Posts Tagged ‘French photographer

07
Aug
20

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

August 2020

 

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

 

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

 

 

Atget’s shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

.
Lee Friedlander

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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31
Jul
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Brassaï’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 13th September – 4th December 2019
Visited September 2019 posted July 2020

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

These are my thoughts at the time of my seeing the exhibition.

.
I have been blessed this trip by seeing an amazing selection of master photographers… Brassaï being no exception.

Every print in this exhibition is a vintage print. They were made by Brassaï before 1968. If larger than 30 x 40cm they were made after 1945 when he started printing with an enlarger.

As usual, the iPhone camera makes all the images too light and adds too much contrast. Think darker, less contrast in these vintage prints.

Brassaï’s prints are – just like those of Josef Sudek and August Sander that I have seen on this trip – much softer and with a more limited tonal range than I imagined. They are all the more atmospheric and magical because of it.

To walk around the exhibition and then arrive at an alcove (see walk through below)… to stand in front of Le Môme Bijou, the old lady with the jewellery and Billiard Player, is such a privilege. I am surrounded by the presence of these famous images. I peer intently at each of them, observing the details, feeling their eyes stare back at me. No deflection of intent, just these human beings and their spirit presented in a photograph. Brassaï captured their essence before they drifted away, just in that moment.

In the latter print the dark billiard ball was almost indistinguishable from the baize; in the former, the circular light in the woman’s eyes means that Brassaï must have set up a light, or that there was a light source, above and behind the camera. Specular highlights twinkle off jewellery and pearls. Even as she is draped in her bourgeois, bohemian ornamentation this dame of the night possesses a resilient, composed, determined air.

Personally, I think Brassaï’s Graffiti series are far stronger than Lee Friedlander’s series of the same name.

The juxtaposition of the photographs in Paris at Night is something I will always remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

The more scrupulously [the photographer] has respected the independence and autonomy of his subject, and the closer he has gone toward it instead of bringing it nearer to himself, the more completely his own personality has become incorporated into his pictures.

.
Brassaï

 

 

Foam is proud to present the first retrospective of Brassaï in the Netherlands. The French photographer of Hungarian descent is considered a key figure of 20th-century photography.

Brassaï (1899-1984) created countless iconic images of 1930s Parisian life. He was famous for capturing the grittier aspects of the city, but also documented high society, including the ballet, opera, and intellectuals – among them his friends and contemporaries like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse. The exhibition at Foam traces his career with over 170 vintage prints, plus a selection of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material.

Brassaï gathers many of the artistic facets of the photographer, from photos to drawings of female nudes. It is organised in twelve thematic sections: Paris by Day, and by Night, Minotaure, Graffiti, Society, Places and Things, Personages, Sleep, Pleasures, Body of a Woman, Portraits – Artists, Writers, Friends and The Street. Each is very different from the next – reflecting the diversity of Brassaï’s photographic work.

 

 

 

Digital walk through of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam in September 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at second right Brassaï’s Paris 1937, and at right Paris c. 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Foam is proud to announce the first retrospective of Brassaï in the Netherlands. This French photographer of Hungarian descent is considered as one of the key figures of 20th-century photography. Brassaï (1899-1984) created countless iconic images of 1930s Parisian life. He was famous for capturing the grittier aspects of the city, but also documented high society, including the ballet, opera, and intellectuals – among them his friends and contemporaries like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse. The exhibition at Foam traces his career with over 170 vintage prints, plus a selection of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material.

Gyula Halász, Brassaï’s original name, was born in 1899 in Brassó, Transylvania (then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, nowadays Brasov, Romania). He studied at the University of Arts in Berlin before finally settling in Paris in 1924, a city that was to become the main subject of his work. He started as a painter but soon discovered that his strongest and most original talent lay in photography. To keep his real name for his paintings, he signed journalistic work, caricatures and photographs with ‘Brassaï’ (from Brassó). His photos would make this pseudonym more famous than his real name. Brassaï’s work of the 1930s would become a cornerstone of a new tradition as photography was discovered as a medium with aesthetic potential. A generation earlier photographers had merely emulated the established arts. Now photography became an art in itself and the perfect medium to capture modern life.

The nocturnal scenes collected in his book Paris by Night (1933) are complemented by his work that reveals the everyday life of the city by day. The monuments, picturesque spots, scenes from daily life and architectural details are present in his work as a reflection of the irresistible fascination the artist felt for the French capital. In his quest to cover all of the facets of Paris, he also immersed himself in the city’s darker side. For Brassaï the gang members, outcasts, prostitutes and drug addicts all represented the least cosmopolitan aspect of Paris, an aspect that was more alive and more authentic. He compiled a huge collection of images of entertainment venues, ranging from night clubs to popular festivals and featuring the people who frequented them. Brassaï was deeply immersed in a wide circle of friends among the writers and artists of Montparnasse, who also became the subjects for some of his portraits. Most of the portraits taken by Brassaï were of well-known people, putting him into a very comfortable position. He collaborated with the luxury art magazine Minotaure right from its very first issue and enjoyed a prominent role for the publication over the years. After the war, he also travelled regularly on commissioned shoots for the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition at Foam gathers many of the artistic facets of the photographer, from photos to drawings of female nudes. It is organised in twelve thematic sections: Paris by Day, and by Night, Minotaure, Graffiti, Society, Places and Things, Personages, Sleep, Pleasures, Body of a Woman, Portraits – Artists, Writers, Friends and The Street. Each is very different from the next – reflecting the diversity of Brassaï’s photographic work.

Press release from the Foam gallery website

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Staircase, Montmartre' 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Staircase, Montmartre (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Escaliers de Montmartre, Paris' 1936

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Escaliers de Montmartre, Paris
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La rue Quincampoix' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La rue Quincampoix (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La rue Quincampoix' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La rue Quincampoix (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Pillar of the Elevated, Metro Glacière' 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Pillar of the Elevated, Metro Glacière (installation view)
1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Near the rue Mouffetard' c. 1945 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Near the rue Mouffetard (installation view)
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdamz

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam with at bottom centre, Brassaï’s Concierge’s Lodge, Paris, 1933
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (installation view)
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (installation view)
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Concierge's Lodge, Paris' 1933

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris
1933
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

99-1984) 'Lovers at the gare Saint Lazare' c. 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Lovers at the gare Saint Lazare (installation view)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc' 1946 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc (installation view)
1946
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc' 1946 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sunday Painter, avenue du Général Leclerc (installation view)
1946
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Annecy' 1936 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Annecy (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Hôtel de la Belle Étoile' 1945 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Hôtel de la Belle Étoile (installation view)
1945
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) A Corpse on the Banks on the Seine 1931 (installation view

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
A Corpse on the Banks on the Seine (installation view)
1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Fétes de Paris: La Nuit Féerique de Longhamp' 1937

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Fétes de Paris: La Nuit Féerique de Longhamp
1937
In L’illustration, no. 4, 923 (July 10, 1937)
13. Rue Saint-Georges, Paris (9°)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Regards, no. 155 (December 31, 1936)

 

Regards, no. 155 (December 31, 1936)
Back cover
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at at left, Brassaï’s Meat Porters, Les Halles c. 1935 and at second left, Au Cochon Limousin 1935
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Meat Porters, Les Halles' c. 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Meat Porters, Les Halles (installation view)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Au Cochon Limousin' 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Au Cochon Limousin (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Les Halles' 1930-32 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Les Halles (installation view)
1930-32
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Cesspool cleaners' c. 1931 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Cesspool cleaners (installation view)
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Paris de nuit / Paris at night

Brassaï had been making photographs for barely two years when luck and ambition brought him a contract for a book on nocturnal Paris. When Paris de nuit (Paris at Night) was published to acclaim in December 1932, “Brassaï” became a familiar name in the world of photography. The book’s rich photogravures, marginalises pages, and bold design made it an icon of modernity. Many of Brassaï’s best night picture were made after Paris de nuit appeared, however, and many of his greatest images of Parisian nightlife were not published until 1976.

In the self-portrait here we see Brassaï’s first camera, a Voigtländer Bergheil that used 6.5 x 9 cm glass plates one at a time. The long exposures of night photography – often five minutes or more – required a tripod, which Brassaï frequently used for other pictures as well. While much of the adventurous European photography of the 1920s and 1930s celebrated mobility and speed, spontaneity was alien to Brassaï’s sensibility. He favoured images that are sharp, deliberate, and stable.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) Morris Column, avenue de l'Observatoire 1934 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Morris Column, avenue de l’Observatoire (installation view)
1934
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Morris Column, avenue de l'Observatoire' 1934

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Morris Column, avenue de l’Observatoire
1934
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at right, Brassaï’s Self portrait, On the boulevard Saint-Jacques 1930-32
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème' c. 1931-1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Self portrait, On the boulevard Saint-Jacques
1930-32
Gelatin silver print

 

Voigtländer Bergheil Built in 1932

 

Voigtländer
Bergheil
Built in 1932
6.5 x 9cm negative
Green

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at left, Brassaï’s The Tour Saint-Jacques 1932-33, and at third right View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino c. 1933
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'The Tour Saint-Jacques' 1932-33 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
The Tour Saint-Jacques (installation view)
1932-33
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino' c. 1933

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino
c. 1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing at right, Brassaï’s Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog c. 1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire in the Fog' c. 1937 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog (installation view)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire in the Fog' c. 1937

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire in the Fog
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 9-10
1932
Book

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 13-14
1932
Book

 

 

Digital flick through of Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) book 1932
Video: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris de Nuit' (Paris at Night) 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris de Nuit (Paris at Night) pp. 19-20 (installation view)
1932
Book
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Minotaure, no. 7 (June 1935)

 

Minotaure, no. 7 (June 1935)
Pages 24-25: Photographs by Brassaï, “Nuits parisiennes” (Parisian Nights)
Pages 26-29: Photographs by Brassaï
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Portraits – artists, writers and friends

In Brassaï’s era, portraits and nudes were bread-and-butter genres for any professional photographer. As a portraitist Brassaï made a speciality of artists and writers, who often were his friends, and in 1982 he collected many of the best pictures in Les artistes de ma vie (The Artists of My Life), for which he also wrote the lively text. He excelled at two distinct types of portraiture: In one, the artist is framed by his environment – the studio. In the other, the subjects confronts the photographer frankly, and the setting hardly matters. In an undated note, Brassaï summed up his approach to the second type: “To oblige the model to behave as if the photographer isn’t there really is to stage a comic performance. What’s natural is precisely not to dodge the photographer’s presence. The natural thing in that situation is for the model to pose honestly.”

