Photobooks: Inspiration

Types of Photobook

Surveys and catalogues

  • catalogues for exhibitions
  • ‘Survey’ publications draw together a collection of individual images or a group of practitioners working in a similar area. Some surveys seem more didactic or
    directed at the art market, such as 50 Photographers You Should Know (2008), Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography (2009), reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow (2005) and reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today (2010).

Monographs and artists’ books

Monographs are mass-produced (relatively speaking), but often they are the primary context for the photographic work. A monograph published to coincide with an exhibition of an artist’s work may  draw together several different bodies of work, but it will be devoted to one practitioner alone.

An artist’s book may be produced in editions, but is generally more individual in terms of its design, the materials used and the printing technique or finish. Some may be printed, stencilled, stitched and embossed by the maker themselves. Others will be a collaboration with a professional bookbinder and a graphic designer.

Early photobooks

Many of these were topographic images for travel and tourism.

  • Francis Frith photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • John Thomson photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • Maxime Du Camp (1822–94)
  • Auguste Salzmann (1824–72)
  • Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–96) published The Yosemite Book in 1868.

Some developed more innovative design

  • Soviet and Fascist propaganda books with novel design features, such as fold-out pages that extend the dimensions of an image

Inspiration

I have a large collection, but not had time to look through or properly review apart from getting some layout ideas.

Colour

  • Martin Parr: documentary photographer. Some of his works have been mass produced and re-printed (e.g. The Last Resort, 1986 and 1998); others have been limited editions or even more exclusive artist’s books such as Cherry Blossom Time in Tokyo, 2001. See: www.martinparr.com/books/. Layout in Last Resort has one, or very occasionally two, large images per spread, with white margin around and no border. This focuses attention on the content of the socially complex saturated colour images. There is a short introductory text at the beginning.
  • Paul Seawright : Invisible Cities a very large hardback book of colour images. Some images are full bleed crossing the whole spread, sometimes with some space to one side or top/bottom. Other spreads have only one half page image generally placed full bleed to one corner with the rest of the spread as white space. There is a text introduction to African cities at the beginning.
  • Urbex ‘Beauty in Decay’ this has beautiful limited palette images . The book is divided into chapters with some introductory text. But the book is mostly large images with  whitespace. Some images and spreads are on black background. A few text passages are on beige background. Some have black or white boders and vignettes to increase contrast.

Black and white

  • Daido Moriyama  Tales of Tono – small portrait format book of very high contrast black and white images. Full bleed in landscape across a double spread on black background. This makes the abstract flashes of white shapes in the often barely readable images standout. Text is reserved for a narrative section at the end. I like the moodiness of this book and all the images demand close attention in themselves, as well as producing an overall edgy impression as a apparently random narrative.
  • Algirdas Seskus ‘Love Lyrics’ Lithuanian 149 contrasty documentary Black and White images in landscape format. No text except the number of each photo and date. One or two large images per spread. No border with generous white margin.
  • Arunas Baltenas  Vilnius  2007 images from 1987. Small misty sepia images one per spread with no border and lots of white space. Delicate handwritten titles and date. One page introduction in English and Lithuanian at the beginning. No other text. I find the delicate nostalgia of this book really beautiful.
  • Henri Cartier Bresson in India  Thames and Hudson. 1987 with forward by Bengali film director Satyajit Ray. One large black and white photo per page with short caption. Black border on white paper. Occasionally one large and one small. The images themselves are quite low contrast. The black border makes the eye focus inwards.

At the Brighton Photography Biennial I saw a lot of interesting innovative designs, but did not have time to note all the details.

