Online portal at George Eastman House

According to a November 6, 2016 Shutterbug article:

The famous George Eastman Museum has created a new, public portal where you can view over 250,000 images and other objects from their vast collections. The database is searchable by artist, collection, classification and date, and includes a wealth of photography, cinema, and technology related to imaging.

The 250,000 objects currently on the site are but a mere fraction of the museum’s collections of several million objects, but additional holdings are being added to the portal weekly.

It’s certainly an impressive undertaking. I briefly browsed through it and there’s a lot to see. Unfortunately they seem have started off with the image metadata, to which they are gradually adding images. I imagine it’s faster to add the metadata than it is to scan all the images. So the end result is that many of the entries indicate that the image is “not available”. For example I searched for Ansel Adams and got 18 pages of results. On the first page there were 24 entries. 18 of them indicated that the image was not available. I’m sure that over time these gaps will be filled.

It’s potentially a great resource.

More from Christies

I mentioned in an earlier post (See: Self portrait with Cindy) that we went to Christies in New York City the other day. Here are a few other items that caught my attention. Above: The star of the show.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Salvator Mundi
oil on panel
25 7/8 x 18 in. (65.7 x 45.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1500.
Estimate: Only available on request. Some sources (e.g. NY Times – Contemporary Art Sales: Do I Hear $100 Million?) anticipate that it will fetch $US100 million or more. UPDATE: It eventually sold for the to me obscene amount of $US450 MILLION!

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Spider II
signed with the artist’s initials and stamped with the edition number ‘LB 5/6’ (on underside)
73 x 73 x 22 1/2 in. (185.4 x 185.4 x 57.2 cm.)
Executed in 1995. This work is number five from an edition of six plus one artist’s proof.
Estimate: $US10,000,000-15,000,000.

David Smith (1906-1965)
Voltron XXIV
signed, titled and dated ‘XXIV Voltron David Smith 3-25-63’ (on the base)
98 5/8 x 33 x 13 in. (230.1 x 83.8 x 33 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
Estimate: US5,000,000-$US7,000,000.

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled #408
signed, numbered and dated ‘Cindy Sherman 3/6 2002’ (on the backing board)
chromogenic print
54 x 36 in. (137.2 x 91.4 cm.)
Executed in 2002. This work is number three from an edition of six.
Estimate: $US80,0000-$120,000.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004)
Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York City, May 6, 1957
signed and numbered ‘Avedon 34/50’ and stamped with title, date and photographer’s copyright credit (on the reverse)
gelatin silver print flush-mounted on linen
image: 18 3/4 x 15 1/2 in. (47.6 x 39.4 cm.)
sheet: 20 x 15 7/8 in. (50.8 x 40.3 cm.)
Printed in 1980. This work is number thirty-four from an edition of fifty.
Estimate: $US70,000-$US100,000.

Self Portrait with Cindy

Our younger daughter was in town doing PR work for a Swiss company that was showing their wares at Christies and we went into New York City to see what she was up to and to meet with some other friends for lunch. Simultaneously a massive auction was taking place (See: NY Times – Christie’s Has Art World’s First $1 Billion Week).

Among the many paintings and sculptures were a few photographs, most of them by Cindy Sherman. This is one of them. According to a card next to the photograph: “Cindy Sherman (b. 1954). ‘Untitled 65’: signed, numbered and dated ‘Cindy Sherman 1/10 1981’ (on the reverse). Color coupler print. 24×48 in. (60.9 x 121.9 cm.). Executed in 1981. This work is one from an edition of 10.”

It was estimated to sell for $US 600,000 – $800,000 and actually sold for $US783,750. Seems like a lot, but peanuts compared to the Van Gogh “Laboureur dans un champ“, which fetched $81,312,500 and the Da Vinci “Salvator Mundi“, which is expected to fetch in excess of US100 million when it goes on sale on Wednesday.

As I was taking my picture I realized that I could see my own reflection in the glass. Moreover, I couldn’t figure out a way to avoid it. So I’ve now made it a feature of the photograph. Appropriation art à la Richard Prince? Some kind of comment on the state of contemporary photography? Maybe I’m onto something here. Don’t think it would fetch close to $US800,000 though.

