Posts Tagged ‘subjective photography

10
Oct
21

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

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 10th October 2021

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'Puglia' 1958

 

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

 

 

The realist illusionist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

.
Rainer Maria Rilke. Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13

 

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

.
Mario Giacomelli, 1987

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground

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

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

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends. His first, sustained body of work was Hospice, which he began in 1954 and later titled Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, after a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese. Depicting residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia and made with flash, the images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. Additional early series on view include Scanno (1957-59) and Young Priests (1961-63), both of which further demonstrate Giacomelli’s ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In both series, figures clothed in black are set against stark white backgrounds. While there is an underlying sense of furtiveness or foreboding in the Scanno images, the Young Priests series, which Giacomelli later titled I Have No Hands That Caress My Face, is uncharacteristically light-hearted. Another series, The Good Earth, follows a farming family going about daily life, planting and harvesting crops and tending to livestock in the countryside surrounding Senigallia; the intermingling of generations suggests the cyclical nature of existence.

Landscapes feature prominently in Giacomelli’s engagement with photography from the beginning. The exhibition features several early works dating from the 1950s, as well as signature series, such as Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-80) and Awareness of Nature (1976-80). Both series portray fields and small farms in the Marche region, many of which he revisited as seasons changed and crops were rotated. Giacomelli wanted to show how modernised cultivation practices were overtaxing the land and changing the landscape. He often photographed from a low or an elevated vantage point – including from a plane – to eliminate the horizon and create disorienting patchworks of geometric shapes or pulsating configurations of plowed furrows.

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

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

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

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

 

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

 

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure / Ground

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

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

 

Forming Giacomelli

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Early work (1956-60)

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

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi)
c. 1954-57
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 38.9cm (11 1/2 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Hospice | Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (1954-83)

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

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

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

~ Translated by Geoffrey Brock, 2002

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Lourdes (1957 and 1966)

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Apulia (Puglia) (1958)

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

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed later
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 39.6cm (11 3/4 × 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed 1980s
Gelatin silver print
26.8 × 34cm (10 9/16 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 52
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 57
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
1957-59
Gelatin silver print
37.9 × 28.4cm (14 15/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Scanno (1957-59)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Young PriestsI Have No Hands That Caress My Face (1961-63)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Early landscapes (1954-60)

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

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66
Gelatin silver print
14.3 × 38.9cm (5 5/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed before 1980
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm (11 15/16 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed early 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.9cm (11 3/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39.4cm (11 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 146 (La Buona Terra, No. 146)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 208 (La Buona Terra, No. 208)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 219 (La Buona Terra, No. 219)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Good Earth (1964-66)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-60)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 3 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3)
1970-74, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Awareness of Nature (1976-80)

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1975-80
Gelatin silver print
25.1 × 37.7cm  (9 7/8 x 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-80s
Gelatin silver print
19.7 × 28.1cm  (7 3/4 x 11 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-90s
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Late work (1980s)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1983-87
Gelatin silver print
27.6 × 34.9cm  (10 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Sea of My Stories (1983-87)

Giacomelli noted that the sea referred to in the title of this series was that of his childhood, the Adriatic, but in fact it was the sea of his entire lifetime. He made his first photographs along Senigallia’s shore after purchasing a camera in 1953. Some thirty years later, curiosity about how an aerial perspective might transform people’s appearance led him to hire a friend who owned an airplane to fly him above the region’s beaches. The resulting compositions create abstract patterns from the shapes and shadows of bathers, deck chairs, umbrellas, and boats against the sand.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 29.5cm  (8 11/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.4 × 30.2cm  (8 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

I Would Like To Tell This Memory (2000)

The poetic title of this series reflects the increasingly pensive mood of Giacomelli’s late work. We occasionally glimpse the photographer himself as he engages with an odd assortment of props, including stuffed dogs and birds, a mannequin and mask. His abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, and painting or scratching of areas on the negative introduce elements of the absurd or surreal as means to confront the inevitability of his own mortality. The series, one of his last, is a meditation on melancholy, loss, and the passage of time.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
24.2 × 31.2cm  (9 1/2 x 12 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.4cm  (11 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Reflecting on Giacomelli

Giacomelli died in November 2000 after a long illness. He had continued working on several photographic series until his final days, with the poignantly titled I Would Like to Tell This Memory attesting to his deeply introspective temperament. From his unpromising beginnings as an impoverished, poorly educated boy, Giacomelli redirected the course of his life, maintaining a successful printing business that provided financial security and dedicating himself to the arts as a means of self-expression. Though he was self-taught in poetry, painting, and photography, it was with this last medium that he created a sense of continuity and fluidity throughout his life. He gained international acclaim as one of Italy’s most prominent photographers despite having made the majority of his photographs in his hometown of Senigallia and the neighbouring Marche region.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1955; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1955; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1956; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1956; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Collecting Giacomelli

Between 2016 and 2020, Los Angeles-based collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser donated 109 photographs by Mario Giacomelli to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Their collection covers broad swaths of Giacomelli’s oeuvre, from some of his earliest images to those made in the final years of his life. Drawn from their donations, this exhibition is conceived not as a comprehensive retrospective but as an opportunity to consider the collectors’ vision in assembling these holdings over a period of twenty years, teasing out what they perceived to be key concerns of Giacomelli’s practice: people (la gente) and the landscape (paesaggio), as well as people in the landscape – the “figure/ground” relationship of the exhibition’s subtitle.

The Getty Museum also acknowledges the Mario Giacomelli Archive, based in Senigallia, Sassoferrato, and Latina, Italy, for assistance in confirming titles and dates. Throughout his career, Giacomelli returned to individual images, rethinking and reworking them for subsequent series, often complicating the task of assigning definitive titles or dates. Thanks as well to Stephan Brigidi of the Bristol Workshops in Photography for providing information about the artist’s 1981 portfolios, La gente and Paesaggio. The portfolio prints are interspersed throughout the four galleries of the exhibition, presented in shallower frames with a slightly wider face.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Painter Mauro Marinelli' Negative 1960; print probably 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Painter Mauro Marinelli
Negative 1960; print probably 1966
Gelatin silver print
36.2 × 24cm (14 1/4 × 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) had a poet’s eye for the startlingly abstract order man can impose on nature and a poet’s understanding of the great disorder that is the human condition.

Giacomelli became an apprentice in typography when he was 13. As a young man, he worked as a typographer, painting on weekends and writing poetry. Inspired by the wartime movies of filmmakers like Fellini, Giacomelli taught himself still photography. He found his art in the generally impoverished countryside around Senigallia, a small town on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, where he lived all his life and whose farmlands and people were the subjects of his spare, often darkly expressionist work.

