Posts Tagged ‘landscape photography

25
Sep
22

Exhibition: ‘American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 2nd October 2022

Curator: Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art

 

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Summer, Early Morning, Immigrant Cemetery, North of Bethune, Colorado' 1965

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Summer, Early Morning, Immigrant Cemetery, North of Bethune, Colorado
1965
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10.4 x 15.2 cm (4 1/8 x 6 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

The quiet of the great beyond

With gratitude, I admire the photographs of Robert Adams. I admire their perspicuous (“clear, lucid”, able to be seen through) and perspicacious (“keen, astute,” able to see through) nature.

They imbibe (“absorb, assimilate,” ideas or knowledge) in us “the wonder and fragility of the American landscape, its inherent beauty, and the inadequacy of our response to it… [they] capture the sense of peace and harmony that the beauty of nature can instill in us – “the silence of light,” as he calls it… [and they] question our silent complicity in the desecration of that beauty by consumerism, industrialisation, and lack of environmental stewardship… While these photographs lament the ravages that have been inflicted on the land, they also pay homage to what remains.”

Like so many photographers of the American landscape, Adams’ debt to the vision of Walker Evans can be seen in his early work, in images such as Movie Theater, Otis, Colorado (1965, below) and Catholic Church, Summer, Ramah, Colorado (1965, below) – but even in images such as Wheat Stubble, South of Thurman, Colorado (1965, below) we can begin to see the beginnings of Adams personal artistic signature, the quiet of “the great beyond” (both physically and spiritually).

In modernist photographs that step off from Walker Evans’ legacy, Adams quiet, still photographs require of the viewer contemplation and reflection… reflection on the isolation of tract housing seemingly dropped into the vast American landscape. In these photographs (such as the two photographs Newly Occupied Tract Houses, Colorado Springs, 1968 below) Adams’ use of near/far is exemplary, with the nearness of the new excavation, the new scarring of the earth, contrasting with the sublime majesty of the mountains beyond. Other more personal psychological scarring can be seen in the two photographs Colorado Springs (1968-1971, below) where single, isolated, anonymous human beings are occluded in silhouette or shadow, damned by the hot sun.

In other photographs houses become like fossilised dinosaur skeletons, their graves marked by ironic street names such as Darwin Pl. (Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, 1969 below), or multiply across the landscape, breeding like some genetically identical sequence (Pikes Peak Park, Colorado Springs, 1969, below). Even petrol stations blare out the name “Frontier” as though to irrevocably define that here we live on the edge of nowhere. And so it goes in Adams’ work… isolated people living in a barren landscape being colonised and inhabited without much thought for the beauty or the destruction of the landscape.

From the mid-1970s onwards, Adams’ landscape photographs begin to eschew all but the smallest pointers to human habitation, but this makes these human marks on the landscape all the more intrusive because of it. For example, in the photograph of the vast landscape South of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, Jefferson County, Colorado (1976, below) the only markings of human activity are the tyre marks in the foreground and the telegraph poles, road and cars at far right… and then the title hits you with a double-whammy, “Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant”, not present in the photograph but present in our consciousness (of the landscape). Even less evidence of human existence is signalled in the photograph Missouri River, Clay County, South Dakota (1977, below), but then we notice at bottom left a discarded tin can, just a discarded tin can, but this one tin can says so much about our use and abuse of our only habitable planet, earth.

In image after image, roads scar the landscape, planes fly overhead, industry and housing colonise the sublime, and human beings hug and are alienated amongst concrete jungles and car parks. New development erodes the earth leaving behind the detritus of human existence. Old growth trees are slaughtered in clearcut operations in which every tree has been cut down and removed. A dead albatross rots on an expanse of beach (The Sea Beach, Albatross, 2015 below) while in the distance the photographer picks out 4 ghosts of human beings (The Sea Beach, 2015 below).

Adams’ photographic vision is extra ordinary and I cannot fault his individual photographs. I become engrossed in them. I breathe their atmosphere. He has a resolution, both in terms of large format aesthetic, the aesthetic of beauty and of using materials, light and composition… that seems exactly right. He possesses that superlative skill of few great photographers, and by that I mean: sometimes he has true compassion** / parallel to a religious compassion, but not based on something higher / just perfect human. In some of his photographs (such as East from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado 1975, below) he possesses real forgiveness, in others there is the perfection of cruel, the perfection of de/composition.

** achieved by Arbus, Atget and sometimes by Clift, Gowin.

And then, each image holds small clues vital to the overall conversation that is the accumulation of his work and it is in their collective accumulation of meaning that Adams’ photographs grow and build to shatter not just the American silence on environmental issues, but the deafening silence of the whole industrialised world. In their holistic nature, Adams’ body of work becomes punctum and because of this his work produces other “things”, things as great as anything the French literary theorist, essayist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician Roland Barthes wrote about. As in Barthes’ seminal work Camera Lucida, Adams’ work reminds us that the “photograph is evidence of ‘what has ceased to be’. Instead of making reality solid, it reminds us of the world’s ever changing nature.”1

Human beings can never leave anything as they find it, they always have to possess and change whatever they see in a form of desecration (the action of damaging or showing no respect toward something holy or very much respected). Except human beings do not respect the only place that have to live on, this earth. When will it change?

As Alain de Botton observes on the importance of the sublime places to the human psyche,

“If the world is unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest it is not surprising things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains. Sublime places acknowledge limitations that we might otherwise encounter with anxiety or anger in the ordinary flow of events. It is not just nature that defies us. Human life is as overwhelming, but it is the vast spaces of nature that perhaps provide us with the finest, the most respectful reminder of all that exceeds us. If we spend time with them, they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.”2

.
We loose these places at our peril and the peril of the entire human race.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Anonymous. “Roland Barthes,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 23/09/2022
  2. Alain de Botton. The Art of Travel. London: Penguin, 2002, pp. 178-179.

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

 

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Wheat Stubble, South of Thurman, Colorado' 1965, printed 1988

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Wheat Stubble, South of Thurman, Colorado
1965, printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 27.9cm (9 x 11 in.)
Collection of Jeffrey Fraenkel and Alan Mark
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

For 50 years, Robert Adams (b. 1937) has made compelling, provocative, and highly influential photographs that show us the wonder and fragility of the American landscape, its inherent beauty, and the inadequacy of our response to it. This exhibition explores the reverential way he looks at the world around him and the almost palpable silence of his work.

Many of these photographs of the American West capture the sense of peace and harmony that the beauty of nature can instill in us – “the silence of light,” as he calls it, that he sees on the prairie, in the woods, and by the ocean. Other pictures question our silent complicity in the desecration of that beauty by consumerism, industrialisation, and lack of environmental stewardship. Divided into three sections – The Gift, Our Response, and Tenancy – the exhibition features some 175 works from the artist’s most important projects and includes pictures of suburban sprawl, strip malls, highways, homes, and stores, as well as rivers, skies, the prairie, and the ocean.

While these photographs lament the ravages that have been inflicted on the land, they also pay homage to what remains.

 

 

“Robert Adams’s photographs often seem to demand that viewers do a double-take. Seemingly ordinary subjects like tree stumps, tract housing or the moon seen from a parking lot “require very careful looking and careful consideration,” says curator Sarah Greenough, before they reveal the photographer’s deeply personal visions of nature – and, sometimes, his despair at what humans have done with it.”

.
Peter Saenger. “Robert Adams Takes Photos That Face Facts,” on The Wall Street Journal website May 13, 2022 [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Movie Theater, Otis, Colorado' 1965, printed c. 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Movie Theater, Otis, Colorado
1965, printed c. 1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.3 x 20.3cm (6 7/16 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Catholic Church, Winter, Ramah, Colorado' 1965, printed 1982

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Catholic Church, Winter, Ramah, Colorado
1965, printed 1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.3 x 16.4cm (8 3/4 x 6 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Catholic Church, Summer, Ramah, Colorado' 1965, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Catholic Church, Summer, Ramah, Colorado
1965, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.5 x 16.4cm (8 7/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Store, Elizabeth, Colorado' 1965, printed 1988

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Store, Elizabeth, Colorado
1965, printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.9 x 22.8cm (10 9/16 x 9 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Arriba, Colorado' 1966, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Arriba, Colorado
1966, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28.4 x 22.7cm (11 3/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Schoolyard, Ramah, Colorado' 1968

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Schoolyard, Ramah, Colorado
1968
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2 cm (6 x 6 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Newly Occupied Tract Houses, Colorado Springs' 1968

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Newly Occupied Tract Houses, Colorado Springs
1968
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 13.3cm (5 x 5 1/4 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'New Tract Housing, Colorado Springs' 1968, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
New Tract Housing, Colorado Springs
1968, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.4 x 15cm (5 11/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Colorado Springs' 1968, printed 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Colorado Springs
1968, printed 1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2cm (6 x 6 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Colorado Springs' 1968-1971

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Colorado Springs
1968-1971
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2cm (6 x 6 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Alameda Avenue, Denver' 1968-1971

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Alameda Avenue, Denver
1968-1971
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2cm (6 x 6 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Northeast of Keota, Colorado' 1969, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Northeast of Keota, Colorado
1969, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 39.2 x 47.8cm (15 7/16 x 18 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs' 1969, printed 1984

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs
1969, printed 1984
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 15cm (5 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Basement for a Tract House, Colorado Springs' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Basement for a Tract House, Colorado Springs
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.6 x 27.6cm (10 1/2 x 10 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Colorado Springs' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Colorado Springs
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.6 x 15.2cm (6 1/8 x 6 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Pikes Peak Park, Colorado Springs' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Pikes Peak Park, Colorado Springs
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 15.2cm (5 15/16 x 6 in.)
Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'New Housing, Colorado Springs' 1969, printed 2005

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
New Housing, Colorado Springs
1969, printed 2005
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.5 x 15.1cm (6 7/8 x 5 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14 x 14.9cm (5 1/2 x 5 7/8 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

For 50 years, Robert Adams (b. 1937) has made compelling, provocative, and highly influential photographs that show the wonder and fragility of the American landscape, its inherent beauty, and the inadequacy of our response to it. American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams celebrates the art of this seminal American photographer and explores the reverential way he looks at the world around him and the almost palpable silence of his work. Organised in cooperation with the artist, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog. American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams is on view from May 29 through October 2, 2022, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.

Capturing the sense of peace and harmony created through what Adams calls “the silence of light” that can be seen on the prairie, in the woods, and by the ocean, American Silence features some 175 pictures from 1965 to 2015. Other images on view question our moral silence to the desecration of that beauty by consumerism, industrialisation, and lack of environmental stewardship. Divided into three sections – The Gift, Our Response, and Tenancy – the exhibition includes works from not only the artist’s most important projects but also lesser-known ones that depict suburban sprawl, strip malls, highways, homes, and stores, as well as rivers, skies, the prairie, and the ocean. While these photographs lament the ravages that have been inflicted on the land, they also pay homage to what remains.

“The photographs in this exhibition encourage us to experience the sense of silence that the beauty of nature can inspire while asking us to question our own silent complicity in the face of its desecration,” said Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art. “We are deeply grateful to Robert Adams and his wife, Kerstin, for their steadfast commitment to this endeavour and for their many donations to the National Gallery. I would like to extend our thanks to the Trellis Fund, Jane P. Watkins, The Shared Earth Foundation, Randi and Bob Fisher, Wes and Kate Mitchell, Nion McEvoy, Greg and Aline Gooding, and the James D. and Kathryn K. Steele Fund for Photography whose generous support has made this exhibition possible as well as to all our lenders for their willingness to share their treasured works of art with our public.”

 

About the exhibition

The exhibition begins with The Gift, which presents selected works that reveal the silence, beauty, peace, and spiritual harmony found in the landscape itself. Spanning three decades, this section includes photographs from Prairie (1978), Perfect Times, Perfect Places (1988), Listening to the River (1994), Pine Valley (2005), and This Day (2011). These pictures demonstrate the artist’s exceptional ability to find the sublime in the vast vistas and quiet, often overlooked, corners of the sparse and fragile American West, particularly in Colorado and Oregon, two areas of the country that Adams knows intimately. Infused with a deep understanding of the way light articulates forms, these photographs illuminate the natural world and demonstrate how Adams seeks to illustrate, in his own words, “a quiet so absolute that it allows one to begin again, to love the future.”

The largest section of the exhibition, Our Response examines how Americans have dealt with both the potential and the vulnerability of the West. Divided into six thematic subjects arranged chronologically, this section begins with “Early Hispanic and Plains Communities,” including work from some of the artist’s earliest publications: White Churches of the Plains (1970), The Architecture and Art of Early Hispanic Colorado (1974), and Prairie (1978). These pictures portray the respectful nature of older settlements in the West and acknowledge the importance of the gravel roads, farmhouses, furrowed fields, stores, and churches. They also demonstrate how early settlers attempted to achieve a unity with nature, rather than dominate over it.

“Our Imprint on the Land” and “A New West” feature works from seminal early publications by Adams: The New West: Landscapes along the Colorado Front Range (1974), denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area (1977), From the Missouri West (1980), and What We Bought: The New World, Scenes from the Denver Metropolitan Area, 1970-1974 (1995). “Our Imprint on the Land” includes pictures made along the Missouri River around the time of the 1976 bicentennial of the United States, a moment of national reflection on the past and assessment of the present. The photographs in “A New West” address the construction of a new kind of American environment. Dominated by cars, highways, cheaply fabricated homes, and commercial developments, these pictures emphasise the lack of community and the great isolation that grew in these new suburban communities.

“Our Lives and Our Children” depicts the area near Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver, where Adams photographed the simple dignity of everyday people to illustrate what would be lost in a nuclear disaster. Our Response ends with “Southern California” and “A Mythic Forest,” drawing works from two of his sharpest critiques: Los Angeles Spring (1986), depicting the destruction of the fragile landscape around Los Angeles in the early 1980s, and Turning Back: A Photographic Journal of Re-exploration (2005), illustrating the American timber industry’s exploitation of the North­west forests.

American Silence concludes with a selection of works from one of the artist’s recent books, Tenancy: Between the River and the Sea; The Nehalem Spit, the Coast of Oregon (2017). Divided into three parts, this series of photographs was made between 2013 and 2015 along a two-mile promontory on the Oregon coast, the Nehalem Spit. The first examines the eastern edge of the spit where massive tree stumps washed up on the shore reveal the brutality of the clearcutting done farther up the Nehalem River. The second part looks at the spit itself, a sanctuary of small trees, meadows, and dunes resting near a large geologic fault, and the third depicts the ever-changing beauty and wonder of the ocean to the west, as well as the people who seek “to escape illusion and to be reconciled,” as Adams noted. Tenancy illustrates his belief that we are only temporary occupants of the land that nourishes and sustains us, and it reveals the strength of his convictions, his deep spirituality, and the eloquent power of his vision.