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing in the top photograph at right, Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris 1931-32 and in the bottom photograph at third right, Brassaï’s Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily c. 1932
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris' 1931-32

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Oskar Kokoschka in his Studio, Paris (installation view)
1931-32
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Kiki de Montparnasse and her Friends, Thérèse Treize and Lily (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing in the bottom photograph at left, Brassaï’s portrait of Jean Genet 1948
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Jean Genet' 1948

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Jean Genet
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Graffiti

The appreciation of graffiti as a powerful if anonymous art form began to blossom in the twentieth century. Like African tribal objects and the art of children, graffiti was admired as more expressive and vital than the refined forms of traditional Western art. Brassaï was among the first to embrace it. He was an inveterate magpie who collected all manner of neglected artefacts and natural specimens throughout his life. Virtually as soon as he began making photographs, he used the medium to collect the graffiti that appeared abundantly on the walls of Paris – predominantly images that had been scratched or gouged rather than drawn or painted and, as he pointed out, in which irregularities of the wall itself played a role. He compiled hundreds of these pictures, a small sample of which is presented here.

 

Minotaure

Between arriving in Paris in early 1924 and taking up photography six years later, Brassaï developed a wide circle of friends among the international community of artists and writers in Montparnasse. Among them were Les deux aveugles (The Two Blind Men), as the art critics Maurice Raynal and E. Tériade called themselves. In December 1932 – the same month Brassaï’s book Paris de unit (Paris at Night) appeared – Tériade invited Brassaï to photograph Pablo Picasso and his studios in and near Paris for the first issue of Minotaure, a lavish art magazine launched in June 1933 by the Swiss published Albert Skira. Thus began one of the key friendships of Brassaï’s life. Over the next few years he played prominent role in Minotaure, notable as a collaborator of Salvador Dalí, as an illustrator of texts by André Breton, and, on a few occasions, as an artist in his own right.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing to the right, photographs from Brassaï’s series Graffiti
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)

 

Minotaure, nos. 3-4 (December 1933)
Pages 6-7: Photographs and text by Brassaï, “Du mur des cavernes au mur d’usine” (From the Wall of the Caves to the Wall of the Factory).
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

This was the first appearance in print of Brassaï’s series Graffiti.

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'The Sun King' 1945-50 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
The Sun King (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1950

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1950
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1945-55

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassai. 'Untitled' from the series 'Graffiti' 1945-55

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Untitled (installation view)
1945-50
From the series Graffiti
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and in the centre, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33 and Market Porter, Les Halles 1939
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Personages

In the introduction to a book of his photographs that was published in 1949, Brassaï linked the modern arts of photography and film to the work of artists of the past who had depicted everyday life, among them Rembrandt van Rijn, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He praised them for the “desire to get beyond the anecdotal and to promote [their] subjects to the dignity of types.” Brassaï himself had a talent for rendering at the same time a generic social role and a particular individual who inhabited it, as if his attentiveness to the person would elevate him or her into a distinctive personage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left, Festival in Seville 1951; and at right, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left, Festival in Seville 1951; at centre, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and at right, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing a photograph from the section Personages, La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre' 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre (installation view)
1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre' 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left La Môme Bijou, Bar de la Lune, Montmartre 1932; and at right, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart' 1932-33 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart (installation view)
1932-33
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart' 1932-33

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart
1932-33
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from the section Personages including at left Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart 1932-33; and at right, Market Porter, Les Halles 1939
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Market Porter, Les Halles' 1939 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Market Porter, Les Halles (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Chez Suzy' 1931-32

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Chez Suzy
1931-32
Gelatin silver print

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'At the Hôtel des Terrasses' c. 1932 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
At the Hôtel des Terrasses (installation view)
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from Brassaï’s series Sleep
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sleep

In 1945 Brassaï wrote a brief essay to accompany some of his pictures of sleepers. It reads in part “All things that stand against their inclination – a tree, a column, a tower, a rock – are regarded with a malign eye by gravity … She especially has a grudge against man, that foolhardy being who, in open collusion with the sunlight, alone among his brothers under the spell of gravitation, dares to stand up. For sunlight and gravity fight over living beings, the one turning over what the other has put up. Alas! Sunlight lives a long way away and can never be found when she is needed the most. Thus gravity is suited to have the last word.”

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brassaï' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brassaï at Foam, Amsterdam showing photographs from Brassaï’s series Sleep with at left, Paris c. 1934; and at centre, Sleeping c. 1935
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Paris' c. 1934 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Paris (installation view)
c. 1934
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Sleeping' c. 1935 (installation view)

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Sleeping (installation view)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984) 'Montmartre' 1930-31

 

Brassaï (French, 1899-1984)
Montmartre
1930-31
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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16
May
20

European photographic research tour: V&A Photography Centre, London

Visited October 2019 posted May 2020

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The older I grow, the more exponentially I appreciate and love these early photographs. Imagine having a collection like this!

Wonderful to see Edward Steichen’s Portrait – Lady H (1908, below) as I have a copy of Camera Work 22 in my collection.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone images by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

 

The V&A has been collecting photographs since 1856, the year the Museum was founded, and it was one of the first museums to present photography exhibitions. Since then the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most important in the world, comprising around 500,000 images. The V&A is now honoured to have added the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection to its holdings, which contains around 270,000 photographs, an extensive library, and 6,000 cameras and pieces of equipment associated with leading artists and photographic pioneers.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at our world class photography collection following the transfer of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection, which has enabled a dramatic reimagining of the way photography is presented at the V&A. The photographs curators introduce a series of five highlights that are on display in the new Photography Centre, which opened on 12th October 2018. The first phase of the centre will more than double the space dedicated to photography at the Museum.

Text from the V&A and YouTube websites

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The V&A has been collecting and exhibiting photographs since the 1850s. This image shows part o a photographic exhibition held over 100 years ago in the same galleries you are standing in today. The exhibition presented a densely packed display of images depicting the Allied Powers during the First World War.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation views)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The French inventor Niépce made the earliest surviving photographic images, which he called ‘heliographs’ or ‘sun-writing’. Only 16 are thought to still exist. Although Niépce experimented with light-sensitive plates inside a camera, he made most of his images, including this one, by placing engravings of works by other artists directly onto a metal plate. He would probably have had the resulting heliographs coated in ink and printed.

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation view)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-70) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-48) 'The Adamson Family' 1843-45

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-70) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-48)
The Adamson Family (installation view)
1843-45
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The partnership between Scottish painter Hill and chemist Adamson merged the art and science of photography. The pair initially intended to create preliminary studies for Hill’s paintings, but soon recognised photography’s artistic potential. With Hill’s knowledge of composition and lighting, and Adamson’s considerable sensitivity and dexterity in handling the camera, together they produced some of the most accomplished photographic portraits of their time.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-77) 'The Haystack' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-77)
The Haystack
1844
From The Pencil of Nature
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation views)
1852-54
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Turner took out a licence to practice ‘calotype’ photography from Talbot in 1848. He contact-printed positive images from paper negatives. The negative (below) and its corresponding positive (above) are reunited here to illustrate this process, but the pairing as you see them would not have been the photographer’s original intention for display. Although unique negatives were sometimes exhibited in their own right, only showing positive prints was the norm.

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation view)
1852-54
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau (installation view)
1852
Albumen print from a collodion glass negative
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Fenton was one of the most versatile and technically brilliant photographers of the 19th century. He excelled at many subjects, including war photography, portraiture, architecture and landscape. He also made a series of lush still lives. Here, grapes, plums and peaches are rendered in exquisite detail, and the silver cup on the right reflects a camera tripod.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view detail)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Still Life with Fruit and Decanter' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Still Life with Fruit and Decanter
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Rejlander probably intended this photograph to be part of a larger composition telling the biblical story of Salome, in which the severed head of John the Baptist was presented to her on a plate. Rejlander never made the full picture, however, and instead produced multiple prints of the head alone.

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Frith’s photographs were popular and circulated widely, both because of their architectural interest and because they often featured sites mentioned in the Bible. Photographs of places described in biblical stories brought a new level of realism to a Christian Victorian audience, previously only available through the interpretations of a painter or illustrator.

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith' 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean (installation view)
1856-59
Albumen Print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean
1856-59
Albumen Print
Art Institute of Chicago
Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-57
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-57
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre
1856-57
Albumen print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-59
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-59
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Lucia' 1864-65

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Lucia (installation view)
1864-65
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' and 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) and Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Lewis Carroll is best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but he was also an accomplished amateur photographer. Approximately half of his photographs are portraits of children, sometimes wearing foreign costumes or acting out scenes. Here, Alexandra ‘Xie’ Kitchen, his most frequent child sitter, poses in Chinese dress on a stack of tea chests.

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98)
Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The South Kensington museum (now the V&A) was the only museum to collect and exhibit Julia Margaret Cameron’s during her lifetime. This is one of several studies she made of Alice Liddell, who as a child had modelled for the author and photographer Lewis Carroll and inspired his novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Cameron, Carroll and Liddell moved in overlapping artistic and intellectual circles. Here, surrounded by foliage, a grown-up Alice poses as the Roman goddess of orchards and gardens.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Frederick Holland Day' 1900

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Frederick Holland Day (installation view)
1900
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

The British-American photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic. Active in the early 20th century, he gained recognition from a young age as a talented photographer. His style ranged from the painterly softness of Pictorialism to the unusual vantage points and abstraction of Modernism. As well as being a practising photographer, Coburn was an avid collector. In 1930 he donated over 600 photographs to the Royal Photographic Society. The gift included examples of Coburn’s own work alongside that of his contemporaries, many of whom are now considered to be the most influential of their generation. Coburn also collected historic photographs, and was among the first in his time to rediscover and appreciate the work of 19th-century masters like Julia Margaret Cameron and Hill and Adamson.

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Day made this portrait when he visited the Hampton Institute in Virginia, which was founded after the American Civil War as a teacher-training school for freed slaves. The institute’s camera club invited Day to visit the school and critique the work of its students. Day’s friend and fellow photographer, Frederick Evans, donated this strikingly modern composition to the Royal Photographic Society in 1937.

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Letter' 1906

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Letter
1906
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Käsebier studied painting before opening a photography studio in New York. Her Pictorialist photographs often combine soft focus with experimental printing techniques. These sisters were dressed in historic costume for a ball, but their pose transforms a society portrait into a narrative picture. In a variant image, they turn to look at the framed silhouette on the wall.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Francis James Mortimer (British, 1874-1944) 'Alvin Langdon Coburn at the Opening of His One-Man Exhibition the Royal Photographic Society, London' 1906

 

Francis James Mortimer (British, 1874-1944)
Alvin Langdon Coburn at the Opening of His One-Man Exhibition the Royal Photographic Society, London (installation view)
1906
Carbon print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Annie Wardrope Brigman (American, 1869-1950) 'The Spirit of Photography' c. 1908

 

Annie Wardrope Brigman (American, 1869-1950)
The Spirit of Photography
c. 1908
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Kensington Gardens' 1910

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Kensington Gardens
1910
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Cover of 'Camera Work'

 

Cover of Camera Work Number XXVI (installation view)

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Portrait – Lady H' 1908

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Portrait – Lady H (installation view)
1908
Camera Work 22
1908
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Portrait – Lady H' 1908

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Portrait – Lady H
1908
Camera Work 22
1908
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

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

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
New York (installation view)
1916
Camera Work 48
1916
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) was an American photographer, publisher, writer and gallery owner. From 1903-1917, he published the quarterly journal Camera Work, which featured portfolios of exquisitely printed photogravures (a type of photograph printed in ink), alongside essays and reviews. Camera Work promoted photography as an art form, publishing the work of Pictorialist photographers who drew inspiration from painting, and reproducing 19th-century photographs. It also helped to introduce modern art to American audiences, including works by radical European painters such as Matisse and Picasso.

