New York in 1867. The pictures, which were shot in April and May 1873, are remarkable for both their historical narrative and aesthetic integrity. The photographs depict crews improving waterway navigation. But while these labourers were removing organic matter from the Red River to facilitate riverboat transport, the railroad industry was dominating the commercial landscape, dynamically shrinking geographic distances and improving transportation of goods.

Talfor’s career as a photographer apparently began during the Civil War, when he was a topographic engineer responsible for mapping battlefields. The transition to the Louisiana project is unclear but his prints capture the haunting beauty of the landscape and the pride of labourers.

Text from the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 19 September 2018

 

 

Cover the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Cover the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor. U.S. Steamer Aid at work, Raft No. 5, bow view. Plate A of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
U.S. Steamer Aid at work, Raft No. 5, bow view. Plate A of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. The snagboat 'U.S. Aid'. Plate C of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
The snagboat U.S. Aid. Plate C of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate CI of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate CI of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate CII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate CII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate CVII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate CVII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate CVII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Plate CVII: Steamer Bryerly entering Red River through Sale & Murphy’s Canal

 

 

On May 16, 1873, R.B. Talfor photographed the R.T. Bryarly as she passed trough the channel opened by Lt. Eugene Woodruff’s crew. The R.T. Bryarly, on that day, became the first steamboat to enter the upper reaches of the Red River unhindered by the Great Raft at any point. For the next several months, until April 1874, the Corps of Engineers continued to work to ensure that the Raft would not re-form. The passage up the river by the the R.T. Bryarly, however, signalled that the work begun by Captain Shreve in 1833 had been successfully completed. The R.T. Bryarly sank at Pecan Point on the Red River on September 19, 1876. (Text from the book Red River Steamboats by Eric J. Brock, Gary Joiner. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 1999, p. 22 [Online] Cited 17/09/2018)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate D of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate D of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. 'I.N. Kalbaugh' on the Red River. Plate E of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
I.N. Kalbaugh on the Red River. Plate D of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. 'I.N. Kalhaugh' on the Red River. Plate E of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Plate D: I.N. Kalbaugh on the Red River. Steamer Kalbaugh between Raft Nos. 47 and 48.

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate LIV of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate LIV of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate LXXXVII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate LXXXVII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Driftwood log jams obstructing the river in Louisiana before their elimination with the aid of nitroglycerine.

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate LXXXVIII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate LXXXVIII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Foot of Raft No. 2. Plate VII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate VII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Foot of Raft No. 2. One of the several shore work parties that were under the direction of the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers.

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate XCVL of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XCVL of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate XLV of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XLV of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate XLV of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Plate XIV

 

Robert B. Talfor. 'U.S. Aid', clearing logjam in the Red River, Louisiana. Plate XV of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
U.S. Aid, clearing logjam in the Red River, Louisiana. Plate XV of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

U.S. Steamer Aid at work. Raft No. 5, side view. Photograph showing the steam snag boat, US Aid, clearing logjam in the Red River, Louisiana

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate XXIII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XXIII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

 

Preparation for the work began in August, 1872. On November 25, “the small-pox infection being no longer feared,” the steamboat Aid, with two months provisions and two craneboats in tow, started up Red River. They had been outfitted and supplied in New Orleans. Shore parties had already been organized in Shreveport and work itself begun on December 1, a month before the arrival of the Aid. The details of this work, from the preparation in August to the opening of the upper river in May of the next year, are covered in the report dated July 1, 1873, from Lieutenant Woodruff to Captain Howell. The last page of this report included specific comments on the value of the previously discussed Photographic Views of Red River to Lieutenant Woodruff’s total report. The importance of these photographs in understand in the scope and nature of the raft removal is reflected in the following statement:

To accompany this I have prepared a series of photographic views showing every portion of the raft, parties at work, (etc). With the view is a photographic map of the raft region, with location and axis of the camera for each view marked upon it and numbered to correspond with the number on the view. This album full of photographs, affording a complete and truthful panorama of the raft, will give a better idea of the nature of the work performed and of the character of the country than could be obtained form the most elaborate description. [The map is in the Library of Congress]

.
Extract from Hubert Humphreys. “Photographic Views of the Red River Raft, 1873,” in Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association Vol. 12, No. 2 (Spring, 1971) pp. 101-108 (16 pages with photographs)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Steam saws on flat, foot Raft No. 23. Plate L of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Steam saws on flat, foot Raft No. 23. Plate L of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate VI of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate VI of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor. Raft No. 4 partially removed. Plate X of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Raft No. 4 partially removed. Plate X of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Raft No. 4 partially removed. Crane boat at work [removing dead tree]

 

Robert B. Talfor. Plate XVII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XVII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Crane boat at work

 

Robert B. Talfor Plate XXV of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XXV of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor Plate XXVI of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XXVI of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor Plate XXII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XXII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

Robert B. Talfor Plate XXVIII of the photographic album 'Photographic Views of Red River Raft' 1873

 

Robert B. Talfor
Plate XXVIII of the photographic album Photographic Views of Red River Raft
1873
Hand-coloured albumen print, mounted recto only to pages with a stylised U.S. Corps of Engineers printed border
7 x 9¼ inches (17.8 x 23.5 cm)

 

 

Red River of the South

Red River map

 

Snagboat 'Helliopolis'

 

Schell and Hogan (illustration)
U.S. Snagboat ‘Helliopolis’
Nd
Engraving

 

 

The Heliopolis raised a one hundred and sixty foot tree in 1829, according to Captain Richard Delafield of the Corps of Engineers. By 1830 Shreve’s Snag Boats, or “Uncle Sam’s Tooth Pullers” as they were called, had improved navigation to the point that only one flatboat was lost on a snag during that year. During the 1830s Shreve set about cutting back trees on the banks of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to prevent the recurrence of snags.

 

Harpers Weekly Cover snagboat 2 Nov 1889

 

 

“One of Uncle Sam’s Tooth Pullers”

The snag boats operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were sometimes called “Uncle Sam’s Tooth Pullers,” referring to how the vessels extracted whole trees and logs that hindered navigation. U.S. Snag Boat No. 2 is shown pulling stumps from the river bottom.

From Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 2, 1889

 

Plan for Henry Shreve's snag boat. Patent No. 913, September 12, 1838

 

Plan for Henry Shreve’s snag boat. Patent No. 913, September 12, 1838

 

 

Shreveport, the Great Raft and Eugene Augustus Woodruff

Shreveport is located on the Red River in northwestern Louisiana, positioned on the first sustainable high ground in the river valley north of the old French settlement of Natchitoches. When the town as incorporated in 1839, it was, for a short period, the westernmost municipality in the United States. Four years prior to this, the settlement began as Shreve Town. Hugging a one-square-mile diamond-shaped bluff and plateau, Shreveport seemed an ideal place for a town. The northern edge of the plateau rested against Cross Bayou. The combined water frontage of the bayou and the Red River afforded the town ample room for commercial growth. However, a major obstacle stood in its way.

Captain Henry Miller Shreve, the man for whom Shreveport is named, received a contract from the U.S. Army to remove a gain logjam known as the “Great Raft.” Shrove was widely acclaimed as the most knowledgeable expert in raft removal… The upstream portion of the raft at times extended in Oklahoma. Since the Red River had many meandering curves, a straight-line mile might have as many as 3 river miles within it. At its largest, the raft closed over 400 miles of river. By the time Shreve examined it, in about 1830, the raft extended about 110 miles.

Shrove bought in large vessels that he modified for the job. Some of these ripped the jam apart with grappling hooks. Others rammed the raft to loosen individual trees. Some of the vessels were built by taking two steamboats and joining them side by side into a catamaran. The captain built a small sawmill on the common deck. The most famous of these hybrid snag boats, as they were called, were the Archimedes and the Heliopolis. His crews consisted of slave labor and Irish immigrants. The work was very difficult and extremely dangerous. …

Shreve’s efforts did not end the problem with the raft. Periodic work was needed to clear the river as the raft formed again. The Civil War interrupted this work, but by 1870, Congress had realised that the rived must be opened. Appropriations were again made, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent an engineering unit to deal with the issue. The team arrived in late 1871 under the command of First Lieutenant Eugene Augustus Woodruff. Woodruff, his brother, George, and their men set to work. They recorded their actions with maps and photographs. R.B. Talfor was the photographer assigned the duty of recording the work, and this may have been the first instance of an imbedded photographer assigned to a specific unit. Talfor and the Woodruff brothers took over one hundred images of the raft clearing. Today, their records remain the standard chronicle for a project of this type.

The unit’s primary snagboat was the U.S. Aid, a modern version of Henry Shreve’s Archimedes. This elegant stern-wheel vessel was the most advanced of its type in the late nineteenth century. Another technology used as a test bed for river clearing was the newly created explosive nitroglycerin. Because nitroglycerin was extremely dangerous to use and volatile to make, the nitroglycerin lab occasionally blew up – thankfully, with almost no casualties.

