History of Photography



Introduction  

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary










 

 



Chapter 6

 

 

HORACE ENGLE
PAUL MARTIN
GIUSEPPE PRIMOLI
JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE
 (collection)
HORACE W. NICHOLLS
HEINRICH ZILLE  (collection)
ALFRED STIEGLITZ  (collection)
ROBERT L. BRACKLOW
ARNOLD GENTHE (collection)
E. J. BELLOCQ (collection)
CHANSONETTA STANLEY EMMONS
ALICE AUSTEN
SEEBERGER FRERES
EUGENE ATGET (collection)
ROBERT FRENCH
ADDISON N. SCURLOCK
JAMES VAN DER ZEE
 

 



NEW TECHNOLOGY,


NEW VISION,


NEW USERS



1875-1925


 


Instantaneous Photographs of Everyday Life

Whether facing the natural landscape or the urban scene, many photographers other than those investigating motion for scientific reasons found that they, too, were eager to arrest the continuous flux of life, to scrutinize and savor discrete segments of time, and to capture them on glass plates and, later, film. As noted, this first became possible with the short-focal-length lenses on stereograph cameras. Roger Fenton, for example, was able to capture the forms of flowing water and fleeting clouds on the stereograph plate. By 1859, Edward Anthony in New York (pi. no. 189), George Washington Wilson in Edinburgh, and Adolphe Braun and Hippolyte Jouvin in Paris (pi. no. 190)— among others—had begun to make and publish stereograph views of the "fleeting effects'1 of crowds and traffic on die principal streets of urban centers and, in Jouvin's case, in marketplaces, public gardens, and at festive events. Acclaimed because they seemed to embody "all . . . life and motion," these views also disclose the distinctiveness of different cultural environments. Stereographs of city streets reveal at a glance the profound dissimilarities between public life in New York and Paris, for example, while others make visible the contrast between social conditions in industrialized countries and in those being opened to colonization and exploitation (see Chapter 8).

That this interest in the flux of urban life engaged painters of the time as well as photographers is apparent in canvases by the French Impressionists that seem to capture as if by camera the moving forms of people and traffic in the streets and parks of Paris. Besides a preference for high horizons and blurred figures, similar to that seen in numbers of stereographs of city streets and exemplified in Claude Monet's Boulevard des Capucines (pi. no. 303)—a view actually painted from Nadar's studio—the Impressionists broke with tradition in their preference for accidental-looking arrangements of figures that appear to be sliced through by the edges of the canvas in the manner of the photographic plate. Certain canvases by these painters also mimic the optical distortions of figure and space visible in stereographs, suggesting that, as Scharf observed, "photography must be accorded consideration in any discussion of the character of Impressionist painting."

The appeal of the spontaneous and informal continued unabated during the last decade of the 19th century and resulted in the extraordinary popular interest in small, hand-held single-lens cameras that would simplify the taking of informal pictures (see A Short Technical History, Part II). Of all the apparatus developed to fulfill this need, the most sensational was the Kodak camera, first marketed in 1888 by its inventor George Eastman.

However, this fixed-focus box did more than make it easy for people to take pictures of everyday events; by making the developing and printing independent of the exposure it encouraged a new constituency to make photographs and inaugurated the photo-processing industry.

The Kodak and the snapshot (Herschel's term to describe instantaneous exposures) were promoted through astute advertising campaigns that appealed to animal lovers, bicyclists, campers, women, sportsmen, travelers, and tourists. Freed from the tedium of darkroom work, large numbers of middle-class amateurs in Europe and the United States used the Kodak during leisure hours to depict family and friends at home and at recreation, to record the ordinary rather than the spectacular. Besides serving as sentimental mementos, these unpretentious images provided later cultural historians with descriptive information about everyday buildings, artifacts, and clothing—indisputable evidence of the popular taste of an era.

The convenience of merely pressing the buttor resulted in a deluge of largely unexceptional pictures. Despite the suggestion today that the "aesthetic quality of the snapshot has received less attention than it deserves," most were made solely as personal records by individuals of modest visual ambitions. Untutored in either art or science, they tended to regard the image in terms of its subject rather than as a visual statement that required decisions about where to stand, what to include, how best to use the light. Further, since they were untroubled by questions of print size or quality, they mostly ignored the craft elements of photographic expression. This attitude, coupled with the fact that "even' Tom, Dick and Harrv could get something or other onto a sensitive plate," contributed to the emerging polarity between documentary images—assumed to be entirely artless—and artistic photographs conceived by their makers (and others) to embody aesthetic ideas and feelings.

