Posts Tagged ‘Leo Tolstoy

27
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Primrose – Russian Colour Photography’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 25th January – 3rd April 2013

Curator: Olga Sviblova

 

 

Varvara Stepanova. 'Red Army Men' 1930

 

Varvara Stepanova (Russian, 1894-1958)
Red Army Men
1930
Photomontage for Abroad magazine

 

 

A bumper posting on a fascinating subject. The portrait of Tolstoy is incredible; more poignant are the photographs pre-World War I (the last days of the Tsarist dynasty), and pre-World War 2 (Portrait of Yury Rypalov, below). People stare into the camera with no idea of the maelstrom about to descend…

Marcus

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

 

Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

 

Boris Mikhailov (Ukranian, b. 1938)
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

 

Vasily Ulitin. 'Flame of Paris' 1932

 

Vasily Ulitin (Russian, 1888-1976)
Flame of Paris
1932
Bromoil
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Dmitry Baltermants. 'Men's talk' 1950s

 

Dmitry Baltermants (Russian, 1912-1990)
Men’s talk
1950s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Dmitry Baltermants. 'Rain' 1960s

 

Dmitry Baltermants (Russian, 1912-1990)
Rain
1960s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Yakov Khalip. 'Sea cadets' End of 1940s

 

Yakov Khalip (Russian, 1908-1980)
Sea cadets
End of 1940s
Artist’s colour print
On the reverse side text of congratulation to Alexander Rodchenko
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/ Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

 

The exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography takes place as part of Netherlands-Russia 2013. The title refers to the primrose flower, used metaphorically here to represent the many colours in which it appears during early spring. Primrose – Russian Colour Photography presents a retrospective of the various attempts in Russia to produce coloured photographic images. This process began in the early 1850s, almost simultaneously with the discovery of the new medium itself. The colouring technique, based on the traditional methods of craftsmen who added colour into a certain contour design, has determined a whole independent trend in the history of photography in Russia, from ‘postcard’ landscapes and portraits to Soviet propaganda and reportage photography.

The use of colour in Russia stems from the early 1850s and practically coincides with the invention of the medium itself. The term colour photography is slightly disingenuous, since at first it referred to a toning technique in which black and white photographs were painted by hand. Traditionally this technique was used by specialised tradesmen who added colour to the photographs according to certain methods and within the contours of the image. This technique became so popular that it started a trend in and of itself and to a large extent determined the appearance and aesthetics of colour photography in Russia. Initially used especially for portraits, Pictorialist landscapes and nudes, it later also found favour with avant-garde artists. Interestingly enough these aesthetics also formed the starting point for Soviet propaganda and for portraits, political leaders and reportage.

Primrose – Russian Colour Photography can be viewed as a journey through various techniques and genres, meanings and messages, mass practices and individual experiments. The exhibition contains works by renowned photographers and artists such as Sergey Produkin-Gorsky, Ivan Shagin, Dmitry Baltermants and Robert Diament. But is also shows unique photos of Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stephanova, and recent works from the famous Luriki series by Boris Mikhailov, in which he mocked the visual culture of the Soviet propaganda.

Press release from the Foam website [Online] Cited 24/03/2020 no longer available online

 

Pyotr Pavlov (Russian, 1860-1924) 'Moscow. Lubianka' 1910s

 

Pyotr Pavlov (Russian, 1860-1924)
Moscow. Lubianka
1910s
Offprint
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta' 1910-1911

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta
1910-1911
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Nikolskoye Simbirsk province' 1910

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Nikolskoye Simbirsk province
1910

 

Alexander Rodchenko.' Race. "Dynamo" Stadium' 1935

 

Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Race. “Dynamo” Stadium
1935
Artist’s gelatine silver print, gouache
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Dmitry Baltermants. 'Meeting in the tundra' 1972

 

Dmitry Baltermants (Russian, 1912-1990)
Meeting in the tundra
1972
From the Meetings with Chukotka series
Colour print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography at Foam, Amsterdam

 

 

Primrose

This exhibition with the metaphorical title Primrose demonstrates the appearance and development of colour in Russian photography from the 1860s to 1970s, and at the same time reveals the history of Russia in photography. With examples of works from classics of Russian photography such as P. Pavlov, K. Bergamasko, A. Eikhenvald, A. Rodchenko, V. Mikoshi, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants and B. Mikhailov, as well as unknown photographers, we can see how life in Russia changed in the course of a century as it endured historical and socio-political catastrophes, also the diverse roles that photography played during this period.

