Posts Tagged ‘double exposures

09
Dec
18

Photographs: Germaine Krull ‘MÉTAL’ 1928

December 2018

 

Germaine Krull (photographer) Cover design by M. Tchimoukow. 'MÉTAL' cover 1928

 

Germaine Krull (photographer)
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow (Louis Bonin)
MÉTAL cover
1928
Librairie des Arts décoratifs
A. Calavas, Editeur

Portfolio comprising a title page, a preface by Florent Fels and sixty four (64) loose photogravures, each mentioning the photographer’s name, titled ‘MÉTAL’, plate number and publisher’s name. Original dust jacket.

folio 30 x 23.5 cm; 11 ¾ x 9 ¼ in.
plate 29.2 x 22,5 cm; 11 ½ x 8 ¾ in.
image 23.6 x 17.1 cm; 9 ¼ x 6 ½ in.

 

 

“Dans toute sa force” (In full force)

For my new body of work I have been researching the concept of The Oblique Function which was first developed in the 1960’s by Architecture Principe (Claude Parent and Paul Virilio). “The idea was to tilt the ground in order to revolutionise the old paradigm of the vertical wall. In fact, being inclined, the wall becomes experiencable and so are the cities imagined by the two French architects. The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space. The slope implies an effort to climb up and a speed to climb down; this way the body cannot abstract itself from the space and feel the degrees of inclination.”1

The key to the concept is: The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space.

Perhaps we can transfer this concept to the portfolio MÉTAL by Germaine Krull, one of the most important photobooks every produced … and ask how does Krull, her camera, and by extension the viewer, inhabit the spaces she creates.

In this portfolio Krull, through “extreme angles, producing dizzying compositions of overlapping and intersecting details”, one upside down image and two multiple exposures, “one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion”2 – produces and directs (Krull was also an avant-garde filmmaker) the creation of a molecular structure – both grand and intimate, macro and micro at one and the same time. Probing further, we can link her filmic structure, this oblique mass of machines and images, to Eisenstein’s dynamic comprehension of a work of art, that is, “The logic of organic form vs. the logic of rational form [which] yields, in collision, the dialectic of the art-form.”3

This dialectic (the tension that exists between two conflicting or interacting forces, elements, or ideas; and, the process, in Hegelian and Marxist thought, in which two apparently opposed ideas, the thesis and antithesis, become combined in a unified whole, the synthesis) rests on Eisenstein’s definition of the organic form as “the passive principle of being”, defining its limit to be nature, and his definition of the rational form as “the active principle of production”, defining its limit to be industry, with art falling where nature and industry intersects.4 How these two forces interact “produces and determines Dynamism”, in which:

The spatial form of this dynamism is expression.
The phases of its tension: rhythm.5

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These new concepts and viewpoints are the result of a constantly dynamic evolution from old perceptions to new perceptions which produce contradictions within the spectator’s mind. Eisenstein observes, “That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity – that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”6 “And Baudelaire wrote in his journal: That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity-that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty. Upon closer examination of the particular beauty of irregularity as employed in painting, whether by Grünewald or by Renoir, it will be seen that it is a disproportion in the relation of a detail in one dimension to another detail in a different dimension. The spatial development of the relative size of one detail in correspondence with another, and the consequent collision between the proportions designed by the artist for that purpose, result in a characterization – a definition of the represented matter.”7

What could me appropriate for Krull’s multi-layered, distorted, scaled, twisted representations of the new temples of industry than this definition of represented matter – a symbiosis between nature and industry, acknowledging, through emotion, beauty in the nature of industry, and landscapes of plenty in a people-less world?

An anonymous author on the Cinema Confessions blog comments, “Any art form ought to be understood as a communicative medium in which the thing being communicated is not an idea, but an emotion. Language communicates intellect, whereas art communicates sensation. The two are certainly compatible, as in poetry, but also just as certainly inimitably unique. And as communication requires the process of a message being sent and received, we must acknowledge that distinct communication is impossible without the process of time. Thus, as words in a sentence are given meaning through context of contiguous words in the same sentence, and sentences are given sub-textual meaning through context of other sentences within a conversation, given shots within a scene will conform to an over-tonal meaning intrinsically contextualized by other shots within the same scene, and in a broader sense, other scenes throughout the film.”

They continue: “In the essay The Filmic Fourth Dimension, Eisenstein compares film to music thusly, “There, along with the vibration of a basic dominant tone, comes a whole series of similar vibrations … Their impacts against each other … envelop the basic tone in a whole host of secondary vibrations … We find the same thing in optics, as well. All sorts of aberrations, distortions, and other defects, which can be remedied by systems of lenses, can also be taken into account compositionally, providing a whole series of definite compositional effects.” To simplify, he is describing the methods by which musicians and filmmakers are capable of manipulating audience emotion.”8

Thus, through Krull’s definitive compositional effects, her tonal montages capture more than just linear time, construct more than the spectator’s eye directed along the lines of some immobile object … for her holistic movement of the piece is perceived in a wider sense: where the “montage is based on the characteristic emotional sound of the piece – of its dominant. The general tone of the piece… I do not mean to say that the emotional sound of the piece is to be measured “impressionistically.” The piece’s characteristics in this respect can be measured with as much exactitude as in the most elementary case of “by the ruler” measurement in metrical montage. But the units of measurement differ. And the amounts to be measured are different.”9

This is the key to the effective nature of Krull’s portfolio, the power of the emotional sound of the piece: her understanding of the compositional effects of tonal montage as a piece of theatre measured in a different unit – through rhythm, through the interruption of sequences, through the distortion of spaces – to create a single unit of sensory and emotional experience. As Eisenstein notes, “In the Kabuki … a single monistic sensation of theatrical “provocation” takes place. The Japanese regards each theatrical element, not as an incommensurable unit among the various categories of affect (on the various sense-organs), but as a single unit of theatre . . .. Directing himself to the various organs of sensation, he builds his summation [of individual “pieces”] to a grand total provocation of the human brain, without taking any notice which of these several paths he is following.”10

Pace Krull. Her holistic compositions are intertextual and multi-faceted at a time when “straight” photography and even avant-garde photography could not string an adequate sentence together, let alone a multi-dimensional visual, sensual and emotional narrative. This is why Krull’s portfolio is so revolutionary for its time. And just to reinforce this shock of the new, of surprise and astonishment, Krull gets the writer Florent Fels – a traditionalist who by this time (1928) did not like contemporary art – to write a romantic eulogy of an introduction to the new gods of the sky, an introduction which gives the reader a sense of the soaring romanticism which is ascribed to these machinic megaliths. Citing Dostoyevsky, Rousseau and Cocteau, Fels’ florid fornications are, just like Krull’s stunning images, a joy for the senses:

“The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.”11

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,438

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All of the photographs in this posting are published under “fair use” conditions for the purpose of educational research and academic comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. “# Great Speculations /// The Oblique Functon by Claude Parent and Pau Virilio” on The Funambulist website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  2. Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  3. Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 46
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Ibid., p. 47
  6. Charles Baudelaire, Intimate Journals (13 May 1 856), translated by Christopher Isherwood. New York, Random House, 1930, quoted in Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 51
  7. Anonymous. “Film as Language: The Method and Form of Sergei Eisenstein,” on the Cinema Confessions blog 05/05/2011 [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  8. Eisenstein op. cit., p. 51
  9. Ibid., p. 75
  10. Ibid., p. 64
  11. Extract of the Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL. Librairie des Arts décoratifs, A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928

 

 

I did not have a special intention or design when I took the Iron photographs. I wanted to show what I see, exactly as the eye sees it.
‘MÉTAL’ is a collection of photographs from the time. ‘MÉTAL’ initiated a new visual era and open the way or a new concept of photography.
‘MÉTAL’ was the starting point which allowed photography to become an artisanal trade and which made an artist of the photographer, because it was part of this new movement, of this new era which touched all art.

.
Germaine Krull. Extract from the Preface to the 1976 edition of ‘MÉTAL’

 

Roland Barthes was skeptical of Krull’s experimental photographs. In his famous 1980 meditation on photography, ‘Camera Lucida’, he wrote: “There are moments when I detest Photographs: what have I to do with Atget’s old tree trunks, with Pierre Boucher’s nudes, with Germaine Krull’s double exposures (to cite only the old names).”3 Barthes discounts what he calls photographic “contortions of technique: superimpressions, anamorphoses, deliberate exploitation of certain defects (blurring, deceptive perspectives, trick framing),” and comments that “great photographers (Germaine Krull, Kertész, William Klein) have played on these surprises, without convincing me, if I understand their subversive bearing.”4 But while such photographs are sometimes subversive, to be sure, they are often celebratory in tone. Krull and her colleagues carried out their “contortions of technique” to produce metaphors for the swirling, confusing, exhilarating urban life in their post-World War I decade.

