Posts Tagged ‘European photography

25
Jan
17

Exhibition: ‘Surveillance’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

Exhibition dates: 16th September 2016 – 29th January 2017

 

This looks to be a fascinating exhibition on a very interesting subject. It’s such a pity I cannot comment on the exhibition itself due to the small number of media images, and having no idea how the images I do have fit into the themes of the exhibition, although one can make guesses: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Brussels (1932, below) surveys the watchers; his Hyeres, France (1932, below) is taken by an unseen camera; and Professor Lowe’s balloon Intrepid was used by the Union in the American Civil War to spy on Confederate troop movements. Others I have absolutely no idea.

“Dating from 1864-2014, the works in Surveillance fall under these categories: spying or hidden cameras, photography of the forbidden, military surveillance, areas of heavy surveillance and mapping satellites and drones. There are also examples of counter-surveillance that either prevent watching or surveille the watchers.”

My favourite images in this posting of surreptitious photography are those of Tomas van Houtryve from his series Blue Sky Days. I love the titles play on the ideas of blue sky thinking (original or creative thinking, unfettered by convention and not grounded in reality) and blue skies research (scientific research in domains where “real-world” applications are not immediately apparent) – views of the world that are quantifiable but not grounded in reality, and where the “reality” of the world is not immediately apparent. Such a clever and insightful “point of view” which engages with “the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war”, a projection on a vertical plane. More intriguing images from this series can be seen on his website.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Brussels' 1932

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Brussels
1932
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 × 14 3/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Hyeres, France' 1932

 

Henri Cartier Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Hyeres, France
1932
Gelatin silver print
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian) Schoolyard From the series 'Blue Sky Days' 2013-2014

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian)
Schoolyard
From the series Blue Sky Days
2013-2014
150×100 cm gelatin-silver print

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian) 'Domestic gathering' 2013-2014

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian)
Domestic gathering
From the series Blue Sky Days
2013-2014

 

 

“The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war.” ~ Tomas van Houtryve

 

“In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held in 2013 in Washington, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Over the past decade, drones have become the weapon of the United States military and the CIA for strikes overseas. Their use for surveillance and commercial purposes is also rapidly expanding both at home and abroad.

Tomas van Houtryve attached his camera to a small drone and traveled across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes – weddings, funerals, groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields, industrial feedlots, and stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Text from the Pulitzer Center website

 

Mishka Henner (Belgian, b. 1976) 'Staphorst Ammunition Depot' 2011

 

Mishka Henner (Belgian, b. 1976)
Staphorst Ammunition Depot
2011
Inkjet print
31 1/4 × 35 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

British photographer Mishka Henner, in his series Dutch Landscapes, uses Google satellite views of locations that have been censored by the Dutch government because of concerns about the visibility of political, economic and military locations. Many countries blur, pixilate or whiten sensitive sites. The Dutch method, however, employs bold, multi-colored polygons. The resulting photograph is an artistic, visual contrast between secret sites and the surrounding rural environment, providing an unsettling reflection on surveillance and the contemporary landscape.

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Rochester, New York' 1886

 

Unknown maker (American)
Rochester, New York
1886
Albumen print, 5 5/8 × 5 5/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

 

“Surveillance cameras in the 21st century are practically everywhere – on street corners, in shops, in public buildings, silently recording our every movement. Yet this is not a construct of modern times. As soon as cameras were introduced in the 1880s, anyone could be unknowingly photographed at any time. It was an unfortunate fact of life. The exhibition Surveillance opened at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City September 16, examining the role of surreptitious photography from the mid-19th century to the present day.

“This body of work represents a sign of our times,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “Cameras have been recording our movements, many times secretly, since photography began. But it was the tragedy of 9/11 that increased our awareness of this constant presence and brought a new and chilling meaning to the art, and the intention, of surveillance.”

Dating from 1864-2014, the works in Surveillance fall under these categories: spying or hidden cameras, photography of the forbidden, military surveillance, areas of heavy surveillance and mapping satellites and drones. There are also examples of counter-surveillance that either prevent watching or surveille the watchers.

“Twenty-first century technology – like Google Earth View and drone photography – have provided photographers with a treasure trove of surveillance images,” said Jane L. Aspinwall, Associate Curator, Photography. “This work provokes uneasy questions about who is looking at whom and the limits of artistic expression.”

Photographer Roger Schall, formerly a French news reporter, secretly recorded the Nazi occupation of Paris beginning in June 1940. His photographs document his daily routine and illustrate how completely the Nazis permeated every facet of Parisian life.

British photographer Mishka Henner, in his series Dutch Landscapes, uses Google satellite views of locations that have been censored by the Dutch government because of concerns about the visibility of political, economic and military locations. Many countries blur, pixilate or whiten sensitive sites. The Dutch method, however, employs bold, multi-colored polygons. The resulting photograph is an artistic, visual contrast between secret sites and the surrounding rural environment, providing an unsettling reflection on surveillance and the contemporary landscape.

Other photographers employ techniques to circumvent surveillance. Adam Harvey creates “looks” that block online facial recognition software [CV Dazzle]. The contours of the face are manipulated in such a way that a computer is not able to identify a person, which can be a useful tool for social media sites like Facebook, in which users can search an entire archive for one particular face.”

Press release from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Brady Studio (American active c. 1843-1885) 'Professor Lowe inflating balloon Intrepid' 1862

 

Brady Studio (American, active c. 1843-1885)
Professor Lowe inflating balloon Intrepid
1862
Albumen print
3 1/4 × 2 3/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Intrepid being cross-inflated from Constitution in a spur-of-the-moment attempt to get the larger balloon in the air to overlook the imminent Battle of Seven Pines. The balloon Intrepid, one of six to eventually be constructed by Thaddeus Lowe and the Union Army Balloon Corps.

 

 

Peninsula Campaign

The battlefront turned toward Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign. The heavy forestation inhibited the use of balloons, so Lowe and his Balloon Corps, with the use of three of his balloons, the Constitution, the Washington, and the larger Intrepid, used the waterways to make its way inland. In mid May 1862, Lowe arrived at the White House on the Pamunkey River. This is the first home of George and Martha Washington, after which the Washington presidential residence is named. At this time, it was the home of the son of Robert E. Lee, whose family fled at the arrival of Lowe. Lowe was met by McClellan’s Army a few days later, and by 18 May, he had set up a balloon camp at Gaines’ Farm across the Chickahominy River north of Richmond, and another at Mechanicsville. From these vantage points, Lowe, his assistant James Allen, and his father Clovis were able to overlook the Battle of Seven Pines. 

A small contingent from Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman’s corps crossed the river toward Richmond and was slowly being surrounded by elements of the Confederate Army. McClellan felt that the Confederates were simply feigning an attack. Lowe could see, from his better vantage point, that they were converging on Heintzelman’s position. Heintzelman was cut off from the main body because the swollen river had taken out all the bridges. Lowe sent urgent word of Heintzelman’s predicament and recommended immediate repair of New Bridge and reinforcements for him. 

