Such wonderful photographs (in my opinion possibly the most emotion provoking photographer of the 20th century), but what a tortured human being and how sad that he died so young (aged only 59).
I just got my hands on a copy of this marvelous book. I won’t go into detail because there are many excellent reviews available online including:
- Provocative Generosity and the Joy of Scope: Meyerowitz’s “Where I Find Myself”
- Joel Meyerowitz: Where I Find Myself: A Lifetime Retrospective (An Elephant Book).
- Book Review: Where I Find Myself by Joel Meyerowitz (This one is not as positive as most of the others focusing on perceived problems with the quality of the book rather than the quality of the images).
It”s a large and heavy book that I found I either had to place on a table, or even better on a book stand. I found the quality of the reproductions to be excellent. I believe that Mr. Meyerowitz was heavily involved in the production of the book and the selection of images.
The choice of starting with the most recent work first and then working backwards (rather than the more usual starting with the oldest and working forward) was interesting, but after going through the book I found that I wanted to start at the end (i.e. with the oldest work) and read backwards towards the beginning. I found that this helped my understand how his work had evolved over time.
An evolved it certainly has. I find this one of the most impressive things about Mr. Meyerowitz: the way he has frequently re-invented himself. Many photographers find their niche and then stick with it for the rest of their careers. Not Mr. Meyerowitz. He started off in black and white and then became an early advocate of color. He began as a street photographer, but then moved into other genres including landscapes, portraits, still life. He started out using a 35mm camera, but later espoused large format. His reasoning for these changes is nicely explained in the book.
I was particularly impressed with his most recent work: a series of still life photographs. I’ve always liked still lifes, but have taken surprisingly few. The book has inspired me to try to do more.
There’s also an interesting Interview with Joel Meyerowitz: Where I find myself on Lenscratch.
A great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I’d always known that there was a connection between Little Moreton Hall and my family. For example I knew that my Grandfather had lived there as a tenant and that my father’s half brother had managed the property after it was handed over to the National Trust. I hadn’t realized the extent of the connection, however.
We recently had a visit from a cousin that (apart from a brief encounter at my parents’ funerals) I hadn’t seen in about 40 years. His wife has an interest in genealogy and has been looking into the history of the family. This prompted me to do a little research for myself. According to Geni
The fortunes of the Moreton family declined during the English Civil War. As supporters of the Royalist cause, they found themselves isolated in a community of Parliamentarians. Little Moreton Hall was requisitioned by the Parliamentarians in 1643 and used to billet Parliamentary soldiers. The family successfully petitioned for its restitution, and survived the Civil War with their ownership of Little Moreton Hall intact, but financially they were crippled. They tried to sell the entire estate, but could only dispose of several parcels of land. William Moreton died in 1654 leaving debts of £3,000–£4,000 (equivalent to about £12–16 million as of 2010), which forced his heirs to remortgage what remained of the estate. The family’s fortunes never fully recovered, and by the late 1670s they no longer lived in Little Moreton Hall, renting it out instead to a series of tenant farmers. The Dale family took over the tenancy in 1841, and were still in residence more than 100 years later. By 1847 most of the house was unoccupied, and the deconsecrated Chapel was being used as a coal cellar and storeroom. Little Moreton Hall was in a ruinous condition; its windows were boarded up and its roof was rotten.
Abraham carried on the preservation effort begun by Elizabeth Moreton until he and his son transferred ownership to the National Trust in 1938. The Dale family continued to farm the estate until 1945, and acted as caretakers for the National Trust until 1955.
So it seems that my family lived there for over 100 years! Somehow I had the idea that the Moreton’s had continued to live in the hall with my family living in a farm somewhere on the property. It seems, however, that this was not the case. They actually lived in the hall and my cousin passed on to me some pictures taken during the period they were there. Apparently he got them from the National Trust. My favorite is the one below. The caption in the filename reads: “Possible Dale girl taken in 1893”.
The connection may go back even farther. See below.
The full inscription reads: “”God is Al in Al Thing: This windous whire made by William Moreton in the yeare of Oure Lorde MDLIX Rychard Dale Carpeder made thies windous by the grac of God.” The Roman numeral MDLIX represents the Arabic numeral 1559. Are we related to this Richard Dale or not? Well, we don’t know at the moment.
