Posts Tagged ‘Woodburytype

27
May
16

Exhibition: ‘Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World’ at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 30th May 2016

 

This looks to be a fascinating exhibition. I wish I could see it.

While Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions, with the exhibition being organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works, we must always remember that these “themes” are not exclusory to each other. Photographs do cross nominally defined boundaries and themes (as defined by history and curators) so that they can become truly subversive works of art.

Photographs can form spaces called heterotopia, “a form of concept in human geography elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault, to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions. These are spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror… Foucault uses the term “heterotopia” (French: hétérotopie) to describe spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye.”1

In photographs, there is always more than meets the eye. There is the association of the photograph to multiple places and spaces (the histories of that place and space); the imagination of the viewer and the memories they bring to any encounter with a photograph, which may change from time to time, from look to look, from viewing to viewing; and the transcendence of the photograph as it brings past time to present time as an intimation of future time. Past, present and future spacetime are conflated in the act of just looking, just being. Positioning this “‘annihilation of time and space’ as a particular moment in a dynamic cycle of rupture and recuperation enables a deliberate focus on the process of transition.”2 And that transition, Doreen Massey argues, ignores often-invisible contingencies that define spaces those relations that have an effect upon a space but are not visible within it.3

Photographs, then, form what Deleuze and Guattari call assemblages4, where the assemblage is “the processes by which various configurations of linked components function in an intersection with each other, a process that can be both productive and disruptive. Any such process invovles a territorialization; there is a double movement where something accumulates meanings (re-territorialization), but does so co-extensively with a de-territorialization where the same thing is disinvested of meanings. The organization of a territory is characterized by such a double movement … An assemblage is an extension of this process, and can be thought of as constituted by an intensification of these processes around a particular site through a multiplicity of intersections of such territorializations.”5 In other words, when looking at a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot or Timothy H. O’Sullivan today, the meaning and interpretation of the photograph could be completely different to the reading of this photograph in the era it was taken. The photograph is a site of both de-territorialization and re-territorialization – it both gains and looses meaning at one and the same time, depending on who is looking at it, from what time and from what point of view.

Photographs propose that there are many heterotopias in the world, many transitions and intersections, many meanings lost and found, not only as spaces with several places of/for the affirmation of difference, but also as a means of escape from authoritarianism and repression. We must remember these ideas as we looking at the photographs in this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the Morgan Library & Museum for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Heterotopia (space) on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 27/05/2016.
  2. McQuire, Scott. The Media City. London: Sage Publications, 2008, p. 14.
  3. Massey, Doreen. Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994, p. 5 in Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, pp. 163-164.
  4. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolisand London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987.
  5. Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, p.166

 

 

'Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World' exhibition sections

 

Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World exhibition sections

 

 

“As its name declares, photography is a means of writing with light. Photographs both show and tell, and they speak an extraordinary range of dialects.

Beginning February 19 the Morgan Library & Museum explores the history of the medium as a lucid, literate – but not always literal – tool of persuasion in a new exhibition, Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World. A collaboration with the George Eastman Museum of Film and Photography, the show features more than eighty works from the 1840s to the present and reveals the many ways the camera can transmit not only the outward appearance of its subject but also narratives, arguments, and ideas. The show is on view through May 30.

Over the past 175 years, photography has been adopted by, and adapted to, countless fields of endeavor, from art to zoology and from fashion to warfare. Sight Reading features a broad range of material – pioneering x-rays and aerial views, artifacts of early photojournalism, and recent examples of conceptual art – organized into groupings that accentuate the variety and suppleness of photography as a procedure. In 1936, artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) defined “the  illiterate of the future” as someone “ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” The JPEG and the “Send” button were decades away, but Moholy-Nagy was not the first observer to argue that photography belonged to the arts of commentary and persuasion. As the modes and motives of camera imagery have multiplied, viewers have continually learned new ways to read the information, and assess the argument, embodied in a photograph.

“Traditional narratives can be found throughout the Morgan’s collections, especially in its literary holdings,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan. “Sight Reading encourages us to use a critical eye to read and discover the stories that unfold through the camera lens and photography, a distinctly modern, visual language. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Eastman Museum, and together unravel a rich narrative, which exemplifies photography’s deep involvement in the stories of modern art, science, and the printed page.”

 

The exhibition

Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions. Featuring work by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), John Heartfield (1891-1968), Lewis Hine (1874-1940), Harold Edgerton (1903-1990), John Baldessari (b. 1931), Sophie Calle (b. 1953), and Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015), among many others, the exhibition is organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works.

 

I. The Camera Takes Stock

Photography’s practical functions include recording inventory, capturing data imperceptible to the human eye, and documenting historical events. In the first photographically illustrated publication, The Pencil of Nature (1845), William Henry Fox Talbot used his image Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the photographed collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot speculated, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

A century later, Harold Edgerton, an electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used the pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting for the naked eye. Gun Toss, an undated image of a spinning pistol, is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Articles of China' c. 1843, printed c. 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Articles of China
c. 1843, printed c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

In The Pencil of Nature (1845), the first photographically illustrated publication, Talbot used Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot added, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock' 1873

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock
1873
From the album Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In 1873 O’Sullivan joined Lieutenant George Wheeler’s Geographic Survey in New Mexico and Arizona. At El Morro, a sandstone promontory covered with ancient petroglyphs and historic-era inscriptions, the photographer singled out this handsomely lettered sentence to record and measure. It states: By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726. Nearby, the rock record now bears another inscription that reads T. H. O’Sullivan.

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990) 'Gun Toss' 1936-50

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Gun Toss
1936-50
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Edgerton, an electrical engineer, used the rapidly pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting to be perceived by the naked eye. This image of a spinning pistol is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939) 'Wave Theory I–V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978' 1978

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939)
Wave Theory I-V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978
1978
From the series Altered Landscapes
Chromogenic development (Ektacolor) process prints, 1993
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In this sequence, Pfahl twisted the conventions of photographic narrative into a perceptual puzzle. The numbered views appear to chronicle a single event: a wave breaking on the shore. Close inspection, however, reveals that the numeric caption in each scene is made of string laid on the rock in the foreground. The exposures, then, must have been made over a span of at least several minutes, not seconds – and in what order, one cannot say.