  • David Galjaard Concresco. A book about Albania. Has a brown opening cover with short explanatory text. Then  double page spreads with small white text insert pages. For this and other work see his website: http://www.davidgaljaard.nl
  • Dara McGrath ‘Deconstructing the Maze’  This has two coloured photographs on one side and page of text on the other. The strength here is in the photos. For this and other work see his website http://www.daramcgrath.com/index.html
  • Xavier Ribas  ‘Concrete Geographies’.  Photos of concrete blocks in Barcelona. See his website: http://www.xavierribas.com. This has inside views and links to vimeos of other books like Sanctuary – no text, one photo per spread. Sometimes a cross-over image. But the onscreen resolution is not good enough to really see the images.
  • Alessandro Rota A Neocolonialist’s diary.  Small paisley pattern cover. Coloured photos of sheets in Lusaka. Dark night streets. Lights. See his website . And vimeo of the book. https://vimeo.com/28099164
  • Irene Siragusa ‘Six weeks in Dublin’.   Lots of photos of spattered blood. Small juxtaposed rectangular images. website

Unknown author/title glimpsed over other peoples’ shoulders:

  • Book with glued images folded.
  • Aids (author???).  Small and simple brown cover. Photos of slits one on a page opposite a blank page.

 Sources and overviews

  • The Photobook: A History, Volumes I,  ll and III Gerry Badger and Martin Parr
  • The Chinese Photobook: Martin Parr and Wassink Lundgren from the Photographer’s Gallery exhibition
  • Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian
  • Channels on YouTube and Vimeo with videos of certain books;
  • Tate video about William Klein which shows his assistant with one of Klein’s early maquettes:
  •  José Navarro discussing OCA students’ photobooks

OCA Student links

Joe Wright

Assignment 5: Perspectives on Kyrgyztstan

Roland Barthes

 

Roland Barthes was a structuralist, with a particular interest in the semiotics of language and images. Semiotics can be described as the ‘science of signs’. A semiotic analysis of an image or a piece of film is the quantification of how meaning is constructed or a message is communicated.
Before writing ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ Barthes wrote the essay ‘Myth Today’ (1972), in which he described two levels of meaning: sign and myth.
• The first level of meaning, sign, comprises a signifier and a signified – or a denoted object (the actual thing depicted) and the connoted message (what the thing depicted communicates).
• The second level of meaning, myth, takes into account the viewer’s existing contextual knowledge that informs a reading of the image.
This is a simplified description of Barthes’ system, which doesn’t apply exclusively to photographic images. In ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, Barthes uses the first level of meaning to read an advert for a French grocery company, Panzani.

This table roughly summarises Barthes’ discussion of the signs he identifies in the Panzani advert. In his essay, Barthes doesn’t explicitly refer to the second level of meaning, myth, although he does mention cultural stereotypes or assumptions that inform the consumption of this advertisement: the more Mediterranean lifestyle of “shopping around” for fresh groceries, as opposed to “the hasty stocking up… of a more ‘mechanical’ civilisation”. Barthes also points
out that:
• Recognition of the still life tradition in this image is dependent upon particular cultural knowledge.
• The image is read as an advert. The fact that the context is a magazine, and the pictorial emphasis on the product labels, influence how the overall picture is read.
• These signs are “not linear”; they are consumed holistically (Barthes, 1977, pp. 32–37).
Although the landscape doesn’t feature in this advert, it refers to the bounty of the countryside.
Here we see the brand attempting to align itself to the stereotype of a lifestyle which is – as Barthes saw it – the very essence of the country, as summarised by his made-up word, ‘Italianicity’. It is very much an image of Italian identity, from a French perspective.

An excellent example of the dissection of an advert is by Roland Barthes in his essay ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ (1977).
See: http://98.131.80.43/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/barthes_rhetoricofimage.pdf

The course so far has touched upon commercial applications of the landscape image, and how ideas and ideologies have been attached to particular landscapes. Nowhere are these two things conflated more explicitly than within the sphere of advertising, where landscape imagery is aligned with particular brand values and identities. Understanding how advertising imagery is constructed is essential if you intend to practise photography commercially. Even if you’re not interested in the commercial sector, exploring advertising imagery is a very good exercise in understanding how meaning is constructed and mediated by the photographic image.

 

Landscape and Gender

Some early women photographers did do serious topographical work in the late nineteenth and early 20C:

  • Evelyn Cameron,
  • Laura Gilpin,
  • Frances Benjamin Johnson
  • Elizabeth Ellen Roberts

Artistic photography, continuing the ‘genteel’ occupations for lady sketchers and watercolourists, was also conducted by:

  • Anna Atkins
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Lady Hawarden
  • Lady Elizabeth Eastlake

But their work  was more closely aligned with the family album, documentary and performance, rather topographic.  (ibid, p.188).