Nevertheless, whether by accident or design, snapshots do on occasion portray with satisfying formal vigor moments that seem excised from the seamless flow of life. For one thing, the portability of the instrument enabled the user to view actuality from excitingly different vantage points, as in a 1900 image made by French novelist Emile Zola from the Eiffel Tower looking down (pi. no. 304). In its organization of space it presented an intriguing pattern of architectural members and human figures, foreshadowing the fascination with spatial enigmas that would be explored more fully by photographers in the 1910s and '20s. In a different vein, the small camera made possible the refreshing directness visible in images of small-town life by Horace Engle (pi. no. 305), an American engineer who used a Gray Stirn Concealed Vest camera before turning to the Kodak. Because the camera was so easy to use, a photographer stationed behind a window or door, as Engle sometimes was, might intuitively manage light and form to explore private gestures and expressions that almost certainly would be withheld were his presence known. This urge to ensnare ephemeral time, so to speak, also foreshadowed developments of the late 1920s when the sophisticated small Leica camera made "candid" street photography a serious pursuit among photojournalists. Viewed in sequence rather than singly, snapshots some-times suggest an underlying theme or the emotional texture of an event in the manner of later photojournalistic picture stories and might be considered forerunners in this sense, too.
 

303. CLAUDE MONET. Boulevard des Capucines, Paris (Les Grands Boulevards), 1873-74. Oil on canvas.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of An, Kansas City, Mo.; Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation Acquisitions Fund.

3O4. EMILE ZOLA. A Restaurant, Taken from the First Floor or Staircase of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1900.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Dr. Francois Emile Zola, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

305. HORACE ENGLE. Unknown Subjea, Roanoke, Virginia, c. 1901.
Gelatin silver print from the original negative.
Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park.
 

However, despite the claim that "the man with a box-camera has as many chances of preserving pleasure as those blessed (?) [sic] with the more expensive instruments," the Kodak in itself was limited in scope. But the spontaneity it emblematized appealed to many serious photographers, who armed themselves with a more sensitive apparatus of a similar nature—the hand camera. Individuals of both sexes, from varying backgrounds and classes, of differing aesthetic persuasions, who usually processed their own work, produced the kind of imagen' that for want of a better term has come to be called documentation. Turning to the quotidian life of cities and villages for inspiration, artists used the hand camera as a sketchbook, pictorialists tried to evoke the urban tempo, and still others found it a disarming device with which to conquer the anonymity of modern life. Serious workers rather than snapshooters. this new breed of image-maker sought to express a personal vision that embraced the special qualities of the time and place in which they lived.

The invasion of personal privacy that the small camera user could effect with ease became an issue in the late 19th century—one that still elicits discussion today. The question of propriety was raised when individuals and groups of amateurs, often organized into camera and bicycle clubs, began to photograph unwitting people in the streets and at play. Reaction ran the gamut from the gentle satire of an 1887 cartoon in Britain's Amateur Photographer (pi. no. 306) to more strident denunciations in which "hand-camera fiends" were admonished to refrain from photographing "ladies as they emerge from their morning dip, loving couples, private picnicking parties" under threat of having their cameras "forcibly emptied." Indeed, it has been suggested that the many images of working-class people in the streets around the turn of the century may reflect the fact that they were less likely than middle-class folk to protest when they saw strangers approaching with a camera.

Street life began to attract hand-camera enthusiasts (and some using larger equipment, as well) partly because it offered an uncommon panorama of picturesque subjects. Previously, photographers in search of visual antidotes for the depressing uniformity of life in industrialized societies had cither ventured abroad to exotic lands or had searched out quaint pastoral villages as yet untouched by industrial activity. They also had photographed the city's poor and ethnic minorities for their picturesqueness. As urbanization advanced, documentarians, Pictorialists, hand-camera enthusiasts, and even some who worked with large-format cameras were drawn by the animated and vigorous street life in the city to depict with less artifice the variety of peoples and experiences to be found in urban slum and working-class neighborhoods.

To some extent, the career of Paul Martin, working in London from about 1884 on, typifies the changes that occurred in the practice, usage, and character of photography everywhere. When Martin began an apprenticeship as an engraver, he first came in contact with photography as a useful resource for the illustrator. He taught himself the craft from magazines that, along with amateur photography clubs, provided technical assistance and aesthetic guidelines to growing numbers of hand-camera enthusiasts. Some, like Martin, were working people from moderate backgrounds who were unable to afford expensive camera equipment or time-consuming processes that used the platinum and carbon materials favored by aesthetic photographers. Martin became an accomplished craftsman nevertheless, adept at making composites, vignetting, and solving technical problems connected with photographing out-of-doors at night. During the 1890s, a number of his straight silver prints were awarded prizes in competitions despite being judged at times as lacking in atmosphere and being too "map-like."