The Woodruffs found areas of clear water, appearing as a strong of lakes, and when the broke up the logs around them, the loosened trees and logs would sometimes form snags downstream. One of the unfortunate steamboats was the R.T. Bryarly, photographed by Talfor in 1873. Talker took his photograph from a recently cleared section of the rived. Piles of debris could clearly be seen on both banks as the steam picked its was up the river. The Bryarly plied the rived until September 19, 1876, when it hit a snag and was lost. The use of explosives and the improved snagboats finally conquered the river. …

… In mid-August 1873, an epidemic [of yellow fever] broke out it Shreveport. Everyone who could leave town did, and the population dwindled to about four thousand people before other towns sealed of the roads, railroads and streams to protect their residents. A quarter of the population who remained died within the first two weeks, and another 50 percent contracted yellow fever within the next six weeks. Most of the doctors and nurses died in the first month. …

In early September 1873, the army ordered its raft-clearing engineers out of the city, indicating that they should relocate farther south. Lieutenant Eugene Augustus Woodruff set his men, including his brother, George, to safety. He remained to help care for the residents of Shreveport. With most of the doctors dead or ill, Woodruff and six Roman Catholic priest ministered to the victims. By the end of September, all of these good men had died from yellow fever.

Gary D. Joiner and Ernie Roberson. Lost Shreveport: Vanishing Scenes from the Red River Valley. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2010 [Online] Cited 17/10/2018

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Lt. Eugene Woodruff' (age approx. 23) c. 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Lt. Eugene Woodruff (age approx. 23)
c. 1866
USMA Archives

 

 

Lt. Eugene A. Woodruff (1843-1873), Red River Hero, died age 31

“He died because too brave to abandon his post even in the face of a fearful pestilence and too humane to let his fellow beings perish without giving all the aid in his power to save them,” wrote Capt. Charles W. Howell, responsible for Corps of Engineers works in Louisiana, in 1873. “His name should be cherished, not only by his many personal friends,” he continued, “but by the Army, as one who lived purely, labored faithfully, and died in the path of duty.”

Captain Howell penned that tribute to his deputy, Lt. Eugene A. Woodruff, a young officer whom Howell sent from New Orleans to the Red River of Louisiana as supervisor of the project to clear the great log raft, a formidable obstruction to navigation. Henry M. Shreve first cleared the Red River raft in the 1830s, but the raft formed again during years of inadequate channel maintenance resulting from meager congressional appropriations and neglect during the Civil War.

Lieutenant Woodruff left his workboats and crew on the Red River in September 1873 to visit Shreveport and recruit a survey party. When he arrived, he found Shreveport in the grip of a yellow-fever epidemic. Fearing he might carry the disease to his workmen if he returned to camp, he elected to stay in Shreveport and tend to the sick. He volunteered his services to the Howard Association, a Louisiana disaster-relief charity, and traveled from house to house in his carriage, delivering food, medicine, and good cheer to the sick and dying. He contracted the disease himself and died in late September, “a martyr,” reported the Shreveport newspaper, “to the blessed cause of charity.”

“His conduct of the great work on which he was engaged at the time of his death,” said the New Orleans District Engineer, “will be a model for all similar undertakings and the completion of the work a monument to his memory.” Captain Howell assigned responsibility for finishing the job on the Red River to Assistant Engineer George Woodruff, brother of the lieutenant.

Woodruff’s selfless actions not only eased the suffering of Shreveport residents, but his decision to remain in the town no doubt lessened the threat to his crew. Spared from the disease, the engineers successfully broke through the raft, clearing the river for navigation on 27 November 1873. An Ohio River snagboat built the following year received the name E. A. Woodruff in recognition of the lieutenant’s sacrifice. The vessel served until 1925. More than a century later the people of Shreveport continue to honor the memory of Lieutenant Woodruff.

Text and image from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Members of a Cavalry unit at Fort Grant, A.T. in 1876 showing the variety of both clothing and headgear in use by the Army in the mid-1870s]' 1876

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Members of a Cavalry unit at Fort Grant, A.T. in 1876 showing the variety of both clothing and headgear in use by the Army in the mid-1870s]
1876

 

 

Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Yellow fever can lead to serious illness and even death. It is called ‘yellow fever’ because in serious cases, the skin turns yellow in colour. This is known as ‘jaundice’. Symptoms of yellow fever may take 3 to 6 days to appear. Some infections can be mild but most lead to serious illness characterised by two stages. In the first stage fever, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, headache and weakness occur. About 15 to 25 per cent of those with yellow fever progress to the second stage also known as the ‘toxic’ stage, of which half die within 10 to 14 days after onset of illness. Visible bleeding, jaundice, kidney and liver failure can occur during the second stage.

Although yellow fever is most prevalent in tropical-like climates, the northern United States were not exempted from the fever. The first outbreak in English-speaking North America occurred in New York City in 1668, and a serious one afflicted Philadelphia in 1793. English colonists in Philadelphia and the French in the Mississippi River Valley recorded major outbreaks in 1669, as well as those occurring later in the 18th and 19th centuries. The southern city of New Orleans was plagued with major epidemics during the 19th century, most notably in 1833 and 1853. Its residents called the disease “yellow jack”…

The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States, resulted in the deaths of several thousand people, more than 9% of the population. The national government fled the city, including President George Washington. Additional yellow fever epidemics struck Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City in the 18th and 19th centuries, and traveled along steamboat routes from New Orleans. They caused some 100,000-150,000 deaths in total.

In 1853, Cloutierville, Louisiana, had a late-summer outbreak of yellow fever that quickly killed 68 of the 91 inhabitants. A local doctor concluded that some unspecified infectious agent had arrived in a package from New Orleans. 650 residents of Savannah, Georgia died from yellow fever in 1854. In 1858, St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina, suffered 308 yellow fever deaths, reducing the congregation by half. A ship carrying persons infected with the virus arrived in Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia in June 1855. The disease spread quickly through the community, eventually killing over 3,000 people, mostly residents of Norfolk and Portsmouth. In 1873, Shreveport, Louisiana, lost almost a quarter of its population to yellow fever. In 1878, about 20,000 people died in a widespread epidemic in the Mississippi River Valley. That year, Memphis had an unusually large amount of rain, which led to an increase in the mosquito population. The result was a huge epidemic of yellow fever. The steamship John D. Porter took people fleeing Memphis northward in hopes of escaping the disease, but passengers were not allowed to disembark due to concerns of spreading yellow fever. The ship roamed the Mississippi River for the next two months before unloading her passengers. The last major U.S. outbreak was in 1905 in New Orleans.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Snag

In forest ecology, a snag refers to a standing, dead or dying tree, often missing a top or most of the smaller branches. In freshwater ecology it refers to trees, branches, and other pieces of naturally occurring wood found sunken in rivers and streams; it is also known as coarse woody debris. …

Maritime hazard

Also known as deadheads, partially submerged snags posed hazards to early riverboat navigation and commerce. If hit, snags punctured the wooden hulls used in the 19th century and early 20th century. Snags were, in fact, the most commonly encountered hazard, especially in the early years of steamboat travel. In the United States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated “snagboats” such as the W. T. Preston in the Puget Sound of Washington State and the Montgomery in the rivers of Alabama to pull out and clear snags. Starting in 1824, there were successful efforts to remove snags from the Mississippi and its tributaries. By 1835, a lieutenant reported to the Chief of Engineers that steamboat travel had become much safer, but by the mid-1840s the appropriations for snag removal dried up and snags re-accumulated until after the Civil War.

Text from the Wikipedia webiste

 

S.T. Blessing. 'New Orleans Levee' c. 1866-1870

 

S.T. Blessing
New Orleans Levee
c. 1866-1870
From a stereographic view, on wet or dry plate glass negative

 

 

Samuel Tobias Blessing (1830-1897) was a successful daguerreotypist, ambrotypist, photographer, daguerrean, and photographic stock dealer. He was active in La Grange, Texas in 1856, and Galveston, Texas 1856 c.-1861, and in New Orleans 1861-1890s. From 1856, Blessing partnered with Samuel Anderson, operating bi-state studios and stock depots in Trenton Street, Galverston, and at 120 Canal Street, New Orleans, moving to 137 Canal Street in 1856. Their partnership was dissolved in 1863. After the Civil War, Blessing turned his attention to making stereographs, publishing New Orleans in Stereoscope in 1866. Other stereographic series included Views of New Orleans & Vicinity, and Public Buildings in New Orleans.

Text and image from the Steamboat Times website

 

Unknown photographer. 'New Orleans Levee' c. 1867-1868

 

Unknown photographer
New Orleans Levee
c. 1867-1868
Wet plate negative on glass, or Tintype positive

 

 

Four boats in this New Orleans scene have been positively identified. They are from right to left, B.L. HODGE (No.2), MONSOON, ST. NICHOLAS, and CUBA. The remaining boats, also right to left, are not confirmed but may be the BART ABLE, GEORGE D. PALMER, and the FLICKER.

The B.L. HODGE No.2 was built in 1867, and the MONSOON was lost to a snag on the Red River on Dec. 21, 1868, heavily loaded with cotton. Therefore the photograph was taken sometime during 1867-1868. The PALMER was lost after hitting the Quincy bridge on Oct. 2, 1868, which would further narrow the timeframe for this scene.

