The Genius of Photography
This is not a review however more like my notes on this book.
The empire of Photography. This book has explained the beginning of photography from the daguerreotype 1838 to Kodak snapshots to street photography in a simple and logical manner.
The discussion of whether or not Photography is an art began almost with the first photograph taken.
The progression to Calotype images with allowed the reproduction of positive prints from a negative.
The Daguerrotype was seen as precise mirroring exactly what was been shot. The calotype gave a kind a more diffuse almost romantic image. This was more suited to the type of images prefered by artists of the time. although the Daguerreotype superseded in precision for the detail in its images it was the Calotype which became more popular as multiple prints could be made from each negative.
This was followed by the glass negative process. This eventually led to cheaper photographs and the carte de visite used as a calling card or celebrity portrait sold by the thousands. This process was cheap enough to allow the middle classes to access photography finally. This also let to the stereograph identical small multiple photographs combined to create a 3D effect.
The work of Dijkstra (dutch born 1959.)was explained and caught my attention her deliberate use of adolescent girls on the beach to capture that awkward age, their discomfort . Her aim was to achieve a ‘concentration of vulnerability and power’ in her subjects. She photographed men just after killing a bull in a bullfight and women just after giving birth. It is always interesting to learn and absorb what other photographers have been inspired to photograph in order to one day make that decision myself of a topic or style that I can pursue.
Roger Fenton English photographer born in 1819-69. A comparison of Roger Fentons images along side Paul Deawright. Fenton is widely considered to be the first war time photographer his images are striking for what they lack rather than what they show. Fenton chose to make portraits of Army officers rather than the devastation and corpses of the war. His images are striking however it seemed he believed he could sell his images better by avoiding showing the worst of the war. He believed it would be the officers families that would buy his images. This proved not to be so as most preferred to forget the war.
Paul Seawright another war photographer born in 1965. Seawright also chooses to leave out some of the more graphic images of modern war times but for a different reason. He is concerned with the issues of instant gratification of modern news time images and choses instead to show the aftermath particularly the environmental damage caused by war.
Gustav le Gray French photographer 1820 – 84
Moving on to Wet collodion negatives Le Gray. Wet collodion negatives were extremely sensitive to light. The sky would be overexposed and come out as a blank white in the print. As today photographers would take photos in the morning or evening light to help with this, alternatively they could add to differently exposed negatives together. Gustave le Gray made a great success of a combining negatives . His seascapes were a step towards art in photography rather than copying painting techniques.
We learn how photography was used to gather information. In switzeland arl Durheim photographed homeless people. In the 1880’s1890’s Alphonse Bertillon used mugshot photography to underwrite a system of identification of Criminal identifications.
During the 1850s the first photographic societies were formed and a type of exhibition salons were created. The understanding these people had of photo-asethetics was surprising for the time unknown to them they were defining the art of photography.
Two of the great photographers of the 1850’s had given it up by the 1860s Fenton due to what he saw as the growing commercialism of photography which he despised. Gray left behind a failed business, debts, wife and children to go to Cairo and teach.
However the trend of those in the photographic society for many stilled pursed a mission in order to aspire to fine art they believed photography must ape painting. At times they combined different negatives to make complex image which copied painting themes. Others would employ a printing process which used inks and could allow photos to be printed on art papers or oil pigment which required the use of a brush and therefore could create image which really resembled paintings.
High art photography was firmly established in the photographic society. Robinsons book Pictorial effect in Photography established him as the leading photographer and advocate of Victorian art photography however it was Swedish artist Osca Rejlander who in 1857 scored a notable success with his large combination print ‘the two ways of life’ the picture symbolises good and evil and the sage trying to steer youths along the path of goodness. There was great controversy over this picture as it contained nudes, these were discreet however still created a stir. The modern day equivalent would be Gregory Crewdson, for his compositional techniques and painterly ambitions.
Gregory Crewdson American born 1962. Crewdsons images are highly involved with a large team. His images give a sense of anxiousness,fear and confusion, a psychological state of his characters. The characters in his images who are seen naked or in their underwear give a sense of the vulnerability of said character.
Julia Margaret Cameron English 1815-79
Cameron had one particular technique for portraits which was original. She filled the frame with her heads. This attracts the viewers attention. It creates a psychological intimacy which a further away portrait does not. There is also reference to Diane Airbus who also effectively used this technique.
In 1857 Lady Eastlake wrote an essay in favour of Photography as a useful art but not as a fine art. Again this was the struggle of photographers of the time. This did not stop many amateur photographers of pursuing their request of fine art however instead of aspiring to a photographic approach to this they felt the need to imitate painting and its techniques. Using skills of putting photos of out focus to create a soft effect and combining multiple images. Using certain mechanical processes like photogravure which used inks and could be printed on art paper allowed the images to really look like it had been painted.
Camille Silvy French 1835 – 1910
Introduces us to French’s landscapes which process is as similar as one could get to a complicated digital imagery as is available today on a computer. Still trying to master an image similar to a painting.
Eadweard Muybridge – English 1830-1904. Muybridge did sequences of pictures to create the sense of motion that contributed to the idea of the motion picture. However at times his process was questioned as certain images were out of sync in order to facilitate the aesthetics. His use of nudes was not believed to be just educational but to stimulate and inform which could explain how interest in his images was pursued long after more accurate studies of movement were completed.
Peter Henry Emerson who declared photography first as a great art form and then denounced it as barely a form of art at all. However his images taken of Norfolk Broads. Emerson was of the mindset that the sharper the image the less artistic and his almost romantic images of the Norfolk broads are in contrast with the text of his book, ‘life and landscape on the Norfolk Broads’ in his book he describes the hardship of the life there. Emerson despite his harsh words against photography as an art showed that sometimes it was better to believe the photographers eye and vision than the theories they had so far learned.
1988 – The first Kodak camera which could take 100 images and then be returned to Kodak of Rochester to be printed was the beginning of the snapshooter. This was a revolution in photography which prior to this had been unobtainable by anyone but the privileged classes. Despite the discomfort which most pictorialists felt for the snapshooter the Kodak camera brought modernity to photography.
At first Stieglitz was not an advocate of with Mr Eastmans snapshots however he in the early1890’s took to the streets of New York to make photographs of everyday life. Particularly of the landscape at night and in bad weather. He wrote of how the cameras slow shutter speed could also be used to allow