Monday, November 29, 2010


"Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about
what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to
transcribe it visually." -Henri Cartier-Bresson

Most important for enabling photographers to pursue their personal work while also working on assignment and issuing control and ownership over their own images. Magnum is a co-op of some of the greatest photographers since it's inception in 1947.

Slightly out of focus.

Slightly out of focus is a great website where you can digitally browse through and buy some physical copies of photo essays from the past. Seeing the layouts of the different magazines gives you more of a perspective on the importance of image and text working together to create the story. The site includes work by many photographers we've studied about like:

Henri Cartier Bresson

Dorothea Lange

Margaret Bourke White

Robert Capa, (you should be more than familiar with this photo and the rest of this work by now) one of the founding members of the Magnum photo agency and who the website is named after (After Life magazine messed up Capa's negatives while developing them and then printing captions saying the photos were slightly out of focus due to the excitement of shooting a war scene) "If your pictures aren't good enough then you aren't close enough"

Some later work by Walker Evans.

Some later work which we haven't quiet looked at but you are probably familiar with; the Vietnam War photographs of Larry Burrows.

Erich Salomon & Weegee

2 approaches at photo journalism.

Erich Salomon became known for his gate crashing, 35 mm, available light, secretive shooting style which gave him the label "king of indiscreet."

While sharing similarities to Weegee's love of intrusiveness, they couldn't be further apart in style. Salomon was secretive while Weegee's bold flash and overall approach was very in your face and forced you to confront the subject / image.

Weegee's subject matter wasn't all crime scene / nightlife / tabloid, but whatever the photograph, he shot it with the same directness and honesty.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meet at classroom. ICP after.

Hello, I am sorry for the lack of updates this week as I have been rather ill. There will be a full update over Thanksgiving week. We will meet for class at our regular time of 1:00 pm and after a short lesson head out to ICP to see the Robert Capa exhibit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some work from last class.

By no means everything but some extras to accompany reading.

Paul Outerbridge - An interesting character to say the least.

Strand was a true master of creating visually striking stills from the most mundane of subjects.

Edward Weston, at the forefront of the f/64 group

So many Ansel Adams videos out there:

from ken burns documentary

part 1 from 1981 documentary. click related videos for next parts

part 1 from BBC masters of photography - click related videos for next parts

Eugene Atget

John Heartfield from Ovation tv

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stieglitz and beyond

Alfred Stieglitz was probably the most important figure in the history of photography not just for the work he created but in terms of his ability to influence others.

His influence was felt by not just the photographers at the turn of the 20th century such as Edward Steichen, but also painter Georgia O'Keeffe who he ended up marrying.

Stieglitz exposed America to some of the most interesting photography of the time through his magazine Camera Work, while also bringing in work to his gallery 291 by European artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Rodin.

This is the opening clip from a documentary we watched in Class called Alfred Stieglitz: the Eloquent Eye. (available on netflix or the pratt library in brooklyn)

Here are some more pages with info on Stieglitz.

Met Museum Bio
World History of Photography Bio

After the movie we went to see 2 shows which I thought related rather well to what we had learned about.

David Vestal - Once Upon a Time in New York at Robert Mann Gallery.

Alfred Stieglitz. 5th Avenue. 1892

David Vestal. West 22nd St. 1958.

Though it seems like Vestal was more influenced by photographers such as Robert Frank and possibly Alexander Rodchenko, there is no denying that some of the photos have the hand of Stieglitz in them as well.

Paul Strand was very admired by Stieglitz and therefore had the last 2 issues of Camera Work devoted solely to him. We went to the Aperture gallery where we saw his photographs from the 1920 of his time spent in Mexico.

Please continue reading the book. You should be somewhere in the 170s or 180s by next class.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brief class recap...

John Coffer - NY Times presentation about NY artist currently working with and ofering tintype workshops

Joni Sternbach - NY artist currently working with and offering workshops in wet plate photography.

Carte de visite examples

Please read chapters 5 & 6

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No class on Saturday...

Please read the chapters on Daguerreotypes and Talbot/Calotypes.

Instead of class you have options of two assignments due the next time we meet (10/16/10)

1) Go to the Edward Fausty artist lecture on Tuesday 10/12 at the Center for Alternative Photography (36 east 30th st. 7:00 pm - 8:30pm, Free) Please write a one page paper reviewing the lecture. Be sure to include anything new you learned that interested you particularly.

2) Write a 1 - 2 page response to Charles Baudelaire, On Photography, from 1859.

class 2

Here are some things to look over from class 2.

Mathew Brady studio portraits - Brady, whose studio was on Broadway, just a couple blocks from Pratt Manhattan, was selling more his brand than work by a specific artists. Much like he does some 20 or so years later with documenting the Civil War, Brady he employs "operators" to take portraits in his studio and/or buys prints from others to attach his name to.

Southworth and Hawes, a scientist and artist collaborative effort, promise real artistry with no work by operators. Take notice of their non traditional portrait poses and use of light and shadow.

Text from
Talbot's "Pencil of Nature"

"The chief object of the present work is to place on record some of the early beginnings of a new art, before the period, which we trust is approaching, of its being brought to maturity by the aid of British talent.

This is one of the trifling efforts of its infancy, which some partial friends have been kind enough to commend.