Text and image from the Steamboat Times website

 

 

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09
Dec
16

Exhibition: ‘Lewis Baltz NEVADA’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 15th November – 30th December 2016

 

I love this man’s work. Elegant, formalist, classical photographs of man altered landscapes and their environs.

New Topographics.

From the lineage of Carleton E. Watkins, Timothy O’Sullivan and Eadweard Muybridge in the 19th century through until today, these “modern and postmodern photographic landscapes mark a progressively disquieting understanding of humanity’s relationship to the natural universe.” First there was exploration and documentation, now there is the glare of blown-out skies, broken fluorescent tubes and soulless, tract homes.

The brooding mountain behind Model Home; the evanescent light of Night Construction falling into imperishable darkness; and the twinkling, star studded wall of New Construction, Shadow Mountain. Light-filled space traced onto film producing timeless, twisted dioramas. Landscape as conceptual performance.

Marcus

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

 

 

“In Nevada, Lewis Baltz alternates unbuilt views with home construction, trailer parks, and roads in a documentation of a rapidly changing landscape in the desert valleys surrounding Reno, an area he once described as “landscape-as-real-estate.” Baltz, like Joe Deal and Harold Jones, whose works are on view in this gallery, developed projects as portfolios, believing that a single photograph cannot capture a complete portrait of a place. In Baltz’s series, a multifaceted, occasionally contradictory image of Nevada emerges through the accumulation of photographs.”

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Text from the exhibition America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now

 

“Once continental expansion had reached its limits, however, and no existential threats to white settlement remained, American landscape images began to reflect a new criticality – at turns romantic and realistic – that persists to this day. Indeed, for the last century, landscape photography has consistently mirrored Americans’ anxieties about nature, or rather its imminent loss, whether due to industrialization, pollution, population growth, real estate profiteering, or bioengineering. Alternately portraying nature as a balm for the alienated modern soul or a dystopian fait accompli, modern and postmodern photographic landscapes mark a progressively disquieting understanding of humanity’s relationship to the natural universe.”
.
Deborah Bright. Photographing Nature, Seeing Ourselves 2012 in America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now catalogue, p.32

 

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Reno Sparks, Looking South' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Reno Sparks, Looking South [1]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Hidden Valley, Looking South' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Hidden Valley, Looking South [2]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Hidden Vlley, Looking Southeast' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Hidden Valley, Looking Southeast [3]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Fluorescent Tube' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Fluorescent Tube [4]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'US 50, East of Carson City' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
US 50, East of Carson City [5]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'New Construction, Shadow Mountain' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
New Construction, Shadow Mountain [6]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Night Construction' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Night Construction [7]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, NEVADA by the late American photographer, Lewis Baltz (1945-2014). NEVADA will present the entire portfolio of 15 black and white photographs created by Baltz in 1977. The exhibition will open on November 15th and continue through December 30th, 2016.

Nevada is a central work of Baltz’s continued interest in the American West and its changing landscape. The photographs describe the development of the desert region of Nevada, near Reno: construction sites and their artifacts, vistas of newly built tract communities, and the desert environments that surround their imprint are traced with the high-key light of the western sun or glow of artificial light illuminating the darkness of night.

Biography

Lewis Baltz was born in Newport Beach, California in 1945. He received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969 and his MFA from Claremont Graduate School in 1971. That same year he was included in The Crowed Vacancy: Three Los Angeles Photographers, an exhibition that also included Anthony Hernandez and Terry Wild.

Baltz’s photographs of the transforming American landscape defined a central role in 1970’s landscape photography and influenced forthcoming generations of photographic practice. He, along with other notable photographers including Frank Gohkle, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore and John Schott came to prominence through their inclusion in the groundbreaking and influential exhibition, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape, an exhibition organized at the George Eastman House in 1975.

Baltz’s serial work often took the form of published portfolios relating to a particular landscape theme or geographic location. Portfolios include: The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California (1974), Nevada (1978), Park City (1980), San Quentin Point (1985) and Candlestick Point (1989). Baltz received two National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1973 and 1977 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1977. His photographs have been the subject of over 50 one-person exhibitions and seventeen monographs.

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Model Home, Shadow Mountian' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Model Home, Shadow Mountain [8]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'B Street, Sparks' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
B Street, Sparks [9]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Lemmon Valley, Looking North' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Lemmon Valley, Looking North [11]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Lemmon Valley, Looking Northeast' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Lemmon Valley, Looking Northeast [12]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Lemmon Valley, Looking Northwest, Toward Stead' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Lemmon Valley, Looking Northwest, Toward Stead [13]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Nevada 33, Looking West' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Nevada 33, Looking West [14]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Mustang Bridge Exit, Interstate 80' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz
Mustang Bridge Exit, Interstate 80 [15]
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girrard Avenue
La Jolla, California
Phone: 858 456 5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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10
Jan
15

Text/Exhibition: ‘Wynn Bullock: Revelations’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2014 – 18th January 2015

 

Being and Becoming in the work of Wynn Bullock

.
It’s strange how some artists become famous while others wane in relative obscurity. For 50 years after his death, J. S. Bach’s reputation as a composer declined, his work regarded as old-fashioned compared to the new style of the day. Just look at him now.

Wynn Bullock, contemporary of Edward Weston, Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham, Frederick Sommer and Ansel Adams, is not yet as well known as any of them. He should be. As the press release states, “Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows.” This first retrospective of his work in 40 years will hopefully start to change that perception. In my estimation he is up there in the pantheon of photographic stars. There are photographers… and there are master photographers. Bullock is one of the latter, in my top ten classical black and white analogue photographers of all time.

Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Work from the early 1950s has an essential, humanist flavour as can be seen in photographs such as Child in Forest (1951) and Let There Be Light (1951), both images appearing in Edward Steichen’s seminal exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, printed at large scale. By the mid-50s Bullock was really hitting his straps and the work starts to become less didactic and more open to multiple interpretations and possibilities.

As Bullock says, the mysteries lie all around us waiting only to be perceived. But it’s more than that… it’s more than “what if”. Bullock claims the existence of these things while at the same time acknowledging that they are not generally accessible within the Western canon. That he expresses their existence is his gift to the world.

Take, for example, that most complex of images, Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957). Once seen, never forgotten. I remember seeing this image in my first year studying photography at university and it being seared into my brain. How could you get such an image! It encompasses every feeling and emotion about our place in the cosmos that I could ever think of. And then you hear the story (one that I recently confirmed with his daughter Barbara), which I recount here and which appeared in the book Darkroom edited by Eleanor Lewis, published in 1976 by Lustrum Press, and dedicated to Bullock’s memory.

Bullock was only able to make ONE exposure.

“The first photograph I want to discuss is the POINT LOBOS TIDE POOL. This is a contact print from an 8 x 10 negative. The picture was taken at sunset and the light was dim. The sun was striking only the edges of the rocks in the upper-left-hand corner. The tide pool itself was especially dull, and the light was disappearing so fast I had to make a quick exposure. The negative is very soft because in my hurry to capture the picture, I forgot to underexpose the film so that I could expand the contrast by overdeveloping. The tide pool, a critical part of the image, is especially soft.

“For the final print, I used Brovira No. 5 paper, Amidol developer, and developed it for three minutes to keep the dull parts from going flat. As soon as you use high contrast papers, everything gets more critical. A second or two variation in exposure in high contrast areas can mean the difference between seeing what I want to see, and not seeing anything but black or white paper.

“I could think of the negative-making process as one in which I would make a technically perfect negative. But the technically perfect negative doesn’t always give me what I want… By not always reaching for the easily printed negative, I get luminosity I wouldn’t otherwise have.

In the tide pool print, it’s always been a touchy problem to get the brilliance in the pool itself, where the negative is soft. Unless carefully controlled, that part goes muddy. The rest of the photograph is secondary, but requires some burning and dodging to get tonal balance.

“These are problems I’ve been living with. In doing so, I’ve developed printing skills. It’s a way of life with me. In printing, I don’t want to distort the reality of the image, but I don’t want to distort the reality of my feelings for it either. The two go hand in hand. I have no qualms about altering the image by burning and dodging. I’m not a purist in that way. I am a purist in that I don’t want the manipulation to show. As soon as it does, the magic is destroyed.”

As his daughter Barbara notes, “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957 is another serendipitous image that took place on the [Point Lobos State] Reserve. The day this photograph was made, Dad was hauling his heavy field camera along the South Shore Trail when he happened upon a tide pool with a galaxy in its midst. He set up his equipment as quickly as he could and made his first exposure. Normally, he liked to bracket his exposures, but before he could make a second one, a gust of wind swept across the pool and the complex pattern of microscopic organisms vanished.

Fortunately, one exposure was good enough. Whenever he told the story, Dad would laugh and say, “I was just damn lucky that day!” What he often left unexpressed was the lasting impression of the experience that exemplified for him the continual being-and-becoming nature of the universe as well as the kinship of its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions. The image remained a personal favorite for the rest of his life.” (Barbara Bullock-Wilson. “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957” Commentary © 2013/2015 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.)

