Posts Tagged ‘documentary photography

07
Mar
21

Exhibition: ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 7th November 2020 – 14th March 2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Early in his career, Bey realised the importance of collaborating with his subjects to make a picture that would also serve as a dialogue between artist and subject: “I wanted to photograph this man in the bowler hat who was talking to a group of three friends and I had no idea how to interrupt their conversation in order to do so. This is when I first realised that it wasn’t just about the photograph; it was also about establishing a relationship out of which comes the photograph.”

 

 

I have always admired artists who have a social conscience, who investigate their subject matter with intelligence, empathy and insight.

I have always admired artist who examine their subject matter from different perspectives, turning the diamond of the world in light, to probe the moral and existential questions of existence.

I have always admired artists who develop their practice, never repeating for the sake of it the same constructs over and over – from a lack of imagination, to be successful, or to follow the money trail.

One such artist is Dawoud Bey.

From formal to informal portraiture, through conceptual “bodies”, Bey’s work visualises Black American history in the present moment, not by using the trope of reusing colonial photographs or memorabilia, but by presenting afresh the history of injustice enacted on a people and a culture, picturing their ongoing pain and disenfranchisement – in the here and now – through powerful and deeply political photographs. As the press release observes, Bey “has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history.”

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

From his early street photographs through the later large format Polaroid work and on to the conceptual series, Bey’s photographs have an engaging directness and candour to them. There are no photographic or subjective histrionics here, just immensely rich social documentary photographs that speak truth to subject. The subjects stare directly at the camera and reveal themselves with a poignant honesty.

The series that affected me most deeply was The Birmingham Project.

“On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.”

All the suffering, all the ongoing pain and misery of an unfair world was, to me, wrapped up in these unforgettable images. The violence against other human beings, against people of difference 50 years ago brought into the present. Thinking about what these people could have achieved in the world, what life they would have led, what they would have looked like. Photography transcending time and space, Bey intelligently bringing past into present future. As Bey says, “I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence… I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility.”

In my imagination I try to construct this tragic loss of possibility through the agency of Bey’s photographs. They produce sadness, anger, and empathy in me. They bring the possibility of change to the forefront of my mind, and an acknowledgment that we can all do better, that the world must do better. And that experience is a powerful thing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan.

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

 

 

“I’ve come to believe that the best works tend to result not from the imposition of an idea on a situation, but to be responsive to what’s going on once you get there.”

“How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?”

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Dawoud Bey

 

“Dreams are spaces that do not yet exist, except by escape through an unknown night.”

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Anna Mirzayan

 

“I Never Had White Folks That Was Good To Me, EVER… We all worked jest like dogs and had about half enough to eat and got whupped for everything. Our days was a constant misery to us… My old Master was Dave Giles, the meanest man that ever lived. He didn’t have many slaves, my mammy, and me, and my sister, Uncle Bill, and Truman. He had owned my grandma but he give her a bad whupping and she never did git over it and died. We all done as much work as a dozen niggers – we knowed we had to. I seen old Master git mad at Truman and he buckled him down across a barrel and whupped him till he cut the blood out of him and then he rubbed salt and pepper in the raw places. It looked like Truman would die it hurt so bad. I know that don’t sound reasonable that a white man in a Christian community would do such a thing but you can’t realise how heartless he was. People didn’t know about it and we dassent tell for we knowed he’d kill us if we did. You must remember he owned us body and soul and they wasn’t anything we could do about it. Old Mistress and her three girls was mean to us too. One time me and my sister was spinning and old Mistress went to the well-house and she found a chicken snake and killed it. She brought it back and she throwed it around my sister’s neck. She jest laughed and laughed about it. She thought it was a big joke. Old Master stayed drunk all the time. I reckon that is the reason he was so fetched mean. My, how we hated him! He finally killed hisself drinking and I remember Old Mistress called us in to look at him in his coffin. We all marched by him slow like and I jest happened to look up and caught my sister’s eye and we both jest natchelly laughed – Why shouldn’t we? We was glad he was dead. It’s a good thing we had our laugh fer old Mistress took us out and whupped us with a broomstick. She didn’t make us sorry though.”

.
Annie Hawkins, formerly enslaved Afrikan who was sold from Georgia to Texas. This interview was done in Colbert, Oklahoma where her and her family moved after emancipation. Interview, conducted Spring, 1937 with a date stamp of August 16, 1937. Ms. Hawkins was 90 years old at the time of the interview and what she relates occurred in Texas. Source: Library of Congress

 

 

Since the beginning of his career in the 1970s, Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history. From early street portraits made in Harlem to a recent series imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Bey explores photography’s potential to reveal communities and stories that have been underrepresented or even unseen. Both a form of personal expression and an act of political responsibility, Bey’s art insists on the power of photography to transform stereotypes, convene communities, and create dialogue.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project traces these through lines across the forty-five years of Bey’s career and his profound engagement with the young Black subject and African American history. The title intentionally inserts his photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera. The questions of who is considered an American photographer, or simply an American, and whose story is an American story are particularly urgent today. Bey’s work offers a potent corrective to the gaps in our picture of American society and history – and an emphatic reminder of the ongoing impact of those omissions.

 

 

Dawoud Bey on visualising history

Photographer Dawoud Bey’s work grapples with history. The artist asks, “How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?” Here he discusses several series, sited from Harlem to Birmingham to the Underground Railroad routes of northeastern Ohio, each of which works to make histories visible.

 

 

Dawoud Bey: An American Project – Part 1

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Boy in Front of the Loew's 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Boy in Front of the Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The Street

Bey’s landmark black-and-white 1975-78 series “Harlem, USA” documents portraits and street scenes with locals of the historic neighbourhood in New York. As a young man growing up in Queens, Bey was intrigued by his family’s history in Harlem, where his parents met and where he visited family and friends throughout childhood. The series premiered at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979, when Bey was just 26.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977' 1977

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In his hands, portraiture conveys contradiction – diffident joy, resistant sorrow – and tells the truth.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978' 1978

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Throughout the 1980s, Bey continued to use a handheld 35 mm camera. This lightweight apparatus allowed him to respond intuitively and quickly to whatever captivated his eye, and his photographs during this time reflect his knowledge of contemporary street photography and his growing interest in capturing flux, movement, and the play of light and shadow. Although he continued to photograph people, he moved away from formal portraiture, instead endeavouring to capture individuals in more spontaneous ways.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
20 x 24 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986' 1986

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986
1986
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In 1985, during a residency at Light Work, a photography nonprofit affiliated with Syracuse University, New York, Bey photographed the city’s African American community. For him, it was both a political and aesthetic choice: “By then I felt that was part of my agenda: to make the African American subject a visible and resonant presence through my photographs […] it was as much about making a certain kind of photograph, and operating within a certain tradition, as it was a deliberate choice to foreground the black subject […] giving them a place … on the wall of galleries and museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

By the end of the 1980s, Bey had thoroughly digested the lessons of working spontaneously with a small camera and desired to work in a way that would allow him to engage more directly with his subjects. He began to make formal “street portraits” with a large-format (4- × 5-inch) camera and Polaroid Type 55 film, which produced both instant pictures that he gave to the sitters and negatives that he used to make large-scale, highly detailed prints that could be enlarged to create monumental portraits. Bey was increasingly ambivalent about the ethics of traditional documentary photography and sought more equitable, reciprocal relationships with his sitters. He began to approach the strangers he wished to portray openly and deliberately, giving, as he writes, “the black subjects [a space] to assert themselves and their presence in the world, with their gaze meeting the viewer’s on equal footing.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Poppy Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Poppy, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Few images of tenderness have such resounding power as this lush portrait of a young, stylish couple embracing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Note how perfectly their bodies fit together as he relaxes his shoulders, allowing her to easily wrap her arms around him protectively, declaring with the upward tilt of her chin and her direct gaze at us that they are together, united in love. Pictures as openly intimate as this one emerged from Bey’s deep and abiding interest in “wanting to describe the Black subject in a way that’s as complex as the experiences of anyone else.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, and Rena Bransten Gallery
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

For more than four decades, renowned photographer Dawoud Bey has created powerful and tender photographs that portray underrepresented communities and explore African American history. From portraits in Harlem and classic street photography to nocturnal landscapes and large-scale studio portraits, his works combine an ethical imperative with an unparalleled mastery of his medium. The High Museum of Art celebrates his important contributions to photography as the exclusive Southeast venue for Dawoud Bey: An American Project, the artist’s first full career retrospective in 25 years.