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Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida, p. 33 quoted in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Krull’s most renowned photographs are not street scenes but abstracted views of the Eiffel Tower, and three of these images, accompanied by a short text by Florent Fels and laid out in overlapping fashion, appeared in a ‘Vu’ article titled “Dans toute sa force” (In full force) published in May 1928, just before the tower’s fortieth birthday (fig. 8).19 According to Krull’s memoirs, Vogel told her, “Go and photograph the Eiffel Tower, Germaine. Photograph it as you really see it, and make sure that you don’t bring me a postcard view.”20 As Krull wrote, she did not see much in the “dead old form” until she began climbing the staircases and experiencing the tower from various vantage points. Some of the resultant images  – vertiginous views of the wrought iron structure - appeared in the German magazine UHU and Philippe Lamour’s journal ‘Grand’route’ as well as in ‘Vu’, and others (eleven in all) grace the pages of ‘Métal’.21

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“Protest gegen ein unmögliches Bauwerk,” ‘UHU’ 4 (December 1927): 106-11; Eric Hurel, “La Confusion des arts,” ‘Grand’route’ 1, no. 3 (May 1930): 71-74; and Krull, ‘Métal’, cover and pls. 2, 11, 19, 26, 28, 33, 37, 50, 54, 57. Footnote 21 in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

 

Although a portfolio, rather than a book, MÉTAL is widely considered to be among the most important photographic publications of the 1920s. Not only was Krull able to create work that stood the test of time, but she managed it in a profession dominated by men. It is interesting that with MÉTAL, she embraces a clearly masculine theme.

Krull’s photographs, whether of bridges, cranes, or the Eiffel Tower, tend towards the unconventional. It seems as if her initial approach is quite conservative, but then she questions common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways her subjects would have been photographed at the time. Krull consequently avoids implementing a strict visual language. Instead of striving for a “realistic” documentation of her subject in her photographs she chooses her angles instinctively, cropping the images tightly, or even reversing them. It is exactly this unexpected approach that makes MÉTAL stand out. …

The photographs were taken in Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo.

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover. There appear to have been at least two versions of the portfolio. One with a black spine and band, and one with a brown spine and band. The brown cloth version (shown below) seems to be the rarer of the two. The portfolio consists of 64 plates with images printed on one side, and two folded sheets unbound resulting in 8 pages which include a two and a half page text by Florent Fels in French and a short explanatory text by Germaine Krull.

Text from the achtung.photography website

 

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
In the port of Amsterdam
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Museum of Technology, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Antwerp
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL

The industrial activity of our times spreads a spectacle before our eyes, to which they have not yet become accustomed. Its newness captures and frightens us like that of a large natural phenomenon. In turn it expresses an attitude of mind, to which painters and poets are among those who devote themselves.

Europe’s cities appear to us as outdated and anachronistic. The provincial towns with their promenades, pleasant fountains and music pavilion suddenly become somewhat old fashioned, whilst the lyricism of our time succeeds in writing itself in concrete and steel cathedrals. Yet we are witness to the paradoxical fact, that the largest enterprises serve as forms of progress with exception of those who can contribute to an improvement in human dwellings. Except for a privileged few the accommodation of our contemporaries shows a similarity with that of our forebears at the time of Richelieu and Cromwell. The people of the cities succumb to the push of commercial practises. We demand houses with windows, which give a free view of the garden. Modern housing for modern people in which the sun and the fresh air find an unhindered inlet. Concrete and steel are their most important constituents: Ten years after the end of the war steel will at last serve a noble purpose, it will perhaps be rehabilitated.

Steel changes our landscape. Forests of masts replacing trees centuries old. Blast furnaces replacing hills.

From this new expression of the world some aspects have no been captured by beautiful photographs representative of a new romanticism.

Germaine Krull is the Marceline Desbores-Valmore of this lyricism and her photographs are sonnets of shining, piercing verse. Like an orchid is the driving force of Farcot and like frightening insects are the cogs.

Double exposure lends to the finest mechanisms a fantastic appearance and in considering a milling machine covered in muddy oil and detritus and from water dripping, one thinks of Dostoyevsky. In the halo that surrounds them the powerful, noiseless and quietly working dynamos seem to radiate luminous vibrations, and whose chimneys ring out whose fanfare tones to the heavens, these new godly concepts laid out before us. The bridges penetrate into the space. The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.

The Tower is and remains the highest symbol of the modern age. As he left New York and its vapour crowned palaces it was the Eiffel Tower, this beacon of the air, which Lindbergh envisaged, in order to reach Paris in the sentimental heart of the modern world.

Florent Fels.

 

The Eiffel Tower, the cranes and bridges of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo provided me with the material for a number of plates which form this album. I am indebted to others for the extreme kindness with which I was welcomed, by the Director of the Conservatoire des Arts-et-Métiers to his museum, by the Director of the CPDE at the Saint-Quen Power Station, and by M. André Citroën in his factories.
The cover of the book is a composition by M. Tchimoukow.

Germaine Krull
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow

Librairie des Arts décoratifs,
A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928
Portfolio

23.5 x 29.9cm (Portfolio)
22.5 x 29cm (Plates)

64 plates and 2 leaves

 

Marceline Desbores-Valmore

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (20 June 1786 – 23 July 1859) was a French poet and novelist…

She published Élégies et Romances, her first poetic work, in 1819. Her melancholy, elegiacal poems are admired for their grace and profound emotion. In 1821 she published the narrative work Veillées des Antilles. It includes the novella Sarah, an important contribution to the genre of slave stories in France…

The publication of her innovative volume of elegies in 1819 marks her as one of the founders of French romantic poetry. Her poetry is also known for taking on dark and depressing themes, which reflects her troubled life. She is the only female writer included in the famous Les Poètes maudits anthology published by Paul Verlaine in 1884. A volume of her poetry was among the books in Friedrich Nietzsche’s library. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Factory in Rotterdam
1923
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Florent Fels

Ferdinand Florent Fels (1891-1977) was a French journalist, publisher and author prominent in discussing art in France. He often used the pseudonym Felsenberg. Fels launched the art magazine Action: Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art in 1919. Here he expressed his individualist anarchist philosophy. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Fels as an art critic before 1925

I now feel the need to make a step back on Fels. Born in 1891, he was recruited as a soldier-interpreter in the First World War thanks to his knowledge of English, and here became an anti-militaristic minded person. His experience at the front was quite parallel to that of Georg Grosz, the only German artist in his anthology, whose sad pages on the role of artists and critics during World War I corresponded largely to the thoughts of the French author. The experience of war convinced the young Fels of the need to overcome the traditional aesthetic models, linked to symbolism, but also of the emptiness of contemporary art, which had propagated or somehow supported the war effort. It is no coincidence that his friend de Vlaminck – in the Propos dedicated to him – used disdainful words on the role of Cubism in the years leading up to the war. According to Fels, the only art that, after the slaughter at the front, could still be trusted was the Dada movement, born in Zurich in 1916 and spread rapidly in Europe (it is also what can be read in the pages of Grosz, an artist about whom Fels published – in addition to the pages in the anthology – several other articles in the French world [14]).

Returning from the war front, in 1919, the twenty-eighty year old Fels launched with Robert Mortier (painter and poet) and Marcel Sauvage (poet) the journal Action. Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art (Action. Individualist Notebooks on Philosophy and Art), which would have a short life (the last issue was 1922). The editors were young ex-soldiers who invested the money they had got from the state at the time they left the army, to launch the new journal. The founders of Action attempted to both awake and open the French culture. In the field of literature, Action hosted a series of poets, writers and literary critics such as Andre Malraux, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau and Antonin Artaud; in the area of art, the journal liaised with all contemporary avant-garde movements (dada, fauves, cubists), discussed and exalted the production of the greatest artists (Claude Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Henri Rousseau Le Douanier) and gave great emphasis to African art. Looking at the journal’s issues, all available on the Internet [15], it is also easy to find that Action also housed reproductions of paintings and prints by many of the painters who later on were included in Propos d’Artistes: Derain, Kisling, Léger, Lhote, Pascin, Utrillo, Vlaminck. There were also art criticism articles of Duret and poems by Vlaminck.

