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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

Other Google images

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

John Thomson

edited from Wikipedia article

Google images

John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 29 September 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. He was an accomplished photographer in many areas: landscapes, portraiture, street-photography, architectural photography. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures for his Victorian audience.  He was however more concerned with the socio-economic situation of the people whose land he visited than landscape as a subject in  itself (Jeffrey, 1981, p. 64).

On his return home, his pioneering work documenting the social conditions of the street  is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism.  He went on to become a portrait photographer of High Society in Mayfair, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881. His publishing activities mark him out as an innovator in combining photography with the printed word.

The son of William Thomson, a tobacco spinner and retail trader, and his wife Isabella, Thomson was born the eighth of nine children in Edinburgh.  After his schooling in the early 1850s, he was apprenticed to a local optical and scientific instrument manufacturer, thought to be James Mackay Bryson. During this time, Thomson learned the principles of photography and completed his apprenticeship around 1858. In 1861 he became a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts.

South East Asia 1862-1872: Singapore, Malaya, Sumatra, Siam, Cambodia and China

Singapore

In April 1862, Thomson left Edinburgh for Singapore to join his older brother William, a watchmaker and photographer, beginning a ten-year period spent travelling around the Far East. Initially, he established a joint business with William to manufacture marine chronometers and optical and nautical instruments. He also established a photographic studio in Singapore, taking portraits of European merchants, and he developed an interest in local peoples and places. He travelled extensively throughout the mainland territories of Malaya and the island of Sumatra, exploring the villages and photographing the native peoples and their activities.

Siam and Cambodia

After visiting Ceylon and India from October to November 1864 to document the destruction caused by a recent cyclone, Thomson sold his Singapore studio and moved to Siam. After arrival in Bangkok in September 1865, Thomson undertook a series of photographs of the King of Siam and other senior members of the royal court and government.

 Prea Sat Ling Poun, Angkor Wat, 1865.

Inspired by Henri Mouhot’s account of the rediscovery of the ancient cities of Angkor in the Cambodian jungle, Thomson embarked on what would become the first of his major photographic expeditions. He set off in January 1866 with his translator H. G. Kennedy, a British Consular official in Bangkok, who saved Thomson’s life when he contracted jungle fever en route. The pair spent two weeks at Angkor, where Thomson extensively documented the vast site, producing some of the earliest photographs of what is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thomson then moved on to Phnom Penh and took photographs of the King of Cambodia and other members of the Cambodian Royal Family, before travelling on to Saigon. From there he stayed in Bangkok briefly, before returning to Britain in May or June in 1866.

While back home, Thomson lectured extensively to the British Association and published his photographs of Siam and Cambodia. He became a member of the Royal Ethnological Society of London and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1866, and published his first book, The Antiquities of Cambodia, in early 1867.

There have however been accusations of plagiarism. In 2001 Phiphat Phongraphiphon, a Thai independent researcher in historical photography, published claims that Thomson plagiarised works by Thai court photographer Khun Sunthornsathitsalak (Christian name: Francis Chit) and published them as his own. Evidence to Phiphat’s claims include an analysis of a photograph in which the temple Wat Rajapradit, which was built before Thomson arrived in Bangkok, is missing.

Travels in China 1868-1872

Island Pagoda, about 1871, from the album, Foochow and the River Min

 

 

Images from Travels in China



After a year in Britain, Thomson again felt the desire to return to the Far East. He returned to Singapore in July 1867, before moving to Saigon for three months and finally settling in Hong Kong in 1868. He established a studio in the Commercial Bank building, and spent the next four years photographing the people of China and recording the diversity of Chinese culture.

Thomson travelled extensively throughout China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the cities of Peking and Shanghai, to the Great Wall in the north, and deep into central China. From 1870 to 1871 he visited the Fukien region, travelling up the Min River by boat with the American Protestant missionary Reverend Justus Doolittle, and then visited Amoy and Swatow.

He went on to visit the island of Formosa with the missionary Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell, landing first in Takao in early April 1871. The pair visited the capital, Taiwanfu, before travelling on to the aboriginal villages on the west plains of the island. After leaving Formosa, Thomson spent the next three months travelling 3,000 miles up the Yangtze River, reaching Hupeh and Szechuan.

Thomson’s travels in China were often perilous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His expeditions were also especially challenging because he had to transport his bulky wooden camera, many large, fragile glass plates, and potentially explosive chemicals. He photographed in a wide variety of conditions and often had to improvise because chemicals were difficult to acquire. His subject matter varied enormously: from humble beggars and street people to Mandarins, Princes and senior government officials; from remote monasteries to Imperial Palaces; from simple rural villages to magnificent landscapes.

