I am pleased to introduce a new online series called the Power of Photography, highlighting hope, peace, and love in the world. With every entry, I'll share personal reflections on my favorite images. I invite you to enjoy and reflect on these works during this time.
Peace & Love,
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVIILes Roses, 1998
“When I shoot flowers or any still life or fashion, colour forces me to be more abstract. I have to make the effort to transpose it in order to get closer to what it was that first impressed me. For me, black and white is closer to introspection, to memories, to loneliness and loss.
I don’t see the same in color - it’s another language, a living language."
~ Sarah Moon
I have seen many photographs of roses over my career, but I have never quite seen one like this.
Known primarily for her celebrated fashion work her body of work is in fact diverse in terms of its subject matter. Whatever Sarah decides to focus on she always creates something special and unique. I saw this photograph whilst visiting her in her studio one day. I was immediately drawn to its kinetic power and beauty. It stopped me in my tracks. As I sat mesmerized I was thinking how could such a simple image have this profound effect on me. I then decided to switch off my analytic brain and just reveled in its aura. I walked back to my hotel in a trance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVITony Bennett, New York City, NY, 1950
“Herman is my favorite artist of any technique. He’s a painter with his camera and he makes it look so effortless. His timing is as great as any Charlie Parker solo or Lester Young or Count Basie beat. Herman’s work will live on and on.”
~ Tony Bennett
I have been listening to a lot of Tony Bennett singing recently. It just transports me out of current stresses and concerns. In fact I’m listening to him singing “Fly me to the Moon” as I write these few words.
His mastery of the Great American Songbook is unrivaled and he has led such a long and interesting life. A man of great sensitivity to political concerns and human empathy he also marched with Martin Luther King in Selma in the 1960’s.
He was one of the last people Herman spoke to just before Herman passed away in 2010. Two giants, two great friends.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVMarie Helene et Le Poisson Rouge, 1957
Georges’s talent was recognized early on by the talented Helene Lazareff, the creative director of French Elle. She encouraged his ideas to take these glorious models out into the streets of Paris away from the normal stilted shots which emanated from the rigid studio settings. With his charm and great sense of humor he elicited wonderful “performances” from them as if he were directing a movie. He had a great sense of style and design and really was the key photographer to emerge from that glorious era of French Elle. He made fashion fun and every great model at the time wanted to work with him.
After he retired from photography he left Paris to open a beautiful small hotel in the French countryside where he was equally successful, a nice coda to a busy and hectic career.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIVNenet Nomads (Packing Sleigh) South Yamal Region, Siberia, Russia, 2011
"There comes a moment when it is no longer you who takes the photograph, but receives the way to do it quite naturally and fully.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Each of Salgado’s epic projects is meticulously researched for years by Sebastião and his wife Lelía before they ever set foot on location to shoot. They found out about this group of Nenet Nomads who survive by herding reindeer. This is the coldest place on earth and I remember Sebastião telling me the story of how he went to enormous lengths to have the warmest coat that could be scientifically custom-made in order to withstand the elements so he could fulfill his project.
He gets there and it is unbelievably cold. Beyond belief and expectations. He is shivering and cannot work. The Nenets see what is happening. Of course no verbal communication just human connection. They cut him a reindeer coat like they wear and voila it works and he can then work and he creates some of the most beautiful images found in the project. This image was produced big and was at the entrance to the The Science Museum’s presentation of “Genesis” in London where it was launched several years ago.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIIIPyhäjärvi, Finland (Horse & Barn), 1982
“I wait for photographs like a pointer dog. It is a question of luck and circumstance. I prefer the winter, the worse the weather the better the photograph will be.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
In 1959, Pentti Sammallahti visited the famous “The Family of Man" exhibition at the Helsinki Hall with his father and announced that he knew what he wanted to do with his life: to be a photographer. And this simple prescient pronouncement proved to be so true and we have the results of his prodigious talent to enjoy.
Pentti has created a trove of photographic gems like this one. I have never seen an image that has so many exquisite levels of story telling all in such perfect balance. It is a wonder to behold.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIIEye of Love #532, 1952
“If I had been a writer I would probably have gone to the nearest cafe to write love poems. To me the photographs just showed my appreciation of her.”
~ René Groebli
At 93 years old, dear René still exudes passion and energy for his chosen medium.
His “magnum opus”, “The Eye of Love” still resonates with such power and tenderness 70 years later since the photos were first shot on his honeymoon in a small hotel in Paris with his beloved wife.
The images to my mind and eye are up there with Stieglitz’s photos of O’Keeffe, Edward Weston’s photos of Charis Wilson and Harry Callahan’s photos of Eleanor. The wife as muse.
Rene’s photos show more than what is objectively visible. He managed to capture the emotions, the intimacy and the love for his wife Rita. They are just heartbreakingly beautiful.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIHollywood Premiere, 1955
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
~ Robert Frank
James Danziger here, guest writing for Peter. The photograph above is one of 20 pictures now on display in our new show “Robert Frank – Rarities”. All shot during Frank’s travels around America in the mid 1950s, most (unlike this picture) are being exhibited for the first time, but in selecting just one, it’s hard to pass this up!
When Robert Frank arrived in Los Angeles in late 1955, he had given up a well-paying job as a fashion photographer to embark on what was to become his magnum opus, photographing all of America through the eyes of a recent emigré. He had been driving for weeks, and while passing through Arkansas he had been stopped by the police who asked if he were Jewish and jailed him overnight intimating he was a Communist spy. So it was a great relief to get to Los Angeles.
He rented an apartment in the Hollywood Hills for two months and ventured out into what for him was a strange new land that mixed the glamorous and the poor. As always, he tried to capture every social class and in this picture “Movie Premiere, Hollywood” his selective focus juxtaposed the characters in the background against the beautiful starlet in the foreground. You look once and see the actress (unidentified to this day in case anyone can let us know). You look twice and see the varied expressions of the fans on who the picture is focused. It’s pure Frank – a poem read twice.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCTuscany, 1958
“Henri Cartier-Bresson gave me one of his books and dedicated it
“With friendship and admiration” Being admired by Cartier-Bresson I could have died the next morning and would have died happy.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Yes it is true that Henri Cartier-Bresson held Gianni in the highest regard and included him in his inaugural exhibition “My Hundred Favorite Photographs” when he opened his foundation in Paris in 2003 a year before Henri passed away.
He was not the only great photographer I have known who considers Gianni one of the greats. Sebastiao Salgado, Elliott Erwitt, Ferdinando Scianna and Willy Ronis amongst many other greats expressed the same sentiment to me. To be held in such high regard by so many of one’s fellow artists is rare indeed.
It’s easy to see why. His body of work taken over 70 years is varied in it’s scope and subject matter.
This beautiful human landscape with its mix of light and shadow is so subtle in its composition and emanates such reverence and love for the land and nature.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIXLeaf and Ferns, Hawaii, 1979
"With the greatest satisfaction I note Brett’s interest in photography. He is doing better work at 14 years old than I did at 30 years old. To have someone close to me, working so excellently, with an assured future is a happiness hardly expected.”
~ Edward Weston writing about his son, Brett Weston Nov. 5th, 1926
After a long and productive career Brett Weston spent his final years on the island of Hawaii. That island gave him one of the most fulfilling third acts in the History of Art. The environment there gave him such strength and creative impulse to produce powerful work equal to the other highly fertile periods of his life. Nowhere is there a better example of this than in his 1979 image of “Leaf and Ferns”.
It just radiates energy and beauty. In his real life Brett reduced everything to its essentials even to his living environment. One of the lessons he learned from his father so that he could focus on his art without cluttering one’s life with too many unnecessary possessions or distractions. He had such a great eye for balancing forms and light. Shooting in the field and printing in his darkroom occupied most of his long and creative life.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVIIIInterlude at The Glyndebourne Opera, East Sussex, 1953
“When I am in England I feel like I am sitting in a very comfortable armchair and I am looking at the stage and all these actors and I can applaud them. But all these people have their own set of rules but I am not supposed to applaud and I am not allowed to jump on the stage and play with them. But I still enjoy the country tremendously."
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
These witty words by Henri are a good indication of his wry sense of humor. Yes the English are something else. I think I’m allowed to say this as I was born there and still have a UK passport. The real world around them can be falling apart but they have this wonderful way of carrying on regardless. Is it that stiff upper lip?
I went to Sussex University which was nearby Glyndbourne Opera House. Each year they would offer some free tickets to us poor students on a lottery basis and I was fortunate to win a pair one year. It is a real high society occasion. An opera house set within a beautiful country estate taking place in the summer season. Everyone dresses up to the nines and the interval is two hours long where the attendees break for an elegant dinner served outside on the lawn.
There will always be an England. There will always be Henri Cartier-Bresson
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVIIDust Storm, Rajasthan, India (Vertical), 1983
“If you want to be a photographer first leave home.”
~ Steve McCurry
I don’t know anyone who has a greater wanderlust than Steve McCurry. He must be in the Guinness Book of Records with more frequent flyer miles than any photographer in the history of the medium. I think he has been to India alone more than 80-90 times in his 40 plus year career. He has always been attracted to the cacophony of noise, colors and smells that make up Indian daily life.
He was working there in the height of the dry season driving along a highway in Rajasthan when his taxi was forced to stop by a sudden dust storm. Out of the window he saw a group of workers protecting each other from the choking dust and just jumped out the cab like an automatic reflex and captured one of his most sought after images.
A great example I think of “Chance favors the prepared mind”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVINew York City [Three men in tutu], 1956
“I don’t think you can create luck. You’re either lucky or you’re not. I don’t know if it’s really luck or if it’s just curiosity. I think the main ingredient or a main ingredient for photography is curiosity. If you’re curious enough and if you get up in the morning and go out and take pictures, you’re likely to be more lucky than if you just stay at home.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
For sure one needs some comic relief in these times. I have found some recently in watching the French Netflix series “Call My Agent”. It made me think of this genius photograph by Elliott Erwitt, one of the wittiest and most seriously intelligent photographers I have ever met. When I need a laugh I just look at this image.
New York, like Los Angeles, is a magnet for anyone who dreams of making it in the performing arts. Hundreds of thousands of aspiring actors pour in each day with the hope of making it on Broadway or the movies. For most it will always be a just a dream, but to survive before that success happens they have to make a living. I’m not sure what day job these guys taking a moment of escape at a bar have but one can only imagine. But that thought has always kept me amused and engaged in their endeavors with the hope that their break finally comes for them.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVPaul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the Kitchen of their Beverly Hills Home, 1958
“The most relaxed couple I have ever worked with. When I went to knock on the door to get in to do the shooting, it was like being invited into some old friend's house. They were so warm and so relaxed and so easygoing - here have some popcorn, get yourself a beer, open up the refrigerator. We spent a little bit of time shooting together and it was one of the most fun assignments that I had. Absolutely no star ego at all, real people.”
~ Sid Avery
Sid had a unique personality. You couldn’t help but warm towards him. Friendly and unpretentious. It is easy to understand that sometimes, often “difficult” personalties within the film industry became someone else in his presence. This was how he managed to create such an extraordinary body of work in the “golden age” of Hollywood before television altered the entertainment landscape for ever.
Here is a typical example of his talent to eliminate the artifice of “stardom” and bring it into the “natural”. It’s one of my favorites. We see the great Paul Newman cracking eggs and making breakfast for his wife Joanne Woodward whilst she is standing there with her favorite dog. It could be us right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIVFaye Dunaway (Legs), 1968
“At one point I began crying because he was being so heartbreakingly kind to me. All my life I’ve been the sort of person who could shatter easily……Jerry somehow managed to reach me, to let me know that in this I could trust him, that the photos would be wonderful, that it would be ok.”
~ Faye Dunaway
Jerry Schatzberg has had an amazing career both as great film director with masterpieces such as “The Panic in Needle Park” and the amazing “Scarecrow” with Pacino and Hackman, one of my all time favorite films, and as an equally distinguished photographer. As in both mediums it is all about empathy and storytelling and heart. There is something so powerful in this portrait of Faye Dunaway that makes it special in its apparent simplicity. It reveals so much about its subject, her beauty and strength and not the least her vulnerability as anyone one who embarks on the profession of being an actor exudes. Jerry has captured it all here.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIIIAvenue Simon Bolivar, Paris, 1950
“I have never sought out the extraordinary or the scoop. I looked at what complimented my life. The beauty of the ordinary was always the source of my greatest emotions.”
~ Willy Ronis
I have always been in awe of this image of Willy’s. It certainly contains the most number of uncontrollable variables of all his images and for that matter anyone else’s. He told me once that he nearly pressed the shutter so many times that winter afternoon in 1950.
First he noticed the dray being pulled by the horse. Then the worker repairing the traffic light. Then the cobbler chatting to the pharmacist in the white coat. He was about to shoot when out of the blue he told me the mother and child came from behind where he was standing unexpectedly. Then he knew instinctively he might have something special that captured daily life in Paris, his favorite subject matter. They certainly center the image. The skipping light patterns and shadows are beautiful and lyrical, like an urban ballet.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIIThe Cost of Living: Barbara Mullen in a dress by Omar Kiam for Ben Reig, New york, 1950
“I’m completely tied up with softness, fragility, and the personal problems of a feminine world.”
~ Lillian Bassman
What distinguishes Lillian from so many of her contemporaries in the fashion world during her key 1950’s creative period was her interest in creating a new kind of vision aside from what the camera saw. She developed a bold graphic style often floating images in space, dodging and burning, playing with selective focus and bleaching her prints. In this sense she was completely self taught and experimental right from the beginning of her career. She never apprenticed herself to any studio photographer but was an autodidact in the darkroom. She never constrained herself by what was “normal” and “traditional” and almost expected by the magazine or commercial clients she ended up working for. She certainly marched to the beat of her own drum and was steadfast in her vision. The effects she sought were pretty unorthodox for the time and not really being used by anyone else. That’s what makes her work so special.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIMarilyn Monroe, on the Nevada desert going over her lines for a difficult scene she is about to play with Clark Gable in the film, "The Misfits" by John Huston, 1960
“If it is true as someone has said of her, that all her life she pursued a search for a missing person - herself - then perhaps Marilyn, a creature of myth and illusion, found herself not in the fleeting film image but in the photograph, which would seem to give her concrete proof of her being. She could hold it in her hand, hang it on the wall, show it off. It gave her back herself. She was making love to herself, and we the photographers, were there to record it.”