 

Exhibition Catalog

Published by the National Gallery of Art and Aperture, New York, American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams traces the evolution of his work, highlighting the importance of faith to his art and – through his elegant visual reckonings – how “what was” has become “what is.” It is richly illustrated, with over 200 compelling photographs that explore the profound questions of our responsibility to the land and the moral dilemmas of progress. This extensive 332-page monograph includes award-winning curator Sarah Greenough’s in-depth examination of the evolution of his art as well as personal reflections by the celebrated nonfiction author Terry Tempest Williams and writings by Adams himself, along with a timeline of the artist’s life.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Genoa, Colorado' 1970

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Genoa, Colorado
1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.1 x 19.1cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Boys in a Pickup, Simla, Colorado' 1970, printed 1991

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Boys in a Pickup, Simla, Colorado
1970, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 14.2cm (5 15/16 x 5 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1970, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1970, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 15cm (5 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Walking to a Shopping Center, North Edge of Denver' 1970-1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Walking to a Shopping Center, North Edge of Denver
1970-1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 19.2cm (5 15/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Sandstone Grave Marker, Walsenburg, Colorado' 1972

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Sandstone Grave Marker, Walsenburg, Colorado
1972
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2cm (6 x 6 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clarkville, Colorado' 1972

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clarkville, Colorado
1972
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.4 x 16.5cm (7 1/4 x 6 1/2 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'North of Keota, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
North of Keota, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19cm (6 x 7 1/2 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1973, printed 1988

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1973, printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 19.3cm (5 15/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Tract House, Longmont, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Tract House, Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.6 x 19.4cm (6 1/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
Collection of Frish Brandt and August Fischer
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1973, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1973, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.4cm (6 x 7 5/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1973-1974, printed 2008

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1973-1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.1cm (6 x 5 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'From Interstate 25, North Edge of Denver' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
From Interstate 25, North Edge of Denver
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.1cm (6 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Mobile Home Park, North Edge of Denver' 1973, printed 2005

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Mobile Home Park, North Edge of Denver
1973, printed 2005
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.8cm (6 x 7 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'North Edge of Denver' 1973-1974, printed 2008

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
North Edge of Denver
1973-1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.2cm (6 x 7 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Next to Interstate 25, Denver' 1973, printed 1991

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Next to Interstate 25, Denver
1973, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.3cm (6 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Outdoor Theater, North Edge of Denver' 1973-1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Outdoor Theater, North Edge of Denver
1973-1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.6 x 19.7cm (6 1/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Highway, Northeast Denver' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Highway, Northeast Denver
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.1 x 19.1cm (5 15/16 x 7 1/2 in.)
Stephen G. Stein Employee Benefit Trust
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1973-1974, printed 2001

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1973-1974, printed 2001
gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 17.2cm (6 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Private collection
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.3 x 15.1cm (5 5/8 x 5 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1973, printed 1979

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1973, printed 1979
gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 15.2cm (6 x 6 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.2 x 15.2cm (6 3/4 x 6 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Boulder County, Colorado' 1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Boulder County, Colorado
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 15.2 x 19.2cm (6 x 7 9/16 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1974, printed 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 29.2cm (9 x 11 1/2 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Arvada, Colorado' 1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Arvada, Colorado
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.7cm (6 x 7 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Shopping Mall and Parking Lot, Denver' 1974, printed 1980s

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Shopping Mall and Parking Lot, Denver
1974, printed 1980s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.2 x 19.4cm (6 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Northeast from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado' 1975

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Northeast from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado
1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.1 x 47.9cm (15 x 18 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'East from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado' 1975

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
East from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado
1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Garden of the Gods, El Paso County, Colorado' 1976

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Garden of the Gods, El Paso County, Colorado
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.3cm (9 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'South of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, Jefferson County, Colorado' 1976

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
South of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, Jefferson County, Colorado
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.4 x 21.8cm (6 7/8 x 8 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Lakewood, Jefferson County, Colorado' 1976

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Jefferson County, Colorado
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1976

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 17.8cm (7 x 7 in.)
Private collection, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Berthoud, Colorado' 1976

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Berthoud, Colorado
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 12.7 cm (5 x 5 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with funds contributed by Marilyn L. Steinbright, 1985
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Missouri River, Clay County, South Dakota' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Missouri River, Clay County, South Dakota
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.1cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Concrete and Ice, Missouri River, Clay County, South Dakota' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Concrete and Ice, Missouri River, Clay County, South Dakota
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 x 22.2cm (7 1/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Larimer County, Colorado' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Larimer County, Colorado
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.1cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Jeffrey Fraenkel and Alan Mark
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Abandoned Car, Carbon County, Wyoming' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Abandoned Car, Carbon County, Wyoming
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.5cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Arkansas River Canyon, Colorado' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Arkansas River Canyon, Colorado
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.5cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Lou and Di Stovall
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Highway 287, Larimer County, Colorado' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Highway 287, Larimer County, Colorado
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.3 x 28.5cm (8 3/4 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 12.7cm (5 x 5 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1982
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Fort Collins, Colorado' 1977, printed 1985

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Fort Collins, Colorado
1977, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 12.7cm (5 x 5 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with funds contributed by Marilyn L. Steinbright, 1985
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Development Road, San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California' 1977

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Development Road, San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 22.2cm (7 x 8 3/4 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with matching funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Hauslohner and Harvey S. Shipley Miller, 1980
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California' 1977-1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 22.5cm (7 x 8 7/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with matching funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Hauslohner and Harvey S. Shipley Miller, 1980
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Santa Ana Wash, Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino County, California' 1977-1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Santa Ana Wash, Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino County, California
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 22.2cm (7 x 8 3/4 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with matching funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Hauslohner and Harvey S. Shipley Miller, 1980
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Nebraska State Highway 2, Box Butte County, Nebraska' 1978, printed 1991

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Nebraska State Highway 2, Box Butte County, Nebraska
1978, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.2 x 27.8cm (8 3/4 x 10 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Umatilla County, Oregon' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Umatilla County, Oregon
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.2 x 47.6cm (15 1/16 x 18 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Quarried Mesa Top, Pueblo County, Colorado' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Quarried Mesa Top, Pueblo County, Colorado
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 47cm (14 15/16 x 18 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, California
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.3cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Eucalyptus along Interstate 10, Redlands, California' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Eucalyptus along Interstate 10, Redlands, California
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.3cm (9 x 11 1/8 in.)
Collection of Frish Brandt and August Fischer
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1979, printed 1985

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1979, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 12.7cm (5 x 5 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1979

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1979
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 22.5cm (9 x 8 7/8 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Robert Adams is a man who walks with silences. I feel the pace of his stride in the quiet, acute considerations of his photographs of the American West. That he is drawn to sources of light in darkness, be it the moon, the shimmering light on poplar leaves, or the lonely lamp radiating on to the streets from a house in the suburbs, inspires me to pursue my own night walks in summer. In the embrace of the night, my own darkness is absorbed into an uncommon stillness that does not frighten me. I see the eye-shine of other creatures and it is a comfort to know we are not alone.

The stillness married to loneliness in Adams work is something I understand as a westerner born in the suburbs of 1955. Though we have never met, he photographed my mother on one of his walks in Colorado Springs (1968) even though she was sitting in a different living room on Moor Mont Drive in Salt Lake City, Utah. …

The silhouette of the woman I see in the window, facing the door that is closed, in a red brick house, with a putting-green lawn, where a gentle curve of concrete leads to the entrance, is the home I was raised in as a child. I write this long sentence intentionally, because those were the days of my childhood that felt languid and secure.

This was the New West that Robert Adams captured in the middle of construction. We lived inside the green square houses used in the game Monopoly. But what we always knew was that beyond the dust of development and the play money that became real, wildness awaited us – even if it was the empty lot next door or the dirt road nearby that led to the creek shaded by cottonwoods.

Cottonwoods were the guardians of our childhood. They were deemed safe by our parents. They sheltered us from the heat of summer and the claustrophobia of winter. We knew their secrets. Inside their tangled skirts of lower branches families of house wrens lived and in the upper branches, great horned owls could be heard. The cottonwoods’ massive fluted trunks were our hide-and-seek. And if we gave our siblings a hand-stirrup up, we could climb into the large embrace of the trees. Once in the cottonwood’s arms, we were camouflaged in its rustling leaves – we would simply listen. It’s where I learned to trust other species more than my own. My love of solitude was nurtured inside these cathedral groves of cottonwoods.

The cottonwoods that appear in Weld County, Colorado (1992) and reappear throughout Adams’ work are emblematic of his intimacy and understanding of the American West. Cottonwoods root themselves near water. They are the wanderer’s hope in arid country. Water is the difference between living and dying in the West. And when Adams speaks of his affection toward one particular cottonwood in a field in Colorado, photographing it over many years, only to return one day to see it cut down – he faced what remained of the beloved tree as grieving kin. The body of a man, the body of a tree, there is no separation in the shared reach of a relationship. …

Robert Adams has been led by Beauty on what could be seen as the spiritual path of the artist as he followed forms of light again and again through the depths of darkness, even his own. Never easy, but often, glorious. We are the beneficiaries of his focus. He is a trustworthy companion. I choose to walk with him. Perhaps, he learned something about tenacious love as a form of being on those solitary summer nights as he walked in moonlight with an eye toward stillness.

Terry Tempest Williams. “Terry Tempest Williams on Walking with Robert Adams,” on the National Gallery of Art website May 19, 2022 [Online] Cited 31/05/2022, excerpted from the afterword by Terry Tempest Williams in the book American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams.

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 17.2cm (6 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.3 x 15.9cm (8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 22.7cm (9 11/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26 x 22.6cm (10 1/4 x 8 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Longmont, Colorado' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.1 x 15.6cm (7 1/8 x 6 1/8 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1980

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.9 x 22.5cm (11 x 8 7/8 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1981, printed 1987

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1981, printed 1987
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 47.6cm (14 15/16 x 18 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1981, printed 1988

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1981, printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.8 x 47cm (14 7/8 x 18 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.6 x 15.2cm (5 3/4 x 6 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.15 x 16.83cm (6 3/4 x 6 5/8 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.2 x 17.2cm (6 3/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.4 x 15.7cm (7 1/4 x 6 3/16 in.)
Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.6 x 15.9cm (8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Robert and Kerstin Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Denver' 1981

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 15.9cm (7 x 6 1/4 in.)
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Remains of a Eucalyptus Windbreak, Redlands, California' 1982, printed 1990

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Remains of a Eucalyptus Windbreak, Redlands, California
1982, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.1 x 47.5cm (15 x 18 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Firebreak, above East Highland, California' 1982

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Firebreak, above East Highland, California
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.4 x 22.8cm (10 13/16 x 9 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Santa Ana Wash, Redlands, California' 1982

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Santa Ana Wash, Redlands, California
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 47.1cm (14 15/16 x 18 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Rialto, California' 1982

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Rialto, California
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Looking toward the Mountains in Smog, Weld County, Colorado' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Looking toward the Mountains in Smog, Weld County, Colorado
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.8 x 47cm (14 7/8 x 18 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Boulder County, Colorado' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Boulder County, Colorado
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.8 x 47.5cm (14 7/8 x 18 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Old Estate Road, Redlands, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Old Estate Road, Redlands, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Eucalyptus Branch, Redlands, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Eucalyptus Branch, Redlands, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.9 x 47.1cm (14 15/16 x 18 9/16 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1986
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'On Signal Hill, Overlooking Long Beach, California' 1983, printed 199

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
On Signal Hill, Overlooking Long Beach, California
1983, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.5cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Broken Trees, East of Riverside, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Broken Trees, East of Riverside, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.6 x 46.7cm (14 13/16 x 18 3/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1986
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Eroding Edge of a Former Citrus-Growing Estate, Highland, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Eroding Edge of a Former Citrus-Growing Estate, Highland, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 46.7cm (14 15/16 x 18 3/8 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1986
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'On Top of the La Loma Hills, Colton, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
On Top of the La Loma Hills, Colton, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 47cm (14 15/16 x 18 1/2 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1986
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'New Development on a Former Citrus-Growing Estate, Highland, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
New Development on a Former Citrus-Growing Estate, Highland, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.1 x 47cm (15 x 18 1/2 in.)
Andrew Szegedy-Maszak and Elizabeth Bobrick
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'New Housing, Reche Canyon, San Bernardino County, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
New Housing, Reche Canyon, San Bernardino County, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.9 x 47.8cm (14 15/16 x 18 13/16 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with funds contributed by Ann and Donald W. McPhail and the Atlantic Richfield Foundation, 1986
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Interstate 10, West Edge of Redlands, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Interstate 10, West Edge of Redlands, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.5 x 45.7cm (14 3/4 x 18 in.)
Christine and Michael J. Murray
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Fontana, California' 1983

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Fontana, California
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1984

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1984
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38 x 47.7cm (14 15/16 x 18 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1984

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1984
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.9 x 46.8cm (14 15/16 x 18 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Ahmanson Foundation and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1984

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1984
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.1 x 47.3cm (15 x 18 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Sally, Weld County, Colorado' 1984, printed 1990

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Sally, Weld County, Colorado
1984, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.2cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Weld County, Colorado' 1992

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Weld County, Colorado
1992
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37 x 46cm (14 9/16 x 18 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Irrigation Canal, Larimer County, Colorado' 1995

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Irrigation Canal, Larimer County, Colorado
1995
Gelatin silver print
Image: 29 x 22.8cm (11 7/16 x 9 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Poplars, Harney County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Poplars, Harney County, Oregon
1999
Photogravure
Image: 50.5 x 40cm (19 7/8 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Linda Hackett and Russell Munson Fund and Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Poplars, Harney County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Poplars, Harney County, Oregon
1999
Photogravure
Image: 49.3 x 40cm (19 7/16 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Linda Hackett and Russell Munson Fund and Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Poplars, Harney County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Poplars, Harney County, Oregon
1999
Photogravure
Image: 50.5 x 40cm (19 7/8 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Linda Hackett and Russell Munson Fund and Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Poplars, Harney County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Poplars, Harney County, Oregon
1999
Photogravure
Image: 50 x 40cm (19 11/16 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Linda Hackett and Russell Munson Fund and Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28.2 x 22.7cm (11 1/8 x 8 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Kerstin next to an Old-Growth Stump, Coos County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Kerstin next to an Old-Growth Stump, Coos County, Oregon
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.9 x 22.9cm (11 x 9 in.)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: Don Ross

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon' 1999

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.2cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Columbia County, Oregon' 1999-2001

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Columbia County, Oregon
1999-2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.3 x 39.7cm (12 5/16 x 15 5/8 in.)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of an anonymous donor
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: Don Ross

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Baker County, Oregon' 2000

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Baker County, Oregon
2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.6 x 26.1cm (8 1/8 x 10 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon' c. 2000

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Coos County, Oregon
c. 2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 39.4 x 31.3cm (15 1/2 x 12 5/16 in.)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: Don Ross

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon' c. 2000

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon
c. 2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.6cm (9 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon' c. 2000

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon
c. 2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.6cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of an anonymous donor
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: Don Ross

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon' 2001

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.9cm (9 x 11 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Kerstin, Old-Growth Stump, the Last Evidence of the Original Forest, Clatsop County, Oregon' c. 2001

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Kerstin, Old-Growth Stump, the Last Evidence of the Original Forest, Clatsop County, Oregon
c. 2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.7cm (9 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

These views of the American West evoke a wide range of memories, myths, and regrets associated with America’s final frontier. In the nineteenth century, that frontier began at the Missouri River. Beyond it lay a landscape of natural grandeur and purity, challenging the spirit and promising redemption. At the time the pictures were made, the hand of man had not so much disfigured as domesticated that paradise, leaving its mark of intrusion almost casually, with the assurance of absolute triumph. Adams recorded this intrusion with neither judgment nor irony; the land he shows has simply been changed, reduced, made ordinary. Yet a second look makes it apparent that the hand of man has, after all, its limitations. The simple natural facts imposed upon by civilization still exert a mysterious counterforce: they abide, in a kind of triumph of resignation. That counterforce is present in all of Adams’s images, recognizable as the same silence and stillness that once summoned pioneers into a wilderness, and now summon their descendants to remember.