Co-organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition features approximately 80 works that span the breadth of Bey’s career, from his earliest street portraits made in Harlem in the 1970s to his most recent series reimagining sites of the Underground Railroad (2017).

The High has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Bey, who was commissioned in 1996 for the Museum’s inaugural “Picturing the South” series, which asks noted photographers to turn their lens toward the American South. For his project, Bey collaborated with Atlanta high school students to create empathetic, larger-than-life portraits. Made with the monumental 20-by-24-inch Polaroid camera, these photographs explore the complexity of adolescence as a time of critical identity formation and expand the concept of portraiture. The High now holds more than 50 photographs by Bey, one of the most significant museum collections of his work.

“Bey’s portraits are remarkable for their keen sensitivity and for how they elicit and honour their subjects’ sense of self, which is partly an outcome of the artist’s collaborative practice,” remarked Sarah Kennel, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. “Given the museum’s long relationship with Bey and the strength of our holdings, we are thrilled to present this important retrospective. We look forward to sharing the artist’s photographs and his powerful and moving reflections on African American history and identity in their country with our visitors.”

Bey, born in 1953 in Queens, New York, began to develop an interest in photography as a teenager. He received his first camera as a gift from his godmother in 1968, and the next year, he saw the exhibition “Harlem on My Mind” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Widely criticised for its failure to include significant numbers of artworks by African Americans, the exhibition’s representation of Black subjects nonetheless made an impression on Bey and inspired him to develop his own documentary project about Harlem in 1975. Since that time, he has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender, psychologically rich and direct portrayals, often in collaboration with his subjects. More recently, he has explored seminal moments in African American history through both portraiture and landscape.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project includes work from the artist’s eight major series and is organised to reflect the development of Bey’s vision throughout his career and to highlight his enduring engagement with portraiture, place and history.

Press release from The High Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Images courtesy of the artist and High Museum. Photos by Mike Jensen.

 

Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey
Photo: Sean Kelly Gallery

 

 

About Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey was born in Queens, New York, and began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that were later exhibited in his first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979.

Since then his work has been featured in exhibitions at numerous institutions worldwide, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Brooklyn Museum; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among many others.

His photographs are represented in collections worldwide, and his critical writings on photography have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogues. Bey received the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2017 and is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University and is currently Professor of Art and a Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003' 2003

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003
2003
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Class Pictures series:

“It was a sort of snapshot of America through its young people at that particular moment. I started working in Chicago, then to New York, California and Florida. I wanted it to be geographically representative of the country. I’ve always been acutely aware that photographs tell you a lot less than what they do tell you. There’s certain things you would never know just from looking at them. You wouldn’t know from a portrait if someone is an only child, whether they have siblings, who their parents are. There’s a lot of information outside of a photograph. For Class Pictures, I thought that was important to bring that information into the construct of work and to create a space of self-representation. The young people who I photographed could give a sense of who they were.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006' 2006

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006
2006
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey has long understood that the act of representation – as well as the corollary act of being seen – is both powerful and deeply political. In this series, he once again turned his attention to teenagers, a population he felt was underrepresented and misjudged, seen either as “socially problematic or as engines for a certain consumerism.” Class Pictures (2001-2006) originated during a residency at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, where Bey began working with local high school students. He later expanded it to capture a geographically and socioeconomically diverse slice of American adolescence.

Working in empty classrooms between class periods, Bey made formal colour portraits of teens that attend, carefully and tenderly, to their gestures and expressions. He also invited them to write brief autobiographical statements, giving his subjects visibility as well as voice. Class Pictures can also be understood as a play on words, for in several cases, Bey chose to photograph students at elite private schools as well as teens from nearby, poorer neighbourhoods, bringing together these subjects in a single space.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Don Sledge and Moses Austin' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Don Sledge and Moses Austin
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Mary Parker and Caela Cowan' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Mary Parker and Caela Cowan
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“Together the sitters for The Birmingham Project are simultaneously surrogates, mourners, witnesses, community, and agents of their own narratives. These subjects, then are not symbols but flesh and bone.”

 

In 2012, the project was created as a commission from the Birmingham Museum of Art. It memorialises the victims of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four African-American girls were killed in the bombing, and two boys were later killed in riots that followed.

“I decided to make portraits of young African-Americans in Birmingham who were the exact same ages as those six young people who had been killed that day. I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence.” Bey continues, “It still felt somewhat complete. I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility. Then, I started thinking about making portraits of African-Americans in Birmingham who were the ages of the six young people would have been their age today. I begun pairing those portraits with those young people, which embodied 50 years.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Night Coming Tenderly, Black

Dawoud Bey’s large-scale photographs dive into art and literary history while trying to re-create the experience of slaves fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

“I consider myself to be making photographs both in conversation with the history of photography and also the history of Black representation within photography. I wanted to use what I learned early on from looking at photographs by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans and Mike Disfarmer – along with what I learned from Roy DeCarava, who was African American – and apply all of that to my own African American subjects as I began to build my vocabulary of picture-making. Because I’m African American myself, and because so few representations of African Americans are made from inside that experience, I set out to make that my space, to make work that operated at the level of those other photographs but with Black subjects, since those were the people I knew best. I also wanted to add something to the history of Black expressive culture. …

Night Coming Tenderly, Black continues my interest in visualising African American history by visualising the past in the contemporary moment. It takes as its conceptual touchstones the photographs of DeCarava, which are about the Black subject and often printed very darkly, some almost black. The blackness of his prints is a very beautiful and materially lush blackness. And the Black subjects inhabit this wonderful material darkness in a way that is not foreboding but is beautiful.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey. ‘Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)’ 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The photographs in this series are some of the most sensual and layered. These are sights that are at first confining then liberating when you understand them through the lens of history.

In their grandeur and mystery, they transform houses masked in darkness, bodies of water, and fields into an emblematic hope. A pristine fencepost and a homestead visible through the haze of the darkness; a wetland glistening in nightfall; a jungle thick with small trees; an image of Lake Erie, with the expansive sky and horizon forewarning the freedom that lies beyond.

 

The Underground Railroad

Night Coming Tenderly, Black contains 25 large-scale images of homesteads with wooded or grassy grounds that are believed to have formed the part of the said Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is an actual invisible web of routes and safe houses believed to have made the final way station for more than 100,000 fugitive slaves escaping to Canada. But according to the artist himself, some of the images may be of actual Underground Railroad.

 

The meaning of the title

This series is also a tribute to poet Langston Hughes (1901-1967) and photographer Roy DeCarava (1919-2009), who each played significant roles in addressing the experience of African Americans by representing what DeCarava described as a world shaped by blackness. Bey was inspired by DeCarava’s incredible ability to print a spectrum of dark hues, making him picture landscapes of twilight uncertainty.

On the other hand, Hughes Langston wrote a poem titled Dream Variations in 1926, in which he yearned for a time when the black American worker, extremely tired by the daily hustle of hard labor and prejudice, might be truly free. However, this freedom, he imagined, would not be obtained in the glare of daylight, but instead under the ominous, protective cover of the night.

Upending a dominant literary conceit, blackness, rather than whiteness, functioned as an allegory for hope and transcendence. A night coming tenderly, black like me, (Hughes poem), helped the fight for racial equality and justice. The metaphor in the poem is central to Dawoud Bey’s series Night Coming Tenderly, Black.