Within Dadaism, Action preached a ‘subjectivist’, or individualist, version of vanguard aesthetics. It did not propagate revolutions, but proclaimed the need for the absolute freedom of the artists. Fels’ points of reference were in fact the individualistic anarchist movements inspired by Rousseau and Proudhon; in March 1920, he held a conference on “Les Classiques de l’Esprit nouveau” and published the text in the journal L’un [16]: he rejected the traditional Dadaist attitude of total destruction of the past and identified the new classics (Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh) that were due to be the basis of the new art. Fels took distance from the anti-social attitudes typical of Dadaism, and animated a controversy over the direction of new art movements: for him, everyone should make his personal revolution, without destroying any social foundations. At the root of Fels’s aesthetic theory there was “the enhancement of individual psychologies, the free but orderly expression of the heart, the sense of art, inspiration, and individuality” [17].

In 1922, Action‘s experience ended: money was over and the attempt to counter the revolutionary drift within Dadaism had failed. Starting with 1924, André Breton imposed surrealism, inspired by a much more corrosive aesthetic and social criticism. Fels condemned it.

 

Florent Fels between 1923 and 1925

Once the experience of Action was concluded in 1922, Fels joined in 1923 the editorial staff of Les Nouvelles Littéraires. There he dealt not only with contemporary art, but with reviews of exhibitions of all kinds (from Renaissance to Art of Polynesia). Often, his articles updated the public on the developments of decorative arts (in those years, he published his already mentioned essay on French tapestries and carpets).

I already mentioned that Fels stated in the postscript of the anthology: “I wanted to produce a document dated 1925” [18]. The idea was therefore to offer the reader almost an instant book. In fact, as we have already said, the book gave readers a real-time image of the art discussion in 1923-1924. 1925 was however a very important year for Fels. In addition to the anthology, he published a monograph on Claude Monet with Gallimard and became chief editor of the new art journal “L’Art Vivant“, founded by Jacques Guenne (1896-1945) and Maurice Martin du Gard (1896-1970), i.e. the two directors of “Les Nouvelles Littéraires“. The new publication was in fact presented as the artistic attachment (complément artistique) to the literary weekly. Art Vivant. It was published by the house Larousse since January 1925.

As previously mentioned, Fels’s aesthetic taste (think again that only a few years before he had been forced to finance his own publication with the liquidation of the time spent in war as a simple soldier) was becoming closer to those of the great French progressive publishing companies (Gallimard, Larousse). In other words, he was taking on more and more classic aesthetic orientations. The Art Vivant magazine (which will have long life: Fels was his chief editor until 1939, when the magazine closed its doors in the wake of the war) became therefore one of the favourite targets of the communist intellectual and surrealist leader Louis Aragon (1897-1982), who called Fels “Paysan de Paris“, the peasant of Paris. From Aragon’s perspective, the only veritable surrealist anthology of art literature with a Marxist orientation will be published twenty years later by Paul Éluard.

Extract from Review by Francesco Mazzaferro of Florent Fels, Propos d’Artistes [The Propositions of the Artists], 1925. Part One 22 May 2017 [Online] Cited 30/11/2018

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Electricity France, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Negative collotype print

 

Detail of a centrifugal speed governor?

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Motor industry Citreon, Paris
1926-27
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Her book MÉTAL contains only two multiple exposures, one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Luise Krull (20 November 1897 – 31 July 1985) was a photographer, political activist, and hotel owner. Her nationality has been categorized as German, French, and Dutch, but she spent years in Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and India. Described as “an especially outspoken example” of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who “could lead lives free from convention”, she is best known for photographically-illustrated books such as her 1928 portfolio MÉTAL.

Krull was born in Posen-Wilda, a district of Posen (then in Germany; now Poznań, Poland), of an affluent German family. In her early years, the family moved around Europe frequently; she did not receive a formal education, but instead received homeschooling from her father, an accomplished engineer and a free thinker (whom some characterised as a “ne’er-do-well”). Her father let her dress as a boy when she was young, which may have contributed to her ideas about women’s roles later in her life.[6] In addition, her father’s views on social justice “seem to have predisposed her to involvement with radical politics.”

Between 1915 and 1917 or 1918 she attended the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, a photography school in Munich, Germany, at which Frank Eugene’s teaching of pictorialism in 1907-1913 had been influential. She opened a studio in Munich in approximately 1918, took portraits of Kurt Eisner and others, and befriended prominent people such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Pollock, and Max Horkheimer.

Krull was politically active between 1918 and 1921. In 1919 she switched from the Independent Socialist Party of Bavaria to the Communist Party of Germany, and was arrested and imprisoned for assisting a Bolshevik emissary’s attempted escape to Austria. She was expelled from Bavaria in 1920 for her Communist activities, and traveled to Russia with lover Samuel Levit. After Levit abandoned her in 1921, Krull was imprisoned as an “anti-Bolshevik” and expelled from Russia.

She lived in Berlin between 1922 and 1925 where she resumed her photographic career. She and Kurt Hübschmann (later to be known as Kurt Hutton) worked together in a Berlin studio between 1922 and 1924. Among other photographs Krull produced in Berlin were a series of nudes (recently disparaged by an unimpressed 21st-century critic as “almost like satires of lesbian pornography”).

Having met Dutch filmmaker and communist Joris Ivens in 1923, she moved to Amsterdam in 1925. After Krull returned to Paris in 1926, Ivens and Krull entered into a marriage of convenience between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a “veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy.”

In Paris between 1926 and 1928, Krull became friends with Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Eli Lotar, André Malraux, Colette, Jean Cocteau, André Gide and others; her commercial work consisted of fashion photography, nudes, and portraits. During this period she published the portfolio MÉTAL (1928) which concerned “the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape.” Krull shot the portfolio’s 64 black-and-white photographs in Paris, Marseille, and Holland during approximately the same period as Ivens was creating his film De Brug (“The Bridge”) in Rotterdam, and the two artists may have influenced each other. The portfolio’s subjects range from bridges, buildings (e.g., the Eiffel Tower), and ships to bicycle wheels; it can be read as either a celebration of machines or a criticism of them. Many of the photographs were taken from dramatic angles, and overall the work has been compared to that of László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko. In 1999-2004 the portfolio was selected as one of the most important photobooks in history.

By 1928 Krull was considered one of the best photographers in Paris, along with André Kertész and Man Ray. Between 1928 and 1933, her photographic work consisted primarily of photojournalism, such as her photographs for Vu, a French magazine. Also in the early 1930s, she also made a pioneering study of employment black spots in Britain for Weekly Illustrated (most of her ground-breaking reportage work from this period remains immured in press archives and she has never received the credit which is her due for this work). Her book Études de Nu (“Studies of Nudes”) published in 1930 is still well-known today. Between 1930 and 1935 she contributed photographs for a number of travel and detective fiction books.

In 1935-1940, Krull lived in Monte Carlo where she had a photographic studio. Among her subjects during this period were buildings (such as casinos and palaces), automobiles, celebrities, and common people. She may have been a member of the Black Star photojournalism agency which had been founded in 1935, but “no trace of her work appears in the press with that label.”

In World War II, she became disenchanted with the Vichy France government, and sought to join the Free French Forces in Africa. Due to her Dutch passport and her need to obtain proper visas, her journey to Africa included over a year (1941-1942) in Brazil where she photographed the city of Ouro Preto. Between 1942 and 1944 she was in Brazzaville in French Equatorial Africa, after which she spent several months in Algiers and then returned to France.

After World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia as a war correspondent, but by 1946 had become a co-owner of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, a role that she undertook until 1966. She published three books with photographs during this period, and also collaborated with Malraux on a project concerning the sculpture and architecture of Southeast Asia.

After retiring from the hotel business in 1966, she briefly lived near Paris, then moved to Northern India and converted to the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. Her final major photographic project was the publication of a 1968 book Tibetans in India that included a portrait of the Dalai Lama. After a stroke, she moved to a nursing home in Wetzlar, Germany, where she died in 1985.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Krull was a pioneer in the fields of avant-garde photomontage, the photographic book, and photojournalism, and she embraced both commercial and artistic loyalties. Born in Wilda-Poznań, East Prussia, in 1897, Krull lived an extraordinary life lasting nine decades on four continents – she was the prototype of the edgy, sexually liberated Neue Frau (New Woman), considered an icon of modernity and a close cousin of the French garçonne and the American flapper. She had a peripatetic childhood before her family settled in Munich in 1912. She studied photography from 1916 to 1918 at Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen (Instructional and Research Institute for Photography), and in 1919 opened her own portrait studio. Her early engagement with left-wing political activism led to her expulsion from Munich. Then, on a visit to Russia in 1921, she was incarcerated for her counterrevolutionary support of the Free French cause against Hitler. In 1926, she settled in Paris, where she became friends with artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay and intellectuals André Malraux, Jean Cocteau, Colette, and André Gide, who were also subjects of her photographic portraits.