 

 

II. Crafting A Message

The camera is widely understood to be “truthful,” but what photographs “say” is a product of many procedures that follow the moment of exposure, including page layout, captioning, and cropping of the image. During World War I, military personnel learned to interpret the strange, abstract looking images of enemy territory made from airplanes. Their specialized training fundamentally altered the nature of wartime reconnaissance, even as the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language. An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted (1916), on view in the exhibition, shows that the tools of ground strategy soon included artificial bunkers and trenches, designed purely to fool eyes in the sky.

In László Moholy-Nagy’s photocollages of the late 1920s, figures cut out of the plates in massmarket magazines appear in new configurations to convey messages of the artist’s devising. Images such as Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis) (1927) propose a new kind of visual literacy for the machine age. To contemporary eyes, Moholy’s collages seem to foreshadow cut-andpaste strategies that would later characterize the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Massenpsychose' (Mass Psychosis) 1927

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946)
Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis)
1927
Collage, pencil, and ink
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company

 

To make his photocollages of the late 1920s, Moholy-Nagy cut figures out of photographs and photomechanical reproductions and arranged them into new configurations that convey messages of his own devising. By extracting the images from their original context and placing them into relationships defined by drawn shapes and volumes, he suggested a new visual literacy for the modern world. In this world – one in which images course through mass culture at a psychotic pace – a two-dimensional anatomical drawing acquires sufficient volume to cast a man’s shadow and a circle of bathing beauties cues up for a pool sharp. To contemporary eyes, the language of Moholy-Nagy’s photo collages seems to foreshadow strategies common to the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

Unidentified maker. 'An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted' c. 1916

 

Unidentified maker
An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted
c. 1916
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

During World War I, aerial photography progressed from a promising technological experiment to a crucial strategic operation. As advances in optics and engineering improved the capabilities of cameras and aircraft, military personnel learned to identify topographic features and man-made structures in the images recorded from above. Such training fundamentally altered the significance and practice of wartime reconnaissance. At the same time, the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language.

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74 'PhotoMetric Tailoring' c. 1942-48

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74
PhotoMetric Tailoring
c. 1942-48
Gelatin silver prints
George Eastman Museum

 

In an effort to streamline the field of custom tailoring, textile entrepreneur Henry Booth devised a method for obtaining measurements by photographing customers with a special camera and angled mirrors. The system was said to be foolproof, making it possible for any sales clerk to operate it. The resulting slides were sent to the manufacturer along with the customer’s order. A tailor translated the images into physical measurements using a geometric calculator, and the company mailed the finished garment to the customer.

 

 

III. Photographs in Sequence

Photography’s debut in the late 1830s happened to coincide with the birth of the modern comic strip. Ultimately the narrative photo sequence would lead to the innovations that gave rise to cinema, another form of storytelling altogether. Exact contemporaries of one another, Eadweard J. Muybridge in the United States and Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) in France both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey pursued motion studies with a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known, he exposed one photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image.

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904) 'Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting' c. 1890

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904)
Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Exchange with Narodni Technical Museum

 

Exact contemporaries, Muybridge and Marey (the former in the United States, the latter in France) both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned and timed to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey took a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known – such as the image of the man pole-vaulting – he exposed a single photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image. In Marey’s chronophotograph of a man on a horse, the action reads from bottom to top. The convention of arranging sequential photographic images from left to right and top to bottom, on the model of written elements on a page, was not yet firmly established.

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946) 'Notebook pages with photographs of lightning' c. 1887

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946)
Notebook pages with photographs of lightning
c. 1887
Gelatin silver prints mounted onto bound notepad paper
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

With his first successful photograph of a lightning bolt on 2 September 1882, Jennings dispelled the then widely held belief – especially among those in the graphic arts – that lightning traveled toward the earth in a regular zigzag pattern. Instead, his images revealed that lightning not only assumed an astonishing variety of forms but that it never took the shape that had come to define it in art.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Industriebauten
1968
Gelatin silver prints in presentation box
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

The photographs in this portfolio were made only a few years into what would become the Bechers’ decades-long project of systematically documenting industrial architecture in Europe and the United States. The straightforward and rigidly consistent style of their work facilitates side-by-side comparison, revealing the singularity of structures that are typically understood to be generic.

 

 

IV. The Legible Object

Some photographs speak for themselves; others function as the amplifier for objects that can literally be read through the image. In her series Sorted Books, American artist Nina Katchadourian (b. 1968) composes statements by combining the titles of books drawn from the shelves of libraries and collections. Indian History for Young Folks, 2012, shows three books from the turn of the twentieth century that she found in the Delaware Art Museum’s M.G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings. The viewer’s eye silently provides punctuation: “Indian history for young folks: Our village; your national parks.” Though at first glance it appears merely to arrange words into legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique statement – half verbal, half visual – would be incomplete if divorced from the physical apparatus of the books themselves.

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848) 'The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)' c. 1845

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870)
Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)
c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

Hill, his two nieces, and an unidentified man pose for the camera at the tomb of Robert Denistoun, a seventeenth-century Scottish ambassador. Contemplative poses helped the sitters hold still during the long exposure, even while turning them into sculptural extensions of the monument. Hill puts pen to paper, perhaps playing the part of a graveyard poet pondering mortality. Above him, the monument’s Latin inscription begins: “Behold, the world possesses nothing permanent!”

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943) 'Submarine cross-section; feature film, "Gray Lady Down" - Stage #12, March 14, 1977' 1977

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943)
Submarine cross-section; feature film, “Gray Lady Down” – Stage #12, March 14, 1977
1977
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Nash Editions

 

In the Studio Still Lifes he photographed on the backlots of Universal Studios, Cumming sought to portray the mechanisms behind cinema vision “in their real as opposed to their screen contexts.” Admiring yet subversive, his documents use strategies native to the still camera – distance, point of view, and clear-eyed testimony – to translate Hollywood’s familiar illusions into worksites where “marble is plywood, stone is rubber, . . . rooms seldom have ceilings, and when the sun shines indoors, it casts a dozen shadows.”

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968) 'Indian History for Young Folks' 2012

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968)
Indian History for Young Folks
2012
From Once Upon a Time in Delaware / In Quest of the Perfect Book
Chromogenic print
The Morgan Library Museum, Purchase, Photography Collectors Committee

 

In her ongoing series Sorted Books, Katchadourian composes statements by combining the titles of books from a given library – in this case, the M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings at the Delaware Art Museum. Though her compositions are driven by the need to arrange words in a legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique jokes, poems, and koans would be incomplete if divorced from the cultural information conveyed by the physical books themselves.

