A Haverford Sampler:
A Selection of Masterworks from the Photography Collection
March 3rd- Sept 17th, 2010
Sharpless Gallery, Magill Library
Haverford College

The photography collection at Haverford College is encyclopedic and covers the subject from the origins of the medium to the present day. The college first acquired photographs for instructional purposes in 1870. This collection has grown to over 5,000 prints.

A Haverford Sampler is an exhibition that simultaneously explores the history of the medium while providing a peek into the richness of the Photography and related Special Collections at Haverford College. The items chosen for the exhibition range from a Gutenberg Bible page to an Andy Warhol portrait of Princess Grace. These works provide visual and historical antecedents of the medium from it origins in print making to today’s digital ink prints.

Works from the early history of the medium by Hill and Adamson to its 20th-century maturity by Eugene Atget and Diane Arbus to contemporary works by Andres Serrano and Carrie Mae Weems will be exhibited. And related manuscript and rare books including a Daguerre diorama pass and letters by William Henry Fox Talbot and Alfred Stieglitz will provide further contextual insights about photography and photographers.

Exhibit Details
winter wall. 2010

This image is part of an ongoing dialogue with an abandoned Pontiac showroom. It speaks to me almost every time I drive past it, although I don't always have time to stop and listen.
Wall Street. Paul Strand 1915

The Platinum Process
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Feb 27th - May 23rd, 2010

From the PMA press release...

A cornerstone of photographic practice during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the platinum print is revered by photographers and viewers alike as one of the most beautiful forms of photography, with subtle and lustrous shades that range from the deepest blacks to the most delicate whites. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition of 75 works from the late 19th century to the present, showcasing outstanding prints largely drawn from the Museum’s collection of photographs. The Platinum Process: Photographs from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century, on view February 27 – May 23 in the Julien Levy Gallery at the Museum’s Perelman Building, will include images by early masters of the process including Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) and Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946), as well as works by skilled contemporary practitioners such as Lois Conner (American, born 1951) and Andrea Modica (American, born 1960), who continue to engage in this historic and painstaking process in an era noted for electronic imaging.

“The exhibition offers an opportunity to share this exceptionally beautiful form of photography with our visitors, some of whom may be seeing it for the first time,” Curator of Photographs Peter Barberie said, adding “the Museum is fortunate to have a particularly strong and varied collection of work by some of the truly great practitioners of this process.”

Unlike standard silver printing, in which particles are suspended in gelatin, platinum is brushed directly onto the paper, allowing artists to create a matte image with an exceptionally wide tonal range. Introduced in 1873, the process was enthusiastically embraced by the group of photographers known as the Pictorialists, who believed that fine art photography should emulate the aesthetic values of painting. The group included Evans, whose beautifully rendered images of Britain’s Westminster Abbey, York Minster Abbey and Ely Cathedral are included in the exhibition, and Stieglitz (American, 1876-1946), who is represented in the show by a portrait of his wife, the artist Georgia O’Keefe (American, 1887-1986), as well as a landscape that foreshadows his Equivalents series.

While encompassing works spanning many dates and styles, The Platinum Process highlights one of the Museum's treasures, the 1915 masterpiece “Wall Street” by Paul Strand (1890-1976), whose work was at the forefront of the modernist aesthetic developing in New York during the early 20th century. Strand used the subtlety of the platinum print in this work to emphasize abstract patterns in the long shadows cast by figures that walk before a succession of monumental windows.

Reserves of platinum were appropriated for military use during World War I, and its high cost led manufacturers to cease production of commercial platinum paper by the 1930s. As photographers became more engaged in social concerns, documentation and realism, the process fell into disuse. It was not until the early 1960s when Irving Penn, then a successful photographer for Vogue magazine, began to experiment with the long-forgotten technique and took the first steps toward its revival. A meticulous craftsman, Penn was delighted by the luminous prints and lavish tonal range he could achieve using platinum and began to make new photographs with this process in the 1970s. Penn and many of the other contemporary artists on view including Thomas Shillea and Jennette Williams followed Strand's example, using platinum not for idealized pictures, but to capture nuances of modern experience.

