The Power of Photography IAnonymous Photographer
Jerusalem has been, and is, the spiritual home to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To say it is a magical place is a great understatement.
I have seen and collected many images of The Holy Land but this recent acquisition is I think the greatest I have ever seen taken at this special place. I believe it to be a unique print. It is as if Irving Penn had been transported back in time.
The Power of Photography IIAlfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)
Of course, “The Steerage” is one of the most celebrated images in the history of photography. For good reason as its genius graphic construction and human empathy is utterly timeless.
The Power of Photography IIIWoman's Hands, 1956
Wynn Bullock, to my mind, is one the greatest 20th Century photographers. Often eclipsed by his more well known contemporaries, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.
This is a haunting portrait of his mother’s hands taken in his modest house in Carmel in 1956. The beauty of the print just knocks me out and is the definition of the word “primal”.
The Power of Photography IVSenator John F. Kennedy at the Capitol, Washington DC, 1953, printed later
This is my favorite Arnold Newman image. Such a great environmental portrait with a true sense of destiny as JFK looks to the future.
Where is our leader now?
The Power of Photography VSmall Apples, 1984
I was visiting our great friend and artist, Pentti Sammallahti, in Helsinki and I casually said to him, “Perhaps there is another great photographer in Finland I should meet?”
He made a telephone call and the next day he drove me for over 3 hours in the freezing cold through what seemed like at the time endless forests to meet his most favored student and protege, Kristopher.
We spent a delightful few hours all together and as we were talking and eating out of the corner of my eye I saw this gem of an image hanging on a discrete wall. I had to get up to look at it more closely. Then like a powerful Ali punch I was knocked out by it’s power and physical beauty.
A tender and loving portrait of his wife.
It remains, to this day, one of my all time favorite images.
The Power of Photography VIThe Dream (Mary Ann Hillier), 1869
We are pleased to continue our new online series called the Power of Photography highlighting hope, peace and love in the world. We invite you to enjoy and reflect on these works during this time.
Taking up photography at the age of 40 years old, urged on by her children as an antidote to her husband leaving to run the family plantations in India, Julia Margaret Cameron became the first great female photographer.
It is so hard to find her prints in such perfect condition as this one. I had collected several in the past in not so great a condition but it was always a dream to find a 10. My dream came true with this one and it just transports me to a special pace each time I look at it.
The Power of Photography VIITrailer - Camp Children, Richmond, California, c. 1944, printed 1977
Ansel Adams is justly celebrated for his epic depictions of majestic landscapes, but this rare, little discussed, haunting image of displaced children shows his profound empathy for humanity. Certainly on a par with, his close colleague Dorothea Lange’s, “Migrant Mother” but certainly no less powerful.
The Power of Photography VIII'March on Washington' - Martin Luther King Jr. after delivering his, 'I Have a Dream' speech, Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963/Printed 2007
Many years ago we mounted a Civil Rights Exhibition in the gallery, it was a subject that completely enveloped me.I knew we needed to have a great MLK image to anchor the exhibition and I subsequently spent months hunting and viewing hundreds of images. When I came across Dan Budnik’s understated work and met him I knew this was the one.
The Power of Photography IX4th of July Fireworks, 1962
Bruce is one of the great Magnum photographers best known for his gritty urban work. This is a rare gem in his archive.
Full of wonderment, humanity and hope.
The Power of Photography XOn the Banks of the Marne, Paris, 1938; Printed later
It was always Cartier-Bresson’s intention to become a painter as a young man. He studied intensely with the celebrated teacher and Cubist painter Andre Lhote.
Fortunately, for the history of photography and for us, he discovered photography to become in my opinion, the greatest 20th Century photographer and maybe the greatest photographer ever. His work was the inspiration for me to open a fine art photography gallery so my debt to him is huge.
One can see the painterly influence on this key early image, “On The Banks of the Marne”. It is as if Seurat picked up a camera by mistake instead of his paint brushes. It’s simple joy and humanity and always puts a smile on my face.
The Power of Photography XIJohn Lennon and Paul McCartney
Of course the Beatles have been much photographed but this has always been my favourite. Taken by the great David Bailey, a fellow East Ender. It’s more than about Paul Mccartney and John Lennon. It is so much more universal than that.
It is about friendship and creativity and shared history.
The Power of Photography XIIAmerica In Blue, 2017
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
~ Emma Lazarus
When I first met Ernesto I knew instinctively that here was a new talent, bursting with energy and fresh ideas. How many times had I seen images of this American Icon but it radiated a special transcendence which bowled me over. Now more than ever do these words ring true.
The Power of Photography XIIIForester' Child, Westerwald, 1931/Printed 1992 by Gerd Sander (grandson)
August Sander’s epic projects are so revealing and intense. Totally masterful and encyclopedic. Absolutely one of the great Masters of Portraiture. Here is a moment of lightness and joy. I suspect this boy echoes this feeling.
The Power of Photography XIVLa Bendición, Isla del Sol, Bolivia, 1990
I met Flor Garduno over 30 years ago when she was given an exhibition by Foto Fest. She did not speak any English and my Spanish was limited at best. I saw her exhibition “Witnesses of Time” which brought me to tears. It was so powerful and haunting.
I went up to her and just put my hand on my heart and wiped the tears from my eyes. I hugged her and after that we started to work together.
“The Blessing” is part of a wedding ceremony she witnessed. It comforts me and give me hope every time I look at it.
The Power of Photography XV
Being an incurable romantic of course I gravitated to Robert Doineau’s imagery pretty early on in my collecting.
But this is rare gem in his body of work and not one he printed many of. First love? Who can ever forget it?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XVIBlack Tree and Temple, Hiei-San, Kyoto, Japan, 1976
I have never been to Japan but Paul Caponigro immediately transports me there and offers up the solace and peace I am searching for right now.
One of my favorite human beings, his talent and dedication have been a source of inspiration for over 30 years now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XVIIMaternité, 1971
I had the great pleasure of working closely with Edouard in the 1990’s whilst he was alive.
He was exactly what his photos are still - sensitive, gentle and tender.
Here is a rare gem I asked him to make for me.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XVIIIGuedras in the Wind, Morocco, 1971, printed 1978
No one made more beautiful prints than Mr Penn.
I feel I have to be very formal even when I think about and write about him. He commands reverence. He is certainly in a class of his own. The dedication and craft it takes to execute an image like this cannot be underestimated.
I owned a print of this 30 years ago but had to sell it to start up my gallery. It broke my heart to part with it, but a print of it came back to me recently after all these years of absence. It is truly inspirational and reminds me that nothing in life worth having comes easy.
The Power of Photography XVIIIGuedras in the Wind, Morocco, 1971, printed 1978
No one made more beautiful prints than Mr Penn.
I feel I have to be very formal even when I think about and write about him. He commands reverence. He is certainly in a class of his own. The dedication and craft it takes to execute an image like this cannot be underestimated.
I owned a print of this 30 years ago but had to sell it to start up my gallery. It broke my heart to part with it, but a print of it came back to me recently after all these years of absence. It is truly inspirational and reminds me that nothing in life worth having comes easy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXSara, the Only Flowers of Her Youth, Warsaw, Poland, 1939
When I was growing up in London when I was about 16 years old I picked up a copy of Roman Vishniac’s book “A Vanished World”. It was the first photo book I had ever bought. The power of it totally took me over, especially this image.
Flash forward 5 years, I had scraped enough money together to go visit New York which was always a dream. I don’t know what possessed me but I looked through the telephone directory (do any of you remember these?) and saw that he was listed. I took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to call. Mr Vishniac answered and I nervously fumbled my way to say I was so moved by his book and this was my first day in America and could I come meet him? He said, "Come round tomorrow. I’m busy but I will give you 10 minutes."
I went to his apartment on Upper Broadway and stayed 5 hours. I must have looked like a waif and his wife kept feeding me continuously. He was so intelligent, so erudite, so inspiring with his stories of how he captured these images of this community who were doomed to perish. I asked him more about “Sara”. He told me she had never seen flowers in person and that her father had painted them for her to try to give her hope that there was a world outside.
It is still one of the greatest photos I have ever seen.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXIOn Lake Ladoga, 1980
Visiting our great friend, Pentti Sammallahti, in Helsinki we had just finished lunch when we passed a bookstore and in the front window was a book of photographs with this image on the front cover. It stopped me in my tracks and I asked Pentti who was the photographer.
Caj was elderly, he is 91 years old now, and had closed down his darkroom.
We met and Pentti offered to graciously help him print a few prints of this image for me in his darkroom. I love images of mystery and having lived with this image for many years I have never quite unraveled its story. But that doesn’t matter. I am still hypnotized by it and always will be.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXIIMorning Mists, Pyin U Lwin, 2019
I have known my friend, Michael Kenna, for over 40 years now. I think we both came over on the same banana boat steerage from the UK.
I have watched his career progress from being Master Printer for our mutual friend, Ruth Bernhard, to a major artist in his own right. He has never lost his humility, grace and curiosity and his technical prowess and talent just gets stronger.
This brand new image just seems so appropriate for our current times. May the gentle mists roll over us and bring us peace.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXIIIEnergy & High Spirits in the East End, London, 1954
Thurston was such a joy to be around. Typically English in his demeanor, very modest and humble about his incredible achievements, but with such a life force.
This image is pure, pure joy and I see it every day.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXIVBed, Amagansett, 1977
There is something so seductive about Lilo Raymond’s work.
Her on-the-surface simple, domestic interiors evoke a deep range of emotions. A longing for calm and respite from a chaotic world not far from here.
Is it the light or the white or both that makes us want to inhabit her rooms and never leave?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXVValencia, Spain, 1952
Elliott Erwitt - another all time favorite human being and photographer. Intelligent, insightful, gracious and human.
On temporary leave from army service, Elliott was sleeping on the couch at his friend, Robert Frank, and his wife’s apartment and captures this wonderful joyful moment.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXVIBlind Boy, New York City, 1961
Many years ago, I was visiting a small exhibition of people’s favorite photos in Los Angeles and came across this image of a young boy who lived in a special school for blind children. I had never heard of Charles Harbutt so I tracked him down. He was so modest and humble in spite of being the President of Magnum Photos.
Here the blind child is searching for the light he cannot see. Isn’t this what we, who are blessed with sight, are always trying to do?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXVII"One for My Baby," Frank Sinatra, Uris Theater, NYC, 1975
I grew up loving Sinatra. Probably like a lot of kids I used to sing in front of a mirror with a pretend microphone.
He was so cool and I ended up meeting him in 1981. In my former life I produced a film with Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti idolized Sinatra. Sinatra idolized Pavarotti. Sinatra graciously hosted the opening night party for us in NY and I got to meet him in these dreamlike circumstances.
Flash forward many years. We hosted an exhibition of all the great Sinatra images at the gallery in collaboration with the Sinatra family who were just great to be with. They thought the exhibition was just so classy.
This was Frank Sinatra, Jr’s favorite photo of his dad. He said that was him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXVIIIJacques d'Amboise Playing with his Children, Seattle, Washington, 1962
John Dominis was one of the great Life Magazine Photographers.
He was commissioned to shoot one of the great male dancers of the era, Jacques d'Amboise.
Not only a portrait of a dancer at his physical peak but a portrait of fatherhood.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXIXSnow in Jardin des Tuileries, 1978
Martine Franck was one of the most gracious people I have ever met.
She went out of her way to introduce me to so many great photographers like Willy Ronis, Edouard Boubat, Sebastiao Salgado because she thought it would be good for me and for them.
She was a great photographer in her own right but completely self-effacing. If you look very closely at this image, you will see a solitary woman walking in the far distance in the snow.
Snowy imagery and black and white analogue printing, a marriage made in photographic heaven.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXTeachers, They are the Markers of the Next Generation, 1956
Bert Hardy was one of the great English photojournalists. He worked for the English equivalent of “LIFE” magazine called “Picture Post” for whom he traveled constantly seeking out human interest stories.
Here is a rare signed print with such a great and true title.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXIUntitled #2, 2014
A chance viewing on Instagram by one of our fashion clients who urged us to seek out this young, emerging Hungarian female photographer from just this one image.
Such is the power of photography. That this image has changed both her life and ours. We have been given the gift of a great new photographer to collaborate with and she has been given the gift of being able now to support herself as a full time artist due to the enormous global support of her rare and original talent.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXIIEdward Weston and Margrethe Mather, 1922
Imogen Cunningham, soon to be the subject of a major Getty Museum exhibition, captured this intimate portrait of her fellow photographers Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather with such exquisite tenderness and insight. One of the great love stories in the history of photography, also stimulated equally great work at this time from the sitters.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXIIIUntitled, (Stickball Scene, Brooklyn Gang, NY), 1959
Bruce Davidson’s Sunday morning “Stickball” is like an elegant ballet. The cars have just been given their weekly wash and there is that wonderful leisurely feeling after a frantic week no doubt.
It’s a classic image capturing a community and spirit that we can only now look back on wistfully.
So much has changed now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXIVRue Muller à Montmartre, Paris, 1934
"I have never sought out the extraordinary or the scoop. I looked at what complemented my life. The beauty of the ordinary was always the source of my greatest emotion."
~ Willy Ronis
I enjoyed such a wonderful 20 year collaboration with Willy Ronis. Whenever I was in Paris I would take him to dinner.
One day I said I want to take you to the restaurant where you shot “Rue Muller”. We went there and the street hadn’t changed in over 60 years. I had booked the restaurant to give him his 100th birthday party but sadly he passed away at 99 and a half years, after a long and fulfilling life.
One of the greats for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXVJackson Pollock Painting in his Studio, Springs, Long Island, NY, 1949
“Painting is self discovery. Every good artist paints what he/she is.”
~ Jackson Pollock
I really love exceptional portraits of artists. I can only dream of owning a Modigliani, Seurat, Picasso, O’Keeffe, Cassat, Agnes Martin, etc., but a great artist portrait is the next best thing.
Martha Holmes was an important Life Magazine photographer and this image of Jackson Pollock deservedly made the front cover when it was first published.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXVIEye of Love #516, 1952
The history of Photography is full of examples of the Muse as Inspiration, think Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Weston and Charis Wilson, Harry Callahan and his wife Eleanor throughout their 63 year old marriage. But none is as powerful or poignant as René Groebli telling of his honeymoon in a simple, small Paris hotel as his “Eye of Love” series.
To my mind, it is the greatest love story ever told in still images. Now in his 93rd year, René is a source of constant inspiration. A true life force.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXVIEye of Love #516, 195
“I tried to convey the typical atmosphere of French hotel rooms. There were so many impressions: the poor-looking furniture in a cheap hotel, the ‘Amors’ embroidered on the curtains. And I was in love with the girl, the girl who is my wife. I think a series of photographs should be compared with a novel or even a poem rather than a painting: let us tell something!”
~ René Groebli
The history of Photography is full of examples of the Muse as Inspiration, think Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Weston and Charis Wilson, Harry Callahan and his wife Eleanor throughout their 63 year old marriage. But none is as powerful or poignant as René Groebli telling of his honeymoon in a simple, small Paris hotel as his “Eye of Love” series.
To my mind, it is the greatest love story ever told in still images. Now in his 93rd year, René is a source of constant inspiration. A true life force.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXVIIThird Avenue El., New York, 1955
“You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to notice what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
We have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the great Mr. Erwitt, now in his 90’s. His wit, charm and intelligence manifest themselves in his images.
I love this rare gem in his body of work. Is the child thinking back on his life or thinking about his future?
That’s the mystery and power of the image that we will never know but feel for him as did the photographer.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXVIIILa 2CV, Paris, 1957
“Photography gave me happiness. I am not an artist. I am an artisan. I don’t create anything... I am just a witness of what I see and what interests me, which has always been human beings.”
~ Sabine Weiss
When I am with Sabine as I was in November, I cannot believe I am sitting with a woman who is 96 years old. She is full of vigor and enthusiasm. She is the last living photographer from one of my favorite eras in the history of photography - The French Humanist Post War period - which gave us Boubat, Doisneau and Ronis.
I remember witnessing an incredible sight. She was only 91 years old at the time and was being honored with a big exhibition in Paris and there was a special book signing event which I think was originally scheduled for one hour at noon. There were literally crowds around the block with hundreds waiting to have their books signed and personalized. It went on for five hours and Sabine was patient, courteous and focused on everyone who was lucky to be in her presence.
That is what makes a great photographer.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XXXIXDelhi, India (Flock of Birds), 1999
“I suddenly understood what nature was telling me. I understood that you do not take photographs, you receive them.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
Pentti is one of my favorite human beings and surely one of the greatest living photographers.
