Posts Tagged ‘social documentary photography

10
Sep
19

Vale Robert Frank ‘The American’

September 2019

 

Robert Frank Americans 1 'Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American-Swiss, 1924-2019)
Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey
1955

 

 

The flags will be all askew.
The jukeboxes will be playing.
And the light will never falter from his incandescent images.

Vale.

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, New York City' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (American-Swiss, 1924-2019)
Bar, New York City
1955-56

 

 

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11
Aug
19

Text: Marcus Bunyan. “Nothing emerges from nothing,” Foreword to ‘We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans’ 2019

August 2019

Publisher: Australian Scholarly Publishing
ISBN: 9781925801859
Hardback
Purchase

 

 

Book cover to 'We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans' 2019

 

Book cover to We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans. Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019.

 

 

The book We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans has now been published by Australian Scholarly Publishing and is available to purchase from their website.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who worked on the book, and an especially big thank you to the wonderful Jenner Zimmer who edited the book and without whose help it would not be the book it turned out to be. Her research in tracking down who the people were in the photographs, their correct names, the location of some of the photographs, and her layout of the book, was magnificent to say the least. Through her excellent work, we can now place these photographs not only in a personal context, but in an important historical context in relation to the development of the civil rights movement in Australia directly after the Second World War.

The book is a reflection of the times, an insight into the nascent civil rights movement of the late 1940s-1950s that reached full bloom in the 1960s. As I observe in the foreword below it also becomes a reflection on how photography and friendship go hand in hand… and how this transformative process leads us to reassess our relationship to the world through the act of taking photographs.

Marcus

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

 

Foreword

Nothing emerges from nothing

 

 

“… every human being is a poet, a masker, a warrior, a dancer: and in his innocent artistry he projects, against the turmoil of the street, an image of human existence.”

.
Helen Levitt. In the Street 1948.1

 

 

The gift of friendship between two people is a truly magical thing, a relationship built on the nurturing of respect between them, over time. The alchemical gift of a photograph does not arrive fully formed in a moment, for its magic is grounded in the context of its taking, informed by the wisdom, vision and creativity of the photographer. How Joyce Evans was touched by a connection between photography and friendship is another transformative process, one that leads her to reassess her relationship to the world through the act of taking photographs. Nothing ever emerges from nothing.

My friendship with Joyce Evans began when a joint acquaintance who knew of our love of photography introduced us. Over numerous years since – through trips to Sydney to see Joyce’s favourite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron; through visits to many exhibitions where we have discussed our reactions to the work (often with completely opposing views); through vigorous debate about the merits of different artists; through her promotion of Australian photography; and through her deep knowledge of the world, of life, and of art – I have come to know and love this vibrant and intelligent women. To begin to understand this complex human being and her approach to photography and life. The photographs, text and poetry in this book show evidence of the early maturing of this spirit of life.

Imagine being a nineteen year old who has been studying in America after the end of the Second World War, who has arrived in poverty-stricken England to meet friends who were mutually interested in the peace movement. Imagine travelling across Europe by car with those same friends, as mass migrations of people across Europe were still happening after the war, staying in youth hostels, to camp outside the city of Vienna. Then to cross the “Iron Curtain” and journey with thousands of other people from eight-two countries around the world to the city of Budapest for the Second World Festival of Youth and Students – a festival movement that grew out of the ashes of the war to proclaim, to shout, that youth would never again allow the horrors of fascism to terrorise the world. What a journey of discovery, love, friendship, excitement and danger that must have been!

Using her intelligence and the informed nature of her artistic being to define what interested her most, Joyce documented what she saw of the world around her.2 In so doing, these early photographs set the stage for concerns that have remained consistent in her work to this very day: peace, freedom, place, identity and humanity. While the photographs are a mirror of the times, portraying the improvisational vitality of everyday life, they also represent how the mind of the photographer can be embodied in the physical world, providing a glimpse into that most secret room of all – the core beliefs of a human being, their humanity, their soul.

The Australian photographer Max Dupain stated that the ‘mission of the photograph is to clarify the subject’.3 But perhaps the mission of the photograph is also to help clarify the identity of the artist. As the Austrian-born American photographer Inge Morath eloquently observes:

“Photography is a strange phenomenon. In spite of the use of that technical instrument, the camera, no two photographers, even if they were at the same place at the same time, come back with the same pictures. The personal vision is usually there from the beginning; result of a special chemistry of background and feelings, traditions and their rejection, of sensibility and voyeurism. You trust your eye and you cannot help but bare your soul. One’s vision finds of necessity the form suitable to express it.”4

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The form that Joyce found so early in her life was the music and poetry of humanist photographs, images that are subjective, lyrical, and reveal a state-of-mind. Here is passion and belief in the life of human beings, and the exquisiteness, beauty (and death) of the lived moment. You could label them “social documentary photography” if you were so inclined, but labels don’t capture the frisson of the creative process nor the joyous outcome of Joyce’s portraits. It’s as though Joyce, in a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, is making love to the world through her images: neither rational nor cerebral they evoke sensations and feelings, of being here and there, in that past space and time, now, all these years later. These were epic days of change and transformation – of nations, of continents, of cultures and of people. There was death and destruction but there was also such happiness, hope and joy.

Further, what her photographs also depict is the rise of an informed Australian social consciousness after the Second World War. Her important historical and personal photographs shine a light on forgotten people, times, places and actions, such as the broad based youth movements opposition to the atomic bomb, associations and friendships which eventually form the basis for the progressive social and political protest movements of the 1960s. The voices raised later in support of feminism, gay liberation, free love and Vietnam anti-war protests did not appear fully formed, for there was a history of activism… a slow build, a groundswell of public opinion that was the basis for such emerging actions. Nothing ever emerges from nothing.

As much as Joyce’s photographs engage the viewer in memory, they also engage in the moment, both past and present. Not only an engagement with the history and nostalgia of the images, but in their present day hope and joy. It is such a pleasure to see these strong images, of people now old, still young, a moving image of humanity. This is the heart of the matter: a moving image of humanity. The photographs represent an understanding of (a) life, well formed and well lived, of a courageous and visionary woman who told it her way, who still tells it her way to this day.

I have a deep sense of gratitude for both our friendship and for Joyce Evans’ prescient vision in recording these remarkable stories so that they can be shared today. At the time they had such high hopes, for their lives and for the future, energy that eventually morphed into something else (as is its want). This leaves these images, written memory, as both poem and testimonial to the uncertainty of human dreams and to the percipience of the artist who embodied and enabled them… in feeling, in love and in spirit. Nothing ever emerges from nothing. Good on ya Bert!

Dr Marcus Bunyan
Melbourne, February 2019

 

Endnotes

  1. Helen Levitt (ed.,). In the Street. Directed by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb and James Agee. Black and white film, 14 mins. 1948 (VHS) New York: Arthouse, Inc., 1996.
  2. Joyce was ever attentive to the power of the historical for she had been studying the Baroque painters in Paris and on her travels through Italy, evidence of which can be seen in the grouping of human figures in her photographs.
  3. Anonymous label. “Max Dupain, (Factory chimney stacks) 1940,” on the National Gallery of Australia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2019.
  4. Inge Morath, Sabine Folie and Gerald Matt. Inge Morath, Life as a Photographer. Munich: Gina Kehayoff Verlag, 1999, p. 13.

 

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Good on yer Bert' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Good on yer Bert
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Untitled [Budapest crowd]' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Budapest crowd
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Stalin banner, Budapest' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Stalin banner, Budapest
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Farewell to Delegates' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Farewell to Delegates
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Farewell to Delegates Townsend' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Farewell to Delegates
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce with camera' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce with camera
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce onboard ship' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce onboard ship
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce with lifeboat' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce with lifeboat
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Faith Bandler' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Faith Bandler
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Edward 'Woods Lloyd' Drummond' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Edward ‘Woods Lloyd’ Drummond
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

Description

Some think it all happened in the 1960s but Joyce Evans, acclaimed photographer of Australia’s land and its people, goes back to her youth and memories of her many adventures as a student activist. In 1949, aged 19, she set sail for Soviet-occupied Budapest to join the post-war demonstrations at ‘The World Festival of Youth and Students for Peace’. It was a time when young Australians dreamed of change and travelled to war-torn Europe in the hope of peace becoming the new reality. Among them were many who would later become important figures in Australia’s government, legal profession, diplomatic corps and academia. People like Frank Hardy, John Bluthal, Faith Bandler, Clyde Holding, Irving Saulwick and Richard Woolcott appear in Joyce Evans’ photographs of these events.

This story, with its cast of endearing and passionate characters, records voyages across battle-scarred Europe, clashes with draconian authorities, daring escapes, betrayals, lost idealism and a wealth of unlikely friendships. It describes the adventures of a youthful cohort who felt empowered and believed it could fulfil its dream of world-wide peace. Joyce says: ‘If such a dream existed then, such high hopes can be reclaimed by the youth of today!’

Text from the Australian Scholarly Publishing website [Online] Cited 08/08/2019

 

World Federation of Democratic Youth

The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) is an international youth organisation, recognised by the United Nations as an international youth non-governmental organisation, and has historically characterised itself as anti-imperialist and left-wing. WFDY was founded in London in 1945 as a broad international youth movement, organised in the context of the end of World War II with the aim of uniting youth from the Allies behind an anti-fascist platform that was broadly pro-peace, anti-nuclear war, expressing friendship between youth of the capitalist and socialist nations. The WFDY Headquarters are in Budapest, Hungary. The main event of WFDY is the World Festival of Youth and Students. The last festival was held in Sochi, Russia, in October 2017. It was one of the first organisations granted general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

 

History

On 10 November 1945, the World Youth Conference, organised in London, founded the World Federation of Democratic Youth. This historic conference was convened at the initiative of the World Youth Council which was formed during World War II to encourage the fight against fascism by the youth of the allied nations. The conference brought together, for the first time in the history of the international youth movement, representatives of more than 30,000,000 young people of diverse different political ideologies and religious beliefs from 63 nations. It adopted a pledge for peace.

Shortly after, with the onset of the Cold War and Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, the organisation was accused by the US State Department of being a “Moscow front”. Many of the founding organisations quit, leaving mostly youth from socialist nations, national liberation movements, and communist youth. Like the International Union of Students (IUS) and other pro-Soviet organisations, the WFDY became a target and victim of CIA espionage as well as part of active measures conducted by the Soviet state security.

The WFYD’s first General Secretary, Alexander Shelepin, was a former leader of the Young Communist International which had been dissolved in 1943. Shelepin had been a guerilla fighter during World War II (after his work with the WFDY, he was appointed head of Soviet State Security). Both the WFDY and IUS vocally criticised the Marshall Plan, supported the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948 and the new People’s Democracies in Europe. They opposed the Korean War.

The main event of the WFDY became the World Festival of Youth and Students, a massive political and cultural celebration for peace and friendship between the youth of the world. Most, but not all, of the early festivals were held in socialist nations in Europe.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

World Festival of Youth and Students

The World Festival of Youth and Students is an international event, organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a United Nations-recognised international youth non-governmental organisation, jointly with the International Union of Students since 1947. Initially pluralist, the event became an outlet for Soviet propaganda for foreign audiences during the Cold War.

