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 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.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXIVMarlon Brando with Bongo Drums in the Den of his Beverly Glen Home, 1955
“I was assigned by the "Saturday Evening Post” to do a few pictures of Brando on his first visit to Los Angeles for a film. He was living in a little shack up in Beverly Glen. I had called to get permission to shoot and he said “I can’t give you any time really but if you want to come in for a quick shot, I’ll do it.” He was extremely relaxed, innovative and was thoroughly enjoyable. Plus I must say he was a very rewarding photographic subject even though he had an aversion to publicity and very little time for our shoot because he had to leave for New York. However, he gave me one of my best home layouts.”
~ Sid Avery
I don’t think there is an American actor more revered and celebrated than Marlon Brando. Throughout a 60 year career which included such highlights as “On the Waterfront”, “A Street Car Named Desire”, “The Wild One”, “Mutiny on The Bounty” and “The Godfather” he is for sure and will always be “the actor’s actor”.
But here he is captured by Sid Avery in a true 1950’s moment playing the bongos surrounded by African art. Relaxed and not intense, at home, just being a normal guy well at least for a few minutes.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXIIIIceberg between the Paulet Island and the South Shetland Islands, Antartica, 2005
“In the end, the only heritage we have is our planet. I have decided to go to the most pristine places on the planet and photograph them in the most honest way I know with my point of view.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
This is one of the most powerful images from Sebastião’s epic “Genesis” series. It has enormous power stemming from the simple fact that it no longer exists, a simple retort to any proponents of the view that global warming is a myth and not one of mankind’s most crucial issues that we need to confront...
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXIIOld Typewriter, 1951 (Printed 1960's)
“Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar things, waiting only to be perceived.“
~ Wynn Bullock
Long before computers there used to be something called a typewriter. They were fairly heavy and used to clunk a way a lot. Kinda noisy. People used to put pieces of paper in them, type away for bit, take the paper out then put the paper in an envelope, stick a stamp on the envelope and then walk some and mail the letter and wait for sometimes days or even weeks for a returned typed letter back.
Wynn Bullock captured this image 70 years ago. It’s more than just an image of a rusting machine. It’s about the passing of time and decay embedded In nature. But for this viewer the underlying meaning is that nature will survive and live on longer than anything man can create and thus is a much more powerful force and we should be humbled before it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXIEye of Love #510, 1952
“I don’t take pictures consciously, intellectually. I don’t deliberately compose a picture. I just go by gut feelings.”
~ René Groebli
René’s feelings towards his wife on their simple honeymoon in Paris in 1952 were pretty intense. They were there together at a special moment in their lives. What flowed between them was just natural and intimate. He never posed her. He just observed and recorded their time together. The white shirt, the nape of her neck. No artifice, just pure love and affection. Thank you René for sharing this part of your life with us. You are a constant inspiration at 93 years young.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCXHalloween Party, 1954
“If you’re lucky enough to find what you want to do in life, you don’t become passionate about it, you are passionate.”
~ Jerry Schatzberg
What is wonderful about my professional life is the pure thrill of discovery. I was visiting Jerry a few years back in his studio in New York to view some “new” images in his archive that he had recently unearthed and scanned that he had never printed before. We looked through many images but towards the end of our session together this image popped up on the screen. It immediately stopped me in my tracks and I shouted out “Stop, what’s that?”
It turned out to be an image from a 1954 fashion shoot that had never been published. In my experience I have often seen images that didn’t make the first cut for whatever reason but later turned out to be appreciated as “forgotten gems” as I like to describe them. This is one of them. It has all the elements of that classic 1950’s fashion elegance with a touch of “film noir” mystery. Whatever Halloween party this sophisticated and beautifully dressed woman is going to we are certainly going with her.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCIXSix Lights, Penn Station, 1958
“Only time reveals the value of creative photographs. If they have true significance, they will grow more alive and important with the years.
The meanings they radiate will never be final or exhausted.
On the contrary with the passing of time, new hidden aspects
in the photographs will be revealed.”
~ Louis Stettner
One of my most joyful collaborations was with the late great Louis Stettner who I always thought was a much under appreciated important 20th Century humanist photographer and one of my most fulfilling experiences was to get his dream book project on his work in the 1950’s on Penn Station published.
Whilst visiting him in his Paris Studio I noticed this dummy for a book just lying on a table. I said “What’s this Louis?”. He told me about how he fell in love with the old Penn Station and just become obsessed with going back there again and again in search of subject matter. I just couldn’t believe how strong the imagery was and asked him “Why isn’t there a beautiful book out there on this work?” He told me he had tried and tried and couldn’t get any publisher interested in it. He had just got so beaten down by the rejection. I said "This is insane. Can I try again for you? The work is so great”. “Be my my guest. Go with my blessing” he replied.
So I went on a 2 year mission. I too dealt with constant rejection. No publisher thought it was “commercial”. The more rejections I got the more fired up I became. Finally I ended up at the distinguished English Art book publisher Thames and Hudson and their NY based book editor Christopher Sweet who shared my enthusiasm and appreciation of Louis’s work and it happened.
I suggested that the great New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik write the introduction and he agreed too.
A beautiful book was born and I know it made Louis so happy that his dream was finally fulfilled. And this great image is on the cover.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCVIIIVatican City, Rome, 1959
“The photographer always looks at things differently to a
non-photographer, because he/she would like to, if not exactly steal,
then to seize the scenario.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Being in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on a Sunday morning and witnessing the Pope coming out and greeting the adoring crowd, regardless of which religion you adhere to, is an unforgettable sight and memory.
Here is a very special image which captures that moment in such a subtle and unique way. Gianni’s genius is not to show any human face but the minutiae of everyday, normal life. A woman tiptoes to strain to get a better view, a man’s hat and leather case on the floor to make it easier as he too tries to get a sighting. But the emotion of the occasion is all there.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCVIIClub Allegro Fortissimo, Paris, 1990
“I asked them to pose a bit like fashion models. They were afraid that I’d be making fun of them. But when they saw the photograph they thought they looked beautiful.
I think they look beautiful myself and sexy.”
~ William Klein
Only a smart, sensitive, intelligent, maverick like William Klein could have pulled this image off.
It indeed has power and beauty. Shot in a Russian steam bath in Paris, it has great humanity and warmth and even tenderness and is about community and strength. Accept us as you find us it emotes. It’s an image one never forgets and I always look forward to returning to see it again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCVINavigation Without Numbers, 1957
“When I photograph, what I’m really doing is seeking answers to things.”
~ Wynn Bullock
This is one of the most primal and beautiful images in the history of photography. I have always held it in the highest regard since I first saw it so many years ago. It poses all the big questions in life without explicitly answering them which gives it its haunting mystery. It was shot in the heart of Big Sur county. Its title only adds to its strength. When Wynn entered the room where he was to take the image, he saw out of the corner of his eye a book propped up on a wide window ledge. It must have stimulated some profound thoughts as well as giving him the most perfect title. He was also such a master in the darkroom. The physical print is just staggering in its perfection and mood.
All of us have to navigate life issues in all its myriad challenges everyday, even more so now right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCVFlower Vendor at Dal Lake, 1999
“So much of photography is just observation and noticing things that sometimes other people just don’t see.”
~ Steve McCurry
In my experience of dealing with great photographers one of the key attributes that they all have in common is incredible patience. When visiting Dal Lake Steve spent enormous amounts of time just traveling with the local flower sellers as they journeyed down the river. For two weeks he would ride with the merchants during the morning. On this day the vibrant flowers and the boatman, arm raised in mid-paddle, combine with the morning light to create the perfect composition. It is one of Steve’s most favorite images and mine too.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCIVStickball, 1950
“I would spend my days in the street shooting and my nights in the darkroom printing.”
~ Arthur Leipzig
Arthur was part of that great generation of New York street photographers that believed that the camera could effect social change and was a powerful instrument to achieve that. He was an inspiring man to be around. He wore his heart on his sleeve, lived simply and was completely unpretentious. He would laugh if someone called him an “artist”. In his own mind he was just a photographer who got to live his life doing what he loved.
This, one of his greatest images, is a microcosm of New York City life back then. A cultural melting pot. The kosher butcher, the racially mixed kids playing stickball in their shoes all pre Nike. A brief respite from a hard city life shot with intense respect for its subjects.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCIIIFrank Sinatra, Monte Carlo, 1958
“I’m going to live til I die.”
~ Frank Sinatra. 1915-1998
A few years back we had a wonderful collaboration in the gallery with the Sinatra family. I think the seeds of my love of America and desire to live here were planted in my appreciation of his voice and music growing up in London.
It was a wonderful exhibition and this great Herman Leonard image was up front and center. What still draws me to this photograph is that in the hands of a great photographer you can capture the essence of a person even without ever seeing their face. Once you realize it is Sinatra with his commanding stage aura and magnetism it couldn’t be anyone else. It’s the perfect meditation on portraiture and indeed on photography itself.
In June 1958, the much admired Grace Kelly who is now known as Princess Grace of Monaco invited Sinatra to perform at a charity event to raise money for the United Nations Refugee Fund. He was honored to be asked to do it and Herman was there to shoot the event. An historic night for sure...
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCIIApulia, 1966
“At one time in Italian villages, especially in the country, there were these wandering photographers. The Polaroid had already been invented but they were loyal to the traditional way of photography with a box camera. They photographed without negatives, directly on the paper. Since this country tradition was dying out, finding one of them was a rare chance.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
This image could easily be a frame from a great Italian Neorealist film.
As a young man I know my cinematic taste was really formed by a love of French new wave movies and Italian cinema. I always revisit my favorite De Sica films “Bicycle Thief” and “Umberto D” and “Garden of the Finzi Continis” and Fellini’s “La Strada" and Bertolucci ’s “The Conformist”, Visconti’s “Death in Venice” and more recent Italian Cinema masterpieces like “Cinema Paradiso”. And “Life is Beautiful".