We have sufficient authority in the Dutch school of art, for taking as subjects of representation scenes of daily and familiar occurrence. A painter’s eye will often be arrested where ordinary people see nothing remarkable. A casual gleam of sunshine, or a shadow thrown across his path, a time-withered oak, or a moss-covered stone may awaken a train of thoughts and feelings, and picturesque imaginings."

Some more photos by Maxime Du Camp to accompany your reading.

More photos by Henri Le Secq to accompany reading. Please take a look at use of negative space, repeating shape and pattern and how it is dispersed throughout the frame, and in this image, the deliberate inclusion of the wheel barrel for purpose of proportion and possibly a statement of the changing times.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Videos from class 1

The making of a camera obscura. when light travels through an opening it keeps going in the direction it was coming from. The light above the opening keeps traveling at a downward angle, the light below keeps traveling at an upward angle....

Beginning shows basic concept of traditional camera lucida, the rest is an advertisement for a modern one you don't need to watch.

Malcolm Daniels of the Metropolitan Museum of Art discusses daguerreotypes.

Genius of photography excerpt about daguerreotypes also showing modern work.

Please read: Preface, The Elusive Image, Invention in the book by next class.

Friday, April 2, 2010

no class tomm. cause of easter / passover

just fyi, the whole building is closed for the weekend.

Hopefully you all realized this.

See you on the 10th


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The changing of: a century/photography

Excuse me for using links to photos instead of just putting them in here. Due to this crutches thing, I am working from home on a laptop with a bootleg internet connection, so it just makes it much faster this way.

Two classes ago we took a close look at Alfred Stieglitz, who was the main person behind the Photo-Secession group founded in 1902. Last class we got a little more in depth look at some of the artists that were involved with the group and other work that was kicking around at the turn of the 20th century.

The first person we started with was Edward Steichen, who, as you learned from the documentary, was the co founder of the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, which was better known as “291”

Steichen was born in Luxemborg. His family came over to America when he was a little boy. He went back to Europe to study painting in Paris. In 1900 Clarence White saw some of his photographs and egged him on to pursue photography. Meanwhile, White also wrote to Stieglitz about Steichen.

In 1901 Steichen was elected into the Linked Ring. (full info on the Linked Ring is in a post below)

Its first major exhibition took place in November 1893, and was known as the Photographic Salon, a title chosen deliberately, in order to associate itself with painting exhibitions, where the same term was used.

The exhibition was very well received, and for a number of years - up to the group's demise, it was an important annual event for photographers both in England and abroad.

Other members of the Linked Ring were: Frank Sutcliffe, Frederick Evans, Paul Martin, and also Alfred Stieglitz.

Frank Sutcliffe, A photographer who is regarded as a pictorialist, there is also the documentary aspect of much of his work, portraying as it does the life of the times, with their street musicians, farmers, and other ordinary people. The full extent of his contribution was not recognised until long after his death.

Frederick Evans, who was looking for an artist approach towards architecture photography. While many of his contemporaries were working with gum bichromate, he was printing with platinum process.

Paul Martin was shooting with a an unusual camera called the "Facile", a large box that looked like a brown paper parcel which was held under the arm, and which gave him the opportunity to take some excellent candid photographs of scenes in London.

In 1908 there was a major rift within the Linked Ring because the English photographers were becoming frustrated that there were so many Americans involved. A lot of these photographers, like Stieglitz, Steichen, and White, were also members of the Photo-Secession, so they withdrew their membership from Linked Ring and it fell apart soon after due to inner squabbles.

Steichen’s early work had an impressionist influence with soft focus. As you may remember, that was one of the ways that members of the Photographic Society thought you could have photography resemble painting and be more artistic.

Steichen abandoned his soft focus style at the beginning of the first World War for a more “straight” photography approach. At this time he destroyed nearly all of his paintings and also went through several years f photographic experimentation based on his interest in the theory of dynamic symmetry…this allowed him to open up to modernist ideas.

During the majority of the 1920s and 30s, he was under contract with conde naste where he really helped push advertising and fashion imagery, both of which were relatively new fields at the time.

By the late 1930s he was convinced that the fine quality of work produced by photographers working for the Farm Security Administration and for Life had effectively erased aesthetic distinctions among images made as personal expression, as photojournalism, or as social commentary.

After serving as a director of naval combat photography during wwII, Steichen accepted the directorship of the Department of Photography at MOMA.

His purpose, he said, was to make sure that what he called the "aliveness in the melting pot of American photography" and "the restless seekings, probing aspirations and experiments of younger photographers" would be represented in the museum collection.

In 1955 he organized the Family of Man exhibit, which is probably the most important show in the history of photography, which we will learn about in a later class.

So, now going back to some of the other photographers involved with the photo-secession:

Alvin Langdon Coburn
, Coburn passionately believed in liberating photography from the notion that it is only artistic if it depicted reality, and he is perhaps best known for producing Vortographs, non-objective photographs of such items as a piece of wood or crystal, through an arrangement of mirrors, resulting in multiple images.

In 1916 Coburn designed an item the poet Ezra Pound called a Vortoscope, which consisted of three mirrors arranged like a kaleidoscope, which enabled multiple-image photographs to be taken.

Gertrude Kasebler, She was the first woman to be elected to the prestigious Linked Ring, and was also a founder-member of the Photo-Secession, her portraits standing out over the work of her contemporaries. A contemporary critic praised her for haing done more for artistic portraiture than any other of her time (painter or photographer) by her sense of "what to leave out." Her work was featured in the first issue of Camera Work.
She was keen on allegorical themes, and one of her series was on motherhood. It was said of her that her purpose in taking photographs was "not to inform, but to share an experience, to evoke an emotional response from the viewer."