~ Eve Arnold
Eve Arnold, a pioneering woman in her own right, enjoyed a long professional relationship with Marilyn Monroe, a much photographed icon. But she captured the most “human” and “intimate” photographs of this most elusive of stars. Gone are the traditional “glamour” shots one comes to accept of Hollywood portraiture. Because she had her confidence, Eve allowed her to reveal more of her essence and vulnerability than her male photographers.
It is well known that the set of “The Misfits” was a much troubled production. It turned out to be the last film for both Monroe and Clark Gable. The Magnum Agency was given the exclusive right to photograph the film and be on set.
What makes this image one of the most haunting for me to come from this time is that one never quite knows whether Marilyn is lost in thought as the character she is portraying or whether she was truly lost as herself in her own life. Such is its power, whether it is the truth or the artifice of cinema.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXThe Promenade, Brooklyn, 1954
"New York is a city I love, a city that forgives nothing but accepts everyone - a place of a thousand varied moods and vistas, of countless faces in a moving crowd, each one talking to you.”
~ Louis Stettner
This is one of Louis’s most celebrated New York images. You can feel the sizzling temperature and humidity rising on one of those tough August heat wave days.
It works as a narrative on so many levels. Each one of us can interpret its hidden meanings as we choose. It is the individual confronting the epic city, taking a break from its intensity for a few minutes or maybe a couple of hours to recharge in order to meet its challenges yet to come. But powerful it surely is.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIXThe Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons Outtake, London, 1966
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
~ Mick Jagger
This has always been one of my favorite music images. The Rolling Stones are of course part of my youth and Mick’s sage credo has always resonated with me. But this image was shot in one of my favorite spots in the world, Primrose Hill, on the edge of Regent’s Park in London. I always go back there to spend some quiet reflective time each time I am back in the United Kingdom. I discovered it when I was very young before it became hip and trendy. You stand on the top of the hill and it has such a grand, enveloping vista of this special city with all its hopes and dreams and challenges all in front of you. I always wanted to live there but so far that has eluded me.
I’m sure it has a special meaning for Gered too. He had connected with the Stones’ seminal manger Andrew Loog Oldham and after an all night recording session he suggested that location to the guys to shot a cover for their upcoming album.
Bleary-eyed they pile into their cars and go there. Gered’s genius that early morning was to construct a filter of black card, glass and Vaseline and attach it to the 50mm lens on his Hasselblad 500c camera giving the image its somewhat otherworldly out of body experience and sense of abstraction. The fact that it was bitterly cold that morning added another element.
It certainly advanced Gered’s career as he was asked to go on tour with the Stones that year to the States. He is the most normal, intelligent, easy to work with music photographer I have ever met.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIIIPuppy Love, Coney Island Boardwalk, c. 1951
“I surely am pursuing happiness with my camera. When I take pictures of children, I’m not trying to capture their cuteness or emerging beauty .I seek to capture the essence of childhood. I see the child as a chrysalis of a future adult.”
~ Martin Elkort
I love Marty’s line here “I see the child as a chrysalis of a future adult". He certainly nailed it here. The body language of the two children tells it all. The girl a little nervous and the boy nervous too as can be seen in the way his legs are somewhat twisted like a pretzel despite his apparent confidence and coolness. Coney Island was such a refuge and still is for so many New Yorkers trying to escape the pressures of the city and in the Summer the unbearable heat.
Like the other areas of the city a sense of genuine community prevailed in the 1950’s when this image was taken.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIIBoy in Mid Flight, Jodhpur, India, 2005
“Travel has to be a free flow-an improvised voyage to discovery. You have to budget time for random wandering.”
~ Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry was wandering around Jodhpur shortly after the celebrated annual Holi Festival of Colors had taken place. That is the reason the red handprints were still on the wall on the left side of the image. There was lots of activity going on in that alleyway - vendors, animals, human flow back and forth. Steve spent a few hours there got some ok shots then went back to his hotel to rest. Something told him he should go back again the next day to see what else he could find. His instinct was right. After a couple more hours out of the blue comes this little boy running with such joy in his heart and voila Steve got it and created one of his most special images. Always trust your instincts that’s what I say.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIMarthe, 1997
“One charges the moment with that which one feels and its value grows because we recognize it. It is close to feelings of being in love.”
~ Sarah Moon
Nudes have always fascinated photographers since the birth of photography. But like any subject matter that is often visited and revisited ad infinitum it is extremely difficult to create something truly special.
But here is one of those images. Sarah rarely shows the entire figure in her work. The face is often hidden or the head cropped out which adds to the image's mystery and otherworldliness. This is one of the most moving and sensuous images I have ever seen. Did Marthe really exist or is she just a dream?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVLe Manege De Mr. Barre, 1955
"I don’t usually give out advise or recipes, but you must let the person looking at the photograph go some of the way to finishing it. You should offer them a seed that will grow and open up their minds.”
~ Robert Doisneau
Robert gives wise words of advice here. It is even more appropriate with such an image as this.
It is open to so many interpretations and I am sure all of us have our own. It has held my interest and admiration since I first came across it so many years ago. I never felt comfortable asking a “what does it mean to you?” question of Robert. For a great piece of art like this it is truly unnecessary.
For me it has always been a great meditation on youth and how quickly it passes. I don’t find it sad but deeply human. Its strength is that Robert shot it in the rain. It would not have that depth of feeling or any real meaning at all if it had been shot in bright light with children playing on the carousel together. That would have been just an ordinary image as opposed to a supremely sublime one and one of his greatest photographs.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIVThe Outskirts of Guatemala City, [girl with candy apples] Guatemala, 1978
“I work alone. Humans are incredible when you come alone. They will receive you, they accept you, they protect you, they give you all the things that you need and they teach you all the things you must know.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Sebastião and his wife Lélia were forced to leave their homeland of Brazil because of the clamp down by the political dictatorship at the time and the subsequent intense repression of individuals who did not toe the line.
They left for France to start a new life. It was there almost by accident Sebastião discovered the power of photography and changed his profession from being a highly respected economist to a fledgling photographer.
As anyone who has experienced exile and the loss of one’s roots there is always some kind of pull to return to them. He and Lélia carefully planned his first major project traveling to Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Guatemala which resulted in his first powerful book “Other Americas”.
The power of these images is succinctly summed up by his friend Alan Ridding,
“Salgado has sought out a lost corner of the Americas and he has made it a prism through which the entire continent can be viewed. A philosophy of life is caught in a look, an entire way of life frozen in a moment."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIIIMalcolm X, 1961
“If you are careful with people, they will offer you part of themselves."
~ Eve Arnold
“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."
~ Malcolm X. 1925-1965
Eve was a fireball. She was the first woman photographer to join the prestigious Magnum photo agency, very much a “boys” club at the time but her drive and determination, not to mention her prodigious talent, allowed her to hold her own and excel at every story she covered. Her reportage on Malcolm X, the controversial and charismatic leader of the Nation of Islam, was one of her best. After much hard work and persistence she was given unparalleled access to him and followed him for a year from Washington to New York to Chicago where this image was taken. Like many skilled politicians he was aware how important image was to serve his goals as the public face of his organization.
As Eve articulated,
“I am always delighted by the manipulation that goes on between subject and photographer when the subject knows about the camera and how it can best be used to his or her advantage. Malcolm was brilliant at this silent collaboration. He knew his needs, his wants, his best points and how to get me to give him what he required."
He was assassinated on Feb 21st, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City at the age of 40 years old and this is the image that has defined his legacy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIIGirl Playing in Light Circles, Penn Station, NY, 1956
"Matisse has said, “Often it takes the artist a long time to understand what he or she has done." I believe it is also a way of finding out a great deal about yourself. The photographs that remain strong and alive seem to be when your vision and reality are so inexorably wedded together that it is impossible to separate them.”
~ Louis Stettner
It seems incredible to me as a lover of great architecture how such a beautiful building such as the original Penn Station could have been demolished in the name of progress. It was a truly beautiful structure of marble and iron that surely bestowed some of its elegance and dignity on every passerby or waiting passenger.
Well at least we have this memory of this small child playing hopscotch and dancing in the circles of light in this majestic structure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXITuscany, 1968
"Photography is never objective.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
I think many great photographers will admit to this. They may seem on the surface to be objective and especially where social documentary and factual imagery is concerned but in many instances their photographs are a clear reflection of themselves, of who they really are. It seems to be so true of many of the great Italian photographers perhaps more so than any other nationality. Gianni is deeply rooted to his unique culture and its traditions but also to the power of its landscape as is evidenced here in this beautiful, textured image of the Tuscan countryside that means so much to him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXThe Afghan Girl, Sharbut Gula, Pakistan, 1984
“Most of my photos are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.”
~ Steve McCurry
This is one of the most recognized images in the history of photography often referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of photos. However many times you have seen it reproduced in books and magazines when you are actually standing in front of a real print of it, it is hard to resist its power and allure.
In 1984, with the Soviet war in Afghanistan raging, refugee camps set up along the Afghan -Pakistan border were quickly filling. As increasing numbers of the displaced arrived, Steve was asked by National Geographic to explore and document these refugee settlements. In one make shift girls’ classroom in a camp near Peshawar, he captured an image that would come to define a story, a conflict and a people.
This is what great social documentary photographers like Steve strive for throughout their careers, to create an image that connects the viewer from the specific to the universal revealing our common humanity.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIXAudrey Hepburn during the filming of "Sabrina" by Billy Wilder, 1954
“Photography occurs more readily when the photographer relinquishes self-consciousness for a state of humility and childlike wonderment. Then there is a greater freshness and purity in what you capture on film.”
~ Dennis Stock
“A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and disease and gives them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.”
~ Audrey Hepburn. 1929-1993
Last night I was watching the great new documentary “Audrey: More than an Icon” on the life of the great Audrey Hepburn. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a very serious, deep probing, intense documentary on many aspects of her life that have previously been overlooked such as her early childhood, her romantic relationships and the very moving third act of her great work for UNICEF helping children in need. It brought back of course memories of all her wonderful movies from “Breakfast at Tiffanys”, “Sabrina”, “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady” and underrated “gems” like “Robin and Marian”. A superb documentary film directed by Helena Coan.
It also brought back good memories of working with Dennis Stock, an intense and often demanding, in a good way, Magnum Photographer. Many stimulating discussions on the nature of photography and what it was like working in what seemed like a really bygone era before the media explosion we are accustomed to now.
His photograph of Audrey on the set of “Sabrina” is still my favorite image of her. Of course it was hard to take a bad shot of her but there is something about the mood and the composition of this one that is very hard to beat.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIIIMary Jane Russell, Harper's Bazaar, New York (Hat), 1950
“You know, it’s a long creative life and if you do the same thing every day, it doesn’t work. You don’t become creative anymore.”
~ Lillian Bassman
“It’s magical what she does. No one else in the history of photography has made visible that heart-breaking invisible place between the appearance and disappearance of things.”
~ Richard Avedon on Lillian Bassman
No one can create that special mood like Lillian does. This photograph looks timeless. It could have been taken in the 1920’s in a Paris Atelier or in the 1930’s in a Prague loft or in the 1940’s in a freezing Russian painting studio.
How she transforms this beautiful hat with that moving gesture of the hand and the closed eyes looking down in an intimate, private thought, which on the surface seems like a simple image, into such a powerful and haunting photograph is pure magic and a testament to her unique talent. It just doesn’t look like a photograph. It could be a Seurat charcoal drawing. It is one of my favorite images of hers which I look at everyday and am still transported by it after all these years.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIIMaya Angelou, 1969
Maya Angelou had just completed her first memoir,
“I know Why The Caged Bird Sings” when I visited her in 1970. I was captivated by the calm confidence of this emotionally secure woman.
In my work, I always seek out the expression of the spirit. And for portraits, questions help establish a bridge. On this day, the bridge turned out be Maya’s experience living in Ghana. As she wove spell-binding tales, the joy brought on by her recollections disclosed a life lived fully.
Her face and hands expressed it all.”
~ Chester Higgins Jr.
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
“You may shoot me
With your words
You may cut me
With your eyes
You may kill me
With your hatefulness
Like life. I’ll rise”
~ Dr. Maya Angelou. 1928-2014
Our dear friend, Chester Higgins Jr., has practiced his craft for over four decades now to documenting the life and culture of the African diaspora. He is a great photographer full of passion and humility whose life force is completely contagious.
This is a perfect marriage of artist and subject. Dr. Angelou was a true renaissance woman whose long and storied life in the cause of exposing injustice has inspired so many new generations of like minded travelers through her writings and activities.
When I revisited this image recently, in these challenging times, I felt a surge of joy and hope for the lessons she has taught us. She lived her life through her teachings and her beautiful voice and the three simple magical words with which she constantly employed us to listen to, “Just do Right”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIEastern Part of the Brooks Range, Alaska, USA (Vertical), 2009
“In “Genesis," my camera allowed nature to speak to me.
And it was my privilege to listen.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
There was a time when we lived in equilibrium with nature, when we respected the earth and our fellow animals before we killed them in pursuit of our so-called “development” and “progress” and “economic prosperity."
This is what Sebastião’s epic body of work “Genesis” showed us. We have managed as a species to destroy over half of the world’s natural resources and these images are a subtle wake up call for us to save the remaining half before it is too late.
Photos in themselves cannot save the world but they can, at the very least, foster the discussion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVMargie Cato, Junior Bazaar (White Gloves/White Dress), Circa 1950
“It’s about the body, it’s about the gesture, the feeling of being a woman.
I can’t intellectualize what I do, and I don’t.
A lot of it is purely instinctual.”