 

 

V. The Photograph Decodes Nature

As early as 1840, one year after photography’s invention was announced, scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of X-ray technology in 1895 allowed scientists to see and understand living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture. In other ways, too, nature has been transformed in human understanding through the interpretive filter of the lens, as seen in Sight Reading in the telescopic moon views of astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833-1907) and Pierre Henri Puiseux (1855-1928) and in the spellbinding aerial abstractions of William Garnett (1916-2006).

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Animal Tracks on Dry Lake' 1955

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Animal Tracks on Dry Lake
1955
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased on the Charina Endowment Fund

 

After making films for the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II, Garnett used GI-Bill funding to earn a pilot’s license. By the early 1950s, he had the field of artistic aerial landscape virtually to himself. This print, showing the ephemeral traces of wildlife movement on a dry lake bed, appeared in Diogenes with a Camera IV (1956), one in a series of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art that highlighted the great variety of ways in which artists used photography to invent new forms of visual truth.

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) '"Tea Pot" Rock' 1870

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
“Tea Pot” Rock
1870
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Jackson made this photograph as a member of the survey team formed by Ferdinand V. Hayden to explore and document the territory now known as Yellowstone National Park. Hayden’s primary goal was to gather information about the area’s geological history, and Jackson’s photographs record with precision and clarity the accumulated layers of sediment that allow this natural landmark to be fit into a geological chronology. The human figure standing at the left of the composition provides information about the size of the rock, demonstrating that photographers have long recognized the difficulty of making accurate inferences about scale based on photographic images.

 

Dr. Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944) Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937) 'Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)' 1896

 

Dr Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944)
Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937)
Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)
1896
From the book Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen’schen Strahlen
Photogravure
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Eastman Kodak Company; Ex-collection of Josef Maria Eder

 

As early as 1840 – a year after photography’s invention was announced – scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of x-ray technology in 1895 allowed doctors to study living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture.

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858) 'Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River' 1861

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858)
Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River
1861
Book illustrated with 22 salted paper prints and 37 lithographs
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

These photographs, which depict traces of fossils discovered in a sandstone quarry, illustrate a book written by Massachusetts surgeon James Deane, who was the author of texts on medicine as well as natural history. Published posthumously using his notes and photographs as a guide, the volume is an early demonstration of photography’s potential as a tool of scientific investigation.

 

 

VI. The Photograph Decodes Culture

The photograph not only changed but to a great extent invented the modern notion of celebrity. Modern-age celebrities live apart from the general public, but their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Jean-Pierre Ducatez (b. 1970) portrayed the Beatles through closeups of their mouths alone. The graphic shorthand employed by Jonathan Lewis in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, but he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces the iconic art of a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels). Like celebrities themselves, perhaps, the images look more familiar to the eye at a distance than close-up.

 

Unidentified maker. 'U. S. Grant' c. 1862

 

Unidentified maker
U. S. Grant
c. 1862
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers' 1864

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers
1864
From the series Photographic Incidents of the War
Albumen silver print stereograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Albert Morton Turner

 

Modern celebrities live apart from the general public, yet their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. First as a Union hero in the American Civil War and later as president, Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) lived in the public imagination through news images, popular stereographs, campaign buttons, and ultimately the (photo-based) face on the $50 bill. Grant was even a subject for Francois Willème’s patented process for generating a sculpted likeness out of photographs made in the round – an early forerunner to the technology of 3-D printing.

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Abbey Road' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Abbey Road
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Please Please Me' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Please Please Me
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Rubber Soul' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Rubber Soul
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Synecdoche is a poetic device in which a part stands in for the whole. (In the phrase “three sails set forth,” sails mean ships.) In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Ducatez portrayed the Beatles solely through close-ups of their mouths. The graphic shorthand Lewis employs in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, though he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels).

 

 

VII. Meaning is on the Surface

Photographs are not just windows onto the world but pieces of paper, which can themselves be inscribed or otherwise altered in ways that enrich or amend their meaning. The group portrait Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis (1920) is contact printed, meaning that the negative was the same size as the print. After the portrait sitting, the photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled for their convention. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920) 'Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis' 1920

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920)
Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis
1920
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased as the gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Panoramic group portraits such as this are made using a banquet camera, which admits light through a narrow vertical slit while rotating on its tripod. This image was contact printed, meaning the negative was the same size as the print. The photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938) 'Book 151' 1989

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938)
Book 151
1989
Bound book of gelatin silver prints, thread, and leather
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

This unique object unites the arts of photography, quilting, and bookmaking. The composite image on each right-hand page appears to be made of prints cut apart and sewn together. In fact, Smith began by printing patchwork-inspired photomontages in the darkroom. He then stitched along many of the borders where abutting images meet, creating the illusion of a photographic crazy quilt.

 

 

VIII. Photography and the Page

News of the world took on a newly visual character in the 1880s, when the technology of the halftone screen made it practical, at last, to render photographs in ink on the printed page.

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Paul Nadar’s (1820-1910) “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s dynamic body language during the conversation.

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941) 'Shanty Town' April 1880

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941)
Shanty Town
April 1880
Photomechanical printing plate A Scene in Shantytown, New York, c. 1928
Lithograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939) 'Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger' 1889

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939)
Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger
1889
Le Figaro, 23 November 1889
Photomechanical reproduction
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company; ex-collection Gabriel Cromer

 

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Nadar’s “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician who had fallen out of public favor by the time this was published. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s body language during the conversation.

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940) 'Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island
1905
Ellis Island Group, 1905
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee

 

In an effort to counter American xenophobia in the early years of the twentieth century, Hine photographed immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island, composing his images to stir sympathy and understanding among viewers. He understood the importance of disseminating his photographs and actively sought to publish them in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. The white outline in the photograph on the right instructs the designer and printer where to crop the image for a photomontage featuring figures from multiple portraits.

