Posts Tagged ‘colour transparencies

30
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Horst: Photographer of Style’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 6th September 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A

 

 

Steichen, Penn, Avedon, Newman – and then there is Horst, master of them all. Style, elegance, lighting, framing, colour but above all panache – the guts and talent to push it just that little bit further.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again.”

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Horst, 1984

 

 

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

 

Installation images of Horst – Photographer of Style at the V&A
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“This autumn, the V&A will present the definitive retrospective exhibition of the work of master photographer Horst P. Horst (1906-1999) – one of the leading photographers of the 20th century. In his illustrious 60-year career, German-born Horst worked predominantly in Paris and New York and creatively traversed the worlds of photography, art, fashion, design, theatre and high society.

Horst: Photographer of Style will display 250 photographs, alongside haute couture garments, magazines, film footage and ephemera. The exhibition explores Horst’s collaborations and friendships with leading couturiers such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris; stars including Marlene Dietrich and Noël Coward; and artists and designers such as Salvador Dalí and Jean-Michel Frank. Highlights of the exhibition include photographs recently donated to the V&A by Gert Elfering, art collector and owner of the Horst Estate, previously unpublished vintage prints, and more than 90 Vogue covers by Horst.

The exhibition will also reveal lesser-known aspects of Horst’s work: nude studies, travel photographs from the Middle East and patterns created from natural forms. The creative process behind some of his most famous photographs, such as the Mainbocher Corset, will be revealed through the inclusion of original contact sheets, sketches and cameras. The many sources that influenced Horst – from ancient Classical art to Bauhaus ideals of modern design and Surrealism in 1930s Paris – will be explored.

Martin Roth, Director of the V&A said: “Horst was one of the greatest photographers of fashion and society and produced some of the most famous and evocative images of the 20th century. This exhibition will shine a light on all aspects of his long and distinguished career. Horst’s legacy and influence, which has been seen in work by artists, designers and performers including Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and Madonna, continues today.” 

Horst’s career straddled the opulence of pre-war Parisian haute couture and the rise of ready-to-wear in post-war New York and his style developed from lavish studio set-ups to a more austere approach in the latter half of the 20th century. The exhibition will begin in the 1930s with Horst’s move to Paris and his early experiments in the Vogue studio. Among his first models and muses were Lisa Fonssagrives, Helen Bennett and Lyla Zelensky. Vintage black and white photographs from the archive of Paris Vogue will be displayed alongside garments in shades of black, white, silver and gold by Parisian couturiers such as Chanel, Lanvin, Molyneux and Vionnet.

The exhibition will then focus on Horst’s Surreal-inspired studies and collaborations with Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli. Fashion photographs will be shown with trompe l’oeil portraits and haunting still lifes. Horst excelled at portraiture and in the 1930s he captured some of Hollywood’s brightest stars: Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Noël Coward, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, to name a few.

Horst travelled widely throughout the 1940s and 1950s to Israel, Iran, Syria, Italy and Morocco. An escape from the world of fashion and city environs, his little-known travel photographs reveal a fascination for ancient cultures, landscapes and architecture. On display will be works taken in Iran such as the Persepolis Bull, Horst’s powerful image of a vast sculpture head amidst the ruins of a once magnificent palace, and images documenting the annual migration of the nomadic Qashqai clan.

Detailed studies of natural forms such as flowers, minerals, shells and butterfly wings from the project Patterns From Nature, will be shown alongside a series of kaleidoscopic collages made by arranging photographs in simple repeat; his intention was that these dynamic patterns could be used as designs for textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics and glass.

Horst was admired for his dramatic lighting and became one of the first photographers to perfect the new colour techniques of the 1930s. A short film of him at work in the Vogue studios during the 1940s will be shown with an introduction to his peers including Lee Miller, Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn. The advent of colour enabled a fresh approach and Horst went on to create more than 90 Vogue covers and countless pages in vivid colour. A selection of 25 large colour photographs, newly printed from the original transparencies from the Condé Nast Archive, will demonstrate Horst’s exceptional skill as a colourist. These prints feature Horst’s favourite models from the 1940s and 50s, such as Carmen Dell’Orefice, Muriel Maxwell and Dorian Leigh, and will be shown together with preparatory sketches, which have never previously been exhibited.

