Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Hine

17
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘Life and Labor: The Photographs of Milton Rogovin’ at the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA

Exhibition dates: 18th August 2016 – 19th March 2017

 

I will be limiting my postings to one every 5 days because I am resting my injured hands.

From the lineage of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, Walker Evans and Margaret Bourke-White merges the work of Milton Rogovin, an artist who I had never heard of before. It is a blessing in my life that I do now. His gift to us, his job of seeing, was to document the lives of blue collar workers, working class neighbourhoods and multi-ethnic communities.

“Rogovin shed light on important social issues of the time: the plight of miners; the decline of the once-robust steel industry in upstate New York; the everyday struggles of the poor and working class in Buffalo, New York, where he lived. He spent more than three decades creating naturalistic portraits of the working class in the Lower West Side of Buffalo, photographing people in their homes, at work, and on the street.” He produced, “compelling narratives of the people he photographed. He believed deeply in photography’s ability to be an agent of social change.” Yes!

He was a social-documentary photographer and proud of it.

His powerful, classical portraits, often grouped in diptychs and triptychs, expound narrative in a single image and over time. They compress time intimately… and by that I mean the viewer is engaged in a conversation with the subject, where we can imagine that we live those lives AS THEY DO (transcending time), the lives of what Rogovin called “the forgotten ones.” He makes their countenance, their physicality, the hardships they endure, and their narrative, directly and intimately compelling. We are made to feel their plight (unlike so much contemporary photography) in the now and the forever. For these photographs are as relevant, if not more so, now as then.

The world needs artists like Rogovin, gifted and attentive image makers who possess a social conscience. Image makers who live, and picture, their egalitarian ideals. Respect.

Marcus

 

Definition of egalitarianism
1: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs.
2: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people.

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

 

 

“The rich ones have their own photographers.”

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Milton Rogovin

 

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo' 1973

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo
1973
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife' 1974

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife
1974
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife' 1985

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife
1985
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife' 1992

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo, Felix & Wife
1992
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

 

In the early 1970s, Milton Rogovin set out to document the neighbourhood near his house. He made a series of portraits of working-class people in Buffalo’s Lower West Side. Then he returned to photograph the same people in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s. The result is this remarkable and moving portrait of time and place in America. Here are fifty of an acclaimed photographer’s engaging Triptychs – a visual chronicle of change, ageing, endurance, and finally survival. As Robert Coles writes in his foreword, “These photographs constitute a major contribution to the American documentary tradition. They represent the insistence of one careful, gifted, attentive photographer upon seeing through, as it were, his self-assigned job of seeing.” Here we see working people who, like most Americans, find partners, have children and grandchildren, sometimes separate, and sometimes die early. Some age considerably in the ten years between photographs, others almost not at all. Some lose children, change partners and houses, and some visibly change lifestyles. What remains constant is the passing of time and its effects upon his subjects, so evident in Rogovin’s work. These are among the themes observed and discussed in Stephen Jay Gould’s illuminating introduction.

Text from the Amazon website

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo' 1972

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo
1972
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo' 1973

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo
1973
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Lower West Side, Buffalo' 1992

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Lower West Side, Buffalo
1992
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) was proud to call himself a “social-documentary photographer.” For more than four decades, he photographed those whom he referred to as “the forgotten ones.” He was working as an optometrist in Manhattan in the early 1930s when he became increasingly involved in leftist causes. Distressed by the rampant social upheaval and widespread poverty caused by the Great Depression, Rogovin attended night classes sponsored by the New York Workers School and became an advocate for social equity. He read the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker and was introduced to the social-documentary photographs of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. In 1957, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, whose hearings had led to the blacklisting and public persecution of many artists. A year later, he devoted himself full-time to photography: his art became the vehicle for his egalitarian ideals.

Drawn entirely from the permanent collection of the San Jose Museum of Art, this exhibition presents thirty-eight photographs from three series: “Lower West Side, Buffalo” (1972-84), “Working People” (1976-87), and “Family of Miners” (1988-89). Rogovin shed light on important social issues of the time: the plight of miners; the decline of the once-robust steel industry in upstate New York; the everyday struggles of the poor and working class in Buffalo, New York, where he lived. He spent more than three decades creating naturalistic portraits of the working class in the Lower West Side of Buffalo, photographing people in their homes, at work, and on the street. He later photographed in places such as Appalachian towns in Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia; Isla Negra, Chile; and later in China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, and Zimbabwe. He photographed miners in many of these places and created the series “Family of Miners.”

Life and Labor marks the public debut of these photographs, which were gifted to the Museum’s collection in 2011. Rogovin often grouped his pictures into diptychs and triptychs to produce compelling narratives of the people he photographed. He believed deeply in photography’s ability to be an agent of social change. In addition to their aesthetic value, Rogovin’s photographs serve as important records of the changing working class neighbourhoods and multi-ethnic communities he documented over the course of many decades, until well into his 90s. Rogovin’s powerful and provocative portraits raise questions that remain equally prescient today, amid current concerns over employment and income gaps.

“Rogovin believed deeply in photography’s ability to be an agent of social change,” said Marja van der Loo, curatorial assistant at SJMA and curator of the exhibition. “In addition to their aesthetic value, his photographs represent his egalitarian ideals and serve as important records of the changing neighbourhoods and communities he documented over the course of many decades.”

Press release from the San Jose Museum of Art

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Ford' 1977-1978

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Ford
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 × 8 inches
Gift of Dr. Philip Greider

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Shenango' 1978-1981

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Shenango
1978-1981
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Dr. Philip Greider

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Shenango' 1978-1981

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Shenango
1978-1981
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Shenango' 1978-1981

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Shenango
1978-1981
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Family of Miners: Cuba' 1989

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Family of Miners: Cuba
1989
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Family of Miners: Cuba' 1989

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Family of Miners: Cuba
1989
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Family of Miners: Mexico' 1988

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Family of Miners: Mexico
1988
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 × 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Amherst Foundry' 1979

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Amherst Foundry
1979
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Amherst Foundry' 1979

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Amherst Foundry
1979
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas, Jose' 1976

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas, Jose
1976
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 × 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas, Jose' 1978-1979

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas, Jose
1978-1979
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 × 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas, Jose' 1978-1979

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas, Jose
1978-1979
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 × 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Vein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski' 1978-79

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski
1978-79
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Dr. Philip Greider

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski' 1978-79

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski
1978-79
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Dr. Philip Greider

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski' 1978-79

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People: Atlas Steel, Frank Andrzewski
1978-79
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Dr. Philip Greider

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People, Chevy' 1977-78

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People, Chevy
1977-78
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011) 'Untitled' from the series 'Working People, Chevy' 1977-78

 

Milton Rogovin (1909-2011)
Untitled from the series Working People, Chevy
1977-78
Gelatin silver print on paper
10 x 8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Braunstein

 

 

San Jose Museum of Art
110 South Market Street
San Jose, CA 95113

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday, and most Monday holidays

San Jose Museum of Art website

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05
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘In Light of the Past’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 3rd May – 26th July 2015

Curators: The curators of In Light of the Past: Celebrating 25 Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art are Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs, and Diane Waggoner, associate curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

 

 

What a great title for an exhibition. Photography always evidences light of the past, we live in light of the past (the light of the Sun takes just over 8 minutes to reach Earth) and, for whatever reason, human beings never seem to learn from mistakes, in light of the past history of the human race.