 

Influenced by Roy DeCarava

Bey has never stopped waxing lyrical on the influence of the two figures that inspired his artistic career, especially Roy DeCarava, who was one of the most prominent photographers of his generation. The images he took were visually rich and redolent, and they pushed the aesthetic limits of photography…

Dawoud Bey noted that DeCarava’s images were characteristically printed in dark and rich colour range. In this context, the dark prints served as a symbol for black subjects and experience. Bey says:

“DeCarava used blackness as an affirmative value, as a kind of beautiful blackness through which his subjects both moved and emerged. His work was formative to my own thinking early on, and these dark landscapes are a kind of material conversation with his work, using the darkness of the landscape and the photographic print as an evocative space of blackness through which the unseen and imaginary black fugitive subject is moving.” …

The artist printed these images in a large size to encase the viewer and deliberately dark to reveal his subject matter: He took the photos of the sites in and near Cleveland associated with the Underground Railroad that guided the slaves to liberation.

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #12 (The Marsh)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #12 (The Marsh)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I ranged far and wideout there since there were expansive rural landscapes that looked as they might have in the 18th and 19th centuries. The landscape and the history there have not been built over…

Some of the photographs, to the extent that we know, are actual Underground Railroad sites, and the majority of them are placed in the landscape that I identified in proximity to some of those locations, where I could make work that suggested the movement of fugitive slaves through the landscape…

I wanted the photographs to almost involuntarily pull you back to the experience of the landscape through which those fugitive black bodies were moving in the 19th century to escape slavery. So I had to learn, for the first time, how to make photographs in the kind of space…

It is a tender one, through which one moves. That is the space I imagined the fugitive black subjects moving through as they sought their self-liberation, moving through the dark landscape of America and Ohio toward freedom under cover of a munificent and blessed blackness.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown's Tannery)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown’s Tannery)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #17 (Forest)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #17 (Forest)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey’s most recent work imagines the flight of enslaved Black Americans along the leg of the Underground Railroad that operated in Ohio – the last fifty or so miles before they reached the vast expanse of Lake Erie, on the other side of which lay Canada, and freedom.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Night Coming Tenderly, Black series:

“The photographs are meant to imagine or reimagine the path of self-liberation in Northeastern Ohio along what is called the ‘Underground Railroad’. Formerly slaved Africans, and then African-Americans moved towards freedom by way of Lake Eerie in Ohio. I began to think about the fugitive moving through this tender space of blackness.”

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The gelatin silver prints in Night Coming Tenderly, Black are moody and dim, overlaid with a sheen that is almost gritty in texture thanks to the coated paper they are printed on. The trees, fences, lakes, and buildings in the photos are initially obscured, purposefully made more difficult to see through Bey’s printing methods (which take advantage of the light sensitivity of silver particles as well as their ability to be chemically “toned” through the introduction of other substances). These images resist both reproduction and easy interpretation. That one also has to wait for one’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, before slowly traveling over the terrain of each picture, reminds the viewer that the formerly enslaved people who traversed these sites often did so under cover of darkness. Darkness here is multivalent: its obscuring power, which prevents viewers from immediately processing the whole of Bey’s photographs, aided formerly enslaved people in their escape. The Underground Railroad, as the artist has noted, occupies a semi-mythological place in American history, and some of the places Bey photographs are only cannot be confirmed to have been stops on the Railroad. Like the experience of slavery, these places are unrepresentable. They are half-shrouded locales that evade being captured on a map or in a photo.

Though these photographs are dark, they are shot in the daylight and processed in such a way as to make them initially appear to be taken at night. They bring to mind Hiroshi Sugimoto’s eerily beautiful “Seascapes” series (1980- ongoing), which are shot at night, the film exposed for different lengths of time in order to reveal how light plays even after dark. Yet there is no analogous method for bringing night to the day. Bey may make his photos dark, but this is achieved through processing and glazing the finish image, which occurs after the initial act of taking the photograph. How can we account for Bey’s artificial night?

The philosopher François Laruelle’s 2011 book The Concept of Non-Photography suggests one answer to this question. In essence, Laruelle starts with the premise that works of art cannot and do not represent anything, be it objects, thoughts, concepts, or movements. He posits art as an entirely self-sufficient engagement with the world (which he calls the Real), independent even of viewer and creator. Art is a machine; the medium, processes, and even the artist are its materials. What art “shows,” Laurelle argues, is only the world according to itself – which he terms the world-in-painting, the world-in-photo, and so on. He turns to photography in part because of its connection to modern scientific advancement and its attempts literally to illuminate the world “objectively.” Non-photography aims to re-conceptualise the photographic flash, which Laruelle associates with the flash of logos or reason, as a form of potential insurrection against its traditional association with illumination, and against photography’s constant reproduction of the asymmetrical dichotomy between light and dark.

Anna Mirzayan. “”Artificial night”: on Dawoud Bey’s America,” on the Art Agenda website December 15 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I was thinking about this narrative of the Black subject — the unseen Black subject, in this case — a fugitive slave moving through the darkness of night,” Bey explains. “And that darkness of night being the kind of Black space that would lead to liberation.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

As a covert network of safe houses and churches, the sites of the Underground Railroad were by necessity secret, and Bey’s landscapes suggest, rather than document, the experience. Photographed by day but printed in shades of grey and black so deep they resemble nocturnes, the sensuous prints conjure a darkness at once ominous and lush. The series title, which is drawn from the last couplet of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations” (1926), suggests a black night that envelops the fugitives in a darkness that serves as a protective embrace: “Night coming tenderly / Black like me.”

 

 

The High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA
30309

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm
Monday closed

The High Museum of Art website

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06
Dec
20

Photographs: Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) Part 2

December 2020

 

Max Dupain (Seven Yachts in the Bay) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Seven Yachts in the Bay)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
29 x 37cm (11.4 x 14.6 in.)

 

 

A second tranche of photographs from the Australian photographer Max Dupain. This means that Art Blart has one of the largest groups of his work online with larger images.

In this posting I have grouped the images through ships and boats; surf and beach; nudes / montage / surrealism; city and Harbour Bridge; dance and abstraction; portraits and Pictorialism – finishing with two stunning bromoil landscapes.

View Max Dupain photographs Part 1

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All images are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Max Dupain. 'Hero Towing Pamir to Sydney Heads' c. 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hero Towing Pamir to Sydney Heads
c. 1940s
Gelatin silver print
41 x 39.5cm

 

 

Pamir was a four-masted barque built for the German shipping company F. Laeisz. One of their famous Flying P-Liners, she was the last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn, in 1949. By 1957, she had been outmoded by modern bulk carriers and could not operate at a profit. Her shipping consortium’s inability to finance much-needed repairs or to recruit sufficient sail-trained officers caused severe technical difficulties. On 21 September 1957, she was caught in Hurricane Carrie and sank off the Azores, with only six survivors rescued after an extensive search.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

A model of Pamir, a four-masted barque

 

A model of Pamir, a four-masted barque that was one of the famous Flying P-Liner sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz

 

Max Dupain. 'Rigging Sails' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Rigging Sails
Nd
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 25cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Life at the Spit' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Life at the Spit
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 22 cm

 

Max Dupain (Aerial of Waters Edge) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Aerial of Waters Edge)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
26 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain (Aerial View of Manly Beach) 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Aerial View of Manly Beach)
1938
Gelatin silver print
23 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain (Life Guards Marching with Reel) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Guards Marching with Reel)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain (Sunbaking by the Wall) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Sunbaking by the Wall)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 32cm

 

Max Dupain (Surfboard, Umbrella and Crowds) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Surfboard, Umbrella and Crowds)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
29 x 25.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Stiff Nor'Easter' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Stiff Nor’Easter
1940s
Gelatin silver print
38 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Beach Watchers, Bondi' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Beach Watchers, Bondi
1940s
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 25.5cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Surf Race Start
1947
Gelatin silver print
36 x 37cm

 