Feminist discourse since the 1970s has rejected the monopoly of the male gaze and articulated the female point of view in relation to the landscape. Social and technological developments have also made serious photographic excursions into the landscape considerably more accessible (Wells, 2011, p.189). A number of female photographers have, in one form or another, engaged with feminist politics in relation to the landscape and the concept of nature, as well as the male gaze.

For interesting feminist and other modern approaches  see:

  • Helen Sear’s series Grounded (2000), in which she digitally combines photographs of skies with images of animal hides photographed at a museum.
  • Jo Spence subverts classical depictions of nude female figures within idealised settings.
  • Elina Brotherus
  • Karen Knorr
  • Susan Trangmar
  • Sian Bonnell
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Joan Fontcuberta Bodyscapes (2005) employ three-dimensional imaging software used for military  applications to render landscape images of close-up photographs of his own body.

 

Gilpin’s Theory of the Picturesque

Gilpin’s Essay on Prints (1768) defined picturesque as “a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture” (p. xii).  Gilpin began to expound his “principles of picturesque beauty”, based largely on his knowledge of landscape painting. During the late 1760s and 1770s Gilpin travelled extensively in the summer holidays and applied these principles to the landscapes he saw, committing his thoughts and spontaneous sketches to notebooks. William Gilpin’s work was a direct challenge to the ideology of the well established Grand Tour, showing how an exploration of rural Britain could compete with classically oriented tours of the Continent. The irregular, anti-classical, ruins became sought after sights.

Gilpin’s views were articulated particularly in his guide to Observations on the River Wye 1770:

“We travel for various purposes – to explore the culture of soils, to view the curiosities of art, to survey the beauties of nature, and to learn the manners of men, their different politics, and modes of life. The following little work proposes a new object of pursuit; that of examining the face of the country by the rules of picturesque beauty; opening the sources of those pleasures which are derived from the comparison.”introduction (Gilpin, [1782] 2005, p.17)

While Gilpin allowed that nature was good at producing textures and colours, it was rarely capable of creating the perfect composition. Some extra help from the artist, perhaps in the form of a carefully placed tree, was usually required.

‘Nature is always great in design; but unequal in composition…Nature gives us the material of landscape: woods, rivers, trees, lakes, ground, and mountains; but leaves us to work them up into pictures, as our fancy leads…I am so attached to my picturesque rules, that if nature gets it wrong, I cannot help putting her right…the picture is not so much the ultimate end, as it is the medium, through which the ravishing scenes of nature are excited in the imagination.’

Gilpin’s work on watercolour technique emphasised both texture and composition were important in a “correctly picturesque” scene:

  • The texture should be “rough”, “intricate”, “varied”, or “broken”, without obvious straight lines.
  • The composition should work as a unified whole, incorporating several elements: a dark “foreground” with a “front screen” or “side screens”, a brighter middle “distance”, and at least one further, less distinctly depicted, “distance”.
  • A ruined abbey or castle would add “consequence”.
  • A low viewpoint, which tended to emphasise the “sublime”, was always preferable to a prospect from on high.

In contrast to other contemporary travel writers, such as Thomas Pennant, Gilpin included little history, and few facts or anecdotes. He described ways that the scenes could be improved upon, according to his vision of picturesque beauty. He directed readers to the specific spots he believed would yield the most picturesque vantage point of a given location.

Although he came in for criticism and satire eg in Jane Austen, Gilpin’s views were very influential in painting and related media, and particularly  garden design, encouraging landscape architects to introduce more organic shapes to views and structures such as follies and grottos. Others, most notably Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price (1794  An Essay on the Picturesque as Compared with the Sublime and Beautiful) and Thomas Johnes, developed Gilpin’s ideas into more comprehensive theories of the picturesque and apply these more generally to landscape design and architecture.