.
It is as if the universe stood still for the length of time that it took Bullock to expose his plate, as though the universe was giving him permission for his previsualisation … … … before it moved on, in a gust of wind. But that is not the end of it, no! Because of the thin negative Bullock had to print on grade 5 paper, the most contrasty paper that you can get. And because the area of the tide pool was especially thin, the exposure time is absolutely critical for this print, to get the luminosity in the pool that the artist required. In the whole scheme of things there is a tiny window of opportunity with the exposure of this negative to get a glorious print. This is far from a straight print, and what makes the story even more remarkable is that Bullock had to delve into his scientific knowledge, had to experiment with his feelings (his exposure time), with the magic of the analogue print, to make this apparition appear!

The whole story is quite thrilling really. As my mentor observes, “Point Lobos is several km of coast if you measured into every bay – but there aren’t that many spots where you can photograph the actual tide zone – probably 7 or 8 inlets – some smaller than a basketball court. The spot that Minor White talks about as Weston cove is about basketball court size from memory. You can walk around above it a few metres in the air and see it all. Only someone with a specific aim would scramble down to be amongst what could already be clearly seen. There are just as many spots where you can’t get down like Weston’s sparkle on the sea shot. Weston cove feels amazing; full of ghosts. Bullock would have been very familiar with what would be likely to come around again and what would not.”

Close your eyes and just imagine dragging an 8 x 10 camera down there and finding that image.

.
Readers, you know that I am a passionate person, that I am passionate about photography. As I relatively young man what these great artists seemed to me to be doing were noble artistic things; I still feel that. You cannot talk about photography like other mediums that define themselves – not in a modernist sense of materials – Rothko can only be talked about by referring to Rothko, Beethoven, Mozart, etc… Much as Bullock says that light “permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer,” photography is of a different order. You are comparing a system of making using the hand with a system using a photo-mechanical eye. Making great images is of necessity much more difficult within this process (as can be see in the millions of meaningless images that flood the world today).

I believe that inherent to any photograph is the ability to transcend the medium – whether that is in vernacular photography (by chance) or through astute observation and meditation (MW and WB). Whether the person then recognises these images as such is another matter, but it only happens on limited occasions. But when you get something, the magic just works. In his Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957), Navigation without Numbers (1957), Under Monterey Wharf (1969) and Erosion (1959), Bullock is like a mystical time traveller – of both the body and the landscape. You only have to look at the timbre of the prints and the layering of tones. These images can’t be judged on any terms other than the terms the image itself lays down. They are beyond serious: and it shows how difficult photography really is – and how rare the good photograph is – that most photographers don’t really have a count that gets into double figures for a decade’s work. It doesn’t add up to much of a crop for a lifetimes work but does Bullock care… hell no!

As he says, “You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures… The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

.
A deep love of the whole process, a deep love of being and becoming.

.
The ability of the photographer is that they can massage the medium – through imagination, surrealism, reality, space/time etc… that ENACTS a difference that painters, musicians can only dream of – through a manipulation of reality, through a form of hyper-reality. In Bullock’s case it is the recognition of the mysteries that lie all around us in which the images take on a symbiotic relationship with an observation of the human mind THROUGH photography.

Openly talking in a clear language from a lifetime of meditation.

A clear language where words don’t quite equal the meanings normally attached to them.

From another dimension.

 

“In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.”

(from “Love Itself” lyrics by Leonard Cohen)

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

“Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar of things, waiting only to be perceived.”

.
“Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe… [It] permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer.”

.
“You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures. Well, that giving takes a lot out of you, and you simply can’t operate at that intense level all the time. Neither can you predetermine what happens outside you.

The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

.
Wynn Bullock

 

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pool' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pool
1957
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Point Lobos Tide Pool appears simultaneously to resemble both a galaxy and a bacterial growth across a petri dish, when in fact it is neither so large nor so small a subject, but rather a pool arrayed with microorganisms along the Carmel coast, transformed into a picture of astounding beauty.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Erosion' 1959

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Erosion
1959
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Bullock found this scene along a California roadway and was drawn to the insight it provides into what goes on in spaces that normally lie beyond our perception. The eroded embankment reveals the slow evolution of the world across centuries, with organic and inorganic elements coexisting together at different stages of growth and decay. Stripped of its skin and flayed by the corrosive power of water, the hill in Bullock’s picture reveals a powerfully foreign world as real and as beautiful as anything on the surface of the earth. Bullock’s efforts were decidedly pointed toward making the ordinary profound and in revealing a complexity beyond the surface of things.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Under Monterey Wharf' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Under Monterey Wharf
1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Navigation without Numbers' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Navigation without Numbers
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 13/16 x 8 15/16 in.,
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Del Monte Forest' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Del Monte Forest
1969
Gelatin silver print
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude by Sandy's Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude by Sandy’s Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

In this picture, a brightly lit window occupies the bulk of Bullock’s composition, hovering over a woman who appears to be asleep; light shines in through the glass with a blinding intensity that obscures a clear view of the exterior while alluding to the existence of a world of indefinite proportions beyond.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Lynne, Point Lobos' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Lynne, Point Lobos
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

.
Albert Einstein, quoted by Wynn Bullock

 

“In June 2014, the High Museum of Art will become the first major museum in nearly 40 years to mount a retrospective of work by Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) with the exhibition Wynn Bullock: Revelations, organized by the High in collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography.

One of the most significant photographers of the mid-20th century, Bullock worked in the American modernist tradition alongside Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Ansel Adams. More than 100 black-and-white and color works by Bullock will come together for the exhibition, which will coincide with a major gift to the High from the Bullock Estate of a large collection of vintage photographs, making the Museum one of the most significant repositories of Bullock’s work in the U.S.

The High is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast with particularly distinct holdings in the classic modernist tradition. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers an unprecedentedly holistic look at Bullock’s innovative career, beginning with his early light abstractions and moving through his landscapes, figure studies, color work, negative images and late abstractions. The exhibition will be on view June 14, 2014 through Jan. 18, 2015.

A close friend of influential West Coast artists Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and a contemporary of Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham and Frederick Sommer, Bullock created a body of work marked by a distinct interest in experimentation, abstraction and philosophical exploration. His images Let There Be Light and Child in Forest (both of which will be included in the High’s exhibition) became icons in the history of photography following their prominent inclusion in Edward Steichen’s landmark 1955 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, The Family of Man.

Bullock’s photography received early recognition in 1941, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged his first solo exhibition. His mature work appeared in one-man shows at the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; the Royal Photographic Society, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago; among other prestigious venues. His archive was a foundational collection for the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Ariz., which is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world.

Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers the most comprehensive assessment of the photographer’s extraordinary career in nearly 40 years. This retrospective traces Bullock’s evolution from his early experimental work of the 1940s, through the mysterious black-and-white imagery of the 1950s and color light abstractions of the 1960s, to his late metaphysical photographs of the 1970s.

“Bullock’s arresting work was integral to codifying what we now think of as quintessential mid-century style, which in turn paved the way for every stage of photography that has followed,” said Brett Abbott, curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “Presenting this exhibition and acquiring this generous body of work from Bullock’s estate will allow us to play a role in bringing him back into the popular consciousness. Our photography department has expanded greatly over the last few years, in terms of the work we own and the exhibitions we mount, giving us the ability to position this pivotal body of work as part of the nearly two-century-long story of the development of photography.”

Wynn Bullock: Revelations will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be produced by the High in collaboration with the University of Texas Press. The book presents 110 images, including some from the Bullock Estate that have never been published before. An essay by Abbott explores the nuances of Bullock’s approach to photography and its fascinating relationship to the history of science and philosophy. The volume also includes an illustrated chronology, bibliography, selected collections, exhibitions history, plate list and notes.

 

About Wynn Bullock

Wynn Bullock was born on April 18, 1902, in Chicago, Ill. After graduating from high school, Bullock worked as a professional singer in New York City and across Europe. In 1938 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a law degree but soon dropped out of school to become a photography student at Art Center School, where he became deeply involved in exploring alternative processes such as solarization and bas relief and began building a career in commercial photography. Bullock went on to serve in the military and then to build a successful private photography business, where he developed a way to control the line effect of solarization, a discovery for which he was awarded patents. Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Throughout the 1950s he explored the natural world from his own unique perspective in photography and came into the public spotlight through exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s he created an innovative body of abstract color images. He later returned to experimental black and white, on which he continued to focus until his death in 1975. Bullock’s work is part of the collections of more than 90 major institutions throughout the world.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art website

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1076' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1076
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1075' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1075
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Entrance Mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

 

Wynn Bullock: Revelations installation at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Entrance mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3 (top), Galleries 1, 2 and 3 (bottom)

 

 

“Love Itself”

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

 

Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Child in Forest' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child in Forest
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 7/16 x 9 3/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 1978.62
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Stark Tree' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Stark Tree
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Let There Be Light' 1954

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Let There Be Light
1954
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Old Typewriter' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Old Typewriter
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 × 9 7/16 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 2012.594
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'The Shore' 1966

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
The Shore
1966
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Sea Palms' 1968

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Sea Palms
1968
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ¼ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Driftwood' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Driftwood
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pools' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pools
1972
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975), 'Early Solarization' 1940