In the early 1950s, Horst created a series of male nudes for an exhibition in Paris for which the models were carefully posed and dramatically lit to accentuate their musculature. The series evokes the classical sculpture that Horst so admired throughout his career. During the 1960s and 1970s, Horst photographed some of the world’s most beautiful and luxurious homes for House and Garden and Vogue under the editorship of his friend Diana Vreeland. A three-sided projection and interactive screens will present these colourful studies. Among the most memorable are the Art Deco apartment of Karl Lagerfeld, the three lavish dwellings of Yves Saint Laurent and the Roman palazzo of artist Cy Twombly.

In the latter years of Horst’s life, his early aesthetic experienced a renaissance. The period also witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions, and television documentaries celebrating his work. Horst produced new, lavish prints in platinum-palladium for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career, which will be showcased as the finale to the exhibition.”

Press release from the V&A

 

Behind the scenes at American Vogue, 1946 from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Showing clips from the publication house’s cutting room floor, as well as editors at work, this never-before-seen footage shot from late 1946 to early 1947 gives a fascinating insight into the history of fashion publishing. This film is comprised of outtakes from the documentary Fashion Means Business. Dorian Leigh models the latest American designs in the Condé Nast studio for Horst and his assistant Vassilov, overseen by Vogue editors Muriel Maxwell and Priscilla Peck. The photographs are selected with editor Jessica Daves and art director Alexander Liberman, and the page layout finalised with Marcel Guillaume and Liberman.

With permission from HBO Archives/The March of Time. Provided by Condé Nast Archive

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Chanel, Vogue France' 1935

 

Horst P. Horst
Chanel, Vogue France
1935
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

A fore-runner of the timeless look of Chanel, here in brown and white check rayon with collar, cuffs and lapels in white piquè that matches the buttoned top.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain' 1938

 

Horst P. Horst
Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Lisa with Turban, New York' 1940

 

Horst P.Horst
Lisa with Turban, New York
1940
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show' 1946

 

Horst P. Horst
Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show
1946
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Birthday Gloves, New York' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Birthday Gloves, New York
1947
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson in Dior's belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called 'Milieu du Siècle'' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson in Dior’s belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called ‘Milieu du Siècle’
1949
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Nina de Voe' 1951

 

Horst P. Horst
Nina de Voe
1951
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson, New York' 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson, New York
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Outfit by Tina Leser' Vogue, April 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Outfit by Tina Leser
Vogue, April 1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bombay Bathing Fashion' 1950

 

Horst P.Horst
Bombay Bathing Fashion
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

Model (unidentified) and Dorian Leigh (r) in bathing suit and sleeveless shirt cover-up by Carolyn Schnurer 1951 Vogue

 

Haute Couture

When Horst joined Vogue in 1931, Paris was still the world’s undisputed centre of high fashion. Photography had begun to eclipse graphic illustration in fashion magazines and the publisher Condé Montrose Nast devoted large sums to improving the quality of image reproduction. He insisted that Vogue photographers work with a large format camera, which produced richly detailed negatives measuring ten by eight inches.

The creation of a Horst photograph was a collaborative process, involving the talents of the photographer and model, the art director, fashion editor, studio assistants and set technicians. The modelling profession was still in its infancy in the 1930s and many of those who posed under the hot studio lights were stylish friends of the magazine’s staff, often actresses or aristocrats.

By the mid 1930s, Horst had superseded his mentor George Hoyningen-Huene as Paris Vogue‘s primary photographer. His images frequently appeared in the French, British and American editions of the magazine. Many of the photographs on display in the exhibition are vintage prints from the company’s archive.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli
1947
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design' Vogue, February 1, 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design
Vogue,
February 1, 1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst in Colour from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

This film reveals the process of creating new colour prints for the exhibition Horst: Photographer of Style. Horst was quick to master new colour processes, introduced in the late 1930s, and he created hundreds of vibrant fashion photographs for Vogue.

The V&A team worked closely with specialists at the Condé Nast Archive and expert printer Ken Allen to select and print from Horst’s early transparencies, which date from the 1930s to the 1950s. The film includes insights into Horst’s dynamic approach from model Carmen Dell’Orefice and Vogue’s International Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles.​

 

Fashion in Colour

The 1930s ushered in huge technical advancements in colour photography. Horst adapted quickly to a new visual vocabulary, creating some of Vogue’s most dazzling colour images. In 1935 he photographed the Russian Princess Nadejda Sherbatow in a red velveteen jacket for the first of his many Vogue cover pictures.