Recent investigations have turned up numbers of photographers of the quotidian scene, both in cities and in rural localities. In many cases the photographers remain unknown, despite the fact that such images frequently were reproduced on postcards when this form of communication grew in popularity. Among those who supplied images for this purpose were Roll and Vert in France and Emil Mayer in Austria. Photographing daily life attracted women, who were beginning to become involved in photography in greater numbers. Amelie Galup and Jenny de Vasson in France, Christina Broom in England, and Alice Austen and Chansonetta Stanley Emmons in the United States (see below) were among the many who took cameras into streets and rural byways, Because the images are of scenes that take place in the home and workplace as well as on the street, at times they may seem similar to the social imagery by John Thomson in London and Jacob Riis in New York—social photographers who worked in the slums of their respective cities (see Chapter 8). However, the emotional tone in these works usually is lighthearted and the scenes casually composed.

Martin claimed that he became a street photographer because he lacked the financial means to become a Pictorialist, but in fact, enthusiasm for "real life" cut across class lines, appealing to a broad sector of the population that included wealthy individuals typified by Giuseppe Primoli and Jacques Henri Lartigue. Primoli, a Bonaparte descendant who numbered among his circle the intellectual and cultural elite of Italy and France, worked between 1889 and 1905 (at first with a brother) to document the doings of beggars, laborers, street vendors, and performers, as well as the carefree pursuits of his own social class. Mostly amiable in tone, with open space surrounding the figures that are the focus of attention, Primoli's images could also be intense, as evidenced by the strong contrasts and spatial compression in a view of a religious procession in Ariccia (pi. no. 308).

The search for the unexpected in the tedium of daily occurrence was another aspect of hand-camera street photography of the time. As urbanization advanced, it swept away the distinctive physical and social characteristics of the culture of the past, substituting undifferentiated built environments and standardized patterns of dress and behavior. Hand-camera users endeavored to reaffirm individuality and arrest time in the face of the encroaching depersonalization of existence. The French photographer Lartigue was exceptional in that he was given a hand camera in 1901 at the age of seven and continued to use it throughout his lifetime to chronicle the unexpected. His early work portrayed the idiosyncratic behavior of his zany upper-class family whose wealth and quest for modernity impelled them to try out all the latest inventions and devices of the time, from electric razors to automobiles to flying machines. The young Lartigue's intuitive sensitivity to line, strong contrast, and spatial ambiguity, as seen in a view made in the Bois de Boulogne in 1911 (pi no. 309), evokes the insouciance of affluent Europeans before the first World War, a quality that is visible also in many images by unnamed photographers who worked for the illustrated press at the time.

 

306. UNKNOWN . "What an Exposure!" from The Amateur Photographer, Sept. 23, 1887.
Engraving Gemsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.

307. PAUL MARTIN. Entrance to Victoria Park, c. 1893.
 Gelatin silver print. Gcrnsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, Universitv of Texas, Austin.

308. GIUSEPPE PRIMOLI. Procession, Ariaia, c. 1895.
Gelatin silver print. Fondazione Primoli, Rome.

309. JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE. Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, 1911.
Gelatin silver print.


JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE. Car Trip, Papa at 80 kilometers an hour
1913


ACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE
 (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Jacques Henri Lartigue (June 13, 1894 - September 12, 1986) was a French photographer and painter.
Born in Courbevoie (a city outside of Paris) to a wealthy family, he is most famous for his stunning photos of automobile races, planes and fashionable Parisian women from the turn of the century.
He started taking photos when he was 6, his subject matter being primarily his own life and the people and activities in it. As a child he photographed his friends and family at play – running and jumping, racing wheeled soap boxes, building kites, gliders and aeroplanes, climbing the Eiffel Tower and so on. He also photographed many famous sporting events, including automobile races such as the Coupe Gordon Bennett and the French Grand Prix, early flights by aviation pioneers including Gabriel Voisin, Louis Blériot, and Roland Garros, and tennis players such as Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open tennis championships.
Although little seen in that format, many of his earliest and most famous photographs were originally taken in stereo, but he also produced vast numbers of images in all formats and media including glass plates in various sizes, some of the earliest autochromes, and of course film in 2 1/4” square and 35mm. His greatest achievement was his set of around 120 huge photograph albums, which compose the finest visual autobiography ever produced. While he sold a few photographs in his youth, mainly to sporting magazines such as La Vie au Grand Air, in middle age he concentrated on his painting, and it was through this that he earned his living, although he maintained written and photographic journals throughout his life. Only when he was 69 were his boyhood photographs serendipitously discovered by Charles Rado of the Rapho agency, who introduced him to John Szarkowski, then curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who in turn arranged an exhibition of his work at the museum.
From this, there was a photo spread in Life magazine in 1963, coincidentally in the issue which commemorated the death of John Kennedy, ensuring the widest possible audience for his pictures.
By then as he received stints for fashion magazines, he was famous in other countries other than his native France, when until 1974 he was commissioned by the newly elected President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing to shoot an official portrait photograph. The result was a simple photo of him without the use of lighting utilising the national flag as a background. He was rewarded with his first French retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the following year and had more commissions from fashion and decoration magazines flooding in for the rest of his life.
His first book, Diary of a Century was published soon afterwards in collaboration with Richard Avedon, and from then on innumerable books and exhibitions throughout the world have featured Lartigue's photographs. He continued taking photographs throughout the last three decades of his life, finally achieving the commercial success that had previously evaded this rather unworldly man.
Although best known as a photographer, Lartigue was a capable if not especially gifted painter and showed in the official salons in Paris and in the south of France from 1922 on. He was friends with a wide selection of literary and artistic celebrities including the playwright Sacha Guitry, the singer Yvonne Printemps, the painters Kees van Dongen, Pablo Picasso and the artist-playwright-filmmaker Jean Cocteau. He also worked on the sets of the film-makers Jacques Feyder, Abel Gance, Robert Bresson, François Truffaut and Federico Fellini, and many of these celebrities became the subject of his photographs. Lartigue, however, photographed everyone he came in contact with, his most frequent muses being his three wives, and his mistress of the early 1930s, the Romanian model Renée Perle.
 


JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE.
Renee Perle, 1930-1932


JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE.
Renee Perle, 1930-1932


Other photographers sought out moments of extreme contrast of class and dress, as in Fortune Teller (pi. no. 310) by Horace W. Nicholls, a professional photojournalist who recorded the self-indulgent behavior of the British upper class before World War I. Others celebrated moments of uncommon exhilaration, a mood that informs Handstands (pi. no. 311) by Heinrich Zille, a graphic artist who used photography in his portrayal of working-class life in Berlin around 1900. Still others, Stieglitz among them, looked for intimations of tenderness and compassion to contrast with the coldness and impersonality of the city, exemplified in The Terminal (pi, no. 312) and other works made soon after Stieglitz returned to New York from Germany in 1890.

Indeed, in the United States at the turn of the century, photographers were specifically urged to open their eyes to the "picturesqucness" of die city, to depict its bridges and structures, to leave the "main thoroughfares and descend to the slums where an animated street life might be seen. In part, this plea reflected the conviction held by Realist painters, illustrators, pictorial and documentary photographers, joined by social reformers, educators, and novelists, that the social life of the nation was nurtured in the cities, that cities held a promise of excitement in their freedom from conformity and ignorance. Stieglitz, in whose magazine the article appeared, confessed in 1897 that after opposing the hand camera for years, he (and other Pictorialist photographers) had come to regard it as an important means of evoking the character of contemporary life. His suggestion that those using the hand camera study their surroundings and "await the moment when everything is in balance" seems to have forecast a way of seeing that 30 years later became known as the "decisive moment." Whether undertaken consciously or not, the endeavor to assert the prodigal human spirit by capturing the fortuitous moment long remained one of the leitmotifs of 20th-century small-camera photography.

Nor was this development limited to New York. Soon after arriving in California from Germany in 1895, the young Arnold Genthe obeyed his "vagabond streak," as he called it, to photograph with a concealed hand camera in the reputedly inhospitable Chinese quarter of San Francisco. Over the next ten years, he returned continually to the "Canton of the West" in search of tantalizing glimpses of an unusual culture. The images range from the Pictorial to the reportorial (pi. no. 314), a dichotomy that continued to characterize his work. As owner of a professional studio in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 eardiquake, Genthe documented the aftermath of the disaster with fine dramatic clarity, but after relocating in New York he specialized in polished soft-focus portraits of dancers and theatrical figures.

Ethnic enclaves were not the only source nor was the small camera the only instrument for capturing the kinds of subjects now considered picturesque. Countless photographers began to document aspects of the life around them using large-plate view cameras to penetrate beyond surface appearances. That the city could be approached as a subject using a large-format camera and photographed with reserved grace rather than subjective urgency can be seen in the images made by Robert L. Bracklow, an amateur photographer of means, to document the physical structures, architectural details, and street activity in New York at the turn of the century (pi. no. 313). With a flair for well-organized composition, Bracklow's photographs of slums, shanties, and skyscrapers suggest that by the end of the 19th century both hand and view cameras had become a significant recreational resource. For instance, E. J. Bellocq, a little-known commercial photographer working in New Orleans during the 1910s, was able to pierce the facade of life in a Storyville brothel. Whether commissioned or, as is more likely, made for his own pleasure, these arrangements of figure and decor (pi. no. 315) project a melancholy languor that seems to emanate from both real compassion and a voyeuristic curiosity satisfied by the camera lens.
 