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Early Solarization
1940
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Edna' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Edna
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row' 1955

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row
1955
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Barbara through Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Barbara through Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude Torso in Forest' 1958

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude Torso in Forest
1958
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 6 1/4in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock. 'Child on Forest Road' 1958

 

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

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Fallen Tree Trunk' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Fallen Tree Trunk
1972
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Tree Trunk' 1971

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Tree Trunk
1971
Gelatin silver print
Promised Gift of Lynne Harrington-Bullock
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

To create this image, Bullock reversed the positive and negative values of his rendering of a tree trunk, and then turned the composition upside down. In so doing, he disrupts a habitual reading of the natural world, creates an experience of disorientation, and allows the forms pictured to engage the eye in freshly invigorating ways.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Photogram' 1970

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Photogram
1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/8 x 7 3/8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Rock' 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Rock
1973
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 6 ¾ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

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06
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now’ at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Exhibition dates: 21st September 2012 – 13th January 2013

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I hope you enjoy this HUGE posting. There are some rare photographs and little known artists. I have kept the photographs in the sections of the exhibition as explained by the accompanying wall text. Three essays from the catalogue investigating history, landscape and photography can be found as pdfs below, essential reading for anyone interested in the subject (especially the first two essays):

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Many thankx to  the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design for allowing me to publish the text and most of the photographs in the posting (the others I researched myself). Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Marcus

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“An understanding of landscape theory therefore suggests that not every photograph of land is a landscape, and not every landscape necessarily features the land. The standard definition points to places – places in the world, or places seen in pictures – which take on the quality of a thing. But “landscape” is probably better understood as that set of expectations and beliefs – about both the environment and the conventions of its representation – that we project upon the world. These conventions and expectations are subject to historical change and are culturally specific…”
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Douglas Nickel. Photography, Perception, and the Landscape 2012 in America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now catalogue, p.26

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“Once continental expansion had reached its limits, however, and no existential threats to white settlement remained, American landscape images began to reflect a new criticality – at turns romantic and realistic – that persists to this day. Indeed, for the last century, landscape photography has consistently mirrored Americans’ anxieties about nature, or rather its imminent loss, whether due to industrialization, pollution, population growth, real estate profiteering, or bioengineering. Alternately portraying nature as a balm for the alienated modern soul or a dystopian fait accompli, modern and postmodern photographic landscapes mark a progressively disquieting understanding of humanity’s relationship to the natural universe.”
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Deborah Bright. Photographing Nature, Seeing Ourselves 2012 in America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now catalogue, p.32

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Surveying the Field

At the end of the American Civil War photographers turned their lenses toward both the wild territories of the West and scenic tourist destinations in the newly established national parks. Although these images are now commonly exhibited in art museums, they were not originally considered art objects, nor were the photographers who made them considered artists. Instead, many of the photographers represented here were hired to document the projects of governmental agencies and the progress of federal survey expeditions to the western territories. Others produced images for the growing tourist market or recorded the construction of tracks through the country’s interior for railroad companies. The majority of these images were published in governmental reports and presentation albums.

The albumen prints produced in America through the 1880s were made from glass-plate negatives created by the laborious process of coating glass plates the size of the prints with a thick photosensitive solution called collodion. These plates had to be prepared on-site, exposed, and developed before the collodion dried, so photographers traveled with portable darkrooms. The prints were made later in a studio by placing paper coated with albumen (solution suspended in egg whites) under a glass-plate negative and exposing the paper to sunlight. By contact printing on this glossy surface, the image was recorded in minute detail.

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Unknown artist (American), 'Providence Panorama from Grosvenor or Bannigan Building' ca. 1900

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Unknown artist (American)
Providence Panorama from Grosvenor or Bannigan Building
ca. 1900
Six cyanotype prints
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

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William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) 'Gardiners River Hot Springs, Diana's Baths' 1871

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William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Gardiners River Hot Springs, Diana’s Baths
1871
From U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories
Albumen print
RISD Museum: Jesse Metcalf Fund

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In this photograph William Henry Jackson captures the painter Thomas Moran, who was also part of the 1871 survey team. Shot from slightly below and at a distance, the photograph emphasizes the textures of the mineral deposits in the foreground, while Moran’s figure seems dwarfed by the rock formations around him. Jackson often included figures in his photographs to impart a sense of scale. This inclusion of a single figure also heightens the impression that the photograph has captured a moment of discovery, the first contact between intrepid explorers and an uncharted land.

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Carleton E. Watkins. 'Cape Horn, Columbia River' 1867

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Carleton E. Watkins
Cape Horn, Columbia River
1867
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund.
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Cape Horn, Columbia River exemplifies not only the fine detail characteristic of Carleton Watkins’s images, but also his close attention to pictorial structure. Unlike many of the photographers represented in this gallery, Watkins worked independently of industrial concerns or government sponsorship. To make images that would appeal to an audience more familiar with traditional art forms, Watkins borrowed long-established conventions of landscape paintings, in particular carefully modulated lighting effects and harmonious compositions. Like the painters he emulated, Watkins depicts the West as a romantic wilderness and place of spiritual refuge.

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William H. Bell. 'Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona' 1872

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William H. Bell (American, 1830–1910)
Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona
1872
From the album Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen print
Jesse Metcalf Fund. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Timothy O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada' 1871

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Timothy O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada
1871
From the album Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen print
RISD Museum: Jesse Metcalf Fund

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Timothy O’Sullivan and William H. Bell, official photographers on survey expeditions through Nevada and Arizona from 1871 to 1873, disavowed the traditional conventions of landscape painting in favor of unadorned observation. Spare and anti-picturesque, O’Sullivan’s radical views – depicting the western territories as foreign-looking, even hostile – accorded perfectly with the interests of those invested in seeing these empty territories studied, secured, and settled. One scholar has postulated that O’Sullivan’s photographs were intentionally crafted to look like products of technology – optically precise, printed on glossy albumen papers – a look that stood for industrial progress within a milieu that valued the machine-made over the handmade. In Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona and Rock Carved by Drifting Sand, Below Fortification Rock, Arizona, the two photographers treat unusual rock formations like specimens, isolating them from the surrounding landscape to be examined and measured.

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Luminous Realms

Kodak’s introduction of the handheld camera in 1888 made photography an affordable and popular leisure-time amusement, creating a generation of amateur photographers seemingly overnight. At the same time, photographers with artistic ambitions feared that the mechanical, point-and-shoot approach of the new “button pressers” would jeopardize the medium’s elevation to the status of high art. In response, this group of artists – who called themselves Pictorialists – emphasized the photographer’s expertise and embraced labor-intensive processes to create expressive and impressionistic images. Many favored platinum prints because of their wide range of tones, soft contrast, and matte surface – qualities of more traditional artistic media such as drawings and etchings. The Pictorialists’ landscape photographs are especially evocative. Rather than capturing a particular place and time, they transformed the landscape into a backdrop for human emotions and actions through visual effects and the inclusion of figures.

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Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Morning' 1905

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Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning
1905
From Camera Work, No. 23, July 1908
Photogravure RISD Museum: Walter H. Kimball Fund

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Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Footprints in the Sand' 1931

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Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Footprints in the Sand
1931
Platinum print
RISD Museum: Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

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Laura Gilpin portrays the Colorado sand dunes in the soft-focus style of the Pictorialists, but the reductive forms of her composition are strikingly modern. The sinuous lines of the wind-sculpted dunes are echoed in the subtle patterning of the figure’s footprints. His presence not only provides a sense of scale, but suggests that the human impact on the landscape can be small, fleeting, and beautiful.

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Abstracting Nature

In the 1920s, photographers began to question whether Pictorialism was the style best suited to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. On the east coast, Alfred Stieglitz, who had formerly championed Pictorialism, became its most vocal critic. In northern California, a group of photographers who would come to call themselves Group f/64 developed a new style. Opposing the soft focus, painterly approach, the f/64 photographers embraced a hard-edged, sharp-focus machine aesthetic. Optical reality was transformed into surface pattern, rhythm, tone, and line in prints precisely detailed on glossy, gelatin silver papers. Indeed, f/64 refers to the smallest aperture on their large-format cameras, which resulted in sharp focus from foreground to background.

This period revitalized landscape photography, with many photographers looking to views of nature as a place to escape from the problems of urban life. These photographers captured instants of intensified vision that only the camera offered, creating the photograph mentally before it was realized physically. Whether majestic views of dramatic natural features or abstracted details of quiet settings, these images expressed metaphysical, ethical, or personal reflections on humankind’s relationship to nature.

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Ansel Adams. 'Half Dome, Blowing Snow, Yosemite National Park, California' ca. 1955

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Ansel Adams
Half Dome, Blowing Snow, Yosemite National Park, California
ca. 1955 (printed 1970s)
Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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This photograph depicts the iconic tourist destination of Yosemite as sublime and untouched. By removing any evidence of human impact, Ansel Adams allows us to escape (at least temporarily) from the intrusions of culture. High contrast adds visual drama to an already majestic view, capturing the textures of the rock wall and the light filtering through the blowing snow. Throughout his life, Adams embraced the notion that nature could provide the harried, urbanized citizen of the modern age with a place of spiritual refuge. A long-time member of the Sierra Club, he was a devoted and vocal advocate for wilderness conservation and his photographs were crucial to the conservation effort.