Krull’s artistic breakthrough began in 1928, when she was hired by the nascent VU magazine,the first major French illustrated weekly. Along with photographers André Kertész and Éli Lotar, she developed a new form of reportage rooted in a freedom of expression and closeness to her subjects that resulted in intimate close-ups, all facilitated by her small-format Icarette, a portable, folding bed camera. During this period, she published the portfolio, Metal (MÉTAL)(1928), a collection of 64 pictures of modernist iron giants, including cranes, railways, power generators, the Rotterdam transporter bridge, and the Eiffel Tower, shot in muscular close-ups and from vertiginous angles. Krull participated in the influential Film und Foto, or Fifo, exhibition (1929-30), which was accompanied by two books, Franz Roh’s and Jan Tschichold’s Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye) and Werner Gräff’s Es kommt der neue Fotograf! (Here Comes the New Photographer!)Fifo marked the emergence of a new critical theory of photography that placed Krull at the forefront of Neues Sehen or Neue Optik (New Vision) photography, a new direction rooted in exploring fully the technical possibilities of the photographic medium through a profusion of unconventional lens-based and darkroom techniques. After the end of World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia, and then moved to India, where, after a lifetime dedicated to recording some of the major upheavals of the twentieth century, she decided to live as a recluse among Tibetan monks.

Introduction by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, Department of Photography, 2016 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Métal and Filmic Montage

For Krull, metal was the most powerful metaphor for the modern world, and her book Métal includes many of the industrial forms she saw in Europe. It features both multiple exposures and straight images, and the entire volume is structured according to the principles of film montage. As noted earlier, Krull was a member of the Dutch avant-garde film collective Filmliga, which was cofounded by Joris Ivens, who in 1927 became her husband. Both of them published work in Arthur Lehning’s related avant-garde journal i10.

They saw screenings of Soviet avant-garde films by Vsevolod Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein, and Krull made a portrait of Eisenstein when he visited Paris in 1930. Eisenstein’s theories of montage were particularly important to the couple, and Krull’s Métal serves to demonstrate them. She actively adopted the Soviet filmmaker’s ideas of rupture and “visual counterpoint,” involving graphic, planar, volumetric, and spatial conflicts.26

The book is technically an album, with sixty-four numbered but unbound collotype reproductions that can ostensibly be rearranged at will. There are no captions and no identifying markers, and the images include both vertical and horizontal compositions. In a brief note beneath an introductory text by Florent Fels, Krull tells us that these photographs include a lifting bridge over the Meuse River in Rotterdam (also the subject of Ivens’s renowned avant-garde montage film, The Bridge [De Brug], from that same year); the cranes in the Amsterdam port; the Eiffel Tower; Marseille’s transporter bridge; and other industrial forms she found.27 But it would be difficult to decipher these subjects from the photographs themselves. Although there are eleven Eiffel Tower images in the book, for example, they are often so abstracted that the subject is unidentifiable, and none are on contiguous pages. …

Scholars have often read Métal as a purely formal experiment, but Krull used it as a commentary on contemporary life, producing the kind of montage that her friend Walter Benjamin championed, in which “the superimposed element disrupts the context in which it is inserted. … The discovery is accomplished by means of the interruption of sequences. Only interruption here has not the character of a stimulant but an energizing function.”29 The quality of interruption, according to Benjamin, differentiates truly revolutionary work from the mere aping of the modern world, an approach that he scornfully attributes to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch.30 For Krull, interruption could occur in a multiple exposure, as in the aforementioned Métal image depicting overlapping views of bicycle parts. Or interruption can be found while turning a book’s pages, moving from a drive-belt detail to ominously large-scale cargo cranes, or from the Rotterdam Bridge over the Meuse to a detail of a centrifugal speed governor. Whether portraying a roller coaster, documenting the Eiffel Tower, or creating her book of industrial fragments, Krull engaged the decade’s cacophony and used provocative experimental techniques to capture its allure.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” p. 7 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” in Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg, eds. Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

27. Sergei Eisenstein, “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form” (1929), in Jay Leyda, ed., Film Form: Essays in Film Theory (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), pp. 52-54
29. Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer” (1934), in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), pp. 234-35
30. Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” p. 230

 

 

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21
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

Photography is … a language for asking questions about the world. The Shape of Things imbues this aphorism with a linear taxonomy in its written material (while the installation “occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression”), no matter that each “moment” in the history of photography – historical, modern, contemporary – is never self contained or self sufficient, that each overlaps and informs one another, in a nexus of interweaving threads.

Charles Harry Jones’ Peapods (c. 1900) are as modern as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Cooling Towers (1973); Margaret Watkins’ Design Angles (1919) are as directorial as Jan Groover’s Untitled (1983) or Charles Harry Jones’ Onions (c. 1900). And so it goes…

The ideation “the shape of things” is rather a bald fundamental statement in relation to how we imagine and encounter the marvellous. No matter the era, the country or the person who makes them; no matter the meanings readable in photographs or their specific use value in a particular context – the photograph is still the footprint of an idea and, as John Berger asks, a trace naturally left by something that has past? That flicker of imagination in the mind’s eye which has no time.

As Sartre says in Being and Nothingness, “Temporality is only a tool of vision.”

Marcus

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

 

 

The Shape of Things presents a compact and non-comprehensive history of photography, from its inception to the early twenty-first century, in one hundred images. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection with the support of Robert B. Menschel over the past forty years, including a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time.

“Photography is less and less a cognitive process, in the traditional sense of the term, or an affirmative one, offering answers, but rather a language for asking questions about the world,” wrote the Italian photographer and critic Luigi Ghirri in 1989. Echoing these words, the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

 

Installation views of The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 – May 7, 2017
© 2016 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: John Wronn

 

 

The exhibition The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel presents a compact history of photography, from its inception to the early 21st century, in 100 images. On view from October 29, 2016, through May 7, 2017, the exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection over the past 40 years with the support of longtime Museum trustee Robert B. Menschel. It includes a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time. The Shape of Things is organised by Quentin Bajac, the Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, with Katerina Stathopoulou, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, MoMA.

Borrowing its title from the eponymous work by Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the 19th and early 20th centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Historical

From 1840 to 1900, in photography’s infancy as a medium, artists principally sought to depict truthful representations of their surrounding environments. This primal stage is distinguished by a debate on the artistic-versus-scientific nature of the invention. Photographers engaged with the aesthetic and technical qualities of the medium, experimenting with tone, texture, and printing processes. The exhibition begins with seminal photographs such as William Henry Talbot Fox’s (British, 1800-1877) 1843 picture Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris, taken from the windows of the Hôtel de Douvres. Also on view is the astronomer Jules Janssen’s (French, 1824-1907) masterpiece L’Atlas de photographies solaires (Atlas of solar photographs), published in 1903. Summing up a quarter-century of daily photography at Janssen’s observatory in Meudon, France, the volume on view contains 30 images of the photosphere, demonstrating photography’s instrumental role in advancing the study of science. Other artists included in this section are Louis-August and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson (Bisson brothers), Eugène Cuvelier, Roger Fenton, Hugh W. Diamond, Charles Marville, and Henri Le Secq.

 

Modern

As photographers grappled with war and its aftermath, they began to turn their focus away from documenting the world around them and toward capturing their own personal experiences in a more formal, subjective way. A selection of works from 1940 to 1960 explores this theme, including works by two artists whose images Menschel collected extensively: Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) and Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991). A selection from Callahan’s quintessential photographs of urban environments – from Chicago and New York to Aix-en Provence and Cuzco, Peru – double exposures of city views, and portraits of his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, underscore the breadth of his oeuvre. In the summer of 1951, while teaching alongside Callahan at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Siskind began the series of pictures of the surfaces of walls for which he is best known. One of the early works in the series on view, North Carolina 30 (1951), shows the bare legs of a woman framed by the words “IN” and”AND” amid layers of peeling layers of posters. In their planarity and graphic quality, these pictures also have a kinship with paintings by the Abstract Expressionists, alongside whom Siskind began exhibiting in the late 1940s. Other artists in this section include Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, John Gossage, André Kertész, Clarence John Laughlin, and Dora Maar.

