Posts Tagged ‘ukiyo-e prints

04
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925’ at the Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2017 – 7th January 2018

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Bubble' 1898, printed 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Bubble
1898, printed 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.3 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A sense of the beyond

I have waited over nine years to be able to do a posting on this artist. This is the first retrospective of Clarence H. White’s photographs in a generation… and my first posting for 2018. What a beauty the posting is, and what beauty is contained within, his photographs.

White was born in Newark, Ohio (see map below) in 1871. Just to put that into perspective, of the big three Alfred Stieglitz was born in 1871, Edward Steichen in 1879 and Paul Strand in 1890. Soon after marrying his wife in 1893 White took up photography, applying some of his artistic vision, developed earlier through filling sketchbooks with pencil sketches, pen-and-ink drawings and watercolours, to the craft of photography. “He learned how to use light, or the lack of it, to draw attention to his subject. He also learned how to visualise his subjects in his mind.” He was completely self-taught, “in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths… It is important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied.”1

In 1895, he exhibited his first photos in public, at the Camera Club of Fostoria, Ohio, and by 1898 he had met Fred Holland Day and Alfred Stieglitz. His star continued to rise, White having solo exhibitions in 1899 at the Camera Club of New York and at the Boston Camera Club, and he also exhibited in the London Photographic Salon organised by The Linked Ring. In 1900 White was elected to membership in The Linked Ring and in 1901 White and 10 others to become “charter members” of the Photo-Secession, a group founded by Alfred Stieglitz to promote pictorialism and fine art photography. Due to financial constraints during this time, White was only able to create about 8 photographs each month, and he had to photograph either very early in the morning, after he finished work as a bookkeeper, or at the weekend. Some of his most memorable images were created at this time, before his move to New York in 1906. As Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer observe in “The Artistry of Clarence H. White”, “White is most significant in the history of photography because, in his early years, he redefined the nature of picture-making, creating a distinctly modern idiom for his own time…. He reduced his compositions to very simple elements of form, and by experimenting with principles of design derived largely from Whistler and Japanese prints, he created a personal style that was unique for photography.”2

If the photograph consumes light, then Clarence H. White was consumed by photography. Informed by the widespread Japonisme of the period, especially ukiyo-e prints (the term ukiyo-e translates as “picture[s] of the floating world”) with their flat perspective, unmodulated colours and outlined forms – his photographs “sought to capture either the geometry of perceived pattern or the gorgeous effect of shimmering light… qualities of image that the camera, conjoining realism and poetic perception, could render with compelling effect.”3 We now group these kind of photographs under the label “pictorialism,” soft-focus photographs that were more than purely representational, that project “an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”4 Here, an “atmosphere” (formulated, created, conceptualised, captured) is the key to conveying an expressive mood and an emotional response to the viewer “through an emphasis on the atmospheric elements in the picture and by the use of “vague shapes and subdued tonalities … [to convey] a sense of elegiac melancholy.””5

After his move to New York in 1906, White and Stieglitz “jointly created a series of photographs of two models, Mabel Cramer and another known only as Miss Thompson,” in 1907. This was the only time that Stieglitz ever worked with another photographer. “In 1908 Stieglitz continued to show his admiration for White by devoting an entire issue of Camera Work to him and 16 of his photographs. It was only the third time Stieglitz had singled out an individual photographer for this honor (the others were Steichen and Coburn).”6 In 1910, White set up the Seguinland School of Photography, the first independent school of photography in America, while in 1912 he had a terminal falling out with the excessive ego of Stieglitz. “First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.”7

Encouraged by his newfound freedom to act outside of the shadow of Stieglitz, White founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in 1914… an influential school which, over the next decade, “attracted many students who went on to become notable photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Anton Bruehl, Dorothea LangePaul OuterbridgeLaura GilpinRalph SteinerKarl StrussMargaret Watkins and Doris Ulmann.”8 In his class “The Art of Photography” White stressed that the primary thing his students had to learn was “the capacity to see.” White became one of the most important teachers of photography of the age. White died suddenly of a heart attack while on a trip to Mexico with students to take his first photographs in years. He was 54 years old.

After Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946 numerous photographs by White were found in his personal collection. Despite their differences, it is obvious that Stieglitz held White in very high regard, “one of the very few who understand what the Photo-Session means & is.”9 “Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.”10

There is something undeniable in what Stieglitz says. White’s greatest photographs emerge from the Stygian dusk, a dash of melancholy, a lot of beauty, mostly before he moved to New York. It says a lot that Stieglitz still thought that much of him as an artist, a man, and as an emasculated friend, that he kept nearly 50 of his photographs in his personal collection until he died. Stieglitz knew the nature of [his] genius.

 

The value of self-expression and direct engagement with experience

Clarence H. White’s artistic achievements may have been overshadowed by the likes of Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand’s later modernist photographs, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a colossus, a monster in the history of art photography. Simply put, there is no one else like him in the history of photography, for you can always recognise the “signature” of a White photograph.

Peter Bunnell notes, “[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”12 His private epic was a personal mythology which expressed his personality and distinctive sentiments through his photographs of imagined worlds. This is the critical thing that makes him so different from other photographers of the period: he was beholden to no movement, no school, teacher or narrative – but only to himself. In his best photographs it was this private world writ large in light that made him famous.

His “masterful reinterpretation of the possibilities of light and the photographic medium done with artistic intent”11 allowed him to develop this personal mythology. White learned how to visualise his subjects in his imagination, before rendering them by drawing in light. His unique prints, made in a variety of processes (platinum, gum-platinum, palladium, gum-palladium, gum, glycerin developed platinum, cyanotype and hand-coated platinum) with the same image sometimes printed using different processes,13 celebrate “pure photography”, a cerebral, ethereal emanation of pure light and form. They seem not of this earth. Indeed, I would argue that White steps outside strict pictorialism into this “other”, private realm.

There may be, as Peter Bunnell suggests, a luminosity of tone in his prints rarely achieved in the history of photography, but there was also a luminosity in his thinking, in the way he approaches the medium itself. I look at the photograph The Deluge (c. 1902-03, below) and I think of William Blake. I look at the three versions of the photograph Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) and observe how each iteration is different (in colour, tone and inflection), but how they are just as valid as each other. There are personal, domestic quotidian scenes (Blindmans’ Bluff, 1898 or Mother was living in the old home alone, 1902); mythic scenes, such as the glorious photograph The Bubble (1898, above) where the figure seems to hover above the ground (“pictures of the floating world”); and early Modernist inclinations such as Drops of Rain (1903, below) and Newport the Maligned (1907, below). But above all, there is the light which shines from within.

Further, his was a whole art aligned perhaps subconsciously, perhaps not, to that German Art Nouveau movement named after the Munich periodical Die Jugend (‘Youth’) – Jugendstijl. “A decorative art with the mid-century idea of the gesamtkunstwerk; the ‘total work of art’ applied in Wagner’s opera and in Dülfer’s architecture, Jugendstil before 1900 favoured floral motifs and ukiyo-e prints of Japanese art.” Evidence of this ‘total work of art’ (an expression of folk legend as universal humanist fable), can be seen in the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames (see below). The plain dark wood frames with their curved tops serve to further isolate and flatten the pictorial space of the photograph; the dark colour of the wood pushing against the luminosity, line, form and reddish brown colour of the prints. The last version of Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) is particularly illuminating in this respect, the dark wood framing the individual panels fragmenting the field upon which the young woman stands, so that we are no longer in a fairytale landscape (as in the first iteration) but surrounded by writhing tree trunks of sombre hue with a ghost-like presence walking amongst them. And then we see how these photographs were originally exhibited!

In Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899 (below) we observe, we are witness to, a flow of energy from one side of the wall to the other – none of this staid singular hanging “on the line” – but a dynamic narrative that moves the viewer both physically and mentally. How wondrous is this display! An then in William Herman Rau’s photograph Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation (1899, below) we see a networked display, almost a cross-like shape, with portraits surrounding what looks like a central landscape image (although it is difficult to make out exactly what the image is). This is an almost contemporary sequencing of photographic work, still used by the likes of Annette Messager today… a perfect example of gesamtkunstwerk, where White has fully understood concept, narrative, form, function, the physicality of the photograph, it’s frame, and the context and environment of the image display.

To me, the early prints of Clarence H. White give the sense that he has found a metaphor, but he is not sure what that metaphor relates to: a cosmology? / man creating something of wonder (when viewed with imagination)?

He is still working it out… and then he goes to New York.
Does it matter that he didn’t find the answer? A thing that is done as a reaction to a situation.
Not at all. It’s the journey that matters.