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Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985) 'Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma' 1936

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Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985)
Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma
1936
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gilman Angier

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In 1936 Arthur Rothstein traveled to the Oklahoma panhandle, the area of the country most affected by drought, wind, and erosion. In his image (above) he captured one of the few families in the area that had not yet abandoned their farm. His portrayal of the farmer and his sons fighting to make their way home through the elements can be read as a larger statement about the struggle between man and nature. Rothstein’s dark, low contrast print further conveys the oppressive atmosphere of the dust storm.

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Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor, Chicago' ca. 1952

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Harry Callahan
Eleanor, Chicago
ca. 1952
Gift from Harry Callahan ca. 1953 Wayne Miller
© The Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Aaron Siskind. 'Martha’s Vineyard, 114B' 1954

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Aaron Siskind
Martha’s Vineyard, 114B
1954
Gift of Mr. Robert B. Menschel. Courtesy Aaron Siskind Foundation
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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In Martha’s Vineyard 114B, Aaron Siskind focuses on two small rocks nestled in a stone wall. As Siskind explained, he “began to feel the importance of how these rocks hovered over each other, touched each other, pushed against each other.” He likened this contiguity to family relationships, especially that between mother and child. He believed that the pair of rocks pictured in the photograph would – consciously or not – evoke emotions in the viewer, and that these emotions were both deep-seated and universal. In his depiction of the landscape, he found metaphors for what he called “human drama.”

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Frederick Sommer (American, 1905–1999) 'Arizona Landscape' 1943

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Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Arizona Landscape
1943
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift from the collection of Marc Harrison

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Frederick Sommer’s photographs of the Arizona desert, made between about 1939 and 1945, omit the horizon line to create an overall field of pattern where scale and orientation are confounded. The vast space of the desert is pulled to the surface of the image, making the work less a landscape and more an independent construction. Sommer intently considered much of his work before executing it. He might study an area of the desert for days before deciding how to take the picture and then spend weeks in the darkroom perfecting the print.

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Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View of Easton, Pennsylvania' 1936

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Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View of Easton, Pennsylvania
1936
From the portfolio American Photographs II
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of James Dow

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By compressing distance and flattening perspective, Walker Evans collapses the two cityscapes of Easton, Pennsylvania, and Phillipsburg, New Jersey, into one plane. Evans’s aesthetically neutral style seems to depict the world without the intervention of the photographer’s point of view. At the same time, he forces the details of every building and smokestack to the surface of the image, making the plight of the cities and their inhabitants – the Depression had crippled the shipping and manufacturing industries that were the lifeblood of both towns – impossible to ignore.

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Jack Warren Welpott (American, b. 1923) 'White Sands' 1977

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Jack Warren Welpott (American, b. 1923)
White Sands
1977
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Aaron Siskind

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Joe Deal. 'Colton, California' 1978

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Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Colton, California
1978
From the portfolio The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Joe Deal. 'Chatsworth, California' 1980

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Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Chatsworth, California
1980
From the portfolio The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Joe Deal. 'Indio, California' 1978 from The Fault Zone

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Joe Deal (American, 1947–2010) (RISD Provost 1999–2005, Faculty 2005–2009)
Indio, California
1978
From The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
RISD Museum: Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke

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Joe Deal. 'Santa Barbara, California' 1978, from The Fault Zone

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Joe Deal
Santa Barbara, California
1978
From The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
RISD Museum: Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke

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Inspired by conceptual art, Joe Deal generally developed his work in series, choosing a particular location and adhering to a strict visual formula. As in The Fault Zone, his landscapes were typically square in format, viewed from above, lacking a horizon, and empty of people. Edges and divisions in nature and the landscape fascinated him, and the fault lines in California, though invisible on the surface, in many ways define that landscape. Using maps from the Los Angeles County engineering office that indicated where the fault lines were apt to be, Deal looked for sites that would metaphorically suggest volatility. The first image in the series is the only one that was actually taken on the San Andreas Fault; all others symbolically represent the fault lines with torn or disrupted terrain.

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Topographic Developments

By the time the landmark exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opened in 1975, the accelerating degradation of the environment had become an inescapable reality. Inverting the Ansel Adams principle of exclusion, the exhibit voiced the belief that the landscape could no longer be portrayed as a refuge from the ills of industrial life: any consideration of the modern environment had to include both wilderness areas and the vacant lot next door.

The New Topographics photographers captured recently constructed tract homes, industrial parks, and highway culture with medium and large format cameras. As aesthetically neutral as real estate snapshots, the photographs showed the facts without offering their opinions about the rapid development they recorded. Seemingly stripped of expressivity, their photographs have the appearance of objective or “topographic” renderings rather than subjective impressions. In emphasizing the landscape of the American West and experimenting with anti-Romantic landscape imagery, these photographers looked back to the works of 19th-century survey photographers and to Walker Evans’s documentary style.

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Lewis Baltz. 'Model Home, Shadow Mountain' 1977

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Lewis Baltz
Model Home, Shadow Mountain
1977
From the portfolio Nevada
Gift from the
Collection of Joe Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Lewis Baltz. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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In Nevada, Lewis Baltz alternates unbuilt views with home construction, trailer parks, and roads in a documentation of a rapidly changing landscape in the desert valleys surrounding Reno, an area he once described as “landscape-as-real-estate.” Baltz, like Joe Deal and Harold Jones, whose works are on view in this gallery, developed projects as portfolios, believing that a single photograph cannot capture a complete portrait of a place. In Baltz’s series, a multifaceted, occasionally contradictory image of Nevada emerges through the accumulation of photographs.

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Thomas Barrow. 'f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) - Field Star' 1975

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Thomas Barrow
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
1975
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Barrow scratched through his landscape negatives, calling attention to the materiality of the medium itself and the fact that regardless of how much information is given, reality remains an accumulation of belief, knowledge, and one’s own experience.

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Harold Henry Jones. 'With Emmet' 1978

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Harold Henry Jones
With Emmet
1978
From the portfolio Tucson
Gift of the artist in honor of Joe Deal
© 1986 Harold Jones. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Harold Jones moved to Tucson sight unseen in 1974. The Tucson Portfolio documents his first years living in, exploring, and adapting to this unfamiliar landscape. In an accompanying text he relates his initial impressions of the Southwest, a landscape he had only seen in Westerns and “in the background of Roadrunner cartoons.” It was, he writes, “white bright and oven hot. Driving through the spiney leafless plants of the desert gave me the impression of being on an ocean floor – except someone had removed the water. A primordial landscape in a sea of light. Shocking and enchanting, at the same time.”

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Frank Gohlke (American, b. 1942) 'Near Crowley, Texas' 1978

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Frank Gohlke (American, b. 1942)
Near Crowley, Texas
1978
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift from the Collection of Joe Deal and Betsy Ruppa

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Lee Friedlander. 'Atlantic City, New Jersey' 1971

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Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Atlantic City, New Jersey
1971
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

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Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984) 'Utah' 1964

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Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Utah
1964
From the portfolio Garry Winogrand, 1978
Gelatin silver prints RISD Museum: Gift of Frederick J. Myerson

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In the 1960s nature was apt to be viewed from a car window or in a rear-view mirror rather than from a hilltop. The large-format magisterial views of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were replaced by a 35mm “grab-shot” style that captured the flux and contradictions of modern life with a fresh immediacy. Photographers were among the restless peripatetics crisscrossing the continent on new interstates and side roads, retrieving evidence of the “Americas” they found. The grainy, gritty aesthetic matched the sensations and energy of this environment.

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“America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now accompanies a major exhibition of that title tracing a history of photographs of the American landscape primarily through the collection of the RISD Museum. The show takes a broad look at the ever-evolving definition of American landscape photography – from seemingly pristine views of nature captured with 19th-century view cameras to images of the decaying contemporary urban streets composed from Google Street View. The RISD Museum’s collection of American landscape photography begins at the end of the Civil War in 1865, when photographers traveled west with government survey teams and railroad companies to record the country’s extraordinary natural features and resources. Ever since, the landscape has remained a compelling subject for photographers who have revealed through their images our nation’s ambition and failings, beauty and degradation, politics and personal stories.

The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design announces its major fall exhibition, America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now, a broad panorama of our country’s topographies and correlating narratives that reveals a nation’s ambitions and failings, beauty and loss, politics and personal stories through about 150 photographs spanning nearly 150 years. “The landscape has inspired and challenged artists since the earliest days of our nation,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “The remarkable works in this exhibition not only capture photography’s evolving relationship with the landscape but also trace the larger narrative of America itself.”

From the earliest images in the show, it is clear how purpose guided style. Carlton Watkins’ 1860s painterly and atmospheric views of the sublime landscape portray the wilderness as a place of spiritual renewal and a refuge from urban problems. In contrast, Timothy O’Sullivan, employed for the government’s geological surveys in the 1870s, made purposefully spare and anti-picturesque images that seemingly provide proof of empty territories needing to be studied, secured, and settled.