In 1954, Giacomelli began to photograph the home for the elderly where his mother had worked, completing the series in 1983. Empathetic but grittily unsentimental, the pictures show many women seemingly marooned in the sea of old age. In 1985-87, Mr. Giacomelli revisited the subject for his series Ninna Nanna, which means lullaby. This time, the deeply lined, gaunt faces of the aged are a bleak counterpoint to the bold lines and patterns found in the fields and on the sides of houses.

Giacomelli’s overhead views of mystifyingly abstract, horizonless landscapes, which he took from the time he snapped his first pictures, in late 1952, through the 1990’s, place him in the company of photographers like William Garnett and Minor White. Giacomelli’s 1970s images of geometric patterns in the fields of his hometown, Senigallia, bear striking parallels to Aaron Siskind’s contemporaneous photographs of wall abstractions.

Adapted from the artist’s New York Times obituary

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Children at the sea' (Bambini al mare) 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Children at the sea (Bambini al mare)
1959
Ferrotyped gelatin silver print
24.2 x 39.4cm (9 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Tobacco' 1955-56, printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Tobacco
1955-56, printed 1980
35.9 x 26.7cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

'Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground' book cover

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground book cover

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

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The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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01
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography’ at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 16th May, 2021

 

Timm Rautert. 'Tokaido Express, Tokyo' 1970

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Tokaido Express, Tokyo
1970
Gelatine silver print
45.5 x 59 cm
Museum Folkwang
© Timm Rautert

 

 

What an admirable artist.

Unfortunately with a limited number of media images available one cannot cover in any depth the many bodies of work of this fine artist. I would have liked to have seen more photographs from Rautert’s series The Amish and The Hutterites, and some photographs from his series on Thalidomide victims (none are available anywhere online). Very few of his portraits (only two are included here) or homeless series are available as well.

Particularly intriguing is work from the series Image-Analytical Photography in which Rautert explores “the fundamental conditions of photographic work – from the photographic act and the development of photographic images under an enlarger in the lab to the various possibilities of presentation”, using “black-and-white photographs, passport photos, lab experiments, combinations of selected photo prints with their negatives … but also non-photographic material such as a grey card (used for measuring light mainly in photo studios), postcards and graphic manuals” in order to understand “what photography means as a medium, what is expected from it, and how it has shaped the perception of the world.” Very few of these investigative images can be found online and only two are included in this posting. The second is a cracker.

Through the simple expedient of turning the camera upside down and photographing himself doing it coupled with the photographic outcome of the resulting picture we – the viewer, the looker, the seeker (of “truth”) – are so eloquently made aware that the camera is a machine, that it has a monocular perspective, and that every photo the camera takes is a construct. As Rautert asks in the quote below, “what is photography? what is light? what is time? what is space? how does one tell great stories? what means what?”

An excellent example of this enquiry is the series Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible) which depicts “working environments in the automobile and computer industries, creating a long-term chronicle of the transformation of the workplace in the wake of industrial automation.” In these conceptual but documentary, applied but artistic photographs, the human is masked, occluded and / or dwarfed by the humungous complexity and size of the machine – becoming an invisible attendant (a small cog in the wheel) of the mighty mechanism (think Metropolis, 1927). A solid story with a social and conceptual form.

There seems to be a strong eye and a whip sharp mind at work here: inquiring and questioning, ethical and creative, telling great stories through the lives of photography. An admirable artist indeed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Till May 16, 2021, Museum Folkwang presents a comprehensive retrospective of photographer Timm Rautert’s oeuvre. The exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography spans five decades of his artistic production: beginning with Rautert’s experimental early work as a student of Otto Steinert, it shows his famous portrait series such as “Deutsche in Uniform (Germans in Uniform)” or “Eigenes Leben (Own Life),” as well as his artwork collages and his 2015 photographic installation work L’Ultimo Programma. The nearly 400 works illustrate not only the thematic and methodological versatility of Rautert’s oeuvre, but can also be read as documents of photography’s long journey into the museum and the art canon.

 

 

“I thought to myself: what is photography actually? What is it really?
I decided to develop a kind of grammar for photography:
What is light? What is time? What is space?
How does one tell great stories?
What means what?”

.
Timm Rautert

 

“Timm Rautert’s work forges links between applied and artistic photography. It reflects man in his time as much as the worlds created by man: the factories and machines, cultural highlights and the social fringe, heaven and hell of modern society. For many years Rautert has worked as a socially critical photographer and engaged himself in different long term projects.”

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation views of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing at bottom left, photographs from The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia (2014)
Fotos: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia' 2014

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia
2014
Black and white photograph, bromide silver gelatine
Sheet size 50.8 x 40.5cm

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia' 2014

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia
2014
Black and white photograph, bromide silver gelatine
Sheet size 50.8 x 40.5 cm

 

 

To mark the 80th birthday of the photographer Timm Rautert, Museum Folkwang is organising a comprehensive retrospective covering half a century of his artistic work.

Timm Rautert (born in 1941 in Tuchola, then West Prussia) is considered one of Germany’s preeminent contemporary photographers. Over the decades he has succeeded not only in anticipating the most important trends in photography, but has also played a major role in shaping them: as a studio photographer for galleries, as a photojournalist, as a chronicler of changing work environments and, finally, as a university lecturer, he has influenced ensuing generations.

As a student under Otto Steinert at what was then the Folkwangschule in Essen-Werden, Rautert quickly developed solid foundations for a committed, social-documentary photography. Alongside this, he explored the fundamentals of photography and developed his “image-analysis photography”, which has methodically permeated his artistic work to this day. For Rautert, alternating between applied and artistic elements is not a contradiction, but an expression of resolute photographic authorship.

In 1970, Rautert travelled to the USA and photographed figures such as Franz Erhard Walther, Andy Warhol and Walter de Maria. In Osaka, he documented the World’s Fair and the deeply traditional Japanese society of the time. From the mid-1970s, Rautert worked together with the journalist Michael Holzach on joint reportages for ZEITMagazin. For over a decade he produced social documentary reportages on migrant workers, the homeless, or previously inaccessible communities like The Hutterites (1978) and The Amish (1974).