My favourites in this postings are the 19th century photographs, to which I am becoming further attuned the more I look at them. There is almost a point when you become psychologically enmeshed with their light, with the serenity of the images, a quality that most contemporary photographs seem to have lost. There is a quietness to their presence, a contemplation on the nature of the world through the pencil of nature that is captivating. You only have to look at Gustave Le Gray’s The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts (1856-1858, below) to understand the everlasting, transcendent charisma of these images. Light, space, time, eternity.

Marcus

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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.

The Collection of Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (110kb Word doc)

 

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'A Scene in York: York Minster from Lop Lane' 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot
A Scene in York: York Minster from Lop Lane
1845
Salted paper print
16.2 x 20.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Edward J. Lenkin Fund, Melvin and Thelma Lenkin Fund and Stephen G. Stein Fund, 2011

 

A British polymath equally adept in astronomy, chemistry, Egyptology, physics, and philosophy, Talbot spent years inventing a photographic process that created paper negatives, which were then used to make positive prints – the conceptual basis of nearly all photography until the digital age. Calotypes, as he came to call them, are softer in effect than daguerreotypes, the other process announced in 1839. Though steeped in the sciences, Talbot understood the ability of his invention to make striking works of art. Here the partially obstructed view of the cathedral rising from the confines of the city gives a sense of discovery, of having just turned the corner and encountered this scene.

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Piwac, Vernal Falls, 300 feet, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Piwac, Vernal Falls, 300 feet, Yosemite
1861
Albumen print
39.9 x 52.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson, 1995

 

The westward expansion of America opened up new opportunities for photographers such as Watkins and William Bell. Joining government survey expeditions, hired by railroad companies, or catering to tourists and the growing demand for grand views of nature, they created photographic landscapes that reached a broad audience of scientists, businessmen, and engineers, as well as curious members of the middle class. Watkins’s photographs of the sublime Yosemite Valley, which often recall landscape paintings of similar majestic subjects, helped convince Congress to pass a bill in 1864 protecting the area from development and commercial exploitation.

 

Charles Nègre. 'Market Scene at the Port of the Hotel de Ville, Paris' before February 1852

 

Charles Nègre
Market Scene at the Port of the Hotel de Ville, Paris
before February 1852
Salted paper print
14.7 x 19.9 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2003

 

Eugène Cuvelier. 'Belle-Croix' 1860s

 

Eugène Cuvelier
Belle-Croix
1860s
Albumen print
Image: 25.4 x 34.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gail and Benjamin Jacobs for the Millennium Fund, 2007

 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, some photographers in France, hired by governmental agencies to make photographic inventories or simply catering to the growing demand for pictures of Paris, drew on the medium’s documentary abilities to record the nation’s architectural patrimony and the modernization of Paris. Others explored the camera’s artistic potential by capturing the ephemeral moods of nature in the French countryside. Though photographers faced difficulties in carting around heavy equipment and operating in the field, they learned how to master the elements that directly affected their pictures, from securing the right vantage point to dealing with movement, light, and changing atmospheric conditions during long exposure times.

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts' 1856-1858

 

Gustave Le Gray
The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts
1856-1858
Albumen print
37.8 x 48.8 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1995

 

Édouard-Denis Baldus. 'Toulon, Train Station' c. 1861

 

Édouard-Denis Baldus
Toulon, Train Station
c. 1861
Albumen print
27.4 x 43.1 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1995

 

 

In Light of the Past: Celebrating 25 Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art, on view in the West Building from May 3 through July 26, 2015, will commemorate more than two decades of the Gallery’s robust photography program. Some 175 of the collection’s most exemplary holdings will reveal the evolution of the art of photography, from its birth in 1839 to the late 1970s. In Light of the Past is one of three stellar exhibitions that will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art’s commitment to photography acquisitions, exhibitions, scholarly catalogues, and programs.

In Light of the Past includes some of the rarest and most compelling photographs ever created,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “It also honors the generous support of our donors who have enabled us to achieve this new place of prominence for photography at the Gallery.”
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About the exhibition

In Light of the Past begins with exceptional 19th-century salted paper prints, daguerreotypes, and albumen prints by acclaimed early practitioners such as William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884), Roger Fenton (1819-1869), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Albert Sands Southworth (1811-1894, and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808-1901). It also displays works by American expeditionary photographers, including William Bell (1830-1910) and Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916).

The exhibition continues with late 19th- and early 20th-century American pictorialist photographs by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Clarence H. White (1871-1925), Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), and Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), among others, as well as European masters such as Eugène Atget (1857-1927). The exhibition also examines the international photographic modernism of artists such as Paul Strand (1890-1976), André Kertész (1894-1985), Marianne Brandt (1893-1983), László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), and Ilse Bing (1899-1998) before turning to the mid-20th century, where exceptional work by Walker Evans (1903-1975), Robert Frank (b. 1924), Harry Callahan (1912-1999), Irving Penn (1917-2009), Lee Friedlander (b. 1934), and Diane Arbus (1923-1971) will be on view.

The exhibition concludes with pictures from the 1960s and 1970s, showcasing works by photographers such as Robert Adams (b. 1937), Lewis Baltz (1945-2014), and William Eggleston (b. 1939), as well as Mel Bochner (b. 1940) and Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), which demonstrate the diverse practices that invigorated photography during these decades.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'The Letter' c. 1850

 

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
The Letter
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
Plate: 20.3 x 15.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1999

 

Working together in Boston, the portrait photographers Southworth and Hawes aimed to capture the character of their subjects using the daguerreotype process. Invented in France and one of the two photographic processes introduced to the public in early 1839, the daguerreotype is made by exposing a silver-coated copper plate to light and then treating it with chemicals to bring out the image. The heyday of the technique was the 1840s and 1850s, when it was used primarily for making portraits. The daguerreotype’s long exposure time usually resulted in frontal, frozen postures and stern facial expressions; this picture’s pyramidal composition and strong sentiments of friendship and companionship are characteristic of Southworth and Hawes’s innovative approach.

 

Clarence H. White. 'The Hillside' c. 1898

 

Clarence H. White
The Hillside
c. 1898
Gum dichromate print
20.8 x 15.88 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2008

 

The Photo-Secession

At the turn of the century in America, Alfred Stieglitz and his colleague Edward Steichen led the movement to establish photography’s status as a fine art. In 1902 Stieglitz founded an organization called the Photo-Secession, consisting of young artists who shared his belief in the creative potential of the medium. Many of the photographers featured here were members of the group, including Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Through the exhibitions Stieglitz organized in his New York gallery, called 291, and the essays he published in his influential quarterly, Camera Work, he and the Photo-Secession promoted the pictorialist aesethetic of softly textured, painterly pictures that elicit emotion and appeal to the imagination. Occasionally the photographers’ compositions refer to other works of art, such as Steichen’s portrait of his friend Auguste Rodin, whose pose recalls one of the sculptor’s most famous works, The Thinker. Influenced by the modern European and American painting, sculpture, and drawing he exhibited at 291, Stieglitz lost interest in the Photo-Secession in the early 1910s and began to explore a more straightforward expression.

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
1926
Albumen print
22.2 x 18.1 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2006

 

Using a cumbersome camera mounted on a tripod, Atget recorded the myriad facets of Paris and its environs at the turn of the century. Transforming ordinary scenes into poetic evocations, he created a visual compendium of the objects, architecture, and landscapes that were expressive of French culture and its history. He sold his photographs to artists, architects, and craftsmen, as well as to libraries and museums interested in the vanishing old city. Throughout his career he returned repeatedly to certain subjects and discovered that the variations caused by changing light, atmosphere, and season provided inexhaustible subjects for the perceptive photographer.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty' June 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty
June 1866
Albumen print
36.1 x 26.7 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund, 1997

 

Ensconced in the intellectual and artistic circles of midcentury England, Cameron manipulated focus and light to create poetic pictures rich in references to literature, mythology, and history. Her monumental views of life-sized heads were unprecedented, and with them she hoped to define a new mode of photography that would rival the expressive power of painting and sculpture. The title of this work alludes to John Milton’s mid-seventeenth-century poem L’Allegro. Describing the happy life of one who finds pleasure and beauty in the countryside, the poem includes the lines:

Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty.