The sense of ethereal beauty and the beyond that he captured on his glass plates are enough to make him a genius in my eyes. “Images arising from dreams are the well spring of all our efforts to give enduring form and meaning to the urgencies within,” states Douglas Fowler.14 White’s oneiric photographs, and our prior experiences with dreaming and imagination, help to create a sense of oneness with his photographs. Ultimately, his private epic, his personal mythology brought these aspects of art into photography.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Princeton University Art Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  2. Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer. “The Artistry of Clarence H. White,” in Homer, William Innes (ed.). Symbolism of Light: The Photographs of Clarence H. White. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Art Museum, 1977, p. 34
  3. Richard K. Kent. “Early Twentieth-Century Art Photography in China: Adopting, Domesticating, and Embracing the Foreign,” in Local Culture/Global Photography, Trans Asia Photography Review Vol. 3, Issue 2, Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  4. Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colours other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”
    Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  5. Naomi Rosenblum. A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989, p. 297 quoted in Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  6. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  7. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  8. Lucinda Barnes (ed.) with Constance W. Glenn and Jane L. Bledsoe. A Collective Vision: Clarence H. White and His Students. Long Beach, CA: University Art Museum, 1985 in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  9. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 175 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  10. Weston J. Naef. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. NY: Viking Press, 1978, pp. 482-493 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  11. Peter Bunnell. Clarence H. White: The Reverence for Beauty. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Gallery of Fine Arts, 1986, p. 17 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  12. Anonymous. “A Reevaluation: Clarence H. White,” on the Photoseed blog [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  13. “White sometimes printed the same image using different processes, and as a result there are significant variations in how some of his prints appear. His platinum prints have a deep magenta-brown tone, for example, whereas his gum prints have a distinct reddish hue. Photogravures of his images in Camera Work, which he considered to be true prints, were more neutral, tending toward warm black-and-white tones.”
    Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 68 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  14. Douglas Fowler. The Kingdom of Dreams in Literature and Film: Selected Papers from the Tenth Annual Florida State University Conference on Literature and Film. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1986, p. 10 quoted in Anonymous. “Oneiric (film theory),” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 03/01/2018

 

 

Newark, Ohio

 

Newark, Ohio – where Clarence H. White was born and taught himself photography

 

 

 

Anne McCauley, curator of the exhibition and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art, explores the legacy of one of the early twentieth century’s most gifted photographers and influential teachers. Program took place on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

 

 

 

Collaboration with Yale Reveals Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Photographic Processes

Preparations for the first retrospective exhibition in a generation of pioneer photographer Clarence Hudson White (1871-1925) have inspired an unexpected collaboration between the Princeton University Art Museum and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Immersed in the real-life setting of the Princeton University Art Museum, the project drew students, researchers, and curators from across two universities and from numerous disciplines to analyse the experimental techniques that took place during the “Pictorialism” period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men's Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899
1899

 

Unknown photographer. 'Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon' 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon
1899
Photograph shows, from left: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Clarence H. White, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and Henry Troth

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920) 'Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]' 1899

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920)
Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]
1899

Photograph shows a wall installation of photographs by Clarence H. White at the second exhibition of the Philadelphia Photographic Salon; according to the catalog for the exhibition, the works shown are “Fear”, “Morning”, “A Puritan”, “The Bubble”, “Lady in Black”, “Evening : An Interior”, “On the Old Stair”, “At the Old Canal Lock”, and “Lady with the Venus.” Also includes a portrait, presumably of White, half-length, facing right.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

White was completely self-taught throughout his career, in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths. When a one-man exhibition of his work was held in Newark in 1899, fellow Newark photographer Ema Spencer wrote, “He has been remote from artistic influences and is absolutely untrained in the art of the schools. In consequence, traditional lines have unconsciously been ignored and he has followed his own personal bent because he has been impelled by that elusive and inscrutable force commonly known as genius.” It is also important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied. The most common way a new photographer learned the trade was by working with an experienced photographer, and, other than a few portraitists, there was no one to learn from in Newark.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Girl with the Violin' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Girl with the Violin
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 14.7 x 14 cm (5 13/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 22.9 x 22.4 cm (9 x 8 13/16 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Deluge' c. 1902-03 Gum bichro

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Deluge
c. 1902-03
Gum bichromate print
Image (arched top): 20.2 x 16.2 cm (7 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Just a Line' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Just a Line
1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 19.2 x 13.3 cm (7 9/16 x 5 1/4 in.)
Frame: 28.8 x 22.9 cm (11 5/16 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Climbing the Hill' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Climbing the Hill
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 20 x 16 cm (7 7/8 x 6 5/16 in.)
Frame: 34.5 x 30.5 cm (13 9/16 x 12 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'At the Window' 1896, printed 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
At the Window
1896, printed 1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 20.4 x 14.2 cm (8 1/16 x 5 9/16 in.)
Frame: 29.8 x 22.9 cm (11 3/4 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

“These photographs [above] are among the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames.”

(Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934) 'Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine' c. 1913

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934)
Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine
c. 1913
Clarence H. White School of Photography

 

 

“My photographs were less sharp than others and I do not think it was because of the lens so much as the conditions under which the photographs were made – never in the studio, always in the home or in the open, and when out of doors at a time of day very rarely selected for photography.”

.
Clarence H. White

 

“I think that if I were asked to name the most subtle and refined master photography has produced, that I would name him… To be a true artist in photography one must also be an artist in life, and Clarence H. White was such an artist.”

.
Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

“What he brought to photography was an extraordinary sense of light. ‘The Orchard’ is bathed in light. ‘The Edge of the Woods’ is a tour de force of the absence of light.”

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Beaumont Newhall

 

“Clarence White’s poetic vision and sensitive intuition produced images that insinuate themselves deeply into one’s consciousness.”

.
Edward Steichen

 

“[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”

“The qualities that make White’s photographs memorable have to do with both form and content. In his finest pictures the disposition of every element, of each line and shape, is elevated to an expressive intensity few photographers managed to attain. … White was able to transform the sensory perception of light into an exposition of the most fundamental aspect of photography – the literal materialisation of form through light itself. His prints, mostly in the platinum medium, display a richness, a subtlety, and a luminosity of tone rarely achieved in the history of photography.”

.
Peter Bunnell

 

 

Innovative American Photographer Clarence H. White Receives First Retrospective in a Generation

The vision and legacy of photographer Clarence H. White (1871-1925), a leader in the early twentieth-century effort to position photography as an art, will be the focus of a major traveling exhibition organised by the Princeton University Art Museum. The first retrospective devoted to the photographer in over a generation, Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 will survey White’s career from his beginnings in 1895 in Ohio to his death in Mexico in 1925.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from October 7, 2017, through January 7, 2018, the exhibition will draw on the Clarence H. White Collection at the Museum and the deep holdings at the Library of Congress as well as loans from other public and private collections. Clarence H. White and His World reasserts White’s place in the American canon and, in the process, reshapes and expands our understanding of early twentieth-century American photography.

White’s career spans the radical shifts in photographic styles and status from the Kodak era of the 1890s; the corresponding fight for art photography primarily associated with his friend and fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz; and the postwar rise of advertising and fashion photography. While living in a small town in Ohio, White received international recognition for his beautiful scenes of quiet domesticity and his sensitivity to harmonious, two-dimensional composition. With his move to New York in 1906, he became renowned as a teacher, first at Teachers College with Arthur Wesley Dow, then in the summer school he established in Maine, and finally with the Clarence H. White School of Photography, founded in 1914. Among his students were some of the most influential artistic and commercial photographers of the early twentieth century: Laura Gilpin, Doris Ulmann, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Watkins, Dorothea Lange, Karl Struss, Anton Bruehl and hundreds more who did not become professional photographers but were shaped by White’s belief that art could enrich the lives of everyday Americans.

“The goal of the exhibition is to locate White’s own diverse and rich body of work within a period of great social and aesthetic change, from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties,” said Anne McCauley, exhibition curator and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton. “Far from staying stuck in the nineteenth century, White embraced new media like cinema and new commercial uses for photography, including fashion and advertising.”

The exhibition will feature photographs by White’s fellow Photo-Secessionists and his students as well as a selection of paintings and prints by other artists whom he knew and admired, and was influenced by or whose work he shaped, including William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, Max Weber, Edmund Tarbell and John Alexander.

Also explored within the exhibition are White’s links to the American Arts and Crafts movement, his embrace of socialism, his radically modern representations of childhood, and his complicated printing and framing processes. Of particular note is his lifelong investment in photographing the nude model, culminating in series that he made with Alfred Stieglitz in 1907 and with Paul Haviland in 1909, brought together here for the first time.

“As an artist and a teacher, White emerges as one of the essential American innovators of the early twentieth century, dedicated to the creation of beauty,” notes James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher – David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Through significant new archival research and bringing together works not seen in one setting since the artist’s lifetime, this exhibition and publication aim to reaffirm White’s astonishing accomplishments.”

After premiering at the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition travels to the Davis Museum, Wellesley College (February 7-June 3, 2018), the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 30-September 16, 2018) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (October 21, 2018-January 21, 2019). The exhibition is accompanied by a sumptuous 400-page catalogue by Anne McCauley, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, with contributions by Peter C. Bunnell, Verna Posever Curtis, Perrin Lathrop, Adrienne Lundgren, Barbara L. Michaels, Ying Sze Pek and Caitlin Ryan.

Press release from the Princeton University Art Museum

 

The Clarence H. White School of Photography

In 1910, to augment his courses in New York City and bring in extra income, White opened a summer school for photography. Named the Seguinland School of Photography, it was housed in a hotel, which was to be part of the new “Seguinland” resort on the mid-coast of Maine near Georgetown and Seguin Island. Pictorialist photographer F. Holland Day, who summered nearby, had earlier invited White and his family to the area for a respite from the city and the opportunity to explore creative photography outdoors. The fellowship between the two photographers and their families was an important factor in White’s decision to start the summer school. Students wore sailor suits, a practice begun by Day and his summer guests, and boarded at the Seguinland Hotel. Day regularly conducted critiques for White’s students, as on occasion did New York photographer Gertrude Käsebier. After 1912, the Pilot House adjacent to the hotel served as the school’s studio and darkroom. Among the students attracted to the idyllic coastal setting was the Pictorialist Anne W. Brigman from Northern California, who made the pilgrimage to Maine during an eight-month visit to the East Coast. White’s summer school in Maine lasted until 1915, when White relocated to northwestern Connecticut’s Berkshire Hills for summers. He reintroduced a summer school there, first in East Canaan, and then in Canaan that lasted until his death.

In the fall of 1914, the Clarence H. White School of Photography opened its doors at 230 E. 11th St. in New York City. This was the first of four locations for the school in the burgeoning art and publishing capital. White’s first instructor for art appreciation and design between 1914 and 1918 was avant-garde painter Max Weber, who often posed for the students. When Weber left, White hired one of his Columbia students, Charles J. Martin.

In 1917 the school occupied the “Washington Irving House” at 122 E. 17th St. at the corner of Irving Place near Union Square and Gramercy Park. Three years later, when that location was no longer available, the Clarence H. White Realty Corp. was formed in order to purchase a building for the school, and the White School resettled again, at 460 W. 144th St., where it remained until 1940. The uptown location provided a meeting place for White’s Columbia classes. From the 1920s on, photographer Edward Steichen was among those who served regularly as guest lecturers. White students paid $150 per semester, a fee that held constant until the school’s closing.

