History

Thaw Before Eating

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Gathering inspiration from photographers in our past, one of the well known photographers is Irving Penn. His knowledge of shapes and subject matter was astonishing. His first image that I ever saw was “Frozen Food with String Beans” 1977, this image blew me away, so when the assignment was given to photograph fruit, I tried my own rendition of Irving’s amazing image.

Who was Irving Penn you ask? He was a photographer in the modernism period. Reflecting himself, his work was very broad and unique. Well known for his still life work, his images caused one to really think about what we consider “normal” or “strange” in a somewhat humorous way and made the viewer think through the many labels we give things (ex. Image with Rhino Mouse shot in 1991.) We as photographers should strive to be like Penn and be bold with our imagery.

Read Between The Lines

“Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world.” -Joel Sternfeld

Photograph taken from my wife’s hospital room few days after giving birth. Every once in awhile its nice to go abstract. I gathered inspiration from André Kertész and his image “Umbrellas” one of my favorites.

Ansel Adams

Who was Ansel Adams? This question gives way to an answer that is as vast as his photographs. Adams is one of the most popular and influential photographers of the 20th century. Well known for his heart and contribution for conservation. Anyone that knew Ansel found him to be funny and could only explain his personality as eccentric. However, one could always find him somewhere in the vast expanse of his second love (first being music); the Yosemite mountains sculpted Adams into the man that he was and overtook every part of him even to his soul.adamsportf3monolith

Adams would say all the time that “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.” Customarily, he would devote one day just to one print, striving to make it the best that it could be. Several times Adams would make the foreground pop with darkening the sky to draw out the mountains or the beautiful landscapes. When it came to printing, Ansel’s “performance” was like no other, and a great deal of photographers have fallen short in their attempts.

In his later years, Adams had accumulated much popularity. In 1979 he was given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Also, he was presented with the “Presidential Medal of Honor”, this high award is given to people who have had “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”. Ansel was a big advocate of training and educating future photographers and those who desire to get the nest out of this medium. In his 82 years, Adams had published over 20 books and had countless followers. Today, his ashes rest where he loved the most, in the high Sierra Mountains on Mount Ansel Adams.

If you have the time this video is in depth documentary on Ansel Adams and well worth your time. American Experience: Ansel Adams: PBS

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André Kertész

I apologize for a not so “meaty” blog. With Nathaniel being a little over a week old me and my wife are just now starting to get our lives back. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this short blog!

André Kertész was a photographer born in Hungary and later in his life moved to New York where he remained until his death. Though, Kertész’s photographic approach was not widely accepted in America his work showed his care and seriousness to the medium. Among his photographs are many portraits, most of his subjects look relaxed. If André did not like it he didn’t photograph. His composition was placed like a well skilled chess player. Many of his images had direction and flowed. One great example is the Umbrellas photograph,  the faceless subjects crossing an intersection in Tokyo give a since of direction but the arrow pointing at the bottom of the image is just the icing on the cake. However, the simplicity in some of his photographs have a calming spirit to them. The Fork shows the simplicity that Kertész portrayed in some of his photographs. the fork In this image, there is a fork resting on a saucer on a white top table; with hard light creating a nice hard shadow under the fork and saucer. Another example is Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe the contrast and the subject matter seems to tell a story of two men sitting around the table smoking their pipes discussing what is important to them. Unlike The Fork this photograph shows soft shadows but hard contrast. After his wife died, André spent most of his time in his home photographing glass blown objects sitting on his window seal giving them an almost life like feeling. André Kertész is a testimony that good images are not dependent on a good or expensive camera. In 1982 André published a book called From My Window within the 72 pages of this book are photographs of these glass objects were photographed with a Polaroid camera. André Kertész had a great eye for art and whoever learns from his work will most likely succeed.

The Master of Environmental Portraits.