~ from the book Robert Adams: From the Missouri West

9.5 x 11.5 in, Hardcover
First edition, 46 b&w photographs
Aperture
1980

 

denver and What We Bought, together with The New West, form a loose trilogy of Robert Adams’s work exploring the rapidly developing landscape of the Denver metropolitan area from 1968 through 1974. In the former two books, Adams created a comprehensive document that was resolute in its avoidance of romantic notions of the American West and dispassionately honest about man’s despoliation of the land. Both books demonstrate the artist at the height of his powers as a documentary photographer and a poetic sequencer of images.

The photographs featured in denver and What We Bought show tract housing with mountain ranges in the distance, trailer lots devoid of people, suburban streets through generic windows, shopping mall interiors, and parking lots: subjects distinctly unspectacular, familiar, and banal. Adams’s compositions are straightforward and democratic, and it is this precise turn from sentimentality that has made Adams one of the most influential figures in the history of American photography.

~ the publisher

8 x 9.25 in., Hardbound
136 pages, 117 tritone illustrations
Yale University Press
2009

 

Listening to the River is a celebration of anonymous places where we can still find nature’s beauty. Robert Adams first visited these particular locations as a boy, when the West seemed unchanging. Now in his fifties, he returns to them with the affection of a longtime acquaintance. The book records hushed walks when irrelevancies are forgotten, when sunlight makes the fields, hills, and roads new. Adams has chosen twelve poems by William Stafford to accompany the pictures. Both photographer and poet observe a practice of quiet in the out-of-doors, and both discover there a promise.

This is an optimistic book, though not a sentimental one: a number of the photographs record views of the suburban West. “Any tree in the path of development appears to have an uncertain future,” Adams observes. Listening to the River affirms, however, that trees and other elements of nature are ultimately protected. “Part of what their beauty means,” says the photographer, “is that they are safe.”

In 1989 Adams spoke at the Philadelphia Museum of Art about his enjoyment of the landscape, citing as an example his experiences at rural crossroads on the plains: “Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be anything there at all – just two roads, four fields, and sky. Small things, however, can become important – a lark or a mailbox or sunflowers. And if I wait I may see the architecture – the roads and the fields and the sky. Were you and I to drive the prairie together, and the day turned out to be a good one, we might not say much. We might get out of the truck at a crossroads, stretch, walk a little ways, and then walk back. Maybe the lark would sing. Maybe we would stand for a while, all views to the horizon, all roads interesting. We might find there a balance of form and openness, even of community and freedom. It would be the world as we had hoped, and we would recognize it together.”

~ the publisher

10 x 13 in, Hardcover
Featuring poems by William Stafford; 176 plates
Aperture
1994

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The River's Edge' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The River’s Edge
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.8 x 29.9cm (7 13/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The River's Edge' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The River’s Edge
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.7 x 29.8cm (7 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The River's Edge' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The River’s Edge
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.9 x 29.9cm (7 13/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The River's Edge' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The River’s Edge
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.8 x 30cm (7 13/16 x 11 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The River's Edge' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The River’s Edge
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.8 x 29.8cm (7 13/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Interior of the Spit' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Interior of the Spit
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.7cm (8 7/8 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Interior of the Spit' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Interior of the Spit
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 28.8cm (8 7/8 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Interior of the Spit' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Interior of the Spit
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 28.8cm (8 7/8 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 28.2cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.8cm (8 15/16 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.5cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.3cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 28.2cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach, Albatross' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach, Albatross
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.2cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.5cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.8cm (9 x 11 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28.4cm (8 7/8 x 11 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.9cm (8 15/16 x 11 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 28cm (8 7/8 x 11 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.8 x 28.9cm (9 x 11 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 28.9cm (8 15/16 x 11 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'The Sea Beach' 2015

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
The Sea Beach
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 28.3cm (8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen G. Stein
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

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Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

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31
Jul
22

Photographs: Frank Hurley – Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front during the First World War, mid-1917 – September 1918

July 2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The Battalion' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The Battalion
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Familiar yet strange: Frank Hurley’s First World War photographs

Most texts about the war photographs of Frank Hurley taken on the Western Front that I have read, focus on his use of multiple negatives to construct fantastical images of reportage, ‘Photographic Impression Pictures’ – combination prints – “pictures made to produce a realistic impression of certain events by the combined use of a number of negatives.” Hurley argued that it was impossible to capture the essence of what he saw in a single negative. He observed in the Australasian Photo-Review in 1919:

“None but those who have endeavoured can realise the insurmountable difficulties of portraying a modern battle by the camera. To include the event on a single negative, I have tried and tried, but the results are hopeless … Now, if negatives are taken of all the separate incidents in the action and combined, some idea may then be gained of what a modern battle looks like.”1

“Hurley desperately wanted to convey this horror through his photographs. He took many shots of the apocalyptic battlefields but was not content. While bleak, the stillness and shock of these images failed to communicate the cacophony of war. How was he to visually capture the ‘blinding sheet of flame; and the […] screaming shriek of thousands of shells’?”2

Hurley clashed with the official historian, Captain Charles Bean, about truth and photography. Bean was not convinced on the use of multiple negatives and referred to the images as ‘fakes’ but, on threat of resignation, Hurley stood his ground “and was not prepared to compromise for his art nor to fail in his duty to portray the horrors that he witnessed.”

These images formed a very small part of the work that Hurley produced in World War I and none are reproduced in this posting.

.
Personally I am more interested in Hurley’s “straight” photographs and in observing the minutiae within each image. By doing this we can began to invert Hurley’s idea of capturing the whole event on the battlefield on a combined “macro” multi-negative. What Hurley was actually doing in his ordinary photographs was making possible such a complete record through the accumulation of familiar yet strange “micro” observations on a single negative – creating “atmospheres” of existence that document incidents in the action, which formally work together to picture the whole.

For example in the photograph 48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (18th July – 6th November 1917, below), Hurley uses a “near far” perspective, focusing the viewer’s eye along the perspective of the trench to the lone tree, building and standing figure vanishing point in the distance: but in the detail we can observe a man smoking a pipe, two men sewing and, to the right, what looks like a Very Pistol (or flare gun) – heavily used in both world wars – casually lying on a sandbag. The slight blur of the soldiers Brodie Mark I helmet at left indicates the length of the exposure, the physical length of that exposures existence. By observing the minutiae in this image the viewer can enter the space of the image and be fully present with these soldiers.

Other photographs offer more intriguing details that contribute to make the whole “picture” of the battlefield. Showing the cacophony and detritus of war, Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele (18th July – 6th November 1917, below) also shows in the misty background the silhouette of one of those new fangled tanks that were making an appearance on the battlefield, probably knocked out or broken down as they usually were. In the photograph incorrectly titled by Lawsons, ‘Australians Waiting to “Go Over”‘ – its correct title being Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele (1917, below) – we can observe a man holding a gas mask in his left hand; canisters of water and other belongings hanging from metal rods banged into the mud of the face of the trench; a big wooden stretcher standing vertically in the trench; and two of the men wearing an armband brassard with the words SB on them, indicating these men were stretcher bearers. Again, in the minutiae of elements, of detail, Hurley creates direct access to an “atmosphere” of the battlefield in all its dourness, mud and hollow-eyed soldiers staring grimly at the camera.

In the photograph Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road (4 October 1917, below), Hurley captures the balletic dance required to load a monster, death dealing gun… the heavy shells manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Reminiscent of the group portraits of Rembrandt with their “dramatic use of light and shadow (tenebrism) and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military group portrait,”3 Hurley’s photograph features three acolytes with their heads bowed at right whilst in the centre three seemingly kneeling figures raise their eyes as if in a devotional Renaissance painting to observe Christ being raised, pulled by chains onto the cross which is suspended above them.

In Hurley’s observations of the world – quick, fleeting glances of destruction, not long fixed stares – we look, recognise and feel his need to recognise his objective… before we need to verbalise our objective, ‘clear-sighted’, unbiased ‘views’ of the subject matter. In Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917 (September 20th, 1917, below), Hurley’s glass plate has cracked much like the world he was photographing. Clutching a blanket, a man on a stretcher in the foreground turns to look at the camera(man) while next to him a sergeant put his hand to his head. To his left another man is covered with a blanket so that we can only see his face from the nose upwards but we can observe he is staring towards the camera. Behind these grounded men is a maelstrom of movement picturing the violent turmoil of war – abandoned stretchers to the right; an upended lorry perched precariously at an angle; and walking wounded trudging past the seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. This photograph is but a tiny grain of sand on the head of a pin, here and then gone, for soon after Major George Heydon (the man in the sling in the centre of the photograph) had passed this point “a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers.”4 Life recorded and then snuffed out, both in less than a second.

Hurley need not have worried about capturing the macro, the whole of any event, for this is an impossible task with any still camera. By it’s very nature the camera excludes whatever is outside its direct line of sight, its point of view… so it is always exclusory. But in freezing the micro/cosmos within any photograph what Hurley captures are intriguing, fleeting “atmospheres” where the contexts and conditions for creation have brought together disparate elements to create a visual whole, in this case a dance of death.

In my mind, Hurley’s war photographs are much like the later English photographer Bill Brandt’s landscape photographs. Despite the difference in subject matter, my feeling is that both Brandt and Hurley were trying to display a sublime aesthetic. Whereas Hurley wanted to capture the intensity of the battlefield and its death and despair in one intimate, sublime image – here using sublime in the archaic sense of wanting to elevate something to a high degree of moral or spiritual purity or excellence – Brandt wanted to capture the archaic sublime beauty of the landscape. Brandt attempted to do this by introducing “an atmosphere that connects with the viewer in order to provoke an emotional response from contemplation of the work. In this sense it would seem that Brandt did not merely aim to represent a place but to capture its very essence in a single image…”5 The very thing that Hurley stated he wanted to do, to give some idea of what a modern battle looks and feels like in a single negative. Brandt stated, “Thus it was I found atmosphere to be the spell that charged the commonplace with beauty. … I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange.”6

To photograph these minutiae is not simply to document but to (e)strange through a heightened sense of atmosphere. A combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange: Isn’t that what Hurley’s war photographs are?

Hurley’s photographs contain a familiar yet strange “atmosphere” at once both objective but truly immersive and subjective (we can “picture” ourselves there) – in which the different elements that make the landscape (nature, light, viewpoint, weather conditions, subject, context) converge in an aesthetic canon rooted in a cultural tradition – in this case, war and war photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,450

 

Footnotes

  1. Australasian Photo-Review, 15 Feb, 1919, p. 164
  2. Anonymous. “Frank Hurley’s World War I photography,” on the State Library of New South Wales website Nd [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  3. Anonymous. “The Night Watch,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  4. Anonymous. “AWM E00711,” on the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022
  5. Anonymous. “Bill Brandt” text for the exhibition of the same name at the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid quoted on the Art Blart website 22nd August 2021 [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  6. Ibid.,

.
These photographs appeared on the Lawsons Auctioneers, Sydney website and are published here under fair use conditions for the purpose of education and research. I have added pertinent information with each photograph where possible. Each photograph has been lightly digitally cleaned. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away: only stumps of trees stick up here & there […] It’s the most awful & appalling sight I have ever seen. The exaggerated machinations of hell are here typified. Everywhere the ground is littered with bits of guns, bayonets, shells & men. Way down in one of these mine craters was an awful sight. There lay three hideous, almost skeleton decomposed fragments of corpses of German gunners. Oh the frightfulness of it all. To think that these fragments were once sweethearts, may be, husbands or loved sons, & this was the end. Almost back again to their native element but terrible. Until my dying day I shall never forget this haunting glimpse down into the mine crater on hill 60.”

.
Frank Hurley diary entry, 23rd August, 1917

 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

.
John McCrae

 

 

James Francis “Frank” Hurley was 30 years old when he joined the Australian Imperial Force as an honorary captain and official photographer.

Before arriving on the Western Front in August 1917 to document the Third Battle of Ypres, Hurley had been no stranger to photographing under risky conditions. Less than one year earlier, he had returned to civilisation after two years stranded on the pack ice of Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance, a desperate struggle for survival during which he managed to produce a stunning set of images.

 

Hurley’s commitment to capturing an image, to ‘getting there without a fuss’, as Bean described it, underplays the many difficulties he faced in the field. His daily encounters with death, destruction and the ubiquitous mud of Flanders can only have hampered his photography. Hurley was – perhaps unknowingly – echoing Bean’s impetus to establish a national collection and, in turn, a memorial to Australians at war when he wrote:

“My enthusiasm and keenness, however, to record the hideous things men have to endure urges me on. No monetary considerations, or very few others in fact, would induce any man to flounder in mud to his knees to try and take pictures.”