At the same time, he sent over an order for the inflation of the Intrepid, a larger balloon that could take him higher with telegraph equipment, in order to oversee the imminent battle. When Lowe arrived from Mechanicsville to the site of the Intrepid at Gaines’ Mill, he saw that the aerostat’s envelope was an hour away from being fully inflated. He then called for a camp kettle to have the bottom cut out of it, and he hooked the valve ends of the Intrepid and the Constitution together. He had the gas of the Constitution transferred to the Intrepid and was up in the air in 15 minutes. From this new vantage point, Lowe was able to report on all the Confederate movements. McClellan took Lowe’s advice, repaired the bridge, and had reinforcements sent to Heintzelman’s aid. An account of the battle was being witnessed by the visiting Count de Joinville who at day’s end addressed Lowe with: “You, sir, have saved the day!”

Text from the Union Army Balloon Corps Wikipedia entry

 

Paul Strand (American 1890-1976) 'Blind woman, New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Blind woman, New York
1916
Photogravure
8 13/16 × 6 9/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Roger Schall (French, 1904-1985) 'Taking the subway' c. 1941

 

Roger Schall (French, 1904-1985)
Taking the subway
c. 1941
Gelatin silver print
7 7/16 × 7 1/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Jeffrey and Polly Kramer

 

 

Born in 1904, Roger Schall was one of the most renowned photographers of the 1930s and 1940s. He worked in all photographic disciplines from fashion, portraits, nudes, still lives and reporting. He began working with his father, a portrait photographer in 1918. 10 years later he would be one of the first reporters to work with a Leica or Rolleiflex. In 1939, he closed the studio-agency he had opened with his brother. From June 1940 to August 1944 he photographed German occupied Paris – hiding the negatives so they would not be seen by the censors. When the occupation was over his brother, Raymond Schall, published a book: A Paris sous la botte des Nazis (Paris under the heel of the Nazis) that was illustrated with the photographs of Roger Schall, Parry, Doisneau, the Seeberger brothers and many others. He then continued working in fashion, doing commercial and publicity work instead of news reporting. From 1970 until his death in 1995, he would manage his archive of some 80,000 images. (Text from the Real Life is Elsewhere blog)

His work covered a number of topics, especially Parisian everyday life, his favourite subject, which he photographed before, during and after the German occupation. Formed in 1931, Le Studio in Montmartre was the first agency to publish his work in leading international magazines, such as Vu, Vogue, L’illustration, Life, and Paris-Match. 150 covers and 10,000 shots were published in his lifetime. (Text from the Yellow Korner website)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'An Attentive Cat' 1953

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
An Attentive Cat
1953
Gelatin silver print
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum

 

Raphaël Dallaporta (French b. 1980) 'Kafir Qala Citadel, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, from the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) to the Ghorid period (12th-13th century AD)' 2010

 

Raphaël Dallaporta (French b. 1980)
Kafir Qala Citadel, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, from the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) to the Ghorid period (12th-13th century AD)
2010
Inkjet print
59 × 47 1/4 × 1 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Wed, 10 am – 5 pm
Thurs, Fri, 10 am – 9 pm
Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
Sun, 10 am – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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09
Feb
16

Text: ‘The multiple singularities of photography’ / Exhibition: ‘Every Photograph is an Enigma’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2015 – 14th February 2016

 

The multiple singularities of photography

Photograph, photographer, negative, print

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I have never thought of photography as a “singularity” – the singularity of photography. For me, photography has always been about possibilities, multiplicities rather than singularities.

In Kathrin Yacavone’s text below, the “singularity of photography” is defined as the relationship – the hierarchy – among valuable, perceptual and imaginative relations between the beholder and the image. It is the singularity of the individual and their response at any time to a photograph, but these responses cannot be systematically codified, in the sense that no response can ever be relied upon… certainly, no response to a photograph of a mother could be more singular than the response of a son (as claimed by Barthes Camera Lucida).

In other words, the singularity of photography is how the viewer engages and reads a photograph in a singular way at one point in time, from one “point of view.”

While this point of view is singular, it changes from moment to moment, from context to context, from different points of view. Hence, we have a multiplicity of singularities or, if you like, a multiple singularity of photography. Hasn’t it always seemed false to you in Camera Lucida where Barthes talks about his response to an image (for example, the supposed “lost” image of his mother*), he allows it to freeze in his text? Surely he would feel different later (another singularity). And yet the freezing is necessary for the arguments Barthes makes.

It continues to haunt me – much as photographs haunt our memory – why Barthes stuck with the singularity of a photograph, when at the same time he was pushing the multiplicity of readings in his other texts eg. S/Z (1970). Are we missing something really basic here? Why should a photograph be frozen and a text not?

In this exhibition, Michel Frizot defines a series of classifications (or themes, see below) that seek to organise the ambiguity and perplexity of vernacular and surprising photography. As Frizot himself puts it, “the photograph is not in its essence a transparency through which we gain access to a known reality but, on the contrary, a source of ambiguity and often, perplexity. The photographic image is a constellation of questions for the eye because it offers viewers forms and signs they have never perceived as such and which conflict with their natural vision”.

Frizot suggests questions for the eye offered through forms and signs that are in conflict with natural vision. Barthes pushes further, suggesting that it is not the forms and signs of the photograph that challenge natural vision, but a shift away from a semiology of photography to a phenomenology of photography. From guided message (forms/signs) to emotive response (imagination). Umberto Eco comments that, “Semiology shows us the universe of ideologies, arranged in codes and sub-codes, within the universe of signs, and these ideologies are reflected in our preconstituted ways of using the language,”1 but Barthes, in works such as S/Z, stresses the multiplicity of a reading (its intertextuality). He contends that there can be no originating anchor of meaning in the possible intentions of the author, and that meaning must be actively created by the reader through a process of textual analysis.

An emotive response to a photograph is an “encounter with the represented other [is] a dialectical relationship between the specific and the general, between the personal and the universal, where the dialectic is seen in the psychologically unsettling potential of photographic images, the status of the photographic referent and the poignancy of the relation between time and image.” Thus the photograph can have a capacity for plurality of meaning which is not restrictive.

This response is based on an individuated, ‘feeling’ viewer whose encounter with the photograph is guided by desire and emotion, grounded in his or her unique experience and life history. It is to engage with the photograph in imaginative, affective, and emotional ways. Here, the codified reading is subsumed? by the emotive reading of an enlightened and fully “conscious” reader in the phenomenology of photography. Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object – a photograph for example – by the imagination, by thought. Phenomenology requires a bit to grasp – to read a phenomenologial text like Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space as its author intended requires a cultivated mindset – but a prepared reader has many pleasures.

This is one possible response by the viewer to unsettling photographs. But what of the photographer?

Les Walking (my lecturer at RMIT University for many years), used to ask “what are you pointing your camera at?”… so this would permit an imaginative journey on his part as he imagined the subject matter, what he knew of the person, and all possibilities. Sometimes everything happens at once (in photography), and sometimes we recognise the richness of where we are in photography’s ability to generate many singularities within us at rapid fire.

As a photographer we go on an imaginative journey when we take a photograph – we previsualise, snap, extend the “point” of exposure (long time exposure), double expose or do away with the camera altogether. Taking a photograph is a multiplicity before the moment of the pushing of the shutter (decisions, angles, camera, film, light, place etc..), and a multiplicity afterwards… but for that split second it is a singularity, “an encounter with the represented other” as Walter Benjamin puts it…. as though time, history and memory are all focused through the lens (of the camera, of the enlarger, of the scanner) at the object – like a funnel – which then expands afterwards. At the point of “exposure” there is only ever one singularity. Multiple contexts before and after, multiple phenomena if you like, but only one outcome when the negative is exposed. Being aware of all that happens around us leads to that one singularity – the negative. That’s what photographers do, they focus that energy into a singularity.