 

Dr Guillaume-Benjamin-Amant Duchenne (de Boulogne). 'Figure 63, "Fright" from "Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine (Mechanism of human physiognomy)" (1862)' 1854-1855

 

Dr Guillaume-Benjamin-Amant Duchenne (de Boulogne)
Figure 63, “Fright” from “Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine (Mechanism of human physiognomy)” (1862)
1854-1855
Albumen print
21.5 × 16 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2015

 

A neurologist, physiologist, and photographer, Duchenne de Boulogne conducted a series of experiments in the mid-1850s in which he applied electrical currents to various facial muscles to study how they produce expressions of emotion. Convinced that these electrically-induced expressions accurately rendered internal feelings, he then photographed his subjects to establish a precise visual lexicon of human emotions, such as pain, surprise, fear, and sadness. In 1862 he included this photograph representing fright in a treatise on physiognomy (a pseudoscience that assumes a relationship between external appearance and internal character), which enjoyed broad popularity among artists and scientists.

 

Lewis Hine. 'An Anaemic Little Spinner in a New England Cotton Mill (North Pownal, Vermont)' 1910

 

Lewis Hine
An Anaemic Little Spinner in a New England Cotton Mill (North Pownal, Vermont)
1910
Gelatin silver print
24.1 × 19.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2015

 

Trained as a sociologist and initially employed as a teacher, Hine used the camera both as a research tool and an instrument of social reform. One of the earliest and most influential social documentary photographers of his time, he made many pictures under the auspices of the National Child Labor Committee, an organization formed in 1904 to promote better working conditions for children. Hine’s focus on the thin, frail body of this barefoot twelve-year-old spinner, who stands before rows of bobbins in the mill where she worked, was meant to illustrate the unhealthy effects of her employment. Photographs like this one were crucial to the campaign to change American child labor laws in the early twentieth century.

 

 

In Light of the Past: Twenty-Five Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art

Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Estate laid the foundation of the photography collection of the National Gallery of Art in 1949 with their donation of 1,650 Stieglitz photographs, an unparalleled group known as the Key Set. Yet the Gallery did not start actively acquiring photographs until 1990, when it launched an initiative to build a collection of works by European and American photographers from throughout the history of the medium and mount major exhibitions with scholarly publications. Now including nearly fifteen thousand prints, the collection encompasses the rich diversity of photographic practice from fine art to scientific and amateur photography, as well as photojournalism. It is distinguished by its large holdings of works by many of the medium’s most acclaimed masters, such as Paul Strand, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Ilse Bing, Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, and Robert Adams, among others.

In Light of the Past celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1990 initiative by presenting some of the Gallery’s finest photographs made from the early 1840s to the late 1970s. It is divided into four sections arranged chronologically. The first traces the evolution of the art of photography during its first decades in the work of early British, French, and American practitioners. The second looks at the contributions of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographers, from Stieglitz and the American pictorialists to European masters such as Eugène Atget. The third section examines the international photographic modernism of the 1920s and 1930s, and the fourth features seminal mid-twentieth-century photographers. The exhibition concludes with pictures representing the varied practices of those working in the late 1960s and 1970s.
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The Nineteenth Century: The Invention of Photography

In 1839 a new means of visual representation was announced to a startled world: photography. Although the medium was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by the public at large, photographers themselves spent the ensuing decades experimenting with techniques and debating the nature of this new invention. The works in this section suggest the range of questions addressed by these earliest practitioners. Was photography best understood as an art or a science? What subjects should photographs depict, what purpose should they serve, and what should they look like? Should photographers work within the aesthetics established in other arts, such as painting, or explore characteristics that seemed unique to the medium? This first generation of photographers became part scientists as they mastered a baffling array of new processes and learned how to handle their equipment and material. Yet they also grappled with aesthetic issues, such as how to convey the tone, texture, and detail of multicolored reality in a monochrome medium. They often explored the same subjects that had fascinated artists for centuries – portraits, landscapes, genre scenes, and still lifes – but they also discovered and exploited the distinctive ways in which the camera frames and presents the world.
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Photography at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

In the late nineteenth century, improvements in technology and processing, along with the invention of small handheld cameras such as the Kodak, suddenly made it possible for anyone of middle-class means to take photographs. Many amateurs took up the camera to commemorate family, friends, and special events. Others, such as the sociologist Lewis Hine, used it as a tool for social and political change. Partially in response to the new ease of photography, more serious practitioners in America and Europe banded together to assert the artistic merit of the medium. Called pictorialists, they sought to prove that photography was just as capable of poetic, subjective expression as painting. They freely manipulated their prints to reveal their authorial control, often resulting in painterly effects, and consciously separated themselves from amateur photographers and mechanized processes.
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Photography Between the Wars

In the aftermath of World War I – the first modern, mechanized conflict – sweeping changes transformed photography. Avant-garde painters, graphic designers, and journalists turned to the medium, seeing it as the most effective tool to express the fractured, fast-paced nature of modernity and the new technological culture of the twentieth century. A wide variety of new approaches and techniques flourished during these years, especially in Europe. Photographers adopted radical cropping, unusual angles, disorienting vantage points, abstraction, collage, and darkroom alchemy to achieve what the influential Hungarian teacher László Moholy-Nagy celebrated as the “new vision.” Other photographers, such as the German August Sander or the Americans Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Walker Evans, sought a more rigorous objectivity grounded in a precise examination of the world.
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Postwar Photography

Photography thrived in the decades after World War II, invigorated by new ideas, practices, and expanding venues for circulating and displaying pictures. Immediately after the war, many photographers sought to publish their pictures in illustrated magazines, which prospered during these years. Some, such as Gordon Parks, made photographs highlighting racial, economic, and social disparities. Others, such as Louis Faurer, Sid Grossman, and Robert Frank, turned to the street to address the conditions of modern life in pictures that expose both its beauty and brutality. Using handheld cameras and available light, they focused on the random choreography of sidewalks, making pictures that are often blurred, out of focus, or off-kilter.

In the later 1950s and 1960s a number of photographers pushed these ideas further, mining the intricate social interactions of urban environments. Unlike photographers from the 1930s, these practitioners, such as Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Diane Arbus, sought not to reform American society but to record it in all its complexity, absurdity, and chaos. By the late 1960s and 1970s, other photographers, such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, looked beyond conventional notions of natural beauty to explore the despoliation of the urban and suburban landscape. Their pictures of tract houses, highways, and motels are stripped of any artistic frills, yet they are exquisitely rendered and replete with telling details. Also starting in the 1960s, many conceptual or performance artists working in a variety of media embraced what they perceived to be photography’s neutrality and turned to it as an essential part of their experiments to expand traditional notions of art. In the late 1960s, improvements in color printing techniques led others, such as William Eggleston, to explore the artistic potential of color photography.