After Clarence White’s unexpected death in 1925, friends urged his widow to carry on despite the fact that his personality had been crucial to the advancement of the school. Though Jane Felix White was not a photographer herself, she took on the challenge and remained the school’s director until her retirement in 1940, when her youngest son, Clarence H. White Jr., took over. Jane and Clarence Jr. recruited more students, raising the enrolment to 106 by 1939. With greater numbers came significant changes: twice as many men as women (a reversal of the previous 2-to-1 ratio of women to men) and new classes. Art integrated with technique – the school’s previous hallmark – was no longer central to the curriculum. Nonetheless, the school continued to prosper, and its reputation surpassed other competitors, such as the New York Institute of Photography, a commercial school established in 1910, and the Studio School of Art Photography, which began in 1920 and continued a strict orientation toward the soft-focus, Pictorialist style. A poorly timed and costly move to larger, more centrally located quarters at 32 West 74th Street in 1940, however, soon helped bring about its closure. The mobilisation for World War II dealt the White School its final blow. After surviving for three decades, it closed its doors in 1942.

Text from the Library of Congress website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix]
1898
Gum bichromate prints with graphite
Image (1): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Image (2): 20.7 x 9.8 cm (8 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Image (3): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Frame: 34 x 28.5 x .5 cm (13 3/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Arthur Wesley Dow. 'Spring Landscape' 1892

 

Arthur Wesley Dow
Spring Landscape
1892
Oil on canvas
University of Michigan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Orchard' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Orchard
1902
Palladium print
24.3 x 19.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'What shall I say?' 1896, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
What shall I say?
1896, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 14.8 × 17.3 cm (5 13/16 × 6 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Girl with Mirror' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Girl with Mirror
1898
Varnished palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Evening Interior' c. 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Evening Interior
c. 1899
Platinum print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Male academic nude]' c. 1900

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Male academic nude]
c. 1900
Waxed platinum print
Image: 22.7 x 14.7 cm (8 15/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Ring Toss' 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Ring Toss
1899
Palladium print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]
1902
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.8 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]
1902
Cyanotype
Image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]
1898
Platinum print
Sheet: 17.7 x 15.5 cm (6 15/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Blindman's Bluff" 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Blindman’s Bluff”
1898
Platinum print
Library of Congress

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Drops of Rain' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Drops of Rain
1903
Platinum print
Image: 21.1 × 16.2 cm (8 5/16 × 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Winter Landscape' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Winter Landscape
1903
Photogravure

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960) 'Rondout, New York' c. 1907

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960)
Rondout, New York
c. 1907
Oil on canvas
68.6 x 91.4 cm
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of S. O. Buckner
© Estate of Léon Dabo

 

 

Leon Dabo (July 9, 1864 – November 7, 1960) was an American tonalist landscape artist best known for his paintings of New York, particularly the Hudson Valley. His paintings were known for their feeling of spaciousness, with large areas of the canvas that had little but land, sea, or clouds. During his peak, he was considered a master of his art, earning praise from such luminaries as John Spargo, Bliss Carman, Benjamin De Casseres, Edwin Markham, and Anatole Le Braz. His brother, Scott Dabo, was also a noted painter.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Newport the Maligned" 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Unpublished illustration [Beacon Rock with home of E. D. Morgan III] for Gouverneur Morris, “Newport the Maligned”
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.9 x 19.2 cm (9 7/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)' 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)
1909
Platinum print
The Clarence H. White Collection, Princeton University Art Museum

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) "At the Edge of the Woods - Evening" 1901

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“At the Edge of the Woods – Evening” [Letitia Felix]
1901
Chine-collé photogravure
14.4 x 10.1 cm
28.6 x 19.6 cm uncut
Camera Notes, Vol. IV, April 1901

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]' c. 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]
c. 1905
Gum bichromate print
Image: 24.1 x 19 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Mother was living in the old home alone' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mother was living in the old home alone
1902
Photogravure
From the book Eben Holden, John Andrew & Son (Boston) 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]' 1904

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]
1904
Platinum print
Image: 15.6 x 19.6 cm. (6 1/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 36.2 × 43.8 × 3.2 cm (14 1/4 × 17 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
Gift of Edmund T. Weiant

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' 1909, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
1909, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 25.6 x 19.6 cm (10 1/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Morning - The Bathroom' 1906

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning – The Bathroom
1906
Platinum print
22.3 x 18.0 cm. (8 3/4 x 7 1/16 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) "Experiment 28" 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Experiment 28”
1907
Vintage japanese tissue photogravure
20.6 x 15.9 cm
30.2 x 21.1 cm uncut
Published in Camera Work XXVII, 1909

 

 

In 1907, the year after Clarence White arrived in New York City, he collaborated with Photo-Secession founder Alfred Stieglitz on a series of portraits featuring two models. Shown here holding a glass globe, California model Mabel Cramer poses in a portrait later reproduced as a plate in Camera Work. Said to be a friend of the German American photographer Arnold Genthe and possessing a face worthy of Cleopatra, Cramer and a woman known only as a Miss Thompson, posed for a series of photographs intended to promote photography as an equivalent medium to painting. It was the only time Stieglitz would ever work in tandem with another photographer and shows the extent to which the photographers were allied aesthetically and technically.

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Miss Thompson]' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Miss Thompson]
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.7 x 18.4 cm (9 5/16 x 7 1/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Also in 1910, Stieglitz led an effort to create a major exhibition of the Photo-Secession artists at what was then called the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York (now known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). While this effort was announced as a group activity of the Photo-Secession, Stieglitz refused to allow any others to have input or make decision about who would be included in the exhibition and how it would be displayed. Stieglitz, who was already known for his domineering ways and dogmatic approach to photography, took his self-assigned, unilateral authority even beyond his past actions; in this case he proved to have gone too far for several people who had been closely aligned with him. First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.

Stieglitz reacted to these claims and White’s departure in particular with his usual antagonistic manner. Within a short while, he delivered to White most of the negatives and prints he had jointly produced with White in 1907. The split between the two was so deep that Stieglitz wrote to White “One thing I do demand…is that my name not be mentioned by you in connection with either the prints or the negatives…Unfortunately I cannot wipe out the past….” …

Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Torso' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Torso
1907
Platinum print
22.1 x 18.7 cm. (8 11/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In 1907 White and Stieglitz collaborated on a series of nude studies in which they planned to experiment with various lenses and papers. Stieglitz placed the camera and choreographed the poses, much as he would later do in his extensive portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, while White focused the camera and developed the negatives. These three photographs illustrate the range of the imagery and its progression from the most formal and demure image in which the draped Miss Thompson assumes a cool classical pose to the second image which is surprisingly intimate and unaffected. Combining the compositional strength and naturalism of the first two photographs, but exchanging props and interior surroundings for tight framing and expressive chiaroscuro, the third and most accomplished photograph is both modern and sensual. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' c. 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
c. 1909
Platinum print
Image (arched top): 22.5 x 16.5 cm (8 7/8 x 6 1/2 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Morning' 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning
1905
Platinum print
From Camera Work (No. 23, July 1908)

 

 

Morning perfectly embodies the tenets of Pictorialism: expressive, rather than narrative or documentary, content; craftsmanship in the execution of the print; and a carefully constructed composition allied to Impressionist and American Tonalist painting and to popular Japanese prints. His photographs from the period before he moved to New York in 1906 signalled a remove from the modern urban world. Neither genre scene nor narrative tableau, this photograph is a retreat into domesticised nature. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Eugene Debs' c. 1906-08

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Eugene Debs
c. 1906-08
Platinum print
Image: 22.2 x 17.8 cm (8 3/4 x 7 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States. …

Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.63% of the popular vote), 1904 (2.98%), 1908 (2.83%), 1912 (5.99%), and 1920 (3.41%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state Indiana in 1916.

Debs was noted for his oratory, and his speech denouncing American participation in World War I led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium due to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison. He has since been cited as the inspiration for numerous politicians.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alfred Stieglitz
1907
Cyanotype
image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow' 1908

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow
1908
Vintage waxed platinum print
22.1 x 16.6 cm

 

 

“White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s).”

Arthur Wesley Dow (April 6, 1857 – December 13, 1922) was an American painter, printmaker, photographer and influential arts educator.

Dow taught at three major American arts training institutions over the course of his career beginning with the Pratt Institute from 1896-1903 and the New York Art Students League from 1898-1903; then, in 1900, he founded and served as the director of the Ipswich Summer School of Art in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and from 1904 to 1922, he was a professor of fine arts at Columbia University Teachers College.

His ideas were quite revolutionary for the period; he taught that rather than copying nature, art should be created by elements of the composition, like line, mass and colour. He wanted leaders of the public to see art is a living force in everyday life for all, not a sort of traditional ornament for the few. Dow suggested this lack of interest would improve if the way art was presented would permit self-expression and include personal experience in creating art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Clarence H. White' c. 1908-1910

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Clarence H. White
c. 1908-1910
Autochrome
17.5 x 12.5 cm
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

In the decade after the invention of the Kodak point-and-shoot camera in 1888, thousands of men and women began taking their own amateur photographs. Some of them, generally from educated backgrounds and interested in the fine arts, aspired to make aesthetically pleasing images that rivalled paintings and prints in their compositions and tonal effects. These serious photographers, favouring large-format view cameras on tripods, called themselves pictorialists, which merely meant that they were concerned with making artistic “picture” rather than documents.

One of the most successful and influential of these self-taught amateurs was Clarence H. White (1871-1925), who rose from modest origins in Newark, Ohio, to become an internationally known art photographer and teacher. Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 celebrates the short-lived career of this dedicated visionary, which spans the turbulent era from the Gilded Age through the 1913 Armory Show to the Roaring Twenties.