But the resulting negative is NOT singular!

Of course, there are some things that are forever predetermined in the analogue negative, eg the depth of field, the focus, the grain. Even in the digital negative these determinations apply. But then you think, if I push this film or pull it back in development “other” things may appear. Probably the Leica manual is as good as any for what come after that – they say that when shooting a roll of film with a variety of tonal scales the exposure should be more than the meter indicated, and the development time less. In the Zone System this would be N-1. And a negative like this is what gives the greatest options with graded papers. Multiple options for printing, multiple options for interpreting a negative. I feel these multiple options have been more or less forgotten in the era of the digital print. What you see on the screen is what you aim to see in the print, which negates the multiplicity of the (digital) negative, often leading to bland and underwhelming digital prints. The pre-determination of the screen leads to an over-determination of the print.

While Minor White observed that there was a dragon in the negative that could be reached by careful printing, this locks you into looking for the “one road” in the negative. One person who didn’t was the English photographer Bill Brandt who printed first in a straight documentary style before “unlocking” the surrealist elements of his negs with very contrasty work. He was open to the multiple contexts of the point of exposure of the negative, and it is his later reprinting of his earlier work for which he has become famous.

While it comes down to only several elements when talking about the phenomena of the negative, it is our direct experience of it IN OUR IMAGINATION that, perhaps, gives the negative presence and transcendence. It is the direction of our thought towards the object of our being. And that is what makes us truly human.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

* Of course, the photograph of his mother did exist, it was just necessary for his argument that we never see it, and that he said that it did not exist.

Word count: 1,400.

  1. Eco, U. (1970). “Articulations of the Cinematic Code,” in Cinematics, 1(1), pp. 590-605
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Many thankx to my mentor for his advice and thoughts on this text. Many thankx to the Fotomuseum Winterthur for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Photographs often seem familiar and understandable, a visual common sense intimately related to our daily lives. But they can also provoke a spark of amazement or generate a more sustained perplexity and inquiry. Curated by the renowned French photo historian, Michel Frizot, Every Photograph is an Enigma interrogates this paradox. Drawing exclusively from photographs in his private collection, many of them anonymous, he presents a selection of photographic moments at once ordinary and marvellous. Frizot develops a system of classification that explores the strangeness generated by the camera lens. Taken by family members, lovers, or unheralded professional and amateur photographers, the assembled images amount to nothing less than a phenomenology of photography.

The exhibition and book are divided into eleven themes, such as:

Ambiguous assemblages
The enigma of relationship
The enigma of context
The enigma of attentiveness
Challenging the figurative order
The aesthetic solution
Original configurations
The photographer’s options
The space of the gaze
The spirit of the place

 

 

“Every photograph is an enigma for the gaze: for the enigma is part of the photographic act itself. It ensues from the distance between the natural vision and the camera’s photosensitive capture process. By widening this gap, the modes of capture, the photographer’s intentions, and the reactions and involvement of the “photographer” together create new forms and perceptual requirements specific to photography. It is a question, above all, of understanding how much photographs, by transcending our visual capacities and going beyond our intuitions, also give rise to empathy and the need to project personal concerns. The element of enigma in photography bears witness, in fact, to what it is to “be human”.”

 

“The answer to the Sphinx’s riddle, it should be remembered, is humankind. And looking at a photograph means discovering oneself and the human species. Through the disparity and the dissonance between what it shows and what we experience, photography testifies above all, and at every moment, to what “being human” means. And the riddle, the enigma inherent in looking at a photograph is that of our presence in the world.”

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Michel Frizot

 

 

Photography and Subjectivity

 

Kathrin Yacavone. Benjamin, Barthes and the Singularity of Photography. Bloomsbury Academic, 2012, pp. 123-124

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
c. 1930
Silver gelatin print
13 x 18 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Professor Piccards Balloon' c. 1930

 

Anonymous (Keystone)
Professor Piccard’s Balloon Destroyed by Flames
25th May 1937
Silver gelatin print
13.4 x 18.5 cm
© Private collection

 

The stratosphere balloon of Professor Piccard catches fire in the moment of ascending over the area of Brussels, Belgium

 

Anonymous (Press Photo) 'Rock and Mud 'Grand Finale',' California, c. 1930

 

Anonymous (Press Photo)
Rock and Mud ‘Grand Finale’
California, c. 1930
Silver gelatin print
19.7 x 24.7 cm
© Private collection

 

Mr. Brodsky. 'Marchand ties, Paris' 1935

 

Mr. Brodsky
Marchand ties, Paris
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
c. 1930
Silver gelatin print
5.9 x 8.1 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1950

 

Anonymous
Untitled
c. 1950
Silver gelatin print
6.5 x 9 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The Photographer set on by His "Victim",' Hollywood Press photo 1938

 

Anonymous photographer (Hollywood Press photo)
The Photographer set on by His “Victim”
1938
Silver gelatin photograph
16.9 x 22 cm
© Private collection

 

International News Photos. 'Untitled' Nd

 

Anonymous (International News Photos)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin print
16.5 x 21.5 cm
© Private collection

 

International News Photos. 'Untitled' Nd (detail)

 

Anonymous (International News Photos)
Untitled (detail)
Nd
Silver gelatin print
16.5 x 21.5 cm
© Private collection

 

France-Presse. 'C’est demain mardi-gras', 5 mars 1935

 

France-Presse
C’est demain mardi-gras / Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday
March 5, 1935
Silver gelatin photograph
© Private collection

 

Interpress. 'Avant l’ouverture du Salon des Surindépendants' Paris, 1952

 

Interpress
Avant l’ouverture du Salon des Surindépendants / Prior to the opening of Superintendent’s Fair
Paris, 1952
Silver gelatin photograph
© Private collection

 

 

Mondial Photo-Presse. 'Réunion de modélistes' c. 1930

 

Mondial Photo-Presse
Réunion de modélistes
c. 1930
Silver gelatin photograph
12.8 × 17.6 cm
© Private collection

 

NYT Photo. 'Wind Tunnel in Chalais Meudon' 1935

 

NYT Photo
Wind Tunnel in Chalais Meudon
1935
Silver gelatin print
18 x 24 cm
© Private collection

 

 

“Photographs often seem familiar and understandable, a visual common sense intimately related to our daily lives. But they can also provoke a spark of amazement or generate a more sustained perplexity and inquiry. Curated by the renowned French photo historian, Michel Frizot, Every Photograph is an Enigma interrogates this paradox. Drawing exclusively from photographs in his private collection, many of them anonymous, he presents a selection of photographic moments at once ordinary and marvellous. Frizot develops a system of classification that explores the strangeness generated by the camera lens. Taken by family members, lovers, or unheralded professional and amateur photographers, the assembled images amount to nothing less than a phenomenology of photography.