The festival has been held regularly since 1947 as an event of global youth solidarity for democracy and against war and imperialism. The largest festival was the 6th, held in 1957 in Moscow, when 34,000 young people from 131 countries attended the event. This festival also marked the international debut of the song “Moscow Nights”, which subsequently went on to become perhaps the most widely recognised Russian song in the world. Until the 19th festival in Sochi, Russia in 2017 (with 185 countries participating), the largest festival by number of countries with participants was the 13th, held in 1989 in Pyongyang when 177 countries attended the event.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth was founded to bring together young people of both the socialist and capitalist countries to promote peaceful cooperation and mutual rejection of war. However, with the onset of the Cold War soon after, the organisation and the festivals became a matter of contention within the rivalry. Because of the enormous expenditure and coordination required to support a youth festival, most of the early festivals were held in cities in the socialist countries of Europe. However, many festivals, both then and more so since, have been held in non-socialist countries, affirming the commitment to peaceful coexistence between the peoples living under the different systems. The most recent festival took place in Sochi, Russia, from 13 to 22 October 2017.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

2nd World Festival of Youth and Students

The Second World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) was held in 1949, in Budapest, a city still recuperating from World War II. The 2nd WFYS was one of three major youth events held in Hungary in 1949, along with the World University Summer Games and the World Youth Congress. It was organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students

On August 14, 1949, 20,000 young people from 82 countries, gathered in the Ujpest Stadium, inaugurating the festival. For two weeks, the participants took part in cultural, sport, and political activities. The festival expressed its solidarity for the “anti-colonialist struggle” of the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia and French Indochina and also for the “anti-fascist struggle” of the Spanish and Greek peoples. It was the first time that a delegation from what would become East Germany took part.

It featured a sports programme, including an athletics competition.

The motto of the festival was: Youth Unite! Forward for Lasting Peace, Democracy, National Independence and a better future for the people!

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'No Coal for War, May Day March' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
No Coal for War, May Day March
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Pictured image-right, Professor Bernard Rechter.

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'University Labour Club banner, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
University Labour Club banner, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

In far-left, John Clendenin, philosopher and president of University of Melbourne SRC. Banner-bearer Jill Warwick, later a TV Producer, vice-president UniMelb SRC.

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Want Peace and Freedom, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Want Peace and Freedom, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Richard 'Dicky' Woolcott, delegate to conference, at NUAUS encampment' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Richard ‘Dicky’ Woolcott, delegate to conference, at NUAUS encampment
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'John O'Neil' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
John O’Neil
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Jenny Lloyd and Clyde Holding' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Jenny Lloyd and Clyde Holding
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

Joyce Evans Photographer website

Australian Scholarly Publishing website

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09
Aug
19

Review: ‘Why Take Pictures?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 11th August 2019

Artists: Alan Constable, Lyndal Irons, Glenn Sloggett, Michelle Tran, David Wadelton
Curator: Madé Spencer-Castle

 

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Backstage before Parade of Champions' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Backstage before Parade of Champions
2015
From the series Physie
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Picturing themselves

This is another strong exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, principally due to the integrity of the work and not the investigation of the theme for the exhibition, why take pictures?

I have always loved Alan Constable’s tactile cameras every since I first saw them. Constable is legally blind. He holds photographs of old cameras up to his eyes, a couple of inches away, and scans the images, committing them to memory. He then creates these most wonderful evocations of a seeing machine, almost as though he is transferring his in/sight into these in/operable, beautifully glazed structures. He twists two dimensional, photographic reality into these lumpy, misshapen sculptures, evocations of his memory and imagination. I have three of these cameras in my own collection. I treasure them.

Glen Sloggett’s works is, well… Glen Slogett’s work. What I mean by the statement is that you can always recognise his photographs through his signature as an artist. There is a delicious irony and dark humour present in his work… the cat / dead. The rose / a brothel. The scree of concrete / solidified. Slogett’s insightfulness into our existential condition is evidenced through his unique view of the world, pictured in thought provoking photographs. Nothing is quite as it seems. He has a fantastic eye and aesthetic. I remember the image Cheaper and Deeper (1996) from a book I saw many years ago and it so resonated with me. Just the sensibility of looking at these spaces and contexts. He pokes around in the strangeness of the world and reflects what he sees back to us: life hidden in plain sight, revealed in all its intricacies, in all its mundanity and glory. I really like his work.

Another artist I have a great affection for is David Wadelton. Again, the signature of his work is striking. You know it’s a Wadelton image. What I admire about his work is the persistence of his vision. His intellectual vision, his photographic vision. He sets out on a project and he puts his whole mind and soul into the work, documenting the shifting and changing spaces and places of Melbourne’s suburbs since 1975. What a great eye! The black and white objective newsagents, all Becher frontality, with this seeming emotional detachment when in fact each image is so emotionally charged – through the signage, and through the knowledge that these newsagents are disappearing from our city landscape. And then the colour, some might say kitsch, Suburban Baroque living rooms which picture “mid-century suburban interiors of the formerly working-class northern areas that were the destination of choice for many post-war immigrants from Europe.” Here a different technique, photographed at an angle, off to one side, from above, sometimes central, letting the spaces and colours speak for themselves. Now vanishing, these habitats redolent with pathos and longing for the motherland.

And then Lyndal Irons, an artist whose work I have never seen before. Again, beautifully composed images, the use of a limited colour palette and rouge highlights in Grooming Routine being particularly effective. There is something unnerving about the entire scenario – the fake tans, the too bright lipstick, the fervent admiration, the ecstatic posing… the winners having their photograph taken with their trophies while off to the side others watch (enviously?); the lines of young competitors and a photograph with the instructions: ‘Ideas For Photo Poses’ and ‘Make Sure The Photographer Can See your Number’. The whole charade reminds me of the hideous child beauty pageants in the good ol’ US of A. I would have liked to have seen more photographs from this body of work.

Where the exhibition fails is in its investigation into the theme, why take pictures? The exhibition does not interrogate with any rigour, in fact does not really scratch the surface of why we humans are so obsessed with taking photographs. Through the few lines of text that accompanies the exhibition (below), it offers a few titbits as way of remediation, a few possible ideas to cling to so as to answer the question: perhaps desire, perhaps obsession, curiosity, nostalgia and information. It then throws the photographic work of these artists at us as an answer, but what we are actually looking at is just representation, the outcome of the desire to picture, not an examination of the act itself. What the exhibition really needed was a thoroughly insightful text that examined our impulse to take pictures.

Here is a controversial statement. Every photograph is a self-portrait. What do I mean by this?

When we think back to the cave paintings of the Neolithic period, human beings picture the world around them by painting in colour on the rock that is earth. They picture themselves in that scene by painting what they know of the world around them. Through their imagination and creativity they place themselves in the scene – physically as hunters in the scene, and metaphorically through their relationship to the animals that they know and the objects that they carve, pictured on the cave walls. Theirs is a conscious decision to picture themselves as an infinite presence.

The same with photographs. Every time we press the shutter of a camera, it is a conscious decision to picture our relationship with the world. Through our will (to power), though our imagination and our desire, we place ourselves metaphorically (and physically when actually appear in the photograph) in every photograph. We stand behind the camera but imagine ourselves in that environment, have placed ourselves there to take the photograph. Every photograph is a self-portrait, one that establishes our relationship to the world, our identity, our values, who we are and how we react in each and every context.

These photographs are not memories at the time of their taking, although they make be taken under an impulse to memorialise. They will become memories, as when looking at old photo albums. They are not simply documents either, a recording of this time and place, because there is always the personal, the subjective relationship to the objective. Look at David Wadelton’s photographs of living rooms. Why was he present in all of these spaces? Just to observe, to document, to capture? No… he was their, to imagine, to create, to place himself at the scene, in the scene. Human beings make conscious choices to take photographs for all different kinds of reasons. But the one reason that is never mentioned is that, in reality, they are always picturing themselves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Why Take Pictures? returns to one of the fundamental questions in photography, to consider our desire-drive and obsession with taking photographs, the apparatus of the camera and diverse approaches of looking through, or at, the lens. Featuring work by Alan Constable (VIC), Michelle Tran (VIC), Lyndal Irons (NSW), Glenn Sloggett (VIC) and David Wadelton (VIC), Why Take Pictures? considers the divergent motivations and compulsions as to why we take images in the first place.

We all take pictures, leaving every one of us with an extensive collection of images, historically as physical artefacts, but now stored within our digital devices. These collections become vessels of information and nostalgia, desire and curiosity. Why Takes Pictures? interrogates how and why we build up these storehouses of images, as considered through the lens of five exceptional artists.

Traversing documentary, commercial, political and highly personal modes, Why Take Pictures? presents a broad cross-section of different approaches to making photographs. Whether documenting social environments in states of change, examining the discarded or overlooked, prying at the strange behaviour of humans; or through examining the obsession with the camera itself, the artists in Why Take Pictures? are driven to continue to take photographs, like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Biographies

Alan Constable is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans drawing, painting and ceramics. His ceramic sculptures, which he began developing in 2007, reflects his life-long fascination with old cameras, which started at the age of eight when he would make replicas from cardboard cereal boxes. Constable’s finger impressions can be seen clearly on the clay surface, leaving the mark of the maker as a lasting imprint. Constable has been a regular studio artist at Arts Project Australia since 1991. Alongside selection in group exhibitions throughout Australia (including the Museum of Old and New Art in 2017), Constable has presented in a number of solo exhibitions including Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; South Willard (curated by Ricky Swallow), Los Angeles; Stills Gallery, Sydney; and Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne. Alan Constable is represented by Arts Projects Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; and DUTTON, New York.

Hand-built from slabs of clay, Alan Constable’s charing sculptural cameras and optical devices … evoke and absolute obsession with the photographic apparatus. Legally blind, Constable creates his work through appropriating photographs from old books and magazines, holding the images close to his face and committing them to memory. Through recall, Constable reinterprets these images, transforming them from high-precision consumer objects, to tactile sculptures imbued with vitality, personality and warmth. Elegantly clunky, anthropomorphic and on the edge of the surreal, Constable’s compelling works all have ‘fictional’ apertures or viewfinders that can be physically seen through. Asking us to consider the functionality of vision, Constable’s ceramics have a human touch and sensibility that connects us directly to the devices we often consider merely utilitarian.

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2018

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
9 x 19 x 8 cm
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2019
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

 

Lyndal Irons is a Sydney-based photographer and writer focused on local reportage, who is interested in seeking out parts of Australian society that are familiar and accessible, yet not often closely encountered. By recording social histories and building legacies using photographs and words, her work encourages curiosity and a deeper connection to daily life. Irons has presented solo exhibitions at the State Library of New South Wales (2015), the Australian Centre for Photography (2014), and Elizabeth Street Gallery (2014). Lyndal has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (2017), the Bowness Prize (2015) and the Olive Cotton Award for Portraiture (2015). Lyndal Irons’ Physie series documents one of Australia’s oldest sporting institutions: physical culture (physie) and calisthenics.

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Mermaid Beach' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Mermaid Beach
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Fans' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Fans
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Grooming Routine' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Grooming Routine
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Junior National Repecharge' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Junior National Repecharge
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Ideas for Photo Poses' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Ideas for Photo Poses
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Glenn Sloggett has been exhibiting since the mid-90s. He won the prestigious Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award in 2008, and the inaugural John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship for an Emerging Artist in 2001. He has held numerous solo exhibitions, including Cheaper and Deeper, a national touring show organised by the Australian Centre for Photography (2007). Sloggett’s work was featured on the ABC program The Art Life, and has been included in significant survey exhibitions of Australian art, including Australian Vernacular Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2014); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2013-2014); internationally touring Photographica Australis (2002–2004); and nationally touring New Australiana, Australian Centre for Photography (2001). His work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and Monash Gallery of Art.