Image Credit: Wall Street (1915), by Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976). Photograph taken in New York, New York, United States. Platinum print, 9 15/16 x 12 5/8 inches. The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975, gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980. Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Philip Glass, State II. Chuck Close 2006

I took this photograph last summer at the Chuck Close exhibit at Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York City. I finally printed it tonight in the darkroom and I am blown away for a second time by this work of art. I shot this with my Olympus OM1 using Kodak Plus X 125 film. What are we looking at? This is a 6 foot wide by 8 foot tall woven jacquard tapestry. The realism of this piece is incredible. It was one of the most amazing contemporary exhibits I have ever seen.

Some details from the exhibit press release...

In addition to his large-scale painting, it is widely known that for several decades Close has employed a range of printmaking and photography methods in his continuous investigations of the human face. As early as 1991, Close also began working with another medium to create a woven portrait of one of his favorite subjects, the composer Philip Glass, in China.

In 2004, thirteen years later, the artist returned to the medium, this time working with a Jacquard loom in Belgium. These Jacquard tapestries, woven between 2004 and 2009, originate from recent daguerreotype or Polaroid portraits of Ellen Gallagher, Philip Glass, Lyle Ashton Harris, Brad Pitt, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson as well as two self-portraits; one is a 15' horizontal work featuring five consecutive views of Close, offering a near panoramic, new viewpoint of the artist’s frequently rendered visage.

Pace Wildenstein

Jacquard Looms
Picasso, the Avant-Garde, and Photography

Alfred Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York City in 1905. The Gallery was located at 291 Fifth Avenue, and was soon known simply as “291”. It was here that Stieglitz exhibited many artists whose works had never been seen by American audiences; Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Francis Picabia, and others, alongside photographs. This was a concept that was unheard of at the time. Stieglitz described 291 as “a laboratory, an experimental station, and must not be looked upon as an Art Gallery, in the ordinary sense of that term.”

The early 20th century saw a major transitional period in both painting and photography. Photography was slowly and painfully emerging from the shadow and shackles of painting imitation, the Pictorialist movement. The late nineteenth century was dominated by art photography consisting of sentimental landscapes, allegorical drama, and portraits that mimicked traditional studio paintings. While photography has never truly escaped Pictorialism, and one could argue that the movement is as strong as ever thanks to computer software and digital processing, it was during the first ten years of the 20th century that the seeds of the Straight photography movement were sown, evolving into what we now recognize as modern photography.

Picasso. Man Ray 1923(*)

The current exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris (February 24th- April 25, 2010) surveys the pioneering role that Picasso played in the development of Cubism and his dialogue with Surrealism and other important art movements in the 1920’s and 30’s. The exhibit includes nearly 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Leger, Joan Miro, and many others who formed an international avant-garde group that came to be known as the School of Paris. The purpose of this exhibit is to highlight the impact Picasso and the avant-garde had upon the art world and cultural development at that time, including poetry, writing, and music. The exhibit includes photographic portraits of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and others who were part of the eclectic Parisian circle. Exhibit curator Michael Taylor uses a jazz metaphor in describing the interplay between the avant-garde, describing the improvisation and mimicry that takes place during a jazz session as similar to what was happening in Paris. Indeed, several important early Cubist paintings contain musical subjects; Braque’s Still Life (Violin) and Picasso’s Man with a Guitar, both from 1912. Cubism and Jazz share similarities in primitive and native roots, and both use simplicity and familiar forms to build complex structures.

Cubism represented a seismic shift in the way visual artists depicted the world around them ,“ said Taylor, the Muriel and Phillip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Forms were flattened, dissected and recomposed into various essential shapes and lines that were shown from multiple angles and viewpoints. No longer was pictorial fidelity to the natural world considered paramount to a painting’s success, as artists were now free to engage in a profound imaginative reordering of reality.”

While this exhibit makes a clear connection to the avant-garde’s impact upon painters, sculptors, writers, poets and musicians, it is surprisingly silent regarding the impact upon photographic artistic style. Perhaps this connection was considered too broad and /or potentially distracting to the necessarily tight constraints of this exhibit. There is a companion exhibit, Picasso in Context (February 24th- April 25, 2010) which explores the impact of Picasso and Braque on the fledgling American avant-garde, including works by Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Paul Strand. These works are paintings, and the exhibited works by photographer Strand are portraits of Picasso and Braque taken in the 1950’s. Students of photography history are left without answers to any questions regarding the impact that Picasso, and particularly Cubism , had on the changes that took place in modern photographic style during these years.