~ Lillian Bassman
It is not really fair to categorize Lillian as just a “fashion photographer." She was so much more than that. She was truly an artist. The legendary graphic designer Alexey Brodovitch clearly recognized that early on in her career and was the first great creative to really encourage and mentor her. He understood her painterly talents, her understanding of shapes and the power of light and shadow and movement to create what was clearly a signature aesthetic style. You always know when you are standing next to a Lillian Bassman photograph. She always expressed the beauty of women in her own way. She has inspired a whole new generation of women artists. Her work ethic was contagious. She started to work hard in her teens and never really stopped till she passed away at 94 years old. I remember visiting her a few months before she died. She was excited to show me a new image she was working on like a jubilant kid. An incredible life force and inspiration.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIVParis, 1954
“I think I am quite a romantic.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni certainly is. When you look at his great body of work this is pretty evident and what is so wonderful is he is not afraid to admit it. That’s what makes him so special and why I have always been attracted to his work. It’s not something you hear many photographers say today. He spent some formative time in Paris in the 1950’s leaving his native subject matter behind to challenge himself. But people are always at the forefront of his imagery as in this tender, simple family moment where each of the family members are involved in doing their own thing but in perfect harmony.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIIIGetting Ready, Vaganova School, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2001
“I love movement in photography very much.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Arthur Elgort is a well known and much respected fashion photographer. What is less acknowledged is that he has created a formidable body of work on dance. My favorite dance images of his are those he took in Russia at the famed Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.
He was given special access to the school which was the place where many of the greats in the history of dance began including Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
He never focused on the normal performance images but took us backstage and behind the scenes at rehearsal where all the real hard work is done. The hallowed studios are stark and arresting and the detail of the worn wooden floors and the chipping plaster give us such an insight into the dedication these dancers have to possess to be successful. They are like beautiful Degas paintings.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIITaj and Train, India, 1983
"By chance I was walking down the track from Agra Fort Station. I could see the Taj in the background of this enormous rail yard, so I waited and suddenly they started moving this steam locomotive in front of it.You can feel the continuity between past and present.”
~ Steve McCurry
This is an image steeped in history. It could almost have been taken in the 19th Century by one of the great pioneers of early travel photography like Samuel Bourne or John Murray. In itself it is a historical document. These old steams engines have themselves now disappeared, replaced by electric trains in the rush to modernize contemporary India.
But it has true grandeur and a testament to Steve’s magical eye as he juxtaposes the majesty of the Taj Mahal with it’s shimmering white curves in the early morning warm tones of the rising sun against the colossal black rusting steam engine symbolising the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. And of course the red pagri completes the composition.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIJoni Mitchell, Skating on Lake Mendota, 1976
“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I could teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on”
© Joni Mitchell
I love Joni Mitchell and this is my favorite song of hers. It’s a sensation I think a lot of us feel right now. Oh to just be able to skate away from all the current issues we are all dealing with.
Joel Bernstein is a brilliant photographer and has created some of the most iconic music images ever of musicians such as Springsteen, Neil Young and Graham Nash. He was somewhat of a child prodigy and first photographed Joni when he was 15 years old. He first heard Joni perform this song “River” at a concert in November 1969 within days of her composing it. The power of the lyrics immediately suggested to him a black and white photo of her dressed in black skating down a frozen river looking back over her shoulder. It was a dream that could not be realized at the time.
Flash forward Joel is on tour with Joni. The tour ends abruptly in Madison, Wisconsin. They have a little time on their hands after a frantic schedule. They are sitting together in the hotel restaurant while a blizzard is swirling over the frozen lake outside. Joel convinces her to finally fulfill his vision and to “Carpe Diem." Music and photo history are made. The images were used in the gatefold for her celebrated album “Hejira.”
The images became an embodiment of Joni’s spirit and the eternal beauty of her music and the power of photography to evoke such a primal emotion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXDior, Paris, 1958
“My photos are my secret garden, my spiritual nest egg,
my personal intimate memories.”
~ Sabine Weiss
“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
~ Yves Saint Laurent. 1936-2008
This is a moment in fashion history, beautifully captured by the ever youthful 96 year old Sabine Weiss. Christian Dior had recently passed away, but the show must go on. His successor is the incredibly young and thin Yves Saint Laurent with the mantle of history on his shoulders. Under a lot of pressure to make his own mark his creativity comes through for him. He comes up with this brilliant idea of the ’Trapeze Line” based on the flaring shape of a trapezoid, standing jauntily away from the body, his own version of the waistless dress but still firmly in the Dior tradition. It is so well received by the critics and the buyers and is the true “hit” of the season and firmly established him not only as the rightful heir to Dior but as a major new talent himself. It was shot outside the House of Dior headquarters, 30 Ave de Montaigne.
Even the dog is beautifully dressed as well as the elegant doorman not to mention the glorious red umbrella, a wonderful additional touch. Pure 50’s magic.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIXChemical sprays protect this fire fighter against the extreme flame temperature. Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
“It felt as if the end were nigh. With the sun obliterated by a dark smoked Dantean landscape stretched as far as the eye could see. The horizon itself was marked by torches of fire where burning oil leapt from the lifeless desert. And all around, thick pillars of crude oil spewed into the sky before falling back to earth to form treacly black lakes that, without warning, could become gigantic infernos. Finally there was the noise, a deafening roar that only grew louder as I came closer to the source of this cataclysm, the hundreds of oil wells that had been sabotaged and set alight by the Iraqi army near the end of its occupation of Kuwait between early August 1990 and late 1991.”
~ Sebastiao Salgado
Kuwait. A Desert on Fire.
Sebastião once again bore witness for all of us in the early 1990’s to one of the most devastating acts of destructions ever seen in the 20th Century. There are acts of natural disaster that no one can predict and control and then there are premeditated human acts of disaster. This one was Saddam Hussein’s farewell gesture to the world and his perceived enemies. He created hell on earth in blowing up close to 600 oil fields.
The lesson we learn is that there is always a close relationship that exists between humans and the environment in any conflict and we better take heed. Everything that man does will always effect the environment in the end.
The images Sebastião produced are shocking and astounding unlike any others I have seen. For me, despite the horror depicted, there is some small affirmation in them as they display the heroic efforts of a group of people, the skilled firefighters mainly from Canada and Houston, who risked their lives to contain it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIIIFlorence, 1962
“Photography has really been everything to me because I have built up the the little culture I have through photography, through seeing and looking for things to portray.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
I can relate to Gianni’s simple words about photography being the way he has really learnt everything about life and culture through it. It has taught me so much and it never stops teaching me. Each encounter with a new great image is an adventure.
On the surface this photograph seems so simple. A little girl in her white Communion dress running in Florence. But it is so much more than that. It is a new beginning, a new sense of freedom and a new journey full of hope.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIIBarbara Mullen, Harper's Bazaar, New York, c. 1958
“When I photograph, I project what I’m not. What I would like to be.”
~ Lillian Bassman
Lillian had a long and wonderful creative life. We worked closely together for over 20 years and I was honored to present her first West Coast Exhibition. Her talent allowed her to break through the “boy’s club” of fashion photography. She was never the total careerist like Penn or Avedon were but was equally gifted and they were all friends and colleagues albeit competitive. But she was also the devoted mother to bringing up two young children and balancing a successful day job with those duties, no mean feat back then and now.
What she often told me was that there was always a difference when a woman was photographing a model than when a man was. Gone was the performance aspect of the model trying to seduce the photographer and in its place was this special “connection."
Her models seem "real” and relaxed as opposed to being somewhat objectified. Lillian talked to them about their husbands, boyfriends, lovers, children. They opened up to her. They became “natural” in their beauty in front of her lens and it shows.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIThree Dahomey Girls, 1961, printed 1972
“I don’t photograph what I see. I photograph what I find intriguing.”
~ Irving Penn
In a long and illustrious career, 1967 was a very special year for Irving Penn. It was the year he went to Dahomey (now Benin) for Vogue. This portrait of Dahomey children is one of the most successful in the series. Using a purposely built portable studio Penn went about with his usual meticulous approach.
As he said, “I posed them physically and directed their attention by gesture. They were hypnotized by the camera. I adored them and they knew it. They presented themselves to me and to each exposure of film in fullest confidence."
In the hands of a journeyman practitioner it would just be a photographic record but Penn turns it into a work of art enhanced by the use of the platinum print process of which he was a true master. He dedicated many hours to the production of each print by hand-placing the negative and emulsion coated paper in direct contact with each other. This would result in warm, rusty hues. Then Penn went on to apply chemicals directly onto the image with a brush resulting in a tonally rich masterpiece.
The print is stunningly beautiful and tender and very, very moving. Worthy of its subject matter.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVStella Diving, Watermill, NY, Vogue, 1995
“I’ve always liked the immediacy of photography. Either you get the shot or you don’t.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Well Arthur certainly got the shot this day. This was a last minute “gift” from the photo gods. The shoot was for Vogue styled by the great Grace Coddington for warm, heavy tweeds. The fashion world has it’s own cycle and this was for a winter collection but had to be shot at the height of summer. It was an incredibly hot day, the shoot was challenging, everyone was somewhat exhausted by the end of the day not the least the patient model Stella Tennant. As everyone was about to call it a day Tennant suggested she dive into the pool with her clothes and wellie boots on to cool off. Elgort and Coddington immediately saw this could indeed be a special unplanned for opportunity. This was a one shot gamble. Stella dived in and the rest is as they say fashion photography history. It is imbued with Elgort’s typical loose, freedom of style and “joie de vivre."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIVComing to America, 1951
“I once said my way of life, my very being is based on images capable of engraving themselves indelibly in our inner soul’s eye. I would add that it is also to explore and celebrate the human condition and the world around us, nature and man together, to find significance in suffering, to reveal all that is profound, beautiful and that enriches the soul. Above all I believe in creative work through struggle to increase human wisdom and happiness.”
~ Louis Stettner
This is one of Louis’s most profound images. As I have often said all collecting is autobiographical and of course I relate to it because I too came to America over 40 years ago and understand only too well the nuances of starting over in a new land.
In a way it is an unconscious homage or sequel to one of the most iconic images in the history of photography, Alfred Stieglitz’s “The Steerage." There the boat was leaving America, here it is returning. The writer Pierre Brochet perhaps has expressed most eloquently the power of this image in these words which echoes my own thoughts.
“Coming to America has overwhelmed me. I feel such a fraternity for the portrayal of this man stripped of his birthplace, a man who must be deep inside all of us."
In this new year as we all hope for more tolerance and empathy it will have even more relevance than when it was first shot 70 years ago.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIIIBlue City, Jodhpur, India, 2010
“I have been very fortunate in my life to go all over the world. I think photography allowed me to observe the world, to travel the world and to have this enormous adventure.“
~ Steve McCurry
We owe Steve a huge debt as he has given us the opportunity to learn about and understand so many extraordinary places that many of us have just dreamed of visiting but have not yet had the opportunity to do so.
Jodhpur is one of those places I have always been intrigued by. The blue buildings have often been associated with Lord Shiva and his Brahmin followers in this city who throughout history have believed this color to be sacred.
What makes this image so special for me is the man and woman who observe the city from a roof in the foreground of the image giving it its human dimension and its mystical narrative quality.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIIGold mine, Serra Pelada, Brazil [Figure Eight], 1986
“When I first reached Serra Pelada, I was left speechless. Before me, I saw a vast hole, perhaps 200 meters in diameter and almost as deep, teeming with tens of thousands of barely clothed men, half of them carrying heavy sacks up broad wooden ladders, the others leaping down muddy slopes back into the cavernous maw.
I of course knew what they were doing.
What is it about a dull yellow metal that drives men to abandon their homes, sell their belongings and cross a continent in order to risk life, limb and sanity for a dream?"
~ Sebastião Salgado
I think this is one of the greatest group of social documentary photographs ever taken. When they were first published in the New York Times in the 1980’s no one could believe that these images were taken in the times in which we were living.
What were these ant like figures doing? Building the pyramids? Living in Dante’s Inferno?
It was just so shocking and defied belief. These images made Sebastiao’s career and set him up so he could continue his predestined path into the history books as one of the greatest photographers who has ever lived. It has been a great honor to have worked with him since the beginning, over 30 years now. I have never come across any other photographer with such passion and determination aided by his equally talented and focused creative partner and wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado.
We are all looking forward to his next great 8 year epic project “Amazonia” which will be launched globally in April of this year. Please stay tuned.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLITrastevere, Rome, 1959
“Photographs deal in things which are constantly vanishing
and when they have vanished there is no contrivance
that can make them come back again.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
I wanted to start this new series with an image that I hope will help us to achieve this. It has always helped me whenever I look at it.
It is what I call a “Top of the Mountain" image. Why that description? Well for me it was taken by someone I have always held with the highest esteem, Henri Cartier-Bresson, to whom I owe so much to, both professionally and personally.
And it is also really about the essence of photography…Light.
As this little girl in Rome enters a symbolic new moment in her life to hopefully a bright future my hope for all of us this year is that we can join her on her journey.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLCarrefour Sevres Babylone, Paris, 1948
“I never went out without my camera, even to buy bread.”
~ Willy Ronis
This to me has always been the best example of that special “Paris Light” I always enjoyed experiencing.
It was taken in the afternoon in 1948 near the intersection at Sevres-Babylone, Willy had done his homework. He was acquainted with his beloved city like the back of his hand. He knew what time of the day he had the best opportunity for great light and one of his favorite sources, back light. The composition is perfect with the awning on the left hand side of the frame and the veiled sun in front.
As Willy recounted in his notes,
“I had taken taken two shots with little enthusiasm and then suddenly this woman appeared out in the open. Jubilation was immediately followed by a twinge of unease, as is always the case in these delicate situations. Had I pressed the shutter at the crucial moment?”
Well he certainly did as you can see. Pure magic!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIXGondolas, Venice, 1971
“Composition is the strongest way of seeing. There are no rules. I see things in terms of powerful form, beautiful light.”