 

Edward Steichen. 'An Apple, A Boulder, A Mountain' 1921

 

Edward Steichen
An Apple, A Boulder, A Mountain
1921
Platinum print
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2014

 

After World War I, Steichen became disillusioned with the painterly aesthetic of his earlier work and embarked on a series of experiments to study light, form, and texture. Inverting an apple, he demonstrated how a small object, when seen in a new way, can assume the monumentality and significance of a much larger one. His close-up scrutiny of a natural form closely links this photograph with works by other American modernists of the 1920s, such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

Paul Strand. 'People, Streets of New York, 83rd and West End Avenue' 1916

 

Paul Strand
People, Streets of New York, 83rd and West End Avenue
1916
Platinum print
Image: 24.2 x 33 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1990

 

Strand was introduced to photography in high school by his teacher Lewis Hine, who instilled in him a strong interest in social issues. In 1907, Hine took his pupil to Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery in New York, which launched Strand’s desire to become a fine art photographer. By the early 1910s, influenced by Stieglitz, he began to make clearly delineated portraits, pictures of New York, and nearly abstract still lifes. Strand came to believe that photography was a gift of science to the arts, that it was an art of selection, not translation, and that objectivity was its very essence.

 

American 20th Century. 'Untitled' c. 1930

 

American 20th Century
Untitled
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 5.7 x 10 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert E. Jackson, 2007

 

Snapshots

After World War I, a parade of technological improvements transformed the practice of photography. With smaller cameras, faster shutter speeds, and more sensitive film emulsions, both amateurs and more serious practitioners could now easily record motion, investigate unexpected angles and points of view, and work in dim light and inclement weather. The amateur’s less staid, more casual approach began to play an important role in the work of modernist photographers as they explored spontaneity and instantaneity, seeking to capture the cacophony and energy of modern life. Blurriness, distorted perspectives, and seemingly haphazard cropping-once considered typical amateur mistakes-were increasingly embraced as part of the modern, vibrant way of picturing the world.

 

Robert Frank. 'City of London' 1951

 

Robert Frank
City of London
1951
Gelatin silver print
23 x 33.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert Frank Collection, Purchased as a Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991

 

Robert Frank. 'Woman/Paris' 1952

 

Robert Frank
Woman/Paris
1952
Gelatin silver print in bound volume
Image: 35.1 x 25.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert Frank Collection, Gift (Partial and Promised) of Robert Frank, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1990

 

 

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Frank made several handbound volumes of photographs, exploring different ways to link his pictures through non-narrative sequences. While in Zurich in October 1952, he assembled pictures taken in Europe, South America, and the United States in a book called Black White and Things. With a brief introductory quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” – the photographs are arranged in a sophisticated sequence that uses formal repetition, conceptual contrasts, and, as here, witty juxtapositions to evoke a range of ideas …

While in Zurich in October of 1952, Frank assembled photographs taken in Europe, South America, and the United States in the preceding years into a bound book called Black White and Things. Designed by Frank’s friend Werner Zryd, and with only a brief introductory statement describing the three sections, the photographs appear in a sophisticated sequence that relies on subtle, witty juxtapositions and powerful visual formal arrangements to evoke a wide range of emotions.

Frank made three copies of this book, all identical in size, construction, and sequence. He gave one copy to his father, gave one to Edward Steichen, and kept one. The book that belonged to his father is now in a private collection; Steichen’s copy resides at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and in 1990 Frank gave his copy to the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art.

 

Robert Frank. 'Trolley - New Orleans' 1955

 

Robert Frank
Trolley – New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 21 x 31.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Maria and Lee Friedlander, 2001

 

Roy DeCarava. 'Mississippi Freedom Marcher, Washington, D.C.' 1963

 

Roy DeCarava
Mississippi Freedom Marcher, Washington, D.C.
1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.5 x 33 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel, 1999

 

Lee Friedlander. 'New York City' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander
New York City
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13.3 x 20.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Trellis Fund, 2001

 

Heir to the tradition of documentary photography established by Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank, Friedlander focuses on the American social landscape in photographs that can seem absurd, comical, and even bleak. In dense, complex compositions, he frequently depicts surprising juxtapositions that make the viewer look twice. He has made numerous self-portraits, yet he appears in these pictures in oblique and unexpected ways, for example reflected in a mirror or window. The startling intrusion of Friedlander’s shadow onto the back of a pedestrian’s coat, at once threatening and humorous, slyly exposes the predatory nature of street photography.

 

Giovanni Anselmo. 'Entering the Work' 1971

 

Giovanni Anselmo
Entering the Work
1971
Photographic emulsion on canvas
Image: 49 x 63.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Glenstone in honor of Eileen and Michael Cohen, 2008

 

 

Conceptual Photography

In the 1960s, many painters and sculptors questioned the traditional emphasis on aesthetics and turned to creating art driven by ideas. Photography’s association with mechanical reproduction appealed to them as they sought to downplay the hand of the artist while promoting his or her role as idea maker. Some conceptual artists, such as Sol Lewitt and Mel Bochner, used photographs to explore an interest in perspective, scale, and mathematics. Others turned to photography as a tool to record performances and artistic undertakings, the resulting pictures acting as an integral part of those projects.

Anselmo was a member of the Italian Arte Povera group, which sought to break down the separation of art and life through experimental performances and the use of natural materials such as trees and leaves. To make this work, Anselmo set his camera up with a timed shutter release, and raced into view so that his running figure creates a modest yet heroic impression on the landscape.

 

Robert Adams. 'Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1974

 

Robert Adams
Colorado Springs, Colorado
1974
Gelatin silver print, printed 1983
Image: 15.2 x 15.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2006

 

For more than forty years, Adams has recorded the changing American landscape, especially the ongoing settlement of the West. Although he has photographed roads, tract houses, and strip malls that have utterly transformed the landscape, he has also captured the beauty that remains and indeed, that refuses to die, as in his poetic picture of morning fog over California hills. He is convinced, as he wrote in 1974, that “all land, no matter what has happened to it, has over it a grace, an absolutely persistent beauty.”

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Fort Peck Dam, Montana' 1936

 

Margaret Bourke-White
Fort Peck Dam, Montana
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.02 × 27.31 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2014

 

One of the most iconic photographs by the pioneering photojournalist Bourke-White, Fort Peck Dam, Montana was published on the cover of the inaugural issue of Life magazine on November 23, 1936. A striking representation of the machine age, the photograph depicts the stark, massive piers for an elevated highway over the spillway near the dam. The two men at the bottom of the print indicate the piers’ massive scale while revealing the vulnerable position of the worker in the modern industrial landscape.

 

György Kepes. 'Juliet with Peacock Feather and Red Leaf' 1937-1938

 

György Kepes
Juliet with Peacock Feather and Red Leaf
1937-1938
Gelatin silver print with gouache
15.7 × 11.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2014

 

Trained as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, Kepes was an influential designer, educator, aesthetic theorist, and photographer. In 1930 he moved to Berlin, where he worked with László Moholy-Nagy, but eventually settled in Chicago and later Cambridge, Massachusetts. Created soon after his arrival in America, this startling photograph is both an intimate depiction of Kepes’s wife and a study of visual perception. Like the red leaf that seems to float above the image, the peacock feather – its eye carefully lined up with Juliet’s – obscures not only her vision but also the viewer’s ability to see her clearly.

 

Irving Penn. 'Woman with Roses (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in Lafaurie Dress), Paris' 1950

 

Irving Penn
Woman with Roses (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in Lafaurie Dress), Paris
1950
Platinum/palladium print, 1977
Overall: 55.1 x 37 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Irving Penn, 2002

 

One of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of his time, Penn made pictures marked by refinement, elegance, and clarity. Trained as a painter and designer, he began to photograph in the early 1940s while working at Vogue; more than 150 of his photographs appeared on the cover of the magazine during his long career. A perfectionist, Penn explored earlier printing techniques, such as a late nineteenth-century process that used paper coated with solutions of platinum or palladium rather than silver, to achieve the subtle tonal range he desired.