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Vortograph' 1917

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Vortograph (installation view)
1917
Bromide print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolph Koppitz (American, 1884-1936)
Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study)
1926
Carbon print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Koppitz was a leading art photographer in Vienna between the two World Wars, as well as a master of complex printing processes, including the pigment, gum and broccoli process of transfer printing. Tis dynamic and sensual composition captures dancers from the Vienna State Opera Ballet frozen mid-movement.

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85) 'Shortly Before Dawn' 1932-39

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85)
Shortly Before Dawn (installation view)
1932-39
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Bayer had a varied and influential career as a designer, painter, photographer, sculptor, art director and architect. He taught at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany, and later began to use photomontage, both in his artistic and advertising work. Using this process, he combined his photographs with found imagery, producing surreal or dreamlike pictures.

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85) 'Shortly Before Dawn' 1932-39

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85)
Shortly Before Dawn (installation view)
1932-39
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951) 'Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam' 1934

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951)
Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam (installation view)
1934
Foto-choma Eilers
Given by Joan Luckhurst Eilers

 

 

In the 1930s, the Dutch photographer Bernard Eilers developed an experimental new photographic colour separation process known as ‘Foto-chroma Eilers’. Although the process was short-lived, Eilers successfully used this technique to produce prints like this of great intensity and depth of colour. Here, the misty reflections and neon lights create an atmospheric but modern view of a rain-soaked Amsterdam at night.

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951) 'Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam' 1934

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951)
Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam (installation view)
1934
Foto-choma Eilers
Given by Joan Luckhurst Eilers

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Valentine to Charis' 1935

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Valentine to Charis (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

When Weston met the model and writer Charis Wilson in 1934, he was immediately besotted. This valentine to her contains a cluster of objects arranged as a still life, including the photographer’s camera lens and spectacles. Some of the objects seem to hold a special significance that only the lovers could understand. The numbers on the right possibly refer to their ages – there were almost thirty years between them.

 

Horst P. Horst (German-American, 1906-1999) 'Portrait of Gabrielle ('Coco') Chanel' 1937

 

Horst P. Horst (German-American, 1906-1999)
Portrait of Gabrielle (‘Coco’) Chanel
1937
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

Variant, American Vogue, 1 December 1937, p. 86: ‘Fashion: Mid-Season Prophecies’

Caption reads: Chanel in her fitted, three-quarters coat / Mademoiselle Chanel, in one of her new coats that are making the news – a three quarters coat buttoned tightly and trimmed with astrakham like her cap. 01/12/1937

 

Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965) 'Women with headscarf, 'McCall’s' Cover, July 1938' 1938

 

Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965)
Women with headscarf, McCall’s Cover, July 1938 (installation view)
1938
Tricolour carbro print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Between 1935 and 1939, the Federal Art Project emptied Abbott to make a series of photographs entitled Changing New York, documenting the rapid development and urban transformation of the city. This picture shows the facade of a downtown hardware store, its wares arranged in a densely-packed window display with extend onto the pavement.

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photographs of African masks, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photographs of African masks, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art commissioned Evans to photograph objects in its major exhibition of African art. Using his 8 x 10 inch view camera, he highlighted the artistry and detail of the objects, alternating between front, side and rear views. In total, Evans produced 477 images, and 17 complete sets of them were printed. Several of these sets were donated to colleges and libraries in America, and the V&A bought one set in 1936 to better represent African art in its collection.

The term ‘negro’ is given here in its original historical context.

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83) 'Dubuffet’s Right Eye, Alberto Giacometti’s Left Eye, Louise Nevelson’s Eye, Max Ernst’s Left Eye' 1960-63

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83)
Dubuffet’s Right Eye
Alberto Giacometti’s Left Eye
Louise Nevelson’s Eye
Max Ernst’s Left Eye (installation view)
1960-63
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83) 'Dubuffet’s Right Eye' 1960-63

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83)
Dubuffet’s Right Eye (installation view)
1960-63
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

German-born Brandt moved to London in the 1930s. In his long and varied career, he made many compelling portraits of people including Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, the Sitwell family, Robert Graves and E.M. Forster. For this series he photographed the eyes of well-known artists over several years, creating a substantial collection of intense and unique portraits. The pictures play upon ideas of artistic vision and the camera lens, which acts as a photographer’s ‘mechanical eye’.

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'Simple Still Life, Egg' 1950

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Simple Still Life, Egg (installation view)
1950
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Throughout his career, Sudek used various photographic styles but always conveyed an intensely lyrical vision of the world. Here, his formal approach to a simple still life presents a poetic statement, and evokes an atmosphere of contemplation. Sudek’s motto and advice to his students – ‘hurry slowly’ – encapsulates his legendary patience and the sense of meditative stillness in his photographs.

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78)
Luminogram (installation view)
1952
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78)
Luminogram (installation view)
1952
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation views)
1974-87
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust

 

 

Known for his dynamic street photography, Cohen’s work presents a fragmented, sensory image of his hometown of Wiles-Barre, Pennsylvania. This set of pictures was taken at a time when colour photography was just beginning to be recognised as a fine art. Until the 1970s, colour had largely been associated with other advertising or family snapshots, and was not thought of as a legitimate medium for artists. Cohen and other photographers like William Eggleston transferred this perception using the dye-transfer printing process. Although complicated and time-consuming, the technique results in vibrant and high quality colour prints.

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation view detail)
1974-87
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation view detail)
1974-87
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust

 

Graham Smith (British, b. 1947) 'What she wanted & who she got' 1982

 

Graham Smith (British, b. 1947)
What she wanted & who she got (installation view)
1982
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Since the 1980s, Graham Smith has been photographing his hometown of South Bank near Middlesbrough. His images convey his deep sensitivity towards the effects of changing working conditions on the former industrial north-east. In this photograph, despite the suggested humour of the title, we are left wondering who the couple are and what the nature of their relationship might be.

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968) 'Spomenik #3' 2006

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968)
Spomenik #3
2006
C-type print

The Kosmaj monument in Serbia is dedicated to soldiers of the Kosmaj Partisan detachment from World War II.

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968) 'Spomenik #4' 2007

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968)
Spomenik #4
2007
C-type print

This monument, authored by sculptor Miodrag Živković, commemorates the Battle of Sutjeska, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the former Yugoslavia.

 

 

Kempenaers toured the balkans photographing ’Spomeniks’ – monuments built in former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and ’70s on the sites of Second World War battles and concentration camps. Some have been vandalised in outpourings of anger against the former regime, while others are well maintained. In Kempenaers’ photographs, the monuments appear otherworldly, as if dropped from outer space into a pristine landscape.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 2RL
Phone: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 – 17.30
Friday 10.00 – 21.30

V&A website

V&A Photography Centre website

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14
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus’ at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 29th February – 24th May 2020

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur.

The Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

 

“Moments even of beauty. “Well I speak of ‘the lust of the eye’ – a biblical phrase – because much of the appeal of battle is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange… but, there is of course an element of beauty in this. And I must say that this, is, surely from ancient times one of the most enduring appeals of battle.””

.
Anonymous. From Episode 26 of ‘The World Art War’, 1973-74

 

 

The lust of the eye

While “there has been a long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones”, and this exhibition “explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men,” how do war photographs taken by women differ from their male counterparts? What does being a woman bring to the table of war photography that is different, in terms of engagement with people, feeling, context, and time and place? Do they have to differ?

The press release states that, “Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them.” In other words they defy the patriarchal structures that define contemporary society, because they operate outside what is expected of them. But does that make their photographs any different to that of men? Or, while defying hegemonic structures, do they still buy into a systematic photographic representation of war that has existed for decades?

While the press release offers a sop to difference – positing that, “in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population” – this nuancing is not greatly evident in the photographs in this posting.

Personally what I am looking for is a more empathetic way photography can portray the effects of war through storytelling, not just the physical evidence – I was there, I captured this – but the feelings that war evokes. I, for one, never get this from the war photography of the photojournalists. The images they make are made for the fast-moving world of news reportage, and they are always working to find the one image, the one instance, that bears “witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers.” Rarely does this strategy work.

Much of the display of the appeal of battle in the history of war photography “is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange…” With much war photography, “there is of course an element of beauty in this.” Consider Carolyn Cole’s ethereally beautiful photograph Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia (2003, below). Who could not agree with the artist that there is not an element of beauty in this – held in opposition to its being “other” than reportage.

But if you read the poem Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) by the British war poet Keith Douglas (below), dead at 24 on the battlefield of Normandy, this poem has more engagement, more heartfelt feeling about war, death, love and loss in its prophetic lines than a thousand images I will never remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) (1943)

Keith Douglas 

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone,
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.

 

Remember the war poet Keith Douglas (English, 1920-44) killed in the Invasion of Normandy on June 9, 1944 at the age of 24.

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain' 1937

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain
1937
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Fall of the citadel' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Fall of the citadel. The black cloud of smoke mounts high after first bombs have been dropped by P38s, Saint-Malo, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau' Germany, 1945

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau
Germany, 1945
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

Lee Miller wrote: ‘Prisoners were prowling these heaps, some of which were burning, in the hope of finding something more presentable than what they were wearing already’

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary' 1946

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary
1946
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' April 1967

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US Navy officer Vernon Wike with a dying US Marine at the Battle of Hill 881, near Khe Sanh
April 1967
Gelatin silver print

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' September 1966

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US bombs pummel Binh Dinh province
September 1966
Gelatin silver print

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon' 1976

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia' 30 May 1991

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia
30 May 1991
Pigment print on baryta paper
42 x 29.7 cm
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

Fall of Addis Ababa. F.D.R.P.E. (Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People). Ethiopia, May 30, 1991

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945) 'Nouenna, Western Sahara' December 1976

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945)
Nouenna, Western Sahara. A woman holds her child and a rifle during training of Polisario soldiers in Western Sahara. The Polisario was an army dedicated to fighting Moroccan and Mauritanian occupation
December 1976
Gelatin silver print
© Christine Spengler

 

 

The exhibition Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus is devoted to photojournalistic coverage of international wars and conflicts. On display are some 140 images shot between 1936 and 2011 by a number of women photojournalists and documentary photographers: Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), Françoise Demulder (1947-2008), Catherine Leroy (1944-2006), Susan Meiselas (b. 1948), Lee Miller (1907-1977), Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014), Christine Spengler (b. 1945) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937). Their pictures provide a fragmentary insight into the complex reality of war, taking in a range of military theatres from the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War to more recent international conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The positions of the eight photographers present different ways of engaging with war and its effects – from traditional war reporting and embedded photojournalism to innovative approaches to social documentary photography. The particular perspectives chosen for the exhibition shift between objective distance and personal emotional involvement.