He adds another dimension to the word “humility”. I have never met a photographer so completely uninterested in fame or personal success, material or otherwise. He is totally devoted to his art and almost monk-like in the way he approaches it and conducts himself. He is the most holy, poetic photographer I know yet full of life and gentle humor which manifests itself in his sublime work.
Like they say in the theater “tragedy is easy, comedy is hard”, he creates gems of such seemingly simple human, animal and natural moments which are so complex in their construction and the dedication and patience it takes to capture them. His skills in the darkroom which are equally formidable are unparalleled by anyone working today. He would be embarrassed if I called him a photographic “genius” but like Mozart or Bach or Beethoven, he surely is.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLHead Waiter Renee Breguet Serving Drinks on Grand Hotel Ice Rink, St. Moritz, 1932 (Printed 1990)
“It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”
~ Alfred Eisenstaedt
Alfred Eisenstaedt was probably the most celebrated and beloved of all the great Life Magazine photographers. He was there from the start and spent over 40 years working there. I remember meeting him in Martha's Vineyard a few years before he passed away at age 96 years old in 1995. He was so full of life and childlike enthusiasm which is really the key to longevity as a great photographer.
This is one of my favorite images of his. The bon vivants of the world used to stay at the celebrated Grand Hotel les Bains in St Moritz, I’m sure just to sit on its ice terrace and be served by its famous skating staff. The head waiter, Renee Bregut, immortalized here by Eisie’s lens.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLIYoung Stayman Winesap in Bloom, c. 1985/Printed 2006
“Photography is the easiest thing in the world if one is willing to accept pictures that are flaccid, limp, bland, banal, indiscriminately informative and pointless.
But if one insists in a photograph that is both complex and vigorous, it is almost impossible.”
~ John Szarkowski
I think John Szarkowski had one of the greatest minds I have ever encountered. Beyond articulate and intelligent, his early writings, especially his classic book “Looking at Photographs," nurtured my interest in photography.
Revered as one of the greatest curators of photography ever he was also an incredible photographer and printmaker in his own right. Every Monday morning he would bring in apples from his cherished trees which you see here to his staff at Museum of Modern Art New York.
I had the great honour of hosting the last public exhibition of his work. The week he was with us in California still fills me with such beautiful memories of great meals and conversations. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks after the exhibition opened.
I owe him a lot.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLIIMoscow, Gymnasts, 1954
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
One day whilst visiting Henri in Paris in his apartment, I brought with me one of my favorite books of his - the long out-of-print, “The People of Moscow“ which I thought was full of unknown 'gems'.
I pointed to this image of the gymnasts and asked, “Henri, I love this photograph...why have you never made a signed collector print of this image? I think it is very strong.” “Well Peter” he replied, “No one has ever asked."
I asked him would he be willing to make three prints for me. “If you insist, I will oblige." And so it went on over many years.
My favourite images of his have always been the ones I had never seen prints of before.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLIIICharing Cross Road from No. 84, (Marks & Co.), 1937
“Composition is not a matter of rules, it's a matter of taste.”
~ Wolfgang Suschitzky
This is the most autobiographical photograph I have ever collected. I was born in the East End of London into a very modest background to say the least. My parents had both left school at 13 years old. I always dreamed that outside our tiny apartment there was a bigger world to explore. Every Saturday morning I used to take myself on the tube “Up West” to Central London and Charing Cross Road depicted here where there were rows and rows of second hand bookstores where, for literally pennies, I could find second hand books to feed my curiosity plus a second hand jazz record store called Dobells where I could listen to jazz records for hours that I could not afford to buy. This was my weekly ritual and Charing Cross Road became my cultural nirvana.
Flash forward, I see this image about thirty years ago and wham that was it and I met its creator - Wolf Suschitzky. On every trip back to London I would visit Wolf in his little appartment. He was a gentleman from the “old Middle European School." We had our own special ritual. He would brew me the greatest Viennese coffee and there would always be the most delicious apple strudel to accompany it. And then we would talk for hours and look through his archives. I always discovered something new and special there. I thought he was such a truly great and under-appreciated photographer and promoting his work became my “Mission,” to secure him the recognition I felt he deserved. It still is...He passed away at 104 years old and to be honest there is not a day I don’t think about him as I live surrounded by his work.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLIVPaul Newman in white t-shirt taking a class at The Actors Studio, New York, 1955
“What drove me and kept me going over the decades? If I had to use a single word it would be 'curiosity.'”
~ Eve Arnold
Eve Arnold was one of the great Magnum Photographers.
She lived on one of my favourite streets in London, Mount Street, near the Royal butcher.
She was so intelligent and feisty. I asked her to make me this little known image of Paul Newman in the Actors Studio. I love movies and especially the great Newman movies like “Hud," “The Hustler," “Butch Cassidy," “The Sting," “The Verdict” and so many more.
You can tell from his presence in this class that he would certainly be destined for something great.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLVMadrid, 1975
“Je n'ai rien à prouver, juste à éprouver.”
"I have nothing to prove, just to experience."
~ Bernard Plossu
Sometimes one yearns for some vibrant color in one's life. There is something so primal in this image. I’m not sure what it is about, but it doesn’t concern me as I try not to over analyze images.
This one just got to me and I wanted to live with it. It energized and moved me and I hope it does you too.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLVIEaster Sunday in Harlem, 1940, printed 1940
"To me, pictures are like blintzes - ya gotta get 'em
while they're hot."
Weegee is generally know for his gritty, violent urban crime scene work rushing to get there before the police arrived, but there is a real tender side to him as evidenced by my favorite image of his... Easter Sunday in Harlem.
A moment of joy, community, relief, happiness and hope. Exactly what we are all wishing for now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLVIIHousewife, Eastend, London, 1937
“A photographer must possess and preserve the receptive faculties of a child who looks at the world for the first time.”
~ Bill Brandt
As I said in a previous post, I have always felt all collecting is autobiographical. We are attracted to images that tell part of our story.
I was born in the East End and this could have been my mother. Here again a portrait of great empathy with the magic element of the highlighted wedding ring which helps tell her story.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLVIII"The Daydream" / El ensueño, 1931 / Printed c. 1970
“I give the moment permanence.”
~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo
If I were to be cast away on a Desert Island with only 10 photos this would surely be one of them as it goes straight to the heart like a piercing arrow. Its beautiful composition and the soul of the image have haunted me for over 40 years since I first saw it.
It is timeless, eternal. What is she daydreaming about? What are we daydreaming about now in our isolation?
Maestro Don Manuel - thank you.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XLIXCotton Candy, San Angel, Mexico, 1981
"I arrived early In San Angel, Mexico to photograph Rufino Tamayo and while making time, I decided to venture around his neighborhood. It was a Saturday and vendors were getting ready for “El Bazaar Sabado" en San Angel when all of a sudden this lady appeared with her cotton candy.
Not too long ago I returned to the site where I took this image and the trees had grown so much it would be imposible to shoot it as I did in 1981."
~ Mario Algaze
I think this is talented Latin photographer Mario Algaze’s greatest image.
I am immediately transported into this woman’s life. It is shot with such tenderness and heart...I am walking just behind her.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LEleanor and Barbara, Chicago, 1954
"Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters..."
~ Harry Callahan
A couple of years before he passed away, I was in Atlanta and had the great pleasure of taking Harry Callahan to dinner. He was so quiet and humble and self-effacing. I had to pinch myself that I was in the presence of one of the great 20th Century photographers.
Here is my favorite photograph of his. A beautiful portrait of his wife and muse, Eleanor, and their daughter, Barbara.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LISavoy Ballroom Harlem, New York [couple dancing], 1939
“I am not an artist, and I never intended to be one. I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference.”
~ Cornell Capa
I owe Cornell Capa a great debt. He was one of my true mentors and I had the honor of hosting an exhibition of his own images before he passed away.
He never promoted his own work as he felt it was ethically not right being the head of the museum, International Center of Photography, which he founded. But I always thought he was a great photographer, in a way, greater than his more famous brother Robert.
His Savoy Ballroom is a masterful composition, full of life and energy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LIIMaidens in Waiting, 1951
“The ideal picture tells something of the essence of life. It sums up emotion, it holds the feeling of movement thereby implying the continuity of life. It shows some aspect of humanity, the way that the person who looks at the picture will at once recognize as startlingly true.”
~ Bert Hardy
In an age of social distancing this is one of the great non-social distancing images in the History of Photography.
One can only imagine what the two friends are chatting about. First published in “Picture Post”, the UK equivalent to “Life Magazine,” the woman in the polka dot dress and her friend became instantly famous. She passed away recently after a rich and fulfilling life and requested in her will that she be buried with this dress.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LIIIJohn & Alice Coltrane, Englewood Cliff, New Jersey, April 1966
“I was looking for a decisive moment.”
~ Chuck Stewart
One of the all-time great Jazz Photos by the highly underrated Chuck Stewart...this is a rare gem.
Sure it is about the soul of Jazz, but it is about so much more than that in my opinion. It is about the soul of a creative relationship.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LIVViolins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1941 (Printed 1980's)
“We don't take photographs with our cameras, we take them with our hearts and our minds. They are a reflection of ourselves...what we are and what we think.”
~ Arnold Newman
The violin is one of my most favorite sounds to listen to. It is so emotional and heart-wrenching.
I don’t have to turn on any Mozart, Bach or Beethoven to hear it. I just look at Arnold’s image and hear them all. Justly celebrated as one of the great 20th Century portrait photographers, this is a rare gem in his body of work.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LVBarbershop, Rome, 1956
“I have film. I'm ready to go.”
~ William Klein
I was reading today about the booming sales of personal grooming kits and it reminded me of this photo...I just love William Klein, now in his 93rd year.
His energy, his emotional quirkiness, his “I don’t care what you think" attitude. He is one of the last survivors of that generation of photographers that shaped the art of 20th Century Photography.
Long may he thrive.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LVICalla, 1981 (Printed 1981)
“Photography isn’t just taking pictures. It’s a tremendous exchange. The photographer is in the picture and I think people forget that. You are there, you see things and you fear that you’re not going to get them and just wish that you do.”
~ Sheila Metzner
Sheila Metzner has created some of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen especially in her collaborations with the revered Fresson family on their unique carbon process invented by Theodore-Henri Fresson in 1899, whose legacy is now carried on by his family the Atelier Fresson based outside of Paris. In her long and distinguished career she exudes an unrivaled sense of style and beauty. Surrounded now with her powerful, haunting color images has certainly lifted my mood to embrace the not-too-distant future when we can all experience the light again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LVIICountry Road, Lancaster, PA, 1961
“It takes the passage of time before the image of a commonplace subject can be assessed. The great difficulty of what I attempt is seeing beyond the moment. The everydayness of life gets in the way of the eternal.”
~ George Tice
George has dedicated his life in pursuit of the art and craft of photography. Spending time with him is beyond inspiring. His focus and hard work have resulted in such a powerful body of work. As an Englishman, he has helped me understand America in a deeply profound way, its nuances and sub text. There is a Hopper like beauty to his imagery which is universal. I bet many people’s first car was a VW Bug. I know it certainly was mine. We have been on a wonderful journey with George which I hope continues for many more years.
Thank you George for the ride.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LVIIIGirl Playing in Light Circles; Grand Central Station, NY, 1954
“I photograph the world around me. This is what I feel. The joy, the love, the pleasure that is in life.
A good photograph is something that becomes more than a photograph when it has meaning and value that extends beyond the medium. If it is just a photograph it remains very limited.”
~ Louis Stettner
Brooklyn made Louis who he was, but Paris made him into the poet he became. He lived a controlled schizophrenia between the love of the two cities that he spent most of his life in.
He was a true original. Real tough and combative on the outside, but a real gentle soul on the inside. I loved being with him when I came to visit him in Paris. We would intellectually arm wrestle on so many topics. He was a Moses-like figure, something out of a novel no one could ever write. I just loved his work and still do.
His widow told me recently that, "He met his match with you." I took it as a compliment and a tribute to the enormous respect I had for him, working creatively till the day he died.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LIXLes Petite Dalles, Normandy, 1973
“I feel concerned by what happens in the world……I don’t want to merely “document." I want to know why a certain thing disturbs or attracts me and how a situation can affect the person involved.”
~ Martine Franck
In another sad week for America on so many levels our dear friend Martine said it all. Through her art and her words. And her life.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXPainter of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 1953
“If you ask me what feelings the Eiffel Tower evokes for me, I’d have to say that indeed it’s a matter of sentiments. Those one feels for an old friend one is always glad to see again. A friend who was responsible for my first publication in LIFE in 1953. In the course of a long voyage full of more wear and rather less reason, laying eyes on this great lady again, you’re sure that at last you are home again. She is always there, quite erect, a bit arrogant as she looks down on us from so far above. More than ever she is courted by an increasing number of lovers who climb to conquer her. Her image marked our childhood and coming home from the country on a Sunday evening everyone of my children played the same game at the same age of around 3 or 4 of seeing who would be the first to see the familiar tower in the Paris sky.”
~ Marc Riboud
I was thinking today of all the wonderful times I have had in Paris with all the wonderful photographers based there. I sincerely wish I could just jump on a plane tomorrow, but alas no.
Marc spent a very rich and long life as a photographer traveling the world, photographing people with such great empathy and a huge sense of justice. As his good friend and fellow traveller, Elliott Erwitt, said of him, “He was serious about not being serious." Of his own work, Marc also said “Surprises of every kind lie in wait for the photographer - they open the eyes and quicken the heartbeat of those with a passion for looking.”
Thank you Marc for conjuring up all these uplifting memories again of your beautiful city.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXIWinston Churchill, 1941
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal.
It is the courage to continue that counts.”
~ Winston Churchill
This is probably one of the greatest 20th Century portraits ever taken. The true magic of photography where subject matter and artistic talent collaborate unexpectedly to create a moment in history that endures forever and inspires each new generation.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXIImogen Cunningham & Twinka at Yosemite, California, 1974
“It’s out there in the world and has a life of its own.
I’m happy for that.”
~ Judy Dater
Sometimes the magic of photography happens unexpectedly, when all the stars align in a serendipitous moment.
Judy Dater, a very skilled and talented photographer, was conducting a photo workshop on shooting the Nude, organized by Ansel Adams in Yosemite. Imogen Cunningham, the celebrated then 90 year old photographer (soon to have a major retrospective herself at the Getty Museum) was visiting to give a lecture. Twinka Thiebaud, the daughter of the great painter Wayne Thiebaud, was the contracted model. Et voila! it happened.
A few years ago an attractive woman walked into my gallery whilst this photo was on display. “That’s me,” Twinka advised.
Small world, eh? It still puts a smile on my face after all these years.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXIIIJFK & Jackie at the Diner, Oregon, 1959
“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met-obligations to truth, to justice and to liberty.
We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last.”
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
I have always felt this is one of the greatest political photos ever taken. JFK and Jackie at the beginning of their campaign. Having spent the night in a small motel and after attending Sunday morning Mass they have a simple breakfast in a nearby quintessential American diner. Such a shot would be inconceivable now.
I felt close to that period of history through my friendship with Jacques at the beginning of my gallery career. We always used to have lunch or dinner at his favorite restaurant “Odeon” near his Tribeca loft whenever I was in New York. Always new stories, always new insights. The irony is that shortly after he passed away his archive was reduced to ashes in the Twin Towers bombing.
Great memories from our own diner encounters. Thank you Jacques.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXVEighth Street Movie Theater, New York [Frederick Kiesler, Architect], 1946
“Each time I make a photograph I celebrate the life I love and the beauty I know and the happiness I have experienced. All my photographs are made like that responding to my intuition.
After all these years, I am still motivated by the radiance that light creates when it transforms an object into something magical. What the eye sees is an illusion of what is real. The black and white image is yet another transformation. What exactly exists, we may never know.”
~ Ruth Bernhard
Apart from photography, cinema is one of my other great loves. I think I must have spent a great part of my youth at the British Film Institute. Cinemas on the Embankment in London getting my film education...and today I started thinking about this image and its maker, Ruth Bernhard.
I enjoyed a long and wonderful collaboration with her. She was our first exhibition in my first gallery so many years ago. Such a feisty and inspiring artist to be around. Mentored and inspired by Edward Weston in the 1930’s, she had a long and illustrious career. Primarily known for her exquisite nudes (as Ansel Adams said “The greatest photographer of the Nude”) this is a rare gem in her body of work. Her father, the distinguished graphic designer Lucian Bernhard introduced Ruth to his friend and fellow emigre, the famous architect Frederick Kiesler, who had just designed this cinema in New York and asked her to photograph it for him. It seems like only yesterday I was at her 100th Birthday Party and was honored to speak at her memorial service.
