Posts Tagged ‘Atget Old Paris

07
Aug
20

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

August 2020

 

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

 

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

 

 

Atget’s shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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Lee Friedlander

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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12
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget’ and ‘Impressions of Melbourne’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th July 2015 – 20th September 2015

National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition

 

 

Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget is a particularly dry and uninspiring National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition, which was only enlivened for me by the enlightened presence of 20 or so vintage Eugène Atget photographs, specifically added for this showing at the Monash Gallery of Art, the home of Australian photography.

Atget’s photographs have an almost ether/real quality to them in their visual representation and, physically, an ephemeral feel to the quality of the paper – as though the images are about to dissolve into nothing – even as he photographs solid objects such as stairways, doors and door knockers. Observe the photographs Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives (c. 1898-1905), A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre (c. 1900) and Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal (c. 1901-1914), below, to witness this shimmering phenomenon. It is as if the emulsion of the plate is insufficient to capture the light of life.

In an accompanying exhibition in the smaller gallery, Impressions of Melbourne, photographs by Nicholas Caire, Charles Kerry, Max Dupain, Mark Strizic and Noel Jones investigate the city of Melbourne… but it is the stunning photographs by Atget that make the long drive out to Wheeler’s Hill worth the visit.

Marcus

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

 

 

Eugène Atget. 'No title (Brocanteur)' c.1898-1905

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
No title (Brocanteur)
c. 1898-1905
Albumen silver photograph
17.8 x 21.9 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Eugène Atget. 'Versailles, Grand Trianon' c.1901-25

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Versailles, Grand Trianon
c. 1901-25
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
17.6 x 22 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

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

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives
c. 1898-1905
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
22 x 18.1 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927) 'A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre' c. 1900

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre
c. 1900
Printing out paper photograph
22 x 17.7 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

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

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal
c. 1901-1914
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
21.9 x 17.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

 

“Monash Gallery of Art is delighted to present its major international exhibition of 2015, Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget featuring over 120 prints, posters and photographs drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget examines the major contribution to French art made by key figures: Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and includes a selection of photographs by Eugène Atget (1857-1927) specially conceived for Monash Gallery of Art.

Newly appointed Gallery Director Kallie Blauhorn states, “I’m thrilled that for my first exhibition at MGA we are able to present a major international show, Impressions of Paris. Residents of Monash and art lovers across Melbourne will experience the extraordinary works by household names, Toulouse Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Honore Daumier and the wonderful photographer Eugène Atget.”

“This is a first for MGA and a true testament to the reputation of the gallery that we can host this important and significant exhibition,” said Blauhorn.

A generation apart, Lautrec, Degas and Daumier were consummate draughtsmen whose innovative compositions and embrace of modern subject matter played a significant role in artistic developments in France over the nineteenth century. Atget, the only specialist photographer among these artists, spent much of his life documenting the streets of Paris as they underwent modernisation. His photographs show us how modern life was expressed in the architectural experience of France, giving us a glimpse of what modernity left behind.

The generation of French artists who followed Daumier in the nineteenth century were inspired by his critical observations, which became an extraordinary reservoir of ideas. Both Degas and then Lautrec were enthusiastic admirers of French caricature, delighting in its animated qualities, stylistic freedoms and contemporary themes. They were particularly enamoured of Daumier’s caricature.

Degas adopted themes of modern French life, the ballet, the race course, the café-concert and the demi-monde and played an important role in the rejection of mythological and historical subjects favoured by the Impressionists. Many of Degas’ ideas on composition and subjects were, in turn, drawn from Daumier. This French satirist was both extraordinarily gifted and prolific, making a name for himself by lampooning the affectations, stupidities and greed of members of the French bourgeois society in caricatures, which Degas avidly collected.

The youngest of the artists, Lautrec, who sadly dies before reaching 37, borrowed themes and compositions from Degas, an artist he much admired and emulated. Images of drinkers at a table, ballet and cabaret scenes and nudes reveal the powerful influence that Degas had on the younger artist, as well as Lautrec’s own considerable originality, particularly as a portrayer of individuals rather than the depiction of types often favoured by Degas.

For the most part, Atget’s pictures of streets, parks, courtyards, buildings and their ornamental motifs record remnants of Old Paris. While there is a nostalgic aspect to these views, for contemporary viewers these pictures were about modern Paris. They recorded and helped make sense of changes to the city as it struggled to cope with modernism. Atget’s views of modern Paris focussed on its intimate places, those spaces of the everyday in which people had always worked, loved and lived.

