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 CDXCDistortion #6, Paris, 1933
Andre Kertesz experimented with the notion of “distortion" first back in 1917 with his celebrated “Underwater Swimmer”. He took up the theme again 16 years later whilst living now in Paris. He was commissioned by the magazine “Le Sourire”.
Here in his words is the story of how it came to be and I have always thought “Distortion No. 6" to be the most elegant and seductive and the most beautiful of the series in its exquisite elongation of the torso and the hand.
“They had used graphic arts in their magazine but had never used photography and wanted me to photograph women. Of course I told them I liked the idea - I liked women too. I thought I could do something nice using my ideas about distorting the human figure. The editor was excited and promised to provide everything I would need, model, studio, everything. The studio was arranged with two large circus mirrors which were quite beautiful in themselves. Originally there were two women for contrast the young and the old - then I settled on one. She was a society girl in Paris, a White Russian. The older model was a cabaret dancer. I photographed the young woman over a period of four weeks, usually twice a week. I would develop glass plates and make prints for myself. When I showed them to the model, she told me she was quite sure that it was not her in all of the photographs. When I exhausted the possibilities of the mirror after making about 200 negatives, I stopped.”
As quoted in Andre Kertész: Of Paris and New York. Sandra S.Phillips, David Travis and Weston J. Naef
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXIXCambridge Circus, London, 1936
“I was always quite content to be a good craftsman.”
~ Wolf Suschitzky
When I was growing up in London as a little kid I would sit on the top level of a double decker bus and pretend to be driving it and dreamed of one day actually being a bus driver when I grew up. Well that never quite worked out but I revisit that fantasy every time I look at this photograph.
Wolf’s genius was to shoot it in the sleet and snow. It just wouldn’t have the same effect if it had been shot in Springtime or a warm summer’s day.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXVIIIFishermen, Scarborough Beach, 1965
“Photography is the truth if it’s being handled by a truthful person.”
~ Don McCullin
Don is one of the most truthful, down to earth, unpretentious photographers I have ever met.
There is such honesty to him. The last thing he would ever call himself would be an “artist” though that is what he surely is.
He has remained true to his working class roots despite being given incredible acclaim and renown for his work including a Knighthood by the Queen.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and if I had to find one word to explain the power of his work it would be “empathy".
Here in a quiet moment during a lunch break, these fishermen enjoy a brief respite from the harshness and danger of their lives.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXVIIFunt with Harp, 2011
“Funt was a brilliant actor and a lot of things that he did for me, for my compositions are things that probably no other bear would be able to perform. There were things I wanted to try because, well, you never know -you might get lucky. Or it may all fail. But I got really lucky that day with the photography I call “Funt with Harp”. When you look closely you can see the way his claws touch the strings of the harp. It’s unbelievable how realistic it looks.”
~ Gregori Maiofis
Yes something rare and wonderful. Let’s sit back and relax and enjoy the concert.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXVISatiric Dancer, 1926
"People in motion are wonderful to photograph. It means catching the right moment - the moment when something changes into something else.”
~ Andre Kertész
Andre was at the epicenter of Parisian cultural life throughout his years there. He was also part of the lively Hungarian emigre community who had also made Paris their new home. Magda Forstner was a Hungarian cabaret dancer who was visiting her fellow Hungarian, sculptor Istvan Beothy, at the same time Kertész was there. Andre asked the dancer to think of Boethy’s sculpture that was set up in the corner of the room. She too, always the professional that she was, twisted herself into a harmonious contortion. The downward perspective and wide angle accentuate the dynamics of a composition that is all angles and is full of Kertész’s joy and spirit.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXVAt the Old Well of Acoma, 1904
“The Keres village of Acoma is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States. Perched on the top of the mesa some three hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding valley, it is accessible only by difficult trails partly cut in the solid rock of its precipices. Members of Coronado’s army of explorers in 1540 and Espejo in 1583 noted the “cisterns to collect snow and water” on the rock of Acoma.”
~ Edward S. Curtis
This is one of Curtis’s most magical images. These young women are pictured collecting water on the rock of Acoma using beautiful earthen vases. The contrast of the soft ripples and the harsh and dominating rocks makes for a beautiful juxtaposition.
The beauty of the image is further enchanced by the special orotone process that Curtis pioneered. He printed images directly onto glass and backed them with golden metallic particles. The end result has a luminosity and three dimensionality not found in any other medium. It just glows.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXIVStepney, London (Children, Street View), 1934
“I am one of those photographers who likes to wait for an opportunity for a picture to present itself, rather than create it by careful posing. I much prefer my subjects to take up a favorable position of their own accord, instead of having to coax them into position.
Perhaps it’s no accident that I have done much photography of children and animals. One cannot arrange either of them to any large extent. One has to wait patiently for the right moment. Children and animals have the further advantage that they don’t complain about the results.”
~ Wolf Suschitzky
Wolf was a dear, wonderful man who lived to be 104 years old. I am convinced he lived to this ripe old age because he never lost his own child-like sense of wonderment.
I know this area of East London very well as I was born not far from it albeit many years later.
But that ragamuffin boy in the centre could well have been me as it was a stance I’m sure I adopted growing up as well.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXIIIWheels, Third Ward, 1993
“I was inspired by the stories that my grandmother told and the photographs in the family album….at an early age I began to understand the importance of documenting one's community.”
~ Earlie Hudnall Jr
Most of Earlie’s sublime work has taken place in the Third Ward Houston community in the city where he lives.
He does not focus on the hardships of poverty and discrimination and hate. Instead his photos capture the everyday life of the area’s residents, filled with moments of beauty and joy.
On a hot summer’s day these boys were just rolling around from scene to scene in front of the camera, shooting marbles, just being kids and free.
As Earlie wistfully says,
“Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone would be free to roam?”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXIITender Touch, Hungary, 1915
“When the first World War started I joined the army. Of course, I took my camera along, and whenever there was a moment I took pictures of my comrades.”
~ Andre Kertész
Great artists often have periods. Their early period, their middle period and their late period.
Kertesz just had one incredible period, his life of creation and constant reinvention. The seeds of his longevity can be seen in his early Hungarian images. He never made grand statements of the often turbulent times he lived through.
When this image was made the horrors of war were raging but true to his spirit what he was most interested in as he was throughout his life were above all the tender personal feelings and quiet moments expressed in being alive.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXIAdversity Makes Strange Bedfellows, 2005
"First of all, I come up with something in my imagination. I have to come up with a composition which I usually sketch out so
I know exactly what I want to make happen. Or at least make it close as I can to what I first imagined.
Composition in my opinion is the most important part of any visual art. That’s what painting and photography have in common.
There may be different ways of extracting an image, but conceptualising the composition is the most important part."
~ Gregori Maiofis
This was the first image that Gregori created when “Funt The Bear” paid his first visit to Gregori’s studio. A woman sits on a bed, her chin resting on her hand in a moment of deep concentration exploring private thoughts. Beside her sits a huge bear, his paw with enormous claws gently resting on her shoulder. There is such connection in this simple gesture. Magic sometimes happens. The message is clear, that despite the immense difference that separates two beings, language, culture, race, even species, connection is still possible.
Funt was not encouraged or directed to place his paw on the woman. He did it of his own accord. A tender, “human" moment.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXXDundee, Scotland, 1944
“In Dundee I came across the worst slums I had ever seen. When I took this picture I was next to a 10 story high tenement building. There was only one toilet on each floor and one cold water tap. I got there working on a film about delinquent children and how they were treated in Scotland."
~ Wolfgang Suschitzky
Wolf enjoyed two equally professionally creative careers. One as a much in demand documentary cinematographer where he primarily earned his living. And the other, his more personal work, as a very skilled photographer. Sometimes these overlapped as is evidenced here.
He was well aware that the camera was a strong weapon to advance social change and was an advocate for social justice his whole life in the the tradition of such photographers as Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXIXLady in Plaid Skirt, 1991
“I want my photos to remind people of something or someone familiar and identify with it in some way. There is no greater gift.”
~ Earlie Hudnall Jr
Earlie has given us so many great gifts with his talent. In this exquisite image he could easily have been on assignment for Vogue but it was just a spontaneous moment he created. He is also a master printer and every one of his prints just glows.
As he says,
“I still love the darkroom. I print every other day. At least every week I’m in the darkroom, printing. It’s a process and people ask “Why not switch to digital?" It’s not the same: the feel isn’t there. In the darkroom you have complete control: you are the master of what you’re doing and how you develop it and how you bring it up.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXVIIIThe Vanishing Race - Navaho, 1904
“The thought which this picture is meant to convey is that Indians as a race, already shorn of their tribal strength and stripped of their primitive dress, are passing into the darkness of an unknown future,
Feeling that this picture expresses so much of the thought that inspired the entire work, the author has chosen it as the first of the series.”
Edward S. Curtis
Indeed this image is the first in Curtis’s magnum opus “The North American Indian”.
There have been many ethnographic works conducted on Native American Life but none have ever operated on any kind of artistic level that Curtis’s work exudes. He was a truly gifted artist above anything else and had an epic vision and the tenacity to fulfill it whatever the personal costs were.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXVIILondon, 1952
“One day in a second-hand shop near Covent Garden, I found a 70 year old wooden Kodak. I was delighted. Like nineteenth-century cameras it had no shutter, and the wide-angle lens, with an aperture as minute as a pin-hole, was focused on infinity. In 1926, Edward Weston wrote in his diary “The camera sees more than the eyes, so why not make use of it”. My new camera saw more and saw it differently. It created a great illusion of space, an unrealistically steep perspective and it distorted. When I began to photograph nudes, I let myself be guided by this camera and instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed."
~ Bill Brandt
This is Bill Brandt’s most sought after image. His printing style varied greatly and like all creative, analogue photographers he had good days and bad days in the darkroom.
When I found this print recently I knew that it had been produced not on one of his “good” days but on one of his truly “great” days. The print just glowed and the magic of the image affected me more than any other print of it I had seen over several decades. The collector instinct in me was just so overwhelming.
The subject matter of the female body is one of the most primal themes in all of art history. It is of course from where we all originated.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXVILenin's Science Makes One's Hand and Mind Stronger, 2006
“In all these images, the scenes depicted actually took place in my studio without the use of computer effects. Funt was really reading Lenin’s writings.”
~ Gregori Maiofis
What also makes Gregori’s images look like no one else’s is that he is employing the bromoil transfer process, an extremely complicated and time-consuming technique, that was employed by many of the great Pictorialist photographers in the early years of the 20th Century.
The image is initially printed on a traditional piece of silver gelatin paper and then is bleached to remove the silver pigment and then hand-coated with additional tanning and inking. No two bromoil prints, no matter how expertly made, are exactly alike so each one in a way is unique.
Gregori has lived through turbulent times in Russia, to say the least, so this photograph has an additional gentle political satire to it as well as being such a joyous image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXVAn Oasis in the Badlands - Sioux, 1905
“The passing of every man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other.
Consequently the information that is to 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
In a sense Edward Curtis was a true romantic, a man obsessed with the spirit of Native American people and the richly diverse cultures that shaped them. His obsession/passion cost him his health, his marriage, his family, his finances. He died basically destitute in Los Angeles in 1952.
This is one of his greatest images in his most beautiful of printing formats, a vintage platinum print. It shows Red Hawk, Chief of a small band of Sioux on his way to an Indian Council in South Dakota.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXIVLella, Bretagne, 1947
“To me photography is like a quest, or a pilgrimage or a hunt. I love painting, I love music, but photography is what has allowed me to get outside of myself.”
~ Edouard Boubat
“I have often been asked what I think of that photo. What I think, to quote Proust, is that it is charged with something of the “transparent substance of our best moments,” those that we shared while we were young. Boubat and I, before the course of life made us drift apart, caught upon the spell that we were living under back then and what can only be called a poetic adventure.”
~ Lella, 1987
I call this image “The Helen of Troy” photograph, a face that launched a thousand ships.
I never get tired of looking at it. To say that it is haunting does not do it justice. It is one of the most romantic, “muse” images ever taken.
I remember a special day I spent with Edouard many years ago in Paris. He had invited me to view a special exhibition with him of all the images he had taken of his great love Lella. As we walked around the museum together and he was telling me stories of their taking we stopped of course at this, his most famous image. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. His expression and the tear coming from his eye said it all.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXIIIChildren with Broken Mirror, New York, 1940
“I never had a “project”. I would go out and shoot, follow my eyes and what they noticed, I tried to capture with my camera for others to see.”
~ Helen Levitt
Helen was one of the feisty, go-getting, self-directed, poker-loving greats of street photography.
She was once called by a critic “the most celebrated and least known photographer" of her time.
But she did finally gain great renown in her lifetime and received many major museum exhibitions and multiple publications paying tribute to her.
In this photo, two children hold up a broken mirror as others crowd around to examine the shards of glass left behind. Behind the frame a little boy on a bicycle hurdles forward as if he is about to break through the frame itself.
Helen’s great empathy for children and her innate sense of timing and composition captures a moment when ordinary becomes extraordinary. She found magic on the gritty streets of New York and passed away at the age of 95 years old.
We will probably not see her kind again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXIIAfternoon Crowd at Coney Island, 1940
“Sure, I’d like to live regular. Go home to a good looking wife, a hot dinner and a husky kid. But I guess I got film in my blood.
I love this racket. It’s exciting. It’s dangerous. It’s funny. It’s heart breaking.”
Weegee aka Arthur Fellig was one of the all-time characters in photography. A one-of-a-kind for sure. He was the least likely person to find at a beach. His usual urban beat was covering fires, floods, car wrecks and murders.
But on Saturday, July 5th, 1942 on a very hot day in front of teeming humanity he climbed up on a life guard station and screamed and danced until everybody started to look up at him and when they did he took the photograph. He said “It was that simple”.
I don’t quite believe him but it is surely one of the greatest photographs ever to have been shot in New York. I guess this is the antithesis of “social distancing”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXIPortrait of Winston Churchill (Cabinet Card), 1907
"Success consists of going from failure to failure
without loss of enthusiasm.”
~ Winston Churchill
It is always interesting to view early portraits of great figures of history before they reach the pinnacle of their achievements.
Such is the case here with Sir Winston Churchill, surely one of the most important figures in history.
He is young here, about 33 years old, but one can already sense a steely hardness in his eyes and mouth, characteristics that he would project through his long and momentous life.
This rare and uncommon early portrait was taken when he was a liberal M.P. representing Manchester Northwest in Parliament. He was also a newly appointed member of the Privy Council and Under-Secretary of State for the British Colonies, playing an active role in African affairs.
There is another print of this image in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXXCynthia Antonio, Santa Fe, NM, 1990,
“My love affair is with the West. I could never have my heart elsewhere, not for long. I need the space and distances as much as I need to eat.”
~ Kurt Markus
The fashion world discovered Kurt’s talent and being a fluid, creative industry always sort out the best of the best to engage with. Nothing has really changed since Conde Nast first hired Edward Steichen to work for his magazines at the beginning of the 20th Century.
It is always an intense balancing act for any creative artist such as Kurt to not only satisfy the clients wishes but also to produce something very personal that they too can be proud of. This is such an image. The project was inspired by no less a cultural icon than Georgia O’Keeffe, who was beyond fashionable even though she expressed no interest in fashion at all. She lived for her art and just that.
In the model, Cynthia Antonio, Kurt found his muse and with his love of the landscape and his eye for balance he brought something so special to this genre that it stands alone on its own merits.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXIXDelhi, India, 2000
“I read a Sufi poet, a very old man where he speaks of the “language of the birds” which is a very beautiful story. It is very difficult to tell it all but in short all the birds gather together to make a journey
to find God. On that journey they come and they find each other.”
~ Graciela Iturbide
I too, ever since childhood, have always been fascinated by flocks of birds. For some unfathomable reason they make me happy. Especially in the current times we are all living in, I try and seek them out more and more.
Thank you Graciela for reminding me how beautiful they and your images are.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXVIIINext to Nothing. Model Unknown, New York. Junior Bazaar, 1948
“Lillian made visible that heart breaking invisible place between the appearance and the disappearance of things.”