310. HORACE W. NICHOLLS. The Fortune Teller, 1910.
Gelatin silver print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

311. HEINRICH ZILLE. Handstands, c. 1900.
Gelatin silver print. Schirmer/Mosel, Munich.


HEINRICH ZILLE 
 (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Rudolf Heinrich Zille (January 10, 1858 - August 9, 1929), German illustrator and photographer, was born in Radeburg near Dresden, as the son of watchmaker Johann Traugott Zill (Zille since 1854) and Ernestine Louise (born Heinitz). In 1867, his family moved to Berlin, where he finished school in 1872 and started an apprenticeship as a lithographer.
In 1883, he married Hulda Frieske, with whom he had three children. She died in 1919.
Zille became best known for his (often funny) drawings, catching the characteristics of people, especially "stereotypes", mainly from Berlin and many of them published in the German weekly satirical newspaper Simplicissimus. He was first to portray the desperate social environment of the Berlin Mietskasernen (literally tenement barracks), buildings packed with sometimes a dozen persons per room that fled from land to the rising Gründerzeit industrial metropolis only to find even deeper poverty in the developing proletarian class.
Zille did not feel himself as a real artist: he often said that his work is not the result of talent but merely hard work. Max Liebermann nevertheless promoted him. He called him into the Berlin Secession in 1903, put his works in expositions of the upper class, and encouraged him to sell drawings - and at the time Zille lost his job as a lithographer in 1910 he encouraged him to live from his drawings alone. The Berlin "Common People" tolled him the greatest respect, and very late in life his fame culminated in the roaring twenties with the National Gallery to buy some drawings in 1921, the Academy of the Arts to honour him with a professorship in 1924, Gerhard Lamprecht to make a movie of his stories in 1925 "Die Verrufenen", and his 70th birthday was celebrated at large in Berlin. He died one year later.
Less known is that he was the artist of many erotic pictures which are close to pornography but also show the life of normal people. Some of them can be seen in the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum in Berlin. In 1983 director Werner W. Wallroth made an East German movie based on a musical written by Dieter Wardetzky and Peter Rabenalt. This movie Zille und Ick (Zille and I in Berlin Dialect) isn't a real biopic but uses parts of Zille's life for the story.
 


HEINRICH ZILLE.
Ruckenansicht, August 1901

 


see also:
 
Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898


HEINRICH ZILLE.
The Wood Gatherers, 1898

 

312. ALFRED STIEGLITZ. The Terminal, New York, 1892.
Gravure print. From Camera 1911, No. 36. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Georgia O'Keeffe.


ALFRED STIEGLITZ  
(see collection)

(b Hoboken, NJ, 1 Jan 1864; d New York, 13 July 1946).

American photographer, editor, publisher, patron and dealer. Internationally acclaimed as a pioneer of modern photography, he produced a rich and significant body of work between 1883 and 1937. He championed photography as a graphic medium equal in stature to high art and fostered the growth of the cultural vanguard in New York in the early 20th century. 
 


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Georgia O'Keeffe, 1919    


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Georgia O'Keeffe, 1919 

 

see also:

Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. The Steerage, 1907

 

313. ROBERT L. BRACKLOW. Statue of Virtue, New York, after 1909.
Gelatin silver print from the original negative. New-York Historical Society; Alexander Alland Collection.

314. ARNOLD GENTHE. Man and Girl in Chinatown, c. 1896.
Gelatin silver print. Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Universitv of Nebraska, Lincoln; F.M. Hall Collection.


ARNOLD GENTHE   (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Genthe was born in Berlin, Germany to Louise Zober and Hermann Genthe, a professor of Latin and Greek at the Graues Kloster (Grey Monastery) in Berlin. Arnold followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a classically trained scholar; he received a doctorate in philology in 1894 at the University of Jena, where he knew artist Adolf Menzel, his mother's cousin.
After emigrating to San Francisco in 1895 to work as a tutor, he taught himself photography. He was intrigued by the Chinese section of the city and photographed its inhabitants, from children to drug addicts, Due to his subjects' possible fear of his camera or their reluctance to have pictures taken, Genthe sometimes hid his camera. He sometimes removed evidence of Western culture from these pictures, cropping or erasing as needed. About 200 of his Chinatown pictures survive and these comprise the only known photographic depictions of the area before 1906 earthquake.
After local magazines published some of his photographs in the late 1890s, he opened a portrait studio. He knew some of the city's wealthy matrons, and as his reputation grew, his clientèle included Nance O'Neil, Sarah Bernhardt, and Jack London.
In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed Genthe's studio, but he rebuilt. His photograph of the earthquake's aftermath, Looking Down Sacramento Street, San Francisco, April 18, 1906, is his most famous photograph.
In 1911 he moved to New York City, where he remained until his death of a heart attack in 1942. He worked primarily in portraiture and Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and John D. Rockefeller all sat for him. His photos of Greta Garbo were credited with boosting her career. He also photographed modern dancers, including Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis, and his photos were featured in the 1916 book, The Book of the Dance. He also was an early experimenter with the autochrome color photography process.
 