Improved road communications and travel restrictions on continental Europe saw an explosion of British domestic tourism in the 1780s and 1790s. Many of these picturesque tourists were intent on sketching, or at least discussing what they saw in terms of landscape painting. Some sketched freehand the scenes Gilpin described, and others employed the camera lucida – the precursor to the compact camera – as an aid to responding visually to Gilpin’s picturesque descriptions.  Gilpin’s works were the ideal companions for this new generation of travellers; they were written specifically for that market and never intended as comprehensive travel guides.

Gilpin asked: “shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal, than it is to the man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature?”. The little brown ‘viewpoints’ icons on Ordnance Survey maps are a legacy of Gilpin.

Roger Fenton

Roger Fenton (28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869) was a pioneering British photographer, one of the first war photographers.

Roger Fenton was born in Crimble Hall, then within the parish of Bury, Lancashire, on 28 March 1819. His grandfather was a wealthy cotton manufacturer and banker, his father a banker and Member of Parliament. Fenton was the fourth of seven children by his father’s first marriage. His father had 10 more children by his second wife.

In 1838 Fenton went to University College London where he graduated in 1840 with a “first class” Bachelor of Arts degree, having studied English, mathematics, Greek and Latin. In 1841, he began to study law at University College, evidently sporadically as he did not qualify as a solicitor until 1847, in part because he had become interested in studying to be a painter. Fenton visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London in 1851 and was impressed by the photography on display there. He then visited Paris to learn the waxed paper calotype process, most likely from William Fox Henry Talbot, its inventor. By 1852 he had photographs exhibited in England, and travelled to Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg making calotypes there, and photographed views and architecture around Britain. His published call for the setting up of a photographic society was answered with its establishment in 1853; the Photographic Society, with Fenton as founder and first Secretary, later became the Royal Photographic Society under the patronage of Prince Albert.

In 1855 Fenton was sent to the Crimean War as the first official war photographer. He had the endorsement of the Duke of Newcastle, secretary of state for war, and the patronage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The resulting photographs may have been intended to offset the general aversion of the British people to an unpopular war and to counteract the occasionally critical reporting of correspondent William Howard Russell of The Times. The photographs were to be converted into woodblocks and published in the less critical Illustrated London News. Fenton took Marcus Sparling as his photographic assistant, a servant and a large van of equipment. Due to the size and cumbersome nature of his photographic equipment, Fenton was limited in his choice of motifs. Because the photographic material of his time needed long exposures, he was only able to produce pictures of unmoving objects, mostly posed pictures; he avoided making pictures of dead, injured or mutilated soldiers.

Fenton also photographed the landscape, including an area near to where the Light Brigade—made famous in Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”—was ambushed. His Versions of Valley of the Shadow of Death, with and without cannonballs  is a seminal image in war photography but also a controversial one because the two versions that exist show that Fenton repositioned the cannon balls in the second version to make the image more compelling. In letters home soldiers had called the original valley “The Valley of Death”, and Tennyson’s poem used the same phrase, so when in September 1855 Thomas Agnew put the picture on show, as one of a series of eleven collectively titled Panorama of the Plateau of Sebastopol in Eleven Parts in a London exhibition, he took the troops’—and Tennyson’s—epithet, expanded it as The Valley of the Shadow of Death with its deliberate evocation of Psalm 23, and assigned it to the piece; it is not the location of the famous charge, which took place in a long, broad valley several miles to the south-east. In 2007 film-maker Errol Morris went to Sevastopol to identify the site of this “first iconic photograph of war”. He identified the small valley, shown on a later map as “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”, as the place where Fenton had taken his photograph. Two pictures were taken of this area, one with several cannonballs on the road, the other with an empty road. Opinions differ concerning which one was taken first. Morris concludes that the photo without the cannonballs was taken first, but he remains uncertain about why balls were moved onto the road in the second picture—perhaps, he notes, Fenton deliberately placed them there to enhance the image. The alternative is that soldiers were gathering up cannonballs for reuse and they threw down balls higher up the hill onto the road and ditch for collection later. Other art historians, such as Nigel Spivey of Cambridge University, identify the images as from the nearby Woronzoff Road. This is the location accepted by the local tour guides.

Despite high temperatures, breaking several ribs, and suffering from cholera, in all Fenton managed to make over 350 usable large format negatives. An exhibition of 312 prints was soon on show in London, in the gallery of publisher Thomas Agnew. Sales were not as good as expected, possibly because the war had ended.