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur, the exhibition focuses on women’s positions, making clear the long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones. In the process, it explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men. Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them. On the other hand, in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population.

The pictures shown in the exhibition were primarily intended for the fast-moving world of news reportage. Their distribution via mass media has made them a significant force, influencing the discourses being conducted around war and discussions about the controversial impact of images of war. Shot over a period of almost a century, these pictures also bear witness to the evolution of photojournalism as a professional field – especially when seen in the context of a constantly changing media landscape that is once again undergoing radical upheaval as the digital revolution takes its course.

The photographers’ choice of visual and narrative strategies is the product of an ongoing quest, as they seek to bear witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers, to sensitise them to the complex geo- and sociopolitical circumstances in the combat zones, and ultimately to have an effect on people’s attitudes and actions by making these situations visible. In an age when global conflict is a constant, these strategies continue to express the belief that engaging with images of violence can help us to take responsibility and bring about change.

 

The Women behind the Camera

In her pictures of the Spanish Civil War, German Jewish photographer Gerda Taro (1910-1937) sided with the political agenda of the Republicans. With the genre of photo essays still in its infancy, her pictures found their way into magazines like Vu and Regards. Taro was the first woman war photographer to be killed in the field: her tragic death in 1937 at the age of only twenty-six garnered international attention. However, she faded into oblivion soon afterwards, as picture agencies increasingly accredited her photographs to her partner Robert Capa.

In 1944, as a correspondent for the fashion magazine Vogue, American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977) began documenting the Allied push against the German Reich. Initially commissioned to take pictures in a military hospital, Miller found herself on the front line owing to an internal error in military communications. She accompanied the Allied troops as they advanced from Normandy into southern Germany. Miller was one of the group of photojournalists who witnessed the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps at firsthand directly after their liberation.

One of the best-known photojournalists of the Vietnam War is French photographer Catherine Leroy (1944-2006). Her pictures give a clear indication of the freedom of movement she enjoyed on the front lines, where she took photographs of the conflict both from the air and on the ground, often creating short sequences of images showing a particular chain of events. Magazines like Paris Match and Life made use of the narrative potential of these pictures and printed full-page spreads of her work.

Françoise Demulder (1947-2008) likewise began her career in Vietnam, where in 1975, after most foreign journalists had already left the country, she took exclusive pictures of North Vietnamese troops invading Saigon. While working for the Gamma and Sipa Press photo agencies, Demulder also turned her attention to military actions and their impact on the civilian population.

Christine Spengler (b. 1945), who was born in Alsace, took her first photographs of an armed conflict in Chad. Later, in the 1970s, she began documenting a range of conflicts and crises in different parts of the world, including Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Iran, Western Sahara and Lebanon. A particular focus of her photographs are the local women and children and the lives they lead behind the front lines.

As an independent photographer, American Susan Meiselas (b. 1948) documented the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Her photo of the “Molotov Man” went on to become a cult image and is still in circulation today as a symbol of protest used in a wide range of contexts. Meiselas, who would become a Magnum photographer, chose colour as a medium for her documentary work at a time when its use was mainly limited to commercial projects. Her book Nicaragua is one of the earliest colour publications documenting war.

American Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), who has worked for the Los Angeles Times since 1994, also takes pictures in colour. She has worked as a photojournalist in the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, Liberia and Iraq. Her photographs, which are still used today in both print and online media, reveal a contemporary approach to war photography that is a reflection as much as anything of technical changes within the profession.

In the 1990s German photographer Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014) began working in war and crisis zones ranging from the Balkans to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Niedringhaus felt a special sense of connection to the civilian population, whose living conditions she documented. As an “embedded journalist”, she would accompany soldiers on operations, reporting up-close on their deployment in the different combat zones. On 4 April 2014, Niedringhaus was shot and killed inside a base used by security forces in Khost Province during her coverage of the elections in Afghanistan.

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website [Online] Cited 11/03/2020

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter's burned house in Monimbó, asking "Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer", Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter’s burned house in Monimbó, asking “Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer”, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua' July 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua
July 1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall, Managua, Nicaragua' 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall, Managua, Nicaragua
1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes' April 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes, is painted over by Salem Yuel. Symbols of the leader disappeared quickly throughout Baghdad soon after US troops arrived in the city and took control, Baghdad, Iraq
April 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq' 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq
2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia
August 2003
Gelatin silver print
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia' August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia
August 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq' August 2004

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq, where American forces spent weeks bombing and fighting their way to the city’s holy Imam Ali Shrine, before negotiating an end to the fighting, Najaf, Iraq
August 2004
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers with the Royal Canadian Regiment during a patrol in the Panjwaii district, southwest of Kandahar, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'An Afghan boy holds a toy gun' September 2009

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
An Afghan boy holds a toy gun as he enjoys a ride with others on a merry-go-round to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Kabul, Afghanistan
September 2009
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm in his backpack while his unit pushes further into the western part of the city, Fallujah, Iraq
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat. Seconds later, the Canadian patrol comes under attack by militants who toss grenades over the wall, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip' March 2006

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip
March 2006
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book cover

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book cover

 

 

Discover eight remarkable women war photographers who have documented harrowing and unforgettable crises and combat around the world for the past eighty years.

Women have been on the front lines of war photography for more than a century. With access to places men cannot go and with startling empathy in the face of danger, the women who photograph war lend a unique perspective to the consequences of conflict. From intimate glimpses of daily life to the atrocities of conflict, this powerful book reveals the range and depth of eight women photographers’ contributions to wartime photojournalism.

Each photographer is introduced by a brief, informative essay followed by reproductions of a selection of their works. Included here are images by Lee Miller, who documented the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald. The first woman to parachute into Vietnam, Catherine Leroy was on the ground during the Tet Offensive and was captured by the North Vietnamese Army at the age of 22. Susan Meiselas raised international awareness around the Somoza regime’s catastrophic effects in Nicaragua.

German reporter Anja Niedringhaus worked on assignment in nearly every major conflict of the 1990s, from the Balkans to Libya, Iraq to Afghanistan. The work of Carolyn Cole, Francoise Demulder, Christine Spengler, and Gerda Taro round out this collective profile of courage under pressure and of humanity in the face of war.

163 colour photographs

 

About the Authors

Anne-Marie Beckmann is an art historian and curator. She is Director of the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany. She has published several books on photography. Felicity Korn is an art historian, curator, and an advisor to the Director General at the Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was previously a curator at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt.

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book pages

 

 

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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24
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Lartigue: Life in Color’ at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Visited September 2019 posted

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 1st September 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

 

A posting on this exhibition with some iPhone images I took in Budapest. I was lucky enough to see the exhibition the day before it closed.

What struck me most was Lartigue’s restrained use of colour. Mainly family portraits and landscapes, these photographs integrate a reduced colour palette with the line and form of the image. Subtle yet dynamic, the whimsical and poetic Ektachrome photographs were a revelation. You could say that there is seemingly nothing unusual about any of these photographs but just look – look at the light that radiates across Florette in Venice, the donkey and the washing, the green umbrella and tree laden with snow or the boys looking around to stare at the camera – and there is, indeed, something uncanny in the everyday. Just to see those two birds flying towards you in The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960 and to raise your camera to capture them mid-flight perfectly framed between the trees – what a moment!

While the original transparencies have faded, digital technology and restoration allows us to see them in all their glory: sometimes low depth of field, but always with a strong visual structure, these photographs form a holistic feeling as a body of images, a portrait of life in colour. Lartigue’s sense of fun is also evident in many images. There is no sense of the ego of the photographer in any of these images… they are, just so. Considered, concise and in colour (which is unusual for this time period) they possess an inimitable joie de vivre. This posting also features Lartigue’s early Autochromes which were interesting but nowhere as important as his later Ektachromes.

With a careful eye for composition, colour, and geometry, Lartigue’s background (in which he saw everything with his painter’s eye) is clearly translated in the pictorial construction of these sublime photographs.

Marcus

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

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was the best-known “amateur” in the history of photography, famously discovered by the art world and given an exhibition at MoMA in New York when he was in his late sixties. He began by recording the pastimes and customs of his wealthy Parisian milieu, indulging his fascination with sports and aviation, and throughout his long life he was never without his camera. His friendships extended to the superstars of French culture, but he also made thousands of photographs of his family, wives, and lovers. His work was irresistibly warm and engaging.

Although known for his black-and-white work, Lartigue loved colour film, experimenting with the Autochrome process in the teens and twenties and embracing Ektachrome in the late 1940s. His colour work, reproduced here for the first time, is astonishingly fresh: the French countryside, the women in his life, famous friends (Picasso, Fellini), and glimpses from his travels all come alive in this delightful book. (Text from the Amazon website)

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Around Pau' France, December 1912 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Around Pau (installation view)
France, December 1912
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Mrs Folletête, Rico, me, Sim, Manik and Mummy' Rouzat, France, September 16, 1913 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Mrs Folletête, Rico, me, Sim, Manik and Mummy (installation view)
Rouzat, France, September 16, 1913
Automchrome, triggered
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Simone Roussel driving the "two-wheeled bob"' Rouzat, France, September 1913

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Simone Roussel driving the “two-wheeled bob”
Rouzat, France, September 1913
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm
© Ministère de la Culture France/Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue, France

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'M. Folletête and Henry Lartigue' La Baule, France, May 1915 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
M. Folletête and Henry Lartigue (installation view)
La Baule, France, May 1915
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi at the Château de la Garoupe' Cap d'Antibes, France, 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi at the Château de la Garoupe (installation view)
Cap d’Antibes, France, 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi' Cap d'Antibes, France, May 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi (installation view)
Cap d’Antibes, France, May 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi' Rouzat, France, 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi (installation view)
Rouzat, France, 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi and Germaine Chalom' Cannes, France, 1927 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi and Germaine Chalom (installation view)
Cannes, France, 1927
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi in l'île Saint-Honorat' Cannes, May 1927

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi in l’île Saint-Honorat
Cannes, May 1927
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm
© Ministère de la Culture France/ Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue, France

 

 

Lartigue’s autochromes comprise a colourful reunion with all our favourite characters. We recognise Lartigue’s older brother Zissou with his glider (1914), and his beloved cousin Simone in her (blue!) bobsled wearing a stylish green ensemble (1913). But the plane is no longer airborne. And Simone is keeping still not to ruin the picture, instead of crashing down a gravel road with her tongue out, like she would in sepia. Due to the long exposure time dictated by the autochrome, Lartigue’s relatives are stalled in their playful banter to accommodate the sluggishness of the early color process.

