Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite

01
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Written in Light – The First Photographers’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates: 8th April – 3rd September 2017

Curator: Anna Tellgren

 

 

Nils Strindberg. '14/7 1897. The Eagle Balloon after landing' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Örnen efter landningen. Ur serien Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, 14/7 1897
14/7 1897. The Eagle Balloon after landing

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Nils Strindberg. '14/7 1897. After the crash' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
14/7 1897. After the crash

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Setting up-camp, raising the Swedish flag' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Setting up-camp, raising the Swedish flag

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Moving a boat through the icy waters' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Moving a boat through the icy waters

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

 

Nils Strindberg (1872-1897)

In July 1897, Salomon August Andrée (1854-1897) embarked on his voyage to the North Pole in the balloon Örnen [The Eagle], accompanied by the engineer Knut Frænkel (1870-1897) and the photographer Nils Strindberg. A few days later, the balloon crashed on the ice, and they were forced to continue their journey on foot. The conditions were severe, and the expedition ended in disaster. After a few months, in October, they made up camp on Kvitøya on Svalbard. This is where their bodies were found thirty years later, along with Strindberg’s camera.
The expedition and the events surrounding it, were widely publicised both at the time of the expedition, and later when they were found. Per Olof Sundman’s book The Flight of the Eagle (1967) was turned into a film by Jan Troell in 1982. Although these photographs were taken as scientific observations, and to document the work of the members of the expedition, they now appear as some of the most remarkable and beautiful photographs in polar history.

John Hertzberg (1871-1935) was a photographer and docent at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He was commissioned to develop the exposed films, and managed successfully to process ninety-three of Strindberg’s photo­graphs. He made copies of the negatives, which were used to produce the prints on paper that are now at institutions including Moderna Museet, the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm and Grenna Museum – Polarcenter in Gränna.

The original negatives ended up at the Royal Swedish Acad­emy of Sciences in Stockholm. Hertzberg re-touched some of the pictures, and these are primarily the ones that have been published and embody the public perception of the expedition. Moderna Museet has both sets, and the re-touched photographs are shown above the un-retouched versions in this exhibition.

More fascinating insights into the Flight of the Eagle can be found on James McArdle’s excellent website.

 

Nils Strindberg. 'At camp' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
At camp
From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Camp on White Island' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Camp on White Island
From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

 

While there are some outstanding photographs in this posting, the selection seems rather ad hoc. It is always good to see the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and other illuminati of late 19 century photography, but the highlight in this posting are the ethereal and tragic photographs from the Eagle polar expedition. We can only be grateful that so many negatives have survived, a testament to both the photographer, the developer and the coldness of the ice, leaving us with such transcendent images of human endurance.

Marcus

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

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Four Shelves of Books' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot
Four Shelves of Books
1844
Salted Paper Print

 

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

The Scientist William Henry Fox Talbot in Britain experimented with various silver salt solutions on paper. In the mid-1830s, he succeeded in producing a negative image on photosensitive paper in a camera and had thus ingeniously invented the negative.

In 1844-46, he published what could be regarded as the first photographically illustrated magazine, The Pencil of Nature, in which he described the technique and how photography could be used in practice. He himself claimed that its most important use was to produce evidence, but he also had artistic ambitions for his photographic images. It was Talbot who eventually launched the term “photography” (writing with light) for his invention. Many different words and metaphors were used to describe this new medium, but photography was soon established as its proper name.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'Lesson' 1860

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
Lesson
1860
Albumen silver print

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'The copper quay and the polishing works at Fiskars bruk, Finland' 1872

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
The copper quay and the polishing works at Fiskars bruk, Finland
1872
Albumen silver print

 

Fiskars (Swedish, Finnish: Fiskari) is a village in the town of Raseborg (Raasepori) in western Uusimaa, Finland. The village is the site of the former Fiskars Bruk, which was founded in 1646 and gave rise to the company Fiskars.

 

 

The exhibition Written in Light – The First Photographers explores Moderna Museet’s collection of photography from the second half of the 19th century. It includes the Museum’s unique collection of daguerreotypes and works by a few of the world’s most famous photographers: Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Gustave Rejlander, and Carleton E. Watkins.

Since its invention, photography has developed, changed, and been used for many different aims and purposes. With the breakthrough of digital images, and their omnipresence in social media, photography is once again in a period of change. This gives all the more reason to look back and consider the impact of its legacy on contemporary photography. This exhibition highlights the Museum’s collection of daguerreotypes, but also gives examples of other early photographic techniques.

Thanks to two significant acquisitions in the mid-1960s, the Helmut Gernsheim Duplicate Collection, and the Helmer Bäckström Photographic Collection, some of the most internationally famous photographers in history are represented at Moderna Museet.

 

Before and Behind the Lens

Written in Light and Film Inside an Image are part of the photographic project Before and Behind the Lens, which consists of a series of exhibitions, discussions and guided tours. Before and Behind the Lens examines the role of photographic images in art and the transformation of the medium since the early experiments with new technology in the 19th century, to today’s explorations of the potential of the optical lens. Moderna Museet has one of Europe’s finest collections of photography, ranging from pioneers such as Julia Margaret Cameron to many of the most influential contemporary artists who visualise the world for us with the camera lens.

Press release from Moderna Museet

 

Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill. 'Misses Grierson' c. 1845

 

Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill
Misses Grierson
c. 1845
Salted paper print, calotype

 

 

Robert Adamson (1821-1848) and David Octavius Hill (1802-1870)

The first prominent calotype practitioners were active in Scotland, which was exempt from Talbot’s patent restrictions. David Octavius Hill was a portrait painter, and Robert Adamson an engineer. In 1843, they began collaborating as photographers, after Hill had been assigned to portray a group of clergymen and laymen who had left the Church of Scotland and founded the Free Church of Scotland. Hill wanted to use photographs to create individual portraits of the several hundred participants in this assembly.

It took them more than a year to produce a calotype of each member, and the painting took another 20 years for Hill to complete. They continued working together for four years, until Adamson’s premature death, producing nearly 3,000 photo­graphs of architecture, landscapes, but especially portraits, which they always signed together. They also documented working women and men in the fishing village of Newhaven near Edinburgh in a natural and personal style that was unusual for that period.

 

Salted Paper Print, Calotype

Silver in common salt on/in paper 1839 – c. 1870

A paper is first soaked in a saline solution and then brushed on one side with silver nitrate, forming light-sensitive silver chloride. After allowing the paper to dry in the dark, it is exposed in sunlight for hours, in contact with a negative, until the image appears (printing-out). Excess silver chloride is then subjected to fixation in a strong saline solution or in sodium thiosulphate and is rinsed away in water. Subsequent gold toning (after 1849) lent the picture a richer tonal range and greater permanence. After 1850 they were often waxed and/or sometimes coated with a layer of albumen. Salted paper prints have a matte finish, and the paper fibres of the support are clearly visible in magnification. When fixed in salt, the image tone is reddish brown; in sodium sulphate it is a yellowish orange. Permanence is relatively low, and when faded or discoloured the prints turn to a yellowish brown. This technique was the first used to reproduce an image on paper from a negative. Although the term calotype is sometimes used, a calotype is actually a salted paper negative.

 

Johan Wilhelm Bergström. 'Self-Portrait' c 1850

 

Johan Wilhelm Bergström
Self-Portrait
c 1850
Daguerreotype

 

 

In 1844 Bergström became a photographer, an occupation he would hold for about ten years. As a daguerreotypist he became diligently engaged, and took pictures of the great people of the day. He also took a series of topographic images, which today are of great value. During a visit to Uppsala in 1845, he captured what is today the oldest known photographic image of the city, as well as a stereoscope image.

 

Daguerreotype

Amalgam on silver-coated copper 1839 – c. 1865

A copper plate is coated with a thin layer of silver, buffed and treated with iodine vapour in a closed container, transforming the silver to light-sensitive silver iodide. After being exposed in the camera for 10-30 minutes, the image is developed in heated mercury vapour. Silver and mercury form a white amalgam and the image is a reverse, low contrast positive. The picture was initially fixed in a saline bath, later in a bath of sodium sulphite. A subsequent toning in gold solution strengthened the sharpness and stability of the image. To protect the image against chemical and physical damage, the plate was tightly sealed with mats and glass and often enclosed in a case. Daguerreotypes are detailed, neutral in tone, sometimes hand-tinted, and are easily distinguishable by their alternately negative and positive impressions, depending on the angle of the light in which they are viewed.

 

Marcus Selmer. 'Bride from Birkeland' 1855

 

Marcus Selmer
Bride from Birkeland
1855
Daguerreotype, hand coloured

 

Marcus Selmer. 'Bride from Birkeland' 1855 (detail)

 

Marcus Selmer
Bride from Birkeland (detail)
1855
Daguerreotype, hand coloured

 

 

It is not immediately clear what drew Marcus Selmer (1819-1900), a Danish portrait photographer, to spend most of his life working in Norway. He trained as a pharmacist in his native Denmark, and was working in a chemist owned by his uncle when he discovered daguerreotype photography. He experimented with this new technology in his spare time and began sending his pictures in to local exhibitions. In 1852, Selmer travelled to Norway, to visit some of his uncle’s family in the city of Bergen. He never returned.

He soon found work as a photographer in Bergen and, within a year, was able to establish his own studio. This became the first permanent photographic studio in Bergen, as few photographers who visited would stay all year round. Photographers often visited Bergen in the summer, hoping to capture the fjords and mountains that surround the area, but, as they needed good light for their work, the dark and cold weather had driven most of them away by the time winter rolled around. Selmer ingeniously built his studio almost entirely out of glass, allowing enough light into the space, which enabled him to continue working throughout the year.