Interested in failure as a mechanism, Glenn Sloggett’s series of medium format photograph made with his twin-lens Rolleiflex could almost have been taken on a single walk around the neighbourhood on a strange, sunlit day. Wryly infused with dark humour and intermittent text punctuations such as “ICE IS A BAD THING” and “DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN IN CARS”, Sloggett ask us to look beneath the surface of his documentary-style images. Why are people leaving their children in their cars? What precarious situation has driven someone to graffiti “is a bad thing” on this sign?

Sloggett’s work is at times bleak, and at others sublime. Looking closely, a cat that appears to be peacefully sunbaking has sunken eyes, an innocuous rose bush was taken in a brothel carpark. dumped concrete on the sidewalk looks like it has been churned up from a Friday night on the town.

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Pawn shop' 2018

 

Glenn Sloggett
Pawn shop
2018
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Industrial dumping' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Industrial dumping
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Slogget. 'Dead cat' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Dead cat
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Brothel car park' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Brothel car park
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Michelle Tran is a fashion and portrait photographer, born and raised in Melbourne by Vietnamese refugee parents. She began her photographic studies at the Victorian College of the Arts with an exploration into cultural identity through portraiture. Commercially, she has applied her interest in people to fashion, creating an approach that is both delicate and candid. Making a connection with her subjects, Michelle puts people at ease in front of the camera. Her portfolio includes portraits of celebrities such as Kendrick Lamar and Christian Louboutin, while her fashion and advertising work spans across brands including Adidas, MECCA, Amazon, Moroccan Oil, L’Oréal and Myer. Michelle lives in Melbourne with her partner, daughter and two rabbits. Michelle Tran is represented by Hart & Co., Melbourne.

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Sachi
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Michelle Tran. 'Madison Shauna' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Madison Shauna
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi In Shadow' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Sachi In Shadow
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

 

David Wadelton is a Melbourne-based painter and photographer who has documented the changing face of Melbourne’s Northern suburbs since 1975. Wadelton has held over 20 solo exhibitions, including three career surveys: Pictorial Knowledge, Geelong Art Gallery (1998); Icons Of Suburbia, McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin (2011) and The Northcote Hysterical Society, Bundoora Homestead Gallery (2015). Wadelton’s work has been included in Vision In Disbelief, 4th Biennale of Sydney (1982); Australian Culture Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2004); Far-Famed City of Melbourne, Ian Potter Museum of Art (2013); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2014); Crossing paths with Vivian Maier, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2014); The Documentary Take, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2016); Romancing the Skull, Ballarat Art Gallery (2017) and Beyond boundaries – Discoveries in contemporary photography, Aperture Gallery, New York (2019).

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the work of David Wadelton and his series Living Rooms (top), Milk Bars (middle) and Small business (bottom)

 

David Wadelton. 'Coburg' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Coburg
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017–2019

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017-2019
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Pascoe Vale South' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Pascoe Vale South
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
2018
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Broadway, Reservoir' 2019

 

David Wadelton
Broadway, Reservoir
2019
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Watsonia Road Watsonia' 2016

 

David Wadelton
Watsonia Road, Watsonia
2016
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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14
Sep
18

Photographs: “Climbing into immortality” on the work of Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940)

September 2018

 

Lewis Hine. 'Jewel and Harold Walker, 6 and 5 years old, pick 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day' 1916

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Jewel and Harold Walker, 6 and 5 years old, pick 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day. Father said: “I promised em a little wagon if they’d pick steady, and now they have half a bagful in just a little while.”
Oct. 1916. Comanche County [Geronimo], Oklahoma

 

 

Climbing into immortality

In this posting we have a small selection of digitally cleaned images from one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Lewis Hine.

Over roughly 30 years Hine, a trained sociologist, used his camera as an educational tool for social reform. He built an incredible body of work focusing mainly on photographs of the poor and underprivileged which captured the lives of immigrants, labourers and child workers in the early 1900’s. After an assignment photographing the building of the Empire State Building in 1930-31 work dropped off.

“By the late 1930’s he was just about out of work. Roy Stryker, head of the Farm Security Administration, thought he was difficult and past his prime and would not hire him. Assignments were scarce. In Hine’s last couple of years he was so broke that he lost his house, stopped photographing and applied for welfare. He died as destitute as anyone who ever sat for his lens.”1

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What a fate for one of the greatest photographers the world have ever known. To add insult to injury, “After his death, the Museum of Modern Art was offered his pictures but did not want them; George Eastman House in Rochester did.”1 More fool MoMa, for in Hine we have the quintessential social documentary modernist photographer, way ahead of his time, taking photographs of child labourers in the first decade of the 20th century. When you think that acknowledged pioneer of modernist photography, Alfred Stieglitz, was still taking Pictorialist photographs such as Excavating, New York (1911), The Ferry Boat (1910) and publishing The Terminal (1892) in Camera Work 36 in 1911… you begin to understand how revolutionary Hine’s stark, perfectly balanced, (sometimes flash) photographs really are, both in terms of their form and their function, that is, the advancement of social change.

In four words we might say: his work is faultless.

Hine’s work emerges out of the American romantic movement with its links to transcendentalism, literary realism and social reform, a movement which included the likes of essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and poet and humanist Walt Whitman. “A core belief of transcendentalism is in the inherent goodness of people and nature, and the belief that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, and they have faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent,”2 while “literary realism attempts to represent familiar things as they are. Realist authors chose to depict everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of using a romanticised or similarly stylised presentation.”3

Hine pictures people and children just as they are, and believes in their innate goodness (as opposed to the hidden power of the body corporate, of industry and the machine). He incorporates both transcendentalism and realism in his works, in an attempt “to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions…”3 Hine gets down to the subject level of his children. There is no looking down on these people, he gets down to their level, he photographs them as human beings at the level of their incarceration. Whether it be large groups of Breaker Boys or groups of four he photographs at their height, imbuing these portraits with pathos and poignancy. To look into Hine’s camera is to see into the soul of these human beings, to feel their distress and hurt. Covered in coal dust the boys rarely smile, and many die in industrial accidents or from Black lung. The image Breaker #9, Hughestown Borough Pa. Coal Co. One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston, Pa. (below) subconsciously reminds me of that famous image by Henry Bowers of Scott and his party standing at the South Pole, the party knowing that Roald Amundsen had beaten them to the pole, and that now they had the long, arduous trip back to the Terra Nova pulling heavy sleds. There is a resignation on their faces of their lot, much as Hine’s children stare grimly into the camera knowing that after the photograph has been taken, it will be more of the same. Again and again…

But here in these photographs their spirit is also unbowed. It is almost as though Hine is picturing the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. They live for eternity in these images which become, as Alexander Nemerov observes, “A kind of capsule containing the full flow of all we will ever be, and have been. To most, that capsule is almost always invisible, but not to Lewis Hine.” He sees clearly the plight of his people and has left us with photographs which record that plight, photographs which are poignant and profound. They transcend the time in which they were taken and are as relevant today as when they were taken, for we are all still children.

When I think about what photographs represent the first decade of the 20th century, it is Hine’s photographs, amongst others, to which I turn. Personal, objective but sensitive and transcendent, they engage us on an emotional level, human being to human being. These are personal stories – “She had regrets about not getting the education she had desired. She only got as far as the sixth grade. At that point, she started working full time. But she wanted an education, and really valued it, and it was a priority for her that we got a good education – whatever it took to send us to college” – embedded amongst the vast corporations of industry and the might of the machine, the black maw of the industrial revolution. It has taken many years for Hine’s art to ascend to iconic status, a gradual climb into immortality that the destitute condition at the time of his death would have seemingly precluded.

I then think of what photographs represent the first decade of the 21st century and the main event is, of course, the photographs from 9/11. In a century, the personal stories have been subsumed by a universal, industrial ego – the numbers of the dead, the faceless numbers; the velocity of the planes and their thrusting trajectory; the monolithic, corporate, phallic towers with their hidden workers; the war of territory, consumption, oil, power and religion that consumes the world; and the instantaneous “nature” of the transmission of images around the world, where everybody is a photographer, everything is “shot” from as many angles as possible (hoping that one version is the truth? fake news…), where everything is a spectacle to be recorded. There is no slow burn of recognition of the power of individual images, no gradual climb into immortality of the work of artists such as Lewis Hine. You are either dead, or you’re not.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,121

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

 

 

I Sit and Look Out

I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband – I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be hid – I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny – I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea – I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these – all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

.
Walt Whitman. “I Sit and Look Out,” from Leaves of Grass 1892

 

“What is so amazing about photographs like this one is the particular poignancy of the moment… Two people are encountering one another in this happenstance way, yet the moment is deeply meaningful in how he manages to imagine a subject’s soul. The moment becomes almost metaphysical. A kind of capsule containing the full flow of all we will ever be, and have been. To most, that capsule is almost always invisible, but not to Lewis Hine.”

.
Alexander Nemerov quoted in “Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine” on the Monovisions website

 

In the 1930s Hine took on small freelance projects but worried his images had fallen out of fashion. His reputation for difficulty, too, scared off potential employers. One former boss praised his talent but noted he was a “true artist type” who “requires some ‘waiting upon.'” Hine applied multiple times for a Farm Security Administration project documenting the impact of the Great Depression, but the head of the project felt he was too uncompromising. When Hine died in 1940, he was destitute and his home was in foreclosure. The photographer who had made a career of capturing the devastation and majesty of American labor couldn’t find work.

.
Extract from Susie Allen. “Bodies of work,” in The University of Chicago Magazine – Spring/17

 

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co.' Jan. 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co., South Pittston, Pennsylvania
January 1911
Library of Congress

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Pennsylvania coal breakers' 1911

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Pennsylvania coal breakers' 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pa. Coal Co. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrated the utmost recesses of the boy’s lungs. A kind of slave-driver sometimes stands over the boys, prodding or kicking them into obedience. S. Pittston, Pa.
10 January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Group of Breaker Boys in #9 Breaker, Hughestown Borough, Pennsylvania Coal Co. Smallest boy is Angelo Ross' Jan. 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Group of Breaker Boys in #9 Breaker, Hughestown Borough, Pennsylvania Coal Co. Smallest boy is Angelo Ross, Pittston, Pennsylvania
January 1911
Library of Congress

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker. S. Pittston, Pa.' January 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker. S. Pittston, Pa.
January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker. S. Pittston, Pa.' January 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker. S. Pittston, Pa.
January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Breaker #9, Hughestown Borough Pa. Coal Co. One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston, Pa.' 16 January 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Breaker #9, Hughestown Borough Pa. Coal Co. One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston, Pa.
16 January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Breaker boys. Smallest is Angelo Ross. Hughestown Borough Coal Co. Pittston, Pa.' 16 January 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Breaker boys. Smallest is Angelo Ross. Hughestown Borough Coal Co. Pittston, Pa.
16 January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Group of breaker boys. Smallest is Sam Belloma. Pittston, Pa.' 16 January 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Group of breaker boys. Smallest is Sam Belloma. Pittston, Pa.
16 January 1911
U.S. National Archives

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Breaker boys of the Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pa.' c. 1911

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Breaker boys of the Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pa.
c. 1911

 

 

Breaker boy

breaker boy was a coal-mining worker in the United States and United Kingdom whose job was to separate impurities from coal by hand in a coal breaker. Although breaker boys were primarily children, elderly coal miners who could no longer work in the mines because of age, disease, or accident were also sometimes employed as breaker boys. The use of breaker boys began in the mid-1860s. Although public disapproval of the employment of children as breaker boys existed by the mid-1880s, the practice did not end until the 1920s. …

Use of breaker boys

Until about 1900, nearly all coal breaking facilities in the United States were labor-intensive. The removal of impurities was done by hand, usually by breaker boys between the ages of eight and 12 years old. The use of breaker boys began around 1866. For 10 hours a day, six days a week, breaker boys would sit on wooden seats, perched over the chutes and conveyor belts, picking slate and other impurities out of the coal. Breaker boys working on top of chutes or conveyor belts would stop the coal by pushing their boots into the stream of fuel flowing beneath them, briefly pick out the impurities, and then let the coal pass on to the next breaker boy for further processing. Others would divert coal into a horizontal chute at which they sat, then pick the coal clean before allowing the fuel to flow into “clean” coal bins.