Dupain. 'Picnicker Leaving the Beach' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Picnicker Leaving the Beach
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30 x 34.5cm

 

Dupain. 'Beach Play' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Beach Play
1937
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Figures) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figures)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude in Shadow on the Sand)
1937
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Montage) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Montage)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 33 cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Standing Nude on Sand)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
39 x 33.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Sunbaker) 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Sunbaker)
1939
Gelatin silver print
35 x 46.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Rhythmic Form) 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Rhythmic Form)
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Debussy Quartet in G
1937
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 23.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Solarised Nude and Rays of Light) 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Solarised Nude and Rays of Light)
1935
Gelatin silver print
12.5 x 9.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude and Pole) 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude and Pole)
1934
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Little Nude' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Little Nude
1938
Gelatin silver print
41 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Spontaneous Composition' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Spontaneous Composition
1935
Gelatin silver print
38 x 41cm

 

Max Dupain (Moira in the Mirror) 1931

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Moira in the Mirror)
1931
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 28cm

 

Max Dupain (Elizabeth Street, Melbourne) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Elizabeth Street, Melbourne)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 39cm

 

Max Dupain (Angel Statue, 392 Bus and Terraces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Angel Statue, 392 Bus and Terraces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
28 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian Hotel, The Rocks) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Australian Hotel, The Rocks)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain (Hickson Road) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Hickson Road)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
39 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Darling Harbour from Studio Window' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Darling Harbour from Studio Window
1940s
Gelatin silver print
32 x 45cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Brooms for Sale' 1950

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Brooms for Sale
1950
Gelatin silver print
31.5 x 44.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'George Street Silhouette' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
George Street Silhouette
1940
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 29.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Central Station, Sydney' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Central Station, Sydney
1939
Gelatin silver print
40 x 39cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Collins Street, Melbourne' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Collins Street, Melbourne
1946
Gelatin silver print
42 x 39.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Morning, Kings Cross Ice Wagon' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Morning, Kings Cross Ice Wagon
Nd
Gelatin silver print
45 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Parking, Macquarie Street' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Parking, Macquarie Street
1930s
Gelatin silver print
39 x 48.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Suburban Terraces' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Suburban Terraces
Nd
Gelatin silver print
28 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hobart Siesta' 1947

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hobart Siesta
1947
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Diver, Northbridge Baths' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Diver, Northbridge Baths
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23 x 18.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Milson's Point) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Milson’s Point)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 32.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge at Dusk) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge at Dusk)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 28.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Sydney from South Pylon' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sydney from South Pylon
1938
Gelatin silver print
38 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge Closed at Night) 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge Closed at Night)
1946
Gelatin silver print
18 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge with Traffic, Buses and Policeman) 1940-50s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge with Traffic, Buses and Policeman)
1940-50s
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Observatory Hill, Looking North to the Sydney Harbour Bridge' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Observatory Hill, Looking North to the Sydney Harbour Bridge
1940
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 40 cm

 

Max Dupain (Four Graces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Four Graces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
37 x 48cm

 

Max Dupain (Four Graces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Four Graces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
24 x 30.5 cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Design – Suburbia' 1933

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Design – Suburbia
1933
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 23cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Design in Barred Light' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Design in Barred Light
Nd
Gelatin silver print
25 x 18.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Timelapse Nude Figure) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Timelapse Nude Figure)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 29.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Figure and Light) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure and Light)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain (Portrait and Shadows) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Portrait and Shadows)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
50 x 40cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Domestic Poem, Douglas Stewart' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Domestic Poem, Douglas Stewart
Nd
Gelatin silver print
27 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Jean' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Jean
1936-37
Gelatin silver print
37 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Tired Soldier in Queensland Train' 1943

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Tired Soldier in Queensland Train
1943
Gelatin silver print
45 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hostel Breakfast' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hostel Breakfast
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 41cm

 

Max Dupain (Three Men at Work) 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Three Men at Work)
1940s
Gelatin silver print
52 x 49cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Waiting for the Queen' 1954

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Waiting for the Queen
1954
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 39.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Waiting for the Queen) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Waiting for the Queen)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Enter The Queen' 1954

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Enter The Queen
1954
Gelatin silver print
50 x 50cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Gloucester Landscape' 1951

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Gloucester Landscape
1951
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Sundown, Mona Vale Marshes' 1932

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sundown, Mona Vale Marshes
1932
18.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'The Flight of the Spectres' 1932

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
The Flight of the Spectres
1932
Bromoil
27.5 x 29cm

 

 

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27
Sep
20

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

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

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Touching with the eye

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

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

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

André Kertész. 'Lost Cloud' New York, 1937

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

1985) 'Broken Bench, New York' 1962

 

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

1962
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours website

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03
Jul
20

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘A day in the Tiergarten’ (2019-2020)

June 2020

 

I hope people like this new series. I hope to turn the photographs into my first book, landscape format on heavyweight paper. If anyone knows a good publisher / printer for short run photobooks (not self publishing) please contact me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au. Thank you.

Please view the images on a larger screen. The whole series can be see with larger images on the A Day in the Tiergarten web page or you can enlarge the images below by clicking on them.

.
In late 2019, I took a photographic research trip through Europe by train, visiting nine countries and seeing many exhibitions and photographs by master photographers (Güler, Capa, Lartigue, Katz, Frank, Sudek, Sander, Brassaï, Abbott, Kertesz). I also took over 8,000 photographs on three digital cameras. This series, this stream of consciousness – the images shown in the exact order that I took them, no sequencing – reflects my state of mind during the trip. It was a kind of an ascetic experience for me, embedded as I was in the spaces and architectures of the cities and landscapes of Europe, hardly talking to anyone for the duration of the journey.

A Day in the Tiergarten reflects this focus and clear seeing. Using camera and tripod the series, like a piece of music, moves from classical into surreal (the reflections of trees and water displacing the image plane), back to classical and on through Abstract Expressionism, ending in a peaceful coda of 4, 3, 2.

The series is an engagement with spirit – of wandering through a space of intimate desire and love. Love of trees, of being alone, of engaging with the self and nature. It was a magical day.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
88 images in the series © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Remember these are just straight digital photographs, all full frame, no cropping.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
A Day in the Tiergarten
2019-2020

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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26
Jun
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 4

June 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'York Minster' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
225: York Minster
1926

 

 

The last in my four part series on photographs which appear in E. O. Hoppé’s Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape (1926).

This posting features photographs of the Lake District, Scotland and Ireland.

Today, it seems incredibly strange that Hoppé would include Dublin and all parts Ireland in the catch all “Great Britain”, especially as most of Ireland gained independence from Great Britain in 1922, after the bloody Irish War of Independence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Roman Wall' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
234: Roman Wall
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'In Westmorland Country' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
235: In Westmorland Country
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Kendal, Westmorland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
236: Kendal, Westmorland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Windemere, Westmorland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
237: Windemere, Westmorland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Newcastle, Northumberland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
238: Newcastle, Northumberland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carter Bar, Northumberland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
239: Carter Bar, Northumberland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dunbar, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
240: Dunbar, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dunbar, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
241: Dunbar, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Edinburgh Castle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
242: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)'The Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
243: The Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Canongate with Tolbooth, Edinburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
244: Canongate with Tolbooth, Edinburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Advocates Walk, Edingburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
248: The Advocates Walk, Edingburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Forth Bridge, Edingburgh, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
249: Forth Bridge, Edingburgh, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Viaduct, Montrose, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
255: The Viaduct, Montrose, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Near Peebles, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
257: Near Peebles, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Harbour, Aberdeen, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
259: The Harbour, Aberdeen, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Deeside, Aberdeen, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
261: Deeside, Aberdeen, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Braemar Castle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
262: Braemar Castle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Devil's Elbow, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
264: Devil’s Elbow, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'On the Road to Balmoral, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
265: On the Road to Balmoral, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Highland Cattle, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
267: Highland Cattle, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Loch Lomond, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
268: Loch Lomond, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'A Scottish Sunset' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
269: A Scottish Sunset
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Scottish Highlands' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
272: The Scottish Highlands
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The College Green, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
273: The College Green, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Loch Tulla, Argyllshire, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
274: Loch Tulla, Argyllshire, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Dumbarton, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
275: Dumbarton, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
276: Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
277: Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
278: Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Custom's House, Dublin, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
279: The Custom’s House, Dublin, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Spittal of Glenshee, Scotland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
280: Spittal of Glenshee, Scotland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
281: Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Lambay Castle, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
283: Lambay Castle, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Luccan, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
284: Luccan, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glendalough Lake, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
287: Glendalough Lake, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Glendalough, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
289: Glendalough, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
291: Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
292: Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Middle Lake, Killarney, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
293: The Middle Lake, Killarney, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cathedral, Cork, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
296: The Cathedral, Cork, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Memorial Church, Cork, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
297: The Memorial Church, Cork, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Lower Lake, Killarney, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
299: The Lower Lake, Killarney, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The River Shannon, Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
301: The River Shannon, Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
302: Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
303: The Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Scalp Mountains, Ireland' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
304: The Scalp Mountains, Ireland
1926