~ Brett Weston
This is one of the most beautiful, rare Brett Weston prints I have ever seen. It was secluded away in the private collection of his only child Erica given as a special gift to her by her father. It is large, impactful and as powerful as any great abstract painting by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning et al that you will ever see at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Unlike his West Coast colleagues Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham and even his esteemed father Edward Weston, Brett traveled extensively outside of California mainly in Europe but also in Japan and created equally important work inspired by what he saw there. What this work has in common with his classic American imagery is the supreme craft and beauty of the physical print which is unrivaled.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIIIVenice Lido, 1958
“I am an old photographer born into an age of real photography and I still want to defend it.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni is 90 years old now but like many photographers I have met who live into a ripe old age they are still full of life and positive energy. This image has always put a smile on my face. I guess I am old enough to remember 78 gramophone records and record players like this. There must have been a whole era before streaming services!
No social distancing here. A moment of spontaneous joy and happiness to revel in.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIIBillie Holiday, New York City, 1949
“I don’t think I’m singing. I feel like I’m playing a horn. What comes out is what I feel.”
~ Billie Holiday
I’m sure all of us are listening to a lot of music during these times. I have been finding great solace in listening to a lot of Billie Holiday, who had one of the greatest voices of all time. There is such honesty and beauty and sometimes pain in her voice but she only sang about the truth. She knew nothing else but to just be herself.
Both Herman Leonard, one of the greatest Jazz photographers ever, and Don Hunstein, the lesser known inhouse photographer for Columbia Records for 30 years, were masters of their craft and both had such an easy going manner and empathy for the great artists they worked with and their images show this and how comfortable their subjects felt being with them.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIA Bouche Perdue, 2000
“I don’t look for truth. I don’t look for it at all, I look for a state that is blurring the line between true and false accounts for the presence of a feeling.”
~ Sarah Moon
When you are standing next to a Sarah Moon photograph you are immediately transported into a landscape of beauty and dreams. Her ethereal style is unique in its delicacy and in its subtle but powerful emotions they elicit. She invites us on a journey that is both inspiring and revealing. It is a world, to be honest, that I never want to leave. A world full of small miracles that only a supreme artist can reveal.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVCalla Lilies, California, 1984
“I photograph out of love to record beautiful forms. It’s a way of life, a compulsion. There is nothing I would rather do.”
~ Brett Weston
Brett Weston lead a very long and productive creative life. The second of Edward Weston’s four sons he was something of a child prodigy. Eight of his images was included in the celebrated “Film und Foto” photo exhibition in Germany when he was only 17 years old and he had a one man retrospective at the De Young Museum in San Francisco when he was only 21 years old. His styles changed over the years but he was a constant master of abstraction throughout his career.
He took this image when he was 73 years old. He was still such an inspiring creative force till the end. As I look at it now such power emanates from the print. It is the work of a master characterized by great detail and rich subtle tonalities of shadow and form. It lights up the room.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIVNew York City [dog & sandals], 1946
“The dog pictures work on two levels. Dogs are simply funny when you catch them in certain situations, so some people like my pictures because they like dogs.
But dogs have human qualities and I think my pictures have an anthropomorphic appeal. Essentially they have nothing to do with dogs. Or I mean I hope that what they are about is the human condition.“
~ Elliott Erwitt
1946 was an important year for Elliott. This was the year that this image was taken which is generally acknowledged to be his break through dog photo. On assignment for a fashion shoot for footwear, Elliott’s genius was to realize that any image would be much more interesting if it were shot from the dog’s point of view.
His further private adventures in this arena continue to bring him much acclaim and new admirers.
They are hard to resist. Many have tried to follow in his dog path but have never come close to his insight or charm.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIIISimone & Nina, Piazza di Spanga, Rome (VOGUE), 1960
“I had neither training nor complexes. By necessity and choice, I decided that anything would have to go. A technique of no taboos: blur, grain, contrast, cock-eyed framing, accidents, whatever happens.”
~ William Klein
This is one of the most revered images in the history of fashion photography. Easy to see why.
Enfant terrible William Klein and total maverick shot it for French Vogue in 1960 in Rome. He was always pushing barriers. That was ingrained into his DNA and personality. He liked to poke fun at the artificiality and snobbishness of the fashion world and later made a feature film “Who are you Polly Magoo?” that did just that.
This was his vision for this shot. Two models in black and white dresses passing one another on the Piazza di Spagna, the stripes of the model’s dresses echoing the stripes of the pedestrian crossing. He asked them to walk back and forth and do double takes reacting to the identical dress the other was wearing. Bill was shooting with a telephoto lens. It started off pretty well but then havoc started to occur. People began to stop and stare and the traffic surrounding the square came to a virtual stand still. I once tried to drive in Rome and have been shell shocked ever since. The two un-chaperoned models began to attract unwanted attention from lots of hot-blooded Roman men who may have mistaken them for high end escorts. The Vogue stylist was tearing her hair out fearing for the safety of the models and the shoot had to be shut down because of all the chaos erupting everywhere but not before Klein got his legendary shot.
The famous models Simone D’Aillencourt and Nina de Voogt lived to fight many other days with Klein and all the other great photographers they got to collaborate with. All in a day’s work right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIIThe Steel Works, Sunderland, North East England, 1963
“Traditions are not killed by facts.”
~ George Orwell. 1903-1950 “The Road to Wigan Pier”
Colin Jones initially trained as a ballet dancer then did a 360 degree turn around and became a photographer. When he was younger he had a particular interest in portraying the industrial landscapes of the North of England and the working class communities he related to. He understood the harshness of everyday life for people working in heavy industries that were in decline especially the steel workers, coal miners, shipbuilders and dockers. Their lives had shaped these regions since the industrial revolution but Colin sensed their way of life would soon be gone forever and he wanted to capture it.
The photograph of the man bicycling to work was taken in the early morning, when the mist of clouds intermingled with the steam from the trains on the adjacent railway lines and the pollution from the tall chimneys of the steel works in the distance. These were the last of the steam trains that ran on a dedicated line that brought coal directly from the mines to power the steelworks.
Although this photograph was shot in England one can see similar patterns taking place in many other changing industrial countries in Europe and here in the United States.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIDavid Bowie - Thin White Duke, 1976
Will keep us together
We could steal time
Just for one day
We can be heroes
For ever and ever
What d’you say?”
© David Bowie. 1947-2016 “Heroes”
Whenever I am feeling a bit down and need a little boost I just listen to this Bowie song, my favorite of his and I feel better and energized. Of course growing up in England at the same time, his music was pretty impactful. Who can ever forget the time they first listened to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”?
His was one of the most original voices in rock history. He added new meaning to the word “Reinvention” constantly changing and fearless in his creativity.
Andrew Kent has one of the greatest bodies of work on him. In 1975 he landed the “gig” of a lifetime. He had been entrusted by Bowie to document with complete access his world tour. Amazing images from Berlin, Paris, New York, London, Helsinki and Russia.
A few years ago whilst exhibiting at an art fair in New York in walks David Bowie into the booth. He was beyond cool, friendly, articulate and curious and asked such interesting questions. As he once said,
“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work. I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go.”
Well he certainly did that and so much more.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLAlfred Stieglitz & Georgia O'Keeffe, An American Place, 1944
“I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it sometimes scares me
….Having told you so much of me- more than anyone else I know.
Could anything else follow but that I should want you?”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe letter to Alfred Stieglitz. Nov 4th, 1916
“How I wanted to photograph you-the hands-the mouth and the eyes and the enveloped in black body-the touch of white and the throat. But I didn’t want to break into your time.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz in a letter to Georgia O’Keeffe. June 1st, 1917
This is one of the most powerful double portraits in the history of photography. In a single frame, Arnold Newman’s image seems to tell the story or more to the point the “love story” of two of the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century. It looks like it could be a still from a great Ingmar Bergman film. It was taken in Stieglitz's Gallery “An American Place“ two years before he passed away in 1946.
When they first met in 1916, O'Keeffe was a 28 year old art teacher from Texas and Stieglitz was a 52 year old world renowned photographer and art impresario. Stieglitz became her mentor and champion and in 1924 her husband. With his help and promotion and validation she became accepted in NY art circles and her prodigious talent helped her break through to acclaim and she established herself as an important modernist painter.
Truly great artists are by nature restless and complicated and often egoistical. She wanted her own independence and this was accelerated when she experienced the light and sense of liberation she felt in New Mexico. Cracks in the marriage started to appear and she moved full time to New Mexico in 1929. Their relationship lasted despite all the challenges their respective personalities presented to each other and the intense desire to balance personal and professional fulfillment. Their monumental achievements as artists speaks for itself and their personal stories are both powerful and heartbreaking and moving as all great love stories are.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIXLa Peniche aux Enfants, Paris, 1959
“Of all the photographs that are very close to my heart, this one “The children’s barge” stands alone. I will only say that I captured this totally unexpected scene just as it was about to slip past me; that I find not only its content, but also its form satisfying. This was the photograph that made me understand above and beyond my everyday work the true meaning I was striving for.”
~ Willy Ronis
Willy was one of the most gentle, intelligent and compassionate photographers I was honored to work with. He had lived a rich life not without its disappointments and tragedies. His dream as a young man was to be a composer but gave it up after his father died to support his family by taking over his portrait studio. He had a long career as a working photojournalist falling in and out of fashion with much struggles in between. But he never lost his passion for life and the ordinary moments of joy he captured through his personal work.
This image always held a place of pride in his studio. I always looked forward to seeing it and him every time I was in Paris and during our regular lunches over our 20 year friendship.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIIITuscany, 1965
“Photographers stay young because until the end they would like to pull off one more good shot.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
As we are no longer able to travel safely at the moment, the memories of those of us filled with wanderlust come flooding back. Who can ever forget the joy and beauty that being in Tuscany gave us? Its historic cities, art-filled museums, medieval hill towns not to mention its beautiful countryside.
Gianni’s deeply simple but moving image immediately transports us back there. He realized early on in his career that to best photograph a landscape one must keep a certain distance and observe from a certain height to take it all in.
Most of the great landscape imagery created in the history of photography is for the most part devoid of people. Think Ansel Adams. But Gianni being the great humanist photographer that he is often integrates the human story, the human relationship within his frame. It is easy to imagine ourselves walking up the elegant winding road between the cypresses surrounded by land that has been there for centuries before we arrived there and will be there for centuries after we leave.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIIDr Van Der Ross Drummies, 2017
“I try to express the confidence and dignity of the people I feel lucky enough to work with.”
~ Alice Mann
The world is full of images created daily by millions of people all over the world. A big part of the work of the gallery is to find the few that really stand out as having something special, the photographers who have original voices who created them and make our audience aware of them.
It was such a joy to come across Alice Mann’s work. A young South African photographer, she has spent the last few years photographing teams of “Drummies” in her native country. “Drummies” in simple terms are a cross between cheerleaders and a marching band. It requires an immense amount of practice and self-discipline and sheer hard work to become a good one.
The majority of “Drummies” come from impoverished backgrounds in a country that is still scarred with the injustices of its past. Becoming a “drummy” is a sign of achievement and a privilege and a form of self-empowerment with the hope it will lead to a better life and some upward mobility for these young girls whose ages run from 5-18 years old and for their larger communities.
Alice Mann photographs them with such maturity and insight and empathy for a young artist who obviously has a long and successful career ahead of her. Not only does the subject matter fill me with hope for the world but also reinforces that there is a new generation of immensely talented practitioners out there to continue the power of photography to enrich our lives for future generations.
A special thank you to our good friend and esteemed colleague James Danziger for introducing me to Alice’s work and for his collaboration in this first of many exhibitions of Danziger at Fetterman.
The exhibition can be seen at our gallery by special appointment through 23rd Jan, 2021.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIFellini Drinking Coffee, 1956
“Rome is a movie and Klein did it.”
~ Federico Fellini. 1920 -1993
If you love Rome, you love Fellini’s films and who doesn’t? And if you love coffee this might be the perfect image to transport you.
William Klein is one of the great iconoclast 20th Century photographers. He is a one of a kind and there will never be another like him. Fellini is the same. Who else could ever create such unforgettable cinema as “La Strada”, “8 I/2”, “La Dolce Vita”, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Fellini’s Roma”, “And the Ship Sails On” and so many other classics
They were destined to meet. Klein went to live in Paris after he had created his first amazing book “Life is good and good for you in New York”. He knew Fellini was visiting Paris, he found the hotel where Federico was staying, calls him cold and asks to meet. Fellini asks him round. Klein presents his book to him “I already have it. It’s by my bedside." They connect and Fellini asks him to come to Rome to be his assistant on his upcoming film “Nights of Cabiria." Klein has no clue what being an assistant means. Fellini tells him “If I am sick, you shoot.”
He joins him in Rome and the film is delayed. Needing something to do he goes out into the city full force. As Bill says,
“How could I make photographic sense out of a city that I barely knew and where I hardly spoke the language? But that’s the problem with photography in general. I was willing to take a shot……I soon found out that the Romans reacted to the camera much like the New Yorkers. Everyone felt that they deserved to be photographed, immortalized.”
Whilst he was there I think he created some of his greatest images and echoes in his achievements my favorite words of Fellini,
“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of Life.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVCalifornia Kiss, 1956
“Pictures have to do with heart and mind and eye and they have to communicate. As long as they do that it’s valid.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
This is one of the most tender and romantic and real photos ever taken. It is real because that is Elliott in the photograph with his wife. He is taking the photograph with his arm out the car window in 1955 so you could almost say that this is the first celebrated selfie in the history of photography.
Elliott, in his typical self-deprecating way, would say it is just a “snap” but we all know it is much more than that in the emotion and memories it evokes for all of us.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIVPluie, Place Vendôme, Paris, 1947
“A fine image is geometry, modulated by the heart.”
~ Willy Ronis
No less an arbiter of great photographic taste and possessor of a great eye and knowledge of art history, Edward Steichen blessed Willy Ronis by including him not only in his important exhibition “Five French Photographers” in 1951 along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Izis and Brassaï at the Museum of Modern Art in New York but also included him in his seminal exhibition “The Family of Man” four years later also at the same venue which later travelled all over the world for years.