The work performed by breaker boys was hazardous. Breaker boys were forced to work without gloves so that they could better handle the slick coal. The slate, however, was sharp, and breaker boys would often leave work with their fingers cut and bleeding. Breaker boys sometimes also had their fingers amputated by the rapidly moving conveyor belts. Others lost feet, hands, arms, and legs as they moved among the machinery and became caught under conveyor belts or in gears. Many were crushed to death, their bodies retrieved from the gears of the machinery by supervisors only at the end of the working day. Others were caught in the rush of coal, and crushed to death or smothered. Dry coal would kick up so much dust that breaker boys sometimes wore lamps on their heads to see, and asthma and black lung disease were common. Coal was often washed to remove impurities, which created sulfuric acid. The acid burned the hands of the breaker boys.

Public condemnation

Public condemnation of the use of breaker boys was so widespread that in 1885 Pennsylvania enacted a law forbidding the employment of anyone under the age of 12 from working in a coal breaker, but the law was poorly enforced; many employers forged proof-of-age documentation, and many families forged birth certificates or other documents so their children could support the family. Estimates of the number of breaker boys at work in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania vary widely, and official statistics are generally considered by historians to undercount the numbers significantly. One estimate had 20,000 breaker boys working in the state in 1880, 18,000 working in 1900, 13,133 working in 1902, and 24,000 working in 1907. Technological innovations in the 1890s and 1900s (such as mechanical and water separators designed to remove impurities from coal) dramatically lowered the need for breaker boys, but adoption of the new technology was slow.

By the 1910s, the use of breaker boys was dropping because of improvements in technology, stricter child labor laws, and the enactment of compulsory education laws. The practice of employing children in coal breakers largely ended by 1920 because of the efforts of the National Child Labor Committee, sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine, and the National Consumers League, all of whom educated the public about the practice and succeeded in obtaining passage of national child labor laws.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Black lung (Coalworker’s pneumoconiosis)

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung, is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. It is common in coal miners and others who work with coal. It is similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and cannot be removed by the body; this leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in worse cases, necrosis.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, severe state, develops after the initial, milder form of the disease known as anthracosis (anthrac – coal, carbon). This is often asymptomatic and is found to at least some extent in all urban dwellers due to air pollution. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of coal dust can result in more serious forms of the disease, simple coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and complicated coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (or progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF). More commonly, workers exposed to coal dust develop industrial bronchitis, clinically defined as chronic bronchitis (i.e. productive cough for 3 months per year for at least 2 years) associated with workplace dust exposure. The incidence of industrial bronchitis varies with age, job, exposure, and smoking. In nonsmokers (who are less prone to develop bronchitis than smokers), studies of coal miners have shown a 16% to 17% incidence of industrial bronchitis. …

History

Black lung is actually a set of conditions and until the 1950s its dangers were not well understood. The prevailing view was that silicosis was very serious but it was solely caused by silica and not coal dust. The miners’ union, the United Mine Workers of America, realised that rapid mechanisation meant drills that produced much more dust, but under John L. Lewis they decided not to raise the black lung issue because it might impede the mechanisation that was producing higher productivity and higher wages. Union priorities were to maintain the viability of the long-fought-for welfare and retirement fund, which would be sustained by higher outputs of coal. After the death of Lewis, the union dropped its opposition to calling black lung a disease and realised the financial advantages of a fund for its disabled members.

Epidemiology

In 2013 CWP resulted in 25,000 deaths down from 29,000 deaths in 1990. Between 1970-1974, prevalence of CWP among US coal miners who had worked over 25 years was 32%; the same group saw a prevalence of 9% in 2005-2006. In Australia, CWP was considered to be eliminated in the 1970s due to strict hazard control measures. However, there has been a resurgence of CWP in Australia, with the first new cases being detected in May 2015.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Sadie Pfeifer' 1908

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Sadie Pfeifer, 48 inches high, has worked half a year. One of the many small children at work in Lancaster Cotton Mills
November 1908. Lancaster, South Carolina
Library of Congress

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Cora Lee Griffin, spinner in cotton mill, 12 years old, Whitnel, North Carolina' 1908

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Cora Lee Griffin, spinner in cotton mill, 12 years old, Whitnel, North Carolina
1908

“One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. She was 51 inches high. Had been in mill 1 year. Some at night. Runs 4 sides, 48 cents a day. When asked how old, she hesitated, then said “I don’t remember.” Then confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but I do just the same.” Out of 50 employees, ten children about her size.” – Hine’s original caption

“She had regrets about not getting the education she had desired. She only got as far as the sixth grade. At that point, she started working full time. But she wanted an education, and really valued it, and it was a priority for her that we got a good education – whatever it took to send us to college.” – Daughter of Cora Lee Griffin

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Noon hour in East Side factory district' 1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Noon hour in East Side factory district
1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Newsies, New York' 1906

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Newsies, New York
1906

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Nashville' 1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Nashville
1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Tenement family, Chicago' 1910

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Tenement family, Chicago
1910

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Artificial flowers, New York City' 1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Artificial flowers, New York City
1912

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Hot day on East Side, New York' c. 1908

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Hot day on East Side, New York
c. 1908

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Hull house beneficiary' 1910

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Hull house beneficiary
1910

 

 

Hull House was a settlement house in the United States that was co-founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr. Located on the Near West Side of Chicago, Illinois, Hull House (named after the original house’s first owner Charles Jerald Hull) opened to recently arrived European immigrants. By 1911, Hull House had grown to 13 buildings. In 1912 the Hull House complex was completed with the addition of a summer camp, the Bowen Country Club. With its innovative social, educational, and artistic programs, Hull House became the standard bearer for the movement that had grown, by 1920, to almost 500 settlement houses nationally…

Most of the Hull House buildings were demolished for the construction of the University of Illinois-Circle Campus in the mid-1960s. The Hull mansion and several subsequent acquisitions were continuously renovated to accommodate the changing demands of the association. The original building and one additional building (which has been moved 200 yards (182.9 m))survive today. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. (publisher) 'The Hull House, Chicago' Early 20th century

 

V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. (publisher)
The Hull House, Chicago
Early 20th century
Postcard

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Italian steel-worker' 1909

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Italian steel-worker
1909

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Printer Ethical Culture School' 1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Printer Ethical Culture School
1905

 

 

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990.

Immigrant inspection station

In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, more than eight million immigrants arriving in New York City had been processed by officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America’s first federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and fill material was hauled in from incoming ships’ ballast and from construction of New York City’s subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing…

The present main structure was designed in French Renaissance Revival style and built of red brick with limestone trim. After it opened on December 17, 1900, the facilities proved barely able to handle the flood of immigrants that arrived in the years before World War I. In 1913, writer Louis Adamic came to America from Slovenia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and described the night he and many other immigrants slept on bunk beds in a huge hall. Lacking a warm blanket, the young man “shivered, sleepless, all night, listening to snores” and dreams “in perhaps a dozen different languages”. The facility was so large that the dining room could seat 1,000 people. It is reported the island’s first immigrant to be processed through was a teenager named Annie Moore from County Cork in Ireland.

After its opening, Ellis Island was again expanded, and additional structures were built. By the time it closed on November 12, 1954, 12 million immigrants had been processed by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration. It is estimated that 10.5 million immigrants departed for points across the United States from the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, just across a narrow strait. Others would have used one of the other terminals along the North River (Hudson River) at that time. At first, the majority of immigrants arriving through the station were Northern and Western Europeans (Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, and the Scandinavian countries). Eventually, these groups of peoples slowed in the rates that they were coming in, and immigrants came in from Southern and Eastern Europe, including Jews. Many reasons these immigrants came to the United States included escaping political and economic oppression, as well as persecution, destitution, and violence. Other groups of peoples being processed through the station were Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, Greeks, Syrians, Turks, and Armenians.

Primary inspection

Between 1905 and 1914, an average of one million immigrants per year arrived in the United States. Immigration officials reviewed about 5,000 immigrants per day during peak times at Ellis Island. Two-thirds of those individuals emigrated from eastern, southern and central Europe. The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed. The all-time daily high occurred on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived. After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were those who had problems with their immigration paperwork, displaced persons, and war refugees. Today, over 100 million Americans – about one-third to 40% of the population of the United States – can trace their ancestry to immigrants who arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.

Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. It was important to the American government the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars ($600 in 2015 adjusted for inflation). Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than 3,000 would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge.” About 2% were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. Ellis Island was sometimes known as “The Island of Tears” or “Heartbreak Island” because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long transatlantic voyage. The Kissing Post is a wooden column outside the Registry Room, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends, typically with tears, hugs, and kisses.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Italian family on the ferry boat' 1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Italian family on the ferry boat
1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Patriarch at Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Patriarch at Ellis Island
1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Russian family at Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Russian family at Ellis Island
1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Italian family in the baggage room' 1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Italian family in the baggage room
1905

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Slavic immigrant at Ellis Island' 1907

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Slavic immigrant at Ellis Island
1907

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Mother and child Ellis Island' c. 1907

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Mother and child Ellis Island
c. 1907

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Climbing into America' 1908

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Climbing into America
1908

 

 

Lewis Hine

Documentary photography

In 1907, Hine became the staff photographer of the Russell Sage Foundation; he photographed life in the steel-making districts and people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the influential sociological study called The Pittsburgh Survey.

In 1908 Hine became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), leaving his teaching position. Over the next decade, Hine documented child labor, with focus on the use of child labor in the Carolina Piedmont, to aid the NCLC’s lobbying efforts to end the practice. In 1913, he documented child laborers among cotton mill workers with a series of Francis Galton’s composite portraits.

Hine’s work for the NCLC was often dangerous. As a photographer, he was frequently threatened with violence or even death by factory police and foremen. At the time, the immorality of child labor was meant to be hidden from the public. Photography was not only prohibited but also posed a serious threat to the industry. To gain entry to the mills, mines and factories, Hine was forced to assume many guises. At times he was a fire inspector, postcard vendor, bible salesman, or even an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery.

During and after World War I, he photographed American Red Cross relief work in Europe. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Hine made a series of “work portraits,” which emphasised the human contribution to modern industry. In 1930, Hine was commissioned to document the construction of the Empire State Building. He photographed the workers in precarious positions while they secured the steel framework of the structure, taking many of the same risks that the workers endured. In order to obtain the best vantage points, Hine was swung out in a specially-designed basket 1,000 ft above Fifth Avenue.

During the Great Depression Hine again worked for the Red Cross, photographing drought relief in the American South, and for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), documenting life in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. He also served as chief photographer for the Works Progress Administration’s National Research Project, which studied changes in industry and their effect on employment. Hine was also a faculty member of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

Later life

In 1936, Hine was selected as the photographer for the National Research Project of the Works Projects Administration, but his work there was not completed.