Clarence H. White, Together with Gertrude Kasebier he founded the Pictorial Photographers of America, an organization that continues to exist today.

Clarence White's portraits and landscapes showing a particular interest in chiaoscuro (the technique of representing three dimensions by carefully using light and shadow). None of his pictures have heavy shadows or dark tones; he specialized in light, delicate pictures.

Important documentary photographers working during the beginning of the 20th century…

Eugene Atget documented shop fronts, architectural details and statuary, trees and greenery, and individuals who made their living as street vendors, producing some 10,000 photographs of Paris and its environs.

He took them not as portraits however, but artistic documents.
Unlike many of the architectural photographers before him, Atget showed a remarkable attention to composition, the materiality of substances, the quality of light, and especially the photographer’s feelings about the subject matter.

Among the first of photography's social documenters, has come to be regarded as one of the medium's major figures. His images of Paris are perhaps the most vivid record of a city ever made.

His work was bought mainly by architects, painters, and archivists. The visually expressive force of Atget’s work, produced with a large-format camera, is a testament to the capacity of documentation to surpass mere record making to become inspiring experience.

One of Atget's earliest admirers was the young Ansel Adams, who wrote in 1931: "The charm of Atget lies not in the mastery of the plates and papers of his time, nor in the quaintness of costume, architecture and humanity as revealed in his pictures, but in his equitable and intimate point of view. . . . His work is a simple revelation of the simplest aspects of his environment. There is no superimposed symbolic motive, no tortured application of design, no intellectual ax to grind. The Atget prints are direct and emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle perception, and represent perhaps the earliest expression of true photographic art."

In 1926 Atget's neighbor Man Ray published (without credit) a few of Atget's photographs in the magazine La revolution surrealíste. This marked the beginning of the important surrealist appreciation of his work. Berenice Abbott, a student of Man Ray's, was impressed by Atget's photographs in 1925, and has been responsible for rescuing his work from obscurity and preserving his prints and negatives, which she acquired upon his death in 1927. She has written: "He will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization."

video with Atget photos / info

In like manner, although not as extensively, Czech photographer
Josef Sudek created an artistic document of his immediate surroundings. He was particularly fascinated with his home and garden, often shooting the latter through a window.

Sudek was injured during WWI and had to get one of his arms amputated. He took up photography and due to his war pension was able to make art. He worked through the 1920s in a romantic pictorialist style.

Always pushing at the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forwards from 'painterly' photography. Sudek then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.

Lewis W. Hine
created a similarly thorough document of a subject, in his case immigrant and working-class life in the United States. One of the first to refer to himself as a social photographer, Hine began his documentation of immigrants at Ellis Island while still a teacher at the Ethical Culture School in New York.

Eventually he gave up teaching to work for the National Child Labor Committee, an organization of progressives seeking to make the American industrial economy more aware of its effects on individual workers.

From 1908 to 1916 Hine concentrated on photographing child workers, producing thousands of individual portraits and group scenes of underage children employed in textile mills, mines, canning establishments, and glass factories and in street trades throughout the United States. His work was effective in prompting first state regulation and eventually federal regulation of child labour.

Documentary photography experienced a resurgence in the United States during the Great Depression, when the federal government undertook a major documentary project.

Produced by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) under the direction of Roy E. Stryker, who earlier had come in contact with Hine’s work, the project comprised more than 270,000 images produced by 11 photographers working for varying lengths and at different times in different places.

All worked to show the effects of agricultural displacement caused by the economic downturn, lack of rain, and wasteful agricultural practices in the American South and midlands. In this project, documentation did double duty. One task was to record conditions both on non-functioning farms and in new homesteads created by federal legislation.

Another was to arouse compassion so that problems addressed by legislative action would win support.

A portrait of a migratory pea picker’s wife, made by California portraitist turned documentarian Dorothea Lange, became an icon of the anxiety generated by the Great Depression.

Walker Evans
was another photographer whose work for the FSA transformed social documentation from mere record making into transcendent visual expression. On leave from the FSA, Evans worked with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941; reissued 1966), a compelling look at the lives of a family of Southern sharecroppers.

(might want to turn the music down on this one, it's a bit over the top)

Margaret Bourke-White Although unaffiliated with the FSA, Margaret Bourke-White, formerly one of the era’s foremost industrial photographers, also worked in the South. With her husband, writer Erskine Caldwell, she produced You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), one of the first photographic picture books to appear in softcover.

Documentary projects underwritten by other federal agencies also existed. One of more significant projects was executed by Berenice Abbott.

Bernice Abbot Inspired in part by Atget’s studies of Paris, she endeavoured to photograph the many parts of New York City and to create “an intuition of past, present, and future.” She was able to interest the Works Projects Administration (WPA) in underwriting an exhibit and publication along these lines entitled Changing New York (1939). Other urban documentary projects were undertaken under the aegis of the Photo League, an association of photographers of varying background and class who set out to document working-class neighbourhoods in New York.

August Sander, (german) intent on creating a sociological document of his own, generated a portrait of Germany during this period. His focus was on the individuals composing German society, documenting a class structure with workers and farmers on the bottom. Sander’s inclusion of types not considered Aryan by German authorities brought him into conflict with the Nazi regime, which destroyed the plates for a proposed book entitled Antlitz der Zeit (“Face of Our Time”).

movement / dry plate

Photography of movement

A few years before the introduction of the dry plate, the world was amazed by the photographs of horses taken by Eadweard Muybridge in California.