 

 

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30
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 1st November 2014 – 16th February 2015

 

Exposing your/self

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Viva Michals! Viva Michals!

Magician, poet, storyteller, philosopher and dreamer.

Not for him the overblown statement (huge prints the size of billboards) but small, dark, rough prints assembled in photo-sequences, often incorporating text, that examine the human condition in every aspect. This is emotional work and Michals has a unique style and voice as an artist. You always know that you are looking at a sequence by Michals, for his signature is that distinctive.

As he says, his work goes beyond description, beyond surfaces, to reveal the subject – not as it looks but as it feels. In his sequences he usually achieves this by posing a question that has no answer, a question that is like a Zen koan…. what is the sound of one hand clapping? The grandfather ascends smilingly to heaven with little wings on his back as the child waves goodbye (if youth knew, if age could); the man as human condition turns into a galaxy; and the spirit leaves the body as it was left before.

Various Michals sequences, such as The Spirit Leaves The Body (1968, below), have a circular construction. Another sequence, Things are Queer (1973, below) is also a circular spatio-temporal enigma where instead of moving forward, the camera and the viewer are pulled backwards in a space-time continuum… where Michals forces you to question what reality really is. These two sequences are my personal favourites, and I had to scour the internet to find images for them as you rarely see them online.

His most famous sequence, the one that you see most often, is Chance Meeting (1970, below) – again an open-ended, intimate but puzzling encounter with a reflection of the self. Michals sequences are full of ghosts, uncommon intimacies, nubile females and delicious males (Michals is gay and has just celebrated his 54th anniversary with his partner). Dealing “with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time” his work peers inward to examine “his own thoughts and dreams, to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.”

All is not sunshine and light, and I feel that there is a nebulous, obsidian energy hovering not too far below the surface. The photographs have high contrast and the subjects are very closely framed, giving the sequences an almost claustrophobic quality, as though you are having the life, the energy gently yet forcibly manipulated around you. The photographs rarely breathe freely and you feel as though you are almost trapped within their spaces.

Then there is the text. Never used to excess in the sequences (the title does that job alone), the singular images are extended into a longer narrative by biting, poignant words – sentences that utter harsh truths and tell it how it really is. I can’t look at that image, and read that text, from A Letter from My Father (1960/1975, below) without thinking of my abusive father and wondering what happened to his love – whether he hadn’t hidden it, he just didn’t have any to start with. For any child in an adult who has been abused, this image cuts to the bone.

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Michals staged, narrative scenes take us on a journey into his reality, one which “has entered a realm beyond observation.” He poses difficult questions that force us to examine ideas beyond the world of phenomena, beyond the world of surfaces. He challenges our repressed inner lives and our idealised image of ourselves, disturbing the boundaries of personality, ego, and identity.1 He wrestles with Sartre’s noumenal world (the world of the subconscious, dreams), the “being-in-itself” or sometimes simply “the in-itself,” as Sartre calls it (what Kant called the noumenal world), where Sartre does not see man comfortably installed in the world.

“All of us, says Sartre, have a “pre-ontological comprehension” of being-in-itself, that is to say, an opaque, inarticulate, but very real sense of its presence and nature. The world is but a “varnish” on the surface of the being-in-itself; or, changing the metaphor, the world is but a “thin crust” of meaning which we impose upon being-in-itself. Ordinarily this thin crust of meaning conceals the in-itself and obscures our awareness of it, but the anguish of being is always there just below the surface of daily consciousness, and from time to time it breaks through to the surface, presenting being-in-itself without disguise.”2

This is what Michals attunes himself to, an examination of the in-itself, one that impacts on our internal poetic understandings of space and time. In his malleable daydreams Michals proffers a ‘releasement toward things’, the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’. As Heidegger observes, 

“We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

It is Michals great skill as an artist and a human being that enables us the possibility of accessing some aspect of the mystery of our existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. As discussed in Magee, Bryan. Confessions of a Philosopher. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997, p. 405-406

2. Olsen, Robert. An Introduction to Existentialism. Dover Publications, New York, 1962, p. 39

3. Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56 quoted in Baracco, Mauro. “Completed Yet Unconcluded: The Poetic Resistance of Some Melbourne Architecture,” in van Schaik, Leon (ed.,). Architectural Design Vol. 72, No. 2 (‘Poetics in Architecture’). London: John Wiley and Sons, 2002, p. 74. Footnote 6.

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

 

 

“Who gives a fuck about what he had for breakfast? These are stylistic ticks. The digital has changed the paradigms of photography. I had an opening in Boston and this woman had a little camera with her and kept exclaiming, ‘Everything is a photograph!’ That’s the problem. The bar has been lowered so much in photography now…”

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“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?”

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“I don’t trust reality. So all of the writing on and painting on the photographs is born out of the frustration to express what you do not see.”

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Duane Michals

 

 

Duane Michals. 'Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker' 2004

 

Duane Michals
Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker
2004
12 Gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
5″ x 7″ each

 

This series of photographs was inspired by the poem The Windows by Constantine Cavafy

In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,

I wander round and round trying to find the windows.

But the windows are not to be found –
or at least I can’t find them.
And perhaps
it is better that way.

Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.

Who knows what new things it will expose?

 

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

 

Duane Michals
Chance Meeting
1970
Six gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals
Things are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

 

Duane Michals
Grandpa Goes to Heaven
1989
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC

 

 

“The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at… We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong… That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring – just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience – grief, loneliness – how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.”

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Duane Michals

 

 

“Opening November 1, 2014, at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA), Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals is the definitive retrospective and the largest-ever presentation of this innovative artist’s work. Drawing from select loans and the museum’s holdings, which constitute the largest single collection of Michals’s output, and spanning six decades, the works in Storyteller include classic sequences from the early 1970s as well as rarely seen images from later in his career.

Born in 1932 and raised in a steelworker family in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Michals broke away from established traditions of documentary and fine art photography in the 1960s when he added handwritten messages and poems to prints, produced multi-image narrative sequences, and experimented with double- and triple-exposures. His work was poignant and unabashedly sentimental, flying in the face of the dominant photographic aesthetics of the time.

Storyteller unfolds in thematic groupings that range from portraiture to meditations on the mind’s interior world; from childhood and imagination to desire and death. Michals’s love of two very different cities, Pittsburgh and Paris, is evident in sections exploring the beauty, quirks, and particularities of these places. He has riffed on, critiqued, and crossed paths with countless artists, including René Magritte, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Andy Warhol, and others, and a section of the exhibition brings to light the admiration and acerbic wit in Michals’s engagements with other creative minds.

“The exhibition is designed to acquaint the visitor with the many themes that Michals explored over more than half a century,” says curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones. “Well known sequences such as Paradise Regained and Chance Meeting greet the viewer first, followed by engaging and sometimes surprising Children’s Stories. A section called The Mind’s Eye shows Michals’s absorption with photographing things that cannot actually be seen, such as A Man Going to Heaven or The Human Condition. We could not present Storyteller chronologically, because Michals revisits themes often. One theme, Painted Expression, shows how, in two distinct periods of his life – in the early 1980s and again in 2012 – Michals has picked up a brush to apply oil paint to both black-and-white photographic prints as well as most recently to 19th century tintypes, resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind photographic works. His creative energy is boundless and readily apparent when seen in a large retrospective display.”