In her essay for America in View’s accompanying catalogue, photographer Deborah Bright, chair of the Fine Art Department at Pratt Institute, suggests that some of the historical shifts in environmental consciousness seen in the photographs “illuminate how the works also reflect changing conceptions of landscapes as bearers of cultural meaning.” Ansel Adams, whose mid-20th-century views of nature’s majesty and vastness represent many people’s ideals of American landscape photography, omitted human impact on the land. Widely used by the Sierra Club, his stunning images of untouched wilderness encouraged conservation in the face of an increasingly industrial society.

By the 1970s, artists including the late RISD provost and photography professor Joe Deal saw that the environment entailed both wilderness and the vacant lot next door. Their “New Topographics” imagery depicts recently constructed tract homes, industrial parks, and highway culture – inverting Adams’ exclusion. “‘Landscape’ is probably better understood as that set of expectations and beliefs… we project upon the world,” explains Brown University art historian Douglas Nickel, in the catalogue. “Not every photograph of land is a landscape, and not every landscape necessarily features the land.”

The past 20 years reveal a return to romantic views of the landscape, even in its degraded state, often including figures to create narratives. Justine Kurland’s landscape under an overpass shows a stunning place of fantasy and escape. RISD alumnus Justin Kimball explores fantasies of finding wilderness in public parks – where instead we find others seeking the same.

Press release from the RISD website

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Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953) 'Niagara Falls' 1986

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Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953)
Niagara Falls
1986
Gelatin silver print
Private collection

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Old Hanford City Sites and the Columbia River, Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington' 1986

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Old Hanford City Sites and the Columbia River, Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington
1986
Toned gelatin silver prints
Promised gift of Dr. and Mrs. William G. Tsiaras

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Alluvial Fan, Natural Drainage near Yuma Proving Ground and the California Arizona Border' 1988

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Alluvial Fan, Natural Drainage near Yuma Proving Ground and the California Arizona Border
1988
Toned gelatin silver prints
Promised gift of Dr. and Mrs. William G. Tsiaras

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, Arkansas' 1989

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Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
1989
Toned gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

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Emmet Gowin’s carefully constructed prints of strip mining sites, nuclear testing fields, large-scale agriculture, and other scars in the natural landscape seductively draw us in to examine what these lushly patterned and toned images represent. Predating Google Earth, these photographs are shot from the air and provide information about the environment that questions our role as stewards of the planet. A master darkroom printer, Gowin makes images come alive through hand-toning. Each print is transformed from grayscale into hues ranging from warm highlights to cool shadows, emphasizing the illusion of three-dimensionality.

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David T. Hanson. 'Coal Strip Mine, Power Plant and Waste Ponds' 1984

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David T. Hanson
Coal Strip Mine, Power Plant and Waste Ponds
1984
Museum Purchase: Gift of the Artist’s Development Fund of the Rhode Island Foundation
© 1984 David T. Hanson, from the book Colstrip, Montana by David T. Hanson (Taverner Press, 2010). Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Terry Evans (American, b. 1944) 'Terraced Plowing with a Grass Waterway' 1991

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Terry Evans (American, b. 1944)
Terraced Plowing with a Grass Waterway
1991
From the series Inhabited Prairie
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Jan Howard and Dennis Teepe in honor of Joe Deal

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Neither the striking abstract design of the terraced field nor the effectiveness of this type of farming are what interests Terry Evans. She is drawn to the specific place and how the marks on the land, as she has said, “contain contradictions and mysteries that raise questions about how we live on the prairie. All of these places are beautiful to me, perhaps because all land, like the human body, is beautiful.”

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Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969) 'Smoke Bombs' 2000

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Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969)
Smoke Bombs
2000
From the series Runaway Girls
Color chromogenic print
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

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The neglected space under a New Jersey highway overpass was an ideal spot for three girls to act out Justine Kurland’s fictive story about fugitive teenagers. The figurative grouping recalls pastoral scenes in historical paintings so that the danger of the girls’ pursuit in this dicey no-man’s land is temporarily suspended in the hazy romantic fantasy of escape. The strong light streaming across the scene and the overall beauty of the composition suggests a desire to pursue the sublime even in the most degraded landscapes.

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Justin Kimball. 'Deep Hole, New Hampshire' 2002

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Justin Kimball
Deep Hole, New Hampshire
2002
From the series Where We Find Ourselves
Gift of the artist in honor of Joe Deal
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Deep Hole, New Hampshire captures light filtering through the trees as a dozen young men and women distribute themselves among rocky outcroppings, poised for adventure in the water below. The composition recalls the quiet drama of Thomas Eakins’s 19th-century painting of nude swimmers. This reference drew Kimball to the picture as it played out in front of him, along with the palpable sense of elation in the youths’ encounter with the landscape, no matter the deteriorating state of the site due to its heavy use. Kimball’s series Where We Find Ourselves explores the fantasy of finding wilderness in state and national parks, where we only find other people looking for it, too.

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Alec Soth. '2008_08zl0031' 2008

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Alec Soth
2008_08zl0031
2008
Mary Ann Lippitt Acquisition Fund
© Alec Soth
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Where We Find Ourselves

Current representations of the American landscape reveal a continually fraught relationship with the environment. Recent landscape photography reflects its history while constructing new notions of what such an image can be. Some artists continue to see the landscape as a place of refuge or spirituality. Others focus on its more disturbing psychological impact, even haunted with battle scars. Some pick up from the 1970s New Topographics approach with a more pointed investigation of environmentalism, documenting and questioning the impact of industry and development on the natural world. Still others have found that with the introduction of the figure the landscape can act as a stage, albeit one charged with political and social resonance.

Notable shifts have also been driven by new processes and techniques. The photographs of the last several decades are predominantly in color and are much larger than their precedents. While many artists working today use digital technology, their motive is rarely to alter or fabricate imagery but instead to have easier and better control over how these larger images are presented. Surprisingly, many of today’s photographers are using largeformat cameras very similar to those of the 19th century to create negatives or digital files capable of being enlarged to the scale of contemporary work.

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Steven B. Smith (American, b. 1963) (RISD Faculty 1996-present) 'Coolers, Ivins, Utah' 2007

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Steven B. Smith (American, b. 1963) (RISD Faculty 1996-present)
Coolers, Ivins, Utah
2007
From the series Irrational Exuberance
Color inkjet print
RISD Museum: Gift of Heather Smith in honor of Joe Deal

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Steven Smith’s subject matter follows in the tradition of the 1970s New Topographic artists. What differentiates Smith’s view of a recently suburbanized desert from his predecessors is the humor with which he captures the extravagant building in this arid place. In this image, from the aptly titled series Irrational Exuberance, fluorescent-colored coolers, like the red rocks, become part of the landscape, even creating their own waterfall.

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Joe Deal. 'Kite, Chino Hills, California' 1984

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Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Kite, Chino Hills, California
1984
From the portfolio Subdividing the Inland Basin
Gift of the artist
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Joe Deal often found his picture at the border between the built and unbuilt landscape. The driveway makes for a convenient spot to fly a kite, surrounded as it is here with a bit of open space remaining in a new development. In the distance to the right the residential growth that will soon cover this piece of land is visible through the atmospheric smog. In the distance to the left are still untouched hills. The inclusion of people – evidence of a rapidly exploding community near the intersection of the Pomona and Orange freeways – marks a shift in Deal’s photography to embracing the landscape as a site for narrative.

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Uta Barth (German, b. 1958) 'Field #14' 1996

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Uta Barth (German, b. 1958)
Field #14
1996
Color chromogenic print
RISD Museum: Gift of the Buddy Taub Foundation, Jill and Dennis Roach, Directors

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Uta Barth radically softens the camera’s focus to remove all signs of historical specificity and to saturate a flat industrial-looking non-place with a dream-like atmosphere. As such she creates a generic landscape as viewed through a heavily fogged window, with an uncanny sense that is deeply familiar.

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Henry Wessel (American, b. 1942) 'Night Walk, Los Angeles, No. 28' 1995

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Henry Wessel (American, b. 1942)
Night Walk, Los Angeles, No. 28
1995
From the series Night Walk: LA
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Mark Pollack

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Millee Tibbs (American, b. 1976) (RISD MFA 2007) 'Self-Portrait in the Fog' 2009

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Millee Tibbs (American, b. 1976) (RISD MFA 2007)
Self-Portrait in the Fog
2009
From the portfolio Self Portraits
Color inkjet print
RISD Museum: Gift of the artist in honor of Joe Deal

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Robert Frank
U.S. 285, New Mexico
1955
Silver gelatin photograph

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Installation views of America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903
T: 401 454-6500

Opening hours:
Tuesdays – Sundays, 10 am – 5 pm; Thursdays, 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) website

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29
Apr
10

Exhibition: ‘Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 9th May 2010

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The photograph shows O’Sullivan’s photographic wagon in which he developed his glass plates.

 

 

O’Sullivan died at the age of forty two but what photographs he left us!
The human scales the sublime, literally; figures in the descriptive landscape.
The last photograph is, if you will forgive the colloquialism, a doozy.