“Is this still Lartigue? Are we disfiguring an artist?” curator Martine Ravache asks in the accompanying exhibition catalogue Lartigue: Life in Color, recently published by Abrams. Apart from the occasional leaping dog or bobsled, the subject matter is often quaint, even sentimental. The colour prints display exactly the pictorial quality for which Lartigue’s black-and-white work had been deemed antithetical. This realisation, which is as fascinating as it is uncomfortable, is downplayed by presenting Lartigue as a painter at heart who proclaimed to “see everything with my painter’s eye.”

Yet the picturesque subject matter is not enough to undermine his status as the lovechild of modernity – on the contrary. From the pink pastel of Bibi’s dainty hands (1921) to the fiery red nails of Florette and her glossy magazine (1961), the prints testify to Lartigue’s eagerness to experiment with any new photographic process he could get his hands on. The colour work constitutes more than the diaristic musings of a man in love. Marcelle “Coco” Paolucci is conspicuous by her absence, a hiatus that speaks more to the stalled development of colour photography than disaffection for his second wife. Discouraged by the sluggishness of the autochrome process, Lartigue stopped photographing in colour in 1927. He did not start again until 1949, after two world wars and the development of Ektachrome film. …

Tracing the incremental disclosure of Lartigue’s albums since Szarkowski reveals the making of an artist through careful curation. And so the exhibition texts about Lartigue’s love for the seasons or his relationship with God sidestep the more uneasy subtext: the jerky trajectory of Lartigue’s colour photographs from the amateur album to the museum wall.

Hinde Haest is a photography curator based in Amsterdam.

Hinde Haest. Lartigue: Life in Color,” on the Aperture website February 3rd, 2016 [Online] Cited 08/11/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest showing original Ektachrome transparencies

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Cycling race between Nice-La Turbie France, March 1954' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Cycling race between Nice-La Turbie (installation view)
France, March 1954
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' Venice, May 1954

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette, Venice, May 1954
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Havanna, Cuba, 1957'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Havanna, Cuba, 1957
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Cádiz, Spain, 1957' (during his trip to Cuba) (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Cádiz, Spain, 1957 (during his trip to Cuba) (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Saint-Dalmas de Tende France, 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Saint-Dalmas de Tende, France, 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Manfredonia, Italy, February 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Manfredonia, Italy, February 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Via del Mandrione, Rome, Italy 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Via del Mandrione, Rome, Italy 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Vendeé, France 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Vendeé, France 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'San Sebastian, Spain, 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
San Sebastian, Spain, 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

One of the surprise-oeuvres of photography is that of the French painter Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986), who was born 125 years ago. He became a world-renowned photographer at the age of 69, following his extremely successful solo exhibition showcased at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, immediately becoming unevadable in the history of photography.

He was documenting his life from the age of 6, keeping an “optical notebook.” He is interested in everything, his curiosity knows no limits. He is mesmerised by the possibility of capturing the one-time, unreproducible experiences, situations, and the observed visual interrelations in his photographs. He is not only seized by the joy of seeing, or the creation of images, but also by using the technical device itself, the camera, and the vast repository of possibilities it offers.

His main subjects were the achievements of technical innovation, flying, car races, speed, social life, women, beauty, and traveling. He magically turned the small miracles of everyday life, the enchanting conjunctions of objects and lights into a common memory for all of us. He disregarded photographic conventions; he followed his heart when taking photographs, he enjoyed observation, photography, and life itself.

Lartigue is a photographer of the bright side of life, whose visual diary reveals a history of the 20th century filled with beauty and joyful moments.

His full photographic oeuvre consists of 120,000 negatives, glass plates, slides, moving pictures, and 126 photo albums with the accompanying texts.

The Life in Color exhibition showcases a selection of the colour images making up about one-third of the oeuvre, providing an overview of not only the most determining relationships he had, his journeys and his everyday life, but also his experimentation with the various techniques of colour photography. (Gabriella Csizek, curator)

Text from the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center website [Online] Cited 09/11/2019

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' Piozzo, Italy, 1960 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette (installation view)
Piozzo, Italy, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Park Bagatelle, Paris, France, June 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Park Bagatelle, Paris, France, June 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Étretat, France, June 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Étretat, France, June 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins' France, 1960

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins
France, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1960'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Driven by his curiosity and his perpetual search for innovation, Lartigue adopts color processes shortly after their commercialization. The Kodachromes (24 x 36) and the Ektachromes (6×6) followed the autochromes of its beginnings (dated 1912), which delighted 20th century photographers, both amateurs and professionals. Colour therefore adds a new dimension to the speed and immediacy that are at the heart of Lartigue’s work. His painter’s eye finds in this practice, which allows him to take visual “notes” to rework afterwards, a formidable transcription of his pictorial research.

His predilection goes to the subjects of his immediate environment: his life within his family, his games at the castle of Rouzat, sports of all kinds. Fascinated by nature as a whole, and particularly by flowers, the artist continually fixes its changing nuances, both on canvas and on film. This obsession is also found in the repetition of the views from his window in Opio (Alpes-Maritimes), and in the many images of Florette, his wife for forty years.

Little by little, Lartigue opens himself to other subjects, applying himself to testify to the daily life of the privileged and the more popular classes. This coincided with a period of openness to the world: from 1955, Lartigue multiplied his travels, discovering new landscapes and confronting the unknown. Leaving the seaside resorts where he used to spend his holidays (Basque Country, French Riviera or Normandy), it is Italy, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba which are photographed in turn in black and white and in colors by Jacques Henri Lartigue.

Extract from the press release from the Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette's hands, Brie-le-Néflier' France, June 1961

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette’s hands, Brie-le-Néflier
France, June 1961
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, February 1962'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, February 1962
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'On board the Christoforo Colombo during the New York-Cannes trip' May 1962 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
On board the Christoforo Colombo during the New York-Cannes trip (installation view)
May 1962
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Opio, France, 1963' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Opio, France, 1963 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' 1964

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette
1964
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Parma, Italy 1965' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Parma, Italy 1965 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bretagne, France, 1965' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bretagne, France, 1965 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette and Stéphanie' Opio, France, Spring 1964 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette and Stéphanie (installation view)
Opio, France, Spring 1964
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette, Megève March 1965'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette, Megève, March 1965
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1965'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1965
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1970'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1970
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest
8 Nagymező Street, 1065 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 1 413 1310

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest website

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20
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘Brassaï’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 13th May 2018

Curator: Mr. Peter Galassi

 

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino [View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino]' c. 1933

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino
View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino

c. 1933
[Nuit / Night 53]
40.1 x 51 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

For those who know how to look

Not everyone can see. It takes a great eye and a great mind, and the liberation of that mind, to be able to transform the mundane, the everyday, the vernacular – into art. Brassaï’s folklore, his mythology of life, suggests that the life of others (those living on the edge) is as valuable and essential to the formation of culture as any other part of existence.

Brassaï’s work comes alive at night and, as Alejandra Uribe Ríos observes, “The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration.” While he got some of his friends to stage scenes for his book Paris by night – acting as prostitutes and customers hanging around in back alleys – it matters not one bit. The artist was embedded in this world and represents what he knows, what he has seen in his mind’s eye.

The density of his photographs is incredible – their atmosphere thick and heavy; revealing and beautiful. “In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.” The first and last, a circular compaction of time and space into the eternal present, objects as they are in themselves and will always be.

That fascinating presence can be felt even today, for that is what the time freeze of photography does: it “look backwards and forwards in the same instance.”

Brassaï saw something clearly, so that we might see it now. Look at the seemingly mundane space portrayed in Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (1933, below) from his book Paris de jour / Paris by Day. The photograph could be taken at night, but it is day! The small amount of sunlight falls on the tied-back curtain in the doorway; the crumpled mat lies outside the door; the two doors compete for our visual attention – one the solid presence that holds up the left hand side of the image, the other the vanishing point in the distance; and the eye is led down to this door by the pavement and the gutter with a band of water emphasising the form. The verticality of the worn and ancient stone work is emphasised by the modern metal box in front of it, leading the eye up to the Concierge sign only, mind you, for numbers 5 & 7. But then the mystery… what is going on above the ancient door at the rear – the sky, a ceiling, another wall lit by the last rays of the sun? Such a dense, complex image that requires an intimate knowledge of the mystery of place, in both the artist and the viewer.

Here we see Brassaï in Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème, standing in the snow at night, heavy overcoat, hat, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, squinting through his camera to previsualise not just the photograph he is taking, but it’s final, physical embodiment, the print. In our world today of Insta-photos, millions and millions of photographs that mean basically nothing, and where anyone without training can pick up a camera and think of themselves a photographer, there is something to be said for taking the time to train and educate your eye and your mind. Only then might you reveal something about the world and, possibly, yourself as well.

Marcus

@mapfrefcultura #expo_brassai

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

 

 

“I was eager to penetrate this other world, this fringe world, the secret, sinister world of mobsters, outcasts, toughs, pimps, whores, addicts, inverts. Rightly or wrongly, I felt at the time that this underground world represented Paris at its least cosmopolitan, its most alive, its most authentic, that in these colourful faces of its underworld there had been preserved from age to age, almost without alteration, the folklore of its most remote past.”

.
Brassaï, 1976

 

“In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.”

.
Brassaï, undated note

 

“To oblige the model to behave as if the photographer isn’t there really is to stage a comic performance. What’s natural is precisely not to dodge the photographer’s presence. The natural thing in that situation is for the model to pose honestly.”

.
Brassaï, undated note

 

“The night suggests, he does not teach. The night finds us and surprises us by its strangeness; it liberates in us the forces that, during the day, are dominated by reason.”

“Night does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbes and surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces within us which are dominated by our reason during the daytime.”

.
Brassaï

 

“The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration. The train tracks, the lovers, the fog, the posters, the ballet and the cabarets. Everything is worthy of portraying for those who know how to look and that is undoubtedly one of Brassai’s merits: embodying the everyday, rescuing the magical, the lyrical, the mystery of common life, and doing it with elegance, converting the seemingly trivial into a artwork.”