Here is Ruth’s Recipe for a long and happy life.
1. Never get used to anything
2. Hold on to child in you
3. Keep your curiosity alive
4. Trust your intuition
5. Delight in simple things
6. Say “yes” to life with passion
7. Fall madly in love with the world
8. Remember: Today is the day
~ Ruth Bernhard October 14th, 1995
Thank you Ruth for this advice. You are right!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXVIPortrait of Abraham Lincoln, June, 3rd, 1860
"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
~ Abraham Lincoln
Alexander Hesler, a noted commercial photographer based in Chicago, arranged two portrait sessions with Lincoln in 1858 and 1860. The images from their first session displayed the presidential candidate with disordered and messy hair. During the subsequent election campaign, the Republican National Committee grew concerned that Lincoln might appear unkempt compared to his opponent, Stephen A Douglas. Hesler therefore produced this more dapper and well groomed representation of the candidate at the second sitting. The artist, George B. Ayres, purchased Hesler’s studio in 1867, a move that saved it’s contents from being destroyed when the gallery burned down in the Chicago Fire of 1871.
This has always been my favorite portrait of Lincoln and has been a source of inspiration and hope, especially now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXVIIMorocco, 1963
“I like images which are very simple in composition. When you shoot in Morocco you have to be like a fox. Shoot very quickly.”
~ Bruno Barbey
Bruno is one of the great photojournalists. For over five decades he has been an inveterate traveller who has opened my eyes and heart to many places I wished I had experienced first hand but fortunately I can gain a little insight into from his great understanding and respect for the cultures he knows so well on all continents.
A scholar and a gentleman and a very gracious host with an enormous heart and sensitivity as is evidenced in this beautiful image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXVIIIAudrey Hepburn on her bike with her dog "Famous" at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, CA, 1957
“I was always aware of my subject’s feelings. Because my photographs made people look good, it gave everyone the confidence to pose for me.”
~ Sid Avery
I was thinking about Sid today. Not really sure what prompted it but perhaps because it is almost 20 years since he has passed away. And I last saw him.
I think for the last few years of his life there was hardly a Saturday afternoon between the hours of 1pm to 3 pm he wouldn’t come by the gallery. He just loved to look at all the great photographers’ work on display. I would introduce him to anyone who was there, “Please meet Sid, one of the greatest Hollywood photographers ever." He would love that and enjoy telling the anecdotes of a rich and wonderful life to our visitors. There was always a story I hadn’t heard before and it kinda became 'Sid’s Salon.' I would just try and disappear and let him hold court...I learnt a lot from him and he also had such a great eye for American Paintings of which he had formed a wonderful collection, which he loved to share with me.
A warm and generous spirit. Here is my favorite image of his of Audrey Hepburn on the Paramount Studio backlot with her dog called “Famous."
It doesn’t get any better than this.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXIXRuth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court, D.C., 1998
“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talent, from contributing what we could contribute to society because we fit into a certain mold - because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”
~ Ruth Bader Ginsberg
I came across this image a few years back whilst researching an exhibition on Women and was so moved by it. Taken by acclaimed portrait photographer, Michael O’Neill, it was originally commissioned by Vanity Fair and first published in their November 1998 issue.
Taken outside by the columns of the Supreme Court, it captures the essence of a great woman who has spent her life fighting for women’s rights and gender equality and everything else she believes in. She lives her beliefs and isn’t afraid to voice them as an example to us all now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXJustice, North Carolina, August 26th, 1961
Declan Haun dedicated his life as a socially conscious photojournalist, teacher, and curator. He worked as a freelance photographer for many important publications including Life Magazine who commissioned him to cover the Civil Rights Movement. This image was included in John Szarkowski’s celebrated exhibition “The Photographer’s Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1964. In Declan's own words “My pictures are not very complex. I try to make them simple statements of fact or feeling”. He was certainly correct in this, I think it's his greatest image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXIJohn Lennon Listening to the 'White Album', London, 1968
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream.
A dream you dream together is reality.”
~ John Lennon
This has always been one of my favorite music images. It just brings back so many memories for me. I lived near Abbey Road Studios and walked by it every day for many years through all seasons and also being of that generation to whom John Lennon was so much more than just a talented musician. A symbol for my generation.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXIISummer, 1935
Many years ago I was visiting a wonderful collector and curator in Chicago. It was one of those blistering hot Mid-West days. As I was sipping some iced tea, I noticed out of the corner of my eye this exquisite image hanging on a wall. I just had to get up to examine it more closely.
Josef Ehm was an important Czech photographer, a colleague of other great Czech photographers like Sudek and Funke. I was totally consumed by the mood that this image evoked within me. My host noticing how I was smitten graciously allowed me to purchase the object of my affection. Ehm’s archive resides in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.
I know we all hope in this coming summer for the peace and tranquility this woman is experiencing in this image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXIIIElla Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, & Benny Goodman, New York, 1948
“My parents loved classical music and all my childhood musical experiences had been traditional. Then when I heard Jazz, it was a whole new thing, like eating candy for the first time.”
~ Herman Leonard
This great Herman Leonard image has so much personal resonance for me. I grew up listening to Ella singing all the great American Songbook albums. They were my holy grail. In the 1960’s the great American Jazz promoter, Norman Granz used to bring over all the great jazz musicians to London in his celebrated “Jazz at The Philharmonic“ series. As a skinny kid I used to slip backstage and collect jazz autographs. There was basically no security in those days. I met them all, including my beloved Ella.
Herman was such a classy gentleman. And a really great photographer. He had learnt a lot of his craft as an assistant to the great Yousuf Karsh. This has always been my favorite Ella image with the added bonus of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman sitting in the audience revering Ella. If you look closely also in the audience. You can see an almost Bill Clinton look alike. One of my great clients was visiting me and she saw it and pointed this out to me. She was a great friend of President Clinton and bought it as a surprise birthday gift for him where it hung in the White House for many years.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXIVHats, Father's Day Picnic, 1948
“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”
One of my favorite photojournalist images ever.
It is Father’s Day and some kind souls put on a special picnic for out of work men who are homeless but have still maintained their dignity. And their hats. They are picked up and driven in a bus to a park where for a few hours they can forget their situation.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXVOn the Hillside, A Study in Values, 1910
“The great geniuses are those who have kept their childlike spirit
and have added to it breadth of vision and experience.”
– Alfred Stieglitz
Heinrich Kuhn was one of the great turn of the century pictorialist photographers, colleague and close friend of Alfred Steiglitz and Edward Steichen.
I first came across his work early on as a collector. An image of his was the second photograph I had ever purchased. Alas I had to sell it to start my gallery and the memory of it still haunts me.
But the story of how I acquired this print perhaps should serve as a warning lesson as to how compulsive this disease of collecting can be.
I first saw it maybe 20 years ago and thought then as I still do now that it was one of the most beautiful images, “object”, works of art I had ever seen. Up there with greatest painting that Degas had ever painted. I was just swept away by the romanticism and beauty of it and it haunted me which I guess is the true test of why one should collect anything. The owner did not want to sell it unless it fetched an incredibly large amount of money, a sum way beyond my reach. It got passed from one dealer to another over a period of 10 years, each time the price got higher and higher each time it did not sell. I guess it became a 10 year journey of obsession way beyond any rational behavior.
And then one day I saw it again at an art fair in New York in the booth of the fifth dealer who had been engaged by the irascible owner to sell it for him. Perhaps I had drunk too much coffee that day, but I just broke down and bought it. I don’t regret it even though I thought at the time I should check my self into a mental home. The words that echoed in my ears were the ones I had been told by a very wise Old Master Painting dealer early on when I embarked on my career.
He told me “Peter, you never over pay for a Masterpiece." He was right.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXVIMarch on Washington, 1963
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free
so other people would also be free.”
~ Rosa Parks
I first saw this image many years ago in a magazine and it punched me in the gut which is always the sign of a great photograph. I did not know the photographer but after several days I found him. Meeting Builder, I gave him a big hug and thanked him for creating such a moving photograph. It moves me to this day. Builder is one special man, totally devoid of ego and a commitment to his craft. He has used his camera to address the systems of oppression and injustice in the USA.
Here, in his own words, is how this photograph came to be:
“I was near the Lincoln Memorial. I tried listening to the speeches and songs. King would speak near the very end. Shortly before King delivered his speech, Mahalia Jackson began singing. I noticed a contingent from the South (where the current frontlines of the freedom struggle were. I think it was a NAAACP group from Atlanta, Georgia.) Within the group, a young black woman wearing a dark kerchief on her head caught my eye. She was in the brilliant, bright, hot summer sunlight, standing out from but still within and a part of the crowd. I moved closer, composed and focused razor sharp on the woman. Her face/gaze reflected for me the intensity of the long and continuing struggle from the arrival of the first Africans sold into bondage in Jamestown in 1619, to Harriet Tubman, John Brown and Frederick Douglas, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, the Scottsboro Boys, Rosa Parks, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King, the student sit-ins in Greensboro, John Lewis, Medgar Evers. Her clasped hands seemed to offer an expression of hope.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXVIIOlga, Vaganova School, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2001
“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”
~ Martha Graham
It is amazing to me that a whole culture AND a personal story can be told in one frame.
Arthur Elgort, most celebrated for his fashion work, loves dance and has a curiosity for other cultures as this image shows.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXVIII"For You," Harvard Square Theater, 1974
“Talk about a dream. Try to make it real.”
~ Bruce Springsteen
May 9, 1974 was a special night in the career of Bruce Springsteen. He was booked as an opening act for Bonnie Raitt at the Harvard Square Theater. His career had been struggling with two unsuccessful initial albums sales-wise for Columbia Records who were about to drop him, but his special magic was sure on full force that night and in the audience was the Rolling Stone music critic, Jon Landau, who penned the immortal lines which turned everything around. "I saw rock and roll future and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.”
This is one of my all-time favorite music images, but it is so much more than that. It is an image of passion, dedication, determination and focus. All essential elements for any artist.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXIXColette, Paris, 1953
"I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it."
I love portraits, especially of writers, and this is one of the best of the formidable and courageous, Colette.
Janine led a pretty extraordinary life herself from risking her life developing film for the French Resistance to participating in the Liberation of Paris to covering the woman’s liberation movement in the 1970s. I remember an especially stimulating lunch in a simple Paris bistro hearing all the stories of her remarkable life.
What an honor to have met her.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXSolitude, c. 1890
Robert Demachy was one of the great turn-of-the-century Pictorialist photographers. In their effort to gain appreciation of photography as a fine art, as opposed to mere documentation, they were deeply knowledgable about painting techniques and carefully planned their images with acute attention to light and created hand-crafted prints with meticulous attention.
I have always wanted to own a great Degas, but do not have a spare $50 million. Perhaps this beautiful image is just as good, if not better.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXIKobe Bryant (holding basket ball), San Francisco, 2015
"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity for me to rise."
~ Kobe Bryant
I love sports imagery and I love portraits and this image has it all. Taken by the great photographer, Walter Iooss Jr., who has dedicated his life to capturing the greatest images of so many sports occasions it is more than just a portrait of a great athlete.
Taken on the occasion of Kobe’s retirement, it has the power and pathos appropriate to the occasion. As Michael Jordan said of Walter, “He’s quick and he is good." I think here he is slow and really great and as quiet and self reflective as his subject is. A special moment, a special image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXIIUntitled (Girl in Window), c. 1870
I love rich albumen 19th Century prints that I have never seen before and probably will never see again. And I love images shot from behind which have such a sense of mystery. I like to be seduced into the narrative of an image whose meaning I cannot quite really grasp. Such is this beautiful image taken by an underrated master Italian photographer. I keep going back and back again to view it since I first purchased it maybe 15 years ago... What is exactly going on? As a romantic I think this is a secret assignation between two lovers. Maybe even passing passionate letters through the slit in the window. It doesn’t matter if I am right or wrong. I just know it intrigues and moves me. That is the gift this photo has always given me.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXIIIYoung Chaoui Woman, Biskra, Algeria, 1890-95
This was one of the hardest prints to buy in my career. I became obsessed with it when I saw it by accident visiting a dealer’s home. She just didn’t want to sell it and I just kept offering more ridiculous sums of money for it and after five years she allowed me to buy it. Such is the madness of collectors.
The woman is a young bride and I just wanted to know her story and still do.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXIVChild at Civil Rights Protest, North Carolina, 1961
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
~ James Baldwin
On this special day, this deeply felt image by the great Declan Haun gives us reason to pause and reflect on the present, the past and the future.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXVAndy Warhol with Edie Sedgwick and Chuck Wein, New York, 1965
“I have come to believe in the superiority of discovery over invention. What is important is not what I make happen but what happens to me.”
~ Burt Glinn
Burt Glinn was one of the most sophisticated and intelligent photographers I have ever met. A man of gentle humor and generosity of spirit and great insight and sensitivity to the human condition. One of the great Magnum photographers who also served as its President on two occasions.
I have always loved this image of Warhol and Sedgwick and Chuck Wein (one of Warhol’s Factory assistants) seemingly climbing out of a man hole. I don’t think anyone could pull off a similar shot today in the boisterous Manhattan traffic chaos.
It always puts a smile on my face, especially now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXVINorth Carolina, 1950
"As citizens, we knew we had ceded some of our individual rights to society in order to live together as a community. But we did not believe this social contract included support for an immoral system."
~ Congressman John Lewis
The Power of Photography is such that words are often unnecessary. The image says it all. I have always felt this way about this great Elliott Erwitt image, never more so than now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXVIIScanno Boy, 1957-1959
"I was honest towards the people I photographed in Scanno because it was not my intention to say anything about their social condition. I was involved neither with political issues nor with the trend of seeking misery and poverty which many photographers had toward the south of Italy at that time. In Scanno, I just wanted to dream and I dreamt."
~ Mario Giacomelli
One of my greatest regrets was I did not not meet Giacomelli in person. I was totally obsessed with his work and wanted to see if it would be possible to collaborate with him. His reputation was that he was totally uninterested in any kind of material success. He just wanted to be left alone to create his images without any distractions - a position I respected, but my love for his work would never leave me so I prevailed. A photographer friend knew him well and he agreed to finally meet with me. I was to fly to Italy. Everything was arranged and the three of us were to meet up in his home. A dream come true. Sadly he became ill a couple of weeks before I was due to leave and passed away shortly thereafter.
Giacomelli was born into a very modest family and when his father died when he was 13 years old he had to leave school and went to work as a typographer to help support the family. He spent most of his life working at his job spending his weekends and holidays pursuing his own art.
The structure of this image is pure genius. He creates a unique atmosphere like I had never seen before from which dark and out-of-focus figures emerge with only one single and central subject that is sharp: a boy in the middle distance who looks into the camera, framed by fleeting black hallowed foreground figures and strolling with his hands in his pockets, followed by two identically dressed old women.
The image is haunting and I guess I have always identified with the little boy and always will. Next year The Getty Museum is planning a big Giacomelli exhibition. Something definitely to look forward to.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXVIIIMiss Appleton's Shoes, 1976 / Printed 1978
"Still lifes permit endless expressive experimentation within a form that remains close to universal human experience."
~ Olivia Parker
This little gem of a photograph has always haunted me since I first saw a print of it in the late 1970’s. It just radiates an enormous sense of beauty and energy which transcends its apparent simple subject matter. It tells stories within stories and has a deep, deep humanity to it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY LXXXIXSwimming Pool Designed by Alain Capeilleres, Le Brusc, Var, France, 1976
"A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie, but nor is it the truth. It’s more a fleeting, subjective impression. What I like most about photography is the moment that you can’t anticipate. You have to be constantly watching for it, ready to welcome the unexpected."
~ Martine Franck
Well Summer is here and hopefully some respite from the current challenges.
I’m often asked, "What makes a great photograph?" Sometimes it’s hard to articulate but this Martine Franck image certainly is the answer that comes to mind, as something that “haunts” you.
I’m not sure why this image has always haunted me since the first time I saw it, but I never get tired of looking at it. It has what so many great photos have - “MYSTERY." I’m not quite sure what is going on or the relationship between the figures, but it doesn’t matter. It is beautiful with it’s use of shapes and shadow and that most important element - LIGHT.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCJayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren at Romanoff's, Beverly Hills, 1958
"I didn’t come to Hollywood to be the girl next door. I came to be a movie star."