In the 1980s, Rautert turned to documenting working environments in the automobile and computer industries, creating a long-term chronicle of the transformation of the workplace in the wake of industrial automation. Around 70 photographs from the series Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible) with photographs of research and manufacturing sites such as the Max Planck Institute (1988) or Siemens AG (1989) are being presented for the first time in a digital double projection, which Rautert developed specially for the exhibition at Museum Folkwang.

Artist portraits have been a recurring theme in Rautert’s work; his first was that of the Czech photographer Josef Sudek made for an exhibition of work by Otto Steinert and his students. It was followed by portraits of Otl Aicher, Pina Bausch, André Heller, Jasper Morrison and Éric Rohmer. Rautert focused not only on the subject, but also on their surroundings and actions; capturing their sphere of influence as part of their identity.

After being appointed professor of photography at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (1993-2008), Rautert dedicated himself to his own work. His focus is on re-examining, restructuring and reshooting past projects. His students include Viktoria Binschtok, Falk Haberkorn, Harry (Grit) Hachmeister, Margret Hoppe, Sven Johne, Ricarda Roggan, Adrian Sauer, Sebastian Stumpf and Tobias Zielony.

In 2008, Timm Rautert was the first photographer to receive the Lovis Corinth Prize for his life’s work.

Text from the Museum Folkwang website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing photographs from Deutsche in Uniform (1974)
Fotos: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Liane Schneider, 33, Ground Hostess, Deutsche Lufthansa' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Liane Schneider, 33, Ground Hostess, Deutsche Lufthansa
1974
From Germans in Uniform
C-Print
28.7 x 22cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Otto Koniezny, 39 Jahre, Bundesbahnschaffner (Federal Railroad conductor)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Fräulein Monika Powileit, 33 Jahre, Diakonieschwester (deaconry sister)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Konrad Benden, 61 Jahre, Tambourmajor im Stadttambourchor, St. Maximilian 04, Düsseldorf (drum major in the city drum choir, St. Maximilian 04, Düsseldorf)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Werner Kudszus, 47 Jahre, Oberstleutnant, Kommandeur eines Feldjägerbataillons (Lieutenant Colonel, commander of a military police battalion)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Peter Müller, 22 Jahre, Oberwachtsmeister im Bundesgrenzschutz Bonn (chief sergeant in the Federal Border Police in Bonn)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Claudia Krüll, 17, German Red Cross Helper' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Claudia Krüll, 17, German Red Cross Helper
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Wolfgang Markgraf, 28 Jahre, Pfarrer, Evangelische Friedens-Kirchengemeinde (pastor, Evangelical Peace Church Congregation)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Jürgen Lobert, Frau Marlene Lobert, 30 und 31 Jahre, Schützen regiments könig und Königin (rifle regiment king and queen)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

 

Timm Rautert’s 1974 series “Germans in Uniform”, presenting a range of Germans in their professional attire in both a sociological and ironic manner, was first published in German by Steidl in 2006, and is now available in English in this expanded version.

For his project Rautert invited a range of public servants and officials to his Düsseldorf studio, where he photographed them in their work clothes – from a pastor, monk, Red Cross helper and hotel valet, to a more flamboyant drum major, forest warden and even a Santa Claus. Rautert depicts his subjects before the same neutral backdrop with similar framing and perspective, thus emphasising how they reveal their characters beyond their uniforms. Below each photo are the subject’s name, age and profession; at times personal quotes from conversations with Rautert during the shoot are also included. The result today is at once a complex portrait of post-war Germany, a nostalgic historical document, and an expression of the interplay between uniformity and personality that continues to shape society. In contrast to today’s professional clothing … the uniforms photographed by Rautert reflect a time of social upheaval. This documentary project was followed by the 1976 series entitled Die Letzten ihrer Zunft (The Last of this Profession) about the extinction of certain trades and professions.

Anonymous text from the Steidl website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

In shooting these landmark 1974 portraits of Deutsche in Uniform, Timm Rautert met his subjects in their own territories, but then set them against a neutral background, separating them from their work aesthetics. This portable studio setting gives special significance to the moment of representation, when the subject is captured as a symbol of the state or an occupational group. By using not only names and job titles but also quotes from interviews, Rautert also prompts observers to focus on the subject or the connection between the individual’s gestures and his official work clothes. In contrast to today’s professional clothing, which is transformed into outfits by logos, the uniforms he photographed reflect a time of social upheaval.

Anonymous text from the Amazon website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Swiss Pavilion' 1970

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Swiss Pavilion
1970
From: Expo ’70 – Osaka
Gelatine silver print
50 x 56cm
Museum Folkwang
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) From the series 'The Amish' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
From the series The Amish
1974
Gelatine silver print
17.4 x 26.8cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

In 1974 the young Timm Rautert travelled to Pennsylvania to photograph those who normally don’t allow themselves to be photographed: the Amish, a group of Anabaptist Protestant communities. Four years later Rautert returned to America, this time to the Hutterites who live so stringently by the Ten Commandments and the bible’s restrictions on images that they have their identity cards issued without photographs. Both these two series were influential on Rautert’s later work…

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book No Photographing (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Homeless II' 1973

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Homeless II
from the series In Germany’s Homeless Shelters
1973
Gelatine silver print
47.8 x 32cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Homeless due to housing shortage' 1973

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Homeless due to housing shortage
from the series In Germany’s Homeless Shelters
1973
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Socio-educational scheme, Cologne' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Socio-educational scheme, Cologne
1974
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Social work in Cologne' 1977

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Social work in Cologne
1977
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Otto Steinert, Essen' 1968

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Otto Steinert, Essen
1968
Gelatine silver print
39.8 x 27.1cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

The Powerlessness of Photographs

When television moved into people’s living rooms in the 1950s, many predicted the moving picture would spell the end of still photography. Yet it is not films but photographs with their capacity to eternalise individual moments, freeze them in time and, by bringing things to a halt, compel viewers to look at them and think, that continue to define our collective memory today. Buzz Aldrin on the moon, children fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam, the student in front of the army tanks in Tiananmen Square, victims of torture at Abu Ghraib – these are the images that are said to have changed the world.

Timm Rautert began his career as a photojournalist. Inspired by the belief that photography could change the world, he addressed social issues on behalf of major magazines and newspapers. His work took him to Japan, Russia and the USA, and led him to the homeless, the jobless and to Thalidomide victims. He wanted to use his camera to get to the heart of things, and draw the viewer’s attention to injustice in the long term through his haunting series of images. But it turned out that the power of these images and their influence on society was limited: “My images haven’t change a thing,” was Timm Rautert’s sobering realisation some years later.