.
Alejandra Uribe Ríos

 

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Porteria, París [Concierge's Lodge, Paris]' 1933

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Porteria, París
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris

1933
[Paris de jour / Paris by Day 686]
29.3 x 22.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro' 1930-32

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
La Torre Eiffel vista a través del reixat del Trocadéro
La torre Eiffel vista a través de la reja del Trocadero
The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro

1930-32
[Nuit / Night 1; variant of Paris de nuit / Paris by Night, plate 57]
30 x 23.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Apagant un fanal, Rue Émile Richard
Apagando una farola, rue Émile Richard
Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard

c. 1932
[Nuit / Night 267]
22.9 x 28.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire' 1934

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire
1934
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 30.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie' 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Meuca, a prop de la Place d’Italie
Prostituta, cerca de la Place d’Italie
Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie
1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 333]
29.9 x 22.9 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

Introduction

Fundación MAPFRE is launching its 2018 exhibition programme in Barcelona with the exhibition Brassaï, a comprehensive survey of the career of this celebrated Hungarian-born French photographer whose work helped to define the spirit of Paris in the 1930s. Brassaï was one of the most important of the group of European and American photographers whose work in the inter-war years greatly enriched photography’s potential as a form of artistic expression.

The artist began to take photographs in 1929 or 1930, maintaining an intense level of activity throughout the 1930s. Brassaï’s principal subject was Paris, where he settled in 1924, intending to become a painter. Around the end of World War I the artistic centre of the city had shifted from Montmartre to Montparnasse where most of the artists, constituting a major international community, lived like a large family. Brassï was fascinated by the French capital and later said that he started to take photographs in order to express his passion for the city at night. Soon, however, he also began to take portraits, nudes, still life, images of everyday life and depictions of picturesque corners of the city and moments captured during the day.

Brassaï’s confidence in the power of blunt, straightforward photography to transform what it describes, as well as his talent for extracting from ordinary life iconic images of lasting force, won him an important place among the pioneers of modern photography.

This exhibition offers a survey of the artist’s career through more than 200 works (vintage photographs, a number of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material) grouped into twelve thematic sections, of which the two devoted to Paris in the 1930s are the most important. Produced by Fundación MAPFRE and curated by Peter Galassi, chief curator of the Department of Photography at the MoMA, New York, from 1991 to 2011, this is the first retrospective exhibition on Brassaï to be organised since 2000 (Centre Pompidou) and the first to be held in Spain since 1993.

The exhibition benefits from the exceptional loan of the Estate Brassaï Succession (Paris) and other loans from some of the most important institutions and private collections in Europe and the United States, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou (París), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, David Dechman and Michel Mercure, ISelf Collection (London) and Nicholas and Susan Pritzker.

 

The Photographer – Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)

Brassaï (the pseudonym of Gyulá Halász) was born in 1899 in Brassó, Transylvania (present-day Braşov in Rumania), from where he subsequently took his name for signing his photographs (Brassaï means “from Brassó”).

After studying art in Budapest and Berlin, he moved to Paris and very soon began to earn occasional money and establish a reputation by selling articles and caricatures to German and Hungarian magazines. Photographs were rapidly replacing traditional magazine illustrations and Brassaï also functioned as a one-man photo-agency. Eventually he started making photographs himself, abandoning painting and sculpting, disciplines for which he nevertheless retained great interest and to which he returned during his career. Around 1900, an aesthetic movement had justified its claim that photography was as a fine art by imitating the appearance of the traditional arts. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that a new generation rejected that approach and began exploring the artistic potential of plain, ordinary photographs. When the tradition that they launched began to achieve widespread recognition in the 1970s, Brassaï would be recognised as one of its leading figures.

During the German occupation of Paris, Brassaï was obliged to stop taking photographs and he thus returned to drawing and writing. In 1949 he obtained French nationality. After the war he once again devoted part of his time to photography and traveled regularly to undertake commissions for the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar. He died in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (France) in 1984 without ever returning to his native Brassó.

 

The sections of the exhibition

Paris by Night

Paris by Night was in fact the result of a commission which the publisher Charles Peignot gave to the young and still unknown Brassaï. The book, of which a copy is presented in the exhibition, was published in December 1932 and was extremely successful thanks in part to its modern design, pages without margins and richly toned photogravures. Brassaï continued to explore nocturnal Paris throughout the 1930s, developing a personal vision that is embodied in numerous prints in the exhibition.

They evoke the city’s dynamic, vibrant mood: the close-up image of a gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral rather than a conventional view of that building, or the Pont Royal seen from the water rather than from above. These are almost always silent images in which time seems to stand still.

Pleasures

When Brassaï reorganised his archive just after World War II, gathered under the rubric Plaisirs he included his pictures of small-time criminals and prostitutes and other figures of Parisian low life together with images of Parisian entertainments, including cheap dance halls to local street fairs to the annual entertainments designed to flout bourgeois conventions. Brassaï obtained permission to work backstage at the famous Folies Bergère, which allowed him to observe everything that was happening from a high viewpoint. His images of Parisian low life transpose to the vivid new medium of photography a vital mythology that had been elaborated in literature and the traditional visual arts.

No one photographed Paris by night as skilfully as Brassaï but he also built up a considerable collection of images of the city by day. Its famous monuments, picturesque corners and details of everyday life are the subject of many of these photographs. Some of his images of the early 1930s reveal his interest in daring geometrical forms and abrupt truncation, for example his famous images of the city’s cobblestones. But even his boldest graphic experiments reflect his abiding fascination with the continuities of an enduring human civilisation.

Paris by day

Nobody photographed Paris at night as accurately as Brassaï, but also accumulated a considerable collection of images of the city in daylight. Monuments, picturesque corners or details of everyday life play a large part in these scenes.

Some of his photographs from the thirties also reflect his interest in geometric styles or abrupt cuts, as shown by the famous cobblestone images of city streets. But even these bolder graphic experiments reflect, like the rest of his images of the city, his permanent fascination with what for him was presented as a remote and inexhaustible tradition, in constant development.

Graffiti

The notion of graffiti as a powerful art form first emerged in the 20th century. Like African tribal objects, children’s art or that of the mentally ill, graffiti was considered more expressive and vital than the refined forms of traditional western art.

Brassaï was in fact one of the first to focus on this subject matter. He was an inveterate hoarder who throughout his life collected all types of cast-off objects and from almost the moment he began to take photographs he used the medium to record the graffiti he saw on the walls of Paris. He preferred examples of graffiti that had been incised or scratched to drawn or painted ones, as well as those in which the irregularity of the wall itself played an important role in aesthetic terms. He took hundreds of images of this type of which only a small selection is on display here.

Minotaure

Between the time of his arrival in Paris in early 1924 and his first steps in photography taken six years later, Brassaï built up a large circle of friends within the international community of artists and writers in Montparnasse. They included Les deux aveugles [The two blind men], as the art critics Maurice Raynal and the Greek-born E. Tériade referred to themselves. In December 1932, the same month that Paris de nuit was published, Tériade invited Brassaï to photograph Picasso and his studios to illustrate the first issue of Minotaure, the deluxe art magazine that would be published in 1933 by the Swiss publisher Albert Skira. Copies of various different issues are on display in this section. This collaboration marked the starting point of Brassaï’s friendship with Picasso, one of the most important of his entire life. Over the following years Brassaï would play an important role in the life of the magazine, particularly with the projects for which he collaborated with Salvador Dalí and as an illustrator to texts by André Breton, although in some cases as an artist in his own right. The first number of the magazine included a series of nudes by Brassaï and his growing graffiti series, while number 7 devoted several pages to Brassaï’s nocturnal visions. All these evoke the artist’s modernity and his relationship with the most important circles of the Parisian avant-garde.

Personages / Characters

In 1949 in his prologue to Camera in Paris, a monograph on contemporary photographers, Brassaï paraphrased Baudelaire in The Painter of modern Life and established a line of continuity between the art of the photographer and that of some of the great artists of the past such as Rembrandt, Goya and Toulouse-Lautrec. In this sense he explained how, like them, photography could elevate ordinary subjects to the level of the universal. The people depicted in this gallery reflect that idea as not only do we see a worker at Les Halles market, a transvestite or a penitent in Seville, but through the dignity given to them by the image all of them exceed their individuality and come to represent a collective.

Places and things

One of Brassaï’s earliest projects, which was never produced, was a book of photographs of cacti. Many years later, in 1957, he made a short film on animals. Most of his photographs of objects or places, however, focus on human creations, reflecting his boundless curiosity about the people that made them, used them or lived in them.

During his trips Brassaï took numerous photographs of which a small selection are on display here: a view of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia from a high viewpoint, a painted wall in Sacromonte, Granada, and a shop window in New Orleans. In some of these images, such as Vineyard, Château Mouton-Rothschild (June 1953), the viewpoint jumps sharply from the foreground to the background, splitting the image in half along its horizontal axis – a pictorial device invented by Brassaï.

Society

During the mid-1930s and just after World War II, Brassaï photographed at more than two dozen gatherings of Parisian high society – costume balls, fancy soirées, and other events both at private homes and such elegant venues as the Ritz – as well as the famous Nuit de Longchamp (the race course just outside of Paris) every summer from 1936 to 1939. At these events he had much less opportunity to intervene in the action than in Parisian dance halls and bars, but he nonetheless was able to create lasting images of a distinct social reality. Perhaps the most extraordinary of them is his photograph of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Art Nouveau interior of the swank restaurant Maxim’s (completed just a few years before the Casa Garriga Nogués). Although that image has been famous since it was made in 1949, Brassaï’s series on Parisian high society is poorly known, and several of the photographs are presented for the first time in this exhibition.

Body of a woman

During the occupation of Paris (1940-1944), Brassaï declined to work for the Germans and so was unable to photograph openly. His only income seems to have come from a clandestine commission from Picasso to photograph the master’s sculptures. Partly at Picasso’s urging, Brassaï returned to drawing. Most of the drawings that he made in 1943-45, like most of the drawings that survive from his time as an art student in Berlin in 1921-22, are female nudes. The same is the case with many of the sculptures that he started to produce after the war, often made from stones worn by the effect of water.

It would be foolish to attempt to disguise the intensity of Brassaï’s male gaze behind the curtain of a purely aesthetic pursuit of “form.” What is distinctive and powerful in his images of the female body is their unembarrassed carnal urgency.

Portraits: artists, writers, friends

Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henry Miller (who gave Brassaï the sobriquet “The eye of Paris”), Pierre Reverdy, Jacques Prévert, Henri Matisse and Léon-Paul Fargue are just a few of the subjects of the portraits on display in this section of the exhibition.

Most of Brassaï’s portraits are of people that he knew and perhaps as a result of that closeness they convey a powerful spirit of frankness, unencumbered by posturing. It is also true; however, that Brassaï regularly achieved that spirit even when he did not know the subject.