I asked Willy once how this image came about. Place Vendome is in one of the truly chic areas of Paris near all the major fashion houses. Willy would often find himself there as it was not too far from the Rapho Agency of which he was an important member. At lunch time the house models would often come out and eat their sandwiches between sessions. He saw one woman stepping over the puddle and noticed that the Vendome Column was reflected in it. Additional lunchers would do the same thing and he snapped away, his contact sheets showing him later that this one was the most successful frame. It became one of his most requested images during our long collaboration. Easy to see why. A combination of geometry and his skill at pre-visualization and his sharp eye equals an image of true elegance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIIIRuth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court, 2013
“My mother told me to be a lady.
And for her that meant be your own person, be independent.
I do think I was born under a very bright star. Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school. I have top grades. No law firm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching. It gave me time to devote to the movement for balancing out the rights of women and men."
~ Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 1933-2020
The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging years most of us have had to navigate which is still ongoing. It was also the year that we lost one of the most inspirational figures of modern times, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
To say her life would make an amazing movie is of course redundant as there has now been not one but two movies made about her. The fantastic documentary “RBG”, and who will ever be able to forget the scenes where she is working out with her trainer and “On The Basis of Sex” starring Felicity Jones as Ruth. She changed forever the way the world is for women and she did this even before she became a Supreme Court Justice.
I briefly met her three years ago at The Lotos Club in New York where I was staying and to my surprise one morning as I was leaving my room she came out of the room next door. As we shared the elevator with her assistant on the way down to breakfast I thanked her for all she has done for humanity. She graciously smiled and allowed me to shake her hand. I could not believe how small she was, an almost impish 5’ but for sure she will always be remembered as a legal giant and a fighter for what is right in this world.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIIUntitled portrait, 1953-1957
“You have no idea what I felt the first time I saw my negatives developed on a large scale, clean and perfect, without a single stain. At that moment I knew that my work was really very good.”
~ Seydou Keïta
Once in a blue moon, the world of photography sends up a remarkable discovery. Seydou Keïta - a portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali, in the north west of Africa, took tens of thousands of portraits from 1948 to 1962 knowing nothing of Western photography and completely unknown to the world outside of Bamako. Keïta’s work would never have been seen were it not that three of his postcard size pictures were exhibited in a 1991 show of African Art in New York credited to “Anonymous Photographer, Bamako. 1950s”. Brought to the attention of the French curator André Magnin and marveling at their quality Magnin traveled to Bamako in the long shot hope of finding out more about this photographer.
As luck would have it, Keïta was alive and well at the age of 71 and had preserved his negatives, several hundred of which Magnin brought back to Paris to the lab which made prints for Cartier Bresson. (Without an enlarger Keïta had only ever made contact prints.) Printed at 20 x 24” these pin sharp silver gelatin prints took the world by storm. Within a year Keïta had a solo show at the Fondation Cartier and within a few more years his work was acquired by every major museum that collects photography.
In contrast to the early photographs of Africans taken by colonial European photographers, Keïta’s pictures are pure African works creating beautiful, dignified, and flattering images of African subjects for Africans. Although self-taught, Keïta’s pictures are remarkable for their technical quality, control of light, and the originality of his compositions. In the few documented interviews he gave, Keïta told of his desire to put the subject at ease, find the best pose, and present them in the most flattering way. But this is to ignore his artistry.
In his use of varied patterned backgrounds, his choice of props, and the relationship of the figure to the background and the frame Keïta created a body of work that stands up to the best of any photography and has had enormous influence not just in opening the door to other African artists but has even influenced such contemporary painters as Kehinde Wiley and Mickalene Thomas among others. A Keïta portrait is as distinctive as an Avedon or a John Singer Sargent – full of information and joy. When Keïta looked through his camera and had arranged just the right angle and pose and expression he would say “Hold it. You look beautiful like that!” And time and time and again a luminous work of art was created.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXICilento, Italy, 1999
“I am happiest when I retire to my tiny, dark cellar that is filled with chemical odors and the red light. I shake a developer tray and listen to the music of the flowing water.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
Pentti is part of an endangered species, a traditional analogue darkroom specialist steeped in the tradition of individual, hand crafted printing.
He is in a league of his own and was declared a National Artist by the Finnish Government, the equivalent of being given a “Genius Award." The 20 year unprecedented stipend he was awarded gave him his freedom and independence to allow him to create a large part of his extraordinary body of work, a rare honor.
This is no more evident than in his "Cilento" image, one of his major masterpieces. It is hard to find in the history of photography a more elegantly balanced arrangement of lines and surfaces centered by the shape of the dog who stands as a metaphor for the power of nature to transform and humble us in its beauty.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXX"Portrait of the Eternal" / Retrato de lo eterno, 1935
“The invisible is always contained in the work of art which recreates it. If the invisible cannot be seen in it, the work of art does not exist.”
~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Don Manuel was not only Mexico’s greatest photographer but certainly was one of the medium’s greatest artists of all time. At Tina Modotti’s suggestion he sent Edward Weston a box of his photos to review. Weston replied on April 30th, 1929, “It is not often I am stimulated to enthusiasm over a group of photographs.”
This for sure bolstered Manuel’s self confidence and he embarked on his new career full-time with earnest. He was at the center of Mexico’s cultural life and was close with the great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein who was in Mexico shooting his film “Que Viva Mexica”. It was on the set of this film which was never completed that he met the celebrated poet, sculptor, printmaker Isabel Villasenor and photographed her. The composition and mood of this image is sublime. She is sitting in half shadow. Intruding through an unseen window is a prism of light whose shape forms an expanding echo of her profile. She stares into a pocket mirror. It is really up to the viewer to form the meaning of this magical photograph for themselves.
Is it about the fragility of beauty that does not last forever or is it about memory which is eternal as Manuel implies? Whatever one’s interpretation its power and beauty can not be denied.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIXChurch at Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, 1930 (Printed 1977)
“In the face of all the present turmoil and unrest and unhappiness…..what can a photographer, a writer, a curator do?
….To make people aware of the eternal things, to show the relationship of man to nature, to make clear the importance of our heritage, is a task that no one should consider insignificant. These are days when eloquent statements are needed.”
~ Beaumont Newhall in a letter to Ansel Adams. 3rd May, 1954
It seems that these words could have been written only yesterday and that they have more relevance than ever for today’s times. No one who has had the opportunity to visit this Church can ever forget it. Its power and spirituality transcends all religions. It just emanates humanity. It is one of the most beautiful buildings left in America built by the early Spaniards circa 1800. It has attracted and seduced many great artists from Paul Strand to Georgia O’Keefe but no one has captured it’s magnificence better than Ansel in this image. He gave it the appearance of a massive Mesa, an American Pyramid or alter to the sky. His genius was to focus on the rear elevation that defines the building...it seems immense when in reality it isn’t but its power is undeniable.
As Ansel Adams wrote on choosing a subject to photograph,
“Ask yourself: Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream?”
Well he certainly made the right decision that day. It does all of these things and much more.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIIIMuhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966
“It’s the only photograph I’ve taken in my entire career where I can’t see a single thing I would have done differently.”
~ Neil Leifer
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
~ Muhammed Ali 1942-2016
There are some genres in photography that have had to struggle a bit more to gain the critical and curatorial acceptance to be classified as “art”. Such has been the case with fashion and sports photography two of the hardest arenas to create truly stand out imagery. But this image must surely be elevated to the art status. It has the quality of a great abstract painting.
It was taken in a brand new state of the art auditorium in 1966, the Houston Astrodome. It is not an image that could have been shot off the cuff. It required intense prep time on Neil’s behalf. Captured from a camera hung 80’ above the ring he correctly estimated the increased likelihood of capturing a shot of the ring from that height with his remote controlled motorized Hasselblad and thanks to the illumination of the powerful overhead strobe lights the image is of such high quality.
Neil was known throughout his long career for taking risks and for his ground breaking techniques.
He certainly won the prize that night. Not bad for a kid who started out his life in the projects and was encouraged by free classes in photography from the Henry Street Settlement House for poor children in that neighborhood and he became one of the “stars” of Sports Illustrated. As Neil has always said to me, “What the good sports photographer does is when it happens and you’re in the right place, you don’t miss. Whether that’s instinct or whether it’s just luck, I don’t know.”
I think it is talent.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIIThe Wall of The Tobacco and Alcohol Dock off Wapping High Street, London, 1962
I share something with one of my favorite English photographers, Colin Jones. We were both born in the East End of London. I understand his roots and his aspirations for another kind of life from which he was born into. Here is one of his great images rich in the tradition of classic black and white social documentary photography.
It is so much more than another shot of children. It was not posed. It was by accident that Colin discovered them running against this huge wall in the dock lands area. They were all kids from a tough working class neighborhood who lived nearby in tenement housing. The wall was built to prevent any kind of smuggling, loss of product, etc from the ships that were unloading bottles of whiskey and cigarettes. They couldn’t be thrown over such a huge wall to be retrieved later. One could think of it as a darker metaphor that the kids are running from the light into the darkness but like myself, I'd like to hope that they will one day have a 'new life' somewhere else with a hopeful and brighter future.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIBarack Obama, Final Campaign Rally, Des Moines, Iowa, 2012
"O, fly and never tire,
Fly and never tire,
Fly and never tire,
There’s a great camp-meeting in the Promised Land”
~ From an African American Spiritual
“I want to give young people some inspiration as I as a young man worked on issues larger than myself and to remind people that our democracy is not something separate and apart from us but something that belongs to us and each of us can serve a role to play.”
~ Barack Obama
Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for, especially those of us who still have our health. It has been an unprecedented time in World History where the essence of democracy has been tried and tested to its limits. It still continues to be so, not just in America, but in so many places across the globe.
Barack Obama’s presidential memoir “A Promised Land” was recently released. It brings back the sense of a time in history that we all lived through when there was an excitement for new possibilities and change. We felt that we were moving in a positive direction and then like “Puff the Magic Dragon” the moment Obama stepped onto the helicopter to leave the White House for the last time it seemed to evaporate in a moment. Many of us have lived through a constant state of despair and anxiety since that day.
Nikki Kahn belongs to a new generation of great photojournalists whose many years of dedication to discover the truth through her exceptional work for the Washington Post and other publications was finally recognized and she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for her work in Haiti. Here she captures Barack Obama as he wins re-election for his second term. This is my favorite image of a much recorded President. It’s an emotional moment which still resonates with me and I am sure many others.
What comes through in this image and from his writings in “A Promised Land” is somebody who despite the setbacks and roadblocks and frustrations and forces out to destroy him he still manages to maintain a belief in the basics of humanity. As President Obama says,
“If I remain hopeful, it’s because I’ve learned to place my faith in my fellow citizens, especially those of the next generation.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVYves Saint Laurent, Premiere Dior Collection, Paris, 1958
“Photography gave me happiness. It’s a chance to talk to anybody, to travel, to meet different people. Photography opens so many doors.”
~ Sabine Weiss
Sabine is one of my favorite photographers. At 96 years old, she is still feisty and working on new projects and books. She is the last one left from that great generation of photographers that inspired my passion for the medium.
Here is a rare gem from her archive. Yves St Laurent was the boy wonder of French fashion and was handpicked by Christian Dior to be his successor at his own illustrious House of Fashion. Life Magazine asked Sabine to shoot his first fashion collection for Spring/Summer 1958. It seems from another era but still evokes all the elegance and beauty we associate with Haute Couture. Sabine already knew Dior well because early on in her career she was an assistant of Willy Maywald between 1946-1949 and was there in 1947 when Dior presented his first fashion collection in Paris.
I can only imagine that this was not an easy shoot to position and coordinate 13 house models.
YSL looks so young. He was only 21 years old at the time, he carried on the Dior tradition but made it his own. His big breakthrough that year was his version of the waistless dress, the trapeze line based on the flaring shape of a trapezoid and standing jauntily away from the body. As he wisely said, “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIVGran Bretagna, Great Britain, 1977
“Great images do not need a commentary or a context to elucidate them. As a matter of fact it is the greatness of the images themselves that gives a meaning to the context.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni’s words above are so true. It is hard for me to articulate why this image has such power for me and for many others too as it has been one of his most significant and popular images of his long and illustrious career. Maybe because it was shot in England, the land of my birth.
Maybe it is because this is the first car I ever owned, a Morris Minor. But it surely plays into so many other subconscious “facts" that I am not even aware of...
Gianni’s images are quiet but resonate such emotion. He observes, reflects and is touched by what he sees. This couple is perhaps seeking refuge from cold and windy weather as is often the case in this climate. We are not privy to what they are saying to each other if they are indeed talking at all. But I feel I am with them in whatever moments they are sharing as we all may be sharing our own moments together. In a different time and place.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIIITirez sur le Pianiste, 1960
“I demand that a film express either the joy of making Cinema or the agony of making Cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between. I am not interested in all those films that do not pulse.”
~ Francois Truffaut. 1932-1984
The art of photography is really a solitary pursuit. The photographer can create on his or her own. There are no constraints and the only person you really have to satisfy is yourself. The art of cinema is a collaborative endeavor. Before one can even get to make a film the director has probably been run ragged by getting the film financed and then cast to also satisfy the demands of the financiers dependent on issues beyond the filmmakers control. It is by necessity a collaborative process and often fails and falls short of the original intent.
But when it all works and all the elements come together it is magic. I have never seen an image that conveys this better than Raymond’s celebrated image of Truffaut on the set of “Shoot The PIanist.” You just get caught up with the joy and “relief” of creating something truly special. You are there with him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIIMuhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston, 1965
“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
~ Muhammed Ali. 1942-2016
“If I were directing a movie and I could tell Ali where to knock him down and Sonny where to fall, they’re exactly where I would put them.”
~ Neil Leifer
This image has always meant a lot to me. Whenever I look at it I get caught up in its power and beauty and energy. It certainly deserves its reputation as the greatest sports photo ever taken. It evokes great memories. I’ve know Neil for over 40 years and he is a fighter too. Always pushing, always tap dancing to the next adventure fueled by his restless and endless creativity. He is inspiring to be around.