~ Richard Avedon
One of the greatest fashion photographers ever, Lillian never ceased to amaze me with her energy and determination to always challenge herself. She was working up to the day she passed away which is one of the reasons I think for her productive longevity.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917, she entered the fashion trade through the design class of famed art director Alexey Brodovitch along with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Noticing her astute visual talents, Brodovitch appointed Bassman as his Co-Art Director in the founding of “Junior Bazaar” magazine in 1945. Here she helped launch the careers of many notable photographers of the century including giving early assignments to Avedon, Robert Frank, Leslie Gill, Arnold Newman, Paul Himmel and many more. After the publication was absorbed by Harper’s Bazaar and at the urging of her colleagues, Bassman began to photograph the models she worked with and quickly developed a body of work that was unlike any other fashion images of the period. They still look as fresh and innovative today as the day they were taken.
I was so honored to have hosted her first West Coast exhibition and to have collaborated closely with her for over 20 years.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXVIIAretha Franklin, 1968
“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white.
It’s our basic human right.”
~ Aretha Frankin 1942-2018
“You don’t have to go looking for pictures. The material is generous. You go out and the pictures are staring at you.”
~ Lee Friedlander
Aretha Franklin was one of the most influential female vocalists of the 1960’s and Lee Friedlander is one of the most influential and important American photographers of his generation.
Apart from pursuing his own personal work for two decades from the 1950’s through the 1970’s he was the in-house photographer for Atlantic Records, the most dynamic and diverse record company of its era and the home for many of music’s post war all-time greats. Many of his images became “The” iconic image of these musicians and performers.
This is undoubtedly the greatest portrait ever of the amazing Aretha Franklin. He for sure captured her essence.
As the great Atlantic record producer Joel Dorn so eloquently put it,
“Lee’s magic lies in his ability to completely surrender to his subject whether it’s a person, a tree or a building. His work is egoless. He’s practically an invisible part of the process, choosing to receive rather than send. He comes away with so much because he takes nothing, only what’s offered.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXVIBig Springs Ranch, Brennan, ID, 1982
“Really nothing does happen in my picture. I guess maybe that’s the moment I recognize it is a picture."
~ Kurt Markus
I’m not sure I agree with Kurt when he says this. There are always many layers of storytelling going on in every image.
He is a quiet, modest man possessed with an enormous talent. He has helped me understand the power and mystery and sheer beauty of the West and the people who inhabit it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXVGrain Elevator, 1970
“The only competition is you and your work.”
~ Brett Weston
Brett was blessed to have had such a talented and nurturing father in Edward Weston. If he didn’t have his own enormous talent and individual personality and strength of purpose it could have handicapped him as so many children who pursue the same artistic profession as their celebrated parents have had to contend with.
But Brett emerged from his father’s footsteps with his own vision intact and managed to carve out his own distinct legacy to become one of the foremost 20th Century modernist photographers, no better evidenced by his transcendent image of this grain elevator.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXIVNuestra Senora de las Iguanas, Juchitan, Oaxaca, 1996
“I have always said that my camera is a pretext to know the culture, its people and the way of life……I photograph with the surprise of what I find and the passion that I have in my work and I learn the different ways of living in my country.”
~ Graciela Iturbide
Graciela is one of Latin America’s most renowned and revered artists. Wherever she travels she uses her camera to reveal the humanity of her subjects.
Working in the town of Juchitan she saw Zobeida Diaz as she made her way to market carrying, as Iguana sellers sometimes do, her wares on her head. Graciela asked permission to photograph her
and the image became one of the most celebrated images in the history of Latin American photography.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXIIIRanch, Paisley, Oregon, 1982
“I don’t believe in a photograph until I make a print of it. It doesn’t exist for me. It’s just like thin air. It takes guts to make a print. You know you have to convince yourself that this is you, that you’ve made this and that you’re putting your name on it and you also have to believe that maybe somebody else either can appreciate the work you’ve done or can appreciate that this is you. There’s nothing else to hide behind.”
~ Kurt Markus
Kurt belongs to a dying breed. He is himself an endangered species. An artist who places themself deep into the tradition of their craft.
When you hold the physical print in your hands that he has poured his soul into it is almost like a religious experience. It is a miracle that places you immediately into the narrative of the story he is telling and the people he so deeply cares about.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXIISculpted Leaf, Hawaii, 1979
“I photograph out of love.”
~ Brett Weston
Brett towards the end of his life left the Carmel area and moved to Hawaii. This was no attempt to retire or even semi-retire.
I don’t think he ever embraced the concept of such a thought. Work and creating beauty was his “modus operandi" which guided his life. He was relentless in the pursuit of his craft. In fact his work ethic never diminished and was even given a new boost by this move. The island of Hawaii gave him fresh creative inspiration and personal renewal to create a body of work equal to many of his earlier masterpieces.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXIBroken Plate, Paris, 1929
“In this picture of Montmartre I was just testing a new lens for a special effect. When I went to America, I left most of my material in Paris and when I returned I found sixty percent of the glass plate negatives were broken. This is one I saved but it had a hole in it. I printed it anyway. An accident helped me produce a beautiful effect.”
~ Andre Kertész
Sometimes fate has other things in mind and surprises happen. Kertész had thought he had lost forever much of his earlier Paris work when he left for America and a new life with his wife Elizabeth. His negatives were entrusted to a woman who had been one of his editors and for safe keeping she had stored them in her country house during the war.
This negative with it’s bullet hole-like fracture was returned to him in 1963 along with other negatives damaged and undamaged that he had completely given up about ever retrieving. He discarded all the broken ones except this one which subsequently became one of his most sought after images.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLXBig Sur Coast, 1967
“I’m not a verbal person. Look at my work and decide for yourself. It’s hard to put it into words.”
~ Brett Weston
Unlike many photographers who have left us long treatises about the meaning of their work and their practices Brett was a man of very few words. He let his images speak for themselves which is one of the reasons I respect him so much.
There are very few places on earth that have such splendor and beauty as the Big Sur Coast. It has been a much visited and photographed locale. But few have managed to capture its essence as well as Brett did here.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLIXParis, 1963
“I cannot even tell you how many beautiful things I see here in Paris that the others don’t.”
~ Andre Kertész
On his arrival in 1925, Kertész made Paris the focus of his work. Perhaps because he was an outsider from Hungary he discovered things many other local photographers missed. His name Kertész in Hungarian means “gardener” and Paris at this time was the greatest and most stimulating place in the world to roam and plant in. He returned to Paris whenever he could to escape his loneliness in New York.
This is a rare later image but has all the simple poetry he is revered for.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLVIIIGrabbing The Brass Ring, 1950
“The simple answer to why I take pictures is that it makes me happy.”
~ Martin Elkort
George Bernard Shaw wittily quipped as was his manner that “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”.
There were many American colloquialisms that it took me a long time to fully understand when I first moved here. One of them was this one, but thanks to Marty’s wonderful photograph when I first discovered it many years ago, it was one less I had to figure out.
It’s a merry-go-round at Coney Island. Marty positioned himself about 10’ away from this hollow chamber which contains brass rings and if one is pulled out, another one slides into place. As the merry-go-round goes around and around, the kid tries to grab it each time. It has entered into the common language with its aspirational thoughts but this is its derivation.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLVIIHolland Canal, 1971
“Nature is a great artist, the greatest. I’ve seen rocks and forms that put Matisse, Picasso and Brancusi to shame. You can’t beat Mother Nature.”
~ Brett Weston
You can stare across a room and immediately notice a Brett Weston photograph. It certainly has a distinct look to it which takes years and years of intense dedication to a now often increasingly rare analogue craft.
He was notorious for going to bed at 8pm and commencing his solitary darkroom practice at 3-4am most of his life, when he was not en route to another location.
He paired his life down to its essential simplicity so he could concentrate on his art, something he learnt from his equally dedicated father Edward Weston. Close throughout their lives Brett developed his own strong photographic vision and voice.
Unlike Edward, Brett ventured outside of America in search of new challenges. He traveled extensively in Europe and to Japan but it was in Holland that he created one of his most celebrated and sought after images.
This at first glance seems like a traditional landscape but in Brett’s hands with his ability to present a deep space along a misty canal with the trees lining its banks receding in short rows into the distance, he turns it into a dream that envelops the viewer and takes them on this special journey.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLVIEvening Storm in Summer, Paris, c. 1925
“We all owe something to Kertész.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
I remember one memorable day sitting with Cartier-Bresson and I managed to get him to talk about photography and photographers, something he was extremely reluctant to do as he felt that was indeed part of his past life as he was now creatively focused on his drawings and paintings.
Somehow the subject of Andre Kertesz came up, perhaps the only other photographer I revered as much. Tears welled up in Henri’s eyes as he talked about his greatness and his influence on him and I experienced the same emotion.
It was like Andre Kertész was present in the room with us. Something I will never forget.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLVThe Dwarf (with cigarettes and flowers), 1958
“If I am looking for a story at all it is in my relationship to the subject - the story that tells me, rather than that I tell.”
~ Bruce Davidson
This is one of Bruce’s most powerful and moving photo essays. He discovered a tent circus in the Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey and saw a dwarf clown outside on a dreary plot of land near the circus tent. The clown wore a Charlie Chaplin get up, white face makeup and a pensive expression. With downcast eyes and a bedraggled paper bouquet in one hand, he took a puff of a cigarette. Click.
He befriended this Clown whose name was Jimmy Armstrong who trusted him and allowed him to enter his life. Bruce identified with his loneliness and found a deep truth and humanity that is hard not to be deeply moved by even after 60 years since the images were first published in Esquire.
Even though they seldom spoke, Jimmy eventually told Bruce he was his best friend.
The following dedication appeared in two of Bruce’s books “Circus” (2007) and Bruce Davidson Black and White (2012).
“For Jimmy Armstrong known as the “Little Man”"
“He was a giant in my eyes”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLIVDunes, Shoshone, CA, 1968
“Beyond the rudiments, it is up to the artist
to create art, not the camera.”
~ Brett Weston
Some of Brett’s greatest work was his dunes series. It suited his work style like a glove. He was an early riser. Mornings were best for photographing sand dunes. The cool of night calms the wind and the air is at its clearest and there was no one else around to disturb his peace and concentration. Light meant photography and for Brett there was only photography or the anticipation of photography.
That was his life, plain and simple.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLIIISpring Showers, New York, 1900 (Printed 1911)
“At least it can be said of me, by way of an epitaph, that I cared.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz
There has never been such a formidable character as Alfred Stieglitz in the whole history of photography. He cared about so many things. Of course about being one of the greatest photographers who ever lived but he cared about so many other things beyond his own photographic work.
He was the first great impresario of Photography, promoting his belief that it should be taken as seriously as all other artistic practices. He ran a gallery, published journals including the seminal “Camerawork”, anything to his mind that would advance the overall “cause" and helped and encouraged and promoted so many photographers and artists that he personally believed in.
This gem of a print was taken on the edge of Madison Square close to where his 291 Gallery was located. It has an almost Japanese quality and feeling to it reflected in its pure and simple approach. It has perfect balance. The tree in the foreground sharply defined, and the soft grey light in the background gives it its delicate feeling and dreamlike aura.
I have always felt this to be a self portrait. Stieglitz is both the tree and the sweeper working together to help bring a new vision for a modern world and to teach America a new way to look at itself.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLIISamuel Bourne's Wife, Calcutta, c. 1865
“The young photographer in his eager desire to master these very frequently pays no attention to the artistic properties of his pictures…… Such I freely confess, was the case with myself…..so having in some degree mastered the difficulties of manipulation, my ambition spurred me on to attempt to produce pictures which should be as much admired for their artistic qualities, as for their excellence viewed in a purely photographic light.”
~ Samuel Bourne
Samuel Bourne is justly regarded as one of the finest landscape and travel photographers of 19th Century India. He had that great combination of a fine eye for composition allied with a high technical skill.
He spent a very productive 7 years there from 1863-1870 but came back in 1867 to marry his love Mary Tolley. They came back together and their first child Constance was born in India. It’s rare to find such a personal, tender, loving photograph in such a body of work but it is rich in feeling.
The family left India on 27th November 1870 on the SS China, returning to England via the newly completed Suez Canal. He became a very successful cotton mill owner and manufacturer and had four more children. He died on 24th April 1912 at the age of 78. He never returned to India.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLILondon Underground, 1959
“I can only materialize that world of phantoms when I see something that resonates within me.”
~ Sergio Larrain
Sergio Larrain is one of those mythical figures in the history of photography. He created a small body of work and then gave it all up to live a simple existence in isolation in his homeland. He was appreciated and respected and encouraged by no less a giant in the field than Henri Cartier-Bresson who brought him into the Magnum family. But working on assignments with deadlines and all that precise and structured professionalism that goes along with the job did not suit his temperament or personalty.
He was given a commission to document London for 4 months during the cold winter of 1959 by the British Council. It is one of the most brilliant, poetic bodies of work ever created about this city or any city come to think of it that I have ever seen. It has such personal resonance. Tottenham Court Road was my “stop” and the epicenter of my world growing up there, the stopping off point for all the book stores, museums, theaters, and jazz record stores I devoured.
I joined the “cult” of Larrain worshippers from this body of work and also perhaps his most celebrated series on the port city of Valparaiso. The appreciation and respect for the work was so intense that I planned to go meet him with our mutual friend the great Magnum Photographer René Burri who agreed to take me to see him. Sadly that would not come to pass as both Sergio and René became sick and the trip was cancelled.
What a journey that would have been in the presence of these Masters.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDLWoman and Child on Steps, Brooklyn Heights, 1962
“As a photographer I’m only really looking for each new picture of mine. I try to pass that disease on to anyone interested.“
~ Charles Harbutt
Not only was Charlie a brilliant, brilliant photographer as evidenced by this beautiful mother and child image from a pre-gentrified Brooklyn. He also gave freely of his time and energy and accumulated knowledge.
He was a much loved Associate Professor of Photography at Parsons School of Design in New York and inspired a whole new generation of photographers. In addition he served not one but two terms as President of Magnum Photos which attests to not only his total dedication to his medium and to fellow practitioners but also to his immense reserves of patience and people skills. Strong-minded, intense, talented photographers each with varying and constantly changing opinions on everything are not the easiest cast of characters to organize but he succeeded.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLIXRestaurant Coquet, Paris, 1953
“I take photographs to hold on to the ephemeral, capture chance, to keep an image of something that will disappear, gestures, attitudes, objects that are reminders of our brief lives. The camera picks them up and freezes them at the moment that they disappear.”
~ Sabine Weiss
A great example of chance in life. A busy street, bustling away. Cafe society in full swing in the foreground and on a second floor a stolen kiss. A story within a story.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLVIIIUntitled (Man with Hat), c. 1860s
Milton Miller is widely considered the foremost portrait photographer in 19th Century China. After mastering the art of photography in San Francisco in the 1850’s he travelled to China in 1860 to assist the photographers Howard and Weed. By 1861, Miller ran a photography studio in Hong Kong and Guangzhou specializing in portraits of influential Chinese and foreign citizens.
This exceptional albumen print is a prime example of his special talent. The subject gazes forward at the camera establishing a powerful connection with the viewer. It has a jarring intensity but Miller shows the remarkable empathy he must have had with his sitter. It seems so modern.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLVIIChrysler Building, Park Ave, New York, 1970
“A photograph is a collision between a person with a camera and reality. The photograph is typically as interesting as the collision is.“
~ Charles Harbutt
I was not aware of Charles when by chance I discovered him in a small exhibition of collector’s favorite images in Los Angeles in the early 2000s. The name was unfamiliar but the power of this photograph was immediate and I was determined to find out more. I contacted him and on my next trip to New York arranged to go visit him in his apartment near Washington Square.
He was a quiet, down-to-earth man with a wry sense of humor. We looked through some boxes of work together and I was just overwhelmed by the gems he was showing me. Charles had a nervous energy about him despite being shy.
He constantly chain smoked. I had to retire to the balcony from time to time just to escape the smoke. I just loved the work but asked him half jokingly that a condition of our collaboration would be that he promised me he would stop smoking as I was concerned for his health.
