Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Rothstein


Exhibition: ‘At the Window: The Photographer’s View’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 1st October 1, 2013 – 5th January 2014


Robert Frank. 'Trolley - New Orleans' 1955


Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Trolley – New Orleans
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 34cm (9 x 13 3/8 in.)
Trish and Jan de Bont



Another fascinating exhibition from the J. Paul Getty Museum that features classic photographs and some that I have never seen before. In my opinion, the two most famous photographs of windows have to be Minor White’s rhapsodic Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester (1958, below) and Paul Strand’s Wall Street (1915, below, originally known as Pedestrians raked by morning light in a canyon of commerce) which, strangely, is not included in the exhibition. I can’t understand this omission as this is the seminal image of windows in the history of photography.


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


Paul Strand. 'Wall Street' 1915


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street



In this photo, taken by morning light 1915, the recently built J.P. Morgan Co. building appears sinister and foreboding and dwarfs (perhaps consumes even) the humanity of suited men and women, their long shadows dragging behind them, walked alongside its facade.

Paul Strand studied under Lewis Hine and Alfred Steiglitz. Although he set up in New York as a portrait photographer, Strand often visited Stieglitz’s gallery to see the new European painting which it exhibited. In 1914-15, under the influence of this new form of art, Strand turned from soft-focus pictoralism towards abstraction. It was in this spirit that the above photo was taken, originally named, “Pedestrians raked by morning light in a canyon of commerce”. Strand did not intended to show Wall Street in a bad light, he admitted. However, as the Great Depression happened (criticism was squarely towards Wall Street back then as it is today) and Strand turned more communist, he later spoke of “sinister windows” and “blind shapes” inherent in the above picture.

The photo, now simply titled “Wall Street”, was one of six Paul Strand pictures Stieglitz published in Camera Work. In three of the six pictures, humanity strides out from abstract ideas, and each figure was a study in itself – an irregular item complimented by modular formats that surround it. Another set of eleven Strand photos were published in the magazine’s final issue in 1917, and those pictures, overwhelmingly endorsed by Stieglitz as ‘brutally direct’ made Strand’s reputation.

Alex Selwyn-Holmes. “Wall Street by Paul Strand,” on the Iconic Photos blog, December 2010 [Online] Cited 12/01/2021


Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985) 'Girl at Gee's Bend' 1937


Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985)
Girl at Gee’s Bend
Silver gelatin print
Image: 40 x 49.7cm (15 3/4 x 19 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Edmund Collein (German, 1906-1992) '[Four Women Looking Through Window]' about 1928


Edmund Collein (German, 1906-1992)
[Four Women Looking Through Window]
about 1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8.2 x 11.1cm (3 1/4 x 4 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ursula Kirsten-Collein, Berlin


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Wall Street Windows' about 1929


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Wall Street Windows
about 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 29.8 x 19.2cm (11 3/4 x 7 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) '[The Milliner's Window]' before January 1844


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
[The Milliner’s Window]
before January 1844
Salted paper print from a Calotype negative
Image: 14.3 x 19.5cm (5 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Barn Window and Ice, East Jamaica, Vermont' 1943


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Barn Window and Ice, East Jamaica, Vermont
Gelatin silver print
Image (trimmed to mount): 19.4 x 24.3cm (7 5/8 x 9 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aperture Foundation


Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993) 'Rain Drops' 1953


Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Rain Drops
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.2 x 25cm (7 15/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Christian K. Keesee
© The Brett Weston Archive


Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944) 'Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam' Negative 1995; print 2009


Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, b. 1944)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Negative 1995; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 x 51.4cm (13 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sebastião Salgado



In many respects, the window was where photography began. As early as 1826, the sill of an upstairs window in the home of the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce served as a platform for his photographic experiments. His View from the Window at Le Gras is today considered to be the first photograph. Since then, the window motif in photographs has functioned formally as a framing device and conceptually as a tool for artistic expression. It is also tied metaphorically to the camera itself which is, at its most rudimentary, a “room” (the word camera means “chamber”) and its lens a “window” through which images are projected and fixed. The photographs in At the Window: A Photographer’s View, on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, explore varying aspects of the window as frame or mirror – formally or metaphorically – for photographic vision.