 

 

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12
Jun
20

Photobook: E. O. Hoppé. ‘Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape’ 1926 Part 3

June 2020

Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth A.G. / Berlin
With an Introduction by Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Market Cross, Castlecoombe, Wiltshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
145: Market Cross, Castlecoombe, Wiltshire
1926

 

 

Part 3 of my humungous posting on photographs from E.O. Hoppé’s book Picturesque Great Britain: Its Architecture and Landscape 1926.

I found a little more information about Hoppé’s process:

“He travelled across many countries including Great Britain, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the United States, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand for projects such as the Orbis Terrarum book series for the Berlin-based publishing company Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, and devoted months, often a year or more, of his careful, meticulous attention to each of these countries in order to, as he himself once wrote, eventually select from 5000 negatives 300 images that could together with a text for the respective country, represent the selected topic and be published.”

Over a year in time, taken from 5000 negatives, to select 300 images. This means that Hoppé was working on a ratio of using about 6% of all the photographs of a subject that he took. From my personal experience I always work on 10% of what I take being “good” images, with about 5% actually being usable in a series, sequence or body of work.

As in the earlier postings, we can again see many of his compositional devices at work: double vanishing points (189: Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk), occlusion of foreground looking at subject in distance (186: Castle Rising, Norfolk; 199: Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent), superb use of “near far” (185: The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk; 190: The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk), modernity and the geometric construction of the image plane (169: Caius Cambridge, Cambridge), strong elements holding up one side of the image and leading the eye into the subject (156: Pangbourne, Berkshire; 183: Walberswick, Suffolk); and wonderful use of light and chiaroscuro to picture atmosphere and emotion in the archaic and modern (218: The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire; 219: Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire; 221: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire; 227: Evening, York).

Boy, would I like to see the ones he rejected!

Marcus

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These photographs are published under fair use conditions for educational purposes only.

 

This magnificent set of pictures displays, with all the art of genius both in selection and technical skill, the beauty of the British Isles. I know of no similar collection which could give alike to the foreigner who wonders what England is like, to the Englishman who has wandered from his native land into all the great dominions of the world, and to the man who has remained behind, that particular sense of pleasure mingled with pain which all beauty excites, and excites especially a passionate love in the vision of home.

This is an introduction to pictures of the landscapes and the works of man; these latter ennobled by the associations of time, and in some cases by time’s decay. They open vistas through which one may gaze at the history of England for a thousand years.

Charles F. G. Masterman

 

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'At Hatfield, Hertfordshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
147: At Hatfield, Hertfordshire
1926

 

 

Emil Otto Hoppé (born 1878 in Munich, died 1972 in England) was an exciting and mysterious phenomenon. During his lifetime, especially in the 1910s, 20s, 30s and 40s, he was one of the most famous photographers in the world and a highly-respected portrait photographer in London, with a large house and studio in South Kensington (Millais House, which had 27 rooms on four floors and had previously been inhabited by the renowned Victorian painter John Everett Millais) as well as a clientele comprising the most important politicians, businessmen, artists, dancers, poets, writers, philosophers and of course the English nobility, including Queen Mary and King George V. For many years he was a dedicated travel photographer. He travelled across many countries including Great Britain, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the United States, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand for projects such as the Orbis Terrarum book series for the Berlin-based publishing company Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, and devoted months, often a year or more, of his careful, meticulous attention to each of these countries in order to, as he himself once wrote, eventually select from 5000 negatives 300 images that could together with a text for the respective country, represent the selected topic and be published. “Romantic America”, “Picturesque Great Britain: The Architecture and the Landscape”, “Romantik der Kleinstadt”, “The Fifth Continent” [Australia] and “Deutsche Arbeit” are the titles of just some of the 20 books he published in his lifetime. …

The first task in the development of the history of photography was to build as simple a framework as possible and to gain a recognisable, nameable overview of the key movements. The work of Emil Otto Hoppé perhaps simply did not to fit in; instead his diversity and attitude must have been unsettling. On the one hand, he threw quite a modern look on the people, villages, landscapes and especially industries. At the same time he was for long periods wont to print his pictures in more tonal and soft-focus ways. His black-and-white pictures are often characterised by a particularly dense and colourful tonality, while his portraits (and other genres) are often soft and almost a little out-of-focus. He himself describes printing his portraits as follows in his autobiography “Hundred Thousand Exposures: The Success of a Photographer” from 1945: “I use a soft-focus lens in the enlarger. I begin the exposure with the smallest stop considered advisable. During the exposure the iris diaphragm is slowly opened and closed. The effect is calculated by dividing the estimated exposure by the smallest stop used in the process and closing the iris diaphragm for fractions of the period which are approximately 1/5, 1/20, 3/4 (…) The final effect is a roundness which I have not found it possible to obtain by another method.” …

In a speech delivered by E.O. Hoppé to the Royal Photography Society in 1946, he addressed some of these issues himself. For example: “The function of the camera here would be to make a simple, straightforward picture, which probably would not be accepted by any Salon of Photography. No tricks of exposure, angle or printing would have a place.” […] “The search for the most effective angle is the prime task of the photographer, and his success will largely be judged by his success in that search. The harm comes when he does not look for the most effective angle but for the most bizarre and peculiar.” […] “I see no reason to think a man a better artist because he ignores public taste, despises supply and demand and has dirty finger-nails.” […] “Similarly, I cannot agree with the intellectual snobbishness which declares that a man who wears a clean shirt and has a bank account is necessarily a tradesman and cannot be an artist.” His line of argument seems to address some reasons why his work was for a long time forgotten vis-à-vis a romantic image of the artist and the search for an approach that could be precisely isolated and named.