 

Contemporary

From the 1970s onward, photographers began working in what A. D. Coleman defined as “The Directorial Mode,” wherein the photographer consciously creates events for the sole purpose of making images. John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) took his own body, naked and with the head invisible, as the subject of his work – both carrying on and contradicting the tradition of the self-portrait centered on the face – as seen in Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above) (1984). Joan Fontcuberta’s (Spanish, b. 1955) series Herbarium appears at first glance to be a collection of botanical studies, depicting plants with new and distinctive contours and rigorously scientific names. However, as revealed by his fictional character Dr. Hortensio Verdeprado (“green pasture” in Spanish), the “plants” are actually carefully composed by the photographer using scrap picked up in industrial areas around Barcelona. Made of bits of paper and plastic, small animal bones, and other detritus, these forms are not only non-vegetal – there is almost nothing natural about them at all. Fontcuberta is interested in the way data assumes meaning through its presentation and in the acceptance of the photographic image as evidence of truth. Other artists in this section include Jan Groover, David Levinthal, An-My Lê, Michael Spano, JoAnn Verburg, and William Wegman.

Press release from the Museum of Modern Art

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'Greek Hero' c. 1857

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Greek Hero
c. 1857
Salted-paper print from a wet-collodion glass negative
13 7/16 × 10 3/16″ (34.2 × 25.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886) 'Untitled' c. 1852-55

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886)
Untitled
c. 1852-55
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
6 1/2 x 5 5/16″ (16.6 x 13.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris' May 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris
May 1843
Salted paper print
6 11/16 × 6 3/4″ (17 × 17.2 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Pont Neuf' 1870s

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Pont Neuf
1870s
Albumen silver print
14 1/8 x 8 1/4″ (36 x 23.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois' c. 1866

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois
c. 1866
Albumen silver print
11 13/16 × 10 1/2″ (30 × 26.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue du Cygne' c. 1865

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue du Cygne
c. 1865
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
11 3/4 x 10 9/16″ (29.9 x 26.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Terminal' 1893

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Terminal
1893
Photogravure mounted to board
10 × 13 3/16″ (25.4 × 33.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Truthful representations, 1840-1930

“One advantage of the discovery of the Photographic Art will be, that it will enable us to introduce into our pictures a multitude of minute details which add to the truth and reality of the representation, but which no artist would take the trouble to copy faithfully from nature.

Contenting himself with a general effect, he would probably deem it beneath his genius to copy every accident of light and shade; nor could he do so indeed, without a disproportionate expenditure of time and trouble, which might be otherwise much better employed.

Nevertheless, it is well to have the means at our disposal of introducing these minutiae without any additional trouble, for they will sometimes be found to give an air of variety beyond expectation to the scene represented.”

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844-46

 

“I was interested in a straightforward 19th-century way of photographing an object. To photograph things frontally creates the strongest presence and you can eliminate the possibilities of being too obviously subjective. If you photograph an octopus, you have to work out which approach will show the most typical character of the animal. But first you have to learn about the octopus. Does it have six legs or eight? You have to be able to understand the subject visually, through its visual appearance. You need clarity and not sentimentality.”

Hilla Becher, in “The Music of the Blast Furnaces: Bernhard and Hilla Becher in Conversation with James Lingwood,” Art Press, no. 209 (1996)

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Peapods' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Peapods
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 5/16 x 8 1/4″ (16 x 20.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers
1973
Gelatin silver prints
Each 15 3/4 × 11 13/16″ (40 × 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate Bernd and Hilla Becher

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan' January 17, 1936

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan
January 17, 1936
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 7 5/8″ (24.3 x 19.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan' February 4, 1937

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan
February 4, 1937
Gelatin silver print 9 5/8 x 7 9/16″ (24.4 x 19.1 cm)
Gift of the Robert and Joyce Menschel Foundation

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany
1973
Gelatin silver print
18 7/16 x 22 11/16″ (46.9 x 57.6 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
Gelatin silver print
19 5/16 x 24″ (49.1 x 60.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876) 'Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)' c. 1853

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876)
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)
c. 1853
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
14 7/16 x 17 13/16″ (36.6 x 45.3 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Rails' c. 1927

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Rails
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
15 7/16 x 10 3/8″ (39.2 x 26.3 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Le Metal Inspirateur d'Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)' 1930

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Le Metal Inspirateur d’Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)
1930
Gelatin silver print
6 5/8 x 8 7/16″ (16.8 x 21.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Personal experiences, 1940-1960

“As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup themselves as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge, and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that’s your picture.

What I have just described is an emotional experience. It is utterly personal: no one else can ever see quite what you have seen, and the picture that emerges is unique, never made and never to be repeated. The picture – and this is fundamental – has the unity of an organism. Its elements were not put together, with whatever skill or taste or ingenuity. It came into being as an instant act of sight.”

Aaron Siskind, “The Drama of Objects,” Minicam Photography 8, no. 9 (1945)

 

“The business of making a photograph may be said in simple terms to consist of three elements: the objective world (whose permanent condition is change and disorder), the sheet of paper on which the picture will be realized, and the experience which brings them together. First, and emphatically, I accept the flat plane of the picture surface as the primary frame of reference of the picture. The experience itself may be described as one of total absorption in the object. But the object serves only a personal need and the requirements of the picture. Thus rocks are sculptured forms; a section of common decorated ironwork, springing rhythmic shapes; fragments of paper sticking to a wall, a conversation piece. And these forms, totems, masks, figures, shapes, images must finally take their place in the tonal field of the picture and strictly conform to their space environment. The object has entered the picture in a sense; it has been photographed directly. But it is often unrecognizable; for it has been removed from its usual context, disassociated from its customary neighbours and forced into new relationships.”

Aaron Siskind, “Credo,” Spectrum 6, no. 2 (1956)

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968) 'The Gay Deceiver' c. 1939

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968)
The Gay Deceiver
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
13 x 10 1/4″ (33 x 26 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' 1951

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1951
Dye transfer print
10 5/16 x 15 11/16″ (26.2 x 39.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) 'Spectre of Coca-Cola' 1962

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
Spectre of Coca-Cola
1962
Gelatin silver print, printed 1981
13 1/4 x 10 3/8″ (33.6 x 26.4 cm)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Siena' 1968

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Siena
1968
Gelatin silver print
9 × 8 7/8″ (22.9 × 22.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1952

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1952
Dye transfer print
8 3/4 × 13 7/16″ (22.3 × 34.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1949

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 9/16″ (19.5 x 24.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago' 1953

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago
1953
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 11/16″ (19.5 x 24.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Providence' 1974

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Providence
1974
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 × 6 7/16″ (16.6 × 16.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985) 'New York' August 10, 1969

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985)
New York
August 10, 1969
Gelatin silver print
13 11/16 x 9 3/4″ (34.7 x 24.7 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Directorial modes, 1970s and beyond

“Here the photographer consciously and intentionally creates events for the express purpose of making images thereof. This may be achieved by intervening in ongoing ‘real’ events or by staging tableaux – in either case, by causing something to take place which would not have occurred had the photographer not made it happen.

Here the authenticity of the original event is not an issue, nor the photographer’s fidelity to it, and the viewer would be expected to raise those questions only ironically. Such images use photography’s overt veracity by evoking it for events and relationships generated by the photographer’s deliberate structuring of what takes place in front of the lens as well as of the resulting image. There is an inherent ambiguity at work in such images, for even though what they purport to describe as ‘slices of life’ would not have occurred except for the photographer’s instigation, nonetheless those events (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) did actually take place, as the photographs demonstrate.

… This mode I would define as the directorial.”