Colour became widespread in Russian photography at approximately the same time as in Europe – in the 1860s. This was dependent on the manual tinting of photographic prints with watercolour and oil paints, either by the photographers themselves or by artists working with them. Above all this applies to solo or family portraits commissioned as a keepsake. The photographic studios of Nechayev, Ushakov & Eriks and Eikhenvald produced thousands of tinted portraits that became an important part of the domestic interior.

People were eager to see their own image in colour, and moreover in a picturesque form. The colouring of early photographic shots could also hide imperfections in the prints, including those introduced on albumenised paper. With time this paper turned yellow. To conceal this, the paper was tinted green, pink and other colours and coloured with watercolours, gouache, oils, or later aniline dyes. Sometimes the photograph was partially redrawn during the process of tinting, and foliate embellishments or different items of interior decoration appeared in the background.

By the end of the 19th century, by the 1880s and 1890s, colour photography was extended to architectural, landscape and industrial subject matter. For instance, the photographic studio of the Trinity and St. Sergius Monastery (photographic studios attached to Russian monasteries became a very common phenomenon) produced numerous coloured architectural images of Orthodox churches.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russia was on the one hand undergoing active europeanisation, as reflected in the style of architectural structures, interiors, costume and way of life, but meanwhile there was also a search for national identity, and new interest in the national particularities of inhabitants in the Russian Empire. Entire series of tinted photographs appeared, depicting people in national costumes – Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Ukrainian, and so on.

With the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries people began to decorate their walls not only with tinted landscapes, but also photographs of industrial structures (eg Dmitri Yezuchevsky’s photograph Building the Bridge). In the early 20th century, in the 1910s, coloured photographs of Russian military officers, an important social class before the outbreak of the First World War, were particularly popular.

The photographic documentation of life in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century acquired the status of a State objective, largely because Tsar Nicholas II and his family were enthusiastic amateur photographers. In May 1909 Emperor Nicholas II gave an audience to the photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky. In 1902 Prokudin-Gorsky had first announced a technique for creating colour photographs, and in 1903 he published a brochure entitled ’Isochromatic Photography with Manual Cameras’. Prokudin-Gorsky used black-and-white plates sensitised according to his own formulae, and a camera of his own construction. Three rapid shots were taken successively through light filters coloured blue, green and red (the photographer managed to reduce the exposure time to an absolute minimum). From this triple negative a triple positive was prepared. A projector with three lenses in front of three frames on the photographic plate was used to view the shots. Each frame was projected through a colour filter of the same colour as that through which it had been photographed. A full-colour image appeared on the screen as the three images combined. Prokudin-Gorsky succeeded in making polygraphic reproductions of his shots, printed in the form of photo cards, and also as inserts for illustrated magazines.

Delighted with this invention, Emperor Nicholas II asked the photographer to take colour photographs of every aspect of life in the various regions that then constituted the Russian Empire. For this the photographer was issued with a specially equipped railway car. The government provided him with a small manned steamship able to traverse the shallows for his work on waterways, and a motorboat for the River Chusova. A Ford automobile was dispatched to Yekaterinburg for his shots of the Urals and the Ural mountain range. Prokudin-Gorsky was presented with official imperial documents that gave him access to all parts of the Empire, and government officials were ordered to assist Prokudin-Gorsky on his travels.