These four artists captured the spirit of Paris in their prints, posters and photographs. Through the examination of this work, we find clues as to why dramatic changes took place in French art over the nineteenth century. They formed part of other generations of artists who admired Daumier and who adapted the caricaturist’s critical lithographic observations. In this way Daumier’s legacy was a brilliant journalistic record of the modern capital and contributed to an era in France ripe for a new art.”

Press release from the MGA website

 

Eugène Atget: growth and decay in the great city

After an unspectacular career in the theatre, Eugène Atget (1857-1927) began to take photographs of Paris in 1892. By 1897 he had established a successful business photographing the spaces that remained of Old Paris. In all, Atget made over 10,000 images of Paris and its surrounds, each taken with a straightforward approach that laid the basis for much of the documentary photography that followed. Atget’s pictures were immensely popular: he sold thousands of prints, satisfying a strong demand for views of a city undergoing massive social and architectural transformation.

For the most part, Atget’s pictures of streets, parks, courtyards, buildings and their ornamental motifs record remnants of pre-Revolutionary Paris. While there is a nostalgic aspect to these views, for contemporary viewers these pictures were about modern Paris. They recorded and helped make sense of changes to the city as it struggled to cope with modernism. Street traders and other workers are seen selling their wares along old streets and laneways; ancient buildings stand in laneways and courtyards undergoing physical transformation; cafes and shops await bustling crowds. Atget’s views of modern Paris focussed on its intimate places, those spaces of the everyday in which people had always worked, loved and lived.

 

Impressions of Melbourne

17th July 2015 – 20th September 2015

In response to the photographs by Eugène Atget (1857-1927) included in the National Gallery of Australia’s touring exhibition, Impressions of Paris, this exhibition offers views of Melbourne’s streets, laneways and urban landscape. Drawn from the Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection, this selection traverses a period from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.

Atget photographed Paris during a time when the French capital was undergoing significant transformation. From the 1850s through to the 1920s, the dark medieval neighbourhoods of the city were demolished to make way for the wide avenues and open public spaces that Paris is known for today. Atget’s ambition was to produce clear and detailed photographs that would document the heritage of Paris before it disappeared. Typically taking his photographs in the early morning when the streets were empty, Atget imbued the city with ghostly nostalgia.

The earliest photographs in Impressions of Melbourne, taken by Nicholas Caire and Charles Kerry in the late nineteenth century, are contemporary to those of Atget. While Atget focused longingly on the past, however, these Australian photographers celebrated the civic accomplishments of modern progress in the colonies. The portrayal of Melbourne as a civilised metropolis, attractive to both immigrants and tourists, persisted through the twentieth century. Max Dupain captured the city as a lively and enterprising place, while Mark Strizic lingered on the shimmering ambience of window shopping and city strolling.

Impressions of Melbourne showcases a range of photographic responses to our urban environment, revealing some of Melbourne’s many moods and highlighting the city as a rich photographic subject. The exhibition includes photographs by Nicholas Caire, Charles Kerry, Max Dupain, Mark Strizic and Noel Jones.

 

Nicholas Caire

Nicolas Caire was born in Guernsey and arrived in Australia, settling in Adelaide, in 1858. He set up his first photographic studio in Adelaide in 1867. He moved to the Victorian goldmining town of Talbot in 1870 before relocating to Melbourne in 1876. At this time, Melbourne was the largest Australian city.

While Caire is best known for his picturesque landscape photographs of the Victorian countryside, he also produced photographs of major city thoroughfares, public buildings, parks and gardens. These subjects were common amongst photographers in the second half of the nineteenth century, conveying a sense of local pride and achievement. Caire’s photographs were often mounted in albums and accompanied by individual descriptive texts, a format that was popular amongst local and overseas visitors at the time.

 

Charles Kerry

Charles Kerry grew up in country New South Wales before moving to Sydney at the age of 17 to begin his photographic career. After a failed studio partnership, which left him with a lot of debt, Kerry rebuilt his business and by 1890 found himself running a successful studio that had a monopoly on the popular postcard market. By 1898 Kerry’s studio was the largest in Australia, housed in a three-storey building at 310 George Street, Sydney.