A. D. Coleman, “The Directorial Mode: Notes Towards a Definition,” Artforum 15, no. 1 (1976)

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Chicago 30' 1949

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Chicago 30
1949
Gelatin silver print
14 x 17 13/16″ (35.6 x 45.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'North Carolina 30' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
North Carolina 30
1951
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 × 9 11/16″ (33.2 × 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934) 'Glenwood Springs, Colorado' 1981

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
1981
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 12 15/16″ (21.9 x 32.8 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012) 'Untitled' 1983

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012)
Untitled
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 x 13 1/2″ (25.9 x 34.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Design Angles' 1919

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Design Angles
1919
Gelatin silver print
8 5/16 x 6 3/8″ (21.1 x 16.2 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Onions' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Onions
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
5 7/8 x 8 1/4″ (15 x 21cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 9 15/16″ (24.1 x 23.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 8 15/16″ (24.1 x 22.8 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)' 1975

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 × 9 5/8″ (25.9 × 24.4 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946) 'Monumentenbricke' 1982

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946)
Monumentenbricke
1982
Gelatin silver print
12 3/16 x 9 11/16″ (30.9 x 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995) 'Exhibition of the Witch' c. 1948

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995)
Exhibition of the Witch
c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
10 15/16 × 13 3/4″ (27.8 × 35 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate of Val Telberg

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999) 'I Adore You' 1947

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999)
I Adore You
1947
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 × 9 1/2″ (19.2 × 24.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)
1984
Gelatin silver print
19 13/16 × 15″ (50.4 × 38.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Giliandria Escoliforcia' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Giliandria Escoliforcia
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Mullerpolis Plunfis' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Mullerpolis Plunfis
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Mortar Impact' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Mortar Impact
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal (American, born 1949)
Untitled from the series Hitler Moves East
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 13 7/16″ (26.8 x 34.1 cm)
The Fellows of Photography Fund and Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray' 1976

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray
1976
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 × 6 7/8″ (18.5 × 17.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949) 'Photogram-Michael Spano' 1983

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949)
Photogram-Michael Spano
1983
Gelatin silver print
57 7/8 x 23 15/16″ (145.2 x 60.8 cm) (irregular)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) 'The Shape of Things' 1993

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)
The Shape of Things
1993
Gelatin silver prints
a) 26 7/8 x 26 15/16″ (68.2 x 68.4 cm) b) 26 15/16 x 26 7/8″ (68.5 x 68.3 cm)
Gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
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13
May
16

Exhibition: ‘François Kollar. A Working Eye’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 9th February – 22nd May 2016

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin, collections officer, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Paris, and Pia Viewing, curator – researcher at the Jeu de Paume, Paris.

 

 

François Kollar is a magnificent photographer. He produced strong images that possess few histrionics, even less ego. They simply just are.

People quoted in this posting comment that in his photographs “human measure is omnipresent”; that you never loose the sense of scale; that there are “frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”; that his photographs are “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work”; that “Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements.”

All these statements are true.

Further, his images are sensitive, beautiful, show no traces of any social movements, and little sign of emotion. As Dominique Vautrin observes, “François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet…” And as the text from Jeu de Paume states, “He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography.” Other photographers who could fit into this playlist could be Bill Brandt in England, Walker Evans in America and Wolfgang Sievers in Australia.

But what a splendid description – a “temperate photographer”. Showing moderation and self-restraint… there is far too little of that in contemporary photography. A humanist with an avant-garde edge, a photographer whose vision was clear and consistent throughout his oeuvre, who could turn his hand to anything: advertising, fashion, avant-garde, double exposures, solarisation, photomontage, documentary reportage, surrealism, constructivism, modernism.

Joseph Nechvatal comments that Kollar’s work is poignant. This is an incorrect word to describe the work, for the photographs never evoke a keen sense of sadness or regret. They are of a different order altogether. Let me explain.

There is a wonderful stoicism about the people who Kollar chooses to photograph, who inhabit his world of work. The endurance of work without the display of feelings and without complaint. Labour is not represented in any glorified way, not as a noble undertaking, and certainly not heroic (although the worker can be represented as intimate and monumental). The workers are represented as an adjunct to the machine but not in a cyborg fashion. In his photographs there is a distinctness about the worker which sets the human apart from the machine, even as he is “deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process.” I don’t believe that people understand this separation, preferring instead to comment on the embedding of the human within machine processes. But something was bothering me when I looked at these images and I have pondered long and hard over how to interpret them. There was something I could not put my finger on and it is this…

In the work of Lewis Hine, the workers are in the present looking to the future. In the work of François Kollar there is no justification for the work it is just work… being there in the present. No ego, no elevation of experience or emotion, and the photographs are just so. Just being in the world. The thing itself. Nothing more, nothing less. It seems simple when you say it like that, but the concept is very complex – to allow the photograph to materialise from consciousness, as a sort of previsualisation of experience – of being a poor, working class immigrant (which Kollar was) picturing his own.

That he achieved such photographs “with his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment” is a testament to the dedication to his craft, to his work, and to his roots – a connection to the working man and woman. These are honest and forthright photographs of what most humans do for most of their life: work at a job they may not like – to pay the bills, to put food on the table. The lighting is superb, the compositions eloquent, the characters in his images unforgettable (Kollar particularly likes portraits of men shot from below with their arms folded) but it is the balance between the subjective and objective which is so finely honed in his work. The dispationate nature of humans when at work is balanced by the aesthetics of the artist and the humanity of the individual.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View an interesting video of the exhibition and the work of François Kollar on Vimeo. More photographs from La France travaille.

 

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

 

“Without falling into hammy Socialist Realism style, Kollar rendered French working class heroes in beautiful, discreet, lush black-and-white tones. These images of the working person endow them with qualities of excellence, nobility, and respect, and evoked in me mixed sensations of hard materialistic capability and human tenderness. These images of men and women, such as “Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens, Lens (Pas-de-Calais)” (1931-34, below), show people deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process. In that sense, they contrast with Dorothea Lange’s famous and beautiful Migrant Mother series and the uninhabited, rigorously stark industrial scenes photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher…

Kollar’s distinctive aesthetic provides a strong, sweet spot amid the sour struggles for employment taking place today in economies shaped by histories of slavery, colonialism, union-busting, sexual exploitation, and corporate capitalism. His artistic style, one that colorlessly abstracts, unifies, and embeds the worker within his or her technological environment, broadens the social politics of employment beyond the heroic human. Rather, he depicts through his unifying, ashen tones the conjunction of laborer and machine. In these photographs, the human worker is bound up with non-human apparatuses in cyborg fashion, depicting a complex technological laborer who is no less real and worthy of our aesthetic delectation.”

.
Joseph Nechvatal. “A Photographer Who Captured Workers Without Romanticizing Them,” on the Hyperallergic website May 4, 2016 [Online] Cited 11/05/2016

 

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Porteur de rails. Arles' 1933

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Porteur de rails. Arles
1933
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
Cleaning lamps. The mining company of Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
1931-1934
From the booklets La France travaille
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d‘un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d’un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
Construction of large ships, riveting the sheets of a ships deck, site workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
28.9 x 23.5 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Super Ile de France: cutting using the welding torch. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Champlain : grattage du pont' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Champlain: grattage du pont. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Champlain: scraping the bridge. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. "Negre" soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. “Negre” soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)
In port, on board. “Negro” help, Bordeaux (Gironde)
1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

 

“François Kollar was born in Szenc, Hungary in 1904 (now the Slovakian town of Senec) and died in Créteil, France in 1979. He was first employed on the railways in his native country and then worked as a lathe operator at Renault’s Boulogne-Billancourt factory, before becoming a professional photographer at the age of 24 after gaining solid experience as a studio manager at the Parisian printer’s, Draeger. His in-depth knowledge of the world of work, in sectors as diverse as advertising, fashion, industry, handicrafts and agriculture, allowed him to portray tools, materials and gestures with exceptional professional expertise.

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

In 1930 Kollar got married and set up his own studio in Paris. His wife, who was his first model, worked faithfully by his side throughout his life. He worked for advertising agencies and famous luxury brands and excelled in showcasing the qualities of his models, forms and fabrics thanks to his feeling for light and texture. François Kollar worked with several fashion magazines, notably Harper’s Bazaar for which, over the course of more than fifteen years, he produced many photographic series, particularly images shot on location. Whether he was photographing the period’s fashion celebrities (Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Pierre Balmain) or models and adverts for the major fashion houses (Hermès, Molyneux, Oméga, Christofle and Worth et Coty perfumes…), he experimented with a wide variety of modern photographic techniques, freely creating original compositions using backlighting, double exposures, overprinting and solarisation…

In 1930, after exhibiting at “Das Lichtbild”, an international photography exhibition in Munich alongside Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull and Ergy Landau, François Kollar received a major commission from a publishing company, Horizons de France entitled La France travail (1931-1934) that would establish his reputation as one of the period’s greatest industrial reporters. During the war he refused to collaborate with the powers that be during the German occupation and left the public eye, moving with his wife and three children to the Poitou-Charentes region and only returning to photography in 1945 on his return to Paris. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kollar covered numerous industrial subjects in France and abroad.”

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

François Kollar. 'La Tour Eiffel' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)
1930
Montage of a negative and interpositive, period photomontage
18 x 24 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Aux sources de l‘énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Aux sources de l’énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris
The sources of energy. Neon signs. Paris
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
St. Catherine tunnel mouth, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage
Advertising study for Magic Photo, Marie Bell portrait photomontage

1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès
Advertising for the Hermes typewriter
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30.1 x 23.7 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Escalier chez Chanel' 1937

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Escalier chez Chanel
Staircase at Chanel

1937
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Gabrielle Chanel' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Gabrielle Chanel
1938
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga
The model Muth, Balenciaga
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris
1938
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

 

“The design of the three large exhibition halls, which sometimes suffers from inadequate lighting, is completed by numerous documents (leaflets, magazines, personal albums) and an extensive slide show. The rooms are color-coded: white, blue-grey, and light beige, corresponding to the curators’ pedagogical intention. The beige in the last room is particularly interesting because it nearly blends in with the wooden frames, thereby intensifying the magical black-and-white tones in François Kollar’s work.