Street Life in London

Thomson returned to England in 1872, settling in Brixton, London and, apart from a final photographic journey to Cyprus in 1878, Thomson never left again. Over the coming years he proceeded to lecture and publish, presenting the results of his travels in the Far East. His publications started initially in monthly magazines and were followed by a series of large, lavishly illustrated photographic books. He wrote extensively on photography, contributing many articles to photographic journals such as the British Journal of Photography. He also translated and edited Gaston Tissandier’s 1876 History and Handbook of Photography, which became a standard reference work.
In London, Thomson renewed his acquaintance with Adolphe Smith, a radical journalist whom he had met at the Royal Geographical Society in 1866. Together they collaborated in producing the monthly magazine, Street Life in London, from 1876 to 1877. The project documented in photographs and text the lives of the street people of London, establishing social documentary photography as an early type of photojournalism. The series of photographs was later published in book form in 1878.

The Crawlers, London, 1876-1877

 

 

 

 

He was elected a member of the Photographic Society, later the Royal Photographic Society, on 11 November 1879. With his reputation as an important photographer well established, Thomson opened a portrait studio in Buckingham Palace Road in 1879, later moving it to Mayfair. In 1881 he was appointed photographer to the British Royal Family by Queen Victoria, and his later work concentrated on studio portraiture of the rich and famous of High Society, giving him a comfortable living. From January 1886 he began instructing explorers at the Royal Geographical Society in the use of photography to document their travels.

After retiring from his commercial studio in 1910, Thomson spent most of his time back in Edinburgh, although he continued to write papers for the Royal Geographical Society on the uses of photography. He died of a heart attack in 1921 at the age of 84. In recognition of his work, one of the peaks of Mount Kenya was named “Point Thomson”.

A large collection of his glass negatives was donated to the Wellcome Library.  Some of Thomson’s work may be seen at the Royal Geographical Society’s headquarters in London.

Selected publications

  • China Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868 -1872, River Books 2010.
  • The antiquities of Cambodia, 1867
  • Views on the North River, 1870.
  • Foochow and the River Min, 1873.
  • Illustrations of China and its people, 1873-1874 [1]
  • Street life in London, 1878
  • Through Cyprus with a camera in the autumn of 1878, 1879
  • Through China with a Camera,[7] 1898

 

Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946), for example, was active in New York in the late 1890s and was
initially a practitioner in the ‘artistic’ sense of documentary photography, trying to emulate
or deliver what drawing and painting had been delivering. Photography was viewed as a
replacement for painting so the thinking was that the practices and values of art should be
subsumed within photography. However the new century, especially after World War I, saw a
growing respect for photography as an independent medium that could offer something different
and this was reflected in the work undertaken by Stieglitz in documenting the ephemeral nature
of everyday life.
In the image above, Stieglitz portrays the crudity of a fledgling transport system. The destination
board – Harlem – tells us that this is harsh winter weather in a poor area of the city. The image
shows how much effort the driver and horses have to put in to be able to operate under such
conditions – note the steam coming off the horses. Stieglitz was prepared to wait for four hours
to capture this image. He wanted something different and he got it.

Stieglitz was very concerned about the initial
treatment of immigrants arriving in large numbers
from Ireland and Europe, hoping for a warm
welcome but receiving the opposite. The authorities
were concerned about typhoid and other infectious
diseases and most immigrants were held in isolation
for weeks before being allowed into America.
For a biography of Steiglitz visit: www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/stgp/hd_stgp.htm
Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye (1999), a Masters of Photography documentary video about
the ‘new way of seeing’ that Stieglitz wanted to bring to American photography:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YhwYgdtphE

Beginnings of Photography

(edited from Wikipedia various)

The word “photography” was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.

Wikipedia links:  History of photography History of the camera

Several people may have coined the same new term from these roots independently. Hercules Florence, a French painter and inventor living in Campinas, Brazil, used the French form of the word, photographie, in private notes which a Brazilian photography historian believes were written in 1834. Johann von Maedler, a Berlin astronomer, is credited in a 1932 German history of photography as having used it in an article published on 25 February 1839 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung. Both of these claims are now widely reported but apparently neither has ever been independently confirmed as beyond reasonable doubt.

Credit has traditionally been given to Sir John Herschel both for coining the word and for introducing it to the public. His uses of it in private correspondence prior to 25 February 1839 and at his Royal Society lecture on the subject in London on 14 March 1839 have long been amply documented and accepted as settled facts.

Precursor technologies

Photography is the result of combining several technical discoveries.

Pinhole camera or camera obscura: The camera obscura literally means “dark chamber” in Latin. It is a box with a hole in it which allows light to go through and create an image onto the piece of paper. The discovery of the camera obscura that provides an image of a scene dates back to ancient China.  Chinese philosopher Mo Di and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. In the 6th century CE, Byzantine mathematician Anthemius of Tralles used a type of camera obscura in his experiments, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965–1040) studied the camera obscura and pinhole camera. Renaissance painters used the camera obscura which, in fact, gives the optical rendering in color that dominates Western Art. Leonardo da Vinci mentions natural cameras obscura that are formed by dark caves on the edge of a sunlit valley. A hole in the cave wall will act as a pinhole camera and project a laterally reversed, upside down image on a piece of paper.