So where does Francis Frith come in. I was aware of Francis Frith, the photographer. I’ve even posted on this blog about him (See: Frances Frith). While I was ‘googling’ for information on Little Moreton Hall I came across the photograph at the top of this page. The date on it reads 1902 so it couldn’t have been taken by Mr. Frith as he died in 1898. So what’s going on?
According to Wikipedia:
When he had finished his travels in the Middle East in 1859, he opened the firm of Francis Frith & Co. in Reigate, Surrey, as the world’s first specialist photographic publisher. In 1860, he married Mary Ann Rosling (sister of Alfred Rosling, the first treasurer of the Photographic Society) and embarked upon a colossal project—to photograph every town and village in the United Kingdom; in particular, notable historical or interesting sights. Initially he took the photographs himself, but as success came, he hired people to help him and set about establishing his postcard company, a firm that became one of the largest photographic studios in the world. Within a few years, over two thousand shops throughout the United Kingdom were selling his postcards.
His family continued the firm, which was finally sold in 1968 and closed in 1971. Following closure of the business, Bill Jay, one of Britain’s first photography historians, identified the archive as being nationally important, and “at risk”. Jay managed to persuade McCann-Erikson the London advertising agency to approach their client Rothmans of Pall Mall on 14 December 1971 to purchase the archive to ensure its safety. Rothmans went ahead and acquired the archive within weeks.
Frith was re-launched in 1975 as The Francis Frith Collection by John Buck, a Rothmans executive, with the intention of making the Frith photographs available to as wide an audience as possible.
On 25 August 1977, Buck bought the archive from Rothmans, and has run it as an independent business since that time – trading as The Francis Frith Collection. The company website enables visitors to browse free of charge over 180,000 Frith photographs depicting some 7,000 cities, towns and villages. In 2016 the company completed a two-year project to scan the entire archive and now holds over 330,000 high resolution digital scans. These will be added to the website at the rate of 5,000 to 10,000 per month, starting in October 2016 – see Frith web site for new images added each month.
The agency continues to this day.
I also came across a comment on the above picture on the Frith agency site, which reads as follows:
Wonderful Memories – a Memory of Congleton.
My great grandfather – Charles Dale was living at Moreton Old Hall when this photograph was taken.
His family, the Dales, had become tenant farmers for Moreton Old Hall in the 1860s and the Hall was the farmhouse that was provided. Thomas and Ann Dale had 15 children – Charles was the youngest, so the size of the Hall would have been greatly appreciated.
I remember being told about secret doors and invisible panels and how the children used to love playing hide and seek.
Ann Dale used to open the door of the Hall to tourists even in the early 1900s. I’ve been told about people having afternoon teas, provided by Ann and her daughters, on the front lawns of Moreton Hall. They said that her scones were something to die for and people still spoke about them 50 years later.
Ann and subsequently her children farmed the farm until it was passed into the care of the National Trust
A memory shared by Lyn Smith on Dec 30th, 2008.
I, too, remember the secret rooms and panels. As a child I used to go into one of these rooms before the tourists arrived, wait and them pop out from behind a secret panel appearing seemingly from nowhere.
Interestingly, one of the tea rooms at the hall is to this day called “Mrs Dale’s Tearoom” described as:
Our licensed, waited-service tea-room offers daily hot specials, seasonal soups, freshly made sandwiches, high-teas, delicious cakes and scones and a great children’s offer, along with a variety of hot and cold beverages and local wines and beers.
Here’s the 2018 menu. It also provides some additional information on the Dale family as well as some interesting historical photographs.
I consider myself a documentary photographer so when I saw this book it didn’t take me long to decide that I had to have a copy.
…Stuart Franklin’s The Documentary Impulse begins by questioning “What is documentary?” and draws distinctions between a “moral truth” and a “material truth,” and how at times a more powerful and visceral impact depends on intimacy rather than actuality. One example given is the staged walrus hunt in filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), and how it leads us to draw conclusions as to what actually occurred.
The author also examines why photographers document the vestiges of vanishing cultures, as in the work of Edward S. Curtis with native Americans (from 1906 to 1930), and tackles how preconceived ideas of cultural mythos can cloud the process of objective documentation, the false premise of documenting cultures from an inherently racist point of view, and the challenges of documenting war and famine within the context of photojournalism.