Throughout his career, Kerry photographed a broad range of subjects including social and sporting events, portraits of Indigenous people, city streets as well as the New South Wales countryside. He also spent a year documenting every station homestead in New South Wales. Kerry retired in 1913.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'View of Bourke Street, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
View of Bourke Street, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series Views of Victoria
Albumen print
13.4 x 18.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

Original album caption: Bourke Street is the principal business thoroughfare in the great City of Melbourne. It is about a mile in length, extending from the Parliament House to the Spencer Street Railway Station. On the left hand side of the picture is the Post Office, and at the extreme end of the street can be seen the Parliament House.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Government Domain of Victoria' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Government Domain of Victoria
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

Original album caption: The Governor’s Residence is on an eminence near the Botanical Gardens, and occupies one of the best positions around the City of Melbourne. Looking westward from the front of the Domain, a splendid view is obtained of Hobson’s Bay, with the townships of St Kilda, Emerald Hill, Sandridge, and Williamstown on the coast. On the north side can be seen the City of Melbourne, with its busy suburban towns – Hotham, Carlton and Fitzroy. From the rear of the building towards the east, in the distance, the retired towns of Richmond, Hawthorn, and Toorak can be distinguished. The building, as seen in the illustration, was completed in the year 1876. Sir G F Bowen, GCMG, being the Resident Governor at the time.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Royal Mint, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Royal Mint, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

Original album caption: The Royal Mint of Victoria is situated in the north-easterly part of William Street, West Melbourne. This Government Building is not thrown open to the public for visitation at any time; but an inspection by visitors can be effected on an order from a Member of the Ministry, conditionally that there be no fewer than eight persons at each visitation; one of the number being required to become responsible for the conduct of the party.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Post Office, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Post Office, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

Original album caption: This imposing structure is erected at the junction of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, which may be considered perhaps the most central position in Melbourne. It is provided with a very long corridor for the posting and delivery of letters, &c. The Telegraph Department, as also the Post Office Savings Bank and Money Order Office, are all conducted in connection with the General Post office, Melbourne, of which the Hon. R Ramsay, MLA, is at present Postmaster-General.

 

Charles Kerry (Australia 1858-1928) 'Collins Street, looking south' c. 1890

 

Charles Kerry (Australia 1858-1928)
Collins Street, looking south
c. 1890
Albumen print
14.5 x 17.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1984

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Melbourne with rain' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Melbourne with rain
1946
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Max Dupain

Max Dupain began his photographic career in 1930 as an apprentice in the studio of Cecil Bostock. In 1934 he established his own studio in Sydney and continued to produce a broad range of commercial work over the course of his life. Dupain was strongly influenced by modernist photographic principles and is renowned for his architectural photography as well as his iconic images of Australian beach culture.

While he primarily worked in Sydney, the photographs exhibited here are among several he took of otherAustralian cities. They highlight his interest in documenting city life as well as his use of light, shadow and aerial perspective. They were taken during the post war period; in the year that Dupain was commissioned by the Department of Information to photograph Australia’s way of life as part of a campaign to increase migration to Australia. This period marked a shift in Dupain’s practice, away from advertising and fashion toward social documentary.

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012) 'Near 101 Collins Street, Jan 1963' 1963

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
Near 101 Collins Street, Jan 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
36 x 53.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008
Reproduction courtesy of the artist

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012) 'Collins Street at McPherson's building - 1, 1967' 1967

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
Collins Street at McPherson’s building – 1, 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print
53.8 x 36 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008
Reproduction courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark Strizic

Mark Strizic was born in Berlin and migrated to Melbourne from Zagreb, Croatia in 1950. Strizic had no formal training in photography, but began taking photographs of Melbourne in the 1950s. He abandoned his studies in physics to become a full-time photographer in 1957, taking up subsequent commissions in architectural, industrial, interior design and portrait photography.

Among Strizic’s most widely recognised images are those he created of Melbourne between 1955 and 1970. Strizic documented the streets of Melbourne, showing many sides of the city, from derelict back alleyways to the grand arcades and buildings of Melbourne’s ‘Paris end’. Strizic’s photographs were produced during a period of dramatic change, a time when Melbourne’s Victorian-era buildings were being replaced by modern architectural developments. The images not only serve to document this change but also provide significant and important records of Melbourne pre-modernisation.

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
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24
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: Old Paris’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th August – 4th November 2012

 

Eugène Atget. 'Fireplace, Hôtel Matignon, former Austrian embassy, 57 rue de Varenne, 7th arrodissement' 1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fireplace, Hôtel Matignon, former Austrian embassy, 57 rue de Varenne, 7th arrodissement
1905
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

 

“… I have assembled photographic glass negatives… in all the old streets of Old Paris, artistic documents showing the beautiful civil architecture from the 16th to the 19th century. The old mansions, historic or interesting houses, beautiful façades, lovely doors, beautiful panelling, door knockers, old fountains, stylish staircases (wrought iron and wood) and interiors of all the churches in Paris… This enormous documentary and artistic collection is now finished. I can say that I possess the whole of Old Paris.”