Frank Hurley, quoted in Daniel O’Keefe, Hurley at War: The Photography and Diaries of Frank Hurley in Two World Wars, Fairfax Library, Sydney, 1986, p. 7 quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in National Gallery of Victoria Art Journal 51, 26 Jul 13 [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (recto)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australians Waiting to "go over" Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Notice the silhouette of the tank in the background of the photograph, and at centre right a .303inch Vickers Machine Gun mounted on a tripod (see below)

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun between 1914 and 1918

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun
between 1914 and 1918
Courtesy of York Museums Trust
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

 

 

Standard Vickers machine gun with tripod mount and associated ammunition belt, ammunition box plus petrol can (as a condenser can) with hose. The Vickers Gun was the standard British machine gun from 1912. It was heavy and mounted on a tripod, requiring a team of six men to transport it to and operate it on the battlefield. Although difficult to use on advancing troops, machine guns were used to deadly effect from defensive positions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele' 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

State Library of Queensland title: Australian Field Ambulance officers sheltering in trench
Imperial War Museum title: Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele © IWM (E(AUS) 839)
Lawsons title: Australians Waiting to “Go Over” (no text on verso of print)

 

 

The caption from Lawsons auction house is incorrect. These are not front line troops waiting to “go over” but stretcher bearers as evidenced by the armband on the two men on the left hand side of the photograph and their attendant stretcher vertically propped up against the trench.

“While the soldiers were readying themselves at the front of a trench, awaiting the order to go over the top, the unarmed bearers were at the back with their big wooden stretchers, trying, says Mayhew, to be as invisible as possible because the fighting men often considered them unlucky.”

 

In a more recent Australian publication Diaries of a Stretcher-Bearer 1916-1918 the Great War experience of Edward Charles Munro is retold. Munro served as an AAMC stretcher-bearer on the Western Front (Edward C. Munro, Donald Munro (ed.), Diaries of a stretcher-bearer: 1916-1918, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 2010). Munro, awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917, candidly related his involvement and experience in the 5th Australian Field Ambulance. The text gives the reader a clear understanding of the work and wartime experience of an Australian stretcher-bearer on the Western Front and is remarkable for its honesty and detail. The work is unusual as it portrayed the reality of life on the Western Front in a manner few others have done. For example, the author graphically described the technical aspects of the stretcher-bearers’ work in evacuating the wounded and frankly related his personal fears and those of his AAMC stretcher-bearer squad while working in harsh conditions and whilst under fire.

Liana Markovich. “‘No time for tears for the dying’: stretcher-bearers on the Western Front, 1914-1918.” Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of New South Wales, November 2015, p. 20.

 

Unknown maker. 'Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF' c. 1916

 

Unknown maker
Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF
c. 1916
Brass, Linen, White metal, Wool
Australian War Memorial Collection

 

 

Description

White woollen brassard (arm band), lined with white linen, with a nickel plated metal buckle, and five brass riveted eyelets at the free end for size adjustment. The letters ‘SB’ (stretcher bearer), in fine red wool cloth, are appliqué in the centre. The reverse has the wearer’s initials ‘A.K.’ in indelible pencil.

 

History / Summary

Alexander Kennedy, born in Glebe, Sydney, was a 20 year old baker working in Brisbane, when he enlisted in the AIF on 27 April 1915. After training he was assigned as a private to the Headquarters of 26 Battalion, with the service number 570.

The battalion sailed for Egypt on 29 June, aboard the troopship HMAT A60 Aenas, and then on to Gallipoli, where they landed on 12 September, undertaking defensive roles on the peninsula. Kennedy suffered what was diagnosed as an epileptic fit on 18 October. After assessment at 16 (British) Casualty Clearing Station, he returned to his unit the following day, but immediately suffered more fits. As a result, he was evacuated to the hospital ship, Soudan, and taken to Malta for treatment. Kennedy returned to duty in Egypt in March 1916 and transferred to D Company, 52 Battalion the following month, as a battalion stretcher bearer.

On 6 June 1916, he sailed with his battalion, aboard the Iverniai, to France for service on the Western Front. On 18 August Kennedy was promoted to lance corporal. In its first action in France, at Mouquet Farm on 3 September, fifty per cent of the men in 52 Battalion became casualties. Kennedy was one of them, receiving gunshot wounds to the shoulder, chest and left thigh, and fractured toes. Shortly before he was wounded he took part in an action in which a German machine gun crew were killed, for which he was subsequently awarded the Military Medal.

Kennedy was evacuated to a casualty clearing station on 5 September and then on to 18 (British) General Hospital at Camiers. There, his condition fluctuated, improving by 2 October, dangerously ill two weeks later, and then improving on 24 October. It is unclear form his records whether one or both of his legs was amputated, but an amputation took place on 16 November. A decision was made to try to transfer him to England by easy stages and he was moved about 4 miles to the St John’s Brigade Hospital near Etaples at the end of November. However, infection set in and he died there of septicemia at 12.15 a.m. on 2 December.

Anonymous text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 29th October 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (recto)
29th October 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Australian troops walk along a duckboard track through the remains of Chateau Wood, Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 29 October 1917. The word duckboard was created during the early 20th century to describe the boards or slats of wood laid down to provide safe footing for the soldiers of World War I across wet or muddy ground in trenches or camps.

“One dares not venture off the duckboard or he will surely become bogged, or sink in the quicksand-like slime of rain-filled shell craters. Add to this frightful walking a harassing shellfire and soaking to the skin, and you curse the day that you were induced to put foot on this polluted damned ground.”

~ Frank Hurley Diary October 11, 1917

 

WWI, 30 Oct 1917; A general view of the battlefield at Hannebeek in the Ypres sector. In the foreground are the duckboard and corduroy tracks leading to Westhoek and Anzac Ridge, and beyond it several Australian artillerymen (right) can be seen making their way to their dugouts in the wood.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The mud Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The mud Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian artillery, Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian artillery, Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Australian gun crew next to what looks like a Vickers BL 8-inch howitzer (Mark VII or VIII) (see below)

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer, manufactured in USA as Model 1917 and supplied to the Finnish army. Displayed in Hämeenlinna Artillery Museum. The stampings on the breech state: 8 IN. HOWITZER MODEL OF 1917 (VICKERS) MIDVALE NO 188 1918 VICKERS MARK VI
Photo taken on June 18, 2006
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Hellfire corner, Menin Road' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Hellfire corner, Menin Road (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Hurley’s most famous images, his view of Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front”, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917. Notice the attempt to screen the galloping horses and artillery from German observation and then shelling by flimsy pieces of material at the left hand side of the image.

“It [the Menin Road] is notorious and being enfiladed by the enemy’s fire is decidedly the hottest ground on the whole front. The way is strewn with dead horses, the effect of last night’s shelling and battered men’s helmets that tell of the fate of the drivers.”

~ Frank Hurley, diary, 14 September 1917, MS883, National Library of Australia

 

Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, in the Ypres Sector. This well named locality was continually under observation and notorious for its danger. At night this road was crammed with traffic, limbers, guns, pack animals, motor lorries and troops. Several motor lorries received direct hits at different times and were totally destroyed. The dead bodies of horses, mules and men were often to be seen lying where the last shell had got them. The neighbourhood was piled with the wreckage of all kinds of transport. A ‘sticky’ spot that was always taken at the trot. Left to right is Ypres Wood on Railway Ridge in background, hessian camouflage on the corner, Hooge, track to Gordon House veers to the right with Leinster Farm in the distance.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

The crossroads on the Menin Road outside Ypres, 27 September 1917. This spot was known as ‘Hellfire Corner’ and from the heights a few kilometres away German artillery observers could see the constant traffic passing along the Menin Road to the front lines. A British transport driver described Hellfire Corner: ‘… when I got to Hellfire Corner it was chaos. A salvo of shells had landed in among the convoy. The lorries were scattered all over the place and even those that hadn’t been directly hit had been run off the roadway … the road was littered with bodies and debris and shell-holes all over the place. (Driver LG Burton, Army Service Corps, quoted in Lyn Macdonald, They Called it Passchendaele, London, 1979, p. 92. Image: E01889)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Hellfire Corner was a junction in the Ypres Salient in the First World War. The main supplies for the British Army in this sector passed along the road from Ypres to Menin – the famous Menin Road. A section of the road was where the Sint-Jan-Zillebeke road and the Ypres-Roulers (Roeselare) railway (line 64) crossed the road. The German Army positions overlooked this spot and their guns were registered upon it so that movement through this junction was perilous, making it the most dangerous place in the sector.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

3rd Battle Ypres 1917 WW1 Footage Hell Fire Corner Menin Road Then And Now

Then and Now look at Hellfire Corner on Menin Road. Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties.

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading 'Granny', a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road' 4 October 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road
4 October 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Australian howitzer, Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road, in the Ypres sector, one of the monsters which, in the fighting of 4 October 1917, greatly assisted the advance by pounding the enemy’s reserve areas and demolishing the concrete fortresses. The heavy shells are manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Identified front right supporting a shell is Gunner 1113 A.C. Holder.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

The Battle of Menin Road was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres [also known as the Battle of Passchendaele] on the Western Front, undertaken by the British Second Army in an attempt to take sections of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed. This action saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd Divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack was successful along its entire front, though the advancing troops had to overcome formidable entrenched German defensive positions which included mutually supporting concrete pill-box strongpoints and also resist fierce German counter-attacks. A feature of this battle was the intensity of the opening British artillery support. The two AIF Divisions sustained 5,013 casualties in the action.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Heavy artillery was designed to pulverise enemy defensive positions. By and large German defences were constructed very well indeed, and the onus was on the Allies to attack them to retake ground occupied by the Germans in 1914. German defences often comprised concrete blockhouses and deep underground concrete dugouts which were impervious to Field Artillery.

Big guns were a prime target for opposing artillerymen who would seek to apply counter battery fire to enemy gun positions. Locating them accurately was a story in itself. In the end it was the British who triumphed thanks largely to the work of Adelaide-born (later Professor and 1915 Nobel Prize winner) Captain Lawrence Bragg, serving in the Royal Artillery. He and his team developed a surprisingly accurate technique based on sound ranging that gave the Allies a decisive advantage being able to locate enemy heavy guns with remarkable accuracy. It was a decisive factor in the Allied victory on 8th August 1918 at the Battle of Amiens.

Gunners have four defensive measures; distance from the enemy, concealment, protection in the form of dugouts and bunkers, and mobility. As far as range was concerned, soldiers have a saying; “if the enemy is in range so are you”. At least with heavy guns, they are generally beyond the range of Field Artillery. Concealment? When one of these guns went off, the entire neighbourhood knew it; at night the muzzle flash was prodigious, so notions of concealment were therefore moot. Once firing began the best protection is to be part of a massed barrage. Mobility is a misnomer in the case of most heavy artillery; it is certainly relative. The 9.2 inch Howitzers were not mobile – they could not easily be redeployed without time and lifting equipment. Protection? Defensive earthworks would not sustain a direct hit by enemy heavy artillery. Nor could they prevent enemy infantry attacking if they ever managed to get close enough (which they did during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917). In short, being a gunner was not without risk.

The Australian Heavy Batteries served on the Western Front largely detached from the rest of the AIF. They spent relatively little time on the Somme. Most of their service was rendered further north around Arras and Vimy in France and into Flanders, as part of British Corps Artillery. The Heavy Batteries were manned at the outset with soldiers from the permanent force Garrison Artillery, later augmented by reinforcements from the militia.

Steve Larkins. “36th Heavy Artillery Group,” on the Virtual War Memorial website November 2014 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
September 20th, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

National Library of Australia title: Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
Australian War Memorial title:
A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, Belgium, Frank Hurley, 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: The Wounded Ypres (no text on back of print)

 

 

Notice the broken glass of the negative plate, the man being led at left possibly blinded in a gas attack, and the piles of stretchers at right.

“The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners… A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 20 September 1917

 

“It was wondrously quiet, only an occasional shell was fired – the aftermath of the storm, and it sounded for all the world like the occasional boom of a roller on a peaceful beach, with the swish of the water corresponding to the scream of the shell.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 21 September 1917

 

A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, 20 September 1917. The wounded are waiting for clearance to the advanced dressing station further back down the Menin Road towards Ypres. The soldier with his arm in a sling in the centre of the photograph is Major George Heydon, Regimental Medical Officer, 8th Battalion AIF, with members of the 1st Field Ambulance AIF. Shortly after Major Heydon passed this point a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers. (AWM E00711)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

In his photograph of the wounded on the Menin Road (above), Hurley shows a seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. A lone figure appears to be providing aid while a stream of stretcher-bearers, soldiers and German prisoners passes by. Hurley’s photograph conveys the scale of the landscape and the terrible human toll. The awfulness of the scene is confirmed in his diary entry from that day: ‘The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners’. He also commented:

‘A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.’

Hurley (diary entry, 20th September 1917) quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria website 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole near Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole near Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

By the time Australian Frank Hurley arrived on the Western Front to assume ‘the grim duties of France’ in 1917,1 he had a well-established reputation as a photographer, adventurer and raconteur. His photographs and films along with his thrillingly described exploits in Antarctica on expeditions with Sir Douglas Mawson (1911-1913) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (1914-1916) had captured the public imagination. Hurley’s skills as a photographer, his controversial and occasionally shocking imagery and his ability to put on a ‘good show’ continued to ensure that his work was seen by mass audiences in London, Sydney and Melbourne in the years immediately following the First World War. A popular success with the general public, the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs opened in Melbourne in 1921 and offered audiences the opportunity to purchase his photographs and those of other official war photographers. Copies of four photographs by Hurley believed to be from this exhibition were presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2003.2

The outbreak of war in Europe coincided with the departure of Shackleton and his crew, including Hurley, on the Imperial Trans-Antarctica expedition. For the crew of the Endurance – largely comprising men from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand – the knowledge of the war in Europe must have weighed heavily. The Shackleton expedition met with disaster before it reached Antarctica. From January 1915 until August 1916 the party was stranded and had no news of the outside world. Aware of the outbreak of war, the shipwrecked crew often speculated on the outcome of the conflict, unaware that it was far from over. In July 1916 Hurley’s crewmate Thomas Orde Lee wrote in his diary: ‘I think we are all a little ashamed of having run away from it. Most though, think it must be over by now’.3 At the time of their rescue, all were shocked to learn that, after two years, the war was not over but, in fact, had escalated. The impact of this news was described by Shackleton who wrote that, upon being rescued, they felt ‘like men arisen from the dead to a world gone mad’.4

Within ten weeks of his rescue, Hurley travelled to London. In August 1917 he was appointed an official photographer and cinematographer with the Australian War Records Section (AWRS). Formed in May of that year, the AWRS, under the direction of Charles Bean, was charged to collect Australian war relics and records, including photographs. Photo-historian Shaune Lakin notes that, for Bean, ‘the photograph formed part of a broader national archive comprising written accounts, relics, and other pictorial records that together would tell the story and commemorate the history of Australians at war’.5 In this capacity Hurley was quickly deployed to Europe, arriving in France on 21 August 1917. He was under the direction of Bean, with whom he had a difficult relationship on occasions; the two are reputed to have disagreed about the role of photography. A notable point of conflict between them was Hurley’s commitment to using multiple negatives to create some of his photographs of battlefield scenes. For Hurley, singular photographs often failed to convey the scale, drama and activity of battle, and he described such images as looking more like a ‘rehearsal in a paddock’.6 In contrast, Bean’s view was that photographs needed to be an unmanipulated documentary record of the events in which Australian forces were engaged. But despite their differences, Bean clearly had respect for Hurley’s commitment to obtaining the images he wanted, and wrote: ‘[Hurley] is a splendid, capable photo-grapher. I was worrying that he might miss the best pictures but he always got there, without fuss’.7

After the sublime wilderness of Antarctica, wartime London presented a bleak picture to Hurley, but it was nothing compared to the horrors of the Western Front. His diaries convey the destruction he encountered. On his first day in Flanders, Hurley wrote: ‘What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away, – only stumps of trees stick up here or there and the whole field has the appearance of having been recently ploughed’.8 Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

His photographs convey even more vividly the visceral horror of the battlefield.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2012).