Meanwhile autochrome pictures by the Lumière brothers, with whom Prokudin-Gorsky worked after emigrating from Soviet Russia, became very popular in early 20th-century Russia. Autochromes, colour transparencies on a glass backing, were first produced on an industrial scale in 1907. Granules of potato starch tinted red, yellow and blue were applied to a glass plate. The granules worked as colour filters. Addition of a second layer of granules provided orange, violet and green hues. After that a light-sensitive emulsion was applied. The plate was exposed and developed. Autochromes could be viewed against the light, or projected with the aid of special apparatus, which at that time was manufactured by the Lumière brothers’ own company (diascopes, chromodiascopes, mirrored stereoscopes, etc.). The Lumière brothers’ autochromes were used, for example, by Pyotr Vedenisov, a prosperous nobleman and graduate of the Moscow Conservatoire, who settled in Yalta, in the Crimea, in the late 1880s. As was the case with the Lumière brothers’ autochromes, Vedenisov’s favoured subject matter was the photographer’s own family life. However, what was at first sight very private and personal photography later provided an excellent description of the typical lifestyle enjoyed by educated Russian noblemen in the early 20th century.

The onset of the First World War in 1914 and October Revolution in 1917 annihilated the Russia whose memory is preserved in the tinted photographs and autochromes of the second half of the 19th to early 20th centuries.

Vladimir Lenin and the new Soviet government actively supported photography in the early post-revolutionary years, seeing it as an important propaganda weapon for a country where 70% of the population were unable to read or write. At first there was emphasis on photo reportage, but very soon it became clear real change in a country where hunger and devastation ruled after the Revolution and Civil War was as insubstantial as the utopian dreams of ardent revolutionaries. From the mid-1920s photomontage was widespread in the Soviet Union, enthusiastically encouraged by the Bolsheviks. Photomontage allowed for a combination of documentary veracity and the new Soviet myths. In the 1920s it was practised by such highly talented modernists as A. Rodchenko, G. Klutsis, El Lissitzky, V. Stepanova and others. Photomontage embraced colour and became an ideological ‘visual weapon’.

From the mid-1920s A. Rodchenko regenerated the forgotten technique of hand colouring his own photographs. His use of tinting profited from his experience with photomontage (Mosselprom House Advertising Wall, Dynamo Running Stadium, etc.), and he also applied it to develop experiments with positive-negative printing (scenes from the film Albidum) and for very personal and even intimate portraits of his muse Regina Lemberg – Girl with Watering Can. In 1937, at the height of Stalin’s repression, A. Rodchenko began photographing classical ballet and opera, using the arsenal of his aesthetic opponents, the Russian pictorialists, who by that time were subject to even harsher repression in the Soviet Union than modernist photographers. For Alexander Rodchenko soft focus, classical subject matter and toning typical of pictorial photography were a mediated way of expressing his internal escapism and tragic disillusionment with the Soviet utopia.

In 1932 general rules for socialist realism were published in the USSR, as the only creative method for all forms of art, including photographic. Soviet art had to reflect Soviet myths about the happiest people in the happiest country, not real life and real people. On this Procrustean bed it was hard not only for modernism with its constructivist aesthetics, but even pictorialism, to fit into the aesthetics of Socialist realism.

Pictorialism was one of the most important tendencies of early 20th-century Russian photography, and Russian pictorialist photographers were awarded gold and silver medals at international exhibitions. Pictorial photography differed not only by the method of shooting and complex printing techniques intended to bring photography closer to painting, but also by the selection of traditional themes. Romantic landscapes and architectural ruins or nude studies were from the point of view of socialist realism dangerous remnants from the past. Some of the pictorialist photographers ended up in Stalin’s prison camps, and were forbidden from practising their profession or settling in the capital or other large cities. Those who remained at liberty – for example, Vasily Ulitin, a participant in major international photo exhibitions and recipient of medals and diplomas in Paris, London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo and Rome – tried with difficulty to adapt to the new reality and attempted to depict revolutionary subjects (Flames of Paris, Red Army Soldier), thereby gaining indulgence and the right to work from the Bolsheviks.

Almost simultaneously, in 1936 the German company Agfa and American company Kodak introduced colour film. Broad distribution and introduction to the amateur photography market were delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War. In the USSR colour photography only appeared at the end of the war. Production of Soviet-made colour film in the USSR was facilitated by German trophy equipment in 1946. From that year onwards Ivan Shagin and several other photographers began to relay their colour news chronicle to the country.