Very few photographers were able to capture the “humanity of the moment” and the “vision” (Robert Franks 1) in photography like Arnold Newman did. His portraits ranged from celebrities to artist and even to high rulers. Many of Arnold’s portraits are of subjects surrounded by their passions and their life. He was not big on a staged portrait, but rather capturing the true essence of an individual. Newman’s belief is that “a portrait is a form of [a] biography. Its purpose is to inform now and to record for history” (Arnold Newman 1) His straight forward portraits seemed simple at first glance, with his seemingly off balance images and what appears to be an odd environment to photograph in; one might think that Arnold Newman did not know what he was doing. Nonetheless, if one looks at these images closer they can see the true “humanity of the moment.” The layers in his images allow the viewer to be lost from corner to corner of the image.Stravinsky

Born on March 3rd, 1918 in  New York City, New York. Due to moving around Newman found himself going to school at Miami University in Florida where he decided to study painting. However, finances halted his education and he was forced to leave school. Nonetheless, this tough position that Newman found himself in was where his life actually took a turn for the best. In 1942 he started making portraits for forty-nine cents. From than Arnold’s love affair with photography would only grow closer.

Newman had a way of making people comfortable so that he could photograph them in the true manner. Most of his portraits had tools and devices the individual used, or he composed his image in such a way it reflected a person’s passion and work. For example, the photograph of Piet Mondrain a New York painter.Mondrain Mondrain, looking straight on at the camera as if he was bored out of his mind, an easel cutting right through the right side of the frame with Piet’s hand resting on it. As strange as this portrait seems there is a “reason for the madness.”  Arnold’s portraits were composed to imitate the individuals work. Peit Mondrian’s portrait is no exception. This image was composed in a way that one could not mistake. However, The true beauty in the image is the shapes. Newman composed the image to reflect Piet’s style. The rectangle on the top left corner and the square behind Piet’s head and his hand resting on an easel is a great imitation of Mondrian’s paintings. Arnold sometimes did not have anything in the frame except for the subject being photographed. Michel Tapie is a great example of this concept. Sitting in a dark room with a single light source above, a light bulb in a light fixture. A monocle reflects the open window in front, his hair combed back and everything seems to be Michel Tapiein its place. Including Michel hands, folded over each other, the manner which comes across in this image is of one that seems to have things in order and realizes that he has a lot of power and influence, one would not be surprised to learn that Michel was a critic. This is because the portrait puts him in his place very well.

Arnold Newman had a way of putting that person’s power in his photograph but having that power controlled within the rectangle frame. A lot of images display this type of approach Haile Selassie, Senator John F. Kennedy, and Cardinal Pla Y Deniel in all these images Arnold Newman gave a lot of space in the image to show the large area of influence that they have. Arnold was a fantastic photographer, and trying to capture the depth of his work would be never ending task. He knew how to photograph of a person in their environment and bring forth the “Humanity of the moment.”

Unfortunately on June 6th, 2006 Arnold passed. This Jewish portrait photographer in his eighty-eight years showed what it meant to photograph a portrait. “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

Here is one of Arnolds contact sheets from a shoot of Stravinsky. It shows his methods and his thought process, a true thing of beauty.

Newmans Contact SheetArnold Newman’s Archive Website

Robert Franks “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough – there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.”

 

The Straight Photographer

“Figure out what you want to say about life, than make it work in a rectangular box.” – Paul Strand

Paul Strand was born in New York on October 16, 1890. Paul StrandGrowing up as an only child he found a love for photography. He was trained by the documentarian photographer Lewis Hines in New York City. In looking at Strands early work, one would think that he was completely out of focus. However, this assumption would be incorrect; many photographers were trying to show that their medium is an art just as much as painting is an art.

After graduating, Paul became a self-employed freelance photographer trying to find his style. Much of Strand’s work was influenced by the cultured yet rather interesting Alfred Stieglitz. Knowing him since he was sixteen, Stieglitz would be brutally honest with him telling Strand to stop imitating and to find his own style. After taking what Stieglitz said to heart and looking at some of the paintings in Alfred’s 291 gallerie inspired him to try abstract photography. Strand “concluded that a subject matter alone was not enough.”He excelled at this and took it out on the streets. At the end of his experiments with abstract photography, he showed it to Stieglitz. Alfred Stieglitz was so impressed that he also changed his photographic approach of a straight or pure photographic sense. Also, the last two issues of a magazine owned and founded by Stieglitz, Camera Work featured Paul Strand’s work and his work was exhibited in the 291 gallery

In street portraits that Strand photographed, his subjects are positioned in the most candid way acting as if they did not know that they were being photographed. With the attachment of a false lens on his camera people were oblivious to the fact thatcandid man their portraits were being taken. That approach allowed Paul to capture people in their everyday lives and not altering their behavior in anyway.