I guess the great movies and the great images have something in common. Once you have experienced them they are impossible to forget.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCIAubervilliers, 1947
“Most important to me was the outdoor studio that was Paris. I would take long, daily walks with my camera, leaving myself open to whatever happened around me. Sometimes I am asked why I did it. There was no economic basis and the possibility of recognition was slight. I suppose I was driven by a great need and love to get close to the world around me.”
~ Louis Stettner
Louis lived a bifurcated life between New York and Paris, his two “spiritual mothers” as he once described the two cities.
Here is one of his very early Paris images. Aubervilliers was a poor working class area on the outskirts of the city. It was a chilly rainy day when he set up his 4x5 view camera on a tripod in the street. There were few cars around back then in 1947. These two children were curious about why someone would be doing this and probably had never seen a camera like this before and offered to pose for him. I’m sure Louis related to something in their faces and poses as he himself had been born as an identical twin.
There is such joy and tenderness in this image and that magical Paris light completes the perfection.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCCBob Dylan, "Musician/Poet", 1965
“I think he trusted me and let himself go.”
~ Jerry Schatzberg
“May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young”
© Bob Dylan “Forever Young”
Jerry first met Bob Dylan in 1965 in New York through their mutual friend Sarah who was later to become Dylan’s muse and wife. Dylan trusted him and they did many sessions together including the cover for Dylan’s double album “Blonde on Blonde”.
But this is my favorite shot Jerry did. He portrays him like Byron, a romantic poetic figure dressed in his classic counter culture style ruminating on his beautiful words.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIXStaten Island Ferry, New York, 1955
“I feel like I’m doing something that’s worthwhile. I feel like I’m showing something other people haven’t shown. I don’t get to talk to the people I photograph. I just go along, banging away. So I don’t really have a relationship with them. A lot of people think it’s very important. I don’t. It’s like love at first sight. I have an impression when I see somebody and I have an idea of who they are or what they are.”
~ William Klein
A really rare and tender image in Klein’s body of work. Something I can really relate to as an emigrant to the USA. I remember the first time I took the Staten Island Ferry when I first visited New York. A completely emotional experience to see the vast vista of the city with all one’s personal hopes and dreams laid out before you. I actually can’t wait to do it again.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVIIIEpic Western No. 37, 2020
James Danziger here, guest writing for Peter. We are very pleased to present the first L.A. show of photographs by Jim Krantz. Krantz occupies a unique place in the history of contemporary art and if his work looks familiar, it is not surprising. He has been shooting powerful images of cowboys galloping through the western landscape for 20 years. For those familiar with Richard Prince’s “Cowboy” series, and for those interested in its sources, many of the works reproduced by Prince were shot by Krantz while on assignment for Marlboro.
I’m not without admiration for Prince’s insights – his understanding of the power of Krantz (and others’) imagery and the presentation of his copies as “conceptual” work - but as a result, several of Krantz’s images have been shown at the world’s top museums only credited to Prince. It’s an irony of the modern art market when a copy can sell for more than an original. But it feels appropriate to restore credit and visibility to the original author.
In the image above, shot in Craig, Colorado, from a high vantage point, we see Krantz expanding the visuals of western iconography to somewhere between cinema and photography. Not just a picture redolent of emotion, the technical aspects of the image are critical as Krantz captures the falling light and the exact moment to capture the silhouetted horse and rider to make an indelible image of solitude, nature, and the bond between rider and horse.
With only 7 large scale images in the show there was not room for this picture on the walls, but as one of my favorites I am happy to illustrate it here.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVIILes Roses, 1998
“When I shoot flowers or any still life or fashion, colour forces me to be more abstract. I have to make the effort to transpose it in order to get closer to what it was that first impressed me. For me, black and white is closer to introspection, to memories, to loneliness and loss.
I don’t see the same in color - it’s another language, a living language."
~ Sarah Moon
I have seen many photographs of roses over my career, but I have never quite seen one like this.
Known primarily for her celebrated fashion work her body of work is in fact diverse in terms of its subject matter. Whatever Sarah decides to focus on she always creates something special and unique. I saw this photograph whilst visiting her in her studio one day. I was immediately drawn to its kinetic power and beauty. It stopped me in my tracks. As I sat mesmerized I was thinking how could such a simple image have this profound effect on me. I then decided to switch off my analytic brain and just reveled in its aura. I walked back to my hotel in a trance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVITony Bennett, New York City, NY, 1950
“Herman is my favorite artist of any technique. He’s a painter with his camera and he makes it look so effortless. His timing is as great as any Charlie Parker solo or Lester Young or Count Basie beat. Herman’s work will live on and on.”
~ Tony Bennett
I have been listening to a lot of Tony Bennett singing recently. It just transports me out of current stresses and concerns. In fact I’m listening to him singing “Fly me to the Moon” as I write these few words.
His mastery of the Great American Songbook is unrivaled and he has led such a long and interesting life. A man of great sensitivity to political concerns and human empathy he also marched with Martin Luther King in Selma in the 1960’s.
He was one of the last people Herman spoke to just before Herman passed away in 2010. Two giants, two great friends.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCVMarie Helene et Le Poisson Rouge, 1957
Georges’s talent was recognized early on by the talented Helene Lazareff, the creative director of French Elle. She encouraged his ideas to take these glorious models out into the streets of Paris away from the normal stilted shots which emanated from the rigid studio settings. With his charm and great sense of humor he elicited wonderful “performances” from them as if he were directing a movie. He had a great sense of style and design and really was the key photographer to emerge from that glorious era of French Elle. He made fashion fun and every great model at the time wanted to work with him.
After he retired from photography he left Paris to open a beautiful small hotel in the French countryside where he was equally successful, a nice coda to a busy and hectic career.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIVNenet Nomads (Packing Sleigh) South Yamal Region, Siberia, Russia, 2011
"There comes a moment when it is no longer you who takes the photograph, but receives the way to do it quite naturally and fully.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Each of Salgado’s epic projects is meticulously researched for years by Sebastião and his wife Lelía before they ever set foot on location to shoot. They found out about this group of Nenet Nomads who survive by herding reindeer. This is the coldest place on earth and I remember Sebastião telling me the story of how he went to enormous lengths to have the warmest coat that could be scientifically custom-made in order to withstand the elements so he could fulfill his project.
He gets there and it is unbelievably cold. Beyond belief and expectations. He is shivering and cannot work. The Nenets see what is happening. Of course no verbal communication just human connection. They cut him a reindeer coat like they wear and voila it works and he can then work and he creates some of the most beautiful images found in the project. This image was produced big and was at the entrance to the The Science Museum’s presentation of “Genesis” in London where it was launched several years ago.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIIIPyhäjärvi, Finland (Horse & Barn), 1982
“I wait for photographs like a pointer dog. It is a question of luck and circumstance. I prefer the winter, the worse the weather the better the photograph will be.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
In 1959, Pentti Sammallahti visited the famous “The Family of Man" exhibition at the Helsinki Hall with his father and announced that he knew what he wanted to do with his life: to be a photographer. And this simple prescient pronouncement proved to be so true and we have the results of his prodigious talent to enjoy.
Pentti has created a trove of photographic gems like this one. I have never seen an image that has so many exquisite levels of story telling all in such perfect balance. It is a wonder to behold.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIIEye of Love #532, 1952
“If I had been a writer I would probably have gone to the nearest cafe to write love poems. To me the photographs just showed my appreciation of her.”
~ René Groebli
At 93 years old, dear René still exudes passion and energy for his chosen medium.
His “magnum opus”, “The Eye of Love” still resonates with such power and tenderness 70 years later since the photos were first shot on his honeymoon in a small hotel in Paris with his beloved wife.
The images to my mind and eye are up there with Stieglitz’s photos of O’Keeffe, Edward Weston’s photos of Charis Wilson and Harry Callahan’s photos of Eleanor. The wife as muse.
Rene’s photos show more than what is objectively visible. He managed to capture the emotions, the intimacy and the love for his wife Rita. They are just heartbreakingly beautiful.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCIHollywood Premiere, 1955
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
~ Robert Frank
James Danziger here, guest writing for Peter. The photograph above is one of 20 pictures now on display in our new show “Robert Frank – Rarities”. All shot during Frank’s travels around America in the mid 1950s, most (unlike this picture) are being exhibited for the first time, but in selecting just one, it’s hard to pass this up!
When Robert Frank arrived in Los Angeles in late 1955, he had given up a well-paying job as a fashion photographer to embark on what was to become his magnum opus, photographing all of America through the eyes of a recent emigré. He had been driving for weeks, and while passing through Arkansas he had been stopped by the police who asked if he were Jewish and jailed him overnight intimating he was a Communist spy. So it was a great relief to get to Los Angeles.
He rented an apartment in the Hollywood Hills for two months and ventured out into what for him was a strange new land that mixed the glamorous and the poor. As always, he tried to capture every social class and in this picture “Movie Premiere, Hollywood” his selective focus juxtaposed the characters in the background against the beautiful starlet in the foreground. You look once and see the actress (unidentified to this day in case anyone can let us know). You look twice and see the varied expressions of the fans on who the picture is focused. It’s pure Frank – a poem read twice.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXCTuscany, 1958
“Henri Cartier-Bresson gave me one of his books and dedicated it
“With friendship and admiration” Being admired by Cartier-Bresson I could have died the next morning and would have died happy.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Yes it is true that Henri Cartier-Bresson held Gianni in the highest regard and included him in his inaugural exhibition “My Hundred Favorite Photographs” when he opened his foundation in Paris in 2003 a year before Henri passed away.
He was not the only great photographer I have known who considers Gianni one of the greats. Sebastiao Salgado, Elliott Erwitt, Ferdinando Scianna and Willy Ronis amongst many other greats expressed the same sentiment to me. To be held in such high regard by so many of one’s fellow artists is rare indeed.