Before 1946 colour photographs of Soviet Russia were made only in isolated cases, on German or American film. Until the mid-1970s, in the USSR negative film for printing colour photographs was a luxury only available to a few official photographers who worked for major Soviet publications. It was used by such classics of Soviet photography as V. Mikosha, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants, V. Tarasevich, and others. All of them were in one way or another obliged to follow the canons of socialist realism and practise staged reportage. In those days even still life studies of fruit bore an ideological message, being photographed for cookery books in which the Soviet people could see produce that remained absent in a hungry postwar country, where the ration-card system of food distribution was still functioning (Ivan Shagin, Lemons and Fruit, 1949).

From the late 1950s, in the Khrushchev Thaw after the debunking of Stalin’s cult of personality, the canons of socialist realism softened and permitted a certain freedom in aesthetics, allowing photography to move closer to reality (Dmitri Baltermants’ series Arbat Square). In the postwar period, during the 1950s to 1960s life gradually improved and coloured souvenir photo portraits again appeared on the mass market. They were usually produced by unknown and ‘unofficial’ photographers, since private photo studios that had carried out such commissions since the mid-19th century were now forbidden, and the State exercised a total monopoly on photography by the 1930s. Boris Mikhailov copied and enlarged such kitsch colour photographs as souvenirs to supplement his income at his photo laboratory in Kharkov in the early 1970s. He began collecting them. They form the basis for a new aesthetics he developed in the Lyrics series from the early 1980s. By tinting these naïve photographs he revealed and deconstructed the nature of Soviet myths.

Colour transparency film appeared on the Soviet mass market in the 1960s and 1970s. As opposed to colour negative film that requires a complicated and expensive development process for subsequent printing, colour slide film could be developed even in domestic surroundings. Above all it was widely used by amateurs, who created transparencies that could be viewed at home with a slide projector. An unofficial art form emerging in the USSR at this time developed the aesthetics and means for a new artistic conceptualisation of reality, quite different from the socialist realism that still prevailed, although somewhat modified. Photography took a significant role in this unofficial art. It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Boris Mikhailov began photographing his series Suzi Et Cetera on colour slide film.

More than half a century of Soviet power after the 1917 Revolution radically altered Russia. The surrounding reality has fallen into decline, and people brought up on Soviet slogans never thought to pay attention. But this was the only reality offered by our perception, and Boris Mikhailov tries to develop its colour, humanise it with his attention and give it the right of existence. Photography textbooks of that period were made up of one-third technical formulae and two-thirds description of what to photograph, and how. The photographer was certainly not required or even allowed to take nude studies. Corporeality and sexuality are inherent signs of an independent individual, of selfhood. The Soviet system specifically tried to level out any sense of selfhood, smothering it and challenging such ideas with the collective community and the impersonal ‘we’ of the Soviet nation. In photographing Suzi Et Cetera Boris Mikhailov disrupts the norms and reveals characters, his own and that of his subjects. It was impossible to show these shots in public, but slides could be projected at home, in the workshops of his artist friends or the small, often semi-underground clubs of the scientific and technical intelligentsia, who began to revive during Khrushchev’s Thaw after the Stalinist repression. Boris Mikhailov’s slide projections are now analogous to the apartment exhibitions of unofficial art. By means of colour he displayed the dismal standardisation and squalor of surrounding life, and his slide performances helped to unite people whose consciousness and life in those years began to escape from the dogmatic network of Soviet ideology, which permitted only one colour – red.”