.
Eugène Atget 1920

 

“The first time I saw photographs by Eugène Atget was in 1925 in the studio of Man Ray in Paris. Their impact was immediate and tremendous. There was a sudden flash of recognition – the shock of realism unadorned. The subjects were not sensational, but nevertheless shocking in their very familiarity. The real world, seen with wonderment and surprise, was mirrored in each print.”

.
Berenice Abbott 1964

 

Spaces That Matter…

[In revelatio, in revelation] the photographers trained eye is perhaps more of a hindrance than may at first be thought. The photographer may struggle with, “a sense of intense inevitability, insofar as this kind of image seems to be one that the photographer ‘could not not photograph’.”9 Awareness may become a double bind for the photographer. It may force the photographer to photograph because he can do nothing else, because he is aware of the presence of ‘punctum’ within a space, even an empty ‘poetic space’, but this awareness may then blind him, may ossify the condition of revealing through his directed gaze, unless he is very attentive and drops, as Harding says, “memory and imagination and desire, and just take what’s given.”10 The object, as Baudrillard notes,”isolates itself and creates a sense of emptiness … and then it irradiates this emptiness,”11 but this irradiation of emptiness does require an awareness of it in order to stabilise the transgressive fluctuations of the ecstasy of photography (which are necessarily fluid), through the making of an image that, as Baudrillard notes, “may well retrieve and immobilise subjective and objective punctum from their ‘thunderous surroundings’.”12 Knowledge of awareness is a key to this immobilisation and image making. The philosopher Krishnamurti has interesting things to say about this process, and I think it is worth quoting him extensively here:

“Now with that same attention I’m going to see that when you flatter me, or insult me, there is no image, because I’m tremendously attentive … I listen because the mind wants to find out if it is creating an image out of every word, out of every contact. I’m tremendously awake, therefore I find in myself a person who is inattentive, asleep, dull, who makes images and gets hurt – not an intelligent man. Have you understood it at least verbally? Now apply it. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. And if anybody says something to you, you are tremendously attentive, not to any prejudices, but you are attentive to your conditioning. Therefore you have established a relationship with him, which is entirely different from his relationship with you. Because if he is prejudiced, you are not; if he is unaware, you are aware. Therefore you will never create an image about him. You see the difference?”13

.
Now apply this attention to the awareness of the photographer. If he does not create images that are prejudice, could this not stop a photographer ‘not not’ photographing because he sees spaces with clarity, not as acts of performativity, spaces of ritualised production overlaid with memory, imagination, desire, and nostalgia?

Here an examination of the work of two photographers is instructive. The first, the early 20th century Parisian photographer Eugène Atget, brings to his empty street and parkscapes visions that elude the senses, visions that slip between dreaming and waking, between conscious and subconscious realms. These are not utopian spaces, not felicitous spaces that may be grasped and defined with the nostalgic fixity of spaces we love,14 but spaces of love that cannot be enclosed because Atget made no image of them.

I believe Atget moved his photographs onto a different spatio-temporal plane by not being aware of making images, aware-less-ness, dropping away the appendages of image making (technique, reality, artifice, reportage) by instinctively placing the camera where he wanted it, thus creating a unique artistic language. His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”15 These are not just ‘localised poetics’16 nor a memento of the absent, but the pre-essence of an intimate world space re-inscribed through the vision (the transgressive glance not the steadfast gaze) of the photographer. Atget is not just absent or present, here or there,17 but neither here nor there. His images reverberate (retentir), in Minkowski’s sense of the word, with an essence of life that flows onward in terms of time and space independent of their causality.18”

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan

Excerpt from the paper Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place (2002). Read the full paper…

 

Endnotes

9. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. (trans. Richard Howard). New York: Hill and Wang, 1981, p. 47, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p. 79.