~ Jayne Mansfield
Mike Romanoff was the restauranteur to the stars in the 1940’s. His namesake restaurant always attracted a great crowd.
He knew that both Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield had both booked separate tables. He had a sixth sense that something interesting might happen and alerted the media. Boy was he right! Joe Shere and other celebrated Hollywood photographers turned up but I think Mr Shere got the Oscar that day for best shot.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCISuspense, c. 1908
"In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality."
~ Alfred Stieglitz
Emily Pitchford was a pioneer San Francisco Pictorialist. I came across this beautiful image in an obscure country auction where it was very reasonably estimated, but obviously I was not alone in appreciating its merits. I got caught up in the auction fever and ending up paying about 20x more for it than I expected.
But I do not regret it. It is like a great Degas painting out of a novel by the Bronte sisters. Beauty and mystery combined.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCIIOn the 6:25 from Grand Central to Stamford, November 22, 1963 (Printed 1987)
"Long after I am gone, I want people to be able to see - especially to feel - what I have seen and felt."
~ Carl Mydans
Carl Mydans was one of the great LIFE Photographers having cut his teeth working for the Farm Security Administration in the 1930’s, along with his distinguished colleagues Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shan, Marion Post Wolcott, and Walker Evans.
This is real evidence of the Power of Photography - how one shot of commuters pouring over newspapers reading the story of President Kennedy’s assasination captures the emotional intensity of this moment in world history.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCIIIOn the Caterpillar, Women's Pub Outing, Clapham, England, 1956
"I felt I was an observer of society. I never thought about my presence in it. My driving force in photographing women was to find out what makes
~ Grace Robertson
Whenever I need a pick me up I look at this hilarious photograph. It was taken by my friend, Grace Robertson. who turns 90 years old today.
Grace was one of the pioneer women photojournalists who worked for “Picture Post,” the UK equivalent of Life Magazine. Her most beloved story was “Mother’s Day Outing” originally published by Picture Post and two years later re-commissioned by Life Magazine which follows a group of working class women who were friends from a local pub. They leave their men behind, hire a bus to transport them for a day trip to the Coast or as we say in England the “seaside," fill the bus up with beer and food and just escape from everything. As the day progresses they become more and more tipsy and more and more uninhibited as only women in the company of women can do...Free from all their domestic responsibilities.
As Grace says of the day, “I set off on the Saturday with the women in the coach. Their energy was awesome. These women were survivors. These were women in their fifties, sixties and seventies and they had been through two world wars and the Great Depression in the middle. They were incredibly exuberant. And inspiring."
Happy birthday Grace and thank you for this gift which keeps on giving.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCIVAshaninka, State of Acre, Brazil, 2016
"I work alone. Humans are incredible because when you come alone, they will receive you, they accept you, they protect you, they give you all the things you need and they teach you all things you must know."
~ Sebastião Salgado
My longest and most intense professional collaboration has been with Sebastiao Salgado. We first started working together,well it must be over 30 years now since Henri Cartier-Bresson and his wife Martine Franck first introduced us.
It has been an amazing journey as I have watched him develop his epic photo projects with such passion and dedication and execute them to the highest professional and ethical standards. This journey has been shared with his equally amazing wife and artistic partner, Lelia Wanick. I have never seen two people so professionally in sync and they have been such an inspiration to me and continue to be a big, big part of my life.
I sincerely believe Sebastiao is the greatest living photographer and his position in the history of this medium is unassailable. With the founding of their remarkable non-profit rainforest project Instituto Terra and the planting of 4 million trees to date to say they are both forces of nature is a vast understatement.
I am looking forward to the launch of their next and last epic project “Amazonia” next year. This beautiful and haunting image above is part of it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCVA Country Road, 1915
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Paul L Anderson was a much exhibited Pictorialist photographer. He taught at the Clarence White School of Photography and was a friend of Edward Weston with whom he debated vociferously the merits of Pictorialism after Weston himself had abandoned it. His work is included in MOMA NY, the George Eastman House, Cleveland Museum of Art and other institutions.
I saw this image and was immediately seduced by the beauty of the print and the emotion contained with in it. To me the solitary figure had just jumped out from the pages of an Edith Wharton novel. What was her story? Where was she going? What were her innermost thoughts? What was her destiny?
It still holds me in its grip after over 20 years. A true sign of its greatness. I believe it to be a unique print.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCVILovers Reflected In Mirror, 1932 (Printed 1960's)
"The thing that is magnificent about photography is that it can produce images that incite emotion based on the subject matter alone."
Brassaï moved to Paris in 1924 and never left. He and that city just connected on a profound level and he made it his own even though he was technically an “outsider."
His objectivity and intelligence captured the nuances of the city from its streets to its cafes, its parks and monuments by day and night, and also its hidden secrets that no one had ever truly captured in such an insightful way before. More than anything, he understood human nature and the human psyche without judgement.
This is one of the great images from his celebrated book, “The Secret Paris of the 30’s” and this print was formerly in the collection of one of the greatest 20th Century art dealers, Ileana Sonnabend, so we know the physical print is special.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCVIIElbowing Out of Town, News Stand, New York, 1954
"Life was a joyous route, such magnificent sights and human splendor along the way that difficulties magically effaced themselves. One regretted nothing and would have it no other way."
~ Louis Stettner
Louis, in his 93 years, lived life to the fullest right until the end. He was for sure a Brooklyn boy, a true original character. To be in his presence was always amusing, engaging and insightful. This is one of my favorite images of his. I just devour newspapers and magazines but fear they will soon be a thing of the past, especially newsstands. So many of them have closed here in the last year.
I just love the optimism emanating from this image. You know this young woman is going to have a great day. She is so focused and determined. Whether she is going on an audition or job interview, she is going to nail it for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCVIIIWhite Sands, 1980
"I photograph what my senses tell me to photograph."
~ Bernard Plossu
Bernard is one of the restless travelers of photography. Always on the road in the pursuit of adventure and beauty.
I was listening to the Beatles “Long and Winding Road” last night and this image sprang into my mind. We are all on a journey right now and none of us quite know where it is all leading but ever hopeful.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY XCIXLou Reed, "Transformer", 1972
"My allegiance was always to the act. I wanted them to be happy. I wasn’t owned by a magazine or a record company."
~ Mick Rock
I grew up loving and listening to all kinds of music from Bach to Puccini to Reggae to Jazz. I have always been energized by it and sometimes a single piece of music can encapsulate an era in which you lived. I certainly never lived in New York during the 1960’s and 1970’s as I was growing up in London, but through Lou Reed I can certainly imagine what it might have been like.
Likewise a single image can evoke the same feeling. I was offered this print signed by both the photographer and the subject and had to have it to help me understand that era. One must never stop learning about things you know nothing about and this image helped me undertake that process.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CThe Heiress, Carthay Circle, Los Angeles, CA, 1949 (Printed 1970's)
"Be careful. Collecting photographs can change your life. It did mine."
~ Peter Fetterman
Today is a special day. This is our 100th ‘Power of Photography” daily image. I cannot believe this number. How did this happen? This started out as a little self therapy over 100 days ago helping me get through the extraordinary times we are living in. Revisiting these images I had feverishly collected over 41 years brought back such great memories of how they had been acquired and the circumstances and the people involved. I thought I would do just a few and to my surprise the series developed its own momentum. Clients and friends forwarded them on to their families and friends and each day my colleagues Mike and David and I received heartfelt messages from all over the world from strangers telling us how these images have helped them navigate these surreal times and that they have given them hope for a brighter future which has been truly humbling.
I thought it would be appropriate today to feature the first photograph I ever bought all those years ago when I first arrived in California in 1979 to pursue my film making aspirations from London. Of course the image had a special autobiographical resonance for me as I had grown up obsessed with World Cinema. I struggled to find the $400 to pay for it and if I were sane I would have spent the money putting new brakes on the beat up Ford Pinto I was driving. But I guess fate had another career in mind for me and this single image you could say changed the direction of my life. I subsequently got to meet Max Yavno who was equally inspiring. Thank you Max.
I will try my best to continue this series and hope to present to you equally beautiful and soulful images. I appreciate all your support and encouraging words. Here’s to the next 100 days together. Be well, be safe.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CINelson Mandela in his Cell on Robben Island [Revisit], 1994, printed 2014
"Photography is history. There are certain moments
we do not see unless we photograph them."
~ Jürgen Schadeberg
This is one of the great images of history. It tells us so much of the human injustice of apartheid in a single frame.
It has always moved me since the first time I saw it. I suggested to Jürgen that we should produce a special platinum print of it as I felt the process would bring out even more details of the human drama of the moment..
I find it tender and heartbreaking at the same time. It captures the soul of this special man whose words resonate with even more relevance today.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CIIMarx Brothers, 1946
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”
~ Groucho Marx
“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.”
~ Yousuf Karsh
I grew up loving the Marx Brothers’ movies and whenever I need a pick-me-up I watch, “A Night at the Opera,” perhaps the funniest film ever made. As you dear friends can imagine we have all needed a lot of pick-me-ups recently...
To my amazement a few years ago I came across this rare portrait of them by none other than one of my favorite portrait photographers, Yousuf Karsh. These genius comedians must have given Karsh, best known for his more serious studies of all the great statesmen, dignitaries and artists of the 20th Century, one of his most special sittings. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at this one.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CIIIMúsico en la Nada [Musician in Nowhere], Escoma, Bolivia, 1990
“Photography always shows aspects of things or of other people that you don’t know of, that are revealed through the photographic process.”
~ Flor Garduño
Flor is one of my oldest photography friends. We were her first gallery and our careers have paralleled each other. Whenever we are together memories flood back for both of us. We laugh and sometimes cry and reminisce. And reflect on the passage of time and all we have been through, together and apart.
Her great photographs are timeless and heartbreaking. None more so than this image, one of my favorites of hers. The subject is an itinerant Bolivian musician who travels through the country, playing at weddings and funerals and village events accompanied by all his worldly possessions. It has one on the most beautiful titles I have ever encountered.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CIVBacklit Sunflower, Winthrop, MA, 1965
"In order to be a good photographer, you need to work more on your emotions than you do on your technique.”
~ Paul Caponigro
When you are in Paul’s presence you know you are in the presence of a special human being who exudes wisdom and insight. He is articulate and profound, but never pretentious. I see him as a kind of shaman, an elder who is a spiritual guide who has taught me much over all these years without ever pretending to be a teacher. I think his images work on a special plain of enlightenment.
This is one of his great photographs. How can something so simple radiate so much power and beauty?
As he tells the story, “A sunflower came as a gift from a friend and quietly took it’s place on my windowsill. It seemed content, as nature’s marvels usually are, with whatever notice it might receive. But as I passed it several times a day and glanced each time toward its radiance, the flower began to grow less shy. It seemed to ask, if not demand, that I draw nearer and record its moods on film. Finally I gave in and took the first step toward another world. As I dwelt upon the beauty of the sunflower, on its golden crown and everchanging form, it began to whisper of a realm beyond the sensual mind, a realm magnificent and strange."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CVWartime Terminus, Paddington Station (Women Waving), 1942
"The ideal picture tells something of the essence of life. It sums up emotion, it holds the feeling of movement thereby implying the continuity of life. It shows some aspect of humanity, the way that the person who looks at the picture will at once recognize as startlingly true.”
~ Bert Hardy
I love train stations and would much prefer to travel on them than any other form of transportation.
They are great places also to view hellos and goodbyes.
Here a mother is seeing her child off for safe evacuation to the English countryside from the perils of wartime London.
So heartbreaking, but hopeful at the same time for a better future.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CVIThe Violinist, c. 1910
John G Bullock was a widely exhibited Pictorialist photographer in all leading salons at the turn of the century. He caught the eye of Alfred Steiglitz who included him in the Photo Secession’s inaugural exhibition of 1902 at National Arts Club in New York. His work is included in J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian Museu.
This print is incredibly atmospheric and tender and inspiring. I have always thought of it like a great Mary Cassatt painting. The light streaming on her white dress and her focus. If it had been shot indoors it just wouldn’t have the same beautiful atmosphere and power.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CVIILe Pont de Brooklyn, New York, 1982
"The wandering photographer sees the same show that everyone else sees. He however stops to watch it.”
~ Edouard Boubat
I love images of hope, especially now.
One knows this young woman will succeed in anything she sets her mind to, swept up by the energy and spirit of what Steiglitz himself called one of his own great photos, “The City of Ambition.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CVIIICentral Park South, 1947-48
"Alexey Brodovitch tried to teach you to be new and not be boring.”
~ Ted Croner
I remember vividly my first trip to New York from London. I was a young student and had struggled to get the air fare together. I got on a bus from the airport and as we approached the city at night with that amazing skyline I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I immediately heard Gershwin in my head.
I was just so excited to be there.
This is one of my most favorite NY images. Croner was a student of the Alexey Brodovitch Design Laboratory whose students over the years ran the gamut from Richard Avedon to Diane Arbus.
Croner was experimenting off the cuff that night on Central Park South and produced something truely innovative. Whenever I look at this image it always evokes that first encounter with that energizing city.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CIXMarian Anderson, c. 1950's
"When I sing, I don’t want them to see that my face is black. I don’t want them to see that my face is white. I want them to see my soul and that it is colorless.”
~ Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson was an American singer of classical music and spirituals. She was invited to sing to an integrated audience in Washington DC. The Daughters of The American Revolution refused their permission as they controlled the hall. Eleanor Roosevelt, a member of DAR, immediately resigned and together with her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt arranged for her to sing at an open air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before an integrated audience of more than 75,000 peopled and a radio audience in the millions on April 9th, 1939.
An early seminal Civil Rights moment, a precursor to Dr King’s “I have a Dream Speech” twenty four years later.
I have seen several photos taken of Marian Anderson by celebrated photographers such as Karsh and Philipe Halsman but none as powerful as this one by Alfredo Valente, a much underrated New York portrait photographer.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXEileen Dunne in the Hospital for Sick Children, 1940
"This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
A young child injured during a bombing raid in war-torn London.
This is one of Cecil Beaton’s great images which made the cover of Life Magazine and helped bring America to aid the European war efforts.
The power of photography for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXIBackstage at the Folies Bergeres, 1960
"Photography is an excuse for curiosity, a way to satisfy it.
The photographer is like a father confessor, to whom all is told. It is a means of seeing without being seen.”
~ Jean Philippe Charbonnier
Jean Philippe is one of the great least known French classic photographers who came to prominence in the 1950’s. He travelled the world as a skilled photo journalist working for magazines like “Realities.”
Settling back in Paris, he created a great body of work capturing the city he loved. This image of life backstage at the celebrated Folies Bergere could only have been taken by a Frenchman. It is the essence of nonchalance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXIIFoggy Night, Land's End, San Francisco, CA, 1953
"Photography is not a profession. It is a compulsion.”
~ Fred Lyon
It’s not often I see a single image that drives me to seek out and meet the creator behind it. But such was the case with this extraordinary image. It immediately struck me as one of the most romantic, tender, mysterious almost "film noir“ images I had ever seen. Brassai eat your heart out.
How come I had never heard of its maker? Then I remembered a good photo publishing colleague had mentioned his name to me a few years back. I must have been rushing from one art fair to another and I had never followed up. Shame on me. I guess things sometimes slip through the cracks. But I believe in fate and that when things are meant to be they are meant to be.
Well off finally I went to San Francisco to meet with Fred in his studio and wow I realized I had just entered Aladdin’s Cave. I think Fred was just a spring chicken of 85 years old at the time but his enthusiasm and energy were contagious. Not to mention the intelligence and wit and charm. Wow I thought he was Cary Grant with a camera!
But it was the quality of the work that bowled me over. Great image after great image evoking a lost era of style and sophistication and heart and beauty that is unlikely to come back. And that special San Francisco light. No one has such an archive of superb work inspired by this unique city.
Fred is not just a humble, truly great and important photographer but a very special one-of-a-kind, gracious human being. A rare breed.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXIIIAdvertising photograph for Eastman Kodak Company, c. 1900
“Amateur Photography has the great advantage that its followers are confined to no age, sex, or conditions of servitude.
The question of sex especially is becoming a past issue.
It never should have been raised at all.”
~ Catherine Weed Ward
American Amateur Photographer, 1893.
Myra Wiggins was a pioneer photographer who established herself as a much respected turn of the century artist.
Apparently she was a 5’1’’ dynamo, full of energy and determination, who garnered the attention of the great photographer and impresario of the arts, Alfred Stieglitz, who invited her to be part of his Photo Secession movement.