To take these photographs, Muybridge used a series of 12 to 24 cameras arranged side by side opposite a reflecting screen.

The shutters of the cameras were released by the breaking of their attached threads as the horse dashed by. Through this technique, Muybridge secured sets of sequential photographs of successive phases of the walk, the trot, and the gallop.

When the pictures were published internationally in the popular and scientific press, they demonstrated that the positions of the animal’s legs differed from those in traditional hand-drawn representations.

To prove that his photographs were accurate, Muybridge projected them upon a screen one after the other with a lantern-slide projector he had built for the purpose; the result was the world’s first motion-picture presentation. This memorable event took place at the San Francisco Art Association in 1880.

Muybridge, whose early studies were made with wet plates, continued his motion studies for some 20 years. With the new gelatin plates, he was able to improve his technique greatly, and in 1884–85, at the invitation of the University of Pennsylvania, he produced 781 sequential photographs of many kinds of animals as well as men and women engaged in a wide variety of activities.

He was aided in this project by painter Thomas Eakins, who many regard as the most outstanding American painter of the 19th century. Though few painters took it seriously, Eakins believed the new photographic technology was a tool to better represent the physical world. Throughout much of the 1880s, Eakins brought these interests to students at the Pennsylvania Academy, encouraging them to study anatomy and work from live nude models. In 1886 his insistence on the use of nude models saw a great deal of criticism. Frustrated with the criticism, he eventually resigned.

Muybridge’s photographic analysis of movement coincided with studies by French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey to develop chronophotography. (the study of images depicting movement for art purposes) Étienne-Jules Marey was fascinated with flight and with animals and insects that could fly. In 1882, Marey created his photographic gun. It was an instrument capable of taking 12 consecutive frames per second at the pull of the trigger. Poetically it was beautiful because rather than terminating the object at which it points, Marey’s photographic gun would instead capture it forever.

Whereas Muybridge had employed a battery of cameras to record detailed, separate images of successive stages of movement, Marey and Eakins both used only one, recording an entire sequence of movement on a single plate. With Marey’s method, the images of various phases of motion sometimes overlapped, but it was easier to see and understand the flow of movement.

Marey and Eakins were also able to record higher speeds at shorter intervals than Muybridge. Both his and Muybridge’s work greatly contributed to the field of motion study and to the development of the motion picture.

Marey also invented a slow motion camera in 1894, which took pictures at the rate of 700 per second!

Development of the dry plate

In the 1870s many attempts were made to find a dry substitute for wet collodion so that plates could be prepared in advance and developed long after exposure, which would thereby eliminate the need for a portable darkroom. In 1871 Richard Leach Maddox, an English physician, suggested suspending silver bromide in a gelatin emulsion, an idea that led, in 1878, to the introduction of factory-produced dry plates coated with gelatin containing silver salts. This event marked the beginning of the modern era of photography.

Gelatin plates were about 60 times more sensitive than collodion plates. The increased speed freed the camera from the tripod, and a great variety of small hand-held cameras became available at relatively low cost, allowing photographers to take instantaneous snapshots.

Wet plates were already down to 1 - 3 seconds, so now exposures could be fractions of seconds.

Of these, the most popular was the Kodak camera, introduced by George Eastman in 1888. Its simplicity greatly accelerated the growth of amateur photography, especially among women, to whom much of the Kodak advertising was addressed.

In place of glass plates, the camera contained a roll of flexible negative material sufficient for taking 100 circular pictures, each roughly 2.5 inches (6 cm) in diameter. After the last negative was exposed, the entire camera was sent to one of the Eastman factories (Rochester, New York, or Harrow, Middlesex, England), where the roll was processed and printed; They would shit it back to you with prints and a new roll of film already in the camera.

“You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” was Eastman’s description of the Kodak system.

At first Eastman’s so-called “American film” was used in the camera; this film was paper based, and the gelatin layer containing the image was stripped away after development and fixing and transferred to a transparent support.

In 1889 this was replaced by film on a transparent plastic base of nitrocellulose that had been invented in 1887 by the Reverend Hannibal Goodwin of Newark, New Jersey.

Goodwin was looking for new ways of showing religious imagery and had done a lecture about his new invention. Eastman was in the audience during the lecture and while Goodwin filed for the patent, he actually died in a street accident before the patent went through. Eastman essentially stole his idea but then Ansco who had bought the patent rights from Goodwin sued Kodak for 5 million dollars.

3 reasons for the name Kodak:
1) it should be short
2) one cannot mispronounce it
3) and it could not resemble anything or be associated with anything but Kodak

Some old advertisements for Kodaks and other products.

Pictorialism and the Linked Ring

The ideas of Newton, Rejlander, Robinson, and Emerson—while seemingly varied—all pursued the same goal: to gain acceptance for photography as a legitimate art form.

These efforts to gain acceptance were all encompassed within Pictorialism, a movement that had been afoot for some time and that crystallized in the 1890s and early 1900s, when it was promoted through a series of international exhibiting groups.

The term Pictorialism is used to describe photographs in which the actual scene depicted is of less importance than the artistic quality of the image. Pictorialists would be more concerned with the aesthetics and, sometimes, the emotional impact of the image, rather than what actually was in front of their camera.