Selmer’s work quickly became well-known throughout Norway. He sold many books of his photographs, and sold individual images to the press and the burgeoning tourist industry, before eventually being appointed the royal photographer in 1880. Although his career was varied, Selmer is primarily remembered today for his portraits of local people in national folk costume… These photographs depict the customs, traditions and culture of the Norwegian people, and reflect Selmer’s interest in his adopted home.

Anonymous. “Marcus Selmer’s Photographs of 19th-Century Norwegians,” on the The Public Domain Review website [Online] Cited 05/08/2017

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'Maria Catharina Malmberg with Children' c. 1860

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
Maria Catharina Malmberg with Children
c. 1860
Ambrotype

 

 

Ambrotype

Silver in collodion on glass
1854 – c. 1880

A glass plate, coated with silver halogens in collodion, is sensitised with silver nitrate and then exposed wet in the camera. After being developed in iron sulphate – occasionally with the addition of silver nitrate – and fixed in potassium cyanide and washed, the plate is allowed to dry. The picture is then lacquered or protected with a sheet of glass, and the back is coated with black lacquer, textile, or cardboard so that the picture – actually a thin negative – is seen as a positive. It is a direct positive which is often tastefully displayed with mats and under glass in cases. Ambrotypes have a neutral tone, but are sometimes hand-tinted. The surface is characterised by a typical “doubleness”, as high-keys can be seen in the negative on the glass surface and low-keys against the dark background lining.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'No title (Shoeless boy playing whistle)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
No title (Shoeless boy playing whistle)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print

 

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-1875)

One of few internationally famous Swedish photographers is Oscar Gustave Rejlander, but little is known of his early life in Sweden. He settled in Britain around 1840, where he worked as a photographer until he died. He had probably studied art and was interested in art history. His works show distinct influences from Italian renaissance, Span­ish baroque, Dutch 17th-century painting and the British Pre-Raphaelites.

In his studio, he would build and photograph a kind of “tableaux vivants”, or staged scenes. Perhaps the most famous of Rejlander’s works is The Two Ways of Life from 1857, a negative montage consisting of some 30 exposures combined into a composition. Rejlander’s oeuvre also includes a series of pictures of poor children and families. Towards the end of his life, Rejlander met Charles Darwin and was commissioned to illustrate his acclaimed book The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'The Two Ways of Life' 1857

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
The Two Ways of Life
1857
Albumen silver print

 

 

In 1857 Rejlander made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows two youths being offered guidance by a patriarch. Each youth looks toward a section of a stage-like tableaux vivant – one youth is shown the virtuous pleasures and the other the sinful pleasures. (Wikipedia)

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Down the Valley, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Down the Valley, Yosemite
1861
Albumen silver print

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Tutueamela, El Capitan, 3000ft, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Tutueamela, El Capitan, 3000ft, Yosemite
1861
Albumen silver print

 

 

Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916)

Voyages of discovery, nature and landscapes were popular motifs for the early photographers. The growing tourism increased demand for pictures from exotic places, making this a source of income for publishers of photographic literature. The Ameri­can West was one such region, and some of the photographers who began working there also documented the American Civil War. One of the most prominent of these was Carleton E. Watkins, who had travelled and photographed the Yosemite Valley on several occasions in the first half of the 1860s.

In his large-format photographs, so-called mammoth prints, he captured the massive mountain formations, dramatic waterfalls and gigantic trees. His heavy equipment was carried by some ten mules, and it is almost a miracle, considering the difficult conditions, that so many of his photographs survived.

A definite advancement in the process of creating negatives was made by the Brit Frederick Scott Archers (1813-1857), who discovered how to use glass sheets for the negative instead of paper. Collodion was used to bind the necessary silver salt to the glass, but it could only be exposed while wet, hence the term wet plate process. The glass negatives gave sharp details, and a large number of paper prints could be made from one negative.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Mother of Salome' 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Mother of Salome
1870
Albumen silver print

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Angel at the Tomb' 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Angel at the Tomb
1870
Albumen silver print

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

In Victorian Britain, a small group of photographers were the very first to attempt to create and formulate art photography. Julia Margaret Cameron, who belonged to this group, left behind a fantastic collection of intimate portraits of her family and large circle of friends. She was an amateur photographer who was active mainly in the 1860s and 1870s.

Her staged pictures, inspired by myths, biblical stories and English literature, have a characteristically expressive soft focus. Cameron’s photographs are reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites and renaissance painting. The Moderna Museet collection of Julia Margaret Cameron includes portraits of Charles Darwin, Henry Taylor and Alfred Tennyson, along with staged tableaux of The Angel at the Grave and the melodramatic Maud from one of Tennyson’s most famous poems. Cameron’s last major photo­graphic project in the UK, before she and her family moved to Ceylon, present Sri Lanka, was to illustrate Tennyson’s work Idylls of the King (1874-75).

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Maud "There has Fallen a splendid Tear From the Passion Flower at the Gate"' 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Maud “There has Fallen a splendid Tear From the Passion Flower at the Gate”
1875
Illustration to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Other Poems. Sitter is Mary Ann Hillier
Albumen silver print

 

 

Albumen Silver Print

Silver in albumen on paper 1850 – c. 1900

A paper is brushed with a solution of albumen (egg white) and table salt and is allowed to dry. It is then bathed in silver nitrate and again allowed to dry, this time in darkness. Albumen, salt and silver form an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver salts which are exposed in daylight in direct contact with a negative until the desired image appears (printing-out). Residual light-sensitive silver salts are then removed through fixation, and the picture is washed in water. After 1855, most albumen silver photographs were gold-toned, followed by additional fixation and rinsing. Commercially produced albumen silver paper became available in 1863. Albumen silver prints have a thin paper support and are therefore normally mounted. The surface is usually glossy, and the tone may vary from yellow/red/brown to a violet blue, depending on exposure time and toning. Prints commonly change in tone to yellow/yellow-green in high-keys due to deterioration of the albumen. In magnification characteristic cracks can be seen.

 

Rosalie Sjöman. 'Alma Sjöman' c. 1875

 

Rosalie Sjöman
Alma Sjöman
c. 1875
Albumen silver print, hand coloured

 

 

Rosalie Sjöman (1833-1919)

Rosalie Sjöman was one of many prominent women photographers. She opened a studio in 1864 on Drott-ninggatan 42 in Stockholm, after being widowed with three small children. The photographer Carl Jacob Malmberg had had his studio at this address previously, and there are some indications that Sjöman may have been working for him. Her business prospered, and towards the end of the 1870s Rosalie Sjöman had five female employees, and she seems to have chosen to hire women only. R. Sjöman & Comp. later opened studios on Regeringsgatan 6, and in Kalmar, Halmstad and Vaxholm.

Her oeuvre includes numerous carte-de-visite portraits and larger so-called cabinet cards, with a mixture of classic portraits, various staged scenes, people wear-ing local folk costumes, and mosaics. The expertly hand-tinted photographs are especially eye-catch­ing; several of them portray her daughter Alma Sjöman.

In the 1860s, photography progressed from being an exclusive novelty into a more widespread and popular medium. The popular carte-de-visite were introduced in France in the mid-1850s, but became extremely fashionable when Emperor Napoleon III had his portrait made in the new format (6 x 9 cm). This trend spread rapidly, and portrait studios opened in large cities and smaller towns. This cartomania lasted for a decade, and the market stabilised around the mid-1870s, when the photographic medium entered a calmer phase.

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'No title' From the series 'Gymnastics' c. 1875

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
No title
From the series Gymnastics
c. 1875
Albumen silver print

 

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg (1824-1895)

The collection Carl Jacob Malmberg left behind includes most photographic techniques and image types. He is also an example of a photographer’s career development after the first innovative period in the 1840s and up to the 1890s. Malmberg was born in Finland and first studied to be a goldsmith in St Petersburg, where he also learned photography.

He moved to Stockholm, where he opened a studio in 1859 on Drottninggatan 42, and later on Norrtullsgatan 2, and finally on Regeringsgatan 6. Around this period, when cartes-de-visite portraits came into fashion, Malmberg’s practice really took off. On a visit to Finland in 1872, he took a series of photographs at Fiskars iron mill, documenting all the workshops and buildings. A slightly odd portfolio in Malmberg’s collection consists of more than 100 pictures of gymnasts. He had been commissioned by Hjalmar Ling at the Gymnastiska Centralinsti­tutet in Stockholm to take these pictures to illustrate the book Förkortad Öfversikt af allmän Rörelselära (Short Summary of General Exercise Physiology, 1880).

 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. 'William Etty' 1844/c. 1880

 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson
William Etty
1844/c. 1880
Carbon Print
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

Carbon Print

Charcoal (and colour) pigments and potassium bichromate in gelatin on paper 1864 – c. 1930

An emulsion with pigment and potassium dichromate in gelatin on thin paper is exposed in contact with a negative in daylight. The gelatin is hardened in relation to the amount of light during the exposure. The soaked paper is then turned over and pressed against a new support, coated with insoluble gelatin. The original support comes off in a bath of warm water or may be pulled off, and leaves an image with hardened pigmented gelatin. Any unexposed gelatin can then be washed off. The picture is finally subjected to an alum bath to remove the residual light-sensitive dichromate and to further harden the remaining gelatin. The result is a reversed image. It can be corrected by first reversing the negative or by transferring the image to a new support (Autotype).