Drawing primarily on the vast collection of prints and archival material acquired by former curator Peter C. Bunnell for the Princeton University Art Museum and from the Library of Congress’s White Family Collection, the exhibition also includes photographs by White’s friends – such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, F. Holland Day, and Gertrude Käsebier – and works by a sampling of the hundreds of students who White trained at Columbia Teachers College, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and the schools he founded in New York, Maine, and Connecticut. Complementing more than 140 rare photographic prints, illustrated books, and albums are paintings and drawings by John White Alexander, Léon Dabo, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Arthur Wesley Dow, Alice Barber Stephens, Edmund Charles Tarbell, Max Weber, and Marius de Zayas that illuminate the artistic milieu in which White’s style evolved.

White’s early career centers on his Midwestern hometown, where he took up the camera in 1894. Squeezing photographic sittings into the spare time he had from his job as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocer, he dressed his wife, her sisters, and his friends in costumes evocative of the colonial or antebellum era and posed them in penumbral interiors or the twilit hills outside Newark. White’s knack for setting up tableaux that were at once naturalistic and yet formally striking won him prizes in regional exhibitions, followed by his acceptance in 1898 in the exclusive group show of art photographs held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His meeting there with Alfred Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and others led to his participation in international exhibitions and his eventual inclusion as a founding member of the group that Stieglitz in 1902 dubbed the “Photo-Secession.” White stood out from his contemporaries for his assimilation of the radical cropping and flattened planes of Japanese prints, his melancholy, introspective women, and his frank, unromanticised portrayals of children.

White’s decision in 1904 to become a full-time photographer and his move in 1906 to New York transformed his life and his subjects. While in Newark, he had already earned extra income from commercial jobs illustrating fiction, primarily stories set in frontier America, such as the bestselling novel by Irving Bacheller, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country. A section of the exhibition reveals the extent to which White, like many Photo-Secessionists, sold portraits, landscapes, and narrative illustrations to magazines – a practice that has received little attention as a result of Alfred Stieglitz’s renowned dismissal of commercial photography.

Another discovery explored in the exhibition is the importance of socialism for White’s aesthetic vision. White’s selection of handmade printing techniques – such as gum prints in which a pigmented gum emulsion is hand applied to drawing paper – and his transformation of each platinum print (made in contact with a negative) into a unique object are indebted to the ideals of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, which valued hand labor over standardised machine production. White’s deep friendship with the family of Stephen M. Reynolds, Eugene Debs’s campaign manager and a leading Indiana socialist, resulted in idealised portraits of a family that embraced the simple life, racial and social equality, and the philosophy that every object in the home should be harmonious. White also went on to celebrate Rose Pastor Stokes and her husband, Graham Stokes, a socialist power couple in the years prior to the American entry into World War I.

Consistent with many socialists’ embrace of Morris and Walt Whitman, White also accepted the undressed human form as natural and free of sin. Throughout his career he made photographs of nude figures, primarily his sons outdoors and young women posed in the studio or in secluded glens. Drawing upon his greater experience with indoor lighting, White joined with Stieglitz in 1907 for a series of soft-focus studies of female models. A sampling of these prints is reunited here for the first time since 1912, when Stieglitz split with White and disavowed this collaborative venture.

The latter part of the exhibition is devoted to White’s innovations as a teacher, which form a major part of his legacy. White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s). At a time when the few American schools that existed to teach photography focused solely on processes and technique, White assigned more open-ended compositional and exposure problems followed by group critiques. Later, at the Clarence H. White School that he founded in New York in 1914, he hired a series of artists (starting with Max Weber) to teach art history and composition. White’s students – represented here by Anton Bruehl, Laura Gilpin, Paul Burty Haviland, Paul Outerbridge, Karl Struss, Doris Ulmann, and Margaret Watkins, among others – mastered abstract principles of framing, cropping, and lighting that prepared them for a wide array of professional careers, including the growing arenas of advertising and fashion photography.

White’s late works include portraits of famous, but now forgotten, actresses and silent film stars, such as Alla Nazimova and Mae Murray, as well as the painter Abbott Thayer and the art director for Condé Nast, Heyworth Campbell. White also tried his hand at fashion photography and welcomed filmmaking into the White School in the months before he led a summer class to Mexico City, where he tragically succumbed to a heart attack at the age of fifty-four.

Far from rejecting modern styles, White accommodated them in his school, although he maintained his preference for matte printing papers and a degree of soft focus for his personal salon prints. What unites his career, and allows his work to speak to us today, is his belief in the transformative power of art and the potential of every individual to craft objects of lasting beauty.

Anne McCauley
David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Untitled [Kitchen still life]' c. 1919-20

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Untitled [Kitchen still life]
c. 1919-20
Gelatin silver print
16 x 18.7 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
Digital image © Museum Associates / LACMA

 

 

Margaret Watkins (1884-1969) was a Canadian photographer who is remembered for her innovative contributions to advertising photography. She lived a life of rebellion, rejection of tradition, and individual heroism; she never married, she was a successful career woman in a time when women stayed at home, and she exhibited eroticism and feminism in her art and writing. …

Watkins opened a studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, and in 1920 became editor of the annual publication Pictorial Photography in America. She worked successfully as an advertising photographer for Macy’s and the J. Walter Thompson Company and Fairfax, becoming one of the first women photographers to contribute to advertising agencies. She also produced landscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes. While teaching at the Clarence White school from 1916 to 1928, her students included Margaret Bourke-White, Laura Gilpin, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner and Doris Ulmann.

One of the earliest art photographers in advertising, her images of everyday objects set new standards of acceptability. From 1928, when she was based in Glasgow, she embarked on street photography in Russia, Germany and France, specialising in store fronts and displays. Watkins died in Glasgow, Scotland in 1969, largely forgotten as a photographer.

Watkins legacy exists in her exemplary work left behind, but also her example as a single, successful woman. According to Queen’s Quarterly, her life is an inspiration for single women, who are fulfilled by their careers, rather than the traditional gender roles women face of fulfilment through marrying and having children.

Before she died, Watkins handed over a sealed box of all her work to her neighbour and executor of her will, Joseph Mulholland. She gave him strict instructions to not open it until after she died. As a result, several solo exhibitions were subsequently held in Britain and North America. When she died in November 1969, she left most of her estate to music charities.

In October 2012, a retrospective exhibition of Margaret Watkins’ work titled “Domestic Symphonies” opened at the National Gallery of Canada. This exhibition showcased 95 of her photographs dating from 1914 – 1939. Of these photos were portraits and landscapes, modern still life, street scenes, advertising work, and commercial designs. Music was a vital inspiration for Watkins, and that can be seen just from the title of this exhibition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine
1917
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 12.1 x 9.8 cm (4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]' 1925

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Printed by Clarence H. White Jr., American, 1907-1978
Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]
1925
Palladium print by Clarence H. White Jr.
Image: 21.9 x 17.1 cm (8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Mae Murray' c. 1919-20

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mae Murray
c. 1919-20
Platinum print with graphite
Image: 24.3 x 14.8 cm (9 9/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Mae Murray (May 10, 1885 – March 23, 1965) was an American actress, dancer, film producer, and screenwriter. Murray rose to fame during the silent film era and was known as “The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips” and “The Gardenia of the Screen”.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Alla Nazimova' 1919

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alla Nazimova
1919
Photogravure
Library of Congress

 

 

Alla Nazimova (Russian: Алла Назимова; born Marem-Ides Leventon; June 3 [O.S. May 22], 1879 – July 13, 1945) was a Russian actress who immigrated to the United States in 1905. On Broadway, she was noted for her work in the classic plays of Ibsen, Chekhov and Turgenev. Her efforts at silent film production were less successful, but a few sound-film performances survive as a record of her art. Nazimova openly conducted relationships with women, and her mansion on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard was believed to be the scene of outlandish parties. She is credited with having originated the phrase “sewing circle” as a discreet code for lesbian or bisexual actresses.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Dancers - Barnard Greek Games' 1922

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Dancers – Barnard Greek Games
1922
Palladium print
Image: 24.5 x 19.6 cm (9 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

The Barnard Greek Games were a tradition at Barnard College pitting the freshman and sophomore classes against one another in a series of competitions. They began in 1903 when the Class of 1905 challenged the Class of 1906 to an informal athletic contest. In later years upperclass students would cheer on their juniors, “odds” cheering for “odds” and “evens” for “evens.” Signature events included a chariot race, with chariots pulled by teams of 4 students, and a torch race. The torch race is captured in the “Spirit of the Greek Games” statue outside Barnard Hall that was given by the Class of 1905 as a gift on the 25th anniversary of the games in 1928. The games, a central part of Barnard campus life, were held annually until 1968, when upheaval on campus caused their cancellation, snuffing out this tradition along with such longstanding features of campus life as the Varsity Show.

After a 22 year absence, the Games were revived in 1989 as part of Barnard’s Centennial celebrations. The games were revived again in 2000, and have been held sporadically since.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Heyworth Campbell' c. 1921

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Heyworth Campbell
c. 1921
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 24 x 18.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 - 1934) 'Portrait of Clarence H. White' c. 1910

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 – 1934)
Portrait of Clarence H. White
c. 1910
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

Note: Digital clean and print balance by Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Princeton University Art Museum
McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ ‎
T: (609) 258-3788

The Museum is located on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, simply follow the lamppost Museum banners.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday 12.00 – 5.00 pm

Princeton University Art Museum website

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16
Oct
11

Essay / review: ‘In camera and in public’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates:  16th September – 23rd October 2011

Curator: Naomi Cass

Artists: ASIO de-classified photos and footage, Denis Beaubois (France/Australia), Luc Delahaye (France), Cherine Fahd (Australia), Percy Grainger (Australia/USA), Bill Henson (Australia), Sonia Leber and David Chesworth (Australia), Walid Raad (Lebanon/USA), Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japan)

 

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949 -1980. 'Author Frank Hardy in the doorway of the Building Workers Industrial Union, 535 George St, Sydney, August 1955'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Author Frank Hardy in the doorway of the Building Workers Industrial Union, 535 George St, Sydney, August 1955
NAA A9626, 212

 

 

Un/aware and in re/pose: the self, the subject and the city

Keywords of essay: surveillance, surveillance photography, the gaze, the camera, photography, stolen images, voyeurism, scopophilia, public/private, disciplinary systems, facework, civil inattention, portrait, social history, persons of interest, the city, the self, subject, awareness, repose, reciprocity, the spectacle, the spectator.