Because pictorialism was seen as artistic photography, one would not be surprised that current styles of art would be reflected in their work; as impressionism was in vogue at the time, many photographs have more than a passing resemblance to paintings in this style.

In 1892 the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring was founded in Britain by Robinson, George Davison, a leader of the Art Nouveau movement, and others dissatisfied with the scientific bias of the London Photographic Society.

The group held annual exhibitions, which they called salons. While the members’ work varied from naturalism to staged scenes to manipulated prints, by the turn of the century it was their united belief that “through the Salon the Linked Ring has clearly demonstrated that pictorial photography is able to stand alone and that it has a future entirely apart from that which is purely mechanical.”

Similar Pictorialist groups formed in other countries. These included the Photo-Club of Paris, the Trifolium of Austria, and like associations in Germany and Italy. Unity of purpose enabled members to exchange ideas and images with those who had similar outlooks in other countries.

Another pictorialist photographer from the time is Robert Demachy, who was lucky enough to be born into a rich Parisian family and not have to worry about making a living, just art.

Early developments of photography as art.

Photographic societies—made up of both professionals and amateurs enticed by the popularity of the collodion process—began to form in the mid-19th century, giving rise to the consideration of photography as an aesthetic medium.

In 1853 the Photographic Society, parent of the present Royal Photographic Society, was formed in London, and in the following year the Société Française de Photographie was founded in Paris.

Toward the end of the 19th century, similar societies appeared in German-speaking countries, eastern Europe, and India. Some were designed to promote photography generally, while others emphasized only artistic expression. Along with these organizations, journals promoting photography as art also appeared.

At the first meeting of the Photographic Society, the president, Sir Charles Eastlake (who was then also president of the Royal Academy), invited the miniature painter Sir William Newton to read the paper “Upon Photography in an Artistic View” (Journal of the Photographic Society, 1853). Newton’s argument was that photographs could be useful so long as they were taken “in accordance [as far as it is possible] with the acknowledged principles of Fine Art.”

Newton recommended liberal retouching and softer focus among other photographic tricks. (Eastlake’s wife, Lady Eastlake, née Elizabeth Rigby, was one of the first to write lucidly about the artistic problems of collodion/albumen photography.)
In response to this desire to create photographs that would fit an established conception of what “art” should be, several photographers began to combine several negatives to make one print....or combination printing as it became known
These consisted of compositions that were considered too complicated to be photographed in a straightforward manner and thus pushed photography beyond its so-called mechanical capabilities. A famous example of this style was by O.G. Rejlander, a Swede who had studied art in Rome and was practicing photography in England.

He joined 30 negatives to produce a 31-by-16-inch (79-by-41-cm) print entitled The Two Ways of Life (1857), an allegory showing the way of the blessed led through good works and the way of the damned through vice.

Rejlander, who described the technique in detail in photographic journals, stated that his purpose was to prove to artists the aesthetic possibilities of photography, which they had generally denied. The photograph was shown in the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 and was purchased by Queen Victoria for Prince Albert.

Rejlander’s technique stimulated Henry Peach Robinson, a professional photographer who had been trained as an artist, to produce similar combination prints. Perhaps the most famous of his pictures is Fading Away (1858), a composition of five negatives, in which he depicts a girl dying of consumption (which we know as tuberculosis), and the despair of the other members of the family.

This was a controversial photograph, and some felt that the subject was not suitable for photography.

One critic said that Robinson had cashed in on "the most painful sentiments which it is the lot of human beings to experience."

It would seem that it was perfectly in order for painters to paint pictures on such themes, but not for photographers to do so. However, the picture captured the imagination of Prince Albert, who bought a copy and issued an order for every composite portrait Robinson produced subsequently.

Fading Away is a composition of five negatives. If one examines a large copy of a print closely one can see the "joins", particularly the triangle of gray with no detail in it. One has to remember, of course, that these were contact prints - there were no means of enlarging at that time.

This is a perfect example of photography attempting to establish itself and yet still be relating to other arts but somehow not being respected. This was an attempt to mimic a painting aesthetic, but it was too real even though it was fake.

Already at this period there were shades of the conflict between the art and science of photography. The Secretary of the Society and Editor of the Journal, Sir William Crookes, is quoted in Robinson's autobiography: "The secretary at that time was an unsympathetic chemist and all he could see in the picture in what he thought was a ''join,' an imaginary enormity which afforded a text on which he waxed eloquent."

It is clear that many who admired "Fading Away" had no idea that it was a combination print and when, in 1860, Robinson outlined his methods at a meeting of the Photographic Society of Scotland, he was greeted with howls of protest from people who seemed to feel that they had been deceived. There was much discussion about what one correspondent referred to as "Patchwork", rather than composition, and Robinson began to conclude that perhaps it might be better in future not to divulge the secrets of his craft, but leave people to enjoy the finished product!

However, in "Pictorial Effect in Photography" (1867), a major literary work, Robinson wrote:

"Any dodge, trick and conjuration of any kind is open to the photographer's use.... It is his imperative duty to avoid the mean, the base and the ugly, and to aim to elevate his subject.... and to correct the unpicturesque....A great deal can be done and very beautiful pictures made, by a mixture of the real and the artificial in a picture."
Robinson was also stressing the need to "see" a picture - advice which still holds good today:

"However much a man might love beautiful scenery, his love for it would be greatly enhanced if he looked at it with the eye of an artist, and knew why it was beautiful. A new world is open to him who has learned to distinguish and feel the effect of the beautiful and subtle harmonies that nature presents in all her varied aspects. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes unless they are trained to use them in a special manner."