ARNOLD GENTHE. Isatora Duncan

 

315. E. J. BELLOCQ. From Storyville Portraits, c. 1913.
Silver print on prinring-out paper, made by Lee Fricdlander from the original plate.
 


E(rnest) J(ames) Bellocq  
(see collection)

(b New Orleans, LA, 15 March 1873; d New Orleans, 1949).

American photographer. He is known to have worked as a commercial photographer in New Orleans from 1895 to 1940 and to have photographed for local shipbuilders and in the Chinese sector of New Orleans, although none of this work apparently survives. His photography is known only through prints made by Lee Friedlander from the 89 gelatin dry plate negatives found after Bellocq’s death. These negatives date from c. 1912 and are sympathetic portraits of prostitutes of New Orleans and interior views of their workplaces. Known as the Storyville Portraits, 34 were shown by MOMA, New York, in a travelling exhibition in 1970–71. Bellocq’s life was the subject of Pretty Baby (1978), a film by Louis Malle.
 
 


 E. J. BELLOCQ. Nude.

 

The new photographic technologies had a signal effect on the role of American women in photography. Simplified processing enabled greater numbers of "genteel" women to consider photography a serious avocation and even a profession, because by the late 1880s diey were able to take advantage also of the availability of domestic help and store-bought food, both of which provided some relief from household routines. At about the same time, writers in the popular and photographic press, suggesting that the medium was particularly suited to "the gender sex," urged women to consider "an accomplishment which henceforth may combine the maximum of grace and fascination. Encouragement came also from the Federation of Women Photographers and from competitions designed especially for female photographers. Unlike the older arts, photography did not require training in male-dominated academies, long periods of apprenticeship, or large commitments of time to practice, although greater involvement in the medium usually yielded more impressive results In addition to those who became prominent in photo-journalism and Pictorialism (see Chapters 8 and 9), many women used both hand and view cameras to document family life and domestic customs, recreational and street activities. Chansonetta Stanley Emmons and Alice Austen were two such women. Images of small-town life, typified by a scene in the village of Maryborough, New Hampshire (pi. no. 316), were made in 1900 by the recently widowed Emmons, who had turned to photography as a solace and a means of augmenting a meager income. Nurtured on genre imagery, Emmons's domestic scenes often were sen-timental and derivative, but she also could capture evanescent moments of childhood play with refreshing directness. Austen, originally from a well-to-do Staten Island family, was less typical in that she not only devoted some 25 years to a visual exploration of her own social milieu, but she also investigated the vibrant working-class neighborhoods of lower Manhattan (pi. no. 317) with an eye for expressive lighting and gesture. In Austen's case, as was undoubtedly true of other women, the camera provided a means to overcome psychological and social barriers, enabling a shy and conventionally reared Victorian "lady" to participate in the excitement of urban street life.

316. CHANSONETTA STANLEY EMMONS. Children at Well, 1900.
Gelatin silver print. Culver Pictures, New York.

317. ALICE AUSTEN. Hester Street, Egg Stand, 1895.
Gelatin silver print. Staten Island Historical Society, Staten Island. N.Y.;
Alice Austen Collection.

In die decade before 1900, the possibility that camera views of the city might be a salable commodity' began to interest individuals and commercial studios. Using view cameras and tripods as well as hand cameras, photographers working on their own or for photographic enterprises undertook to provide images for postcards and magazine reproduction, for antiquarian societies and libraries, and for artists and decorators, creating in the process a formidable number of such visual documentations. For instance, in New York between 1890 and 1910, Joseph Byron (descendant of a family of English photographers) was involved in a business with his wife and five children, including the well-known Percy; they exposed and processed almost 30,000 large-format views both on commission and on speculation. A similar pictorial record of Paris can be seen in the work of Paul Geniaux, Louis Vert, and the Seeberger brothers. These images comprise scenes of urban labors (pi. no. 318) as well as the activities of the bourgeoisie on their daily rounds. With exceptions, these competent if detached records of buildings, neighborhoods, sporting and theatrical events, people at play and at work arc interesting mainly for their rich fund of sociological information. The most extensive and in some judgments the most visually expressive document of the urban experience—also of Paris—was begun just before 1900 by Eugene Atget (pi, no. 326) (see Profile). Using a simple 18 x 24 centimeter camera mounted on a tripod, this former actor began to document the city and its environs for a varied clientele that included architects, decorators, painters, publishers, and sculptors. Aside from their value and use as descriptive records of buildings, decor, statuary, storefronts (pi. no. 319), costumes, and gardens, these beautifully composed images resonate with an intense though not easily defined passion. Rich in detail but not fussy, affecting but not sentimental, this great body of work represents Atget's yearning to possess all of old Paris and in so doing to embrace the authentic culture of France that modern technology was destroying. Other large-scale commercial documents often exhibited a patriotic character, reflecting the growing movements for national self-determination taking place in various parts of Europe. Forty thousand views of Irish life, which include scenes of work and play, of city thorough-fares and serene country landscape (pi. no. 320), were made by Robert French for the firm of William Lawrence in Dublin. And in view of the political agitation for independence among groups inhabiting the vast reaches of Russia, it is not surprising to find the tradition of ethnographic images, mentioned earlier, continuing into the dry-plate era, with photographers from many sections documenting places and customs in order to bolster feelings of national identity. Just as ethnographers in Eastern Europe were determined to collect evidence of a distinctive literature and folk music, photographers in Latvia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Poland contributed to this surge of nationalism with images of national costume, typical environments, and regional customs. Since in these less industrialized regions the medium received less financial support from the urban populace than in Western Europe and the United States, distinctions between professional and amateur, between documentary and artistic were not as codified; the same individual might fulfill all these roles, might at the same time make commercial post cards and other documentations and submit works to the local camera club exhibitions. A similar ethnic consciousness emerged among black photographers in the United States in the early 20th century.