It’s easy to see why. His body of work taken over 70 years is varied in it’s scope and subject matter.
This beautiful human landscape with its mix of light and shadow is so subtle in its composition and emanates such reverence and love for the land and nature.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIXLeaf and Ferns, Hawaii, 1979
"With the greatest satisfaction I note Brett’s interest in photography. He is doing better work at 14 years old than I did at 30 years old. To have someone close to me, working so excellently, with an assured future is a happiness hardly expected.”
~ Edward Weston writing about his son, Brett Weston Nov. 5th, 1926
After a long and productive career Brett Weston spent his final years on the island of Hawaii. That island gave him one of the most fulfilling third acts in the History of Art. The environment there gave him such strength and creative impulse to produce powerful work equal to the other highly fertile periods of his life. Nowhere is there a better example of this than in his 1979 image of “Leaf and Ferns”.
It just radiates energy and beauty. In his real life Brett reduced everything to its essentials even to his living environment. One of the lessons he learned from his father so that he could focus on his art without cluttering one’s life with too many unnecessary possessions or distractions. He had such a great eye for balancing forms and light. Shooting in the field and printing in his darkroom occupied most of his long and creative life.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVIIIInterlude at The Glyndebourne Opera, East Sussex, 1953
“When I am in England I feel like I am sitting in a very comfortable armchair and I am looking at the stage and all these actors and I can applaud them. But all these people have their own set of rules but I am not supposed to applaud and I am not allowed to jump on the stage and play with them. But I still enjoy the country tremendously."
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
These witty words by Henri are a good indication of his wry sense of humor. Yes the English are something else. I think I’m allowed to say this as I was born there and still have a UK passport. The real world around them can be falling apart but they have this wonderful way of carrying on regardless. Is it that stiff upper lip?
I went to Sussex University which was nearby Glyndbourne Opera House. Each year they would offer some free tickets to us poor students on a lottery basis and I was fortunate to win a pair one year. It is a real high society occasion. An opera house set within a beautiful country estate taking place in the summer season. Everyone dresses up to the nines and the interval is two hours long where the attendees break for an elegant dinner served outside on the lawn.
There will always be an England. There will always be Henri Cartier-Bresson
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVIIDust Storm, Rajasthan, India (Vertical), 1983
“If you want to be a photographer first leave home.”
~ Steve McCurry
I don’t know anyone who has a greater wanderlust than Steve McCurry. He must be in the Guinness Book of Records with more frequent flyer miles than any photographer in the history of the medium. I think he has been to India alone more than 80-90 times in his 40 plus year career. He has always been attracted to the cacophony of noise, colors and smells that make up Indian daily life.
He was working there in the height of the dry season driving along a highway in Rajasthan when his taxi was forced to stop by a sudden dust storm. Out of the window he saw a group of workers protecting each other from the choking dust and just jumped out the cab like an automatic reflex and captured one of his most sought after images.
A great example I think of “Chance favors the prepared mind”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVINew York City [Three men in tutu], 1956
“I don’t think you can create luck. You’re either lucky or you’re not. I don’t know if it’s really luck or if it’s just curiosity. I think the main ingredient or a main ingredient for photography is curiosity. If you’re curious enough and if you get up in the morning and go out and take pictures, you’re likely to be more lucky than if you just stay at home.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
For sure one needs some comic relief in these times. I have found some recently in watching the French Netflix series “Call My Agent”. It made me think of this genius photograph by Elliott Erwitt, one of the wittiest and most seriously intelligent photographers I have ever met. When I need a laugh I just look at this image.
New York, like Los Angeles, is a magnet for anyone who dreams of making it in the performing arts. Hundreds of thousands of aspiring actors pour in each day with the hope of making it on Broadway or the movies. For most it will always be a just a dream, but to survive before that success happens they have to make a living. I’m not sure what day job these guys taking a moment of escape at a bar have but one can only imagine. But that thought has always kept me amused and engaged in their endeavors with the hope that their break finally comes for them.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXVPaul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the Kitchen of their Beverly Hills Home, 1958
“The most relaxed couple I have ever worked with. When I went to knock on the door to get in to do the shooting, it was like being invited into some old friend's house. They were so warm and so relaxed and so easygoing - here have some popcorn, get yourself a beer, open up the refrigerator. We spent a little bit of time shooting together and it was one of the most fun assignments that I had. Absolutely no star ego at all, real people.”
~ Sid Avery
Sid had a unique personality. You couldn’t help but warm towards him. Friendly and unpretentious. It is easy to understand that sometimes, often “difficult” personalties within the film industry became someone else in his presence. This was how he managed to create such an extraordinary body of work in the “golden age” of Hollywood before television altered the entertainment landscape for ever.
Here is a typical example of his talent to eliminate the artifice of “stardom” and bring it into the “natural”. It’s one of my favorites. We see the great Paul Newman cracking eggs and making breakfast for his wife Joanne Woodward whilst she is standing there with her favorite dog. It could be us right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIVFaye Dunaway (Legs), 1968
“At one point I began crying because he was being so heartbreakingly kind to me. All my life I’ve been the sort of person who could shatter easily……Jerry somehow managed to reach me, to let me know that in this I could trust him, that the photos would be wonderful, that it would be ok.”
~ Faye Dunaway
Jerry Schatzberg has had an amazing career both as great film director with masterpieces such as “The Panic in Needle Park” and the amazing “Scarecrow” with Pacino and Hackman, one of my all time favorite films, and as an equally distinguished photographer. As in both mediums it is all about empathy and storytelling and heart. There is something so powerful in this portrait of Faye Dunaway that makes it special in its apparent simplicity. It reveals so much about its subject, her beauty and strength and not the least her vulnerability as anyone one who embarks on the profession of being an actor exudes. Jerry has captured it all here.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIIIAvenue Simon Bolivar, Paris, 1950
“I have never sought out the extraordinary or the scoop. I looked at what complimented my life. The beauty of the ordinary was always the source of my greatest emotions.”
~ Willy Ronis
I have always been in awe of this image of Willy’s. It certainly contains the most number of uncontrollable variables of all his images and for that matter anyone else’s. He told me once that he nearly pressed the shutter so many times that winter afternoon in 1950.
First he noticed the dray being pulled by the horse. Then the worker repairing the traffic light. Then the cobbler chatting to the pharmacist in the white coat. He was about to shoot when out of the blue he told me the mother and child came from behind where he was standing unexpectedly. Then he knew instinctively he might have something special that captured daily life in Paris, his favorite subject matter. They certainly center the image. The skipping light patterns and shadows are beautiful and lyrical, like an urban ballet.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIIThe Cost of Living: Barbara Mullen in a dress by Omar Kiam for Ben Reig, New york, 1950
“I’m completely tied up with softness, fragility, and the personal problems of a feminine world.”
~ Lillian Bassman
What distinguishes Lillian from so many of her contemporaries in the fashion world during her key 1950’s creative period was her interest in creating a new kind of vision aside from what the camera saw. She developed a bold graphic style often floating images in space, dodging and burning, playing with selective focus and bleaching her prints. In this sense she was completely self taught and experimental right from the beginning of her career. She never apprenticed herself to any studio photographer but was an autodidact in the darkroom. She never constrained herself by what was “normal” and “traditional” and almost expected by the magazine or commercial clients she ended up working for. She certainly marched to the beat of her own drum and was steadfast in her vision. The effects she sought were pretty unorthodox for the time and not really being used by anyone else. That’s what makes her work so special.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXIMarilyn Monroe, on the Nevada desert going over her lines for a difficult scene she is about to play with Clark Gable in the film, "The Misfits" by John Huston, 1960
“If it is true as someone has said of her, that all her life she pursued a search for a missing person - herself - then perhaps Marilyn, a creature of myth and illusion, found herself not in the fleeting film image but in the photograph, which would seem to give her concrete proof of her being. She could hold it in her hand, hang it on the wall, show it off. It gave her back herself. She was making love to herself, and we the photographers, were there to record it.”
~ Eve Arnold
Eve Arnold, a pioneering woman in her own right, enjoyed a long professional relationship with Marilyn Monroe, a much photographed icon. But she captured the most “human” and “intimate” photographs of this most elusive of stars. Gone are the traditional “glamour” shots one comes to accept of Hollywood portraiture. Because she had her confidence, Eve allowed her to reveal more of her essence and vulnerability than her male photographers.
It is well known that the set of “The Misfits” was a much troubled production. It turned out to be the last film for both Monroe and Clark Gable. The Magnum Agency was given the exclusive right to photograph the film and be on set.
What makes this image one of the most haunting for me to come from this time is that one never quite knows whether Marilyn is lost in thought as the character she is portraying or whether she was truly lost as herself in her own life. Such is its power, whether it is the truth or the artifice of cinema.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXXThe Promenade, Brooklyn, 1954
"New York is a city I love, a city that forgives nothing but accepts everyone - a place of a thousand varied moods and vistas, of countless faces in a moving crowd, each one talking to you.”
~ Louis Stettner
This is one of Louis’s most celebrated New York images. You can feel the sizzling temperature and humidity rising on one of those tough August heat wave days.
It works as a narrative on so many levels. Each one of us can interpret its hidden meanings as we choose. It is the individual confronting the epic city, taking a break from its intensity for a few minutes or maybe a couple of hours to recharge in order to meet its challenges yet to come. But powerful it surely is.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIXThe Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons Outtake, London, 1966
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
~ Mick Jagger
This has always been one of my favorite music images. The Rolling Stones are of course part of my youth and Mick’s sage credo has always resonated with me. But this image was shot in one of my favorite spots in the world, Primrose Hill, on the edge of Regent’s Park in London. I always go back there to spend some quiet reflective time each time I am back in the United Kingdom. I discovered it when I was very young before it became hip and trendy. You stand on the top of the hill and it has such a grand, enveloping vista of this special city with all its hopes and dreams and challenges all in front of you. I always wanted to live there but so far that has eluded me.