Some of his observations make sound advice today. Here is a comment on "rules" of composition:

"I must warn you against a too close study of art to the exclusion of nature and the suppression of original thought.... Art rules should be a guide only to the study of nature, and not a set of fetters to confine the ideas or to depress the faculty of original interpretation in the artist, whether he be painter or photographer.... The object (of rules) is to train his mind so that he may select with ease, and, when he does select, know why one aspect of a subject is better than another."
Robinson became an articulate member of the Photographic Society, and his teaching was even more influential than his photography. In 1869 the first of many editions and translations of his book, Pictorial Effect in Photography, was published. Robinson borrowed compositional formulas from a handbook on painting, claiming that use of them would bring artistic success. He stressed the importance of balance and the opposition of light against dark. At the core of his argument was the assumption that rules set up for one art form could be applied to another.

So long as photographers maintained that the way to photography as art was the emulation of painting, art critics were reluctant to admit the new medium to an independent aesthetic position. Portraits, when done as sensitively and as directly as those produced by Hill and Adamson, Nadar, and Cameron, won praise. But sentimental genre scenes, posed and arranged for the camera and lacking the truthfulness thought to be characteristic of photography, were the subject of considerable controversy. This debate would reach a crescendo at the end of the century.

Perhaps the most famous is "When Day's Work is done." The gentleman in the picture had appeared one day for a carte-de-visite, and Robinson earmarked him for this project. He then searched for a suitable old lady. Both were photographed in his studio separately and at different times, and then assembled. The print itself, which measures 20" by 24"(50cm. by 61cm.) is made up from five negatives.

One of his most bitter critics was Emerson, who despised contrived photography, of which "Red Riding Hood" would be a typical example. There was a fairly heated series of interchanges between Robinson and Emerson. Reviewing in "Amateur Photographer"

Robinson's print entitled "Merry Fisher Maidens" , Emerson wrote: This is an inane, flat, vapid piece of work, bigger and more worthless than ever. Its composition is childish and its sentiment puerile." Robinson, reviewing Emerson's controversial book "Natural Photography for Students" was equally caustic: "...we cannot help feeling that his system is pernicious, and excusing bad photography by calling it art... we feel it to be the imperative duty of a journal like our own to produce a disinfectant, and stop the disorder..."

In 1862 Robinson was elected to serve on the Council of the Photographic Society, and continued to serve on that body until 1891 when, frustrated by the failure of the Society to recognize the artistic dimensions of photography, he resigned (whilst still its Vice-President) and formed the Linked Ring, a brotherhood that was to be very influential in photographic circles for the next twenty years

Purely as a light incidental comment, Robinson married in 1859, his wife recalling in later years that when they were married, she had been told in no unequivocal terms that it must be "photography first, wife afterwards", so she may have the distinction of being the first recorded photographic widow!

Portraiture (a continuiation)

From the medium’s beginnings, the portrait became one of photography’s most popular genres. Aside from small handfuls of skilled artists, portraiture throughout the world generally took on the form of uninspired daguerreotypes, tintypes, cartes-de-visite, and ambrotypes, and most portraitists relied heavily on accessories and retouching.

Such conventions were broken by several important subsequent photographers, notably Nadar, who we already learned about, and others such as his contemporary: Étienne Carjat, and also Julia Margaret Cameron.

Carjat depicted the prominent Parisian of his day in his book The Galerie contemporaine which is a high point in photographic publishing.

The illustrations were printed as woodburytypes–a photomechanical process that reproduced the continuous tones of photography but did so with printer's ink. These portraits display dignity and distinction like those of Nadar, his contemporary and rival, but with a sometimes startling level of intensity in the sitters’ gazes.

Both Nadar and Carajat were interested in showing a personality trait of a person, a sense of who they were through the photograph and not just a dull record, but it wasn't really until Julia Margaret Cameron that this approach was successful with a much more sensitive approach.

Cameron was given a camera at the age of 48 as a present from her family to cure her rich person boredom. She was using a soft focus approach introduced to her by David Wilkie Wynfield and the final look of the photos was often criticized for being, just...wrong.

Her connection through neighbor Alfred Tennyson and her sister's running an art house gave her exposure to many famous people of the time including Charles Darwin, among others. Although an amateur, she had a keen business sense and copyrighted all of her imagery, which is one of the main reasons so much of her work has survived today.

For her portraits, a number of which were shown at the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, Cameron used a lens with the extreme focal length of 30 inches (76.2 cm) to obtain large close-ups. This lens required such long exposures that the subjects frequently moved. The lack of optical definition and this accidental blurring was criticized by the photographic establishment, yet the power of her work won her praise among artists. This can be explained only by the intensity of her vision.

“When I have had these men before my camera,” she wrote about her portraits of great figures, "my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty toward them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner man as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus obtained has almost been the embodiment of a prayer."

Her photography can be broken down into 2 generes, one being soft focus portraiture, the other being religious imagery mostly of children as angels and cherubs.

What is great about her work is that it is technically a mistake. Isn't the whole point of photography to have an image as sharp and hyper real as possible? Let this be a lesson of developing your own art..sometimes the greatest work comes from something that may originally be unintentional or unconventional.

"I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied."