Her skill at lighting and composition was also noted by the burgeoning Eastman Kodak Company with whom she collaborated in a series of special advertisements for their new products. Which were beautiful tender artistic images in themselves.
“The subtle charm of art, the invigorating influence of active recreation, the joys of delving in the mysteries of chemistry and unveiling it’s photographic secrets. All or any of these are in store for the KODAKER. In them is the WITCHERY OF KODAKERY.”
Eastman Kodak advertisement
Ladies Home Journal. 1900.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXIVIdeal Laundry, New York, 1950
"Photographers are crazy, not in a bad sense. I’m not saying that they’re not likable. It’s just that the kind of person who accepts the lifestyle of a freelance photographer has to be a little (or a lot) different than the rest of society. Somebody who can accept the fact that he doesn’t know today what his next job is going to be or when he’s going to get his check, how he’s going to pay his bills, how he’s going to support a family and yet get to enjoy it with all the hassles, with all the anxieties. And we had plenty of them! But somehow we believed in the possible, we believed in hope.”
~ Arthur Leipzig
Arthur was exactly like his photographs are - gentle, kind, intelligent, sensitive, and insightful. A very humble man despite his incredible achievements. He captured an era of struggle and hardship, but never once failed to show the humanity in the streets he shot. He was inspiring to be around and I know as a teacher he must have inspired the next generation of street photographers.
He was quietly one of the most unforgettable photographers I have met. This simple but deeply felt image has always been one of my favorites.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXVAlbert Schweitzer, 1949
"Negatives are the notebooks, the jottings, the false starts, the whims, the poor drafts and the good draft but never the competed version of the work…….
The print and a proper one is the only completed photograph whether it is specifically shaded for reproduction or for a museum wall.”
~ W. Eugene Smith
W. Eugene Smith, by all the accounts I have read and knowing people who new him, was one of the most intense, driven, fanatical, impossible, genius photographers of all time. His work has always been a touchstone for me and I sought the great prints out wherever I could.
This image is one of them. Dr Albert Schweitzer, the Noble Peace Prize winner, was as equally passionate and driven in his life. A highly skilled medical doctor, a well practiced and revered musician, he seemingly did the impossible as a pastor and founder of a hospital complex in Lambarene in French Equitorial Africa to help the poor and disenfranchised. I knew quite well a celebrated English actress who when she was younger had voluntered to help him for a year having been moved by his selflessness. The stories she told about him have never left me...His deeds and words resonate now especially - “The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
This image is part of Gene Smith’s last great photo essay for Life Magazine and one of his greatest prints I have ever seen. The perfect combination of subject matter and artist resulting in a vision of human humility and purpose.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXVIJiver, Kensal Road, 1957
"I remember my excitement when I turned a corner into Southam Street. A street I have returned to again and again. I think an artist must work intuitively and let his or her attitudes be reflected by the kinds of things he or she likes or finds pictorial. Attitudes will be reflected because an artist is a kind of person who is deeply interested in people and the forces that work in our society. This implies a humanist art, but not necessarily an interest in politics.”
~ Roger Mayne
I went to spend a day with Roger Mayne in Lyme Regis many years ago because I just loved his photos, especially his ones of children. Of course I related to them being a bit of a ragamuffin myself growing up on the streets of London in that post war 50’s era where everything was in transition.
There seemed to be a spontaneity about street life...I found his images unsentimental and engaged and full of heart.
We had a great day together and before I was due to return on the train back to London I asked Roger if we could go and visit “The Cob” area where one of my favorite novels and films “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” had taken place. We started to walk around the harbor when the most amazing rain storm just happened out of the blue and we were both drenched. Well that is England for you but it still was a most special day regardless.
Great memories which flow back to me whenever I look at his wonderful photographs.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXVIIPaul Robeson, c. 1920's
"A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face. For this reason the face of an older person, perhaps not beautiful in the strictest sense is usually more appealing than the face of a younger person who has scarcely been touched by life.”
~ Doris Ulmann
One of the most beautiful fine art books ever produced in the history of photography is from photos captured by the great Doris Ulmann. She is most famous for her documentation of the Rural South but was also celebrated for her great portraits of prominent intellectuals, artists and writers.
Paul Robeson was one of the great renaissance icons of the last century. An all American professional athlete, writer, multi lingual orator(he spoke 15 languages), lawyer and basso profound concert singer and actor who was also noted for his wide ranging social justice activism.
As he once said, “As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace and no one can silence me in this.”
Another perfect pairing of artist and subject. When I saw this rare, exquisite platinum print I had to stretch for it for I knew I wouldn’t see it again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXVIIINatchez, Mississippi, U.S.A., 1947
"Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn’t go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then however, you must be very quick.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson operated on a level of intelligence and insight more than any other photographer I have ever met. He was just on another plain, analytical but so human at the same time. I have always thought the work he did in the USA from the end of the 1930’s to the end of the 1960’s produced some of the greatest least seen images of his career none more so than this heartfelt piece taken on the fly in Mississippi.
He was not particularly interested in landscape per se preferring to observe the human condition, the everyday moments of human interaction that reveal everything, the body language, the gesture.
But his was not a cold, cultural distancing stance. He brought everything he was as a well educated, sophisticated European to try and understand the power and beauty and the hope and despair that is part of this multi-layered complex country. Issues we are all still wrestling with now, so many years later.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXIXThe Western Wall, a Friday, c. 1880s
“Jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity.”
~ Yehuda Amichai
To stand on the summit of the Mount of Olives as I first did so many years ago seeing this ancient city stretched out before you is one of the most inspiring views in the world. One takes in three millennia of history, beauty and pain. It is the soul of humanity. Spiritual home to three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Felix Bonfils is considered one of the most important figures in the development of photography in the Middle East.
May this city’s magical light spread it’s glow for world peace in these troubled times and the new hopefully enlightened era to come.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXOscar Wilde, No. 16, 1882
“A picturesque subject indeed!”
~ Napoleon Sarony on meeting Oscar Wilde
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life long romance.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Portraits have always been one of my favorite genres in photography. I think I always learn something from them especially when the subject is someone of immense talent and accomplishment. The hope is, of course, that some of this might also rub off on the viewer.
Sarony was one of the most celebrated late 19th Century portrait photographers especially renowned for his portraits of stars of the American Theatre. Anyone of note turned up at his studio at 37 Union Square.
Oscar Wilde one of the great playwrights and poets was an icon in his own right. He lived a flamboyant, tempestuous life. He toured the United Sates to enormous critical success, but died destitute in Paris aged 46.
He wrote one of my favorite sentences of all time in his last days at L'hotel in Paris, the remembrance of which has been a source of laughter in these dark days.
“This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXIBK0059, 2014
"Seasons come and go, people fall in love, kids play. Many different layers overlap; the visible, the invisible, what we think we should see, what we know, what we feel with our five senses and sometimes our sixth in this layered world. I started to feel pain and sorrow more vividly but also beauty and happiness.”
~ Miho Kajioka
What is so wonderful about my professional life is that sometimes, albeit not too often, one comes across a new photographer whose works stands out as something so truly fresh and original that one feels the desire and wish to work with them. Such was the case with Miho, a young Japanese photographer from Kyoto, whose images I was really drawn to.
Her work embodies the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi," the appreciation of beauty in imperfection and transience and the Zen/Taoist belief that the essence (true nature) of an object exists in the empty space inside and around it.
Her hand-crafted prints are like little gems that one can hold in one's hands and be transported.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXIIWind Costume (Rain Girl), c. 1875
“Is it love or fancy,
I cannot tell you. All that I know is,
She, with her innocent charm has entranced me.
Almost transparently fragile and slender,
Dainty in stature, quaint little figure,
Seems to have stepped down straight from a screen.”
~ Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, Madame Butterfly. 1904.
During the 1870’s, the Austrian born Baron Von Stillfried was one of the leading foreign photographers in Yokohama, a primary port for trade and tourism.
This is an interesting studio composition where the scratches in the negative simulate rain and the impression of wind is created by means of the geisha’s kimono being pinned against the studio backdrop.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXIIITwo Reclining Female Nudes, 1920
I love Pictorialist Photography and Henry Goodwin was probally the greatest Swedish Pictorialist Photographer. He exhibited widely internationally and was invited by none other than Conde Nast, the great publisher, to visit New York in 1921.
I was seduced the moment I saw this image and like so many special images it took a long time for me to seduce the reluctant owner to part with it. It reminded me of a great French Full plate daguerrotype...
I have never seen anything like it again. Haunting.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXIVFigure and Waterfall, Iceland, 2018
“Photography is for me a kind of meditation that widens my perception of the existing and evolving world around us. I seek refuge and simplicity in my photographs and find a personal resolution and fulfillment that I sincerely hope others experience as well.”
~ Jeffrey Conley
Of course everyone today is a photographer or can be because of the ease of entry to the medium which in fact has both its blessings and curses. It’s like all of us have access to the same letters of the alphabet, but very few of us can use these same letters and write like Shakespeare or Jane Austen.
I first met Jeffrey several years ago and was impressed by the quality of his work and his determination to pursue one of the most difficult of objectives: the creative life. I keenly watched his progress and the refinement of his craft. He is that rare species, an artist following in the tradition of the great American Landscape Photographers, Watkins, Haynes, O’Sullivan, Fiske, Muybridge, Jackson, Ansel Adams but one who also displays a distinctly original voice. His images are an extension of his personality: sensitive, stoic, patient and respectful, combined with a childlike sense of wonderment.
I look at this image and am in awe of how large nature is and how small we are in comparison and importance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXVChez Mondrian, 1926, printed 1973
“I went to Piet Mondrian’s studio and instinctively tried to capture in my photographs the spirit of his paintings. He simplified, simplified, simplified. The studio with it’s symmetry dictated the composition.
I am a lucky man. I can do something with almost anything I see. The camera for me was like a little notebook, sketch book. I write with light."
~ Andre Kertesz
There is a reason certain images become iconic. On repeated viewing they still maintain their power, their fascination, their allure. “Chez Mondrian” is surely one of them.
I have looked at it, studied it, got lost in it and been amazed by it for over 40 years.
I wish I could have known him well but have met many people who did. Cartier-Bresson once told me he was the only photographer he was totally in awe of and John Szarkowski told me this wonderful story.
“It was the end of the day at MOMA on a Friday in the early 1960s... Everyone had left for the weekend... Somehow this old man in a long raincoat carrying two shopping bags manages to walk through security and comes into my office. I asked can I help you? What is your name?
He replied, “Andre Kertesz." Shocked I immediately knew who he was. He had fallen into oblivion.”
When John gave him a one man exhibition at MOMA his career thankfully was revived. To my mind he is in the pantheon of photographers.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXVISao Paulo, Brazil (Men on Rooftop), 1960
“A photograph is a moment. When you press the button it will never come back.”
~ Rene Burri
If you had to cast a globe trotting, swash buckling, man of the world sophisticated, intelligent but never pompous larger than life, tall, charismatic photo journalist with the most enormous constant smile on his face, Rene Burri would be your man.
I never saw him without his Borsalino hat... You couldn’t help but be caught up in his energy and enthusiasm for whatever project he happened to be working on. A major contributor to the hey day of all the world’s great magazines be it Life, Look, Stern, Paris Match, Du, or New York Times.
He was a witness to many of the major historical events of the mid 20th Century and it’s enduring personalities from Picasso to Che Guevara. He was a force of nature and a wonderful dining companion and raconteur par excellence but also a deeply sensitive and loyal friend.
I never tire of looking at this photograph. It is almost the perfectly composed shot with the juxtaposed graphic elements of the road, the building and the rooftop and the sublime mix of sunlight and shadow. And then of course it’s mystery which I never cease to revel in.
As the maestro says -
“Did I know those men were there when I took that photograph? No. I went up there out of curiosity. I remember taking the elevator to the roof. Buildings weren’t guarded in these days. They didn’t have guardians as they have now. It was a question of getting to the top and knocking on the door. And then saying excuse me. So I walked out onto the terrace and at that moment those guys came from nowhere and I shot 5 images.”
If I ever feel a little tired or reluctant to make another trip somewhere to pursue a project I just think of Rene and voila I’m up and running again just like he would!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXVIIRach Gia, Vietnam, 2001
Sometimes you find real beauty when you least expect it.
I was just popping in to say hi to a colleague in Europe in his gallery and by chance I saw an exhibition by a photographer I had not previously been acquainted with. That is what is so great about this medium, you never stop learning. This was the image I connected to immediately. The image was so exquisitely printed and the mood it evoked was so sublime.
Bernard was there putting the final touches to the exhibition as it was opening the following day. He told me he had begun his life as a biologist and had taken up photography seriously in the 1970’s. It was such a great pleasure to meet the creator of the image in person. I think it is called serendipity...it is the perfect image for me now. Quiet and reflective and beautiful.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXVIIIUntitled #17, 2019
“I don’t want to tell people what to see in my images. They show what I wish to express, but everyone is free to figure out what the picture says to them.”
~ Noell Oszvald
To be honest I am not someone who spends anytime on social media or even knows how to access it. I can barely use my iPhone. But a couple or years ago a fashion editor friend sent me an image that totally entranced me..This very rarely happens.
We finally tracked down the creator who was a very young Hungarian photographer living in Budapest. We saw more of her work which intrigued me. The images - self portraits - were so beautifully composed and had such a surreal, haunting quality that we stated to collaborate with Noell.
This has been like a wonderful fairy story for all of us. I think we have now enabled her to be a full time artist and I know she will have a long and productive career ahead of her. It was so wonderful to see her joy in being exhibited at Paris Photo and the work so favorably received.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXIXWhite Door, 1973
“If music is the language of the soul, photography is the language of the spirit.”
~ Oliver Gagliani
Like many celebrated photographers, like Ansel Adams, and Paul Caponigro, Oliver Gagliani started out as a serious music student whose life was changed when he discovered the power of photography after viewing a Paul Strand retrospective exhibition in his home town of San Francisco in 1946. He dedicated his life to this new found art form after that.
I loved and championed his work when I got to know him towards the end of his life. Whenever I was in San Francisco I would spend a day with him. We listened to a lot of violin sonatas and would just talk and look at images. And eat delicious Italian food together in one of his favorite haunts in South San Francisco where there was a large blue collar Italian American community. He was one of the most optimistic people I have ever known, just so positive and full of life even though he struggled to support a family through his art. He spent alot of time photographing in abandoned mining towns, “ghost towns” as he liked to call them. You sense the stories of lifes lived but the presence still exists in the sheer beauty and force of his prints. He was a true master in the darkroom.
I managed to place a large group of his prints which now reside in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art including a print of “White Door” which was always my favorite. Oliver made me appreciate the specialness of abstract photography and how primal and emotional it can be. I was honored to work with him and did my best to introduce his work to curators who were not familiar with his work, but I failed him in one respect. He was totally obsessed with Sister Wendy Beckett, the art historian, whose tv series he watched and rewatched continuously. “Peter, please get her to talk about my work. I would die happy then."
I did try, Oliver, and made many attempts to contact her, but was unsuccessful. One of my great regrets.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXSailing, c. 1920s
Born in Japan and arriving in Los Angeles at the age of 19, Mr. Kato was one of the area’s first art photographers.
He mixed in early artistic and literary circles and sadly passed away at the age of 37 years old.
His prints are extremely rare and I was fortunate to find this gem of an image in my early days of collecting.
It just transports me to another place, another time.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXIPurple Swamphen, 2005
“In the long history of humankind and animalkind too, those who have learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
~ Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
I met Laszlo several years ago when he came into the gallery and we struck up a conversation. He was very quiet and painfully shy. There seemed to be something special about him and he told me he was a photographer. Yes I have heard that line many times before but I agreed to look at his work. I quietly looked through his portfolio and was immediately very moved. Here at last was something very different and original. He was working in a 19th century cyanotype process producing such beautiful hand crafted prints that moved me. His artistic intent was about preservation and memory and loss of the animals and specimens he truly loved many of which have sadly disappeared forever.
Laszlo himself is an endangered species in the contemporary photographic arena so dominated by the tricks of the digital world. He really belongs in another century but I am so happy he is here with us now.
As he tells us - “I want to make these animals look alive. I want to catch the life that was once in them. I want to see life coming out of their eyes."
Thank you Laszlo for your dedication and passion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXIIJohn Lewis, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1963
“It is a picture of someone who knows who he is, knows what he has to do and for the rest of his life, after this picture, he did it.
He preached a message of kindness, of bringing people together."