The Steerage. Alfred Stieglitz 1907

Stieglitz sailed to Europe in 1907, and during the voyage he made his famous image The Steerage. The negative was developed in Paris. Stieglitz considered this image to be among his finest photographs, and was proud to tell others that Picasso had praised it. Picasso was at that time painting his Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon, a radical work with primitive influences and an abandonment of perspective. The image is flat and two dimensional, and is widely considered to represent the earliest development of both Cubism and modern art.

Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon. Pablo Picasso 1907

Stieglitz returns to the United States and for the next ten years presents the works of European and American modernists in his 291 Gallery. In 1911 Stieglitz presents the first American exhibit of Pablo Picasso’s work, and in 1914 he presents a joint exhibition of Picasso and Braque. From 1902 to 1917 Stieglitz published the magazine Camera Work, with early editions devoted primarily to the fine art pictorialism of photographers such as Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence H. White, and Edward Steichen. Highly romantic photographs that drew criticism for their hand applied, post production craft work that many felt undermined their artistic legitimacy. Gradually, the photographs presented in Camera Work came to retreat from the pictorialist styles and move in the direction of Stieglitz’s new found emphasis on what he considered to be true photographic themes and textures. Painting was changing drastically, with Cubism leading the charge. The “flattened, dissected and recomposed forms” of Cubist paintings could not be imitated by the Pictorialists. Photography could no longer follow in the shadow of paintings without appearing to be out of favor and fashion.

Porch Shadows. Paul Strand 1916

Stieglitz closed the gallery and Camera Work in 1917, but remained a staunch advocate for modern art. The final two issues of Camera Work featured the images of newcomer Paul Strand. Stieglitz found the work to be “brutally direct, pure, and devoid of trickery”. Strand’s images represented a new style of straight photography that rested on objectivity rather than subjectivity. We now see a flattened geometry, simplicity of shape and tone, the elimination of a horizontal reference, and even a freedom from the constraints of gravity. The images can be rotated sideways or even upside-down and they still retain visual interest. These photographs are landmark abstractions, gradually followed by modernist works by Stieglitz, Weston, Evans, Abbott, and eventually even Steichen. By the late 1920’s modernism dominated photography. Was it all Cubist-derived? Not entirely, of course. There were many other art “isms” taking place in the early 20th century that played their own role in shaping photographic modernism; Russian Suprematism (1915) and Constructivism (1919), Zurich’s Dadaism (1916), and returning once again to Picasso and Paris, Surrealism (1920). Yet it was Cubism that first reformed representation, and emphasized form before subject. Photographers were free to do the same, and thereby escape the shackles of painting.

Untitled (Paris). Lee Miller 1931


The History of Photography, Beaumont Newhall. MOMA, 1964
The Story of Art, E H Gombrich, Phaidon Books, 1950
Photography View: What Was Cubism’s Impact?, NY Times, 12.13.1981
The Contest of Meaning, Richard Bolton. MIT Press, 1992

(*)Image Credit, Portrait of Picasso:

Picasso, 1923. Man Ray (American, 1890 – 1976). Gelatin silver print. Image: 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches; Sheet: 14 1/2 x 10 15/16 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Lee Miller 1937

Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris
Philadelphia Museum of Art
February 24, 2010 - April 25, 2010

Internationally recognized as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) was at his most ferociously inventive between 1905 and 1945. Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris surveys his work during these crucial decades, when he transformed the history of art through his innate virtuosity and protean creativity.

It will be interesting to see if this exhibit touches on the influence that Cubist painting had on the development of modern photographic style. I know the exhibit will include photographs of the Avant-Garde artists taken by Man Ray, I just hope that there is some mention of the corresponding changes that took place in photography during this period.
The Window of the Kitchen. Katrina M. d’Autremont (2006)

Silver Eye Center For Photography
2009 Fellowship Award Exhibition
Si Dios Quiere (If God Wants)
Photographs by Katrina M. d'Autremont
January 12 - March 20, 2010