Sleep

Broadly speaking, the hallmark of advance European photography in the 1920s and 1930s was a new sense of mobility and spontaneity. But spontaneity was alien to Brassaï’s sensibility, which instead sought clarity and stability. Instead of the popular, hand-held camera, a 35mm Leica, Brassaï chose a camera that used glass plates and often stood on a tripod. As if to declare his independence from the aesthetic of mobility, he chose sleeping in public as a recurrent motif.

The street

Brassaï’s work for Harper’s Bazaar led him to travel in France and in numerous other places, from Spain to Sweden, the United States and Brazil. While the roots of his talent lay in Paris he thus produced an extensive body of photographs taken in places that were unfamiliar to him. The exhibition includes a number of these works, three of them depicting Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Chez Suzy' 1931-32

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Chez Suzy
1931-32
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 352]
30 x 23.8 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Nude in the Bathtub' 1938

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Nu a la banyera
Desnudo en la bañera
Nude in the Bathtub
1938
[Nu / Naked 199]
23.5 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 2]
49.8 x 40.4 cm
Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris © Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'At Magic City' c. 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Al Magic City
En Magic City
At Magic City
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 439]
23.2 x 16.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare' 1937

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Amants a l’estació de Saint-Lazare
Amantes en la Gare Saint-Lazare
Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare
c. 1937
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 143]
23.6 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Haute Couture Soirée' 1935

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vetllada d’alta costura
Velada de alta costura
Haute Couture Soirée
1935
[Soirées 85 (image reversed)]
17.6 x 21.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lobster Seller, Seville' 1951

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Venedor de marisc, Sevilla
Vendedor de marisco, Sevilla
Lobster Seller, Seville
1951
[Étranger / Foreign 401]
49.3 x 37 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'New Orleans' 1957

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
New Orleans
1957
[Amérique / America 451]
35.9 x 29.4 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Montmartre' 1930-31

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Montmartre
1930-31
[Paris de jour / Paris by day 472.C]
29.8 x 39.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Jean Genet, Paris' 1948

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Jean Genet, Paris
1948
[Arts 787.E]
39.7 x 30.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures' 1939

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Picasso Tenant Une De Les Sculptures
Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures

1939
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris' 1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris
1932
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris

 

23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème' c. 1931-1932

 

Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème
c. 1931-1932
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250
Barcelona

Opening hours:
Mondays from 2 pm to 8 pm
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 8 pm
Sundays/holidays from 11 am to 7 pm

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04
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Images à la Sauvette’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 11th January – 23rd April 2017

 

No more, decisive moment

Following the relatively unknown photocollages of Josef Albers, a posting on one of the most famous artist books in the world, Images à la Sauvette (Images on the fly, Images on the run) – the American publishers Simon and Schuster choosing the punchier The Decisive Moment as the title of the American version.

While individual images are interesting, it is “the unique narrative form and the emphasis on the photographer’s text” in terms of the image layout and composition of the book that is so groundbreaking an aspect of the work. Cartier-Bresson sought not to capture one reality – the “decisive moment” – but a poetic reality based on the “impulsiveness of a desire, the personal anxiety in face of a moment to preserve.” It was his almost uncanny ability to pre-visualise the desire for a poetic moment (to visualise its emergence), and then translate that desire into images, that makes him such a great artist.

Agnès Sire observes in her text “De l’errance de l’oeil au moment qui s’impose, quelques pistes pour mieux voir,” (From the wandering of the eye to the right moment, a few ways to see better):

“In 1974, Cartier-Bresson would admit: “For me, the Leica is a sketchbook, a psychoanalyst’s couch, a machine gun, a big, hot kiss, an electromagnet, a memory, the mirror of memory.” There is no trace here of any supposed record of a reality, but rather, of memory (and thus the past), the psychoanalyst’s couch (to make the past re-emerge) and the mirror of memory (the image of the past). Clearly, this poetic accident does not lie within everyone’s reach but, through the camera, it presents itself to some, provided they are good at passing it on. And this is something which, according to Walker Evans, left no room for doubt in Cartier-Bresson’s case: “Cartier has always been a kind of spirit medium: poetry sometimes speaks through his camera.””

Thus the past, the image of the past and the transcendence of the past merge in the photography of Cartier-Bresson. In one image, and in the combination of images (much like the photocollages of Josef Albers), he lays out before us, “the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Instructive to this aim are the page layouts of the book at the bottom of the posting. Pages are divided into three or fours spaces. In the first layout you look down, you are drawn into, you move horizontally across; human figures are isolated, silhouetted with shadow, in shadow, against form.

In the second layout the shapes and emotions form a complex relationship: movement across with thick vibration of energy behind the ecstatic child (top left); a child’s eye view of the world with a constellation of stars behind (top right); a picture frame on a fragmented world (Seville, 1933, bottom left); and the tethered beasts and stick-like children (bottom right). Now squint your eyes and move them from one quadrant to another.

This is complex and thoughtful image making, on both a human and poetic scale. If the photographic lens let Cartier-Bresson “look into the rubble of the unconscious and of chance,” then it took an informed and intelligent mind to understand what the lens was seeing, even before the images were made evident, and to then give those events proper expression.

Marcus

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

 

 

Magazines end up wrapping french fries, while books remain.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

André Breton taught me to let the photographic lens look into the rubble of the unconscious and of chance.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1995

 

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

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Extract from the text by Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘The Decisive Moment’, Simon and Schuster, 1952

 

 

Cover by Henri Matisse of Henri Cartier-Bresson's 'Images à la Sauvette' (Verve, 1952)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952)
Cover by Henri Matisse
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Images à la Sauvette' at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Installation views of the exhibition 'Images à la Sauvette' at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

 

Installation views of the exhibition Images à la Sauvette at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

 

 

From January 11 to April 23, 2017, the Foundation devotes an exhibition to Cartier-Bresson’s famous publication Images à la Sauvette. Initated by the French publisher Tériade, the project is finally achieved on October 1952 as a French-American co-edition, with the contribution of Matisse and the American publishers Simon and Schuster. The latter chose “The Decisive Moment” as the title of the American version, and unintentionally imposed the motto which would define Cartier-Bresson’s work. Since its publication in 1952, Images à la Sauvette has received an overwhelming success. It is considered as “a Bible for photographers” according to Robert Capa’s words. The innovative design of the publication struck the art world with its refined format, the heliogravure quality and the strength of the image sequences. The publication reveals the inherent duality of Cartier-Bresson’s work; between the photographer’s intimate interpretation and his documentary approach.

Images à la Sauvette is the fruit of joined efforts of a famous art publisher, Tériade, a talented photographer, a painter at the peak of his career, Matisse, and two American publishers, Simon and Schuster. From his beginnings, Cartier‑Bresson considers the book as the outcome of his work. In the thirties, he met the publisher of Verve, Tériade, who he would later likely acknowledge to be his mentor. They plan, at the time, to carry out a book project on large cities rough areas together with Eli Lotar, Bill Brandt and Brassaï, but this ambitious project will never see the light of day.

Twenty years later and after a trip of three years in Asia, the Images à la Sauvette project finally began to materialise. The French title has been thoroughly thought out with his brother-in-law and cinema historian Georges Sadoul and evokes the snatchers or street peddlers. Cartier‑Bresson attested that the meaning of this idiomatic expression, the street vendors ready to run at the first request for a license, is very akin to his way of capturing images. Tériade would then prompt the Cardinal de Retz quote, the epigraph to Henri Cartier‑Bresson’s introductory text: “There is nothing in this world which does not have its decisive moment”. The American publisher hesitated to use a translation of the original French title and opted for something punchier, The Decisive Moment.

Images à la Sauvette established itself as an extremely pioneering work by its wish to claim the images strength as the unique narrative form and the emphasis on the photographer’s text. It proposes a daring purity, allowing the 24 x 36 to spread out on its very large format pages. A model of its kind with the heliogravure printing by the best craftsmen of the era, the Draeger brothers, and the splendid Matisse cover has been called “a Bible for photographers” by Robert Capa. In Spring 1951, Cartier-Bresson explains, “While our prints are beautiful and perfectly composed (as they should be), they are not photographs for salons […] In the end, our final image is the printed one.” This affirmation definitely proclaims Images à la Sauvette as an artist’s book.

Yet paradoxically, the book confirms a turning point in the life of the photographer who has co-founded Magnum Photos a few years earlier, in 1947, and which has contributed to guarantee the photographers authorship. The choice to separated the image portfolio before and after 1947 certifies this shift to the documentary. The significant size of the Reportage chapter in his introduction, as well as the recurrence of the plural pronoun evoking the cooperative, demonstrate this important change. The book structure in two definite parts reveals the inherent duality in Cartier‑Bresson’s work. Images à la Sauvette brings to light the photographer’s vision, which we thought to be torn between a very intimate interpretation of the inner world and, since the creation of Magnum, a more observational approach of the external world. Cartier-Bresson was fully aware of this coexistence and advocated a balance: “there is a reciprocal reaction between both these worlds which in the long run form only one. It would be a most dangerous over-simplification to stress the importance of one at the cost of the other in that constant dialogue.”

The exhibition presents a selection of vintage prints as well as numerous archival documents to recount the history of this publication, until its facsimile reprint by Steidl Verlag, in 2014. This edition comes with an additional booklet containing an essay by Clément Chéroux.

Text from Fondation HCB

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Seville, Spain, 1933' from 'Images à la Sauvette' (Verve, 1952), p. 27-28

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Seville, Spain, 1933
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 27-28
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Tehuantepec, Mexique, 1934'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Tehuantepec, Mexique, 1934
MEXICO. State of Oaxaca. Tehuantepec. 1934

From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 34
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Boston, United States, 1947'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Boston, United States, 1947
USA. Massachusetts. Boston. 1947.

From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 59-60
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Truman Capote, New Orleans, United States, July 1946'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Truman Capote, New Orleans, United States, July 1946
USA. Louisiana. New Orleans. US writer, Truman Capote. 1947.

From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 68
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

 

The great Henri Cartier-Bresson perfectly captured this decisive moment of petulant ingenue, Truman Capote. This photo was taken almost a year before Truman would publish his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms to great acclaim – a beautifully written story which is also partly autobiographical. He is about 22 years of age in this photo.

The unlikely couple met when contracted by Fortune Magazine to embark on a road trip together to the Deep South. Capote remembers Cartier-Bresson as…“dancing along the pavement like an agitated dragonfly, three Leicas winging from straps around his neck, a fourth one hugged to his eye … clicking away with a joyous intensity, a religious absorption.” (Text by John Rendell)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'es derniers jours de Kuomintang, Shanghai, Chine, décembre 1948 - janvier 1949'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
es derniers jours de Kuomintang, Shanghai, Chine, décembre 1948 – janvier 1949
Last days of Kuomintang, Shanghai, China, December 1948 – January 1949
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 127-128
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

CHINA. Shanghai. December 1948-January 1949. As the value of the paper money sank, the Kuomintang decided to distribute 40 grams of gold per person. With the gold rush, in December, thousands came out and waited in line for hours. The police, equipped with the remnants of the armies of the International Concession, made only a gesture toward maintaining order. Ten people were crushed to death.