Friday, March 19, 2010


I know it is going to be the first real beautiful Saturday of our semester, but unfortunately the powers that be do not care about our class. Please bring $5 for a cab ride to the galleries. I sprained my ankle and am on crutches right now.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Timothy Briner lecture from last Sat.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Timothy Briner visiting artist lecture as much as I did.

Abby Robinson lecture.

Talk to anyone who has had the pleasure of taking her thesis class while she was still teaching at Pratt or any student currently enrolled in one of her courses at SVA and I am willing to bet they will say that Abby Robinson was the best teacher they had. Aside from being a remarkable photographer, she has the unique gift of almost instantly understanding what your work is about and pushing you in the right direction in order to further it. There is no attempt at molding b rate versions of herself or the need to have your work be this ridiculously serious personal statement like you often find in higher learning. I am going to stop my mini rant now and just say that if you have the time, you should go to this.


Abby Robinson

Thursday, March 18, 7pm
The School of Visual Arts Amphitheater
209 East 23rd Street (between 2nd/ 3rd Ave), Third Floor

Free to CCNY members, SVA students, faculty, and staff
General admission $5, $3 for other students with valid student ID

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This week in photography.

Wednesday, March 3, 6:00-8:00 pm: Opening Paula McCartney Bird Watching at Klompching Gallery, 111 Front St, Ste 206, Brooklyn, 212/796-2070

Thursday, March 4, 6:00-8:00 pm, Openings:
William Albert Allard Her Picture in a Frame at Leica Gallery, 670 Broadway, 212/777-3051.
Viviane Sassen at Danziger Projects, 534 W 24th Street. 212/629-6778.
Dan Estabrook at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, 511 W 25th Street. Ste 506, 212/255-8158.
Margeaux Walter at Winston Wächter Fine Art, 530 W 25th Street. 212/255-2718.
Laura Dodson Between States at Kouros Gallery, 23 E 73rd Street. 212/288-5888.

Friday, March 5, 7:00 pm: Artist talk with Jem Cohen and Brian Ulrich. Caption Gallery, 55 Washington Street, Suite 802, Brooklyn. 718/504-7991.

Friday, March 5, 6:00-8:00 pm, Openings:

Aubrey Mayer at White Columns, 320 W 13th Street. 212/924-4212.
Hey Hot Shot! 2009 Second Edition at Jen Bekman Gallery, 6 Spring Street. 212/219-0166.
Andrew Garn Lost Amazon: Nature's Discontents at A.M. Richard Fine Art, 328 Berry Street. Brooklyn, 917/570-1476.

Saturday, March 6, 10:00 am-6:00 pm: Open house, Aperture, 547 W 27th Street. 4th fl, 212/505-5555.

Saturday, March 6, 1:00 pm: Timothy Briner visiting artist lecture at Pratt Institute Manhattan campus. 144 w. 14th st Room 408.

Saturday, March 6, 6:00-9:00, Opening: 31 Women in Art Photography, Humble Arts Foundation with Affirmation Arts, 523 W 37th Street. RSVP required:

Sunday, March 7, 2:00-4:30 pm: Lecture. Curator Elizabeth Siegel and Ann Bermingham on Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Ave and 82nd Street.

Friday, February 26, 2010

No class tomorrow.

Not sure if Pratt is canceling class for tomorrow, so I am just going to do it myself.

If Pratt does cancel it they will assign a makeup date.

If it doesn't get officially canceled, we will figure out a makeup session when we next meet.

Don't forget March 6th: Timothy Briner visiting artist lecture. Invite people.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Class 3 recap.

Last class we looked at some photographers working around mid 1850s through the later part of the 20th century who were either doing war photography or some sort of landscape themed excursion work (for both personal and sponsored projects) I tie these together because while obviously being very different, there is a similar sense of photographic uncharted history brought to the public by them. In the first class we talked about how photography was able to take the viewer to a place that before was only a description. This wasn't just relevant to travel photography; think of the devastating effects that showing images of war had on people who never experienced it.

Roger Fenton
1819–69, English pioneer photographer. Originally a barrister, Fenton worked from the early 1850s until 1862 as a fashionable architectural, still-life, portrait, and landscape photographer. Aesthetically sensitive and technically adept, he was the most acclaimed and influential photographer in England during this period and did much to establish photography as both an art and a profession. Fenton had a strong interest in Orientalist subjects and he also made (1852) a series of photographs of Moscow and Kiev.

Sponsored by the royal family, he was commissioned in 1855 to document the Crimean War.

Working under appalling conditions, he made 360 photographs emphasizing the romantic aspects of an unpopular war. His few combat pictures are among the earliest photographs of battle. While these photographs present a substantial documentary record of the participants and the landscape of the war, there are no actual combat scenes, nor are there any scenes of the devastating effects of war.

Fenton purchased a former wine merchant's van and converted it to a mobile darkroom. He hired an assistant, and traveled the English countryside testing the suitability of the van. In February 1855 Fenton set sail for the Crimea aboard the Hecla, traveling under royal patronage and with the assistance of the British government.

But Fenton shied away from views that would have portrayed the war in a negative (or realistic) light for several reasons, among them, the limitations of photographic techniques available at the time (Fenton was actually using state-of-the-art processes, but lengthy exposure time prohibited scenes of action); inhospitable environmental conditions (extreme heat during the spring and summer months Fenton was in the Crimea); and political and commercial concerns (he had the support of the Royal family and the British government, and the financial backing of a publisher who hoped to issue sets of photos for sale).