The demand for portraits and other kinds of pictorial records, coupled with easier access to equipment, materials, and processing resulted in an increase in the number of commercially successful studios run by black entrepreneurs in their own communities. From the early days of the medium, daguerreotypes and other camera portraits had been made by unheralded black photographers, but these later enterprises produced images that depicted, in addition, the social activities of upwardly mobile urban dwellers and life in rural communities, made both for commerce and as expressions of black pride. Addison N. Scurlock started a portrait studio in Washington in 1904 and soon began to document activities at Howard University where he was official photographer; Waterfront, 1915, (pi. no. 321) is suggestive of his feeling for mood and texture when not confined to portraiture or straight documentation. James Van Der Zee, probably the best-known black studio photographer in the United States, began a professional career in 1915, opening an establishment in Harlem a year later to which the well-to-do and famous came for portraits (pi. no. 322). He also documented social activities for the community and made genre images for his own pleasure. Had these photographers not faced the necessity of earning a living in studio work, both might have produced such images more frequently, a situation that obviously was true also for the majority of commercial photographers everywhere who were able to make affecting documents of their social milieu only in the time spared from studio work. Unlike white Americans, however, black photographers could not afford the leisure and financial freedom to indulge in personal expression nor were they able to find a niche in photojournalism, advertising photography, or social documentation until after the second World War. Anyone who has poked around attics, antique shops, and secondhand bookstores is aware of the formidable quantities of photographic post cards that have accumulated since camera techniques were simplified in the late 19th century. The post card format—approximately 31/4 x 5 1/2 inches—appeared in Europe in 1869 and shortly after in the United States, but it was not until after the happy conjunction of new rural postal regulations, hand cameras, and special printing papers that occurred shortly after the turn of the century that the picture card became immensely popular with Americans—individuals and commercial studios alike. Artless yet captivating, post card images (even when turned out in studios) display a kind of irreverent good humor in their depictions of work, play, children, and pets (pi. no. 323), although they also could deal with grimmer realities (pi. no. 324). In thee absence of telephones, glossy picture magazines, and television, the photographic postcard was not merely a way to keep in touch but a form of education and entertainment as well.
 

318. HENRI, and LOUIS SEEBERGER (SEEBERGER FRERES). Fishermen near Washerwoman's Boats, c. 1905-10.
Gelatin silver print. Caisse Nationals des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris.

319. EUGENE ATGET. Avenue des Gobelins, 1925.
Gold-toned printing-out paper. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Abbott-Levy Collection; partial gift of Shirley C. Burden.


EUGENE ATGET   (see collection)
 

320. ROBERT FRENCH. Claudy River, Gweedore, County Donegal, c. 1890.
Gelatin silver print. National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

321. ADDISON N. SCURLOCK. Waterfront, 1915.
Gelatin silver print.

322. JAMES VAN DER ZEE. Couple in Raccoon Coats, 1932.
Gelatin silver print. James Van Der Zee Estate, New York;

323. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER (American). Untitled, z. 1900-10.
Gelatin silver post card. Private Collection.

324. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER (American). In Memory of Ida Bravman. 1913.
Gelatin silver post card. Gotham Book Man. New York.
 