The occupation of Paris transformed the world of fashion. The majority of French ateliers closed and many couturiers and buyers left the country. Remaining businesses struggled with extreme shortages of cloth and other supplies. The scarcity of French fashions in America, however, enabled American designers to come into their own.

Horst’s colour photographs are rarely exhibited because few vintage prints exist. Colour capture took place on a transparency which could be reproduced on the magazine page without the need to create a photographic print. The size of the new prints displayed in this room of the exhibition echoes the large scale of a group of Horst images printed in 1938 at the Condé Nast press.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Marlene Dietrich, New York' 1942

 

Horst P. Horst
Marlene Dietrich, New York
1942
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

At 17, in Beverly Hills wearing a tabletop dress by Howard Greer. Tabletop dresses looked good from the waist up when stars were photographed sitting in restaurants and nightclub

 

Stage and Screen

Horst’s portraits spanned a wide cross-section of subjects, from artists and writers to presidents and royalty. In the 1930s, he became aware of a new focus for his work. As he later noted in his book Salute to the Thirties (1971), glamorous Hollywood movie stars were imperceptibly assuming the place left vacant by Europe’s vanishing royal families. With the approach of the Second World War, the escapism offered by theatre and cinema gained in popularity. Horst began to photograph these new, classless celebrities, both in costume and as themselves.

The first well-known star Horst photographed was the English performer Gertrude Lawrence, then appearing in Ronald Jeans’ play Can the Leopard…? at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Horst’s first portrait of a Hollywood actress, Bette Davis, appeared in Vogue‘s sister magazine Vanity Fair in 1932.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Round the Clock, New York' 1987

 

Horst P. Horst
Round the Clock, New York
1987
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Platinum

The 1980s witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions and television documentaries about Horst. He produced new prints for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career to be reprinted in platinum-palladium, sometimes with new titles. This was a complex and expensive technique, employing metals more expensive than gold. Failing eyesight finally forced him to stop working in 1992.

Horst’s platinum-palladium prints are treasured for their nuanced tones, surface quality and permanence. His style had experienced a renaissance in 1978 when Francine Crescent, French Vogue‘s editor in chief, had invited him to photograph the Paris collections. Horst’s work for her echoed his atmospheric, spot-lit studies of the 1930s. His use of the platinum process for creating new and reproducing early works ensured his mastery of light, mood and composition would be enjoyed by a new audience.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude #3' 1952, printed 1980s

 

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude #3
1952, printed 1980s
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Still Life' Nd

 

Horst P. Horst
Still Life
Nd
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude' 1952

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude
1952
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Male Nudes

In the early 1950s Horst produced a set of distinctive photographs unlike much of his previous output. These male figure studies were exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1953 and reprinted using the platinum-palladium process in the 1980s. The studies exemplify Horst’s sense of form. All emphasis is on the idealised human body, expressive light and shadow. Monumental and anonymous nudes resemble classical sculptures. As Mehemed Agha (1929-78), art director of American Vogue, commented:

“Horst takes the inert clay of human flesh and models it into the decorative shapes of his own devising. Every gesture of his models is planned, every line controlled and coordinated to the whole of the picture. Some gestures look natural and careless, because carefully rehearsed; the others, like Voltaire’s god, were invented by the artist because they did not exist.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Salvador Dali's costumes for Leonid Massine's ballet 'Bacchanale'' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Salvador Dali’s costumes for Leonid Massine’s ballet Bacchanale
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Odalisque I' 1943

 

Horst P. Horst
Odalisque I
1943
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bunny Hartley' Vogue, 1938

 

Horst P.Horst
Bunny Hartley
Vogue,
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives "I Love You"' 1937

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives “I Love You”
1937
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Surrealism

The Surrealist art movement explored unique ways of interpreting the world, turning to dreams and the unconscious for inspiration. During the 1930s Surrealism escaped its radical avant-garde roots and transformed design, fashion, advertising, theatre and film. Horst’s photographs of this period feature mysterious, whimsical and surreal elements combined with his classical aesthetic. He created trompe l’oeil still lifes, photographed the surreal-infused dress designs of his friend Elsa Schiaparelli and collaborated with the artist Salvador Dalí. He shared with the Surrealists a fascination with the representation of the female body, often fragmenting and eroticising the human form in his images.