Bühler and Höchheimer: A direct process on fabricated papers which were sensitised in alcohol, exposed in contact with a negative and developed in water. Carbon prints have a clear relief character with raised and glossy low-key areas. The tone is usually deep brown or black, but may vary with the choice of pigment. In magnification the emulsion gives a “ragged” impression, especially in high-keys.

 

Carl Curman. 'Waldemarsudde 1888' 1888

 

Carl Curman
Waldemarsudde 1888
1888
Cyanotype

 

 

Carl Curman (1833-1913)

The physician Carl Curman had many interests, and studied both medicine and art as a young man. Eventually, he became a famous balneologist, and initiated the plan for public baths in Stockholm and eventually also the Sturebadet swimming baths.

He built a photographic studio at the Karolinska Institute in the early 1860s, and was a pioneer of medical photography, before being appointed a professor of plastic anatomy at the Royal Acad­emy of Fine Arts in 1869. His lectures have been documented, in pictures showing students gathered around Curman for dissections. These photographic studies of the human anatomy were also used in the emerging field of eugenics – a troubling part of Western history.

Curman was never a professional photographer, but is one of the many practitioners who have made their mark on the history of pho­tography. His more private projects include pictures from Lysekil, where he worked as a balneologist, from Stockholm where he lived, and from various travels abroad, together with his wife Calla Curman, co-founder of the women’s society Nya Idun.

 

 

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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07
Jul
17

Exhibition: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd March – 23rd July 2017

 

Hilda Belcher (American 1881-1963) 'The Checkered Dress (Young Georgia O'Keeffe)' 1907

 

Hilda Belcher (American 1881-1963)
The Checkered Dress (Young Georgia O’Keeffe)
1907
Oil on canvas

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe at 291' 1917

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe at 291
1917
Platinum print
9⅝ x 7⅝ in. (24.3 x 19.4 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Blue #2' 1916

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Blue #2
1916
Watercolour on paper
15⅞ x 11 in. (40.3 x 27.8 cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Mary T. Cockcroft, by exchange
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

“Even in photographs in which O’Keeffe gazes directly at the camera, she telegraphs an elegant aloofness – not a coldness, exactly, but a demand to be seen from a distance, like the vast Southwestern landscapes that she made her own. Looking into her face repeated on gallery walls, I was reminded of the way a horizon invites one’s eye to the farthest possible point. Our gaze shifts; the horizon stays the same.” ~ Haley Mlotek on The NewYorker website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1918, printed 1920s
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' c. 1920-22

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
c. 1920-22
Gelatin silver print
4½ x 3½ in. (11.4 x 9 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

I love this woman. Such style, class and talent.

Fabulous art, clothes and photographs. An icon in every sense of the word.

Marcus

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern takes a new look at how the renowned modernist artist proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted public persona – including her clothing and the way she posed for the camera. The exhibition expands our understanding of O’Keeffe by focusing on her wardrobe, shown for the first time alongside key paintings and photographs. It confirms and explores her determination to be in charge of how the world understood her identity and artistic values.

In addition to selected paintings and items of clothing, the exhibition presents photographs of O’Keeffe and her homes by Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, and others. It also includes works that entered the Brooklyn collection following O’Keeffe’s first-ever museum exhibition – held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1927.

The exhibition is organised in sections that run from her early years, when O’Keeffe crafted a signature style of dress that dispensed with ornamentation; to her years in New York, in the 1920s and 1930s, when a black-and-white palette dominated much of her art and dress; and to her later years in New Mexico, where her art and clothing changed in response to the surrounding colours of the Southwestern landscape. The final section explores the enormous role photography played in the artist’s reinvention of herself in the Southwest, when a younger generation of photographers visited her, solidifying her status as a pioneer of modernism and as a contemporary style icon.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern is organised by guest curator Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University, and coordinated by Lisa Small, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, Brooklyn Museum.

 

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Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with Alfred Stieglitz’s Georgia O’Keeffe at 291 (1917) at left, and Gaston Lachaise’s sculpture Georgia O’Keeffe (1925-27) at centre

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Clam and Mussel (1926) second left

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Manhattan (1932) left, and Brooklyn Bridge (1949) right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Rams Head, White Hollyhock – Hills (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico) (1935) at right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting In the Patio IX (1950) at right, and an Emilio Pucci dress second right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting The Mountain, New Mexico (1931) at left

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with Georgia O’Keeffe by Irving Penn (1948) second left, and Georgia O’Keeffe by Laura Gilpin (1953) at right

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation views
© Jonathan Dorado

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1922
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.4 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Pool in the Woods, Lake George' 1922

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Pool in the Woods, Lake George
1922
Pastel on paper
17 x 27½ in. (43.3 x 69.9 cm)
Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse in memory of E. Carter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, and Winifred Babcock
Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, affiliated with Wake Forest University
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy)' 1926

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy)
1926
Oil on canvas
27⅛ x 12¼ in. (68.9 x 31.1 cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Gift of Mrs. Alfred S. Rossin
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Gaston Lachaise (American (born France) 1882-1935) 'Georgia O’Keeffe' 1925-27

 

Gaston Lachaise (American (born France) 1882-1935)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1925-27
Alabaster
H. 22-3/4 x W. 7-3/4 x D. 12-1/4 in. (57.8 x 19.7 x 31.1 cm); including 5-3/4 in. high base. Weight 70 lb (31.8 kg)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George' 1927

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George
1927
Gelatin silver print
4⅝ x 3⅝ in. (11.8 x 9.3 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Dress (Tunic and Underdress)' c. 1926

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Dress (Tunic and Underdress)
c. 1926
Ivory silk crepe
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Line and Curve' 1927

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Line and Curve
1927
Oil on canvas
32 x 16¼ in. (81.2 x 41.2 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Clam and Mussel' 1926

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Clam and Mussel
1926
Oil on canvas
48 1/8 × 29 7/9 in
122.2 × 75.6 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY
© ARS, NY The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern offers a new look at the iconic American artist’s powerful ownership of her identity as an artist and a woman. This major exhibition examines the modernist persona that Georgia O’Keeffe crafted for herself through her art, her dress, and her progressive, independent lifestyle. It will mark the first time O’’eeffe’s understated yet remarkable wardrobe will be presented in dialogue with key paintings, photographs, jewellery, accessories, and ephemera. Opening on March 3, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern represents a homecoming of sorts, as the artist had her first solo museum exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, in 1927.

On view through July 23, 2017, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project celebrating a decade of feminist thinking at the Brooklyn Museum.

In addition to a number of O’Keeffe’s key paintings and never-before-exhibited selections from her wardrobe, the exhibition will also feature portraits of her by such luminary photographers as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Todd Webb, Cecil Beaton, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, and others. These images, along with the garments and artworks on view, testify to the ways that O’Keeffe learned to use photographic sittings as a way to construct her persona, framing her status as a pioneer of modernism and as a style icon.

“Fifteen years ago I learned that when Georgia O’Keeffe died and left her two homes to her estate, her closets were filled with her belongings. The O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe now owns the homes and their contents, but no one had yet studied the sixty years of dresses, coats, suits, casual wear, and accessories she left behind. I took on that task. The Georgia O’Keeffe who emerged from my research and is presented in this exhibition was an artist not only in her studio but also in her homemaking and self-fashioning,” says guest curator, Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University.

“This exhibition reveals O’Keeffe’s commitment to core principles associated with modernism – minimalism, seriality, simplification – not only in her art, but also in her distinctive style of dress,” says Lisa Small, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, Brooklyn Museum, who serves as the exhibition’s in-house coordinator.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern opens with an introduction that demonstrates how O’Keeffe began to craft her signature clothing style as a high school student, dispensing with the bows and frills worn by young women at the time. The exhibition continues in four parts. The first is devoted to New York in the 1920s and ’30s, when she lived with Alfred Stieglitz and made many of her own clothes. It also examines Stieglitz’s multiyear, serial portrait project, which ultimately helped her to become one of the most photographed American artists in history and contributed to her understanding of photography’s power to shape her public image.

Her years in New Mexico comprise the second section, in which the desert landscape – surrounded by colour in the yellows, pinks, and reds of rocks and cliffs, and the blue sky – influenced her painting and dress palette. A small third section explores the influence and importance of Asian aesthetics in her personal style. The final section displays images made after Steiglitz’s era by photographers who came to visit her in the Southwest.