Profile:
Eugene Atget  
(see collection)
 

326. BERENICE ABBOTT. Portrait of Eugene Atget, c. 1927.
Gelatin silver print. Witkin Gallery, Inc., New York.

Eugene Atget (pi. no. 326), the photographer whose extraordinary documentation of Paris in the first quarter of the 20th century was for many years uncelebrated, was born in Libourne, near Bordeaux, in 1857. Orphaned at an early age, he was employed as cabin boy and seaman after completing his schooling. During the 1880s, Atget took up acting, playing in provincial theaters, but having settled permanently in Paris in 1890 he realized the impossibility of a stage career in the capita!. Instead, he turned to the visual arts, deciding on photography because of his limited art training and also because he expected that it was a profession that might yield income from the sale of camera images to his artist-neighbors in Montparnasse.

Between 1898 and 1914, Atget received commissions from and sold photographs to various city bureaus, including the archive of the national registry, Les Monuments historiques, and the recently established Musee Carnavalet, which had been set up to preserve a record of the history of Paris. He also supplied documents to a clientele ot architects, decorators, and publishers as well as artists, keeping records of both subjects and patrons. One project, for a book on brothels planned but never realized by Andre Dignimont in 1921, is said to have annoyed the photographer, but the images for this work (pi. no. 327) have the same sense of immutable presence as those of other working people photographed by Atget in the streets or shops of Paris. Often self-motivated rather than directly commissioned, Atget nevertheless followed in the tradition marked out by the photographers of the 1850s Monuments historiqites project and by Charles Marville, who had photographed the neighborhoods about to be replaced by Baron Haussmann's urban renewal projects. In common with these photographers, Atget did not find documentation and art antithetical but attempted to invest even the most mundane subject with photographic form. He showed no interest in the art photography movement that already was well established when he began to work in the medium, seeking instead to make the expressive power of light and shadow as defined by the silver salts evoke resonances beyond the merely descriptive.

Beyond supplying images to clients, Atget seems to have had an overall design or intention for many of his projects. A voracious reader of 19th-century French literature, he sought to re-create the Paris of the past, photographing buildings and areas marked for demolition in the hope of preserving the ineffable imprint of time and usage on stone, iron, and vegetation. A series of tree and park images (pi. no. 328) that Atget made in the oudying sections around Paris suggest a compulsion to preserve natural environments from the destruction already visible in the industrialized northern districts of the city. In the same way, his images of working individuals may have beer made to record distinctive trades before they were swept away by the changes in social and economic relationships already taking place.

In the manner of a film director, Atget made close-ups, long shots, details, views from different angles, in different lights, at different times, almost as though he were challenging time by creating an immutable world in two dimensions. The vast number of his images—perhaps 10,000—of storefronts (pi. no. 319), doorways, arcades, vistas, public spaces, and private gardens, of crowds in the street and workers pursuing daily activities—of just about everything but upper-class life-—evoke a Paris that appears as part legend, part dream, yet profoundly real.

During the 1920s, the extent and expressive qualities of Atget's work were unknown to all but a small group of friends and avant-garde artists, among them Man Ray, who arranged for several works to be reproduced in the magazine La Revolution Surrealiste in 1926. Atget's final year, made especially difficult by the death of a longtime companion as well as by his insecure financial situation, brought him into contact with Berenice Abbott, who at the time was Man Ray's technical assistant. After Atget's death in August 1927, Abbott was able to raise funds to purchase the photographer's negatives and prints and thus bring his work to the attention of American photographers and collectors when she returned to the United States in 1929. In 1968 this vast but still uncataloged collection was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has since displayed and published Atget's exceptional images.

327. EUGENE ATGET. Prostitute, Paris, 1920s.
Gold-toned printing-out paper. Private Collection.

328. EUGENE ATGET. La Marne a la Varenne, 1925-27.
Gold-toned printing-out paper. Museum of Modern Art, New York;
Abbott-Levy Collection; partial gift of Shirley C. Burden.


Eugene Atget  
(see collection)

(b Libourne, nr Bordeaux, 12 Feb 1857; d Paris, 4 Aug 1927).

French photographer. An only child of working-class parents, he was orphaned at an early age and went to sea. Determined to be an actor, he managed to study at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique in Paris for a year but was dismissed to finish his military service. Thereafter he acted for several seasons in the provinces but failed to distinguish himself and left the stage. An interest in painting but lack of facility led him to take up photography in the late 1880s. At this time photography was experiencing unprecedented expansion in both commercial and amateur fields. Atget entered the commercial arena. Equipped with a standard box camera on a tripod and 180*240 mm glass negatives, he gradually made some 10,000 photographs of France that describe its cultural legacy and its popular culture. He printed his negatives on ordinary albumen-silver paper and sold his prints to make a living. Despite the prevailing taste for soft-focus, painterly photography from c. 1890 to 1914, Atget remained constant in his straightforward record-making technique. It suited the notion he held of his calling, which was to make not art but documents.
 

 


EUGENE ATGET. Notre Dame, 1925

 


EUGENE ATGET. Parc de Sceaux, 1925

 
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