His interest in social and moral issues continued unabated. But his photographic style changed, becoming more conscious and more reflective. Increasingly, Timm Rautert straddled the boundary between applied and artistic photography. But he still put the message of his images above their aesthetic quality: “Photography is an important medium to understanding the world; it is such a waste to use it only as art.” Nevertheless, he combined form and content in the knowledge that his work could only ever show his personal perspective on things.

His teacher, Otto Steinert, had a profound influence on this approach. The founder of subjective photography claimed it was impossible to depict reality objectively. The mere presence of the camera distorted the situation for everyone involved and therefore the image – including the photographer himself. Timm Rautert, too, sees the camera as standing between himself and reality – biasing his view of life.

Text from the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Mensch in einem Photoautomaten' (Human in a photo booth) New York, 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Mensch in einem Photoautomaten (Human in a photo booth)
New York, 1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Gotham City NY' New York, 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Gotham City NY
New York, 1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'New York (Wellington Hotel)' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York (Wellington Hotel)
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'New York' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'New York' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)' 1972

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)
1972
From Image-Analytical Photography
Gelatine silver print
20.4 x 26.9cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)' 1972

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)
1972
From Image-Analytical Photography
Negative mounting, on cardboard
Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden
© Timm Rautert/SKD
Foto: Herbert Boswank

 

 

‘I Started as a Scientist and Finished as an Artist’ | Interview with Timm Rautert

 

 

“I thought to myself: what is photography actually? What is it really?
I decided to develop a kind of grammar for photography:
What is light? What is time? What is space?
How does one tell great stories?
What means what?”

 

Timm Rautert’s Bildanalytische Photographie (Image-Analytical Photography), from 1968 to 1974, highlights the fundamental conditions of photographic work – from the photographic act and the development of photographic images under an enlarger in the lab to the various possibilities of presentation. A systematically elaborated ensemble of analogue black-and-white and colour photographs, of image-text compilations, and of manuals and photographic material provokes elementary questions about what photography means as a medium, what is expected from it, and how it has shaped the perception of the world. Scenic black-and-white photographs, passport photos, lab experiments, combinations of selected photo prints with their negatives are found here among Rautert’s 56 works, but also non-photographic material such as a grey card (used for measuring light mainly in photo studios), postcards and graphic manuals. Each work becomes an element of “analysis” showing the numerous potential scenarios of photography.

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) from 'Variation' 1967

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
from Variation
1967
C-Print
39.3 x 29.7 cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing work from the series Houses of the Invisible
Foto: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Siemens AG, Munich' 1989

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Siemens AG, Munich
1989
From Houses of the Invisible
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH, Ottobrunn' 1989

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH, Ottobrunn
1989
From Houses of the Invisible
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Fraunhofer Institut für Mikroelektronik, Duisburg' 1986

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Fraunhofer Institut für Mikroelektronik, Duisburg
1986
From Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible)
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Rolf Deininghaus & Maxmillian Oesterling, Dortmund' 1994

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Rolf Deininghaus & Maxmillian Oesterling, Dortmund
1994
From A life of one’s own
Gelatine silver print
57 x 44.2cm
Courtesy the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Mona Lisa' 2010

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Mona Lisa
2010
Mixed Media Farbcollage, Offsetdruck, Tonpapier
80.5 x 63 cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

Museum Folkwang
Museumsplatz 1, 45128 Essen

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 8pm

Museum Folkwang website

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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

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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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30
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 5th October 2014

Curators: Felicity Grobien, curatorial assistant, Modern Art Department, Städel Museum; Dr Felix Krämer, head of the Modern Art Department at the Städel Museum

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-1869) 'London: The British Museum' 1857

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
London: The British Museum
1857
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
32.2 x 43cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

 

There are some absolutely stunning images in this posting. It has been a great pleasure to put the posting together, allowing me the chance to sequence Roger Fenton’s elegiac London: The British Museum (1857, below) next to Werner Mantz’s minimalist masterpiece Cologne: Bridge (c. 1927, below), followed by Carlo Naya’s serene Venice: View of the Marciana Library (c. 1875, below) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s sublime but disturbing (because of the association of the place) Buchenwald in November (c. 1954, below). What four images to put together – where else would I get the chance to do that? And then to follow it up with the visual association of the Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography’s Cologne: Cathedral (1889, below) with Otto Steinert’s Luminogram (1952, below). This is the stuff that you dream of!

The more I study photography, the more I am impressed by the depth of relatively unknown Eastern European photographers from countries such as Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. In this posting I have included what details I could find on the artists Václav Jíru, Václav Chochola and the well known Czech photographer František Drtikol. The reproduction of his image Crucified (before 1914. below) is the best that you will find of this image on the web.

I would love to do more specific postings on these East European photographers if any museum has collections that they would like to advertise more widely.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. Lichtbilder = light images.

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

(left)

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Country girls
1925

(right)

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt
1927

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Dora Maar (France, 1907-1997)
Mannequin With Perm
1935

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Rudolf Koppitz. 'Head of a Man with Helmet' c. 1929. Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Rudolf Koppitz (1884-1936)
Head of a Man with Helmet
c. 1929
Carbon print, printed c. 1929
49.8 × 48.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt a. M., donated by Annette and Rudolf Kicken 2013

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

 

In 1845, the Frankfurt Städel was the first art museum in the world to exhibit photographic works. The invention of the new medium had been announced in Paris just six years earlier, making 2014 the 175th anniversary of that momentous event. In keeping with the tradition it thus established, the Städel is now devoting a comprehensive special exhibition to European photo art – Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 – presenting the photographic holdings of the museum’s Modern Art Department, which have recently undergone significant expansion. From 9 July to 5 October 2014, in addition to such pioneers as Nadar, Gustave Le Gray, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, the show will feature photography heroes of the twentieth century such as August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Man Ray, Dora Maar or Otto Steinert, while moreover highlighting virtually forgotten members of the profession. While giving an overview of the Städel’s early photographic holdings and the acquisitions of the past years, the exhibition will also shed light on the history of the medium from its beginnings to 1960.

“Even if we think of the presentation of artistic photography in an art museum as something still relatively new, the Städel already began staging photo exhibitions in the mid 1840s. We take special pleasure in drawing attention to this pioneering feat and – with the Lichtbilder exhibition – now, for the first time, providing insight into our collection of early photography, which has been decisively expanded over the past years through new purchases and generous gifts,” comments Städel director Max Hollein. Felix Krämer, one of the show’s curators, explains: “With Lichtbilder we would like to stimulate a more intensive exploration of the multifaceted history of a medium which, even today, is often still underestimated.”