Press release from the Brooklyn Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1929

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1929
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Manhattan' 1932

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Manhattan
1932
Oil on canvas
84⅜ x 48¼ in. (214.3 x 122.6 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C./Art Resource, NY

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox' 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox
1937
Gelatin silver print
7¾ x 11 in. (19.7 x 27.9 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Blouse' c. early to mid-1930s

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Blouse
c. early to mid-1930s
White linen
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Dress with Matching Belt' c. 1930s

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Dress with Matching Belt
c. 1930s
Black wool, crepe and white silk
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'The Mountain, New Mexico' 1931

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
The Mountain, New Mexico
1931
Oil on canvas
30 1/16 × 36 1/8 in. (76.4 × 91.8 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Rams Head, White Hollyhock - Hills' (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico) 1935

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Rams Head, White Hollyhock – Hills (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico)
1935
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal
Photo: Brooklyn Museum

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe at Yosemite' 1938

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe at Yosemite
1938
Gelatin silver print
5¾ x 3⅜ in. (14.5 x 8.7 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Brooklyn Bridge' 1949

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Brooklyn Bridge
1949
Oil on Masonite
48 x 35⅞ in. (121.8 x 91.1 cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Mary Childs Draper
Photo: Brooklyn Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'In the Patio IX' 1950

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
In the Patio IX
1950
Oil on canvas mounted on panel
H- 30 x W- 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection
© The Vilcek Foundation

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1953

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1953
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.4 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Patio with Cloud' 1956

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Patio with Cloud
1956
Oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum; Gift of Mrs. Edward R. Wehr
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: P. Richard Eells

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico' c. 1960s

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico
c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Estate of Todd Webb, Portland, ME

 

'Padded Kimono (Tanzen)' c. 1960s-70s

 

Padded Kimono (Tanzen)
c. 1960s-70s
Silk with woven black and gray stripe
Inner garment: Kimono. White linen (?)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Bruce Weber (American, born 1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M.' 1984

 

Bruce Weber (American, born 1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M.
1984
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Bruce Weber and Nan Bush Collection, New York
© Bruce Weber

 

'Emsley. Suit (Jacket, Pants, and Vest)' 1983

 

Emsley. Suit (Jacket, Pants, and Vest)
1983
Black wool
Inner garment: Lord & Taylor. Shirt
c. 1960s. White cotton
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Carmel Highlands, California' 1981

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Carmel Highlands, California
1981
Gelatin silver print
10⅛ x 13⅛ in. (25.7 x 33.3 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

'Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern' by Wanda Corn book cover 2017

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern by Wanda Corn book cover 2017
Courtesy of Delmonico Books Prestel

 

 

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
T: (718) 638-5000

Opening hours:
Wednesday and Friday, 11 am – 6 pm
Thursday11 am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm
first Saturday of each month, 11 am – 11 pm
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

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12
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Carelton Watkins: The Stanford Albums’ at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Exhibition dates: 23rd April – 17th August 2014

 

Who would you put in your top eleven photographers of all time?

(in no particular order)

  • Minor White
  • Eugene Atget
  • Frederick Sommer
  • Carelton Watkins
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Walker Evans
  • Edward Weston
  • Lee Friedlander
  • Manuel Alvarez Bravo
  • Diane Arbus
  • Paul Strand

and then it gets a bit more difficult…

Is it a Josef Sudek, Robert Adams, Aaron Siskind, Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Emmet Gowin, William Clift, Ernest Cole, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Cindy Sherman, Charles Marville, Vivian Maier, Saul Leiter and suggestions from others – André Kertész, Josef Koudelka, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edouard Boubat, Paul Caponigro, etc …

 

What is more interesting is to ask:

Who are the interesting photographers anywhere who are alive now?

And my answer would be: there are very few who are alive now that are interesting.

That is – by looking at the ideas that are present in poetry, music, philosophy or even politics – who is there that is truly taking these ideas forward (or ideas that are as interesting).

Or who is arranging images with the elegance of a Sommer or an Atget or the dynamics of Arbus

= few if any.

In other words whose acts am I hanging upon, so that I am waiting with great anticipation to see what they are going to do next.

Only a few is my answer.

 

Which living photographers would I walk a mile to see their work?

= some (eg Lee Friedlander, Wolfgang Tillmans)

.

Which living Australian photographers would I walk an hour in the hot January sun to see?

= possibly two (Bill Henson, Rosemary Laing)

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

PS. Just look at Cape Horn, near Celilo (1867, below). You are not likely to see a more magnificent landscape photograph than this.

 

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

 

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Sugar Loaf Islands and Seal Rocks, Farallons' 1868-1869

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Sugar Loaf Islands and Seal Rocks, Farallons
1868-1869
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Devils' Cañon Geysers, Looking Up' c. 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Devils’ Cañon Geysers, Looking Up
c. 1867
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Devils' Cañon Geysers, Looking Up' (detail) c. 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Devils’ Cañon Geysers, Looking Up (detail)
c. 1867
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Alcatraz from North Point' 1862–1863

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Alcatraz from North Point
1862–1863
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'The Wreck of the Viscata' March 1868

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
The Wreck of the Viscata
March 1868
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Magenta Flume Nevada Co. Cal.' c. 1871

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Magenta Flume Nevada Co. Cal.
c. 1871
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Flour and Woolen Mills, Oregon City' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Flour and Woolen Mills, Oregon City
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print. Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Mt. Hood and the Dalles, Columbia River' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Mt. Hood and the Dalles, Columbia River
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, near Celilo' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, near Celilo
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'The Yosemite Valley from the "Best General View"' 1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
The Yosemite Valley from the “Best General View”
1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Cathedral Rocks, 2630 ft., Yosemite' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Cathedral Rocks, 2630 ft., Yosemite
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Pompompasos, the Three Brothers, Yosemite 4480 ft.' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Pompompasos, the Three Brothers, Yosemite 4480 ft.
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Mirror View of the North Dome, Yosemite' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Mirror View of the North Dome, Yosemite
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

“Born in upstate New York, Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) ventured west in 1849 to strike it rich. But instead of prospecting for gold, Watkins developed a talent for photography – a medium invented only 22 years before. He documented the remote Pacific Coast in the 1860s and 1870s, capturing its vast scale and spirit with a custom-built camera that created “mammoth” 18 x 22-inch glass-plate negatives. In June 1864, his stunning photographs of Yosemite’s valley, waterfalls and peaks proved instrumental in convincing President Abraham Lincoln and the 38th U.S. Congress to pass the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, legislation that preserved the land for public use and set a precedent for America’s National Park System.

As the nation celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents Carleton Watkins: The Stanford Albums, an exhibition featuring more than 80 original mammoth prints from three unique albums of Watkins’s work: Photographs of the Yosemite Valley (1861 and 1865-66), Photographs of the Pacific Coast (1862-76), and Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon (1867 and 1870). The exhibition will be on view April 23 through August 17, 2014. Also featured will be cartographic visualizations developed in collaboration with Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, which provide dynamic context for the geography and natural history of Watkins’s photographs. A fully illustrated publication will accompany the exhibition.

“The Cantor is thrilled to be leading such an innovative, interdisciplinary effort to look at Watkins’s work anew,” says Connie Wolf, the Cantor’s John & Jill Freidenrich Director. “These extraordinary albums from Stanford University Libraries’ singular collection provide us with an unparalleled opportunity to examine Watkins’s place in the history of photography, and to more fully understand the critical role photography played in the preservation, promotion, and development of the West. It is fascinating to note that Watkins and Leland Stanford were contemporaries. Watkins even photographed Stanford’s family, making this university a proud and apt home for these albums.”

 

The Albums

Photographs of the Yosemite Valley (1861 and 1865-66)

In 1861, Watkins loaded up a team of mules with nearly a ton of photographic equipment including a mobile darkroom tent, a dangerous assortment of flammable chemicals, and an enormous custom-built camera that produced “mammoth” 18 x 22-inch glass-plate negatives. He headed 75 miles into the rugged and remote Yosemite Valley on a sometimes perilous journey to capture the natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada. The technical challenges of creating wet-plate negatives in the field were immense. Dust and grit could easily ruin the work as the plates were coated, exposed for up to an hour, and developed. Water had to be carried great distances. The sun warped and shrank camera parts. But the resulting suite of photographs became an international sensation – not only because they provided virtual access to one of America’s grandest wilderness areas but also for their extraordinary beauty. The New York Times declared in 1862 that “as specimens of the photographic art they are unequaled.”

Watkins’s album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley is sequenced to replicate the experience of entering the Mariposa Grove trail and traveling into the valley. From Cathedral Rocks to Half Dome, Watkins captures the quiet majesty of Yosemite’s natural monuments. The album contains images from both his initial expedition in 1861 and a subsequent visit as an ad hoc member of the California State Geological Survey team in 1865-66. Throughout his career, Watkins maintained close relationships with geologists as well as botanists who were deeply interested in his documentation of native tree species.

In Yosemite, Watkins found a spectacular natural laboratory for testing and refining his approach to landscape photography. His compositional choices were unique. In The Yosemite Valley from the “Best General View” (1866), for instance, Watkins cropped off the top of the lone tree in the foreground instead of framing it, lending a painterly quality to the image. By manipulating focus and perspective, Watkins also achieved an unusual balance of crispness against softer tonalities.

Watkins’s technical achievements under adverse conditions were unmatched and astonished his peers. The resolution of his photographs still rivals that of the high-end digital cameras of today. After 1861, capitalizing on the success of his Yosemite pictures and his reputation as a landscape photographer, Watkins renamed his studio at 425 Montgomery Street in San Francisco the “Yo-Semite Gallery.” The exhibition features more than 30 photographs from the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley including various views of Yosemite Valley; mountains and rock formations such as Cathedral Rocks, Half Dome, and El Capitan; waterfalls and water views such as Mirror Lake and Yosemite Falls; and photographs of Yosemite’s majestic trees.

Photographs of the Pacific Coast (1862-76)

Watkins made his living mostly as a field photographer for hire, accepting commissions from logging companies and mining operations up and down the coast. Early in his career, Watkins’s photographs were often used to attract investors or as documentation in court evidence for land disputes. In the fast-developing West, photography was a means of establishing ‘truth claims’ to property and resource rights. And in a region where vast swaths of territory were rarely traveled by city dwellers, photography filled in the gaps.

Watkins added images from these underwritten trips to an album he called Photographs of the Pacific Coast. Along with his commercial photographs of smelting works at the New Almaden Mine in Santa Clara County and the hydraulic North Bloomfield mine in Nevada County, the album contains remarkable vistas of San Francisco including a dramatic photograph of the shipwreck Viscata on Ocean Beach, also images of the Devil’s Canyon geysers in Sonoma County and the Farallon Islands.