“I’m a storyteller,” he often states as he begins a talk in public – equally interested in the moments before and after the “decisive moment” (a term coined by famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson). “When I began to do sequences, it wasn’t because I thought it was cool and the latest thing. I did it out of frustration with the still photograph.” He has observed that his practice aims to transcend mere appearances: “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like… My reality has entered a realm beyond observation.” This approach can be seen throughout his career, from early, carefully staged sequences, to hand-painted gelatin silver prints and tintypes, revealing the artist’s hand at work long after the image is captured.

According to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, who organized Storyteller, “Duane Michals is a sensitive and provocative artist who has followed his own unique path. His way of staging narrative scenes, then recording them with a 35mm camera, represented a fresh approach to the medium. This, combined with an uncommon intimacy when dealing with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time, set him apart as an image-maker.”

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

CMOA, a fixture in Michals’s artistic upbringing, has acquired 139 of his works, ranging from his earliest images made in Russia in 1958 to hand-painted tintypes that he began creating in 2012. Michals, in turn, has always felt an attachment to Pittsburgh, a subject of many of his photographs, and of two books, the sequence The House I Once Called Home (2003) and poetry collection A Pittsburgh Poem (2013). Lending institutions to Storyteller include Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Musée des Beaux Arts (Montreal), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), and Museum of Modern Art (New York). Even longtime admirers of the artist may be unfamiliar with several of his bodies of work, and an examination of this full range is long overdue: while Michals has been championed in several solo exhibitions throughout Europe in the past decade, this is his first major museum exhibition in North America since 1998.

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

Presented alongside Storyteller will be the exhibition Duane Michals: Collector, which highlights works from Michals’s private art collection that are promised gifts to the museum. The eclectic array of objects, ranging from 1799 to 1999, and from Francisco de Goya to André Kertész to Mark Tansey, will be united by Michals’s unique take on the artists, the artworks, and their influence on his own practice. Organized by associate curator of fine arts Amanda Zehnder, Duane Michals: Collector will further contextualize his work from an unusually personal perspective.

Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals represents a refreshing, much-needed reexamination of a historically significant photographer. Michals’s pioneering photography infused the medium with a personal, critical approach that translates universally. In an art world that feels at times jaded and detached, his images retain the same moving, affecting impact that they commanded decades ago.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art

 

 

Internationally-renowned photographer Duane Michals discusses his eight-decade life and career as a self-described “expressionist.” His work is known for its innovative narrative sequencing and iconic use of text and image. During a period when photography looked out to the world around us, Michals redefined the medium by peering inward to his own thoughts and dreams to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals
The Spirit Leaves The Body
1968
Seven gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Young Girl’s Dream
1969
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'A Letter from My Father' 1960/1975

 

Duane Michals
A Letter from My Father
1960/1975
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965 (detail)

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat (detail)
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'This Photograph Is My Proof' 1967

 

Duane Michals
This Photograph Is My Proof
1967
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads' 1995

 

Duane Michals
Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads
1995
From the series Salute, Walt Whitman
Gelatin silver print
The Henry L. Hillman Fund
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

 

Lewis Wickes Hine. 'Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday' 1910

 

Lewis Wickes Hine
Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday
1910
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

 

Duane Michals. 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Human Condition
1969
Six gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Rigamarole' 2012

 

Duane Michals
Rigamarole
2012
Tintype with oil paint
The William T. Hillman Fund for Photography
Carnegie Museum of Art,Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

 

Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Opening hours:
Monday: 10 am – 5 pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm

Carnegie Museum of Art website

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12
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Photography at NOMA’ at The New Orleans Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2013 – 19th January 2014

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There are some rare and beautiful photographs in this posting. I have never seen the Kertész (Leger’s Studio 1926 – 1927) with its wonderful structure and tonality nor the unusual Mapplethorpe (Staircase, 1140 Royal 1982). I particularly like the Bellocq (Bedroom Mantel, Storyville c. 1911-1913) with its complex medley of shapes and images.

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

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) 'Leger's Studio' 1926 - 1927

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
Leger’s Studio
1926 – 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 3 1/8 x 4 1/4in. (8 x 10.8 cm)
Museum purchase, Women’s Volunteer Committee Fund

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Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934) 'Untitled (Self-Portrait Reflected in Window, New Orleans)' c. 1965

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Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Untitled (Self-Portrait Reflected in Window, New Orleans)
c. 1965
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 x 10 3/4in. (17.6 x 27.2 cm) Mount: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.5 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 75.83

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Robert Frank (American, born 1924) 'Canal Street, New Orleans' 1955

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Robert Frank (American, born 1924)
Canal Street, New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 x 13 4/5 in. (28 x 35.2 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts and Museum Purchase Funds

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Ilse Bing (American, 1899-1998) 'New York, The Elevated and Me' 1936

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Ilse Bing (American, 1899-1998)
New York, The Elevated and Me
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 15/16 x 11 in. (18.6 x 28 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts Matching Grant
© Estate of Ilse Bing

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Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Louisiana' 1947, printed circa 1975

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Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Louisiana
1947, printed circa 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 5/8 x 14 3/16 in. (24.4 x 36 cm)Paper: 12 x 16 in. (30.3 x 40.4 cm)
Museum purchase, General Acquisition Fund, 80.129

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Theodore Lilienthal (American, 1829-1894) 'Charles Hotel, New Orleans' c. 1867

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Theodore Lilienthal (American, 1829-1894)
Charles Hotel, New Orleans
c. 1867
Albumen print
10 3/4 x 13 13/16 in. (27.2 x 35.1 cm) Mount: 17 x 22 1/4 in. (43.3 x 56.6 cm)
Museum Purchase, 2013.21

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“Featuring masterworks by photographers Edward Weston, William Henry Fox Talbot, André Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, and many more, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, Photography at NOMA, explores the Museum’s rich permanent photography collection through a selection of some of its finest works from the early 1840s to the 1980s.

The first comprehensive presentation of works from NOMA’s collection since the 1970s, the exhibition includes over 130 of the most important photographs in the Museum’s collection and presents rare and unusual examples from throughout photography’s history. On view November 10, 2013 through January 19, 2014, the exhibition highlights the tremendous depth and breadth of the Museum’s collection and includes photographs made as works of art as well as advertising images, social documents, and more. The photographers featured in the exhibition range from some of the most recognizable names in the field, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Lewis Hine, to unknown photographers—reflecting the vast spectrum of photographic activity since the medium’s inception in the 19th century.

“NOMA began collecting photographs seriously in the early 1970s when photography was not commonly found in American art museum collections. Today our holdings include nearly 10,000 works, representing a broad range of creative energy and achievement,” said Susan Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “Our collection has strong roots in New Orleans history. Our city has long been an epicenter for the work of established and emerging photographers and we are delighted to share this aspect of New Orleans history with our audiences.”

“Since its origins, photography has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, from art to war, and religion to politics and many of these applications are represented in NOMA’s extensive collection,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs. “Despite the collection’s long history, it remains one of the best kept secrets in this country. Photography at NOMA is an opportunity to re-examine and bring to the fore the diverse range of works found in the collection.”

Since the 1970s, NOMA has built an extensive collection of photographs that represents a wide range of achievement in that medium from the 1840s to the present. Today the collection comprises nearly 10,000 works with images by some of the most significant photographic artists including Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Ilse Bing, and Edward Steichen, among many others. The collection includes examples that reflect photography’s international scope, from an 1843 view from his hotel window in Paris by William Henry Fox Talbot to a view of Mount Fuji by Kusakabi Kimbei, but it is also strong in photographs made in and around New Orleans by regional and national photographers such as E. J. Bellocq, Walker Evans, Clarence John Laughlin, and Robert Polidori.