Robert Capa – The Definitive Collection

Almost a year ago (Novemeber 14, 2016 to be precise) I came across Robert Capa’s Grave in a nearby cemetery (See: Amawalk Hill Cemetery – The Big Surprise). Capa was, of course, a photographic “great”, possibly the best known of all war photographers. I was familiar with some of his work (e.g. the Normandy pictures, an example of which appears above; Falling Soldier etc.), but beyond that didn’t know much other than that he was killed in Vietnam in 1954 after stepping on a land mine.

So I decided to find out more, and after looking around for a bit came across this book, which I promptly ordered. It arrived and seems to have been promptly moved downstairs (I suspect tidied away at the request of my wife when we had visitors). So “out of sight, out of mind” I forgot that I had it until the other day when some reference to Capa made me think of it. I pulled it out and read through it.

The book is the brainchild of Cornell Capa (himself a renowned photographer and founder of the International Center of Photography and Richard Whelan – interestingly they are both buried next to Robert Capa in Amawalk Hill Cemetery).

Robert Capa grave site in Amalwalk Hill Cemetery. From left to right: David Richard Whelan (biographer); Edith Capa (wife of Cornell Capa); Cornell Capa; Julia Friedman Capa (mother of Robert and Cornell); Robert Capa).

In a section entitled “About the Photographs” Cornell Capa says the following:

Between 1990 and 1992, Richard Whelan and I rexamined all of Robert Capa’s contact sheets. From the approximately 70,000 negative frames that my brother exposed during his lifetime, we chose 937 images to constitute an in-depth – though certainly not exhaustive – survey of his finest work over the entire course of his career, from 1932 to 1954. The images are arranged here by photographic story and in chronological order, tracing the trajectory of his life. Nearly half of the 937 images have never been widely published or exhibited. Our principal goal was to identify images whose emotions and graphic impact measures up to, or at least comes close to, the impact of Capa’s classic photographs. In a very few cases, however, we included less powerful photographs in order to give coherence to a group of pictures that work together as a story, but which would not necessarily hold up as individual images.

Whelan provides an interesting, illustrated 11 page introduction and the rest of the book is devoted to the photographs, each with a usually short, quite dry caption. I much preferred the longer, more descriptive captions in Karsh. A Biography in Images. The photographs are, for the most part, wonderful, but there are so many that it’s all a bit overwhelming. This has had a few negative consequences: many of the photographs are quite small; and the book is rather large and heavy. As I usually read while sitting in a chair or on the sofa I found it quite difficult to hold comfortably. It’s more suited to reading on a stand on a table. I also found the typeface used to be hard to read. It’s a typewriter style font, and at times, when a lighter text is used, it tends to blend into the background.

I’d also take exception to Cornell Capa when he says “In a very few cases, however, we included less powerful photographs…”. I’d say that quite a few “less powerful photographs” have been included. Of course I’d have been proud to have produced any of them, but a lot of the photographs are not close to his best (just goes to show that even the greatest photographers don’t always produce winners).

I’m sure that there are books on Capa out there that include fewer photographs and consequently are more focused and easier to hold and to read. For potential readers who just want to know a bit more about Capa, I’d recommend one of those (maybe even his own memoir Slightly Out of Focus – although this seems to focus on the WWII period and so might leave out some of the wonderful Spanish Civil War pictures.). Since this volume is mostly about Capa’s pictures it might also be worth reading a biography, such as the one written by Richard Whelan: Robert Capa: A Biography.

Despite the issues noted above, I very much enjoyed this book. I feel sure that I’ll return to it from time to time to look again and again at the photographs, each time getting new insights and a better understanding.

Two Exhibitions of photographs by Joel Meyrowitz

Fort Lauderdale Florida, 1977.  Archival Pigment Print printed 2017 29 1/4 x 37 inches.  From an edition of 10

Fort Lauderdale Florida, 1977. Archival Pigment Print printed 2017 29 1/4 x 37 inches. From an edition of 10. Source: Howard Greenberg Gallery.

According to a press release from the Howard Greenberg Gallery:



September 7 – October 21, 2017

NEW YORK – Two exhibitions of photographs by Joel Meyerowitz will be on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from September 7 to October 21, 2017. Between the Dog and the Wolf presents images from the 1970s and 80s made in those mysterious moments around dusk. Many of the works will be on display for the first time. Morandi, Cézanne and Me surveys Meyerowitz’s recent still lifes of objects from Paul Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence and Giorgio Morandi’s in Bologna. The exhibitions will open with a reception on September 7, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Two new books of photographs by Meyerowitz are to be published: Joel Meyerowitz: Cézanne’s Objects (Damiani, October 2017) and Joel Meyerowitz: Where I Find Myself: A Lifetime Retrospective (Laurence King, January 2018).