Curator Olga Sviblova
Director, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

 

Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

 

Boris Mikhailov (Ukranian, b. 1938)
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

 

Vladislav Mikosha. 'Portrait of Yury Rypalov' 1938-1939

 

Vladislav Mikosha (Russian, 1909-2004)
Portrait of Yury Rypalov
1938-1939

 

V. Yankovsky. '"In memory of my military service". Saint Petersburg' Beginning of 1910s

 

V. Yankovsky
“In memory of my military service”. Saint Petersburg
Beginning of 1910s
Collodion, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Elena Mrozovskaya. 'Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg' 1900s

 

Elena Mrozovskaya (Russian, before 1892-1941)
Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg
1900s
Gelatine silver print, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

A. Nechayev. 'Portrait of girl' 1860s

 

A. Nechayev
Portrait of girl
1860s
Salted paper, covered by albumen, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. 'Portrait of Lev Tolstoy' 23rd of May 1908

 

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (Russian, 1863-1944)
Portrait of Lev Tolstoy
23rd of May 1908
Offprint
Collection Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta' 1914

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta
1914

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta' 1911-1912

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta
1911-1912
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress' 1914

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress
1914
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Piotr Vedenisov. 'Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta' 1910-1911

 

Piotr Vedenisov (Russian, 1866-1937)
Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta
1910-1911
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Vasily Ulitin. 'Red Army man' 1932

 

Vasily Ulitin (Russian, 1888-1976)
Red Army man
1932

 

Dmitry Baltermants. 'Show window' Beginning of 1960s

 

Dmitry Baltermants (Russian, 1912-1990)
Show window
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Ivan Shagin. 'Fruits' 1949

 

Ivan Shagin (Russian, 1904-1982)
Fruits
1949
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

Robert Diament. 'He has turned her head' Beginning of 1960s

 

Robert Diament (Russian, 1907-1987)
He has turned her head
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

 

 

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24
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘ “Our Future Is In The Air”: Photographs from the 1910s’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2010 – 10th April 2011

 

What an eclectic group of photographs in this posting as well as a great title for an exhibition!

Marcus

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

 

 

Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian, 1890–1960) 'Change of Position' 1911

 

Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian, 1890-1960)
Change of Position
1911
Gelatin silver print
12.8 x 17.9 cm (5 1/16 x 7 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939) 'Tadeus Langier, Zakopane' 1912-1913

 

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)
Tadeus Langier, Zakopane
1912-1913
Gelatin silver print
12.6 x 17.6 cm (4 15/16 x 6 15/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift, 2005

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986) 'Le Grand Prix A.C.F.' 1913

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Le Grand Prix A.C.F.
1913
Gelatin silver print
11.5 x 17.1 cm (4 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© Ministère de la Culture-France/AAJHL

 

Unknown Artist, American School. '(Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Selling Liberty Loans during the Third Loan Campaign at the Sub Treasury Building on Wall Street, New York City)' 1918

 

Unknown artist (American School)
(Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Selling Liberty Loans during the Third Loan Campaign at the Sub Treasury Building on Wall Street, New York City)
1918
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.1 cm. (7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1996

 

 

The twentieth century was truly born during the 1910s. This exhibition, which accompanies Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, surveys the range of uses to which photography was put as its most advanced practitioners and theorists were redefining the medium as an art. The title “Our Future Is in the Air is taken from a military aviation pamphlet that figures prominently (in French) in a 1912 Cubist tabletop still life by Picasso; it suggests the twinned senses of exhilarating optimism and lingering dread that accompanied the dissolution of the old order.

Photography was handmaiden and witness to the upheavals that revolutionised perception and consciousness during this tumultuous era. Space and time were overcome by motorcars and airplanes, radio and wireless, and man seemed liberated from the bounds of gravity and geography. This seemingly limitless expanse was mirrored by a new understanding of the unconscious as infinitely deep, complex, and varied – a continent ripe for discovery. The camera was seen as the conduit between these two states of self and world, and “straight photography” – stripped of the gauzy blur of Pictorialist reverie – was espoused by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand among others.

This turn was not accidental: since handheld cameras became available in the late 1880s, anyone could be a photographer; similarly, photography had snaked its way into every corner of the culture. Elevated perception would distinguish the new artists from the amateur and the tradesman. The exhibition casts the widest possible net in order to show the foundations upon which the medium staked its claim as an independent art.

The 1910s – a period remembered for “The Great War,” Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Russian Revolution, and the birth of Hollywood – was a dynamic and tumultuous decade that ushered in the modern era. This new age – as it was captured by the quintessentially modern art of photography – will be the subject of the exhibition “Our Future Is In The Air”: Photographs from the 1910s, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from November 10, 2010, through April 10, 2011.