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) 'La Poupée' (Puppet) 1936

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
La Poupée (Puppet)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968) 'Hurrah, die Butter ist alle!' (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!) 1935

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968)
Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!)
1935
Rotogravure
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

This is one of 237 photomontages that Heartfield created between 1930 and 1938 for the antifascist magazine Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Worker’s Pictorial Newspaper). It is a parody of the “Guns Before Butter” speech in which Hermann G.ring exhorted German citizens to sacrifice necessities in order to aid the nation’s rearmament. The text reads: “Iron ore has always made an empire strong; butter and lard have at most made a people fat.” Heartfield combined details from several photographs to conjure the image of a German family feasting on tools, machine parts, and a bicycle in a swastika-laden dining room, complete with a portrait of Hitler, a framed phrase from a popular Franco-Prussian war-era song, and a throw pillow bearing the likeness of recently deceased president Paul von Hindenburg.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce' c. 1874

 

Unidentified maker
Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce
c. 1874
Tintypes in prepared paper mount
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Graphic cousins to one other, these wedding certificates are equipped with precut windows for photographs of the bride, groom, and officiant. The portraits, in partnership with the printed and inscribed text on the forms, contribute both to the documentary specificity of the certificates and to their value as sentimental souvenirs.

 

 

IX. Empire of Signs

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is anectodal, as in John Thompson’s (1837-1921) Street Advertising from Street Life in London (1877), or haunting, as in Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) Impasse des Bourdonnais (ca. 1908) – is embedded in each image.

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Street Advertising
1877
From Street Life in London, 1877
Woodburytype
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Impasse des Bourdonnais
c. 1908
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971) 'At the Time of the Louisville Flood' 1937

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)
At the Time of the Louisville Flood
1937
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is ironic, as in Margaret Bourke-White’s image of a line of flood victims before a billboard advertising middle-class prosperity, or bemused, as in Ferenc Berko’s photograph of columns of oversized artificial teeth on the street – is embedded in each image.

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000) 'Rawalpindi, India' 1946

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000)
Rawalpindi, India
1946
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman House, Gift of Katharine Kuh

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'New York 6' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
New York 6
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952) 'India' 1981

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952)
India
1981
Chromogenic development print
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds from Charina Foundation

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016-3405
Tel: (212) 685-0008

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10.30 am – 5 pm
Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

The Morgan Library & Museum website

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04
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Victorian London in Photographs 1839 to 1901’ at the London Metropolitan Archives

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 29th October 2015

 

This is a fascinating exhibition about the history of London portrayed through Victorian era photographs.

The best photographs in the posting are by John Thomson. The composition of these images is exemplary with their eloquent use of light and low depth of field. The seemingly nonchalant but obviously staged positioning of the figures is coupled with superb rendition of light in photographs such as Old Furniture, London Nomades and Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster (all 1877, below).

The details are intriguing, such as shooting contre-jour or into the light in Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster with one of the soldiers and the two street lads in the distance staring directly at the camera. This seems to be a technique of Thomson’s, for there is always one person in his intimate group photographs staring straight at the camera, which in this era is unusual in itself. The women on the steps of the Romany caravan stares straight at the camera, one of the two children framed in the doorway behind slightly blurred, telling us the length of the exposure.

Then we have the actual characters themselves. With his tall hat and what seems to be scars around his mouth, the man centre stage in The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s (1877, below) reminds me of that nasty character Bill Sikes out of Charles Dicken’s immortal Oliver Twist (1837-39). And the poverty stricken from the bottom of the barrel… the destitute women and baby in The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant (1877, below). “The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident.” It must have been so tough in that era to survive every day in London. See Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015.

Marcus

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

 

 

Henry Flather. 'Building the Metropolitan Railway' 1862

 

Henry Flather
Building the Metropolitan Railway
1862
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph by Henry Flather shows workers at Baker Street as they construct London’s first Tube line.

 

Philip Henry Delamotte. 'Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great' 1854

 

Philip Henry Delamotte
Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, The Crystal Palace
1854
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Philip Henry Delamotte was commissioned to record the disassembly of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1852, and its reconstruction and expansion at Sydenham, a project finished in 1854. This image, entitled Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, is part of an incredible set of photographs which record a large scale project in fascinating detail.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel' 1897

 

Anonymous photographer
Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel
1897
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This image shows the opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel. The tunnel was finally opened by the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in 1897, having been originally proposed in the 1880’s. It was constructed using a ‘tunnel shield’ to create the tunnel and remove debris. A major engineering project of the period, the tunnel was created to improve commerce and trade in the East End by providing a Thames crossing for a mixture of foot, cycle, horse-drawn and vehicular traffic.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'St Paul's Cathedral' c. 1855

 

Anonymous photographer
St Paul’s Cathedral
c. 1855
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph was taken from Southwark Bridge by an anonymous photographer. The foreground shows London’s lost wharf buildings, including Iron Wharf and Bull Wharf.

 

George Washington Wilson and Charles Wilson (photographers) Marion & Co (publishers) 'Piccadilly, London' 1890

 

George Washington Wilson and Charles Wilson (photographers)
Marion & Co
(publishers)
Piccadilly, London
1890
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

The name derives from ‘picadil’, a fashionable stiff collar of the early seventeenth century. The Aberdeen photographers George Washington Wilson and his son Charles specialised in high quality topographical views. This image is believed to be the work of the Wilsons, many of which were published by the firm of Marion & Co. The distinctive viewpoint is several feet above the carriageway. The photographers and their large format camera were driven round London in a covered wagon hired from Pickfords removals firm. This method allowed them to take candid photographs of streets and people.

 

 

Life in Victorian London Exposed

The arrival of photography in London in 1839 would change the way people saw their city, and each other, forever. Quite suddenly it was possible to see life captured ‘in the flesh’, rather than as an artist’s sketch or painting. The new medium was embraced as a means of recording the progress of grand engineering projects and revealing the shocking poverty that haunted the capital’s poorer districts.

The collections at London Metropolitan Archives contain an extraordinary range of photographs from Queen Victoria’s reign, recording the city and its people in stunning detail. Whether in carefully posed studio portraits or images of people gathered in the street, it seems that almost everyone wanted to be recorded on camera. This exhibition delves into these collections to present some of most striking images of the era; from the first known photograph of London to the opening of Blackwall Tunnel at the end of the century, taking in the Crystal Palace, the first Tube line and the harsh realities of life on the city’s streets. This free exhibition runs from Tuesday 5th May to Thursday 8th October at London Metropolitan Archives.