The exhibition title Between the Dog and the Wolf is a translation of a common French expression “Entre chien et loup,” which refers to oncoming twilight. As Meyerowitz notes, “It seemed to me that the French liken the twilight to the notion of the tame and the savage, the known and the unknown, where that special moment of the fading of the light offers us an entrance into the place where our senses might fail us slightly, making us vulnerable to the vagaries of our imagination.”

The majority of the photographs in the exhibition are from a period when Meyerowitz was spending summers on Cape Cod and had just begun working with an 8×10 view camera. “My whole way of seeing was both challenged and refreshed. I found that time became a greater element in my work. The view camera demands longer exposures, and I began looking into the oncoming twilight and seeing things that the small cameras either couldn’t handle or didn’t present in significant enough quality,” Meyerowitz explains. “What seems of more value to me now, 30 years later, is how that devotion to the questions back then taught me to see in a new and simpler way.”

The exhibition features photographs taken concurrently with Meyerowitz’s iconic series Cape Light, widely recognized for his use of color and appreciation of light. A young woman is perched on a wall that overlooks the Cape Cod Bay in a 1984 print, with the last of the daylight fading into a pink haze. A 1977 view of a dark house with one lit window has a sandy front yard with a sagging badminton net, an abandoned tricycle, and a blue doghouse with peeling paint. In a nearly abstract image from 1984, the viewer can barely see lights from a house on the beach as night falls. Other locations show a view of a serene sky with St. Louis’ Gateway Arch from 1977 and a palm tree in fading blue light in Florida from 1979.

As Meyerowitz notes, “I am grateful that my experience has allowed me to work both as a street photographer and as a view-camera photographer, and that I’m comfortable with both vocabularies. I speak two languages, classical and jazz. Street photography is jazz. The view camera, being so much slower, is more classical, more meditative, it has a different way of showing its content. You can be a jazz musician and play classically, and you can be a classical musician and love the immediacy and improvisation of jazz.”

Morandi, Cézanne and Me reflects Meyerowitz’s fascination with everyday objects, which also served as inspiration to Paul Cézanne and Giorgio Morandi. He was granted permission to photograph in both artists’ studios in 2013 and 2015.

Meyerowitz was struck by the grey walls in Cézanne’s studio, and how every object in the studio seemed to be absorbed into the grey of the background. He photographed just about every object there – from vases, pitchers, and carafes to a skull and Cézanne’s hat. This project spurred him to visit Morandi’s studio to observe the objects that the master still life painter had used as inspiration for over 60 years. Meyerowitz was allowed access to all 275 of Morandi’s famous objects at his home and studio. He worked near the same window, sitting at Morandi’s table, photographing shells, pigment-filled bottles, funnels, watering cans, and other dusty aged objects against the same paper that Morandi had left on the wall, now brittle and yellow with age. Meyerowitz also began to look anew at items he found in Italian flea markets – a dented brass tube, a rusted tin flask, a capped container — and he photographed them placed in grey corners and against heavy canvas backdrops in his studio in Tuscany.

Says Meyerowitz, “My underlying motive – while, of course doing this for my own pleasure – was to provide a catalogue of the objects these painters used in the course of their lives, and show to scholars and other interested viewers, the actual, and for the most part humble, cast-offs and basic forms that these great painters drew their inspiration from.”

About Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz (born 1938) is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the world. After a chance encounter with Robert Frank, the New York native began photographing street scenes in color in 1962, and by the mid-1960s became an early advocate of color photography and was instrumental in the legitimization and growing acceptance of color film. His first book, Cape Light (1979) is considered a classic work of color photography and has sold more than 100,000 copies. He has authored 17 other books, including Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks (Aperture, 2009). As the only photographer given official access to Ground Zero in the wake of September 11th, he created the World Trade Center Archive, selections of which have toured around the world. Meyerowitz is a two-time Guggenheim fellow and a recipient of awards from both the NEA and NEH. He is a recent winner of the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Award, its highest honor. For his 50 years of work in 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lucie Awards, an annual event honoring the greatest achievements in photography. This January, Meyerowitz was inducted into the Leica Hall of Fame for his contribution to the photographic genre. His work is held in the collections of many museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. Meyerowitz lives and works in Tuscany and New York City.