Anonymous. “Emil Otto Hoppé: Unveiling a Secret Industrial Photographs, 1912-1937,” on the Urs Stahel website January 2015 [Online] Cited 18 May 2020

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Spires of Oxford, Oxfordshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
148: The Spires of Oxford, Oxfordshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cloisters, New College, Oxford' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
150: The Cloisters, New College, Oxford
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Pangbourne, Berkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
156: Pangbourne, Berkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'West Hagbourne, Berkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
157: West Hagbourne, Berkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Trinity Gates, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
164: Trinity Gates, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Caius Cambridge, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
169: Caius Cambridge, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Old Inn & Hostelry, Cambridge' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
171: Old Inn & Hostelry, Cambridge
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Haddenham, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
172: Haddenham, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Housetops, Cathedral Close, Ely, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
175: Housetops, Cathedral Close, Ely, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
177: Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
178: Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Fine Specimens of Ancient Domestic Architecture, Plastered Houses at Ipswich, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
181: Fine Specimens of Ancient Domestic Architecture, Plastered Houses at Ipswich, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Near Walberswick, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
182: Near Walberswick, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Walberswick, Suffolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
183: Walberswick, Suffolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Market House, Wymondham, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
184: Market House, Wymondham, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
185: The Harbour, Kings Lynn, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Castle Rising, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
186: Castle Rising, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Cottage at Southery, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
187: Cottage at Southery, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
189: Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
190: The Broads at Wrexham, Norfolk
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'An Essex Landscape' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
193: An Essex Landscape
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Beeleigh Abbey, Essex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
195: Beeleigh Abbey, Essex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Plastered House, Safron Walden, Essex' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
196: Plastered House, Safron Walden, Essex
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Friars, Aylesford, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
198: The Friars, Aylesford, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
199: Hop Poles & Oast Houses, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Staplehurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
200: Staplehurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
201: Allington Castle, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
202: Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
203: Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Old Smithy, Penhurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
205: The Old Smithy, Penhurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Penhurst, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
207: Penhurst, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Cobham Hall, Gravesend, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
208: Cobham Hall, Gravesend, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Canterbury Cathedral, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
211: Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Weavers, Cantebury, Kent' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
213: The Weavers, Cantebury, Kent
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Tideswell Cathedral, Derbyshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
215: Tideswell Cathedral, Derbyshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
218: The Canal, Manchester, Lancashire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
219: Warehouses, Manchester, Lancashire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
221: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
222: Steelworks, Sheffield, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
224: Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Evening, York' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
227: Evening, York
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
228: Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'Durham Cathedral, Durham' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
229: Durham Cathedral, Durham
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'In Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
231: In Durham Cathedral
1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972) 'The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral' 1926

 

E. O. Hoppé (British, born Germany 1878-1972)
232: The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral
1926

 

 

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05
Jun
20

Text: ‘Prospect/us, protect us: plague and resumption in fin de siècle Sydney’ on John Degotardi Jr.’s ‘The Plague Albums’, Sydney, 1900

June 2020

Views taken during Cleansing Operations, Quarantine Area, Sydney, 1900, under the supervision of Mr George McCredie, F.I.A., N.S.W. photographed by John Degotardi Jr. also known as The Plague Albums.

6 albums containing 379 photoprints

 

John Degotardi Jr. (Australian, 1860-1937) '264. Professional Ratcatchers' 1900

 

John Degotardi Jr. (Australian, 1860-1937)
NSW Department of Public Works photographer
264. Professional Ratcatchers
1900
From Vol. IV of Views taken during cleansing operations. Quarantine areas, Sydney, 1900
Gelatin silver print
New South Wales State Archives & Records NRS-12487 Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney
Public domain

 

 

Abstract

This text examines the photographs of John Degotardi Jr., photographer for the New South Wales Department of Public Works, who produced 6 photographic albums containing 379 photoprints of the plague in The Rocks, Sydney, 1900, also known as The Plague Albums.

It proposes alternate interpretations of the photographs, readings that both confirm the original purpose for their existence on the one hand, and subvert that purpose, and their formal legacy, on the other. In so doing we can begin to understand what an incredibly sophisticated photographer John Degotardi Jr. was, and how he deserves much more recognition than has been accorded him at present in the history of Australian photography.

 

Keywords

John Degotardi Jr., The Plague Albums, Sydney, Australia, bubonic plague, plague in Sydney, photography, art, urban landscape, the Prospect, prospectus, infection, rats, disease, plague, resumption, slum, community, The Rocks, Millers Point, Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Download Prospect/us, protect us (1.6Mb pdf)

 

 

Prospect/us, protect us: plague and resumption in fin de siècle Sydney

On John Degotardi Jr.’s The Plague Albums, Sydney, 1900

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During this time of pestilence, I came across several online articles about the outbreak of bubonic plague that occurred in Sydney in 1900 (in particular “Purging Pestilence – Plague!”1), the infection more virulent – don’t you love that word – in the harbour side slums around Darling Harbour, Millers Point and The Rocks but covering “the whole of the quarantine area, which stretched from Millers Point east to George Street, along Argyle, Upper Fort, and Essex Streets thence south to Chippendale, covering the area between Darling Harbour and Kent Streets, west to Cowper Street, Glebe, along City Road to the area bounded by Abercrombie, Ivy, Cleveland Streets, and the railway. The area east from George Street enclosed by Riley, Liverpool, Elizabeth and Goulburn Streets; Gipps, Campbell and George Streets were also quarantined, as were certain areas in Woolloomooloo, Paddington, Redfern and Manly.”2

Under the supervision of architect and consulting engineer Mr George McCredie, who was appointed by the Government to take charge of all quarantine activities in the Sydney area, work began on March 23, 1900 to cleanse the infected areas, and through compulsory purchase, or resumption (Australian law: the action, on the part of the Crown or other authority, of reassuming possession of lands, rights, etc., previously granted to another), to demolish slum properties. The buildings selected for demolition because of the health risks they supposedly raised, were recorded by photography,3 through the auspices of John Degotardi Jr., photographer for the New South Wales Department of Public Works, who produced 6 photographic albums containing 379 photoprints of the plague in The Rocks, Sydney, 1900, also known as The Plague Albums.

Degotardi Jr.’s photographs, commissioned as result of the outbreak, “are largely of buildings requiring to be demolished, and include the interior and exterior of houses, stores, warehouses and wharves, and surrounding streets, lanes and yards, thus providing a fairly clear indication of the state of the city during and immediately after the plague.” They document property and living conditions before, during and after the outbreak of plague. “George McCredie noted in a letter to Sir William Lyne that ‘Where it was found necessary to pull down premises or destroy outbuildings photographs were taken of them before their demolition, and in order to prepare in case of future litigation, each inspector was instructed to take careful notes of any property that might be destroyed.'”4

Probably taken on a large format glass plate camera (although no details are given), the resultant album photographs, now scanned, are available at high resolution (600dpi) and 130Mb file size images on the New South Wales State Archives and Records website copyright free, in the public domain. While it is admirable to have these photographs online, the scans have been left in their original condition, as is an archives want, in order to protect the presumed integrity of the original artefact. In other words, over 100 years after the taking of the photograph, this is the current physical state of the object and this is how the images should be seen today. You can see a couple of iterations of the original scans below, replete with their sickly yellow hue, which does not allow the viewer to really appreciate the scene, the photograph as a complete composition, or the skill of the photographer when observing and capturing the urban terrain. This is not how these photographs would have appeared when originally produced and their deterioration is akin to a layer of yellowing varnish that obscures the colours and details of some Old Master painting, which has discoloured with age. Conservators do not leave this layer of yellow in place, they remove it. The same can be said of discoloured photographs.

In this case, I spent many hours restoring these photographs to their pristine condition, removing colour and dust spots, so that I may study the scene intimately, zooming into the image (because of their high quality) to observe everyday nuances of Sydney life in 1900. In so doing we can begin to understand what an incredibly sophisticated photographer John Degotardi Jr. was, and how he deserves much more recognition than has been accorded him at present in the history of Australian photography. Let us set the stage, then, for the taking of these photographs.