 

 

“The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world.”

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Marcus Bunyan 2011

 

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

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Walker Evans

 

“Texts that testify do not simply report facts but, in different ways, encounter – and make us encounter – strangeness.”

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Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub 1

 

 

Curated by Naomi Cass as part of the Melbourne Festival, this is a brilliant exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. The exhibition explores, “the fraught relationship between the camera and the subject: where the image is stolen, candid or where the unspoken contract between photographer and subject is broken in some way – sometimes to make art, sometimes to do something malevolent.”2 It examines the promiscuity of gazes in public/private space specifically looking at surveillance, voyeurism, desire, scopophilia, secret photography and self-reflexivity. It investigates the camera and its moral and physical relationship to the unsuspecting subject. Does the camera see something different if the subject is unaware? Is the viewer complicit in the process as they (repeatedly) stare at the photographs? Are we all implicated in a kind of “mass social surveillance” based on Foucault’s concept of the self-regulating disciplinary society, a society that is watched from a single, panoptic vantage point (that of the omnipresent camera lens) and through the agency of the watchers watching each other?3 More on this later in the writing.

 

To the left

A selection of photographs from the series The Sleepers by Cherine Fahd, A4 sized black and white photographs of homeless people, asleep on the grass in a park, taken in secret from a sixth floor apartment in Kings Cross, Sydney. Fahd “went to great pains to make sure her subjects were anonymous, unidentifiable, their faces turned away”4 resulting in photographs of corpse-like bodies on contextless backgrounds – wrapped, isolated, entwined, covered in shadow, the bodies disorientated in space and consequently disorientating the gaze of the viewer.

 

To the right

A selection of photographs from the Crowd Series (1980-82) by Bill Henson. Snapped in secret these black and white journalistic surveillance photographs (‘taken’ in an around Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne) have a brooding intensity and melancholic beauty. Henson uses a flattened perspective that is opposed to the principles of linear perspective in these photographs. Known as The Art of Describing5 and much used in Dutch still life painting of the 17th century to give equal weight to objects within the image plane, here Henson uses the technique to emphasise the mass and jostle of the crowd with their “waiting, solemn and compliant” people.

“When exhibiting the full series, Henson arranges the works into small groupings that create an overall effect of aberrant movement and fragmentation. From within these bustling clusters of images, individual faces emerge like spectres of humanity that will once again dissolve into the crowd … all apparently adrift in the flow of urban life. The people in these images have an anonymity that allows them to represent universal human experiences of alienation, mortality and fatigue.”6

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Henson states, “The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’… The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.”7 His observation is astute but for me it is the un/awareness of the people in these photographs that are their beauty, their insertion into the crowd but their isolation from the crowd and from themselves. As Maggie Finch observes, it is “that feeling of being both alone and private in a crowd, thus free but also exposed.”8

In the sociologist Erving Goffman’s terms the photographs can be seen as examples of what he calls “civil inattention”9 which is a carefully monitored demonstration of what might be called polite estrangement, the “facework” as we glance at people in the crowd, holding the gaze of the other only briefly, then looking ahead as each passes the other.

“Civil inattention is the most basic type of facework commitment involved in encounters with strangers in circumstances of modernity. It involves not just the use of the face itself, but the subtle employment of bodily posture and positioning which gives off the message “you may trust me to be without hostile intent” – in the street, public buildings, trains or buses, or at ceremonial gatherings, parties, or other assemblies. Civil inattention is TRUST as ‘background noise’ – not as a random collection of sounds, but as carefully restrained and controlled social rhythms. It is characteristic of what Goffman calls “unfocused interaction.””10

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This is what I believe Henson’s photographs are about. Not so much the tenderness of the child’s hand but a fear of engagement with the ‘other’. As such they can be seen as image precursors to the absence/presence of contemporary communication and music technologies. How many times do people talk on their mobile phone or listen to iPods in crowds, on trams and trains, physically present but absenting themselves from interaction with other people. Here but not here; here and there. The body is immersed in absent presence, present and not present, conscious and not conscious, aware and yet not aware of the narratives of a ‘recipro/city failure’. A failure to engage with the light of place, the time of exposure and an attentiveness to the city.

As Susan Stewart insightfully observes,

“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness … The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine.”11

 

On a pedestal

Travelling in the city, in a machine (in this case a subway train) is the subject of the next body of work in the exhibition, represented by the book L’Autre (The Other) by French artist Luc Delahaye.12 Using a hidden camera Delahaye photographs the commuters faces in repose.

“I stole these photographs between ’95 and ’97 in the Paris metro. ‘Stole’ because it is against the law to take them, it’s forbidden. The law states that everyone owns their own image. But our image, this worthless alias of ourselves, is everywhere without us knowing it. How and why can it be said to belong to us? But more importantly, there’s another rule, that non-aggression pact we all subscribe to: the prohibition against looking at others. Apart from the odd illicit glance, you keep staring at the wall. We are very much alone in these public places and there’s violence in this calm acceptance of a closed world.”13

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This is another example of Goffman’s civil inattention as Delahaye stares into the distance and feigns absence long enough to get his stolen photograph (much like Walker Evans earlier photographs of people on the New York subway photographed with Evans’s camera concealed inside his overcoat).14 Here the photographs are much closer cropped than Evans’, allowing the viewer no escape from staring at the stolen faces. The faces seen in repose remind me of the composite portraits of criminals and the diseased, Specimens of Composite Portraiture c. 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, remembering that one of the earliest scientific functions of the camera was to document the likenesses of criminals, degenerates and other aberrant beings. We must also remember that, as Geoffrey Batchen suggests, “we are so used to the idea that we are always being watched that we might have turned our whole lives into “a grand, impenetrable pose” because we assume the camera eye is always present.”15

In the physiognomy of these faces the viewer is asked to assess a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance. While the viewer may be complicit in this task we must also remember that the photographer who stole these photographs has also re/posed these faces, choosing which people to secretly photograph and culling images that did not meet his conceptual project. We find no smiling or laughing faces in the book, no context is given (the photographs being tightly cropped on the body and face) and the phatic image, the one that grabs us has been manipulated, reposed and restaged for our edification. While the subject may be unaware of being photographed and their face may be in repose, this repose is as much a cultural construct as if they had known their photograph was being taken.

As John Berger and Jean Mohr write,

“The photographer choses the events he photographs. This choice can be thought of as a cultural construction. The space for this construction is, as it were, cleared by his rejection of what he did not choose to photograph.”16

 

On the wall in front

Series of images from Persons of Interest: ASIO surveillance photographs 1949-1980 taken in secret to record the state’s purported enemies (ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australia’s national security service, which is responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically-motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, and terrorism). The photographs were not taken as art and served a purely utilitarian purpose, that of recording and documenting the conversations and movements of persons of interest to the powers that be. “The camera can’t change the world, but there’s an idea that it can protect us – hence surveillance, which promises to watch over us, and watch out for us, rather than merely watch.”17

According to Haydn Keenan, director of the documentary Persons of Interest “Surveillance secretly records an image of someone so that the recorder so that the recorder can have advantage over the subject. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes social, but the very essence of surveillance is the secret theft of the image.”18 Keenan goes on to identify four types of photographic surveillance:

  1. Photographs taken by ASIO agents who are known to the person of interest. These are particularly disconcerting because they are the kind of intimate photographs that you would see in a family album
  2. ASIO photographer taking photographs in public, at demos and public meetings, always happening to get the person of interest “in the frame” so to speak.
  3. Long lens photographs taken by setting up an observation post and then sitting down and waiting.
  4. Photographs taken by what was called a ‘butterbox’ – a camera concealed in another object like a briefcase.19

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There are thousands of these images, photographs of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The closely cropped black and white photographs have an intimacy and anonymity to them. They build up a mental image of the changing face of what the State saw as threat: Aboriginal land rights, gay rights, women’s liberation, anti-Vietnam demonstrations, youth culture, Communism – and now terrorism. These photographs evince an inherent suspicion about social issues and they had the power to dramatically alter lives (through the loss of work or home, through imprisonment). “Yet what ASIO didn’t realise is that they were constructing an invaluable social history of Australian dissent as they gradually confused subversion with dissent.”20 The eye of the beholder cast a dark shadow but one that would not remain private forever.

 

Around the corner

The largest series of the exhibition, The Park by Japanese photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki (1971-1979), features twenty-five luscious A3 sized black and white photographs with deep blacks, framed in thin white, wood frames. The photographs were taken in Japanese parks at night where fornicating couples use public space as private space. In most cases the couples were not aware they were being observed by voyeurs and if they were, “with exhibitionist complicity, they fornicate to an audience of peeping Toms.”21 What they were definitely not aware of was that they were being photographed. As Amelia Groom observes, “The levels of complicity, performativity and victimisation of the subjects remains ambiguous.”22

These informal, grainy, infra-red flash photographs, “were first published in 1972 in the popular ‘secret camera’ genre magazine Shukan Shincho and were not initially considered as art photography … however they also sit within a broad tradition of voyeurism in Japanese art.”23 Starting in mid-distance the photographs eventually close right in on the subject matter, tightly composed on the mass of hands going everywhere, the flash over exposing various elements of the infra-red composition. The photographs are most effective when the viewer does not see the object of desire, but is positioned behind the voyeur who is hidden behind the hedge, looking. The viewpoint of the erotic act is denied, is out of shot/sight. We are literally “lined up right behind Yoshiyuki in the chain of voyeurism”24 imbibing the camera’s active, desiring masculine gaze. “Looking at Yoshiyuki’s images induces an uneasiness that has something to do with seeing the seer looking while seeing ourselves being seen looking.”25 The photographs are multiply voyeuristic, implicating the watchers, the photographer and us.26 But they implicate us only as part of a larger cultural signification.