~ Steve Shapiro
Some of the most powerful words I have ever read were written by John Lewis shortly before his passing. To be able to quietly articulate and put down with calm and grace the summation of a life’s work so beautifully and succinctly is a true gift to us all which we should cherish and adhere to.
"While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."
~ John Lewis (1940 - 2020)
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXIIIIle de La Cite, (Merci HCB), Paris, France, 1992
“Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.”
~ Michael Kenna
For many of us, travel is an essential part of our professional lives and also an enormous source of pleasure which has now been curtailed. One of my favorite cities has always been Paris and looking at this beautiful Michael Kenna image, the memories are flooding back.
"Thousands of people walk over the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris every day. A fair amount of them must look East at the iconic view of Ile de la cite and take photos. Henri Cartier-Bresson did this in 1952, and Michael Kenna in 1992. Their views are almost identical, although it is interesting to note that the Pont des Arts from which Cartier-Bresson made his photograph, was not the same bridge from which Kenna made his. The original Pont des Arts was replaced in the early eighties. Kenna’s image is square whereas Cartier-Bresson’s is horizontal. Kenna is a little to the left of where Cartier-Bresson must have stood. Cartier-Bresson would have used his hand-held Leica to capture the moment. Kenna would have used a camera on a tripod for a much longer exposure for the water has transformed into mist. The architecture has perhaps changed subtly and Kenna has included some of the Baton Rouge tourist boats on the Seine. However, the similarities of these photographs made 40 years apart outweigh the differences. It is said that when the disciple is ready, the master will appear! It is predictable then that Kenna would recognize Henri Cartier-Bresson as the master and acknowledge him as such in the title of his own photograph."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXIVSelma to Montgomery March. Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr., Municipal Airport, Alabama, 1965
We lost one of our great friends and photographers last week.
Dan Budnik had a deep concern for humanity, especially for the underdog and dedicated his life and talent to showing us this. His civil rights images are some of the most powerful ever shot. His portraits of artists are especially insightful. His natural charm and curiosity and love and respect for their work allowed him privileged access to capture the essence of these often elusive and private people. He was certainly “in the room” during his long and distinguished career. I will miss his visits to the gallery and his friendship.
Rest in peace, Dan.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXVGala Opening, Metropolitan Opera, New York City, 1950
“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”
~ Eve Arnold
Eve was diminutive in size but a giant amongst 20th Century photojournalists. Taking up photography as a single mother at the age of 38 years old, her drive and determination and not the least her prodigious talent, cast an enormous shadow that very few photographers (mostly men) found hard to keep up with.
Everyone relaxed in front of her lens and her empathy and ease with people from all professions and walks of life allowed her to gain their trust. She photographed migrant workers and movie stars, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe and Joseph McCarthy, veiled women in the Middle East and field workers in China.
But this is my favorite image of hers, shot outside the old Metropolitan Opera house in New York which evokes such glamour and style from a long lost era, which she graciously made for me a year or so before she passed away in London. She had a wonderful apartment in my favorite street in London, Mount Street, and to have tea with her and listen to her stories was a rare gift.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXVICockney Life at Elephant and Castle, January 9th, 1949
“The ideal picture tells something of the essence of life. It sums up emotion, it holds the feeling of movement, thereby implying the continuity of life. It shows some aspect of humanity, the way that the person who looks at the picture will at once recognize as startlingly true.”
~ Bert Hardy
Bert was born in London in 1913 as the eldest of 7 children in a working class family. He left school at the age of 14 years old to work as a messenger, collecting and delivering film and prints from West End chemists for a film processing company. Captivated by photography and combining his interest in cycling he began freelancing for The Bicycle magazine. There he came into contact with the new miniature 35mm cameras.
After buying a second hand Leica he worked for a photographic agency before being taken on as a staff photographer at the prestigious Picture Post in 1940, the English equivalent to Life Magazine.
Of course all collecting is autobiographical and this reminds me of my early days in London.
I just love the minutiae of English daily life especially all those cups of tea on the left hand side of the image.
Memories come flooding back.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXVIIBolshoi Ballet School, Moscow, 1958
"Documentary photojournalism’s always been my major preoccupation. In its derivation from Greek, the word photography means writing with light, and I have always striven to write with light, to inform, to enlighten, to be fair - but with passion and incisive understanding.
I have always thought of myself not as a reporter but as a commentator, a visual narrator whose personal integrity is vital. I have aimed to be a credible eyewitness. One who cares about the world he inhabits. My aim has been to share my vision with the world."
~ Cornell Capa
Cornell was a true mentor who was unknowingly responsible for a large part of my photographic education. The institution he founded, ICP, was always my first port of call on my frequent visits to New York. In that beautiful old mansion on 5th Avenue, I saw shows that fundamentally changed how I felt about the world, a testament to the power of photography. In this most stimulating of cities, there are more famous cultural institutions, but the ICP always seemed like home. Such an institution is not created by accident. It requires a guiding hand, a person of great vision and heart.
I felt honored that he trusted me to mount an exhibition of his work in my gallery and to produce a special book for him, a small token of what I owed him for his inspiration. He was always so modest and self-effacing about his own achievements as a photographer for which he dedicated 30 years of his life too.
I just love this image. It is not just a photograph of a dance class but an insight into an almost forbidden society, taken with acute intelligence at the height of the Cold War.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXVIIICoffea Liberica - Liberian Coffee, c. 1870-1879
At the gallery we love and respect the beauty of the photographic print. This rare and beautiful albumen print in perfect condition from the 1870’s is an example of the power of great 19th Century photography. Described as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the island Ceylon was conquered by the English in 1796 and for many years was at the center of the spices and trade routes. Rich in ivory, cinnamon, coffee, gems and pearls, the island became increasingly accessible during the 19th Century. Its exotic scenery was well documented by commercial photographers throughout the 19th Century.
The gallery loaned many of its Scowen prints for a major exhibition on Sri Lanka to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which was on view from 2018 - 2019.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXXXIXTriangles, 1928
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
~ Imogen Cunningham
Imogen Cunningham spent her whole life as a feisty, independent spirit, defying convention and what was expected of her. She was a woman of strong values and towards the end of her life championed many important human causes including significant contributions for the Peace Movement and anti war activities.
She was also a great GREAT photographer.
This has always been one of my favorite images of hers. It would seem that every photographer at some stage of his or her career has attempted nude studies. The familiarity of this genre has made it very hard to create something extraordinary and fresh, but Ms. Cunningham certainly did this here. The composition is beyond sublime with her subtle use of light and shapes, overlapping arms and legs playing off the triangular form of the breast and the space in between.
She also intuitively recognized that by printing it small and not indulging in the ego of the photographer to make it “big” would make it more powerful and intimate. This is truly one of the true “gems" in the history of photography.
A print of this image will be in a big retrospective of her work being mounted by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Spring 2021 when hopefully life may be more “normal” and travel to it will be safe and pleasurable.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLPhotographie Aérienne, 1950
“I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be.”
~ Robert Doisneau
Robert was like his photographs, full of life and charm and “joie de vivre." Even though he had a tough childhood and as a freelance photographer often had to scramble for work to support his passion and family he was always positive like so many of his contemporaries like Willy Ronis and Edouard Boubat. They were all so important to me in sustaining the gallery and my enthusiasm for photography.
A great “flanneur," the street was his landscape, particularly where “normal” people congregated, the bistros, the parks and those wonderful street fairs where hard-working people went to escape the toughness of their lives to relax and dream. None so more than this couple who can believe for an instant that they are together flying over Paris in a small bi plane. I love photographs within photographs and here the photographer will be able to give them a permanent silver memory of this special trip they made together for the rest of their lives.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLIYves Saint-Laurent, Paris, 1964
Marc Riboud was one of the all-time great 20th Century photo journalists in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, traveling the world in search of ground-breaking stories. But sometimes as all photographers know a great image can be found on your doorstep.
Several years ago I was visiting Marc’s studio in Paris and by accident whilst looking through other material to curate an exhibition for the gallery I came upon this portrait of the great French designer Yves St. Laurent. I had seen many other photographs of him before. He had been shot by everyone including Avedon but this struck me as truly special. It was made even more meaningful for me when I found out it had been taken on the first day of YSL starting his own fashion house after having left working for Christian Dior.
Marc captured so brilliantly the style, intensity and ambition of the man dressed impeccably with his working sketches in front of him. As YSL said himself, “Fashions fade, style is eternal."
It is such a positive image of a new beginning, re-invention and hope for the future, something we are all wishing for now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLIICharing Cross Road [puddle jumper], 1937
“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life
for there is in London all that life can afford.”
~ Samuel Johnson, 1777
Wolf Suschitsky brought a very sophisticated European eye to his newly adopted country in the 1930’s. He lived to be 104 years old and had a distinguished career as a much respected cinematographer as well as his great photographic work. He was erudite and compassionate and had old world manners. Whenever I went to visit him in his Little Venice flat in London I would always make a new discovery. Spurned on by his strong Viennese coffee and strudel he always served.
I love the spirit of this image, a woman on her way to a secret destination jumping over a puddle to get there in haste. It tells an unknown story that we can all relate to in someway and I must say even though I am incredibly spoilt living in the perfect California climate I do miss the London rain and the other gifts to be found in that special City. Mr. Johnson was right and what he said in 1777 is still true today.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLIIIAt the Old Well of Acoma, 1904
“The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other……..consequently the information that be gathered,
for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.”
~ Edward Sheriff Curtis
Edward Curtis, apart from being a truly great photographer, is also one of the most remarkable and colorful personalities in the history of photography. Completely driven in his passion to record and document a way of life he knew was about to disappear he endured such personal and financial hardship to fulfill his vision. It took him 30 years to complete the project with many missteps and disappointments along the way that cost him his marriage and health. But the end result is exceptional and his legacy is secure. He captured his subjects with such reverence and respect and showed us their humanity.
This is a particular favorite of mine, one Acoma girl quietly sitting on a rock watching as her friend or family member fills a pottery vessel with water from a pool. What can be a more simple vista for an image, but it is filled with so many other levels of meaning for a way of life soon to be transformed.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLIVMiho Kajioka (b. 1973)
“Happiness, sadness, beauty and tragedy only exist in our minds.
Everything as it is.”
~ Miho Kajioka
In the tumultuous times we are all living through I am increasing drawn back into Japanese culture and tradition. I find some solace there to help me understand the incomprehensible and the feelings of uncertainty we are all truly experiencing. I am seeking something ethereal and calming in an era where everything seems fragile and vulnerable.
I find comfort and beauty in Miho Kajioka’s exquisitely beautiful and minimalist prints, especially this one. Four tiny images of lips are so powerful when hung together. Miho often writes and talks about the ritual of The Tea Ceremony and how important it is in developing her imagery. According to Kakuzo Okakura's “The Book of Tea” - “It is essentially a worship of the imperfect, it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
As Miho says, “The philosophy of tea ceremony, it is like a gate where people go through and then they see the world differently with new aspects."
This is something we are all searching for now.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLVHelsinki, Finland (Embrace), 1983
“I think small things are more beautiful."
~ Pentti Sammallahti
I must say I completely agree with our friend Pentti. Whenever I see giant prints I must say there is something that makes we want to run away and hide under a rock. I get a headache because I feel I am being beat over the head with a hammer and the image is screaming out at me, “Look how important I am!"
I much prefer the subtlety when I hold a beautifully hand-crafted gem in my hand. Such was the feeling when I first saw a print of “The Embrace." I guess I am a hopeless romantic but it is very hard to create a “romantic image” that seems fresh and alive and not forced or cliched or contrived.
This is truly a special photograph which I look at everyday as it makes me happy. I feel I am there in the moment with this couple and I am caught up in their story because the emotion it emanates is truly universal and much needed. The print is just sublime in it’s tonal range and depth and power.
Thank you, Pentti.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLVIPetit's Mobil Station, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 1974 (Printed 2007)
“It takes the passage of time before an image of a
commonplace subject can be assessed.
The great difficulty of what I attempt is seeing beyond the moment; the everydayness of life gets in the way of the eternal.”
~ George Tice
George Tice is one of the true greats in American photography and this image is one of the all time great Classic American photographs.
I have loved it since I first arrived in America in 1979. The subject may seem commonplace. A gas station in New Jersey, where most of his great images have been shot, but it is compelling and haunting.
George has not travelled much in his career. He has found a wealth of subject matter right on his doorstep. This image emanates a great feeling of mood and layers of meaning and even a slight melancholy and sense of loneliness in the same way that Edward Hopper’s best paintings affect you. It is in the physical beauty of the print.
George has honed his darkroom skills over six decades of an intense work ethic like no one else I have seen. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? How do you make a print that just glows and staggers you in it’s profound beauty? Experience and in a god given rare talent and eye..
This is a great example of the poetics of place. Through George’s work I have come to understand America better and appreciate all it’s myriad small miracles and moments.
Thank you George for almost 40 years of inspiration and friendship.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLVIIFrank Lloyd Wright, 1954
“Photography helps people to see.”
~ Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott was one of the great 20th Century photographers. Her initial ambition was to become a sculptor but after living in Europe in the 1920’s and ending up in Paris as the great Man Ray’s apprentice and protégé she discovered her real gift, that of photography.
She returned to New York and produced one of her great projects “Changing New York,” one of the great architectural documents in the history of photography.
This is a rare, almost unknown “gem” in her esteemed body of work that I first came across almost 25 years ago by accident and have loved it ever since. In a way she was almost destined to meet probably the greatest architect of the 20th Century Frank Lloyd Wright in his last years. Given her great gift of bringing buildings alive. The great man was visiting New York staying at the Plaza Hotel preparing for what turned out be his last great project, the breathtaking, innovative monument to culture and one of my favorite buildings to visit, The Guggenheim Museum. Here he is almost a great piece of architecture himself, grand, stately but with a vulnerability old age inevitably brings.
He is staring out the window towards where his building will be with a touch of pathos that Abbott skillfully brings out knowing that this will be his last important project.
He died in 1959, six months before his final masterpiece opened, a fitting tribute to his genius.
As he once said “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLVIIIJapanese Women, c. 1870's
“To collect photographs is to collect the world.”
~ Susan Sontag On Photography
In my early collecting days I had, and still do, a great passion for 19th Century Travel Photography.
I had a visual wanderlust and desire to learn about other countries and their peoples. This gateway was given to me by an amazing group of photographers who, undeterred by the hardships of travel and often burdened by cumbersome photographic equipment, set forth across the globe in search of adventure and discovery which they brought back to the West.
These intrepid explorers were sometimes soldiers, diplomats, scientists and even missionaries. Their first preoccupation was recording the landscape, archaeological sites and famous architectural monuments before turning their lenses on the native peoples they encountered.
What makes this image special for me is that the photographer shot this image from behind adding such a great aura of mystery and beauty about these women.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXLIXAntiquary Windows, Beijing, China, 1965
"Photography cannot change the world, but it can show the world, especially when the world is changing.”
~ Marc Riboud
No country in the world has changed more in the 20th and 21st Century than China. It is changing daily as I write these words.
Marc Riboud was there with his great eye and talent and his camera returning on multiple trips over four decades. He traveled its city’s streets and villages and captured its cultures and traditions and its almost ironical embrace of Western Capitalism from it’s original ideology.
This is I think is his greatest Chinese image. Its composition is superb and sophisticated and its layers of story telling profound. One can almost say with confidence that all human life is here peopled with various generations. Its humanity and power is universal, a testament to its greatness as a photograph.
As the Chinese proverb says, “Prefer the chance moment to the chosen moment.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLMarlene Dietrich, c. 1935/Printed 1935
“Glamour is assurance. It is a kind of knowing that you are right in every way, mentally and physically and in appearance and that whatever the occasion or the situation you are equal to it.”
~ Marlene Dietrich
Eugene Robert Richee was an exceptional portrait photographer and helped define the era of Hollywood glamour in it’s hey day. He headed the Paramount Pictures Portait studio for 20 years and then moved to the Warner Brothers lot. He captured the beauty and appeal of such classic actors as Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, Carol Lombard Louise Brooks, Veronica Lake, Anna Mae Wong and Gary Cooper amongst others. Truly a who’s who of the old Hollywood whose seminal movies we still admire and respect to this day as we stream online.
Marlene Dietrich was a one of kind actor and performer from her role as Lola -Lola in "The Blue Angel" to her unforgettable performance in “Judgement at Nuremberg” co-starring with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster and Maximillian Schell. I have seen many great portraits of Dietrich over the years by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn and Alfred Eisenstaedt but none of them come close to the physical beauty of this print which is a seductive as any of Dietrich’s poses.