Franklin adeptly explores the cumulative impact of staging and manipulative photography through references to Leni Riefenstahl’s film The Triumph of Will; Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier, 1936; Werner Herzog’s manifesto, “Minnesota Declaration: Truth and Fact in Documentary Cinema”; as well as TIME magazine’s founder, Henry Luce, and his philosophy of “fakery in allegiance to the truth.”
Stuart Franklin’s in-depth discourse on the role of photographers in society, and the needs that can only be addressed or spotlighted through photography, can be summed up in Lewis Hine’s life mission, “I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected. I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated.”
The Documentary Impulse is a wide-ranging passionate exploration that covers many periods of photography and delves into the why and how we are driven to document the world around us.
The images are printed on high quality medium-weight matte paper, in color or black and white as originally intended.
Stuart Franklin is a photojournalist with an outstanding body of work, and his opening statement, “Photography (and journalism) practiced respectfully has the power to educate us all towards the greater understanding of, and empathy with, others,” is fully borne out by the book.
The Documentary Impulse is a remarkably insightful book—a wonderful, small format gem bursting with illuminating concepts and images.
So across this broad spectrum of types of documentary photography where do I see myself fitting. I certainly don’t document colonialism; nor am I a war photographer. I’m not trying to change the world. I could perhaps fit into the “(Re)interpreting everyday life”. I feel some affinity with Martin Parr and Lee Friedlander who both feature in this chapter. Perhaps the best fit is with what Franklin refers to as “On Visual Poetry and ambiguity”. This chapter features Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand and other photographers I’m not too familiar with: Helen Levitt, Sergio Larrain, Guy Tillim
I could quibble about the way that some of the photographers have been categorized. Why, for example is Josef Sudek (one of my favorite photographers) included under “Photography’s bid for a better world”? I was also surprised to find that even though Walker Evans is mentioned a number of times in the text, none of his photographs are presented. Of course these comments reflect my own, subjective views.
I differ from almost all (perhaps with the exception of Atget) of the above photographers in that my photographs rarely show people. And, of course, they are all so much more accomplished than I. Their work is what I aspire to, but will probably never come close to. It does, however, give me something to aim for.
I very much enjoyed this book.
Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.
Informative documentary on Henri Cartier-Bresson. It revolves around an exhibition put together by four leading London galleries on the occasion of Cartier-Bresson’s 90th birthday in 1998 (he passed away six years later in 2004).
Things I didn’t know about Cartier-Bresson:
- He spoke English well and with little accent. I’d never heard him speak before and somehow I thought he would have a broad, stereotypical French accent, but he didn’t.
- Although I knew that he had started as a painter, moved to photography, and then returned to drawing towards the end of his life I’d never seen examples of his non-photographic work until now. Not at all bad.
- I hadn’t realized that he had studied the moving image and had worked on and even appeared in some movies in his native France (while working with Jean Renoir).
And some quotations:
- “Photography is nothing more than instant drawing for me”
- “It’s mere luck, photography, just luck” (Talking about ‘Behind the Gare Lazare’).
- “Some of the boys are alive, some are dead, and some people are dead while they’re alive also” (talking about the Magnum photo archive).
- “The thing that is wonderful is to watch him work and I’ve walked with him on the streets and seen him. He moves with great speed. He sees instantaneously and he does a sort of little ballet, like a little dance. He rises on his toes, the camera goes to the eye, the click comes and you don’t even know you’ve been photographed and he’s off to the next.” Eve Arnold (talking about Cartier-Bressons shooting style).
- “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
- “Using a camera is for me keeping a diary, a visual diary just like some writers keep a journal. So in that sense I’m a journalist”
- “Everything is just mere chance and the joy with the camera is to take that chance, to be available”.
At the very end of the documentary the interviewer says: “What do you say to people who call you the greatest photographer of the 20th century?” There’s a pause and then Cartier-Bresson leans in closely to the interviewer and with a smile and a twinkle in his eye whispers “Bullshit”.
I also came across this two part interview in the New York Times (you may have to be a subscriber to the NYT to get access however):