Penny Modra in The Sunday Age M magazine observes of these photographs that, “you are a peeping Tom peeping at peeping Toms peeping at people.”27 I believe it is more than that. The definition of “peeping” is that of stealing a quick glance; to peer through a small aperture or from behind something (peering through a small aperture number is quite an appropriate metaphor since we are dealing with the photographic lens). While this may be true of the act of photography itself it is not true of the process of photography that took place to get the photographer to the point of exposure. Yoshiyuki himself “assembled the story of his association with the park voyeurs and details how the series was shot after spending six months getting to know those observers in the shrubbery.”28 Much as Diane Arbus befriended the subjects in her photographs, Yoshiyuki, rather than having a furtive glance of desire, planned his series using the all seeing narrative eye trained on its target over several months. He positions his subject squarely in his line of sight. And while a voyeur “can be defined as a person who observes without participation, a powerless or passive spectator … a photographer, contemplating a nude or any sexual subject is also a voyeur, but someone with a camera, or the means to distribute a photograph, is not entirely passive or powerless.”29 This power can be seen in the fame that the series has bought the photographer, his infamous series now heralded around the world.

 

At the centre

Black and white ‘snapshot’ photographs from the series Lust Branch by Percy Grainger, printed between 1933 and 1942, that document his sadomasochistic sexual practices including ‘self beating’ which he believed were intrinsic to his creativity. The envelope containing some of the photographs was marked “Private Matters: Do Not Open Until 10 (ten) Years After My Death.” The archive has the quality of forensic records as it documents, in a quasi-scientific Victorian tradition, evidence of his proclivities, his normalcy. The dark 4″ x 5″ brown-toned photographs show Grainger posing in a domestic setting (in Kansas) with a chair and also show the use of a suspended mirror to document his fustigations. Robert Nelson states that the shock of these images isn’t the flagellantism itself but that we’re looking at it. “The transgression isn’t the perversity but the breach of privacy the composer orchestrated: he lashed himself not only with a whip but a camera.”30 Personally I don’t register this shock as S/M practices have regularly been part of my life. What I find more disquieting is people who try to define what is normal and what should be recorded or not and by whom and who gets to see them.

I vividly remember going to the Minor White archive at Princeton University and seeing photographs of erect penises taken by White (who was gay) and thinking why I hadn’t seen these photographs before. The shock was not of seeing them but the fact that they were still hidden and had never been reproduced. Similarly, at The Kinsey Institute there are colour photographs of 1950s physique magazine body builders having full on sex, never to be seen in public. Also at the Kinsey are erotic photographs by the gay George Platt Lynes, taken for his own pleasure but never exhibited in public.31 Lynes had to resort to sending his erotic work to an early German pornographic magazine to get the photographs published. Taking these photographs is not a breach of privacy but an expression of normalcy, freedom and creativity.

 

In conclusion

“The idea of a photographic ‘gaze’ relates to a specific way of looking, and being looked at through the camera, and implies a certain psychological relationship of power and control.”32 Foucault’s analysis of the gaze as a means of surveillance, which is predatory and controlling, used to classify and discipline, allows the camera and mirror to be equated as tools of self-reflection and surveillance, where the double (created through self-reflection and surveillance) can be alienated from the self, taken away (like a photograph) for closer examination.33 Victor Burgin in his seminal 1977 essay Looking at photographs “argues that the ‘recording eye’ of the camera sets it apart from the subject at which it looks. The camera creates an ordering device which ‘depicts a scene and the gaze of the spectator, an object and a viewing subject.’“34 The camera’s gaze is not passive, it is active; it imparts its own subjectivity forming a triangular relationship between the object being photographed, camera and photographer. It has its own reality.

In a society where we are living in the age of ubiquitous networked photography35 the borders between public and private are collapsing. The idea that the gazer is able to see but not be seen; in essence, that the looking is anonymous36 is becoming a fallacy. Everything, even the watcher, becomes visible (after an ever shorter time). The separation that takes place between the looker and the looked-at is disappearing; we all know we are being watched even as we watch (and post) ourselves. “The act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle … are [becoming] one.”37

I would suggest that there is no fixed definition of private and public. For example even after people sign out from Facebook the sites they visit are still tracked.38 Anything that you post on Facebook, the music you like – if you just listen to it, Facebook takes it to mean that you approve of it and distributes it too your friends. Similarly with CCTV, ASIO images, mobile phone images, what is thought of as an invasion of privacy is eventually made public through FOI, leaking, teenage girls posting online (Ricky Nixon) etc … As noted earlier someone with a camera, or the means to distribute a photograph, is not entirely passive or powerless.

Even as the photographer “lifts” the object of his attention with his machine, the camera, he “takes” a picture, “and in so doing he makes a claim for that object or that composition, and a claim for his act of seeing in the first place … transposing a particular and emphatically personal point of view”39 and making a claim for the very act of seeing itself. The thing itself (the object photographed) and the way the photographer looks at it cannot be separated. In other words, in constant oscillation, we stand behind but also in front of the metaphorical camera: “I am nothing; I see all.”40

We know that we are being monitored and so we conform; even if no one is there, even if we cannot see the guard (as in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison) we suspect we are being watched and so self regulate our behaviour. “And yet, our contemporary society … has ironically embraced surveillance … This is most apparent in social media where millions of people regularly upload their most intimate moments via webcam … we happily embrace the mechanisms devised to control us and turn them into a kind of freefall celebration.”41

“It is though the millions of people, artists or not, who produce and publish images of themselves, their friends, surroundings and ideas in a sort of mass social surveillance (while often being tracked by the devices they are using) are implicated … in surveillance as a source of entertainment and personal gratification.”42

Surveillance, sousveillance as the sight of (perverse) resistance.

.
These contradictory, constantly shifting contemporary information and image flows tends to erode the moral authority of any social order, patriarchal or otherwise, opening up an expanded and abstracted terrain of becoming. Images exceed, incorporate or reverse the values that are presumed to reside within them.43 These phatic images, for that is what they are – targeted images that force you to look and hold your attention – “produce a ‘message-intensification’ within the visual image that accentuates pictorial detail while simultaneously forcing image context and location to recede or disappear. The phatic image is at once technically-mediated, manipulable, intensified and perhaps most importantly for [Paul] Virilio de-localized.”44 This can be observed in bodies of work in this exhibition: most have no image context or defined location while intensifying their message through close-up details. All have been circulated around the world for consumption. Vision is everywhere and nowhere at one and the same time.

The person who gazes is not unfamiliar with the world upon which he looks; he understands the image as seen from without as another would see it, in the midst of the visible.45 No longer is the image seen or considered from a certain spot. That vision is decentred by the networks of signifiers that come to me from the social milieu …

“The viewing subject does not stand at the center of the perceptual horizon, and cannot command the chains and series of signifiers passing across the visual domain. Vision unfolds to the side of, in tangent to, the field of the other. And to that form of seeing Lacan gives a name: seeing on the field of the other, seeing under the Gaze.”46

.
While the self and environment are under constant surveillance in an attempt to resemble the truth, to re-assemble the referentiality of the image, it is not the breakdown of an already existing web of visuality (the disciplinary gaze of surveillance) but the wilful amending of its intent that opens up new terrains of becoming. In the public city it is the publicity of the image that will continue to thwart the controlling eye. We are all actors in a performative space, transforming the gaze and collapsing its vision into the tactile worlds of virtual reality (Ron Burnett), “engaging with ideas of pose, of masquerade, of performance, of witness and record as they transact across increasingly contingent boundaries of private and public, fact and artifice,”47 to question who we become in the necessarily public register of the photographic – the public register of memory and history.48

Each enframing of reality opens up the possibility of new discourses. The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world. Does the painting emerge from the figure or the figure from the painting?

Does the image/reality emerge from the image …

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 3,870

.
Many thank to the CCP and Naomi Cass for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Text © Centre for Contemporary Photography 2011.

 