I’m sure it has a special meaning for Gered too. He had connected with the Stones’ seminal manger Andrew Loog Oldham and after an all night recording session he suggested that location to the guys to shot a cover for their upcoming album.
Bleary-eyed they pile into their cars and go there. Gered’s genius that early morning was to construct a filter of black card, glass and Vaseline and attach it to the 50mm lens on his Hasselblad 500c camera giving the image its somewhat otherworldly out of body experience and sense of abstraction. The fact that it was bitterly cold that morning added another element.
It certainly advanced Gered’s career as he was asked to go on tour with the Stones that year to the States. He is the most normal, intelligent, easy to work with music photographer I have ever met.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIIIPuppy Love, Coney Island Boardwalk, c. 1951
“I surely am pursuing happiness with my camera. When I take pictures of children, I’m not trying to capture their cuteness or emerging beauty .I seek to capture the essence of childhood. I see the child as a chrysalis of a future adult.”
~ Martin Elkort
I love Marty’s line here “I see the child as a chrysalis of a future adult". He certainly nailed it here. The body language of the two children tells it all. The girl a little nervous and the boy nervous too as can be seen in the way his legs are somewhat twisted like a pretzel despite his apparent confidence and coolness. Coney Island was such a refuge and still is for so many New Yorkers trying to escape the pressures of the city and in the Summer the unbearable heat.
Like the other areas of the city a sense of genuine community prevailed in the 1950’s when this image was taken.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIIBoy in Mid Flight, Jodhpur, India, 2005
“Travel has to be a free flow-an improvised voyage to discovery. You have to budget time for random wandering.”
~ Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry was wandering around Jodhpur shortly after the celebrated annual Holi Festival of Colors had taken place. That is the reason the red handprints were still on the wall on the left side of the image. There was lots of activity going on in that alleyway - vendors, animals, human flow back and forth. Steve spent a few hours there got some ok shots then went back to his hotel to rest. Something told him he should go back again the next day to see what else he could find. His instinct was right. After a couple more hours out of the blue comes this little boy running with such joy in his heart and voila Steve got it and created one of his most special images. Always trust your instincts that’s what I say.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVIMarthe, 1997
“One charges the moment with that which one feels and its value grows because we recognize it. It is close to feelings of being in love.”
~ Sarah Moon
Nudes have always fascinated photographers since the birth of photography. But like any subject matter that is often visited and revisited ad infinitum it is extremely difficult to create something truly special.
But here is one of those images. Sarah rarely shows the entire figure in her work. The face is often hidden or the head cropped out which adds to the image's mystery and otherworldliness. This is one of the most moving and sensuous images I have ever seen. Did Marthe really exist or is she just a dream?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXVLe Manege De Mr. Barre, 1955
"I don’t usually give out advise or recipes, but you must let the person looking at the photograph go some of the way to finishing it. You should offer them a seed that will grow and open up their minds.”
~ Robert Doisneau
Robert gives wise words of advice here. It is even more appropriate with such an image as this.
It is open to so many interpretations and I am sure all of us have our own. It has held my interest and admiration since I first came across it so many years ago. I never felt comfortable asking a “what does it mean to you?” question of Robert. For a great piece of art like this it is truly unnecessary.
For me it has always been a great meditation on youth and how quickly it passes. I don’t find it sad but deeply human. Its strength is that Robert shot it in the rain. It would not have that depth of feeling or any real meaning at all if it had been shot in bright light with children playing on the carousel together. That would have been just an ordinary image as opposed to a supremely sublime one and one of his greatest photographs.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIVThe Outskirts of Guatemala City, [girl with candy apples] Guatemala, 1978
“I work alone. Humans are incredible when you come alone. They will receive you, they accept you, they protect you, they give you all the things that you need and they teach you all the things you must know.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
Sebastião and his wife Lélia were forced to leave their homeland of Brazil because of the clamp down by the political dictatorship at the time and the subsequent intense repression of individuals who did not toe the line.
They left for France to start a new life. It was there almost by accident Sebastião discovered the power of photography and changed his profession from being a highly respected economist to a fledgling photographer.
As anyone who has experienced exile and the loss of one’s roots there is always some kind of pull to return to them. He and Lélia carefully planned his first major project traveling to Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Guatemala which resulted in his first powerful book “Other Americas”.
The power of these images is succinctly summed up by his friend Alan Ridding,
“Salgado has sought out a lost corner of the Americas and he has made it a prism through which the entire continent can be viewed. A philosophy of life is caught in a look, an entire way of life frozen in a moment."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIIIMalcolm X, 1961
“If you are careful with people, they will offer you part of themselves."
~ Eve Arnold
“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."
~ Malcolm X. 1925-1965
Eve was a fireball. She was the first woman photographer to join the prestigious Magnum photo agency, very much a “boys” club at the time but her drive and determination, not to mention her prodigious talent, allowed her to hold her own and excel at every story she covered. Her reportage on Malcolm X, the controversial and charismatic leader of the Nation of Islam, was one of her best. After much hard work and persistence she was given unparalleled access to him and followed him for a year from Washington to New York to Chicago where this image was taken. Like many skilled politicians he was aware how important image was to serve his goals as the public face of his organization.
As Eve articulated,
“I am always delighted by the manipulation that goes on between subject and photographer when the subject knows about the camera and how it can best be used to his or her advantage. Malcolm was brilliant at this silent collaboration. He knew his needs, his wants, his best points and how to get me to give him what he required."
He was assassinated on Feb 21st, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City at the age of 40 years old and this is the image that has defined his legacy.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXIIGirl Playing in Light Circles, Penn Station, NY, 1956
"Matisse has said, “Often it takes the artist a long time to understand what he or she has done." I believe it is also a way of finding out a great deal about yourself. The photographs that remain strong and alive seem to be when your vision and reality are so inexorably wedded together that it is impossible to separate them.”
~ Louis Stettner
It seems incredible to me as a lover of great architecture how such a beautiful building such as the original Penn Station could have been demolished in the name of progress. It was a truly beautiful structure of marble and iron that surely bestowed some of its elegance and dignity on every passerby or waiting passenger.
Well at least we have this memory of this small child playing hopscotch and dancing in the circles of light in this majestic structure.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXITuscany, 1968
"Photography is never objective.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
I think many great photographers will admit to this. They may seem on the surface to be objective and especially where social documentary and factual imagery is concerned but in many instances their photographs are a clear reflection of themselves, of who they really are. It seems to be so true of many of the great Italian photographers perhaps more so than any other nationality. Gianni is deeply rooted to his unique culture and its traditions but also to the power of its landscape as is evidenced here in this beautiful, textured image of the Tuscan countryside that means so much to him.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXXThe Afghan Girl, Sharbut Gula, Pakistan, 1984
“Most of my photos are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.”
~ Steve McCurry
This is one of the most recognized images in the history of photography often referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of photos. However many times you have seen it reproduced in books and magazines when you are actually standing in front of a real print of it, it is hard to resist its power and allure.
In 1984, with the Soviet war in Afghanistan raging, refugee camps set up along the Afghan -Pakistan border were quickly filling. As increasing numbers of the displaced arrived, Steve was asked by National Geographic to explore and document these refugee settlements. In one make shift girls’ classroom in a camp near Peshawar, he captured an image that would come to define a story, a conflict and a people.
This is what great social documentary photographers like Steve strive for throughout their careers, to create an image that connects the viewer from the specific to the universal revealing our common humanity.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIXAudrey Hepburn during the filming of "Sabrina" by Billy Wilder, 1954
“Photography occurs more readily when the photographer relinquishes self-consciousness for a state of humility and childlike wonderment. Then there is a greater freshness and purity in what you capture on film.”
~ Dennis Stock
“A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and disease and gives them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.”
~ Audrey Hepburn. 1929-1993
Last night I was watching the great new documentary “Audrey: More than an Icon” on the life of the great Audrey Hepburn. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a very serious, deep probing, intense documentary on many aspects of her life that have previously been overlooked such as her early childhood, her romantic relationships and the very moving third act of her great work for UNICEF helping children in need. It brought back of course memories of all her wonderful movies from “Breakfast at Tiffanys”, “Sabrina”, “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady” and underrated “gems” like “Robin and Marian”. A superb documentary film directed by Helena Coan.
It also brought back good memories of working with Dennis Stock, an intense and often demanding, in a good way, Magnum Photographer. Many stimulating discussions on the nature of photography and what it was like working in what seemed like a really bygone era before the media explosion we are accustomed to now.
His photograph of Audrey on the set of “Sabrina” is still my favorite image of her. Of course it was hard to take a bad shot of her but there is something about the mood and the composition of this one that is very hard to beat.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIIIMary Jane Russell, Harper's Bazaar, New York (Hat), 1950
“You know, it’s a long creative life and if you do the same thing every day, it doesn’t work. You don’t become creative anymore.”
~ Lillian Bassman
“It’s magical what she does. No one else in the history of photography has made visible that heart-breaking invisible place between the appearance and disappearance of things.”
~ Richard Avedon on Lillian Bassman
No one can create that special mood like Lillian does. This photograph looks timeless. It could have been taken in the 1920’s in a Paris Atelier or in the 1930’s in a Prague loft or in the 1940’s in a freezing Russian painting studio.
How she transforms this beautiful hat with that moving gesture of the hand and the closed eyes looking down in an intimate, private thought, which on the surface seems like a simple image, into such a powerful and haunting photograph is pure magic and a testament to her unique talent. It just doesn’t look like a photograph. It could be a Seurat charcoal drawing. It is one of my favorite images of hers which I look at everyday and am still transported by it after all these years.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIIMaya Angelou, 1969
Maya Angelou had just completed her first memoir,
“I know Why The Caged Bird Sings” when I visited her in 1970. I was captivated by the calm confidence of this emotionally secure woman.