We enjoyed a wonderful relationship but alas he did not listen to me or to anyone else about his habit. But the work spoke for itself. This image is just a spectacular reflection on urban life in the same vein as a great Edward Hopper painting.
The individual placed within it trying to figure it all out. I was so happy we “collided”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLVIChinese Family, c. 1868-75
William Pryor Floyd was an innkeeper’s son from Cornwall, England but like all of his contemporaries who were smitten with the new technology of cameras he also had a great sense of adventure and wanderlust.
After working in Shanghai in 1864 and in Macau from 1865-1867, the English photographer operated one of the most successful studios in Hong Kong from 1867-1874. He obviously had a great sense of composition and an ability to get his sitters to relax in front of his lens.
The wonderful thing about 19th Century Travel photography for me has always been the universality and timelessness of much of its subject matter.
Families are families all over right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLVThe Cafeteria, 1973
“A good pastrami sandwich could bring peace to the world.”
~ Bruce Davidson
I have always loved delis. I seek them out whenever I’m traveling. I guess it stems back to my childhood. My dad loved them. He was a very silent man but seemed to come alive when he was in one. It was often a place we could spend some quiet time together on a special occasion like a birthday at his favourite one in the East End in London near where we lived.
It was something beyond mere comfort food. It attracted people like my dad who were trying to find their place in a modern world having lost the traditional world from where they and their own families had come from.
Bruce Davidson connected with the great writer Isaac Bashevis Singer in the early 1970’s having produced a documentary on him. Singer introduced him to The Garden Cafeteria on the Lower East Side in New York where Singer would often eat having dropped off a story written for The Jewish Daily Forward whose offices were nearby.
The images Bruce took there have a poetic melancholy to them and many of his subjects had been displaced and shattered by their experiences of the Holocaust and were struggling to survive again in a different way in an unfamiliar modern New York.
As Bruce eloquently put it,
“Isaac Singer allowed me to find something I had never been able to reach before.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLIVParis, 1954
“I never pose anything. It’s always just an instant.”
~ Sabine Weiss
This image of Sabine’s always puts a smile on my face. It is a classic post-war moment where memories of hard times, rationing and sad events are forgotten in that most elemental of acts, a loving kiss all be it not so clandestine.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLIIIEye of Love #531, 1952
“Being by nature romantic, I take pictures of moods and emotion, reinforcing them, if necessary, through manipulation in the darkroom, entirely in the spirit of the Swiss photographer, Gotthard Schuh.
We each take pictures only of what we see. And we each see only what corresponds to our nature.”
~ René Groebli
The Eye of Love is a tender photo essay on a photographer’s love for a woman, his wife Rita, on their simple honeymoon in Paris in 1952.
No epic images. No grand statements. Just simple, real, intimate emotions shot within the confined space of a small room in an inexpensive 2 star hotel. A visual poem of love which established René’s career as a new master. Time has not weakened its impact. In fact just the opposite. It has matured into a “classic” that just enters our hearts.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLIILe Mistral (Woman on the Train), France, 1975
“Departures and arrivals are in the nature of life. As a photographer I have probably had more of them than most people. Some departures went smoothly, sometimes they hurt. The arrivals were always hopeful. Things change in every life and disappear, but it is the photographs that remain from my life. They are what I looked at, fell in love with (or didn’t) and never forgot. There are pictures of men and boys, women and girls, statues, pensive monkeys, moments that took my breath away, angered me, made me smile, that broke my heart."
~ Charles Harbutt
“Le Mistral” was a daily express train that went from Paris to Nice between 1950-1982.
On a memorable day in 1975, Charles was just another passenger. But he was given a gift.
When I look at this image I feel like I am reading a great Flaubert novel with layers of stories and thoughts and mystery. I do not know the ending but I feel just like the photographer must have felt, that I am on the journey with her.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXLIInterior of the Motee Masjid in Agra, c. 1865
"The young photographer in his eager desire to master the technical aspects of the medium very frequently pays no attention to the artistic properties of his pictures…..Such I freely confess, was the case with myself…..so having in some degree mastered the difficulties of manipulation, my ambition spurred me on to attempt to produce pictures which should be as much admired for their artistic qualities, as for their excellence viewed in a purely photographic light."
~ Samuel Bourne Feb. 24,1860
Samuel Bourne was a British photographer who started his career as a bank clerk and taught himself photography and spent a prolific seven years from 1863-1870 living and working in India.
His images possess a luminescent quality that exemplifies classic Raj Photography.
I started my collecting career by mainly acquiring 19th Century travel photography because it was the only thing I could afford to buy at the time but I still love it to this day, I guess it allowed me to be an armchair traveler and I welcomed the opportunity to discover places and cultures I could only dream of experiencing in real life.
This “Pearl Mosque” took seven years to build and was completed in 1655. It is more than just an architectural study. It is ageless in its beauty and it exudes a deep humanity and peace.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLBrooklyn Gang (couple kissing in the back seat of a car), 1959
“I found my way through life through the camera’s lens. I used it to record my feelings about the world. Still do."
~ Bruce Davidson
I find it hard to imagine that Bruce’s “Brooklyn Gang” series is now over 60 years old. The images are as raw and powerful as the first day they were created.
Bruce met this group of teenagers in the Spring of 1959 in Brooklyn who called themselves “The Jokers”. Their lives were anything but funny. He was 25 years old at the time and they were about sixteen. But they slowly allowed him into their lives and like all great photojournalists he became a trusted collaborator, almost anonymous.
As Bruce tells it,
“In time they allowed me to witness their fear, depression, and anger. I soon realized that I too, was feeling some of their pain. In staying close to them, I uncovered my own feelings of failure, frustration and rage.”
This is one of the great “coming of age” images in 20th Century photography. I guess Bob Dylan felt the same as he put it on the cover of his album “Together Through Life”. It’s about mood, coolness, emotion and sexual vitality that transcends its time and place into something universal.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXIXUntitled [family in window], 1947
“It was relatively easy for me to shoot completely candid pictures and people would be completely unaware of my shooting.”
~ Morris Engel
Morris could photograph incognito by using a Rolleiflex 2.25” square, twin lens reflex camera, shoot from the hip and just glance down at the frame and just see the top of the picture. He didn’t have to look at the camera anymore.
He was a true New Yorker. He never drove a car and always took subways and buses and walked everywhere for the most part always looking. He enrolled at an early age in a class at the New York Photo League, a group dedicated to raising social consciousness through documentary photography. He worked with Aaron Siskind on his Harlem Document project and produced a wonderful story on this child Rebecca pictured with her mother and two sisters, my favorite image from the series in this beautiful vintage print...
Behind the camera he was a man of great heart and sensitivity, a poet of urban life and a wonderful filmmaker too as evidenced by his ground-breaking highly respected independent film “Little Fugitive”. The great French "nouvelle vague" filmmaker Francois Truffaut always said it had a huge influence on him and his films.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXVIIIQuite Song, 1991
“Photography tells the truth.”
~ Earlie Hudnall, Jr.
In the hands of an extremely sensitive and intuitive soul which is what Earlie is, he reveals all inner human truth in his quiet art.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXVII”Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado, 1984”
“I hold onto that word beauty. I refuse to surrender it. It’s the traditional end of art. And tradition is part of this occupation as far as I’m concerned.”
~ Robert Adams
Robert Adams is not just an exceptional photographer but is an exceptional human being.
Not only are his prints physically beautiful and powerful but his writings on photography and indeed on life and art are some of the most eloquent and profound ever written. He is a source of constant inspiration to me and I know so many others who are involved in this medium.
His work is about the impact of human activity on the last vestiges of wilderness and open space. Often his photographs are devoid of human subjects but they always convey human presence through physical traces of life imposed on the natural landscape. Despite evidence to the contrary his work conveys a sense of hope that we can still effect change to preserve nature.
As the great John Szarkowski wrote in the forward to Robert Adam’s book “The New West”,
“Though Robert Adam’s book assumes no moral postures, it does have a moral. Its moral is that the landscape is, for us, the place we live. If we have used it badly we cannot therefore scorn it, without scorning ourselves. If we have abused it, broken its health and rested upon it memorials to our ignorance, it is still our place, and before we can proceed we must learn to love it."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXVIAvenue des Champs Elysees, Paris, 1958
“I’m almost a century old so I’ve seen a lot of different things which are gone now.”
~ Sabine Weiss
Dear Sabine at 97 years old is a constant inspiration. She has just returned from the Arles Photography Festival where her exhibition stole the show and she was treated like a rock star.
This is one of her greatest images especially for those of us who just love Paris. She did a lot of night photography because she and her American painter husband, Hugh Weiss, loved to walk a lot in the evening. Sabine noticed the light was particularly beautiful at this moment and snow had started to fall.
Et viola magic happened.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXVThanksgiving Prayer, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1980
“The time spent photographing in the field is only one percent of the time. The time I take to consider, to prepare, to design, to have the concept is a full lifetime. That is the point with photography.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Traveling through Latin America was Sebastião’s first major seven year epic project, a project in search of his roots. It resulted in his first important book “Other Americas”.
It has always been one of my favorite bodies of work. It is hard to think of it as over forty years old. It seems as fresh to me today as when I first saw it so many years ago. And this is one of my favorite images from it. Two men climb to the top of a hill and offer up a prayer for a good day. I stare at it everyday and think the same.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXIVBibi et le docteur Boucart Robinson, October 1926
“In the twenties everybody dances all the time. At tea-time, before dinner and after dinner. The most popular dance is the Argentine tango.”
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Lartigue was “discovered” by the great American photography curator John Szarkowski who gave him his first one man show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963. There lies the irony of Jacques’s amazing life.
No one really took him seriously in his own country until he was launched in America first. Then he was embraced by his own country and worshiped as a national treasure.
As John accurately stated,
“While his photographer predecessors and contemporaries were creating and serving traditions Lartigue did what no photographer had done before or since. He photographed his own life.”
And as Lartigue himself said,
“Never look back, the first rule for happiness.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXIIIMama Arms, 1991
“The camera becomes an extension of me as to how I feel and what I see ..This is what my life is all about.”
~ Earlie Hudnall Jr.
Earlie works in the tradition of all the great Concerned Photographers of the 20th Century.
He takes a simple, human, everyday situation and imbues it with such a powerful universal emotion because that is who he is.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXIISuruwaha, Amazonas, Brazil, 2017
“For me it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on Earth.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
The fragility of our ecosystem has been one of Sebastião's main themes throughout his long and distinguished career and how we need to respect it.
His latest powerful project “Amazonia” shows us how the Rainforests to be found in the region contain one tenth of all living plant and animal species and is the world’s largest natural laboratory which we must protect.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXIIn Trees, Paris, 1963
“I believe taking a photograph is an unspoken conversation in a shared space where the sitter and the maker reveal their being in a kind of silent dance of escalating trust and affinity. We look at each other, daydream about each other and those dreams never, ever meet, except in the photograph.”
~ Melvin Sokolsky
Melvin encountered the world of Hironomymous Bosch and in particular his “Garden of Earthly Delights” as a child and it must have had a lasting influence on him. His imagination always ran rampant and when at an early age of 21 years old he found the perfect forum for it in the pages of Harpers Bazaar. He became one of their most successful photographers with his tireless experimentations and skillful craftsmanship nowhere better displayed than in his celebrated “Bubble” series for the magazine.
One must remember this was an era of pre-photoshop where the “unreal” had to be steeped in reality and where dreams were only fulfilled by hard work and dedication and passion and enormous talent.
As one of his favorite models Dorothy McCowan commented,
“There is no such thing as impossible when Melvin has an idea."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXXGoing Home, 1991
“I aways try to go off the beaten path, to document the life of people, who we all are and the universality of the human spirit.”
~ Earlie Hudnall Jr.
Earlie is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I have ever met. He was born and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. His sense of community within his family and that of the African American culture is what has helped shaped his work as an artist. He relocated to Houston in 1968 and settled there and his principal subject matter since then has been the every day life for African Americans in the South.
When I look at this image I feel like I am reading one of Eudora Welty’s classic short stories with all its insights and grace.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXIXWorkers Struggle to Remove Bolts, Oil Wells, Kuwait, 1991 Signed, titled, & dated in pencil on verso
“Photography is much more than just taking pictures - it is a way of life, what you feel, what you want to express, your ideology and your ethics.
It is a language that allows you to travel over the wave of history.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
I don’t know anyone who has travelled over so many waves of history than Sebastião. He is a true force of nature as is his wife Lélia. Together, they have shown us situations that we may not have voluntarily chosen to see on our own but have awakened us to the world we live in and what issues as a species we need to confront and discuss and must open our eyes to...
His Kuwait series is a great example of one such body of work that once viewed, can never be forgotten.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXVIIIJu Jitsu, c. 1913
“The golden rule is 'work fast’. As for framing, composition, focus -this is no time to start asking yourself questions.
You just have to trust your intuition and the sharpness of your reflexes."
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Jacques-Henri certainly had quick reflexes to have produced so many glorious moments over a long career. His skill at playing tennis at which he excelled throughout his life certainly gave him a good foundation for reacting to an instant. He was also much admired by his fellow photographers.
Richard Avedon championed his work and produced his first book “Diary of A Century”.
On the eve of the opening of Lartigue’s major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963 one of the most sophisticated and revered photographers of his generation and not one to give out praise easily, Avedon wrote the following glorious words any photographer would have been so happy to receive.
“It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. You brought me into your world and isn’t that after all the purpose of art?"
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXVIIPat Ward, 1946
“I believe the physical effort of making a photograph, the virtuous ability, should not be revealed in the result. As with a professional dancer, whose hours of intensive practice in perfection of technique should not be apparent to the audience, the photographer should present to his or her audience the beauty and feeling, motion and emotion- not the technique.”
~ Frances McLaughlin-Gill
I met Franny towards the end of her life. She had amazing style and energy and was one of the first female fashion photographers to break through the glass ceiling of the mostly male dominated field. She was the first female fashion photographer to be put under contract with Vogue by Alexander Liberman. She was only 24 years old at the time. She made photos with enormous energy and wit in a completely naturalistic style. Her approach was fresh and she made her models look so normal in the scenarios she devised for them.
As Liberman said,
“Not only was Franny’s work for Vogue classic, it was pure, the kind of photographic vision which bordered on improvisational theater, catching the model’s face at a sensitive moment rather than following an artificial grammar inherited from the European fashion photographers who were the stars of the moment. Her pioneering concepts made her a key photographer.”
She passed away at 95 years old. One of the greats.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXVISunday Evening, The Kissing Point, 1936
“If there is any method in the way I take pictures, I believe it lies in this. See the subject. Do not force it to be a picture of this, that or any other thing. Stand apart from it. Then something will happen.
The subject will reveal itself."
~ Bill Brandt
I have been looking at and studying and being inspired by Bill Brandt’s work now for over 40 years. I see something new and fresh each time I encounter it. He was a quiet, humble, reclusive figure. He spoke for the most part in a gentle whisper. One would have to strain oneself to pick up all the words he said but what words they were.
He certainly understood the English and their various idiosyncrasies. They were one of his major themes and the subject of his first book “The English At Home”.
I know this location very well. Next to Hampstead Heath in London. I can’t say I actually lived this scene but close to it. It was a very special place to bring a date to.They used to have free open air concerts in the summer and one would certainly appear cultured to anyone you escorted there.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXVMa Cousine Simone et Charles Sabouret, Saint-Moritz, 1913
"As yet, winter sport is not very popular in France. Most people think it foolish to go to the mountains in midwinter but many English, some Americans and a few privileged French who travel to St. Moritz are not of the same opinion. They are very happy to be able to spend their vacation on top of the world, to go skiing and to enjoy the the warm and soft mountain sun.
There are more than eighteen inches of snow on the streets, and millions of snowflakes…..everywhere…in the sky. Without hurry and in heavy silence the snow keeps falling. Against the dazzling whiteness, every sound becomes more vibrant, every color more vivid……scarfs, sweaters, hair shining in the sunlight. And the laughter…..how will I ever get used to the sad, gray drabness of Paris’ streets again?”