The album also includes images commissioned by California’s sixth governor, Milton Slocum Latham, of Latham’s mansion on San Francisco’s Rincon Hill. It was, in fact, Latham’s wife, Mollie, who commissioned the three albums now at Stanford. One of the original bindings is on display so visitors can appreciate its massive size and ornate details. With the Civil War raging in the eastern part of the country until 1865, Watkins’s images of the pristine Pacific Coast must have provided Americans a welcome alternative to the images of carnage issuing from the battlefield.

In the exhibition, there are more than 20 California photographs from the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast including scenes of San Francisco neighborhoods, homes, and natural sites including the Farallon Islands; commissioned images of mining operations; and views of Mt. Shasta, Mendocino County, and Sonoma County.

Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon (1867 and 1870)

While Watkins’s name is most closely associated with Yosemite, photographers often cite Watkins’s album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon as his crowning artistic achievement. No longer a novice, Watkins demonstrates mastery of his craft and a keen eye for composition in these images. A friend at the Oregon Steam Navigation Company arranged for Watkins to travel by rail up and down the Columbia River to photograph the company’s rail portages and scenic beauty to document the company’s progress. Watkins was the first to photograph this area and traveled for four months to do so.

In the resulting views of Portland, Oregon City, rail portages, river industry, and scenery, Watkins made art of the river landscapes and the railroad laid alongside it. Cape Horn, Near Celilo (1867), taken at the final point of his journey where the tracks ended, shows a stark horizon, suggesting both the far edge of the world and the determination of early industrial pioneers. In Mt. Hood and the Dalles, Columbia River (1867), a spectacular view of Mt. Hood and of the meandering river at the base of basalt cliffs is disrupted by the object of greatest focus – a tiny white outbuilding for the railroad.

The exhibition features more than 15 photographs from the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon including views along the Columbia River of Cape Horn, Castle Rock and Mt. Hood; and images of Portland, Oregon City, and smaller towns and industries along the railroad.

Exploring Watkins’s Photographs with Digital Technology

Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, the Bill Lane Center for the American West, the Branner Earth Sciences Library, and the Cantor worked together to create an innovative cartographic digital accompaniment for each album.

For Photographs of Yosemite Valley, the team – including select students – generated “viewsheds” of several of Watkins’s photographs that enable visitors to see where each was likely taken and what topographical elements are either illuminated or obscured in them. With Photographs of the Pacific Coast, fascinating before-and-after visualizations illustrate the incredible changes in the landscape of San Francisco over the last century and a half. Lastly, a cartographic accompaniment to Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon details the early railroad routes Watkins traveled to take his photographs.

Carleton Eugene Watkins (1829-1916)

Born in upstate New York in 1829, Watkins ventured west to look for opportunities and settled in the Bay Area in 1852. While working for a photography studio, he was asked to step in for a photographer who had unexpectedly quit. Watkins quickly learned the daguerreotype process and within two years he was making ambrotypes and wet-plate collodion photographs.

Throughout his career, Watkins documented the remote American West, generating more than 7,000 photographs of its most majestic wilderness sites as well as the dramatic transformation of isolated territories caused by logging and mining industries. His photographs won awards throughout the United States and abroad. With his early success, he established a gallery in San Francisco on prestigious Montgomery Street in 1861.

But Watkins’s fortunes took a turn with the 1874 failure of the Bank of California and the resulting economic panic. Heavily in debt at the time, Watkins had to declare bankruptcy and lost both the gallery and the majority of his negatives to a competitor. Watkins rebuilt his inventory, continuing to travel and work into the 1890s, but never recovered financially. At one point he and his family lived in a rail car in Oakland. Watkins’s health also declined, and by 1903 he was nearly blind. Watkins died tragically. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed his studio and his life’s work, and he never got over the shock. His family eventually had him committed to Napa State Hospital. He died there in 1916.”

Press release from the Cantor Arts Center website

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Arch at the West End, Farallones' 1868-1869

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Arch at the West End, Farallones
1868-1869
From the album Photographs of the Pacific Coast
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Multnomah Falls, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River, Oregon
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Multnomah Falls, Cascades, Columbia River' 1867

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Multnomah Falls, Cascades, Columbia River
1867
From the album Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Pohono, the Bridal Veil, Yosemite 900 ft.' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Pohono, the Bridal Veil, Yosemite 900 ft.
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'The Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
The Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'The Yosemite Falls, 2634 ft.' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
The Yosemite Falls, 2634 ft.
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print. Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Mirror View of El Capitan, Yosemite' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Mirror View of El Capitan, Yosemite
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Washington Column, 2082 ft., Yosemite' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Washington Column, 2082 ft., Yosemite
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'The Ponderosa, Yosemite' 1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
The Ponderosa, Yosemite
1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Section of the Grizzly Giant, 33 ft. diameter' 1865-1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Section of the Grizzly Giant, 33 ft. diameter
1865-1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print. Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

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26
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 1st October 1, 2013 – 5th January 2014

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The J. Paul Getty Museum puts on some amazing exhibitions, and this is no exception. For me the strength of this artist lies in his black and white work. I am not so enamoured with the camera obscura, unexpected juxtapositions of objects or tent-camera images. They seem prosaic and lack the magic of the black and white work.

The artist’s distinctive take on domestic interiors and family life is beguiling. Damp footprints on a bathroom floor with the most glorious light; the dark maw of a open paper bag; toy blocks ascending skywards; jumble of letters on a monolithic refrigerator door; the shadow of a house made into a house (amazing!); and the portents of darkness to come as Brady looks at his shadow. You cannot forget these images, they impinge on your consciousness. As for the colour images, they seem insignificant, superfluous when compared with these resonances.

Marcus

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

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Paper Bag' 1992

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Paper Bag
1992
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Curiouser and Curiouser' 1998

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Curiouser and Curiouser
1998
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Lisa and Brady Behind Glass' 1986

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Lisa and Brady Behind Glass
1986
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Toy Blocks' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Toy Blocks
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Refrigerator' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Refrigerator
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Footprints' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Footprints
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from the Friends of Photography, 2012.213
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House' 1994

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House
1994
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Abelardo Morell, 2004.139
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Book of Revolving Stars' 1994

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Book of Revolving Stars
1994
Inkjet print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Light Bulb' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Light Bulb
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Comer Foundation Fund, 1994.40
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 79.2 x 103.2 cm (31 3/16 x 40 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Two Forks Under Water' 1993

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Two Forks Under Water
1993
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Book with Wavy Pages' 2001

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Book with Wavy Pages
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Motion Study of Falling Pitchers' 2004

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Motion Study of Falling Pitchers
2004
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, obj. 210881
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Brady Looking at his Shadow' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Brady Looking at his Shadow
1991
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from Bert and Cathy Clark, 2012.214
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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“Over the past 25 years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) has become internationally renowned for photographs that push the boundaries of the medium while exploring visual surprise and wonder. Throughout his career, he has looked at things with a fresh vision and investigated simple optics in myriad forms. Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door, on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, traces the artist’s innovative work as he has continued to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of photography. The exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Abelardo Morell is one of this country’s great contemporary photographers whose very distinctive achievement is celebrated in this first major survey of his work,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition also celebrates the growth of the holdings of Morell at three major museums, which have recently been augmented through the generosity of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, who have promised significant groups of works by the artist to each institution’s permanent collection.”

Morell came to the United States as a teenager. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine, and later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University. In 1986 he began creating large-format pictures around his home, examining common household objects with childlike curiosity. As a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he experimented with optics in his teaching and initiated a series of images in which he turned entire rooms into camera obscuras, capturing the outside world as projected onto interior surfaces. These visual experiments and endless exploration of the medium are at the heart of the work on view in the exhibition.

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From a Child’s Perspective

The earliest photographs in the exhibition date from the mid-1980s, when the birth of his son, Brady, led Morell to a radical shift in his work. Looking inward at his own family life, Morell found novel subject matter in domestic interiors. He set aside his hand-held camera in favor of a large-format view camera that necessitated a more deliberate style and elicited a wealth of tactile detail from his subjects. Of this shift, Morell writes: “I started making photographs as if I were a child myself. This strategy got me to look at things around me more closely, more slowly, and from vantage points I hadn’t considered before.” This technique can be seen in Refrigerator (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where Morell portrays a common refrigerator as a giant monolith with jumbled letters on it, evoking the preverbal vision of a child. This concept recurs in Toy Blocks (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where toy blocks photographed from a steep perspective on the floor are made to seem like a mysterious Tower of Babel, as they might to a small child.

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Camera Obscura Experiments

The basis for all photography, the principle of the camera obscura (Latin for “dark chamber”) has been known since antiquity. In 1991, Morell began transforming entire rooms into cameras by covering the windows and inserting a small hole. He used a second camera to photograph the superimposition of the outside world as projected onto various interiors. Morell started by making black-and-white pictures in his own home before traveling before traveling in search of other compelling subjects for his uncanny, disorienting images. Morell made a pilgrimage to photograph Lacock Abbey, the country house of William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877), one of the inventors of photography. Talbot’s era was an ideal model for the camera obscura work, as the general interest in a variety of intersecting subject matter at that time mirrored Morell’s own interest in uniting science, art, philosophy, and religion.

In 2005, Morell turned to creating camera obscura works in color, eventually incorporating technical refinements that made his photographs less raw and immediate and more explicitly constructed. In View of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Bedroom (2009), bold red sheets serve as a reminder of the bed as a site of intimacy, contrasting with the public space of the Brooklyn Bridge. This strange juxtaposition also evokes a dreamlike state, as the outdoor image floats just above the bed.