The last years of his life were filled with professional struggles by loss of government and corporate patronage. Few people were interested in his work, past or present, and Hine lost his house and applied for welfare. He died on November 3, 1940 at Dobbs Ferry Hospital in Dobbs Ferry, New York, after an operation. He was 66 years old.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

LEWIS W. HINE (1874-1940) 'Worker on platform' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Worker on platform
1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Icarus, Empire State Building' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Icarus, Empire State Building
1930-31

 

Of the many photographs Hine took of the Empire State Building, this one became the popular favourite. Suspended in graceful sangfroid, the steelworker symbolises daring technical innovation of the sort Daedalus embodied in Greek legend. While Daedulus flew the middle course between sea and sky safely, his son Icarus flew too close to the sun and perished. The optimism of this image suggests that it was not Icarus’s folly but his youth and his ability to fly that prompted Hine’s title. (Text from The Met website)

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Empire State Building' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Empire State Building
1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Empire State Building' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Empire State Building
1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Empire State Building' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Girders and Workers, Empire State Building
1930-31

Same man middle above as in the image below.

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 'Laborer on connector' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Laborer on connector
1930-31

 

LEWIS W. HINE (1874-1940) 'Workers on girder' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Workers on girder
1930-31

 

LEWIS W. HINE (1874-1940) 'Derrick and workers on girder' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Derrick and workers on girder
1930-31

 

LEWIS W. HINE (1874-1940) 'Silhouetted crane hook' 1930-31

 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940)
Silhouetted crane hook
1930-31

 

 

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and completed in 1931, the building has a roof height of 1,250 feet (380 m) and stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall, including its antenna. Its name is derived from “Empire State”, the nickname of New York. As of 2017 the building is the 5th-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States and the 28th-tallest in the world. It is also the 6th-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas.

The site of the Empire State Building, located on the west side of Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets, was originally part of an early 18th century farm. In the late 1820s, it came into the possession of the prominent Astor family, with John Jacob Astor’s descendants building the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on the site in the 1890s. By the 1920s, the family had sold the outdated hotel and the site indirectly ended up under the ownership of Empire State Inc., a business venture that included businessman John J. Raskob and former New York governor Al Smith. The original design of the Empire State Building was for a 50-story office building. However, after fifteen revisions, the final design was for a 86-story 1,250-foot building, with an airship mast on top. This ensured it would be the world’s tallest building, beating the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street, two other Manhattan skyscrapers under construction at the time that were also vying for that distinction. …

The project involved more than 3,500 workers at its peak, including 3,439 on a single day, August 14, 1930. Many of the workers were Irish and Italian immigrants, with a sizeable minority of Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction, although the New York Daily News gave reports of 14 deaths and a headline in the socialist magazine The New Masses spread unfounded rumours of up to 42 deaths. The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build, including demolition of the Waldorf-Astoria (equivalent to $533,628,800 in 2016). This was lower than the $60 million budgeted for construction.

Lewis Hine captured many photographs of the construction, documenting not only the work itself but also providing insight into the daily life of workers in that era. Hine’s images were used extensively by the media to publish daily press releases. According to the writer Jim Rasenberger, Hine “climbed out onto the steel with the ironworkers and dangled from a derrick cable hundreds of feet above the city to capture, as no one ever had before (or has since), the dizzy work of building skyscrapers”. In Rasenberger’s words, Hine turned what might have been an assignment of “corporate flak” into “exhilarating art”. These images were later organised into their own collection. Onlookers were enraptured by the sheer height at which the steelworkers operated. New York magazine wrote of the steelworkers: “Like little spiders they toiled, spinning a fabric of steel against the sky”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lewis Hine with camera

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Lewis Hine with camera]
c. 1900-1910s

 

 

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20
Aug
18

Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 22nd June – 2nd September 2018

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona' 1940

 

Dorothea Lange
Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona
1940
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Damaged, desperate and displaced

I am writing this short text on a laptop in Thailand which keeps jumping lines and mispelling words. The experience is almost as disorienting as the photographs of Dorothea Lange, with their anguished angles and portraits of despair. Her humanist, modernist pictures capture the harsh era of The Great Depression and the 1930s in America, allowing a contemporary audience to imagine what it must have been like to walk along blistering roads with five children, not knowing where your next meal or drink of water is coming from.

Like Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis from an earlier era, Lange’s photographs are about the politics of seeing. They are about human beings in distress and how photography can raise awareness of social injustice and disenfranchisement in the name of cultural change.

#dorothealange @barbicancentre

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

 

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Dorothea Lange took this photograph in 1936, while employed by the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) program, formed during the Great Depression to raise awareness of and provide aid to impoverished farmers. In Nipomo, California, Lange came across Florence Owens Thompson and her children in a camp filled with field workers whose livelihoods were devastated by the failure of the pea crops. Recalling her encounter with Thompson years later, she said, “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction.”1 One photograph from that shoot, now known as Migrant Mother, was widely circulated to magazines and newspapers and became a symbol of the plight of migrant farm workers during the Great Depression.

As Lange described Thompson’s situation, “She and her children had been living on frozen vegetables from the field and wild birds the children caught. The pea crop had frozen; there was no work. Yet they could not move on, for she had just sold the tires from the car to buy food.”2 However, Thompson later contested Lange’s account. When a reporter interviewed her in the 1970s, she insisted that she and Lange did not speak to each other, nor did she sell the tires of her car. Thompson said that Lange had either confused her for another farmer or embellished what she had understood of her situation in order to make a better story.

Text from the MoMA Learning website

 

  1. Dorothea Lange, “The Assignment I’ll Never Forget,” Popular Photography 46 (February, 1960). Reprinted in Photography, Essays and Images, ed. Beaumont Newhall (New York: The Museum of Modern Art), 262-65
  2. Dorothea Lange, paraphrased in Karin Becker Ohm, Dorothea Lange and the Documentary Tradition (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1980), 79

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Dorothea Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California 1936
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.” (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The images were made using a Graflex camera. The original negatives are 4×5″ film. It is not possible to determine on the basis of the negative numbers (which were assigned later at the Resettlement Administration) the order in which the photographs were taken.

Text from The Library of Congress website

 

Florence Owens Thompson: The Story of the “Migrant Mother” 2014

Thompson’s identity was discovered in the late 1970s; in 1978, acting on a tip, Modesto Bee reporter Emmett Corrigan located Thompson at her mobile home in Space 24 of the Modesto Mobile Village and recognized her from the 40-year-old photograph.[10] A letter Thompson wrote was published in The Modesto Bee and the Associated Press distributed a story headlined “Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo.” Florence was quoted as saying “I wish she [Lange] hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it, she didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures, she said she’d send me a copy. She never did.”[2]

Lange was funded by the federal government when she took the picture, so the image was in the public domain and Lange never directly received any royalties. However, the picture did help make Lange a celebrity and earned her “respect from her colleagues.”[11]

In a 2008 interview with CNN, Thompson’s daughter Katherine McIntosh recalled how her mother was a “very strong lady”, and “the backbone of our family”, she said: “We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. She didn’t eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate. That’s one thing she did do.”

Florence Owens Thompson on the WikiVisually website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'White Angel Breadline, San Francisco' 1933

 

Dorothea Lange
White Angel Breadline, San Francisco
1933
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

“There are moments such as these when time stands still and all you do is hold your breath and hope it will wait for you. And you just hope you will have enough time to get it organised in a fraction of a second on that tiny piece of sensitive film. Sometimes you have an inner sense that you have encompassed the thing generally. You know then that you are not taking anything away from anyone: their privacy, their dignity, their wholeness.” ~ Dorothea Lange 1963

Davis K F 1995, The photographs of Dorothea Lange, Hallmark Cards Inc, Missouri p. 20.

 

White angel breadline, San Francisco is Lange’s first major image that encapsulates both her sense of compassion and ability to structure a photograph according to modernist principles. The diagonals of the fence posts and the massing of hats do not reduce this work to the purely formal – the figure in the front middle of the image acts as a lightening rod for our emotional engagement.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

There was a real “White Angel” behind the breadline that served the needy men photographed by Dorothea Lange. She was a widow named Lois Jordan. Mrs. Jordan, who gave herself the name White Angel, established a soup kitchen during the Great Depression to feed those who were unemployed and destitute. Relying solely on donations, she managed to supply meals to more than one million men over a three-year period.

Jordan’s soup kitchen occupied a junk-filled lot in San Francisco located on the Embarcadero near Filbert Street. This area was known as the White Angel Jungle. The Jungle was not far from Lange’s studio. As she began to change direction from portrait to documentary photography, Lange focused her lens on the poignant scenes just beyond her window. White Angel Breadline is the result of her first day’s work to document Depression-era San Francisco. Decades later, Lange recalled: “[White Angel Breadline] is my most famed photograph. I made that on the first day I ever went out in an area where people said, ‘Oh, don’t go there.’ It was the first day that I ever made a photograph on the street.”

Text from the Arts Edge website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Drought Refugees' c. 1935

 

Dorothea Lange
Drought Refugees
c. 1935
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Family walking on highway - five children. Started from Idabel, Oklahoma, bound for Krebs, Oklahoma' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Family walking on highway – five children. Started from Idabel, Oklahoma, bound for Krebs, Oklahoma
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Cars on the Road' August 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Cars on the Road
August 1936
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Dust Bowl, Grain Elevator, Everett, Texas' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Dust Bowl, Grain Elevator, Everett, Texas
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

 

This summer, Barbican Art Gallery stages the first ever UK retrospective of one of the most influential female photographers of the 20th century, the American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). A formidable woman of unparalleled vigour and resilience, the exhibition charts Lange’s outstanding photographic vision from her early studio portraits of San Francisco’s bourgeoisie to her celebrated Farm Security Administration work (1935-1939) that captured the devastating impact of the Great Depression on the American population. Rarely seen photographs of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War are also presented as well as the later collaborations with fellow photographers Ansel Adams and Pirkle Jones documenting the changing face of the social and physical landscape of 1950s America. Opening 22 June at Barbican Art Gallery, Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is part of the Barbican’s 2018 season, The Art of Change, which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing encompasses over 300 objects from vintage prints and original book publications to ephemera, field notes, letters, and documentary film. Largely chronological, the exhibition presents eight series in Lange’s oeuvre spanning from 1919 to 1957.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “This is an incredible opportunity for our visitors to see the first UK survey of the work of such a significant photographer. Dorothea Lange is undoubtedly one of the great photographers of the twentieth century and the issues raised through her work have powerful resonance with issues we’re facing in society today. Staged alongside contemporary photographer Vanessa Winship as part of The Art of Change, these two shows are unmissable.”

Opening the exhibition are Lange’s little known early portrait photographs taken during her time running a successful portrait studio in San Francisco between 1919 and 1935. Lange was at the heart of San Francisco’s creative community and her studio became a centre in which bohemian and artistic friends gathered after hours, including Edward Weston, Anne Brigman, Alma Lavenson, Imogen Cunningham, and Willard van Dyke. Works from this period include intimate portraits of wealthy West Coast families as well as of Lange’s inner circle, counting amongst others photographer Roi Partridge and painter Maynard Dixon, Lange’s first husband and father of her two sons.

The Great Depression in the early 1930s heralded a shift in her photographic language as she felt increasingly compelled to document the changes visible on the streets of San Francisco. Taking her camera out of the studio, she captured street demonstrations, unemployed workers, and breadline queues. These early explorations of her social documentary work are also on display.

The exhibition charts Lange’s work with the newly established historical division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the government agency tasked with the promotion of Roosevelt’s New Deal programme. Alongside Lange, the FSA employed a number of photographers, including Walker Evans, Ben Shahn and Arthur Rothstein, to document living conditions across America during the Great Depression: from urban poverty in San Francisco to tenant farmers driven off the land by dust storms and mechanisation in the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas; the plight of homeless families on the road in search of better livelihoods in the West; and the tragic conditions of migrant workers and camps across California. Lange used her camera as a political tool to critique themes of injustice, inequality, migration and displacement, and to effect government relief.