Extract from Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Notes

  1. Frank Hurley, ‘My diary, official war photographer, Commonwealth Military Forces, from 21 August 1917 to 31 August 1918’, in Papers of Frank Hurley, Manuscripts Collection, MS 833, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
  2. It is believed that the four NGV photographs may have come from this exhibition because the images’ sizes match the smallest print size offered for sale in the 1921 exhibition.
  3. Thomas Orde Lee (diary entry, 19 July 1916), quoted in Alisdair McGregor, Frank Hurley: A Photographer’s Life, Viking, Melbourne, 2004, p. 136.
  4. Ernest Shackleton, South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917, Konecky & Konecky, New York, 1998, p. 231.
  5. Shaune Lakin, Contact: Photographs from the Australian War Memorial Collection, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2006, p. xi.
  6. Frank Hurley, ‘War photography’, Australasian Photo-Review, 15 February 1919, p. 164, quoted in Helen Ennis, Man with a Camera: Frank Hurley Overseas, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2002, p. 3.
  7. Charles Bean (diary entry, vol. 132), quoted in David Millar, Snowdrift to Shellfire: Captain James Francis Hurley 1885-1962, David Ell, Sydney, 1984, p. 61.
  8. Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Sept 20, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Terrible effects of our Artillery. Boche dead may be seen lying in the foreground. Sept 20 1917. 4th Division
Australian War Memorial title: Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: “Dead” Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Battle of Passchendaele (31 July – 10 November 1917) also known as the Third Battle of Ypres

The Third Battle of Ypres (German: Dritte Flandernschlacht; French: Troisième Bataille des Flandres; Dutch: Derde Slag om Ieper), also known as the Battle of Passchendaele (/ˈpæʃəndeɪl/), was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers (now Roeselare) a junction of the Bruges (Brugge) to Kortrijk railway. The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Once Passchendaele Ridge had been captured, the Allied advance was to continue to a line from Thourout (now Torhout) to Couckelaere (Koekelare).

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuport (Nieuwpoort), combined with an amphibious landing (Operation Hush), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. Although a general withdrawal had seemed inevitable in early October, the Germans were able to avoid one due to the resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather in August, the beginning of the autumn rains in October and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and early in the new year. The Battle of the Lys (Fourth Battle of Ypres) and the Fifth Battle of Ypres of 1918, were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.

A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch, the Chief of Staff of the French Army. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since 1917 include the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.

The choice of Flanders, its climate, the selection of General Hubert Gough and the Fifth Army to conduct the offensive, debates over the nature of the opening attack and between advocates of shallow and deeper objectives, remain controversial. The time between the Battle of Messines (7-14 June) and the first Allied attack (the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July), the extent to which the internal troubles of the French armies influenced the British, the effect of the exceptional weather, the decision to continue the offensive in October and the human costs of the campaign are also debated.

Text from the Wikipedia website – fuller information on the battle is available from this website

 

On 6th November 1917, after three months of fierce fighting, British and Canadian forces finally took control of the tiny village of Passchendaele in the West Flanders region of Belgium, so ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. With approximately a third of a million British and Allied soldiers either killed or wounded, the Battle of Passchendaele (officially the third battle of Ypres), symbolises the true horror of industrialised trench warfare.

General Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief in France, had been convinced to launch his forces at the German submarine bases along the Belgian coast in an attempt to reduce the massive shipping losses then being suffered by the Royal Navy. General Haig also believed that the German army was close to collapse and that a major offensive … “just one more push”, could hasten the end the war.

Thus the offensive at Passchendaele was launched on the 18th July 1917 with a bombardment of the German lines involving 3,000 guns. In the 10 days that followed, it is estimated that over 4 1/4 million shells were fired. Many of these would have been filled by the brave Lasses of Barnbow.

The actual infantry assault followed at 03.50 on 31st July, but far from collapsing, the German Fourth Army fought well and restricted the main British advance to relatively small gains.

Ben Johnson. “The Battle of Passchendaele,” on the Historic UK website Nd [Online] Cited 28/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

A group of gelatin silver prints in identical format, each 145 x 200mm and each unmounted. Reverse of each image shows Frank Hurley’s negative number in pencil, and ten with an additional contemporary manuscript caption in ink, (clearly written by an eyewitness) as follows: St Quentin Canal; Passchendaele Stunt. Duck walk track; 48th Battallion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive; Big 15″ gun emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to evacuate; A row of Howitzers of 105th Battery behind a cut bank near Bray; 4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers; Armoured Cars; The 27th & 28th Battns. having a rest & meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt. St. Quentin Sept 1 1918; Dead Fritz Machine Gunner & Gun 8 August ’18; One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated. …

A substantial archive of photographs by Australia’s pre-eminent war photographer, Frank Hurley (1885-1962). Among them are some of Hurley’s most famous images, including his view of Hell Fire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front” and the ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, both taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917.

From mid 1917 to early September 1918 the Australian photographer and adventurer Frank Hurley, who had already achieved fame for his Antarctic photographs taken on Douglas Mawson’s expedition, served on the Western Front as an official war photographer in the AIF, with the honorary rank of captain. His dramatic images vividly capture the carnage and atmosphere in perhaps the most brutalising theatre of war in the history of human conflict. Hurley’s photographs featured in the exhibition Australian War Pictures and Photographs, staged in London in 1918.

Anonymous text. “An Archive of Photographs Documenting the Experience of Soldiers of the AIF on the Western Front By Frank Hurley,” on the Lawsons website 7th December 2020 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Camped out near Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Camped out near Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ruins Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ruins Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

I’m afraid that I’m becoming callous to many of the extraordinary sights and sounds that take place around me, and things which astounded me when I landed, now seem quite commonplace.

It is a weird, awful and terrible sight; yet somehow wildly beautiful. For my part, Ypres as it now is, has a curious fascination and aesthetically is far more interesting than the Ypres that was.

.
~ Excerpt from Frank Hurley’s diary

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Australian artillery gunners hard at work behind their 18 pounder field gun.

 

 

QF 18-pounder gun

The Ordnance QF 18-pounder, or simply 18-pounder gun, was the standard British Empire field gun of the First World War-era. It formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war, and was produced in large numbers. It was used by British Forces in all the main theatres, and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (84 mm) and shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The first versions were introduced in 1904. Later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. During the interwar period, the 18-pounder was developed into the early versions of the equally famous Ordnance QF 25-pounder, which would form the basis of the British artillery forces during and after the Second World War in much the same fashion as the 18-pounder had during the First.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information about the field gun please see the website

 

The Gun

The Quick Firing (QF) 18 Pounder was the principle Field Gun of the British Army in World War One. The gun saw service in every theatre of the Great War. Its calibre of 84mm and shell weight made it more brutal and destructive than the French 75mm and German 77mm. Its ammunition had the shell combined with the cartridge thus giving it the description of ‘quick firing’.

The gun and its ammunition limber were towed by a team of six light draught horses. A driver was allocated to each two horse team and rode the left horse of each pair. The two wheeled ammunition limber was hooked up to the horses and the trail of the gun was hooked to the limber. Further to this, each gun had two additional ammunition limbers towed by their own team. The photograph below illustrates the standard horse drawn configuration.

The gun detachments, led by the detachment sergeant on his own horse, rode into action either on the horses or on the limber. During the early stages of the war, an ammunition limber was positioned on the left of the gun, but as the war progressed and larger quantities of ammunition were being used, stockpiles of ammunition were dumped in pits next to the guns.

 

The Australian History

The 18 pounder gun was introduced into Australian service in 1906 and continued to be used until 1945. It was the standard field gun in service until 1940 when it began to be replaced by the 25 pounder gun. When World War 1 commenced there were 116 18-pounder guns in Australia and 76 of these were sent to Gallipoli and France during the war. In addition further guns were purchased to replace damaged guns and also to supply the increasing number of gun batteries in the AIF. It is estimated some 500 guns were obtained in all. 116 were brought back to Australia. Today only seven of this early model remain of which three are updated with pneumatic tyres and three are Museum items.

Anonymous text. “The 18 Pounder Project,” on the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company website Nd [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

18 Pounder field gun

 

The RAAHC 18 Pounder, before restoration

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Destroyed Ruined Cathedral Ypres (no text on rear of print)
Australian War Memorial title: An unidentified Australian soldier looking at a portion of the ruined Cathedral at Ypres

 

 

To drive the Boche from Ypres, it was necessary to practically raze the town; and now that we hold it we are shelled in return, but shelling now makes little difference, for the fine buildings and churches are scarce left stone on stone.

Roaming amongst the domestic ruins made me sad. Here and there were fragments of toys: what a source of happiness they once were.

The strafed trees were coming back to life and budding, and there beside a great shell crater blossomed a single rose. How out of place it seemed amidst all this ravage. I took compassion on it and plucked it – The last rose of Ypres.

.
~ Frank Hurley Diary September 3, 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: After the battle at Ypres (no text on verso of print)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '"Anzac" tank in the mud' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
“Anzac” tank in the mud
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

The ‘Anzac’ blockhouse on which Lieutenant Arthur Hull, 18th Battalion AIF, placed the Australian flag on 20 September 1917. When the battalion attacked this position the German garrison was attempting to evacuate the blockhouse, dragging their two machine-guns with them. The Germans were overpowered and captured. (AWM E02321)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

A pillbox known as Anzac Strong Post, captured by Australian troops in the attack of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions, on 20 September 1917, and on which they hoisted an Australian flag. To this position there subsequently came an enemy messenger dog with messages to a German officer, telling of the Australian attack and instructing him to hold out at all costs. The dog was killed by shellfire later in the day, and the flag was destroyed, for the pillbox suffered many direct hits from the enemy’s high explosive shells. This photograph was taken a week later. Note the ANZAC sign and the rifles leaning against the pill box.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Probably the reverse angle of the same gun in the photograph above

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Armoured cars' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Armoured cars held up for a time on the main Harbonnieres Road, by fallen trees
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Armoured cars (text on back of print)

 

 

“An armoured car, carrying a French flag, moving up the main Amiens Road from Warfusee Abancourt during the advance of the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. The two soldiers on the right are unidentified.”

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

This appears to be an Austin 1918 pattern car, probably belonging to the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion of the Tank Corps. This unit was in action in France from March of 1918. The flag is not a French Tricolor, but rather a two-colour signal flag – probably red and white.

For more information on the Austin Armoured Car please see the Wikipedia website

 

The last, and probably most familiar vehicle in the Austin line up, the Austin 3rd Series (Improved)/4th Series Armoured Car, yet again closely followed upon it’s immediate precursor, the Austin 3rd Series car. And like all its predecessors, including the “older” Austin 1st Series, and Austin 2nd Series Armoured Cars, it too was built for use by Russian forces. However, due to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, most sources state that none of the 4th Series vehicles were used by the Russians*. The approximately 70 completed and subsequently built cars were acquired by the British Army and used fairly successfully by them, most notably by the 17th Battalion Tank Corps in 1918.

The 4th Series cars are fairly similar to the 3rd Series vehicles, except for a very significant change, the fitting of a strengthened suspension, which included dual rear wheels. The new suspension would aid the cars in improving their mobility, although never to a point of them being considered especially agile. In addition, some cars used in the later stage of the war / post-war were mounted with solid disc wheels. Finally, the 4th Series vehicles were also armed with British weapons instead of the Maxim machine guns favoured by the Russians. Sources state that both .303 Vickers and .303 Hotchkiss machine guns were mounted at various times.

Anonymous text. “Austin 3rd (Improved)/4th Series Armored Car,” on the War Wheels website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (detail)
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."]' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in “The devil’s den”]
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, July 1863

July 1863

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (recto)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (verso)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne (recto)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (text on back of print)

 

 

The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne. Identified, left to right: 21492 Corporal J. F. Yates MM (partially obscured by the gun); 21437 Bombardier John Thomas Wharton MM (shovelling); 37417 Gunner (Gnr) Charles Edward Harnett (back to camera); 24557 Gnr C. F. H. Ipsen (looking up); 23094 Gnr John Southwell (extreme right foreground); 32887 Gnr Charles Edward Dun (in the background between Harnett and Ipsen); 23073 Gnr A. McDonald (directly behind Ipsen); 32962 Gnr Stockley (behind McDonald).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Oline] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (verso)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

QF 4.5-inch howitzer

The Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer was the standard British Empire field (or ‘light’) howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5-inch howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in the field by British forces in early 1942. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The QF 4.5-inch (110 mm) howitzer was used by British and Commonwealth forces in most theatres, by Russia and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (114 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent German field howitzer (105 mm); France did not have an equivalent. In the Second World War it equipped some units of the BEF and British, Australian, New Zealand and South African batteries in East Africa and the Middle and Far East.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the gun please see the website

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II. A breech-loading artillery piece fitted with a sliding breech block, axial recoil system, splinter-proof shield, and steel box carriage. The gun is fitted with two wooden spoked ‘Wheels 2nd Class ‘C’ No 45′, and is equipped with drag ropes, spare shovels, rammer, and leather sight and tool boxes. …

 

History / Summary

The QF [Quick Fire] 4.5 inch howitzer was initially brought into service in 1909. The Mark II was introduced in 1917, rectifying a breechblock design defect in the earlier Mark I. The gun was capable of firing a 16 kilogram shell to a range of almost 7 kilometres, however it was its capacity to fire at elevations of up to 45 degrees that made the weapon so effective. The high elevation allowed the gun to lob shells almost vertically into areas protected by traditional fortifications. The heavier 4.5 inch high explosive shell was found to be far more effective than the 18 pounder in damaging enemy parapets and trenches and thus found increasing use for this purpose.

Over 3,300 4.5 inch howitzers were manufactured during the First World War. The Mark II design remained in service into the Second World War when they were finally replaced by the QF 25-Pounder.