 

 

Extract from The Decisive Moment

I, like many another boy, burst into the world of photography with a Box Brownie, which I used for taking holiday snapshots. Even as a child, I had a passion for painting, which I  “did” on Thursdays and Sundays, the days when French school children don’t have to go to school. Gradually, I set myself to try to discover the various ways in which I could play with a camera. From the moment that I began to use the camera and to think about it, however, there was an end to holiday snaps and silly pictures of my friends. I became serious. I was on the scent of something, and I was busy smelling it out.

Then there were the movies. From some of the great films, I learned to look, and to see. “Mysteries of New York, with Pearl White; the great films of D. W. Griffith – “Broken Blossoms”; the first films of Stroheim – “Greed”, Eisenstein’s “Potemkin”; and Dreyer’s “Jeanne d’Arc” – there were some of the things that impressed me deeply. Later I met photographers who had some of Atget’s prints. These I considered remarkable and, accordingly, I bought myself a tripod, a black cloth and a polished walnut camera three by four inches. The camera was fitted with – instead of a shutter – a lens-cap, which one took off and then put on to make the exposure. This last detail, of course, confined my challenge to the static world. Other photographic subjects seemed to me to be too complicated, or else to be “amateur stuff.” And by this time I fancied that by disregarding them, I was dedicating myself to Art with a capital “A.” Next I took to developing this Art of mine in my washbasin. I found the business of being a photographic Jack-of-All-Trades quite entertaining. […]

I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it. I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to “trap” life – we preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes. The idea of making a photographic reportage, that is to say, of telling a story in a sequence of pictures, was something which never entered my head at that time. I began to understand more about it later, as a result of looking at the work of my colleagues and at the illustrated magazines. In fact, it was only in the process of working for them that I eventually learned – bit by bit – how to make a reportage with a camera, how we make a picture-story.

I have travelled a good deal, though I don’t really know how to travel. I like to take my time about it, leaving between one country and the next an interval in which to digest what I’ve seen. Once I have arrived in a new country, I have an almost desire to settle down there, so as to live on proper terms with the country. I could never be a globe-trotter. […]

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us which can mould us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds – the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate.

But this takes care only of the content of the picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean a rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces, lines, and values. It is in this organization alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organization can stem only from a developed instinct.

Extract from the text by Henri Cartier-Bresson, in The Decisive Moment, Simon and Schuster, 1952.

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. '"Chez Gégène", Joinville-le-Pont, France, 1938'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
“Chez Gégène”, Joinville-le-Pont, France, 1938
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 16
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

FRANCE. The Val de Marne ‘departement’. Joinville-le-Pont, near Paris. 1938.
“A newly-wed bride and groom at an outdoor café on the Marne. The couple were here for the entire afternoon with a full wedding party which included uncles, aunts and small children of the family.”

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Henri Matisse and his model Micaela Avogadro, Vence, France, 1944'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Matisse and his model Micaela Avogadro, Vence, France, 1944
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 69
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

FRANCE. Nice. Cimiez district. February 1944. French painter Henri Matisse, with his model Micaela Avogadro.

 

 

The Decisive Moment: Trap or acme?

“There is nothing in this world which does not have its decisive moment.” This phrase, which comes from the memoirs of Cardinal de Retz first published in 1717, appears as the epigraph to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s introductory text for his first major book of photographs, Images à la Sauvette. It was his publisher, Tériade, the creator of the legendary Verve collection, who suggested using the quotation in 1952. At the time, Cartier-Bresson had no idea how important it would become. In fact, the book’s co-publisher in the United States, Richard Simon, from Simon & Schuster, hesitated to use a translation of the original French title – although this would have been quite possible – and sought something more impactful. In the end, Cartier-Bresson accepted The Decisive Moment, which would thus be handwritten by Matisse at the bottom of the paper cut-out the artist had created for the cover.

And so it is why, since that time, the concept of the “decisive moment” has practically always been associated with the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The expression gained such a following that it became a kind of definition of the photographic act for certain photographers, and one which would absolutely have to be overthrown afterwards. In the 1980s, the concept of the ‘decisive moment’ was contrasted with that of the “slack time” (temps faible), as brilliantly developed by French critic Alain Bergala in his essay accompanying Raymond Depardon’s Correspondance New-Yorkaise.

The error, the misunderstanding concerning this ‘decisive moment’ attached to the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson is that it has become a kind of standard, as if there were only one right moment, the one where everything falls into place in a geometric way. Many photographers have gone astray by attempting to imitate that balance; what often gets lost is the impulsiveness of a desire, the personal anxiety in face of a moment to preserve. The “decisive moment” has imposed itself and somewhat distorted, or in any case simplified, the way Cartier-Bresson’s work is seen, like a tree hiding the forest.

In 1974, Cartier-Bresson would admit: “For me, the Leica is a sketchbook, a psychoanalyst’s couch, a machine gun, a big, hot kiss, an electromagnet, a memory, the mirror of memory.” There is no trace here of any supposed record of a reality, but rather, of memory (and thus the past), the psychoanalyst’s couch (to make the past re-emerge) and the mirror of memory (the image of the past). Clearly, this poetic accident does not lie within everyone’s reach but, through the camera, it presents itself to some, provided they are good at passing it on. And this is something which, according to Walker Evans, left no room for doubt in Cartier-Bresson’s case: “Cartier has always been a kind of spirit medium: poetry sometimes speaks through his camera.”

Wouldn’t the ‘decisive moment’ be rather an ‘art of poetic accident’, knowing how to capture it in order to avoid the eternally ‘lost moment’: a mirror of memory, a moment saved by the artifice of the film’s light-sensitive surface?”

Extract from “De l’errance de l’oeil au moment qui s’impose, quelques pistes pour mieux voir,” (From the wandering of the eye to the right moment, a few ways to see better) Agnès Sire, Revoir Henri Cartier-Bresson, Textuel, 2009

 

 Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Italy, 1933'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Italy, 1933
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 25-26
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

 Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Italy, 1933' (detail)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Italy, 1933 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 25-26
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

 Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Italy, 1933' (detail)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Italy, 1933 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 25-26
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Italy, 1933' (detail)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Italy, 1933 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 25-26
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 29-30
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933' (detail)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 29-30
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933' (detail)

 

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Spain and Spanish Morocco, 1933 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 29-30
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Gandhi’s funeral, Delhi, India, 1948'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Gandhi’s funeral, Delhi, India, 1948
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 99-100
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Gandhi’s funeral, Delhi, India, 1948' (detail)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Gandhi’s funeral, Delhi, India, 1948 (detail)
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 99-100
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
2, impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 1pm – 6.30 pm
Saturday 11am – 6.45 pm
Late night Wednesdays until 8.30 pm
Closed on Mondays

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01
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘Robert Doisneau – Photographs. From Craft to Art’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2016 – 5th March 2017

 

I have waited nearly ten years to do a posting on this artist and his “humanist photography” (he was part of Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition). Of itself, that says enough, that there are so few exhibitions of his work.

I admit that he is not one of my favourites. His photographs, while containing a good dose of humour and occasional irony, seem to lack panache; his simply crafted ‘imperfect of the objective’ never really cuts it against Cartier-Bresson’s ‘imagination, from life’, or the wonder of artists like Walker Evans (from an earlier era) and the incomparable Helen Levitt.

His juggling act – “juggler, tightrope walker, illusionist to achieve even more realism” – leaves most of the work feeling brittle, over controlled with a salutory sense of stage fright.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Le Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville' (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville) Paris, 1950

 

Robert Doisneau
Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)
Paris, 1950
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

 

“People like my photos because they see in them what they would see if they stopped rushing about and took the time to enjoy the city…”

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Robert Doisneau

 

“Doisneau always approached his work with a little self mockery, perhaps it was his antidote to the anguish of not being a jester, a tight-rope walker, a magician as he was too much of a realist: and here lies the paradox of one who wished to carry out his work like a street artist, with the chaste joy and fun of an artist malgré lui [in spite of himself] ….

There was a real bond between him and Henri Cartier-Bresson; if they were equally childlike in their joking, they were just as ready to consult each other on professional questions. ‘Our friendship is lost in the darkness of time’, wrote Cartier-Bresson in 1995. ‘We will no longer have his laugh, full of compassion, nor his hard-hitting retorts, so funny and profound. Never told twice: each time a surprise. But his deep kindness, his love for all beings and for a simple life will always exist in his work’. They did not have the same conception of photography, given the difficulty of ‘conjugating’ Doisneau’s ‘imperfect of the objective’ (imparfait de l’objectif) with the ‘imagination, from life’ (imaginaire d’après nature) of Cartier-Bresson, who was more inclined to rigour, influenced by painting and drawing and averse to reframing…

Doisneau always took an ironic approach to his work, which for him was only an antidote to the anxiety of not being. Juggler, tightrope walker, illusionist to achieve even more realism: such is the deceptive paradox of someone who wanted to ‘carry off his tricks like the sidewalk artists’, with the modest lucidity of an artist in spite of himself.”

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Text from the BINT PHOTOBOOKS ON INTERNET website

 

 

Robert Doisneau. 'The Melted Car' 1944

 

Robert Doisneau
The Melted Car
1944
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Les 20 ans de Josette' 1947

 

Robert Doisneau
Les 20 ans de Josette (20 years of Josette)
1947
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Les tabliers de la Rue de Rivoli' 1978

 

Robert Doisneau
Les tabliers de la Rue de Rivoli
1978
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Dustjacket of Robert Doisneau's 'La Banlieue de Paris' (The Suburbs of Paris) 1949

 

Dustjacket of Robert Doisneau’s La Banlieue de Paris (The Suburbs of Paris)
1949

 

Robert Doisneau. 'African Games' 1945

 

Robert Doisneau
African Games
1945
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Mademoiselle Anita' 1951

 

Robert Doisneau
Mademoiselle Anita
1951
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Les frères, rue du Docteur Lecène, Paris' (The brothers, street of Doctor Lecène, Paris) 1934

 

Robert Doisneau
Les frères, rue du Docteur Lecène, Paris (The brothers, street of Doctor Lecène, Paris)
1934
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Le nez au carreau' 1953

 

Robert Doisneau
Le nez au carreau (The nose against the pane)
1953
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'Le cadran scolaire, Paris' 1956

 

Robert Doisneau
Le cadran scolaire, Paris (The school clock, Paris)
1956
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016

 

Robert Doisneau. 'La concierge aux lunettes, Rue Jacob' (The concierge with the glasses, Rue Jacob) 1945

 

Robert Doisneau
La concierge aux lunettes, Rue Jacob (The concierge with the glasses, Rue Jacob)
1945
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, 2016