As I have mentioned before in these posts collecting is very much autobiographical and I am sure this was one of the reasons I purchased this image. As a kid growing up in London I was an obsessive autograph collector. Hey it required no money apart from a couple of dollars for a book. I mainly collected autographs of all the great Jazz musicians who played the city Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles. Security was so nonexistent back then. A skinny kid could slip back stage without much problem. One day I read that Marlene Dietrich was performing that week on her farewell singing tour. Off I went, scored a cheap ticket in the “Gods”/upper balcony. An incredible performance even though her voice was fading, the allure was still there. I rush backstage. Unusual tight security. No way I can slip in. Large crowd outside holding their autograph books. Can’t get anywhere close. She signs a few books and then is escorted into her limo.
For some mad reason I run to the far exit where the car must go through, the car stops and I approach the car, book in hand and you cannot make the following up.
I go to the rear of the car..No one else is there. Dietrich is in the back. I press the book against the window with what must have been some pleading look and like a scene from a movie she rolls the window down. I hand her the book. She signs it and hands it back. Rolls the window back up and the car speeds off.
I guess once a collector, always a collector.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLINewcastle United Football Club Changing Room, 1939
“The most valid and proper use of a camera is as a means of recording aspects of human behavior. As time passes, social documentary photographs gain in interest, where as the “beautiful” photograph….progressively loses interest, becomes boring.”
~ Humphrey Spender
Humphrey Spender trained to become an architect at the prestigious London school of architecture the AIA but never practiced. Instead he became an esteemed self taught photographer. He became part of a group of creatives jointly called “Mass Observation” who banded together with the philosophy that “normal” working class people knew nothing about their next door neighbors and they created an impressive body of work to record the reality of daily life in Britain. He subsequently became a photojournalist for important English newspapers like the Daily Mirror and Picture Post before giving up photography to become an artist and textile designer.
His work is relatively unknown and scarce. He tended to conceal his small format 35mm camera justifying his position as “the unobserved observer." This image is such a great “slice of life." His work is in distinguished museums including the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT.
A few years ago I had one of these prints on display in the gallery and a gentleman came in and said, “My friend is a collector and I’d like to buy this for his birthday. I know he will love it.”
It turned out his friend was Elton John whom as we all know has one of the world’s great private collections of photography.
So glad it found a loving home.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLIIThree Friends, Beijing, 1989
“Don Hong-Oai's photographs portray a deep inner world where imagination thrives and dreams are created. His masterful craftsmanship creates a reality where anything is possible.”
~ Michael Kenna, Photographer
My experience with Don Hong-Oai and his work has been like nothing else I have ever encountered in my career.
Don was born in China, brought up in Vietnam and found himself in his later years living in San Francisco in the city’s Chinatown district. I had never seen anything quite like his work before. They were exquisitely printed toned silver prints that resembled in their beauty traditional Chinese paintings and scrolls and also in their subject matter of cranes, willows and tiny boats on misty lakes. Each image was created through his acute imagination. They existed in reality but he was using multiple negatives having taken them in different locations at different times and making a combination print of his chosen elements. All by hand. Don never knew what a computer was and this was way before “photoshop” existed.
He spoke no English and we worked with him via an interpreter. He would make us some prints. We would give him a large amount of money then he would disappear back to China for 2-3 years. In the meantime collectors would just be so excited and moved by the imagery and they would all sell very quickly, many clients buying multiple images because they couldn’t choose just one or two. He would return to San Francisco make us some more prints and then would disappear again and this pattern would continue over twenty plus years. He had zero interest in a typical trajectory of a Western artist’s career. He just wanted to be free to create his work. Which of course was why they were so special.
We would exhibit his work at important art fairs and the audience reaction was nothing like I had seen before. Collectors were literally fighting for the prints. Normally very well behaved, sophisticated and well-mannered people would suddenly get extremely agitated and cry out, “No I saw it first, it's mine!”
There was never enough prints to satisfy the demand as each one took Don an enormous amount of time to make and each one because of the subtleties of toning was basically unique.
They are exquisite examples of Asian Pictorialism and I have never seen anything quite like them since he passed away in 2004.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLIIIPipe and Glasses, Paris, 1926
“I cannot tell you why you respond so emotionally to my pictures…….many people tell me that certain images have this effect on them…..I can’t explain this…..I only know that I photograph what I feel.”
~ Andre Kertész
Kertész loved Paris and Paris loved him back in return by giving him so many gifts on a daily basis and it was undoubtedly one of the most productive periods in his long career.
In art historical terms, “Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses” would be considered a “still life” but for me it is the complete opposite. It is actually full of life. I’m immediately transported to the bustling bohemian life of Paris in the 1920’s in all its energy and creativity where Kertész was included as a prominent figure along with Leger, Chagall, Calder, Brancusi and of course his colleague Mondrian.
It is an image of friendship and mutual respect of two of the greatest 20th Century artists. Kertész has distilled the essence of Mondrian’s credo “Simplify, simplify, simplify” into one of the greatest modernist images in the history of the medium.
Its power lies in the relationship of one object to another and through this visual dialogue gives the viewer a mental picture of the owner of these artifacts and the connection between the photographer to his real subject matter.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLIVL'homme qui court, Paris, 1953
“I realized very young that photography would be my means of expression. I was more visual than intellectual. I was not very good at studying. I left high school. I left on a summer day on a bicycle.”
~ Sabine Weiss
Well Sabine left on a bicycle from her small Swiss town to Geneva and never returned. She apprenticed to a photographer there for a couple of years then she did the gutsy thing of without knowing anyone or having any money she moved to Paris and apprenticed to a fashion photographer, Willy Maywald. After some years there when she thought she was ready to go out into the precarious world of freelance photography, that is exactly what she did and slowly established herself and never looked back. She worked nonstop on assignment with ferocious intensity solving compositional and technical problems for all the major magazines and her commercial clients, but she still managed to do her own self-directed work and created a body of humanist imagery equal to all her contemporaries like Boubat, Doisneau, Ronis, Izis and others.
When you sit with her, even at the age of 96 years old, the intensity and drive for perfection is still there and her passion is contagious.
I love night imagery and this is one of the best and one of her greatest images. She enlisted her husband, the American painter Hugo Weiss, to venture out into that Paris cold night air and she came back with some magic. It is almost like a frame from a great Film Noir "nouvelle vague” piece of French Cinema, full of mystery and suspense. Is he running away from someone or towards a special assignation? We may never know but that is part of its allure especially from this viewer.
As Sabine says about her work, “All the pictures I take are entirely instant. What I like is to make an instant picture. Even if there are no people, I like the click, click, click. I never wait.”
I only hope when I am 96 years old I will be as full of energy and spirit as Sabine is.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLVProprietor of the 'Caracoles' Restaurant, Barcelona, 1963
“In reality, all we photographers photograph is ourselves in the other - all the time.”
~ Evelyn Hofer
Evelyn Hofer was one of the great, quiet unsung heroines of portrait photography. She was a protégé of the great Alexey Brodovitch who knew a thing or two about selecting the great photographers. She led a very productive life collaborating with distinguished writers providing insightful images to illuminate their texts like Mary McCarthy “The Stones of Florence”, VS Pritchett “London Perceived” and “The Presence of Spain” by Jan Morris.
She produced her own great body of work which reminds me of August Sander. The well respected New York art critic Hilton Kramer once famously quipped that Evelyn was “The most famous unknown photographer in America.”
I love this image. It just puts a smile on my face every time I look at it especially if you are a “foodie." Just simple human joy. I had never been to Barcelona before until a few years ago where I was working with some Spanish photographers. I just fell in love with the city and found it hard to leave.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLVIDolores del Rio, c. 1940s
“It’s all so simple - no one believes me - you strike a pose, then you light it. Then you clown around and get some action in the expressions.
Then you shoot.”
~ George Hurrell
I’m not so sure I quite believe what George says. If it were that easy there would have been a busload of Hurrells dominating the field but there were not. He was pretty much in a class of his own as is evidenced by this extraordinary portrait of Dolores Del Rio, the pioneer crossover Hollywood Latina Actress Movie star of whom her friend Marlene Dietrich once said was “The most beautiful woman to ever to set foot in Hollywood.” She had an almost mythical status and was painted by Diego Rivera and photographed by many great photographers including Edward Steichen but this is certainly the most beautiful image of her I’ve seen. It has a special resonance for me as I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago the amazing house that was designed for her and her production designer husband Cedric Gibbons by Douglas Honnold and George Vernon Russell in Santa Monica Canyon in 1929. I’ve never seen a house quite like it.
It is hard to imagine that in the 1930’s and 1940’s there was no tv, no internet, no instagram or social media, no streaming and people flocked to the movies and read magazines to find their entertainment. And the images Hurrell and his contemporaries produced was the way people found out what was “Au Courant."
A simpler time indeed.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLVIIThe West Wind, 1915
“My pictures tell of my freedom of soul, of my emancipation from fear.
I wanted to go and be free.”
~ Anne Brigman
Anne Brigman was a revolutionary, pioneer female photographer in the early 1900’s. No less an eye than Alfred Stieglitz, the great photographer and evangelist for photography, promoted her work on the East Coast and invited her to join his elite, highly selected group of Photo Secessionist photographers.
She was closely attuned to the power of the natural landscape and posed herself and her sister and her friends primarily in sublime High Sierra mountain locations and sea settings. An early believer of 'healthy body, healthy mind' leading to nothing less than female empowerment.
They have such a primal life force to them, unparalleled by anyone doing anything else like it at the time. Her work gave her the confidence to leave a restricting and unhappy marriage and allowed her to forge a newfound freedom and self confidence and to embark on a fulfilling career as a much respected artist. In her later years she also became a well known poet and a leader in the San Francisco bohemian art community.
From her 1949 “Songs of a Pagan” book of poems this is my favorite one.
“I have left my mountains
I have come to the sea
Gone are my peaks and granite wilds
And the glorious twist of the juniper tree.
My heart cries back for the sheer, wild heights
For the rocky trails and the starry nights
For the campfire’s glow and the icy stream
For the whisper of winds and the cougar’s scream.
I have come to the shore
With its age-old song
Its endless horizons and terrible deeps….
I have come to the ocean….and I belong.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLVIIIPowell Street, San Francisco, 1947
“I feel that technique is very important, though it serves only the same function as grammar to a writer. In other words, all the technique in the world won’t make you a great photographer any more than mastering grammar will make you a fine writer. But these help you communicate, which is an important part of what photography is all about.”
~ Max Yavno
San Francisco has always been a magical city for me. I get to ditch my car and walk, walk, walk even up those steep, steep hills. I have had the opportunity to go there often working with great photographers based there like Ruth Bernhard and Fred Lyon but also to exhibit at wonderful art fairs there and visit sophisticated, tasteful clients.
Max Yavno certainly had great technique. But also a great eye for composition. You see it in this, one of his greatest images and one of the greatest photographs ever shot there. The sense of precision, symmetry, shape and patterns flow throughout the image. Max started his life as a social worker and ended up being the President of the Photo League in New York before moving West so his sense of empathy was ingrained into his art.
He captures the hustle and bustle of the city and even after living with this image for many years I always notice something fresh in it. It is truly multi-layered with many stories flowing into each other. Honestly all human life is here.
As his good friend and fellow great photographer, Aaron Siskind, said about him -
“In a lifetime of devotion to excellence, his passion for the well-made object has moved craft to art, transformed the ordinary to a luminous, ordered presence.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLIXHot Shot East Bound at Laeger, West Virginia, 1956
“The smoke and the fire and the speed, the action and the sound, and everything that goes together, the steam engine is the most beautiful machine that we ever made, there's just nothing like it.”
~ O. Winston Link
Ogle Winston Link, commonly known as O. Winston Link, was a passionate, commercial photographer. He was obsessed with steam engines and was romantic and nostalgic for an era and a way of life that he knew instinctively was about to disappear foraging with small town America, so he wanted to preserve the memory of for future generations. He gave up his day job, closed his studio and used his savings to buy himself two years of freedom to pursue his dream project. His technical skill and talent was to realize that if you shoot at night the images would be more impactful.
“Hot Shot” is his “Moonrise Over Hernandez,” his most sought after and classic image.
Several years ago the UK Broadcaster Channel 4 made a wonderful documentary about Winston and they tracked down the couple in the car 50 years later who patiently modeled for Link. They were still together. The romance of the movies. A lost era for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXMartinique, 1972
“The most valuable things in a life are a man’s memories. And they are priceless.”
~ Andre Kertész
Andre Kertész took this haunting photograph when he was 78 years old. He was on holiday with his wife Elizabeth in Martinique.
The man from the next door hotel room stepped out onto the shared balcony separated by a common glazed glass partition. He took the photo of his neighbor looking out to the sea.
I have always interpreted this image as a self portrait within a portrait, a personal story within a story. I sense Andre contemplating his own life, his thoughts of his past as well as his future.
It’s primal and eternal.
I think it is one of the most moving images in the history of photography and one of Kertész’s greatest photographs. It is proof that a truly great artist still maintains the spark of genius however old he or she may get.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXIThe Babe Bows Out, June 13, 1948
“I’m just a human interest photographer.”
~ Nat Fein
Being born in London I knew a little bit about soccer and cricket but not much about baseball. We used to play as kids a variant known as “rounders. But when I moved to America I soon became aware of the importance of the sport of baseball, not just as a game but as a huge part of the ethos and mythology of America. It has fascinated me ever since reinforced by the wonderful Ken Burns “Baseball” series on PBS with it’s brilliant use of photography.
Even I know about the iconic status of the Babe and how important this photograph is. It was the first Sports photograph to win a Pulitzer Prize.
June 13th, 1948 was a special day in the history of the game. It was the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium and the day Babe Ruth was being honored and his celebrated Number 3 was being retired. A special day for Nat Fein too. He was a well respected staff member of the New York Herald Tribune. The usual key sports photographer had called in sick that morning. The editor tells Nat to get over to the stadium and get something great for us.
Babe was in bad shape, having been battling cancer for several months before. Emotion filled the stadium. The crowd sensed that this would probably be the last time they would see their hero in public. All the press photographers gathered in front of him. Nat Fein’s talent and instinct told him to do something less obvious...so he shot him from behind and made history.
Babe died two months later...
I love baseball now. I just love the spirit of it. It’s really about life with all it’s beauty and pain.
And as the Babe said himself, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from coming up to bat.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXIILa Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge, London, 1953
“Many photographers are naturally shy people. Hiding behind a camera helps them over come their shyness.”
~ Thurston Hopkins
Thurston Hopkins and his wonderful wife and fellow photographer, Grace Robertson, were always so gracious whenever I came to visit them in their cottage in Seaford, near the West Sussex coast. I would always discover new gems from their archives.
This photo has always put a smile on my face. I asked Thurston how it came to be and he told me the story. He was in Knightsbridge and wanted to pick up some special treats for Grace from the celebrated food hall at Harrods, the posh, fancy, high-end department store. He picked up the surprise delights and as he left the store he saw this parked car with the chauffeur and large poodle inside. Like all great photographers he was always prepared for the unexpected “gift” life sometimes gives you and he was ready to receive it.
One can only imagine a mental picture of the dog and driver’s owner. I always think of it as the “Driving Miss Daisy” shot.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXIIIGeorgia O'Keeffe, 1956
“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his or her prize.”
~ Yousuf Karsh
This is one of Karsh’s great great portraits. Many photographers sought Georgia O’Keefe out because of her accomplishments and stature as one the 20th Century’s most beloved and iconic artists. Her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, set the bar very high. Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn amongst many others also did beautiful portraits. But this image is in a class of its own.
It seems that O’Keeffe unconsciously pushed Karsh into a new arena. Gone were any extra lights. He embraced the natural light which flowed through her home and it wasn’t just any ordinary light.
It was the clear diamond light almost unique to the Southwest that spread everywhere. No auxiliary light was needed.
O’Keeffe first spent a summer in 1929 working in New Mexico and then moved there permanently in 1949 after her husband had passed away and she had cleared up his affairs. There was no separation between her art and her life. They lived in equilibrium. She was a minimalist/modernist par excellence. She dressed simply and was serious and elemental. Karsh captures this in a supremely intuitive way. That was his great talent. I always notice something new every time I look at this image.
Today as I write this it is the strength and beauty of her hands. Two artists in tandem creating art of a different kind. I am reminded of Ms. O’Keeffe’s words.
“One works I suppose because it is the most interesting thing one knows how to do.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXIVWhite Castle, Route #1, Rahway, New Jersey, 1973
“I love what I do. Whether it is in the darkroom or out taking pictures.”