Philadelphia photographer Katrina M. d’Autremont

Katrina M. d’Autremont was born in Denver to an Argentine mother and
American father. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA, but frequently visits
her Argentine family and considers both continents home. Katrina M.
d’Autremont’s relationship to her South American family and the search to find
her place amidst different cultures and generations is the subject of the 26
color prints in the series Si Dios Quiere (If God Wants). In his juror’s statement,Andy Adams has written this about d’Autremont’s compelling work:
“The photographs in Katrina M. d'Autremont's Si Dios Quiere present scenarios that explore issues of intimacy within her mother's family in Argentina. Like a shoebox of snapshot memories, her pictures depict the private rituals that comprise a family's life: cleaning the kitchen, watching television, gathering for
a family feast. Interior domestic spaces dominate and each of her family members is underscored by the place that binds them together. The house where she was raised plays a significant role and in many cases the environment is a lead character, revealing how place (and our memory of it) influences and forms us. Her home is comprised of the kinds of objects that trigger memories from each of our pasts — the blue living room carpet, that familiar tablecloth, a piano — each part of an experience shared with the members of our tribe.”
blizzard. 2010

One of the greatest weather stories ever told is the Children's Blizzard, the true account of the terrible blizzard that swept through Dakota Territory in January 1888. Here is a description of the event from the Wikipedia article on the storm...

The blizzard was preceded by a snowstorm on January 5 and 6, which dropped powdery snow on the northern and central plains, and brought an outbreak of brutally cold temperatures from January 7 to 11. On January 11, a strengthening surface low dropped south-southeastward out of Alberta, Canada into central Montana and then into northeastern Colorado by the morning of January 12. The temperatures in advance of the low increased some 20–40 degrees in the central plains (for example, Omaha, Nebraska recorded a temperature of −6 °F (−21 °C) at 7 a.m. on January 11, while the temperature had increased to 28 °F (−2 °C) by 7 a.m. on January 12). The strong surface low rapidly moved into southeastern Nebraska by 3 p.m. on January 12 and finally into southwestern Wisconsin by 11 p.m. that same day.

The blizzard was precipitated by the collision of an immense Arctic cold front with warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico. Within a few hours, the advancing cold front caused a temperature drop from a few degrees above freezing to −20 degrees Fahrenheit (−40 °F in some places). This wave of cold was accompanied by high winds and heavy snow. The fast-moving storm first struck Montana in the early hours of January 12, swept through Dakota Territory from midmorning to early afternoon, and reached Lincoln, Nebraska at 3 p.m.

What made the storm so deadly was the timing (during work and school hours), the suddenness, and the brief spell of warmer weather that preceded it. In addition, the very strong wind fields behind the cold front and the powdery nature of the snow reduced visibilities on the open plains to zero. People ventured from the safety of their homes to do chores, go to town, attend school, or simply enjoy the relative warmth of the day. As a result, thousands of people—including a significant number of schoolchildren—got caught in the blizzard. Approximately 500 people died of hypothermia. Travel was severely impeded in the days following.

It is easy to mock the news media hysteria that precedes a major snow event but it is also reassuring to know that today we aren't at risk of being caught completely unaware of life threatening storm systems. The blizzard of 1888 occurred just prior to the development of a national weather alert system, and the tragedy resulted in the completion of a unified system.
shelter. 2010
"As the saying goes, we see in terms of our education. We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect. And indeed it is socially useful that we agree on the function of objects. But, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that's your picture".

Aaron Siskind
context & symmetry. 2010
Instant Photo Library...

The Life Library of Photography, published by Time-Life Books in the early 1970's, remains one of the best photography book series ever produced. I own the complete set, and consider it the core of my photography library. The production quality of these books is top notch; beautifully bound in a 10" X 10" square format, and the photography reproduction throughout is outstanding.
I use these continuously as a reference source as well as just for the pleasure of viewing classic photography.

If you are trying to build a photography library I would urge you to begin with any book from this series, and start collecting them. They come up on Ebay all the time, as well as used book stores. Typically five to ten dollars will get you a book in good condition. I keep an eye out for Ebay listings of the full set, and one came up today with a starting bid of $30. I have no connection to the seller, but they appear to have a high feedback rating. Take note of the shipping weight of the books in consideration of your bid if you are looking to buy these, but in my opinion, if you can get this set for $100 or so, you have made one of the best photo book investments you could possibly make.

Complete set of Life Library of Photography on Ebay