“The Getty Museum’s extensive collection allows us to explore themes and subjects within the history of photography that highlight not only the most famous masters and iconic images they produced, but also less obvious subjects, methods and practitioners of the medium whose contributions have not yet been fully acknowledged. At the Window is one such an exhibition, and holds in store many surprises, even for those who know the field well,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition also allows us to celebrate a substantial body of work that was recently added to the collection with funds provided by the Museum’s Photographs Council, whose mission it is to help us support the growth of the collection, and a number of highly important loans from private collections.”


Shop Windows and Architecture

Featured in the exhibition is an exceedingly rare early photograph, William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Milliner’s Window (before January 1844) which depicts not an actual window but a carefully constructed one: shelves were placed outdoors and propped in front of black cloth, while various ladies’ hats were arranged to simulate the look of a shop display. Throughout the history of photography, actual shop fronts have been a popular subject and reflections in their windows a source for unexpected juxtapositions. This motif is well represented in the exhibition with photographs by William Eggleston, Eugène Atget, and Walker Evans.

Photographers have also taken an interest in the distinctive formal arrangements made possible by the architectural facades found in a cityscape. André Kertész’s Rue Vavin, Paris (1925), a view from his apartment window, is one of the first photographs he took upon arriving in Paris from Budapest. Photographers like Alfred Stieglitz carefully framed their views of urban exteriors, using the window as a unifying device within the composition.


The Window as Social Documentary

While windows provide an opportunity to observe life beyond a single room, the camera’s lens opens a window to the world at large. Arthur Rothstein believed in photography’s ability to enact social change – his Girl at Gee’s Bend (1937) features a young girl framed in the window of her log-and-earth home in Alabama, highlighting the schism between magazine images and the actual lives of most Americans at the time. Similarly, Robert Frank’s Trolley – New Orleans (1955) frames racial segregation through windows in a trolley, while Sebastião Salgado’s Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (negative 1995; print 2009) uses the barely separated windows of a housing structure to evoke the cramped quarters and dire economic situation of its inhabitants.


The Window as a Conceptual Tool

Artists have used the window in other novel ways, whether to create an enigmatic mood or suggest a suspenseful scene. In Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (2002) from the series Twilight, the image of a woman standing in a room and turned toward a window creates a suspended, unsettling moment of anticipation that is never resolved. In her Stranger series (2000), Shizuka Yokomizo actively engages subjects by sending letters to randomly selected apartment residents, asking them to stand in front of a window at a particular date and time in order to be photographed. Uta Barth’s diptych …and of time (2000), where the path of a window’s light and shadow is followed across the wall of the artist’s living room, illustrates something the artist phrased as “ambient vision.”

“The window has been a recurrent and powerful theme for photographers from the beginning of the medium,” explains Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “In a collection such as the Getty’s that is particularly rich in work by important photographers from the beginnings of the medium to the present day, the motif provides a unique way to travel through the history of photography.”


The Window in Photographs (Getty Publications, $24.95, hardcover) investigates the recurrence of windows both as a figurative and literal theme throughout the history of photography. From the very vocabulary we use to describe cameras and photographic processes to the subjects of world-renowned photographers, windows have long held powerful sway over artists working in the medium. When documented on film, windows call into question issues of representation, the malleability of perception, and the viewer’s experience of the photograph itself, and the window’s evocative power is often rooted in the interplay between positive and negative, darkness and light, and inside and out.