Endnotes

  1. Felman, Shoshana and Laub, Dori. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. London: Routledge, 1992, p. 5 quoted in  Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227-228
  2. Stephens, Andrew. “Who’s watching you?” in The Saturday Age. 23rd September 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated from the French by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977 cited in McDonald, Helen. “It’s Rude to Stare,” Footnote 9 in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 25
  4. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  5. See Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. University Of Chicago Press, 1984
  6. AnonBILL HENSON: early work from the MGA collection. Education Resource. A Monash Gallery of Art Travelling Exhibition [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. No longer available online
  7. Henson, Bill quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  8. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  9. See  Goffman, E. Behaviour in Public Places. New York: Free Press, 1963
  10. Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, pp. 82-83
  11. Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 2. Prologue
  12. Delahaye, Luc. L’Autre. Phaidon Press, 1999
  13. Delahaye, Luc quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  14. Morrison, Blake. “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera,” on the The Guardian website 22nd May 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  15. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  16. Berger, John and Mohr, Jean. Another Way of Telling. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982, pp. 92-93
  17. Morrison, Op. cit.,
  18. Keenan, Haydn. “A Job for the Dogs,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 18
  19. Ibid.,
  20. Keenan, Haydn quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  21. Nelson, Robert. “Snapped in the moment – forever,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, October 5th 2011, p. 19
  22. Groom, Amelia. “Seeing Darkness,” in Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park. Institute of Modern Art pamphlet for the exhibition
  23. Cass, Naomi quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  24. Groom, Op. cit.,
  25. Ibid.,
  26. Goldberg, Vicky. “Voyeurism Exposed,” on Artnet magazine website. 2010 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  27. Modra, Penny. The Sunday Age M magazine. September 25th, 2011
  28. Gefter, Philip. “Sex in the Park, and its Sneaky Spectators,” in The New York Times, 23rd September 2007 cited in Lida, Shihoko. “Gaze without Subjectivity: Kohei Yoshiyuki and Yoko Asakai,” Footnote 4 in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 28
  29. Goldberg, Op. cit.,
  30. Nelson, Op cit.,
  31. See Bunyan, Marcus, “Thesis Notes II – Research Notes and Papers: Research Notes on the Photographs from the Collection at The Minor White Archive and The Kinsey Insitute,” in Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. 2001 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. Click on the menu on the left hand side
  32. Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p. 2
  33. Ibid.,
  34. Burgin, Victor, “Looking at photographs,” in Burgin, Victor (ed.,). Thinking Photography. London: Macmillan Education, 1987, p. 146 quoted in Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p. 3
  35. Palmer, Daniel and Whyte, Jessica. “‘No credible photographic interest’: photographic restrictions and surveillance in a time of terror,” in Philosophy of Photography Vol. 1, No. 2, 2010, p. 182
  36. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings in Braudy, Leo and Cohen, Marshall (eds.,). New York: Oxford UP, 1999, pp. 833-44 cited in Boen, Ashley. “The Male Pornographic Gaze,” on Boen, Ashley. Cultures of the Camera: The Male Gaze website [Online] Cited 15/10/2011. No longer available online
  37. Parrington, Vernon Louis. Main Currents in American Thought 1927-1930. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1930 quoted in Blinder, Caroline. “”The Transparent Eyeball”: On Emerson and Walker Evans,” Footnote 11 in Mosaic: a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2004. Vol. 37, Iss. 4; pg. 149, 15 pgs
  38. Bloomberg. “Facebook in tracking suit,” in The Age newspaper. Monday, October 3rd 2011, p. 3
  39. Blinder, Caroline. “”The Transparent Eyeball”: On Emerson and Walker Evans,” Footnote 11 in Mosaic : a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2004. Vol. 37, Iss. 4; pg. 149, 15 pgs
  40. Ibid.,
  41. Marsh, Anne. “Surveillance Art: Genre and Political Action,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 57
  42. King, Natalie and Fraser, Virginia. “People Who Love To Watch,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 15
  43. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15
  44. Virilio, Paul. “A topographical amnesia,” in The Vision Machine. London: British Film Institute, 1994 cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/10/2011. No longer available online
  45. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Le Visible et l’invisible. Paris: 1964, p. 177 (trans. by Alphonso Lingis, Evanston, 1968, p. 134) quoted in Damisch, Hubert. The Origin of Perspective. (trans. John Goodman). Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 1994, pp. 34-35
  46. Foster, Hal (ed.,). Vision and Visuality. Bay Press, Seattle: Dia Art Foundation Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Number 2, 1988, p. 94
  47. French, Blair. “The Things That Bill Sees,” catalogue essay from the exhibition Perfect Strangers. Canberra: Canberra Contemporary Art Space, 2000, np.
  48. Ibid.,

 

 

Cherine Fahd. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Sleepers' 2005-2008

 

Cherine Fahd (Australian, b. 1974)
Untitled
From the series The Sleepers
2005 – 2008
Lightjet print
28.5 × 40.2 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Cherine Fahd. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Sleepers' 2005-2008

 

Cherine Fahd (Australian, b. 1974)
Untitled
From the series The Sleepers
2005 – 2008
Lightjet print
28.5 × 40.2 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

In 2003 I began photographing people I didn’t know in the streets of Paris, working in a conventional street photography style. I became a prowler searching for photographic opportunities in the faces and gestures of total strangers, fascinated with capturing private moments within the public realm.

In 2005 I was living on the sixth floor of an apartment in Kings Cross, Sydney, below was a park unadorned by play equipment or even a bench. From my window I could see homeless people asleep on the grass in the middle of the day. What struck me most were their bodies resting in dappled light and gesturing in ways usually saved for private moments. The drape of their clothes and the quality of light reminded me of so many paintings I had seen.

So The Sleepers began. I photographed people asleep in the park with my mini DV camera, which allowed me to zoom in and capture detail but also allowed for a grainy image reminiscent of surveillance footage. In the sleeping posture – curled up or lying flat – people generally covered their faces, ensuring their anonymity. I liked this aspect of the work. Although I was photographing them unawares, I wasn’t really intruding if I couldn’t see their faces. Oddly, I have stopped working in this candid way. I wasn’t sure why at the time. In retrospect I understand that it became too difficult because audiences became obsessed with whether I had permission to photograph people. I never considered asking anyone if I could take their photo. It would have defeated the whole point. People change when they know there is a camera present, better to let them be.

The moral dilemmas engulfing candid photography are not something I am interested in addressing in my work. I would much rather ponder whether their faces, or their bodies, or their gestures are cues to something more mysterious, spiritual and human.

Cherine Fahd 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki. 'Untitled' 1971 From the series 'The Park'

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, b. 1946)
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki. 'Untitled' 1971 From the series 'The Park'

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, b. 1946)
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Yosi Milo Gallery Kohei Yoshiyuki artist
Untitled 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979 from the series The Park
Edition various of 10
25 gelatin silver prints
40.64 – 50.8 cm
Courtesy the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park is presented in association with the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane

 

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki’s now infamous documentation of voyeurism features confronting photographs of public space clandestinely used as private space at night: Japanese parks where, in the absence of privacy, young people perform intimate acts while being watched by onlookers.

During the 1970s, young commercial photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki (a pseudonym; his real name remains unknown) frequented Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Yoyogi and Aoyama parks at night with a 35mm camera, infrared film and a flash. Photographed over a decade, the series was exhibited at the Komai Gallery in Tokyo in 1979 where the images were printed life-size and exhibited in the dark while visitors used hand held torches to view the photographs. These prints were subsequently destroyed.1

Images from The Park were first published in 1972 in the popular ‘secret camera’ genre magazine Shukan Shincho and were not initially considered as art photography.2 However, Yoshiyuki’s series also sits within a broad tradition of voyeurism in Japanese art, including eighteenth and nineteenth century erotic ukiyo-e prints and in cinema.

In 1980 Yoshiyuki published a further selection and, in 1989, he wrote about the process of getting to know the park voyeurs. In 2006 Yoshiyuki was included in Martin Parr’s publication The Photobook: A History: Volume 2 as an unknown innovator, prompting Yossi Milo Gallery to track down the reclusive artist and convince him to reprint the remaining negatives for what became a highly successful exhibition in 2007.

Of the relationship between couples and voyeur Yoshiyuki wrote: ‘The couples were not aware of the voyeurs in most cases. The voyeurs try to look at the couple from a distance … then slowly approach toward the couple behind the bushes, and from the blind spots of the couple they try to come as close as possible, and finally peep from a very close distance. But sometimes there are the voyeurs who try to touch … and gradually escalating – then trouble would happen.’3

Naomi Cass text from the exhibition catalogue

 

  1. Amelia Groom. ‘Seeing Darkness’, in Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park exhibition catalogue, IMA, Brisbane, July 2011
  2. Shihoko Iida, ‘Gaze without subjectivity’, Artlink: Art and Surveillance, 31: 3, 2011, p. 28
  3. Philip Gefter, ‘Sex in the Park, and its Sneaky Spectators’, The New York Times, 23 Sept 2007

 

Luc Delahaye. 'Untitled' from the series 'L'Autre' 1995/1997

 

Luc Delahaye (French, b. 1962)
Untitled
1995/1997
From the series L’Autre
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia

 

 

I stole these photographs between ’95 and ’97 in the Paris metro. ‘Stole’ because it is against the law to take them, it’s forbidden. The law states that everyone owns their own image. But our image, this worthless alias of ourselves, is everywhere without us knowing it. How and why can it be said to belong to us? But more importantly, there’s another rule, that non-aggression pact we all subscribe to: the prohibition against looking at others. Apart from the odd illicit glance, you keep staring at the wall. We are very much alone in these public places and there’s violence in this calm acceptance of a closed world.

I am sitting in front of someone to record his image, the form of evidence, but just like him I too stare into the distance and feign absence. I try to be like him. It’s all a sham, a necessary lie lasting long enough to take a picture. If to look is to be free, the same holds true for photographing: I hold my breath and let the shutter go.

Luc Delahaye, from L’Autre, Phaidon Press, London, 1999 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Luc Delahaye. 'Untitled' from the series 'L'Autre' 1995/1997

 

Luc Delahaye (French, b. 1962)
Untitled
1995/1997
From the series L’Autre
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia

 

 

To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.

.
Susan Sontag On Photography 1977

 

 

In camera and in pubic is about the relationship between camera and subject when this is fraught in some way, in particular, where the subject is not aware of being photographed, where the contract between photographer and subject has been broken.

Candid photography has been critical in the development of art and evidential photography, in revealing aspects of our history and society which have been hidden, ignored, lied about or simply abandoned. Candid photography has delivered some of the most widely regarded, potent and treasured images.

However, the camera is merely a technical device and some would even say a dumb device, which can be, and is used for contradictory and malicious ends. Candid photography has also hurt, harmed and destroyed people. There are more images in the world than ever before, and image sharing technologies in the hands of those with subversive, destructive or immature desires. Paradoxically, on one hand there is greater access to unmediated information of all genres through the internet but also a counter move of public disquiet about candid photography. Many well-regarded, indeed renowned photographers will no longer photograph at the beach, by a pubic pool, at a junior sports match, on the street. The context for photography has changed.

This exhibition looks at the physical and moral proximity of camera to subject in both historical and contemporary work by Cherine Fahd, Bill Henson, Luc Delahaye, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Denis Beaubois, Percy Grainger, Walid Raad and declassified ASIO images from the late 1940s to the 1980s.

In viewing In camera… it is sobering to consider where the photographer is positioned, to viscerally experience the proximity of camera to unsuspecting subject because, importantly, the exhibition moves from candid photography taken with the sole intention of making art (Henson, Fahd, Delahaye, Leber and Chesworth, Raad and Yoshiyuki) through to the intention of surveillance. Not surprisingly, on first view, even the declassified ASIO images are compelling and beautiful.

Of the artists, the viewer might well ask, have you obtained permission to photograph? But as we all know the unprepared body and face reveals quite a different story than the figure composed for the camera. It is the non-composed figure which is the lifeblood of much art and photography.

