Posts Tagged ‘photography of Old Paris

20
Jun
21

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget, Voir Paris’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 19th September 2021

Curators: Anne de Mondenard, Head of the Photography and Digital Images Department, musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris Agnès Sire, Artistic director, Fondation HCB

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Parc Delessert, XVIe' 1914

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Parc Delessert, XVIe
1914
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

The power of imagination

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

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Albert Einstein

 

Imagination, or Visualisation, may be simply defined as the formation of mental images or pictures. It helps us form images of the world – in the case of Atget, images of Old Paris – in which the viewer can value the experience of walking in the city, Paris, walking in the footsteps of history through the gaze of the artist, our gaze.

If we exercise our imagination we can resist, and subvert, our presumed reality – undermining the so-called reality of the world, a world in which we are rationally and relationally forced to understand how things are and how they work.

This is what artists do… they undermine the logic of the world through being exposed to the qualities instantiated in the physical world, and by then stepping aside from that world they exercise their imagination to create, to imagine, to expose themselves (much like a photographic plate) to the perceptions of an external physical world viewed from multiple perspectives.

Thus, “Imagination … plays a central role in empirical cognition by serving as the basis for both memory and the creative arts. In addition it also plays a kind of mediating role between the faculties of sensibility and understanding. Kant calls this mediating role a “transcendental function” of the imagination. It mediates and transcends by being tied in its functioning to both faculties. On one hand, it produces sensible representations, and is thus connected to sensibility. On the other hand, it is not a purely passive faculty but rather engages in the activity of bringing together various representations, as does memory, for example. Kant explicitly connects understanding with this kind of active mental processing.”1

How appropriate for the visualisations of Atget, purported documents for artists but in an alternative reality, poetic concepts (of his imagination) in which he “invites us to exercise our gaze, to consider the complexity of the world as the source of our faculty of imagination.”

You only have to look at one image to imagine Atget lugging his large plate camera to the Place du Tertre, Montmartre in 1922 (below); scouting the square in the 18th arrondissement of Paris near the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur; setting up the camera on its heavy tripod, throwing the dark cloth over his head and then focusing the composition on the ground glass – to then place a tree dissected by another tree directly in your eye line, and starting half way up the tree.2 Who would do that!

It gives you the shivers… the scene is just a little too real. It appears from the transcendental function of the imagination as surrealist “other”. It is un/real. Super real.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Colin McLear. “Kant: Philosophy of Mind,” on the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy website [Online] Cited 20/06/2021.
  2. Also note how far the camera front has moved beyond the circle of light from the lens – so vertical parallels stay parallel.

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

 

Eugène Atget gave up a career as an actor in order to pursue a relatively new art: photographic recording. From the most classical architecture to the most remote courtyards, Atget, more interested in the city, obsessively depicted a Paris marked by history, offering his prints to painters and libraries. Characters that show up in the frame blend into the background.

Atget said little to nothing about his own work. Reported statements served to define his project as essentially documentary, but it was his direct, poetic approach that fascinated many of his contemporaries. This produced contradictory commentary on his unusual oeuvre. He was fundamentally independent, a bit austere, and fostered neither intellectual concepts nor artistic principles as foundations from which to value experience. He invites us to exercise our gaze, to consider the complexity of the world as the source of our faculty of imagination.

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Église Saint-Médard, Ve' 1900-1901

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Église Saint-Médard, Ve (Church of Saint-Médard, Ve)
1900-1901
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ambassade d'Autriche, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe' 1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ambassade d’Autriche, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe (Austrian embassy, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe)
1905
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Un coin de l'entrepôt de Bercy, rue Léopold, XIIe' 1913

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Un coin de l’entrepôt de Bercy, rue Léopold, XIIe (A corner of the Bercy warehouse, rue Léopold, XIIe)
1913
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Maison de Balzac, 24, rue Berton, XVIe' 1913

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Maison de Balzac, 24, rue Berton, XVIe
1913
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Place du Tertre, Montmartre, XVIIIe' 1922