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Tent Camera Images

In 2010, following the example of 19th century photographers such as Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) and William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942), Morell set out to capture the grandeur of the American wilderness. At Big Bend National Park in Texas, he began experimenting with a portable tent camera featuring a periscope lens on top, which projected the scene outside onto the ground. Morell found it appealing that what was overlooked because it was underfoot – something so common and shared – formed the backdrop for these images. In Tent Camera Image on Ground: El Capitan from Cathedral Beach, Yosemite National Park, California (2012), Morell followed Carleton Watkins’s path into Yosemite, where he used the tent camera to create a landscape that is no longer fresh and pristine, but set against such modern visual disruptions as bike tracks in the dirt.

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Additional Experiments

Also on view in the exhibition are additional visual experiments employed by Morell, including a simulation of Eadweard Muybridge’s early use of stop-motion using a water pitcher and wine glass, as well as optical curiosities like dappled sunlight under trees, which Morell said results from hundreds of “tiny cameras” that form in the minute spaces between leaves. While in residence at two museums – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1998, and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven in 2008 – Morell created photographs that involve unexpected juxtapositions that explore how the presentation of art affects its meaning. By moving sculptures and paintings in close proximity to one another, he created what he called “an impossible conversation” between works of art. In Nadelman/Hopper (negative, 2008; print, 2012), he positioned a bust by Elie Nadelman (American, 1882-1946) in front of a painting by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) for a composition in the vein of Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888-1978).

“Morell is driven by his unflagging intellectual curiosity and his love of the medium of photography,” said Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition at the Getty Museum. “His work is grounded in the past, but it also contains an unexpected twist that causes us to reexamine what we think we know. I am delighted to be able to share this unique collection of photographs with our visitors.”

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Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door is on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition was on view at the the Art Institute of Chicago from June 1 – September 2, 2013, and will be on view at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta from February 22 – May 18, 2014. The exhibition is curated by Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Elizabeth Siegel, associate curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, where it travels after the Getty. Funding for the exhibition catalogue was provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Generous in-kind support for the exhibition was provided by Tru Vue Inc. and Gemini Moulding Incc.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery' 2008

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery
2008
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge' 2010

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge
2010
Inkjet print
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office' 2007

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office
2007
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist in memory of David Feingold, 2013.1
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom' 2009

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom
2009
Inkjet print
Image: 79 x 101.6 cm (31 1/8 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by Richard and Alison Crowell, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and anonymous donors in honor of James N. Wood
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy' 2006

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy
2006
Inkjet print
Image: 101.6 x 76.2 cm (40 x 30 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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24
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

Exhibition dates: 28th June 2013 – 5th January 2014
1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)

Browse the exhibition and related works on the exhibition website

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The next two weeks sees a lot of exhibitions finish their run on the 5th January 2014.

Here is a bumper posting which contains one of my favourite photographs of all time: Danny Lyon’s Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville (1966, below). From a distance, this looks to be a very interesting exhibition on a large topic, delineated for the viewer into four main sections. The task of the curator cannot have been easy, picking 113 images to represent a “democracy” of images out of a collection of over 7,000 images. Of course there can never be a true “democracy” of images as some will always be more valued within our culture than others. There is a meritocracy in this exhibition which features images by masters of the medium but this is balanced by the inclusion of images by anonymous photographers, little known photographers and vernacular and street photography.

What is most impressive is the specially developed website which includes many images from the different sections of the exhibition. These images are of good quality and, along with relevant text, help the viewer place the images in context. Related content is also suggested from the full photographic collection at The Smithsonian which has been placed online with good image quality. This is a far cry from many exhibitions at state galleries in Australia where there are hardly any dedicated exhibition websites. Most of the photographic collection from these galleries is not available online and if it has been scanned, the image quality is generally poor. How many times have I searched a state gallery or library collection and come up with the answer: “Image not available” ?

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Many thankx to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“More often, though, the moments, places, people and views that have been collected here feel offhand and stumbled upon, telling a fragmentary, incomplete tale. Sometimes it’s literally a glance, as in “Girl Holding Popsicle,” a 1972 image by Mark Cohen, who rarely even looked through his viewfinder. Other times, it’s more like a long stare, as in William Christenberry’s 1979 “China Grove Church – Hale County, Alabama,” a locale that the Washington-based artist and Alabama native returned to again and again. These 113 pictures are, at the same time, quietly telling, revealing bits of America in oblique, prismatic ways.”

Part of Michael O’Sullivan’s review of the exhibition in The Washington Post.

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American Characters

Photographers have captured the texture of everyday life since the medium’s arrival in the United States in 1839. Photographic portraits have made both the iconic and the commonplace serve as stand-ins for all of us, forging a shared language of political and social understanding. In charting the passing parade of history – the faces of the anonymous and the famous; evolving stories of immigration, disenfranchisement, and assimilation; as well as emblematic objects and celebrated landmarks lodged within our collective memory – photographs reveal the complexities of America.

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Unidentified artist. '[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]' c. 1855

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Unidentified artist
[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Plate: 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. (6.9 x 8.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.193

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Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 - died Greenbrae, CA 2009) 'Portrait of My Father with Newspaper' 1988

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Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 – died Greenbrae, CA 2009)
Portrait of My Father with Newspaper
1988
Chromogenic print
Image: 28 5/8 x 34 5/8 in. (72.7 x 87.9 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Nan Tucker McEvoy, 1989.58
© 1988, Larry Sultan

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In Portrait of My Father with Newspaper, Irving Sultan reads the Los Angeles Times as light pours in behind him. This carefully composed portrait reveals the artist’s father almost entirely through reflections and shadows. Thin newsprint shields his body from the camera, while only a vague profile of his face is discernible on the right half of the spread. Prompted by the discovery of a box of home movies, Larry Sultan embarked on an eight-year enquiry into his parents’ lives. He stayed in their home for weeks at a time, interviewing them about their marriage and photographing their domestic activities.

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Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944) 'First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)' 1976

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Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944)
First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm) sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1168
© 1974, Eugene Richards

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Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943) 'Girl Holding Popsicle' 1972, printed 1983

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Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943)
Girl Holding Popsicle
1972, printed 1983
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 14 x 17 in. (35.5 x 43.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dene and Mel Garbow, 1992.73.4
© 1972, Mark Cohen

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In Girl Holding Popsicle a young girl twists shyly as she poses before a graffiti-inscribed brick wall. Mark Cohen took this photograph spontaneously as he passed through a back alley. Cohen does not hesitate to get assertively close to the strangers he meets in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Many of his photographs are made without looking through a viewfinder, and so remain a mystery even to Cohen until they are developed.

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Unidentified artist. '[Gold Nugget]' c. 1860s

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Unidentified artist
[Gold Nugget]
c. 1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 2 1/8 x 3 5/8 in. (5.4 x 9.2 cm) sheet: 2 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (6.1 x 9.8 cm) irregular
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2006.36.1

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Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 - died New York City 1896) 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865, printed early 1880s

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Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment, 2007.6

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Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954) 'World Trade Center Series, New York City' 2001

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Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954)
World Trade Center Series, New York City
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 x 18 in. (45.7 x 45.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 2003.65.1
© 2001, Kevin Bubriski

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In the weeks and months following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, Kevin Bubriski photographed people who gathered at Ground Zero. Frozen in awe, struck with disbelief, and overcome with loss, people stood before the destroyed building site to confront the horrible tragedy. More than ten years later, Bubriski’s photographs preserve the emotional impact of this infamous day through images of those who witnessed its aftermath first-hand.

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Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951) '01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds' 2008-2012

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Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951)
01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds
2008-2012
Gelatin silver print
55 x 55 in. (139.7 x 139.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2013.43, © 2010, Deborah Luster

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This photograph, from a series that documents contemporary and historical homicide sites in New Orleans, presents Deborah Luster’s interpretation of the last view of the crime victim lying face up on the ground. The title is the entry from the New Orleans Police blotter, but the photograph is Luster’s meditation on looking, seeing, and the power of images to haunt our imagination.

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Unidentified artist. '[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]' c. 1865

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Unidentified artist
[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 14 1/8 x 11 in. (35.9 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.220

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Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944) '"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, boxer' 1981

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Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944)
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, boxer
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (35.2 x 35.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Kenneth B. Pearl, 1997.118.2, © 1981, Anthony Barboza

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Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 - died Los Angeles, CA 1952) 'Girl and Jar - San Ildefonso' 1905

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Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 – died Los Angeles, CA 1952)
Girl and Jar – San Ildefonso
1905
Photogravure
Sight 16 5/8 x 12 1/4 in. (12.3 x 31.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the United States Marshal Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1988.5.18

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Between 1900 and 1930, Edward S. Curtis traveled across the continent photographing more than seventy Native American tribes. The photographs, compiled into twenty volumes, presented daily activities, customs, and religions of a people he called “a vanishing race.” Curtis hoped to preserve the legacy of Native peoples in lasting images. To this end, Curtis often costumed his subjects and set up scenes, mixing tribal artifacts and traditions to match his romantic vision of the people he studied. In this intimate portrait, a young Tewa woman named Povi-Tamu (“Flower Morning”) balances a large jug with help from a hidden fiber ring. She is from the San Ildefonso Pueblo of New Mexico, which is famed for its rich tradition of fine pottery. Curtis associated the serpentine design of the vessel with the serpent cult, which he noted was central to Tewa life.

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Oliver H. Willard (died 1875) 'Portrait of a Young Woman' c. 1857

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Oliver H. Willard (died 1875)
Portrait of a Young Woman
c. 1857
Salted paper print
8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (22.5 x 17.1 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, 1999.29.1

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Spiritual Frontier

The earliest photographs made in America describe an awesome land blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty that it seemed heaven sent. Images of waterfalls, mountains, and vast open spaces conveyed the beauty, the grandeur, the sublimity, and dynamics of a great spiritual endeavor. In the nineteenth century photographers pictured wilderness landscapes that symbolized American greatness. More recently, photographers have described a landscape no less romantic, but now recalibrated to account for the interaction of nature and culture.