Images on display will include photographs from these astonishing Victorian collections:

Street Life in London

The industrial and social developments of the nineteenth century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson was an early use of photography as a medium to expose the lives of London’s poor and dispossessed in the late 1870’s. [More images from the book can be found on the LSE Digital Library website]

Preserving the Disappearing City

In March 1875 a letter appeared in The Times calling attention to the immanent demolitions affecting The Oxford Arms, a lovely but ramshackle seventeenth century coaching inn near to the Old Bailey. A response came a few days later, in the same column, announcing that a photographic record would be made. The group of historians and photographers responsible for this initiative called themselves Society for Photographing Relics of Old London. Between 1875 and 1886 they published 120 beautifully composed photographs of buildings. These images of a City swept away by the new Victorian world provide a surprising and beautiful record of a long forgotten London.

The Crystal Palace

Constructed for The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, the Crystal Palace remains an enduring and enticing ‘lost’ icon of Victorian London. The building was re-erected in Sydenham in 1852 and photographer Philip Henry Delamotte was engaged to record the full process, creating 160 images which begin with the first girder going into the ground and end with Victoria and Albert’s appearance at the opening ceremony. The many fabulous highlights include Roman and Egyptian courts, a cast of the Sphinx, the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park and an incredible recreation of the Colossi of Aboo Simbel.

 

H. L. Lawrence. 'Portrait of a woman' Nd

 

H. L. Lawrence
Portrait of a woman
Nd
Cabinet card
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Replacing the smaller carte de visite in the 1870’s, cabinet cards were a popular way to share and collect images of friends and acquaintances.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School' c. 1860

 

Anonymous photographer
Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School
c. 1860
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph is taken from a case book of the Ragged School Union which provides biographical information and images of a group of boys who were prepared for emigration to Canada.

 

John Thomson (publisher). 'Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant' 1877

 

John Thomson
The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Some of these crawlers are not, however, so devoid of energy as we might at first be led to infer. A few days’ good lodging and good food might operate a marvellous transformation. The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident. The crawler, for instance, whose portrait is now before the reader, is the widow of a tailor who died some ten years ago. She had been living with her son-in-law, a marble stone-polisher by trade, who is now in difficulties through ill-health. It appears, however, that, at best, “he never cared much for his work,” and innumerable quarrels ensued between him, his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, a youth of fifteen. At last, after many years of wrangling, the mother, finding that her presence aggravated her daughter’s troubles, left this uncomfortable home, and with her young son descended penniless into the street. From that day she fell lower and lower, and now takes her seat among the crawlers of the district.”

 

“The industrial and social developments of the 19th century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson is a good example of this and in particular, its use of early photographic processes.

Adolphe Smith was an experienced journalist connected to social reform movements. While John Thomson was a photographer who had spent considerable time in the Far East, especially China, and central to his work was the photography of streets and individuals at work. Produced in 12 monthly issues, starting in February 1877, each issue had three stories accompanied by a photograph. Most of the text was written by Smith, although two are attributed to Thomson – London Nomades and Street Floods in Lambeth. The images were staged as tableau rather than being spontaneous street scenes and the relatively new process – Woodburytype – was used to reproduce the images consistently in large numbers for the publication.”

Text from the London Metropolitan Archives Facebook page

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of actor William Terriss' late 19th century

 

Anonymous photographer
Theatre magazine (producer)
Portrait of actor William Terriss
late 19th century
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This is a typical example of the portraits of performers produced by the Theatre magazine between 1878 and 1897. Known for heroic roles such as Robin Hood, Terriss was murdered outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897.

 

Henry Dixon. 'The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn' 1875

 

Henry Dixon
The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn
1875
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Shot by Henry Dixon as part of the ‘Society for Photographing Relics of Old London’ project to record heritage on the verge of destruction as Victorian London re-invented itself. Amongst the subjects recorded were the galleried coaching inns which had existed in some form since the time of Chaucer and which were swept away by the coming of the railways. Most ended their days as slum dwellings before being demolished. Only one, the George, now survives.

 

John Thomson. 'Old Furniture' 1877

 

John Thomson
Old Furniture
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“At the corner of Church Lane, Holborn, there was a second-hand furniture dealer, whose business was a cross between that of a shop and a street stall. The dealer was never satisfied unless the weather allowed him to disgorge nearly the whole of his stock into the middle of the street, a method which alone secured the approval and custom of his neighbours. As a matter of fact, the inhabitants of Church Lane were nearly all what I may term “street folks” – living, buying, selling, transacting all their business in the open street. It was a celebrated resort for tramps and costers of every description, men and women who hawk during the day and evening the flowers, fruits and vegetables they buy in the morning at Covent Garden. When, however, the question of improving this district was first broached, Church Lane stood condemned as an unwholesome over-crowded, throughfare, and the houses on either side are now almost entirely destroyed, and the inhabitants have been compelled to migrate to other more distant and less convenient parts of the metropolis.”

 

John Thomson. 'Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster' 1877

 

John Thomson
Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Recruiting in London is almost exclusively circumscribed to the district stretching between the St. George’s Barracks, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Abbey. Throughout London it is known that all information concerning service in the army can be obtained in this quarter, and intending recruits troop down to this neighbourhood in shoals, converging, as the culminating point of their peregrinations, towards the celebrated public-house at the corner of King Street and Bridge Street. It is under the inappropriate and pacific sign-board of the ‘Mitre and Dove’ that veteran men of war meet and cajole young aspirants to military honours. Here may be seen every day representatives of our picked regiments. […]

“The most prominent figure in the accompanying photograph, standing with his back to the Abbey, and nearest to the kerb stone, is that of Sergeant Ison, who is always looked upon with more than ordinary curiosity as the representative of the 6th Dragoon Guards, or Carbineers – a regiment which of late has been chiefly distinguished for having included in its ranks no less a person than Sir Roger Tichborne himself! To the Carbineer’s right we have the representatives of two heavy regiments, Sergeant Titswell, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, and Sergeant Badcock, of the 2nd Dragoons, or Scots Greys; the latter is leaning against the corner of the public-house. Close to him may be recognized the features of Sergeant Bilton, of the Royal Engineers, while Sergeant Minett, of the 14th Hussars, turns his head towards Sergeant McGilney, of the 6th Dragoons, or Enniskillen, whose stalwart frame occupies the foreground. This group would not, however, have been complete without giving a glimpse at Mr. Cox, the policeman, to whose discretion and pacific interference may be attributed the order which is generally preserved even under the most trying circumstances at the ‘Mitre and Dove.'”