An eclectic centennial exhibition devoted to photography of the 1910s, “Our Future Is In The Air” provides a fascinating look at the birth of modern life through 58 photographs by some 30 artists, including Eugène Atget, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Eugène Druet, Lewis Hine, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Adolph de Meyer, Christian Schad, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and Stanislaw Witkiewicz, among others. Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition also features anonymous snapshots, séance photographs, and a family album made by Russian nobility on the eve of revolution. “Our Future Is In The Air” complements the Museum’s concurrent presentation of groundbreaking photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand in the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand. The exhibition’s title is taken from a pamphlet for military aviation that figures prominently (in French) in a 1912 Cubist tabletop still-life by Picasso, but is used here because of its double meaning: the feelings of excitement and anxiety that accompanied such radical change.

“Our Future Is In The Air” opens in dramatic fashion with a series of photographs showing moments in the funeral procession and burial of Leo Tolstoy on November 9, 1910. The great Russian novelist passed away just after walking away from his great wealth and literary fame to lead a life of Christian charity. Certain details that can be seen in the photo-postcards – such as whether or not to kneel by the grave – represented a long simmering struggle between old and new, spiritual and secular, that would lead to revolution seven years later.

As cameras became smaller, faster, and easier to operate, amateur photographers such as the child prodigy Jacques-Henri Lartigue pushed the medium in directions that trained photographers shied away from. Since Lartigue was only recognised much later as a key figure in photography, prints such as the ones included here – showing speeding motorcars – are exceedingly rare. Lartigue made one of his most memorable photographs, Le Grand Prix A.C.F. (1913), by swinging his camera in the same direction as the car, as it sped by.

The camera also afforded access to the previously invisible, whether capturing a broken leg bone, revealed in an X-ray from 1916 or the trajectory created by a simple change in body position, in a 1911 motion study by the Futurist artist Anton Giulio Bragaglia.

At the same time, photography became an agent of democratic communication, and documentary photographers used its growing influence to expose degrading conditions of workers, the injustice of child labor, and the devastation of war. Beginning in 1908, Lewis Hine made 5,000 photographs of children working in mills, sweatshops, factories, and street trades; six of his photographs will be featured in this exhibition, including Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey, February 1912. Hine’s reports and slide lectures were meant to trigger a profound, empathetic response in the viewer.

During World War I, photography was utilised to document the mass casualties of mechanised warfare; in the exhibition, an affecting image from 1916, by an unknown artist, shows wounded French soldiers performing drills in the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris as part of their rehabilitation.

Also in the exhibition is an evocative 1918 photograph, again by an unknown artist, of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks entertaining a huge crowd at a war bonds rally on Wall Street.

“Our Future Is In The Air” accompanies the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, which focuses on contemporaneous works by three modernist masters of American photography: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand. It includes photographs by several friends and compatriots of Alfred Stieglitz, from Adolph de Meyer, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Paul Haviland, and Karl Struss to Morton Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, in whose works one can trace the transition from soft focus Pictorialism to a harder-edged, more detached “straight photography.”

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965) 'Doylestown House - Stairs from Below' 1917

 

Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965)
Doylestown House – Stairs from Below
1917
Gelatin silver print
21 x 15 cm (8 1/4 x 5 15/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
© The Lane Collection

 

Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey' February 1912

 

Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey
February 1912
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.5 x 16.8 cm (4 1/2 x 6 5/8 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Addie Card, 12 years' 1910

 

Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. Girls in mill say she is ten years. She admitted to me she was twelve; that she started during school vacation and now would “stay”. Location: Vermont, August 1910
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 19.3 cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Anonymous Gifts, by exchange, 2005

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1912
Albumen silver print from glass negative
22.4 x 17.5 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

Unknown Artist, American School. '(Man Holding Baseball in Catcher’s Mitt)' 1910

 

Unknown artist (American School)
(Man Holding Baseball in Catcher’s Mitt)
1910
Gelatin silver print
13.8 x 8.7 cm (5 7/16 x 3 7/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Funds from various donors, 1998

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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