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, XVIIIe
1922
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Fortifications, porte de Sèvres, XVe' 1923

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fortifications, porte de Sèvres, XVe
1923
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

This exhibition, presented at the Fondation HCB, is the fruit of long research efforts jointly undertaken by the two institutions throughout the musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris’ collections. The result is an outstanding presentation of the oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857-1927), a unique figure and photography pioneer. Above all an artisan, Atget’s prolific output of photographs was intended for artists and lovers of the old Paris; he rose to fame posthumously. A forerunner of modernity is seen in his work by art critics and photographers, among them Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose early work sought to imitate Atget. Paris’ place within the oeuvre of Cartier-Bresson is also the subject of an exhibition at the musée Carnavalet from June 15 to October 31, a project in partnership with the Fondation HCB.

First acknowledged in the United States and by the French surrealist scene before finding acclaim with succeeding generations of photographers, Atget still exerts unprecedented influence in the 21st century, though reception of his work remains mixed. Bearing a view camera and glass plates, he often captured his subject at dawn. For almost thirty years, he sought to make a collection of the Paris of his time. He also explored city limits, what is known as “the zone”. Today, his images of nearly‑deserted streets, store fronts, and courtyards evidence urban change at the turn of the 20th century.

Beyond its documentary aspects, Atget’s photography expresses a deep aesthetic sensibility, illustrating the incalculable contribution he made to the medium. As Paris changed, Atget’s work method evolved accordingly, becoming more and more sensitive to the light and to atmospheric effects. This devotion to detail (using a modest subject matter), in contrast to the triumphant pictorialism of the time, is also singularly modern, allowing a notion of pleasure to surface – one which is rarely mentioned in reference to Atget. The exhibition and its accompanying publication propose sharing this pleasure.

The exhibition is organised by the musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris-Musées and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. The musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris houses a collection of over 9,000 prints by Atget, the largest archive on the photographer. The exhibition Eugène Atget – Voir Paris presents a selection of around 150 of the artist’s original prints.

 

Biography

Eugène Atget was born in Libourne, France in 1857. He gave up a career as an actor and took up photography starting in 1888. He was self-taught. In 1890, he began producing material for use by artists: shots of plants, landscapes and diverse objects. In 1897, he started to take photographs of the Paris of his time systematically, attentive to scenes of urban life, architectural detail and the capital’s topography. Towards the end of his life, he met Man Ray’s assistant, Berenice Abbott, who took two portraits of him. He died in Paris in 1927. Abbott learned of his death just as she was planning to offer him the portraits. Along with gallerist Julien Levy and Atget’s executor, André Calmettes, Abbott aided in rescuing Atget’s studio archive, the recognition of his work through various publications, and the admission of the Abbott / Levy collection to the New York Museum of Modern Art’s collection in 1968.

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Cabaret de l'Homme armé, 25, rue des Blancs-Manteaux, IVe' September 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cabaret de l’Homme armé, 25, rue des Blancs-Manteaux, IVe
September 1900
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ancien hôtel Sully-Charost, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe' 1904

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ancien hôtel Sully-Charost, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe (Former Sully-Charost hotel, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe)
1904
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Vieille maison, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe' 1910

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Vieille maison, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe (Old house, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe)
1910
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Fontaine du passage des Singes, 6, rue des Guillemites, IVe' 1911

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fontaine du passage des Singes, 6, rue des Guillemites, IVe
1911
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Coin de la place Saint-André-des-Arts et de la rue Hautefeuille, VIe' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Coin de la place Saint-André-des-Arts et de la rue Hautefeuille, VIe (Corner of Place Saint-André-des-Arts and Rue Hautefeuille, VIe)
1912
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Un coin du pont Marie, IVe' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Un coin du pont Marie, IVe (A corner of Marie bridge, IVe)
1921
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Rue des Chantres, IVe' 1923

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue des Chantres, IVe
1923
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

Opening hours:
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Closed on Mondays

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29
Apr
14

Exhibition: ‘Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York / Marville research at the State Library of Victoria

Exhibition dates: 29th January – 4th May 2014

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Top of the rue Champlain, View to the Right (Twentieth Arrondissement)'1877-78

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Top of the rue Champlain, View to the Right (Twentieth Arrondissement) 
1877-78
Albumen silver print from glass negative
26 x 36.6 cm (10 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

 

Great news from the State Library of Victoria!