The first mention of a photo exhibition at the Städel Museum dates from all the way back to 1845, when the Frankfurt Intelligenz Blatt – the official city bulletin – ran an ad. This is the earliest known announcement of a photography show in an art museum worldwide. The 1845 exhibition featured portraits by the photographer Sigismund Gerothwohl of Frankfurt, the proprietor of one of the city’s first photo studios who has meanwhile all but fallen into oblivion. Like many other institutions at the time, the Städel Museum had a study collection which also included photographs: then Städel director Johann David Passavant began collecting photos for the museum in the 1850s. In addition to reproductions of artworks, the photographic holdings comprised genre scenes, landscapes and cityscapes by such well-known pioneers in the medium as Maxime Du Camp, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt, Carl Friedrich Mylius or Giorgio Sommer. An 1852 exhibition showcasing views of Venice launched a tradition of presentations of photographic works from the Städel’s own collection.

Whereas the photos exhibited in the Städel in the nineteenth century were contemporary works, the show Lichtbilder will focus on the development of artistic photography. The point of departure will be the museum’s own photographic holdings, which were significantly expanded through major acquisitions from the collections of Uta and Wilfried Wiegand in 2011 and Annette and Rudolf Kicken in 2013, and which continue to grow today through new purchases. The exhibition’s nine chronologically ordered sections will span the history of the medium from the beginnings of paper photography in the 1840s to the photographic experiments of the fotoform Group in the 1950s.

In the entrance area to the show, the visitor will be greeted by a selection of Raphael reproductions presented by the Städel in exhibitions in 1859 and 1860. They feature full views and details of the cartoons executed by Raphael to serve as reference images for the Sistine Chapel tapestries. The art admirer was no longer compelled to travel to London to marvel at the Raphael cartoons at Hampton Court, but could now examine these masterworks in large-scale photographs right at the Städel. The following exhibition room is devoted to the pioneers of photography of the 1840s to ’60s. No sooner had the invention of the new medium been announced in 1839 than enthusiasts set about conquering the world with the photographic image. The aspiration of the bourgeoisie for self-representation in accordance with aristocratic conventions soon rendered photographic portraiture a lucrative business; to keep up with the growing demand, the number of photo studios in the European metropolises steadily increased. Works of architecture and historical monuments, art treasures and celebrities were all recorded on film and made available to the public. Quite a few photographers – for example Édouard Baldus, the Bisson brothers, Frances Frith, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt and Charles Marville – set out on travels to take pictures of the cultural-historical sites of Europe and the Near East, and thus to capture these testimonies to the past on film.

Among the most successful exponents of this genre was Georg Sommer, a native of Frankfurt who emigrated to Italy in 1856 and made a name for himself there as Giorgio Sommer. The second section of the show will revolve around the image of Italy as a kind of paradise on Earth characterised by the Mediterranean landscape and the legacy of antiquity. That image, however, would not be complete without views of the simple life of the Italian population. These genre scenes – often posed – were popular as souvenirs because they fulfilled the travellers’ expectations of encountering a preindustrial, and thus unspoiled, way of life south of the Alps. Faced with the challenges presented by the climate, the long exposure times and the complex photographic development process, photographers were constantly in search of technical improvements – as illustrated in the third section of the presentation. Léon Vidal and Carlo Naya, for example, experimented with colour photography, Eadweard Muybridge with capturing sequences of movement, and the Royal Prussian Photogrammetric Institute with large-scale “mammoth photographs.”

While the pictorial language of professional photography hardly advanced, increasing emphasis was placed over the years on its technical aspects. The section of the show on artistic photography demonstrates how, at the end of the nineteenth century, enthusiastic amateur photographs worked to develop the medium with regard to aesthetics as well. Whereas until that time, professional photographers had given priority to genre scenes and other motifs popular in painting, the so-called Pictorialists set out to strengthen photography’s value as an artistic medium in its own right. Atmospheric landscapes, fairy-tale scenes and stylised still lifes were captured as subjective impressions. While Julia Margaret Cameron very effectively staged dialogues between sharp and soft focus, Heinrich Kühn employed the gum bichromate and bromoil techniques to create painterly effects.

After World War I, a new generation of photographers emerged who questioned the standards established by the Pictorialists. Their works are highlighted in the following room. Rather than intervening in the photographic development process, the adherents to this new current – who pursued interests analogous to those of the New Objectivity painters – devoted themselves to austere pictorial design and sought to establish a “new way of seeing.” The gaze was no longer to wander yearningly into the distance, but be confronted directly and immediately with the realities of society. The prosaic and rigorous images of August Sander and Hugo Erfurth satisfy the demands of this artistic creed. The exhibition moreover directs its attention to early photojournalism and the development of the mass media. Apart from documentary photographs by the autodidact Erich Salomon, Heinrich Hoffmann’s portraits of Adolf Hitler – purchased for the Städel collection in 2013 – will also be on view. Although it was Hitler himself who had commissioned them, he later prohibited the portraits’ reproduction. For in actuality, Hoffmann’s images expose the hollowness of the dictator’s demeanour. The show devotes a separate room to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch, whose formally rigorous scenes are distinguished by uncompromising objectiveness in the depiction of nature and technology.

The photographers inspired by Surrealism pursued interests of a wholly different nature, as did the representatives of the Czech photo avant-garde – the focusses of the following two exhibition rooms. In the section on Surrealist photography, the works oscillate between fiction and reality, and photographic experiments unveil the world’s bizarre sides. Employing strange effects or unexpected motif combinations, artists such Brassaï, André Kertész, Dora Maar, Paul Outerbridge and Man Ray sought the unusual in the familiar. The Czech photographers of the interwar period, for their part, explored the possibilities of abstract and constructivist photography. Their works, many of which exhibit a symbolist tendency, are concerned with the aestheticisation of the world.

The final section of the show is dedicated to Otto Steinert and the fotoform Group. It sheds light on how Steinert and the members of the artists’ group took their cues from the experiments of the photographic vanguard of the 1920s, while at the same time dissociating themselves from the propagandistic and heroising use of photography during the National Socialist era. The six photographers who joined to found the fotoform Group in 1949 – Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Toni Schneiders, Otto Steinert and Ludwig Windstosser – coined the term “subjective photography” and emphasised the photographer’s individual perspective.