Immediately a photograph is taken it generates a distance between what the image reveals and what we have seen for ourselves only seconds before. This observation of disparity is central to the phenomenon of photography, creating a sense of indeterminacy that we might describe as the singularity of the photographic. As Frizot himself puts it, “the photograph is not in its essence a transparency through which we gain access to a known reality but, on the contrary, a source of ambiguity and often, perplexity. The photographic image is a constellation of questions for the eye because it offers viewers forms and signs they have never perceived as such and which conflict with their natural vision”. Every Photograph is an Enigma draws out the full implications of this disparity, everything which constitutes the singularity of the photographic process. This begins with the selection procedure itself: Frizot has collected the photographs over many years, with no predetermined objective, finding scraps and castoffs at flea markets and jumble sales. Abandoned photographs escape traditional standards of classification and judgement and are often the work of anonymous photographers. For Frizot, this artlessness offers ‘an extra touch of photographic naturalness which is not shrouded in conventions’. It is the work of the exhibition to reveal, and the role of the visitor to discover, this photographic supplement.

The exhibition explores the modalities of photographic capture and the out-distancing of the senses that results, above all in the relationship between photographer, subject photographed and the operations of the camera, a technical device. Recording different intensities of light on a photosensitive surface, photography is an index of states of light rather than the reality perceived by the eye. The formal consequences of photographic technique are considerable, whether determined by exposure time, framing, exhaustive detail, or the projection of three-dimensional space onto a two-dimensional surface. At the same time, what are fundamentally physical processes are also determined by the split-second decisions taken by the camera operator. It is precisely this that gives rise to the puzzle of photography: the contradictions between the precision of a physical world and the decision-making of the photographer.

Every Photograph is an Enigma explores other aspects of the riddle of photography, including the complexity of the exchange with the subject of the photograph, embodied by a reciprocal glance. The ability of the camera to record human form and gesture is what lends it its quasi-magical vocation. However, that act of recording is dependent on a vast array of potentialities and constraints, including perhaps the demeanour of the participants. The photographic act transforms emotionally-charged, interpersonal experience into uncertain, interpretable signs, a distillation of affect. At the same time, those signs are also dependent on the astuteness of the eyes that scrutinize the photograph, igniting, perhaps, an empathy with others. A photograph is a fragmentary capture and the gaze of the viewer operates in similarly fragmentary bursts. A viewer’s optical capacities are decisive, interpreting, for example, the photograph’s excess of data. The enigma of photography also emerges from the inadequacies and impasses of the energetic viewer’s scrutiny. These, and many other riddles, are explored across eleven separate chapters in the exhibition, which together provide a method for specifically photographic viewing. They probe the way the photographic device is used to celebrate the subject, or the way that processes unique to photography and the photographer’s command of his or her equipment help determine the final image. A further theme investigates the way that viewers are involved in a perceptual relationship which ordinary vision has not accustomed them to, including a display of stereo images. We encounter the myriad ways that photography overwhelms our senses and the many puzzles it presents.

Every Photograph is an Enigma brings together a remarkable selection of everyday photographs, selected over many years by one of the sharpest eyes in the history photography. It offers us the opportunity of a liberated escape into a ‘pure’ photographic act stripped of artistic pretension or historical portent. As Frizot proposes, there are no hierarchies in photography – it is the activity of the gaze that reveals the richness of the image. For the eye, every photograph is an enigma.

Catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by the fully-illustrated catalogue Toute photographie fait énigme/Every photography is an enigma, by Michel Frizot, in collaboration with Cédric de Veigy. Published by Éditions Hazan. English/French with a German translation of the main texts. Price 45 CHF.

Credits

The exhibition is curated by Michel Frizot and organised by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris and the Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône in collaboration with Fotomuseum Winterthur.”

Text from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

 

B.W. Kilburn. 'The Surging Sea of Humanity at the Opening of the Columbian Exposition, Chicago' 1893

 

B.W. Kilburn
The Surging Sea of Humanity at the Opening of the Columbian Exposition, Chicago
1893
Stereocard
Albumen photographs
© Private collection

 

B.W. Kilburn. 'The Surging Sea of Humanity at the Opening of the Columbian Exposition, Chicago' 1893 (detail)

 

B.W. Kilburn
The Surging Sea of Humanity at the Opening of the Columbian Exposition, Chicago (detail)
1893
Stereocard
Albumen photograph
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1900

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
c. 1900
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1955

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled (Flagrants délits / Egregious crimes)
c. 1955
Silver gelatin print
5.5 x 5.5 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1970

 

Amateur anonymous photographer
Untitled
Instamatic Kodak
c. 1970
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Children Watching the Apollo 12 Flight on Television' 1969

 

Anonymous photographer
Children Watching the Apollo 12 Flight on Television
1969
Silver gelatin photograph
© Private collection

 

 

For many years, Michel Frizot the historian and theorist has been collecting neglected photographs which have been overlooked because they were taken by anonymous, unknown photographers, unheard-of or non-celebrated artists, throughout the entire history of photography. Avoiding “museumification” and classification, selected first of all for their capacity for surprise, these photographs are no less generous, moving and perhaps “photographic” than others. This exhibition reflects on the element of mystery in all photography.

“Because they are so familiar to us, because they are part of our visual space, photographic images seem to be immediately accessible and understandable. But everyone has experienced that sudden burst of amazement they can set off through suspended movements, the rendering of colours, unexpected coincidences or abruptly frozen expressions. If we pay attention to such features, they provoke the feeling that we are faced at once with something obvious and with a question. When we can look at a photograph as soon as we have “taken” it, we immediately, moreover, sense the distance between what the image tells us and what we have been able to see for ourselves only seconds before. The observation of this disparity, recognisable at every moment, is proper to the photographic phenomenon. We grant each photograph an element of truth but suspect its indeterminacy and sense its contradictions.

The photographic image is a constellation of questions for the eye because it offers viewers forms and signs they have never perceived as such and which conflict with their natural vision.

The enigma, the riddle, the puzzle would thus be fundamental to the photographic act itself.

Inherent in the photographic process, it results from the irreducible distance between the human senses and the camera’s light-sensitive capture: it arises from the split between visual perception and the photographic process.

For the eye, every photograph is an enigma.

Whether they are kept in archives, family albums or agencies, or dumped in the street, photographs are virtual objects which only begin to exist when they find a viewer. The selective collecting process is thus carried out “by eye” and not the eye of the connoisseur or the historian, but the paradoxical eye which goes against the tide of the canonically “good” photograph, it is a slow eye which opens itself to the pleasure of choice. The pursuit of irreplaceable strangeness. A determined eye, in search of what it does not yet know and yet perceives as the baring of the “photographic”, the liberated escape into a “pure” photographic act stripped of its eloquence. By repeating the selections, the eye discovers the unknown properties of the photographic image: it spots the elements of a puzzle to be savoured without anticipation of any solution. As a kind of practical application, when we look closely, these photographs seem more “photographic” than so many other images with more conventional features that quickly lose their interest. They reveal what escapes us in the recognition of the world, what lies beyond its photographic figures repeated over and over again.

The answer to the Sphinx’s riddle, it should be remembered, is humankind. And looking at a photograph means discovering oneself and the human species. Through the disparity and the dissonance between what it shows and what we experience, photography testifies above all, and at every moment, to what “being human” means. And the riddle, the enigma inherent in looking at a photograph is that of our presence in the world.”