10. See Endnote 2. I believe that this form of attentiveness to present experience is not the same as Featherstone’s fragmentation of time into affect-charged experiences of the presentness of the world in postmodern culture. “Postmodern everyday culture is … a culture of stylistic diversity and heterogeneity (comprising different parts or qualities), of an overload of imagery and simulations which lead to a loss of the referent or sense of reality. The subsequent fragmentation of time into a series of presents through a lack of capacity to chain signs and images into narrative sequences leads to a schizophrenic emphasis on vivid, immediate, isolated, affect-charged experiences of the presentness of the world – of intensities.”
Featherstone, Mike. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism. London: Sage Publications, 1991, p. 124.

11. Baudrillard, Jean. The Transparency of Evil. (trans. James Benedict). London: Verso, 1993, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p. 80.

12. Baudrillard, Jean. The Art of Disappearance. (trans. Nicholas Zurbrugg). Brisbane: Institute of Modern Art, 1994, p.9, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p. 83.

13. Krishnamurti. Beginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 130-131.

14. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xxxv.

15. Ibid., p. 203.

16. Palmer, Daniel. “Between Place and Non-Place: The Poetics of Empty Space,” in Palmer, Daniel (ed.,). Photofile Issue 62 (‘Fresh’). Sydney: Australian Centre for Photography, April 2001, p. 47.

17. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. 212.

18. See the editor’s note by Gilson, Etienne (ed.,) in Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xvi.

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in this posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Eugène Atget. 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1912
Albumen photograph
George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

 

Eugène Atget. 'Cabaret au Tambour, 62 quai de la Tournelle, 5th arrodissement' 1908

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cabaret au Tambour, 62 quai de la Tournelle, 5th arrodissement
1908
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Street vendor, place Saint-Médard, 5th arrondissement' September 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Street vendor, place Saint-Médard, 5th arrondissement
September 1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. "'Spring', by the sculptor François Barois, jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement" 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
‘Spring’, by the sculptor François Barois, jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement
1907
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

 

The first comprehensive exhibition in Australia of Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) work will showcase over 200 photographs primarily from the more than 4000 strong collection of Musée Carnavalet, Paris with the important inclusion of Atget’s work, as compiled by Man Ray, from the collection of George Eastman House, Rochester, USA.

Atget was considered a commercial photographer who sold what he called ‘documents for artists’, ie. photographs of landscapes, close-up shots, genre scenes and other details that painters could use as reference. As soon as Atget turned his attention to photographing the streets of Paris, his work attracted the attention of leading institutions such as Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Nationale which became his principal clients. It is in these photographs of Paris that we find the best of Atget, the artist who shows us a city remote from the clichés of the Belle Époque. Atget’s images of ‘old Paris’ depict areas that had not been touched by Baron Haussmann’s 19th century modernisation program of the city. We see empty streets and buildings, details that usually pass unnoticed, all presented as rigorous, original compositions that offer a mysterious group portrait of the city.

The exhibition is organised into 11 sections that correspond to the thematic groupings used by Atget himself. They are: small trades, Parisian types and shops 1898-1922; the streets of Paris 1898-1913; ornaments 1900-1921; interiors 1901-1910; vehicles 1903-1910; gardens 1898-1914; the Seine 1900-1923; the streets of Paris 1921-1924; and outside the city centre 1899-1913.

The equipment and techniques deployed by Atget link him to 19th-century photography. He had an 18 x 24 cm wooden, bellows camera which was heavy and had to be supported on a tripod. The use of glass plates allowed Atget to capture every tiny detail with great precision. Also traditional was his printing method, usually on albumen paper made light-sensitive with silver nitrate, exposed under natural light and subsequently gold-tinted. Atget’s vision of photography was, however, an astonishingly modern one. The photographs selected by Man Ray, who met Atget in the 1920s, indicate the immediate interest that the work aroused among the Surrealists because of the composition, ghosting, reflections, and its very mundanity. The first to appreciate his talents and importance as an artist were the photographer Berenice Abbott and Man Ray himself, both of whom lobbied to preserve Atget’s photographs.

As a result, he inspired artists and photographers such as Brassaï, the Surrealists, Walker Evans and Bernd & Hilla Becher amongst many others, and he can also be considered a starting-point for 20th-century documentary photography.

Press release from the AGNSW website

 

Eugène Atget. 'The former Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre, 5th arrondissement' 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
The former Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre, 5th arrondissement
August 1900
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7 cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville' 1921 (detail)

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville (detail)
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue Hautefeuille, 6th arrondissement' 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue Hautefeuille, 6th arrondissement
1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Shop sign, au Rémouleur' 1899

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Shop sign, au Rémouleur on the corner of the rue des Nonnains-d’Hyères and rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 4th arrondissement
July 1899
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

 

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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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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