The show augments the joint presentation of photography, painting and sculpture practised at the Städel Museum since its reopening in 2011 and also to be continued during and after Lichtbilder. The aim of this exhibition mode is to convey the decisive role played by photography in art-historical pictorial tradition since the medium’s very beginnings. The presentation is being accompanied by a catalogue which – like the exhibition architecture – foregrounds the specific “palette” of photography as a medium conducted in black and white. The subtle tones of grey are mirrored not only in the works’ reproductions, but also in the colour design of the individual catalogue sections. When the visitor enters the exhibition space, he is surrounded by an architecture that is grey to the core, while at the same time making clear that no one shade of grey is like another. In the words of curator Felicity Grobien: “The exhibition reveals how multi-coloured the prints are, for in them – contrary to what we expect from black-and-white photography – we discover a vast range of subtle colour nuances that emphasise the prints; distinctiveness.

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Édouard Baldus (1813-1889) 'Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique' 1858

 

Édouard Baldus (French, 1813-1889)
Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique
1858
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
43.4 x 33.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Cologne: Bridge' c. 1927

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983)
Cologne: Bridge
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper
16.7 x 22.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. This portfolio of photographs was selected by the artist towards the end of his life as representative of his finest work. These rare prints reveal Mantz’s mastery in still-life and architecture photography, and are considered some of the most influential works created in the period.

Text from the Tate website

 

Carlo Naya (1816-1882) 'Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace' c. 1875

 

Carlo Naya (Italian, 1816-1882)
Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace
c. 1875
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
41.3 x 54.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

 

Carlo Naya (1816, Tronzano Vercellese – 1882, Venice) was an Italian photographer known for his pictures of Venice including its works of art and views of the city for a collaborative volume in 1866. He also documented the restoration of Giotto’s frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Naya was born in Tronzano di Vercelli in 1816 and took law at the University of Pisa. An inheritance allowed him to travel to major cities in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. He was advertising his services as portrait photographer in Istanbul in 1845, and opened his studio in Venice in 1857. He sold his work through photographer and optician Carlo Ponti. Following Naya’s death in 1882, his studio was run by his wife, then by her second husband. In 1918 it was closed and publisher Osvaldo Böhm bought most of Naya’s archive.

Text from Wikipedia website

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald in November' c. 1954

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Buchenwald in November
c. 1954
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 22.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885) 'Cologne: Cathedral' 1889

 

Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885)
Cologne: Cathedral
1889
Gelatin silver prints mounted on cardboard
79.8 x 64.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogram
1952
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard
41.5 x 59.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Ein-Fuß-Gänger' 1950

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 39cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) 'Egg on Block' 1923

 

Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
Egg on Block
1923
Platinum print
11.9 x 9.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Paul Outerbridge, Jr., © 2014 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)' 1928-1933

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)
1928-1933
Gelatin silver print
23 x 16.9cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) 'Mrs Herbert Duckworth' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Mrs Herbert Duckworth
1867
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
35 x 27.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) 'Naples: Delousing' c. 1870

 

Giorgio Sommer (European, 1834-1914)
Naples: Delousing
c. 1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
25.5 x 20.6cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) 'Alexandra "Xie" Kitchin as Chinese "Tea-Merchant" (on Duty)' 1873

 

Lewis Carroll (English, 1832-1898)
Alexandra “Xie” Kitchin as Chinese “Tea-Merchant” (on Duty)
1873
Albumen print
19.8 x 15.2cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Dora Maar (1907-1997) 'Mannequin With Perm' 1935

 

Dora Maar (1907-1997)
Mannequin With Perm
1935
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard
23.4 x 17.7cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Country Girls' 1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Country Girls
1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)
Gelatin silver print
27.4 x 20cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'La Comtesse de Fleury' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
La Comtesse de Fleury
1952
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on hardboard
39.2 x 29.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Additional images

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata' c. 1930

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1930
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Man Ray (1890–1976) 'Schwarz und Weiß' 1926

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Schwarz und Weiß (Black and white)
1926 (printed 1993 by Pierre Gassmann)
Silver gelatin print
24.8 x 35.3cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Man Ray. 'Retour à la Raison' 1923

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason)
1923 (printed c. 1979 from Pierre Gassmann)
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Václav Jíru. 'Untitled (Sunbath)' 1930s

 

Václav Jíru (Czech, 1910-1980)
Untitled (Sunbath)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken

 

 

Jíru started to shoot as an amateur photographer, and since 1926 published photos and articles. He first exhibited in 1933 and collaborated with the Theatre Vlasta Burian, photographed in the Liberated Theatre, was devoted to advertising photography, and became well known in the international press (London News, London Life, Picture Post, Sie und Er, Zeit im Bild).

In 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo for resistance activities, and sentenced to life in prison by the end of the war. In the book Six Spring, where there are pictures taken shortly after liberation, he described his experience of prison and concentration camps. After the war he became a member of the Union of Czechoslovak Journalists and in 1948 a member of the Association of Czechoslovak Artists. He continued shooting, but also looking for new talented photographers. In 1957, he founded and led four languages ​​photographic Revue Photography. By the end of his life he organised a photographic exhibition and served on the juries of photographic competitions.

The photographs of Václav Jírů, especially in the pre-war stage, was very wide: sports photography, theatrical portrait, landscape, nude, social issues, report. After the war he concentrated on the cycles of nature, landscapes and cities. A frequent theme of his photographs was Prague, which unlike many other photographers he photographed in its unsentimental everyday life (Prague mirrors, walls Poetry Prague, Prague ghosts).

Text translated from Czech Wikipedia website

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande' 1937

 

Werner Mantz (German, 1901-1983)
Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande (Headframe – On behalf of the States Mine Heerlen / Netherlands)
1937
Gelatin silver bromide print
22.6 x 16.7cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Václav Chochola. 'Kolotoc-Konieci' (merry-go-round horse) c. 1958

 

Václav Chochola (Czech, (1923-2005)
Kolotoc-Konieci (merry-go-round horse)
c. 1958
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken

 

 

Chochola (January 31, 1923 in Prague – August 27, 2005) was a Czech photographer, known for classic Czech art and portrait photography. He began photography while studying at grammar school in Prague-Karlin. After leaving the photographer taught and studied at the School of Graphic Arts. He was a freelance photographer, photographed at the National Theatre and has collaborated with many other scenes. Chochol created a series of images using non-traditional techniques, creating photograms, photomontage and roláže.

In his extensive work Chochol was devoted to candid photographs, portraits of celebrities (famous for his portrait of Salvador Dali), acts or sports photography. His documentary images from the Prague uprising in May 1945 are invaluable. In 1970 Chochol spent a month in custody for photographing the grave of Jan Palach. He died after a brief serious illness in Motol Hospital in Prague.