Photography at NOMA features works by Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Edward Weston, among many others.”

Press release from the NOMA website

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Felix Moissenet (American, 19th century) 'Freeman' c. 1855

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Felix Moissenet (American, 19th century)
Freeman
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Sixth plate, 3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in. (8 x 6.8 cm) Case (open): 3 5/8 x 6 3/8 in. (9.2 x 16.1 cm)
Museum purchase, 2013.22

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Thomas Augustine Malone (British, 1823-1867) 'Demonstration of the Talbotype' December 11, 1848

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Thomas Augustine Malone (British, 1823-1867)
Demonstration of the Talbotype
December 11, 1848
Calotype (Talbotype) negative
7 3/8 x 9 2/16 in. (18.8 x 23.3 cm)
Museum purchase, 2012.90

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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Staircase, 1140 Royal' 1982

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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Staircase, 1140 Royal
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 1/5 x 15 1/5 in. (38.5 x 38.5 cm)Paper: 20 x 16 in. (50.6 x 40.4 cm)
Promised gift from H. Russell Albright, MD, EL.2001.120

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William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'View of the Paris Boulevards from the First Floor of the Hôtel de Louvais, Rue de la Paix' 1843

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William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
View of the Paris Boulevards from the First Floor of the Hôtel de Louvais, Rue de la Paix
1843
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 6 3/8 x 6 3/4 in. (16.2 x 17.1 cm) Paper: 7 1/2x 9 in. (19 x 23 cm)
Museum purchase, 1977 Acquisition Fund Drive, 77.66

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Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958) 'Groom Detective Agency' 1923

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Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
Groom Detective Agency
1923
Platinum print
Image: 4 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (11.5 x 9 cm) Paper: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28 cm)
Paul Outerbridge, Jr. © 2013 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

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Morton Schamberg (American, 1881-1918) 'Cityscape' 1916

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Morton Schamberg (American, 1881-1918)
Cityscape
1916
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24 x 19 cm) Mount: 15 3/4 x 13 in. (40 x 33 cm)
Museum purchase, Women’s Volunteer Committee Fund, 73.231

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Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) 'A Mangled Staircase (No. 2)' 1949

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Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
A Mangled Staircase (No. 2)
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 1/2 x 10 13/16 in. (34.2 x 27.5 cm) Mount: 17 x 14 in. (43 x 35.5 cm)
Bequest of Clarence John Laughlin, 85.118.59

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E. J. Bellocq (American, 1873-1949) 'Bedroom Mantel, Storyville' c. 1911-1913

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E. J. Bellocq (American, 1873-1949)
Bedroom Mantel, Storyville
c. 1911-1913
Glass negative
Plate: 10 x 8 in. (25.2 20.2 cm)
Museum purchase, 73.241

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Lewis Hine. '[Mechanic and Steam Pump]' c. 1930

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Lewis Hine
[Mechanic and Steam Pump]
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image:9 1/2 x 7 in. (24.3 x 17.6 cm)Paper: 10 x 8 in.(25.2 x 20.3 cm)
Museum Purchase

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The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA 70124
T: (504) 658-4100

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

The New Orleans Museum of Art website

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21
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Lewis Hine – Photography for a Change’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 25th August 2013

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“While human truth may be ephemeral qualities like justice are not; the struggle is to define justice and to live it. And for artists to display it.”

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Here is one artist who certainly used photography for social good. Hine “represents the beginning of a long tradition of politically engaged, social documentary photography, so called “concerned photography”… He firmly believed that every person, every individual, was worthy of respect, and he believed photography to be the best tool for clearly and visibly expressing this view.” Bravo to him.

Unfortunately, like so many of these visionary and revolutionary artists, Hine died in 1940, completely impoverished. As a society, why is it that we don’t value these brave human beings until years after they have passed? Is it because of petty jealousies, the rush of life, people in positions of power too long or a lack of understanding of the visionary nature of their work? Or is it just that time passes them by. I would like to pose this question.

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

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Lewis Hine. 'Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge' 1906

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Lewis Hine
Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge
1906
Gelatin silver print
12 x 17 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Spinner in New England mill' 1913

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Lewis Hine
Spinner in New England mill
1913
Gelatin silver print
12.6 x 10.1 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Italian family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island' 1905

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Lewis Hine
Italian family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island
1905
Gelatin silver print
33.4 x 27.2 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Candy worker, New York' c. 1925

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Lewis Hine
Candy worker, New York
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 11.8 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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“To what extent can images effectively combat injustice and social inequity? The American photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940) offered an early answer to this question through his work. Trained as a teacher and sociologist, he ardently wished that Americans would become conscious of the injustice of American labor laws. He also firmly believed that every person, every individual, was worthy of respect, and he believed photography to be the best tool for clearly and visibly expressing this view.

His work represents the beginning of a long tradition of politically engaged, social documentary photography, so called “concerned photography.” His photographs of immigrants from Ellis Island, child labor in American factories, and the construction of the Empire State Building high above Manhattan have become major icons of the 20th century. Simultaneously, the photographs also point to the fact, that the documented problems have not lost their currency, even one hundred years later. Today, even in Europe, we are experiencing intensive migrations, which will continue to increase in the future. Here we are not confronted with child labor, because we have transferred the kinds of industrial production that used child labor to distant countries. Accidents in non-European factories indicate the risky conditions under which our consumer goods are still produced today. Hine’s photographic eye and his black and white images form a trajectory that leads directly to the present.

Lewis Hine grew up in a family that owned a simple restaurant in the small town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He lost his father at age 18 due to an accident. He provided for himself and his family first as a factory worker in a furniture production company and then as a doorman, salesman, and bookkeeper. After training as a teacher and studying sociology at the University of Chicago, Hine moved to New York, where he first came in contact with photography while teaching at the Ethical Culture School. Using the camera in his lessons, he made portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island in conjunction with a research project. From then on Hine viewed his camera as a weapon for revealing social injustice and effecting change through the power of images. With this motivation he traveled some 75,000 km through the United States for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and photographed children at work in the fields, mines, factories, mills, and on the streets. His photographs played no small part in raising awareness for child labor and instigating initial reforms. They also represented some of the earliest and most significant contributions to the social documentary genre of photography. During the construction of the Empire State Building Hine was commissioned with documenting the phases of construction over the course of six months in 1930/31. In over one thousand photographs he recorded the perspective of the construction workers and their hard work on the ultimately 381 m high building. Despite his early success and the use of his images by many governmental agencies, Hine died in 1940, completely impoverished, after an operation.

Fotomuseum Winterthur presents this comprehensive retrospective including 170 images and extensive documentation material in cooperation with the Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid), the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris) and the Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam). All works come from the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, USA.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Lewis Hine. 'Paris gamin' c. 1918

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Lewis Hine
Paris gamin
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 19.4 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Jewess at Ellis Island' 1905

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Lewis Hine
Jewess at Ellis Island
1905
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.1 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house' 1920

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Lewis Hine
Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house
1920
Gelatin silver print
16.9 x 11.7 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. '[Man on girders, Empire State Building]' c. 1931

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Lewis Hine
[Man on girders, Empire State Building]
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
12 x 9.2 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. '[Steelworker touching the tip of the Chrysler Building]' c. 1931

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Lewis Hine
[Steelworker touching the tip of the Chrysler Building]
c. 1931
Gelatin silver print
16.9 x 11.9 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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Lewis Hine. 'Icarus atop Empire State Building' 1931

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Lewis Hine
Icarus atop Empire State Building
1931
Gelatin silver print
9.3 x 10 cm
© Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester

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

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

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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24
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Lewis Hine: Photography for a Change’ at the Netherlands Museum of Photography, Rotterdam

Exhibition dates: 15th September – 6th January 2013

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“In the last analysis, good photography is a question of art.”