Yet despite the ubiquity of windows in photography, this subject has been rarely addressed head on in a single exhibition or publication. From the birth of the Daguerreotype to the development of digital imagery, this volume presents a full account of the motif of the window as a symbol of photographic vision. Its eighty featured colour plates, all drawn from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, allowing the window’s many uses in photography to be highlighted and explored stylistically. Including images from all-star contributors such as Uta Barth, Gregory Crewdson, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Minor White, The Window in Photographs is a remarkable examination of a theme that has inspired photographers for over a century. This book is published to coincide with the exhibition At the Window: The Photographer’s View at the J. Paul Getty Museum from October 1, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website


Minor White. 'Windowsill daydreaming' 1958


Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester
Negative July 1958; print 1960
Gelatin silver print, selenium toned
Image: 28.6 x 22.2cm (11 1/4 x 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Purchased in part with funds provided by the Greenberg Foundation
© Trustees of Princeton University, Minor White Archive


Charles Swedlund (American, born 1935) 'Buffalo, NY' about 1970


Charles Swedlund (American, born 1935)
Buffalo, NY
about 1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.7 x 15.9cm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood
© Charles Swedlund


Walker Evans. 'Penny Picture Display, Savannah' 1936


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah / Photographer’s Window Display, Birmingham, Alabama / Studio Portraits, Birmingham, Alabama
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.6 x 19.9cm (10 1/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Petit Bacchus, 61, rue St. Louis en l'Ile' (The Little Bacchus Café, rue St. Louis en l'Ile) 1901-1902


Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Petit Bacchus, 61, rue St. Louis en l’Ile (The Little Bacchus Café, rue St. Louis en l’Ile)
Albumen silver print
Image: 22.1 x 17.8cm (8 11/16 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) '[From My Window at the Shelton, North]' 1931


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
[From My Window at the Shelton, North]
Gelatin silver print
Image (trimmed to mount): 24.3 x 19.1cm (9 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum


Yuki Onodera (Japanese, born 1962) 'Look Out the Window, No. 18' 2000


Yuki Onodera (Japanese, b. 1962)
Look Out the Window, No. 18
Gelatin silver print
Image: 59 x 49.2cm (23 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Yuki Onodera


Shizuka Yokomizo (Japanese, born 1966) 'Stranger (15)' 1998-2000


Shizuka Yokomizo (Japanese, b. 1966)
Stranger (15)
Chromogenic print
Mount: 124.5 x 104.9cm (49 x 41 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shizuka Yokomizo


Alex Prager (American, born 1979) 'Megan' 2007


Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Chromogenic print
Framed: 125.7 x 62.9cm (49 1/2 x 24 3/4 in.)
Michael and Jane Wilson


Gregory Crewdson (American, born 1962) 'Untitled' from the series 'Twilight' 2002


Gregory Crewdson (American, born 1962)
Untitled from the series Twilight
Chromogenic print
Image: 122 x 152cm (48 1/16 x 59 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© Gregory Crewdson


Uta Barth (German, born 1958) 'Untitled (...and of time. #4)' 2000


Uta Barth (German, born 1958)
Untitled (…and of time. #4)
Chromogenic print
Image: 88.9 x 114.3cm (35 x 45 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2000 Uta Barth



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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


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


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



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):


Dr Marcus Bunyan

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.



“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…”

Douglas Nickel. ‘Photography, Perception, and the Landscape’ 2012 in ‘America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now’ catalogue, p. 26


“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 industrialisation, 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



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


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



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 emphasises 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.


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


Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund.
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence



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.


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


William H. Bell (American, 1830-1910)
Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona
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



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.


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


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



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 favour 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.



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 jeopardise the medium’s elevation to the status of high art. In response, this group of artists – who called themselves Pictorialists – emphasised the photographer’s expertise and embraced labor-intensive processes to create expressive and impressionistic images. Many favoured 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.


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


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


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


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



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.



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 revitalised 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 realised 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.


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


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
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



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, urbanised 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.


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


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



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.


Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor, Chicago' c. 1952


Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor, Chicago
c. 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


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


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Martha’s Vineyard, 114B
Gift of Mr. Robert B. Menschel. Courtesy Aaron Siskind Foundation
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence



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.”


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


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



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.


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


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



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.


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


Jack Warren Welpott (American, 1923-2007)
White Sands
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Aaron Siskind


Joe Deal. 'Colton, California' 1978


Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Colton, California
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


Joe Deal. 'Chatsworth, California' 1980


Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Chatsworth, California
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


Joe Deal. 'Indio, California' 1978


Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999–2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Indio, California
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


Joe Deal. 'Santa Barbara, California' 1978


Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999–2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Santa Barbara, California
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



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.