Highlights in this section are, among others, a series on sharecroppers in the Deep South that exposes relations of race and power, and the iconic Migrant Mother, a photograph which has become a symbol of the Great Depression, alongside images of vernacular architecture and landscapes, motifs often overlooked within Lange’s oeuvre. Vintage prints in the exhibition are complemented by the display of original publications from the 1930s to foreground the widespread use of Lange’s FSA photographs and her influence on authors including John Steinbeck, whose ground-breaking novel The Grapes of Wrath was informed by Lange’s photographs. Travelling for many months at a time and working in the field, she collaborated extensively with her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor, a prominent social economist and expert in farm labour with whom she published the seminal photo book An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion in 1939, also on display in the exhibition.

The exhibition continues with rarely seen photographs of the internment of more than 100,000 American citizens of Japanese descent that Lange produced on commission for the War Relocation Authority following the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Lange’s critical perspective of this little discussed chapter in US history however meant that her photographs remained unpublished during the war and stored at the National Archives in Washington. It is the first time that this series will be shown comprehensively outside of the US and Canada.

Following her documentation of the Japanese American internment, Lange produced a photographic series of the wartime shipyards of Richmond, California with friend and fellow photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984). Lange and Adams documented the war effort in the shipyards for Fortune magazine in 1944, recording the explosive increase in population numbers and the endlessly changing shifts of shipyard workers. Capturing the mass recruitment of workers, Lange turned her camera on both female and black workers, for the first time part of the workforce, and their defiance of sexist and racist attitudes.

The exhibition features several of Lange’s post-war series, when she photographed extensively in California. Her series Public Defender (1955-1957) explores the US legal defence system for the poor and disadvantaged through the work of a public defender at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. Death of a Valley (1956-57), made in collaboration with photographer Pirkle Jones, documents the disappearance of the small rural town of Monticello in California’s Berryessa Valley as a consequence of the damming of the Putah Creek. Capturing the destruction of a landscape and traditional way of life, the photographs testify to Lange’s environmentalist politics and have not been displayed or published since the 1960s.

The exhibition concludes with Lange’s series of Ireland (1954), the first made outside the US. Spending six weeks in County Clare in western Ireland, Lange captured the experience of life in and around the farming town of Ennis in stark and evocative photographs that symbolise Lange’s attraction to the traditional life of rural communities.

An activist, feminist and environmentalist, Lange used her camera as a political tool to critique themes of injustice, inequality, migration and displacement that bear great resonance with today’s world, a prime example of which is her most iconic image the Migrant Mother (1936). Working in urban and rural contexts across America and beyond, she focused her lens on human suffering and hardship to create compassionate and piercing portraits of people as well as place in the hope to forge social and political reform – from the plight of sharecroppers in the Deep South to Dust Bowl refugees trekking along the highways of California in search of better livelihoods.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is organised by the Oakland Museum of California. The European presentation has been produced in collaboration with Barbican Art Gallery, London and Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Left: Dorothea Lange. Displaced Tennant Farmers, Goodlet, Hardeman Co., Texas 1937. ‘All displaced tenant farmers, the oldest 33. None able to vote because of Texas poll tax. They support an average of four persons each on $22.80 a month’. Second left: Dorothea Lange. Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Second left top: Dorothea Lange. Mexican field labourer at station in Sacramento after 5 day trip from Mexico City. Imported by arrangements between Mexican and US governments to work in sugar beets. 6 October 1942. Second left bottom: Dorothea Lange. Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California. March 1937. Right: Dorothea Lange. Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma. 1936

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California' March 1937

 

Dorothea Lange
Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California
March 1937
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange. 'San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets. Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-G-C122

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Centerville, California. This evacuee stands by her baggage as she waits for evacuation bus' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Centerville, California. This evacuee stands by her baggage as she waits for evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-G-C241

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. An evacuee is shown in the lath house sorting seedlings for transplanting' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. An evacuee is shown in the lath house sorting seedlings for transplanting. These plants are year-old seedlings from the Salinas Experiment Station
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-GC737

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California
July 3, 1942
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Paul S. Taylor. 'Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains' c. 1935

 

Paul S. Taylor
Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains
c. 1935
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Sacramento, California. College students of Japanese ancestry' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Sacramento, California. College students of Japanese ancestry who have been evacuated from Sacramento to the Assembly Center
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-GC471

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

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Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

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21
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Jakob Tuggener – Machine time’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2017 – 28th January 2018

Curator: Martin Gasser

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Fabrik' (book cover) 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Fabrik (Factory) (book cover)
1943
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich

 

 

Rare magician, strange alchemist, tells stories through visuals

I am indebted to James McArdle’s blog posting “Work” on his excellent On This Date In Photography website for alerting me to this exhibition, and for reminding me of the work of this outstanding artist, Jakob Tuggener.

The short version: Jakob Tuggener was a draftsman before he became an artist, studying poster design, typography, photography and film. “In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.” (Press release)

Fabrik, subtitled Ein Bildepos der Technik (“Epic of the technological image” or “A picture of technology”) pictures the world of work and industry, and “is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book.” It uses expressive visuals (actions, appearances and behaviours; movements, gestures and details – Tuggener loves the detail) to tell a subjective story, that of the relationship between human and machine. While the book was well ahead of its time, and influenced the early work of that famous Swiss photographer Robert Frank, it did not emerge out of a vacuum and is perhaps not as revolutionary as some people think. Nothing ever appears out of thin air.

“German photographer Paul Wolff, often working in collaboration with Alfred Tritschler, produced a number of exceptional photo books through the 1920s and ’30s, at a time when Constructivism and the Bauhaus influenced many with visions “of an industrialized and socialized society” that placed Germany at “the forefront of European photography” (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 86). Arbeit! (1937) is particularly noted for its architectural framing and lighting of massive machinery, its striking portraits of factory workers, and is frequently aligned with works such as Lewis Hine’s Men at Work (1932) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s Eisen und Stahl (Iron and Steel) (1931).” (Anonymous on Bauman Rare Books website)

François Kollar’s project La France travail (Working France) (1931-1934), E. O. Hoppé’s Deutsche Arbeit (1930), Heinrich Hauser’s Schwarzes Revier (Black Area) (1930) and Germaine Krull’s Metal (1928) all address the profound social and economic tensions that preceded the Second World War, through an avant-garde photography in the style of “New Vision” and “New Objectivity” – that is, through objective photographs that question common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways subjects would have been photographed at the time. Obscure angles and perspectives abound in these striking photobooks, making their clinical, objective fervour “the great persuaders” of the 1930s and 40s, Modernist and propaganda books of their time.

What made Tuggener so different was the uncompromising subjectiveness of his work, “photographing the two worlds, privilege and labour.” His direct, strong images of factories and high society use wonderful form, light, and shadow to convey their message, never loosing sight of the human dimension, for they shift “our angle from the boss’ POV [point of view] to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation,” that of the workers. They are a piece of time and human history, which gets closer to the lived reality of the factory floor, than much of the work of his predecessors. Tuggener portrays the mundanity of the “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire) of the machine, where the human becomes the oil used to grease the cogs of the ever-demanding “mechanical monsters.” (See Evan Calder Williams’ “Rattling Devils” quotations below)

Tuggener then adds to this new way of seeing which recorded the multiplicity of his points of view – “a modern new style of photography showing not just how things looked, but how it felt to be there” – through the sequencing of the images, which can be seen in the wonderfully combined double pages of the Fabrik book layouts below. Take for example, the photograph that is on the dust jacket, a portrait of a middle-aged worker with a grave look on his face that says, “why the hell are you taking my photograph, why don’t you just f… off.” In the book, Tuggener pairs this image with a whistle letting off steam, a metaphor for the man’s state of being. Tuggener creates these most alien worlds from the inside out, worlds which are grounded in actual lived experience – the little screws lying in the palm of a blackened hand; Navy Cut cigarettes amongst steel artefacts; man being consumed by machine; man being dwarfed by machine; man as machine (the girl paired opposite the counting machine); the Frankenstein scenario of the laboratory (man as monster, machine as man); the intense, feverish eyes of the worker in Heater on electric furnace (the machine human as the devil); and the surrealism of a small doll among the serried ranks of mass destruction, facing the opposition, the opposing lined face of an older worker. This is the stuff of alchemy, the place where art challenges life.

“As Arnold Burgaurer cogently states in his introduction, Tuggener is a jack-of-all-trades: he exhibits, ‘the sharp eye of the hunter, the dreamy eye of the painter; he can be a realist, a formalist, romantic, theatrical, surreal.’ Tuggener’s moves effortlessly between large-format lucidity and grainy, blurred impressionism, in a book that is a decade ahead of its time.” Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 144.

James McCardle observes that, “the meaning of Fabrik is left to the viewer to discover between its pictures, its glimpses of an overwhelming industrial whole; it is essentially filmic on a cryptic film-noir level, a revelation to Frank.” Tuggener’s influence on the early work of Robert Frank can be seen in a sequence from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank that was republished by Steidl in 2009 (see below). “Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly. Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life.” Pace Tuggener. At Frank’s suggestion, Tuggener’s work appeared in both Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, The Family of Man, the latter an essentially humanist exhibition which took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience.

McCardle goes onto suggest that Fabrik, as a photo book, was a model for Frank’s Les Américains: The Americans published fifteen years later in Paris by Delpire, 1958. On this point, we disagree. While his early work as seen in Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 may have been heavily influenced by Tuggener’s photo book, by the time Frank came to compose Les Américains (for that is what The Americans is, a composition) his point of view had changed, as had that of his camera. While The Americans has many formal elements that can be seen in the construction of the photographs, they also have an element of jazz that would have been inconceivable to Tuggener at that time. Grainy film, strange angles, lighting flare, street lights, night time photography, jukeboxes and American flags portray the American dream not so much from the vantage point of a knowing insider (as Tuggener was) but as a visitor from another planet. Not so much alienating world (man as machine) as alien world, picturing something that has never been recognised before. These are two different models of being. While both are photo books and both pair images together in sequences, Frank had moved on to another point of view, that of an “invalid” outsider, and his photo book has a completely different nature to that of Tuggener’s Fabrik.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,366

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

 

For Jakob Tuggener, whose works can be seen within the context of social documentary photography, the individual and the industrial boom of the 19th and 20th centuries were central themes. His often somber, black and white photographs seem to confront this new world with a sense of fear as well as admiration. Will technology help relieve us of physically hard labour or replace us altogether? Tuggener owes his renown to his photo book Fabrik (Factory) that was published in 1943. With an aesthetic approach that was unique for his time, Tuggener explores in his photographic essay the relationship between humans and the perceived threat as well as progress of technology. The labourers depicted are grave, their faces worn marked by deep folds, while a factory building in the background stands strong, enveloped in a vaporous cloud. This “Pictorial Epic of Technology,” as Tuggener himself described it, is today considered a milestone in the history of photography books.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Selection from the book 'Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946' by Robert Frank

 

Selection from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank (Steidl, 2009)

 

 

The ‘weightless’ and the ‘grounded’ are two opposing themes that Frank repeatedly uses to move us through this sequence. Three radio transistors in a product shot float into the sky while a music conductor, his band and a church steeple succumb to gravity on the facing page. Even in this image Frank shifts focus to the sky and beyond – the weightless. When he photographs rural life, the farmers heft whole pigs into the air and another carries a huge bale of freshly cut grain which seems featherlight but for the woman trailing behind with hands ready to assist.