Text and photograph from the Australian War Memorial website [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (recto)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin

The Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin was a battle on the Western Front during World War I. As part of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front in the late summer of 1918, the Australian Corps crossed the Somme River on the night of 31 August and broke the German lines at Mont Saint-Quentin and Péronne. The British Fourth Army’s commander, General Henry Rawlinson, described the Australian advances of 31 August – 4 September as the greatest military achievement of the war. During the battle Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont Saint-Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.

 

Battle

The offensive was planned by General John Monash; Monash planned a high-risk frontal assault which required the Australian 2nd Division to cross a series of marshes to attack the heights. This plan failed when the assaulting troops could not cross the marshes. After this initial setback, Monash manoeuvred his divisions in the only free manoeuvre battle of any consequence undertaken by the Australians on the Western Front.

Australians of the 2nd Division crossed to the north bank of the Somme River on the evening of 30 August. At 5 am on 31 August, supported by artillery, two significantly undermanned Australian battalions charged up Mont St Quentin, ordered by Monash to “scream like bushrangers”. The Germans quickly surrendered and the Australians continued to the main German trench-line. In the rear, other Australians crossed the Somme by a bridge which Australian engineers had saved and repaired. The Australians were unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and German reserves regained the crest. However, the Australians held on just below the summit and next day it was recaptured and firmly held. On that day also, 1 September, Australian forces broke into Péronne and took most of the town. The next day it completely fell into Australian hands. In three days the Australians endured 3,000 casualties but ensured a general German withdrawal eastwards back to the Hindenburg Line.

 

Aftermath

Looking back after the event, Monash accounted for the success by the wonderful gallantry of the men, the rapidity with which the plan was carried out, and the sheer daring of the attempt. In his Australian Victories in France, Monash pays tribute to the commander of the 2nd Division, Major-General Charles Rosenthal, who was in charge of the operation. But Monash and his staff were responsible for the conception of the project and the working out of the plans.

The Allied victory at the Battle of Mont Saint Quentin dealt a strong blow to five German divisions, including the elite 2nd Guards Division. As the position overlooked much of the terrain east of Mont St. Quentin, it guaranteed that the Germans would not be able to stop the allies west of the Hindenburg Line (the same position from which the Germans had launched their offensive in the spring). A total of 2,600 prisoners were taken at a cost of slightly over 3,000 casualties.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (verso)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'St Quentin Canal' 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
St Quentin Canal
1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I that began on 29 September 1918 and involved British, Australian and American forces operating as part of the British Fourth Army under the overall command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson. Further north, part of the British Third Army also supported the attack. South of the Fourth Army’s 19 km (12 mi) front, the French First Army launched a coordinated attack on a 9.5 km (6 mi) front. The objective was to break through one of the most heavily defended stretches of the German Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line), which in this sector used the St Quentin Canal as part of its defences. The assault achieved its objectives (though not according to the planned timetable), resulting in the first full breach of the Hindenburg Line, in the face of heavy German resistance. In concert with other attacks of the Grand Offensive along the length of the line, Allied success convinced the German high command that there was little hope of an ultimate German victory.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the battle please see the website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal' 25 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal
25 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: No 18 Tank (no text on back of print)

This is a British Mark IV tank (female)

 

 

A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal to the main Hindenburg Line. Land mines, scattered about the Hindenburg trenches and the specially directed anti-tank gun fire caused heavy tank casualties. Notice the crew entry doors beneath the side sponsons.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

British Mk IV tank

The Mark IV (pronounced Mark four) was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefited from significant developments of the Mark I tank (the intervening designs being small batches used for training). The main improvements were in armour, the re-siting of the fuel tank and ease of transport. A total of 1,220 Mk IV were built: 420 “Males”, 595 “Females” and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies), which made it the most numerous British tank of the war. The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the Battle of Messines Ridge. It remained in British service until the end of the war, and a small number served briefly with other combatants afterwards.

The “Male” tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I. As opposed to the five machine guns of the “Female” version of the Mark I tank, the male version of the Mark I had a QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss and three machine guns.

 

Production

The Mark IV was built by six manufacturers: Metropolitan (the majority builder), Fosters of Lincoln, Armstrong-Whitworth, Coventry Ordnance Works, William Beardmore & Company and Mirrlees, Watson & Co., with the main production being in 1917. The first order was placed for 1,000 tanks with Metropolitan in August 1916. It was then cancelled, reinstated and then modified between August and December 1916. The other manufacturers, contracted for no more than 100 tanks each, were largely immune to the conflict between Stern and the War Office.

 

Service

The Mark IV was first used in large numbers on 7 June 1917, during the British assault on Messines Ridge. Crossing dry but heavily cratered terrain, many of the 60-plus Mark IVs lagged behind the infantry, but several made important contributions to the battle. By comparison, at the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) from 31 July, where the preliminary 24-day long barrage had destroyed all drainage and heavy rain had soaked the field, the tanks found it heavy going and contributed little; those that sank into the swampy ground were immobilised and became easy targets for enemy artillery.

Nearly 460 Mark IV tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, showing that a large concentration of tanks could quickly overcome even the most sophisticated trench systems.

In the aftermath of the German spring offensive on the Western Front, the first tank-to-tank battle was between Mk IV tanks and German A7Vs in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

About 40 captured Mark IVs were employed by the Germans as Beutepanzerwagen (the German word Beute means “loot” or “booty”) with a crew of 12. These formed four tank companies from December 1917. Some of these had their six pounders replaced by a German equivalent.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Trimming. '1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England' 19 March 2013

 

Peter Trimming
1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England
19 March 2013
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)?
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Diggers taking a break (no text on back of print)

 

 

The Australian War Memorial website notes that this photograph is by George Hubert Wilkins.

A group from the 38th Battalion, supporting the 27th US Division in the attack on the Hindenburg Line, pause after being held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire, 29 September 1918.

 

Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm, in which they were held by machine gun fire during the attack on the Hindenburg Line, near Bony. Identified, left to right: 5918 Private (Pte) Binion; 967 Sergeant A. E. Pegler MM; 3020 Corporal H. Amiet MM; Captain C. H. Peters MC; unidentified soldier (almost completely obscured by Buckland); 763 Company Sergeant Major (CSM) R. J. Buckland MM (smoking a pipe); 6217 Pte G. Bain.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm (detail)
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Rest after battle (no text on back of print)

 

 

A communication trench previously used by the Australian troops at Westhoek Ridge, in the Ypres section, during the attack of the 2nd Division further forward, near Passchendaele Ridge. Two unidentified members of the 2nd Division are seen watching the shellfire (not in view).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele (detail)
1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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24
Oct
21

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Resonance’ 2021

October 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Resonance noun: the power to bring images, feelings, etc. into the mind of the person reading or listening; the images, etc. produced in this way…

 

 

A body of work for 2021. Very proud of this sequence…

Taken in heavy overcast conditions with slight rain after a thunderstorm had passed through on my Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera, at Eagle’s Nest, Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria, Australia.

A period of intense seeing and previsualisation.

No cropping, all full frame photographs. The colours are as the camera saw them.

See the layout of the series on my website.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

48 images
© Marcus Bunyan

 

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

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ print costs $1,000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see the Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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10
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 10th October 2021

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'Puglia' 1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
1958
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 39.2cm (11 1/8 × 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The realist illusionist

When I look at the work of Mario Giacomelli, his photographs remind me why I love the practice of photography.

They discombobulate and disorientate me; they challenge me to see the world in a different way; they reveal new things over time the more one looks at them… and they act as momento mori for both human and land. His conceptual photographs, for that is what they are, are refreshed time and time again – through their impressions, through their graphic nature, and their lack of grounding in a fixed reality.

Whether it be the abstract photographs from the series Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the shimmering figures from the series Scanno (are they really one negative!), the groundlessness of the figures in Young Priests, the abstract figuration of The Good Earth, or the spatial levitation of Metamorphosis of the Land / Awareness of Nature, the viewer is forced to reassess their relationship with the physical object (the photograph) and its representation and interpretation of our passage on this earth. As has been said of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, “The ways that stories are linked by geography, themes, or contrasts creates interesting effects and constantly forces the reader to evaluate the connections.”

Giacomelli’s photographs are active in this way: they act on the perceptions of the viewer in order to challenge what we understand of the interaction between human beings (he continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia for almost 50 years), and the interaction between human beings and the land (where his photographs “function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.”) As with many artists, the concerns that were present when he started photography – his subject matter informed by the people and places closest to him – remained with him for the rest of his life. Except he turned personal stories into universal narratives.

All of Giacomelli’s sequences (he conceived many of his series as sequences) required periods of sustained observation, where the artist embedded himself with and in his subject matter. Only in this way could the artist understand the spirit of the land and its people, his people. He had an innate ability to describe people and the land in a specific time and place… which, on reflection, seem to be timeless, like a fairy-tale or a lament. Places and people steeped in the past but in the photographs hovering on the edge of his nowhere.

The text for the series Metamorphosis of the Land in this posting perfectly sums up how much time Giacomelli took over a series, how conceptual his series were, and the artistic techniques he used to manipulate reality:

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

.
In his later series of transformation tales Giacomelli once again disrupts the flow of temporal reality. As he reflects on the death of his mother, his own mortality and the changing nature of the landscape, his photographs “mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being.” Of course, this contemplation had always been there since the beginnings of his photography where, “metaphysically speaking, understanding time means understanding the shared world that man encounters and with which man interacts.”

Through art techniques (double exposures, variable perspectives, slow shutter speeds, moving his camera during exposure, abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, the development of the negative, painting or scratching of areas on the negative to introduce elements of the absurd or surreal, use of high-contrast paper and darkroom manipulations) and conceptual structures (inspired by poems to create parallel narratives, repurposing “an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work”), Giacomelli seeks to confront the inevitability of his own mortality and thus his return to earth. As he observes, “Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth…”

In Giacomelli’s unique interpretation of figure | ground lies his elevation into the “pantheon” of photographic stars. A self-taught artist, he was not encumbered or impeded by traditional photographic practice but described his own visual photographic language, instantly recognisable as his (once seen, never forgotten) signature. A stamp on the verso of each print in the series Awareness of Nature describes the series as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.”

In my humble opinion there is no fear, only elation, that Giacomelli’s essential work will ever be lost to the folds of time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thanks to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Born into poverty and largely self-taught, Mario Giacomelli became one of Italy’s leading photographers. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, he began creating humanistic portrayals of people in their natural environments and dramatic abstractions of the landscapes. He continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, for almost fifty years. Rendered in high-contrast black and white, his photographs are often gritty and raw, but always intensely personal.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and is made possible through gifts made by him and Susan Steinhauser.

 

 

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora;
(I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities;)

.
Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book I, lines 1–2

 

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And know as well the need to not be:
let that ground of all that changes
bring you to completion now.

To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

.
Rainer Maria Rilke. Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13

 

“Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth, like a notebook…
… For me each photo represents a moment, like breathing. Who can say the breath before is more important than the one after? They are continuous and follow each other until everything stops. How many times did we breathe tonight? Could you say one breath is more beautiful than the rest? But their sum makes up an existence.”

.
Mario Giacomelli, 1987

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Still Life with Figs' (Natura morta con fichi) 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Still Life with Figs (Natura morta con fichi)
1960
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 33.7cm (11 1/8 × 13 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Known for his gritty, black-and-white images, Mario Giacomelli is recognised as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the 20th century. Drawn from the Getty Museum’s deep holdings, the exhibition Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground features 91 photographs that showcase the raw expressiveness of the artist’s style, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and was made possible through generous gifts from him and his wife, Susan Steinhauser. As photography collectors for more than two decades and founding members of the Getty Museum Photographs Council, Greenberg and Steinhauser have been generous donors to the Getty. All of the photographs in this exhibition were donated by Greenberg and Steinhauser or purchased in part with funds they provided.

“After the Museum’s yearlong closure, we are particularly pleased to be able to reopen the Center for Photographs at the Getty Center with two important exhibitions that highlight the Museum’s extensive collections,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are especially pleased to honour the extraordinary contributions of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, whose gifts of works by Giacomelli are the basis of the first monographic exhibition of the artist in a U.S. museum in 35 years. The exhibition and its catalogue are testament both to their passion as collectors and their generosity as benefactors to the Getty Museum over many years.”

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground

Born into poverty, Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. He lost his father at an early age and took up poetry and painting before apprenticing as a printmaker, which became his livelihood. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for his unique approach to photographing people, landscapes, and people in the landscape. Although photography was initially relegated to Sundays, when his printshop was closed, and to his immediate surroundings in the Marche, he became one of Italy’s most prominent practitioners.

Giacomelli’s use of flash, grainy film, and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. He most frequently focused his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche. He often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends. His first, sustained body of work was Hospice, which he began in 1954 and later titled Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, after a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese. Depicting residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia and made with flash, the images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. Additional early series on view include Scanno (1957-59) and Young Priests (1961-1963), both of which further demonstrate Giacomelli’s ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In both series, figures clothed in black are set against stark white backgrounds. While there is an underlying sense of furtiveness or foreboding in the Scanno images, the Young Priests series, which Giacomelli later titled I Have No Hands That Caress My Face, is uncharacteristically light-hearted. Another series, The Good Earth, follows a farming family going about daily life, planting and harvesting crops and tending to livestock in the countryside surrounding Senigallia; the intermingling of generations suggests the cyclical nature of existence.

Landscapes feature prominently in Giacomelli’s engagement with photography from the beginning. The exhibition features several early works dating from the 1950s, as well as signature series, such as Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-1980) and Awareness of Nature (1976-1980). Both series portray fields and small farms in the Marche region, many of which he revisited as seasons changed and crops were rotated. Giacomelli wanted to show how modernised cultivation practices were overtaxing the land and changing the landscape. He often photographed from a low or an elevated vantage point – including from a plane – to eliminate the horizon and create disorienting patchworks of geometric shapes or pulsating configurations of plowed furrows.

In his later years, Giacomelli created several series that intersperse landscapes with figure studies. He often merged the two genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. Several of these series were inspired by poems, both as composed by himself or by others. Giacomelli reflects on the interconnectedness of space, time, and being, in these works, which have a metaphysical quality. I Would Like to Tell This Memory is one of his last bodies of work. Incorporating various props, such as a mannequin, a stuffed dog, and stuffed birds, the images in the series suggest that the artist is reflecting on the inevitability of his own mortality.

“It is exciting to present this collection of Mario Giacomelli photographs assembled by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser over a period of almost twenty years,” says Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the Museum and curator of both exhibitions. “Not only does the exhibition introduce a new audience to Giacomelli’s work, but it does so through the eyes of the collectors, who were drawn to his expressive portrayals of people and the land.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Infinite' about 1986-1988

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Infinite
about 1986-1988
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 38.8cm (11 5/8 × 15 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure / Ground

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) is widely regarded as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the twentieth century. Born into poverty, he lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. After losing his father at age nine and completing elementary school at eleven, he apprenticed as a typesetter and printer, while also teaching himself to paint and write poetry. With money given to him by a resident of the ospizio (hospice) where his mother worked, he opened a printshop, a business that ensured lifelong financial stability. His engagement with photography began shortly thereafter, occurring primarily on Sundays, when the shop was closed.