Methods of reproducing and fixing the image: Silver Nitrate and Silver Chloride: Albertus Magnus (1193–1280) discovered silver nitrate,[12] and Georg Fabricius (1516–71) discovered silver chloride. Techniques described in the Book of Optics are capable of producing primitive photographs using medieval materials. Daniele Barbaro described a diaphragm in 1566. Wilhelm Homberg described how light darkened some chemicals (photochemical effect) in 1694. The fiction book Giphantie, published in 1760, by French author Tiphaigne de la Roche, described what can be interpreted as photography.

The first success of reproducing images without a camera occurred when Thomas Wedgwood, from the famous family of potters, obtained copies of paintings on leather using silver salts. Since he had no way of permanently fixing those reproductions (stabilizing the image by washing out the non-exposed silver salts), they would turn completely black in the light and thus had to be kept in a dark room for viewing.

First camera photography (1820s)

Photography as a usable process dates to the 1820s with the discovery of chemical photography. The first permanent photoetching was an image produced in 1822 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, but it was destroyed in a later attempt to make prints from it. Niépce was successful again in 1825. He made the View from the Window at Le Gras, the earliest surviving photograph from nature (i.e., of the image of a real-world scene, as formed in a camera obscura by alens), in 1826 or 1827.

Earliest known surviving heliographic engraving, 1825, printed from a metal plate made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce with his “heliographic process”. The plate was exposed under an ordinary engraving and copied it by photographic means. This was a step towards the first permanent photograph from nature taken with a camera obscura, in 1826.

Because Niépce’s camera photographs required an extremely long exposure (at least eight hours and probably several days), he sought to greatly improve his bitumen process or replace it with one that was more practical. Working in partnership with Louis Daguerre, he discovered a somewhat more sensitive process that produced visually superior results, but it still required a few hours of exposure in the camera. Niépce died in 1833 and Daguerre then redirected the experiments toward the light-sensitive silver halides, which Niépce had abandoned many years earlier because of his inability to make the images he captured with them light-fast and permanent. Daguerre’s efforts culminated in what would later be named the daguerreotype process, the essential elements of which were in place in 1837. The required exposure time was measured in minutes instead of hours. Daguerre took the earliest confirmed photograph of a person in 1838 while capturing a view of a Paris street: unlike the other pedestrian and horse-drawn traffic on the busy boulevard, which appears deserted, one man having his boots polished stood sufficiently still throughout the approximately ten-minute-long exposure to be visible. Eventually, France agreed to pay Daguerre a pension for his process in exchange for the right to present his invention to the world as the gift of France, which occurred on 19 August 1839.

A latticed window inLacock Abbey, England, photographed by William Fox Talbot in 1835. Shown here in positive form, this may be the oldest extant photographic negative made in a camera.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, Hercules Florence had already created his own process in 1832, naming it Photographie, and an English inventor, William Fox Talbot, had created another method of making a reasonably light-fast silver process image but had kept his work secret. After reading about Daguerre’s invention in January 1839, Talbot published his method and set about improving on it. At first, like other pre-daguerreotype processes, Talbot’s paper-based photography typically required hours-long exposures in the camera, but in 1840 he created the calotype process, with exposures comparable to the daguerreotype. In both its original and calotype forms, Talbot’s process, unlike Daguerre’s, created a translucent negative which could be used to print multiple positive copies, the basis of most chemical photography up to the present day. Daguerreotypes could only be replicated by rephotographing them with a camera.[21] Talbot’s famous tiny paper negative of the Oriel window in Lacock Abbey, one of a number of camera photographs he made in the summer of 1835, may be the oldest camera negative in existence.[22][23]

John Herschel made many contributions to the new field. He invented the cyanotype process, later familiar as the “blueprint”. He was the first to use the terms “photography”, “negative” and “positive”. He had discovered in 1819 that sodium thiosulphate was a solvent of silver halides, and in 1839 he informed Talbot (and, indirectly, Daguerre) that it could be used to “fix” silver-halide-based photographs and make them completely light-fast. He made the first glass negative in late 1839.

In the March 1851 issue of The Chemist, Frederick Scott Archer published his wet plate collodion process. It became the most widely used photographic medium until the gelatin dry plate, introduced in the 1870s, eventually replaced it. There are three subsets to the collodion process; the Ambrotype (a positive image on glass), the Ferrotype or Tintype (a positive image on metal) and the glass negative, which was used to make positive prints on albumen or salted paper.

Many advances in photographic glass plates and printing were made during the rest of the 19th century. In 1884, George Eastman invented an early type of film to replace photographic plates, leading to the technology used by film cameras today.

In 1891, Gabriel Lippmann introduced a process for making natural-color photographs based on the optical phenomenon of the interference of light waves. His scientifically elegant and important but ultimately impractical invention earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1908.