 

John Thomson. 'The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles's' 1877

 

John Thomson
The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

A street market in the notorious St Giles in the Fields area, noted as one of the worst slums in Britain during the Victorian period, 1877. This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in ‘Street Life in London’, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Awaiting the moment when the costermonger is able to procure a barrow of his own he must pay eighteen pence per week for the cost of hiring. Then he must beware of the police, who have a knack of confiscating these barrows, on the pretext that they obstruct the thoroughfare and of placing them in what is termed the Green Yard, where no less than a shilling per day is charged for the room the barrow is supposed to occupy. At the same time, its owner will probably be fined from half a crown to ten shillings so that altogether it is much safer to secure a good place in a crowded street market. In this respect, Joseph Carney, the costermonger, whose portrait is before the reader, has been most fortunate. He stands regularly in the street market that stretches between Seven Dials and what is called Five Dials, making his pitch by a well-known newsagent’s, whose shop serves as a landmark. Like the majority of his class, he does not always sell fish, but only when the wind is propitious and it can be bought cheaply. On the day when the photograph was taken, he had succeeded in buying a barrel of five hundred fresh herrings for twenty five shillings. Out of these he selected about two hundred of the largest fish, which he sold at a penny each, while he disposed of the smaller herrings at a halfpenny.

“Trade was brisk at that moment, though the fish is sometimes much cheaper. Indeed, I have seen fresh herrings sold at five a penny; and this is all the more fortunate, as notwithstanding the small cost, they are, with the exception of good salmon, about the most nutritious fish in the market.”

 

John Thomson. 'London Nomades' 1877

 

John Thomson
London Nomades
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“The class of Nomades with which I propose to deal makes some show of industry. These people attend fairs, markets, and hawk cheap ornaments or useful wares from door to door. At certain seasons this class ‘works’ regular wards, or sections of the city and suburbs. At other seasons its members migrate to the provinces, to engage in harvesting, hop-picking, or to attend fairs, where they figure as owners of ‘Puff and Darts’, ‘Spin ’em rounds’, and other games. […]

“The accompanying photograph, taken on a piece of vacant land at Battersea, represents a friendly group gathered around the caravan of William Hampton, a man who enjoys the reputation among his fellows, of being ‘a fair-spoken, honest gentleman’. Nor has subsequent intercourse with the gentleman in question led me to suppose that his character has been unduly overrated. […]

“He honestly owned his restless love of a roving life, and his inability to settle in any fixed spot. He also held that the progress of education was one of the most dangerous symptoms of the times, and spoke in a tone of deep regret of the manner in which decent children were forced now-a-days to go to school. ‘Edication, sir! Why what do I want with edication? Edication to them what has it makes them wusser. They knows tricks what don’t b’long to the nat’ral gent. That’s my ‘pinion. They knows a sight too much, they do! No offence, sir. There’s good gents and kind ‘arted scholards, no doubt. But when a man is bad, and God knows most of us aint wery good, it makes him wuss. Any chaps of my acquaintance what knows how to write and count proper aint much to be trusted at a bargain.’ […]

“The dealer in hawkers’ wares in Kent Street, tells me that when in the country the wanderers ‘live wonderful hard, almost starve, unless food comes cheap. Their women carrying about baskets of cheap and tempting things, get along of the servants at gentry’s houses, and come in for wonderful scraps. But most of them, when they get flush of money, have a regular go, and drink for weeks; then after that they are all for saving… They have suffered severely lately from colds, small pox, and other diseases, but in spite of bad times, they still continue buying cheap, selling dear, and gambling fiercely.’ […]

“Declining an invitation to ‘come and see them at dominoes in a public over the way’, I hastened to note down as fast as possible the information received word for word in the original language in which it was delivered, believing that this unvarnished story would at least be more characteristic and true to life.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'Trafalgar Square' c. 1867

 

Unknown photographer
Trafalgar Square
c. 1867
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

The first proposal for a square on the site of the former King’s Mews was drawn up by John Nash. It was part of King George IV’s extravagant vision for the west end curtailed by his death in 1830. Trafalgar Square was completed between 1840 and 1845 by Sir Charles Barry. There had been proposals to erect a monument to Horatio Nelson since his death at Trafalgar in 1805 but it was 1838 before a committee was formed to raise funds and consider proposals. William Railton’s design was chosen from dozens of entrants and his impressive Devonshire granite column with its statue of Nelson by E. H. Baily was erected in 1839-43. It was already attracting photographers before the scaffolding was dismantled. The four lions at the base of the column were originally to be in stone rather than bronze but it was 1857 before a commission was given to the artist Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873). This photograph shows two of the lions when newly positioned some ten years later.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Construction of Tower Bridge' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Construction of Tower Bridge
1892
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

London Bridge was the only crossing over the river Thames in London until the eighteenth century, after which a number of bridges and tunnels were constructed. Perhaps the most famous of these is Tower Bridge. There were a number of designs for different types of bridges but the City of London Corporation decided on a bascule (French for see-saw) design. This remarkable anonymous photograph was taken two years before the bridge opened.

 

 

London Metropolitan Archives
40 Northampton Road,
London EC1R 0HB
Tel: 0207 332 3820

Opening hours:
Monday 9.30am – 4.45pm (closed bank holidays)
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am – 7.30pm*
Friday closed

*Please note: on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays all computers, microfilm readers, photocopiers and printers will be turned off by 7.25pm and original documents must be returned to staff by 7.25pm so that the building can close at 7.30pm.

London Metropolitan Archives website

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15
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Garden of the East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 22nd June 2014

 

Dutch East Indies and Indonesian photography, and more broadly Asia-Pacific photography, has been a burgeoning area of interest, research and collecting for some time now. Although this is far from my area of expertise, with the quality of the work shown in this posting, you can understand why. Since 2005, “the National Gallery of Australia’s Asian photographs collection has grown to nearly 8000 and in excess of 6500 prints are from Indonesia.”

Absolutely beautiful tonality to the prints. They seem to have a wonderful stillness to them as well.