Considering this work was made while fascism was on the move through Europe, external politics is felt through metaphor. A painted portrait of men in uniform among a display of pots and pans for sale faces a brightly polished cog from a machine – its teeth sharp and precise. In another pairing, demonstrators waving flags in the streets of Zurich face a street sign covered with snow and frost, a Swiss flag blows in the background. in yet another of a crowd of spectators face the illuminated march of a piece of machinery – its illusory shadow filling in the ranks. These pairings feel under the influence of Jakob Tuggener, whose work Frank certainly knew. Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly.

Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life. One boy struggles to climb a rope while a ski jumper is frozen in flight. Fisherman bask in sunlight while two pedestrians are caught in blinding snowfall.

Text from the SB4 Photography and Books website December 14, 2009

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]' 1927

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]
1927
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Work in the boiler' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Work in the boiler
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1936

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1936
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Nell'ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1937

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Nell’ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1937
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

“Above all, the contrast between the brilliantly lit ballroom and the dark factory hall influenced the perception of his artistic oeuvre,” [curator] Martin Gasser explains. “Tuggener also positioned himself between these two extremes when he stated: ‘Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener’. In reality, he loved both: the wasteful luxury and the dirty work, the enchanting women and the sweaty labourers. For him, they were both of equal value and he resisted being categorised as a social critic who pitted one world against the other. On the contrary, these contrasts belonged to his conception of life and he relished experiencing the extremes – and the shades of tones in between – to the most intense degree.”

 

“Jakob Tuggener’s ‘Fabrik’, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but ‘Fabrik’ found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s ‘Post-War European Photography’ and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, ‘The Family of Man’, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and silent films.”

.
Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO)' [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)] 1940

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO) [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)]
1940
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Pressure pipe, Vernayaz' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Pressure pipe, Vernayaz
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Grande Dixence power station' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Grande Dixence power station
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1941

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1941
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace (detail)
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) '"Amore", Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
“Amore”, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Weaving mill, Glattfelden' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Weaving mill, Glattfelden
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (detail)
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Montpellier magazine. 'Jacob Tuggener at the pavilion popular Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers' portraits' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Jacob Tuggener at the popular pavillion Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers’ portraits
Montpellier magazine
1943
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren' [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory] 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory]
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Untitled (Arms of work)' c. 1947

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Untitled (Arms of work)
c. 1947
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) is one of the exceptional phenomena of Swiss photography. His personal and expressive recordings of glittering celebrations of better society are legendary, and his 1943 book Fabrik (Factory) is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book. At the centre of the exhibition “Machine time” are photographs and films from the world of work and industry. They not only reflect the technical development from the textile industry in the Zurich Oberland to power plant construction in the Alps, but also testify to Tuggener’s lifelong fascination with all sorts of machines: from looms to smelting furnaces and turbines to locomotives, steamers and racing cars. He loved her noise, her dynamic movements and her unruly power, and he artistically transposed them. At the same time, he observed the men and women who keep up the motor of progress with their work – not without hinting that one day machines might dominate people.

 

Machine time

Jakob Tuggener knew the world of factories like no other photographer of his time, having completed an apprenticeship as a draftsman at Maag Zahnräder AG in Zurich and then worked in their design department. Through the photographer Gustav Maag he was also introduced to the technique of photography. However, as a result of the economic crisis in the late 1920s, he was dismissed, after which he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an artist by studying at the Reimannschule in Berlin. For almost a year he dealt intensively with poster design, typography and film and let himself be carried away with his camera by the dynamics of the big city.

After returning to Switzerland in 1932, he began working as a freelancer for the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), especially for their house newspaper with the programmatic title Der Gleichrichter (The Rectifier). Although the company already employed its own photographer, he was entrusted with the task of developing a kind of photographic interior view of the company. This was intended to bridge the gap between workers and office workers on the one hand and management on the other. By the end of the 1930s, in addition to multi-part reports from the production halls, as well as portraits of “members of the MFO family”, one-sided, album-like series of unnoticed scenes from everyday factory life appeared. From 1937 Tuggener also created a series of 16mm short films – always black and white, silent, and representing the tension between fiction and documentation. This includes, for example, the drama about death and transience (Die Seemühle (The Sea mill), 1944), which was influenced by surrealism and staged by Tuggener with amateur actors in a vacant factory on the shores of Lake Zurich. or the cinematic exploration of the subject of man and machine (Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time), 1938-70). This ties in with the earlier book maquette of the same name and transforms it into a moving, immediately perceptible, but also fleeting vision of the Tuggenean machine age.

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.1 Neither his uncompromisingly subjective photography nor his critical attitude matched the threatening situation in which Switzerland was called to unity and strength under the slogan “Spiritual Defense”.

Although the book was not commercially successful, Tuggener’s Fabrik was a great artistic success and continued to explore the issues of work and industry. He produced two more book maquettes: Schwarzes Eisen (Black Iron) (1950) and Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time) (1952). They can be understood as a kind of continuation of the published book, which the journalist Arnold Burgauer described as a “glowing and sparkling factual and accountable report of the world of the machine, of its development, its possibilities and limitations.” In the mid-1950s, on the threshold of the computer age, Tuggener’s classic “machine time” came to an end. On the one hand, the mechanical processes that had so fascinated Tuggener evaded his eyes. On the other hand, he could not or did not want to make friends with the idea that one day even a human heart could be replaced by a machine.

 

Portrayer of opposites

As early as 1930 in Berlin, Tuggener had begun to take pictures of the then famous Reimannschule balls. He was fascinated by the tingling erotic atmosphere of these occasions, and he found photography in sparsely lit rooms a great challenge. Back in Zurich, he immediately plunged into local nightlife to surrender to the splendour and luxury of mask, artist and New Year’s balls. Again and again he let himself be abducted by elegant ladies with their silk dresses, their necklines, bare back or shoulders in a glittering fairytale world, whose mysterious facets he sought to fathom with his Leica. Although Tuggener’s ball recordings were only perceived by a small insider audience for a long time, many quickly saw him as a “masterful portrayer of our world of stark contrasts,” a world torn between a brightly lit ballroom and gloomy factory hall. Tuggener also positioned himself between these extremes when he stated, “Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener.” Because he loved both the lavish luxury and the dirty work, the jewelled women and the sweaty men. He felt that he was equal and resisted being classified as a social critic.

In whatever world he moved, Jakob Tuggener did it with the elegance of a grand seigneur [a man whose rank or position allows him to command others]. He was an eye man with a casual, loving look for the inconspicuous, the superficial incident; not just a sensitive picture-poet, but the “photographische Dichter römisch I,” as he used to call himself self-confidently. Critic Max Eichenberger wrote of the Fabrik photographs: “Tuggener is able to make factory photographs that reveal not only a painter, but also a poet, and a rare magician and strange alchemist – lead, albeit modestly turned into gold.”

The exhibition Jakob Tuggener – Maschinenzeit includes vintage and later prints from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, which for the most part come from the photographers estate. In an adjoining room the exhibition will also feature a selection of his 16mm short films from the years 1937-70, which revolve around the topic of “man and machine” in various ways. These films were newly digitised specifically for the exhibition (in collaboration with Lichtspiel / Cinematheque Bern).

Press release from Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

  1. The story in silent film is best told through visuals (such as actions, appearances and behaviours). Focus on movements and gestures, and borrow from dance and mime. Large, exaggerated motions translate well to silent films, but balance these also with subtlety (ie. a raised eyebrow, a quivering lip – especially when paired with a close-up shot). (Raindance website)

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layouts from the book Fabrik 1943

 

 

Extracts from Shard Cinema by Evan Calder Williams London: Repeater Books, 2017

“All gestures are perhaps inhuman, because they enact that hinge with the world, forging a bridge and buffer that can’t be navigated by words or by actions that feel like purely one’s own. In Vilém Flusser’s definition, a gesture is “a movement of the body or of a tool connected to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” – that is, it can’t be explained on its own isolated terms.26 The factory will massively extend this tendency, because the “explanation” lies not in the literal circuit of production but in the social abstraction of value driving the entire process yet nowhere immediately visible. We might frame the difficulty of this imagining with the concept of “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire), posed by French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, which designates a “succession of mental operations and technical gestures, in order to satisfy a need (immediate or not), according to a preexisting project.”25

26. Vilém Flusser, Gestures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), p. 2.
27. Catherine Perlès, Les Industries Lithiques Taillées de Franchthi, Argolide: Presentation Generate et Industries Paleolithiques (Terre Haute: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 23.

 

“Which is to say: we build factories. And in those factories, the process of the exteriorization of memory and muscle becomes almost total, as “the hand no longer intervenes except to feed or to stop” what Leroi-Gourhan, like Larcom, will call “mechanical monsters,” “machines without a nervous system of their own, constantly requiring the assistance of a human partner.”30 But along with engendering the panic of becoming caregiver to the inanimate, this also poses the problem of animation in an unprecedented way. Because if a “technical gesture is the producer of forms, deriving them from inert nature and preparing them for animation,” the factory constitutes us in a different network of the animated and animating.31 It’s a network that can be seen in those writings of factory workers, with their distinct sense of not just preparing those materials but becoming the pivot that eases, smooths, and guides the links of an operational sequence. In particular, a worker functions as the point of compression and transformation between tremendous motive force and products made whose regularity must be assured. The human becomes the regulator of this process, the assurance of an abstract standardization.

30 André Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, trans. Anna Bostock Berger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), p. 246
31. Ibid., p. 313

 

“… what I’m sketching here in this passage through scattered materials of the century prior to filmed moving images is something simpler, a small corrective to insist that by the time cinema was becoming a medium that seemed to offer a novel form of mechanical time, motion, and vision, one that historians and theorists will fixate on as the unique province and promise of film, many of its viewers had themselves already been enacting and struggling against that form for decades, day in, day out. The point is to place the human operator back in the frame, to ask after those who tended the machine before it was available as a spectacle, and to listen to how they understood what they were tangled in the midst of. But this is neither a humanist gesture of assuring the centrality of the person in the mesh that holds them nor a historical rejoinder to the forgetting and active dismissal of many of these personal accounts. Rather, it’s an effort to show how only with the operator’s experience made central can we see the real historical destruction of such illusions of centrality and, in their place, the novel construction of the human as tender and mender of a flailing inhuman net, the pivot who forms the connective tissue that enacts the lethal animation around her. In short, to see how the real subsumption of labor to capital is not only a systemic or periodizing concept that marks the historical transformation of discrete activities in accordance with the abstractions of value. It also is the granular description of a lived and bitterly contested process by which those abstractions get corporally and mechanically made and unmade, one which we can understand differently if we shift our angle from the boss’ POV to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation.”

Evan Calder Williams. “Rattling Devils,” on the Viewpoint Magazine website July 13, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2017

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944' 1944

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944
1944
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Carlton hotel, St. Moritz' Nd

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Carlton hotel, St. Moritz
Nd
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Palace hotel, St. Moritz' 1948-49

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, San Silvestro
1948-49
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo Acs, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948' 1948

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo Acs,Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948
1948
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener. 'Ball Nights' 1934-1950

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ball Nights
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

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CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
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01
May
17

Exhibition: ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

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

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s-50s. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, including portraits of Matisse, Picasso, and Breton. With over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, this is a chance to take a peek inside Elton John’s home and delight in seeing such masterpieces of photography.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand
Wall Street, New York
1915
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

Tate Modern presents a major new exhibition, The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, drawn from one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography. This unrivalled selection of classic modernist images from the 1920s to the 1950s features almost 200 works from more than 60 artists, including seminal figures such as Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Man Ray, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen among many others. The exhibition consists entirely of rare vintage prints, all created by the artists themselves, offering a unique opportunity to see remarkable works up close. The quality and depth of the collection allows the exhibition to tell the story of modernist photography in this way for the first time in the UK. It also marks the beginning of a long term relationship between Tate and The Sir Elton John Collection, as part of which Sir Elton and David Furnish have agreed to give important works to the nation.