I also had the great honor to meet Ali too. I was flying to New York from LAX many years ago and you know when there is an empty seat next to you before you take off, you wonder who might be occupying it. Well it was none other than Ali himself. Sadly he was in his late stage of Parkinson’s. He sits down and hands me a card that says “Hello. I’m Muhammed Ali. I cannot talk to you because I have Parkinson’s but nice to meet you. I hope you have a good flight. God bless." Wow you could have knocked me down with a feather! Such grace, such class and still with such charisma.
If ever I need an extra shot of adrenaline, forget caffeine, this is the image I run to first.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIQueen Charlotte's Ball, 1959
“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.”
~ Henri Cartier Bresson
I cannot think of anyone in the history of photography who lived a larger life than Henri.
There was hardly any corner of the earth that he did not travel to and document its habitants and the political events of the day. Even the word “epic” does not adequately cover his far ranging subject matter.
I came across this image and its variant by accident one day whilst visiting him in Paris.
I was immediately attracted to its dream like quality. You just get swept up in the flow of the couples dancing, the sense of movement and romance in the air. I asked him why he had not previously made collector prints of the image, “Well Peter, no one ever asked." He graciously agreed to make some prints for us and during our long and wonderful collaboration it subsequently became our most requested image.
Queen Charlotte’s was a hospital in London and the ball was originally founded in 1780 by George 111 as a birthday celebration in honor of his wife Charlotte as a fundraiser for the hospital. Over the years it became a highlight of the social calendar as only the English upper classes know how to orchestrate and a “hot” ticket. Henri told me he was invited as he was visiting London at the time and reluctantly agreed to attend. He was bored by the whole society thing and was about to leave when he noticed some stairs climbing up to the rafters. He climbed up there and leaned over the railing and voila captured the moment before his lens.
I guess if you are alert and open you find great subject matter in the most unexpected places.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXProvence, France, 1955
“When photography is good, it’s pretty interesting and when it is very good, it is irrational and even magical.........nothing to do with the photographer’s conscious will or desire.
When the photograph happens, it comes easily, as a gift that should not be questioned or analyzed.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Elliott has given us many such “gifts” during his long and illustrious career. None so more than this charming image shot in Provence as a magical moment captured whilst working on commission in France.
Elliott, now in his 93rd year, like the little boy in the photograph is still looking back through his archive and discovering more unpublished gems. His passion and enthusiasm for his work never wanes which is so inspiring to me.
Always positive, always restless, always questioning and always searching. The key to longevity for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXIXIndia [woman with flowers in her hair], 2003
“What I want is the world to remember the problems of the people I photograph. What I want is to create a discussion about what is happening around the world and to provoke some debate with these pictures. Nothing more than this.”
~ Sebastiao Salgado
Sebastiao Salgado’s project, “Scent of a Dream: Travels in the World of Coffee," contains some of my favorite images of his including the two above. He spent 10 years traveling through India, Brazil, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Tanzania
capturing the coffee workers often working in silent isolation in the remote mountain regions of developing countries experiencing a different way of life far from the urban homes of the first world where the product is finally consumed, over 500 billion cups of coffee on a global basis each year.
He did this with his customary intelligence and empathy and visual sweep giving us a profound insight into their lives.
Through this work we get to connect and understand and be conscious of many of the world’s most urgent current issues such as sustainable development and climate change in a deeply moving way through art and beauty.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXVIIIThe Who, 1966
"For the first time, a whole generation had the economic and educational opportunity to turn their backs on the dead end factory jobs of their parents, who traumatized by two world wars, had responded by creating a safety blanket of conformity.”
“People try to put us d-down (Talkin' bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin‘ bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation baby."
~ Pete Townsend
Well I am certainly happy I didn’t die before I got old as I wouldn’t be writing this now. But for my generation of UK lads coming of age in the England of the 1960’s The Who were pretty seminal.
With this image the memories come flooding back. It was commissioned by The Observer Magazine for a feature on Rock Bands. Colin Jones was on tour in Manchester with the band and was asked to shoot the cover for the magazine in color. Colin noticed Pete was wearing a Union Jack jacket and then thought it would be great if he could find a real Union Jack Flag to drape behind the band in their hotel room. Keith Moon of course noticed that there were some fluttering on flag poles in the hotel’s grounds and then proceeded to climb up one to get the necessary flag and “nick” it as we say.
It was not surprising that they were later thrown out of the hotel but fortunately not before Colin captured this great shot.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXVIIVenezia, Venice, 1960
“Life in Venice was very beautiful because I was young.
And when we are young everything is beautiful.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni now 90 years old has been photographing Venice and the Venetians for more than 60 years now.
Often photographers make one city very much their own in the special connection they make with it. Atget had Paris, William Klein New York, Fred Lyon San Francisco, Wolf Suschitzky London, and for sure Gianni with Venice.
This is an image filled with magic and energy and joy and most of all expectation.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXVIParis, 1948
“You cannot live when you are untouchable. Life is vulnerability.”
~ Edouard Boubat
When you were with Edouard you knew you were in the presence of a remarkably sensitive human being. You sensed his empathy and concern for humanity. He has taken some of the greatest images of children I have ever seen. They are not in any way “cute,” just heartfelt and aware. Many of the great photographers I have known have managed to hang on to their own child-like curiosity
and sense of wonderment. This, I am sure, is often the reason for their longevity.
Which of us cannot help but relate to this image...?
I remember doing the exact same thing when growing up. My dream was to have a train set and I remember taking my father to stand with me outside a train store near where we lived, knowing full well it was only a dream as I pressed my face up against the window as we had no where to put it in our tiny apartment and that it was way beyond anything my dad could afford to buy me.
Whenever I look at this image the memories come flooding back as if it were yesterday.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXVQueen Elizabeth with Corgis (Heater), 1967
“The Queen came in and she was very sweet. At that point there were just the three of us. The Queen, myself and my assistant. The dogs were there, four or five of them, but no other people, no guards, nothing.
“Where do you sit when you’re here?” I asked. And the next thing I knew she was on the floor in front of the fire. I thought I don’t believe this.”
~ David Montgomery
Well today is a special day for all of us who are fans of “The Crown." The new season begins this evening. I’ll be watching for sure.
When I first saw these images I had to meet their creator. I tracked David Montgomery down and so began our long collaboration and friendship. David first came to London as an assistant to a photographer in the early 1960’s and decided that he wanted to make London his home and started his own career there. One day he gets a call from “The Observer” newspaper for a special assignment to photograph Her Royal Highness with the brief to show The Queen as a real living person who can do everyday things. He was so terrified that he initially turned the job down and after being screamed at by his wife he called back and agreed to do it.
The rest is history. I have never seen any other photos of The Queen that show her “normalness."
I am always awestruck by this first image. One would think The Queen with her large household staff would be sitting in front of a beautiful handmade log fire. Why is she in front of a $20 drug store electric heater?
Maybe tonight’s episode will shed some light.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXIVNew York, (Dogs & Boots), 1974
“The good thing about dogs is that they are everywhere.
They are usually sympathetic. They don’t complain and
they don’t ask for prints.
They are just charming.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Elliott is a deeply serious and intelligent man with whom one can have the most profound conversations with on so many different topics. To say he is a wise “man of the world” who has seen and experienced a lot is a vast understatement. But he also has a rare gift of communicating the joy of life. As they say in the theater "Tragedy is easy. Comedy is hard.”
As Elliott articulates so well,
“Making people laugh is one of the highest achievements you can have. And when you can make someone laugh and cry alternatively as Chaplin did, now that is the highest of all possible achievements. I don’t know that I aim for it, but I recognize it as the supreme goal.”
Elliott, believe me, you sure have achieved this over your amazing career so many times.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXIIISolovki, White Sea, Russia (Dog on motorbike), 1992
“When I photograph people I try to be as unobtrusive as possible to keep their behavior authentic.
With animals, especially with dogs, it’s different. They are more attentive and become suspicious of a stranger with a camera. So I always talk to them, telling them calmly what I am doing and what are my wishes. I find then that they really become more trusting. Everywhere I always speak Finnish. Surprisingly often they understand my mother tongue.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
Pentti is a one-of-a-kind human being and photographer. I asked him recently to articulate his approach to photographing dogs in particular, though his body of remarkable work is so much more extensive than this subject. Like a kind of Dr. Dolittle with a true gift and love of animals he let me into some of his secrets which I share with you now.
I don’t know anyone else in the world of Contemporary Photography that spreads so much joy and happiness through their work.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXIIFlower Vendor at Dal Lake, 1999
“What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own with its own place and feeling.”
~ Steve McCurry
Steve is one of the great 20th Century photojournalists in the tradition of Robert Capa,
Henri Cartier-Bresson and W. Eugene Smith. Often it is hard for me to find him. He is constantly traveling on assignment, searching out truth and beauty. I owe my appreciation of color photography really to him over a long and joyful 30 year collaboration.
He was on assignment in India when he captured this image. Dal Lake has been called the jewel of Kashmir and has been a travelers’ destination for more than a century. Here he allows us to share a ride early one morning with the flower sellers as they ply their wares along the shores.
It is one of his most lyrical and elegant images, helping us to escape to a world of color. It evokes in me everything that a great Monet painting does - beauty and peace.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXIJules et Jim, course Charenton- le-pont, 1961
“In love women are professionals, men are amateurs.“
~ Francois Truffaut. 1932 -1984
I can't believe it was in 1962 that I first saw Truffaut’s great film the year it was released.
I remember exactly the cinema I saw it in, The Everyman, in Hampstead, London and who I saw it with.
Everything about the film was truly magical. Truffaut’s free spirit approach in direction, the cinematography of Raoul Coutard, the lyrical music of Georges Delerue and the superb performances of Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre. It is surely the greatest film ever made about friendship and the exhilaration of being In love.
Looking at Raymond’s (who just celebrated his 100th birthday) equally inventive images made during the shoot brings all the magic and joy back. It’s a piece of cinema impossible to forget once experienced.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXKussharo Lake Tree, Study 5, Kotan, Hokkaido, Japan, 2007
“The first thing I do in
landscape photography is go out there and talk to the land -
form a relationship, ask permission."
~ Michael Kenna
I have known Michael Kenna now for what must be over 40 years. I think we both arrived from England on the same banana boat full of dreams. I have watched his career grow and flourish due to both his innate talent and his amazing work ethic and dedication to his craft where he has now reached the pinnacle of his profession. He has more imitators than Elvis has impersonators but like there is only one true Elvis, there is only one Michael Kenna.
Whenever I receive a package of requested prints from him it seems like Christmas Day. I know within the package there will be bountiful gifts of beauty and inspiration that will surpass one’s expectations. Such was the case with these 3 images each one more beautiful than the next.
I laid them out together and experienced an immediate transcendence to a feeling I can hardly articulate except to perhaps say otherworldly calm and peace.
I know you will feel the same.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCIXVenice, 1959
“This one is a bit closer to what Cartier-Bresson always used to say, that you have to choose the right moment to photograph. I chose the right moment because a second later they were no longer kissing. Of course they didn’t know I was there.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
In the hands of an ordinary photographer this could have been just another commonplace image of a couple’s stolen moment. But Gianni imbues it with such tenderness and emotion that it has become a classic. Nothing more needs to be said about it, it’s real and honest.
Often what seems to be the simplest of images are often the hardest to pull off.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCVIIIBicycles on Sunday (Bicicletas, Mexico), 1963
“You bring your accumulated life to the moment that something sparks you to make an image. Everything influences you. And it’s all good."
~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Don Manuel’s images are universal in feeling. They transcend both time and culture.
Sunday for me and, I suspect, for everyone is my most cherished day of the week. A time to recharge and contemplate. This photograph on first encounter seems so simple. But on further reflection the cyclists, in perfect cadence with the visual rhythm of the mountains rising around them, elicits for me such power and emotion. The normal human connection which is missing now from our lives which perhaps we have taken for granted.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCVIILa petite fille aux feuilles mortes, 1946
When I first saw this image I wanted to meet its creator. It‘s wonderful how a simple image can lead one on a path of such rich discovery and new powerful and fullfilling collaborations and friendships.
I’ll let Edouard’s own words convey its power and his art.
"'Little Girl with Dead Leaves' was indeed my first photograph.
But where are our first photographs?
These lights that shine in our childhood memories.
I was walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg after the was, in 1946. I had a Rollei camera that I'd bought by selling my big dictionaries. I was still twenty years old, I was a poet, I was in love. And of course, I wasn't thinking about any of that at all. When your life is all ahead of you, all you want to do is live. And then years have passed by; the leaves fall every autumn. You don't say no to beauty; you don't say no to opportunity. When you've found something once, can you ever give it up again? The photo just happened.
Just one. A very pale negative developed in a makeshift lab. Am I still twenty years old today? If I say yes, I still have a chance of finding that light.
I sometimes walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg and I have never seen another girl dressed in dead leaves. Every little girl is a little girl for the first time and everyone and everything I meet are just as I saw them for the first time. There is no such thing as a first photo. There are only new photos. The light is brand new today."
~ Edouard Boubat. Paris, July 1992.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCVICentral Park After Snow Storm, New York, 1959
“We are only beginning to learn what to say in a photograph. The world we live in is a succession of fleeting moments, any of which
might say something significant.
When such an instant arrives I react intuitively. There is, I think, an electronic impulse between my eye and my finger. But even this is not enough. I dream that someday the step between my mind and my finger will no longer be needed and that simply by blinking my eyes, I shall make pictures. Then I think I shall really have become a photographer.”
~ Alfred Eisenstaedt
Alfred was small in stature but a giant as a photo journalist. A charming, elegant and intelligent man he was truly a witness to the 20Th Century. There wasn't anyone who didn’t cross his path, from Mussolini, to Churchill to Hemingway to Marilyn Monroe to Katherine Hepburn.
I remember meeting him on Martha’s Vineyard one year where he loved to go to relax after his hectic schedule shooting for Life Magazine where he was revered as a photo god.