 

“If the world is unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest it is not surprising things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains. Sublime places acknowledge limitations that we might otherwise encounter with anxiety or anger in the ordinary flow of events. It is not just nature that defies us. Human life is as overwhelming, but it is the vast spaces of nature that perhaps provide us with the finest, the most respectful reminder of all that exceeds us. If we spend time with them, they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.”

Alain de Botton. The Art of Travel. London: Penguin, 2002, p.178 – 179.

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Many thankx to Laura Baptiste and the Smithsonian American Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado' 1874

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Black Cañon, Colorado River, From Camp 8, Looking Above' 1871

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Black Cañon, Colorado River, From Camp 8, Looking Above
1871
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Buttes near Green River City, Wyoming' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Buttes near Green River City, Wyoming
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height' 1873

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height
1873
Albumen print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan is the first major exhibition devoted to this remarkable photographer in three decades. The exhibition is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 12 through May 9. The museum is the only venue for the exhibition.

“Framing the West” – a collaboration between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress – offers a critical reevaluation of O’Sullivan’s images and the conditions under which they were made, as well as an examination of their continued importance in the photographic canon. It features more than 120 photographs and stereo cards by O’Sullivan, including a notable group of King Survey photographs from the Library of Congress that have rarely been on public display since 1876. The installation also includes images and observations by six contemporary landscape photographers that comment on the continuing influence of O’Sullivan’s photographs. Toby Jurovics, curator of photography, is the exhibition curator.

“Timothy H. O’Sullivan is widely recognised as an influential figure in the development of photography in America, so I am delighted that we have partnered with our colleagues at the Library of Congress to present this new assessment of his work and to expose a new generation to his forceful images,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“In the years following the Civil War, the West was fertile ground for American photographers, but Timothy H. O’Sullivan has always stood apart in his powerful and direct engagement with the landscape,” said Jurovics. “Almost a century and a half after their making, his photographs still speak with an unparalleled presence and immediacy.”

O’Sullivan was part of a group of critically acclaimed 19th-century photographers – including A.J. Russell, J.K. Hillers and William Bell – who went west in the 1860s and 1870s. O’Sullivan was a photographer for two of the most ambitious geographical surveys of the 19th century. He accompanied geologist Clarence King on the Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Fortieth Parallel and Lt. George M. Wheeler on the Geographical and Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. During his seven seasons (1867-1874) traversing the mountain and desert regions of the Western United States, he created one of the most influential visual accounts of the American interior.

His assignments with the King and Wheeler surveys gave O’Sullivan the freedom to record the Western landscape with a visual and emotional complexity that was without precedent. His photographs illustrated geologic theories and provided information useful to those settling in the West, but they also were a personal record of his encounter with a landscape that was challenging and inspiring.

Of all his colleagues, O’Sullivan has maintained the strongest influence on contemporary practice. The formal directness and lack of picturesque elements in his work appealed to a later generation of photographers who, beginning in the 1970s, turned away from a romanticized view of nature to once again embrace a clear, unsentimental approach to the landscape. Observations about his images by Thomas Joshua Cooper, Eric Paddock, Edward Ranney, Mark Ruwedel, Martin Stupich and Terry Toedtemeier appear in the exhibition and the catalog.

O’Sullivan (1840-1882) was born in Ireland. He emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of two, eventually settling in Staten Island, N.Y. Biographical details about O’Sullivan are spare, yet he is thought to have had his earliest photographic training in the New York studio of portrait photographer Mathew Brady. He is believed to have accompanied Alexander Gardner to Washington, D.C., to assist in opening a branch of the Brady studio in 1858, and when Gardner opened his own studio in Washington in 1863, O’Sullivan followed. O’Sullivan first gained recognition for images made during the Civil War, particularly those from the Battle of Gettysburg, and 41 of his images were published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War. O’Sullivan’s experience photographing in the field helped earn him the position as photographer for King’s survey. After his survey work, he held brief assignments in Washington with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Treasury. O’Sullivan died of tuberculosis on Staten Island at the age of 42.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website [Online] Cited 25/04/2010 no longer available online

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Green River Cañon, Colorado' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Green River Cañon, Colorado
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Horse Shoe Cañon, Green River, Wyoming' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Horse Shoe Cañon, Green River, Wyoming
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Summit of Wahsatch Range, Utah (Lone Peak)' 1869

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Summit of Wahsatch Range, Utah (Lone Peak)
1869
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, View Across Top of Falls' 1874

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, View Across Top of Falls
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'The Pyramid & Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
The Pyramid & Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum website

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23
Oct
09

Exhibition: ‘William Christenberry: Photographs, 1961-2005’ at the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia

Exhibition dates: 12th September – 8th November 2009

 

Many thankx to the Morris 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.

 

 

William Christenberry. 'Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama' 1997

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama
1997

 

 

“Widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of colour photography, William Christenberry has used this expressive medium to explore the American South for forty years. While pursuing this artistic quest he has drawn inspiration from Walker Evans, and influenced a generation of emerging photographers. William Christenberry: Photographs, 1961 – 2005 surveys his poetic documentation of southern vernacular architecture, signage, and landscape using a wide range of cameras, from his earliest Brownie photographs of the early 1960s to his later work with a large-format camera. Combining never-before-seen photographs, both old and new, with images that are now iconic, this exhibition comprises fifty vintage photographic works and one sculpture. Together, they convey the breadth of his singular photographic vision. Discuss the artistic objectives of his long-term interpretation of the Southern landscape with Michelle Norris of National Public Radio, Christenberry explained: “What I really feel very strongly about, and I hope reflects in all aspects of my work, is the human touch, the humanness of things, the positive and sometimes the negative and sometimes the sad.”

Text from the Morris Musem of Art website [Online] Cited 15/10/2009 no longer available online

 

William Christenberry. 'House and Car, near Akron, Alabama' 1981

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
House and Car, near Akron, Alabama
1981

 

William Christenberry. 'T.B. Hick's Store, Newbern, Alabama' 1976

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
T.B. Hick’s Store, Newbern, Alabama
1976

 

William Christenberry. 'Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama' 1981

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama
1981

 

 

“William Christenberry Photographs, 1961 – 2005, a phenomenal retrospective exhibition of Christenberry’s photographs, opens to the public at the Morris Museum of Art on September 16, 2009. The Morris Museum is the only Georgia venue hosting this exhibition.

“‘William Christenberry Photographs, 1961 – 2005’ is an overview of the career of one of the South’s most important living artists,” said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art. “Organised by the Aperture Foundation, this exhibition brings to Augusta a body of work like no other. No one has so scrupulously and attentively captured a sense of place and time in quite the way that Bill Christenberry has. He is a remarkable artist, as is proven by this extraordinary body of work. He is America’s Proust.”

Since the early 1960s, William Christenberry has plumbed the regional identity of the American South, focusing his attention primarily on his childhood home, Hale County, Alabama. Widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of colour photography, Christenberry draws inspiration from the work of Walker Evans, while paralleling the work of such international practitioners as Bernd and Hilla Becher. Ranging from his earliest Brownie photographs to his later work with a large-format camera, William Christenberry Photographs, 1961 – 2005 is a survey of the artist’s poetic documentation of the Southern landscape and vernacular architecture that surrounded him as he grew up. The exhibition, coupling never-before-seen photographs with images that are now iconic, reveals how the history, the very story of place, is at the heart of Christenberry’s ongoing project. While the focus of his work is the American South, it touches on universal themes related to family, culture, nature, spirituality, memory, and ageing. Christenberry photographs real things in the real world – ramshackle buildings, weathered commercial signs, lonely back roads, rusted-out cars, whitewashed churches, decorated graves. Dutifully returning to photograph the same locations annually – the green barn, the palmist building, the Bar-B-Q Inn, among others – he has fulfilled a personal ritual and documented the physical changes wrought by every single year. Straddling past and present, Christenberry’s art suggests the gravity and power of the passage of time.

The exhibition is accompanied by a stunning monograph entitled William Christenberry, published by Aperture in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The book, a comprehensive survey, presents all aspects of the artist’s oeuvre as he intended it to be viewed and considered. More than half the work reproduced has not been previously published.”

Text from the press release on the Morris Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 15/10/2009 no longer available online

 

William Christenberry. 'Farmhouse, Hale County, Alabama' 1977

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Farmhouse, Hale County, Alabama
1977

 

William Christenberry. 'Sprott Church in Alabama' 1971

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Sprott Church in Alabama
1971

 

William Christenberry. 'Palmist Building, Havanna, Alabama' 1980

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Palmist Building, Havanna, Alabama
1980

 

William Christenberry. 'House and Car, near Akron, Alabama' 1978

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
House and Car, near Akron, Alabama
1978

 

William Christenberry. 'Rabbit Pen, near Moundville, Alabama' 1998

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Rabbit Pen, near Moundville, Alabama
1998

 

William Christenberry. 'Old House, near Akron, Alabama' 1964

 

William Christenberry (American, 1936-2016)
Old House, near Akron, Alabama
1964

 

 

Morris Museum of Art
1 Tenth Street
Augusta, Georgia 30901
Phone: 706-724-7501

Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday: 12 – 5.00pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays

Morris Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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