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Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 - died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904) 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point' 1872

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Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 – died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point
1872
Albumen silver print
Sheet: 17 x 21 1/2 in. (43.2 x 54.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.1

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Eadweard Muybridge went to great lengths to photograph the best possible views of the West. He chopped down trees if they obstructed his camera, and ventured to “points where his packers refused to follow him.” Muybridge was determined to produce the most comprehensive photographs ever made of Yosemite and the surrounding region. His views were sold widely in both large-format prints and stereograph cards, which are viewed through a device that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space. This allowed Muybridge to transport his audience, if just for a moment, to a faraway place caught on film.

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Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924) 'Butte, Montana' 1956, printed 1973

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Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1956, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1974.31.2

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Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937) 'New Housing, Longmont, Colorado' 1973

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Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937)
New Housing, Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 6 x 7 5/8 in. (15.1 x 19.3 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.9
© 1973, Robert Adams

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As both a photographer and writer, Robert Adams is committed to describing the western American landscape as both awe-inspiring and scarred by man. In New Housing, Longmont Colorado, Adams contrasted the vast space of the distant landscape view with a foreground image of the wall of a newly constructed suburban tract house. Adams invites a consideration of the balance between myth and reality and the land as home as well as scenic backdrop.

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Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 - died Oakland, CA 1903) 'Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California' 1865

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Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 – died Oakland, CA 1903)
Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California
1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 15 1/2 x 20 1/4 in. (39.4 x 51.4 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.5

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Like Carleton Watkins, his better-known competitor, Charles Weed recognized the pictorial dividend to be gained by showing Yosemite’s glorious geological features in duplicate, using the valley’s lakes as reflecting ponds. Weed first traveled to what was then known as “Yo-Semite,” in 1859, but with a relatively small camera; he returned in 1865 with a larger model capable of using what were called mammoth plates. Like Watkins, he sold his prints to buyers eager to own a photograph of majestic natural beauty.

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Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 - died Monterey, CA 1984) 'Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley' 1926-1927, printed 1927

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Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 – died Monterey, CA 1984)
Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
1926-1927, printed 1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.2 x 25.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1992.101.3, © 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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At just over 4,700 feet above the valley, Half Dome is the most iconic rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Adams squeezed the monolith into the frame to emphasize the majesty of its scale and the drama of its cliff. As it thrusts out of the brilliant white snow, Half Dome stands as a symbol of the unspoiled western landscape. Ansel Adams made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada mountain range when he was fourteen years old, and he returned every year until the end of his life, often for month-long stretches. Throughout his career Adams traveled widely – from Hawaii to Maine – to photograph the most picturesque vistas in America. After his death in 1984, a section of the Sierra Nevada was named the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor.

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John Pfahl (born New York City 1939) 'Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York' 1989

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John Pfahl (born New York City 1939)
Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York
1989
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 1991.27.3, © 1989, John Pfahl

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John Pfahl’s photographs embody the conflict between progress and preservation. Throughout the 1980s he focused on oil refineries and power plants. He chose the sites strategically based on their location in picturesque landscapes, where he observed a “transcendental” connection between industry and nature. In Goodyear #5 a nuclear power plant occupies the horizon. The setting sun provides a romantic color palette as light filters through clouds of billowing steam. The landscape is reduced to an abstract composition that celebrates color and texture. Pfahl’s intention with this series, titled Smoke, was to “make photographs whose very ambiguity provokes thought.” This photograph complicates popular notions of power plants by revealing an uncommonly beautiful view of a controversial structure.

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“A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the numerous ways in which photography, from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works, has captured the American experience. The photographs presented here are selected from the approximately 7,000 images collected since the museum’s photography program began thirty years ago, in 1983. Ranging from daguerreotype to digital, they depict the American experience and are loosely grouped around four ideas: American Characters, Spiritual Frontier, America Inhabited, and Imagination at Work.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by American poet Walt Whitman’s belief that photography provided America with a new, democratic art form that matched the spirit of the young country and his belief that photography was a quintessentially American activity, rooted in everyday people and ordinary things and presented in a straightforward way. Known as the “poet of democracy,” Whitman wrote after visiting a daguerreotype studio in 1846: “You will see more life there – more variety, more human nature, more artistic beauty… than in any spot we know.” At the time of Whitman’s death, in 1892, George Eastman had just introduced mass market photography when he put an affordable box camera into the hands of thousands of Americans. The ability to capture an instant of lasting importance and fundamental truth mesmerized Americans then and continues to inspire photographers working today. Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the museum’s pioneering photography collection, the exhibition examines photography’s evolution in the United States from a documentary medium to a full-fledged artistic genre and showcases the numerous ways in which it has distilled our evolving idea of “America.”

The exhibition features 113 photographs selected from the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Edward S. Curtis, Timothy H. O’SullivanBerenice AbbottDiane ArbusRoy DeCaravaWalker Evans,Irving PennTrevor Paglen, among others, as well as vernacular works by unknown artists. A number of recent acquisitions are featured, including works by Ellen CareyMitch EpsteinMuriel HasbunAlfredo Jaar, Annie Leibovitz, Deborah Luster, and Sally Mann. Landscapes, portraits, documentary-style works from the New York Photo League and images from surveying expeditions sent westward after the Civil War are among the images on display, and explore how photographs have been used to record and catalogue, to impart knowledge, to project social commentary, and as instruments of self-expression.

Photography’s arrival in the United States in 1840 allowed ordinary people to make and own images in a way that had not been previously possible. Photographers immediately became engaged with the life of the emerging nation, the activity of new urban centers, and the possibilities of unprecedented access to the vast western frontier. From the nineteenth to the twentieth century, photography not only captured the country’s changing cultural and physical landscape, but also developed its own language and layers of meaning.

A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is organized around four major themes that defined American photography. “American Characters” examines the ways in which photographs of individuals, places, and objects become a catalogue of our collective memory and have contributed to the ever-evolving idea of the American character. “Spiritual Frontier” investigates early ideas of a vast, inexhaustible wilderness that symbolized American greatness. “America Inhabited” traces the nation’s rapid industrialization and urbanization through images of speed, change, progress, immigration, and contemporary rural, urban, and suburban landscapes. “Imagination at Work” demonstrates how photography’s role of spontaneous witness gradually gave way to contrived arrangement and artistic invention. The exhibition is organized by Merry Foresta, guest curator and independent consultant for the arts. She was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

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Connecting online
A complementary website designed for viewing on tablets includes photographs on view in the exhibition, an expanded selection of works from the museum’s collection and a timeline of American photography. It is available through tablet stations in the exhibition galleries, online, and on mobile devices.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website

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America Inhabited

Photography’s early presence in America coincided with the rise of an industrial economy, the growth of major urban population centers, and the fulfilling of what some saw as the Manifest Destiny of spanning the continent from sea to sea. Images of progress and industry, as well as of city and suburbs, quickly added themselves to photography’s catalogue of places and people. Some of these images reflect idealistically, and at times nostalgically, on the beauty and humanity of our own backyards. Others stand as social documents that can be seen as critical and ironic, inviting outrage as well as compassion about the way we now live our lives.

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Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 - died New York City 2009) 'New York' c. 1942, printed later

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Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 – died New York City 2009)
New York
c. 1942, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 1/8 x 10 1/2 in. (18.1 x 26.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.16.4, © 1981, Helen Levitt

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Caught before they run off into the streets, three masked youngsters pause on their front stoop. Expressive postures and mysterious disguises give this trio a theatrical quality. Helen Levitt, who found poetry in the uninhibited gestures of children, used a right-angle viewfinder to capture boys and girls roaming freely and playing with found objects. Working in New York City during the years surrounding World War II, her photographs show the drama of life that unfolded on the sidewalks of poor and working-class neighborhoods.

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Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 - died New York City 2001) 'Broadway, New York, N.Y.' 1949-1950, printed 1980-1981

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Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 – died New York City 2001)
Broadway, New York, N.Y.
1949-1950, printed 1980-1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 9/16 in. (21.3 x 32 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of David L. Davies and John D. Weeden and museum purchase, 2002.47.6, © Estate of Louis Faurer

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Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942) 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville' 1966, printed 1985

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Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942)
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville
1966, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Marshall Langhorne, 1988.52.8, Photo courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery and Dektol.wordpress.com

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William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939) 'Tricycle (Memphis)' about 1975, printed 1980

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William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939)
Tricycle (Memphis)
about 1975, printed 1980
Dye transfer print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Amy Loeserman Klein, 1985.87.12

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An ordinary tricycle is made monumental in this playful color photograph. Taken from below, it suggests a child’s perspective – elevating this rusty tricycle to a symbol of innocence and freedom. The quiet Memphis suburb in the background typifies the safe neighborhoods where children could spend hours playing after school. This print was made with the expensive and exacting dye imbibition process, which was typically used for fashion and advertising at the time. Eggleston began experimenting with color photography in the mid-1960s. Inspired by trips to a commercial photography lab, he developed an approach that imitates the random, imperfect style of amateur snapshots to describe his immediate surroundings combined with a keen interest in the effects of color.

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Tina Barney (born New York City 1945) 'Marina's Room' 1987

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Tina Barney (born New York City 1945)
Marina’s Room
1987
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 52.3 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1989.5, © 1987, Tina Barney, Courtesy Janet Borden, Inc.