" coming to a ravine called the valley of death, the sight passed all imagination:

round shot and shell lay like a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down, you could not walk without treading upon them..."
--Roger Fenton

On first look, this image looks like a normal landscape photograph, it is only once you look close and realize the sheer amount of cannon balls that lay on what seems like a never ending road do you truly realize how this photo can say so much about a war without showing you any actual action from it.

More on Fenton and the Crimean War

1861-65: Mathew Brady and staff (mostly staff) covers the American Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives

Brady thought it would be a good idea to photograph the entire war and was sure the American government would later purchase his photos and he would at least make back the $100,000 or so he had invested in the project.

While Brady hired roughly 20 photographers such as Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan to work under him, part of the deal was that they could not attain any personal credit for their work and everything shot by them was to be signed as Mathew Brady.

This of course did not suit some of the photographers and they went on to branch off and do their own work without the supervision of Brady, who really didn't even shoot the actual war that much but was more in charge of the supervisions and organization of the project and more of the portraits associated with the war.

The war had come to an end in 1865 and by 1873 Brady was far in debt, having to sell off his New York studio. He did, however, manage to finally get the gvt. to buy his project for a whopping $2840...for those of you with minimal math skills that's a loss of $97,160.

Here are a couple video essays about Brady photos from a historian at the University of Iowa.

Many of the photographers hired by Brady, such as Alexander Gardner were unhappy with not being able to take credit for their work and went on to quit. Gardner had opened up his own studio in D.C. and kept working on the Civil War project without the assistance of Brady and actually had the Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War, a two-volume collection of 100 original prints, published in 1866.

amongst the genuine pictures of the war there appear to be a few which are contrived, further proof that whilst people may think the camera cannot lie, the person behind it can! For example, when Gardner arrived at the decisive scene of the war at Gettysburg two days after it had been fought, he set about photographing "Home of a rebel sharpshooter." However, before taking the picture he had dragged the body of a Conferedate some thirty metres to where he lies in the picture, turning the head towards the camera.

So, does the camera ever lie? Well, as digital photography grows apace, almost anything is achieveable! But what of the past? Like any artist, a photographer may want to portray some emotion, evoke a reaction, put out a thought of his own. The lens sees what it sees, but what appears is inevitably subjective.

When Daguerre exclaimed that photography was "an absolute truth, infinitely more accurate than any painting by the human hand," he probably wasn't thinking of how photographers would be using this public perception to not only push their agenda but just as simply fool the public. While the war photographers of the time were not necessarily trying to do either, the facts are simple: photographing action in the 1860s was really hard, photos were staged, war scenes were tampered with for the sake of better photos.

Is this acceptable? Does the photographer have a right to do such a thing? Does it matter if the photograph is an absolute truth if it serves a greater purpose like changing people's perception of the world for a greater truth or is that too close to propaganda?

What about this recent controversy?

Timothy O'Sullivan - by 1870, ex brady photographers such as o'sullivan and william jackson headed west on government funded exhibitions to document landscapes. O'Sullivan approached western landscape with the documentarian's respect for the integrity of visible evidence and the camera artist's understanding of how to isolate and frame decisive forms and structures in nature.

A sense of mysterious silence and timelessness; these qualities may be even more arresting to the modern eye than they were to his contemporaries, who regarded his images as accurate records rather than evocative statements.

William Henry Jackson
His pictures helped convince the Congress of the United States to establish Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Active throughout the Western United States from 1870 to the early 1900s, Jackson had a long and illustrious career working for government survey parties and producing views that were sold by the thousands as postcards to the general public.

Jackson carried plates as large as 50 by 61 cm (20 by 24 in) into remote and mountainous regions now part of Colorado, Wyoming, and other Western states. His landscape pictures are sharp and dramatic, and helped influence many of the 20th century landscape photographers such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams as well as set a precedent for postcard production.

william henry jackson collection

Library of congress info about photographing civil war

Martin Parr book signing

Clic Gallery is pleased to present the legendary photographer MARTIN PARR signing his most recent monograph LUXURY, published by Chris Boot. Featuring an introduction by fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, LUXURY is Parr's series of satirical color photographs documenting the gaudy extremes of the boom years. Garish shots of diamond jewelry, bored waiters, shopping bags, and champagne-fueled parties in Dubai, Moscow and Beijing are vintage Parr, showcasing his dry humor and fondness for kitsch.

Born in the UK in 1952, MARTIN PARR is the author of over 30 books of photography, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Tate Modern in London. He is a member of Magnum Photos and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Barbican Art Gallery and the New Media Museum. During his appearance at Clic, Martin Parr will also sign copies of his other works, including MEXICO and PARRWORLD: OBJECTS AND POSTCARDS.

The LUXURY SPECIAL EDITION, of which only one hundred have been made, will also be available for sale at Clic Gallery. This collector's item features book pages gilt-edged in silver, calf leather binding and slipcase, and is sold with a signed Martin Parr print.

To pre-order a signed copy, please call 212-966-2766 or click here.

Clic Bookstore & Gallery
255 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

Tue-Sun 12 pm - 7 pm

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shows we saw last class.

Jan Dibbets: New Horizons
Gladstone Gallery

Michael Kenna: Venezia
Robert Mann Gallery

Robert Adams: Summer Nights, Walking
Mathew Marks Gallery