In my work, I always seek out the expression of the spirit. And for portraits, questions help establish a bridge. On this day, the bridge turned out be Maya’s experience living in Ghana. As she wove spell-binding tales, the joy brought on by her recollections disclosed a life lived fully.
Her face and hands expressed it all.”
~ Chester Higgins Jr.
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
“You may shoot me
With your words
You may cut me
With your eyes
You may kill me
With your hatefulness
Like life. I’ll rise”
~ Dr. Maya Angelou. 1928-2014
Our dear friend, Chester Higgins Jr., has practiced his craft for over four decades now to documenting the life and culture of the African diaspora. He is a great photographer full of passion and humility whose life force is completely contagious.
This is a perfect marriage of artist and subject. Dr. Angelou was a true renaissance woman whose long and storied life in the cause of exposing injustice has inspired so many new generations of like minded travelers through her writings and activities.
When I revisited this image recently, in these challenging times, I felt a surge of joy and hope for the lessons she has taught us. She lived her life through her teachings and her beautiful voice and the three simple magical words with which she constantly employed us to listen to, “Just do Right”.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVIEastern Part of the Brooks Range, Alaska, USA (Vertical), 2009
“In “Genesis," my camera allowed nature to speak to me.
And it was my privilege to listen.”
~ Sebastião Salgado
There was a time when we lived in equilibrium with nature, when we respected the earth and our fellow animals before we killed them in pursuit of our so-called “development” and “progress” and “economic prosperity."
This is what Sebastião’s epic body of work “Genesis” showed us. We have managed as a species to destroy over half of the world’s natural resources and these images are a subtle wake up call for us to save the remaining half before it is too late.
Photos in themselves cannot save the world but they can, at the very least, foster the discussion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXVMargie Cato, Junior Bazaar (White Gloves/White Dress), Circa 1950
“It’s about the body, it’s about the gesture, the feeling of being a woman.
I can’t intellectualize what I do, and I don’t.
A lot of it is purely instinctual.”
~ Lillian Bassman
It is not really fair to categorize Lillian as just a “fashion photographer." She was so much more than that. She was truly an artist. The legendary graphic designer Alexey Brodovitch clearly recognized that early on in her career and was the first great creative to really encourage and mentor her. He understood her painterly talents, her understanding of shapes and the power of light and shadow and movement to create what was clearly a signature aesthetic style. You always know when you are standing next to a Lillian Bassman photograph. She always expressed the beauty of women in her own way. She has inspired a whole new generation of women artists. Her work ethic was contagious. She started to work hard in her teens and never really stopped till she passed away at 94 years old. I remember visiting her a few months before she died. She was excited to show me a new image she was working on like a jubilant kid. An incredible life force and inspiration.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIVParis, 1954
“I think I am quite a romantic.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni certainly is. When you look at his great body of work this is pretty evident and what is so wonderful is he is not afraid to admit it. That’s what makes him so special and why I have always been attracted to his work. It’s not something you hear many photographers say today. He spent some formative time in Paris in the 1950’s leaving his native subject matter behind to challenge himself. But people are always at the forefront of his imagery as in this tender, simple family moment where each of the family members are involved in doing their own thing but in perfect harmony.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIIIGetting Ready, Vaganova School, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2001
“I love movement in photography very much.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Arthur Elgort is a well known and much respected fashion photographer. What is less acknowledged is that he has created a formidable body of work on dance. My favorite dance images of his are those he took in Russia at the famed Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.
He was given special access to the school which was the place where many of the greats in the history of dance began including Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
He never focused on the normal performance images but took us backstage and behind the scenes at rehearsal where all the real hard work is done. The hallowed studios are stark and arresting and the detail of the worn wooden floors and the chipping plaster give us such an insight into the dedication these dancers have to possess to be successful. They are like beautiful Degas paintings.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIITaj and Train, India, 1983
"By chance I was walking down the track from Agra Fort Station. I could see the Taj in the background of this enormous rail yard, so I waited and suddenly they started moving this steam locomotive in front of it.You can feel the continuity between past and present.”
~ Steve McCurry
This is an image steeped in history. It could almost have been taken in the 19th Century by one of the great pioneers of early travel photography like Samuel Bourne or John Murray. In itself it is a historical document. These old steams engines have themselves now disappeared, replaced by electric trains in the rush to modernize contemporary India.
But it has true grandeur and a testament to Steve’s magical eye as he juxtaposes the majesty of the Taj Mahal with it’s shimmering white curves in the early morning warm tones of the rising sun against the colossal black rusting steam engine symbolising the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. And of course the red pagri completes the composition.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXIJoni Mitchell, Skating on Lake Mendota, 1976
“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I could teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on”
© Joni Mitchell
I love Joni Mitchell and this is my favorite song of hers. It’s a sensation I think a lot of us feel right now. Oh to just be able to skate away from all the current issues we are all dealing with.
Joel Bernstein is a brilliant photographer and has created some of the most iconic music images ever of musicians such as Springsteen, Neil Young and Graham Nash. He was somewhat of a child prodigy and first photographed Joni when he was 15 years old. He first heard Joni perform this song “River” at a concert in November 1969 within days of her composing it. The power of the lyrics immediately suggested to him a black and white photo of her dressed in black skating down a frozen river looking back over her shoulder. It was a dream that could not be realized at the time.
Flash forward Joel is on tour with Joni. The tour ends abruptly in Madison, Wisconsin. They have a little time on their hands after a frantic schedule. They are sitting together in the hotel restaurant while a blizzard is swirling over the frozen lake outside. Joel convinces her to finally fulfill his vision and to “Carpe Diem." Music and photo history are made. The images were used in the gatefold for her celebrated album “Hejira.”
The images became an embodiment of Joni’s spirit and the eternal beauty of her music and the power of photography to evoke such a primal emotion.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLXDior, Paris, 1958
“My photos are my secret garden, my spiritual nest egg,
my personal intimate memories.”
~ Sabine Weiss
“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
~ Yves Saint Laurent. 1936-2008
This is a moment in fashion history, beautifully captured by the ever youthful 96 year old Sabine Weiss. Christian Dior had recently passed away, but the show must go on. His successor is the incredibly young and thin Yves Saint Laurent with the mantle of history on his shoulders. Under a lot of pressure to make his own mark his creativity comes through for him. He comes up with this brilliant idea of the ’Trapeze Line” based on the flaring shape of a trapezoid, standing jauntily away from the body, his own version of the waistless dress but still firmly in the Dior tradition. It is so well received by the critics and the buyers and is the true “hit” of the season and firmly established him not only as the rightful heir to Dior but as a major new talent himself. It was shot outside the House of Dior headquarters, 30 Ave de Montaigne.
Even the dog is beautifully dressed as well as the elegant doorman not to mention the glorious red umbrella, a wonderful additional touch. Pure 50’s magic.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIXChemical sprays protect this fire fighter against the extreme flame temperature. Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
“It felt as if the end were nigh. With the sun obliterated by a dark smoked Dantean landscape stretched as far as the eye could see. The horizon itself was marked by torches of fire where burning oil leapt from the lifeless desert. And all around, thick pillars of crude oil spewed into the sky before falling back to earth to form treacly black lakes that, without warning, could become gigantic infernos. Finally there was the noise, a deafening roar that only grew louder as I came closer to the source of this cataclysm, the hundreds of oil wells that had been sabotaged and set alight by the Iraqi army near the end of its occupation of Kuwait between early August 1990 and late 1991.”
~ Sebastiao Salgado
Kuwait. A Desert on Fire.
Sebastião once again bore witness for all of us in the early 1990’s to one of the most devastating acts of destructions ever seen in the 20th Century. There are acts of natural disaster that no one can predict and control and then there are premeditated human acts of disaster. This one was Saddam Hussein’s farewell gesture to the world and his perceived enemies. He created hell on earth in blowing up close to 600 oil fields.
The lesson we learn is that there is always a close relationship that exists between humans and the environment in any conflict and we better take heed. Everything that man does will always effect the environment in the end.
The images Sebastião produced are shocking and astounding unlike any others I have seen. For me, despite the horror depicted, there is some small affirmation in them as they display the heroic efforts of a group of people, the skilled firefighters mainly from Canada and Houston, who risked their lives to contain it.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIIIFlorence, 1962
“Photography has really been everything to me because I have built up the the little culture I have through photography, through seeing and looking for things to portray.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
I can relate to Gianni’s simple words about photography being the way he has really learnt everything about life and culture through it. It has taught me so much and it never stops teaching me. Each encounter with a new great image is an adventure.
On the surface this photograph seems so simple. A little girl in her white Communion dress running in Florence. But it is so much more than that. It is a new beginning, a new sense of freedom and a new journey full of hope.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIIBarbara Mullen, Harper's Bazaar, New York, c. 1958
“When I photograph, I project what I’m not. What I would like to be.”
~ Lillian Bassman
Lillian had a long and wonderful creative life. We worked closely together for over 20 years and I was honored to present her first West Coast Exhibition. Her talent allowed her to break through the “boy’s club” of fashion photography. She was never the total careerist like Penn or Avedon were but was equally gifted and they were all friends and colleagues albeit competitive. But she was also the devoted mother to bringing up two young children and balancing a successful day job with those duties, no mean feat back then and now.
What she often told me was that there was always a difference when a woman was photographing a model than when a man was. Gone was the performance aspect of the model trying to seduce the photographer and in its place was this special “connection."
Her models seem "real” and relaxed as opposed to being somewhat objectified. Lillian talked to them about their husbands, boyfriends, lovers, children. They opened up to her. They became “natural” in their beauty in front of her lens and it shows.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVIThree Dahomey Girls, 1961, printed 1972
“I don’t photograph what I see. I photograph what I find intriguing.”
~ Irving Penn
In a long and illustrious career, 1967 was a very special year for Irving Penn. It was the year he went to Dahomey (now Benin) for Vogue. This portrait of Dahomey children is one of the most successful in the series. Using a purposely built portable studio Penn went about with his usual meticulous approach.