In addition to the documentary dimension of his work, the power of this photographer lies in his evocation of a “journey”: hence the exhibition walls are brimming with gems such as Les enseignes lumineuses (“Illuminated signs”, above), La bouche du tunnel (“The entrance of the tunnel”, above), or La fabrique à papier (“Paper factory”), advertisements for Hermès or Chanel (above), and many other photographs which, I have no doubt, will resonate with the visitor.

François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet, such as his small picture of a river outside the city of Abidjan. A Working Eye which conveys the nobility of men who, one day, had to travel far from home to earn their living.”

Dominique Vautrin. “Paris : Francois Kollar, A Working Eye,” on The Eye of Photography website February 18, 2016 [Online] Cited 12/05/2016.

 

François Kollar. 'Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)
Alsthom: assembly of alternator flywheels at Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Automobiles Renault. D'une main l'ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Automobiles Renault. D’une main l’ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
Renault automobiles. Using his hand the worker brings down the sand. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931-1934
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

LA FRANCE TRAVAILLE, 1931-1934

François Kollar was commissioned by the publishers Horizons de France for a major documentary investigation into the world of work. He took a large number of photos, a part of which were published in a work that has since become famous: La France travaille. This ensemble comprises the main part of the exhibition. The photographer criss-crossed the whole of France, observing the country through the prism of work. Kollar delivered more than 2,000 images covering agricultural and industrial activity in twenty regions of France, including Paris and its suburbs. Horizons de France published La France travaille between 1932 and 1934 in the form of fifteen separate booklets, which are presented in the exhibition in relation to a selection of around sixty prints. The images are organised by theme. Each theme corresponds to a type of raw material used in industry: coal, iron, products of the sea, glass, textiles etc. Slideshows are used to underline the extent of this archive and the variety of photos it contains, as well as analysing it from a contemporary point of view.

The fifteen booklets that comprise La France Travaille constitute “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work” (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). These fifteen volumes touch on the revolutions taking place across the country – factories, hydroelectric installations etc – as well as the place of the workers in these infrastructures. Apart from the recognition that he had earned in the world of fashion and luxury products, it was through his work to fulfil this commission, the most important in France in the 1930s, that Kollar distinguished himself as a photographer and an ‘industrial reporter’.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens
The sorter remains coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Mining company of Lens
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled [mine worker]' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [mine worker]
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Pêcheurs, femme de pêcheurs Sardinier Breton, Audiernes' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Pêcheurs. Femme de pêcheurs, Sardinier Breton. Audiernes
Fishermen. Woman fishing, sardine canner Breton. Audiernes

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

From 1931 to 1934, just before the major protests led by the Popular Front, François Kollar (1904 – 1979) traveled across France meeting its working population. This wide-ranging survey of the working world, which featured 1400 illustrations, was published in 1934 in booklets entitled La France Travaille (France at Work). With his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment, this Slovak immigrant of humble origins convinced miners, winemakers, boatmen and railroad men to pose for him during their daily routines. The images from La France Travaille, negatives and positives, are preserved at the Bibliothèque Forney and distributed exclusively by the Agence Roger-Viollet. (Text from The Eye of Photography website)

 

François Kollar. 'Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet
Building. Laying slate. Paris. Company Ch. Lavillaugouet

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d'Or)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)
Winemakers. Carriers of grapes. Burgundy Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

 

François Kollar’s body of work covers two major periods in photographic history and the history of the 20th century: the 1930s and the 1950s-1960s. This retrospective at the Jeu de Paume is part of a cycle of exhibitions devoted to the emblematic photographers of the period, such as Laure Albin Guillot, André Kertész, Claude Cahun and Germaine Krull. The exhibition gives pride of place to the photographer’s three children’s bequest of negatives, prints, magazines, press cuttings and advertising pamphlets that was accepted by the French state in 1987.

The exhibition is organised chronologically following the photographer’s life and career, starting with his experimentations in the 1930s (self-portraits and photomontages) with his wife and close collaborator, Fernande. Right from the start of his photographic work in the field of advertising and fashion, François Kollar asserted his talent with photo shoots for Oméga, Christofle, Hermès and Worth et Coty perfumes. For many years he worked with such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, L’Illustration, VUVoilà, Le Figaro Illustré and Plaisir de France. Following his coverage of the transformation of the working world in the 1930s, during the 1950s and 60s industrial reports in French West Africa and in France set the tempo for the later years of his career.

Thanks to his experience as a manual worker in Renault, François Kollar’s photography demonstrates his awareness of the world of industry and industrial spaces. ‘Un ouvrier du regard’ bears witness to his high level of technical expertise, both in the studio and on location and his deep-seated interest for industrial trades. It highlights the wide variety of subjects photographed by François Kollar throughout his career, a variety that is mirrored in the techniques he used, as well as the evolutions in the working world as it transitioned from handicrafts and cottage industries to industrial production.

The central part of the exhibition is devoted to the high point of François Kollar’s career, La France travaille. This commission from the publishing company Horizons de France comprises some fifteen booklets produced between 1931 and 1934. The reports, indexed by sector – from agriculture to the steel industry, including the maritime industry and electricity production – were produced with the aim of showcasing France’s leading companies and the figure of the working man, contributing in this way to idealising the image of men and women at work. Taken as a whole, these reports constitute a unique chronicle in images of the world of work and French society from the beginning of the 1930s up until the 1960s. During this entire period, François Kollar endeavoured to photograph the mechanised world of serial production, standardisation and the rationalisation of production.

Through a play with light, transparency and chiaroscuro effects, as well as compositions that highlighted different textures, François Kollar managed to reveal a sensitive side to industrial landscapes. He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography. At the beginning of his career, François Kollar had immortalised dresses, jewellery and objets d’art for Harper‘s Bazaar in a manner that demonstrated his attention to the gesture and the ‘intelligence of the hand’. Kollar’s work is characterised by an approach that is simultaneously sensitive and distant: sensitive to shape and light in the situations in which objects and human bodies are portrayed; distant because of this lens between him and the general population. The camera’s lens distanced him from the ordinary men and women and their demands, which explains why his work shows no traces of any social movements, although they were frequent at the time (1929 and 1931-1936).

The retrospective provides the means to fully-apprehend the diversity of a photographer who was himself a ‘worker’ (ouvrier) at the service of his clients – whether advertising companies, clients from the world of fashion and the media, or industrialists – but who nevertheless managed to preserve a strong photographic identity and a unique view on his times. Throughout his body of work, François Kollar bears witness to the ideology of progress that drives the capitalist economy, whilst preserving his characteristic objectivity.

First part

The first part of the exhibition features Kollar’s experimental period including self-portraits taken in his Parisian studio, as well as his work for advertising firms and the fashion industry. This section is made up of photos that reflect the spirit of the modern world he lived in and bear witness to Kollar’s desire to develop an experimental and expressive style of photography through an almost playful approach to his models, objects, lighting and composition. Detailed documentary resources enable visitors to understand the context of his advertising work and the photos for the blossoming illustrated magazine sector, which were published in L’Illustration, Vu, Voilà, Art et Médecine and Plaisir de France, amongst others.

Second part

The central part of the exhibition, devoted to La France travaille (1931-1934), features vintage prints and slideshows, as well as archives and publications. This photographic commission constitutes a unique record of the world of work in the 1930s. Kollar photographed every sector of activity: industry, agriculture, aviation, handicrafts, as well as the automobile, maritime and railway industries. Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements in François Kollar’s images. Published in the form of fifteen themed booklets, printed in photogravure by Editions Horizons de France, Kollar’s photographs were used to illustrate texts by popular authors from the period (Paul Valéry, Pierre Hamp, Lucien Favre…) dealing with the main professions in French industry.