On a personal note, Gael Newton, Senior Curator, Photography at the National Gallery of Australia is retiring. I would like to thank her for promoting, researching and writing about all forms of photography over the years and to congratulate her on significantly extending the NGA’s photography collection. A job well done.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Gael Newton and the National Gallery of Australia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Woodbury & Page. 'Batavia roadstead' c. 1865

 

Woodbury & Page
established Jakarta 1857-1900
Batavia roadstead
c. 1865
Albumen silver photograph
19.4 x 24.5 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

Dirk Huppe Indonesia 1867-1931 O Kurkdjian & Co Established Surabaya, Java 1903-1935 'Mature canes, fertilized with artificial guano Java Fertilizer Co.,' Semarang 1914

 

Dirk Huppe
Indonesia 1867-1931
O Kurkdjian & Co 
Established Surabaya, Java 1903-1935
Mature canes, fertilized with artificial guano, Java Fertilizer Co.,
Semarang 1914
Carbon print photograph
74.6 x 99.6 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

S. Satake Japanese, working Indonesia 1902 - c. 1937 'Eruption' Java c. 1930

 

S. Satake
Japanese, working Indonesia 1902 – c. 1937
Eruption
Java c. 1930
Gelatin silver photograph
16.2 x 21.8 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

 

“While Indonesia might be the second most popular destination for outbound Aussies, the history of the Indonesian archipelago’s diverse peoples and the colonial era Dutch East Indies, remains unfamiliar. In particular the rich heritage of photographic images made by the nearly 500 listed photographers at work across the archipelago in the mid 19th – mid 20th century, is poorly known, both in the region and internationally.

The Gallery began building its Indonesian photographic collection in 2006. It is unique in the region: the largest and most comprehensive collection excluding the archives of the Dutch East Indies in the Netherlands. It was not until the late 1850s with the arrival of photographs printed on paper from a master glass negative, that images of Indonesia – the origin of nutmeg, pepper and cloves, much desired in the West – began circulating worldwide.

Australia had a minor role in the history of photography in Indonesia. A pair of young British photographers, Walter Woodbury and James Page (operators of the Woodbury & Page studios located in the Victorian goldfields and Melbourne) arrived in Jakarta in 1857. From around 1900 a trend toward more picturesque views and sympathetic portrayals of indigenous people appeared. Old images were given new life as souvenir prints and sold through hotels and resorts or used for cruise ship brochures.

A particular feature of Garden of the East is the display of family albums. Both amateur and professional images in the Indies were bound in distinctive Japanese or Batik-patterned cloth boards as records of a colonial lifestyle. Hundreds of these once-treasured narratives of now lost people ended up in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 80s in estate sales of former Dutch colonial and Indo (mixed race) family members who had returned or immigrated after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945.”

Text from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

S. Satake Japanese, working Indonesia 1902 - c. 1937 'Women on road to Buleleng Bali' c. 1928

 

S. Satake
Japanese, working Indonesia 1902 – c. 1937
Women on road to Buleleng
Bali c. 1928
Gelatin silver photograph
16.2 x 22.0 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

Woodbury & Page established Jakarta 1857-1900 'Gusti Ngurah Ketut Jelantik, Prince of Buleleng with his entourage in Jakarta in 1864 on the visit of Governor-General LAJW Sloet van de Beele' 1864

 

Woodbury & Page
established Jakarta 1857-1900
Gusti Ngurah Ketut Jelantik, Prince of Buleleng with his entourage in Jakarta in 1864 on the visit of Governor-General LAJW Sloet van de Beele
1864
Albumen silver photograph
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

 

Garden of the East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s is the first major survey in the southern hemisphere of the photographic art from the period spanning the last century of colonial rule until just prior to the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945. The exhibition provides the opportunity to view over two hundred and fifty photographs, albums and illustrated books of the photography of this era and provides a unique insight into the people, life and culture of Indonesia. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue reveals much new research and information regarding the rich photographic history of Indonesia. Garden of the East is on display in Canberra only.

The exhibition is comprised of images created by more than one hundred photographers and the majority have never been exhibited publicly before. The works were captured by photographers of all races, making images of the beauty, bounty, antiquities and elaborate cultures of the diverse lands and peoples of the former Dutch East Indies. Among these photographers is the Javanese artist Kassian Céphas, whose genius as a photographer is not widely known at this time, a situation which the National Gallery of Australia hopes to address by growing the collection of holdings from this period and by continuing to stage focused exhibitions such as Garden of the East.

As was the case in other Southeast Asian ports, the most prominent professional photographers at work in colonial Indonesia came from a wide range of European backgrounds until the 1890s, when Chinese photography studios began to dominate. The exhibition focuses on the leading foreign studios of the time, in particular Walter B Woodbury, one of the earliest photographers at work in Australia in the 1850s as well as the Dutch East Indies. However Garden of the East also includes images created by lesser known figures whose work embraced the new art photography styles of the early twentieth century including: George Lewis, the British chief photographer at the Surabaya studio founded by Armenian Ohannes Kurkdjian, the remarkable German amateur photographer Dr Gregor Krause; American adventurer and filmmaker André Roosevelt; and the only woman professional known to have  worked in the period, Thilly Weissenborn, whose works were intertwined with the tourist promotion of Java and Bali in the 1930s. Chinese studios are well-represented, although little is known of their founders and many employed foreign photographers.

Frank Hurley is the sole Australian photographer represented in the exhibition. Hurley is noted as the only Australian known to have worked in Indonesia before the Second World War and toured Java in mid-1913, on commission to promote tourist cruises from Australia to the Indies for the Royal Packet Navigation Company.

“We are delighted to host this exhibition and believe that Australia’s geographic, political and cultural position in the Asia-Pacific region makes it very appropriate that the National Gallery of Australia should celebrate the rich and diverse arts of our region,” said Ron Radford AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia. “A dedicated Asia-Pacific focused policy has been long-held by the Gallery, but it was not until 2005 that we focused on early photographic art of the region. Progress, however, has been rapid and all the photographs in Garden of the East have been recently acquired for the National Gallery’s permanent collection,” he said.

“From a small holding in 2005 of less than two hundred photographs from anywhere in Asia, of which only half a dozen were by any Asian-born photographers, the National Gallery of Australia’s Asian photographs collection has grown to nearly 8000 and in excess of 6500 prints are from Indonesia,” Ron Radford said.

Garden of the East presents images, both historic and homely and is a ‘time travel’ opportunity to visit the Indies through more than two hundred and fifty works on show, made by both professional and amateur family photographers. Images as diverse as the Indonesian archipelago itself, which was once described by nineteenth century travel writers as the Garden of the East,” said Gael Newton, Senior Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Australia and exhibition Curator.