As he said, “I posed them physically and directed their attention by gesture. They were hypnotized by the camera. I adored them and they knew it. They presented themselves to me and to each exposure of film in fullest confidence."
In the hands of a journeyman practitioner it would just be a photographic record but Penn turns it into a work of art enhanced by the use of the platinum print process of which he was a true master. He dedicated many hours to the production of each print by hand-placing the negative and emulsion coated paper in direct contact with each other. This would result in warm, rusty hues. Then Penn went on to apply chemicals directly onto the image with a brush resulting in a tonally rich masterpiece.
The print is stunningly beautiful and tender and very, very moving. Worthy of its subject matter.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLVStella Diving, Watermill, NY, Vogue, 1995
“I’ve always liked the immediacy of photography. Either you get the shot or you don’t.”
~ Arthur Elgort
Well Arthur certainly got the shot this day. This was a last minute “gift” from the photo gods. The shoot was for Vogue styled by the great Grace Coddington for warm, heavy tweeds. The fashion world has it’s own cycle and this was for a winter collection but had to be shot at the height of summer. It was an incredibly hot day, the shoot was challenging, everyone was somewhat exhausted by the end of the day not the least the patient model Stella Tennant. As everyone was about to call it a day Tennant suggested she dive into the pool with her clothes and wellie boots on to cool off. Elgort and Coddington immediately saw this could indeed be a special unplanned for opportunity. This was a one shot gamble. Stella dived in and the rest is as they say fashion photography history. It is imbued with Elgort’s typical loose, freedom of style and “joie de vivre."
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIVComing to America, 1951
“I once said my way of life, my very being is based on images capable of engraving themselves indelibly in our inner soul’s eye. I would add that it is also to explore and celebrate the human condition and the world around us, nature and man together, to find significance in suffering, to reveal all that is profound, beautiful and that enriches the soul. Above all I believe in creative work through struggle to increase human wisdom and happiness.”
~ Louis Stettner
This is one of Louis’s most profound images. As I have often said all collecting is autobiographical and of course I relate to it because I too came to America over 40 years ago and understand only too well the nuances of starting over in a new land.
In a way it is an unconscious homage or sequel to one of the most iconic images in the history of photography, Alfred Stieglitz’s “The Steerage." There the boat was leaving America, here it is returning. The writer Pierre Brochet perhaps has expressed most eloquently the power of this image in these words which echoes my own thoughts.
“Coming to America has overwhelmed me. I feel such a fraternity for the portrayal of this man stripped of his birthplace, a man who must be deep inside all of us."
In this new year as we all hope for more tolerance and empathy it will have even more relevance than when it was first shot 70 years ago.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIIIBlue City, Jodhpur, India, 2010
“I have been very fortunate in my life to go all over the world. I think photography allowed me to observe the world, to travel the world and to have this enormous adventure.“
~ Steve McCurry
We owe Steve a huge debt as he has given us the opportunity to learn about and understand so many extraordinary places that many of us have just dreamed of visiting but have not yet had the opportunity to do so.
Jodhpur is one of those places I have always been intrigued by. The blue buildings have often been associated with Lord Shiva and his Brahmin followers in this city who throughout history have believed this color to be sacred.
What makes this image so special for me is the man and woman who observe the city from a roof in the foreground of the image giving it its human dimension and its mystical narrative quality.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLIIGold mine, Serra Pelada, Brazil [Figure Eight], 1986
“When I first reached Serra Pelada, I was left speechless. Before me, I saw a vast hole, perhaps 200 meters in diameter and almost as deep, teeming with tens of thousands of barely clothed men, half of them carrying heavy sacks up broad wooden ladders, the others leaping down muddy slopes back into the cavernous maw.
I of course knew what they were doing.
What is it about a dull yellow metal that drives men to abandon their homes, sell their belongings and cross a continent in order to risk life, limb and sanity for a dream?"
~ Sebastião Salgado
I think this is one of the greatest group of social documentary photographs ever taken. When they were first published in the New York Times in the 1980’s no one could believe that these images were taken in the times in which we were living.
What were these ant like figures doing? Building the pyramids? Living in Dante’s Inferno?
It was just so shocking and defied belief. These images made Sebastiao’s career and set him up so he could continue his predestined path into the history books as one of the greatest photographers who has ever lived. It has been a great honor to have worked with him since the beginning, over 30 years now. I have never come across any other photographer with such passion and determination aided by his equally talented and focused creative partner and wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado.
We are all looking forward to his next great 8 year epic project “Amazonia” which will be launched globally in April of this year. Please stay tuned.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLITrastevere, Rome, 1959
“Photographs deal in things which are constantly vanishing
and when they have vanished there is no contrivance
that can make them come back again.”
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
I wanted to start this new series with an image that I hope will help us to achieve this. It has always helped me whenever I look at it.
It is what I call a “Top of the Mountain" image. Why that description? Well for me it was taken by someone I have always held with the highest esteem, Henri Cartier-Bresson, to whom I owe so much to, both professionally and personally.
And it is also really about the essence of photography…Light.
As this little girl in Rome enters a symbolic new moment in her life to hopefully a bright future my hope for all of us this year is that we can join her on her journey.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCLCarrefour Sevres Babylone, Paris, 1948
“I never went out without my camera, even to buy bread.”
~ Willy Ronis
This to me has always been the best example of that special “Paris Light” I always enjoyed experiencing.
It was taken in the afternoon in 1948 near the intersection at Sevres-Babylone, Willy had done his homework. He was acquainted with his beloved city like the back of his hand. He knew what time of the day he had the best opportunity for great light and one of his favorite sources, back light. The composition is perfect with the awning on the left hand side of the frame and the veiled sun in front.
As Willy recounted in his notes,
“I had taken taken two shots with little enthusiasm and then suddenly this woman appeared out in the open. Jubilation was immediately followed by a twinge of unease, as is always the case in these delicate situations. Had I pressed the shutter at the crucial moment?”
Well he certainly did as you can see. Pure magic!
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIXGondolas, Venice, 1971
“Composition is the strongest way of seeing. There are no rules. I see things in terms of powerful form, beautiful light.”
~ Brett Weston
This is one of the most beautiful, rare Brett Weston prints I have ever seen. It was secluded away in the private collection of his only child Erica given as a special gift to her by her father. It is large, impactful and as powerful as any great abstract painting by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning et al that you will ever see at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Unlike his West Coast colleagues Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham and even his esteemed father Edward Weston, Brett traveled extensively outside of California mainly in Europe but also in Japan and created equally important work inspired by what he saw there. What this work has in common with his classic American imagery is the supreme craft and beauty of the physical print which is unrivaled.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIIIVenice Lido, 1958
“I am an old photographer born into an age of real photography and I still want to defend it.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni is 90 years old now but like many photographers I have met who live into a ripe old age they are still full of life and positive energy. This image has always put a smile on my face. I guess I am old enough to remember 78 gramophone records and record players like this. There must have been a whole era before streaming services!
No social distancing here. A moment of spontaneous joy and happiness to revel in.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIIBillie Holiday, New York City, 1949
“I don’t think I’m singing. I feel like I’m playing a horn. What comes out is what I feel.”
~ Billie Holiday
I’m sure all of us are listening to a lot of music during these times. I have been finding great solace in listening to a lot of Billie Holiday, who had one of the greatest voices of all time. There is such honesty and beauty and sometimes pain in her voice but she only sang about the truth. She knew nothing else but to just be herself.
Both Herman Leonard, one of the greatest Jazz photographers ever, and Don Hunstein, the lesser known inhouse photographer for Columbia Records for 30 years, were masters of their craft and both had such an easy going manner and empathy for the great artists they worked with and their images show this and how comfortable their subjects felt being with them.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVIA Bouche Perdue, 2000
“I don’t look for truth. I don’t look for it at all, I look for a state that is blurring the line between true and false accounts for the presence of a feeling.”
~ Sarah Moon
When you are standing next to a Sarah Moon photograph you are immediately transported into a landscape of beauty and dreams. Her ethereal style is unique in its delicacy and in its subtle but powerful emotions they elicit. She invites us on a journey that is both inspiring and revealing. It is a world, to be honest, that I never want to leave. A world full of small miracles that only a supreme artist can reveal.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLVCalla Lilies, California, 1984
“I photograph out of love to record beautiful forms. It’s a way of life, a compulsion. There is nothing I would rather do.”
~ Brett Weston
Brett Weston lead a very long and productive creative life. The second of Edward Weston’s four sons he was something of a child prodigy. Eight of his images was included in the celebrated “Film und Foto” photo exhibition in Germany when he was only 17 years old and he had a one man retrospective at the De Young Museum in San Francisco when he was only 21 years old. His styles changed over the years but he was a constant master of abstraction throughout his career.
He took this image when he was 73 years old. He was still such an inspiring creative force till the end. As I look at it now such power emanates from the print. It is the work of a master characterized by great detail and rich subtle tonalities of shadow and form. It lights up the room.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIVNew York City [dog & sandals], 1946
“The dog pictures work on two levels. Dogs are simply funny when you catch them in certain situations, so some people like my pictures because they like dogs.
But dogs have human qualities and I think my pictures have an anthropomorphic appeal. Essentially they have nothing to do with dogs. Or I mean I hope that what they are about is the human condition.“
~ Elliott Erwitt
1946 was an important year for Elliott. This was the year that this image was taken which is generally acknowledged to be his break through dog photo. On assignment for a fashion shoot for footwear, Elliott’s genius was to realize that any image would be much more interesting if it were shot from the dog’s point of view.
His further private adventures in this arena continue to bring him much acclaim and new admirers.
They are hard to resist. Many have tried to follow in his dog path but have never come close to his insight or charm.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIIISimone & Nina, Piazza di Spanga, Rome (VOGUE), 1960
“I had neither training nor complexes. By necessity and choice, I decided that anything would have to go. A technique of no taboos: blur, grain, contrast, cock-eyed framing, accidents, whatever happens.”