Third part

The third part of the exhibition presents works by Kollar from the period following on from La France travaille, notably fashion photography and commissions for industrial reporting assignments. Thanks to his reputation as a talented advertising photographer, François Kollar was much in demand for portrait work and he notably photographed Coco Chanel, Elisa Schiaparelli and the Duchess of Windsor. Although his collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar came to an end in 1955, Kollar continued to enjoy a successful career in industrial photography. Amongst his numerous photographic series, the Jeu de Paume has chosen to show in particular the 1951 commission from the French State for a report on French West Africa (now Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal), as well as a series of photos showing the workshops of the Union Aéromaritime de Transport. In this way, the exhibition highlights the transformations in the world of work during the 20th century and the place occupied by men and women at a time when the world was in a state of upheaval because of global conflicts, as well as in the midst of rebuilding itself.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar. 'Ciel' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Ciel (Sky)
1931
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar. 'Fleur d'ail' (Garlic flower) 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fleur d’ail (Garlic flower)
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.4 x 22.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

 

FRENCH WEST AFRICA (A.O. F.) COMMISSION ED BY THE FRENCH STATE, 1951

When France invested massively in the 1950s in the construction of infrastructures in French West Africa, Kollar went to document this milestone in the relationship between France and its colonies, notably today’s Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal. His photos were published in the magazines of French West Africa to portray France’s initiatives in a positive light. Continuing to play his part in the ‘manufacture’ of consensual, positive images, Kollar continued his career by taking photos of men and women at work in factories, building roads or on ships plying their trade… “What François Kollar wants to portray is a sort of gradual disengagement of the colonial power, (…) but also how behind the ‘modernity’ (which is the subject of his remit) lies a form of tradition, rather as if he wanted to show how the two aspects are in contradiction with each other” (Pascal Blanchard, ‘Francois Kollar. Afrique 50. Dans l’oeil de la propagande’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière).

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

INDUSTRIAL REPORTS 1950-1960

Back in Paris in 1945, François Kollar re-established his contacts and started receiving commissions from French industry once more. His photos powerfully document the relationship between the human body, the machine and the working environment. “In Kollar’s images, the human measure is omnipresent; one almost never loses the sense of scale […] with frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”. (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). Indeed the design of new industrial buildings took the question of ergonomics into account, which went hand-in-hand with the evolutions in the roles and tasks of factory workers. Amongst others, François Kollar worked for the Union Aéromaritime de Transport, (an airline that mainly served Africa, and French West Africa in particular, later to become UTA); the potash mines of Alsace; Moulinex; Christofle; and Poliet-et-Chausson. Kollar, who learnt how to use colour photography techniques early on, used this new medium for some of these reports.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal' 1951

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal
Bata Shoes, Rufisque, Senegal
1951
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
22.6 x 24.8 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix]' c. 1954

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix] [Replacement of sleepers, Cima factory, Croix]
c. 1954
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande
Type of dairy farm in Normandy
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
15.5 x 11.5 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France
Manufacturing water heater, heater factory Brandt, France
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
13.6 x 8.9 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon]' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon] [Production of vegetable mills, Moulinex factory, Alençon]
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.6 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France]' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France] [Stamping cutlery, Christofle, France]
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

 

Other François Kollar photographs

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Construction' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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13
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘Paul-Martial’s World Of Ordinary Things’ at Kunstmuseum Basel Museum für Gegenwartskunst

Exhibition dates: 5th July – 19th October 2014

 

My god, how can a dryer hood become so sensual?

It should have been Paul-Martial’s World of Extra-Ordinary Things!

Marcus

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

Download the exhibition brochure (in German) (570kb pdf) with contributions by Anne-Céline Callens, Anita Haldemann, and Peter Herzog.

 

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Sliced ​​mattress' c. 1928-29

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Sliced ​​mattress
c. 1928-29
Gelatin silver print
17.9 x 23.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Donation by Ruth and Peter Herzog, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Front view of a Citroën automobile' c. 1927-28

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Front view of a Citroën automobile
c. 1927-28
Gelatin silver print
17.8 x 23.7 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Donation by Ruth and Peter Herzog, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Pine cone' c. 1931-32

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Pine cone
c. 1931-32
Gelatin silver print
17.6 x 23.8 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Young woman with leather handbag and gloves posing; Set with leather handbag and gloves' August 1935

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Young woman with leather handbag and gloves posing; Set with leather handbag and gloves
August 1935
Gelatin silver print
17.9 x 23.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Eiffel tower, tank and rail bridge' c. 1930-31

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Eiffel tower, tank and rail bridge
c. 1930-31
Gelatin silver print
17.9 x 23.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Donation by Ruth and Peter Herzog, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

 

“On July 5, 2014, the Kunstmuseum Basel opens a new exhibition presenting a selection of one hundred photographs from the archives of the Paris-based advertising agency Éditions Paul-Martial. The black-and-white pictures formed the basis for posters, newspaper advertisements, and brochures and show ordinary things: buildings, cars, typewriters, radiators, mannequins. What was unusual and novel, however, were the composition, lighting, and exposure of the pictures. In today’s perspective, the collection reflects the multifaceted evolution of photography from the 1920s onward. At the same time, it is an invaluable source for historians, documenting early forms of the carefully designed presentation of commodities and strategies designed to lure the consumer. The photographs are part of a collection newly acquired from the Herzog Collection and have never been on public display.

Cans make it possible to preserve food for the long term; zippers allow bags and pockets to be securely closed; rubber soles protect the walker from slipping; car jacks make it easier to change a tire: the advertising photographs produced by Éditions Paul-Martial tell stories about everyday life and how products like radiators, boilers, and cooking stoves help make it more pleasant. This renders the collection an extraordinarily valuable resource for historians: it illustrates the early history of the staging of consumer goods and the strategies employed to seduce the viewer. Beyond consumer products, the agency’s photographers also captured the new worlds of work in factories and offices and the rise of modern travel and communication technologies. For the time being, most of the photographs’ creators remained anonymous; in the business perspective, individual authorship was obviously a secondary concern, especially since the majority of the pictures were a sort of intermediate product to be used by graphic artists in the design of brochures and posters.

New Objectivity and Neues Sehen

The historic photographs also reflect the multifaceted evolution of photography as an art in its own right from the 1920s onward. Pictures of buildings, machines, and selected products hew to the sober aesthetic of the New Objectivity, which took hold after the Great War. Photographs of transformer stations and bridges point to the Neues Sehen (New Vision) of the Bauhaus photographers and the works of the Russian avant-garde, which emphasized diagonal lines to heighten the dynamic quality of the picture – this influence is also evident in techniques such as photomontage and double exposures. In isolated objects and enigmatic motifs such as a pinecone, the surreal, mysterious, and sometimes also absurd infiltrate the world of ordinary things.

The photographers’ love of experimentation is palpable throughout: they often created small series in which they tried different lighting effects and unusual angles of view. The selection of a hundred photographs is drawn from a larger collection the museum acquired from the collection of Peter and Ruth Herzog, Basel, in 2012 through a combined purchase-and-donation agreement. The exhibition was designed in close collaboration between the curator, Anita Haldemann, and the photography collector and expert Peter Herzog.

The Fonds Paul-Martial – considerable parts of its inventory have also gone to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole, the department of prints and photography at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the collection of Marc Pagneux, France – is still widely unknown, and the work of exploring this exceptionally rich archive, which promises important insights into the history of photography and especially of contemporary art, has only just begun.”

Press release from the Kunstmuseum Basel website

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Working with metal working parts in the factory Fillod in Florange (Moselle)' August 1931

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Working with metal working parts in the factory Fillod in Florange (Moselle)
August 1931
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 17.8 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Car Headlights "Marchal"' c. 1929-30

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Car Headlights “Marchal”
c. 1929-30
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 17.8 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Cocktail "Gratte-Ciel" Cointreau, advertising design' June 1931

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Cocktail “Gratte-Ciel” Cointreau, advertising design
June 1931
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 17.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Donation by Ruth and Peter Herzog, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Typewriter "Hermes 2000"' November 1933

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Typewriter “Hermes 2000”
November 1933
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 17.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Donation by Ruth and Peter Herzog, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Dryer hood "Hollywood"' June 1937

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Dryer hood “Hollywood”
June 1937
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 17.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Welding women in factory hall' c. 1940-45

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Welding women in factory hall
c. 1940-45
Gelatin silver print
23 x 17.2 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Woman posing next to radiator, advertising photography for "Gaz et Eaux"' April 1936

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Woman posing next to radiator, advertising photography for “Gaz et Eaux”
April 1936
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 17.9 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris. 'Standing young woman in corset, advertising photography for PMH' September 1932

 

Éditions Paul Martial, Paris
Standing young woman in corset, advertising photography for PMH
September 1932
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 18 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Prints and Drawings
Purchase from the Herzog Collection, Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel

 

 

 

Kunstmuseum Basel
St. Alban-Graben 16
CH-4010 Basel
Tel: +41 61 206 62 62

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Closed on Monday

Kunstmuseum Basel website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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