Following further discussions my research can now take place. As you may recall the research question is, did the Charles Marville photographs that were exhibited at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 influence the work of Melbourne photographers – Charles Nettleton, JW Lindt and Nicholas Caire.

The plan is that I research the photographs of Marville, Nettleton, Lindt and Caire online and then visit the Library to view the original prints. The Library have very helpfully sent me records of the visitors book to the 1880 exhibition and noted that Caire, Lindt and Nettleton exhibited photographs and won awards at the 1880-1881 exhibition. Now it’s up to me to put in the hard yards and undertake the research and analysis.

I am very grateful to the State Library of Victoria for their help and look forward to publishing the research later in the year, undertaking the research after the curatorship of the Out of the closets, into the streets exhibition is over at the end of July.

In the meantime, here are some more glorious images from the touring Charles Marville exhibition, this time at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The tonality of the prints is incredible, as is the subtle placement of the camera to obtain a unique perspective of the city. The almost modernist take on the lamppost as sculptural object, with the dead centre placement allowing the surrounding environment to flow around the verticality of the post, is breathtaking.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Metropolitan 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.

 

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Banks of the Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins (Fifth Arrondissement)' c. 1862

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Banks of the Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins (Fifth Arrondissement) 
c. 1862
Albumen print from collodion negative
27.5 x 36.8cm (10 13/16 x 14 1/2 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Urinal, Jennings System, plateau de l'Ambigu' 1876

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Urinal, Jennings System, plateau de l’Ambigu 
1876
Albumen silver print from glass negative
26.7 × 36.4cm (10 1/2 × 14 5/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Rue de Constantine (Fourth Arrondissement)' 1866

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue de Constantine (Fourth Arrondissement) 
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
27.3 x 36.8cm (10 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.)
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1986
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Passage Saint-Guillaume toward the rue Richilieu (First Arrondissement)' 1863-65

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Passage Saint-Guillaume toward the rue Richilieu (First Arrondissement) 
1863-65
Albumen silver print from glass negative
31.91 x 27.62cm (12 9/16 x 10 7/8 in.)
Joy of Giving Something, Inc.

 

 

“Widely acknowledged as one of the most talented photographers of the 19th century, Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) was commissioned by the city of Paris to document both the picturesque, medieval streets of old Paris and the broad boulevards and grand public structures that Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann built in their place for Emperor Napoleon III. Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris at The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a selection of around 100 of his photographs.

Marville achieved moderate success as an illustrator of books and magazines early in his career. It was not until 1850 that he shifted course and took up photography – a medium that had been introduced just 11 years earlier. His poetic urban views, detailed architectural studies, and picturesque landscapes quickly garnered praise. Although he made photographs throughout France, Germany, and Italy, it was his native city – especially its monuments, churches, bridges, and gardens – that provided the artist with his greatest and most enduring source of inspiration.

By the end of the 1850s, Marville had established a reputation as an accomplished and versatile photographer. From 1862, as official photographer for the city of Paris, he documented aspects of the radical modernisation program that had been launched by Emperor Napoleon III and his chief urban planner, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. In this capacity, Marville photographed the city’s oldest quarters, and especially the narrow, winding streets slated for demolition. Even as he recorded the disappearance of Old Paris, Marville turned his camera on the new city that had begun to emerge. Many of his photographs celebrate its glamour and comforts, while other views of the city’s desolate outskirts attest to the unsettling social and physical changes wrought by rapid modernisation.

Haussmann not only redrew the map of Paris, he transformed the urban experience by commissioning and installing tens of thousands of pieces of street furniture, kiosks, Morris columns for posting advertisements, pissoirs, garden gates, and, above all, some twenty thousand gas lamps. By the time he stepped down as prefect in 1870, Paris was no longer a place where residents dared to go out at night only if accompanied by armed men carrying lanterns. Taken as a whole, Marville’s photographs of Paris stand as one of the earliest and most powerful explorations of urban transformation on a grand scale.