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 emphasising 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.


Lewis Baltz. 'Model Home, Shadow Mountain' 1977


Lewis Baltz (American, 1945-2014)
Model Home, Shadow Mountain
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



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.


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


Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1938)
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
Gelatin silver print
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence



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.


Harold Henry Jones. 'With Emmet' 1978


Harold Henry Jones (American, b. 1940)
With Emmet
From the portfolio Tucson
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist in honour of Joe Deal
© 1986 Harold Jones. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence



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.”


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


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


Lee Friedlander. 'Atlantic City, New Jersey' 1971


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


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


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



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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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, emphasising the illusion of three-dimensionality.


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


David T. Hanson (American, b. 1948)
Coal Strip Mine, Power Plant and Waste Ponds
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


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


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



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.”


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


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



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.


Justin Kimball. 'Deep Hole, New Hampshire' 2002


Justin Kimball (American, b. 1961)
Deep Hole, New Hampshire
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



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.


Alec Soth. '2008_08zl0031' 2008


Alec Soth (American, b. 1969)
Mary Ann Lippitt Acquisition Fund
© Alec Soth
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence



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 colour 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 large format 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.


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


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



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


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


Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Kite, Chino Hills, California
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



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.


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


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



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.


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


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


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


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


Robert Frank. 'U.S. 285, New Mexico' 1955


Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
U.S. 285, New Mexico
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



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

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

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


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Exhibition: ‘Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art’ at the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2009 – 3rd January 2010

Curator: Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography


Many thankx to the Frick Art and Historical Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Dr Marcus Bunyan



Matthew Brady (American 1823-1896) 'Prosper Whetmore' 1857


Matthew Brady (American 1823-1896)
Prosper Whetmore
Salted paper print from wet collodion negative
47 x 39.4 cm (18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
CC0 1.0 Universal



A popular author, legislator, and general in the New York State militia, Wetmore, here at age 59, still resembles Edgar Allen Poe’s description of him from a decade earlier: “about five feet eight in height, slender, neat; with an air of military compactness.” Brady’s portrait studio, with branches in New York and Washington, DC, was the most important of its era in America, thanks in part to its success in photographing political, social, and cultural figures. These early celebrity portraits … could sell thousands of copies.


Anne W. Brigman (American, 1869-1950) 'The Hamadryads' c. 1910


Anne W. Brigman (American, 1869-1950)
The Hamadryads
c. 1910
Platinum print


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) 'Bucks County Barn' 1915


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965)
Bucks County Barn
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 5/16″ (23.5 x 18.6 cm)


Margaret Bourke-White (American 1904-1971) 'Terminal Tower' 1928


Margaret Bourke-White (American 1904-1971)
Terminal Tower
13 1/4 x 10″ (33.7 x 25.4 cm)
Gelatin silver print


Imogene Cunningham. 'Black and White Lilies III' 1928


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Black and White Lilies III
Gelatin silver print


Alfred Steiglitz. 'Georgia O'Keefe' 1933


Alfred Steiglitz (American 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keefe
Gelatin silver photograph


Dorothea Lange (American 1895-1965) 'Resident, Conway, Arkansas' 1938


Dorothea Lange (American 1895-1965)
Resident, Conway, Arkansas
Gelatin silver print
11 15/16 x 9 1/2 in. (30.32 x 24.13 cm)


Laszlo Moholy Nagy. 'Untitled' 1939


Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Gelatin silver print



On October 3, 2009, Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art opens at The Frick Art Museum. This exhibition is composed of fifty-nine photographs from Cleveland’s extraordinary collection that chronicle the evolution of photography in America from a scientific curiosity in the 1850s to one of the most potent forms of artistic expression of the twentieth century.

Icons of American Photography presents some of the best work by masters of the medium, like Mathew Brady, William Henry Jackson, Eadweard Muybridge, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank, encompassing themes of portraiture, the Western landscape, Pictorialism, documentary photography, and abstraction.