Michel Frizot
Extract from the book Toute photographie fait énigme  / Every photograph is an enigma, Hazan, 2014

“Every Photograph is an enigma,” on the Musée Nicéphore Niépce website

 

Marius, Paris. 'Photomontage' c. 1865

 

Marius, Paris
Photomontage
c. 1865
Albumen print
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
c. 1910
© Private collection

 

Photomontage, photographic postcard, c. 1920

 

Anonymous photographer
Photomontage (photographic postcard)
c. 1920
Silver gelatin print
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Studio Portrait' (Photographic postcard), c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Studio Portrait (Photographic postcard)
c. 1910
Silver gelatin print
9 x 14 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
c. 1930
Silver gelatin print
© Private collection

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Transcendental photography with faces of ectoplasm' 1939

 

Anonymous photographer
Photographie transcendetale avec visages d’ectoplasms / Transcendental photography with faces of ectoplasm
1939
Silver gelatin print
© Private collection

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' c. 1935

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled (Surimpression)
c. 1935
Silver gelatin photograph
8.2 × 5.4 cm
© Private collection

 

L. Olivier. 'Recherches sur l'appareil tégumentaire des racines Marsilea Quadrifolia' (Photomicrographic plate), 1881

 

L. Olivier 
Recherches sur l’appareil tégumentaire des racines Marsilea Quadrifolia 
(Photomicrographic plate)
1881
© Private collection

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Patriot Missile Warheads Promoters' 1991

 

Anonymous photographer (Press photo)
Patriot Missile Warheads Promoters
1991
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 20.2 cm
© Private collection

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dans un local désaffecté de Budapest, les corps de patriotes hongrois voisinent avec une statue déboulonnée à la gloire du sport soviétique', Budapest. 1956

 

Anonymous photographer
Dans un local désaffecté de Budapest, les corps de patriotes hongrois voisinent avec une statue déboulonnée à la gloire du sport soviétique /
In some abandoned premises in Budapest, the bodies of Hungarian patriots lie beside a statue removed from its base [dedicated] to the glory of Soviet sports

Budapest, 1956
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 22.6 cm
© Private collection

 

Victims of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 brutally put down by the Russians.

 

 

“The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 or the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 (Hungarian: 1956-os forradalom or felkelés) was a nationwide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956. Though leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control since the USSR’s forces drove out Nazi Germany from its territory at the end of World War II and broke into Central and Eastern Europe.

The revolt began as a student demonstration, which attracted thousands as they marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building, calling out on the streets using a van with loudspeakers via Radio Free Europe. A student delegation, entering the radio building to try to broadcast the students’ demands, was detained. When the delegation’s release was demanded by the demonstrators outside, they were fired upon by the State Security Police (ÁVH) from within the building. One student died and was wrapped in a flag and held above the crowd. This was the start of the revolution. As the news spread, disorder and violence erupted throughout the capital.

The revolt spread quickly across Hungary and the government collapsed. Thousands organised into militias, battling the ÁVH and Soviet troops. Pro-Soviet communists and ÁVH members were often executed or imprisoned and former political prisoners were released and armed. Radical impromptu workers’ councils wrested municipal control from the ruling Hungarian Working People’s Party and demanded political changes. A new government formally disbanded the ÁVH, declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped and a sense of normality began to return.

After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo changed its mind and moved to crush the revolution. On 4 November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition. These Soviet actions, while strengthening control over the Eastern Bloc, alienated many Western Marxists, leading to splits and/or considerable losses of membership for Communist Parties in the West.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

International Newsreel Photo. 'Governor of Alabama Arrested for Breaking Prohibition Laws' 24 november 1926

 

International Newsreel Photo
Governor of Alabama Arrested for Breaking Prohibition Laws
24th November 1926
Gelatin silver print
20 x 15 cm
© Private collection

 

Amateur photographer. 'Untitled' c. 1950

 

Amateur photographer
Untitled
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
7 x 4.5 cm
© Private collection

 

 

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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06
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Eyes Wide Open: 100 Years of Leica Photography’ at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2014 – 11th January 2015

Curator: Hans-Michael Koetzle

 

A photographic revolution. So much more than just photojournalism… and it has a nice sound as well.
“Indiscreet discretion” as the photographer F. C. Gundlach puts it. Some memorable photographs here.

Marcus

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

 

 

Oskar Barnack. 'Wetzlar Eisenmarkt' 1913

 

Oskar Barnack
Wetzlar Eisenmarkt
1913
© Leica Camera AG

 

Ernst Leitz. 'New York II' 1914

 

Ernst Leitz
New York II
1914
© Leica Camera AG

Just a few months before the outbreak of the First World War, Ernst Leitz II travelled to the USA. While there, he was able to capture photos, using a second model of the “Liliput” camera developed by Oskar Barnack, which most certainly would be found in a history of street photography.

 

Oskar Barnack. 'Flood in Wetzlar' 1920

 

Oskar Barnack
Flood in Wetzlar
1920
© Leica Camera AG

From around the time of 1914, Oskar Barnack must have carried a prototype camera with him, particularly during his travels – the camera first received the name Leica in 1925. Perhaps his most famous sequence of images, because it has been shown continually since, is the striking series of the floods in Wetzlar, Germany, in 1920

 

'Ur-Leica' 1914

 

Ur-Leica
1914
© Leica Camera AG

 

Oskar Barnack invents the Ur-Leica

Designed by Oskar Barnack, the first functional prototype of a new camera for 35 mm perforated cinema film stock was completed in March 1914.
The camera consisted of a metal housing, had a retractable lens and a focal plane shutter, which is not overlapped, however. A bolt-on lens cap that was swiveled during film transport, prevented incidental light. For the first time film advance and shutter cocking were connected to a camera – double exposures were excluded. The camera has gone down in the history of photography under the name Ur-Leica.

 

Ilse Bing. 'Self-portrait in Spiegeln' 1931

 

Ilse Bing
Self-portrait in Spiegeln
1931
© Leica Camera AG

 

Anton Stankowski. 'Greeting, Zurich, Rüdenplatz' 1932

 

Anton Stankowski
Greeting, Zurich, Rüdenplatz
1932
© Stankowski-Stiftung

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris' 1932

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris
1932

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with Leica
1934

Jewgenija Lemberg, shown here, was a lover of the photographer Alexander Rodchenko for quite some time. In 1992, a print of this photo brought in a tremendous 115,000 British pounds at a Christie’s auction in London. Alexander Rodchenko was continually capturing Jewgenija Lemberg in new, surprising and bold poses – until her death in a train accident. 

 

Heinrich Heidersberger. 'Laederstraede, Copenhagen' 1935

 

Heinrich Heidersberger
Laederstraede, Copenhagen
1935
© Institut Heidersberger

 

Robert Capa. 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936' 1936

 

Robert Capa
Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936
1936

At the age of 23 and equipped with his Leica, Robert Capa embedded himself in the Spanish Civil War while on assignment for the French press. On 5 September 1936, he managed to capture the perhaps most well-known war photo of the 20th century. 

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Sunday on the banks of the River Marne' Juvisy, France 1938

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Sunday on the banks of the River Marne
Juvisy, France 1938

This photo was taken two years after the large-scale strikes that ultimately led to a fundamental improvement in social conditions. Against this backdrop, the picnic in nature is also, above all, a political message – convincing in a formal, aesthetic way, and inherently consistent and suggestive at the same time.

 

Jewgeni Chaldej. 'The Flag of Victory' 1945

 

Jewgeni Chaldej
The Flag of Victory
1945
© Collection Ernst Volland and Heinz Krimmer, Leica Camera AG

Although this scene was staged, it loses none of its impact as an image and in no way hampers the resounding global response that it has achieved. The Red Army prevailed – there’s nothing more to convey in such a harmonious picture.