By the time of his death, Marville had fallen into relative obscurity, with much of his work stored in municipal or state archives. This exhibition, which marks the bicentennial of Marville’s birth, explores the full trajectory of the artist’s photographic career and brings to light the extraordinary beauty and historical significance of his art.

 

Related Installation

Concurrent with Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris, a related installation in the adjacent Howard Gilman Gallery will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum. Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s-1930s (January 27-May 4, 2014) celebrates the first 100 years of photography in Paris and features some 40 photographs, all drawn from the Museum’s collection. The installation focuses primarily on architectural views, street scenes, and interiors. It explores the physical shape and texture of Paris and how artists have found poetic ways to record through the camera its essential qualities.”

Press release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

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Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Arts et Métiers (Ancien Modèle)' 1864

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Arts et Métiers (Ancien Modèle) 
1864
Albumen silver print from glass negative
36.6 x 24.1cm (14 7/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2007
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Hôtel de la Marine' 1864-70

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Hôtel de la Marine 
1864-70
Albumen silver print from glass negative
36.2 x 23.5cm (14 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Lamppost, Entrance to the École des Beaux-Arts' c. 1870

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Lamppost, Entrance to the École des Beaux-Arts 
c. 1870
Albumen silver print from glass negative
35.6 x 25.4cm (14 x 10 in.)
Collection W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Spire of Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc, Architect' 1859-60

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Spire of Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc, Architect 
1859-60
Albumen silver print from glass negative
49.5 x 36.5cm (19 1/2 x 14 3/8 in.)
The AIA/AAF Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Rue Estienne from the rue Boucher (First Arrondissement)' 1862-65

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Estienne from the rue Boucher (First Arrondissement) 
1862-65
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34.3 x 27.1cm (13 1/2 x 10 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Rue de la Bûcherie from the cul de sac Saint-Ambroise (Fifth Arrondissement)' 1866-68

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue de la Bûcherie from the cul de sac Saint-Ambroise (Fifth Arrondissement) 
1866-68
Albumen silver print from glass negative
32 x 27.1cm (12 5/8 x 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Cour Saint-Guillaume (Ninth Arrondissement)' 1866-67

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Cour Saint-Guillaume (Ninth Arrondissement) 
1866-67
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34.2 x 27.2cm (13 7/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Passage Saint-Benoît (Sixth Arrondissement)' 1864-67

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Passage Saint-Benoît (Sixth Arrondissement) 
1864-67
Albumen silver print from glass negative
36.5 x 27.6cm (14 3/8 x 10 7/8)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Impasse de la Bouteille from the rue Montorgeuil (Second Arrondissement)' 1865-68

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Impasse de la Bouteille from the rue Montorgeuil (Second Arrondissement) 
1865-68
Albumen silver print from glass negative
35.9 x 27.7cm (14 1/8 x 10 7/8 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Man Reclining beneath a Chestnut Tree' c. 1853

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Man Reclining beneath a Chestnut Tree 
c. 1853
Salted paper print from paper negative
20.9 x 16.2cm (8 1/4 x 6 3/8 in.)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1946
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Phone: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30am – 5.30pm*
Friday and Saturday: 9.30am – 9.00pm*
Sunday: 9.30am – 5.30pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

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30
Jan
14

Research at the State Library of Victoria update

Date: 30th January 2014

 

Research experience on the Charles Marville photographs at the State Library of Victoria update

Dear readers

Yah _ a lovely response from the State Library of Victoria !!