The exhibition explores the technical developments of photography, starting with outstanding examples of daguerreotypes – a sheet of copper coated with light sensitive silver. The daguerreotype gave way to salt, albumen, and then gelatin silver prints. Technologies improved to accommodate larger sizes, easy reproduction of multiple prints from a single negative, and commercially available negative film and print papers. As we move into an increasingly digitised twenty-first century, the lure of the photographer’s magic and the mysteries of making photographic images appear on paper is still strong.

Icons of American Photography presents a remarkable chronicle of American life seen through the camera’s lens. The earliest days of photography saw a proliferation of portraiture – intimately personal and honest in composition. A rare multiple-exposure daguerreotype by Albert Southworth (1811- 894) and Josiah Hawes (1808-1901) presents the sitter in variety of poses and expressions, while the formal portrait of Prosper M. Wetmore, 1857, by Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady (1823-1896) is more typical of early portraiture. The carefully staged daguerreotype, Dead Child on a Sofa, c. 1855, is an outstanding example of the postmortem portrait. The high rate of infant mortality throughout the 1800s made this variety of portraiture common, satisfying the emotional need of the parents to have a lasting memory of their loved one.

Advances in photographic processes allowed for a range of expressive qualities that were exploited by photographers with an artistic flair. In a style known as Pictorialism, works such as Hamadryads, 1910, by Anne Brigman (1869-1950) imitated the subject matter of painting. In Greek mythology a hamadryad is a nymph whose life begins and ends with that of a specific tree. In this work, two nudes representing wood nymphs were carefully placed among the flowing forms of an isolated tree in the High Sierra. The platinum print method used by Brigman allowed for a detailed, yet warm and evocative result. Edward Steichen’s Rodin the Thinker, 1902 (see below), was created from two different negatives printed together using the carbon print process. This non-silver process provided a continuous and delicate tonal range. For even greater richness, these prints were often toned, producing dense, glossy areas in either black or warm brown.

During the late nineteenth century, the U.S. Congress commissioned photographers to document the American West. Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) and William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) are the most celebrated from among this era. The exhibition includes O’Sullivan’s East Humbolt Mountains, Utah, 1868, and Jackson’s Mystic Lake, M.T., 1872, as well as Bridal Veil, Yosemite, c. 1866 (see below), by Carleton Watkins (1829-1916). Photographers carried large-format cameras with heavy glass negatives to precarious vantage points to create their sharply focused and detailed views. Decades later, Ansel Adams (1902-1984) carried on the intrepid tradition when he swerved to the side of the road and hauled his view camera to the roof of his car to make the famous image Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.

Responding to the rapid growth of the twentieth century, many photographers shifted their attention from depictions of the natural world to the urban landscape. The power, energy, and romance of the city inspired varied approaches, from sweeping vistas to tight, close-up details and unusual camera angles. Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) established her reputation during the late 1920s by photographing industrial subjects in Cleveland. Her Terminal Tower, 1928, documents what was then the second tallest building in America. Berenice Abbot’s (1898-1991) New York, 1936, is one of many depictions of this vibrant metropolis. The human life of the city intrigued many photographers, including Helen Levitt (1913-2009) whose photographs of children are direct, unsentimental and artful; Weegee [Arthur Fellig] (1899-1968) who unflinchingly documented crime and accident scenes; and Gordon Parks (1912-2006) who chronicled the life of African Americans.

Exploiting the new medium, numerous photography projects were instituted as part of FDR’s New Deal. The most legendary was that of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) run by Roy Stryker, who hired such important photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. One of the most iconic images of the New Deal was Dust Storm, Cimarron County, 1936 (see below), by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985). In the spring of 1936, Rothstein made hundreds of photographs in Cimarron County in the Oklahoma panhandle, one of the worst wind-eroded areas in the United States. Out of that body of work came this gripping, unforgettable image. Dorothea Lange’s (1895-1965) work chronicled the human toll wrought by hardship in Resident, Conway, Arkansas, 1938.