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Diary of A Century
Lartigue took to winter sports like a duck takes to water. He was only nineteen years old when he spent his first winter vacation in the Alps but it started a life-long love affair with the chic resorts of Chamonix, Megeve and Saint Moritz. He became even more alive than usual in the fresh mountain air. It certainly brought out the best in him.
He was close with his large extended family and his cousin Simone now all grown up was a frequent subject.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXIVChief of the Dessert, 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 is to 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 S. Curtis
Edward Curtis dedicated and basically sacrificed his life to his dream project of documenting the history of Native American peoples. He created one of the most powerful bodies of work in the history of photography. Nowhere does his artistry manifest itself better than in his haunting portraits particularly of Chiefs and Warriors.
Here is the strength and dignity and life experience portrayed by this Navaho Chief. This exquisite print is nothing less than haunting and one of the most beautiful platinum prints of his work I have ever seen.
He died virtually penniless and forgotten in 1952 in Los Angeles with a scant obituary in The NY Times that just mentioned in passing that “Mr. Curtis was a photographer” somewhat akin to saying that “Rembrandt was a painter”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXIIILandscape of an igapó, a type of forest frequently flooded by river water, with jauari palm trees (Astrocaryum jauari), 2019
“My wish, with all my heart, with all my energy, with all the passion I possess, is that in 50 years time this book will not resemble a record of a lost world. Amazonia must live on.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Sebastião has spent the last eight years shooting and preparing for his last epic project “Amazonia” about the Brazilian Rain Forest and the need for us as a global community to protect it and its native inhabitants from destruction.
We are looking forward to hosting the exhibition at our gallery in September, its first US presentation.
It will be one of the highlights of our year and the latest of our over 30 plus years collaboration with Sebastião and his wife Lélia.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXIIBibi, Loulou et Pierre Boucart Royan, September 1926
“Everything that I see must become personal, otherwise it is dead and mechanical. Our only chance to escape the blight of mechanization, of acting and thinking alike, of the huge machine which society is becoming is to restore life to all things through the saving and beneficent power of the human imagination.”
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Lartigue spent his life in pursuit of happiness and love. He never set out per se to create art objects. He was always making images that give him first and foremost personal pleasure. But they certainly became for all of us “art”. I have always particularly enjoyed his images that include these elegant cars. It would have been wonderful to have joined him and and his wife Bibi and their friends on this particular day...
Joie de vivre for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXIIgor Stravinsky, 1935
“ I had only heard Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” on the phonograph—— which I now realize is entirely inadequate. What amazing music! It held me thrilled. My hair stood on end!”
~ Edward Weston
“In order to create there must be a dynamic force and what force is more potent than love.”
~ Igor Stravinsky
Edward Weston was one of the most important and influential photographers of the 20th Century.
Igor Stravinsky was one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century.
It was almost inevitable that they would connect one day. Weston set the highest standards for himself in every genre he decided to work in and this image was the perfect collaboration of artist and sitter. His richly toned prints made from 4”x 5” negatives are unparalleled in the history of photography and render his vision in sumptuous detail. To hold this jewel of a print in one’s hand is a truly powerful experience. If I place it carefully near my ear I can hear the music.
As Weston said,
“I feel that I have been more deeply moved by music, literature and painting than I have by photography."
I’m not quite sure that is entirely true but they for sure have inspired all the great photographers I have ever met.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXXYoung at Heart [Women leaving back on log], 1954
“The most important quality you can bring to photography is to be open to the sort of person you are.
Really in fact it is the main quality. I would only want to try and get whatever it is, for good or ill, that is me when I take a photograph.”
~ Grace Robertson
Grace was the tallest photographer I had ever worked with. She had a formidable presence and an incredible sense of humor and a wonderful smile and deep insight. This is a joyous image from her most celebrated reportage. She followed a group of working class women who belonged to the same pub on their annual Mother’s Day outing.
She drank with them beer to beer, ate with them cockles to cockles, matched their jokes for jokes and gained their trust. And it shows in the images.
As she said of her life’s work,
“My own stories concentrated on intimate worlds. Close to home.”
Grace passed away earlier this year at 90 years old. There is hardly a day that passes by that I don’t think about her. She was that special.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXIXChou Valton, Plage de la Garoupe, Cap d'Antibes, July, 1932
“Plage de la Garoupe.. On a mat, the phonograph and records which follow me everywhere. Beside them on the hot sun, Chou, small and lithe, the damp curls of her corn-colored hair hanging down her back beaded with drops of sea water."
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Diaries, Cannes 10th July 1932
Jacques-Henri through his long and fruitful life always maintained the passion of a child with the eye of an adult. Right from the beginning he was mature beyond his years. Like Mozart a kind of a prodigy. He was always interested in fleeting moments of joy and found humor everywhere.
He discovered the Riviera with with his first camera in the company of his wealthy family when he was just eleven years old.
For the rest of his life he was a regular visitor to the Cote d’Azur taking many fine photographs in those dream-like locations and he ended his days there in 1986 with his wife Florette.
Am I the only one old enough to remember 78 gramophone records?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXVIIIToto Koopman wearing Augustabernard for Vogue, 1930
“I appreciated the fact that the model would have to understand how the gown moved and how she would behave in that particular dress so that it didn’t look as if she just put it on for a photograph but was part and parcel of it, that the dress really actually belonged to her.”
~ George Hoyningen-Huene
George Hoyningen-Huene was born into the privileged world of the Russian aristocracy at the turn of the century. In Paris, as a refugee from the Revolution, he worked for VOGUE, first as an illustrator and then as a supremely successful fashion photographer.
As chief photographer at French Vogue he created his unique style and was known above all for his stylish studio compositions using shadows and elaborate lighting to evoke the “Huene" mood.
Toto Koopman had her own amazing life. She was a Dutch-Javanese model who wound up in Paris in the 1930’s and during the Second World War served as a spy for the Italian Resistance. This is a fascinating adventure story in itself.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXVIIIvy, Portland, OR, 1964
“The spring tight line between reality and photography has been stretched relentlessly, but it has not been broken.
These abstractions of nature have not left the world of appearances; for to do so is to break the camera’s strongest point - it’s authenticity.”
~ Minor White
Minor White was so much more than just a great, important 20th Century photographer. He was also a seminal teacher, writer, editor and founder of Aperture Magazine and a philosopher and a mystic. He inspired a whole new generation of photographers as he too was inspired by Alfred Stieglitz’s notion of images as metaphors and equivalents of emotions and feelings.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXVIFord Model VIII Bathing Cap, New York City, 1991
I met Len early on in my gallery career. I was impressed by his approach to photography and his attention to detail. A successful New York Fashion photographer with a sensitive, quiet manner completely the opposite to the turbulence of the industry he worked in. We collaborated on some special platinum print projects, a medium we both admired.
This is one of them. Sometimes art is generated from pure simplicity. A classic profile. A beautiful scalloped bathing cap.
Viola! Pure magic.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXVFather and Child, Safat, Israel, 1992
“My photographic journey has been a lifelong one, much of my childhood being spent in front of my father’s large Graflex camera. Photographic images filled our home and I spent time in the darkroom watching his images magically appear.
Over the years I have travelled extensively, camera in hand following the light, the landscape, the people, the atmosphere and the feeling of a destination. My hope is that one would sense an inner presence in my work.”
~ Judy Glickman Lauder
“Following the Light” would be a wonderful title for an autobiography if Judy ever decided to write one. But I sense she would just be too busy as she is always embarking on new photographic adventures and her mind is just full of new ideas for images. I have known very few photographers in my life who come close to her intelligence, warmth, curiosity and most of all her humanity.
Whatever subject she decides to tackle be it the landscape of her beloved Maine or the almost unfathomable subject matter of The Holocaust she imbues it with such a unique and fresh insight and intelligence and above all with her humanity. This image just tells such a universal story of the special bond between a father and a child and the love of family.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXIVEn las Eras Escobar (On the Threshing Floor), 1988
“I tried to photograph the mysteries, true and magical, the soul of my people. Spain in all its passion, love, humor, tenderness, rage and pain, in all its truth and the fullest and most intense moments in the lives of these characters as simple as they are irresistible with all their inner strength.”
~ Cristina Garcia Rodero
Cristina is one of Europe’s greatest photographers. Her book “Espana Occulta” one of the most beautiful and powerful debuts. It was awarded the book of the year award at the Arles Festival of Photography in 1989.
This is my favorite image of hers. Just total connection and understanding. As she astutely says,
“We roam the world and very ofter we don’t know our own country.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXIIINelson Mandela in his Law Office, 1952
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Mandela possessed a brilliant legal mind as well as a passion for social justice. Here he is pictured in 1952 in his humble law office that he shared with Oliver Tambo who served as President of the African National Congress from 1967-1991.
As Jurgen has told us, “Mandela was on his way out and had files under his arm. I asked if he could wait for a minute. He gave me 2 minutes and we talked on the way out.”
A candid moment and insight into a man who changed the world.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXIIHooded Man, 1998
“Ironically on the rare occasion the world stops spinning and poses for the photographer who limbers up his 4x5 Linhof and points it to the stars above and then clicks.”
~ Kurt Markus
To produce a great image is like catching magic in a bottle. Even such an illustrious figure as Edward Steichen showed us that fashion photography can sometimes be a high, high art.
Kurt Markus showed us the same in this image which was photographed in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1998. Its cut-to-chase simplicity and graphic strength is as pure and powerful as it gets.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXIThe ZYK 24 takes off... Piroux, Zissou, Georges, Louis, Dédé and Robert try to take off with it, Rouzat, September 1910/
“Photography is something you learn to love very quickly. I know that many, many things are going to ask me to have their pictures taken and I will take them all."
~ Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Jacques-Henri came from a family of eccentrics not the least being his brother Zissou who was always inventing things. One of his most ambitious projects being a home-made plane. Jacques-Henri was the patient observer always there to record these family events.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDXBare Tree & Adobe Wall, Taos, New Mexico, 1974
“At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light and emotional stance. One need to be still enough, observant enough and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials to be able to “hear through the eyes.”
~ Paul Caponigro
Taken almost 50 years ago I am still drawn to this image with the same attraction for its simplicity and beauty and desire to live with it as I was the first time I saw it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDIXFrosted Window, Revere, MA, 1957
"To work, by way of the photographic image, toward an understanding of that relation which exists between one’s inner activity and ones’s external environment.
The flow of life in nature particularly attracts me. Simply because there I can record the subtle as well as the obvious results of the moving forces and principles which permeate my whole environment.
To create beauty of image. Fineness of the tonal values in the black and white photographic image, for me, is much more than producing technically excellent prints. I believe it can generate an emotional response in the viewer as readily as any human situation, provided one takes the time to allow it to come through.”
~ Paul Caponigro on his practice
What can be more simple than a frosted window? Most of us would just walk by it and not really notice them. We would take them for granted as it’s very cold outside. It’s winter after all. But to someone as gifted and intuitive and one who sees life and receives it in such a wholly different way it is something else. A powerful reflection of universal truths that each of us can bring our own interpretation to thanks to Paul’s artistry.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDVIIIShoreline, Montauk Beach, Long Island, NY, 1972
“While photographing, I do not necessarily visualize complete images before returning to my darkroom to print. Rather, my intent is to sense an emotional shape or grasp some visitation to carry forth into that dimly lit space of hopes and discoveries.”
~ Paul Caponigro
Paul has written extensively about what he calls “The Voice of the Print”.
And here is another example of his technical prowess in his sacred place of darkness that very few can match.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDVIISunflower Face, Winthrop, MA, 1965
“A sunflower came as a gift from a friend and quietly took its place on my windowsill. It seemed content, as nature’s marvels usually are, with whatever notice it might receive. But as I passed it several times a day and glanced each time toward its radiance, the flower began to grow less shy. It seemed to ask, if not demand, that I draw nearer and record its moods on film. Finally I gave in and took the first step toward another world. As I dwelt upon the beauty of the sunflower, on its golden crown and ever-changing form, it began to whisper of a realm beyond the sensual mind, a realm magnificent and strange.”
~ Paul Caponigro
When I think of sunflowers and their almost irresistible attraction to sensitive, creative people I just think of two names in the history of art - Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Caponigro.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDVIReflecting Stream, Redding, CT, 1968
“All that I have achieved are these dreams locked in silver. Through this work it was possible, if only for brief moments to sense the thread which holds all things together. The subtle suggestions generated by configurations of cloud and stone, of shape and tone, made the photograph a meeting place from which to continue on an even more adventurous journey through a landscape of reflection, of introspection.”
~ Paul Caponigro
Paul was on a two year teaching assignment in New York City. Big cities and Paul’s temperament are not an ideal long term match.
He found some kind of coping method and spiritual peace by spending time in Connecticut in the town of Redding and created this,one of his most primal and elegiac images.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDVTwo Pears, Cushing, Maine, 1999
“We have to make a separation between what the intellect is chattering about and what it is really tapping into. I can’t give you the physics of it, how it actually functions; I simply know it works and if I leave it alone and not try to invent a mousetrap to catch it, the more it comes. Feelings will apprehend the spirit more quickly than the mind ever will."
~ Paul Caponigro
In the 1990’s Paul experienced some serious health and family issues which curtailed his ability to work. Fortunately for us he regained his strength and creative impulses and produced work equal to if not greater than some of his earlier accomplishments.
This image is one of them. Its sheer physical beauty when one contemplates it quietly on a wall I cannot even begin to articulate. One is speechless and almost in a trance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDIVRunning White Deer, Ireland, 1967
We are all very fortunate to spend a week with Paul Caponigro, one of the true masters of this medium. I have enjoyed a great relationship and friendship with Paul for over 30 years now. Whenever I am in need of inspiration I look at his sublime work and hear the deep tones of his voice and the wise words he has always shared with me about photography and even more important his views on life which are always profound but never ponderous. I also revel in his gift for the piano and his insight into music which are equally revealing as his gift for photography.
Let us enjoy first one of his most acclaimed and respected images “Running White Deer” -
“In my many years of photographing the landscape and prehistoric stones of Ireland, I had come to realize that the life of the place generated a quiet magic. During my photography, there was usually a herd of white deer. They were randomly roving on the grounds on an estate and so I asked permission of the owner and set myself to the task of how to photograph them. Catching them in small groups was unsatisfying but I remembered the talent of the Irish sheepdog and enlisted the help of the owner and his dog to corral a substantial number of these white beasts. I visualized the deer as being spread out before the trees of the estate and set about the choreography of the event. Some 25 or so of these deer were collected at one end of a long field and at my signal the dog was to chase them in my direction. My camera was set up so as to include on my ground glass the grass field as foreground and the trees and background with myself hidden in the tress so as not to be seen.
Not knowing what to expect I signaled and to my delight and surprise one of the deer took the lead and the others followed one behind the other. In the subdued light of the day my calculated exposure required the widest lens, aperture and a slow shutter speed of I second. I did not know and could not know what impression would appear on my film but to my delight on processing the film I found a beautifully impressionist feel made by the running white deer.
As to capturing something magical, I knew that to be the case when two white swans flew directly over my head and camera moments after releasing the shutter of the lens.”
~ Paul Caponigro
This is how photo history was made. Pure beauty!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDIIIBibi in London, October 1926
“I have never taken a picture for any other reason than at that moment it made me happy to do so.”
~ Jacques Henri Lartigue
Bibi was Jacques Henri’s first wife and he captured her here on their honeymoon driving down Oxford Street.
It looks like a typical London chilly day and Bibi looks dressed for it as she is the only one brave enough to be on top of the double decker open air bus but Jacques Henri obviously saw it as a wonderful photo opportunity and celebrated the occasion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDII"France" Collector's Edition Book, Nazraeli Press, 1987
“I have photographed in France for over 40 years and I could photograph there for a few more lifetimes. There is just a wealth of material to discover.”
~ Michael Kenna
Michael is also a superb maker of books and enjoys the collaboration with the greatest photography book publishers in the world. He has produced more than 70 exquisite volumes.
But this one published by the formidable Nazraeli Press is to my mind one of the most beautiful photography books in recent memory. Long sold out in this special limited edition, it is a joy to behold and a testament to both Michael and the publisher, Chris Pichler’s, immense talents.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDIFrozen Landscape, Teshikaga, Hokkaido, Japan, 2002
“I generally prefer suggestion over description, black and white over color and Winter over Summer.”