~ William Klein
This is one of the most revered images in the history of fashion photography. Easy to see why.
Enfant terrible William Klein and total maverick shot it for French Vogue in 1960 in Rome. He was always pushing barriers. That was ingrained into his DNA and personality. He liked to poke fun at the artificiality and snobbishness of the fashion world and later made a feature film “Who are you Polly Magoo?” that did just that.
This was his vision for this shot. Two models in black and white dresses passing one another on the Piazza di Spagna, the stripes of the model’s dresses echoing the stripes of the pedestrian crossing. He asked them to walk back and forth and do double takes reacting to the identical dress the other was wearing. Bill was shooting with a telephoto lens. It started off pretty well but then havoc started to occur. People began to stop and stare and the traffic surrounding the square came to a virtual stand still. I once tried to drive in Rome and have been shell shocked ever since. The two un-chaperoned models began to attract unwanted attention from lots of hot-blooded Roman men who may have mistaken them for high end escorts. The Vogue stylist was tearing her hair out fearing for the safety of the models and the shoot had to be shut down because of all the chaos erupting everywhere but not before Klein got his legendary shot.
The famous models Simone D’Aillencourt and Nina de Voogt lived to fight many other days with Klein and all the other great photographers they got to collaborate with. All in a day’s work right?
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIIThe Steel Works, Sunderland, North East England, 1963
“Traditions are not killed by facts.”
~ George Orwell. 1903-1950 “The Road to Wigan Pier”
Colin Jones initially trained as a ballet dancer then did a 360 degree turn around and became a photographer. When he was younger he had a particular interest in portraying the industrial landscapes of the North of England and the working class communities he related to. He understood the harshness of everyday life for people working in heavy industries that were in decline especially the steel workers, coal miners, shipbuilders and dockers. Their lives had shaped these regions since the industrial revolution but Colin sensed their way of life would soon be gone forever and he wanted to capture it.
The photograph of the man bicycling to work was taken in the early morning, when the mist of clouds intermingled with the steam from the trains on the adjacent railway lines and the pollution from the tall chimneys of the steel works in the distance. These were the last of the steam trains that ran on a dedicated line that brought coal directly from the mines to power the steelworks.
Although this photograph was shot in England one can see similar patterns taking place in many other changing industrial countries in Europe and here in the United States.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLIDavid Bowie - Thin White Duke, 1976
Will keep us together
We could steal time
Just for one day
We can be heroes
For ever and ever
What d’you say?”
© David Bowie. 1947-2016 “Heroes”
Whenever I am feeling a bit down and need a little boost I just listen to this Bowie song, my favorite of his and I feel better and energized. Of course growing up in England at the same time, his music was pretty impactful. Who can ever forget the time they first listened to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”?
His was one of the most original voices in rock history. He added new meaning to the word “Reinvention” constantly changing and fearless in his creativity.
Andrew Kent has one of the greatest bodies of work on him. In 1975 he landed the “gig” of a lifetime. He had been entrusted by Bowie to document with complete access his world tour. Amazing images from Berlin, Paris, New York, London, Helsinki and Russia.
A few years ago whilst exhibiting at an art fair in New York in walks David Bowie into the booth. He was beyond cool, friendly, articulate and curious and asked such interesting questions. As he once said,
“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work. I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go.”
Well he certainly did that and so much more.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXLAlfred Stieglitz & Georgia O'Keeffe, An American Place, 1944
“I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it sometimes scares me
….Having told you so much of me- more than anyone else I know.
Could anything else follow but that I should want you?”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe letter to Alfred Stieglitz. Nov 4th, 1916
“How I wanted to photograph you-the hands-the mouth and the eyes and the enveloped in black body-the touch of white and the throat. But I didn’t want to break into your time.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz in a letter to Georgia O’Keeffe. June 1st, 1917
This is one of the most powerful double portraits in the history of photography. In a single frame, Arnold Newman’s image seems to tell the story or more to the point the “love story” of two of the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century. It looks like it could be a still from a great Ingmar Bergman film. It was taken in Stieglitz's Gallery “An American Place“ two years before he passed away in 1946.
When they first met in 1916, O'Keeffe was a 28 year old art teacher from Texas and Stieglitz was a 52 year old world renowned photographer and art impresario. Stieglitz became her mentor and champion and in 1924 her husband. With his help and promotion and validation she became accepted in NY art circles and her prodigious talent helped her break through to acclaim and she established herself as an important modernist painter.
Truly great artists are by nature restless and complicated and often egoistical. She wanted her own independence and this was accelerated when she experienced the light and sense of liberation she felt in New Mexico. Cracks in the marriage started to appear and she moved full time to New Mexico in 1929. Their relationship lasted despite all the challenges their respective personalities presented to each other and the intense desire to balance personal and professional fulfillment. Their monumental achievements as artists speaks for itself and their personal stories are both powerful and heartbreaking and moving as all great love stories are.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIXLa Peniche aux Enfants, Paris, 1959
“Of all the photographs that are very close to my heart, this one “The children’s barge” stands alone. I will only say that I captured this totally unexpected scene just as it was about to slip past me; that I find not only its content, but also its form satisfying. This was the photograph that made me understand above and beyond my everyday work the true meaning I was striving for.”
~ Willy Ronis
Willy was one of the most gentle, intelligent and compassionate photographers I was honored to work with. He had lived a rich life not without its disappointments and tragedies. His dream as a young man was to be a composer but gave it up after his father died to support his family by taking over his portrait studio. He had a long career as a working photojournalist falling in and out of fashion with much struggles in between. But he never lost his passion for life and the ordinary moments of joy he captured through his personal work.
This image always held a place of pride in his studio. I always looked forward to seeing it and him every time I was in Paris and during our regular lunches over our 20 year friendship.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIIITuscany, 1965
“Photographers stay young because until the end they would like to pull off one more good shot.”
~ Gianni Berengo Gardin
As we are no longer able to travel safely at the moment, the memories of those of us filled with wanderlust come flooding back. Who can ever forget the joy and beauty that being in Tuscany gave us? Its historic cities, art-filled museums, medieval hill towns not to mention its beautiful countryside.
Gianni’s deeply simple but moving image immediately transports us back there. He realized early on in his career that to best photograph a landscape one must keep a certain distance and observe from a certain height to take it all in.
Most of the great landscape imagery created in the history of photography is for the most part devoid of people. Think Ansel Adams. But Gianni being the great humanist photographer that he is often integrates the human story, the human relationship within his frame. It is easy to imagine ourselves walking up the elegant winding road between the cypresses surrounded by land that has been there for centuries before we arrived there and will be there for centuries after we leave.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIIDr Van Der Ross Drummies, 2017
“I try to express the confidence and dignity of the people I feel lucky enough to work with.”
~ Alice Mann
The world is full of images created daily by millions of people all over the world. A big part of the work of the gallery is to find the few that really stand out as having something special, the photographers who have original voices who created them and make our audience aware of them.
It was such a joy to come across Alice Mann’s work. A young South African photographer, she has spent the last few years photographing teams of “Drummies” in her native country. “Drummies” in simple terms are a cross between cheerleaders and a marching band. It requires an immense amount of practice and self-discipline and sheer hard work to become a good one.
The majority of “Drummies” come from impoverished backgrounds in a country that is still scarred with the injustices of its past. Becoming a “drummy” is a sign of achievement and a privilege and a form of self-empowerment with the hope it will lead to a better life and some upward mobility for these young girls whose ages run from 5-18 years old and for their larger communities.
Alice Mann photographs them with such maturity and insight and empathy for a young artist who obviously has a long and successful career ahead of her. Not only does the subject matter fill me with hope for the world but also reinforces that there is a new generation of immensely talented practitioners out there to continue the power of photography to enrich our lives for future generations.
A special thank you to our good friend and esteemed colleague James Danziger for introducing me to Alice’s work and for his collaboration in this first of many exhibitions of Danziger at Fetterman.
The exhibition can be seen at our gallery by special appointment through 23rd Jan, 2021.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVIFellini Drinking Coffee, 1956
“Rome is a movie and Klein did it.”
~ Federico Fellini. 1920 -1993
If you love Rome, you love Fellini’s films and who doesn’t? And if you love coffee this might be the perfect image to transport you.
William Klein is one of the great iconoclast 20th Century photographers. He is a one of a kind and there will never be another like him. Fellini is the same. Who else could ever create such unforgettable cinema as “La Strada”, “8 I/2”, “La Dolce Vita”, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Fellini’s Roma”, “And the Ship Sails On” and so many other classics
They were destined to meet. Klein went to live in Paris after he had created his first amazing book “Life is good and good for you in New York”. He knew Fellini was visiting Paris, he found the hotel where Federico was staying, calls him cold and asks to meet. Fellini asks him round. Klein presents his book to him “I already have it. It’s by my bedside." They connect and Fellini asks him to come to Rome to be his assistant on his upcoming film “Nights of Cabiria." Klein has no clue what being an assistant means. Fellini tells him “If I am sick, you shoot.”
He joins him in Rome and the film is delayed. Needing something to do he goes out into the city full force. As Bill says,
“How could I make photographic sense out of a city that I barely knew and where I hardly spoke the language? But that’s the problem with photography in general. I was willing to take a shot……I soon found out that the Romans reacted to the camera much like the New Yorkers. Everyone felt that they deserved to be photographed, immortalized.”
Whilst he was there I think he created some of his greatest images and echoes in his achievements my favorite words of Fellini,
“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of Life.”
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXVCalifornia Kiss, 1956
“Pictures have to do with heart and mind and eye and they have to communicate. As long as they do that it’s valid.”
~ Elliott Erwitt
This is one of the most tender and romantic and real photos ever taken. It is real because that is Elliott in the photograph with his wife. He is taking the photograph with his arm out the car window in 1955 so you could almost say that this is the first celebrated selfie in the history of photography.