“I wanted to show the thing that had to be corrected: I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated.”

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Lewis Wickes Hines

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Something that you really don’t get in reproductions is the absolutely beautiful tonality of Hine’s social documentary photography. Even less so when the images provided by the institution are degraded by scratches, dust, spots and colour irregularities. Despite these media images being 300 dpi when I received them from the museum media department they were in very average condition. For example, the image of Christmas Fiddles (below) was in such poor condition when enlarged that I had to spend over half and hour cleaning up the image to make it pictorially legible to the viewer at a larger size.

This is not an unusual occurrence and, unbeknownst to the readers of the blog, I spend many hours quickly cleaning the digital files before they are presented to you. Some individual images and sets of images are of such poor quality that I simply cannot use them at all. I will do a posting on this issue soon, but suffice to say that museums that spend thousands of hours and dollars staging impressive photographic exhibitions really let themselves down in the promotion of the exhibition if they provide dodgy scans and unusable media images to people that promote the exhibition for free. In this world of media saturated images it should be the norm that the “quality” of the image outweighs the indifferent quantity. With faster and faster download speeds larger images can be viewed more readily online and therefore scans provided by institutions must live up to this enlarged capacity.

Hopefully you can get some idea of the work of this socially conscious photographer, an American photographer who saw the camera as both a research tool and an instrument of social reform, whose images helped change the world with regard to child labour. Unfortunately success and reputation counted for nought. He died totally impoverished in 1940, shortly before a resurgence of public interest in his work raised him to the highest level of American photographers. What an infinite sadness.

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

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Lewis Hine
. 'Man on hoisting ball, Empire State building' 1931

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Lewis Hine

Man on hoisting ball, Empire State building
1931
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Lunch Time, New York' 1910

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Lewis Hine
Lunch Time, New York
1910
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles' 1918

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Lewis Hine
Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles
1918
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles' 1918 (detail)

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Lewis Hine
Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles (detail)
1918
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Steelworker standing on beam' 1931

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Lewis Hine
Steelworker standing on beam
1931
© George Eastman House

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“From 15 September 2012 to 6 January 2013, the Netherlands Museum of Photography will present the first large retrospective in the Netherlands of the work of the renowned American photographer Lewis Hine. Hine was an enthusiastic photographer who wished to improve people’s lives through his photos. His pictures of immigrants on Ellis Island, of child labour, and of workers busy on the Empire State Building high above New York belong to the visual icons of the 20th century. The internationally touring exhibition contains more than 200 photos and documents, many in their original state and originating from the collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York State. Lewis Hine is an initiative of three European institutions: Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris), Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid) and the Netherlands Museum of Photography (Rotterdam). It is with great pride that the Netherlands Museum of Photography can now present this exhibition that harmonizes perfectly with its aim to pay attention to the canon of international documentary photography.

Lewis W. Hine (Wisconsin, 1874 – New York, 1940), a sociologist and photographer, belongs to the group of famous photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Frank, Robert Capa, Eugène Atget to whom the Netherlands Museum of Photography has previously devoted impressive exhibitions. Hine is known as a 20th-century pioneer of social documentary photography. It is characteristic of Hine that he strongly believed in the camera’s powers of conviction. Thus, armed only with a heavy camera he fought for social justice. For the National Child Labor Committee he travelled more than 75,000 kilometres through the United States to photograph children working in agriculture, the mines, factories, sewing attics, and on the streets. His photos were partly responsible for reforms in these fields. The themes in Hine’s work – child labour, situations of human indignity, and the vulnerability of immigrants and refugees – are still current. Despite his present reputation, his early successes and the fact that many governmental organizations made use of his photos, he died totally impoverished in 1940.

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Empire State Building and Building the Rotterdam

In 1932 Lewis Hine published the famous photographic book entitled Men at Work, which covered the construction of the Empire State Building. From the most audacious vantage points he took photos of the 381-metre building, showing the strength and willpower of humankind, man’s contribution to industry. The tall buildings on the Wilhelminapier have determined the skyline of Rotterdam for many years, just as the Empire State Building did in New York around 1930. The Wilhelminapier is now under full development. De Rotterdam Building, designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architectural) will be completed in 2013-2014. The photographer Ruud Sies has followed the genesis of the largest building in the Netherlands for four years now. The project entitled Building the Rotterdam – a work in progress by Ruud Sies was inspired by the work of Lewis Hine and establishes the connection with the Wilhelminapier as a historical location. To the Netherlands Museum of Photography, this is a reason to include this project in the exhibition of the work of Lewis Hine.

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Exhibition

With 170 vintage photos from the period 1903-37 as well as 42 documents, this exhibition of Hine’s work is the first extensive and well-documented overview in the Netherlands and even in Europe. Hine’s entire oeuvre is on show, ranging from his earliest portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island to his work in Europe after the First World War. The Lewis Hine touring exhibition was on display in Paris toward the end of 2011, and in Madrid at the beginning of this year. For this international journey, Hine’s work has undergone preventative preservation treatment and is exposed to a minimum amount of light. After the exhibition in the Netherlands, the work will return to the George Eastman House in America to relax in a dark depot.”

Press release from the Netherlands Museum of Photography website

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Lewis Hine. 'The Sky Boy' 1931

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Lewis Hine
The Sky Boy
1931
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Waiting for the dispensary to open Hull House District, Chicago' 1910

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Lewis Hine
Waiting for the dispensary to open Hull House District, Chicago
1910
© George Eastman House

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“Lewis Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1874. He moved to New York City in 1901 to teach at the Ethical Culture School. There Hine used photographs as educational tools, and soon began to photograph immigrants at Ellis Island. He hoped his photographs would encourage people to “exert the force to right wrongs.” While continuing to teach at ECS, Hine began to do freelance work for the National Child Labor Committee, an association that transformed his professional life.

In 1908, the NCLC provided Hine a monthly salary to photographically document children in factories, mills, canneries, textile mills, street trades, and agricultural industries. Through his photographs he sought to alert the public to the extent of child labor in America, and the degree to which it denied these children their childhood, health, and education. In one year, Hine covered 12,000 miles in his quest to end abusive child labor. By 1913, Hine was considered the leading social welfare photographer in America.

Hine enjoyed a long and successful career following his work for the NCLC. He worked for the American Red Cross (1917-20), photographing refugees and civilians in war-torn Europe, a new series of photographs of immigrants at Ellis Island (1926), a series of photographs documenting the construction of the Empire State Building (1930), photographs of drought-ridden communities in Arkansas and Kentucky (1931), as well as work for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1936-37 Hine was appointed head photographer for the National Research Project of the Works Progress Administration. The aging Hine, however, was disappointed at the rebuff of his attempts to secure work with the Farm Services Administration, where director Roy Stryker considered Hine old fashioned and difficult. Lewis Hine died in 1940, shortly before a resurgence of public interest in his work raised him to the highest level of American photographers.”

Text from Child Labour in Virginia: Photographs by Lewis Hine web page

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Lewis Hine. 'Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house' 1920

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Lewis Hine
Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house
1920
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Candy Worker, New York' 1925

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Lewis Hine
Candy Worker, New York
1925
© George Eastman House

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Lewis Hine. 'Paris Gamin' 1918

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Lewis Hine
Paris Gamin
1918
© George Eastman House

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Netherlands Museum of Photography
Wilhelminakade 332
3072 AR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Opening hours
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Free entrance on Wednesday

Nederlands Museum of Photography website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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