~ Michael Kenna
All of Michael’s most preferred elements are to be found in this sublime image.
It is also a great example of his technical, analogue prowess. A master print maker of which he is an endangered species.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CDWhite Copse, Study 2, Wakkanai, Hokkaido, 2004
“Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.“
~ Michael Kenna
Michael approaches the world with a zen simplicity armed only with a poet’s sensibility and heart.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCIXWhite Bird Flying, Paris, 2007
“I try not to make conscious decisions about what I am looking for. I don’t make elaborate preparation before I go to a location.
Essentially I walk, explore, discover and photograph.“
~ Michael Kenna
This White Bird was for sure a special gift for Michael from the French photo gods as a “merci” for all the years of patience and dedication in the pursuit of beauty.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCVIIIThirty Eight Sticks. Nagahama, Honshu, 2002
“Getting photographs is not the most important thing. For me it’s the act of photography... It’s enlightening, therapeutic and satisfying because the very process forces me to connect with the world. When you make four hour exposures in the middle of the night you inevitably slow down and begin to observe and appreciate more what’s going on around you.”
~ Michael Kenna
Yes looking at a great Michael Kenna photograph like this one is definitely therapeutic and calming and hopeful especially in the times we are all living in.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCVIIContemplation, Parc St. Cloud, Paris, France, 1996
“Parks and gardens are the quintessential intimate landscapes. People use them all the time leaving their energy and memories behind. It’s what left behind that I like to photograph."
~ Michael Kenna
France has been the inspiration for many of Michael’s greatest images.
I have contemplated this exquisite image over and over again and its beauty is always fortifying.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCVIRed Crown Crane Feeding, Tsurui, Hokkaido, Japan, 2005
“For me Hokkaido is a paradise on earth, a constantly transforming visual haiku. The starkness of its winters accentuates an awareness of the elements and one’s immediate environment... The reduction of sensory distractions - leafless tress, absence of color and eerie silence - all encourage a more concentrated and pure focus on the landscape.”
~ Michael Kenna
There is no more congenial person to spend a week with than Michael Kenna.
We have been friends and collaborators now for over 40 years. We both came to America in the same year and I have watched his career progress with great pride from being Master Printer for our mutual friend Ruth Bernhard to one of the greatest contemporary landscape photographers ever in the history of this medium. He has never lost his humility and grace and curiosity and drive and his work just gets stronger. A truly inspirational artist to be around. I know you will enjoy your week with him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCVIo non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto
“In the series on young priests I found a previously unfamiliar dimension. I discarded the conventional rules in my treatment of the subject to reveal the naked man.”
~ Mario Giacomelli
Normally when one thinks of a seminary the image that comes to mind is of a very strict, formal, cold institution that prepares students to take up a life devoted to religion and its practice. Mario Giacomelli found such a school near where he lived in Senigallia and devoted three years to portray its occupants. The brilliance of his art was that he found great heart and warmth and happiness amongst these young priests and created a unique body of work that no one had ever attempted before in such a manner.
A self taught photographer, his technique brought another dimension to the images. His hand printing has the effect of increasing the contrast, making the black of the priests cassocks stand out against a background that seems to be nothing but white light. His use of a slow shutter speed accentuates the sense of movement.
One of the most joyous group of images ever created in the history of photography.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCIVFerry Slip, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1979
“Photography and driving went hand in hand. I would decide to go off someplace and once there I would continue driving around until I chanced upon something that engaged my interest - something I could take a picture of that would add to my purpose at hand or to the unity of my larger body of work. Whenever that happened, I’d stop the target out and walk around. I would ask myself “Do I really want to take the picture?” If so, I’ll have to get the equipment out of the trunk and set it up and and ask myself from where do I want to take it?”
~ George Tice
I am so appreciative of George getting out of the car this particular day to create one of his greatest urban landscapes. I was obviously not the only one who felt this way. The producer of the great hit musical “Jersey Boys” called me up one day to ask permission to license the image as the opening image for the musical because everyone on the production thought this image perfectly captured the mood of the show.
He was right, it did.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCIIIBuckstones, Scammonden Moor, Yorkshire, 1990
“This photograph is a metaphor for myself, a boy cautiously crawling to the edge of the crag to peer at the valley below.”
~ George Tice
George was awarded a fellowship to spend a year in Yorkshire in Northern England. And created a powerful body of work there. He is right. He is the little kid in this image as many of us are.
I do not know anyone as determined as George has been in pursuit of not only self knowledge but also a drive to understand the world in all it’s myriad and magical possibilities.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCIICar For Sale, Paterson, New Jersey, April 1969
"In Paterson, the cradle of American industry, I saw a vision of America gone wrong. Her beauty was altered, her waters were poisoned.“
~ George Tice
George loved Paterson and his New Jersey surroundings. But he also understood the flip side of the American dream just like the writer Arthur Miller did.
So many layers of meaning can be found found under the surface of this apparently “simple” image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCITwo Amish Boys, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1962
“Photography teaches us to see and we can see whatever we wish. When I take a photograph, I make a wish. I was always looking for beauty.”
~ George Tice
One of my favorite all-time photography books is George’s “Fields of Peace”, his exquisite study of an amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to which he dedicated many years of his life to and it shows. Each image is a gem of understanding of a way of life lived with dignity and a sense of community almost unheard of anywhere else. It is one of the most beautiful bodies of work created by anybody in the history of this medium.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXCHudson River Pier, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1979
“The thing itself photographed becomes less interesting when you go back to it years later. But I think the photograph becomes more important later when the reality has passed.”
~ George Tice
George’s words certainly resonant with me and I am sure with many of you here looking at this image when we reflect on the passing of time and history in this New York urban landscape when the Twin Towers still stood tall and strong as a symbol of this great city.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXIXStrand Theatre, Keyport, New Jersey, 1973
“The photograph is a record of it having existed.“
~ George Tice
Those of us who grew up when a visit to a small favorite single screen local cinema was almost a sacred experience revel in the nostalgia this image evokes. It could easily be titled "The Last Picture Show”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXVIIIPorch, Monhegan Island, Maine, 1971
“In my life long quest, looking for beauty I managed to find it in places that some would think the most unlikely.
In fact I found it almost everywhere I looked.”
~ George Tice
We are very honored to to share with you “The Essential George Tice” as our second week of “The Essentials Series”.
I have known George for over 30 years now and I owe him a great debt as someone who has helped me understand America and its essence through his art and insight.
Best known for his urban landscapes, George developed a special love for Maine and often captured the scenic beauty to be found there as in this transcendent image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXVIICheerleader in Gulfport, Mississippi, 1954
“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 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
Well Elliott got out of bed that morning whilst working in Mississippi and went to a game. What can be more ordinary and normal than that right? Most photographers there I’m sure were focused on the sport’s action hoping to score a coup of a key move. Elliott just found a moment of exuberance and human joy and captured something much more alive than just another statistic for us to remember.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXVINew York, (Couple Kissing in back of car), 1953
"You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Yes people kiss in the back of cars in New York too especially in 1953 in a post war euphoria.
Elliott was always walking in his new home town city, open and receptive and ready for any gift to come his way.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXVMarilyn Monroe, New York, 1956
“If your subjects are eternal…..They’ll survive.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
There is no actor more eternal than Marilyn Monroe. No actor has been more photographed in the history of Cinema. She appeared before the lens of so many great photographers from Avedon to Bert Stern to Henri Cartier-Bresson but no one has captured her mystery, allure, sensuousness and sheer beauty than Elliott has here.
Simply my favorite image of her bar none.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXIVArkadelphia, Alabama, 1954
“If my pictures help some people to notice things in a certain way…… perhaps to look at serious things not seriously and not serious things seriously, I would be pleased. In my photography I think everything is serious and everything is not serious.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Elliott is renowned in the photography world for his wonderful sense of humor and his “light” touch in capturing the eccentricities of human behavior. At 92 years old, he has sure seen much of human activity, both good and bad.
In this heartbreakingly beautiful, rare image he tells us so much so subtly about the situation in the South as a precursor to the tumultuous Civil Rights Era we were about to enter.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXIIIFinland [dancers], 2001
“Ideas and preconceptions have little to do with photography. Photography is the moment, the synthesis of a situation. It is when it all comes together with a satisfying SNAP.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
Finland is not a country one would immediately think of being enamored of the Tango. Hardly a Latin country. Like Russia, a brutally cold climate often creating a stern demeanor. But dancing the Tango is one popular way for Finlanders to relax and let loose.
Elliott was there at one of these occasions and “snapped” as he modestly says this special moment of a couple dancing in silhouette by an open door. The spirit is infectious.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXIIBird in Flight, France, Orleans, 1952
"Success at roulette and success at the photography I care for heavily depends on providence and luck. Apart from failure at roulette, I consider my long life in photography providentially fortunate.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
One of Elliott’s most exquisitely beautiful images. No people to be seen but a unique sense of life to be experienced.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXINew York City [Central Park, snow storm], 1977
“I am a professional photographer and my hobby is being an amateur photographer.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
We are pleased to announce a new special “POP” series of some of our favorite photographers called “The Essentials” where we spend a week with them. First up the wonderful Elliott Erwitt whose intelligence and wit has inspired me for over 30 years now.
I have sat in Elliott’s wonderful apartment on Central Park West many times over the years but have always thought that this great city is never more magical than after a snow storm as depicted here.
The hustle and bustle just disappears and peace and calm settle in.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXXSir Winston Churchill, Harrow School, England, 1960
“Sir Winston Churchill was to me the most important person of the 20th Century and there are many who will agree.
As a child, I listened to Churchill’s speeches during the war and I remember the inspiration he gave the British people during those very hard times. Listening to him had been part of what made me want to become a photographer and to be at the center of what was happening in the world.”
~ Harry Benson
Harry Benson is certainly correct in saying Churchill is one of the most important figures of the 20th Century.
This is an image full of power and pathos. Churchill was educated at one of the top schools in England. Harrow School, along with Eton, was and still is the breeding ground for future. Prime Ministers and the elite. In true English style and contradiction these schools were called Public Schools which in fact they were the complete opposite, super private which only a select privileged few were allowed to enter.
Each year Churchill would return to his alma mater and give a speech often at Christmas time.
This was the last time he did this and he died a few years later in 1965.
It was obviously an emotional day for Churchill. Greeted by the young students it must have stirred meditations on the passage of time and memories of how he too was once the same age as the students, full of ambition, who cheer and greet him in their reverence for his remarkable life as many of us still do.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXIXOdé, 1985
“My idea from now on is to develop that transition between the inert object and the sacred object. It is simply a religious position in photography that I wish to adopt.”
~ Mario Cravo Neto
I met Mario the year this extraordinary image was given to the world. I wanted meet its creator as I was profoundly moved by it. I found it primal and emotional though at the time I couldn’t quite articulate why.
Born in Bahia, Brazil which was the point of entry for millions of slaves from Africa, Mario’s imagery is deeply steeped in the legacy of Yoruba culture and Afro Brazilian worship and ritual traditions. He often used inanimate objects and animals in conjunction with the human body.
They are sculptural in their intensity. Mario was a free spirit and a force of energy to be around in all his creative madness. He left us way too soon and I sincerely miss his friendship and company.
A true artist.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXVIIILucian Freud, 1973
“He took up photography like someone finds Jesus.”
~ Lucian Freud on Harry Diamond
Harry Diamond was a cockney, part-time East End street photographer and a real individual who became part of Soho’s London bohemian circle though never got a fraction of the recognition of all the artists he befriended and photographed. He passed away without any fanfare though the few remaining rare prints in his archive were donated to the National Portrait Gallery in London where they reside now. His subjects included some of the great English artists of that era including Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and probably the artist he had the best rapport with the charismatic
Lucian Freud whose penetrating stare equalled Picasso’s. Harry captures the essence of Lucian’s complexity and unique personality in this portrait.
As Freud’s daughter Rose Boyt remembers,
“Harry Diamond photographed us a few times when I was growing up. Every now and then he turned up at our house. I just had the idea that he might have been sent by my father, but that is rather unlikely. Harry was very intense, but somehow, he managed to put us all at ease…..Later on when I lived in Upper Clapton, Harry used to come around for a bath as he had no bathroom where he was living on Leman Street. He always left my bathroom a bit cleaner than he had found it and gave me photographs as a sort of hostess gift or in payment for the hot water.”
Quoted in "Lucian Freud: A Life” Compiled by Mark Holborn in collaboration with David Dawson. Phaidon.
Yes we English are for sure eccentric.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXVIIMay Day Demonstration, Washington DC, 1969 (Printed Later) Signed, titled and dated in
“Many of us Baby Boomers had a dream and maybe our dream was naive. A lot of us believed you could live your life and build the world around two basic precepts: love and peace. We believed we were the generation that would do away with wars. That we would do away with greed and in its place we’d create a world that would resolve around compassion and camaraderie, personal and political liberation. The peace sign was our universal symbol, the two fingers held up on one hand making a V sign,
our universal gesture.”
When I look at Ken’s powerful and haunting image my own memories of growing up in the 1960’s come flooding back. Even though coming of age in the culture of England at that time we were somewhat isolated from global events like The Vietnam War still many of us felt exactly the same as the rest of our generation in other countries felt even though we expressed ourselves differently.
Many of the issues we protested about and were angry about sadly still remain unresolved and unsolved. Our hope is that our own children and grandchildren will still take up the cause and fight for a just world for all.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXVICayo del Cielo, Chalma, 1990
"The unconscious obsession that we photographers have is that wherever we go we want to find the theme that we carry inside ourselves.”
~ Graciela Iturbide
Graciela tenderly captures the soul of Mexico in her gentle, intimate and highly empathetic works of art. One of Latin America’s most renowned photographers, she uses her camera to observe the variety of humanity all around her. In this image, Graciela quietly assimilates herself into the festive ambiance of a San Miguel Archangel celebration when a woman hoists up her silky white dress as she floats across the frame in a majestically fleeting moment.
Although comprised of a simple gesture, Graciela imbues it with such deep feeling we are mesmerized by its power.
Beautifully titled “Fallen from Heaven”, the name of this photograph works on many levels, including the fact that she forgot she had even taken it, only discovering it later in her contact sheets unexpectedly appearing like a gift from the photo gods that she was graciously and mystically given. Thankfully received by us, an eager audience, to enjoy and revel in a perfect moment.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXVClass (Olympic High Diving Champion Marjorie Gestring), 1936
“There is only one country in the world to go to, The United States. There is only one state, California and there is only one city, San Francisco.”
~ John Gutmann
John Gutmann was born in Germany and was immersed in the cultural and artistic life of Berlin where he studied painting under the great German Expressionist painter, Otto Muller. He moved to San Francisco when Hitler rose to power to escape facism and start anew in America like so many other gifted European artists. He took up photography as a way to earn a living and excelled at it.
His painting background influenced his photography. He understood innately, shapes and points of view, light and dark and blurred the lines between realism and his own particular style of surrealism.
This image is a prime example of the perfect composition in photography where he captured the immensely gifted competitive springboard diver, Marjorie Gestring, right at the moment when she was briefly suspended motionless in mid air. The next year, at the age of 13 years old, she won the gold medal at the Berlin Summer Olympics. The youngest athlete ever to do so and John went on to an illustrious career as a photographer and teacher.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXIVPriest from Quadrant, 1975
“I love the way photographic materials transcend the original. That’s why I never want photography to mimic reality. I want it to abstract, transcend, re-contextualize.”
~ Ralph Gibson
A chance encounter with a Priest triggers memories and feelings from Ralph’s early Catholic upbringing.
It has a Proustian grandeur and depth to it and was obviously very emotional for the photographer as it also is for the viewer.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXIIIBob Dylan, The Castle Solarium, Los Angeles, California, 1966
“Maybe once in a lifetime one might be lucky to be in the presence of greatness. I was blessed by being close enough to Bob that I was able to capture his essence and share it with others.”