Surveillance is in part the subject of work by Denis Beaubois, Walid Raad and to some extent in Leber and Chesworth’s multi-media work. Certainly Beaubois, Leber and Chesworth consider the role of architectural space and the all-seeing eye of the state and in the latter, the eye of god within the panopticon of the domed cathedral. Walid Raad puts the tedium of surveillance in perspective when his fictional operative repeatedly forgoes his designated work to relish the setting sun.

In camera and in public exploits the form of CCP’s nautilus galleries and reflects the progress of the camera turned towards an unsuspecting subject until Gallery 4 where, in the hand of Percy Grainger, the camera is turned towards himself, in an astonishing series of vintage photographs, possibly created for display in the Grainger Museum. ‘In camera’ and in public, indeed. In 1941 Grainger wrote, “Most museums, most cultural endeavours, suffer from being subjected to too much taste, too much elimination, too much selection, too much specialisation! What we want (in museums and cultural records) is all-sidedness, side lights, crossreferences.”

We all love to stare, to linger, to see what we might have missed, and with advancing technologies, to see what is unavailable to the naked human eye, and here lies the problem. In looking at these images, are we implicated in an act of transgression?”

Text Naomi Cass September 2011 from the exhibition catalogue

 

Denis Beaubois. 'In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…' 1996-1997

 

Denis Beaubois (Mauritius, b. 1970)
In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…
1996-1997
DVD
9 mins 30 secs
Courtesy the artist

 

 

This work explores the relationship between the individual and the metropolis. Twelve sites were selected around the city of Sydney where surveillance cameras are prominently placed, the locations were mapped out and the stage for this work was created. A daily pilgrimage was made to the sites for a period of three days. No permission was sought for the use of these sites. The performer arrived unannounced and carried out his actions. Upon arrival the performer attempted to engage with the electronic eye. The performer’s actions were directed to the camera, which adopted the role of audience.

The primary audience was the surveillance camera (or those who monitor them). Their willingness to observe is not based upon the longing for entertainment. It stems from a necessity to assess and monitor designated terrain. Imbued with a watchdog consciousness, the primary audience scans the field for suspects, clues and leads. Like many audiences, it assesses the scene and attempts to pre-empt the plot. However this audience is extremely discerning and, ultimately, by assessing and reacting to the event it also adopts the role of performer.

Within this metropolis the walls do not have ears but are equipped with eyes. The city must understand the movements of those who dwell within its domain. To successfully achieve this it must be capable of reading its inhabitants. What can be read can be controlled in theory. Yet the city’s eyes are not content following the narrative provided by its inhabitants. The city weaves its own text within the surface narrative. A paranoid fiction based on foresight.

Denis Beaubois 1997 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Denis Beaubois. 'In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…' 1996-1997

 

Denis Beaubois (Mauritius, b. 1970)
In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…
1996-1997
DVD
9 mins 30 secs
Courtesy the artist

 

 

In camera and in public represents a very different approach to this year’s Festival theme of protest and revolution. Taking a look at society through the lens of the state, the street photographer, the artist and the eye of the voyeur, this exhibition curated by Naomi Cass examines the abandonment of the contract between photographer and subject.

Ranging from candid street photography through to surveillance photography, In camera explores the camera and its relationship to the subject, unaware of being photographed. From images taken in public spaces, including a series of striking faces taken on the Paris metro, the exhibition proceeds to the grainy anxiety of declassified ASIO photos from the 1960s.

Kohei Yoshiyuki’s now infamous documentation of voyeurism, The Park (1970-1979), features confronting photographs of public space clandestinely used as private space at night: Japanese parks where, in the absence of privacy, young people perform intimate acts while being watched by onlookers.

At the heart of CCP galleries are Percy Grainger’s extraordinary naked self-portraits from his so-called ‘lust branch’ collection, hand printed by Grainger between 1933 and 1942. Here the camera is turned on himself, in camera.

Cherine Fahd offers frank photographs of daytime sleeping bodies in a Kings Cross park taken from her 6th floor apartment, while Bill Henson captures hauntingly beautiful crowd scenes during the 1980s. Sonia Leber and David Chesworth secretly film from the dome of St Pauls Cathedral, London and Walid Raad impersonates a fictional operative who failing in his surveillance task, repeatedly films the sunset.

Finally, Denis Beaubois, with a playful and performative video, seeks a kind of revenge of the subject, through his attempts to engage with a number of surveillance cameras, inviting the camera to respond to pleas earnestly delivered on cue cards.”

Press release from the CCP website

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled 1980/82'

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 1980/82
Gelatin silver chlorobromide print
From a series of 220
57.5 × 53.4 cm
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 1980/82
Gelatin silver chlorobromide print
from a series of 220
57.5 × 53.4 cm
courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’ and in trying to show, in this case through envisioning the crowd, how an awesome, unassailable, even monumental, beauty and grace might attend the undulating, fluid mass of a wall of people as they move toward you.

It is the contradictory nature of life and the way in which this can be suggested in art which first drew me to photograph crowds – much as this underpins my interest in any art form…

The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.

Bill Henson 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949-1980 'Writer Frank Hardy, St Kilda, July 1964'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Writer Frank Hardy, St Kilda, July 1964
NAA 9626, 212

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949 -1980. 'Eddie Mabo, CPA district conference, Townsville, September 1965'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Eddie Mabo, CPA district conference, Townsville, September 1965
NAA A9626, 162

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Curated by Haydn Keenan
Selected surveillance images from a forthcoming documentary series from Smart Street Films

 

 

I discovered these images as part of my research for our documentary series Persons Of Interest which will be screened on SBS early next year. They are part of a massive archive of pictures secretly recorded by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from 1949 onwards.

These images are not art. Unlike art these pictures have the power to alter lives dramatically. Be photographed at the wrong place and you’ll find it hard to get a job, when you do you’ll get the sack soon after. Appear in these images and your career will go nowhere without explanation. The eye of the beholder will cast a shadow you will not see until thirty years later when you get access to your file.

The photos create a strange world of frozen youth, high hopes and issues that were seen as subversive then but are now so integrated into the mainstream that they need explanation for Gen Y. ASIO was created to hunt down and eliminate a Soviet spy ring operating in Canberra in the late 1940s. Most of the members of the spy ring were connected with or were members of the Communist Party of Australia. For the next forty years ASIO followed everything the Party did.

The purpose of photographic surveillance is to identify Persons Of Interest in a definitive manner and to record their associations and contacts thereby building a network. Surveillance would occur during demonstrations, May Day marches and at political meetings. It would also occur at specific locations and everyone entering or leaving the location would be recorded. Each person in a photograph with an ASIO file would have an identifying number marked on the image next to them.

I have thousands of these images and what I have noticed is that one builds up a mental image of the changing face of what the State saw as a threat. What starts as the hunt for Communist spies gradually evolves into suspicion about social issues like Aboriginal land rights, youth culture, Women’s Liberation, anti Vietnam, Apartheid – even amateur actors at New Theatre were thoroughly photographed. There’s even a file on the Mother’s Club at Gardenvale Primary School. The absurdity is evident in hindsight. Yet what ASIO didn’t realise is that they were constructing an invaluable social history of Australian dissent as they gradually confused subversion with dissent.

They recorded many people, especially in the 1960s filled with youthful exuberance, high in hope and action. These people were questioning the central values of a society their parents had created. Here they are frozen in the malevolent eye of the security services. Whilst it’s invasive, seedy and incompetent, even they can’t diminish sunlit youth.

Haydn Keenan 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

Percy Grainger (Australian, 1882-1961)
Private Matters: Do not open until 10 (ten) years after my death
1955-1956
Envelope
25.1 x 32 cm
Courtesy the Grainger Museum, The University of Melbourne

 

 

Internationally renowned Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger (1882-1961) built new sounds by modifying old instruments. He built electronic instruments from recycled materials; he built new words, new types of garments and previously unforged links between folk and classical music. He also built the Past-Horde-House, his term for museum, in which he curated his life.

In these photographs, hand printed between 1933 and 1942, Percy Grainer turns the camera on himself (and to a lesser degree his wife Ella) to document his sexual practices, which he believed were intrinsic to his being and his creativity. These works form part of what Grainer called the ‘lust branch’ of his Museum.

Grainger was a sadomasochist and wrote to his partners and friends quite openly about his thoughts on sex, including what he called ‘self beating’. However when in 1956 Sir Eugene Goossens, British composer and Sydney Symphony Orchestra conductor was detained for bringing pornography into the country, and was subsequently destroyed by the scandal, Grainger, like a number of prominent Australian artists, either left the country or outwardly restrained their behaviour. Consequently, Grainger sealed his ‘lust branch’ of the Museum, a selection of books, whips and photographs related to sadomasochistic behaviour in a travelling trunk, and left the instruction: Not to be opened until 10 (ten) years after my death (exhibited). Contained within the accompanying envelope is a kind of manifesto in the form of a letter, the pages of which are carefully bound together by hand, in which he writes, ‘The photographs of myself whipped by myself in Kansas City and the various photographs of my wife whipped by me show that my flagellantism was not make-believe or puerility, but had the element of drasticness in it. Nevertheless my flagellantism was never inhuman or uncontrolled.’

While Grainger was the subject of intense, international media scrutiny, marketing and photography, to document their sadomasochistic practices Grainger had to teach himself photography. The archive he left has the quality of forensic records, consistent with the quasi scientific method he practiced in other aspects of his life. Exhibited is Grainger’s self-printed, hand-made album, Photo-skills Guide in which he makes technical observations, similarly evident in and on other ‘lust branch’ photographs.

Grainger considered his sexual expression integral to all aspects of his life, indeed for Grainger sexuality was inseparable from his renowned life as a pianist and composer. It is probable that the ‘lust branch’ images were designed for display in the Museum, in a more enlightened period. In 1941 Grainger wrote, ‘I have a bottomless hunger for truth … life is innocent, yet full of meaning. Destroy nothing, forget nothing … say all. Trust life, trust mankind. As long as the picture of truth is placed in the right frame (art, science, history) it will offend none.’

Naomi Cass 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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