~ George Tice
I have seen grown adults cry in front of this photograph.
In my pre-Covid lifestyle we would be exhibiting at 6+ art fairs a year, all over the world.
Particularly in our US fairs whenever this image was on display it would elicit the most emotional outburst. People would tell us how their parents used to take them on a special outing to eat at a White Castle, especially our East Coast clients. It seemed to be one of their most vivid childhood recollections, like getting their first dog or bicycle.
So this is not just a beautiful architectural rendition. So many stories emanate from these walls. One of the reasons, of course, is that it is an exquisitely hand-crafted “tour de force” print made in the 20th Century. George is a true master in the dark room. The print glows and is so luminous. It has a stillness and almost “sad beauty” to it much as an Edward Hopper painting. In 1921 a young man Billy Ingram from Wichita, Kansas borrowed $700 from his family and set up the first one. His innovation was to produce small square hamburgers so easy to eat they were dubbed “sliders” and sold by the stacks. All pre-vegan, artisanal “farm-to-table” as we say now.
Yes, it evokes another world and another time but this image is a prime example of photography as memory.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXVBob Dylan Behind the SNCC Office, Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963
"The pictures do not ask you to help these people, but something much more difficult: to be briefly, intensely aware of their existence, an existence as real and significant as your own. I wanted to change history and preserve humanity. But in the process I changed myself and
preserved my own.”
~ Danny Lyon
I find it hard to believe that this photograph was taken 57 years ago. It seems as potent and as relevant as if it had been shot only yesterday. Many of the circumstances surrounding the photograph have not changed that much. It seems the core issues are still to be resolved.
Danny Lyon is a much respected photojournalist. I think he would not feel too comfortable being called an artist but rather be known as a social activist. He was a staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee photographing civil rights demonstrations against segregation in the American South.
Bob Dylan had just given a concert in a cotton field. He sang “Only a Pawn in Their Game” about the murder of NAACP leader Medgar Evers. After the concert he was relaxing on the back porch of the SNCC office. Danny seized the moment.
So much to think about in this image, in its multi-layered story telling. I’m reminded of Bob Dylan’s words,
“A man is successful if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to do.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXVISnow Geese in Flight with Reflection of the Sun over Buena Vista Lake, California, 1953
“To show people the ugly doesn’t accomplish much. I came to the conclusion that I can’t really make much of a change in society’s attitude towards land use by just showing them what’s wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion you have to show them what’s right and inspire them.”
~ William Garnett
William Garnett was a one-of-a-kind photographer. Most landscape photographers are firmly rooted on the ground, patiently waiting for the right cloud or the right wave or the right light to approach their lens. William took to the skies to explore his vision. He did not have that luxury of time. He had to make split second decisions and react immediately to changing light conditions and disappearing shapes as everything was forever changing immediately around him. Previously, most aerial photography was just functional in nature and was done for strictly utilitarian purposes - mapping and surveying, urban planning or at times of war important surveillance of the enemy.
Garnett turned aerial photography into art like no one before or since...
There is a wonderful sense of wonder about his images. He too, like Ansel Adams, was an early proponent of the importance of protecting the environment and proper land use. His chief collaborator was his Cessna 170-13 small plane which he had owned since 1956.
Ansel Adams summed up his friend’s accomplishments so well,
“It may be trite to think of his photographs as revelations but that is exactly what they are.”
And as William said,
“To fly in a small plane and see the variety of beauty the USA has to offer is a thrilling experience. Indeed with such splendor spread out before me I often feel guilty that I am up there alone."
He may have been alone, but he left us an extraordinary body of work to dream on and be amazed by.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXVIITorii Gate, Study 3, Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido, Japan, 2014
“During long exposures, the world changes. Rivers flow, planes fly by, clouds pass and the Earth’s position relative to the stars is different. This accumulation of light, time and movement, impossible for the human eye to take in, can be recorded on film. Real becomes surreal, which is wonderful.”
~ Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna’s photographs from Japan are among some of his strongest. The photographs made of the isolated Torii gates at sea have such a strong and haunting presence, yet are so calming and surreal. The Japanese Torii gate symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.
Kenna knows no limits with his subject matter, yet his approach to photographing has always been a Zen-like, holistic process of connecting to the world around him. Using minimalism and long camera exposures, he captures the passing of time within a single image, creating very surreal, haunting and “dream-like” scenes of nature.
I’ve always felt that a photographer’s lasting importance is directly tied to the influence on other photographers created by their work. Michael Kenna’s vision has been surprisingly consistent for nearly five decades. Not only has his work influenced thousands of photographers, but also the indistinguishable “look” to his photographs can even be found mimicked with Instagram filters and digital camera pre-set styles. His work has often been imitated, yet that does not diminish the lasting importance of his photographs. Kenna remains one step ahead with his unique vision and continues to be one of the most prolific photographers working today.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXVIIIOpening Night at the Opera, San Francisco, 1949
“In my city we like to think of ourselves as risk-taking, edge-of-the continent explorers, rakish and louche. For example, we go from sleazy to elegance and find that logical. San Francisco is a city noted for it’s liberal attitude where anything goes.
I just love this place.”
~ Fred Lyon
Eugene Atget was the great chronicler of Paris, Berenice Abbott was the great chronicler of New York and Fred Lyon has very much the city of San Francisco to his own. No one has captured this special place with all its magic and mood better than Fred has.
Today is Fred’s 96th birthday and I want to salute his special talent and accomplishments not only as a great photographer but also as an extraordinary human being. His amazing generosity of spirit which he has exuded over a long career, more than 7+ decades in the making, has been a source of constant inspiration to me since we first met many years ago. His eye and his heart have enriched everyone who have been so fortunate to have known him, no more so than myself, his biggest fan.
He inhabits “The cool, grey city of love “ as his good friend, Herb Caen, once described their hometown.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXIXNewcastle, Banwell, Scotswood, 1963
“Don’t be influenced by others. Shoot what you like.”
~ Colin Jones
The film and musical of “Billy Elliott” could have been based on Colin Jones’s life. Colin came from a tough London working class, turbulent background and found some kind of stability by being enrolled in the Royal Ballet training school and then invited into the Royal Ballet proper and traveled the world as a dancer with that distinguished much respected company. On his travels he discovered photography and found he had a natural talent for it and started working with The Observer newspaper as a valued photojournalist in 1962. He was a natural story teller and was particularly attracted to stories about working class communities in Northern England. He knew he was living through a time of change that England was going through and that many of these communities would no longer survive the onslaught of modernization.
This is my favorite image of his which is not judgmental but has a deep sense of humanity and a moment of universal joy. The scene could have come out of a novel of D.H. Lawrence or George Orwell or out of all those wonderful English movies of the 1960’s that my generation grew up with, “Room at the Top," “This Sporting Life," "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner” and “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXAirstream at Monument Valley, Arizona, 1979
“I came to believe that there was something more meaningful going on – something stronger and more compelling, something that seemed almost woven into the fabric of the American psyche.”
~ Roger Minick
Now more than ever, people are flocking to the outdoors and National Parks in hopes of finding some temporary escape from our current global crisis. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury or ability to travel at this time. I’ve always found some transporting qualities within the photographs that hang on the walls of my home. Looking at them can certainly give that same feeling of being in a new place and in better times, and brings with it a sense of hope and being. It’s to be expected that we view art and photographs through our current lens of the times we live in.
Roger Minick’s photograph of the Airstream at Monument Valley conjures up those feelings of exploration and the open road. This photograph was part of his “Sightseer Series” made during the 1970s-80s. While he had often viewed tourists as a nuisance, he began to see them as perhaps an interesting subject, a representation of a uniquely American phenomenon. This photograph embodies, in its fullest sense, the American roads.
Minick’s photograph is quiet and still. You can almost feel the raking sunlight at your back and the heat radiating off the chrome surface of the Airstream. You sense the billowing rain clouds forming in the distance. The dirt road you’re on is well worn from other travellers along the same path, yet the journey you’re on is all your own.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXILifesavers, 1930
“Light is the pencil that draws the picture I’m trying to create. Where I put the light shows what it was that intrigued me in the first place, what I would like to reveal. The most beautiful object is not beautiful unless the light reveals what is there.”
~ Ruth Bernhard
Ruth Bernhard moved from Berlin to New York in 1927 at the invitation of her father, Lucian Bernhard, who was a successful graphic designer. Ruth’s first job in New York was as a darkroom assistant to Ralph Steiner. She disliked the work and was soon let go. With $90 of severance pay she purchased her first 8x10 view camera in 1929.
Bernhard’s first serious photograph was Lifesavers in 1930. One can discern clearly in this photograph the visual influence of New York in the late 1920’s and the Art Deco and surrealist art movements happening during that era. Bernhard simply recalled going to Woolworths and buying things to photograph at home. The photograph of the Lifesavers, she said, was inspired by the busy traffic on Fifth Avenue.
Lifesavers quickly gained the interest of Vogue's art director, Dr. M.F. Agha, and he arranged for its publication in 1931, making it Bernhard’s first published image.
From her very first photograph to her last, from her still lifes to her iconic female nudes, Ruth had a very clear vision of every image she was creating. Ruth never would “take” a photograph, but rather she would “make” a photograph. She was a creator and an artist in every possible sense.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXIIChalk Games, New York City, 1950
“Of course, the ‘good old days” were not all sweetness and light. There was poverty, racism, corruption, and violence, then as now, but somehow we all believed in the possible. We believed in hope.”
~ Arthur Leipzig
Arthur shot this image, one of his greatest, in Prospect Place in Brooklyn. He was a product of the Photo League, a group of idealistic photographers who all wanted to use the medium of photography to make the world a better place. They were all concerned with social justice. Most were the children of working class immigrants as Arthur was.
His work is full of warmth and emotion and back then the streets were the only place that children could escape their cramped and restricted surroundings. Arthur knew that New York was like theater all the time. There is always something going on and he wanted to be part of it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXIIIOtto Frank, father of Anne Frank, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, The Netherland, 1960
“A preoccupation with abstraction combined with an interest in the documentation of people in their natural surroundings was the basis upon which I built my approach to portraiture.”
~ Arnold Newman
I enjoyed a close relationship with Arnold. He loved to talk, ”garrulous” might be the most apt word. But he had great stories to tell and he always gave me great insight into the many artists he had known and that I admired, often over lunch at “Cafe des Artistes” his favorite restaurant in New York conveniently located in the apartment building he lived in. I just respected his work so much.
One day he called me and told me he had to give a lecture in San Diego at The Museum of Photographic Arts which was mounting a large exhibition for him. If he came to see me first in Santa Monica would I drive him there and make sure all went smoothly? So for a couple of days I became his driver, roadie, bodyguard, “minder” and protector from his multiple fans. I was happy to do it as I knew I would be the recipient of even more stories about his illustrious sitters and life...
This has always been one of his most powerful portraits for me. Arnold was on vacation in The Netherlands in 1960. The editor of Look magazine calls him and implores him to go the opening of the Anne Frank House and get a portrait of Otto Frank, Anne’s surviving father who had worked so hard to make this happen as a tribute to his daughter. Arnold agrees to interrupt his vacation but Otto Frank refuses to have his portrait taken given the occasion is so emotional for him. Arnold persists and finally his powers of persuasion and charm and his credentials prevail and Otto Frank reluctantly agrees. But it is not working. Arnold asks Otto to accompany him alone to the attic where the family hid in secret during the war until they were arrested and sent to the Camps. Otto was the sole survivor. They climb to the top of the attic together but it is still not working out. Suddenly the church bells that Anne wrote about in her diaries start to ring out and Otto overcome with even more emotion leans against the support beams lost in thought and Arnold takes the shot.
He told me that afterwards the two just hugged each other and cried together for several minutes.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXIVJohn Lennon, The Dakota, NYC, 1975
“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love,
when you love or how you love.
It matters only that you love.”
~ John Lennon (1940-1980)
It’s hard to imagine that John Lennon would have been 80 years old this coming Dec. 8th had he not been murdered forty years ago. The thought that he was only 40 years old when he died is so sobering and sad.
For people of my generation he was so much an iconic symbol of our own idealism and dreams. His presence and music spoke to us. His vulnerability echoed our own.
Brian’s beautiful image taken on the rooftop of The Dakota on February 25th, 1975 is not only a love poem to this special soul but also a love poem to the city of New York which became a refuge and home to Lennon’s restless spirit as it has been home to so many creative minds who voluntarily or involuntarily ended up living and being nurtured there in the hope of finding some stability in their turbulent lives.
The Elvis pin Lennon is wearing on his jacket’s lapel makes the image for me. John always acknowledged Elvis’s inspiration as one of the reasons he wanted to become a rock’n roller.
I can’t imagine not being able to listen to Lennon’s music and never stop wondering what else he would have accomplished if he were still living...
As Brian says,
“He was authentic. He was sincere. He was centered. He was a stand up guy.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXVSatchel Paige's Hands, 1962
“I’m just a fly on the wall.”
~ Steve Shapiro
“Age is a question of mind over matter.
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
~ Satchel Paige
I love quiet images that tell complex stories, such is the case with this Steve Shapiro "portrait" of Satchel Paige except it’s not a portrait in the traditional sense of the word. You don’t see his face. It’s not just a photograph of a pair of hands either. These are Satchel Paige’s hands, that belonged to probably the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball. But it is also a key Civil Rights image because Paige’s life is entwined with the history of the Civil Right’s Movement. And for that matter American History as a whole. Denied entry to the Major Leagues because of his race he began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1926. His life was not easy, born into a poor family of 12 children he eked out a living barnstorming the country playing anywhere he could get a gig. He soon became that league’s most famous showman because of his natural talent, self-discipline and dedication. He was a huge draw for both white and black fans. But after all the acclaim that was heaped on him by his white fans after the game was over there were still places he couldn’t eat at or hotels where he was not allowed to sleep in. He finally broke through to the Major Leagues as a 42 year old rookie after Jackie Robinson paved the way and he was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, but that took so many years. His story is both inspiring and heartbreaking and equally important to reflect on today.
Joe DiMaggio called him, “The best I ever faced and the fastest,” and Paige admitted “I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXVIColeus, San Francisco, CA, 1975
"The techniques of photography are not very hard to master. The difficult thing is to become a sentient, cognitive human being. If anyone is going to be good at this thing, they must push themselves to levels of sensory awareness that are beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.”
~ Jack Welpott
Like so many photographers over the past century, Don Worth found his way into photography when he discovered the work of Ansel Adams. In the early 1950s, meeting Adams would only further solidify his lifelong career in photography. Worth became Ansel’s personal assistant in 1956 until 1960. The two maintained a close friendship until Adams death in 1984. Like many disciples of Adams, Don took to photographing the natural landscape, however he found his true passion in his work when he turned his camera towards the more intimate details of plants.
Growing up on a small farm in Iowa, Worth was cultivating exotic plants by the age of ten. His childhood experiences shaped his artistic sensibilities and early love for exotic horticulture. Later in life, Don’s house in Mill Valley, CA would become a flourishing half-acre botanical oasis. His personal gardens served as his private retreat and the focus of hundreds of his photographs.
Don’s photographs have an incisive clarity and quiet, meditative mood. His photographs are a departure beyond the world of normal appearances and transport us into a reflective harmony with nature that only Worth could reveal with his camera.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXVIIUnderwater Swimmer, 1917
“My work is inspired by my life. I express myself through my photographs. Everything that surrounds me provokes my feelings.”
~ Andre Kertesz
This is probably Kertesz’s earliest masterpiece and an example of what greatness was yet to come.
Born in Hungary, he was drafted into the army in 1914 and was wounded in Poland in 1916. The bullet injury to his right arm left it partially paralyzed and required that he undergo daily physical therapy which included swimming. Watching his fellow patients he noticed the distortions in the water, and the play of sunlight on it which was constantly changing.
I always have to remind myself, to my surprise, that this image was taken in 1917. It looks like it could have been shot yesterday it is beyond modernist and has the abstract tension of a figure apparently motionless but about to move.
Several years ago the wonderful David Hockney visited the gallery. As we know he has also taken many great photographs and knows a lot about photography and is steeped in the history of art. Underwater Swimmer was on the wall and I couldn’t resist the temptation to politely say, “I know you know this image, right?" As I am sure consciously or unconsciously it must have influenced his celebrated California pool paintings. He gave me a smile like a Cheshire Cat.
It reminds me of the famous quote which has been attributed originally to Picasso,
“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”