As an art form, photography kept in step with formalist modern styles and an increasing trend toward abstraction. Known for his precisionist paintings, Charles Sheeler’s (1883-1965) Bucks County Barn, 1915, features a geometric composition, sharp focus, and subtle tonal range. In Black and White Lilies III, c. 1928 (see above), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) combined the clarity and directness of Modernism with her long-held interest in botanical imagery. For two decades she created a remarkable group of close-up studies of plants and flowers that identified her as one of the most sophisticated and experimental photographers working in America.

Photographers such as Edward Weston (1886-1958) and Paul Strand (1890-1976) employed a straight-on clarity that highlighted the abstract design of everyday objects and the world around us. A completely abstract work by artist László Moholy-Nagy (1894-1946), Untitled, 1939 (see above), is a photogram made by laying objects onto light-sensitive photographic paper and exposing it to light. The objects partially block the light to create an abstract design on the paper.

By 1960, photography had attained a prominent place not only among the fine arts, but in popular culture as well, ushering in a new era of image-based communication that has profoundly affected the arts as well as everyday life.

Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art is organised by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibition is curated by Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography.”

Press release from the The Frick Art and Historical Center website [Online] Cited 06/12/2009 no longer available online


Unknown photographer (American) 'Dead child on a sofa' c. 1855


Unknown photographer (American)
Dead child on a sofa
c. 1855
Quarter plate daguerreotype with applied colour


Carleton Watkins. 'Yosemite Valley from the Best General View No. 2.' 1866


Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Yosemite Valley from the Best General View No. 2
Albumen silver print



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

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum [Online] Cited 14/05/2019


Carleton Watkins. 'Bridal Veil, Yosemite' 1866


Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Bridal Veil, Yosemite
Albumen silver print


Eadweard J. Muybridge. 'Valley of Yosemite, from Rocky Ford' 1872


Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Valley of Yosemite, from Rocky Ford
Albumen silver print


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973) 'Rodin The Thinker' 1902


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973)
Rodin The Thinker
Gum bichromate print



When Edward Steichen arrived in Paris in 1900, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was regarded not only as the finest living sculptor but also perhaps as the greatest artist of his time. Steichen visited him in his studio in Meudon in 1901 and Rodin, upon seeing the young photographer’s work, agreed to sit for his portrait. Steichen spent a year studying the sculptor among his works, finally choosing to show Rodin in front of the newly carved white marble of the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” facing the bronze of “The Thinker.” In his autobiography, Steichen describes the studio as being so crowded with marble blocks and works in clay, plaster, and bronze that he could not fit them together with the sculptor into a single negative. He therefore made two exposures, one of Rodin and the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” and another of “The Thinker.” Steichen first printed each image separately and, having mastered the difficulties of combining the two negatives, joined them later into a single picture, printing the negative showing Rodin in reverse.

“Rodin – The Thinker” is a remarkable demonstration of Steichen’s control of the gum bichromate process and the painterly effects it encouraged. It is also the most ambitious effort of any Pictorialist to emulate art in the grand tradition. The photograph portrays the sculptor in symbiotic relation to his work.

Suppressing the texture of the marble and bronze and thus emphasiSing the presence of the sculptures as living entities, Steichen was able to assimilate the artist into the heroic world of his creations. Posed in relief against his work, Rodin seems to contemplate in “The Thinker” his own alter ego, while the luminous figure of Victor Hugo suggests poetic inspiration as the source of his creativity. Recalling his response to a reproduction of Rodin’s “Balzac” in a Milwaukee newspaper, Steichen noted: “It was not just a statue of a man; it was the very embodiment of a tribute to genius.” Filled with enthusiasm and youthful self-confidence, Steichen wanted in this photograph to pay similar tribute to Rodin’s genius.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 14/05/2019


Arthur Rothstein (American 1915-1985) 'Dust Storm, Cimarron County' 1936


Arthur Rothstein (American 1915-1985)
Dust Storm, Cimarron County
Gelatin silver photograph
40.4 × 39.6cm



The Frick Art and Historical Center
7227 Reynolds Street
Pittsburgh PA 15208

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Friday 10am – 9pm
Closed Monday

The Frick Art and Historical Center 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.

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