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt. 'VJ Day, Times Square, NY, 14. August 1945'

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt
VJ Day, Times Square, NY, 14. August 1945
© Alfred Eisenstaedt, 2014

This photo appeared on the cover of Life magazine and grew to become one of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s most well-known images. “People tell me,” he once said, “that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.”

 

W. Eugene Smith. 'Guardia Civil, Spain' 1950

 

W. Eugene Smith
Guardia Civil, Spain
1950
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 32.1 cm

W. Eugene Smith’s image of Guardia Civil is also a symbol of an imperious, backward Spain under the rule of Franco. For two months, W. Eugene Smith went scouting for a village and photographed it with the residents’ consent. What he shows us is a strange world: rural, archaic, as if on another planet. 

 

Inge Morath. 'London' 1950

 

Inge Morath
London
1950

Inge Morath’s photo titled “London” is well spotted, clearly composed and yet complicated in its arrangement. It also tells of a structure of domination, of hierarchies and traditions which certainly were more stable in England than in other European countries. 

 

Franz Hubmann. 'Regular at the Café Hawelka, Vienna' 1956/57

 

Franz Hubmann
Regular guest at the Café Hawelka, Vienna
1956/57
© Franz Hubmann. Leica Camera AG

We shall never discover who the man is in this photo. Franz Hubmann, more or less while walking by the table, captured the guest gently balancing a cup with the tips of his fingers – viewed from above without the use of flash, without any hectic movement, and not at all staged.

 

Frank Horvat. 'Givenchy Hat For Jardin des Modes' 1958

 

Frank Horvat
Givenchy Hat For Jardin des Modes, Paris
1958
Abzug 1995 / Haus der Photographie / Sammlung F.C. Gundlach Hamburg

 

F.C. Gundlach. 'Fashion reportage for 'Nino', Port of Hamburg' 1958

 

F.C. Gundlach
Fashion reportage for ‘Nino’, Port of Hamburg
1958
© F.C. Gundlach

 

Hans Silvester. 'Steel frame assembly' about the end of the 1950s

 

Hans Silvester
Steel frame assembly
about the end of the 1950s
Silver gelatin, vintage print
© Hans Silvester / Leica AG

 

 

 

“The exhibition EYES WIDE OPEN: 100 YEARS OF LEICA PHOTOGRAPHY illuminates across fourteen chapters various aspects of recent small-format photography, from journalistic strategies to documentary approaches and free artistic positions, spanning fourteen chapters. Among the artists whose work will be shown are Alexander Rodchenko, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Christer Strömholm, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, William Klein, William Eggleston, René Burri, Thomas Hoepker and Bruce Gilden. Following its premiere in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the exhibition will travel to Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Munich.

Some 500 photographs, supplemented by documentary material, including journals, magazines, books, advertisements, brochures, camera prototypes and films, will recount the history of small-format photography from its beginnings to the present day. The exhibition, which is curated by Hans-Michael Koetzle, follows the course of technological change and photographic history.

According to an entry in the workshop records, by March 1914 at the latest, Oskar Barnack, who worked as an industrial designer at Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar, completed the first functional model of a small-format camera for 35mm cinema film. The introduction of the Leica (a combination of “Leitz” and “Camera”) which was delayed until 1925 due to the war, was not merely the invention of a new camera; the small, reliable and always-ready Leica, equipped with a high-performance lens specially engineered by Max Berek, marked a paradigm shift in photography. Not only did it offer amateur photographers, newcomers and emancipated women greater access to photography; the Leica, which could be easily carried in a coat pocket, also became a ubiquitous part of everyday life. The comparatively affordable small-format camera stimulated photographic experimentation and opened up new perspectives. In general, visual strategies for representing the world became more innovative, bold and dynamic. Without question, the Leica developed by Oskar Barnack and introduced by Ernst Leitz II in 1924 was something like photography’s answer to the phenomenological needs of a new, high-speed era.

The exhibition EYES WIDE OPEN: 100 YEARS OF LEICA PHOTOGRAPHY will attempt for the first time to offer a comprehensive overview of the change in photography brought about by the invention and introduction of the Leica. Rather than isolating the history of the camera or considering it for its own sake, it will examine the visual revolution sparked by the technological innovation of the Leica. The exhibition will take an art- and cultural-historical perspective in pursuit of the question of how the photographic gaze changed as a result of the Leica and the small-format picture, and what effects the miniaturization of photography had on the work of amateurs, artists and photojournalists. Not least, it will also seek to determine what new subjects the camera addressed with its wide range of interchangeable lenses, and how these subjects were seen in a new light: a new way of perceiving the world through the Leica viewfinder.

Among the featured photographers are those who are internationally known for their work with Leica cameras as well as amateurs and artists who have not yet been widely associated with small-format photography, including Ilja Ehrenburg, Alfons Walde, Ben Shahn and George Grosz. Important loans, some of which have never been shown before, come from the factory archives of Leica Camera AG in Wetzlar, international collections and museums, as well as private lenders (Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Sammlung Skrein, Sammlung WestLicht).”

Press release from the Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

 

 

Robert Lebeck. 'The stolen sword, Belgian Congo Leopoldville' 1960

 

Robert Lebeck
The stolen sword, Belgian Congo Leopoldville
1960
© Robert Lebeck/ Leica Camera AG

When a young Congolese man grabs the king’s sword from the backseat of an open-top car on 29 June 1960, Robert Lebeck manages to capture the image of his life. The photo became a metaphor for the end of the descending dominance by Europeans on the African continent. 

 

Christer Strömholm. 'Nana, Place Blanche, Paris' 1961

 

Christer Strömholm
Nana, Place Blanche, Paris
1961
© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, 2014

 

Ulrich Mack. 'Wild horses in Kenya' 1964

 

Ulrich Mack
Wild horses in Kenya
1964
© Ulrich Mack, Hamburg / Leica Camera AG

Ulrich Mack travelled to Africa to discover the continent as a reporter – a continent that had been battered by warmongers and massacres. But all this changed: as if in a state of ecstasy, Ulrich Mack photographed a herd of wild horses, virtually throwing himself down under the animals

 

Claude Dityvon. "L'homme à la chaise" [The man in the chair], Bd St. Michel, 21 May 1968

 

Claude Dityvon
“L’homme à la chaise” [The man in the chair], Bd St. Michel, 21 May 1968
1968
© Chris Dityvon, Paris

 

Fred Herzog. 'Man with Bandage' 1968

 

Fred Herzog
Man with Bandage
1968
Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
© Fred Herzog, 2014

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Mount Rushmore, South Dakota' 1969

 

Lee Friedlander
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
1969
Haus der Photographie / Sammlung F.C. Gundlach Hamburg

 

Nick Út: The Associated Press. 'Napalm attack in Vietnam' 1972

 

Nick Út: The Associated Press
Napalm attack in Vietnam
1972
© Nick Út/AP/ Leica Camera AG

 

Eliott Erwitt. 'Felix, Gladys and Rover' New York City, 1974

 

Eliott Erwitt
Felix, Gladys and Rover
New York City, 1974

Elliott Erwitt’s passion focused on dogs – for him, they were the incarnation of human beings, with fur and a tail. His photo titled “New York City” was taken for a shoe manufacturer. 