The Radical Eye introduces a crucial moment in the history of photography – an exciting rupture often referred to as the ‘coming of age’ of the medium, when artists used photography as a tool through which they could redefine and transform visions of the modern world. Technological advancements gave artists the freedom to experiment and test the limits of the medium and present the world through a new, distinctly modern visual language. This exhibition reveals how the timeless genres of the portrait, nude and still life were reimagined through the camera during this period, also exploring photography’s unique ability to capture street life and architecture from a new perspective.

Featuring portraits of great cultural figures of the 20th century, including Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston by Tina Modotti, Jean Cocteau by Berenice Abbott and Igor Stravinsky by Edward Weston, the exhibition gives insight into the relationships and inner circles of the avant-garde. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, depicting key surrealist figures such as Andre Breton and Max Ernst alongside artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar. Ground-breaking experimentation both in the darkroom and on the surface of the print, such as Herbert Bayer’s photomontage and Maurice Tabard’s solarisation, examine how artists pushed the accepted conventions of portraiture.

As life underwent rapid changes in the 20th century, photography offered a new means to communicate and represent the world. Alexandr Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy and Margaret Bourke-White employed the ‘worm’s eye’ and ‘bird’s eye’ views to create new perspectives of the modern metropolis – techniques associated with constructivism and the Bauhaus. The move towards abstraction is also explored, from isolated architectural elements to camera-less photography such as Man Ray’s rayographs and Harry Callahan’s light abstractions.

A dedicated section of the exhibition looks at the new approaches that emerged in capturing the human form, highlighted in rare masterpieces such as André Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Hungary 1917, while Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels 1925 and Tina Modotti’s Bandelier, Corn and Sickle 1927 feature in a large presentation dedicated to the Still Life. The important role of documentary photography as a tool of mass communication is demonstrated in Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother 1936 and Walker Evans’ Floyde Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama 1936, from the Farm Security Administration project.

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection is at Tate Modern from 10 November 2016 until 7 May 2017. It is curated by Shoair Mavlian with Simon Baker and Newell Harbin, Director of The Sir Elton John Photography Collection. The exhibition is accompanied by an exclusive audio tour of the exhibition featuring commentary from Sir Elton John, and a major new catalogue from Tate Publishing including an interview with Sir Elton John by Jane Jackson.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Edward Weston. 'White Door, Hornitos, California' 1940

 

Edward Weston
White Door, Hornitos, California
1940
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“We possess an extraordinary instrument for reproduction. But photography is much more than that. Today it is … bringing something entirely new into the world.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, 1932

 

 

Artists in the modernist period explored what the camera could do that the human eye alone could not, and how this could be harnessed to present a new modern perspective on the world. Artist and theorist László Moholy-Nagy proclaimed that photography could radically change not just what, but how we see. He called this the ‘new vision’. Rather than emulating other art forms, photography began to embrace qualities unique to itself, from its ability to reproduce the world in sharp detail to its capacity to create new realities through the manipulation of light, chemicals and paper.

This re-evaluation of photography coincided with a period of upheaval. War, revolution and economic depression led to mass movements of people and great social change. The idea of the avant-garde took hold and dada and surrealism emerged, challenging both the art and social norms that had come before. At the same time, new art schools such as the Bauhaus in Germany and Vkhutemas in Russia fostered the role of the professional artist and challenged divisions between art and design.

The Radical Eye is arranged thematically and charts a changing emphasis from the subject of an image to the visual qualities of the photograph itself, irrespective of what it represents. The many vintage prints in this exhibition – made soon after the photographs were taken – give a rare insight into the artists’ processes and creative decisions, and foreground the photograph as a physical object. All works are shown in the frames in which they are displayed in the home of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Together, the works in this exhibition show how photography pushed the boundaries of the possible, changing the world through the ways in which it was seen and understood. ‘Knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterates of the future will be ignorant of the use of camera and pen alike,’ wrote Moholy-Nagy in 1927, foreseeing the cultural dominance of the photographic image. This extraordinary period still impacts how we, the photo-literate future, read and create images today.

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain
Sunbaker
1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“They collect themselves. Carefully, as if tying a cravat, they compose their features. Insolent, serious and conscious of their looks they turn around to face the world.”

.
From ‘Men before the Mirror’, published alongside portraits by Man Ray, 1934

 

 

Portraits

Modernist portraiture harnessed photography’s capacity to render an accurate likeness in clear, sharp focus and detail. But at the same time, artists and sitters pushed the conventions of portraiture with innovations in pose, composition and cropping.

Many of the portraits in this room are of artists, writers and musicians, giving a cross section of key cultural players of the time. Issues of control and collaboration arise particularly when the subject is an artist, raising the question of who is responsible for conveying the sitter’s persona. The modernist period also saw a boom of the illustrated press. Magazines reproduced photographic portraits of well-known figures which were instrumental in shaping their public images.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O’Keeffe
1922
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Nusch Éluard' 1928

 

Man Ray
Nusch Éluard
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

 

Nusch Éluard (born Maria Benz; June 21, 1906 – November 28, 1946) was a French performer, model and surrealist artist…

Nusch arrived in France as a stage performer, variously described as a small-time actress, a traveling acrobat, and a “hypnotist’s stooge”. She met Paul Éluard in 1930 working as a model, married him in 1934, produced surrealist photomontage and other work, and is the subject of “Facile,” a collection of Éluard’s poetry published as a photogravure book, illustrated with Man Ray’s nude photographs of her.

She was also the subject of several cubist portraits and sketches by Pablo Picasso in the late 1930s, and is said to have had an affair with him. Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She died in 1946 in Paris, collapsing in the street due to a massive stroke.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23) 'Actress Gloria Swanson' 1924

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Actress Gloria Swanson
1924
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

 

Adolph de Meyer. 'For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)' 1931

 

Adolph de Meyer
For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)
1931
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Edward Weston. 'Igor Stravinsky' 1935

 

Edward Weston
Igor Stravinsky
1935
Silver gelatin print
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography

 

George Platt Lynes. 'A Forgotten Model' c. 1937

 

George Platt Lynes
A Forgotten Model
c. 1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks' c. 1945

 

Man Ray
Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Irving Penn. 'Salvador Dali in New York' 1947

 

Irving Penn
Salvador Dali in New York
1947
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

“The enemy of photography is convention, the fixed rules ‘how to do’. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, c. 1940

 

 

Experiments

This was not a period of discovery but of rediscovery. Artists were rewriting the preceding century’s rules of photographic technique, harnessing ‘mistakes’ such as distortions and double exposures, or physically manipulating the printed image, cutting, marking and recombining photographs. These interventions could occur at any point in the process, from taking the image to the final print.

Used in portraiture, such experiments allowed for more psychologically charged representations. However, the transformative power of a particular technique often becomes much more important than the particular subject of the image. Above all, the rich creative possibilities of the photographic process come to the fore. While artists were seriously investigating the medium, the results are often surprising and playful.

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self-Portrait
1932
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© DACS 2016

 

Otto Umbehr. "Katz" - Cat 1927

 

Otto Umbehr
“Katz” – Cat
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Phyllis Umbehr/Galerie Kicken Berlin/DACS 2016

 

Josef Breitenbach. 'Patricia, New York' c. 1942

 

Josef Breitenbach
Patricia, New York
c. 1942
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, Courtesy Gitterman Gallery

 

 

“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”

.
Edward Weston, 1924

 

 

Bodies

Experimental approaches to shooting, cropping and framing could transform the human body into something unfamiliar. Photographers started to focus on individual parts of the body, their unconventional crops drawing attention to shape and form, accentuating curves and angles. Fragmented limbs and flesh were depersonalised and could be treated like a landscape or still life, dissolving distinctions between different genres. Thanks to faster shutter speeds and new celluloid roll film, photographers could also freeze the body in motion outside of the studio for the first time, capturing dancers and swimmers with a clarity impossible for the naked eye.

 

André Kertész. 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917' 1917

 

André Kertész
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917
1917
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolph Koppitz
Movement Study
1925
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

 

Man Ray. 'Noire et Blanche' 1926

 

Man Ray
Noire et Blanche
1926
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Glass Tears (Les Larmes)' 1932

 

Man Ray (1890-1976)
Glass Tears (Les Larmes)
1932
Gelatin silver print on paper
229 x 298 mm
Collection Elton John
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston
Nude
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

Man Ray. 'Dora Maar' 1936

 

Man Ray
Dora Maar
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Nino Migliori. 'Il Tuffatore' (The Diver) 1951

 

Nino Migliori
‘Il Tuffatore’ (The Diver)
1951
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

“The documentary photographer is trying to speak to you in terms of everyone’s experience.”

.
Dorothea Lange, 1934

 

 

Documents

During the 1930s, photographers refined the formula for what we now know as social documentary. To compel the public to look at less palatable aspects of contemporary society they married creative manipulation with an appeal to viewers’ trust in the photograph as an objective visual record. This combination proved itself uniquely capable of eliciting empathy but is fraught with artistic and ethical complexity. These works highlight the vexed position of documentary photographs: historical evidence, instruments of propaganda and, latterly, works of art.

The development of new technology – particularly the portable camera and roll film – allowed photographers to capture spontaneous moments unfolding in the everyday world. Taking viewers into neighbourhoods where they might never set foot, street photography and documentary opened up new perspectives socially as much as visually.

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans
Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Dorothea Lange. 'A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Christ or Chaos?' 1946

 

Walker Evans
Christ or Chaos?
1946
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Walker Evans Archives, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting.”

.
Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1920s

 

 

Objects, Perspectives, Abstractions

The subjects and approaches of modernist photography vary widely, but are united by a fascination with the medium itself. Every image asks what photography is capable of and how it can be pushed further. This final room brings together three interlinked approaches. It shows the still life genre reimagined by photographers who used the technical capabilities of the camera to reveal the beauty of everyday things. Objects captured at unconventional angles or extreme close-up become strange, even unrecognisable.

A similar effect of defamiliarisation was accomplished by taking photographs from radically new perspectives, positioning a camera at the point of view of the ‘worm’s eye’ or ‘bird’s eye’. This created extreme foreshortening that transformed photographs from descriptive images of things into energetic compositions hovering between abstraction and representation.

Abstraction pushes against photography’s innate ability to record objectively. Radical techniques such as cameraless image-making simplified the medium to the point of capturing the play of light on photosensitive paper. By stripping it back to its most basic components, artists celebrated photography, not as a tool for reproduction, but as a creative medium capable of producing new imagery.

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Shukov Tower' 1920

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Shukov Tower
1920
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive, DACS, RAO 2016

 

Edward Steichen. 'A Bee on a Sunflower' c. 1920

 

Edward Steichen
A Bee on a Sunflower
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. "Rayograph" 1923

 

Man Ray
“Rayograph”
1923
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

André Kertész. 'Mondrian's Glasses and Pipe' 1926

 

André Kertész
Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe
1926
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandelier, Corn and Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti
Bandelier, Corn and Sickle
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Werner Mantz. 'Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928'

 

Werner Mantz
Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'George Washington Bridge' 1933

 

Margaret Bourke-White
George Washington Bridge
1933
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy
View from the Berlin tower
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Margaret de Patta. 'Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice' 1939

 

Margaret de Patta
Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice
1939
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Estate of Margaret de Patta

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday –  Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

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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: ‘Mask’ 1994

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