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Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 - died Providence, RI 1991) 'Untitled' 1937, printed later

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Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 – died Providence, RI 1991)
Untitled
1937, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Tennyson and Fern Schad, courtesy of Light Gallery, 1990.73.4, © 1940, Aaron Siskind

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In this untitled photograph Aaron Siskind focused on the regular grid of boarded-up windows on a derelict tenement building. Once portals into intimate domestic spaces, the windows represent loss in a community plagued by poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. Building upon the traditions of social documentary photographers before him, Siskind used his camera to raise public awareness of Harlem’s struggle, even as he created a modernist work of art.

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Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 - died New Haven, CT 1975) 'Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead' 1936, printed 1974

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Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 – died New Haven, CT 1975)
Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead
1936, printed 1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.9 x 30.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Lee and Maria Friedlander, 2006.13.1.8

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During the summer of 1936, Walker Evans joined writer James Agee in rural Alabama to work on a magazine assignment on cotton farming. Evans and Agee met with three tenant farm families and documented every detail of their experiences. The result, which the magazine declined to publish, was released as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. It contains some of the most iconic and contentious photographs to document the Great Depression. Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead reads like a modern novel. Every crack in the wood, every speck of paint tells part of the story. Evans drew special attention to the scarcity of cooking tools at the family’s disposal. These everyday utensils illustrate a metaphor for the struggle to meet basic needs.

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Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945) 'Long Beach Pike (broken fence)', from the 'Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project' 1980

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Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945)
Long Beach Pike (broken fence), from the Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (6.2 x 6.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.505, © 1980, Judy Fiskin

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For this series, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Art’s Long Beach Documentary Survey Project, Judy Fiskin focused on the Long Beach Pike, an amusement park that was demolished soon after she made the photographs. By printing in high contrast and restricting the scale of her prints, Fiskin reduced form to its bare essentials. Devoid of superfluous detail, these photographs appear more like conjured images than documents of reality. Judy Fiskin systematically catalogues the world of architecture and design in order to study variations of historical styles. Her series carefully investigate esoteric subjects such as military base architecture, “dingbat” style houses in southern California, and the art of flower arranging.

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Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991) 'Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn' 1936

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Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991)
Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn
1936
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 18 x 14 3/8 in. (45.7 x 36.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration, 1975.83.10

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Berenice Abbott returned home in 1929 after nearly eight years abroad and found herself fascinated by the rapid growth of New York City. She saw the city as bristling with new buildings and structures which seemed to her as solid and as permanent as a mountain range. Aiming to capture “the past jostling the present,” Abbott spent the next five years on a project she called Changing New York. In Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn, Abbott presented a century of history in a single image. The Brooklyn Bridge, once a marvel of modern engineering, seems dark and heavy compared with the skeletal structure beneath it. The construction site at center suggests the never-ending cycle of death and regeneration. And the Manhattan skyline, veiled and weightless, hangs just out of reach, its shape accommodating the ambitious spirit of American modernism.

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Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 - died 1987) 'Cold Day on Cherry Street' 1932

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Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 – died 1987)
Cold Day on Cherry Street
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. G. Howland Chase, Mrs. James S. Harlan (Adeline M. Noble Collection), Lucie Louise Fery, Berthe Girardet, and Mrs. George M. McClellan, 1990.19.9, © 1932, Robert Disraeli

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Imagination at Work

Nineteenth-century French commentator Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in America, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Yet the idea that “seeing is believing” is deeply ingrained in the American character. By yoking together style and subject under the guise of the real, today’s photographers borrow from photography’s rich past while embracing the conceptual framework of contemporary art. They read reality as something on the surface of a picture or, more complexly, as something located in the mind of its beholder.

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Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 - died Greenbrae, CA 1975) 'Calla Lily' c. 1930s

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Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 – died Greenbrae, CA 1975)
Calla Lily
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 3/8 x 9 3/4 in. (18.8 x 24.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible through Deaccession Funds, 1986.54

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Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931) 'Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)' 1966

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Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931)
Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)
1966
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 25 3/8 x 17 3/4 in. (64.5 x 45.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.57.1, © 1966, Ray K. Metzker

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Ray Metzker’s Composites series, begun in 1964, connected in a dramatic fashion his interests in contrasts of light and shadow, his strong sense of design, and his earlier explorations of the multiple image. Metzker studied at Chicago’s Institute of Design, where a rigorously formal, problem-solving approach to photography was taught. For this series he assembled grids of individual photographs to create complex image-fields. When viewed from a distance, this work reads as an abstract, rhythmic pattern of light and dark. On closer inspection, however, many crisply descriptive images are revealed. The Composites function somewhat like short filmstrips. The mystery of these brief narratives is exaggerated by the repetitive design and provides a unique opportunity, in Metzker’s words, “to deal with complexity of succession and simultaneity, of collected and related moments.”

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Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 - died New York City 2009) 'Mud Glove - New York' 1975, printed 1976

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Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 – died New York City 2009)
Mud Glove – New York
1975, printed 1976
Platinum-palladium print
Sheet and image: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.5 x 56.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the artist, 1988.83.39

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Irving Penn was one of the most important and influential photographers of the twentieth century. In a career that spanned almost seventy years, Penn worked across multiple genres, from celebrity portraits to fashion, from still lives to images of native cultures in remote places of the world. Throughout his career Penn also worked on a series of photographs of discarded objects: things that had been lost, neglected, or misused. Printed in platinum, these detailed photographs of objects such as a lost glove found in the gutter, are Penn’s photographic memento mori, offering beauty compromised by age or disuse.

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Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 - died Carmel, CA 1958) 'Pepper no. 30' 1930

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Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 – died Carmel, CA 1958)
Pepper no. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.3 x 19.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1985.56

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Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 - died San Francisco, CA 1976) 'Auragia' 1953, printed c. 1960s

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Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 – died San Francisco, CA 1976)
Auragia
1953, printed c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2007.37.2

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Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952) 'Dings and Shadows' 2012

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Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952)
Dings and Shadows
2012
Chromogenic print
Sheet and image: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Linda Cheverton Wick and Walter Wick, 2013.29
© 2012, Ellen Carey

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Ellen Carey created the series she calls Dings and Shadows by exposing photosensitive paper to light projected through primary and complementary color filters. The artist first folds and crushes paper; then after exposing the paper to light from a color enlarger, flattens it out again for processing. In doing so, Carey dissects the process of developing film, and evokes the hand-crafted nature of early photographic techniques.

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Some images from the Timeline on the website

1843

Daguerreotypists Albert S. Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes begin a partnership, establishing Southworth & Hawes as the most highly regarded portrait studio in Boston, Mass. The studio caters to the city’s elite, and is visited by Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, among many other influential people of the time.

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Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'A Bride and Her Bridesmaids' 1851

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Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
A Bride and Her Bridesmaids
1851
Daguerreotype
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Walter Beck, 2000.110

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1853

The New York Daily Tribune estimates that in the United States, three million daguerreotypes are being produced annually.

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Unidentified artist. 'Mother and Son' c. 1855

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Unidentified artist
Mother and Son
c. 1855
Daguerreotype with applied color
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.192

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1857

Julian Vannerson and Samuel Cohner make the first systematic photographs of Native American delegations to visit Washington, D.C. They photograph ninety delegates representing thirteen tribes who conduct treaty and other negotiations with government officials.

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Julian Vannerson. 'Shining Metal' 1858

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Julian Vannerson
Shining Metal
1858
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

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1861

American Civil War begins with shots fired on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops. Portrait photographer Mathew Brady is given permission by President Abraham Lincoln to photograph the First Battle of Bull Run, but comes so close to the battle that he narrowly avoids capture. Using paid assistants Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, George N. Barnard, and others, Brady’s studio makes thousands of photos of the sites, material, and people of the war. Civilian free-lance photographer Egbert Guy Fowx sells numerous negatives to Brady’s studio, which publishes and copyrights many of them. Many other images are credited to Fowx, including this group of Union officers.

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Egbert Guy Fowx. 'New York 7th Regiment Officers' c. 1863

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Egbert Guy Fowx
New York 7th Regiment Officers
c. 1863
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.53

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1867

Eadweard Muybridge begins trip to photograph in Yosemite Valley. He publishes his photographs under the name “Helios,” which is also the name of his San Francisco studio. An exhibition of more than 300 photographic portraits of Native American delegates to Washington, D.C., opens in the Smithsonian Castle. Clarence R. King begins direction of the U.S. Geological Expedition of the Fortieth Parallel, appointing Timothy O’Sullivan as the official photographer. Photographer Carleton Watkins joins the survey in 1871.

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Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 'Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan
Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.142

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1869

Andrew J. Russell’s album, The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views across the Continent; Taken along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, Volume I, is published. George M. Wheeler begins direction of the United States Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wheeler makes fourteen trips to the West over the next eight years. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan accompanies him in 1871, 1873, and 1874.

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Andrew Joseph Russell. 'Sphinx of the Valley' 1869

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Andrew Joseph Russell
Sphinx of the Valley
1869
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.164

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1967

The Friends of Photography is founded in Carmel, California, by Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Brett Weston, and others, with the aim of promoting creative photography and supporting its practitioners. It remains in existence until 2001.

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Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)' 1973

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Brett Weston
Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)
1973
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1659
© 1973, Brett Weston

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1975

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opens at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y. It includes photographs by Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel Jr.

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Frank Gohlke. 'Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973' 1973, printed 1994

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Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973
1973, printed 1994
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2010.15.3
© 1973, Frank Gohlke

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Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum website

A Democracy of Images website

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16
Oct
13

‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

Kodachrome sheets 1941 – 1943

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-43. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, below) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″x5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

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Alfred Palmer
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.

October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred T. Palmer 1906 – 1993

“Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasize a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognized by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare color transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm color film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.”

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website

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kodachrome-WEB

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A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

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Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(LOC)

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Alfred T. Palmer website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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