~ Lisa Law
Lisa Law and her husband Tom who was road manager for Peter, Paul and Mary managed to purchase an enormous house in the early 60’s nicknamed “The Castle” opposite Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Because of its size musicians used to rent huge rooms where they would stay and work whilst they were visiting the hub of the music scene there. It had 3 floors, a basement, a ballroom, a huge dining room, a solarium and giant bedrooms on each floor.
It became the “hangout” for everyone from David Crosby, Lenny Bruce, Alan Ginsberg and even Andy Warhol.
Lisa was the in-house earth mother and photographer.
Dylan rented the master bedroom on the second floor and could he heard typing away on his small typewriter writing some of the most profound songs ever written in the 60’s and 70’s. Lisa captured this image in the Solarium of “The Castle” and Dylan is there is all his “coolness”, “mystery” and “uniqueness”.
To my eye one of the best portraits of him ever taken.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXIITwiggy, 1966
“My nature is romantic. I’m sentimental and I project this into my photographs.”
~ Barry Lategan
Lesley Hornby was a 16 year old shampoo girl working in a South London working class hairdressing salon who always dreamed of being a model. She had a pushy boyfriend, Justin, who somehow talked one of the star hairdressers of the Swinging London 1960’s Leonard into cutting her hair for free because he was intrigued by her face. Leonard saw something special and immediately called up his friend Barry Lategan and told him “I’ve just cut this girl’s hair. You have to take her photo”. He gave her and her boyfriend taxi money to go around to Barry’s studio. Barry feels the same. As Lesley is walking around the studio Justin says “Come on Twigs. Get ready” Lesley does her own makeup and puts on a special sweater she has knitted herself.
“Why do you call her Twigs Justin? Asks Barry “Because she is so skinny” Justin replies.
Barry quietly takes her photo. Excited he quickly develops the negative. He can’t quite believe the results. He calls his friend up who is the Fashion Editor of the Daily Express one of London’s most popular newspapers and advises her to see the image he has just taken. He rushes the print round to her office. The fashion editor gets so excited and it is published the next day with the caption,
“Twiggy, The Face of 1966.”
The rest is history as they say. Such are dreams sometimes made of.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXIFelicita raggiunta si cammina di Eugenio Montale [The Swing], 1986
“Of course (photography) cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth, like a notebook.”
~ Mario Giacomelli
I have been looking at Mario Giacomelli’s images all my life, I think he is one of the greatest photographers who ever lived.
A quiet sage and a poet. To me he is like Bach. When I listen to Bach I feel he understood the meaning of life in all its stages I feel exactly the same with Giacomelli. One of my true regrets was that I never got to meet him in person. It was arranged that I would travel to meet him in his village in Senigallia with a photographer friend who knew him well. This was late 1999 but he was taken ill suddenly and our meeting was cancelled and he passed away the following year.
But I revisit his images all the time and continue to be moved by them and always learn something new just like re reading Shakespeare.
This image was inspired by Eugenio Montale’s delicate poem “Feliciita raggiunta, si cammina” part of which was a reflection on Childhood an important theme for Giacomelli too. The young girl’s face has been deliberately cloaked in shadow. It is about the energy and freedom of youth and hope for the future but also has a slight melancholy to it, that youth too is fleeting, a part of life’s continuum a constant theme in his work.
The young girl in the photograph is in fact Giacomelli’s granddaughter Katiuscia who now runs his archive and is in charge of his legacy. He would be so proud of her.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXXFrancis Bacon and Lucian Freud outside the "French" Pub, London, 1973
Harry Diamond was one of those eccentric English characters who was part of the demi monde of London’s artistic circles during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Soho was the bohemian epicenter of that world where artists and writers gathered to drink and talk and gossip and network. Harry born in the East End of London worked as a stage hand for the first 20 years of his life and then fell in with the art crowd and became their friend and often chronicler. He was known as “The Man in the Mac” as he always wore a disheveled raincoat. He was always broke and took photographs for artists such as Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Peter Blake, Gilbert and George etc of their work or sometimes their portraits in return for a drink or a meal.
Here is his most famous image of perhaps the two greatest artists of their generation Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, on and off friends and rivals for who was to wear the crown as the greatest painter of their time.
The image has always meant a lot to me being a great admirer of their work and also as a memory of walking those same streets so often during my growing up there. Harry Diamond was immortalized in a few of Freud’s paintings, most famously “Interior at Paddington” 1951 commissioned by The Arts Council for 500 pounds for the Festival of Britain.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXIXSwamp Trees, 1955
“In my search to find an opposite to reality, I discovered that if reality is the knowable and the potentially knowable, the opposite consists of things that the mind can’t comprehend. Among those things are keys to the existence of everything. The further we delve into what we are and what things are, the more mysterious we and they become.”
~ Wynn Bullock
When one looks at a Wynn Bullock photograph carefully and his photos invite quite contemplation unlike almost anyone else in the history of photography one cannot but be amazed by the sheer technical mastery he possessed.
The other qualities are the depth of perception and the creation of such quiet beauty. His prints are beyond transcendent and so quiet and haunting. One is literally awestruck as I have been since I first encountered them. They are haunting and like a favorite piece of music one returns again and again to discover additional meaning and pleasure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXVIIIPharaonic Light, 1987
“One evening in the late 1980's I was standing in front of 420 West Broadway, speaking with friends about an upcoming trip to Alexandria in Egypt. An Italian fellow overheard the conversation and said, ”Excuse me, but I hear you are going to Alexandria. When you are there, you really must stay at the Hotel Cecil. It is right on the water, and be sure to ask for Lawrence Durrell’s room. It’s where he wrote The Alexandria Quartet."
Well, I certainly knew about those books; we read them in art school and discussed the plot continuously. I was thrilled to have this information and I did manage to get Durrell’s beautiful room……
Sitting at the foot of the bed, I made this photograph.”
~ Ralph Gibson
During this last year I know many of us have been drifting off in thoughts about time and space and escape. This made me think of Ralph’s beautiful image of just a simple room with its window overlooking the sea. I find it even more profound now than the first time I saw it so many years ago. It is primal in its impact. I find it uplifting and optimistic for a time when it will be safe to travel again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXVIIAnsel Adams, 1977
“In my case, I must confess, I am trained and I can tell whether there is something beyond that face or not. And that’s where I attempt to light that feature in such a way that I can elicit the true character of that person.”
~ Yousuf Karsh
“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels in the deepest sense about what is being photographed.”
~ Ansel Adams
In this rare print one experiences the meeting of two giants of 20th Century Photography.
Karsh who was center stage in portraying all the most important participants in the political, cultural and artistic history of the 20th Century and Adams who captured the soul of the American landscape and who advocated our responsibility towards preserving it.
They were close friends who had such deep respect for each other and this surely comes through perhaps better than any other photograph ever taken by one photographer of another.
The physical print just glows and one feels one is just standing inches away from the legendary Ansel.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXVIEarly Morning Mist, Somerset, 1991
“I want to photograph landscapes. I am sentencing myself to peace.”
~ Don McCullin
Don is a national and a world treasure both as a photographer and as a human being. One of the most completely focused individuals I have ever met. Empathetic and brooding. Completely in the moment but also surrounded with an aura of self protecting distance. He has witnessed events that most people would run away from or choose not to see or deny their very existence..
The landscape near his home in the countryside has been a source of joy and healing and inspiration in complete contrast to his and other great photographers’ peripatetic lifestyles which I guess goes along with the job.
When I visit it does that for me, a return to one’s roots. Nothing can ever replace that feeling.
Like Don I was brought up in a poor section of North London, on the wrong side of the tracks. We all sensed that there was a much bigger world out there that had to be explored one way or another. There was really no choice. Photography has been that passport.
As Don modestly says,
“Photography for me is not looking. It’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXVGirl with Flag, 1991
“I seldom ask someone to pose. I just try to take the situation that’s presented to me. Each day that I wake up, I’m just trying to photograph life as I see it. You have to walk around and respect what is about to happen in front of the camera. It’s a sacred moment.”
~ Earlie Hudnall Jr
It is a July 4th parade. Earlie has spent over 40 years quietly and selflessly documenting historically black communities in Houston with an insight and tenderness unparalleled in social documentary photography. He doesn’t preach or judge. He understands these communities, he is part of these communities. He knows these areas are homes where kids and their elders have to survive and live and coexist together.
Earlie’s mentor and teacher, John Biggers, instilled in him at an early age that “Art is Life” and that this should be the basis of his life’s work. This he has done.
As Earlie says,
“The camera is only a tool. It is up to the viewer to come to their own conclusion once they look at the picture based upon their experience.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXIVA Woman's Bed, Logan, Ohio, 1970
“The plastic camera will always be discovered by photographers who are in need of Poetry in their lives.”
~ Nancy Rexroth
Sometimes a magical body of work appears out of nowhere. Such was the case in the early 1970’s when Nancy Rexroth began photographing the rural landscape, children, white frame houses and domestic interiors of southeastern Ohio with a plastic toy camera called the Diana. She compiled all the photographs into a self-produced book called “Iowa” that became a much sought after cult classic.
She created dreamlike, poetic images of, as she put it “My own private landscape, a state of mind” that seemed to reference her childhood summer visits to her relatives in Iowa.
This amazing body of work convinces me that success in photography is not dependent on using state of the art, expensive equipment, lenses etc. It is about sheer talent and vision and heart.
This is a tiny, tiny image but the emotion it emits is epic and unbounded.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXIIIPoint Lobos Wave, CA, 1958
“Whenever I find myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.”
~ Wynn Bullock
Point Lobos is one of the most amazing locations along the Central Coast. It has seduced many a great photographer over the decades. It has a certain magic and has inspired anyone who visits it.
Whenever I need an extra dose of inspiration I try to visit and I feel the presence of many of my favorite photographers - Edward Weston, Brett Weston, Ansel Adams and of course Wynn Bullock whose beautiful rendition is one of the best ever taken there.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXIILips, 1986
“I have been a photographer all my life and have made photographs of many things and for many reasons. But one thing that becomes more and more apparent is that I am simply only as good as my next photograph. That’s the one that counts the most…….
For this reason I find it a delight to face a new day, and to develop that new roll of film.
It’s a great way to live.”
~ Ralph Gibson
Ralph’s art is a reductive one. What can be more ordinary than a pair of lips. Everyone in the world has them. But in Ralph’s hands and eyes he creates out of such a commonplace feature a powerful and emotional bullet that goes straight to this viewer’s heart and I am sure many others’ too.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXIMuhammad Ali, 1970
“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and I was in bed before the room was dark.”
~ Muhammad Ali
“Probally no other person I have photographed has been subjected to so many years of such open hatred as Muhammad Ali - hatred because he was born black in the American South; hatred because of the arrogance which is one of his weapons; hatred because he was unafraid to take unpopular stands for his new religion or against a war; and hatred because, in spite of all this, he remained the fastest moving as well as the fastest talking heavy weight boxer in history...
Through it all, he never lost his compassion for the poor, his love of children and his pride in his race.”
~ Yousuf Karsh
Undoubtedly one of the most wellknown figures in 20th Century history, Ali lived an extraordinary life. He began boxing at age twelve. As Cassius Clay, he won the Olympic gold medal in boxing in 1960 at age eighteen. However when he returned home from the Olympics, he tried to order lunch in Louisville and was denied service. He was so disgusted that he threw his Olympic gold medal into a river and said,
“I went all the way to Italy to represent my country, won a gold medal and now I come back to America and can’t even get served at a five-and-dime store…..That gold medal didn’t mean a thing to me if my black brothers and waiters were treated wrong in a country I was supposed to represent.”
~ Muhammed Ali
David R. Godine Publisher 2009
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLXChristy Turlington Hat at La Couple, 1988
“A good editor, a good stylist and a good model are what makes a good fashion photographer. That and having a good rapport with your subject. If they’re comfortable with you they’ll be comfortable in front of your camera.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Christy Turlington has always been one of Arthur’s favorite models to work with. In image after image during their long and fruitful collaboration the rapport he talks about is nowhere more evident. Especially here in this celebrated image shot for British Vogue. It was originally scheduled as a studio session but Arthur remembered the elegant Art Deco surroundings of one of the great Parisian bistros “La Coupole”, a symbol of the history of Montparnasse since the 1920’s, so off they went to make one of his most elegant images.
It is the beauty of the hat, the naturalness of the model and the white of the waiter’s jacket that gives it its special “je ne sais quoi” non?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLIXMoth and Stump Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska, 1949
“The whole world is, to me, every much “alive”-
All the little growing things, even the rocks. I can’t look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance without feeling the essential life, the things going on within them. The same goes for a mountain or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.”
~ Ansel Adams from a letter to David McAlpin
February 3, 1941
Ansel’s genius eye saw beauty everywhere, even in the most commonplace objects that you and I would probably not even notice.
He transforms a simple moth and a piece of stump into an almost spiritual experience made transcendent by the sheer power and voice of the print.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLVIIIWendy Whitelaw, New York City, 1981
“Some of my best pictures were taken when I wasn’t “working”, models getting ready, people in the street, the little moments in between shots.
That’s when you can really capture people as they truly are and what’s underneath. It’s those real moments that can’t be faked.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Wendy Whitelaw was not one of the normal top of the line, supermodels that were usually the subject of Arthur’s lens. She was a make up artist who Arthur thought was just as or even more beautiful than everyone else he regularly worked with. She was somewhat shy and didn’t like to pose for anyone but she relented and allowed one of the most sought after fashion photographers in the world to photograph her.
Here he captures her in one of those typical New York moments simply walking down the street on a hot summer day.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLVIIJames Galanos Fashion, Hollywood, California, 1961
“You know the camera is not meant just to show misery.”
~ Gordon Parks
“If Gordon dresses a model, leave her that way unless it’s something you want to question because I trust his taste.”
~ Alexander Liberman
Alexander Liberman knew a thing or two about fashion having been the Editorial Director of Conde Nast for over 32 years. He respected greatly Gordon Park’s talent as a special fashion photographer and was one of his champions and advocates. Gordon even spent two years living in Paris, the cradle of fashion, where he was based for all his European assignments.
He had a tremendous eye for beauty and an innate sense of naturalness and storytelling. We are caught up in the energy of the moment here, swept away in it actually.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLVIDel Monte Forest, 1969
“How can you expand unless you search beyond what you are at the moment? To me searching is everything. I speak not as an artist, a physicist, or a churchgoer, but as a human being seeking meaning. If a person stops searching, he stops living.
Everything is a miracle including ourselves.”
~ Wynn Bullock
I think one of life’s great pleasures is to be completely lost in a forest. The silence, the smells, the air, just the closeness to the trees and being able to literally hug them releases so many thoughts.
This Del Monte Forest image to me has always been Shakespearian, I visualize the central tree as King Lear, a man who has lived many lives, knows he is old and failing, somewhat lost and alone and still trying to make meaning of all that he has seen and lived through.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLVIce on Ellery Lake, Sierra Nevada, California, c. 1959, printed 1979
“The most valid art of all ages is that which seeks to comprehend and express the world and its manifold wonders and beauties and to revel in the glorious potentials of the human spirit.”
~ Ansel Adams
This is one of Ansel’s “quieter" images but no less a powerful and moving one. Here he takes what is on the surface a close up view of the lake as the ice is beginning to melt capturing the elegant curve of the white ice against the dark water. In his expert hands however and with his acute sense of composition and his emphasis on formalist concerns, it becomes a profound meditation on time and space and the fragility of nature.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLIVBastienne's Eye, 1987
“The print transcends the original experience and the original perception.
My theory is that the medium is bigger than the practitioner.
The photograph is better than the photographer.”
~ Ralph Gibson
Ralph extracts the essence of femininity and allure by focusing on the eye and playing with negative space to produce an image of such beauty and timelessness.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLIIIKate Moss, Cafe Lipp, Paris, 1993
“Kate knew what to do to give me a good picture. At Cafe Lipp, the waiters were having their dinner and she climbed up on the table. We thought they’d be mad but they loved it!”