We note that for the photographer this was a job, working as he did for the New South Wales Department of Public Works. He was to document the quarantine area to provide a clear indication of the state of the city during and immediately after the plague, those photographs of interiors and exteriors, of buildings and boundaries (streets) – things that “exist to insure order and security and continuity and to give citizens a visible status”5 – also needed in case of future litigation (presumably by aggrieved landowners) after they were compulsorily purchased. Here we begin to understand that the aesthetic of urban landscape photography is always contextual and political. In his photographs Degotardi Jr. maps out the boundaries of his, the governments, and the camera’s authority – one’s position (and that of his all seeing, ambivalent ‘mechanical eye’), “not just a matter of where one stands, but that it is more comprehensively spatial, social and economic.”6

Often in these photographs (not necessarily in this posting, but more generally in the images found online), Degotardi Jr.’s camera occupies and draws on “the seventeenth century device of the ‘prospect’, an oblique landscape viewpoint located between ground and aerial perspectives… The viewpoint of the prospect hovers in mid air between the aerial image and the landscape view, oblique to the terrain it is depicting. It provides an order that would otherwise be illegible to the grounded eye.”7 In other words, Degotardi Jr. positions his camera to best bring order to the urban chaos, picturing through the ritual of taking photographs, a surveyed and regulated order (both economic and legislative) that determines the urban grid – in this case, of the quarantine areas / remediated areas, dis-ease areas / proposed redevelopment, business areas – in some of the oldest suburbs of Sydney. Following Goldswain’s commentary on the photographs of John Joseph Dwyer and his mapping of the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, we might concur that, “It is not unreasonable to suggest that Dwyer’s [Degotardi Jr.’s] camera is literally prospecting, combining both senses of the word, mapping the city and its suburbs to find an economic potential in its ordered state…”8

In his “views”, Degotardi Jr.’s camera often portrays people (in)congruously in doorways or on streets, used to document scale or to bare witness to their surroundings. People, mainly men, go about their work often demolishing buildings or cleaning rubbish in the streets, stopping as the photograph is taken, or deliberately posed by the photographer. In some images the photographer sets up a scene that has no logic at all. For example, the photograph of Nos. 223, 225 Sussex Street (below) evidence a shoeless lad, a group of young men, a painter, and two firemen who hold a deflated fire hose which leads out of shot in one direction and terminates under the eves of a row of shops in the other direction, seemingly connected to nothing. Their surroundings are declamatory and, for today’s reader, insightful. In a building erected by P.R. Larkin in 1866, the row of shops includes a “Johnny All Sorts” – a business that bought and sold all sorts of things. To the right of the group are pasted billboards, much as today, two of which advertise a plague remedy and disinfectant soap (sound familiar in 2020?):

Avoid the
PLAGUE!
Purchase at Once!!
Prof. VON ELSEBERG’S
‘KALTHA’
Just Arrived

Notice to householders
BLACK DEATH
or Bubonic Plague
SANITOL
Disinfectant soap
3d Double tablets 3d

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In other photographs, men stand in doorways, hidden in the shadows (No. 20 Upton Street). Many are images of workers, homeowners, citizens and families who live a hand to mouth existence. The intimacy of these photographs portrays, betrays, the place where societies rejects are housed, the setting (the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place) of human lives; the “setting”, or settling, of human lives, as in the solidification of space and place, the environment of existence. As a group of photographs the series is an extraordinary social document of poverty and squalor, of the desperation of people just getting by.

To the photographer, and to the people and buildings he was photographing, the familiar serves as a point of departure. Firstly, Degotardi Jr. documents what was there – this diseased land, a landscape not only as a composition of spaces but also a composition of a web of boundaries. Secondly, he photographs to map out what was to be “resumed” through the Resumption Act 1900, the city “fathers” using the outbreak of bubonic plague as a convenient excuse to compulsorily purchase land in the loosely defined quarantine area, offering the residents compensation “estimated without reference to any alteration in the value of such land arising from any purchase or any appropriation or resumption for any purpose mentioned in this Act or the establishing of any public works on any land the subject of any such purchase, appropriation, or resumption.” These albums, then, become a prospectus, a prospect/us, an authentic record of the terms, the conditions and the contexts for the reformist attitude in the minds of these city fathers: not to protect us (the populace) but to prospect us, using land resumption as the tool to get rid of the old and bring in the new. The plan was to demolish the existing structures and rebuild to a grand design.

Factored into the design of the Resumption Plans was the need to keep Dawes Point free for the construction of a possible bridge across the harbour. “While public health was a convenient excuse for resumptions, the need for a harbour bridge may also have motivated the authorities.”9

“Plans were underway even at these early stages and a good 23 years before construction of the bridge commenced. Even at the turn of the nineteenth century, it was clear that there would need to be a widened thoroughfare to accommodate traffic entering and exiting the bridge, and many buildings would need to be sacrificed to achieve this. The bubonic plague outbreak offered the ideal opportunity to highlight the inadequacies in a lot of buildings, and the chance to condemn the area as slum, whose only chance of redemption was through mass demolition.”10

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But as an article by Gillian McNally in The Daily Telegraph insightfully observes, “
The reshaping of the city … provided a convenient “public health” excuse for resumption of private property. The NSW Government took back ownership of virtually the entire headland from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour and demolished hundreds of slum houses and businesses in what are now prime real estate precincts such as George St, Sussex St, Kent St and Martin Place. There was little attempt to define a slum area and there was no recognition of the rights of tenants as resumptions took out a house here, a street there and great swathes of properties in some suburbs to improve crooked roads and thoroughfares.”11

If we define a landscape as an environment modified by the permanent presence of a group of people,12 then what these photographs do, in one sense, is document the death throes of the communities that created this urban landscape. As J.B. Jackson notes, “No group sets out to create a landscape, of course. What it sets out to do is to create a community, and the landscape as its visible manifestation is simply the by-product of people working and living, sometimes coming together, sometimes staying apart, but always recognising their interdependence.”13

But, as Denis Cosgrove observes, the concept of landscape (and thus of community) is always powerful and political.

“Landscape was a ‘way of seeing’ that was bourgeois, individualist and related to the exercise of power over space. The basic theory and technique of the landscape way of seeing was linear perspective … and is closely related by [Alberti] to social class and spatial hierarchy. It employs the same geometry as merchant trading and accounting, navigation, land survey, mapping and artillery. Perspective is first applied in the city and then to a country subjugated to urban control and viewed as landscape. … The visual power given by the landscape way of seeing complements the real power humans exert over land as property.”14

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The photographs in these albums, then, evidence the real power of the city fathers over land as property, their property and not that of the citizens or the communities that had grown up in these unregulated buildings and shantytowns. They, the city fathers, ordered these pictures into existence. The landscape thus portrayed, is “a way of seeing, a composition and structuring of the world so that it may be appropriated by a detached, individual spectator to whom an illusion of order and control is offered through the composition of space according to the certainties of geometry.”15 Residents, armed with lime, carbolic acid and sulfuric acid, were then enlisted to cleanse, disinfect and even burn and demolish their own houses in infected areas.16

But in another and far more important sense, what these photographs document are the lives of ordinary people, people who form a community of souls, for whom a sense of community was of vital, life giving importance. The photographs record their existence as traces and energies from the past that impinge on our consciousness in the present. Here are the ratcatchers, modest men with their traps and cages, bowties and pipes, all adorned bar one in the obligatory hat; here are two Chinese gentlemen surrounded by squalor and chopped wood, one sitting on a pile of rocks, both portrayed with a touching dignity; here in a rubble strewn Wexford street men resignedly sit on the ground or stare pensively at the camera, pondering we know not what, while on the other side of the street children stare inquisitively at the camera; and there smoke arises from amongst the demolished Exeter Place as labourers, persons doing unskilled manual work for wages, dance a ballet of destruction amongst the rubble. Children on a veranda, pails in a dirt back yard, chickens, and children, roaming free… and a rock tied on a piece of string guards the entrance to a door.