His most celebrated photograph of the era is Mainbocher Corset (1939). Decades after the photograph was made, Main Bocher himself expressed his admiration for Horst’s virtuosity, writing,

“Your photographs are sheer genius and delight my soul … each one is perfect by itself.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage' 1945

 

Horst P. Horst
Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage
1945
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Patterns from Nature

Horst’s second book, Patterns from Nature (1946), and the photographs from which it originated, are a surprising diversion from the high glamour of his fashion and celebrity photographs. These close-up, black and white images of plants, shells and minerals were taken in New York’s Botanical Gardens, in the forests of New England, in Mexico, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

This personal project was partly inspired by photographs of plants by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Horst was struck by “their revelation of the similarity of vegetable forms to art forms like wrought iron and Gothic architecture.” Horst’s interest was also linked to the technical purity of ‘photographic seeing’, a philosophy associated with the New Objectivity movement of the 1920s and ’30s. Practitioners took natural forms out of their contexts and examined them with such close attention that they became unfamiliar and revelatory.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia
1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Travel

In the summer of 1949, Horst journeyed to the Middle East with his partner Valentine Lawford, then political counsellor at the British Embassy in Tehran. They travelled by road from Beirut to Persepolis, where Horst was able to photograph parts of the ancient Persian city that had only recently been uncovered. Afterwards, Horst visited the newly established State of Israel on a photographic assignment for Vogue.

The trip left a strong impression on Horst and he returned in the spring of 1950. He spent a week with Lawford at the relatively remote south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, before documenting the annual migration of the Qashqa’i clan. Horst and Lawford were invited by Malik Mansur Khan Qashqa’i to spend ten days with his tribe as they travelled by camel and horse, in search of vegetation for their flocks.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment's grand salon for a November 1971 'Vogue' photo spread' 1971

 

Horst P. Horst
Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment’s grand salon for a November 1971 ‘Vogue’ photo spread
1971
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Living in Style

In 1947 Horst acquired five acres of land in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island, part of the estate once owned by the designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. On the land he described as ‘everything I had ever dreamed of’, Horst built a unique house and landscaped garden. British diplomat Valentine Lawford visited for the first time in 1947, with Noël Coward, Christopher Isherwood, and Greta Garbo. It was the beginning of a relationship with Horst that would last until Lawford’s death in 1991.

They welcomed many friends and visitors to Long Island, including the dynamic editor Diana Vreeland. She left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue in 1962 and soon put the couple to work on Vogue‘s ‘Fashions in Living’ pages. The homes and tastes of everyone from Jackie Onassis to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfeld featured in their articles. Horst’s creative chemistry with Vreeland brought him a new lease of life.

 

Roy Stevens. 'Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives' 15 May 1941

 

Roy Stevens
Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives
15 May 1941
© Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

 

In the Studio

During the 1940s Horst worked primarily in the Condé Nast studio on the 19th floor of the Graybar Building, an Art Deco skyscraper on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue. The busy studio was well equipped with a variety of lights and props and Horst worked closely with talented art director Alexander Liberman. Like Horst, he had found refuge in the artistic circles of Paris and New York, and enjoyed a long career with Condé Nast.

By 1946 dressing the American woman had become one of the country’s largest industries, grossing over six billion dollars a year. The staff of Vogue expanded accordingly. In 1951 Horst found a studio of his own, the former penthouse apartment of artist Pavel Tchelitchew, with high ceilings and a spectacular view over the river. Horst developed a new approach to photography in response to the abundance of daylight and for a time his famous atmospheric shadows disappeared.

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Opening hours:
The V&A is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and until 22.00 on Fridays

Victoria and Albert Museum website, Horst web page

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16
Oct
13

‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

Kodachrome sheets 1941 – 1943

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-43. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, below) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″x5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

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Alfred Palmer
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.

October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred T. Palmer 1906 – 1993

“Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasize a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognized by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare color transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm color film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.”

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website

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kodachrome-WEB

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A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

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Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(LOC)

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Alfred T. Palmer website

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21
Apr
09

Vale Helen Levitt: Always ‘Here and There’

April 2009

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1972
© Helen Levitt

 

 

“For the perfect flaneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world … Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy …”

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Charles Baudelaire. ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ 1863

 

“At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work that I know. In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gently and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work.”

.
James Agee

 

 

Speaking of pioneers of colour photography the wonderful American photographer Helen Levitt died recently at the end of March. Here is a selection of her colour work from the 1970s – 1980s. With two Guggenheim Foundation grants in 1959 and 1960 she switched from black and white to colour dye-transfer prints photographing the theatre of the street, the serendipity of the decisive moment previsualised and captured through awareness and an intimate knowledge of her subject matter. Unfortunately in a burglary in 1970 most of her colour transparencies and prints were stolen from that initial period.