~ Arthur Elgort
Arthur Elgort is well known for his free and easy shooting style. He learnt early on working for British Vogue that to be successful in a very competitive business you have to develop your own signature style. His was to eschew the stuffy, restricting studio and get out onto the streets and get the models to relax and move as if living real life moments with believable, natural gestures. It helped that he loved music and dance, particularly jazz and ballet. He works as if he is Bob Fosse making it all look so effortless which of course it isn’t.
Skill and talent and hard work are the key.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLIIUntitled, New York, New York, 1956
“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.”
~ Gordon Parks
Gordon Parks is most well known for his powerful depiction of social justice issues. What is less well known is his great fashion work he produced for leading magazines such as “Life”, “Vogue” and “Glamour”.
He was a true “renaissance” man and in addition to being one of the great 20th Century photographers he was also an accomplished film director, writer, painter and poet. It seemed that whatever he decided to turn his mind to he would excel.
No more so this exquisitely beautiful fashion image. One can already sense his early, narrative, cinematic skills later exemplified in films such as the 1969 “The Learning Tree” and the 1971 film “Shaft”.
It is Fifth Avenue in the 1950s, the woman is elegantly dressed. It seems like she is coming home in the very early morning having staying up all night with perhaps a special date. I’ll let the viewer fill in the dots for themself.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLIErnest Hemingway, 1957
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter
~ Ernest Hemingway
“In his books and stories, Ernest Hemingway has brought to life a swarming company of characters but has jealously concealed himself. After reading those tales of ferocity, violence and physical suffering, I expected to meet in the author a composite image of his creations. Instead, in 1957, at his home near Havana, I found a man of peculiar gentleness, the shyest man I ever photographed. Therein, I imagine lies the secret of his work. He has felt in his soul, with lonely anguish, the tragedy of our species, has expressed it in his writing, but for self-protection, has built around himself a wall of silenced myth.”
~ Yousuf Karsh
I have been enjoying the new Ken Burns/Lynn Novick PBS series on Ernest Hemingway.
They are such superb filmmakers and it seems that whatever subject matter they turn their attention to, they unravel so many new and surprising levels of story-telling. Hemingway is no exception.
It is not just a story about one writer’s tempestuous life. It really is a story about America and indeed the human condition itself.
And staring at this great Karsh portrait, one of his best, is the perfect complement.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCLFresh Snow, Yosemite Valley, California, 1947
“Yosemite Valley to me is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”
~ Ansel Adams
There was no place as special or as inspirational to Ansel than Yosemite Valley. It was there that he created many of his greatest images. It was his nirvana. He loved to walk, hike, and bed down in its wilderness. It was his laboratory where he imbibed its emotional and visual support and the knowledge it imparted to him. Then he would complete this artistic journey and return to his darkroom where he would tirelessly work his magic to create the perfect print and infuse its glorious tones with all the expressive emotion that he had felt during the making of the negative. There is nothing like the sight of fresh snow to enhance one’s spirit as in this beautiful image.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLIXWings of the Hawk, 42nd Street, New York, 1955
"Sometimes I’d take shots without aiming just to see what happened. I’d rush into crowds—bang, bang. It must be close to what a fighter feels after jabbing and circling and getting hit when suddenly there’s an opening and bang! Right on the button. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
~ William Klein
Here William Klein captures all the edginess and allure in the signage and lighting of a pre-Disney clean up of Times Square. It’s like Scorsese in “Taxi Driver” but a generation or two before. You are caught up in the crowd, in the energy of the street and the allure of the movie marquee lighting. Cinema would be an allure for Klein too and he spent a big part of his career making films like the fashion world send up “Who are you Polly Magoo?” and the wonderful documentary “Muhammed Ali: The Greatest."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLVIIIPortrait of Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers posing during Camera Day at Ebbets Field. Brooklyn, New York, 8/12/1956
“There is not an American in this country free until everyone of us is free.”
~ Jackie Robinson 1919-1972
“Sometimes the simplest pictures are the hardest to get.”
~ Neil Leifer
This is a remarkable photograph of Jackie Robinson, one of Baseball’s all-time greats and the first player to break down the game's racial barriers. What makes it remarkable is that Neil was only 14 years old at the time. He went on to have an illustrious career turning sports photography into an acknowledged art form.
It was taken on “Camera Day” at Ebbets Field, a tradition where once a year the players posed for the youngsters in the stadium before the game began. Neil managed to hustle his way into a great position and created an iconic image of one of his heroes in his final year in the Major Leagues.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLVIIMartha Graham, 1961
“As for myself, I work the way I do because of the kind of person that I am -my work is an expression of myself. It reflects me, my fascination with people, the physical world around us and the exciting medium in which I work. I do not claim that my way is the best or the only way, it is simply my way. It is an expression of myself, of the way I think and feel.”
~ Arnold Newman
“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”
~ Martha Graham 1894-1991
Arnold Newman loved to shoot his subjects in their natural environments. That’s why he took his cameras over to 316 E 63rd Street on March 2nd, 1961 to capture the formidable Martha Graham. She was known as the Mother of Modern Dance, as important to her profession as Picasso was to painting or Stravinsky was to music or Frank Lloyd Wright was to architecture.
She stands in front of her rehearsal barre almost as if an arrow is about to pierce through her heart and she is ready to move to escape it and in the process move us with her power and sheer force of nature as she did in each her performances and creations.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLVIWhite Nude, 1989
“Photography is like electricity: we know how to use it,
but we don’t know what it is.”
~ Ralph Gibson
Much of Ralph’s work is spare, sensual and profound like this image.
He has lived a full and rich life which is thankfully still ongoing with great travel, adventures and deep encounters with many of world’s greatest painters, writers and photographers from Dorothea Lange to Marguerite Duras. But he can hold his own with them in terms of sophistication and productivity.
Perhaps the hardest subject to contribute something fresh and inventive to is the female nude but here it is in front of you to marvel at in all its beauty.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLVSwan Lake, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, USSR, 1954
“Of course photography is a means of expression, like music or poetry. It is how I express myself. It’s also my trade. But in addition, it’s what gives us the means, through our images, to bear witness….we the photojournalists."
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri was always very self-deprecating. I don’t think I ever heard the word “art” come out of his mouth when talking to him about his work. To call one of the greatest bodies of work produced in the 20th Century in any medium as a “trade” is of course quite amusing. No one was more a witness to the great moments of history than he was. He was the first Western photographer to be allowed to work in the Soviet Union and given incredible access because of his international reputation.
No more so than the permission to photograph behind the scenes of the celebrated Bolshoi Ballet. His long out of print book “The People of Moscow” is a book collector’s gem. Of course for me it was always a dream to own a great Degas painting but this image is up there with one.
Elegant and supremely beautiful.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLIVMt. Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, CA, 1945
“Adam’s pictures looked unlike other pictures….. If you want to try to define the content of it, I think you’d have to say it has to do with his appreciation of the landscape as something that’s not permanent but evanescent - always always in the process of becoming something else.”
~ John Szarkowski
John Szarkowski was one of the great curators of photography in the 20th Century. He had an incredible eye but also an incredible ability with words. No one was more literate about the medium we all love.
He was chief curator of photography at The Museum of Modern Art from 1962-1991 and I, along with many others, owe him an enormous debt by being exposed to his seminal book “Looking at Photographs” and his other writings.
I also had the great honor of hosting his last public exhibition of his own extraordinary work.
He championed many photographers whose careers he actually made by his imprimatur. But he always had a deep respect and understanding of Ansel Adam’s work and his importance and was his most articulate advocate.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLIIIL'été (The Summer), 1989
“It could happen any day, any time, any season. I am outside walking around, fleeting thoughts vanishing through my mind, probably dealing with what I am out for or supposed to be out for. But there is nothing I can grab. I am just there in “the turning world". Daily Life drawing me out of control, when suddenly, unexpectedly, a sign, a tree that lifts my eye up to the sky when in the wind, a cloud is passing by or a sun ray breaking a shape on a wall or its shadow projecting leaves on the pavement or what ever wakes up my sight and I see what I am seeing - even better I charge it of what I feel and then suddenly I am alone, nobody there - no sound but my camera’s shutter-trying, clicking around and yes - yes sometime I am at "the still point of the turning world” and there the dance is.”
~ Sarah Moon
The process of creation. Sarah has always engaged in the great dance of life on a level very few can reach. She has been given a special gift of observation and incredible insight which thankfully she shares with us.
Here, in a single frame, is the joy of Summer and the magic of childhood joined forever.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLIIChild in Forest, 1951
“It was an ancient virginal forest. Barbara was a young virginal child. I knew immediately the qualities of her body would both contrast and harmonize beautifully with the qualities of the dead logs and living plants of the forest. The cyclic character of natural forces would be clearly evident. The light was just right and the relationships between events were strong and exciting.
All I had to do was set up and take the photograph.”
~ Wynn Bullock
I think Wynn is being perhaps being a little too modest here. I think to create an image of such beauty and power you would have had to devote a lifetime of dedication and experience to the task at hand. It is so far removed from just a simple act.
It was one of the stand out and most popular images in Edward Steichen’s 1955’s celebrated “Family of Man Exhibition” which later toured the world to enormous acclaim. This is an image one can stare at for hours and meditate on it’s various layers of meaning. But the one thing everyone can agree on is its luminosity as a print.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLIAquila Degli Abruzzi, Italy, 1951
“Of course I am curious and when I arrive in a place I like to see and understand what happens around me. However, I need to travel slowly and I avoid plane trips. A photographer must not run but walk, tirelessly. Then he can seize what is on offer on the pavement, at the street corner, in life."
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri, here could be writing about this image, one of his greatest. It has always worked on so many levels for me. You have the great respect for a way of life that has sustained its traditions, few of which have changed over the years. You observe the different generations, the older women carrying their loaves of bread, the young children - well just being young children with their expressive joy. It is an image full of different shapes and lines and stories, the cobbled stones, the iron railings. The influence of religion “Ora pro Nobis” dominating the town square. It is a microcosm of a world observed by an unrivaled master of his craft with tenderness and insight.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXLForest Floor, Yosemite, California, 1950
“You must have certain noble areas of the world left in as close-to-primal condition as possible. You must have quietness and a certain amount of solitude. You must be able to touch the living rock, drink the pure waters, scan the great vistas, sleep under the stars and awaken to the cool dawn wind. Such experiences are the heritage of all people.”
~ Ansel Adams
Forest Floor” is a prime example of Ansel’s great ability to capture perfect light and shadow. In an increasingly turbulent world we are so fortunate to have the images he left us as a reminder of what we can so easily lose if we do not respect what we still have.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXIXFrom the series Sakura <<07,4-56>>, 2007
"When I stand under a cherry tree and look up at the blossoms, I always feel as if I’m floating. The blossoms continue beyond my field of vision, each shimmering so beautifully. It is impossible to see them all."
~ Risaku Suzuki
James Danziger, here for Peter, writing about our next shows.
As we start to hopefully see some light at the end of the tunnel, we are pleased to exhibit shows that have been delayed due to the pandemic. Of all these shows, perhaps the most timely is Risaku Suzuki’s “Sakura” or “Cherry Blossom” series. The show opened on April 8.
One of Japan’s most eminent photographers, Risaku Suzuki has been working for over 30 years capturing the natural world in both an individual and a quintessentially Japanese style. While he has created series on mountains, seas, snow, and Monet’s gardens, he has returned to the subject of cherry blossoms for over 20 years, in a manner that is at once timeless and contemporary. Up to 61 inches in scale, Suzuki’s “Sakura” are more than pretty pictures. Each individual image is a play between sky and flower, positive and negative space, line and form - as well as a contemplation of nature and the preciousness of every moment.
In Suzuki’s own words:
I’ve been photographing cherry blossoms (sakura) for 20 years, trying to capture and convey this experience. I use 4 x 5 and 8 x 10 inch film cameras to make large-format prints. I narrow the depth of field to a single point and let the foreground and background go out of focus.
In “Sakura,” the blossoms of the intersecting branches appear melded together as one, making it difficult to distinguish the foreground from the the background. My work is about the experience of time and vision. The beauty of the sakura lies in the brevity of their blossoming, so I must rush to photograph their brilliance and vitality. I photograph sakura not as the conventional symbol of Japanese beauty but as an expression of the presence of time.
Born in 1963 in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, Risaku Suzuki currently lives and works in Tokyo. In addition to exhibiting his pictures in exhibitions around the world, Suzuki has received many prizes, including the Kimura Ihei Award, the most renowned award in the field of photography in Japan
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXVIIITimes Square at Night, New York, 1952
“When I take pictures I let reality decide what to do. I only take one when I’m deeply moved by what I see.”
~ Louis Stettner
Louis was mentored and encouraged by the great Paris-based, Hungarian-born photographer, Brassaï. Brassaï was renown more than anything for his incredible night time images shot in Paris in the 1930’s.
It was hard for Stettner not to have been influenced by one of his key teachers. Louis always told me that “Times Square” was the belly button of New York. He lived nearby and would often go there in the evening with his camera. People would come from all over New York to take in a movie, or a play or just to walk around. He was fascinated by the constant waves of humanity to be found there.
I also think on this particular night he must have also been stimulated into action by the billboard for Elia Kazan's great, great film “On The Waterfront”. No one who ever saw it when they were young could ever forget the power of it not to mention Brando’s haunting performance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXVIIEdith, Chincoteague, Virginia, 1967
My mind and heart follow her through gestures, rooms, and days.
At night, we have curled together as foxes for warmth."
~ Emmet Gowin
I don’t think there is a more powerful, romantic, tender, intimate image in the history of photography than this one. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Emmet Gowin has spent many years photographing his wife Edith. They are more than just a series of images of her. He has created a novel about her.
I find the emotion permeating this special one so intense and universal. It is almost a summation of a life fully lived through all its stages in one single frame. But in the end it is really about what it is to love and be loved.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXVIUntitled from “On The Acropolis”, 1983-1984
"If you accept the idea that photographers, or some of them, are actually artists, then you have to look at their work less as a document of something than as a personal vision of the world."
~ Tod Papageorge
James Danziger, here for Peter, writing about our next shows.
Last March I opened our show of Tod Papageorge’s “Acropolis” photographs at the gallery in New York. A week later the show and gallery closed to the public following the outbreak of COVID. In spite of this, the exhibition was widely followed and among the people who bought pictures from the show was film director Noah Baumbach whose films I have always admired. So when I decided to re-open the show this spring in L.A. I asked Noah if he would curate the show which he readily agreed to. His curation involved a re-editing of the selection and a sequencing of the images as he would see them laid out. In Baumbach’s words, “Tod’s beautiful sunburnt photos are an incredible document of a time and a place but also a hilarious and incisive commentary on how we are all tourists at some point in our lives. These people become both invaders of the Acropolis and also a subject all their own.”
The show now opens in Los Angeles on April 8th.
One of the most notable photographers of our time, Papageorge is known for both the originality and quality of his work as well as his influence on the generation of students he mentored while the Director of the Yale MFA photography program from 1979 to 2013. An early participant in the seminal American school of street photography practiced by his contemporaries and friends Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and Joel Meyerowitz, Papageorge’s path through photography has taken him from the streets of New York to the capitals of Europe, from black and white to color, from small to mid-sized cameras, but always towards describing in his work an increasing clarity and luminosity. Central to this project (if not his life) is the question of what makes a photograph extraordinary, even as he uses nothing more than direct observation of our common, physical world in his efforts to trace on film a revelatory or transcendent moment.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXVCarmen & Janet Randy with Car, 1959
“Alexander Liberman was very smart, very elegant. At the end he didn’t have much patience with me because I was a young, anxious, nervous photographer. I worried that I was copying too many other people and he said, “It’s all right to copy people as long as the people you copy are good and you copy them well.”
~ Jerry Schatzberg
Carmen Dell‘Orefice was discovered on a crosstown bus on New York’s 57th Street when she was 13 years old, had her first Vogue cover when she was 15 years old and has never stopped working since. She has a timeless beauty and is known in the fashion industry at 89 years old as the world’s oldest working supermodel. Here she is in 1959 stepping out of a taxi and exuding such self confidence and determination that one knows she is going to have a very successful day and will achieve whatever she has on her mind. It’s a great example of Jerry’s sense of movement and style.