After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for the raw expressiveness of his images, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature, with their interests in the conditions of everyday life and in ordinary people as thinking, feeling individuals. His preference for grainy film and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. Most frequently focusing his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche, Giacomelli often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

 

Forming Giacomelli

As a young man, Giacomelli served briefly in the Italian army during World War II. His photographic practice shows the influence of two approaches prevalent in postwar European photography: humanism, which is often associated with photojournalism; and artistic expression as a means of exploring the inner psyche, which derived from the theory of Subjective photography advanced by Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978). In Italy, these approaches found their respective counterparts in the camera clubs La Gondola (The Gondola), established in Venice in 1948, and La Bussola (The Compass), begun in Milan in 1947. Giacomelli, who was self-taught as a photographer, exchanged ideas with and learned from members of both clubs. He was also a cofounder of Misa, a local chapter of La Bussola named after Senigallia’s principal river.

Senigallia’s people and places were recurring motifs in Giacomelli’s work. In addition to revealing his interest in the different communities of his hometown, these photographs of a Romani family and of children frolicking on the beach demonstrate his ability to combine humanist and expressive impulses. Giacomelli understood that graininess, movement, and high contrast could do more than simply provide a veneer of abstraction; they also heighten the emotive power of images.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (The Nude), No. 271' 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (The Nude), No. 271
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (My Mother), No. 130' 1956; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (My Mother), No. 130
1956; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.1 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early work (1956-1960)

In 1955 Giacomelli acquired the secondhand Kobell camera with a Voigtländer lens that he would employ for the rest of his career. He later described it as something that had been “cobbled up,” held together with tape and always losing parts. Made by the Milanese manufacturers Boniforti & Ballerio, the camera used 120 roll film to produce 6 x 9 cm negatives and accommodated interchangeable lenses and a synchronised flash. For Giacomelli, it was not a device to record reality but a means of personal expression. His early association with members of local and national camera clubs and his experimentation with natural and artificial lighting, multiple exposures, and other in-camera and darkroom techniques soon led to the refinement of a unique visual language.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends; the image of his mother holding a spade is one of his most notable. He also staged still lifes and figure studies in his home and garden; the nudes shown here depict the photographer and his wife, Anna. Relatively conventional in composition, these works give a sense of Giacomelli learning his craft, while also indicating the extent to which his subject matter was informed by the people and places closest to him.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes' c. 1954-57

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi)
c. 1954-1957
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 38.9cm (11 1/2 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm (11 7/8 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Hospice | Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (1954-1983)

The first body of work that Giacomelli exhibited as a series was Hospice. It depicts residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia where his mother was a laundress and which he visited for several years before he began photographing there. Made with flash, the resulting images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. He later referred to these as his truest and most direct photographs because they reflected his own fear of growing old.

Giacomelli continued this series for almost three decades, renaming it Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes in 1966 after the first few lines of a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese (Italian, 1908-1950). For a portfolio published in 1981 he heightened the unsettling qualities of mental and physical decline and isolation by tightly cropping his negatives and printing on paper that was curled rather than flat.

“Death will come and will have your eyes – this death that accompanies us from morning till evening, unsleeping.”

~ Translated by Geoffrey Brock, 2002

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
23.3 × 37.6cm (8 3/4 × 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
26.7 × 38.1cm (10 1/2 × 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Lourdes (1957 and 1966)

In contrast to Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the series Lourdes depicts people living with illness, injury, or disability who are in search of miraculous healing. Giacomelli received a commission to photograph at this Catholic pilgrimage site in southern France in 1957.

Tremendously pained by what he saw, he shot just a few rolls of film, returned the fee that had been advanced, and did not show anyone the images for some time. He travelled to Lourdes again in 1966, with his wife and second child. This time he, too, was in search of a cure, for their son, who had lost the ability to speak following an accident.

Lourdes is the only series that Giacomelli created outside Italy, although a group of photographs made in Ethiopia (1974) and another in India (1976) have been attributed to him. Giacomelli purchased cameras and film for two individuals who were planning travel to these countries, and both of them drew on previous discussions with him when they photographed at their respective locations. Giacomelli later made prints from the negatives and signed his name to several of them, acknowledging the collaboration.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1970

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1970
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 40cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1960
Gelatin silver print
28.7 × 23.5cm (11 5/16 × 9 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Apulia (Puglia) (1958)

Giacomelli operated his printshop, Tipografia Marchigiana, in the centre of Senigallia. The successful establishment became a gathering place for photographers, artists, and critics, and provided the address stamped on the verso of all his photographs. In its early years, the business occupied the majority of Giacomelli’s time, leaving only Sundays for photography excursions. While he most often explored his hometown, its beaches, and the surrounding countryside in the Marche region, he occasionally traveled farther afield.

For this series, made in Apulia, Italy’s most southeastern province (the “heel of the boot”), a journey of about 330 miles was required. There he focused his attention on the interaction of multiple generations of townspeople gathering leisurely against the simple, whitewashed architecture typical of hillside towns such as Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vico del Gargano, and Monte Sant’Angelo. These images provide insight into Giacomelli’s ability to engage his subjects, while also underscoring a fundamental humanistic impulse in his work.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed later

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-1959, printed later
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 39.6cm (11 3/4 × 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed 1980s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-1959, printed 1980s
Gelatin silver print
26.8 × 34cm (10 9/16 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 52' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 52
1957-1959; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 57' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 57
1957-1959; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' 1957-59

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
1957-1959
Gelatin silver print
37.9 × 28.4cm (14 15/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Scanno (1957-1959)

Following his sustained observation of hospice residents in Senigallia, the photographs that Giacomelli made during trips to Scanno in 1957 and 1959 further demonstrate his ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In this town located in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy, about 270 miles south of Senigallia, Giacomelli encountered men and women going about their daily chores or gathering in the square, draped in dark garments or cloaks, their heads covered with hats or scarves. Even when congregating, subjects seem to be isolated or lost in thought. Whether in sharp focus or blurred by movement, the occasional individual who looks directly into his camera suggests a sense of mystery or furtiveness. Giacomelli used a slow shutter speed and shallow depth of field to photograph these stark, black-clad figures against whitewashed architectural settings, introducing indistinct passages that amplify the fairy-tale mood of a town that appears to be irretrievably steeped in the past.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests' (Pretini) Negative 1961-1963

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests (Pretini)
Negative 1961-1963
Gelatin silver print
29 × 38.6cm (11 7/16 × 15 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 70'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 70 (Pretini, No. 70)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 72'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 72 (Pretini, No. 72)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 71'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 71 (Pretini, No. 71)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 74'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 74 (Pretini, No. 74)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Young PriestsI Have No Hands That Caress My Face (1961-1963)

Among Giacomelli’s most memorable images are those of pretini (young priests) in the seminary of Senigallia, whom he captured playing in the snow or relaxing in the courtyard. Once again juxtaposing the distinctive shapes of black-clad figures (this time, seminarians in cassocks) against a white ground (snow-covered or sun-drenched settings), these photographs suggest a more lighthearted mood than is evident in other series. Although appearing to have been choreographed, they are the result of the priests’ unbridled joviality as they run, throw snowballs, or play ring-around-the-rosy, and of Giacomelli’s foresight to let the scenes unfold as he recorded them from the building’s rooftop.

After Giacomelli had won the trust of the seminarians, his interaction with them was brought to an abrupt end when he provided the young men with cigars for photographs he intended to submit to a competition on the theme of smoking. The rector denied him further access. Giacomelli later applied the title I Have No Hands That Caress My Face to this series, from the first two lines of a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo (Italian, 1916-1992) about young men who seek solitary religious life. This title lends poignancy to the moments of exuberance and camaraderie that accompanied study for such a calling.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Flames on the Field' (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo) 1954; printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Flames on the Field (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo)
1954; printed 1980
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early landscapes (1954-1960)

Italy’s Marche region is characterised by rolling hills, small farms, and frazioni (hamlets), all of which were among the first motifs that Giacomelli photographed. As with his portraits and figure studies from this period, the compositions of his early landscapes were fairly conventional, with foreground, middle-ground, and background elements organised around a clearly discernible horizon line. As he refined his technique, however, Giacomelli often positioned himself at the top of a hill pointing his camera downward or at the base aiming it upward, thereby eliminating the horizon and creating a disorienting patchwork of geometric shapes. His development of the negative, use of high-contrast paper, and manipulations in the darkroom further enhanced the distinctively graphic qualities of his images. It was not uncommon for him to scratch forms into his negatives to add dramatic counterpoints.

Over the years, Giacomelli returned to certain sites multiple times, documenting them during different seasons and crop rotations. He would later incorporate photographs made for one purpose into a series that had other ambitions, most notably to function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-1966
Gelatin silver print
14.3 × 38.9cm (5 5/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed before 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-1966; printed before 1980
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm (11 15/16 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed early 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-1966; printed early 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.9cm (11 3/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-1966; printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39.4cm (11 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 146' (La Buona Terra, No. 146) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 146 (La Buona Terra, No. 146)
1964-1965; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 208' (La Buona Terra, No. 208) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 208 (La Buona Terra, No. 208)
1964-1965; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 219' (La Buona Terra, No. 219) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 219 (La Buona Terra, No. 219)
1964-1965; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Good Earth (1964-1966)

For this series, Giacomelli followed a farming family off and on over several years as they went about their daily lives in the countryside surrounding Senigallia, planting and harvesting crops and tending livestock. Once he had gained their trust, he began to make photographs that underscored the cyclical nature of their existence, including both the intermingling of multiple generations and the interweaving of daily chores and responsibilities with moments of leisure and renewal. The Good Earth tells a story of resilience, self-sufficiency, and continuity. The last of these is symbolised by the recurring motif of towering haystacks that serve as the backdrop for work, play, and the celebration of a young couple’s wedding.

Periodically Giacomelli asked the family, with whom he maintained a friendship beyond this project, to use their tractor to plough patterns in fields that lay fallow. The resulting images, which form the basis of his series Awareness of Nature, address the issue of humankind’s interventions in the landscape. Examples are on display in the final gallery of the exhibition.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 39.4cm  (11 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2) 1971; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 39.1cm  (11 5/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10) 1974, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10)
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19) Before 1966, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19)
Before 1966, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283) Before 1968, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283)
Before 1968, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.2cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5) 1971, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-1960)

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature (Presa di coscienza sulla natura)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.7 × 39.5cm  (11 11/16 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 3' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3) 1970-74, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 3 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3)
1970-1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 38' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38) 1970, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 38 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38)
1970, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 171' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 171 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 471' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 471 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8  in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Awareness of Nature (1976-1980)

The photographs in this series are among Giacomelli’s most iconic, notable for their gritty, graphic abstraction, which he achieved with an aerial perspective and by using expired film to exaggerate the contrast between black and white. Finding a poetic reciprocity in portraying land that was undergoing “sad devastation” with film that was “dead,” Giacomelli perceived these images as a means of resuscitating his beloved Marche countryside and endowing it with a different kind of beauty. The ploughed fields pulsate with a rhythmic intensity that is absent from previous pictures, in part because he asked that some of these furrows be cut into the land (by the farming family he featured in The Good Earth). A stamp on the verso of each print describes the series further as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.” The images resonate conceptually with the Land Art, or Earth Art, movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, in which artists used the landscape to create site-specific sculptures and art forms. As was his custom, Giacomelli incorporated photographs from earlier series, which may have been made from a neighbouring hilltop or did not include his interventions.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1975-80

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1975-1980
Gelatin silver print
25.1 × 37.7cm  (9 7/8 x 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-80s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-1980s
Gelatin silver print
19.7 × 28.1cm  (7 3/4 x 11 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-90s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-1990s
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Late work (1980s)

Giacomelli conceived many of his series as sequences that tell the stories of individuals in a particular time and place. He interspersed portraits with landscapes, but he also merged these genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. And once again, he often repurposed an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work. Several of these sequences were inspired by poems, not in an attempt to illustrate them, but to create parallel narratives.

Although the photographs in this section derive from several different series, they share a sense of setting the location or mood. Most easily categorised as landscapes, they mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being. The majority were made in the 1980s, when Giacomelli was reflecting on the loss of his mother (who died in 1986), his growing international reputation as a photographer, and his own mortality.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1984, printed 1990

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1984, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm  (11 15/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1983-87

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1983-1987
Gelatin silver print
27.6 × 34.9cm  (10 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Sea of My Stories (1983-1987)

Giacomelli noted that the sea referred to in the title of this series was that of his childhood, the Adriatic, but in fact it was the sea of his entire lifetime. He made his first photographs along Senigallia’s shore after purchasing a camera in 1953. Some thirty years later, curiosity about how an aerial perspective might transform people’s appearance led him to hire a friend who owned an airplane to fly him above the region’s beaches. The resulting compositions create abstract patterns from the shapes and shadows of bathers, deck chairs, umbrellas, and boats against the sand.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 29.5cm  (8 11/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.4 × 30.2cm  (8 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

I Would Like To Tell This Memory (2000)

The poetic title of this series reflects the increasingly pensive mood of Giacomelli’s late work. We occasionally glimpse the photographer himself as he engages with an odd assortment of props, including stuffed dogs and birds, a mannequin and mask. His abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, and painting or scratching of areas on the negative introduce elements of the absurd or surreal as means to confront the inevitability of his own mortality. The series, one of his last, is a meditation on melancholy, loss, and the passage of time.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-1984
Gelatin silver print
24.2 × 31.2cm  (9 1/2 x 12 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-1984
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.4cm  (11 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Reflecting on Giacomelli

Giacomelli died in November 2000 after a long illness. He had continued working on several photographic series until his final days, with the poignantly titled I Would Like to Tell This Memory attesting to his deeply introspective temperament. From his unpromising beginnings as an impoverished, poorly educated boy, Giacomelli redirected the course of his life, maintaining a successful printing business that provided financial security and dedicating himself to the arts as a means of self-expression. Though he was self-taught in poetry, painting, and photography, it was with this last medium that he created a sense of continuity and fluidity throughout his life. He gained international acclaim as one of Italy’s most prominent photographers despite having made the majority of his photographs in his hometown of Senigallia and the neighbouring Marche region.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1955; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1955; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1956; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1956; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Collecting Giacomelli

Between 2016 and 2020, Los Angeles-based collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser donated 109 photographs by Mario Giacomelli to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Their collection covers broad swaths of Giacomelli’s oeuvre, from some of his earliest images to those made in the final years of his life. Drawn from their donations, this exhibition is conceived not as a comprehensive retrospective but as an opportunity to consider the collectors’ vision in assembling these holdings over a period of twenty years, teasing out what they perceived to be key concerns of Giacomelli’s practice: people (la gente) and the landscape (paesaggio), as well as people in the landscape – the “figure/ground” relationship of the exhibition’s subtitle.