In 1858 Fenton made studio genre studies based on romantically imaginative ideas of Muslim life, such as Seated Odalisque, using friends and models who were not always convincing in their roles.

Although well known for his Crimean War photography, his photographic career lasted little more than a decade, and in 1862 he abandoned the profession entirely, selling his equipment and becoming almost forgotten by the time of his death seven years later. He was later formally recognised by art historians for his pioneering work and artistic endeavour. In recognition of the importance of his photography, Fenton’s photos of the Crimean war were included in the Life collection, 100 Photos that Changed the World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography, memory and place

“… in Photography, I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past. And since this constraint exists only for Photography, we must consider it, by reduction, as the very essence, the noeme of Photography.” (Barthes 1982,p.76)

Photographic images affect the way we remember moments we experienced ourselves, and our impressions of things we experience via the image alone. Barthes also proposes how the photograph can act as a “counter-memory”, aggressively blocking impressions formed by our other senses as it “fills the sight by force” (ibid, p. 91 quoted Alexander 2013p107).

Many practitioners have engaged with idead of personal memories (family albums, holidays) in one form or another:

  • Trish Morrissey
  • Gillian Wearing
  • Joachim Schmid.
  • Peter Kane goes back to places depicted in his family’s photo album and re-photographs and superimposes the images.

Photography has also been used to explore and challenge the construction of collective memories (eg documentation of ‘early’ or ‘late’ photography as well as events unfolding)

  • Shimon Attie uses contemporary media to explore relationships between space,time, place and identity working with communities to find new ways of representing their history.
  • Jeff Wall produces large tableaux of events, or staged events, referencing the way history painting interpreted and often glorified historical events.
  • Luc Delahaye also references history painting, using large format analogue cameras to document meetings, political ceremonies and war zones.

But as Bates cautions (see also my reaction to Meyerowitz):

“As sites of memory, photographic images (whether digital or analogue) offer not a view on history but, as mnemonic devices, are perceptual phenomena upon which a historical representation may be constructed. Social memory is interfered with by photography precisely because of its affective and subjective status…in terms of history and memory, photographs demand analysis rather than hypnotic reverie’ (Bate The Memory of Photography pp255-256)

The matter of ‘reality’ is an important aspect to consider in relation to all areas of photography: who is recording what, why, for whom and why?

3.5: Local history

3.6: ‘The Memory of Photography

Origins of the Picturesque and aesthetic consumerism

In the second half of the eighteenth century, definitions of types of landscape or view, seen from an aesthetic or artistic point of view distinguished between:

  • the sublime (awesome sights such as great mountains)
  • the beautiful, the most peaceful, even pretty sights.

See discussion in Part 1 Beauty and the Sublime

In between came the picturesque, views seen as being artistic but containing ‘pleasing’ elements of wildness or irregularity. Together with Gothic and Celticism it became part of the romantic aesthetic of the growing numbers of leisured middle classes.  Improved road communications and travel restrictions on continental Europe saw an explosion of British domestic tourism in the 1780s and 1790s. Many of these picturesque tourists who flooded areas like the Lake District sketched or painted using Claude Glasses  or used the camera lucida.

The word picturesque, meaning literally “in the manner of a picture; fit to be made into a picture”, was a word used as early as 1703 (Oxford English Dictionary), and derived from an Italian term pittoresco, “in the manner of a painter”. Prime examples are French landscape painters like Claude Lorrain. Gilpin’s Essay on Prints (1768) defined picturesque as “a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture” (p. xii) and proposed a number of “principles of picturesque beauty”. Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price (1794  An Essay on the Picturesque as Compared with the Sublime and Beautiful) and Thomas Johnes, developed Gilpin’s ideas into more comprehensive theories of the picturesque and apply these more generally to landscape design and architecture advocating more organic shapes to views and structures such as follies and grottos.