A New Yorker through and through.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXIVHorsing around with Pepsi, Harlem, New York, 1955
“The New York book was a visual diary and it was also kind of a personal newspaper. I wanted it to look like the news, I didn’t relate to European photography. It was too poetic and anecdotal for me —— the kinetic quality of New York, the kids, dirt, madness. I tried to find a photographic style that would come close to it. So it would be grainy and contrasted and black. I’d crop, blur, play with negative space. I didn’t see clean technique being right for New York. I could imagine my pictures lying in the gutter like the New York Daily News.”
~ William Klein
At 92 years old William Klein is still the “enfant terrible” of photography. Always the rebel, always defying convention, the breaker of all rules, confrontational but I suspect with more pure heart than he would ever admit to. His magnum opus book, “Life is good and good for you in New York”, still packs a punch and seems as fresh today as when it was first published so many years ago. Edgy and insightful, Klein retains the difficult balance of aways being an insider/outsider in his energetic vision.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXIIIThe Shore, 1966
“Light is the source of everything. It is what makes things visible to the eye. It is also what holds a rock together. My thinking has been deeply affected by the belief that all things are some form of radiant energy. Light is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe.”
~ Wynn Bullock
I find myself being drawn more and more to nature these days. It is so important to tune out all the noise we are constantly subjected to, literally and figuratively, both for our physical and mental health.
No one appreciated nature and its restorative powers more so than Wynn Bullock. When I look at one of his lyrical images I feel I am standing next to him and he helps me see and feel what he is experiencing. He is a poet of light.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXIIMinuet on 3rd Avenue, 1922
“Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity, be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding, don’t try to be a success, don’t try to do pictures for others to look at -
just please yourself.”
~ Ralph Steiner
During these surreal times we have all felt the sense of isolation. One just misses street life. The hustle and bustle of the urban center. The ebb and flow of people, connecting and not connecting, the chance encounter.
Perhaps this couple has a pre-arranged rendezvous. Perhaps the man mistakes the identity of the woman and thinks he knows her and gently reaches out to her. One can interpret it as one likes. But it is a small urban miracle, indeed a minuet. A gem of a print. Just 2.75 x 3.75” but with a large emotion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXIHenri Matisse, 1944
“Too many photographers pay more attention to technique and forget style which is more important. I have never run a “studio”. And when I make a portrait, I do not “pose” my subject. I observe and I press the shutter when the character surges forth.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
I will never ever forget the day I first went to meet Cartier-Bresson in his apartment. I was beyond nervous. But he and his wife put me at ease. The first thing I noticed was that there were none of his photos to be found anywhere within the space.
At the corner of my eye I spied a small Matisse drawing and I started our conversation about his relationship with him. Of course I knew his celebrated portrait of Matisse. It was one of the greatest portraits ever taken of an artist. Henri told me of his friendship with him, how he was so honored that Matisse offered to design the cover of his first book “The Decisive Moment” which secured his position in photo history. What I did not know was that Matisse was completely blind at this time and was drawing from memory holding the white dove in his hand. Photography is all about light and the light here streaming from the window onto his subject only gives the image added pathos and empathy. You cannot but feel the love Henri felt for his friend.
It was a truly special and humbling first visit and the beginning of an incredible relationship and journey.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXXWinter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, 1944
This is the essence of Adam’s majestic view of the American landscape in all its beauty and power.
On four successive mornings, Adams tried to take this photograph of the east side of the Sierras. On the fifth day, it was still dawn and bitterly cold when he set up his camera on the new platform of his car and retreated to the warm interior. As dawn drew near, he returned to the camera to await the sun’s first rays on the meadow.
“I finally encountered a bright, glistening sunrise with light clouds streaming from the southeast and casting swift moving shadow on the meadow and dark rolling hills. At the last possible moment, the horse turned to offer a profile view."
Many years later he also wrote,
"Sometimes I think I do get to places when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXIXPacific Grove Coast, CA, 1968
“I feel all things as dynamic events, being, changing and interacting with each other in space and time even as I photograph them.”
~ Wynn Bullock
Northern California was the perfect place for Wynn Bullock to live and work. The climate there certainly brought out the best in him. He was deeply connected to that location as was many of his esteemed contemporaries and friends such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams and Brett Weston. There he realized that there was much more to the world than just meets the eye and his life and work was dedicated to showing us this. This is best exemplified by this image, a mystical exploration of time passing and changing in front of our eyes.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXVIIIThird Avenue, 1954
“I took Alexey Brodovitch’s course at the New School. He taught me something that I’ve always remembered. After we did the initial assignment he contradicted what he said the first week and I said ok. The next week he contradicted what he had said the second week. We went through 10 weeks of contradiction and I thought maybe he was drunk. At the end he said “You may think I’ve contradicted myself, but there’s no one way to do anything."”
~ Jerry Schatzberg
Brodovitch always encouraged his students to get out on the streets of New York and observe life. I don’t think there is any other city in the world that life plays out so continuously. Whenever I am visiting there is always a human drama to observe at every moment of the day or night. There is just no way to ignore it.
Just like this little scenario, watching these characters who seem to have just popped out of a Marty Scorsese movie.
A great example of New York Street Photography.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXVIILos Angeles Dodgers Sandy Koufax (32) victorious after winning Game 4 and championship series vs New York Yankees at Dodger Stadium, October 6, 1963
Neil Leifer is generally regarded as one of the great practitioners of sports photography who through his sheer determination and his technical innovation and gutsy risk taking has certainly elevated sports photography to a fine art.
Here in his own words are his memories of this special day in 1963. Enjoy all you baseball fans out there!
“Sandy Koufax was unquestionably the best pitcher of his time. He was a hard subject because he rarely showed any emotion. He was usually stone-faced. Even when he won, all you might get was a little smile as he walked off the mound. This picture is special because here Koufax has just completed Game 4 of the 1963 World Series, a four game sweep of the Yankees. This is the final out as you can see on the scoreboard and Koufax must have forgotten who he was because he leaped up in the air with a huge smile on his face. I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan for as long as I can remember and when the team moved to Los Angeles, I was heartbroken. One of the reasons, I stayed a Dodger fan was that some of the players I had grown up watching and loved in Brooklyn were still with the team in LA. Duke Snider, Don Drysdale and especially Koufax. I always loved to watch Koufax pitch. This picture is memorable because he showed exuberance here that he never revealed any of the other times I photographed him.”
~ Neil Leifer
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXVITeresa S., 1996
“I hang onto shapes, the curve of the neck, the folds of the dress, the gesture of the hand, the balance of the hips. The model moves slowly, she suggests, she tries to understand what I can’t explain, she tries to play a part I can’t follow. I hear myself saying, “No….no ,do nothing… So again she waits, she stares at mesh sees my panic, I feel I’m letting her down, I feel guilty: I press the button, I say it’s great. I pretend once, twice, thirty-six times.. I hope and I begin again. Time goes blight falls, I lose confidence. I don’t want to be a photographer anymore, but I keep on. Then all of a sudden, but not always, something changes, I can’t say why, maybe I am just in the right place at the right time, or maybe I believe in it. However, for a split second, I see a sparkle of beauty passing by or is it simply the difference or the surprise…? However everything goes so quickly now within that stillness and I am carried away and at last, I like what I see and I can’t stop finding it, then losing it, and all day long I’ll keep on because it once existed.”
~ Sarah Moon
Well this is almost a master class in how to create a masterpiece. I have never quite read such articulate words about process. But why should I be surprised? Sarah is a master photographer and has produced such an extraordinary body of work in this most difficult of genres to really excel at, to carve out your own signature. Sarah is a supreme seductress. You cannot help but fall in love over and over again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXVPaul Strand Filming the PTBTP, 1935
“By showing a picture you’re showing an x-ray of your heart.”
~ Ralph Steiner
Ralph Steiner was a good friend of Paul Strand and was hugely influenced by him both as a photographer and as a cinematographer. Strand was a key mentor for him. They collaborated on a seminal documentary, “The Plow that broke The Plains” about life in the Dust Bowl during the 1930’s.
You can sense the respect that one photographer feels for another in this probably unique vintage print. I have never seen another print of it and is not reproduced in any of the Steiner publications.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXIVGeorgia O' Keefe, New Mexico, 1981
“Presence is something attained, not given by age.”
~ William Clift
“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe
Bill Clift is an old fashioned, humble, somewhat reclusive master craftsman, a perfectionist of the old school. He makes very few prints because of his time consuming process. It is often a long wait and a complex dance to actually receive one of his rare prints. But the wait is so worth it because when it finally arrives it is beyond exquisite and is a treasure to behold. He is a slow, intelligent, deliberate and deeply intuitive man. He loves what he does and is in love with his craft. He has spent his life searching for something that touches him.
Georgia O’Keeffe obviously touched him as she has fascinated many great photographers. But this is surely one of the most revealing portraits of her I have ever seen. The image is quiet and stoic and beyond beautiful much like her work.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXIIIMoonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941
This is undoubtedly one of the most famous photographs of the 20th Century. Revered for its power and beauty and humanity it is probably one of Ansel’s most sought after images. It has always been a touchstone of American landscape photography.
Here are Ansel’s son, Michael’s remembrances of that special day -
“Ansel was driving and Cedric (Cedric Wright one of Ansel’s best friends) was in the passenger seat. I was eight years old, half listening to the banter, watching the world fly by out the window. We were in Ansel’s old Pontiac station wagon, heading back to Santa Fe. It had been a long day and not apparently very successful. I don’t really remember any discussion about the potential of Moonrise at the time, only that we were moving really fast...Ansel was by nature prone to driving fast, but skilled and certainly not reckless. It was quite a shock therefore to suddenly be on the gravel shoulder of the road, fishtailing and dust flying as Ansel slammed on the brakes. “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Grab the camera case! It’s under there, get that out of the way. Where’s the tripod. Film holders! Hurry! Where’s the light meter? Oh ,no the light’s going” Things were flying out of the car and onto the ground as we were frantically grabbing things that Ansel needed. Certainly not a direct quote but at the end of it, Ansel knew he had something. He didn’t find the light meter, but made his exposure based on the known luminosity of the moon - 250 foot candles. The rest, as they say, is history.”
In the relatively short history of this medium nothing has quite resonated with its audience as much.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXII"Cadillac Blues" New York City, 1955
“New York is a monument to the dollar. The dollar is responsible for everything good and bad. Everybody comes for it. No one can resist it.”
~ William Klein
This is an image that I can never forget in Klein’s body of work. You do not see it very often. For me it has always been the photographic equivalent of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. That play premiered on Feb 10th, 1949 and this image was taken just six years later. Maybe Klein was aware of Miller’s play when this piece of human theater resonated with him but probably not.
It sums up a mood of a post-war era, when consumerism more than ever entered the era’s psyche. Everything about it evokes that time, the clothes the salesmen are wearing and their body language. And that look of just waiting to realize the dream.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXIJames Dean on the set of "Rebel Without a Cause", 1955
“People told me before I went to see Dean at Griffith Park Observatory that he had almost all the photographers kicked off the set. When I went there, I had just bought a new camera called the Hasselblad with a 250mm lens (which makes it look impressive). So I stood way back and I only made a couple of snapshots of him when he wasn’t really working - he was relaxing. He got curious about the camera and he came over - I gave him a lesson on how to focus and shoot the camera.
From thereon, any place that I went, when he saw me and he wasn’t actually filming, he would give me all kinds of wonderful pictures.”
~ Sid Avery
This is an insight into Sid’s unique way of working with Hollywood stars. Thoughtful and considerate and patient, qualities which endeared him to so many often temperamental personalities. There was no one more charismatic on screen than James Dean who is still a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement almost 70 years after Sid took this beautiful portrait of him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXXElephant (Against light), Kafue National Park, Zambia, 2010
"We are animals, born from the land with the other species. Since we’ve been living in cities, we’ve become I think somewhat less intelligent, not smarter. What made us survive all these years is our spirituality, the link to our land.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
We have all seen many images of elephants over the years but there is something truly special about this image of Sebastião’s elephant, as I now call it. He manages to imbue it with such a deep sense of respect for its intelligence and dignity and its freedom. It has an almost biblical glow to it and I feel I am experiencing a special human, almost brotherly connection with it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXIXVictoire Fixing Shoe, 1962
“If you go to a fashion show today you have 16 celebrities sitting there, all of whom have nothing to do with fashion.”
~ Jerry Schatzberg
Nearly sixty years ago in 1962 Jerry gave us an amazing insight in to what really went on backstage in the the last years of the golden age of Haute Couture. He shot it like a documentary film. We are witness to all the frantic and nervous energy that goes on before “showtime” and the curtain rises for 2 hours of sheer theatre and often the display of 200 costumes in that tight time frame.
Victoire was one of Yves Saint Laurent’s most inspiring muses who was always given the couturier’s favorite dresses to wear to seduce the audience of buyers and the press who clamored to see his latest creations at the House of Dior. Here she is fixing her own shoe without a hoard of assistants trailing her every move.
A bygone era for sure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXVIIIDexter Gordon, Royal Roost, New York City, 1948
“I saw photographing jazz artists as a visual diary of what I was hearing. I wanted to preserve the mood and atmosphere as much as possible. My goal was to capture these artists at the height of their finest creative moments.”
~ Herman Leonard
When you look at a Herman Leonard photograph you feel you are in the front row there with him, experiencing the exact same moment as he did just before he pressed the shutter. This is one of the greatest jazz photos ever taken of one of the greatest tenor sax players ever, Dexter Gordon.
It captures the essence of jazz and who can ever forget his “performance” as the fictional player in
“Round Midnight” probably the greatest piece of cinema ever to depict the true milieu of Jazz and why its admirers have such passion and devotion to it.
As Dexter himself once said,
“You gotta have heart to be in this business. If you don’t have heart you’re not going to make it."
I guess that goes for any creative endeavor. The image is on the cover of one of Gordon’s greatest album’s, “Ballads”. Sit back and enjoy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXVIILa Stricte Intimité [In the Strictest Intimacy], Rue Marcelin Berthelot, Montrouge, 1945
“Our friendship is lost in the darkness of time. We will no longer have his laugh, full of compassion, nor his hard hitting retorts, so funny and profound. Never told twice: each time a surprise. But his deep kindness, his love for all beings and for a simple life will always exist in his work.”
~ Henri Cartier Bresson. 1994
Such beautiful words from one master photographer to another.
This has surely got to be one of the most tender, beautiful, heartfelt images about marriage ever created. Robert was exactly what Henri says he was. Just a beautiful human being. This generation of photographers can never be replaced or duplicated. They belong to another time in terms of their basic humanity and feelings and their deep understanding of the beautiful moments of everyday life.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXVIAtom Bomb Sky, New York, 1955
“Anything goes. No rules, no limits, no holding back."
~ William Klein
How do you finish up your year long project on New York? Well if you are William Klein you go out with a bang..
One of the great iconoclasts in the history of photography he better end on a high note. So he literally goes up in a helicopter to capture his final shot and calls it “Atom Bomb Sky”. Maybe living during the height of the Cold War prompted the title but the image can certainly be open to many interpretations.
Here’s mine - I think it is a tribute to the indestructibility of this city. Whatever trials and tribulations this city suffers it always bounces back. It came back from bankruptcy, survived 9/11 and will overcome the Pandemic. Survival is in its DNA, that’s what makes it such a special place and this image captures it all. I think it is epic.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXVHorse and Cowboy, Rockefeller Center, NYC, 1974 (Printed 1981)
“So like an athlete trimming away every spare ounce, I try to eliminate everything extraneous from my photographs. I accomplish this boiling down process, not by physically removing anything in front of me, but in my - picture taking technique - moving in, out and around to choose camera position, considering the action as well as shades of black and white, texture, perspective and their infinite interrelationships."
~ Louis Stettner
This is such a cool shot that has beauty and irony. The ultimate ”Urban Cowboy” image. I don’t think there is another truly urban place in the world than New York and to find a cowboy placed in the middle of it seems so incongruous. A performer from a visiting rodeo exercising his horse in the early morning like he just took a wrong turn as he was leaving his ranch and ended up in Manhattan by mistake. Great mood and atmosphere.