Text translated from Czech Wikipedia website

Jde užasle světem, o kterém jako kluk na předměstí snil a od něhož byl vždy oddělen červenou šňůrou, a do něhož má najednou přístup. Skutečnost, že v tomto světě nikdy nebyl úplně doma, dokázal proměnit v nepřehlédnutelnou přednost: zbystřilo mu to oko a zahlédl detaily, které my oslněni jinými cíli ani nevidíme.

It astonished world that as a kid in the suburbs and dreamed of which was always separated by a red cord, and which suddenly has access. The fact that in this world was never quite at home, he could turn into immense advantages: it sharpened his eye and saw the details that dazzled my other goals can not even see.

 

Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961) 'Crucified' before 1914

 

Frantisek Drtikol (Czech, 1883-1961)
Crucified
before 1914 (printed before 1914)
Gelatin silver print
22.7 x 17.3cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

 

František Drtikol (3 March 1883, Příbram – 13 January 1961, Prague) was a Czech photographer of international renown. He is especially known for his characteristically epic photographs, often nudes and portraits.

From 1907 to 1910 he had his own studio, until 1935 he operated an important portrait photostudio in Prague on the fourth floor of one of Prague’s remarkable buildings, a Baroque corner house at 9 Vodičkova, now demolished. Jaroslav Rössler, an important avant-garde photographer, was one of his pupils. Drtikol made many portraits of very important people and nudes which show development from pictorialism and symbolism to modern composite pictures of the nude body with geometric decorations and thrown shadows, where it is possible to find a number of parallels with the avant-garde works of the period. These are reminiscent of Cubism, and at the same time his nudes suggest the kind of movement that was characteristic of the futurism aesthetic.

He began using paper cut-outs in a period he called “photopurism”. These photographs resembled silhouettes of the human form. Later he gave up photography and concentrated on painting. After the studio was sold Drtikol focused mainly on painting, Buddhist religious and philosophical systems. In the final stage of his photographic work Drtikol created compositions of little carved figures, with elongated shapes, symbolically expressing various themes from Buddhism. In the 1920s and 1930s, he received significant awards at international photo salons.

Text from Wikipedia website

 

August Sander. 'Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt' 1927

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt
1927
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00am – 9.00pm

Städel Museum website

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18
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 26th May 2013

 

Saul Leiter. 'From the El' c. 1955

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
From the El
c. 1955
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I like it when one is not certain of what one sees.
We don’t know why the photographer has taken such a picture.
If we look and look, we begin to see and are still left with the pleasure of uncertainty.”

.
“It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it.”

.
“After the age of 75 you should not be photographed.
You should be painted by Rembrandt or Hals, but not by Caravaggio.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

How brave was the photographer, occluding most of the colour image in darkness, something that had never been done before and has rarely been seen since. Look at the last three photographs in this posting to understand what I mean.

Considering that Saul Leiter’s colour photography predates William Eggleston and Stephen Shore by a couple of decades, it can truly be said that he is one of the early masters of colour photography. As the curator Ingo Taubhorn comments, The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography.”

Well said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Saul Leiter. 'Nude' 1970s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Nude
1970s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN is devoting a major retrospective to the oeuvre of the 89-year-old photographer and painter Saul Leiter. The exhibition, which was developed in cooperation with House of Photography / Deichtorhallen Hamburg, presents the wide range of this versatile artist’s works, including early black-and-white and colour photographs, fashion images, painted photographs of nudes, paintings and a number of his sketchbooks. One section of the exhibition is devoted to Saul Leiter’s most recent photographs, which he continues to take on the streets of New York’s East Village.

It is only in the last few years that Saul Leiter has received due recognition for his role as one of the pioneers of colour photography. As early as 1946, and thus well before the representatives of the so-called “new colour” photography in the 1970s, such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, he was one of the first to use colour photography for artistic shots, despite its being frowned upon by other artists of the day. “The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography,” comments curator Ingo Taubhorn.

Saul Leiter has always considered himself both a painter and a photographer. In his painting and in his photographs he clearly tends towards abstraction and two-dimensionality. One often finds large deep-black areas, produced by shadows, taking up as much as three quarters of his photographs. Passers-by are not presented as individuals, but as blurred clouds of colour, filtered through misty panes of glass or wedged in between walls of buildings and traffic signs. The boundaries between the abstract and the representational in his paintings and photographs are virtually fluid. Saul Leiter’s street photography – a genre in which his work is matchless – is, in essence, painting metamorphosed into photography.

In Leiter’s works, the genres of street photography, portraiture, still life, fashion photography and architectural photography coalesce. He finds his motifs, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and – time and again – umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The indeterminateness of detail, the blurring of movement and reduced depth of field, the use of shadows or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light, as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows or as reflections, all combine to create the muted colour vocabulary of a semi-real, semiabstract urban space. These are the works of an as yet almost undiscovered modern master of colour photography.

 

About Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter discovered his passion for art at an early age and started painting as a teenager at the end of the 1940s. His family did not support him in his artistic endeavours; his father, a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar, had always hoped his son Saul would one day follow him in the family tradition and become a rabbi. Leiter was self-taught, but by no means uneducated. He read and learned a great deal about art, so that his knowledge and understanding constantly grew. In this way, he made sure that his own ideas and artistic works were duly related to the historical context.

In 1946, shortly after he had moved to New York, Leiter became acquainted with Richard Poussette-Dart, who introduced him to photography, a medium that appealed to Leiter very much and that he quickly made his own. Leiter soon resolved to use photography not only as a means of making art but as a way of earning a living. He started taking fashion photographs, and thanks to his good eye, his playful sense of humour, and his pronounced sense of elegance, swiftly emerged as an extraordinary fashion photographer. In the 1950s, Life magazine published photo spreads of Saul Leiter’s first black-and-white series. He took part in exhibitions, for example “Always the Young Strangers” (1953) curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art. From 1958 to 1967, Leiter worked for Harper’s Bazaar. Altogether he spent some 20 years photographing for various classic magazines as well as more recent ones: after Esquire and Harper’s he also worked for Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen and Nova.