This is a little known “gem” in his body of work. A quiet, untypical image of one of my favourite moments - New York after a snow storm when the hustle and bustle of a fast paced, intense city becomes quiet and almost serene. I have fortunately experienced this many times in my constant travel there. Good timing for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCVWaiters and chef, Hotel Ritz, Paris, France, 1969
"Success is freedom to do what you feel like doing at the moment and this has been one of my guiding principles throughout my career and I think it will continue till I croak.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Well here is an image of pure escapism and glamour. I don’t think I’ve been to a more elegant hotel in the world than the Ritz Hotel in Paris. It deserves its reputation and more so and does not disappoint. For some reason this photo always puts a smile on my face. I always wonder who they are all looking at. Perhaps Catherine Deneuve has just walked by in the courtyard.
A few years ago whilst we were exhibiting at an art fair in New York one of our distinguished designer clients came to see us. He saw the image and told me he was working on the renovation of the Ritz Hotel and reserved it on the spot “C ‘est Parfait” he told me.
It now hangs in the bar. Check it out when you are next there.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCIV"The Winner" The Biltmore Hotel, Democratic Convention, Los Angeles, July 1960
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer. But the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 - 1963)
Today, Tuesday November 3rd, is not only a monumentally important day for the future of America but for the rest of the world and for humanity.
Meditating on the above words of JFK brought back many memories of that special Presidency that still envelopes us with its hopes and dreams and with its joy and sadness because we know how that story ended but also a memory of a special relationship with his personal photographer, Jacques Lowe, who also possessed his own special magic.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCIIIL'inconnue, 2011
“A fashion photographer I am and remain. I can say that for certain, but I also take photographs without any particular aim in mind. Photographs of everything and nothing, things that look good to me or that don’t look good. I wander but wandering is not so different from dancing. Things have come full circle and while there’s still time and for as long as I can, I want to see. I want to take photographs and all kinds of dancing are allowed.”
~ Sarah Moon
Sarah knows a lot about beauty as all great artists do. She lives with it and breaths it and dreams it. She understands how hard it is to capture and how illusive and fragile it is. Here she has created something so exquisite and ethereal. The genius here was to shoot her subject behind. This serene composition worthy of a John Singer Sargent or Degas or a Mary Cassatt is unique in it’s own way.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCIIAudrey Hepburn with Flowers, 1955
“I like to lo make people look as good as they’d like to look and with luck a shade better."
~ Norman Parkinson
Well I don’t think the great 20th Century British photographer Norman Parkinson had too many problems this day. This session was in a way the “perfect storm”. Here you have one of the greatest gifts to the camera in the history of photography, Audrey Hepburn, blessed with the sublime combination of beauty and vulnerability and "Parks", one of the most skilled practitioners of his craft, whose sense of humour and charm and height relaxed everyone before his lens.
This special image was shot at the Villa Rolli, just outside of Rome, where Hepburn was filming “War and Peace” with her husband Mel Ferrer. It also helped that Audrey was dressed in one of the greatest creations of her favorite designer, Givenchy.
It is difficult to top this image, right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCIBruce Springsteen, "Devils & Dust", Colt Neck, New Jersey, 2005
“After all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It’s there when I wake every morning. It waits alongside of me throughout the day. Over the past 50 years it has never ceased. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all of the above? All I know it is one of the most consistent impulses of my life.”
~ Bruce Springsteen
I cannot believe it was 45 years ago as a youngster I first saw Bruce Springsteen in London playing at the Hammersmith Odeon. What a night! As a quiet Englishman I had never experienced such drive and energy on stage. Wow is this what America is like I thought to myself? I’m sure that planted a seed in my brain that I must go and live there and that I too was born to run away from all I knew to explore a new world.
Well flash forward here I am.
Music of various kinds has always been a big part of my life as I am sure it is for all of you.
I have always felt that there is a common connection between the greatest photographers and the greatest musician/composers/performers. It requires the same self-discipline and perfection of craft.
With Bruce Springsteen I always feel he writes in images. This was confirmed by his wife Patti Scialfa when she came to visit the gallery a few years back to buy her husband a photo as a gift.
“He loves photography,” she told me.
It’s a big week for Bruce and Patti with the release of the profoundly moving album and documentary, “Letter to You”. He meditates on all the big questions great artists grapple with - loss, youth, aging, family, friends, memory, death and hope.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCQue Chiquita es el Mundo, Mexico, 1942
“A photographer’s main instrument are their eyes."
~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo
I have never thought of Don Manuel as just a photographer. To me he has always been one of the great 20th Century poets whose pen was his camera. His images are lyrical poems. Even his titles are poetic. “The DayDreamer,“ “Daughter of The Dancers," “Bicycles on Sunday," “Good Reputation Sleeping." But none so more than this image, “What a small world”.
I have looked at this image for so many years. It has haunted me for as long as I can remember. It has so many layers of story telling that the definitive meaning has always eluded me which is a sign of its greatness. Perhaps it can never be fully revealed which is fine too just like a great novel cries out to be reread again and again.
Two people pass each other on a deserted city street. The woman is walking slowly almost making an offering while the man walks in great stride. Though their paths may cross their lives do not connect. A fleeting city encounter showing the ambivalence of modern urban life. Perhaps he is leaving on a long journey. Perhaps the white sheets symbolize a far flung adventure by boat. What if they had indeed met and connected how would their lives have turned out? We shall never know...
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCIXLido di Venezia, Venice, 1959
“I am a photographer. I’m not an artist. I’m just a witness of what I see.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
I’m not quite sure I believe dear Gianni. His modesty is not false. But It takes someone with a special talent to create an image like this which I have never stopped thinking about since the first day I saw it. A simple shot of a family taking a quiet moment on a Sunday stroll in the 1950’s on the Lido in Venice.
It is much more than that. It is a great novel about a marriage and relationships. It is a powerful piece of cinema in the great Neo realist Italian Cinema tradition. It is all of these things and much more. But most importantly it is an honest portrayal of the human condition. A work of art.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCVIIIBombay Bathing Fashion, Oyster Bay, N.Y., 1950
"I like taking photographs because I like life. And I love photographing people best of all because most of all I love humanity.”
~ Horst P. Horst
Horst was one of the greatest fashion photographers of all time. He originally studied architecture in Hamburg and served as an apprentice to Le Corbusier in Paris but then switched to photography with the help of his friend and mentor George Hoyningen-Huene, a fashion photographer working for Vogue. Horst soon followed in his peer’s footsteps and in 1935 succeeded Huene as head photographer at French Vogue.
This is my favorite photograph of his, shot in his house at Oyster Bay in Long Island that he built and designed himself. It became a celebrated salon, where all the talents of that time came to stay and visit. People like Salvador Dali, Chanel, Noell Coward and everybody who had a true creative spirit in them were welcomed by Horst.
This image has such a sense of sophistication marked by Horst’s genius for lighting and mood.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCVIILes Pont des Arts, Paris, 1956
“Because I knew war, because I knew the horror, I did not want to add to it. After the war we felt the need to celebrate life and for me photography was the means to achieve this."
~ Edouard Boubat
Edouard had a deep love and respect for the everyday moments of joy that life gives us. He appreciated these moments and captured them in his own special way. He was exactly like his images - tender, insightful and intelligent. The great French poet Jacques Prevert called him a “peace correspondent."
The last time I saw him was in 1994, a few years before he passed away. We arranged to meet at an exhibition of his photos of his great muse “Lella” that he had taken in the late 1940’s which had just opened which I really wanted to see. As we walked through the exhibition together I noticed he was becoming more and more emotional as the personal memories these images evoked for him came back and he told me about them. He shed a tear as did I. The memories of a first great love that never worked out are pretty universal.
We had lunch. I walked with him back to his apartment for a coffee. I then thanked him for a very special day which I will never forget in the company of a such a great artist. I asked him what his plans now were for the rest of the day. He pointed to a small vase resting on a table near a beautiful window that had a single rose in it. “Today this is my job.”
That was Edouard. One of the greats.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCVIReeds, Oregon, 1975
“The camera for an artist is just another tool. It is no more mechanical than a violin if you analyze it. Beyond the rudiments, it is up to the artist to create art, not the camera.”
~ Brett Weston
Brett Weston seemed destined at birth to become one of America’s most prolific photographers. Born in 1911, the second son of photographer Edward Weston, Brett had a camera in hand by the age of thirteen. A lot of people assume that Brett merely followed in his father’s footsteps into a career as a photographer, but that’s far from true. From the late 1920’s until his father’s death in the 1950’s, their careers ran parallel to each other’s. Brett in fact first discovered the Oceano Dunes, where he would later take his father to create some of the elder Weston’s most significant work.
Brett appreciated how the camera could transform subjects and how the contrast of black and white further altered the recognition of a subject. Thus, it is not difficult to understand his tendency to abstraction, a characteristic that would remain an important aspect of his work for his almost seventy year career. Brett didn’t concern himself with subject matter as much as he did with form and light. He could turn the mundane into the magical and the most ugly of subject matter into beautiful photographs.
“Reeds, Oregon” is one of Brett’s most lyrical photographs. The vertical arrangement of lines appears to be a musical score, which makes your eye dance around the surface of the photograph. The image has no focal point; rather the whole photograph becomes the focal point. You appreciate the photograph not for the subject but rather for what it truly is, a tangible object of beauty to see and hold.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCVYoji Yamamoto, 1996
“I start from nothing, I make up a story, what is left untold, I imagine a situation which doesn’t exist, I wipe out a space to invent another. I shift the light I render unreal and then I try. I watch out for what I didn’t expect. I wait to see what I can’t remember. I undo what I put together. I hope for luck, but more than anything I long to be touched as I shoot.”
~ Sarah Moon
There is no one quite like Sarah. She is in a class of her own. She has many imitators but there is no one out there who can create a universe that flows with beauty and dreams as well as she does.
She started out a model and with dedication and hard work slowly built an esteemed reputation where every designer of note clamored to get her to collaborate with them and add that indefinable magic to their creations.
You know you are in the presence of someone truly unique when you sit with her in her dreamlike house in Paris. The first time I visited I could not believe I was in a house in the center of Paris.
I felt I had been transported to a quiet sanctuary in the heart of a Lewis Carrol countryside, a place where imagination and ideas roam free.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCIVOn The Ferry, Venice, 1960
“I was living in the Lido in Venice and every morning I took the vaporetto or water bus across to where I worked in San Marco. It was a matter of pure luck really. I was doing a lot of architectural photography and this was a very spontaneous shot. I only took one picture. In the center there is a reflection in the glass door of the vaporetto, behind which stands a man dressed in black. If he’d been wearing white that shot wouldn’t have worked."
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
In 2003, a year before he passed away, Henri Cartier-Bresson opened his Foundation in Paris with an exhibition, “My hundred favorite photographs." Photographs that he had seen that had moved him throughout his life. He included this image by Gianni Berengo Gardin, one of the great Italian post war photographers. To be blessed by Cartier-Bresson is like being blessed personally by the Pope if you are Catholic. In a way it is more Cartier-Bressonesque than a Cartier-Bresson, but has its own uniqueness. I was honored to have been invited to the opening, a very emotional evening as Bresson passed away the following year and this was the last time many of us saw him. This photograph has haunted me ever since. It is a masterpiece of composition with its multiple levels of storytelling. The presence of gazes within gazes, frames within frames just holds the viewer with its gestures of common humanity.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCIIITaxi, New York At Night, 1947-48
“Ted Croner’s photographs give a vivid, impressionistic interpretation of New York. He sees the city as something alive and represents it with excitement, vigor and enthusiasm. He ignores technical rules and regulations and makes assets of what most young photographers look upon as liabilities.”
~ Edward Steichen
Ted was much admired in his time. One of the standout photographers in Alexey Brodovitch’s Design Lab he captured New York in all it’s dynamic energy. I think of him like a great Jazz Musician or an Abstract expressionist painter. Nothing is ever predictable in his images. You never quite know what to expect and are kept on your toes.
Steichen included him in two important shows at the Museum of Modern Art. This is generally regarded as his greatest image. You just get caught up in the horizontal blur of the passing vehicle against the cinematic backdrop of lit buildings. He often used multiple exposures, restraining the camera shutter to allow maximum captured movement.
No less an artist than Bob Dylan chose this image to be the cover of his great album “Modern Times” which Rolling Stone declared one of the greatest albums of all time. Ted was a tall bear of a man with a heart of gold.
Rock on Ted.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCIIJean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg off-set on the Champs Elysees "À Bout De Souffle", 1959
"I took my chances and reinvented film photography.
My objective was to show exceptional moments.”
~ Raymond Cauchetier
I think I spent a large part of my youth in a darkened room watching movies. It was an escape and a longing for a different life like the kid in “Cinema Paradiso." My two principal hangouts were the Academy Cinema on Oxford Street in London (long gone) and the British Film Institute Cinema on the South Bank near Waterloo (still there thankfully). They became my universities. I majored in World Cinema!
The French New Wave was one of my favorite periods, Godard, Chabrol, Varda, Demy and especially Truffaut were my heroes. Flash forward many years. I revisited this image and set out to find it’s maker, Raymond Cauchetier. For some reason it took a long time to find him, no contact information, no email. etc. I finally located him thanks to the celebrated cinematographer John Bailey who knew him and on my next trip to Paris we arranged to meet up, helped by his wonderful wife Kaoru. Raymond still lived in the 5th Floor walk up he was born in. No elevator. I arrived at their door, forgive the pun “Breathless."
It was a wonderful rendezvous. Raymond’s treasures had been stored in boxes for over 40 years, never really seeing the light of day. What made these images so special were that they were not the usual run of the mill film publicity stills. He had photographed the actual making of the films and the actors both on and off the set. Raymond had directed his own “mise en scene” and has given us his own fresh take on what was being revealed before his eyes to be preserved by his camera, a key period of the history of the medium.
As Raymond tells it,
“I was unable to get an accurate photo of the scene Goddard had just shot. So I asked Belmondo and Seberg to walk to the bottom end of the Champs-Elysees where the pavement was still deserted and to replay the scene just for me. They very kindly agreed."
And this became his most famous photograph and the image of this seminal film we all fondly remember. Raymond just turned 100 years old! Happy birthday, Raymond!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCIGalaxy Apple, New York City, 1964
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
~ William Blake, “To See A World, 1803”
I’ve always considered this photograph of “Apple, New York 1964” by Paul Caponigro to be his “Starry Night” masterpiece. Photography is a medium of recording visual information, but sometimes the camera goes beyond seeing what the human eye can see and a photograph transcends beyond the subject matter, thus creating something surprisingly new. Caponigro has always had a way of accessing this “otherworldliness” in his photographs. His images reach into the unknown and the unseen.