What remains, as Sally Mann would say, are the eloquent bones of the matter: superb lush colour photographs taken after 1970 that engage the viewer not in memory but in the moment, not in nostalgia but in joy. In colour she found “beauty in correspondences.”

Marcus

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

 

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1971
© Helen Levitt

 

 

Helen Levitt

… Her pictures were mostly of Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side. She shot them in black and white, as silver gelatin prints, in the 1930s and 1940s and in colour dye-transfer prints in the 1960s and 1970s. In between, she got into movie-making for a while. Her theme was the same, the streets of New York. Apart from a trip in 1941 to Mexico City, she never found a better subject in her life.

The grittier parts were her particular joy. Her world was run-down streets, rubble-filled building sites, warehouses and litter-strewn front steps. This was urban photography with a vengeance: small scraps of sky, no trees. When she was going with Walker Evans in 1938, borrowing his camera as well (“of course”) as sleeping with him, he used to be afraid of going as far uptown as she did. Some of her young male subjects, lounging around in their zoot suits and fedoras, had an unmistakable air of menace. But mostly she brought back images of gossiping women and her favourite, scrambling children. A right-angle viewfinder allowed her to take the picture without them knowing, even, as Evans showed her, when riding right beside them in the subway.

 

Here and there

Her birthplace was in Brooklyn, where her father was in the wholesale knitwear business. She aspired to something more artistic, but found she couldn’t draw. For a time she trained in ballet, which taught her to appreciate the musculature of posing bodies and the spontaneous grace of her child subjects. After dropping out of high school she went to work in the darkroom of Florian Mitchell’s commercial portrait-photography studio on $6 a week. There she was hooked.

A good image, she thought, was just lucky. But her New Yorker’s instinct seemed to tell her exactly where to wait for one. A broken-down car would soon attract people to lie under it, peer under the hood or try to push it. A cane chair, put out on the sidewalk, would draw an elderly man with cigar and newspaper, or a plump young woman in a housecoat wilting in the heat. With luck dogs would come out too, rough-haired mutts or poodles with fresh-shampooed coats. The open back of a truck would reveal delivery men moping on piles of sacks, or dozing among pink and blue bales of cloth. Any abandoned thing – a tea-chest, a mirror frame, the pillared entry of an empty building – would soon sport knots of children diving in, climbing up, fighting and contorting their small bodies in every kind of way.

Her pictures did not have names. “New York”, and the year, was the label on most of them. They did not need explaining; they were “just what you see”. Many had a backdrop of posters, graffiti or billboards, which gave a commentary of sorts. “Special Spaghetti 25 cents.” “Post No Bills.” “Nuts roasted daily.” “Buttons and Notions, One Flight Up.” “Bill Jones Mother is a Hore.” Her earliest project with her first, secondhand camera was to photograph children’s chalk drawings on the pavements. She never tried to speculate on them. What mattered was the patterns they made.

In the 1960s, when she got two Guggenheim grants, she began to shoot the streets in colour. The tricky developing ultimately frustrated her, and the streets, too, had changed. The children had retreated indoors to watch television. But where she had found grace and texture in black and white, colour now provided beauty in correspondences. The multi-coloured balls in bubble-gum machines could be picked up in a girl’s dress, or the red of a stiletto shoe matched with the frame of a shop window. Her broken-down cars were now lurid beasts against the stucco walls. And out of her peeling, greenish doorways could come women in furs, or pink hair-curlers, or orange-striped socks.

She did not rate her own work highly. Though her original prints eventually sold for tens of thousands of dollars, she let them pile up in her apartment in boxes labelled “Nothing good” or “Here and there”. Her hopes when she started were for photographs that would make a socialist statement of some sort, but she abandoned that on Cartier-Bresson’s advice. A “nice picture”, as she reluctantly admitted some of hers were, was a work of art that had value in itself, as well as a celebration of the random, teeming work of art that is the city of New York.

Anonymous. “Helen Levitt,” on The Economist website April 8th 2009 [Online] Cited 16/04/2009

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c. 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1980

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1980
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1971
© Helen Levitt

 

 

Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt by John Szarkowski, Powerhouse Books, 2005 is available from the Amazon website. The photograph above is used on the cover of the book.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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