 

René Burri. 'San-Cristobál' 1976

 

René Burri
San-Cristobál
1976

 

Martine Franck. 'Swimming pool designed by Alain Capeilières' 1976

 

Martine Franck
Swimming pool designed by Alain Capeilières
1976

 

Wilfried Bauer. From the series "Hong Kong", 1985

 

Wilfried Bauer
From the series Hong Kong
1985
Originally published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung # 307, 17.01.1986
© Nachlass Wilfried Bauer/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach

 

Rudi Meisel. 'Leningrad' 1987

 

Rudi Meisel
Leningrad
1987

 

Jeff Mermelstein. 'Sidewalk' 1995

 

Jeff Mermelstein
Sidewalk
1995
© Jeff Mermelstein

 

Michael von Graffenried. From the series 'Night in Paradise', Thielle (Switzerland) 1998

 

Michael von Graffenried
From the series Night in Paradise, Thielle (Switzerland)
1998
© Michael von Graffenried

 

Bruce Gilden: 'Untitled', from the series "GO", 2001

 

Bruce Gilden
Untitled, from the series “GO”
2001
© Bruce Gilden 2014/Magnum Photos

Bruce Gilden is an avid portrait photographer, without his photos ever appearing posed or staged. His image of humanity arises from the flow of life, the hectic everyday goings-on or – like in “Go” – the deep pit of violence, the Mafia and corruption. 

 

François Fontaine. 'Vertigo' from the 'Silenzio!' series 2012

 

François Fontaine
Vertigo from the Silenzio! series
2012

 

Julia Baier. From the series "Geschwebe," 2014

 

Julia Baier
From the series Geschwebe
2014
© Julia Baier

 

 

Deichtorhallen Hamburg
House of Photography
Deichtorstr. 1-2
D – 20095 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Every first Thursday of the month 11 am – 9 pm

Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

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10
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘The Naked Truth and More Besides: Nude Photography around 1900’ at the Museum for Photography, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 3rd May – 25th August 2013

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

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE AND FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Léon Gimpel. 'The Sculptor' 1911

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Léon Gimpel
The Sculptor
1911
Autochrome
© Société française de photographie, Paris

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Photographer unknown. 'Act of Headstand' Before 1905

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Photographer unknown
Act of Headstand
Before 1905
Silver gelatin print
© Universität der Künste Berlin, Universitätsarchiv

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Photographer unknown. 'The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men's club, Munich' 1907

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Photographer unknown
The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men’s club, Munich
1907
From: Athletics Sports Illustrated Newspaper, 01/19/1907
© Niedersächsisches Institut für Sport-geschichte, Hannover

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Otto Skowranek. 'Olga Desmond - Sword Dance' 1908

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Otto Skowranek
Olga Desmond – Sword Dance
1908
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek

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Frank Eugene Smith. 'Adam and Eve' 1898/99

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Frank Eugene Smith
Adam and Eve
1898/99
Published in Camera Work, 1910
Heliogravure
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek

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“At the dawn of the last century, photographs of nudes could be found everywhere. The exhibition The Naked Truth and More Besides presents the astonishing diversity of photographic depictions of the disrobed human body that existed around this time. It was an age in which the foundations were laid for the development in the public domain of an extremely varied type of image, which, more than any other continues to inform the world in which we live today.

Most striking of all, the photographic nude appeared as a reproducible medium – on postcards, cigarette cards, posters, in magazines and in advertising, as inspiration for artists and an incentive for sportsmen, as instructional material, and as collector’s items. From the vast array of material, it is possible to identify several distinct groups that fall under such headings as: the mass produced, visual pleasures (arcadias, eroticism, and pornography), the body in the eye of science (ethnography, motionstudy photography, medicine), the cult of the body (reform movements – especially in German-speaking countries – naturism, and staged nudes from the world of sport and variety shows), and, of course, the nude in the artistic context (art academies and the Pictorialist tradition of fine-art prints). The most important characteristic of the image of naked people during this time is the inseparability of nude photographic production and reproduction. The trade or exchange in nude photographs was widespread across the whole of Europe. This is reflected in the exhibition, which not only features many treasures and rare finds from the Kunstbibliothek’s own Collection of Photography, but also includes important loans from several European institutions, ranging from the Bibliothèque nationale de France to the Police Museum of Lower Saxony.

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The exhibition

A Commodity Market – The Machinery of the Nude

Since the invention of photography, the unclothed human body has been positioned – sitting, standing and reclining – in front of the camera. Large numbers of nude images, avidly pursued by censors, were in circulation as of the middle of the 19th century. By around 1900 nude photography had broken into the public sphere. Starting in 1880, photographs had become easier to produce and reproduce. They began to flood the market in various printed forms: alongside stereoviews, cartes de visite and single prints, nudes could now be found on postcards, trading cards, autograph cards, posters and in magazines, books and films. Nude photographs were promoted, ordered, sold and sent. They were published for a large audience under the guise of artistic or academic activity, and people’s viewing habits, their gaze on the naked body – their own or someone else’s – began to change. In this process it became clear that photography played a significant role in the marketing of the naked body, but also in people’s self-understanding. Today’s arbitrary use of scantily-clad models to advertise goods is but one phenomenon that continues what was emerging with the visual material of the turn of the 20th century.

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“For Artistic Purposes Only“ – Model Studies and Photographic Academies

Nude pictures were reaching the public as “photographs after nature.” In the process, the artistic content or the intended use of the photographs was always emphasized. If we were to judge by the quantity of materials said to be produced solely for artists, then the largest professional group around 1900 would have been composed of them. “For artistic purposes only” was the password to uncensored production of nude photography. For many artists, photographic depictions actually did replace calling in live models. Art academies created a reference collection with nude studies. In many cases, works of painting or sculpture can be directly traced back to a particular photograph. Taken in classrooms that tended toward sobriety, most of the poses were borrowed from the art-historical cannon. Countless Venus and Apollo figures, cherubs, Atlases, Horatii, Graces and boys in the classical style populate the portfolios of the period. A practice of child nudes developed in the slipstream of the photographic academies. Ostensibly, these were created to show the angelic innocence of children of all ages. Photographers also documented classes in studios and at academies. Thus we see photographs of entire student groups with their nude model, and there are also fine examples of the triad of artist, model and work.

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(Visual) Yearnings – Ideals from Arcadia

The unclothed body was first and foremost an object of erotic associations, and they were rendered by photography in more or less subtle ways. While a large audience enjoyed the Arcadian idylls of Sicily without coming into a conflict with the law, there was likely an even larger public buying the goods “under the table” or only “per order,” potentially becoming guilty of immorality. Under Wilhelm II, male friendships were cherished as pillars of the system. Homosexuality, by contrast, was the subject of heated debate, its reception mixed. With this in mind, the vast array of potentially homoerotic photographs that were produced is revealing.

Wilhelm von Gloeden counts among the best-known practitioners of a kind of nude photography that gave voice to longings for an idyll that was generally Mediterranean or classical in nature. His photographs enjoyed tremendous commercial success around 1900. Numerous fellow photographers, most of them anonymous, began to photograph young and old satyrs, Ephebes, Apollos and shepherd boys and girls, staging the journey to Arcadia for the camera. Their images were published in such places as the first homoerotic magazine Der Eigene alongside poems, prose and essays. At the same time, these nude photographs were added to ethnographic collections (for example as Sicilian folklore), were discussed in the medical context and were used by (body) reformers to communicate an ideal.