Upon first view of this photograph, one cannot help but think it’s a view of a galaxy of stars. Even upon close inspection, when your eye can visually detect the contours of the apple, the impression of the galaxy persists. The macrocosm and microcosm are seen as one.
“My most difficult years were living in NYC. I had a good dose of it, two years of dealing with cockroaches in the apartment and the chaos of fire engines and police sirens all night long. It was like doing two years in the Army, a tour of duty, let’s say. I hardly photographed and if I did, I couldn’t go out in the streets. I didn’t want to be there, especially with a tripod. So, I brought fruit and vegetables into the apartment and I wound up making the cosmic apple. The Galaxy Apple.”
- Paul Caponigro
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CXCStill Life, San Francisco, 1932
“This photograph was not made for any professional purpose; it was a simple arrangement of objects assembled and photographed with aesthetic intent.”
~ Ansel Adams
Of course Ansel is most well known for his epic and majestic depictions of the pristine American West. But a great artist is a great artist and he was no exception to this in that he could tackle any subject matter and turn it into something special.
I imagine that his talent was in part due to his early training and desire early on to excel as a concert pianist. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Ansel, when he decided that the roving life of a performer and the “politics” of the music world was ultimately not for him, redirected his interests to photography. He was a true autodidact and a completely self-taught photographic artist who never lost the self-discipline to always be improving his craft.
One wonders how a simple arrangement of common place objects can turn into something so beautiful and even majestic as this physical print is. He approached this “scene” as an exercise in composition and application of available light sources. His ongoing technical mastery was the stuff of legend. Even many of his contemporary greats like Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Wynn Bullock sought his opinion on technical matters.
Yes, he was in a class all of his own.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXIXNew York, 1972
“To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. 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
Harry Callahan’s photographic career spanned nearly seven decades, from the late 1930s up until his passing in 1999. Callahan left almost no written record of his work...no journal, no letters, no teaching notes or scrapbook. What we do know of Callahan, however, is that he photographed almost every morning, walking around the city he lived and printing those new negatives in the afternoon. Of course not every photo was great. At best estimation, Callahan said he produced no more than a half dozen final images per year.
In 1961, Callahan established the photography program at Rhode Island School of Design, where he taught until his retirement in 1977. The 70s were a peak for Callahan’s career. He was achieving great notoriety and success with his work and he had his major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976.
This photograph of “New York, 1972” was likely made during one of his visits to the city. By capturing such a dynamic composition of rapidly moving people in relation to their surroundings, this photo is a perfect example of what Cartier-Bresson coined as “the decisive moment” in photography. Only with a keen eye and quick reflex with the camera can such an outstanding photograph like this be captured.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXVIIIIgor Stravinsky, New York City, 1946
“We don’t take pictures with our cameras. We take them with our hearts and we take them with our minds. The camera is nothing
more than a tool.”
~ Arnold Newman
If there ever were such a thing as the “perfect” photograph this might well be it. It is Arnold’s most famous image and it is easy to understand why. In it he captures the essence of the person he is photographing. Even if you did not know who Igor Stravinsky was you would surmise he was a pianist or composer or both. He was in his element or as photo historians have put it his
“Environment." The way the top of the piano reflects a musical note. This man is not an airline pilot taking a little break on a piano stool. Music is this man’s life. He even imitates the raised piano lid with his elbow bent and his hand to his face. The piano lid is indeed reflecting all the notes that are flowing around the composer’s head. Newman, through his own genius, is composing the photo in the same way that Stravinsky is composing the music.
Many great portrait photographers never left their studios for the most part. But Arnold had an intense curiosity and wanted to go out into the world and discover how his subjects lived. This suited his restless personality. He would talk your ear off for sure as he often did mine but that was part of his charm. He also was very self-deprecating as you can glean from his famous quip, worthy of George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde -
“Photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXVIILa Ralentie, 2011
“When I shoot flowers or any still life or fashion, color forces me to be more abstract. I have to make the effort to transpose it in order to get close to what it was that first impressed me. For me black and white is closer to introspection, to memories, to loneliness and loss. I don’t see the same in color - it’s another language, a living language.”
~ Sarah Moon
Haunting is not a word I use lightly when thinking or writing about a photograph. But with this image it is the most apt word that comes to mind. Since the day I first saw this image that is what has happened. It conjures up a great novel whose central character I cannot stop thinking about. Her story envelopes me, her past, her future. I feel I know her, I feel connected to her. I need to hear from her.
This is the world Sarah creates. A deeply felt and romantic world out of a novel by Thomas Hardy or Tolstoy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXVIHighway 1, Big Sur, CA, 1963
“In the interplay of form, space, light and shadow that Henry’s keen eye reveals, he celebrates the essence of a complicated world distilled into a concise visual statement.”
~ John Sexton
When I think of the legendary Pacific Coast Highway 1, the mental image that comes to mind is always that of Henry Gilpin’s incredible photograph of the Big Sur coastline. I have seen hundreds of outstanding photographs along Highway 1, but none are more vivid and impactful than Gilpin’s. This image truly stands alone as probably the greatest photograph made of Highway 1 in Big Sur. It is the perfect representation of Gilpin’s devotion to the inimitable California coast.
The silver serpentine roadway weaves throughout the foggy, shadowed ridges of the Big Sur coastline, while the sun glistens on the rough sea below. There are no people or vehicles along the roadway. In this rare moment, the road is all yours.
Henry Gilpin’s photographic career spanned nearly four decades. Throughout the 1970s, he taught alongside Ansel Adams during Adams’s Yosemite workshops, in addition to having a career of teaching photography at Monterey Peninsula College for 37 years. Surprising to many people, Gilpin also spent 25 years with the Monterey County Sherriff’s Department, retiring in 1976 as a Captain. He devoted the rest of his life to his family, teaching and photography.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXVRosa Parks, The Selma March, 1965
“I photographed her during the Selma March from the small town of Selma to a march 54 miles away, ending on the steps of Montgomery, the Alabama Capitol but which had the effect of changing the Voting Laws which had discriminated heavily against black people. If you don’t have the vote, you have no say in government.
As a photographer, particularly photographing at a big event like the Selma March, you have an idea but you are never quite sure, which of the many photos you take in a day will be felt to be really interesting to other people. But this is my favorite photograph of Rosa Parks."
~ Steve Shapiro
On Dec 1st, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a seamstress after a long day’s work on her way home on her usual bus, rejected bus driver James F. Blake’s order to relinquish her seat in the “colored” section to a white passenger after the “White’s Only” section was filled. She was arrested and charged.
This single act of defiance changed the course of history. She became a role model for courage in the face of racial injustice and started a revolution for freedom which spread around the world.
As she eloquently said,
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free…so other people would also be free.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXIVCharlie "Bird" Parker with Metronome All Stars, New York City, 1949
“I can’t make a distinction as to what I like better, the photography or the jazz. I think it is all part of the same thing.”
~ Herman Leonard
There was no one quite like Charlie Parker in the history of Jazz. At age 11 he had just begun to play the saxophone. At age 20 he was one of the great ground breakers of all the previously adhered to “rules” and was leading a revolution in modern jazz. At 34 he was dead from years of drug and alcohol abuse. He was a kind of a Jackson Pollock figure. Bird’s saxophone was his brush. They both broke completely new ground and both were emotionally unsuited to handle intense fame.
Herman was the key chronicler of this music genre. He took the most iconic photographs of all the key players, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, you name them. He was living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and lost his complete archive of 8000 prints in the disaster. Fortunately his negatives were in storage at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and he moved to Los Angeles to be near his family.
We started to work even more closely with him when he was here. He was a tall, elegant and graceful man. Incredibly humble despite his enormous accomplishments.
He never went for the obvious shot but approached his subjects with empathy and intelligence. No one captured the soul of Jazz better as is evidenced here in his subtle portrait of Parker and his fellow musicians during a recording session. A masterpiece in creation.
With Herman you always heard with your eyes. And as Parker once famously said,
“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXIIILake Numazawa, Fukushima, Japan, 2005
“It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction into darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realized, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter to envelop it with a mystery of soul-suggestion."
~ Charles Caffin, 1910.
“Numakawa Lake, Japan” is one of Sammallahti’s most ethereal, tranquil and haunting photographs. A large majority of the image consists of a lustrous solid black of the trees, yet behind the darkness shines a silvery lake, scattered with dozens of small birds. This photograph has always reminded me of Edward Steichen’s iconic photograph “The Pond - Moonlight, 1904”
Sammallahti’s photograph of Numakawa Lake, Japan, is worthy to be deemed one of his masterworks - a photograph that fully encapsulates a photographer’s most exemplary and refined artistic vision.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXIIKeeping Warm, Islington, London, 1950
“Before a cat will condescend to treat you as a trusted friend, some little token of esteem is needed. Like a dish of cream.”
~ T.S. Eliot
Thurston Hopkin's dream was to work for Picture Post, the UK equivalent of Life Magazine. It was like a rite of passage to join their ranks.
As Thurston told me once, while walking the streets of London doing reportage for other assignments he met many cats that were made homeless by all the war bombings. He proposed to his editor that he do a story on “The Cats of London." The editor agreed and off Thurston went. Many of these strays had to establish themselves in the bomb sites. They were living and breeding more or less as wild cats would, surviving on the scraps given by friendly neighbors. Back in those days even the normal, “domestic” cats that had loving homes would spend lots of time on the streets. It was a common practice to let the cat out of the house before the owners went to bed as cat doors did not exist then. So even the kitties that had homes were still street cats first and house cats second.
The streets have changed, the cars for sure have changed, but the cats are the only things that have not changed in 70 years. The alternative title for this image is “Purr-Fect Parking." Don’t you just love that English wit?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXIBrooklyn Gang (Cathy by cigarette machine), 1959
“My way of working is to enter an unknown world, explore it over a period of time and learn from it.”
~ Bruce Davidson
I have great respect for photojournalists like Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Sebastião Salgado and Bruce Davidson who dedicate a big chunk of their lives to telling a story by living with their subjects for an extensive period of time before taking a single shot, so that they truly understand in depth the story they are telling us.
Such is the case with Bruce’s “Brooklyn Gang” series. He was only 25 years old at the time, a skinny kid who blended in with them and was accepted as one of their peers. He captured their way of life, their problems, their insecurities, their pain. All teenage angst is universal. Don’t we all remember ours when we were trying to figure out who we were and where we were going?
I just love the “coolness” of this image. Cathy, a Brigitte Bardot clone, combing her hair. The boy, someone akin to James Dean, rolling up the sleeve of his T-shirt reaching for a pack of cigarettes, hanging out at Coney Island, their temporary refuge...
As Bruce pointed out these kids came from tough environments with very little social support or understanding and he realized early on in his career with this powerful photo-essay which seems as fresh today as the day it was shot that,
“All people need to be seen. Nothing greeted them except my camera.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXXCharles James Dresses, 1948
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert the integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it safe, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."
~ Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton was a true renaissance man - writer, diarist, playwright, painter, illustrator, set designer, costume designer, dandy and not least one of the great 20th Century photographers.
This is one of his greatest photographs. On June 1st, 1948, nine fashion models, including the great Carmen Dell'Orefice (still working and going strong at 89 years old!) and Dorian Leigh, gathered at French and Co., the celebrated antiques dealer on Park Avenue to have their photograph taken decked out in Charles James's exquisite gowns. James was perhaps the most revered designer of his generation who had his European counterparts like Dior and Balenciaga in awe. Every garment he produced was deemed to be a work of art. James and Beaton had first met at school at Harrow in England.
Just imagine how difficult it was to choreograph and light nine models and get nine separate “performances“ out of them to create a cohesive narrative. Very few photographers had the experience and genius to pull it off but out of it came one of the most important images in the history of fashion photography.
Beaton’s pithy wit was sometimes on a par with Oscar Wilde. As Cecil once said,
“The truly fashionable are beyond fashion.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXIXPiccadilly Circus, London, 1955
I hadn’t come across the work of Hannes Kilian before I discovered this extraordinary vintage print of my home town. I found out that he was a freelance German photojournalist who had worked for major publications like Time, Picture Post, Stern and Vogue. That’s what’s so amazing about collecting photography, you never stop learning and discovering things.
In his later life he came to specialize in dance photography and his special images of the Stuttgart Ballet made that ballet company famous throughout the world. But this image of Piccadilly Circus in the 1950’s just bowled me over. Of course that young man in the center of the image could have been me as it was a place I frequented often and his stance of dreaming and looking at the bright lights was one I often employed...well let’s just say for sake of argument it is me.
It is one of the greatest London photos I have ever seen. I was happy to see a print of it at an exhibition at Tate Britain a few years back called “Another London” where it was also on the catalogue’s back cover.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CLXXVIIIThe Midnight Kids, Sophiatown, South Africa, 1954
“The good photographer unconsciously studies people, movements, attitudes, expressions. He watches and waits for the significant moment. I do not like pictures where the subject is reacting to you, the photographer. The best pictures result when the subjects react to each other. The photographer is a witness, not a participant.“
~ Jürgen Schadeberg
We sadly lost Jürgen a few weeks ago. He had a rich and fulfilling life not without it’s struggles and hardships. He was most famously known for his classic photographs of Nelson Mandela but he produced a vast body of work documenting the effects of apartheid on South African black communities.
He grew up in wartime Germany before emigrating to South Africa in 1950 and joined the staff of Drum Magazine, one of the most important magazines in that country.
Empathy was part of his DNA as this image manifests. In 1955, he documented the forcible eviction of black families from Sophiatown, a racially mixed suburb of Johannesburg, famous for its vibrant live music scene.
This image evokes for me the joyous dynamism of a community whose spirit cannot be broken even in the face of unremitting oppression. The music and joy rings through as a testament to the enduring fact that nothing can totally extinguish hope and pride.
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.”
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 specime