Paul Strand was an advocate of “pure” photography. His sense of realism and unaltered yet well composed photographs shows Strand’s care and attention to his images. His work has been exhibited in many art galleries. In addition, Philadelphia Museum of Art has displayed Paul Strand’s work in a retrospective. His work has been used to teach younger generations what straight photography is all about.

During his last days, before he was confined to his bed, he spent most of his time out around his home in France photographing his garden. On March 31, 1976 at his home in France Strand passed away. In his 85 years of life he had been photographing for nearly three quarters of a century. Paul Strand was one of the great photographers. He believed that photography was a statement about life and nature. He used to say “figure out what you want to say about life, than make it work in a rectangular box.” Strand escorted in the era of modernism photography. Today, many photographers try to make “their rectangle boxes” talk like Paul Strand’s did. Though, many are finding that it is hard to master it like Strand, the father of straight photography.

Dorothea Lange

With this month being women’s history month I saw fit to post about a great photographer who happened to be a woman.

“To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own [preconception, which is] very limiting, and often false.” – Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange was a very compassionate woman who displayed a heart for people in her images. Spending most of her years photographing farmers relocated by the ravishing effects by the Great Depression. Lange was one of the twelve photographers in the organization called the Farm Security Association (F.S.A.) Best known for her image of the “Migrant Mother” she had a way of capturing the person’s soul in an image.

At a young age Dorothea knew what it meant to go through hardships, nevertheless it only seemed to make her stronger.Dorothea Lange At the age of seven Dorothea was diagnosed with the crippling disease of Polio which caused her left leg to become very weak. However, later in life it would become one her best teachers. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said several years down the line. Though, Lange’s problems did not stop there. In her teen years she found out what it meant to live with parents that were divorced and she took on her mother’s maiden name because of her hatred towards her father. As grim as her life seemed, the light at the other end of the tunnel was art. Dorothea trained her camera to see how she saw things in front of the lens.

However, the Great Depression was an economic crisis that consumed the whole world after World War I. At this time many Americans were suffering along with the world. Much of America’s population was moving back to their home countries or just simply moving out of America. The government was changing its game plan while trying to revive America; President Franklin Roosevelt came up with an economic recovery plan called “New Deal.” This plan was put in place to relieve, recover and to reform America’s economics. Out of the New Deal plan came the F.S.A.  (Farm Security Association) an organization put in place to help the agricultural community in America. A man by the name of Roy Stryker was in charge of the F.S.A. and was impressed with Dorothea’s work and decided to bring her on to photograph farmers that were trying to make it in America. With camera in hand Dorothea traversed over this great land of America documenting farmers that were displaced thanks to the depression. During this time Dorothea captured her most famous photograph, Migrant Mother.Migrant Mother

Migrant Mother is an image that Lange captured on a hunch. On her way home from photographing migrant workers in California she decided to turn around because she didn’t capture what she needed. On the side of the road was a mother with her children camped out in a tent because their car had broken down and the father had gone to town to get the things needed to fix the car. Closer and closer Dorothea walked up to this family and when she captured the image that she knew that she needed she disappeared, as she was known to do. Within this image is a woman looking off into the distance almost as a philosophical symbol of the uncertainty of America’s future. With two children standing by their mother’s side as they hide their faces almost as to say that the future of America, these children, is so unclear that we can’t even see “their faces.”

During World War II Lange was hired by the Office of War Information on two occasions. Through the years she would grow frustrated as people grew more and more numb to the cries of humanity, but this frustration did not stop her. Later on in life Dorothea was pounded with the illnesses that overwhelmed her. However, she only grew stronger as she traveled the world with her husband and photographed what she saw. Unfortunately after 70 years of life Dorothea Lange succumbed to the harsh disease of cancer. Nonetheless, the legacy that was left behind by this great woman is one to not forget. In 1940 she was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim fellowship. Also she had the honor of contributing to Life magazine and co-finding “Aperture” a small publisher for high end photographic books. Dorothea Lange is a true definition of what it means to persevere, even against all odds.