After 1815 when Europeans were able to travel again after the wars, Italy became a favourite destination for picturesque-hunters and artists. This reinforced ideas of the ‘picturesque’ in the sense of a view that has been ‘perfectly’ composed according to compositional and perspective theories (eg leading lines, golden mean) that were key developments in art in Renaissance Italy). Grand theories of wild natural beauty gave way to the tamer and more commercialised picturesque of the mid 19th century using these broad principles. These ideas also underlie standard compositional prescriptions in many books and magazine articles on techniques of landscape photography today.

See Posts:

Gilpin’s theory of the picturesque

Francis Frith’s poscards.

and weblinks:

Susan Sontag describes this commercialisation of the picturesque as ‘aesthetic consumerism’ (Sontag, 1977, p.24). As Malcolm Andrews (1999) remarks, there is “something of the big-game hunter in these tourists, boasting of their encounters with savage landscapes, ‘capturing’ wild scenes, and ‘fixing’ them as pictorial trophies in order to sell them or hang them up in frames on their drawing room walls”. They ignore the complex social, political and economic interests and conflicts between classes, conservation and industrialisation, commercial interests and local people, those living and working in the countryside and those who simply enjoy it for leisure or regard it as part of their heritage.

Fay Godwin suggests that ignoring the different interests and conflicts exacerbates polarisation of interests between users of the countryside: “I am wary of picturesque pictures. I get satiated with looking at postcards in local newsagents and at the picture books that are on sale, many of which don’t bear any relation to my own experience of the place… The problem for me about these picturesque pictures, which proliferate all over the place, is that they are a very soft warm blanket of sentiment, which covers everybody’s idea about the countryside… It idealises the country in a very unreal way.”
(Fay Godwin 1986 South Bank Show Produced and directed by Hilary Chadwick, London Weekend Television quoted Alexander 2013 p84.)

 3.1: Reflecting on the picturesque

Going beyond the picturesque requires thinking very carefully about what one is trying to say about ‘landscape’ and why. It also raises aesthetic challenges about how to communicate this in terms of following or subverting conventional theories of composition and the likely interpretation by different viewers.

Matthew Brady

Mathew B. Brady (ca. 1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and his documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism.

short documentary film on Brady

Brady was born in Warren County, New York, the youngest of three children of Irish immigrant parents. At age 16 he moved to Saratoga, New York, where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page’s student. In 1839 the two traveled to Albany, New York, and then to New York City, where Brady continued to study painting with Page, and also with Page’s former teacher, Samuel F. B. Morse. Morse had met Louis Jacques Daguerre in France in 1839, and returned to the US to enthusiastically push the new daguerrotype invention of capturing images. He soon became the center of the New York artistic colony who wished to study photography. He opened a studio and offered classes; Brady was one of the first students.

In 1844 Brady opened his own photography studio in New York, and by 1845 he began to exhibit his portraits of famous Americans. He opened a studio in Washington, D.C. in 1849.

Brady’s early images were daguerreotypes, and he won many awards for his work; in the 1850s ambrotype photography became popular, which gave way to the albumen print, a paper photograph produced from large glass negatives most commonly used in the American Civil War photography. In 1850 Brady produced The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a portrait collection of prominent contemporary figures. The album, which featured noteworthy images including the elderly Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage, was not financially rewarding but invited increased attention to Brady’s work and artistry. In 1854, Parisian photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri popularized the carte de visite and these small pictures (the size of a visiting card) rapidly became a popular novelty as thousands of these images were created and sold in the United States and Europe.

In 1856 Brady created the first modern advertisement when he placed an ad in the New York Herald paper offering to produce “photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes.” His ads were the first whose typeface and fonts were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements.

 Civil War documentation 

He was head of a team of photographers who documented
the American Civil War. Brady and his team recorded the cruelty and futility of war through photography of the dead.

At first, the effect of the Civil War on Brady’s business was a brisk increase in sales of cartes de visite to transient soldiers. However, he was soon taken with the idea of documenting the war itself. He first applied for permission to travel to the battle sites to an old friend, General Winfield Scott, and eventually he made his application to President Lincoln himself. Lincoln granted permission in 1861 with the proviso that Brady finance the project himself. His efforts to document the American Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned Brady his place in history. Despite the obvious dangers, financial risk, and discouragement of his friends, Brady is later quoted as saying “I had to go. A spirit in my feet said ‘Go,’ and I went.” His first popular photographs of the conflict were at the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he got so close to the action that he barely avoided capture.