I look forward to seeing the Marville’s in all their glory. I will let you know how the visit goes…

Marcus

 

 

Hi Marcus, we’re sorry to hear your experience was not a positive one. The Marville Collection is an extraordinary anthology of photographs to be celebrated. While we certainly don’t wish to keep this treasure from the public, we do want to ensure these photographs are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

So that everyone can access these photographs at any time, we have digitised the entire collection in high resolution and made available online. We also arrange viewings of the original photographic prints by appointment but due to their age, size and delicate nature, it’s preferable that only a selection are brought out at any one time and handled with care. The plastic envelopes in which the photographs are kept are archival and the blue card on which they’re mounted is how the prints were exhibited in 1880 and include the original captions. Conservation staff have assessed the prints and original backing card and are of the opinion that the card is not causing any damage to these photographs.

Our Collection Services Manager is getting in touch with you to arrange another visit where you can see more from this wonderful collection. We look forward to seeing you back at the Library soon.

 

 

Charles Marville (1813-1879, photographer) 'Rue Tirechape (de la rue St Honoré)' c. 1853 - c. 1870

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Tirechape (de la rue St Honoré)
c. 1853 – c. 1870
In collection: Photographic views of Paris
Undated, dates assigned from time of Haussman’s renovation of Paris
Photographic print mounted on cardboard: albumen silver
32 x 26cm
Gift; Government of France; 1880

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
Daily 10am-6pm

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24
Jan
14

Research at the State Library of Victoria

23rd January 2014

 

Rue-Chanoinesse-(de-la-rue-des-Chantres)

 

AS SEEN ONLINE

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Chanoinesse (de la rue des Chantres)
c. 1853 – c. 1870
In collection: Photographic views of Paris
Undated, dates assigned from time of Haussman’s renovation of Paris
photographic print mounted on cardboard : albumen silver
34 x 27cm
Gift; Government of France; 1880

 

 

Research experience on the Charles Marville photographs at the State Library of Victoria

I don’t usually get upset but this is an exception, and rightly so. They say that any publicity is good publicity but not in this case, because this posting goes right around the world. Read on…

After my recent posting on Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris at the National Gallery of Art, Washington I was contacted by Robert Heather, Manager Collection Interpretation at SLV about the 330 Marville’s they have in the Pictures collection, donated by the French Government in 1881 after the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880 had finished. I had know about these photographs from pages 203-205 of the catalogue from the above exhibition (see images below). The Manager of Collection Interpretation encouraged me to make an appointment to come in an see the Marville. Naturally I was excited at the prospect of doing some research on these recently rediscovered images. An idea was forming in my mind – about research that linked the redevelopment of Paris at the time of the Marville photographs with images of the expanding and developing Melbourne around the same time. The comparisons between cities and photographers, photographs, styles (such as Charles Nettleton pre-1880 and J. W. Lindt and Nicholas Caire post-1880), I thought would be illuminating.

Don’t forget I was encouraged to come in an see the Marville. Contacted by the Picture Librarian, I was asked to select TWO, yes TWO images out of 330 to look at. I think I was lucky to be able to choose two but I choose three!

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Upon arrival the Picture Librarian failed to introduce themselves and said, “Oh, your Marcus” in the most off hand manner. This person was brusque to the point of rudeness, so efficacious in their duty to protect the art work that I felt it was almost criminal to be there. It was like stepping back into the Victoria era their attitude was so unhelpful.

The Marville’s are not in albums as I had supposed (and the librarian had no knowledge of whether they had ever been in albums), but were mounted on blue cards and kept in plastic (presumably archival) sleeves. When I asked for the photographs to be removed so that I could look at the images I had chosen, I was refused! How can you possibly study an artist’s work, in this case photographs, without being able to see the surface of the print? It is just impossible to study these works under opaque plastic…

These cards should NOT BE STORED IN PLASTIC SLEEVES ANYHOW !!

Even if the sleeves are archival, photographs need to breathe and not be suffocated in plastic. It’s like a Stradivarius violin – they need to be played, not kept locked up in a museum display cabinet because then they loose all of their resonance. And when I asked this person about what conservation was being undertaken on the images they had no idea, blithely announcing that the photographs had been on those cards for a century. This does not mean that the card is not leaching acid into the photographs and the necessary testing should be carried out to assess the stability of the material and photographs. And if they have been stable and survived for a hundred years as this person suggested, then what is the harm of actually showing them to people. A piece of cardboard that was shown to me as coming off one of the sheets is no reason to deny people the right to see these objects in the flesh.

