Two photography books

I’ve just finished reading two books related to Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz was a major figure in the latter part of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th century. He originally built his reputation as a photographer and was instrumental in getting photography accepted as an art. He opened galleries (Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession also called ‘291’ after its address; The Intimate Gallery also known as “The Room”; and An American Place) where he displayed not only what he considered to be the best photography of the time, but also American artists (e.g John Marin, Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe). He also presented works from European artists who were later to because world renowned (e.g Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Constantin Brâncuși). He was initially a supporter of and mentor to such photography luminaries as Edward Steichen and Paul Strand. Stieglitz’s large ego and narcissistic personality could not allow anyone else to be a “leader” and he eventually broke with Steichen (because he saw him as becoming too commercial) and Strand (who felt that art should support social change).

The first of the two books: Alfred Steiglitz. Taking pictures. Making Painters by Phyllis Rose takes as its focus Stieglitz himself. It’s a relatively short, easy read giving all of the essentials of Stieglitz’s life and work. It also has a large number of photographs illustrating both his work, and the work of others in his circle.

The second book: Foursome. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Strand, Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke is about a third longer and much more complex in subject matter, dealing with the complex and often bewildering relationships between Stieglitz and his wife (Georgia O’Keeffe) and Strand and his wife (Rebecca Salsbury Strand).

Both are well worth reading.

RIP Robert Frank

It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Robert Frank (See: Robert Frank, revolutionary American photographer, dies aged 94). For some time I didn’t really “get” his photographs. However, after reading the book “American Witness. The Art and Life of Robert Frank” I’ve since warmed to his work even if I still can’t quite understand why he’s so high in the pantheon of great photographers – particularly since his reputation is based almost entirely on one work: “The Americans”.

No-one can doubt his significance, however.

As the obituary states:

The Swiss-born photographer’s seminal book The Americans, which had an introduction from Jack Kerouac, beat generation author of On the Road, helped to change the direction of photography with its 83 pictures rejecting many conventions of the art form up to that point.

The Swiss-born photographer’s seminal book The Americans, which had an introduction from Jack Kerouac, beat generation author of On the Road, helped to change the direction of photography with its 83 pictures rejecting many conventions of the art form up to that point.

Shot on a Leica 35mm camera, the black-and-white images are considered Frank’s masterwork and focused on figures from the overlooked margins of American life – from teenage couples and factory workers to bikers. Dubbed the “Manet of the new photography” by the New Yorker critic Janet Malcolm, Frank was considered the father of “the snapshot aesthetic”, which captures a spontaneous moment taken on the fly.

I love the quote in the final paragraph of the obituary:

“The kind of photography I did is gone. It’s old,” Frank told the Guardian in 2004. “There’s no point in it any more for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it. There are too many pictures now. It’s overwhelming.”

Peekskill Summer Sounds

We were hungry so we went for a meal first – outside at 12 Peekskill Lounge on Division Street, which was closed for the event. We were just around the corner from where the music was so we could hear, but not see the bands.

After we’d finished our meal we went around the corner and took a seat with the assembled multitudes (see below) to listen to the headline act: a Billy Joel Tribute Band called “River of Dreams”.

There’s a very nice bookstore (Bruised Apple Books, the last store on the left in the second picture) in the same location. These pictures were taken around 9:30pm so I didn’t expect it to be open, but to my surprise it was. I took a look around and came out with “Die Schöpfung” (The Creation) by Ernst Haas in the original German (which luckily I can still just about read).


Broader view of the people watching “River of Dreams”

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

Eugène Atget and Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991), Eugene Atget, 1927.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Zigrosser, 1968, 1968-162-38

Interesting article (From Paris to New York: The Story of Eugène Atget and Berenice Abbott) on the occasion of the publication of a new book by Kevin Moore: Old Paris and Changing New York: Photographs by Eugène Atget and Berenice Abbott (Yale University Press).

According to Yale University Press:

An insightful new look at two renowned photographers, their interconnected legacies, and the vital documents of urban transformation that they created

In this comprehensive study, Kevin Moore examines the relationship between Eugène Atget (1857–1927) and Berenice Abbott (1898–1991) and the nuances of their individual photographic projects. Abbott and Atget met in Man Ray’s Paris studio in the early 1920s. Atget, then in his sixties, was obsessively recording the streets, gardens, and courtyards of the 19th-century city—old Paris—as modernization transformed it. Abbott acquired much of Atget’s work after his death and was a tireless advocate for its value. She later relocated to New York and emulated Atget in her systematic documentation of that city, culminating in the publication of the project Changing New York.

This engaging publication discusses how, during the 1930s and 1940s, Abbott paid further tribute to Atget by publishing and exhibiting his work and by printing hundreds of images from his negatives, using the gelatin silver process. Through Abbott’s efforts, Atget became known to an audience of photographers and writers who found diverse inspiration in his photographs. Abbott herself is remembered as one of the most independent, determined, and respected photographers of the 20th century.

Kevin Moore is an independent curator and writer and is artistic director and curator of FotoFocus, Cincinnati. He is the author of Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980 and Jacques Henri Lartigue: The Invention of an Artist.

Ara Güler considered on Casual Photophile

Ara Güler, people sitting talking beside a coffee bar in Beyoglu, 1958. Ara Güler/Magnum Photos via Ajam Media Collective

Very interesting, detailed and lavishly illustrated piece by Drew Chambers on Ara Güler, the Turkish photojournalist who passed away last October: “Everything starts with light” – An Oral History of Ara Güler.

I had not known his name and was not familiar with his work.