He employed Alexander Gardner, James Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, William Pywell, George N. Barnard, Thomas C. Roche, and seventeen other men, each of whom was given a traveling darkroom, to go out and photograph scenes from the Civil War. Brady generally stayed in Washington, D.C., organizing his assistants and rarely visited battlefields personally. This may have been due, at least in part, to the fact that Brady’s eyesight had begun to deteriorate in the 1850s.

In October 1862 Brady opened an exhibition of photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery titled “The Dead of Antietam.” Many images in this presentation were graphic photographs of corpses, a presentation new to America. This was the first time that many Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous “artists’ impressions”.

Mathew Brady, through his many paid assistants, took thousands of photos of American Civil War scenes. Much of the popular understanding of the Civil War comes from these photos. There are thousands of photos in the National Archives taken by Brady and his associates, Alexander Gardner, George Barnard, and Timothy O’Sullivan. The photographs include Lincoln, Grant, and common soldiers in camps and battlefields. The images provide a pictorial cross reference of American Civil War history. Brady was not able to photograph actual battle scenes as the photographic equipment in those days was still in the infancy of its development and required that a subject be still in order for a clear photo to be produced.Like Fenton, Brady and his colleagues moved people and objects
to create a more graphic or telling image.

Following the conflict a war-weary public lost interest in seeing photos of the war, and Brady’s popularity and practice declined drastically.

During the war, Brady spent over $100,000 to create over 10,000 plates. He expected the U.S. government to buy the photographs when the war ended, but when the government refused to do so he was forced to sell his New York City studio and go into bankruptcy. Congress granted Brady $25,000 in 1875, but he remained deeply in debt. Depressed by his financial situation, loss of eyesight and devastated by the death of his wife in 1887, he became very lonely. He died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City on January 15, 1896, from complications following a streetcar accident.

Brady can be considered a pioneer in the orchestration of a “corporate credit line.” In this practice, every image produced in his gallery was labeled “Photo by Brady;” however, Brady dealt directly with only the most distinguished subjects and most portrait sessions were carried out by others.

Robert Frank

Robert Frank The Americans

Robert Frank (born 1924), along with Diane Arbus and others, was one of the founder members of the New York School of photographers in the 1940s and 50s.

The Americans, by Robert Frank, was a highly influential book in post-war American photography. With the aid of his major artistic influence, the photographer Walker Evans, Frank secured a Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 1955, he set out on a two year journey across America, during which time he took 28,000 images of American society.

Frank’s journey was not without incident. While driving through Arkansas, Frank was arbitrarily thrown in jail for three days after being stopped by the police who accused him of being a communist (their reasons: he was shabbily dressed, he was Jewish, he had letters about his person from people with Russian sounding names, his children had foreign sounding names – Pablo & Andrea, and he had foreign whiskey with him). He was also told by a sheriff elsewhere in the South that he had “an hour to leave town.”

 

Only 80 or so of these images actually made it into Frank’s book, The Americans. The book was first published in France in 1958. In 1959, The Americans was finally published in the United States by Grove Press, with the text removed from the French edition due to concerns that it was too un-American in tone. The added introduction by Kerouac, along with simple captions for the photos, were now the only text in the book, which was intended to mirror the layout of Walker Evans’ American Photographs.

The photographs were notable for their distanced view of both high and low strata of American society. The book as a whole created a complicated portrait of the period that was viewed as skeptical of contemporary values and evocative of ubiquitous loneliness. Frank found a tension in the gloss of American culture and wealth over race and class differences, which gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists.

Frank’s images also challenged established photographic values. His use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques. His images had blurred people and sloping horizons and asked questions of the viewer. They didn’t open up easily but required careful reading; for this reason, Frank’s work is seen as a major step forward for photography and its ability to communicate in new and different ways.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the book’s original publication (15 May 2008), a new edition was published by Steidl.  Robert Frank was deeply involved in the design and production of this edition, in which most images are recropped and two slightly different photographs are used.