This person had no idea who I was nor did they care that I am a professional researcher, writer and artist. But that is not the point, I could have been anyone from Joe Public wanting to look at something in the collection: it is a public institution and they have a duty and obligation to show things to the general public. In their ‘Vision Statement’ they say, and I quote:

“We want to be a place where all Victorians can discover, learn, create and connect. We want to be a cultural and heritage destination for Victorians, and a catalyst for generating new knowledge and ideas… We will focus on developing: services and physical facilities tailored to your needs.”

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New knowledge and ideas. Services and physical facilities tailored to your needs. After the appalling experience that I had I am not so sure. I was going to apply for a Fellowship hoping to do the research I mentioned at the top of the posting, but after my awful experience I am thinking better of it. While all the Marville’s are online and downloadable at high resolution, which is a wonderful thing in itself, at this rate the Marville’s might as well be buried for another 100 years, other than being shown in an upcoming exhibition. At least at the National Gallery of Victoria when you go in to look at the work, you can actually see the photographs.

I have now requested another appointment to see the Marville’s and this time I don’t want to see just THREE PHOTOGRAPHS behind plastic – I want to see as many photographs as I would like, and be left in peace to study them, out of the plastic. As a public institution the State Library of Victoria has a duty to make these photographs available for research. If they have not got a conservation policy in place that allows them to be viewed out of the plastic, then they should have. I have asked them to let me know when this visit can be conducted and have yet to receive a reply.

I don’t usually get upset, dear readers, but this situation is intolerable for anyone, let alone a person who loves photography. The attitude spoiled what was going to be a special and magical experience. Imagine if a researcher from overseas had arrived to view these works and they had had this reception. Unbelievable.

I will, of course, keep you updated with news.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

“Gee have you been using these plastic sleeves for a long time?”
“Do you have many people asking to see these images out of their covers?”
Thankx to my mentor for these pearls of wisdom…

I think people are too afraid to speak out these days for fear of having an opinion, being seen as judgemental, upsetting the powers that be. I am not afraid to call them out, especially on a subject in which I have knowledge over many years. I have been studying the new Left of the 1960s and how they put their bodies on the line out on the streets – for anti-Vietnam, pro-Communist, gay liberation, feminism and Aboriginal rights. I grew up in an era where you say what you think, fight for your freedom and have the courage of your convictions…

 

Addendum

A response from the State Library of Victoria !!

Hi Marcus, we’re sorry to hear your experience was not a positive one. The Marville Collection is an extraordinary anthology of photographs to be celebrated. While we certainly don’t wish to keep this treasure from the public, we do want to ensure these photographs are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

So that everyone can access these photographs at any time, we have digitised the entire collection in high resolution and made available online. We also arrange viewings of the original photographic prints by appointment but due to their age, size and delicate nature, it’s preferable that only a selection are brought out at any one time and handled with care. The plastic envelopes in which the photographs are kept are archival and the blue card on which they’re mounted is how the prints were exhibited in 1880 and include the original captions. Conservation staff have assessed the prints and original backing card and are of the opinion that the card is not causing any damage to these photographs.

Our Collection Services Manager is getting in touch with you to arrange another visit where you can see more from this wonderful collection. We look forward to seeing you back at the Library soon.

 

 

Rue-Chanoinesse-(de-la-rue-des-Chantres)-opaque

 

AS SEEN IN THE FLESH

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Chanoinesse (de la rue des Chantres)
c. 1853 – c. 1870
In collection: Photographic views of Paris
Undated, dates assigned from time of Haussman’s renovation of Paris
photographic print mounted on cardboard : albumen silver
34 x 27cm
Gift; Government of France; 1880

 

Mp203-WEB

mp205-WEB

 

Extracts from pages 203 and 205 of Reynaud, Françoise. “Marville and Old Paris,” in Kennel, Sarah. Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2013.

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
Dail 10am – 6pm

State Library of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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