Elliott, in his typical self-deprecating way, would say it is just a “snap” but we all know it is much more than that in the emotion and memories it evokes for all of us.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIVPluie, Place Vendôme, Paris, 1947
“A fine image is geometry, modulated by the heart.”
~ Willy Ronis
No less an arbiter of great photographic taste and possessor of a great eye and knowledge of art history, Edward Steichen blessed Willy Ronis by including him not only in his important exhibition “Five French Photographers” in 1951 along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Izis and Brassaï at the Museum of Modern Art in New York but also included him in his seminal exhibition “The Family of Man” four years later also at the same venue which later travelled all over the world for years.
I asked Willy once how this image came about. Place Vendome is in one of the truly chic areas of Paris near all the major fashion houses. Willy would often find himself there as it was not too far from the Rapho Agency of which he was an important member. At lunch time the house models would often come out and eat their sandwiches between sessions. He saw one woman stepping over the puddle and noticed that the Vendome Column was reflected in it. Additional lunchers would do the same thing and he snapped away, his contact sheets showing him later that this one was the most successful frame. It became one of his most requested images during our long collaboration. Easy to see why. A combination of geometry and his skill at pre-visualization and his sharp eye equals an image of true elegance.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIIIRuth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court, 2013
“My mother told me to be a lady.
And for her that meant be your own person, be independent.
I do think I was born under a very bright star. Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school. I have top grades. No law firm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching. It gave me time to devote to the movement for balancing out the rights of women and men."
~ Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 1933-2020
The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging years most of us have had to navigate which is still ongoing. It was also the year that we lost one of the most inspirational figures of modern times, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
To say her life would make an amazing movie is of course redundant as there has now been not one but two movies made about her. The fantastic documentary “RBG”, and who will ever be able to forget the scenes where she is working out with her trainer and “On The Basis of Sex” starring Felicity Jones as Ruth. She changed forever the way the world is for women and she did this even before she became a Supreme Court Justice.
I briefly met her three years ago at The Lotos Club in New York where I was staying and to my surprise one morning as I was leaving my room she came out of the room next door. As we shared the elevator with her assistant on the way down to breakfast I thanked her for all she has done for humanity. She graciously smiled and allowed me to shake her hand. I could not believe how small she was, an almost impish 5’ but for sure she will always be remembered as a legal giant and a fighter for what is right in this world.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXIIUntitled portrait, 1953-1957
“You have no idea what I felt the first time I saw my negatives developed on a large scale, clean and perfect, without a single stain. At that moment I knew that my work was really very good.”
~ Seydou Keïta
Once in a blue moon, the world of photography sends up a remarkable discovery. Seydou Keïta - a portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali, in the north west of Africa, took tens of thousands of portraits from 1948 to 1962 knowing nothing of Western photography and completely unknown to the world outside of Bamako. Keïta’s work would never have been seen were it not that three of his postcard size pictures were exhibited in a 1991 show of African Art in New York credited to “Anonymous Photographer, Bamako. 1950s”. Brought to the attention of the French curator André Magnin and marveling at their quality Magnin traveled to Bamako in the long shot hope of finding out more about this photographer.
As luck would have it, Keïta was alive and well at the age of 71 and had preserved his negatives, several hundred of which Magnin brought back to Paris to the lab which made prints for Cartier Bresson. (Without an enlarger Keïta had only ever made contact prints.) Printed at 20 x 24” these pin sharp silver gelatin prints took the world by storm. Within a year Keïta had a solo show at the Fondation Cartier and within a few more years his work was acquired by every major museum that collects photography.
In contrast to the early photographs of Africans taken by colonial European photographers, Keïta’s pictures are pure African works creating beautiful, dignified, and flattering images of African subjects for Africans. Although self-taught, Keïta’s pictures are remarkable for their technical quality, control of light, and the originality of his compositions. In the few documented interviews he gave, Keïta told of his desire to put the subject at ease, find the best pose, and present them in the most flattering way. But this is to ignore his artistry.
In his use of varied patterned backgrounds, his choice of props, and the relationship of the figure to the background and the frame Keïta created a body of work that stands up to the best of any photography and has had enormous influence not just in opening the door to other African artists but has even influenced such contemporary painters as Kehinde Wiley and Mickalene Thomas among others. A Keïta portrait is as distinctive as an Avedon or a John Singer Sargent – full of information and joy. When Keïta looked through his camera and had arranged just the right angle and pose and expression he would say “Hold it. You look beautiful like that!” And time and time and again a luminous work of art was created.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXXICilento, Italy, 1999
“I am happiest when I retire to my tiny, dark cellar that is filled with chemical odors and the red light. I shake a developer tray and listen to the music of the flowing water.”
~ Pentti Sammallahti
Pentti is part of an endangered species, a traditional analogue darkroom specialist steeped in the tradition of individual, hand crafted printing.
He is in a league of his own and was declared a National Artist by the Finnish Government, the equivalent of being given a “Genius Award." The 20 year unprecedented stipend he was awarded gave him his freedom and independence to allow him to create a large part of his extraordinary body of work, a rare honor.
This is no more evident than in his "Cilento" image, one of his major masterpieces. It is hard to find in the history of photography a more elegantly balanced arrangement of lines and surfaces centered by the shape of the dog who stands as a metaphor for the power of nature to transform and humble us in its beauty.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXX"Portrait of the Eternal" / Retrato de lo eterno, 1935
“The invisible is always contained in the work of art which recreates it. If the invisible cannot be seen in it, the work of art does not exist.”
~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Don Manuel was not only Mexico’s greatest photographer but certainly was one of the medium’s greatest artists of all time. At Tina Modotti’s suggestion he sent Edward Weston a box of his photos to review. Weston replied on April 30th, 1929, “It is not often I am stimulated to enthusiasm over a group of photographs.”
This for sure bolstered Manuel’s self confidence and he embarked on his new career full-time with earnest. He was at the center of Mexico’s cultural life and was close with the great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein who was in Mexico shooting his film “Que Viva Mexica”. It was on the set of this film which was never completed that he met the celebrated poet, sculptor, printmaker Isabel Villasenor and photographed her. The composition and mood of this image is sublime. She is sitting in half shadow. Intruding through an unseen window is a prism of light whose shape forms an expanding echo of her profile. She stares into a pocket mirror. It is really up to the viewer to form the meaning of this magical photograph for themselves.
Is it about the fragility of beauty that does not last forever or is it about memory which is eternal as Manuel implies? Whatever one’s interpretation its power and beauty can not be denied.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXIXChurch at Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, 1930 (Printed 1977)
“In the face of all the present turmoil and unrest and unhappiness…..what can a photographer, a writer, a curator do?
….To make people aware of the eternal things, to show the relationship of man to nature, to make clear the importance of our heritage, is a task that no one should consider insignificant. These are days when eloquent statements are needed.”
~ Beaumont Newhall in a letter to Ansel Adams. 3rd May, 1954
It seems that these words could have been written only yesterday and that they have more relevance than ever for today’s times. No one who has had the opportunity to visit this Church can ever forget it. Its power and spirituality transcends all religions. It just emanates humanity. It is one of the most beautiful buildings left in America built by the early Spaniards circa 1800. It has attracted and seduced many great artists from Paul Strand to Georgia O’Keefe but no one has captured it’s magnificence better than Ansel in this image. He gave it the appearance of a massive Mesa, an American Pyramid or alter to the sky. His genius was to focus on the rear elevation that defines the building...it seems immense when in reality it isn’t but its power is undeniable.
As Ansel Adams wrote on choosing a subject to photograph,
“Ask yourself: Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream?”
Well he certainly made the right decision that day. It does all of these things and much more.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIIIMuhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966
“It’s the only photograph I’ve taken in my entire career where I can’t see a single thing I would have done differently.”
~ Neil Leifer
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
~ Muhammed Ali 1942-2016
There are some genres in photography that have had to struggle a bit more to gain the critical and curatorial acceptance to be classified as “art”. Such has been the case with fashion and sports photography two of the hardest arenas to create truly stand out imagery. But this image must surely be elevated to the art status. It has the quality of a great abstract painting.
It was taken in a brand new state of the art auditorium in 1966, the Houston Astrodome. It is not an image that could have been shot off the cuff. It required intense prep time on Neil’s behalf. Captured from a camera hung 80’ above the ring he correctly estimated the increased likelihood of capturing a shot of the ring from that height with his remote controlled motorized Hasselblad and thanks to the illumination of the powerful overhead strobe lights the image is of such high quality.
Neil was known throughout his long career for taking risks and for his ground breaking techniques.
He certainly won the prize that night. Not bad for a kid who started out his life in the projects and was encouraged by free classes in photography from the Henry Street Settlement House for poor children in that neighborhood and he became one of the “stars” of Sports Illustrated. As Neil has always said to me, “What the good sports photographer does is when it happens and you’re in the right place, you don’t miss. Whether that’s instinct or whether it’s just luck, I don’t know.”
I think it is talent.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIIThe Wall of The Tobacco and Alcohol Dock off Wapping High Street, London, 1962
I share something with one of my favorite English photographers, Colin Jones. We were both born in the East End of London. I understand his roots and his aspirations for another kind of life from which he was born into. Here is one of his great images rich in the tradition of classic black and white social documentary photography.
It is so much more than another shot of children. It was not posed. It was by accident that Colin discovered them running against this huge wall in the dock lands area. They were all kids from a tough working class neighborhood who lived nearby in tenement housing. The wall was built to prevent any kind of smuggling, loss of product, etc from the ships that were unloading bottles of whiskey and cigarettes. They couldn’t be thrown over such a huge wall to be retrieved later. One could think of it as a darker metaphor that the kids are running from the light into the darkness but like myself, I'd like to hope that they will one day have a 'new life' somewhere else with a hopeful and brighter future.
THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY CCXXVIBarack Obama, Final Campaign Rally, Des Moines, Iowa, 2012