 

Saul Leiter. 'New York' 1950s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
New York
1950s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Sign Painter' 1954

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Sign Painter
1954
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Graffiti Heads' 1950

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Graffiti Heads
1950
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shirt' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shirt
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Harlem' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Hat' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Hat
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Street Scene' 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Street Scene
1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

The exhibition chapters

Abstract Painting

Although his photographic oeuvre has dominated his image as an artist, Saul Leiter sees himself first and foremost as a painter. He began his artistic career as a painter, and while working as a photographer he never stopped painting and drawing. Leiter’s passion for art began when he was just a child, even though his ambitions received no support from his family. As a teenager he spent many hours in libraries studying art books. He found inspiration in the paintings of such artists as Vermeer, Bonnard, Vuillard and Picasso, as well as in Japanese graphic art. Leiter, who was self-taught, painted his first pictures in 1940. Most of them were lyrical, abstract compositions that reflected his admiration for the new American avant-garde. His ardent feeling for colour is recognisable even in these early paintings, as is his lifelong predilection for painting small format pastels and watercolours on paper.

After moving to New York in 1946, he sometimes presented his works together with abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. His studio was located on 10th Street in the East Village, which at that time was a neighbourhood very popular with avant-garde artists. Leiter shared these artists’ interest in abstraction and the use of colour, gesture and the element of chance, but he chose a radically different format for his works. Whereas many of his contemporaries, such as Jasper Johns or Franz Kline, painted wall-sized paintings that physically filled the beholder’s entire field of vision, Leiter worked in an intimate, small format. His works were also exhibited at the Tanager Gallery, one of the most important artist-run cooperatives in the East Village at that time. After switching the main focus of his work to photography in the late 1940s, however, Leiter stopped exhibiting his paintings.

 

Figurative Painting

Saul Leiter’s abstract painting frequently unites qualities of intimacy and familiarity with a sense of space reminiscent of an open landscape. Occasionally he also makes figurative sketches. Often these give mere intimations of a face or a body, perhaps a pointed nose, eyes and a mouth. Some of his male figures wear hats, similar to those worn by the religious Jews that peopled Leiter’s world in his youth. Most of these works focus on a single figure; only occasionally do we see a couple, or several figures grouped together. The quality of the line and the subtle suggestion of figures or heads in these paintings are reminiscent of paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, in which facial features are hinted at through lines and fine shadings of colour rather than being defined by careful modelling.

 

Street Photography

When, in 1947, Saul Leiter attended an exhibition of works by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, he became convinced of the creative potential of this medium. He bought himself a 35mm Leica camera at a bargain and began, without any previous training, to take photographs on the streets of New York. At first he used only black-and-white film, but in 1948 he also started using colour film. His black-and-white photographs exhibit some elements of documentary photography but are nevertheless far removed from a photojournalistic style. Rather, they are subjective observations, often concentrating on a single individual in the big city. Leiter’s complex, multilayered works evoke feelings of alienation, melancholy and tension. Leiter underscores this impression by experimenting with strong contrasts, light and shadow, and asymmetrical compositions containing large areas in which the images are blurred.

Thematically and stylistically, there are great similarities between Leiter’s works and the works of other representatives of New York street photography of the same era, for example Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein, Louis Faurer and later Robert Frank and William Klein, today generally known as the New York School. Their radical new, subjective photography had a psychological component that revealed an unusual sensitivity to social turbulences and the uncertainty felt by many Americans during the years following the Second World War.

 

Colour Photography

Until well into the 1970s, colour photography was used almost exclusively for advertising and fashion magazines. Many photographers considered the vivid colours unsuitable for artistic expression. Moreover, they were unable to develop their colour film themselves, which made it a very expensive undertaking. It was not until 1976 that the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave its first exhibition devoted to colour photography, when it presented “Photographs by William Eggleston”.

Saul Leiter was one of the few photographers who did not reject colour photography. As a painter, he took a particular interest in street photography as a genre in which to experiment with colour film. As early as 1948, at the beginning of his career, he bought his first roles of 35mm Kodachrome colour slide film, which had been on the market since 1936. In order to save money, he often used film that had passed its sell-by date. Leiter particularly liked the resulting pictures with their delicate, muted colours.

The innumerable early colour photographs that Leiter took between 1948 and 1960 are of a unique painterly and narrative quality. They stand in contrast to the works of other photographers, in which colour is often the defining element of the composition. This circumstance, coupled with Leiter’s tendency towards abstraction, links Leiter’s photography with his painting. But in contrast to his painting (and his black-and-white photographs), his colour photographs are highly structured. It is the incomparable beauty of these works that has brought Leiter recognition as one of the masters of 20th-century photography.

 

Fashion Photography

In the late 1950s, Saul Leiter worked successfully in the fields of fashion photography and advertising. From the very first, his style was unmistakeable. His images were multilayered and complex, characterised by soft, impressionistic qualities and cubist changes of perspective. He was given his first commercial assignment in 1958 by Henry Wolf, at that time the new Art Director of Harper’s Bazaar, with whom Leiter became friends. Harper’s Bazaar was one of the leading American fashion magazines, presenting trail-blazing fashion series by photographers such as Richard Avedon or Lillian Bassman.

Subsequently, Leiter was given more and more prestigious assignments, and over the years began to spend almost all his time doing commercial work. Apart from Harper’s Bazaar, his fashion and advertising photos appeared in Elle and Show, in British Vogue and Queen and also in Nova. The amazing thing is that during this period, Leiter managed to retain his own narrative, stylised aesthetic, whereas other fashion photographers favoured a rather brittle, graphic style. In the 1970s, partly due to his own dwindling interest in commercial photography, Leiter received fewer and fewer assignments. In 1981 he gave up his studio on Fifth Avenue and in the following years led a quiet life far from the public eye.

 

Saul Leiter. 'Carol Brown, 'Harper's Bazaar'' c. 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Carol Brown, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’
c. 1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Soames Bantry, 'Nova'' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Soames Bantry, ‘Nova’
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Walking' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Walking
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Reflection' 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learnt to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

Art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2005: “Mr. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. His painter’s instincts served him well in his emphasis on surface, spatial ambiguity and a lush, carefully calibrated palette. But the abstract allure of his work doesn’t rely on soft focus, a persistent, often irritating photographic ploy, or the stark isolation of details, in the manner of Aaron Siskind or early Harry Callahan. Instead, Mr. Leiter captured the passing illusions of everyday life with a precision that might almost seem scientific, if it weren’t so poetically resonant and visually layered.”

Text from the Lens Culture website [Online] Cited 15/05/2013 no longer available online

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shopping' c. 1953

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shopping
c. 1953
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Kutztown' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Kutztown
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Pizza, Patterson' 1952

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Pizza, Patterson
1952
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN
Museum Hundertwasser
Untere Weißgerberstraße 13
1030 Vienna
Phone: +43-1-712 04 91

Opening hours:
Daily, 10am – 7pm

Kunst Haus Wein website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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

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