Garden of the East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s follows the large 2008 survey exhibition Picture Paradise: Asia-Pacific photography 1840s-1940s [the website includes an excellent essay – Marcus]. This was the first of the new Asia-Pacific collection focus exhibitions. In 2010, the Gallery staged an early photographic portrait exhibition to coincide with a conference hosted in partnership with the Australian National University entitled Facing Asia. A number of other small Asian collection shows have also been held since 2011.

The National Gallery of Australia is delighted to stage this exhibition to coincide with the Focus Country Program, an initiative organised by the Australian Government’s key cultural diplomacy body, the Australia International Cultural Council. The AICC has chosen Indonesia as its Focus Country for 2014 and will organise a series of events across the Indonesian archipelago to promote Australian arts and culture, as well as our credentials in sport, science, education and industry. This exhibition will also mark the 40th anniversary of dialogue relations between Australia and the Association of South East Asian Nations. The National Gallery of Australia is proud to be presenting an exhibition of Indonesian photography in celebration of Australia’s close cultural relations with Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific region.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

Kassian Céphas Indonesia 1845-1912 'Man climbing the front entrance to Borobudur' Central Java 1872

 

Kassian Céphas
Indonesia 1845-1912
Man climbing the front entrance to Borobudur
Central Java 1872
Albumen silver photograph
22.2 x 16.1 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

Kassian Céphas Indonesia 1845-1912 'Young Javanese woman' c. 1885

 

Kassian Céphas
Indonesia 1845-1912
Young Javanese woman
c. 1885
Albumen silver photograph
13.7 x 9.8 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

 

“Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s offers the chance to see images from the last century of colonial rule in the former Dutch East Indies. It includes over two hundred photographs, albums and illustrated books from the Gallery’s extensive collection of photographic art from our nearest Asian neighbour.

Most of the daguerreotype images from the 1840s, the first decade of photography in Indonesia, are lost and can only be glimpsed in reproductions in books and magazines of the mid nineteenth century. It was not until the late 1850s that photographic images of Indonesia – famed origin of exotic spices much desired in the West – began circulating worldwide. British photographers Walter Woodbury and James Page, who arrived in Batavia (Jakarta) from Australia in 1857, established the first studio to disseminate large numbers of views of the country’s lush tropical landscapes and fruits, bustling port cities, indigenous people, exotic dancers, sultans and the then still poorly known Buddhist and Hindu Javanese antiquities of Central Java.

The studios established in the 1870s tended to offer a similar inventory of products, mostly for the resident Europeans, tourists and international markets. The only Javanese photographer of note was Kassian Céphas who began work for the Sultan in Yogyakarta in the early 1870s. In late life, Céphas was widely honoured for his record of Javanese antiquities and Kraton performances, and his full genius can be seen in Garden of the East.

Most of the best known studios at the turn of the century, including those of Armenian O Kurkdjian and German CJ Kleingrothe, were owned and run by Europeans. Chinese-run studios appeared in the 1890s but concentrated on portraiture. Curiously, relatively few photographers in Indonesia were Dutch. From the 1890s onward, the largest studios increasingly served corporate customers in documenting the massive scale of agribusiness, particularly in the golden economic years of the Indies in the early to mid twentieth century. From around 1900, a trend toward more picturesque views and sympathetic portrayals of indigenous people appeared. This was intimately linked to a government sponsored tourist bureau and to styles of pictorialist art photography that had just emerged as an international movement in Europe and America. As photographic studios passed from owner to owner, old images were given new life as souvenir prints sold at hotels and resorts and as reproductions in cruise-ship brochures.

Amateur camera clubs and pictorialist photography salons common in Western countries by the 1920s were slower to develop in Asia and largely date to the postwar era. Locals, however, took up elements of art photography. Professionals George Lewis and Thilly Weissenborn (the only woman known from the period) and amateurs Dr Gregor Krause and Arthur de Carvalho put their names on their prints and employed the moody effects and storytelling scenarios of pictorialist photography. Krause was one of the most influential photographers. He extensively published his 1912 Bali and Borneo images in magazines and in two books in the 1920s and 1930s, inspiring interest in the indigenous life and landscape as well as the sensuous physical beauty of the Balinese people.

Postwar artists and celebrities – including American André Roosevelt, who used smaller handheld cameras – flocked to the country to capture spontaneity and daily life around them, to affirm their view of Bali as a ‘last paradise’ , where art and life were one. In 1941, Gotthard Schuh published Inseln der Götter (Islands of the gods), the first modern large-format photo-essay on Indonesia. While romantic, the collage of images and text in Schuh’s book presented a vital image of the diverse islands, peoples and cultures that were to be united under the flag of the Republic of Indonesia in 1949.

A particular feature of Garden of the East is a selection of family albums bound in distinctive Japanese or Batik patterned cloth boards as records of a colonial lifestyle (for the affluent) in the Indies. Hundreds of these once treasured narratives of now lost people ended up in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s in estate sales of former Dutch colonial and Indo (mixed race) family members who had returned or immigrated after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia.”

Text from the National Gallery of Australia Artonview 76 Summer 2013

 

portrait of a javanese woman

 

Sem Céphas (Indonesia 1870 – 1918)
Portrait of a Javanese woman
c.1900
Gelatin silver photograph, colour pigment hand painted photograph
image
38.5 x 23.8 cm
Purchased 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Gotthard Schuh. 'Inseln der Götter' (Islands of the gods) [book cover] 1941

 

Gotthard Schuh
Inseln der Götter (Islands of the gods) [book cover]
1941
Hardcover w/dust jacket
154pp, text in German
Plates in photogravure
28.5 x 22.5 cm

 

Thilly Weissenborn Indonesia 1902 - Netherlands 1964 'A dancing-girl of Bali, resting' c. 1925

 

Thilly Weissenborn
Indonesia 1902 – Netherlands 1964
A dancing-girl of Bali, resting
c. 1925
Photogravure
21.1 x 15.9 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

Unknown photographer Working Bali 1930s 'I Goesti Agoeng Bagoes Djelantik, Anakagoeng Agoeng Negara, Karang Asem' Bali 1931

 

Unknown photographer
Working Bali 1930s
I Goesti Agoeng Bagoes Djelantik, Anakagoeng Agoeng Negara, Karang Asem
Bali 1931
Gelatin silver photograph
14.0 x 9.7 cm
Collection National Gallery of Australia

 

 

National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place, Canberra
Australian Capital Territory 2600
T: (02) 6240 6411

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
(closed Christmas day)

National Gallery of Australia website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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