The Getty Museum also acknowledges the Mario Giacomelli Archive, based in Senigallia, Sassoferrato, and Latina, Italy, for assistance in confirming titles and dates. Throughout his career, Giacomelli returned to individual images, rethinking and reworking them for subsequent series, often complicating the task of assigning definitive titles or dates. Thanks as well to Stephan Brigidi of the Bristol Workshops in Photography for providing information about the artist’s 1981 portfolios, La gente and Paesaggio. The portfolio prints are interspersed throughout the four galleries of the exhibition, presented in shallower frames with a slightly wider face.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Painter Mauro Marinelli' Negative 1960; print probably 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Painter Mauro Marinelli
Negative 1960; print probably 1966
Gelatin silver print
36.2 × 24cm (14 1/4 × 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) had a poet’s eye for the startlingly abstract order man can impose on nature and a poet’s understanding of the great disorder that is the human condition.

Giacomelli became an apprentice in typography when he was 13. As a young man, he worked as a typographer, painting on weekends and writing poetry. Inspired by the wartime movies of filmmakers like Fellini, Giacomelli taught himself still photography. He found his art in the generally impoverished countryside around Senigallia, a small town on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, where he lived all his life and whose farmlands and people were the subjects of his spare, often darkly expressionist work.

In 1954, Giacomelli began to photograph the home for the elderly where his mother had worked, completing the series in 1983. Empathetic but grittily unsentimental, the pictures show many women seemingly marooned in the sea of old age. In 1985-87, Mr. Giacomelli revisited the subject for his series Ninna Nanna, which means lullaby. This time, the deeply lined, gaunt faces of the aged are a bleak counterpoint to the bold lines and patterns found in the fields and on the sides of houses.

Giacomelli’s overhead views of mystifyingly abstract, horizonless landscapes, which he took from the time he snapped his first pictures, in late 1952, through the 1990’s, place him in the company of photographers like William Garnett and Minor White. Giacomelli’s 1970s images of geometric patterns in the fields of his hometown, Senigallia, bear striking parallels to Aaron Siskind’s contemporaneous photographs of wall abstractions.

Adapted from the artist’s New York Times obituary

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Children at the sea' (Bambini al mare) 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Children at the sea (Bambini al mare)
1959
Ferrotyped gelatin silver print
24.2 x 39.4cm (9 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Tobacco' 1955-56, printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Tobacco
1955-1956, printed 1980
35.9 x 26.7cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

'Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground' book cover

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground book cover

 

 

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08
Aug
21

Review: ‘An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Hanoi' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Hanoi
1995
From the series Viêt Nam (1994-98)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In their essential nature men do not change. The great and noble, the Masters of Life, will be great and noble to the end of time, and to contemplate them and their deeds inspires us to endeavour to emulate them. Learn whom a man venerates, and you can come to judge his character. Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

.
Alvin Langdon

 

 

Disguising power as virtue or, the Inner Landscape of Beauty

One of the great assets of VR, especially in times of lockdown, is that you can view an exhibition from a distance. Such is the case with this strong exhibition by Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. It gives the viewer the ability to come to grips with an artists work displayed as a whole, to contemplate the myriad threads that run through the five bodies of work that are presented in the exhibition.

While there are no remarkable “hero” shots contained within the body of Lê’s work, collectively the photographs from each series build a serious interrogation into the contested terrains of colonialism, war, the military, racism and protest. As we know with life nothing is ever black and white, and through her classically inspired photographs Lê probes the interweaving of existence, desire, possession and control in the landscape, in the landscape of life. As assistant curator Kirsten Gaylord observes, “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world?” These are complex issues which Lê addresses with intelligence and rigorous conceptualisation, fully aware of the paradoxes that exist within her inquiry.

My favourite series are the more personal and engaging, the more empathetic and feeling of the works – the first and the last, Viêt Nam (1994-98) and Silent General (2015-ongoing). In Viêt Nam, Lê returns to her homeland of Vietnam after almost 20 years with her large format camera. The resulting meditation on homeland evidenced in beautiful, perfectly formed photographs are moving and touching, poetic reveries on lost innocence, regained? In Silent General, Lê again again puts more of her self on the line, her photographs confronting the “issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.”

I am ambivalent about the other series in the exhibition, which while beautiful have a slightly chilly aura.

In the series Small Wars (1999-2002), Lê photographs Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia with the utmost sense of “authenticity” creating images that “explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.” In 29 Palms (2003-04) she photographs troops training in an American landscape similar to the one they would soon be deployed to in Iraq. In Events Ashore (2005-14) the artist photographs the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world exploring the global reach of the American military, its diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

In Small Wars and 29 Palms, Lê pictures a simulacra of war, simulations of a war already past (and lost), and a war yet to run its course, which would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of US forces. Her work blurs the boundaries between photojournalism and reality / fiction.

The photograph Ambush I (1999-2002, below) from Small Wars is eerily similar to Henri Huet’s photograph of Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows struggling through elephant grass in 1970 (below) with the difference that Burrows is helping to evacuate a wounded soldier, and that Huet, Burrows and two other photojournalists would be killed when their helicopter was shot down over Laos later in February 1971. Similarly, Lê’s photographs Mechanized Assault (2003-2004) shows a pristine landscape foregrounded with immaculate tanks and personnel carriers in the American landscape… when in reality, American Marines photograph the burnt remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks amongst a non-descript landscape of shell holes and mundane buildings (16 April 2003, below). Further, while not a simulation, the very stillness and chillness of Events Ashore – the physical and metaphorical distance of the photographer from the subject, from the reason of the existence of the military – make the photographs in that series seem almost an apologia for the military.

In a quotation, Lê states that, “… I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

I understand what the photographer is attempting, but in one sense I remain unconvinced about the success of the mission.

Simply put, the raison d’etre for the military – despite all protestations to the contrary, despite all the good works they otherwise undertake – is “to engage in combat, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history.” (Wikipedia) In terms of military doctrine,1 we note that in the history of the United States of America, the country has been at war 225 out of 243 years since 1776. America is a militarised society where the military prosecutes war on its own terms, disguising power as virtue. In terms of the prosecution of war, the country seems to be manifestly belligerent.

The outcome of any war is death. Sure, the soldiers might be there for economic or social reasons, they may experience fear and exhilaration, boredom and dreams, brotherhood and purpose, travel and education… but ultimately the military is a fighting and killing machine. “Young soldiers in combat inevitably confront killing. They take life away from others, and in so doing breach one of the most fundamental moral values of their society, often with long-term consequences.” Listening to an American veteran from the battle of Caens after the D-Day landings in 1944 recently in a documentary, he observed that all war is, is death – dead German soldiers, dead American soldiers, dead civilians. The reality (not a simulation or a reenactment) of Henri Huet’s photograph of dead soldiers, Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh (1965, below) is shocking and unimpeachable.

Soldiers kill. Human beings, civilian and military, die.

And then the military doesn’t want you to know about that. They cover it up. In World War 1, the British stopped posting lists of the missing and dead in the newspapers because there were so many of them. And in the Iraq war, the American military didn’t want photographs of American coffins in the back of a transport plane published because it would upset the families and the public. Even the metadata (hidden text data) written by the military contained in a public domain image of destroyed Iraqi tanks (see below) in 2003 states, “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein.” Outright lies and deception … the invasion was illegal under international law as it violated the UN Charter, there were no weapons of mass destruction found, and no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The Iraq War caused at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths, as well as tens of thousands of military deaths.

Everyone is involved in the construction of the world. You can be informed or not. You have choices. Human beings have a choice to go into the military, or not. The problem is that human beings in power, in control (at the top of the military for example) inspire others to endeavour to emulate them. As Alvin Langdon observes, “Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

Now, in another sense I believe that Lê achieves her aim, to suggest a universal history, a personal history, and a history of culture embodied in the landscape, suggestions that possibly sweep away landscapes of control.

As the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue observed, “Even in landscapes of control you can be swept off your feet by sheer beauty.” Landscapes of control cannot stand before the power of beauty embodied in the landscape and in Lê’s photographs the memory of the landscape, its music, embeds itself in the photograph. Through the power of beauty, the Inner Landscape of Beauty (one that is metaphorical as much as physical, in the mind as much as it is externally verbalised), the photographs of An-My Lê subversively undermine the control of the military over the land: its occupation and colonisation of it, its wars to control it, and its very “uniform” presence in it. Look again at the photograph Mechanized Assault (2003-4, below) and now it is the distance of the photographer from the subject – the infinite sublime as I call it – that upends the punitive intentions of the military and overwhelms their puny vehicles. It’s an earth, spirit and mind thing.

In the viewers recognition of the beauty of this land(e)scape, we acknowledge our own virtue and assert our desire to be free. Free from restrictive control. Free from oppression. Free from war. The military, police “force” and government are and always will be, afraid of the infinite within us…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,540

 

Footnotes

  1. “Development of military doctrine is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed and equipped personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war, campaign, battle, engagement, and action.” (Wikipedia)

.
Many thankx to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP 'Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh' 18 September 1965

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh
18 September 1965

 

 

The paratroopers, of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were hit by heavy fire from guerrillas that began as soon as the first elements of the unit landed. The dead and wounded were later evacuated to An Khe, where the 101st was based. The battle was one of the first of the war between major units of US forces and the Vietcong.

 

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring exhibition considers the celebrated photographer’s nearly 25-year career exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs.

Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê was evacuated with her family by the U.S. military. She has spent decades considering the complexity of American history and conflict, from war reenactments to the removal of Confederate monuments. This timely exhibition explores politically-charged topics through Lê’s subtle, evocative images that avoid the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. Sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war display the artist’s technical strengths in the classical landscape tradition, which she uses to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

 

 

” …as a photographer, I’m interested in looking at and representing the real world, and interpreting it in ways that allow me to learn from it and enlighten the issues I am trying to understand. I feel entirely comfortable using photographs with simple titles and explanatory texts. And I feel comfortable with the fact that some people may interpret a photograph differently from others. My photographs are visually complicated and carry complex messages because of the way I pack the information into the frame and structure the picture. People need to spend time with the work in order to piece together all the information. But of course the reading is subjective. I like that. I like that it could be contradictory, that it could be full of surprises, that it could be confusing. I see a fragile construct between the objective and subjective.

Ultimately, the picture is there to incite someone to think about the issues at stake, rather than say explicitly how I myself feel about the American military. Some of my work could be understood as being supportive of the military. You could look at some pictures and think: wow, those young Americans are so heroic! Or you could see in the same image a reflection of American imperialism: look at the American guy standing there, trying to teach the locals how to do it the American way! There are so many possible interpretations. Sometimes the US military comes in and does help people. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, the military was able to accomplish what no one else could. It was there with supplies in a matter of hours. But there’s a fine line between coming to help and invading, and it has to do with physical and economic presence and the ways in which Americans occupy the land. So the work is about those tensions.

I think it goes back to my own conflicted perceptions of the US military and what it did to Vietnam. At the end of the war, it was the Americans who could help us escape from the approach of communism. Everyone tried to scale the walls of the American Embassy, not the French Embassy. So it’s about all those conflicted things.”

.
An-My Lê quoted in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“Living through the Vietnam War as a child and immigrating to the United States as a teenager, An-My Lê’s life has been indelibly marked by international conflict. For over two decades, her work as a photographer has engaged the unseen facets within the theater of war. With her large-format camera in tow, she has immersed herself in the Appalachian forest with Vietnam War reenactors, and traveled aboard U.S. aircraft carriers around the globe. Lê identifies as a landscape photographer, a perspective that grounds her subtle, impactful images of American interventionism within a larger history of violence.”

.
Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

 

 

Photographer An-My Lê: 2012 MacArthur Fellow | MacArthur Foundation | October 2012

Meet An-My Lê and learn about how she came to photography, her work with the U.S. military, and her 19th-century-style camera.

Photographer An-My Lê was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. The Fellowship is a $500,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: Landscapes of war | July 2018

Find out more about An-My Lê’s series Small Wars (1992-2002), and Lê’s experiences photographing Vietnam war reenactors.

Photographer An-My Lê, who grew up in Saigon during the Vietnam War, describes her series Small Wars (1999-2002) and 29 Palms (2003-2004). She discusses how contemporary landscape photography can be used to present more than just scenery; it can illuminate culture, architecture, and social and political issues that citizens are concerned with today.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain' at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

In 1994, Lê returned to her home country for the first time since being evacuated as a teenager in 1975, arriving shortly after relations between the U.S. and Vietnam were normalised. She brought her camera with her, hoping to untangle the reality of her childhood memories from what she had seen over the years in movies and the news. She started the project in her mother’s birthplace, Hanoi, which she had never visited before, and returned to Vietnam three more times, spending about a month there on each trip. Using a large-format camera and shooting from an elevated perspective, Lê portrayed the landscape as a backdrop for human activity – particularly war and conflict – throughout history and into the present. Her series began with images of traditional, rural landscape she recalled from her childhood but eventually evolved into a photographic meditation on the fog of war and its tendency to scramble perceptions. Other images include scenes from urban and modern-day Vietnam unlike anything she had seen represented in the U.S. In this series Lê refined her working methods and began engaging with themes that remain cornerstones of her practice today.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

This was the first photograph Lê made in Vietnam after almost twenty years away. It reflects her directorial style: Unlike a photojournalist, who strives to record events without intervening, Lê instructed the members of this farming family to stand still and look at the camera. The movement of their livestock and the surrounding foliage in the wind creates blur – perhaps a nod to the quickening pace of modern life in Vietnam.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City
1995
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Thanh Hoa' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Thanh Hoa
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858
1858

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)

Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) was a British pioneer of photography, best known for his photographs of India and Burma taken in the 1850s.

Linnaeus Tripe was born in Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devon, to Mary (1786-1842) and Cornelius (1785-1860). He was the ninth of twelve children. He joined the East India Company army in 1838, and in 1840, became a lieutenant based in the south of India. He returned to England in 1850, on a leave that was extended due to ill health until 1854. During this time he began to experiment with photography, and joined the Photographic Society of London in 1853. He returned to Bangalore, India, as a captain in June 1854. In December of that year he made his first photographs of India. In February of the following year he took part in the Madras Exhibition of Raw Products, Arts, and Manufactures of Southern India, displaying 68 photographs of previously unphotographed temples. The jury declared these photographs the “Best series of photographic views on paper.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 - c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879) 'Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi' 1880

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 – c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879)
Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi
1880
From “The trip from Egypt to Indochina” (Voyage de l’ Egypte à l’ Indochine)