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Vividly Immoral – Censored and Pornographic Photography

Since the invention of photography, photographs have been produced that are erotic or pornographic in nature. Crude or more sophisticated fashions, fantasies, means of distribution and censorship changed depending on the period. Around 1900, censorship in Germany generally went hand in hand with the so-called Lex Heinze, a newly added paragraph that forbade public exhibition of material classified as immoral. When enforced, the censorship effort resulted in the impounding by police of thousands of images from individual distribution businesses and studios. But in the face of the new, ever-growing production of nude photographs, the aim of gaining the upper hand over the flood of images was destined to fail.

Material from private collections is rare today but it would have been found in a large number of ordinary households. Aficionados put together albums in which they showed their predilections using a combination of photographs, drawings or caricatures, and sometimes writing. Even the police kept an exemplary inventory of nude photography which they collected in albums. In Germany there remains only the album from the Police Museum of Lower Saxony, whose large format, elaborately stamped leather binding, and careful arrangement of the diverse material make it clear just how significant nude photography was to the guardians of the law, too.

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“The photographic plate is the retina of scholars“ – The Nude Body in Science

A great number of scientific fields made use of photography in their systematic mapping out of the visible world. The naked body was measured, compared and assessed. Norms were defined and aberrations shown. The new, photographically mediated consciousness of physical constitutions made itself felt in the way people saw themselves and their contemporaries. But the seeming objectivity of the medium also abetted discriminatory views. The photography of movement played a particular role in the photographic experiments that sought to describe and unravel the human body in all its aspects. Special devices were used to record the consecutive positions of motor activities. In addition to movement in everyday life and in sports, photographers also documented freely invented movement and movement resulting from disease. Eadweard Muybridge and Ottomar Anschütz together with Albert Londe count among the best-known representatives of the photographic anatomy study and the systematic recording of movement.

Using special equipment, photographers provided physicians with illustrations of diseases and physical ailments. Image material was gathered on a regular basis and used in medical research and teaching. The often highly suggestive visual language of the time is also reflected in scientific publications. Many of the diagnostic findings and display formats from around 1900 seem outdated today.

When photography became more compatible with travelling, ethnographers brought back to Europe a large number of photographs of the sometimes unclothed inhabitants of colonies they were visiting and exploring. And as the ethnographic nude became more pervasive, posing for the camera became more common. Postures and props were modeled on recognized artworks as well as ideas about foreign cultures that were prevalent in Europe. Photographic comparisons were designed to emphasize particular characteristics of ethnic groups or body types: here, technical tricks, such as using different lighting, backgrounds and poses, came into play. This kind of image material fueled chauvinist and racist delusions, which became widely published.

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“Naked People – a Cheerful Future“ – Nude Photography and the Cult of the Body around 1900

At the turn of the century, questions about the body were quickly gaining in importance. Were corsets desirable? The photographs of corset marks on naked female bodies argue against them. What good was exercise? Photographs of trained naked bodies documented the benefits. What did a normal person look like, and what did the ideal body look like? With nude photography printed in numerous magazines and books, people began to develop an eye for these matters. With more and more images becoming available, people became more discerning when it came to their body versus foreign bodies. The body could be compared and evaluated. Ideals spread through powerful imagery and gained an increasing influence on individual body culture.

During the reform movement people, especially those in the German Empire, were drawn to the open air. They enjoyed so-called light baths, whose benefits were discussed at length and proven with photographs. An emerging nudism used photography to demonstrate a deliberately relaxed association with one another. Scantily clad or unclothed, stars soon had their pictures taken onstage, becoming famous when their images were used in advertising and turned into items of mass distribution. Their postcards and cartes de visite were precursors of the pin-up. Several of these images bring to mind hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet, among the nudists of the turn of the century were also publishers such as Richard Ungewitter, whose racist theories, based in folk identity, lent decidedly ideological undertones to the nude images they used in their argumentation.

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Passions of Art Photography – Pictorialist Nudes

Beginning in the 1890s many photographers sought to elevate their craft to the status of art with the aid of particular printing techniques and strategies of image creation. Nude photography, certainly a pleasurable pastime for such ambitious art photographers as the so-called Pictorialists, produced a wide variety of motifs. In the prestigious magazine Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz published a vast number of such images, including works by Robert Demachy, Constant Puyo, Heinrich Kühn, Annie Brigman and Edward Steichen. Among the Pictorialist nudes are expressive mise-en-scenes, some of them self-portraits of the photographers, whose subject matter was by turns poetic and symbolic. Besides this work, there certainly are images that are conventionally pleasant or academic and that stand out from the common material mostly due to their high print quality. Their pictorial techniques serve an atmosphere of everything from playful coquetry to dramatic religiousness. As the clearly preferred pose of wrestlers was that of a poet or thinker, Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker can be seen as bringing together the esthetics of sculpture, Pictorialism and athlete photography.”

Press release from the Museum of Photography website

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Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903

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Emile Bayard
Untitled
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34
1903

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Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903

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Emile Bayard
Untitled
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34
1903

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How many artfully-draped centaurs, bacchantes, and nymphs does it take to make a dirty magazine? Only one early 20th-century periodical has the answer: The Aesthetic Nude (Le Nu Esthétique)… Illustrated entirely with unclothed models enacting quasi-mythological imagery, the covers alone range from a rapturous Leda and the Swan to a centaur’s semi-consensual abduction of a nymph (above). Inside each issue appear even more views of studio models in increasingly far-fetched poses, all of which were ostensibly meant to supplant the live model in studio practice. It’s not clear that anyone ever copied these compositions in paint, but the effort that went into cutting out the photos in lively shapes, and the publication’s run of several years (c. 1902-06), suggests a market existed for it!

These ‘aesthetic nudes’ beg the question of what constituted nudity, as opposed to nakedness in the late 19th and early 20th century. Was it simply the academic and mythological guise that made these images acceptable, even collectible?

(Text from the ARTicle, Art Institute of Chicago blog)

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Photographer unknown. 'Two women on a carousel Pig' c. 1900

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Photographer unknown
Two women on a carousel Pig
c. 1900
Silver gelatin print
© Collection GERARD LEVY, Paris

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Albert Londe. '15 Chronophotographs of Charcot's son / Charcot plays football' c. 1890

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Albert Londe
15 Chronophotographs of Charcot’s son / Charcot plays football
c. 1890
Gelatin silver print
© École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris; Reprofoto: Jean-Michel Lapelerie

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Photographer unknown. 'Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked' 1906

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Photographer unknown
Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked
1906
Lichtdruck
© Sammlung Robert Lebeck, Berlin

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Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?). 'Male Nude in Tree' c. 1900

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Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?)
Male Nude in Tree
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
© Berlinische Galerie

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Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock. 'Transparency' 1904

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Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock
Transparency
1904
Salter paper print
© Münchner Stadtmuseum

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Heinrich Kühn. 'Female Nude' c. 1906

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Heinrich Kühn
Female Nude
c. 1906
Bromoil print
© Estate of the Artist / Galerie Kicken Berlin

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Museum of Photography
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
T: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
Tues – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Museum of Photography website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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