Pails and tins and rocks and wood and chickens and children and rats and butchers and dirt and sugar… and a rock tied on a piece of string, like the great pendulum of time, marking all their existences. And yet… and yet, what that most excellent photographer John Degotardi Jr. does (in this second sense), is not just to record as instructed, their quarantine, their dispossession – but through his photographs, he empathises with the people, with their community of existence. While his photographs are not sentimental about humankind, traces of humanity are ever-present in his pictures. Unlike the Parisian Eugène Atget, who established a beneficial “distance between man and his environment” here, Degotardi Jr. engages in a conversation with the people and the city. And in so doing, in so immersing himself in (t)his project, he lifts his photographs out of the ordinary, out of (t)his world.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn has so eloquently observed,

“Effortless activity happens at moments in dance and in sports at the highest levels of performance; when it does, it takes everybody’s breath away. But it also happens in every area of human activity, from painting to car repair to parenting. Years of practice and experience combine on some occasions, giving rise to a new capacity to let execution unfold beyond technique, beyond exertion, beyond thinking. Action then becomes a pure expression of art, of being, of letting go of all doing – a merging of mind and body in motion.”17

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It would seem to me that this is the great achievement of a Department of Public Works photographer who was hired to do a job: that he transcended his subject matter by letting execution unfold beyond technique, by immersing himself in the derivation of composition, perspective, light and form, place and context, feeling and emotion. So while these photographs in the obvious obey the command of the city fathers, of the planners, of patriarchy and the capital of industry, in the immersive and subversive they undermine the prospectus that first proposed them. Unable to protect the people, to protect us, from the demolition of community (to the benefit of commerce hidden under the “public health” excuse), John Degotardi Jr. leaves, through his photographs, a lasting legacy of lives that matter, not bureaucracy that doesn’t. He imagines streets and buildings and lives, pictured for eternity through the psychogeography of the city. And if we think of the long queues of unemployed in our current pandemic, here are also lives that matter – the lives of the dead and the destitute, each one a valuable, sentient, human being.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 2,809

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Many thanks to the brains trust on the Lost Sydney Facebook web page for helping in my research in locating exact positions of some of the photographs and the location of the resumption maps online. Apologies if I have got anything incorrect. All photographs are in the public domain. More photographs can be found on the State Library of New South Wales website, New South Wales State Archives and Records website and the John Degotardi Flickr stream.

 

Footnotes

  1. Anonymous. “Purging Pestilence – Plague!” on the New South Wales State Archives and Records website [Online] Cited 25 May 2020
  2. NRS-12487 | Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney. Text from the State Archives of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 11/04/2020.
  3. Alan Davies. “Photography in Australia,” in Celebrating 100 years of the Mitchell Library. Sydney: State Library of NSW, 2000. p. 86.
  4. Footnote 1. NSW Parliamentary Debates, 1900, vol. CIII, p. 111 quoted in Max Kelly. Plague Sydney. Marrickville, NSW: Doak Press, 1981 in NRS-12487 | Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney. Text from the State Archives of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 11/04/2020.
  5. J.B. Jackson. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984, p. 12.
  6. Philip Goldswain. “Surveying the Field, Picturing the Grid: John Joseph Dwyer’s Urban and Industrial Landscapes,” in Phillip Goldswain and William Taylor (eds.,). An Everyday Transience: The Urban Imaginary of Goldfields Photographer John Joseph Dwyer. UWA Publishing, 2010, p. 65-66.
  7. Ibid., p. 63.
  8. Ibid., p. 66.
  9. Anonymous. “Purging Pestilence – Plague!” on the State Archives of New South Wales website (archived) [Online] Cited 10 April 2020.
  10. Anonymous. “Bubonic Plague outbreak in Sydney in the 1900s helps Politicians to clear the way for transport progress & landmark,” on The Digger website 13th August 2016 [Online] Cited 10/40/2020.
  11. Gillian McNally. “Bubonic plague Sydney: How a city survived the black death in 1900,” in The Daily Telegraph September 3, 2015 [Online] Cited 16 May 2020.
  12. J.B. Jackson. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984, p. 12.
  13. Ibid.,
  14. Abstract in Denis Cosgrove. “Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea,” in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1985, pp. 45-62.
  15. Ibid., p. 55.
  16. McNally, op.cit.,
  17. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Wherever You Go There You Are. New York: Hachette Books, 1994, p. 44.

 

 

 

The political landscape

“I am enumerating some of the simplest and most visible elements in what can be called the political landscape: the landscape which evolved partly out of experience, partly from design, to meet some of the needs of men and women in their political [ie. social] guise. The political elements I have in mind are such things as walls and boundaries and highways and monuments and public places; these have a definite role to play in the landscape. They exist to insure order and security and continuity and to give citizens a visible status. They serve to remind us of our rights and obligations and of our history.”

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J.B. Jackson. ‘Discovering the Vernacular Landscape’. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1984, p. 12.

 

Boundaries

“The most basic political element in any landscape is the boundary. Politically speaking what matters first is the formation of a community of responsible citizens, a well-defined territory composed of small holdings and a number of public spaces; so the first step toward organizing space is the defining of that territory, after which we divide it for the individual members. Boundaries, therefore, unmistakable, permanent, inviolate boundaries, are essential.”

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J.B. Jackson. ‘Discovering the Vernacular Landscape’. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1984, p. 13.

 

“If we return to the notion that photography is an extension of pre-existing pictorial conventions, then it could be argued that the common feature of all the preceding images is the photographer’s reliance on the ‘prospect’ as the compositional device. The viewpoint of the prospect hovers in mid air between the aerial image and the landscape view, oblique to the terrain it is depicting. It provides an order that would otherwise be illegible to the grounded eye. John Macarthur suggests that the difference between the grounded landscape views and the prospect was not simply that different kinds of views required different kinds of representations. For theorists of the picturesque, a prospect was kind of view that could not be a picture.16 Macarthur distinguishes between the prospect and the landscape view as the difference between the cadastral [(of a map or survey) showing the extent, value, and ownership of land, especially for taxation] and the pictorial. Geographer Denis Cosgrove argues that the prospect was first used to ‘denote a view outward, a looking forward in time as well as space’ and that by the end of the sixteenth century it carried the ‘sense of an extensive or commanding sight or view, a view of the landscape as affected by one’s position.’17. The inference is that ‘one’s position’ is not just a matter of where one stands, but that it is more comprehensively spatial, social and economic. Cosgrove’s analysis of the prospect suggests an economic imperative behind its use and he cites its importance in Tudor England, where in combination with the ‘Malicious craft’ of surveying, it reflected a command over developed and commercially run farming estates of Tudor enclosures and the new landowners of monastic estates.18 Cosgrove notes the emergence of the verb ‘to prospect’ in the nineteenth century as a result of the speculative activities of gold mining.19.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that Dwyer’s camera is literally prospecting, combining both senses of the word, mapping the city and its suburbs to find an economic potential in its ordered state… Dwyer produces what could be considered Cosgrove’s spatial, chronological and commercial narrative compressed into the frame of the photograph…”

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Philip Goldswain. “Surveying the Field, Picturing the Grid: John Joseph Dwyer’s Urban and Industrial Landscapes,” in Phillip Goldswain and William Taylor (eds.,). ‘An Everyday Transience: The Urban Imaginary of Goldfields Photographer John Joseph Dwyer’. UWA Publishing, 2010, p. 65-66.

16. J. Macarthur. ‘The Picturesque: Architecture, Disgust and Other Irregularities’. Routledge, London, 2007, p. 190.
17. ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ as cited by D. Cosgrove, “Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the landscape Idea”, in ‘Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers’, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1985, p. 55.
18. Cosgrove, “Prospect,” p. 55.
19. Ibid., p. 61, note 64.

 

 

The Bubonic Plague hit Sydney in January 1900. Spreading from the waterfront, the rats carried the plague throughout the city. Within eight months 303 cases were reported and 103 people were dead.

When bubonic plague struck Sydney in 1900, George McCredie (1859-1903) was appointed by the Government to take charge of all quarantine activities in the Sydney area, beginning work on March 23, 1900. At the time of his appointment, McCredie was an architect and consulting engineer with offices in the Mutual Life of New York Building in Martin Place. McCredie’s appointment was much criticised in Parliament, though it was agreed later that his work was successful.

The infected areas, and buildings selected for demolition because of the health risks they supposedly raised, were recorded by photography. Most of the buildings demolished were considered slum buildings. John Degotardi Junior (1860-1937) worked at the NSW Government Printing Office and was photographer with the NSW Department of Public Works from 6 January 1897-1919.

 

John Degotardi Junior (Australian, 1860-1937)

MR. JOHN DEGOTARDI.

The death occurred yesterday at Lewisham private hospital of Mr John Degotard