Robert Frank discussed with his publisher, Gerhard Steidl, the idea of producing a new edition using modern scanning and the finest tritone printing. The starting point was to bring original prints from New York to Göttingen, Germany, where Steidl is based. In July 2007, Frank visited Göttingen. A new format for the book was worked out and new typography selected. A new cover was designed and Frank chose the book cloth, foil embossing and the endpaper. Most significantly, as he has done for every edition of The Americans, Frank changed the cropping of many of the photographs, usually including more information.

Exhibitions

Frank’s photographs were on display at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until January 4, 2009. A celebratory exhibit of The Americans were displayed in 2009 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Walker Evans

American Photographs (1938) by Walker Evans (1903–75)

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From Wikipedia

Walker Evans (November 3, 1903 – April 10, 1975) was an American photographer best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans’s work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8×10-inch camera. He said that his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that are “literate, authoritative, transcendent”. Many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums and have been the subject of retrospectives at such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or George Eastman House.


Biography

Born in St. Louis, Missouri,he spent his youth in Toledo, Chicago, and New York City. Evans took up photography in 1928 around the time he was living in Ossining, New York. His influences included Eugène Atget and August Sander. In 1930, he published three photographs (Brooklyn Bridge) in the poetry book The Bridge by Hart Crane. In 1931, he took photo series of Victorian houses in the Boston vicinity sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein. In 1933, he photographed in Cuba on assignment for the publisher of Carleton Beals’ then-forthcoming book, The Crime of Cuba, photographing the revolt against the dictator Gerardo Machado. In Cuba, Evans briefly knew Ernest Hemingway.

Depression-era photography

In 1935, Evans spent two months at first on a fixed-term photographic campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October on, he continued to do photographic work for the RA and later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in the Southern United States.

In the summer of 1936, while on leave from the FSA, he and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans’s photographs and Agee’s text detailing the duo’s stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. Noting a similarity to the Beals’ book, the critic Janet Malcolm, in her 1980 book Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography, has pointed out the contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee’s prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans’s photographs of sharecroppers.

The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were “Soviet agents,” although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd’s wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evans’s photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue.  Charles Burroughs, who was four years old when Evans and Agee visited the family, was “still angry” at them for not even sending the family a copy of the book; the son of Floyd Burroughs was also reportedly angry because the family was “cast in a light that they couldn’t do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant”.

Evans continued to work for the FSA until 1938. That year, an exhibition, Walker Evans: American Photographs, was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the first exhibition in this museum devoted to the work of a single photographer. The catalogue included an accompanying essay by Lincoln Kirstein, whom Evans had befriended in his early days in New York.

In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title Many are Called. In 1938 and 1939, Evans worked with and mentored Helen Levitt.

Evans, like such other photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, rarely spent time in the darkroom making prints from his own negatives. He only very loosely supervised the making of prints of most of his photographs, sometimes only attaching handwritten notes to negatives with instructions on some aspect of the printing procedure.

 Later work

Evans was a passionate reader and writer, and in 1945 became a staff writer at Time magazine. Shortly afterward he became an editor at Fortune magazine through 1965. That year, he became a professor of photography on the faculty for Graphic Design at the Yale University School of Art.

In one of his last photographic projects, Evans completed a black and white portfolio of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.’s offices and partners for publication in “Partners in Banking,” published in 1968 to celebrate the private bank’s 150th anniversary. In 1973 and 1974, he also shot a long series with the then-new Polaroid SX-70 camera, after age and poor health had made it difficult for him to work with elaborate equipment.

The first definitive retrospective of his photographs, whose works “individually evoke an incontrovertible sense of specific places, and collectively a sense of America,” according to a press release, were on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in early 1971. Selected by John Szarkowski and simply titled Walker Evans.

Death and legacy

Evans died at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1975.[10]

In 1994, The Estate of Walker Evans handed over its holdings to New York City’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[11] The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the sole copyright holder for all works of art in all media by Walker Evans. The only exception is a group of approximately 1,000 negatives in collection of the Library of Congress which were produced for the Resettlement Administration (RA) / Farm Security Administration(FSA). Evans’s RA / FSA works are in the public domain.

In 2000, Evans was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame